With my specialty being islands, I was thrilled for the opportunity of a weeklong tour to the Emerald Isle with our partners at Adams and Butler.
Arriving at Dublin’s Westin Hotel, located next to Temple Bar and a block from Trinity College, I set out to explore what Dublin has to offer. Being a shopper, I headed towards Grafton Street, which did not disappoint. This pedestrian-friendly shopping street offered everything from international chain stores to local Irish brands with hundreds of pubs and restaurants.
The following day, I moved to Dublin’s 5-star Merrion Hotel to meet my fellow travelers. We dined at the Cliff Townhouse, a charming 9-room Georgian guesthouse before we heading out on a walking tour to explore some the city’s vast history.
Leaving the city for the countryside, we visited the Irish National Stud, a well-known thoroughbred breeding facility since 1945. Lunch was served at Castle Birr where we met the Earl of Rosse. What a unique experience to dine in a private Castle home with secret passageways and 100s of years of history.
My favorite stay in Ireland has to be Ballyfin Demesne, a 5-star country house in the heart of Ireland. This restored 20 room home reminded me of a real-life doll-house and I could have stayed for days. I loved exploring the house and the beautiful individually designed rooms. The 600-acre private grounds include the original tower, icehouse and grotto, a history lesson in themselves.
Beautiful and green was our trip to the Cliffs of Moher – worth a stop for hiking and photos. The nearby beach which reminded me so much of the Oregon Coast. From the weather, the waves and the smell – I felt very much at home in these holiday coastal towns.
The next stay was the most highly anticipated, Adare Manor. This luxury manor house had been closed five years for extensive restoration and we were the first guests prior to the grand re-opening, what an honor. From the grand entry lobby to the gold gilded ceilings in the ballroom, Adare Manor was jaw-dropping.
We moved from manor homes to castles with a visit to Dromoland Castle and a stay at the world-famous Ashford Castle. Both arrivals were greeted by bag-pipers in a fogbank; it felt like a movie set. Of all of the castles we visited, Ashford has the biggest WOW factor. From the dark wood staircase, the grand gardens and Falconry School, Ashford Castle exceeded my expectations.
As I reflect on the week in the Emerald Isle, I have a variety of take-aways
- For a small country, distance is measured in hours – not kilometers.
- Roads are narrow and windy; leave the driving to the professionals.
- It doesn’t always rain in Ireland. Pack like you will be in the Pacific Northwest, a little of everything.
- Irish food is no longer bland potatoes and soda bread. I had some of the best meals of my life.
- Splurge on once-in-a-lifetime accommodations. Irish castles and manor houses are unlike any other place in the world.
I look forward to helping you plan your magical holiday to Ireland. With new non-stops from Seattle to Dublin starting in May 2018, it is closer than ever.