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Archive for the ‘Undiscovered Ireland’ Category

You have no idea how difficult it can be to get away together.  We can go away for a few hours, or head off on an overnight separately, but the idea of going away on an overnight or a weekend?  Well let’s say it is very very rare.

In fact the last time we were away together for more than a few hours was September 2015!

The excitement when we were invited to go visit our friend, Maggie, in her new home in Wexford.  AND more importantly our friend here said I’ve time off work, I’ll come look after the animals!  Maggie had told us to bring the dogs…. she may have regretted that invitation!

Can you picture the car?  Boot had 2 dogs in it.  Back seat our luggage and a rooster in a box who was moving to Wexford.  It was an interesting journey to say the least… we had to stop many times for ‘wee wees’ – the dogs, not us!!

We packed a lot into our 48 hours away, which just goes to show just what you can do on a mini-break.

We arrived in Wexford at about 3 pm, quick bite of lunch and then off to Duncannon Beach for a long run (the dogs) and walk (the humans). Having left rain behind us, it was a beautiful sunny afternoon, although bitterly cold.

Next day we took the ferry from Ballyhack across to Waterford…it is only about a 3 minute crossing, but even so I HATE ferries!

Ballyhack Ferry Crossing

Parked up in Waterford City, and of course, it started to rain.  Not that we needed an excuse but this give us one to visit the most amazing bookshop – The Book Centre.  We could have spent the entire day there (four floors of books!), but we didn’t.  We each purchased a book and moved on.  Next stop was Waterford Crystal.  They’re showrooms are amazing, and we were lucky to find a replacement glass for a very old set we have here.  Stopped off for some lunch, and a visit to Ardkeen Grocery Store, before heading back to base.  Rounded the daylight hours off with another long walk with the dogs.

Lots of delicious food from Ardkeen Grocery Store

Next morning we were heading back home, so went for a walk on Hook Head – oldest working lighthouse in the world – before hitting the road.

Hook Lighthouse

When planning the trip I noticed that we were going to be passing close to Jerpoint Park en route.

Jerpoint Park

I’ve wanted to go there ever since I read that Santa Claus is buried there….. yes, you read that right….. Santa Claus is buried in Co. Kilkenny, Ireland.

Santa Claus’ Grave

I had had a few chats on twitter with Maeve who had kindly invited me to come visit, even though it was out of season.  I know Alfie was only ‘humouring’ me with this stop on the way home.  You know the ‘yeah, yeah’ thing you get?  Well, let me tell you after 2.5 hours wandering the grounds with Joe as our guide, Alfie was completely blown away and is still talking about it.  We will definitely have to go back there.

As you can tell we packed a lot into our 48 hour holiday!  And there was so much more we could have done too.  This is why I always suggest to guests when planning your trip, always opt for 2 night stays in any location, so that you have time to explore the area where you are staying.

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We’ve been doing the AirBnB thing for close to 4 years now, and have really enjoyed the experience.

Sometimes though we do get asked (what we think) are weird questions, so this is some advice for anyone planning on coming to Ireland on vacation, here are our tips.

  1. Travelling Distance – forget that in the USA, or in Australia, that you can cover vast distances on motorways/highways in a relatively fast time.  That just won’t happen here.  Yes, you can drive from Dublin to Galway via motorway in 2 hours, but once you go off the motorways you can bank on only covering 50 or so kilometres in an hour.  Anyway, you are on holiday, slow down, relax and enjoy.
  2. Overnight stays – I know you want to see as much as possible on your holiday.  However, if I can offer one piece of advice it is slow down.  Mostly it will take you a full day to drive to your next destination.  Plan on staying there 2 nights so that you can get there, enjoy the area for a day, and then move onto next place at a leisurely pace.
  3. Roads with no names –  yes, that is a reality.  It confuses lots of visitors to our home.  We live on an un-named road.  While postal codes have now been introduced, that is not going to resolve the un-named road issue.  And, no, the street a block away is not named either!  We like to confuse!

    Un-named Road

    Un-named Road

  4. And more on roads – we, Irish, aren’t the best on using road numbers to direct people.  I struggle to remember the road numbers of the roads around us…. I am getting better at it.
  5. A useful app:  if you have a smart phone with you, a useful app, is ‘autoaddress’…. if you have the Eircode (postal code) for your destination this app is immensely helpful.
  6. Car rental – if you plan on renting a car to tour around the country…. consider picking your car up outside of the cities or airports, it is usually cheaper.  Hop on a bus and train – enjoy the scenery – and pick your car up once your out of the hectic place that is an airport/city.  I’ve also been told that you get a better rate if you search ‘your car rental company’.ie rather than .com?
  7. Parking – this one I guess is mainly for our American visitors. Yes, it is perfectly legal to park the car on the ‘wrong’ side of the road. If you are driving on the left-hand side of the road and spot a parking slot on the right-hand side…. go for it.
  8. Tourist attractions – some of our tourist attractions are maintained and run by the Office of Public Works (OPW) – a government division.  They offer free entrance on the first Wednesday of every month.  Well worth availing of this offer to visit their sites.
  9. Rainy Season? –  that’s all year round!  Seriously though it rains here – winter and summer.  So, no, I can’t tell you that July is best time to come to avoid the rain, or that it doesn’t rain much in August.  It rains here whenever it wants to.  We regularly have four seasons in one day.  Bring a rain jacket with a hood.
  10. Man-hunting – again, we’ve had some single ladies come who’d welcome a chance to meet a handsome Irishman…. a top tip here is when asked ‘where are you from’? Don’t say US or Australia.  The guys have already guessed that…. be specific, i.e. Melbourne, LA, whatever…. even if it is an obscure town somewhere… you’ve got a great opening line for a chat up!

Hope this helps.  Any Irish, or indeed, non-Irish readers got any other tips to share?

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I know. I know.  I’ve been totally remiss about posting.  Honestly, though I’ve not been slacking.  We’ve been extremely busy with baby ducks, AirBnB guests, social media training, our new sheep (did I tell you we have sheep?)…. just so much has been going on.

I’ve about 500 blog posts half written (in my head)…. so I guess I’d better get the finger out and get them up here!!!

If we’ve had a couple of hours off, or just needed to get away from here for a few hours, we often just go exploring locally.  Do you feel that sometimes you are so busy with your life, that you hardly notice what’s right on your doorstep?

Graveyard Entrance

Graveyard Entrance

Saturday was one of those days, so we took a little time off and went to a local village – Terryglass.  If you’ve ever been to Terryglass I doubt if you would forget it.  It has to be one of the prettiest villages in the country.  The village itself is a few minutes walk from the shore of Lough Derg – on Saturday there was lots of activity on the shoreline with boats and jet-skiers.

The only hotel you'll find in Terryglass :)

The only hotel you’ll find in Terryglass 🙂

The village was also busy, well it does have two lively and award winning pubs!  They’re quite famous too – Paddy’s Pub and The Derg Inn. Nice places to stop for a coffee, a pint or a meal.

We also had a browse through a new shop – Revived and Retro – based in the old church.  They are doing some very interesting things with disused chairs and doors… well worth a visit.

A tummy rub was demanded on entry :)

A tummy rub was demanded on entry 🙂

the perfumes from the roses in this garden are amazing

the perfumes from the roses in this garden are amazing

I want a garden like this!  Seriously isn’t it beautiful?

If you’re down this way a great time to visit Terryglass is during the annual Arts Festival which this year takes place from 12th to 16th August…. always a great festival and wonderful atmosphere.

So when are you coming on a visit?  Terryglass is only 10 minutes away from us!

 

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That folks was the name (hashtag) that took over our lives when we had the bloggers here on a recent weekend trip.  I’d had a little bit of a rant about the organising of the trip, but ultimately I believe it went well.

This blog post is really going to be about ‘thank you’.  Thank you to all who were involved in one way or another.  It could not have happened without your support.

Thank you to Alfie who thought the idea of a bloggers’ tour was a good one, and who persisted with me in convincing Mid Ireland Tourism to go for it.  We love the area we live in, and want to help in any way we can to promote it and generate a better income for all others who live here.

Bridge

Bloggers:

Thank you to the bloggers who agreed to travel (at their own expense) and give of their time and expertise to promote the area.

Accommodation Providers:

I struggled a bit organising the accommodation but in the end “it all worked out on the night”.  Thank you to

Venues:

Perhaps I should have tried to visit less places – there were times when we were a bit rushed – but I was so enthusiastic to show off as much as possible!  I just wanted to give everyone a taste of what is on offer – and, secretly, hoped it would tempt everyone to come back and visit again!

Goody Bags and Tastings:

I really did ‘step outside the box’ for this, and major thanks must go to all the local producers who I asked and who without fail came up trumps.

A special ‘thank you’ to Ron Wise who came to my rescue and made a delicious birthday cake for Regula who was celebrating her birthday that weekend.

And lastly, but definitely not least, mega thanks to Siobhan and David at Le Bouchon Restaurant in Portumna who stepped into the breech and produced the most delicious picnic lunch for us to take on the mini-cruise on Sunday.

That’s it folks…. I will, of course, be sharing blog posts as others write them…. for more detail on what we did and how the weekend went check out

Of course, if you are in the midlands, and on social media…. we’d love to see you using the #MagicalMidlands hashtag…. let’s keep the momentum going 🙂

 

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A question I am asking myself almost daily at the moment!!!  Seriously, how often have I said on here or to myself ‘do not volunteer’.

Folks, I’ve gone and done it again.  I volunteered!!!  I volunteered to help out our local tourism organisation Mid Ireland Tourism by bringing a group of bloggers into the midlands.

You see the trouble is that tourists are attracted to Dublin (naturally)…. and now there is the big draw of the Wild Atlantic Way, so it is as if the middle of the country was just one great big black hole.

We need to remedy this.  There is so much to offer in the midlands.  It truly is magical.

Magical Midlands

Magical Midlands

How difficult can it be?  You know, just 8 bloggers, a coach, accommodation, an itinerary, lunch, dinner, a mini cruise with lunch.  Easy peasy????

Not so.

Despite the many obstacles that had to be surmounted, I am almost there.

I gave the tourism board a diverse list of bloggers – they chose who they would like to come.  I asked the bloggers, and they agreed to come.  Done.

A coach…. one phone call, sorted.

Itinerary…. many phone calls and it was sorted.  I’ve chosen some of our favourite places which I’ve written about here, and I hope will impress everyone.

Lunch and dinner on the Saturday – easily sorted.

A picnic lunch for 12 people on the Sunday????  A nightmare.  Many many phone calls.  No responses, total dis-interest.  There’s supposedly a recession out there.  Do people not want to do business?

One huge lesson learned is that there is still such ignorance about ‘blogging’ and the power of blogging.  Even more mind-blowing for me is the fact that so many businesses have no website – or a very poor one, and don’t know the first thing about using social media to promote their business.  And probably worse still, are not willing to learn about it.

Folks, social media is HUGE.  It is am immense tool for small business.  It takes time but it is free.  You need to schedule it into your day the same way you’d schedule accounts or other stuff into it.  And if people don’t know about you, how can they come to you????

Next weekend is the big WEEKEND!

I’m quietly confident that it will all come together seamlessly in the end.  Well, if it doesn’t it won’t be from lack of effort.  This coming week may be a bit frenetic, but I promise to be outwardly calm on the day 🙂

Now all I need is some good sunshine.

If you’d like to travel virtually along the journey next weekend, we’ll be using two hashtags #midireland and #magicalmidlands

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We’ve had an absolutely hectic time here in Redwood for the past 10 days.  I’ve been away to Dublin to do some minding of nieces and nephews, and then we’ve had some of my family and some of Alfie’s family come to stay.  All good fun.

In honour of such visitors we actually managed to take a day off on Wednesday, and went to Limerick to visit King John’s Castle.

I grew up in Limerick.  Spent the first 16 years of my life there.  I have many memories of those years, but one, in particular, which relates to King John’s Castle, was walking (always walking) over to my Nana’s every single Sunday afternoon. My Nana lived just down the road from the Castle.

In those days the Castle was completely off limits.  It was locked up and no-one was allowed inside.

Thomond Bridge

Thomond Bridge

Despite crossing over Thomond Bridge and seeing the Castle every Sunday, I really didn’t know much about the history.

Let me tell you if you get the opportunity to visit…. you simply must go.  Millions of euro have been spent on the restoration, creating a wonderful interactive experience, and every penny has been well spent.  800 years of history is told in such an interesting and creative way… needless to say I was particularly interested in the ‘food history’.

The Normans brought us a varied diet

The Normans brought us a varied diet

This would certainly encourage obeisance :)

This would certainly encourage obedience 🙂

The Menu

We liked that pork and bacon featured on the menu!

However, there is so much to the exhibition…. the lives of the people through the ages, the battles…. something to enthral everyone of every age.

Isn't this model amazing?

Isn’t this model amazing?

You can go right up to the top of the towers, which gave amazing views in every direction.  Those folks back in the 13th century must have already known the phrase ‘location, location, location’!  Look at that view.

View

There is another story to go with this photo.  See those houses on the left…. when I was a little girl I swear I saw Santa and his reindeer land on the roofs of those houses (Nana’s house was on the other side of the river)…. we had to rush home immediately!!!

However, back to King John’s Castle…  as an Irish person visiting the Castle we really were proud of how it has been developed.  Despite it being a dreary October afternoon, there were quite a few tourists about, all of whom seemed to be thoroughly enjoying the experience.  There were four adults in our group.  We each came away with different aspects having impressed us, and had a lively discussion in the car on the way home, on the lives of the folks who used to live in the Castle.

Be sure to get there 🙂

 

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Folks, I got invited on my first ever bloggers trip last month.  Needless to say, I was excited and delighted to accept the invitation.

Now before you all think I was whisked off to an exotic beach…. you could be right.  However, the truth is I was invited to attend the Taste of Carlow event, which was even better than a day at the beach.

Yes, another Midlands county that kind of gets by-passed by all the tours and tour operators.  It is a fate that befalls pretty much all the Midland counties of Ireland. Tourists land in Shannon, or Dublin, and off they go…. all around the coast.  Now I am not saying that our coastline isn’t wonderful…. in fact, I think the Wild Atlantic Way is a wonderful initiative, and I just love some of the promotional stuff…. but could we maybe have a Meander the Magical Midlands initiative?

(I just thought that up now…. it isn’t half bad…. should I patent it?)

Anyway back to my trip to Carlow.

We were blessed with a beautiful day.  I had an early start, out of here at 8 a.m., leaving Alfie in charge of our AirBnB guests – Martha and Emmet – who were very understanding of my rude early departure.

Our bloggers day consisted of history, scenery, food (lots of it), gardens… really a mix of everything…. something to suit all tastes.

We did so much I could be posting forever…. but let me tell you about my highlights… which are in no particular order.

Our Carlow Guide :

Bianka of Carlow Tours

Bianka of Carlow Tours

 

Bianka of Carlow Tours….. what a treasure.  She told us so much about each place we visited, and had such interesting snippets to share, to make the stories more real.  Seriously, if you are heading to Carlow make sure to book a tour with Bianka.

Historical Carlow :

I just loved Duckett’s Grove Castle.  The Castle suddenly seems to appear before you, with a magnificent drive up to it.  We walked around the Castle and Gardens, and, of course, stopped at The Tea Rooms for tea and the most delicious scones ever.

Duckett's Grove Castle

Duckett’s Grove Castle

Browneshill Dolmen…. now how on earth did they arrange those stones without modern day lifting equipment?

Browneshill Dolmen

Huntington Castle…. this place is totally amazing!  We had a quick ramble around the beautiful gardens, walked along the Yew Walk, before doing the tour of the Castle.  We were also shown some of the more private rooms…. believe me this is an amazing family home.  Then, of course, it was time to stop for more tea…. this time in the magnificent courtyard.

Huntington Castle - Yew Walk

 

Loved the colours and vibrancy of these flowers on display from The Flowerfield at Huntington Castle.

The Flowerfield display

Scenic Carlow:

A little detour was arranged to take us to Mount Leinster.  In typical Irish weather fashion, having had glorious sunshine all day as soon as we got to the top the rain came down…. but we could still all imagine the magnificent views.

The rain came down :(

The rain came down 😦

Taste of Carlow:

What can I say about the food we had throughout the day?  There were those delicious scones at Duckett’s Grove, the magnificent picnic lunch arranged for us by Carlow Farmers Market, the treats bought at the market, the trip to Malone’s Fruit Farm where I was completely taken by the Smoked Garlic, sips of Elderflower Champagne and Sloe Gin from Mary of Blackstairs Eco Trails – there was a danger that Lisa of Isle Magazine and myself might have stayed there for the afternoon! The day culminated in an absolutely delicious meal at The Step House in Borris where Chef Alan Foley truly pulled out all stops.  My personal favourites of our tasting menu?  The Salmon, the pork and the duck were so so good.

Dinner at The Step House

Dinner at The Step House

 

Major, major thank you to Dee and Susan from Green & Vibrant for organising such a magnificent day….. they’ve kind of thrown down the gauntlet for me to figure out a way to invite them over this side of the Midlands 🙂  And thanks must also go to fellow bloggers who made the day such an enjoyable one – Lorna (Irish Farmerette), David (Beyond the Wild Garden), and Sophia and Lisa from Isle Magazine.

 

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