I love everything about Ireland; from its rocky coast, thatched roofs, rolling hills, castle ruins, and cozy fire-lit pubs. Of course I am a little bias about it, seeing how I fell in love with a girl from Ireland and married her. From the moment I stepped off the plane, and she took me around her country I knew it was an amazing unique place. Everyone who comes to Ireland raves about how green everything is, from the hills to the forests. The climate is very temperate, from my scientific judgment the temperatures hover around the 50s most of the year, going to the 70s in summer, and high 30s in winter. Winter is short here too, so really, just a great environment for growing. Thus the vibrant chromatic green that everyone wears in Ireland.
The people of Ireland are also what make it so great. They are the warmest, friendliest, and inviting folks around. It’s a country where the people will not only give you the shirt off their back, but coat too. You never have to be afraid of asking anything, and chances are you will be invited in for tea too. Though Irish have a reputation of drinking a lot of beer, I have found that to be completely wrong. A pint here or there, but truthfully its tea they love so much. It would be an odd day not to be offered tea and cakes at least 5 times.
One of my favorite little cities, filled with gorgeous architecture, friendly people, and cozy pubs. Sitting on the coast, and segregated by numerous rivers and canals, you are never to far from water. Take a walk through Trinity College and check out the amazing Book of Kells, and illustrated manuscript about 3 feet high that is filled with some of the most gorgeous hand painted art work around. The city is filled with lovely parks to dip into relax and enjoy nature. I have been there a half dozen times, and I never end up at the same place twice.
Stepping foot in an Irish Pub is like stepping back in time. With the peaty smell of fires, low ceilings, intricate woodwork, and long wooden bars. The ambiance surrounds you as soon as you enter like a warm comfy blanket. The old men sipping their pints of Guinness and shots of whiskey, talking about the latest craic. Craic by the way is Irish for gossip and news. The bars have little niches with wooden cubbies, perfect for having private conversations or a snuggle. The absence of TVs make them a great place to meet and socialize, the heart of the community. Hands down they are the best in the world. It’s no wonder there is one in just about every country in the world. Some of my favorites in Dublin are the Long Bar and Swan Bar. In Leighlin Bridge I love the Lord Bagenal Inn.
One of the first places Yvonne took me was the glacial valley of Glendalough for a five hour hike. Situated in the Easter side of Ireland, Glendalough is a National Park with two lakes at the bottom of the valley. At the base of the lakes is the ruins of an ancient village and monastery. The monastery tower is 90 feet tall and has an entrance 30 feet up. The tower was used to store books and safeguard the monks in case of Vikings. When the Vikings came the monks pulled the ladder up and sealed the entrance, locking themselves in. The Vikings would often bypass it then because the amount of effort and work to break through the thick stonewalls was not worth their time. The entire valley is gorgeous with cascading waterfalls, peaty hills, and pine forest. Our nice hike ended with us being pelted by hail and rain and us huddled under a cheap poncho. I loved it so much that we have been back a few times.
Cliffs of Moher
The cliffs of Moher tower 700 feet over the raging sea in the southwest. To really understand the size of these monsters, I suggest seeing them not only from the top, but the bottom as well. The walk along the top is quiet cold, with winds whipping around us like banshees. The edge of the cliff is very dangerous. I saw a video where a huge section collapsed and that was lesson enough for me to stay clear of the edge. You can take a multiple day hike along them that would be lovely, but a few hours allows you take them in. After that I suggest taking a boat along the bottom, just so you know how insignificant you are. They are massive. The boat ride is great, and you see 1000s of nesting birds clinging to the edge of the cliffs. There are numerous sea caves where the water crashes with thunderous noise, shooting up explosions of water. As a bonus the boat we were on dropped us off at the Aran Islands.
The Aran Islands
There are three islands in the Aran Islands, we stopped at Inishmore, the largest. The islands are located at the mouth of Galway bay. It’s hardy people who make their home here, because the winds scour them clean. The first thing you notice is stonewalls crisscrossing the entire island, zigzagging here and there. It’s like a massive maze, with tough cattle and horses about. We rented bikes and made our way around the entire island, even going to the shipwreck made famous from Father Ted tv series. Even in April it’s a great time for a little swim, you might even be lucky enough for a friendly wild dolphin to swim with you. Nothing beats a nice pint of Guinness after a day of riding bikes here and sitting next to a warm fire.
Of course all over Ireland there are castles big and small. I don’t believe I have ever been some place with so many interesting castles. Some are perched on the edge of cliffs, others in a middle of an island, but most just sit in the middle of farmers field, surrounded by sheep.
Dukett’s Grove is my favorite ruin to go to. From the moment we came through the ornate gatehouse I was smitten. The gatehouse has three entrances, and once had a pub in it. The estate was huge, and you can’t even see the main manor from the gatehouse. You drive down a twisty road through the fields and then a massive manor house rises up in the middle. A house that was partially burned down in the twenties, insurance scam or political retribution, no one knows. A single massive tower rising above the ruins, with a cat walk along the top, and a hatch coming out of the top. There are over 40 chimneys poking up above the house, large windows, and ornate gargoyles snarling down at you. A large wine cellar that could double as medieval dungeons in the basement and a network of tunnels that used to go all the way to the gatehouse. At the back are some formal gardens and a large grove of trees with a little stone causeway.
We loved Dukett’s Grove so much that we chose to get married here, the second couple to do so in over 200 years, the first being one of the Duketts. The council that is in charge of its care and restoration literally gave us the key to the castle, allowing us access to the entire place for our wedding. Who knows, we may even live here one day. I do love to renovate old houses.