Ireland: Dromoland Castle

Hey, there! I am excited to bring you the next and final story from our Irish Adventures – our stay at Dromoland Castle.

After leaving the Cliffs of Moher, we headed to our last hotel. This was the one I was most looking forward to – Dromoland Castle. Yupp. We stayed in a for real, stone walls, big towers, horse-drawn carriage, and a suit of armor in the lobbycastle. 

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I know I’ve said it the whole way through these posts, but we were seriously unprepared for the level of hotels we had booked.  We headed through the estate gates and started winding our way past the golf courses and gardens to the main entrance of Dromoland Castle.

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It was beautiful. The Dromoland has many activities you can take part in such as golf, falconry, archery, and more. I wish we had more time there. Our room was in one of Dromoland’s wings. On the way there, we caught a glimpse of a giant chess board. If it had not been raining, I would’ve been all about playing a game of giant chess!

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Our room was smaller than the last two hotels, but private and cozy. We got settled in and discussed what to do for dinner. You know how towards the end of a trip, no matter how much fun you are having, you get exhausted? The only thing you want is your own bed. We were at that point in the journey. We figured it would be a good night to just grab dinner at the hotel restaurant. Unfortunately, we didn’t pack the appropriate clothing to meet their dress code. I learned later we could’ve eaten at the clubhouse.  Hungry, we decided to bumble into town and grab dinner at the local pub.

We opted to split a final pub meal and then stop at a store to grab some snacks/ beverages and head back to the room to snuggle up and watch some Irish Tv. After asking directions from some locals, we wound up at a store that was similar to our Target, but I cannot for the life of me recall the name. (I think it also started with a D. If you know, help me out!)

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it, but I love The Great British Baking Show. While we were running around the store grabbing chocolate (They had kinder eggs!) and beverages, we swung by the baked goods section. The bakery had pre-made Mary Berry cakes! It came with an icing pen, so you could do your own lettering, and I very nearly bought it. (Hey, it was our honeymoon. Cake is allowed for celebrations, right?)

We headed back to our room with our prizes to discover our bed had been turned down, and there were chocolates on our pillows! We really enjoyed that low-key evening.

The next morning we went to eat breakfast in the dining room. Breakfast has a much less formal dress code.

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It was drizzling, and we were seated by a window overlooking the lake. I could’ve stayed right there with a cup of tea in my hand forever.

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Unfortunately, that was our last morning in Ireland. We went back to the room, packed up, tossed our bags in the car, and since we had a bit of time went for a quick stroll through Dromoland’s gardens.

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I’m so glad we added that little stop because the castle’s gardens were adorable! Along one of the walls was a fairy garden. It featured art pieces, little fairy doors on the trees, and signs which said things like, “Shh . . . fairies sleeping.”

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We finished exploring the gardens and headed to the airport, turned in our rental car, and headed back to the States.

Home is always the best place to be, don’t you agree?

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Ireland: Cliffs of Moher- County Clare

Blarney Stone, Ring of Kerry, and Cliffs of Moher were places I truly wanted to visit, and the Fellow, as much as he disliked driving, made sure that I made it to them.

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The Princess Bride, with its cheesy plotholes and loveable characters, is one of my favorite movies. For those of you who love the story of Butter Cup and Westly, you recall the scene at the Cliffs of Insanity. Westly scales the cliff side to rescue his true love. What you may not have known is that those cliffs were actually the Cliffs of Moher in County Clare, Ireland.

The drive to the Cliffs of Moher from Killarney was half the fun. You go from motorways onto the tiny countryside roads that you imagine when you think of rural Ireland. These roads are lined on either side by shrubs and stone walls and are tiny and winding.

One thing that we passed on our drive that stuck out was the golf courses. Golf originated in Scotland, so it makes sense to see it in nearby Ireland, but these courses looked nothing like the golf courses we have here. They were like the “Tough Mudder Competition” of golf. You are playing around crumbling towers, deep hills, rocks, and (that day) in the whipping wind and rain.  No, thank you. I played mini golf in the rain at the beach one year and that was enough for me.

We kept winding our way up to the cliffs, and as we got closer, the Fellow’s drive got more nerve-wracking. As we were headed up to the cliffs, there were tour buses coming back down which we had to let pass.

Once we finally made it to the top, we bought our tickets. The lady at the ticket stand was none too happy with us Americans. As she put it, “You all come over here and always bring a storm and rain, never any of that American sunshine.” (I think I’ve mentioned it, but a common theme on our trip was people assuming all of America was California or immediately telling us they liked John Denver.)

She was right though; it was grey and misty and foggy. The Cliffs of Moher is a heavily trafficked tourist area, so they know this is an issue for people. When we got there the sign said, “Visibility Level: Low.”  As we walked out of the visitor center towards the cliffs, my heart sank. The sign was right. I could barely see the stone steps in front of me, let alone the cliffs. It was like sitting and staring at a grey wall.

The Fellow tried his best to make me feel better, but I was so upset I nearly cried. Around us, people were voicing their own frustrations and leaving to get into their warm cars and head back to their hotels for dry clothes. I’m a bit more stubborn and wanted to wait around as long as I could because maybe, just maybe, the fog would clear. Not even twenty minutes later, it did! Let me tell you, the cliffs were worth the wait.

Just a little at first, and then it was pretty clear! It. Was. Breathtaking. I could’ve stood there forever.

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We were up at the top near O’Brien’s Tower, and then walked out a bit to the left. At the end of the walkway and stone observation wall, there is a monument to all those who have lost their lives on the cliffs. It marks the end of the official tourist spot and has a big warning sign letting you know the road beyond the gate is “Enter at Your Own Risk,” and they recommend you don’t go any farther. Of course,  everyone wants to go farther. So, over the barricade onto the red mud path we go. The Fellow went one step farther and went over that low stone wall as well to stand on the edge of the cliff.

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Why is it we humans always want to go just a little bit into the danger zone? In the comments section, let me know where on vacation you’ve stood just a little too close to the edge!

Killarney 2: Killarney National Park

After another delicious breakfast and a rough morning of planning (spontaneous planning sometimes doesn’t work out so well), we headed out. I wanted to drive the Ring of Kerry, and at this point in the trip, the only place the Fellow wanted to drive was to the airport – after which, he’d never have to drive on the “wrong” side of the road again. But he was very sweet the entire trip making sure I got to do whatever I wanted, and we headed out on a 4-hour drive in one big circle.

We started on the drive and maybe 15 minutes in, we saw a sign for Killarney National Park and knowing we had a drive the next day, I suggested we abandon 4 hours in the car and spend the day hiking and exploring. I have zero regrets about that decision.

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Killarney National Park is home to Ross Castle, and Muckross House. While we didn’t go inside, the outside of the building was beautiful. It was so easy to imagine seeing faded shapes of servants, lords, and ladies floating past as we walked around the grounds.

This was hands-down probably my favorite day of the trip.

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Muckross House

 

For me, the best part was when we headed off the main path down to a lake with a beach! I could’ve spent all day just there and wished we had a picnic tea to enjoy as we sat on a piece of driftwood.

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After that, we hiked out through the pasture where we got to see some of the famous Killarney Red Deer before reaching Torc Waterfall.

It was chillier here than anywhere else on the trip, and the mist bordered more on real rain. The higher up on the path to the waterfall, the more the mist turned to rain. We got pretty soaked but had a blast.

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Killarney

Hello, Hello! I am so grateful to be back in the land of the living! The delay in posts was due to the Fellow and I catching the flu. Mine was followed by a sinus infection and my first experience with nosebleeds. (My mother confirmed; never had a nosebleed in my life prior to this, so as you can imagine, that threw me in quite a panic!)

I’m in fine form now though and ready to fill you in on the next stop in our Ireland trip!

We stayed over two nights at what is now the Great Southern Hotel in Killarney. The Great Southern was the original name for this old railroad hotel, but it was changed for a spell to The Malton and was undergoing new (reverted?) branding back to the Great Southern when we were there.

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When we arrived, we were surprised to hear that we had been upgraded to a junior suite! The first thing that popped into my head when we saw the rooms was – “I feel like I’m in Gone with the Wind!” Which is a funny thing to be thinking in Ireland, but the room had these gigantic windows with velvet curtains.

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The Fellow apparently has a thing about large objects and spaces; over half of the honeymoon photos are him in this pose!

We got settled in then headed out to find a pub. (Seriously, eating and music are my favorite things about traveling!) We didn’t find quite what we were looking for though but wound up in a very nice little restaurant. I had some yummy soup and Orchard Theives, and we just wandered around a bit sightseeing before we headed back to the hotel for the night.

The Blarney Stone

The Blarney Stone was one of the things on my “Must-See” list. We decided we would head to the Blarney Stone first; then journey on to our next hotel in Killarney.

If you remember, we had taken to napping in the morning and then spending more time sightseeing the day after we arrived in a town. This almost got us into trouble with the Blarney Castle.

We got there about an hour or so before closing. The fellow at the ticket gate said if we ran we may just have time to climb all 127 narrow steps to the top of the castle and kiss the stone.

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We rushed through the grounds of the castle and quickly started climbing. You know when you see a movie set in an old castle, and it has that tiny, stone, spiraling servants stairwell? That’s what this staircase is. Straight up.

Now, I’m reasonably OK with heights as long as the thing I’m standing on is solid. Questionable edges to cliffs, the St. Louis Arch (It sways, and if you’re standing in the middle you can’t see what’s supporting you.), hot air balloons . . . those things kind of unnerve me as there’s nothing underneath you.

So I wasn’t too thrilled as these stairs were so tiny half your foot hangs off of the back. They’re ancient and smooth, and you’re in a tiny, tiny stone space that almost essentially goes straight up.

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If you’re not in a rush, you can wander into other rooms of the castle and explore, breaking up the time spent in that tiny space, but we went straight up all 127 steps. I’m not going to lie; I was quite relieved when we made it to the top.

To kiss the stone you sit down with your back to the stone and your legs out straight. The castle employee holds your legs, and you bend backward into a hole in the castle wall and kiss the stone.

Originally, the Fellow said he had no interest in actually kissing the stone, but since the cost of admission to the grounds included the stone, he went ahead and kissed it.

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We were doing better on time than we (or the ticket man) had thought, so after we kissed the stone we wandered through the castle and the castle grounds (including the poison garden!) a bit before they closed.

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Then we headed on to The Great Southern Hotel in Killarney.

Cork

We finally made it safely to Hayfield Manor, and it was beautiful. This was our favorite hotel of the trip.

The hotel, as the name would imply, is a manor house dating back to the 1800s. It opened as a hotel in 1996. The grounds have real turf, gigantic trees (That may be older than America!), an aviary, and kennels.

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It was beautiful, and the people were the most welcoming, friendly and polite. The town was quaint. I could go back and spend a week just there.

We arrived and were shown to our room. When they asked the reason for our visit, we told them it was our honeymoon and were congratulated. Later, the general manager brought us up champagne!

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We were exhausted so we laid down for a quick nap before heading out into town for some food.

(The staff was incredibly helpful giving both suggestions and directions!)

We were directed to Oliver Plunketts, a little pub with trad music and a lively pub scene. This was one of the more crowded places in which we ate. (Cork is home to University College Cork, so I’m sure that helps.)

The food was good. I got what would be my drink of choice for the entire trip – Orchard Thieves cider. I wish this was available in the States!

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There was this tiny, adorable, older gentleman who was grabbing tourist girls to dance a reel with him. A few said no, but I was all in! It was SO much fun, and I was reminded of how much fun I used to have at 4-H dance weekends.

We were starting to wear down at this point and headed back fairly early to get some sleep. Hands down this was the most comfortable bed of the trip!

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The next morning we had breakfast in the hotel dining room, had a quick nap (We did this every day.), made a to-go cup of tea in the room, and went to wander about Cork for a bit in daylight.

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Look at that breakfast spread!

 

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I was so impressed by the tea/coffee set up in most of the rooms. Those aren’t coffee creamers. They are 2% stabilized milk – no refrigeration necessary.

One neat place we stopped at was the English Market. We picked up some tea, soap for my father for Christmas, and a loaf of brown bread and soda bread for snacks.

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English Market

 

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I loved this pretty bicycle we found in our wanderings.

Next post – The Blarney Stone!

 

Dublin III

Since we got in so late, we ended up sleeping in just a bit before heading down to breakfast.

All of our hotels included breakfasts, and they were all amazing! Most were a buffet with additional menu items.

The interesting thing was that nearly every place had honeycomb, still on the bee tray.  You would break off a piece and suck on it like it was candy. You could even eat the wax if you chewed it well enough. You could also spread it on your toast, but the regular honey like we’re accustomed to was recommended for that purpose.

So yummy.

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I really wanted to go to the Viking Museum while we were in Dublin, so after checking if the hotel would allow us a late check out (all of them did which was nice) we called over to the rental car company and asked if we could delay our pick-up, and they said it would be fine.

Next we hurried through Dublin to the museum. I was so excited!. Thankfully, the entrance fee was only 9.50 EU. The museum has sections, but we were really only concerned with the Viking section.

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For the general tourist, I’m sure it was a great experience. I was disappointed though.  The information was dated and some incorrect facts were being presented. I honestly wish we would’ve made time for the Book of Kells instead.

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We made our way back to the hotel, checked out, got a taxi, and headed to our rental car.

Remember I had asked about a late pick-up before we went to the museum? When we got there 2 hours later, they said they didn’t have any cars, and we had to wait until their shuttle service brought one back from the airport.

I’m not too sure how that happens when you have a reservation, but we waited the hour. While we waited, I used the rental company’s wifi to download Google maps to our next hotel, since they didn’t have a GPS available.

We knew we needed to drive on the opposite side of the road, and Mrs. B at work had warned us to be sure to go around roundabouts the opposite way, but we asked the fellow at the desk if there was anything we needed to know about driving in Ireland just in case. He said, “no.”

The car was a Škoda which we’d never heard of and it was insane. When you came to a complete stop (like at a stop sign), it turned off only to immediately turn back on when you pushed the gas.

The Fellow asked for directions out of the city instead of listening to my Google maps, and we headed off.

Now, here’s the thing about roads in Ireland – the yellow line is the outside line. All other lines are white lines, and that’s assuming there are, in fact, any lines at all. You know those scenes you see in movies of tiny roads with high hedges or stone walls on both sides? Yupp. That’s what it was. The Fellow insisted we take this picture of him below to show how narrow the city roads are.

 

Trying to get out of the city was rough. We didn’t know it then, but we essentially had picked up a rental car in Times Square and were trying to drive ourselves out of NYC.

After getting lost attempting to follow the rental car guy’s directions, we backtracked as best we could to get into our downloaded map area of Google Maps. We went around a roundabout the wrong way. Thankfully, it was empty and finally made it out of the city and onto the motorway (similar to our highways), and we were on our way to our next hotel- the Hayfield Manor in Cork.

Dublin II

I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas and a happy New Year! The holidays were a bit crazy for us as they always are. A lot of travel. Three family Christmas celebrations, a Christmas party, a New Year’s party, and we got a new kitten!

But now back to Ireland . . . on my last honeymoon post, the Fellow, our new Canadian friends, and I were just heading down to a little side pub in Dublin.

When we got to the pub, we were the only ones there except for the bartender and two of his buddies.

The first ten minutes of the night were kind of rough. As I’m sure most of you know, the rest of the world often doesn’t think very kindly of Americans, and we ran into a bit of that there. The bartender took his time to get our drink order, and he was thoroughly unhappy with my request for a cup of tea.

“Could I have a cup of tea, please, if it’s not too much trouble?”

“I suppose you want milk with that?”

“If that’s ok?”

“”You have to drink it, not me.”

I never got the milk.

We chatted with the Canadians, and the bartender talked over us to them a  bit, but the only thing we got were sidelong comments about Americans until I asked the Fellow if he wanted to leave.

I guess he wasn’t feeling too appreciative of the atmosphere either because he turned to the group at the end of the bar and told the fellows something along the lines of “I don’t come here and assume all Irishmen are drunk, angry @$$holes, so why do you think it’s ok to be rude to us about Americans?”

Sometimes you’ve just got to call out people and address things head on. It worked like a charm.

From that point on, the evening was enjoyable.The conversations wandered all over the place from current political climates, Irish and American politics, (We got kudos for winning the Revolutionary War!), and football and soccer teams.

It’s fascinating how much they all know about other countries’ histories and how in touch they are with their own history. They talked about battles their ancestors had fought like it was in the last decade, not hundreds of years ago.

At one point during the evening, one of the guys turned to me and said, “I want to ask you a question.” I was not prepared for his question at all. He asked, “What do you think of the Dixie Chicks?” Of all the things!! I said I liked them well enough, and he came back with another question: “What do you think of Bush?” I figured it was best to sidestep, so I told him I was too young to have an opinion. “Fair enough. What do you think about Trump?” As I’m sure you can imagine, that kicked the conversation off on a long side road!

We stayed until closing, chatting, drinking and laughing. We even got them to agree to snapping a quick picture with us before we all went our separate ways. 24116484_1741749342800924_1332545266_o

 

 

Dublin

After we ate our fish and chips, we ran about Dublin for a bit. As we wandered, I saw an awesome old church and wanted to get a closer look. As luck would have it, it was also the site of the Molly Malone statue! 22448526_10155757203686798_421591052838804540_nFor not having a plan, we actually managed to see a lot in Dublin.

We made a mistake and bought a hop-on-hop-off bus pass for a fairly pretty penny, then only hopped off once . . . at the Guinness Storehouse.

This was the Fellow’s big thing he wanted to do on our trip, so we hit it our first day. It was really a blast! You can buy a few different tickets. We opted for the self-guided tour without the audio. It was a neat experience. They had some antique pieces of machinery set up as installations with facts and background and some cool interactive video displays. We could’ve spent way more time there.

While the Fellow was absorbing everything he could, I ducked into their onsite coffee bar for some much-needed caffeine. While I drank my Java, we headed over to let him “Pour a Perfect Pint” and made some new friends in the line.

While waiting our turn, we struck up a conversation with the folks around us – a girl from Chicago and a Canadian fellow and his mum who were on a trip for her birthday. We chatted during the line and then split after the experience, only to all wind up back together at the Gravity Bar a little while later.

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We all hit it off, and they asked if we’d like to join them for dinner. The Canadian fellow had met an Irish girl while on a previous trip to Budapest and had made plans to meet up for dinner that night, so they called ahead and added us to the reservations at The Lotts Cafe Bar.

We had the neatest meal – a steak which they seared for 60 seconds on each side, and then let you finish cooking the rest of the way on a hot stone right at your table. I thought it was pretty special, but the Irish girl informed us most pubs offer the same type of special.

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We sat at the cafe for a few hours watching soccer and talking about things in our countries and comparing cultures (They were aghast of USA maternity leave!) until the Irish girl had to head home as she worked in the morning.

The Canadians, the Fellow, and I decided to stick together and head out for some “Trad” music as we were informed they call Traditional Irish Music and went looking for a pub. The place we initially were headed for was a long hike, so we asked a gentleman on the street for a recommendation . . .

Honeymoonin’

Sorry for the delay, all. I’m working to get the house organized, so I can start decorating for Christmas, but I am excited about sharing some of our honeymoon adventures with you!

For those of you who have known me for a while, you know that I’ve always wanted to go to Ireland. Therefore, the honeymoon location was a no-brainer. We booked through Costco Travel (no affiliate links here, just a 100% impressed customer). Basically, I knew roughly where we wanted to go, and they booked us into hotels they had nearby. I knew we would be staying in nice hotels, but didn’t bother to research them. Scary, right?  IT worked out SO well.

Actually, I’ve never stayed in such crazy, nice hotels!  I’ll touch on each hotel as I go; don’t worry.

Our rental car and airfare were included in our package. We flew out of Dulles on British Airways. On the way over, our plane was incredibly nice. We had pondered the idea of upgrading to business class as a treat, but it was WAY too much money per person.

 

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Obligatory plane selfie

 

The longest part of the trip was from the US to Heathrow Airport in London; then we transferred to a commuter flight to Dublin. We shared the flight from the US with a large portion of the cast of The Real Housewives of Atlanta, so that was a neat experience. We got lucky and our row of seats wasn’t full, so we could spread out a bit and try to sleep. But as expected, it wasn’t very restful.

When we finally got to Dublin, we found our shuttle driver. The driver was a blast, greeting us in Irish (Irish mind you, not Gaelic), and pointing out neat sights around Dublin before dropping us at the Westin Hotel.

We loved the Westin. It was super nice, and the bed was amazing. We were so tired we laid down for a quick nap, and then headed out to grab some food before we went to explore Dublin.

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One of my bridesmaids had been to Dublin and insisted we visit Leo Burdocks for their fish and chips. It turned out to be just a block or two from our hotel.

The fish and chips were yummy, but what stood out the most was the music – 80s pop! And not bands we’d never heard of, but Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up.” Honestly, the music threw us off the whole trip. If we weren’t in a pub listening to traditional Irish music (or “Trad” music as they called it), it was things like Billy Joel’s “Brown-Eyed Girl” or Toto’s “Africa.” Not at all what we were expecting.

Next post we’ll finish our time in Dublin, including our tour of the Guinness Factory and meeting some new friends.