Joel and I are navigating the Irish countryside, mindful that the already narrow two-lane stretch of road could at any moment be reduced to a single lane not much wider than our touring car. It is day four of our 10-day honeymoon and we continue to be awed by Ireland’s landscape, a kaleidoscope of forested hillsides, sweeping pastures, bog hollows and crystalline lakes.
Earlier in the morning we’d left Dublin, a bustling city about three and a half hours to the northeast, setting the compass point to Kenmare, a seaside town on the southwestern coast. We’d chosen Ireland for our honeymoon in part because a dear friend of mine from here spoke about it so passionately, but also because Joel and I had long been enchanted by it.
As we motored along, we knew coming here to celebrate our marriage was a fine decision. Equally fortuitous was another milestone worthy of celebrating—Joel’s birthday.
THE JOYS OF THE IRISH BLUE BOOK — Appreciating that we couldn’t see Ireland in one visit we’d mapped out destinations in advance, choosing to spend time in Dublin, Kenmare and Galway. About the size of West Virginia the country stretches 302 miles north to south, is 174 miles wide and has a drivable coastline of around 1,500 miles, much of which is enjoyed by following the Wild Atlantic Way.
A real plus was the Irish Blue Book, a wonderful source for luxurious lodging and cuisine. The web site allowed us to search for accommodations by Activities, whose drop down options included Romantic Getaways. After browsing one amazing property after another, we landed on Park Hotel Kenmore and Carrig Country House in Kerry. Friends recommended the Shelbourne Dublin and the House Hotel in Galway.
We then focused on creating a “to do” list. Capturing our attention was a loop through the Ring of Kerry, a trip that reportedly showcased some of Ireland’s most dramatic scenery. It joined our itinerary, as did tours of the Kilmainham Gaol, the Aran Islands and the Cliffs of Moher.
THE ART OF POURING GUINNESS — We’d started our Irish adventure with a late evening check in to The Shelbourne Dublin, a five-star hotel overlooking a grand Victorian-era park called St. Stephen’s Green. Established in 1824, the hotel today houses a museum that includes, among many cool items, a draft of the Irish Constitution and a genealogy butler invites guests to explore their ancestral roots.
What imprinted on us was its longevity as Dublin’s premier hotel for movie stars and luminaries that have included Charlie Chaplin, Greta Garbo, Clark Gable, Elizabeth Taylor, Cary Grant, John Wayne, Paul Newman, Robert Redford, Archbishop Desmond Tuto, Bono, Keith Richards, Bill Clinton, Luciano Pavarotti, and First Lady Michelle Obama and her two daughters. To say that the staff was attentive would be a significant understatement. From the moment we checked in everyone referred to us by name, was polite to a fault and made us feel at home.
Post-breakfast the next morning, we browsed the artifacts at the hotel’s museum, enjoying a glimpse into Ireland’s rich political history. Around noon we went to the Guinness brewery, home to the acclaimed beer first crafted by Arthur Guinness in the 1750s. It was there we were taught the “art of the pour”, a six-step process perfected by Guinness.
It required that we held a pint glass at a specific angle under the tap, fill it part way, let the head build, do a top off, and then drink. After a few miscues, we mastered the technique well enough to earn certificates. That same day we toured the Jameson distillery, whose tradition of making whiskey began in 1780. John Jameson, who discovered that three distillations were optimal, remains a hero to whiskey aficionados everywhere.
Refreshed by a nap, we bellied up to No. 27 Bar & Lounge at The Shelbourne prior to dinner. Expertly prepared by our mixologist, the cocktails set the tone for our evening at the Cliff Townhouse. Wrapped in spun potato strings my baked Monkfish was as tasty as it was beautifully presented, while Joel’s Hollandaise-drizzled Halibut with Grilled Leeks was divine.
Over breakfast the next day we executed our tourists’ plan of attack, visiting Kilmainham Gaol, Ha’penny Bridge and St. Stephen’s Green. Built in 1796, Kilmainham Gaol, a historic former prison, is today a museum. A smaller version of New York’s Central Park, ‘the Green’ first opened in 1880. Spanning the River Liffey, the Ha’penny Bridge was built in 1816 and once cost pedestrians a half penny to cross.
Continue reading the full story in our December/January issue...
AER LINGUS, AIR CANADA, AMERICAN AIRLINES, BRITISH AIRWAYS, UNITED, AND US AIRWAYS SERVE DUBLIN.
GALWAY: THE HOUSE HOTEL, WWW.THEHOUSEHOTEL.IE
SHOP: DUBLIN: GEORGES STREET ARCADE, O’CONNELL TO GRAFTON STREET; GALWAY: KIRWAN’S LANE, EYRE SQUARE, BORN CENTRE
DUBLIN: THE CLIFF TOWNHOUSE, WWW.THECLIFFTOWNHOUSE.COM;
KENMARE: LIMETREE RESTAURANT, WWW.LIMETREERESTAURANT.COM;
DUBLIN: THE SPA AT THE SHELBOURNE; RING OF KERRY: SÁMAS
DRIVING THE COUNTRYSIDE (ENOUGH SAID); CONSIDER TAKING THE WILD ATLANTIC WAY —THE LONGEST DEFINED COASTAL DRIVING ROUTE IN THE WORLD; 1,550 MILES OF MAGNIFICENT WEST OF IRELAND COASTLINE FROM THE INISHOWEN PENINSULA IN COUNTRY DONEGAL TO KINSALE IN COUNTY CORK.
BEFORE YOU GO:
Daniel Junge is a documentary filmmaker, director and won an Academy Award and 2 Emmys for his film "Saving Face." Learn more in recent CE!