St Patrick’s Day Parade in Dublin

Horse Bird run throughThe skies were grey but the streets of Dublin were filled with colour and joy on St Patrick’s Day this year. I had the opportunity to work on the day with the team responsible for creating the City Fusion and Brighter Futures pageants, which make up part of the large Parade in Dublin each year. The pageants represent different cultures and this year adults and children participants were from Bolivia, Ireland, Lithuania, China, Syria and Brazil, to name but a few.  Over several months, the participants collaborated with Creative Director and all-round legend, Murine Bloomer to choreograph a fabulous pageant and designer, Sabine Dargent, created their amazing and vibrant costumes. It was an incredible opportunity to see the vast amount of work, time and effort that goes into the production. On the morning of the Parade preparations began at 6am with hair and make-up artists, costume designers, stage managers, volunteers, participants, creative director and project-coordinator all working together non-stop until long after the Parade and late into the evening to ensure success.  A truly mad and wonderful day…

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Goats and Grub on Dalkey Island

I usually try to arrange a trip away for the August bank holiday weekend but this year I decided to stay in Dublin and catch up with friends. I met up with my fabulous friend Martina for a walk in Dalkey with her boyfriend Raj and friend Gabriel, who was visiting from Brazil.

Dalkey Castle

Dalkey is a beautiful seaside village about a 30-minute drive south-east of Dublin city centre and home to some of Ireland’s celebrated artists, authors and musicians.  Bono from U2 is probably Dalkey’s most famous resident. A few years ago Bono and his wife Ali invited their pal and First Lady, Michelle Obama for lunch in their local pub, Finnegans. Their lunch made Irish news headlines throughout the day.

Visitors can find more information about the village and its walking trails at the Tourist Office, which is located in Dalkey Castle. Being familiar with the village, we had already planned our walking route. We met at The Magpie Inn and started our walk towards Coliemore Harbour overlooking Dalkey Island. While walking past the harbour, we discovered that none of us had ever been to the Island before so we decided to ditch the walk and hop on the next boat crossing with Ken the Ferryman.

Before we got on the boat, we looked at the sky to consider whether a trip to an island without shelter was worth it! Of course, being Irish we have an innate ability to read clouds and determine the likelihood of rain. Normally, there is a 99.9 per cent chance of rain at any time. In this case we ascertained that the dark, moody, menacing clouds surrounding us were in fact passing and that brighter clouds from the north were approaching. We decided that although there was a pretty good chance of rain at some stage, it wouldn’t last long and that everything would be grand. This is why, in Ireland, layers are important!

Paddle Boarding

The boat ride was less than five minutes long. Crossings to the Island were every few minutes. A return ticket cost €8 (for adults). We were delighted with ourselves. While we waited for our boat we watched a guy paddle-board his way to the Island. We reckoned he was quicker. As we made our approach we spotted some seals and our skipper promised that he would get us closer to them on the way back.

Martello Tower -approaching the Island

The Island comprises 22 acres and is inhabited by seals, gulls, rabbits and wild goats. I didn’t know about the goats. I was a bit surprised when we spotted them and went all ‘city slicker’, double checking with Martina to make sure that they were actual goats! I was also surprised to see so many rabbit holes, it reminded me of my childhood and summer holidays in Tipperary where we spent most of our days in fields getting up to all sorts. Good memories.

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Goats Muglins Lighthouse

The Island’s original occupants were from the Mesolithic or Middle Stone Age. There is evidence that it was inhabited 6,000 years ago and also used as a Viking base. Our skipper told us that the Vikings used the Island to trade slaves. Ruins of an old stone church dating back to the 9th or 10th century still stand on the Island and it was likely abandoned when the Vikings landed. There is also a Martello Tower, which was built in the early 19th century, one of eight Martello Towers built along the Dun Laoghaire coastline.  A gun battery was also built beside the tower and it is believed the builders resided in the old ruins of the church during construction – remains of a fireplace inserted in the old church in later times supports this.

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We chilled out and watched sailing boats, kayakers and paddle-boarders circle the Island. Some ventured out towards the east of the Island to the rocks called the Muglins. These rocks have been fitted with a beacon that looks like a miniature lighthouse. The beacon was erected in the 19th century following complaints from ships that found the rocks problematic when approaching the city.

sailing around Dalkey Island

The rain never fell and the sun came out as we made our way back to the harbour. We had lots of questions for our skipper but we only had five minutes! He was great. The whole experience was great. It is a perfect place to visit for a picnic/date (I’m a romantic) and for families and friends, especially when the weather is good.

We were pretty hungry when we got off the boat and fancied eating in a restaurant with outdoor seating so we headed for the Tramyard Kitchen. Situated in an old tram yard on Castle Street, this place has a real seaside village vibe about it. The weather held so it was perfect. A number of eateries and market stalls can be found in this area, it’s well worth a visit. While I was there I popped into Armelle’s Kitchen to pick up some of their amazing eclairs – probably the best eclair filling I have ever tasted. Check out their stall in the Marlay Park Market too!

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I highly recommend a trip to Dalkey Island. I also highly recommend watching the new Irish movie ‘Sing Street’ before a visit to the Island. A charming, Oscar-worthy movie set in Dublin with some lovely scenes shot in Dalkey and Dun Laoghaire. Enjoy!

Lough Boora Discovery Park

Located in the heart of Ireland in Co Offaly, Lough Boora Discovery Park is an award-winning eco-tourist destination, situated on rehabilitated peatlands and managed by Bord na Móna.

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A visit to the Park is a great day out with family or friends to escape to and to soak up the rich biodiversity and tranquility the Park has to offer. The Park opened its eco-friendly visitor centre and café in 2014 and offers designated nature trails and walking and cycling tracks, where visitors can rent bikes.

The history of Lough Boora goes back 15,000 years, when the raised bogs of the Midlands of Ireland appeared after the last Ice Age. Lough Boora Discovery Park is now a sanctuary for wildlife, a haven of fora and fauna for nature lovers. There’s also a Sculpture Park, where art meets nature – a route enhanced by 24 innovative works of art that complement the surrounding landscape with varying contrast depending on the weather.

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Lough Boora Discovery Park, Offaly

Winner of the Best Environment Tourism Innovation Award at the biennial Irish Tourism Industry Awards in 2015, I had the pleasure of meeting the lovely team behind Lough Boora Discovery Park at the awards ceremony. The Awards celebrate Ireland’s most successful and innovative tourism initiatives, services and experiences. Beating off stiff competition, Lough Boora Discovery Park is a well-deserved winner.

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After the awards, I was keen to check it out so I planned a trip with my good friend, Lisa. Getting there, it was about a two and half hour car journey from Dublin City Centre. When we arrived, we headed for the visitor centre and café to pick up a map, a cup of tea and a sandwich. The café has a lovely decking area overlooking a lake known as, Loch and Dochais, which means ‘Lake of Hope’. Looking out at this beautiful view set the chilled-out mood for the day. A bike rental service is located just beside the visitor centre, so we picked up a couple of bikes to explore the Park over the next few hours.

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We didn’t feel the time go by but our legs did! I really appreciated the tranquil ambiance of the Park and felt totally zenned after the experience. Cycling around the vast open space, soaking up the rich biodiversity and art sculptures is certainly good for the soul. I highly recommend it! The bog cotton was pretty cool.

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Lough Boora Discovery Park

There’s lots to see and do in Offaly, which is part of Ireland’s Ancient East. If you’re planning a trip to Lough Boora Discovery Park, check out other activities nearby here. Enjoy!

 

A Galway wedding and day-trip

So my brother married a fabulous Galway girl a couple of weeks ago and the wedding took us to the Raheen Woods Hotel in Athenry – a perfect location, just a 10-minute drive from the church (in Maree) and Galway City, and access to the Wild Atlantic Way. A deserved winner of the IASI (Irish Accommodation Services Institute) Gold Award in 2015, the relaxed and friendly atmosphere of the hotel ensured we had a magical weekend.

We arrived at the hotel on the Friday evening and enjoyed a tasty meal from the bar menu. Family and friends from Dublin arrived throughout the evening and it wasn’t long before a sing song kicked off! We had great fun with the locals, who joined in from around the bar…as long as we didn’t request ‘The Fields of Athenry‘! Ha!

On the big day, the weather behaved and the beautiful ceremony was followed by a brilliant reception/dinner/party/session in the Raheen Woods. The craic was mighty and the party stayed going in the residence bar until the wee hours.

The next day and before our final night of celebrations, my sister Kathy and I took our very cool 13-year-old niece, Sadhbh, for a quick day-trip into Galway city. Sadhbh is 100% Dubliner so we wanted to show her another cool city (being the cool aunties that we are).

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We only had a couple of hours to spend in the city so we parked near Eyre Square and headed towards the city’s pedestrianised Latin Quarter to check out some of the best-known shops, bars and restaurants.

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One of the things I love most about Galway is its music and busking tradition. There were several buskers on the streets, singing and playing music of all sorts. Sadhbh is a budding musician and really enjoyed it.

We strolled through the Galway Market in Church Lane by St Nicholas’ Church. Lots of stalls filled with locally produced art, crafts and food. It was a Sunday, so it wasn’t as busy compared to a Saturday I’m guessing, but still bustling.

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We made our way up to Quay street and happened upon Cofferwerk + Press, a cool coffee and craft shop – combining two things I love (and another reason to love Galway). As soon as we stepped inside, good vibes surrounded us.  It felt like we were somewhere else in Europe, like Amsterdam or Berlin, which I understand are cities that influenced the owners. The ground floor served coffee and teas while the second and third floors displayed quirky art and crafts from Galway and other European cities. There was also a funky record player with a brilliant selection of vinyl records to play. There were plenty of lovely gift items. My sister picked up some retro lights and I picked up some cards designed by Screech Owl Design. I reckon Sadhbh was pretty impressed too as she took lots of pics…“#Thisisacoolplace”

We spent a little longer browsing in Coffeewerk + Press than intended so instead of wandering further up Quay Street we decided to drop back into Tigh Neachtain’s for a pint (minerals for Sadhbh and designated driver). We grew up in a family pub business, which Kathy now owns, and because of this we like to check out the famous, traditional pubs in the places we visit.  Tigh Neachtain’s is one of those pubs, oozing with character. Over 120 years old, it’s situated on the corner of Quay Street and Cross Street.  The interior is made up of several small snugs along short corridors leading to the main bar, which stocks a large and varied selection of drinks, including its own home brewed beers.

With little seating space we were lucky to have found a spot in the corner to sit and watch the comings and goings. There was an elderly gentleman at the bar counter speaking with the staff. He looked like a real character, dressed in an old tweed jacket with elbow pads, a funky man scarf and a trilby hat. Then a little bit of Irish magic happened. He made his way over to where we were seated and right beside us, lifted the cover off an old piano, which we hadn’t spotted!  He delved into a beautiful rendition of ‘Moon River’ and for the next 20 minutes we were serenaded by great singing and piano playing. In true Irish form, and just when we were settling in, our piano player (named Jerry) answered a call on his mobile phone mid-song. It was a message to let him know his dinner was ready so he had to go…only in Ireland!

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Sadhbh’s phone died (#Catastrophe) and it was time for us to go too. Dinner and our final night in the hotel awaited us. There was so much more to see and do in Galway city but it would have to wait until the next time.

Galway recently won European Region of Gastronomy destination for 2018, an award that recognises innovation and integration in gastronomy, culture, tourism and economy. Galway certainly deserves this accolade. I will be back for a foodie tour very soon!

All round successful yet brief day-trip to this wonderful, cultural city! Sadhbh loved it. We loved it. What’s not to love about Galway, a city for all ages!

 

 

 

 

 

Day trip in Killarney, Gap of Dunloe

Voted one of the top 10 holiday destinations is the world by Trivago, based on reviews of the town’s hotels, Killarney is possibly my favourite place in Ireland. Located in Co Kerry, one of the most scenic counties in Ireland, there is so much beauty to see in Killarney. Also known and referred to by locals as ‘The Kingdom’, Kerry is definitely a must see.

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When I worked as a PR manager, my vacations were precious and Killarney was always my No.1 destination for the Easter holidays – five glorious days of relaxation in paradise!

With Easter approaching at the end of March, it reminded me of my trip last year. The weather was amazing (it doesn’t always rain in Ireland!). I went with three friends and we stayed in the Park Place Apartments. Modern, clean and great value, these self-catering apartments were perfectly located beside the town but not too close, so we weren’t disturbed by noise at night. Car parking is available too. There’s also a lovely authentic French bakery called Petit Delice just around the corning, serving great coffee and pastries to set you up in the mornings!

We planned trips for each day, my favourite being the boat trip through the three lakes of Killarney followed by a hike through the Gap of Dunloe, finishing with a pint of Guinness at Kate Kearney’s cottage. Bliss! (This is a must do when staying in Killarney).

We booked the 11am boat trip departing from the pier at Ross Castle (10 min drive from our accommodation) so we decided to book a tour of the Castle an hour beforehand to make the most of our day. About 50 mins long, the tour of this beautiful Castle was a perfect start to the day.

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Pic of Ross Castle by my friend Jen Stafford

From the Castle it was only a two-minute walk to the pier. Because we had booked in advance, we just had to give our names, pay and board the boat. Complementing the Castle tour, the skipper shared his excellent knowledge about the history and vegetation of the area as we made our way through the three beautiful lakes to Lord Brandon’s cottage. The boat trip was about an hour or so long and although it was a fine Spring day, it was chilly on the boat – wrap up warm!

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We grabbed a coffee at Lord Brandon’s cottage before we set off on our hike. We opted to walk rather than cycle or take a jaunting car. I cycled a couple of years ago but the struggle uphill was real. I wanted to take in the amazing scenery without the hassle of pushing a bike. The beauty of this walk has to be seen to be believed. Myself and my friend Lisa took it easy while the other two led the way but we caught up with them towards the end. It’s hard to describe the beauty in words so I tried to capture it from my iPhone camera as best possible…

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After two and half hours of meandering through the Gap of Dunloe we reached our final destination, Kate Kearney’s cottage. A well-earned Guinness was enjoyed by all except by our designated driver!

We organised a taxi to bring us to Ross Castle to collect our car, which was about a 20-minute drive away. We made it back to the apartment with plenty of time to rest up and change for an amazing dinner at Treyvauds Restaurant. After dinner we stumbled upon live music in one of the bars on our way home so we dropped in for a night cap and a few songs…sure it would be rude not to!

#LoveKillarney