Hey yogis and friends:
So, I’ve been totally MIA for a while: life gets busy, ya know? Well me, I got engaged and then married May 6, and then went on the TRIP OF A LIFETIME with the new hubs to Ireland for two whole glorious weeks. I did a lot of research and reading about what to do, what to wear, what the weather is like, and other weird stuff in preparation for my trip. I thought it would be nice to share the wealth of amazing information Tommy (husband) and I learned while roaming around.
- Dublin, Ireland
- Inchydoney Island, Clonakilty, Co. Cork
- Glannagilliagh, Oolagh East, Killorglin, Co. Kerry, Ireland
- Dingle, County Kerry, Ireland
- Galway, County Galway
- Lislaughera, Cong, Co. Mayo, Ireland (Ashford Castle)
- Cliff at Lyons, Celbridge, Co.Kildare
Understanding How Ireland is Divided
Ireland was divided into four provinces in ancient times, which still remain today. Each province was ruled by a King.
Map Credit: http://www.wesleyjohnston.com/users/ireland/geography/counties.html
Within each Province there are counties:
|Counties in the province of Connaught|
|Name||Irish Equivalent||County Town||Population||Area
|Counties in the province of Leinster|
|Name||Irish Equivalent||County Town||Population||Area
|Dublin*||Baile Átha Cliath||Dublin||1,056,666||921|
|Counties in the province of Munster|
|Name||Irish Equivalent||County Town||Population||Area
|Counties in the province of Ulster (Northern Ireland part)|
|Name||Irish Equivalent||County Town||Population||Area
|Londonderry¹¹ [Map 14kB]||Doire||Derry||214,800||2074|
|Counties in the province of Ulster (Republic of Ireland part)|
|Name||Irish Equivalent||County Town||Population||Area
|Donegal [Map 25kB]||Dún na nGall||Lifford||129,435||4841|
Now that the history and geography lesson is out of the way we’ll move on. I will say understanding provinces and counties IS helpful.
Planning the Trip
Given this was Tommy’s first trip out of the country, our first trip to Europe, and our honeymoon we opted to let a professional handle most of the planning. Ginny Patton Kelly with Smart Flyer (smartflyer.com) was absolutely amazing, and did us right in conjunction with her Ireland contact, Celebrated Experiences.
The great thing about travel planners is you can choose how much planning you want done. We knew we wanted guidance on where to go when, what to possibly see, and where to stay. We didn’t however want a dictated timeline everyday to abide by. Ginny talked to us, got a feel for what we wanted, including how much money to spend, and sent a draft itinerary including hotel choices with room choices. We got great rates, and perks, and they made sure everyone knew we were on our honeymoon, and we were treated like royalty. Honestly, we got an upgrade about everywhere we went, and always something if not multiple things free (I’ll tell you about those later). They also included points of interest to see where we staying and along our drive. Let me also say travel planners cost you NOTHING (at least ours didn’t).
What we booked on our own:
The car: We handled the car on our own because it was going to be a little bit cheaper (maybe…that pay at the counter price was a bit misleading…cough cough). We had the option of a personal driver or a rental car drop off service through Ginny. We also wanted to elect doing the car on our own because our Chase credit card provided us the insurance we needed, so it was important we booked using it. I can tell you more about driving in Ireland later.
Airline tickets: Ginny said that she could book tickets for us for a small fee, but this was truly something we could do ourselves, and I got GREAT rates through my American Express card as well as free trip insurance. We flew Jet Blue and Aer Lingus, Charleston –> JFK –> Dublin and everything went well!
Reservations/Events: Any restaurant reservation or event, or tour we went on, we handled. Mainly because your hotel concierge could help you or, again, we got deals through one of our credit cards; or we just weren’t sure what we wanted to do before we got there. However we did book some things in advance (will detail later).
Our Night in Dingle: Because there aren’t any “large” hotels in Dingle, Celebrated Experiences didn’t have a relationship to book for us anywhere. Therefore, I found The Pax House (absolutely brilliant) online and arranged our stay.
I researched “what to wear in Ireland” till’ my face turned blue. I so smartly reported back to Tommy that “no one wears jeans”, and we must be conservative, and look nice at all times. Honestly, most of the stuff I read online was crap. People wear whatever the hell they want. I would say in general, Europeans dress much nicer than Americans. Now, I said this was a generalization, but when we were going through customs in the Dublin Airport you’re divided into EU and Non-EU. EVERYONE in the EU line was in suits, dresses, skirts, slacks, even fancy track suits if necessary, and clean shaven and fresh faced. Pan over to the Non-EU line, mostly Americans….SLOBS (included us mind you): it was hysterical. Now, there may be reasons like traveling for business, but even walking around the cites like Dublin you would notice people dressed quite tidy for work in nice suits and dresses. However, I saw plenty of jeans and more casual clothing as well. And I will point out that it was how much skin can you show without actually freezing to death on display in Galway City.
What SHOULD you pack:
- Use Packing Cubs – Organization is key here, especially if you’re moving around at all like we were.
- Layers – seriously this can’t be overstated. You can walk out freezing your bum off in the morning, and be sweating in the afternoon under a sun whilst hiking about. In addition, you
mightwill get wet. I had short sleeves, long sleeves, sweaters, vests, hats, etc. Bring gloves: I forgot those.
- GOOD SHOES – Holy cow please. I had sore calves the first day – like what? Boots are good because its wet, and wet tennis shoes are the worst. However, some boots aren’t the most supportive or great for trekking. For example, my Frye Riding Boots made a great all around shoe, but weren’t great for hiking up Conor Pass. You want a shoe with a grip, that’s warm and waterproof. I’m still doing research for my next trip so I’ll get back to you. I didn’t pack a light weight slip on because I figured my feet would be cold, but you’ll want to let your feet breathe, even if it’s about the hotel where you stay. So pack TOMS, or flip flops, etc.
- Warm Accessories: Hat, gloves, socks.
- RAIN JACKET + travel umbrella.
- At least one nice outfit – I know I said that you can wear whatever you want, but pack at least one nice outfit that will get you past a dress code requirement.
- Kavu Rope Sling Purse – I am totally plugging this. It was the greatest thing for our trip. I could put so much in it, but it functioned as a great purse, and is also a bit water repellent. Get this or something of the like. Backpacks are fine, but you may not want to just tote your backpack around at all times like a middle schooler (your call).
- Travel Wallet – for all the essentials so things don’t get lost.
- A good camera – I plan to purchase something beyond an iphone for next time.
- Converters (you can get a set of 3 on Amazon for about $10).
- Battery pack to charge your phones while out and about (this was a life saver).
Getting There & Transportation
As mentioned previously we flew out of Charleston with a connecting flight in New York’s JFK. We did NOT have long layovers, which is something I was immensely terrified about (maybe an hour in New York). As long as our plane wasn’t delayed leaving Charleston we were fine because we flew into the gate we flew out of, since Jet Blue worked in conjunction with Aer Lingus. I would be prudent about making sure you won’t miss your flight out of the country due to lack of time.
Some tips to make flying easier: Check into TSA Pre Check and Global Entry. TSA Pre Check worked for us on the way to Dublin in Charleston. Global Entry would be fantastic to speed through customs. US Customs was a much lengthier and annoying process than Ireland’s customs.
We rented a car and drove ourselves to get to our main points of destination and see things along the way. We didn’t get the car until leaving Dublin, and our pick up point was outside the city (do NOT drive in Dublin…there are so many one way streets, and the construction is horrendous).
The hard thing to navigate is insurance. It’s technically called “CDW” or Collision Damage Waiver. You will need insurance. You might have insurance through a credit card (as you do when you rent cars in the US), however if you read the fine prints MOST credit cards exclude the Republic of Ireland (with reason…the roads) with the exception of the Chase Reserve Sapphire (which we used). There is also CDW Plus which essentially just lowers your deductible if something were to happen.
Read more on insurance here: https://www.ricksteves.com/travel-tips/transportation/car-rental-cdw
Most cars in Europe are MANUAL so Automatics are going to run you more money, but unless you’re an expert….don’t risk it, especially since it’s with the opposite hand on the opposite side of the road.
Book your car in advance to ensure they will have what you need.
You will get used to driving on other side. The hardest part was understanding where you were in the lane…I felt like I was about to run into oncoming traffic, but my husband frequently reminded me I was about to run his side of the car into a stone wall.
Many of the smaller roads in Dublin are TINY, barely fit for one car, so pace yourself and take turns.
GPS- Your phone can be your GPS and mine worked great overall. I got the international day pass which is $10/day you use it. It basically gave me the same plan I had at home.
Once we got to our main destination points (hotels) we usually got around by foot, taxi, or other mode of transport. We didn’t want to drive more than necessary as whoever is driving is totally missing out on the view, and it means someone has to be the DD and miss out on a pint at a pub.
Taxis are a PLENTY, and a hotel is happy to help you obtain one. Public transportation including buses are also good in main cities. Walking is really our preferred route.
Stop 1: Dublin
Accomodation: Fitzwilliam Hotel
353 1478 7000 · St Stephen’s Green, Dublin · http://www.fitzwilliamhoteldublin.com/
We left Charleston at 5:30 PM on a Tuesday at arrived at 8:30 AM on Wednesday in Dublin. Overall, when we got there we had been up 24 hours and we were quite jet lagged. We took a taxi to our hotel, the Fitzwilliam, but clearly it was too early for check in. We were treated to some coffees at the hotel, and we lucked out with a gorgeous day and roamed around St. Stephens Green across the street, which is a public park in the center of the city. The current landscape of the park was designed by William Sheppard, which officially opened to the public on Tuesday, 27 July 1880. Since it was such a beautiful day, EVERYONE was out lying about on the lawns. We walked over to Trinity College, and the Book of Kells/Old Library which was worth the visit just to see the Library (was on my bucket list). We spent a lot of time roaming around Dublin on our own, accidentally discovering things, and getting a couple of naps in.
Our second day in Dublin, we were a bit more rested and ready to face the world, so we hit up the Guinness Brewery which is well worth a visit just to see the bar on top overlooking all of Dublin. We also learned to pour our own pint of Guinness, and have the certification to prove it!
Gravity Bar atop Guinness
We lucked out and on our way to the brewery ran smack into St. Patrick’s Cathedral, which is truly a magnificent sight to behold. It was founded in 1191 and is the National Cathedral of the Church of Ireland. It’s spire is 43 meters high, which makes it the tallest in Ireland.
St. Patricks Cathedral
We also spent time walking around Grafton and Henry Street which are the two principal shopping streets as well as Temple Bar area. While we didn’t go in, some other points of interest we saw or walked around were:
Beautiful flowers in downtown Dublin
- St. Annes
- Dublin Castle
We didn’t make it to Kilmainham Gaol (the prison), which was a bit of a disappointment. There just isn’t time for everything. This is something you should buy tickets for in advance, and which we thought about.
There is a hop on hop off bus in a Dublin which is a great option as well.
We heard rave reviews on Newgrange, the stoneage passage tomb, which is about 40 minutes outside of Dublin, which we would really like to visit upon our return.
Where we ate:
- We ate breakfast at the hotel every morning (our breakfast was included with every hotel) which was delicious. We also enjoyed afternoon tea at the hotel which was included as part of our Celebrated Experiences.
- Hairy Lemon – we LOVED this place.
- Porterhouse Bar – long history here.
A pint at Porterhouse and Tea at the Fitzwilliam
We spent two nights total in Dublin.
Stop 2 – Inchydoney with Stops at the Rock of Cashel and Cork
Accommodation: Inchydoney Island Lodge
353 23 883 3143 · Inchydoney Island, Clonakilty, Co. Cork ·
After our second night in Dublin, we woke up early to pick up our rental car right outside of town. The hotel arranged a taxi for us. We got to the Hertz a bit early to find it wasn’t open yet, so remember to always plan accordingly.
It’s approximately 313.1 km or 2015 miles which takes about 3.5 hours from Dublin to Inchydoney. It takes longer to get everywhere in Ireland due to the roads.
On our way to Inchydoney we stopped at the Rock of Cashel, which was one of my favorite sites to visit.
Rock of Cashel
Technically, the Rock of Cashel is more than one building. It consists of a 12th century round tower, High Cross and Romanesque Chapel, 13th century Gothic cathedral, 15th century Castle and the restored Hall of the Vicars Choral. The oldest building on site is the round tower which dates back to 1100 AD. The Chapel dates to 1134 AD and was built for the King of Muenster (remember the provinces). The cathedral was built later between 1235 and 1270 in the shape of a crucifix and has a central tower. The Western part of the cathedral is attached to the castle. The cathedral was used for worship until the mid 1700s.
St. Patrick’s cross also resides here (a replica is outside with the original inside reception), and legend says if you can wrap your arms around it with fingers touching you’ll never have a toothache or headache again.
Fun fact: The cornerstone of St. Bernard’s in Watertown, Wisconsin is from the Rock of Cashel.
City of Cork
We also stopped in Cork en route mainly to visit the Old English Market which has been in existence since 1788. Cork is quite large for Ireland, and while it was interesting to see the market, I can’t say I would be itching to go back.
Inchydoney beach is quite the change in pace from the city of Dublin. There seemed to be quite a few Irish folk at this hotel, which is understandable. It’s a beautiful retreat from the craze of everyday life. The hotel is right on the ocean, and offers an amazing spa incorporating sea water treatments. This was one of the most relaxed places we stayed.
There is also a small surf school literally down the hill (Inchydoney surf school), and Tommy got to experience irish surfing! Let’s say it’s a little cooler.
The views were truly magnificent and we LOVED our trip into the small village of Clonakilty. If in Clonakilty you must check out De Barra’s Pub which is a true old Irish Pub and is deceiving in size. We ate lunch at Scannells in Clonakilty which was absolutely delicious and the best chips we had (chips = fries).
Perks here included free prosecco, apple liqueur, and a balneotherapy treatment, which is where warm sea water is pumped into a bath, which you sit in for approximately 20 minutes with jets.
If you want great views, surfing, village life near by, and a laid by life style, go here.
Stop 3: Ard Na Sidhe, Killarney
Caragh Lake House, Glannagilliagh, Oolagh East, Killorglin, Co. Kerry, Ireland
The trip from Inchydoney to Ard Na Sidhe is about 2 hours over 116.8 km.
We had plans to take a scenic route from Inchydoney–> Baltimore –> Bantry –> Glengarrif –> Adrigole–>Ardgroom–>Lauragh–> Kenmare-> Up Molls Gap through the Ring of Kerry and onwards. Google Maps lost its mind at some point when you set up multiple stops and we ended up with a wrong turn which put us in the Caha mountains which was INSANE. Truly, this was the scariest drive, and our marriage almost ended. Eventually, we ended up on the right path, got to drive a good bit of the Ring of Kerry and drove through Molls Gap. The Ring of Kerry is 179-km-long circular tourist route in County Kerry, south-western Ireland and is a beautiful drive, and you can hire a private driver to take you on a tour.
Killarney National Park on The Ring of Kerry
On our way we passed through Killarney which was the alternative place to stay to Ard Na Sidhe. Let me say that there is no choice between the two: Ard Na Sidhe wins. However, there are things to see in Killarny such as the Muckross House and Ross Castle as well as some shopping. We stopped by the Ross Castle on the way in, and although it was closed we walked around it. We went back the next day to Muckross House when the weather was bad at Ard Na Sidhe.
Ard Na Sidhe was magical. Ard na Sidhe Country House Hotel is a charming 18 bedroom lake hotel in Kerry, in the southwest of Ireland, built by Lady Gordon in 1913. It is beautifully situated on the shores of Caragh Lake, Killorglin on the scenic Ring of Kerry.
The gardens here were beautiful, and I felt I had been transported in time. You would enjoy a drink in the sitting room/palor by a peat fire. Then make your way to the dining room, where the food was EXCELLENT, and well priced for such fine dining. After dinner you could retreat once again to the sitting room for an after dinner drink. The bedroom was like a fairy tale looking out over the gardens with beautiful windows. There was no TV or radio so it was a true retreat. I felt like royalty.
The only thing that made leaving Ard Na Sidhe manageable was knowing we were headed to the motherland – DINGLE!
Stop 4: Dingle
Accommodation: Pax Guest House, Upper John St Dingle, Co. Kerry, Ireland
Tel: +353 (0)87 280 4901
Tel: +353 (0)66 915 1518
Dingle, you have our hearts and we have you as our last name (or surname as they say in Ireland). Dingle was our shortest duration, as we were only there for one night, and we absolutely made the best of our time there. We were graced with lovely weather, and really couldn’t have loved it more.
Driving around Ireland isn’t a bore like in the states, but rather an enjoyable and sometimes quite exciting journey. We arrived rather early and John (who runs the place) greeted us warmly at the door. We knew we were early, yet he rushed to have a room ready. They treated us to some coffee, and then John gave us the low down on doing the Slea Head drive which essentially takes you around Dingle. The Slea Head Drive (Slí Cheann Sléibhe) is a circular route, forming part of the Wild Atlantic Way, beginning and ending in Dingle, that takes in a large number of attractions and stunning views on the western end of the peninsula. The drive is truly only a bit over an hour but takes longer with stops. After our coffee we headed out. Note to self: the drive is marked with points of interests in km, and someone had set our speedometer to miles…whoops.
Since the weather was nice we went ahead and made the drive up to Conor Pass, which is an absolute MUST. Once you get to the top of Conor pass you can hike a bit farther. The walk up from An Chonair (Conor Pass) summit is called An Bhinn Dubh, and is about 479m high. Little fun fact: it’s also the 624th highest summit in Ireland. Keep on walking and you’ll make it to Ballysitteragh, which is 623m high
We began our Slea Head Drive and en route we stopped at the famine houses where we JUST missed a sheep dog demonstration. However, I got to pet a sweet lamb, and saw a smiling goat that must have been a reincarnation of Rudy. The Famine Cottages were built in the mid nineteenth century and originally housed the Long and then the Kavanagh family in Fán, Ventry County Kerry.
The Goat that looks like Rudy
Along our drive we also saw the entrace to Slea Head which holds a great view of the Blasket Islands. Views of the Skelligs are also available. The Skellig islands are rather famous with Skellig Michael being a film spot for Star wars. Skellig Michael is known throughout the world of archaeology as the site of a well-preserved monastic outpost of the Early Christian period.
We visited the Gallarus Oratory – one of the oldest Christian preserved churches in Ireland being 1300 years old and miraculously watertight.
Another point of interest on the route where we stopped is Kilmalkedar Church. This is the most important church site on the Dingle Peninsula. The site is traditionally associated with St. Brendan, but was reputedly founded by Maolcethair, whose death is recorded in the Martyrology of Donegal under the year 636. There are no remains of the early monastery except possibly for the Ogham stone with the inscription of “Anm Maile Inbir Maci Brocann”.There is also a sundial on the site. There is a hole atop the Ogham stone where you and your spouse can touch thumbs to renew your marriage vows.
Renewing our vows/love to one another at the Ogham Stone
We had lunch at Louis Mulcahy Pottery which is on the route, and it was quite delicious. Also a great stop for pottery if you’re interested.
That afternoon, after a quick shower we headed back out and made it to the Dingle Distillery. This was a great experience and we got to sample the Gin and Vodka. The Gin is their biggest seller, and award winning. We then hopped about town and found ourselves at Foxy John’s which is a hardware store by day and pub by night. So you can enjoy your pint while you look for a wrench. There was also authentic Irish music here which was brilliant (I’m utilizing Irish lingo).
A pint at Foxy Johns
The sunset on our walk home was like nothing I’ve ever seen before. A pictures worth a thousand words:
Breakfast at the Pax House beat everyone else out of the water and was quite the presentation. I wish I could eat breakfast like this everyday! Before we got out of town the next day we did a bit of shopping because we saw several places we wanted to go in. The shopping was GREAT in Dingle, and probably where we picked up the most things surprisingly.
*****The link to the Dingle Slea Head Drive directions: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/travel/dingle-peninsula-loop-trip-20272095/
Stop 5: Galway with visits to the Aran Islands, Cliffs of Moher
353 91 865 200 · Wellpark, Galway, County Galway ·
This was a longer drive coming in at about 3 hours and 220.9 km. On this route we actually took a ferry to cross the Shannon river which was quite exciting and costs 19 euros. We still aren’t sure if it made the trip shorter, but it was a nice reprieve, and a neat experience if you’re on holiday.
Galway was our longest stay being three nights. This was to accommodate all the activities surrounding Galway like the Cliffs of Moher and the Aran Islands. We could have visited the Cliffs on our way in but opted to just head straight to the hotel as we were tired. Our first evening we really just vegetated at the hotel. And embarrassingly, we needed to do laundry and didn’t want to pay 5 euros to wash underwear so I filled up the tub, and hung dry. It was a real bonding experience to witness Tommy blow drying my undergarments.
The next morning after the included breakfast we went out exploring Galway by foot. The G Hotel is a bit outside of town. Points of interest are Eyre Square and the Latin Quarter, both of which we loved. After walking about we went and had some pints at O’Connells which has an AMAZING beer garden. We struck up a conversation with a local who referred us to our favorite restaurant Quays Kitchen.
A beautiful store called Yes Flowers in Galway
When you walk around the Latin Quarter there’s loads of performing artists which are fun to listen to. I was so tired and hungry when we got home that evening, I ordered us a pizza…let’s just say pizza is better back home.
The next day we had a tour arranged to take us to the Aran Islands and the Cliffs of Moher. The tour bus picked us up straight from the hotel, and took us to Doolin, where we boarded a fairy for the smallest of the islands, Inis Oírr (Inisheer). Once you get to the island locals will ask if you want to take a tractor ride, horse and cart, or rent a bike. We elected to walk by foot, which is completely dooable. We enjoyed a pint of Inis, only available on the island at Tigh Ruairí (Rory’s) after our walk.
Horsey Friend on the Aran Islands
O’Brien’s Castle on Inis Oirr
Enjoying a pint of Inis at Tigh Ruairí (Rory’s)
Once we departed the island we hopped back on the ferry to head to the base of the cliffs of Moher to get a perspective from below and also observe the nesting of birds. Sometimes you can see puffins! We hit pretty rough seas, which included 12 foot swells so the boat ride was bit exciting and upsetting for some. Back on land, we had lunch at a O’Connor’s Pub in Doolin. This was the first time I tried the Seafood Chowder, and it was trip changing because I discovered i was in LOVE. Although, it could be it was just the perfect thing after a being out on the cold blustery seas! After lunch, we headed to the cliffs. They are quite beautiful and one of the most awe-inspiring views. It’s something you have to see in person to understand the grandiose of it all.
The Cliffs from below
Birds Nesting below the Cliffs
Atop the Cliffs
This is the section of the cliffs where some people actually go SURFING – nuts!
If staying at the G, we highly suggest a visit to the thermal suite – it’s only 10 euros if you’re a resident (what they call you if you’re a guest of the hotel). The thermal suite gives you access to the pool with awesome different massage jets, a sauna and steam room, as well as different types of showers with scented waters, and heated lounge chairs. Tommy sadly thought the ice fountain was for him to get ice for his drink, and not to rub on your body….gross.
Stop 6 – Cong, Ashford Castle
Accomodation: The Lodge at Ashford Castle
353 94 954 5400 · Lislaughera, Cong, Co. Mayo, Ireland
The main highlight of this stay is really the place you stay itself – the Ashford Castle. Now, we did not stay at the Ashford Castle, but rather the Lodge at Ashford Castle. We failed to make this distinction when telling people about our different stops, and people just stared at us jaws open. I couldn’t figure out why – because honestly our room was not that expensive (comparatively). It was then I realized the Lodge was a whole different ballgame (where we were staying) rather than the castle, where a room runs you at least $1,500.00/night. Whoops!
The Lodge was still phenomenal, and we got an awesome room upgrade. Red Carnation hotels are known for their hospitality – and I can see why. While staying at the Lodge you have access to ALL the grounds on which the castle is situated, it’s just that you might not be able to make it inside the castle unless you have dinner or tea reservations. The reason being is that people are paying for exclusivity and privacy – it makes sense. In addition the Tollmans, who own all Red Carnation resorts were staying at the Castle while we were there.
Standing outside the Lodge
After Dinner in the Castle
We were able to make reservations our first night at The Dungeon restaurant in the castle which is their relaxed dining. We headed over early via the castle’s range rover (why not ride in style?) to have drinks in the Prince of Wales room. I had a gin drink that literally had rose petals in it.
A bit of history on the castle from another site:
The Norman castle dates back to 1228 when it was founded by the de Burgo family, they were defeated in a battle in 1589 and lost their home to Lord Ingham governor of Connaught.
It was transformed in 1715 by the Oranmore and Browne family with the addition of a French style chateau and in 1852 its owner Sir Benjamin Guinness (of the brewing family) extended the estate to 26,000 acres planting trees and adding a further two Victorian extensions. During this time George V, Prince of Wales and many other important guests stayed with the Guiness family. In the 19th century Arthur Guinness incorporated both the castle and the chateau into the one large building it is today.
The Lodge was originally built in 1865 for the Estate Manager of nearby Ashford Castle which dates right back to 1228 when it was founded by the Anglo-Norman de Burgo family, descendants of William de Burgh, a knight who settled in Ireland in 1185 and who claimed direct descent from Charlemagne.
After more than three and a half centuries under the de Burgos, Ashford passed into the hands of Sir Richard Bingham, Lord President of Connaught. Many years later Dominick Browne received the estate in a Royal Grant and in 1715 his family built a hunting lodge in the style of a 17th-century French chateau. The double-headed eagles still visible on the roof of the castle represent the Browne coat of arms.
The estate was purchased in 1852 by Sir Benjamin Lee Guinness . He added two large Victorian-style extensions. He also extended the estate to 26,000 acres, built new roads and planted thousands of trees. On Sir Benjamin’s death in 1868 the estate passed to his son Lord Ardilaun who expanded the building further in the Neo-Gothic style.
It was during this period that The Lodge was constructed. In addition to providing a home for the Estate Manager it also hosted a variety of guests who included fishermen, walkers and friends of the family.
In 1939 the castle was turned into a hotel, with The Lodge continuing to host guests and events. Acquired in 2014, it is now part of the award winning Red Carnation Hotels Collection and offers mellow country house hospitality, artfully combined with chic contemporary style, to discerning travellers from all over the world.
Cong was the filming location for John Ford’s 1952 Oscar-winning film, The Quiet Man, featuring John Wayne, Maureen O’Hara and Barry Fitzgerald. Much of the film was filmed on the grounds of Ashford Castle. The town and castle area remain little changed since 1952, and Cong’s connection with the movie make it a tourist attraction. (The film is still celebrated by the local “Quiet Man Fan Club”).
Roman Catholic records for Cong did not commence until 1870. Church of Ireland records from the 18th and 19th centuries have survived and are held at the South Mayo Family Research Centre in nearby
Our second day there, Tommy and I awoke early so we could eat breakfast and then go meet the estates resident Irish Wolfounds – Cronan and Garvan. These guys are HUGE but super friendly. Every morning they take a walk through the grounds and then meet guests at the castle. Wolfhounds are sighthounds, and while they are large, they are quite fast.
After playing with the wolfhounds we headed off for FALCONRY SCHOOL. My big wedding present was an extended halk which allowed us to fly hawks on the grounds, as well as Dingle the Owl. This was about the darn coolest experience of my life. The hawks are actually North American Harris Hawks. They use these guys because they hunt in packs which allows us to work with them. The hawks do NOT like humans, but rather tolerate us because we have food. It’s also a matriarchal society, which we saw firsthand when I got to fly Rua who is one badass bitch (pardon my language). She will butt other males off trees, and actually tries to kill Dingle the owl for territorial reasons. While the birds all look rather large, the hawks weighed less than 2 lbs, and Dingle the Eurasian Eagle owl about 4 lbs.
Rua- the matriarch
Dingle the Owl
Dingle – our kin
You can imagine we were quite worn out after playing with giant wolfhounds and flying around bird of prey. We did make time to walk over to the town of Cong, which is where much of the movie Quiet Man with John Wayne was filmed. In addition you can see Cong Abbey which is quite lovely.
We ate dinner at Cullens Cottage on the grounds that evening which is the site of the original public screening of Quiet Man.
The Cottage from The Quiet Man
We awoke the next morning ready for the last leg and last stop of the journey – Cliff at Lyons.
Stop 7- Cliff at Lyons
Cliff at Lyons
353 1 630 3500 · Lyons Road, Celbridge, Co.Kildare ·
This stop was meant to get us closer to the Dublin Airport without going straight back to Dublin, but it was much more than that. It was quite the finale. I’ll give you a history of the property straight from the hotel website:
Cliff at Lyons hotel near Dublin, occupies a collection of historic village houses, a barracks, forge and mill situated on the Grand Canal in Kildare.
They originally formed a lockyard, flanking the southernmost of two waterways connecting Dublin in the east of Ireland with the River Shannon in the west.
The big house nearby was an important Irish estate, Lyons Demesne, belonging to an old Kildare dynasty.
The first Lord of Cloncurry, Nicholas Lawless, built the main Georgian mansion here in 1797.
His son, Valentine, the second Lord of Cloncurry, was a champion of the Irish cause who was twice imprisoned in the Tower of London for his sympathies towards the 1798 Irish Rebellion. Known as ‘the Irish Patriot’, Valentine, who dressed in green, was a passionate advocate of Irish culture.
The buildings that form today’s 16-acre Cliff at Lyons evolved into a village in the 1820s, which had a mill, the Jolly Angler’s Inn – which became a police barracks in the mid-19th century – a hotel and even a Church of Ireland boarding school.
The flourmill, damaged in a fire in 1903, was run by Joseph P Shackleton, a relative of the famous Antarctic explorer. Horses would be changed here, beside the double lock on the canal.
In 1962, the entire estate, including the lockyard buildings, were bought by University College Dublin. Although the farmland was being used for student education, the main house and lockyard buildings fell into disrepair.
The renovation of the property did not begin until 1996, when Tony Ryan, co-founder of Ryanair, bought Lyons Demesne, including ‘The Village’, as the lockyard buildings became known.
On Ryan’s death in 2007, he was interred in the chapel at Lyons. The main house was kept on by his sons. The Village — which Ryan had developed into a venue for private events — was sold to Cliff Collection in January 2016. In July it reopened as a hotel.
Again, we were upgraded upon arrival, but this was the upgrade of upgrades. We were walked over to our “cottage”, and I honestly couldn’t find the words. First, it was larger than our home (not difficult), but also just so unbelievably storybook beautiful. We had two bedrooms, two and half baths, a full kitchen, and just a ridiculous amount of glam. The name of the cottage was “one love” and with bedrooms named Romeo and Juliette. See for yourself:
We were so tired by the time we arrived we really took full advantage of the property and lounged, and relaxed, and I of course took a bath in that AMAZING bath tub. I mean that was a no brainer.
We headed over to dinner at the restaurant which is a beautiful glass enclosed structure – you can choose 2 entrees for a set price of 30 euros or 3 for 35 euros so it was quite the deal! As new as this property is, it seems to be a choice spot for weddings and I can definitely see why:
Before you knew it our time was coming to an end, and the sun set on our last night in Ireland. We had an early flight so we had to get up at the crack of dawn to head for the airport and drop off our car prior to departure.
The Hertz drop off is close to the airport so this wasn’t such a large issue, and it was a pretty quick process.
The Dublin airport is QUITE nice, but you have to go through Irish security, US security/Pre-Clearance and customs. Once you go through customs you are there and stuck in the saddest, most boring part of the airport. They will give you a time that you MUST be through customs, so if you have extra time you might wait.
If you were curious there is a duty free shop after customs where you can purchase a limited amount of Irish items – we were most concerned about our ability to buy Dingle Gin and Vodka which was available and which we made it home with with ease.
Time was quite the adjustment there and back, but I would say much easier coming home. We fell asleep at about 7:30/8:00 PM at night, and awoke bright eyed and bushy tailed by about 5:30 AM the next morning (11:30 AM Ireland time). This was great because I made breakfast and coffee and had time to relax before work (for once!). We are not morning people.
We aren’t still waking up at 5:30, but I will say our trip has had some lasting effects. We walked EVERYWHERE in Ireland, and we’ve been trying to keep up that walking with walks to different restaurants and locales around our home, we would normally pop in the car to do. It’s a great opportunity for us to exercise, spend time with each other and the dogs, and save the planet. It’s something we didn’t really notice until our trip. I will say we are up a bit earlier in the morning, but I think that will be a constant struggle for us Dingles.
Since I’ve been home, and finally making this big trip to Europe, I’ve realized these dreams I’ve had in my head are attainable. You can go magical places, and experiences amazing things and you SHOULD. Again, I’m reminded life is short and therefore you should spend it doing things that light you up. While it may seem practical and the next step for Tommy and I to buy a home, we are putting off these big expenditures to save money for what really makes us happy- another big adventure to Ireland – this time an extended stay in Dingle for the Dingles!
Good night Ireland….see you soon!
Feel free to ask me any questions about our trip!
A collection of some of our sweet treats upon arrival: