About six years ago now, I visited one of the most beautiful countries I’ve seen to date: gorgeously green Ireland. My parents and I took part in a sightseeing bus tour that stopped in different cities each night and showcased noteworthy castles, scenic locales and of course a detailed tour of the Jameson Whiskey Brewery! (The dancers during dinner were fabulous!)
If you’re considering a trip to Europe but want avoid teeming tourists in Paris or the sun-sweltering heat of Italy, take a direct flight to Dublin! We did, and our bus tour began right from our hotel outside the city, The Carton House. This hotel, built into a 17th century estate, is a stunning mix of old and new. Modern additions still incorporate ancient stone and rich fabrics, while older wings of the home a filled with colorful antique vases and hand-carved furnishings. I took quite a few nosy strolls throughout the estate and the gardens, which join the golf course out back. The grass and flowers, as anywhere in Ireland, are the greenest you will ever likely see. The eldest trees surrounding the estate are positively enormous yet their heavily laden branches sway in the misty breezes with such dignified grace, almost welcoming you home. The spot is truly heavenly.
After a two-night stay in small but luxurious hotel rooms, we traveled on throughout Ireland. After a visit in Cork and a few other cities, we halted at the Cliffs of Moher, as it is nearly impossible not to. The cliffs are absolutely break-taking. The rocky, green hills of the country simply drop off without warning to the vigorous blue water below. Trails along the cliffs make for some of the most scenic views in all of Europe, just watch your footing!
After a great history lesson in Northern Ireland and a stop in Galway, we made a large circle of the country and headed back to Dublin, this time staying at the Castle Clontarf, another unique hotel formed from an ancient establishment. This one was quite beautiful with a soaring 3 story foyer, a stone chimney reaching just as high, but with modern touches such as bright red, black and purple accents in lighting and fabrics. The wall behind the concierge desk is a translucent, lit plastic with old-fashioned skeleton keys mounted behind, their shadows shining through. So fresh! And you’ll never forget where to pick up your room key.
Stunning scenery aside, what we enjoyed most about Ireland was her people. Everyone was so absolutely friendly, starting up conversations in each store or restaurant, and treating you as if you were family. Our tour guide would sing (to the best of his 65 year ability) the most charming and hilarious folk songs and was so entirely passionate about his country’s history. Do yourself a favor and find your roots still growing strong in Ireland as we did, or just go to explore this pristine, proud Emerald Isle.