What a road trip with Lewis Capaldi and Niall Horan can tell you about Ireland

Image Credit: Lucy Foster

Ciara Whelan reviews Homecoming: Road to Mullingar and details how Lewis Capaldi and Niall’s journey makes you fall in love with Ireland all over again.

“What happens when two of the biggest names in music embark on a road trip in Ireland?”. That’s the question that Guinness asked themselves when they decided to sponsor Niall Horan and Lewis Capaldi’s cross-country road trip across Ireland over the past summer. The answer is Niall Horan’s Homecoming: Road to Mullingar with Lewis Capaldi, which premiered on October 16th on Virgin Media, and has been available to stream on Amazon Prime since the 21st of October. 

Their journey begins at Belfast Airport before the pair head off to explore. Lowden Guitars is the first stop of this road trip, made famous for its quality and craftsmanship that has produced a star-studded client list that includes Horan himself. Crossing the border, the pair head for Carlingford and a spot of oyster farming along the beautiful coastline. The Irish landscape is at the core of this programme and its cinematography. Such breathtaking footage of rural and urban Ireland in the documentary is impressive, to say the least, and will likely work in favor of the Irish tourism industry in marketing it to such a global fanbase. 

The pair journey south to Dublin city center for a surprise gig at the top of Grafton Street, made famous for its quality of buskers, before exploring the city. A guided tour of Ireland’s top tourist attraction, the Guinness Storehouse, and a quick pint in the Gravity Bar with its stunning view of the city, is followed by a visit to the infamous Windmill Lane Studios to record a collaborative cover of the U2 classic ‘I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For’. Before long it's goodbye to Dublin and welcome home to Horan’s native Mullingar. Walking through the streets of Mullingar, the inspiration behind the Irishman’s debut hit single ‘This Town’, Horan and Capaldi visit some old familiar spots, greet the locals, and even stop briefly at the local deli for Capaldi’s first classic chicken filet roll. The last stop on this cross-country road trip is the annual Fleadh Cheoil. This celebration of Irish traditional music is translated into a historical process culminating in Horan’s career and he pays tribute to this history with a performance at Clarke’s Bar. 

However, the documentary special was not without its controversy. Alcohol Action Ireland released a statement following the premiere broadcast that condemned it for promoting alcohol to its youth demographic viewership. Horan’s mother, Maura, was quick to defend her son in the wake of such criticism. Speaking with Joe Duffy during a Liveline interview and later with RTÉ on the Radio 1 Show, Maura explains that the pair drank Guinness 0.0 whenever they indulged in a pint. She also speculates that viewers would ultimately engage with the programme as light entertainment and look beyond its sponsorship; “I watched the show the other night and Guinness didn’t come into my head at all... I was just laughing at the two of them”. Even with its light-hearted tone, the documentary indulged a bit too much in the historical Irish stereotype for some. 

Despite this criticism, Niall Horan’s Homecoming was a massive success with Horan and Capaldi receiving overwhelming praise from fans around the world. But, the singer-songwriter pair aren’t the only stars of the documentary. Ireland in all of her natural beauty takes center stage throughout, and this landscape plays host to a rich and vibrant culture. Ireland is a theater of art and music with a lengthy history of tradition and shows no sign of slowing down if Horan’s career and success are anything to go by. The journey through Ireland is as enjoyable for the native and nostalgic Horan as it is for newcomer Capaldi, and will undoubtedly resonate with the Irish diaspora around the world as much as it will with those just looking to pay a visit. The road to Mullingar might be long but it is ultimately a journey worth coming along for, because everyone is welcome home in Ireland.