October in Ireland
This past fall I had the opportunity to visit Ireland, a destination near the top of my wish list for a very long time. This trip was exquisitely planned by Cox and Kings, one of our most experienced travel suppliers for customized luxury travel. My tour began on a Sunday at the beautifully restored Adare Manor just outside Limerick. As soon as I stepped on the property, my breath was taken away by the evergreen scenery and fairytale architecture. The historic interior was recently restored to its original state, evoking rich historical charm and elegance. Experiencing brunch or an afternoon tea is an absolute must at this stately manor house. I later took a private tour on the lake with Secret Ireland Escapes Tour Company, which gave me a taste of all the hidden treasures woven into the Irish landscape.
That same afternoon I journeyed to Galway, or “City of the Tribes,” where fourteen historic and famous families forged the city’s history. The city is nestled in the North inner shore of Galway Bay and is steeped in Celtic and Spanish tradition. I had some much needed down time at Park House Hotel, which is located in the heart of Galway. That evening I dined at Ard Bia Spanish Arch, which is housed in one of the city’s most iconic restaurant spaces. Ard Bia managed to strike the perfect combination of local aesthetic with an unexpected fun ambiance.
The next morning I departed Galway and headed west for Kylemore Abbey & Gardens. The Abbey was simply lovely and the estate itself was brimming with romance, tragedy, and spirituality. I visited with the Head Nun in her private quarters and walked around the 6-acre Victorian Walled Gardens featuring restored garden buildings, which truly made it feel as though I had stepped back into the 18th century. That afternoon included a visit to Connemara Oysters where we learned how oysters are grown. We had lunch at a local pub, including of course Connemara oysters among other seafood delicacies, which I personally enjoyed much more than I had originally imagined I would. After lunch, we went on to tour the recently renovated Ashford Castle. The 800 year old stone gates there were even more impressive and grand than advertised.
That evening I checked in at No. 1 Pery Square, a premiere boutique hotel in Limerick. The hotel has a lovely view overlooking the tree lined People’s Park in the historic Georgian Quarter, and is widely regarded as the best example of late Georgian architecture in Limerick, if not all of Ireland. Dinner was in an intimate space that was so cozy and warm we felt right at home. The outstanding kitchen team showcased beautifully elegant dishes, which featured local and seasonal ingredients adding an extra layer of authenticity to our meal.
The next morning I took an ever-so-scenic drive through charming Adare Village, which is lined with traditional thatched cottages. I enjoyed attending a class at Dingle Cookery School & Dingle Gin Distillery where we learned the proper Irish techniques for cooking fish and making bread! A little known fact is that the Dingle Peninsula (southwest Atlantic shore) has the best raw ingredients Ireland has to offer. With vast traditions in food and drink, Dingle showed me a new meaning of food that I got to bring home to Kentucky. Our day ended at the Killarney Park Hotel, which is one of Ireland’s most luxurious hotels. The hotel is located in Killarney town center, while the town itself is framed by the legendary Killarney National Park.
For the next leg of my journey I departed Killarney and headed for Tipperary. On the way I stopped to hear voices of the past at Cahir Castle. Built in 1142, Cahir Castle is one of Ireland’s largest and best preserved castles so you can just feel the history as soon as you catch the sight. That afternoon I had loads of fun and great food at Highbanks Organic Orchard. The 17th century stone-built coach yard and small distillery is steeped in medieval history. While there, I sampled organic syrup, juices, ciders, and a variety of spirits.
Later in the afternoon I enjoyed a guided tour of Kilkenny’s Medieval Mile Museum and St. Canice Cathedral, followed by some much needed free time to simply meander about Kilkenny Castle. All Kilkenny’s attractions have a magical combination of industry and 1000 years of history, right down to the cobbled lanes and streets. In the evening I visited the Mount Juliet Estate, where the scenery and ambiance reminded me of my ole Kentucky home.
After Kilkenny, I journeyed to Laois and visited another amazing restoration — Ballyfin Demesne. Voted the #2 Top Hotel in the World by Travel & Leisure for 2018, this 5-star hotel is set at the foot of the Slieve Bloom Mountains. My breath was taken away by the property’s tranquility and natural beauty. I also got to visit the Irish National Stud & Japanese Gardens which was a fabulous treat. Japanese architecture combined with Irish horse culture transported me to a fantasy world where I could have stayed forever. That evening I checked in at The Westbury, a luxurious 5-star Dublin hotel. I dined at a popular local eatery and did some pub-hopping in the vicinity of the hotel. On my last day, I enjoyed a walking tour of Dublin and a visit to the Book of Kells, which I consider a must see for those who visit Dublin.
My departure from Ireland was made easy and smooth with clearing US customs and immigration in Dublin. Alas, my Irish adventure had come to an end, but I left there knowing that I will return because, as full as my visit was, there is still SO much more to see and experience in Ireland!