In the last post, I left off with Dingle, the charming town Â¾ of the way to the end of the Dingle Peninsula.Â Having made our way from Dublin to Dingle over the course of a week, we had stayed in many nice places, eaten out 2-3 meals a day and were basically spoiled in the scenic sights department.
On a trip of this sort, things have to get progressively more interesting or the destinations at the start of the trip have an unfair advantage of being new and first, and therefore, remembered most fondly.Â Well, Dingle did not disappoint.Â The town is cute as it can be, even with nearly every single restaurant closed on a Thursday night.Â We dined at the most beautiful restaurant, The Old Stone Bar & Grill, which I would recommend for drinks ONLY.Â We ordered the mussels and some other small plates…not long after, we noticed a kitchen employee put his coat on and head out into the night.Â When our mussels were served a bit later, they did not come with the usual homemade Irish soda bread.Â No, we got a toasted hamburger bun.Â It had pesto slathered on it, but it was still a boring white bun!
The cliffs at Slea Head and the rugged coast are breathtaking and the drive the next day, over the Connor Pass and to the flat sand beach on the northside of the peninsula was awesome.Â The tide goes out nearly as far as you can see, so the beaches at lo-tide are fantastic.
While it was hard to depart the beauty of picture-perfect Dingle, the comforts of Dromoland Castle awaited.
Dingle to Dromoland:
We raced from Dingle to Dromoland, with barely a stop, in hopes of arriving in time for an afternoon walk with the hounds and some time at the spa.
Visit the tiny village of Adare, home to a row of charming, if touristy,Â thatch-roof cottages housing several boutiques.Â The town was given itâ€™s award-winning makeover by an Englishman in the 1820s, in effort to create the perfect village and has been attracting sightseers ever since.
Rococo Shoe Room at the Rose covered cottageâ€”Where the beauty on the inside even surpasses the outside! Drool-inducing array, including Spanish designeres Paco Gil, Pedro Garcia and Pura Lopez, as well as quirky American Beverly Feldman
Stay:Â Dromoland Castle near Newmarket-on-Fergus
We were awestruck upon arriving at Dromolandâ€”it looks as if King Arthur and the knights will be back any minute.Â Worth a night for the opulence.Â Our room was extravagantly appointed, as were the common areas.
Dromoland is an all-inclusive deal, so our meals were taken in the Earl of Thomond dining room.Â While we enjoyed the flourish, pomp and circumstance, the food was unremarkable.Â I enjoyed the turbot, which seemed fitting, and was grateful they were not serving pheasant, having noticed a large number of birds and hunters running around the grounds.Â Breakfast was a similarly lavish affair, and all that silver is fun, even when they are serving white toast with your dry omelet.
An after-dinner drink in the intimate bar is obligatoryâ€”listen to the fiddle player and try to count the number of Staffordshire dogs that decorate the walls.
While you can golf, boat, hunt pheasant or visit the Falconry, we chose the Leisure Center in the club house next door.Â Swim, jaccuzi, steam, sauna, repeat.Â We were made to purchase little black stretch bathing caps for 5e to enter the pool.Â We must have looked suspect, because no one else was wearing themâ€¦
Dromoland to Galway via The Burren:
Departing Limerick and entering Clare, I was interested to see how things had changed since my last visit, seventeen years ago.Â Oâ€™Connellâ€™s Pub in Doolin is still there, but so are dozens (hundreds?) of vacation homes and B&Bs.Â Iâ€™m sure the music scene is still thriving, but tourism has hit this area hard.
Galway City is music centralâ€”so many cool pubs in such a small area, plus fab restaurants and great shopping.Â What a wonderful town!Â We were there for Game 1 of Ireland vs France World Cup qualifying match.Â While super to be in a Galway pub cheering Ireland on a Saturday night, the 1-0 outcome was a bummer.
Cliffs of Moherâ€”the majestic cliffs are a must in any season.Â Itâ€™s probably a good thing that there is now fencing and roping, although few seem to abide the â€œSTOP: Do not Enterâ€ sign where the path has been blocked off.Â The Cliffs are so windy, it can be hard to stand up-right, and I wonder how many have ended up below in the cold Atlanticâ€¦Iâ€™d rather be a wuss than a statistic!
Ennistimon, Lahinch, Doolin, Lisdoonvarnaâ€¦cute little towns to drive through and scare up lunch en route to the R480 road through the Burren
The Burrenâ€”a fascinating, stark landscape; scenic drive to Poulnabrone, a simple, ancient burial site out in the middle of nowhere.Â We zig-zagged the backroads to see as much as possible.
The House Hotel, Merchant St, Galwayâ€”great location; Fun & modern dÃ©cor.Â Although the firstÂ room we looked at was ug-ly, the upgraded larger room was fantastic and one of our faves.
French Restaurant on Abbeygate?â€”casual, superb lunch
Nimmoâ€™sâ€”Cute, cozy and really good:Â Butternut squash soup, risotto and a bottle of â€œPaddyâ€ New Zealand Pinot Noir.Â Super popular with locals and critics, which is nice
House of Thaiâ€”Fancy Thai; close to our hotel and perfect for a rainy Sunday night.
Butlerâ€™sâ€”Decadent Hot Chocolate
The Quays Pubâ€”Our friend, Eithne, says itâ€™s a must for a pint
Craneâ€™s Barâ€”a 10 minute walk over the bridge from Quay St.Â Great Trad music on Sunday afternoon and again on Sunday night, possibly every night
See & Do:
Walk!Â Quay St and all the terrific shops around town
See the Swans on the Quay near the Spanish Arch
Walk to Salt Hill (2mi)â€”a pretty seaside promenade with shops and restaurants.Â Â We gambled ((video roulette) in the casino for a little afternoon shelter and fun.
Galway to Sligo via Connemara:
We got up pretty early in the morning and prayed for good weather.Â Thereâ€™s no point in going to Connemara if you canâ€™t see it and the area is known for fog and mist.Â Luckily, although it rained, it was not deal-breaking and we persevered through the rugged mountain roads and lovely coastal towns, riveted by the sight.
The Quiet Man Bridgeâ€”near Oughterard (Ook-ter ard).Â The iconic John Wayne film was filmed on location in Connemara and you will find numerous references to it in any guidebook.
Roundstoneâ€”Cute, tiny town on the coast; we stopped for photos and a couple of bananas, since there had been no opportunity for a morsel of food between Galway and there, at least not at 8am.
Clifdenâ€”A bigger resort-town, with bakeries and restaurants.Â I was devastated that the adorable store, LOVE Vintage, a kindred spirit, was not open:(
The Twelve Pinsâ€”We traveled back on N59 toward Galway, so we could take the R336 by Lough Inagh, to Kylemore Abbey.Â The drive was one of the most scenic in Ireland, even in the rainâ€”I can only imagine the lake with the towering mountains behind in the sunshineâ€¦
Kylemore Abbeyâ€”Arising out of the woods, the Abbey is that gorgeous castle you always see pictured next to anything mentioning Connemara.Â Eleven elderly Nuns occupy the Abbey and they donâ€™t miss a trickâ€”there is a wonderful cafeteria/restaurant and a terrific gift shop on the grounds, selling jams, puddings, mohair throws and handknit socks.
Leenaneâ€”Made famous by the Martin McDonough play, â€œThe Beauty-queen of Leenaneâ€, driving along the Kilary Fjord on the way was beautiful.Â We would have hit Westport, et al if it had not been pouring rain…
Aaaaaaah, Sligo.Â After a long day of knuckle-baring driving, We arrived in the lovely neighborhood of Strandhill, greeted by our friends with a glass of 2000 Guy Charlemagne Grand Cru â€œMesnillÃ©simeâ€.Â And it only got better!Â Irish hospitality is not lost on our American friends in Sligo, who wined, dined and tour-guided us for four days.Â They own a killer wineshop, The WineBuff, and, due to their proximity to France and direct-import to Ireland, I swooned with envy over their selection and the prices.
See & Do–
Hike & Walk–Between the Harbor, ocean, lakes and rivers, there is a surplus of outdoor beauty and opportunity for hiking in the area.Â There is an amazing cemetery and ruins on the airport property.Â Beware of “The Travelers”–Fearless Irish gypsies who live in campers in various parking lots.Â They seem to pick the best spots!
Shop–Sligo is an adorable town with some excellent shopping;Â gourmet foods, artisan crafts and traditional Irish woolens & tweeds.Â Mullaney’s on O’Connell St. was a delight.Â If you ever make it there, budget at least an hour for a chat with John Mullaney, whose Father started the business a hundred years ago.Â He is the epitome of Irish friendliness with a dose of blarney.
Seaweed Bath–See Box!
Montmartre–a superb French restaurant in Sligo–who knew?!Â Local Smoked Salmon, Authentic Lapin du Moutarde, cheese plates and a reasonable wine list.
Stay:Â Ryall Armsâ€”An invitation-only 5-Star resort in prestigious Strandhill, complete with two energetic dogs to walk and greet you every morning.Â Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner with Wine inclusive. (just kidding)
Driving around Donegal was a highlightâ€”so beyond beautiful at every turn.Â Donegal town is a great place to shop and there are numerous cafes, like the Blueberry Tearoom,Â for an afternoon sticky toffee pudding after a day of touring.
See & Do:
Glimpse the awe-inspiring turreted stone castle of the Late Lord Mountbatten in Mullaghmore
Solis at Loch Eske Castleâ€”We were somewhat humbled when we pulled up in our Toyota, given there were two dozen Range Rovers in the parking lot.Â The humility grew exponentially, as we entered the grand resort to see elaborate sailing yacht ship models on display everywhere.Â It turned out to be a â€œSunseekerâ€ sales meeting in rural Donegal, to be attended by clients from all over the world.Â Solis is a stunning luxury resort–if you can’t afford to stay there, you can enjoy a club sandwich in the bar, as we did.
Two things to note about Ireland:
Never believe a sign you read;Â Whether it says â€œHoursâ€, â€œOPENâ€, â€œDo Not Enterâ€, etcÂ It may say â€œprivateâ€, but itâ€™s no harm to look around.Â If it says open until 11, they probably stop serving at 9.Â If it says, â€œBathing caps requiredâ€, they probably are not.
Simple pleasures.Â My best food memories are of hot soups on cold days served with warm bread, cafÃ© breaks with homemade desserts, hot chocolates made with careâ€¦If the menu says â€œAranciniâ€, consider yourself warned.
Lastly, and this is true wherever you go:
The joy is in the journey.