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IRELAND (REPUBLIC OF IRELAND):

 

Ireland is the complete package and appeals to all tastes, offering spectacular sightseeing, culture, sports, food, music, and heritage.  Ireland is on the bucket list for most travelers of Irish heritage.  The Emerald Isle is the complete package. 

 

Ireland enjoys a wealth of pristine beaches.  It is a golfer’s dream come true with 440 courses, including the Royal Belfast Golf Club, the oldest that dates back to 1881; Royal County Down in Newcastle; Royal Portrush along the north coast; and Ballybunion in Kerry.  Ireland is home to the largest collection of links (seaside) golf courses in the world.

 

SAVVY TRAVEL TIP:

To secure a difficult-to-obtain tee time on the most prestigious courses, crack your wallet and contact Golf Vacations Ireland at their website: http://www.golfvacationsIreland.com

 

Sailing, diving, and surfing are popular summer water activities.  Ireland is also a favorite of travelers seeking a superior cross-country walking experience.  The Irish Heart Foundation has established a nationwide network of walking trails. 

 

Ireland is perfectly safe for a self-driving vacation with a rental vehicle, an ideal vehicle and an ideal way of canvassing the nation’s varied sights.

 

Highlights of a typical Irish itinerary include city visits to Dublin and Belfast, the spectacular coastline scenery, the small towns of the countryside, the Lakes of Killarney and the Ring of Kerry, as well as the Cliffs of Moher.

 

“The Emerald Isle,” home of the Irish, is renowned for its vast endless stretches of green landscapes, centuries-old cities, and soaring sea cliffs.  Ireland is relatively small geographically (32,595 square miles) and is sparsely populated with only 4.7 million residents.

 

It is time to revisit Ireland.  Try to erase any images of past troubles and enjoy this country’s natural beauty and friendly people.  Yes, this tiny island nation, only slightly larger in land area than the state of West Virginia, is an island and it is green, green, green.

 

Ireland is a favorite vacation destination for Americans, a fact not surprising considering 40 million Irish immigrated to the United States.  Only the Brits outnumber the American visitors.

 

In recent years, Ireland has become business-friendly and is attractive to businesses seeking to expand or relocate.

 

A little historical perspective, Northern Ireland is a part of the United Kingdom and has been a separate country from the Republic of Ireland since 1921.  The infamous strife between Catholics (Ireland’s religious majority) and Protestants, who wanted Ireland to be part of Great Britain, ceased with the signing of the Good Friday Agreement of 1998.

 

Northern Ireland now has its own laws and uses the British pound as its currency.  It is home to many multinational high-tech corporations thanks to government subsidies and a skilled workforce.  Belfast is the country’s largest city.

 

Ireland is currently enjoying a modern renaissance of unparalleled construction, commerce, and tourism. 

 

For more information about Ireland, please visit the following websites:

http://www.walking.ireland.ie

http://www.walkni.com

http://www.osi.ie

http://www.osni.gov.uk

http://www.nith.com

 

Ireland’s airline gateway cities are Dublin, Shannon, and Belfast.

 

DOCUMENTATION: A valid, in-force passport is mandatory.  A visa is not required of residents of most nations (United States, European Union countries, Australia, New Zealand, Iceland, Norway, and South Africa).  If in doubt, check.

 

LANGUAGE: Irish Gaelic, English

 

CURRENCY: English Pound in Belfast, Euros in Dublin

 

PINCHING PENNIES - TO TIP OR NOT TO TIP: 

Service staff should be tipped 10% - 12%, excluding pubs.

 

MAJOR HOLIDAYS IN IRELAND:

Nine holidays are observed in the Republic of Ireland and ten in Northern Ireland:

 

January 1: New Years Day - a day spent in your favorite pub

March 17: St Patrick’s Day - this is the “biggie - the super day of all celebrations!”  One day is insufficient: the Irish carry on the festivities for four days beginning March 15 - 18.

Good Friday: Observed in Northern Ireland

April: Easter Monday

First Monday in May: Bank Holiday*

End of May: Spring Break Holiday - observed in Northern Ireland

First Monday in June: Bank Holiday*

First Monday in August: Bank Holiday*

Last Monday in October: Bank Holiday*

December 25: Christmas Day

December 26: St. Stephen’s Day, known as Boxing Day in Northern Ireland

 

Northern Ireland also observes:

First Monday of May and last Monday of May: Good Friday

July 12: the Battle of Boyne

Last Monday in August in lieu of the first Monday in August

 

*Many Irish families plan their extended vacations around the Bank Holidays.  Anticipate some business closures.

 

MAJOR EVENTS AND FESTIVALS IN IRELAND:

March 17: St. Patrick’s Day - attend church, wear green attire, and partake of the festivities.

June through July: Live at the Marquee - major music festival in Cork that attracts well-known pop and rock performers.

July: Oxygen - popular annual rock festival in Country Kildare

July: Galway Arts Festival - a celebration of the performing (music, comedy, dance, theater) and visual arts.  Draws crowds in excess of 150,000!

August through September: Electric Picnic - arts and music festival in Stradbally

September: National Ploughing Championships in Kildare

 

IRISH CUISINE:

Irish cuisine consists of braised Shepherd’s Pie with lamb; Irish stew; corned beef and cabbage; black pudding; classic brown bread; crubeens (boiled pig’s feet); colcannon (cabbage dish); potatoes; beef; Atlantic seafood including oysters, scallops, salmon, fish and chips; Guinness pie; homemade fudge; chocolate; cobble; and Irish butter.

 

Has anyone mentioned Guinness, as in records or beer?  This is also a nation of pubs and merriment.  It doesn’t have to be St. Patrick’s Day to enjoy Ireland.  It is not customary to tip bartenders.

 

Irish whiskey is served in shot glasses or served more moderately in Irish coffee.

 

Irish breakfasts are legendary: white or black pudding, Donnelly sausages, Donnelly Irish bacon, eggs, tomatoes, boiled potatoes, Irish beans, Irish butter, and grated Dubliner cheese are staples.

 

THE BEST TIME TO VACATION IN IRELAND:

To avoid the summer crowds of tourists, visit late spring (May) or early fall (September).

 

The best weather in Ireland takes place during June, July, and August – when there are long daylight hours.

 

Early September can be rainy with otherwise cool, crisp air.  It is possible to golf year-round.

 

The temperature year-round is fairly mild with summers in the 60’s - 70’s Fahrenheit and winters in the 50’s - 60’s Fahrenheit.  Ireland tends to be cooler than the United States, so early spring, winter, and late fall may be uncomfortable to travelers seeking moderate temperatures.

 

AVOID: It is best not to visit Southern Ireland during late September, the months of October, and the winter when there is heavy rainfall.  Also avoid Northern Ireland during the winter months.  November, in particular, can be extremely cold and windy.

 

 WINDOW SHOPPING IN IRELAND:

A bonus:  Inquire as most merchants will volunteer to ship free based on a minimum purchase amount.  

 

ARMAGH:

 

TIME ON YOUR HANDS IN ARMAGH:

 

 

 

BELFAST:

 

Relative peace and tranquility exists in a city plagued for decades with violent sectarian strife: locals commonly refer to the period as “the troubles.”

 

TIME ON YOUR HANDS IN BELFAST:

SAVVY TRAVEL TIP: Hire a recommended taxi driver-guide and tour the city instead of touring on a large double-decker sightseeing bus.  You’ll access areas that the large double-decker buses cannot, as well as be able to linger at locations of your choosing.

 

Hire a recommended taxi driver-guide and tour the city.  The Black Taxi Tour is worth checking out – visit their website at: http://www.taxitrax.com.  You’ll access areas that the large double-decker buses cannot, as well as be able to linger at locations of your choosing.  Check out the edgy political murals on building exteriors throughout the city.  Somewhat depressing, but providing an historical reminder, are the public murals along Falls Road and Shankill Road – a reminder of Belfast’s troubled past, history, and culture.

 

The obligatory sights include Queens University, City Hall, Parliament Buildings, and the 1869 Albert Memorial Clock, also known as “Belfast’s own Leaning Tower of Pisa!”  The tower features a statue of Prince Albert and floral decorations.  The ornate 113-foot-tall clock tower was recently shored up and stabilized, as it had begun to badly list due to its marshy river foundation.  The tower is located at Custom House Square.

 

The Ulster Museum, with its wide collection of ancient Egyptian artifacts to seventeenth century British Masters, will pacify most art lovers.

 

Belfast is positioning itself, albeit in retrospect, rather grimly as the proud city that built the ill-fated Titanic.  Doom has become a marketing ploy.  The Titanic Made in Belfast Festival is a planned year-round event, with 2012 being the big event.  For a finale, a floating iceberg flooding Belfast?  Locals are fond to say, “She was alright when she left here.”  You can even visit the original Titanic shipyard on the waterfront.

 

If you have visited, and were dazzled by, the impressive Titanic museums in Branson, Missouri, or Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, or visited your local museum for a touring Titanic exhibit, you’ll be totally blown away by the Belfast version with its nine interactive galleries of the Titanic design, construction, launch, and sinking.  It is built on the site of Harland & Wolff shipbuilders, the builders of the Titanic.  Emphasis is on interactive audio and visual re-creations rather than the memorabilia.

 

Titanic Belfast©, which opened March 31, 2012, has definitely gone the extra step.  You enter an ultra-modernistic, eight-story, 130,000 square-foot structure for the Titanic interactive experience of a lifetime.  The exterior interprets the hulls of four ships seemingly wrapped in aluminum.  It has been appropriately nicknamed “the Iceberg.”  Consider a visit an absolute must!

 

Your visit begins in Boomtown Belfast, a gallery dedicated to Belfast during 1909 - 1911 at the turn of the century.  Your visit continues by stepping back in time to the original, completely unchanged, and historic monument - the 1911 Titanic Dry Dock.  You board a six-passenger mini-car Shipyard Ride to witness the Titanic under construction and view a replica of the huge Arrol Gantry.  Animation and special effects add to the drama of the construction process.

 

Next, you view the Titanic’s May 31, 1911 launch from the slipways, all cleverly presented with video film as viewed through a gigantic window.

 

The Fit-Out examines the Titanic’s interior and furnishings with a large scale model of the ship depicting all three classes of cabins, the public rooms, and the engine room and the bridge.

 

The Maiden Voyage gallery delves into the stories of the passengers, the crew, and the heroes of the cruise.  You can walk across the wooden deck and sit on benches, experiencing what it was like as a passenger on the maiden voyage.

 

The sinking reconstructs the actual April 14 - 15, 1912 disaster with dramatic sound, lighting, and special effects.

 

The aftermath gallery relives the drama of the event.  Myths and legends separate fact from fiction concerning the sinking.

 

With Titanic Beneath film recordings by Robert Ballard, you visit the wreck at its ocean floor resting place.  It also covers contemporary undersea exploration.  The overall museum is well done utilizing 3D computer wizardry and high technology to tell its story.

 

Timed admission tickets are sold and timed every ten minutes.  Open hours are April to September: Monday through Saturday: 9:00 a.m. - 7:00 p.m., Sunday: 10:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m. and October through March: daily: 10:00 a.m. - 7:00 p.m.  The museum is closed December 24 - 26.

 

Audio self-guided tours are available in English, German, Spanish, French, Italian, Mandarin, and Polish.  The museum is located at 1 Olympic Way, Queens Road, in the Titanic Quarter - a 1.7 kilometer, 20-minute walk from Donehall Square.  For more information, please call 1-44-28 0076 6386.  Groups must reserve a minimum of eight days of intended visit.  There is a large on-premises gift shop.

 

Titanic Belfast© has spurned several Titanic offshoot attractions:

 

A separate attraction is a guided walking tour of the adjacent Harland & Wolff Headquarters Drawing Rooms.  Tour departures are at 11:00 a.m., 1:00 p.m., and 3:00 p.m.  Tickets can be purchased at Titanic Belfast©.

 

Titanic Book Tours, one hour in duration, are offered of the historic Harland & Wolff shipyards and other famous Titanic sites around Belfast Harbor.  Departures are at 12:30 p.m., 2:00 p.m., and 3:30 p.m.  Sailings are from the pontoon near the Blue Fish Statue.

 

You can also visit the SS Nomadic, the Titanic’s original tender and last remaining White Star vessel.

 

Cave Hill is said to have provided the inspiration for Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels.  The views from the hill’s summit are rewarding.  You ascend the hill on Jonathan’s nose!

 

Farther afield, explore the majesty and mystery of the Giant’s Causeway.  The UNESCO World Heritage designated site is Northern Ireland’s number one sightseeing draw.  Begin by visiting the new Visitors Center.

 

Giant’s Causeway is a curious assemblage of 40,000 rock pillars of cooled molten lava formed over 60 million years ago as a result of volcanic activity.  It is an eerie sight: the rocks are inexplicitly formed in nearly perfect hexagonal shapes.  Legend has it that an angry giant, Finn McCool, created havoc and smashed the rocks into pieces!  Look for the Giant’s boot amongst the rocks.  This is a foot stomping expedition.  Be forewarned that the basalt columns can become very slippery and navigation is problematic, so it is best to be accompanied by a ranger on a guided tour or just to observe from a distance from a café overlooking the panoramic coast and the rocks.  The trails are well-marked and there’s now even a trail for the physically challenged.  Audio cassettes, available in nine languages, are perfect for do-it-yourselfers.  Giant’s Causeway is an 89-mile drive from the Belfast if you take the scenic Causeway Coastal Route.  Some veteran travelers consider the 120-mile Causeway Coastal Route to be one of the world’s most beautiful coastline roads, a highway blessed with endless natural wonders.

 

Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way, stretching over 1,500 miles, is the longest defined coastal touring route in the world.  Most driving itineraries split the Wild Atlantic Way drive into five segments and five days: 1. County Donegal, 2. Donegal to Mayo, 3.Mayo to Clare, 4. Clare to Kerry, and 5. Kerry to Cork.

 

1.   Begin in Donegal at Muff and weave around the Inishowen Peninsula.  Visit the urban center of Letterkenny and proceed to the coast of the northwest.  You’ll encounter opportunities for coastal walks, bird-watching, golf, and more.

 

2.    Continue down into Sligo and Mayo.  Explore Yeats Country in Sligo before driving across Achill Island.  Your first day ends in Mayo.  You could easily spend five days just on this segment.

 

3.   From Mayo, drive to Connemara and visit the Cliffs of Moher, see the Buren and Galway city.  Using Galway as a home base, take a day trip around Galway Bay and visit the seaside towns before taking a ferry to the Aran Islands, where Gaelic Irish is still spoken as a main language.  End this segment in Clare.

 

4.   From Clare, visit Limerick and head into Kerry.  This route combines history, food, and coastal views.  Three days are recommended for this segment.  Use Killarney as a home port and radiate out for day excursions to the Dingle Peninsula, where you will discover goats and the Blasket Islands.

 

5.   From Kerry, follow the route into Cork.  En route you’ll encounter islands and peninsulas.  The route winds from Kenmare to Kinsale.  Kinsale is a good spot for golfers and fine dining.  While in Kinsale, take a day trip to explore West Cork and the Old Head of Kinsale and Clonakilty Town.  End your travels in Cork.

 

A few miles inland, in the village of Ballymoney, is a country lane of beech trees known as the Dark Hedges.  The lane became famous for its role in the television series “Game of Thrones.”

 

BEST TIME TO VACATION IN BELFAST:

The best time to visit Belfast is during mid-April and May.

 

The second choice for visitation is during June, July, and August until mid-September.

 

Avoid: Make an attempt not to visit Belfast during the months of October, November, December, January, February, and March.

 

MAJOR EVENTS AND FESTIVALS IN BELFAST:

On-going year-round: Titanic Made in Belfast Festival

Mid-October through the first week of November: Belfast Festival at Queens

2012: Anniversary of Titanic Launch

 

IN SEARCH OF A GOOD NIGHT’S REST IN BELFAST:

Fitzwilliam is the preferred upscale boutique hotel choice of Belfast, located in the Cathedral Quarter.

 

TASTY DINING IN BELFAST:

If in a mood for steak, head to La Boca.

 

Celebrity Chef Michael Deane owns and operates a number of popular Belfast restaurants, including one specializing in seafood, another steak.  The places are dependable for an above-average meal.

 

Looking for a meal of fish and chips?  Long’s is the obvious choice.

 

WINDOW SHOPPING IN BELFAST:

A must-see is the hundreds of food purveyors that converge on St. George’s Market every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday to sell their wares.  Expect freshly caught seafood, artisanal cheeses, cured meats, and organic fruits and vegetables.

 

Avoca is an enclave of gift shops with home-ware and Irish hand-woven throws and scarves.

 

Victoria Square, while the oldest in Belfast, more than holds its own as a retail and restaurant locale.

 

A NIGHT ON THE TOWN IN BELFAST:

Visit an Irish pub, complete with blarney and local musicians.

 

Also visit the Duke of York, Lavery’s, as well as Gin Palace.

 

 

 

DERRY:

 

TIME ON YOUR HANDS IN DERRY:

 

 

 

LONDONDERRY:

 

TIME ON YOUR HANDS IN LONDONDERRY:

Londonderry is one of Europe’s best-preserved walled cities.

 

 

 

LOWER LOUGH ERNE, FERMSNAGH:

 

Lower Lough Erne is located in Northern Ireland.

 

TIME ON YOUR HANDS AT LOWER LOUGH ERNE:

The area sports over 150 islands.

 

The bluff of Cuilcagh is one of the highest points in Northern Ireland.

 

The area is best known for its Marble Arch Caves.  For a unique experience, be sure to take an underground boat cruise through the caves.

 

 

 

NEWRY:

 

TIME ON YOUR HANDS IN NEWRY:

 

 

 

-NORTHERN IRELAND-

 

During the winter months, daylight hours are scarce!Four - five hours of sunlight is the norm.  November is typically cold and windy. 

 

BEST TIME TO VACATION IN IRELAND - THE BEST WEATHER:

The best time to visit in Ireland is mid-April, May, June, July, and August when there are long daylight hours.  Early September can be rainy, otherwise the air is cool and crisp.  Be sure to also visit during October.  You can golf year-round in Ireland.  Mid-March through April is perfect if you wish to explore Ireland’s countryside, as it is pleasant weather for hiking.

 

Sunlight blankets Ireland 24 hours a day from mid-May through mid-August.

 

AVOID: Stay away from Southern Ireland during late September, October, and winter months, as those months bring heavy rainfall.

 

WEATHER: During summer, temperatures are in the 60’s and 70’s Fahrenheit and during winter, temperatures range in the 50’s and 60’s Fahrenheit.

 

MAJOR HOLIDAYS IN NORTHERN IRELAND: 

January 1: New Years Day

March 17: St. Patrick’s Day

Good Friday

Easter Monday

May: Early Bank Holiday

End of May: Spring Break Holiday

July 12: Anniversary of the Battle of the Boyne

December 25: Christmas Day

 

 

 

DERRY-LONDONDERRY:

 

Derry-Londonderry and Belfast (see separate alphabetical listing) are the two main cities of Northern Ireland.

 

TIME ON YOUR HANDS IN DERRY-LONDONDERRY:

The cobblestone streets of the city center are encircled by cannon-punctuated stone walls that were built in 1618 to serve as the city’s fortification to ward off attacks.  In more recent years, the city center has served as a center for big-band jazz festivals and other music festivals.

 

 

 

DOWNPATRICK:

 

Downpatrick is located in Northern Ireland.

 

MAJOR EVENTS AND FESTIVALS IN DOWNPATRICK: 

March 17: St. Patrick’s Day Parade

 

 

 

-THE REPUBLIC OF IRELAND-

 

ADARE:

 

TIME ON YOUR HANDS IN ADARE:

Adare’s thatched roof cottages make for a picturesque village.

 

IN SEARCH OF A GOOD NIGHT’S REST IN ADARE:

The turreted, ivy-covered 63-room Adare Manor Inn and Restaurant, consisting of a main manor plus 54 villas, sits amidst an 830-acre spread of woodlands, a formal garden, and golf course - in short, it is a beautiful setting.  Expect ornate fireplaces and antique furnishings.

 

There is a lot to do in Adare, such as archery, fishing, golfing, ballooning, and horseback riding.  It is perfect for a multiple-night stay.

 

 

 

COBH:

 

This small town is an historical southeastern Ireland port city serving cruise ships, container ships, and car ferries.

 

TIME ON YOUR HANDS IN COBH:

The Heritage Center, located next to the harbor side railroad terminal, tell the tale of Cobh’s early maritime history with model ships and displays.  The Titanic’s ill-fated maiden voyage stopped in Cobh to pick up over 100 Irish immigrants who were traveling third class.

 

The Lusitania was torpedoed off Cobh on April 11, 1912.  Many of its rescued, as well as deceased, victims were brought ashore in Cobh.

 

Docking passenger cruise ships bring ashore over 100,000 passengers annually to Cobh.

 

The former local offices of the White Star Line now house the “Titanic Experience,” an interactive attraction.  A recreation of the Titanic’s third-class section is a highlight.  The Lusitania Monument is located outside.

 

With construction beginning in 1868 and completed in 1915, St. Colman’s Catholic Cathedral is worth a look-see.  Its tower houses Ireland’s only carillon, a musical instrument that rings every 15 minutes.  The Cathedral’s location offers a great panoramic view of the city and harbor.

 

Kinsale (see separate alphabetical listing) is only an hour’s drive outside

 

Trains to Cork (see separate alphabetical listing), a 25-minute journey, depart every half-hour.

 

 

 

THE CLIFFS OF MOHER:

 

The Cliffs of Moher are a must see on any itinerary, as they rise 700 feet above the Atlantic Ocean.  Begin your visit at the Visitors Center.  The distant views from the center are spectacular.  The cliffs make for a superb day trip from either Dromoland or Adare Manor.

 

TASTY DINING NEAR THE CLIFFS OF MOHER:

The area is renowned for its seafood.  Chow down on a bowl of chowder at Fulacht Fia in the village of Ballvaughan.

The pub in the Temple Gate Hotel in Ennis also garners favorable comments for its cuisine.  The live music is a bonus.

 

 

 

CONNEMARA:

 

Connemara is located in the western coastal region of Ireland, an area of farm houses and emerald green hills.

 

TIME ON YOUR HANDS IN CONNEMARA:

 

IN SEARCH OF A GOOD NIGHT’S REST IN CONNEMARA:

Reside at the 83-room Ashford Castle for those that travel first cabin.

 

 

 

CORK CITY:

 

This southern Ireland city is rapidly emerging as a major business and leisure vacation destination.  It is also popular for sea kayaking.

 

Diving to view sunken ships is a popular pastime on the coast near Baltimore.  Snorkelers and surfers will enjoy the coast near Lahinch.

 

TIME ON YOUR HANDS IN CORK CITY: 

Cork is home to the Blarney Stone, which dates back to 1446.  It is housed in the Blarney Castle.  If you must, visit and grumble.  After standing patiently in line, and ascending what seems like a never-ending staircase, you get to kiss the stone – not a gem but a giant slab of limestone.  Yuck!  Is this wise from a germ standpoint?  To add insult to injury, in order to kiss the stone, one must bend over backwards (not me for anyone!) and hold on for dear life to an iron railing.  My aching back!

 

The reward for this grueling and uncomfortable indignity?  Kissing the stone allegedly is said to bestow the power of the gift of gab (eloquence and/or flattery - could it also be BS?) to those that have kissed the stone.  Double yuck!!  Baloney to the Blarney.

 

There is a hefty admission fee - pick your poison, but anywhere else and the Stone would win awards as a gigantic tourist trap.  Considering all the worthwhile sights to see and do in Ireland, ask yourself, do I really want to waste my time and money here?

 

A lucrative business opportunity awaits: a chiropractor should set up shop at the exit to treat the aching backs.

 

Kissing the Stone might be more palatable after visiting Jamesons Old Middleton Distillery beforehand.  The Distillery is located in suburban Middleton, at East Cork.  This is the 1975 relocated distillery operation for the famed whiskey distiller.  It is here that they actually distill the whiskey.  The distillery’s Malthouse Restaurant offers top notch cuisine including smoked Irish salmon, brown bread, and Ballycotton chowder.

 

The buildings date back to the 1800’s.  The guided tours, including tastings, of the distillery are two hours in duration.  As in Dublin, there are several pricey alternative distillery experiences: the Jameson Family Whiskey Tasting, the Jameson Select Reserve Cask Strength Bottle Your Own, and the Tutored Whiskey Tasting Session - you get to taste the premium stuff!

 

The Cork Vision Centre is housed in the 1788 St. Peter’s Church, a museum of Irish culture, art, architecture, and photography.  The most popular exhibit is a scale model of Cork.  The centre is closed Sundays and Mondays.

 

The Cork Butter Museum, built in 1770, honors Ireland’s most successful import.  Its neighbor and the city’s major landmark is St. Anne’s Anglican Church, established in 1722, with its distinctive clock tower.

 

Be forewarned that the side roads around Cork are rather confusing, so come prepared with a compass to keep your bearings.

 

700 miles of coastline are within easy drivable distance of Cork.

 

The Cliffs of Moher, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is nearby and easily accessible from Cork.  It is a superb day trip from either Dromoland or Adare Manor.

 

Southwest Cork is popular for sea kayaking.  Diving to view sunken ships is a popular pastime on the coast near Baltimore.  Snorkeling is also a common activity.

 

Surfers will enjoy the coast near Lahinch.

 

WINDOW SHOPPING IN CORK CITY:

The English Market, Ireland’s most famous covered market, is open year-round.  It has functioned since 1788.  Fruits and vegetables are collected from small-scale farms.

 

The Cookery School at Ballymaloe combines cookbooks, crockery, and cooking lessons.

 

TASTY DINING IN CORK:

Let your appetite go berserk!  An absolute must, a feast for the eyes and tummy, is a visit to the English Market, a local tradition dating back to 1610.  Picture stalls in an indoor food hall featuring only the finest of Irish cheeses, fresh herbs, produce, meats, seafood, and freshly baked breads - a dream made good for gourmets. The upstairs Farmgate Restaurant serves what you’ve witnessed.  The restaurant is closed on Sundays.

 

Cork has acquired a well-deserved reputation for gourmet dining.

 

The city’s restaurants serve unfussy cuisine with a heavy emphasis on fresh local ingredients.

 

Vegans flock to Café Paradiso.  The baked goods are to die for.

 

 

 

COUNTY CLARE:

 

County Clare is located in southern Ireland.

 

The fifteenth century Bunratty Castle and fortress is the most authentically restored castle in Ireland.

 

County Clare is also home of the famous Dromoland Castle, a dream destination worthy of a multiple night stay, if your budget allows.

 

Burren is a spectacular natural wonder - mountainsides of limestone covered by periodic greenery, indicative of the area’s rugged landscape.

 

 

 

COUNTY LIMERICK:

 

County Limerick, located in Southern Ireland, is home of the posh Adare Manor, a perfect respite for a multiple-night stay.  Being the site of the Irish Open during 2008 and 2009, golf abounds amidst the luxurious accommodations and beautiful setting.

 

 

 

DONEGAL:

 

TIME ON YOUR HANDS IN DONEGAL:

Explore the scenic beauty of Ards Forest Park.

 

The Wild Atlantic Way is the longest fully sign-posted touring route in the world.  The breathtaking route stretches 1,500 miles along the west coast of Ireland from Donegal in the north to Kinsale in the south.

 

There are little villages and small towns all along the coastline.  The surfing is great along the coast at Donegal and Sligo.

 

Along the Wild Atlantic Way, you’ll encounter Fanad Head - one of the world’s most beautiful beaches, as well as the Cliffs of Moher, Kerry, and Kinsale.

 

WINDOW SHOPPING IN DONEGAL:

Donegal has long been known for its hand-woven tweed that has been produced from area sheep.

 

The dyes come from local fields of blackberries, fuchsia, gorse, and moss.  The tradition of this local skill is being preserved at Studio Donegal where you can watch the hand weavers and spinners busy at work.  Can you purchase their finished product, you ask?  My, my, you foolish one!  Get out your wallet!

 

 

 

DROMOLAND:

 

TIME ON YOUR HANDS IN DROMOLAND:

While in Dromoland, visit the Cliffs of Moher (see separate alphabetical listing).

 

Dromoland is home to the famous Dromoland Castle, a dream destination worthy of a multiple-night stay, if your budget allows.  This baronial castle has been the subject of many a photograph.

 

 

 

DUBLIN:

 

Dublin is located in the southern section of Ireland. Ninety percent of all inbound flights to Ireland land in Dublin.

 

Dublin has enjoyed an illustrious literary heritage, as George Bernard Shaw and Butler Yeats were born in Dublin, Oscar Wilde also lived in Dublin, and James Joyce wrote of Dublin.

 

Dublin boasts a young population, a definite positive influence contributing to the vibrant dining and pub scene.

 

MAJOR EVENTS AND FESTIVALS IN DUBLIN:

Mid-February: Dublin International Film Festival

Mid-March: St. Patrick’s Day draws large crowds (500,000), parades, music, dance, theater, fireworks, craft beer, and food festivals

Entire month of September: Dublin Fringe Festival - over 45,000 spectators

Last two weeks of September through the first two weeks of October: Dublin Theatre Festival - huge crowds

Last two weeks of September: Waterford International Festival of Light Opera

Last week of September: Galway International Oyster Festival

Last week of October: Guinness Jazz Festival

Last week of October: Banks of Foyle Halloween Carnival in Derry

 

THE BEST TIME TO VACATION IN DUBLIN:

The most advantageous time to visit Dublin is during July and August.

 

TIME ON YOUR HANDS IN DUBLIN:

Most sightseeing includes the big five: Trinity College Library and the Book of Kells, Dublin Castle, Christ Church Cathedral, the Guinness Storehouse, and a pub crawl.

 

Dublin is a compact city easy to navigate.  The best way to see it is a walking tour.

 

Grafton Street is famous for its talented street performers.

 

The Dublin Bus Tour, a hop on-hop off service is a great way of seeing the sights of the city.

 

Feel studious?  Then it behooves you, legs being cooperative, to take a fascinating guided literary walking tour of the city.  Dublin is a UNESCO-designated City of Literature.

 

Do not miss Trinity College, where the stunning, illuminated Book of Kells is on display.  It is very popular.  Just exactly what is the Book of Kells?  It is a four-volume illustrated ninth century (800 A.D.) manuscript of the four Gospels in Latin.  The calf-skin manuscripts were written by monks around the year of 800.  Two volumes are on display at any one time - one for script and the other for illustration/decoration.  The books are rotated on display.  The Book of Kells attracts over a half-million visitors annually and is the second most popular attraction in Ireland.  Expect a wait in line not to exceed ten minutes.  Allow a minimum of 40 - 60 minutes to tour.

 

From the Trinity College Library, walk a short distance to the Dublin Castle.  The castle dates back to 930 - 1830.  A disastrous fire in 1684 left only the distinctive Norman-style Record Tower standing.  The large complex has served a variety of functions including as the seat of Parliament and a dungeon (how appropriate a pair), the Royal Mint, the Treasury, Ireland’s “Infernal” Revenue Museum, and ceremonial rooms to entertain heads of state.  Most prominently, it served as the center of British rule in Ireland until 1922.

 

You can wander through select areas of the complex on your own; however, more extensive guided tours are recommended.  An interesting tour is “Sex and Scandal - the Theft of the Irish Crown Jewels.”  Yep, shifty fingers absconded with the jewels in 1907.  “Hang Them” is a tour of the complex’s extensive art collection, not a reference to the Dungeon’s “specialty" services.  Tours, for a nominal charge, are offered Monday through Saturday: 10:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m. and on Sundays and public holidays from noon - 6:00 p.m.

 

After visiting the castle, proceed to Christ Church Cathedral, founded in 1028.  It is the spiritual heart of Dublin.  Be sure to view the medieval crypt of two mummified inhabitants, named Tom and Jerry.  The crypt is otherwise known as the Cat and the Rat Crypt.  James Joyce made it famous.

 

The Cathedral also has the distinction of hosting the first performance of Handel’s “Messiah” in 1742.  The church’s renowned choir performs four times a week.  Call for times: 353-(0)1-6778099.

 

When was the last time you encountered a restaurant in a cathedral?  If you’re hungry, you are in luck!  The restaurant serves tea, coffee, scones, cakes, and sandwiches.

 

Visit the Writer’s Museum and walk in the footsteps of James Joyce, Bernard Shaw, Oscar Wilde, Samuel Beckett, W.D. Yates, and others as their artifacts are displayed and the history of Irish journalism is retold.  It is all housed in an old home located at 18 Parnell Square.  The museum is open daily.

 

The James Joyce Tower is a small museum dedicated to the famous writer.

 

SAVVY TRAVEL TIP: If you just can’t get enough of James Joyce, visit Sweny’s Pharmacy, immortalized in Ulysses where, on most days, you’ll be able to hear live readings of Joyce’s works.  The tiny place, only 11 feet wide and 14 feet long, closed as a pharmacy in 2009, but has remained open as a new and secondhand bookstore of Joyce’s works.  It also sells local crafts and its famous lemon-scented soap.  Proceeds support the upkeep of this literary shrine.  Volunteers read Joyce’s works.  Sweny’s Pharmacy is located at 1 Lincoln Place, and can be reached by calling 353 86 050 7995.

 

There are even guided literary pub crawls, complete with actors re-enacting drama, poetry readings, storytelling, and music.

 

Dublin names it bridges after famous writers.  One of the most flamboyant architecturally is the stunning new Samuel Beckett Bridge, a modernistic twenty-fourth century asymmetrical harp-shaped span over the Liffey River, designed by Santiago Calatrava.

 

Less literary, but nevertheless equally popular, is doing an old-fashioned pub crawl and touring St. James Gate Brewery.  You’ll more readily recognize it as the Guinness Brewery.  Take a tour and then indulge in a sip or two at the Gravity Bar.

 

Guinness Storehouse® is where it all began.  It opened in 1904 and ceased operation as a brewery in 1988.  It re-opened again in 2000 for tours.  The Guinness Storehouse is Ireland’s most popular attraction.  Think of it as a museum for beer drinkers.  Your visit begins at the bottom of the Atrium, the world’s largest pint glass, capable of holding14.3 million pints of Guinness Beer.  A plaque commemorates the brewery’s 900-year lease.

 

Your tour will trace the ingredients and history of the craft of brewing beer and the craft of cooperage (making and transporting wooden beer barrels).

 

Another interesting exhibit is on advertising and sponsorship.  The tour concludes at a gigantic gift shop and a choice of several bars: the modern, all-glass Gravity Bar is high atop the seven-story brewery - enjoy your Guinness and the panoramic views of Dublin.

 

For an added cost, you can reserve to dine in the Brewers Dining Hall and/or retreat to the private Connoisseur Bar Experience for a sampling of Guinness’s four most popular brews: Draught, Original, Foreign Extra Stout, and Black Lager.  Be sure to allow an hour and a half to indulge in the brew samples.  There is an admission fee.  Open hours are daily 9:30 a.m. - 5:00 p.m., with the last admission accepted at 5:00 p.m.

 

There’s a saying in Dublin that “All Roads lead to Bow Street.”  That’s an exaggeration, but many a visitor targets the ultimate Irish whiskey destination of the seven-story, Old Jameson Distillery, another of Ireland’s most popular tourist attractions, established in 1780.  Tours depart every 15 minutes from April through October and every 25 minutes from November to March 1.  You can tour, dine, and indulge in tastings at the former distillery.  Enjoy a four-course meal at J.J.’s with traditional entertainment by the Claddagh dancers of “Riverdance” fame.  Advanced reservations are recommended.  For an extra cost and also requiring advanced reservations, there are more intensive visits, including the Jameson Whiskey Masterclass, the Jameson Taste Experience, and Jameson Select Reserve Bottle Your Own.

 

The distillery’s Gravity Bar provides floor-to-ceiling panoramic views of Dublin.

 

To tour the actual working distillery, you’ll need to visit Cork, as the distillery operations moved to suburban Middleton, just outside Cork.

 

Modern art is alive and well in Dublin: the Irish Museum of Modern Art is housed in what was formerly the seventeenth century Royal Hospital Kilmainham, a convalescent home for soldiers.

 

On your pub crawl, two of the most worthwhile pub stops are the Palace Bar and Hughes.  After drinking, if you can pass a sobriety test, check out the infamous Kilmainham Jail.

 

The National Museum of Ireland-Archaeology has an impressive collection of Viking displays and Irish artifacts including the Celtic gold exhibit.

 

The National History Museum, filled with its vast collection of stuffed animals, is always a hit with kids and taxidermists.  Scientific exhibits are on hand for the inquisitive minds.

 

For a walk on the more lively wild side, visit the Dublin Zoo, the fourth oldest in Europe.  Much more than an afterthought, don’t discount a visit simply because you have never heard of it.  To the contrary, the Zoo is actually very worthwhile and is one of the most visited attractions in Dublin.  It is particularly well known for its highly successful breeding program.  The zoo, located in Phoenix Park, is open daily.

 

The Hugh Lane Gallery houses a major collection of Irish contemporary art.

 

The Spire of Dublin, built in 2003, is something that if you happen to stumble across, view it quickly and move on.  It is certainly not worth the time and effort to detour in order to see. It is a nondescript 398 feet tall pin-thin stainless steel sculpture on the former site of the 1966 IRA bomb-destroyed Nelson’s Pillar.  Whoopee!  The Spire’s base is lit at night.  This yawner sight is located in the former seedy area of O’Connell Street.  Other than ugly, the sculpture has no redeeming value.  This is art?

 

Seems that every city has its version of the old Ferris wheel, the Dublin Wheel in Point Village in the Docklands offers panoramic views.

 

If you have energy to burn and are willing to brave the traffic, check out Dublin Bikes, where you can get a free bike rental.  Safer and less bone-jarring are the rental bikes at Phoenix Park.  Bicycle the park and then visit the Dublin Zoo.

 

Interested in spectator sports?  Check out the Gaelic Football at Croke Park Stadium.  The Gaelic Athletic Association Museum is located next door to the stadium.

 

Forty-five minutes outside Dublin and you are at Bru na Boinne, an eerie complex of Neolithic mounds, chamber tombs, henges, and other prehistoric remnants.  It has been referenced as “Ireland’s Giza.”

 

The site’s monuments predate the pyramids.  Some tour operators operate day tours from Dublin.

 

You do not need to travel great distances to vary your sightseeing.  Galway, the Atlantic Ocean, and the Cliffs of Moher are an easy 140-mile drive from Dublin.

 

Before you tackle the 20-kilometer coastal walking trail from Hags Head to Doolin, be forewarned that it is treacherous undertaking: no barriers, hand rails, or fences between you and a 650-foot drop!  Make sure your financial affairs are in order before setting out.

 

IN SEARCH OF A GOOD NIGHT’S REST IN DUBLIN:

The 197-room Four Seasons Hotel Dublin is the city’s toniest address.  The hotel features spacious well-appointed rooms, a spa, and a fine dining room.

 

The elegant five-star, 265-room Shelburne Dublin, built in 1824, has traditionally been the center of the city’s social and political activity.

 

The 179-room Westin Dublin is located opposite Trinity College.

 

If your tastes run first cabin, the sleek 187-room and suite, the Marker, located at Grand Canal Square, should fit the bill.  It is a classy choice and a bonus: the rooftop lounge has attractive views of the city.

 

The five-star, 200-room Powerscourt Hotel, Resort, and Spa is a member of the Autograph Collection.  Amenities include a spa and two championship golf courses.  Powerscourt is located 25 minutes from Dublin.

 

The recently renovated 142-room Hotel Merrion consists of a series of four former landmark eighteenth century townhouses conveniently located just across from the Irish Parliament.  Amenities range from antique to contemporary furnishings, original artworks, a spa, as well as two restaurants.

 

The historic Kildare Hotel, Spa and Country Club, located in the outskirts of Dublin, is the consensus choice for best lodging.

 

Dublin is home to the nation’s two largest hotels, the 500-room Doubletree by Hilton Hotel (formerly the Burlington) and the 774-room City West Hotel.

 

WINDOW SHOPPING IN DUBLIN: 

Grafton is the city’s pedestrian shopping street and also home to the best shopping.  Marks and Spencer is present with a large store.  Expect street musicians and street performers.

 

The streets west of Grafton offer more trendy, but independent, local merchants.  Check out the merchants at Castle Market.

 

Kidare Village is also great for shopping.

 

The medieval neighborhood of Temple Bar is a lively place to shop, pub crawl, and listen to music.  The world premiere of Handel’s Messiah took place in Temple Bar in 1742.

 

TASTY DINING IN DUBLIN:

The Cliff Townhouse, a former gentlemen’s club, is generally considered to be Dublin’s top restaurant.  Fresh seafood is served in an Art-Deco-inspired dining room.  It is a favorite of celebrities.  The Cliff Townhouse is located at 22 Street, Stephen’s Green, and can be reached by calling 00 3531 638 3939.

 

The award-winning restaurant, Patrick Guilbaud, is celebrated for its seafood.  Crabmeat cannelloni is a specialty.

 

Ely, a brasserie and gastro-pub, is also Dublin’s oldest wine venue.  The menu covers the gamut from Burren rib-eye steaks to traditional Irish fare.

 

If you’re interested in seafood, dine at Bentley’s Oyster Bar and Grill or Thornton’s Restaurant.

 

If casual fare is of more interest, stop in at the Café Gruel.

 

Speaking of old, the city’s oldest restaurant is Beaufield Mews. It is housed in a century-old stable complex and is surrounded by beautiful gardens

 

Chapter One is a proud recipient of a Michelin Star.  It is a fusion of Old World and modern cuisine.

 

A NIGHT ON THE TOWN IN DUBLIN: 

Formality and arrogant VIP sections are out in Dublin.  The buzz word is casual attire and relaxation - enjoy your pub crawl.

 

Do a pub crawl - sooner rather than later, you will invariably end up at the Brazen Head, Dublin’s oldest pub, having been established in 1198.  Pubs or public houses are social gathering spots.  Some offer music on weekends but all pubs offer beer and soda.  Pubs are seemingly on every corner and tend to be clustered near each other.

 

Not all pubs offer food.  Some of them feature live music.

 

Another old-timer is Stag’s Head, built in 1770.  This is the favorite of cinema photographers, having appeared in several movies.  The interior has a lot of atmosphere.  You guessed it: lots of wood-mounted stag heads are displayed along with stained glass and chandeliers.  Stag’s Head is locatedat 1 Dame Court.

 

Perhaps Dublin’s most renowned pub, O’Donoghue’s has fostered many a prominent folk band.  Live traditional music is performed seven nights a week.  Unlike most pubs, they accept reservations.  There is no admission fee.  Dine on a fish and chips lunch.  O’Donoghue’s is located at 115 Merrion Row.

 

Temple Bar, dating back over 160 years, is a favorite of tourists for live music and pub ambience.

 

Cobblestone is another popular pub with live music.  Be forewarned that snacks are not available.  The pub is located at 77 North King Street.

 

A little creepy is Kavanaugh’s, also known as Gravediggers!  Its neighbor is a cemetery.  The pub dates back to 1833 and was said to be the favored choice of undertakers who chose to drink on the job.  Kavanaugh’s is located at 1 Prospect Square.

 

Tour groups tend to patronize the suburban Taylors Three Rock Pub where they are served a traditional Irish meal followed by live Irish entertainment.

 

Davey Byrnes Pub is another of Dublin’s most famous drinking holes. Pub fare cuisine is served with seafood receiving top billing.

 

The Olympia Theatre is the place for plays and musicals.

 

Two other pubs worth visiting are the Palace Bar and Hughes, which perform live music.  You might also want to indulge in free tastings at the Guinness Storehouse. 

 

The locally popular Long Hall sports a beautiful authentic Victorian pub décor. It can be found at 51 South Great George Street.

 

Mulligan’s is an old timer serving Guinness.

 

Whelan’s is the place for nightly live music.

 

After drinking, if you can pass a sobriety test, check out the infamous Kilmainham Jail.

 

Experience the nightlife on South Great George’s Street. 

 

Attend a rugby or Gaelic football game at Lansdowne Road Stadium. 

 

The performing arts and theatre are alive and well in Dublin, with an emphasis on dramas rather than musicals.

 

The Abbey is Ireland’s national theater.

 

 

 

GALWAY:

 

This seaside small city of 75,000 residents is the gateway to the Connemara.  It is also a city of music.

 

MAJOR EVENTS AND FESTIVALS IN GALWAY:

July: International Arts Festival

July: Galway Races

September: Oyster Festival

 

TIME ON YOUR HANDS IN GALWAY:

Drive the road to Connemara and visit Killary Harbour.

 

Galway is a perfect place from which to explore the Cliffs of Moher (see separate alphabetical listing).  Hikers enjoy the countryside.  More strenuous is tackling the nearby 3,500-foot peaks. 

 

Galway is home of the National University of Ireland.

 

WINDOW SHOPPING IN GALWAY:

Eyre Square is renowned for its famed Sheridan’s Cheesemongers, famous for their homemade farmhouse cheeses.

 

IN SEARCH OF A GOOD NIGHT’S REST IN GALWAY:

The award-winning, five-star, 83-room Ashford Manor is a member of the prestigious “Leading Hotels of the World” group.

 

Popular activities include falconry, horseback riding, fishing, clay pigeon shooting, a nine-hole golf course and lake cruises.

 

TASTY DINING IN GALWAY:

Seafood rues supreme in Galway.

 

The Galway oyster is legendary.  The Galway International Oyster Festival takes place in late September every year.

 

Moran’s Oyster Cottage is a good choice for oysters.

 

Gregan’s Castle Hotel, a Georgian manor, is renowned for its award-winning cuisine and stunning views of Galway Bay.  Four and eight-course menus are provided.

 

The same goes for the Kai Café and Restaurant, with an emphasis on local ingredients.

 

Aniar restaurant is a Michelin Star recipient.  The emphasis is on local seasonal fare.  The restaurant is located at 53 Lower Dominick Street.

 

A NIGHT ON THE TOWN IN GALWAY:

The Shop Street, Lower Dominick Street, Sea Road, and Mainguard Street pubs of Galway hum with the traditional Irish reel music as played on steel guitars, flutes, fiddles, and banjos.

 

Tig Coili, River Corrib, and Crane Bar are standout examples of popular tourist haunts for live music.

 

 

 

KENMARE:

 

WINDOW SHOPPING IN KENMARE:

Kenmare is home to the famous Kenmare Lace and Design Center, part museum, part gift shop with lace making demonstrations.

 

 

 

KERRY:

 

Kerry is located in southwestern Ireland.

 

TIME ON YOUR HANDS IN KERRY:

The popular Ring of Perry Scenic Trail dates back to the seventh century.

 

The spectacular monumental rocks of Skellig Michael are a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  The jagged rock islands are located eight miles from Kerry.  Weather permitting, the rocks are accessible by boat from Ballinskelligs, Derrynane, and Portmagee between April and September.  A maximum of 180 people at a time are permitted on the larger of the two islands.

 

IN SEARCH OF A GOOD NIGHT’S REST IN KERRY:

Gaby’s is the choice for seafood.  Order the LobsterGaby.

 

 

 

KILLARNEY:

 

Killarney is a medieval town.

 

TIME ON YOUR HANDS IN KILLARNEY: 

Shannon International Airport is a two-hour drive away.

 

As a day trip, take a Ring of Kerry tour and arrange for an Irish Evening home dinner. Dining in a perfect stranger’s residence at first glance probably won’t ring your chimes as being time well spent.  Think again, as it could well end up being the hit of your Irish vacation.

 

The 260,000-acre Killarney National Park is known for its rugged mountain peaks, lake scenery, and the endangered red deer.

 

(Also see separate alphabetical listing for Dublin).

 

IN SEARCH OF A GOOD NIGHT’S REST IN KILLARNEY:

The contemporary-styled 187-room, five-star, Europe Hotel and Resort is just outside of town.  Amenities include a dramatic two-level spa, several restaurants, and a pub.  The resort has access to a nearby golf and lake activities.

 

The 172-room Malton Hotel is another high-end hotel property.

 

 

 

KILKENNY:

 

Kilkenny is a small town, known for its pretty painted homes, floral boxes, arts and crafts, and Smithwick’s Beer.  The summer population soars with tourists and yachters.

 

TIME ON YOUR HANDS IN KILKENNY:

Built in 1195, Kilkenny Castle is a must, especially for its stunning Picture Gallery Wing.  The castle is a hodgepodge of various architectural styles.

 

The Cathedral, another obligatory sight, is over 1,000 years old.

 

WINDOW SHOPPING IN KILKENNY:

Kilkenny supports a substantial crafts community of potters, jewelers, milliners, and other artisans.

 

Check out the Kilkenny Craft Trail and visit the Kilkenny Design Center for quality gifts.

 

 

 

KINSALE:

 

Kinsale is a quiet harbor town known for its narrow cobblestone streets, quaintness, and fine dining.

 

TIME ON YOUR HANDS IN KINSALE:

The Old Head of Kinsale, a lighthouse, is located six miles outside the town.

 

Try your skills of kayaking through caves at Old Head.

 

The unusually shaped former British coastal defense seventh century Charles Fort is shaped like a star.  It is a designated National Monument.

 

Nearby is Blarney, Waterford, and Killarney (see separate alphabetical listings for each).

 

WINDOW SHOPPING IN KINSALE:

While in Kinsale, shop for Irish clothing, art, pottery, crystal, and jewelry.

 

 

 

NEWGRANGE:

 

Newgrange is a 30-minute drive north of Dublin, an engineering marvel of over 300 spectacular ancient mounds and tombs dating back to 3200 B.C.  It has been designated as a World Heritage Site.  The town is extremely popular with archaeologists.

 

 

 

SHANNON:

 

TIME ON YOUR HANDS IN SHANNON AND IN SEARCH OF A GOOD NIGHT’S REST IN SHANNON:

Visit the five-star Dromoland Castle Hotel and Country Estate, one of Ireland’s most famous baronial castles.  The property has received numerous international awards.  In addition to touring the castle, you can also stay here in the castle’s lavish 99-room hotel.  Amenities include a pool, spa, and sauna.

 

The castle’s elegant dining room with red silk wall coverings features cheeses, local seafood, and delicious desserts.

 

Resort activities include falconry, wildlife viewing (red deer and pheasant), legendary championship golf, tennis, fishing, croquet, horseback riding, and archery.

 

The castle is located on a 450-acre scenic park on the shores of Lough Dromoland, 8 miles from Shannon International Airport.

 

Dromoland recently acquired the adjacent former 113-room Clare Inn and has renamed it the Inn at Dromoland.

 

Also near Shannon is the Adare Manor Hotel and Golf Course.  This Leading Hotels of the World property has 63 five-star rooms and 25 villas.  The hotel is a former castle estate, spread over an 840-acre tract of woodlands, formal gardens, and riverside setting.  Amenities include an indoor heated swimming pool and spa.

 

Activities include a Robert Trent Jones-designed championship golf course, hot air balloon rides, falconry, and fishing.

 

A NIGHT ON THE TOWN IN SHANNON:

Bunratty Castle is seven miles outside Shannon in County Claire (see separate alphabetical listing).  The castle features a banquet hall meal, live music, and traditional Irish dancing.  It is definitely touristy, but what the heck, as long as everyone is having a good time.

 

 

 

SLIGO:

 

Sligo is located in northwest Ireland near the border with Northern Ireland.  It is a popular wedding and literary locale.  The local unspoiled coastal and mountain scenery is spectacular.

 

There is a wealth of outdoor recreational opportunities awaiting you, including beachcombing, golf, hiking, and climbing Knocknarea Mountain, to name a few.

 

Literary fans of W.B. Keats will want to consider staying overnight in Sligo.  There are bus tours of Keats landmarks.

 

Organized groups, a minimum of 10 and maximum of 50 guests, can enjoy the Yeats Experience, an evening immersion of everything Yeats, including a dinner in a private home and half-hour of poetry readings.  An optional booking is to add “Yeats After Dinner Entertainment,” a costumed cast of four continues the theme of Yeats with poetry readings, storytelling, and music.

 

No, you didn’t make a wrong turn!  The small deserted island of Coney Island lies just offshore between Standhill and Sligo.  It is great for hiking and picnics.

 

Nearby day trips include Ballisodare, Donegal, Leitrim, and Mayo (see separate alphabetical listings).

 

WINDOW SHOPPING IN SLIGO:

There are no chain stores here.  Rather, expect to find small and unique merchants.  Mullaney Brothers is a favorite for souvenir hunters.

 

 

 

TIPPERARY:

 

Tipperary is a dairy farm area two hours’ drive from Dublin.

 

A NIGHT ON THE TOWN IN TIPPERARY:

McCarthy’s of Fethard (pronounced: “Feathered”) is a famous pub worth visiting.  It was established in the 1850’s.

 

 

 

WATERFORD:

 

TIME ON YOUR HANDS IN WATERFORD:

Sadly, the famed House of Waterford Crystal is now but a scaled down version of its former self.  To cut labor costs, manufacturing was moved to Eastern Europe.  The present facility has been reduced to a museum.