In April of 2023, my husband Eric and I took a 14-day trip through the Emerald Isle of Ireland. This trip included visits to spectacular ancient castles, tons of verdant green landscapes, and a multitude of quaint pubs. We equally loved the coastal cities and the mountain side villages, as both had Irish charm.
Our trip began in Dublin, and we stayed in the “Temple Bar” area. This area is located near the center of the high energy city and some of the most famous of Dublin’s 666 pubs. The “Bohemian Quarter,” near the Liffey River, bordering on the south-side, is pumped with live Irish folk music in every pub. It has the reputation of a touristy destination, but it is also the center of Dublin’s nightlife. We loved the traditional Irish music
and dance which are an integral part of the Irish culture.
Another great attraction in Dublin is the Guinness factory. I would highly recommend the Guinness Storehouse which is six levels high and known for its “Stoutie” experience (a special computerized process that creates an image from a selfie photo on the foam head of your stout beer). The gravity bar, located at the top of the storehouse, has exquisite 360° views of the city. Guinness beer has become a legendary part of Irish culture, celebrated as Ireland’s national drink and has
been brewed by the Guinness Family for over 250 years. Since beginning the brewery, the Guinness family has been giving back to the local community. The Guinness family gifts include providing homes for the poor in both London and Dublin, becoming a benefactor for Trinity College in Dublin and several hospitals in Dublin. Because of this well-known philanthropy both Guinness and the community have a mutual respect and loyalty for each other.
Later, we took a walking trip to the famous Hodge Figgas bookstore, which is one of the oldest in the world. We purchased works by Yeats and Heaney, both famous poets from this area. Dublin Ireland is a UNESCO City of Literature. Four Nobel prize winners called Ireland home: Yeats, Beckett, Shaw, and Heaney. Their works can be found in the library at Trinity University. The Trinity Library is one of the most beautiful libraries in the world. Then we visited Hill Top Restaurant, on the outskirts of Dublin, for an evening filled with traditional Irish music and dancing over dinner and drinks.
As our trip continued south, we toured the imposing 12th century Kilkenny Castle, overlooking the River Nore. This castle is well preserved and offers a glimpse into the lifestyle enjoyed by the Irish upper class. We also toured the iconic Rock of Cashel, a commanding stone building that dates back to the 12th-13th centuries. This stone fortress, strategically placed on a hilltop overlooking the
entire region, was a center for political and religious activity for many generations. Visited by St. Patrick, it marks the transition from early Celtic religion to modern Christianity.
The next day, we traveled Cork county and hiked
up to Blarney Castle and Gardens. Mounting countless steps in a narrow spiral staircase, we were rewarded with wonderful views of the 60 acres of gardens, avenues, arboretums, and waterways. We risked our lives to kiss the Blarney Stone (which is in an alcove cut near the top of the castle wall and requires each visitor to lean backwards through a small hole at the top of the tower to access the actual stone that is cemented in the tower wall). The reward for this feat is a promise to endow the kisser with the gift of eloquence. We loved seeing all the cherry blossoms in bloom and spring bulbs (daffodils, Tulips, Iris’) along the river.
Our tour continued with a coach ride around
the Ring of Kerry. The magnificent drive offers views of the natural wonders in Kerry county. This area spans over 25,000 acres and includes lakes, woodlands, and mountain peaks. We stopped to take a picture at “Lady View” overlook which is famous for Queen Victoria’s visit in 1861 and named in remembrance of her ladies in waiting. Later we visited the town of Killarney, and we took a horse drawn carriage through the Killarney National Park. Killarney National Park is a scenic woodland preserve with lakes and streams and is home to a variety of natural flora and fauna.
After spending time in Kerry county, we travelled to Clare county, where we visited one of the most spectacular sites I have ever seen: the magnificent Cliffs of Moher. The Cliffs of Moher are majestic sea cliffs located at the southwestern edge of the Burren region in Clare county. The maximum height is 702 feet! These dramatic cliffs rising up from the Atlantic Ocean, are home to Puffins and other sea birds native to the region. Visitors can hike paths to both sides of the cliffs to get a view of the natural beauty. On a clear day, the views from the top of the cliffs are like none other in the world.
Throughout this trip we were serenaded with music in almost every venue. 2000
years ago, Celtic people settled in Ireland and created their own music. Later, immigrants from Austria, Switzerland, France, and Spain brought eastern flair adding to the musical tradition. Irish folk music, evolved over each new generation. The melodies and lyrics of folk songs carry an oral history, and this tradition continues today. The style of music was unique and made my heart sing.
Food is also a big part of the Irish culture. While exploring Ireland we enjoyed many different traditional dishes. Some of our favorites:
- Warm vegetable soup
- Daily potatoes (served in many styles from mashed to fried to roasted)
- Irish stews
- Corn beef and cabbage
- Boxty (potato pancakes)
- Coddle (pork sausages with potatoes and spices)
- Irish soda bread
- Fresh fish/Fish and chips
THE AMAZING FOODS OF IRELAND
All the food we tried was wholesome and hearty.
In the end, we fell in love with the people we met in Ireland.
They were easy going, welcoming, and generous. They loved Ireland and the Irish culture, and it was easy to see that their way of life is deeply
cherished. We enjoyed their culture, food, drinks, music, and dance.
Fun tidbit: I recently found out I’m part Irish! After returning from Ireland, I took the Ancestry DNA test. The result indicates that a significant branch of my family came from Ireland. I was impressed with Ireland before I knew, and she will always have my heart. Until we meet again!
- Marcella Baird Poitras