By Patricia Cotti,
It is easy to understand why Ireland is called “The Emerald Isle” when you see the green patchwork of landscape and why you expect to meet a leprechaun as you criss-cross the beautiful land.
I spent a week in Ireland exploring the rugged West Coastal Road known as the Wild Atlantic Way with its beautiful landscape and rich cultural heritage. Ireland boasts a world class cuisine and accommodations, as well as, a rich musical reputation. Just add the delightful, friendly spirit of the people and you have the makings of a wonderful opportunity to experience Ireland. All of this, as the Irish would say while having some good craic (fun).
The picturesque village of Adare, with its thatched cottages and the majestic Cliffs of Moher are both a short drive from our first stop, Shannon. Next, go to the vibrant university town of Galway. It is situated on Galway Bay and has remnants of its original fortification walls within which are pubs, restaurants and shops. Experience the sounds of Ireland as the live Irish music spills out of the pubs onto the street.
Connemarra was the next destination. The rugged landscape is beautiful. Here, we encountered the 1,000 acre Kylemore Abbey Estate, a lovingly restored Benedictine Abbey, Victorian walled garden and Gothic Church.
Next, head off to Killarney. The town center is within easy walking distance of the national park, where it is possible to take jaunting carts to explore Killarney National Park and Muckross House. En route to Kilkenny, stop for a guided visit to Cahir Castle, dating back to Norman times and one of Ireland’s largest and best-preserved castles.
For horse lovers, the Irish National Stud is about a 2 hour drive from Kilkenny. Here you will learn about breeding and nurturing Irish race horses and meet the animals.
Dublin was the final destination, a lovely walkable city with Georgian Townhomes and green spaces. At Trinity College, you can view the Book of Kells, the illuminated manuscripts dating back to medieval times.
As much as this is an opportunity to see the sights, it is also an opportunity to experience world class accommodations and food. Come to Ireland if you want to sleep in a castle or country estate house. Adare Manor has just completed a 2 year restoration of the house and property.
Perhaps, you would like to stay at the former home of the Guinness family, the 800 year old Ashford Castle. Ballyfin, just 80 minutes from Dublin, gives the ultimate traditional Irish hospitality experience. The house is lavishly furnished with antiques and there are 614 acres where traditional activities like falconry, archery and horse riding are available.
I particularly enjoyed Limerick’s No. I Pery Square. It is 2 restored Georgian Townhomes with 20 bedrooms. The Killarney Park Hotel is a larger family owned property but still provides the ultimate Irish experience.
Along the Wild Atlantic Way, because of the proximity to the sea, you can count on the very freshest fish. I visited an oyster farm in Connemara and attended a tour to learn how oysters are grown from seed to table over a 3 year period. Galway is famous for its annual oyster festival.
Expect to encounter Michelin restaurants and fine cooking schools preparing farm to table meals. There are sheep everywhere, grazing on the lush green grasses. There is, of course, the finest lamb prepared for your table. Ireland has become a culinary destination.
The people of Ireland are the best reason to visit. You are greeted with Cead mile failte (A hundred thousand welcomes). You can sense the warmth of the greeting. Irish music and dance are part of the scene with live groups of musicians playing in the pubs.
If you are looking to spend a vacation enjoying yourself, meeting the locals, indulging in good food and accommodations and sights, then go to Ireland. It is an easy direct flight and an unforgettable experience! For your travel needs, call Bayside Travel, 833-8880.