What was the most pleasant surprise from my recent trip to Ireland? The food! It is delicious!
During my short but sweet visit to Ireland, I was expecting to be surrounded by the beautiful countryside, castles and manors that leave one speechless…and lots of Guinness. However, I really didn’t expect much in terms of the food in Ireland. I have to say, every meal was just outstanding, from the seafood in the pubs to fine dining. It also helps to be escorted by a private driver guide who knows where the locals get the best meals in town.
I flew into Cork on a cold, rainy day and transferred directly to Sheen Falls Lodge. My suite on the third floor was located right over the rushing waterfalls, making my 3 night stay so relaxing. For a larger group staying at Sheen Falls Lodge, I highly recommend staying in one of the cottages on property with full kitchens, ensuite baths and private patios with beautiful views. They are bright and airy with large living spaces for families or friends to enjoy. The location of Sheen Falls is perfect for relaxing, enjoying the town of Kenmore and exploring the Beara Peninsula and the Ring of Kerry. It is a great home base for visiting the Southwest region of Ireland for a few days. The hotel has new owners, and they have given the hotel an extensive refurbishment making it a must stay during a trip to Ireland.
Our first day was filled with massages, a horseback trail ride and resting after our long travels. The next day I was just in awe of the beauty of the Beara Peninsula. We enjoyed lunch at a tiny pub with the most incredible seafood. We also hiked Gleninchaquin Park. It was so wonderful to enjoy a hike where the only other people were locals enjoying a day off. The woman who owns the land was so sweet welcoming us to her beautiful property. Her husband and she had spent years taking care of the hiking trails for all to enjoy.
While driving through Ireland is fabulous, it can also be exhausting. I highly recommend spending a day just enjoying the grounds and activities offered at Sheen Falls Lodge. It can also be a day to stroll through Kenmare. It is a lovely, quintessential Irish village with great shops and pubs. Afterwards, enjoy a wine tasting with the sommelier at Sheen Falls followed by a private dinner in the wine cellar. I have such fond memories of the friendly staff at Sheen Falls Lodge and can’t wait to return with my family!
We next visited Ballyfin, a countryside manor house located in County Loais. Ballyfin is considered one of the very best hotels in Ireland and that reputation is well deserved. It is a very special place to visit for a peaceful, romantic escape. In addition, It also has so many wonderful activities on property, that a large family with both active kids and grandparents wanting to enjoy the manor house or carriage ride through the property will enjoy their time at Ballyfin.
Each room at Ballyfin is individually decorated. You feel as if you are staying in someone’s home. The staff treats you as family and greets you outside upon your arrival. A very unique and fun experience is to dress in period outfits and enjoy a formal evening with dinner as if living in a different era. Conversely, you can reserve the lovely cabin on the grounds with the most amazing views of the surrounding landscape where your meal is served picnic style. Ballyfin is truly a destination in itself and much loved by everyone who visits this very special manor house.
My last night in Ireland was a fun night of pub hopping with an overnight stay at The Westbury. I love The Westbury, because it is located right in the heart of Grafton Street. In addition, the friendly, impeccable service from its staff really makes your stay memorable. While there is much to see and do in Dublin, the most pleasant surprise for me was my tour of Kilmainham Gaol. This tour of Dublin’s famous prison house is very popular, and tickets must be purchased months in advance. I learned so much about Ireland’s fascinating history during this tour. It is really an excellent way to gain an understanding of Ireland and its most important historical figures.
Ireland is a country where one visit is never enough. It is really a short flight from the East coast and is a great escape for a long weekend or an extensive period to explore the whole island. I can’t wait for my return visit with my family!