As I mentioned last week, this was my first trip to Ireland and I know why it’s called the Emerald Isle. I have never seen greener grass. Probably because of the rain, but it is truly a beautiful green country. Even the Cliffs of Moher and the Ring of Kerry glow green. The countryside is a patchwork quilt of green grass next to hay fields with cows seemingly everywhere. I never knew, by the way, that cows were so friendly. We stopped at the side of the road to take a picture of the ruined castle of Dunamase and, within a minute, a herd of cows had loped over to the fence to say hello and give licks on our hands. (Cows have rough tongues in case you’ve never had one lick you.)
If you are traveling to Ireland, definitely rent a car and drive throughout the West and South. The Cliffs of Moher are exquisite and have great sites to look down upon them, but beware that unlike the U.S. there are not guardrails all over so keep a leash on small children. It’s a long drop to the roiling Atlantic waters.
From there, take a long drive that goes through a lovely quaint town called Adare on minuscule roads which are very challenging when large tourist buses are on the other side barreling down toward you. (But there are lots of laybys to pull into.) The Ring of Kerry is truly magnificent – a ring of mountains with small villages by the water at the base where one can get fresh seafood that is delicious. And the Ring is almost overwhelming. Each curve unveils another breathtaking view.
One of the many sights that surprised me on this trip was how often we saw the Irish flag with the EU flag and then the American flag all flying together. I have been to many countries but never felt so welcome as in Ireland. As one local told us, “A third of our countrymen were welcomed by America when they were starving in Ireland and we now feel inextricably bound to that great country.” The fact that our flag was flying at so many places reinforced her comment every day.
One of the great hotels in Ireland is about a twenty-minute drive from Shannon airport so Dromoland is a must stop. It has about 90 rooms and a wonderful gift shop as well as a superb spa and great chef. The bar, which was originally the library of the castle, is a wonderful room with expert bartenders. It was fun being there for three nights and having them recommend different Irish whiskeys every night. Some of our favorites were Knappogue, Writers Tears (very appropriate if I do say so), and Hyde and Yellow Spot to name a few.
If you make it to the East, go to Wexford and stay at Killiane Castle and Farm which is run by the family and serves a great breakfast, plus one gets to wake up to the cows mooing at you in the morning from the field in front of the castle. The extra touch they have is that when you arrive the bed is already warmed for you with an electric warmer under the sheets. (You can turn it off if you are lucky enough to be in Ireland when it is in the 70s and not raining.) And eat at Green Acres – one of the top ten restaurants in the country which has a marvelous lobster dish and a wonderful attached store.
I now can’t wait to go back and have even more wonderful adventures there.