We set off on Friday afternoon and stopped in The Huntsman in Galway for a coffee break. The destination was a surprise and it looked like we were on our way to Co. Clare. As we arrived at Friday night’s destination, Julian’s face dropped as it seemed his master plan was falling apart before his eyes. I was looking around, biting my lip and then just couldn’t keep the laughter in. He had booked a night at Spanish Point based on a recommendation. Based on first impressions, it didn’t live up to his expectations. I just saw the funny side… ‘We’re here now. Let’s make the most of it!’
No matter how hard you try to ignore it, weather is always a big factor. When we arrived it was dull and drizzling after having travelled in fog from Galway for over an hour. But when holidaying in Ireland you just can’t let the weather get you down. The hotel was booked out so Julian had booked a guesthouse for the night. This was gas. There were 4 beds in our room, a closet full of clothing, a jacuzzi bath that didn’t work, an en-suite that overlooked a caravan site and a framed holographic picture of Jesus Christ whose eyes opened and closed as you walked by it! On the plus side the owner was a gem. She dropped us into the village, cooked a really great fry, arrived with a slice of cake and a candle for my birthday, gave me tablets for my aching tummy and recommendations for our onward journey as well as a big hug on departure. You wouldn’t get that in a hotel! Every cloud, ay?
1. Spanish Point
Spanish Point is a nice place to visit for an hour or to pass through, but I don’t know if I’d recommend an overnight stay. Having said that it would probably be completely different if the sun was splitting the rocks or if you were dining with a sea view. I must say we did make the most of it and had a top meal of surf and turf in The Bakehouse Restaurant, listening to live music. After that we spent a few hours in Lynch’s pub (now Friel’s) where we were lucky enough to catch some traditional Irish music and sean nós. We had a few giggles: ‘Let me tell you a story 35 verses long…’ So, if it’s the traditional Irish experience you’re looking for, this may just be the place for you!
We were on the road early on Saturday after a little morning traffic (above). Julian’s original plan was to take me to The Cliffs of Moher. I wanted to revisit Lehinch, Kilkee and Carrigaholt for personal reasons so this was the route we took! Several years ago when visiting my childhood friend Lyndsey in Limerick we used to go to Lehinch and Kilkee beach.
2. Kilkee & Loop Head Peninsula
Kilkee is a lovely seaside town and it’s actually nicer than I’d remembered. The sun came out and we strolled along the rugged coast and Loop Head Peninsula. I really, really enjoyed this leg of our adventure. If visiting these cliffs, pop into The Diamond Rocks Café for a massive selection of homemade treats.
Carrigaholt is a tiny fishing village in Co. Clare. I’d wanted to go back for years purely for sentimental reasons. Aged 11, I went to my very first Gaeltacht here. It was my first time away from home and the experience was indescribable. It was something so new for someone so young; a very happy time. If you’re short on time, it wouldn’t be a must see, but if you do choose to visit this diamond in the rough, have lunch at The Long Dock or take a boat trip and go dolphin watching. Alternatively, send your teenager here for a fun, educational experience immersed in rural Ireland.
On the way to surprise destination number 2, assured that it would be even better than the Friday night experience, we stopped off at Bunratty. At first I thought, ‘Oh God, this is going to be boring. I’m done!’
4. Bunratty Castle & Folk Park
I was really pleasantly surprised with this one. In my eyes, this is definitely worth a visit if you’re in the area. Bunratty Castle is an authentic medieval fortress, built in the 15th century and restored to its former medieval splendor with furnishings, tapestries and art work that capture the mood of those times. The winding stairs at each corner are very narrow, but worth the climb. Expect big crowds as the place is thronged with tourists. I couldn’t get over how well the place is maintained. If only that much money was invested in tourism in Sligo!
Everywhere is open to be explored and there’s no one telling you that you can’t do that or don’t touch that. The Folk Park is a living reconstruction of the homes and environment of Ireland over a century ago. It was cool to stroll from thatched cottage to blacksmith’s forge to old school house and then into the village, recreated and furnished as they would have appeared at the time. Staff wear traditional dress and you see them baking griddle bread and churning cream to make butter! See more here.
5. Adare, Co. Limerick
Our last stop was Adare. This is a very pretty heritage town in Limerick with great grub, thatched cottages and exclusive high fashion boutiques. It’s home to Adare Manor. We stayed at Dunraven Arms Hotel and visited the manor the following morning. We ate at The Blue Door restaurant, which I’d certainly recommend. Another restaurant called 1826 boasts Best Chef in Limerick, Wade Murphy, as well as Best Restaurant. This was completely booked out. I found Dunraven to be comfortable and inviting with a very helpful and friendly porter and an exceptionally good breakfast. It’s ideally located across the road from all the pubs and restaurants. See more from our stay here.
All in all, I think you’ll agree that the boy did good! What girl doesn’t want to be swept off her feet and whisked off on a romantic getaway? Ireland has lots of treasures to discover, so I hope I’ve encouraged you to take a wee road trip west!
Thanks for reading and safe travels,