Boca Raton, Florida Travel Agent
Ireland: All I Expected and More
It’s hard to go to Ireland and not fall in love with the people and the land. To start with, the people are incredibly sociable and friendly. Whether you’re in a city or a rural village, it’s fun to go to the local pubs. One evening, someone started singing, and everyone joined in. Another time, we got into a fun conversation with locals about their favorite American TV shows.
Pub cuisine can be scrumptious. The ingredients usually are fresh from the fields you’ve just driven past. I expected bland, boring food, with potatoes as the main veggie, but the variety and flavors were amazing. The traditional stews with brown bread and butter were wonderfully tasty, and I loved the many varieties of cheeses.
My first trip to Ireland was a memorable ten days that started in Dublin. We stayed at The Merrion Hotel, which has a statue of Oscar Wilde in its garden, museum quality art throughout and the world’s best granola and yogurt. At the nearby park, there’s another statue of Oscar Wilde and pillars carved with some of his most memorable lines, such as “Only dull people are brilliant at breakfast.” Dublin is a great walking city as I discovered on a Pat Liddy Walking Tour. It was a wonderful way to learn about Irish culture and see some off-the-beaten-path sights like Dublin’s first movie theater and the crypts of St. Michan’s Church, where one of the mummies dates back 800 years.
Heading south, the Irish National Stud and Horse Museum in Kildare was a fun stop. People bring their racehorses to mate here, and an entertaining tour explained how it all works and included a look at what they called the “honeymoon suite.”
For breathtaking scenery, the Ring of Beara was our favorite. The ring drive starts in Kenmare, where we looked right out at the waterfalls from our room at the five-star Sheen Falls Lodge. Too narrow for buses, the route is less traveled than the Ring of Kerry drive, and it’s equally stunning. Throughout Ireland, but especially here, I advise hiring a driver so you can focus on the scenery and not the road.
We also loved walking around Cobh, a cute seaside town with quaint crafts shops and eateries. Cobh was the last stop of the Titanic, and the Titanic Experience gives a glimpse into the lives of the passengers and crew and daily life aboard the ill-fated ocean liner.
One of the highlights of that trip was staying at Ashford Castle. I felt I’d stepped into a fairy tale, especially when horseback riding around the 350-acres estate and looking out at the castle walls and lake from my four-poster bed.
I’ve since stayed at Dromoland Castle and Ballyfin and other wonderful Irish castles and other luxurious historic properties located across Ireland where you can steep yourself in Irish traditions such as afternoon tea, and picture yourself living back in the time of knights and princesses.