Irishtown Nature Park, Dublin

Irishtown Nature Park

There is nothing like a good, long walk and a blast of sea air to awaken the senses. I like to walk the Irishtown Nature Park trail towards Great South Wall and out to the Poolbeg lighthouse. A good three-hour brisk walk there and back that is sure to work up a healthy appetite!

The nature park is located between Irishtown and Sandymount Strand and offers several kilometres of walking trails around the Poolbeg Peninsula.  It also gives you a chance to get up close to the Poolbeg Chimneys, one of Dublin’s most famous landmarks and tallest structures in Ireland. Built in the 1960s and 70s, the iconic red and white chimneys measure 207 meters and were once part of the old Poolbeg ESB generation station but have been out of operation since 2010. Considered for demolition, the two chimney stacks were saved in 2015 following an outcry from Dubliners and others around the country to keep them!

Poolbeg Chimneys

Passing by the Chimneys, it is a short walk to the smaller car park at the start of the South Wall, which is one of the longest sea walls in Europe. As you walk along the wide path with the sea is on either side of you, the beautiful red lighthouse stands out from afar.  Sometimes a ferry, a cargo ship or a cruise ship can be seen arriving into or leaving the Port.  The views are lovely and on a clear day you can see across Dublin Bay as far as Howth head and Killiney.

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I love this area. I grew up in Sandymount, spending good times in Irishtown working in my parents’ pub, The Vintage Inn, which my sister now runs.  I might be biased but it is a great place to go for some hearty grub after this walk!

Irishtown boasts a rich history and heritage with a close-knit and welcoming community and will always hold a special place in my heart.

A Lighthouse Staycation at Galley Head, West Cork

A brilliant staycation at Galley Head lighthouse, West Cork, Ireland surrounded by stunning scenery.  The lighthouse is situated at the most southern point of the headland known as Dundeady Island and close to the town of Clonakilty.

Eight girls on tour staying in two private and interconnecting houses at Galley Head Lighthouse. Among us, Joanna Bourke, a Ballymaloe trained cook, who keeps us well fed and watered throughout! Check out Joanna’s fabulous food blog, The Chopping Board, for lots of great recipes and upcoming events.


Chilled out vibes are set as we approach the lighthouse driving along the rugged coastline with the beautiful, tall, white structure in the distance, striking against the blue sky and green fields. Up and around a long winding road towards the first locked gate that opens to a private road that takes you to another locked gate, which opens into the private property of the magnificent lighthouse. Stunning. It feels like we are the only people on the island of Ireland, and on this part, we are!

Four of us arrive on the first day with the remaining four arriving the next day. We are lucky with the weather on day one, a clear blue sky and a stunning sunset – a thick fog is forecast for the rest of the long weekend but it does not dampen our spirits.

We are greeted by Lighthouse keeper, Gerald Butler and his partner Maria, who show us around the accommodation and promise to give us a private tour of the lighthouse during our stay. The rooms and kitchens are good-sized with fantastic views of the sea and lighthouse. Fully furnished, utensils, dishwasher, towels, blankets etc., plus some books, jigsaws and board games but there is WiFi for those who do not want to escape from the world completely.

After settling in, we pack a small picnic bag with beer, wine, cheese, crackers, and Pringles (our Ballymaloe trained chef has not arrived yet!) and head off to explore the surrounding area. We meander back down the bendy road a short distance to the nearby cliffs, wrapping up warm and settling down to watch the beautiful sunset. In the distance, and as the sun goes down, the beam from the lighthouse is visible and breath-taking.

The walk back to the lighthouse is fun and a little eerie but the beaming light guiding us ‘home’ is reassuring. The fire is lit and we relax around the kitchen table catching up over wine. It’s a clear night, so we grab some blankets (and the wine) and lie on the ground outside looking up at the stars as the lighthouse beam rotates around the sky. It is beautiful. The only sound being the sea beneath us.

The following morning I wake up to spectacular views from my bedroom. The rest of the gang arrive and we get out and about to explore. Gerald stays true to his promise and comes back to give us a wonderful tour of the lighthouse – just before the fog rolls in.

The rest of the weekend is spent chilling, eating, catching up, enjoying great food, stories, music, singing, new friends, old friends, wine and more wine, open fires, walks and laughs, lots of laughs.

Throughout our stay I feel the ebb and flow of the sea and the energy from the lighthouse, even in the fog it shines brightly. I sleep better than I have slept in a long time. The energy among friends and place is electric and one of the best I have experienced.


Gerald has written a lovely book titled, ‘The Lightkeeper’ detailing his memories as a lightkeeper for Irish Lights and his experiences serving at many lighthouses on the Irish coast during his 21 year full-time career.  An extraordinary story-teller and charming man, Gerald says: “The secret to staying happy is about being constantly curious, being open to new things and to go with the ebb and flow of life.”  This lovely, short video of an interview with Gerald captures him and the stunning scenery around Galley Head perfectly!

If you are planning a break away with family or friends I cannot recommend a stay at Galley Head lighthouse highly enough! A magical experience. Galley Head is an Irish Landmark Trust property and to book a stay, check out their website. Also, check out the Great Lighthouses of Ireland website to find out more about the lighthouses on the island of Ireland.


A visit to the National Print Museum

The National Print Museum, tucked away in the Old Garrison Chapel of the Beggars Bush Barracks on Haddington Road, Dublin 4 is a little gem dedicated to the history of letterpress printing.

The museum is small with a number of old printing machines laid out across its ground floor space. A number of temporary exhibits are also held throughout the year in a small space upstairs in the museum. During my visit, an exhibit called “Green Sleeves: The Irish Printed Record” is featuring, examining the Irish-printed album cover of Irish groups as well as albums from abroad referencing Ireland or Irishness dating from the 1950s to present day.

When I first stumbled upon this museum I had been looking for the PRESS Café, which is located beside it. On entering the Old Chapel building the large, old printers caught my interest as well as the team of people working on them.

This team of people are active retired printers and typesetters, volunteering their time occasionally to maintain the old print machines, and to assist with the Museum’s education programme.  One of the volunteers, Alf, kindly introduced himself and showed me around, demonstrating some of the machines such as the large Wharfedale Stop Cylinder Press, a machine similar to the one that printed the 1916 Proclamation. Hanging on the wall beside it, is an original 1916 Proclamation.

Alf gave first-hand accounts about the creation of the original Proclamation from the men who were involved in its production – he had heard these men speaking about their experience at a special 1916 commemoration event in 1966. He pointed out some of the technical imperfections in the printing on the original document, explaining that these were “understandable” given the circumstances the compositors and printer had been under at the time! He relayed their stories with great enthusiasm and I felt privileged to hear them.

I was also shown letterpress printing techniques by another volunteer – a retired print engineer, who shared his experience of being a newspaper editor 40 years ago and the difficulties he had faced every day using these techniques. Hearing his experiences of producing newspapers back then was fascinating.  I thoroughly enjoyed all their stories! A lovely, unexpected morning in the National Print Museum.

I did have coffee (and cake) eventually in Press café and it was delicious!

For more information about the National Print Museum and upcoming events and workshops, check out their website here.




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 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.

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 realised that none of us had ever visited 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 surprised when we spotted them and went all ‘city slicker’, double checking with Martina to make sure that they were actual goats!


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 the perfect place to visit for a picnic/date 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!


I highly recommend a trip to Dalkey Island. I also highly recommend watching the 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.


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.

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.


My good friend Lisa and I set out for a trip to Lough Boora, which is about a two and half hour car journey from Dublin city centre. The visitor centre and cafe is our first port of call on arrival 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’. This beautiful view sets the chilled-out mood for the day. A bike rental service is located just beside the visitor centre and we up a couple of bikes to explore the Park over the next few hours.



The tranquil ambiance of the Park helps you feel totally zen and cycling through 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 is pretty cool.


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 and enjoy!


Wedding bells and day-tripping in Galway

So my brother married a fabulous Galway girl and the wedding took us to the Raheen Woods Hotel in Athenry – a deserved winner of an Irish Accommodation Services Institute (IASI) Gold Award and conveniently located, just a 10-minute drive from the church (in Maree), Galway City, and access to the Wild Atlantic Way.

We enjoyed a fabulous celebration with the stunning bride and groom and a big up to the fantastic staff at the hotel.

With a few hours to spare the next day, we explore Galway city with our very cool niece, Sadhbh.


We only have a couple of hours to spend in the city, so we park near Eyre Square and head 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.  Several buskers line the streets, singing and playing music of all sorts. Sadhbh is a budding musician and loves the vibe. 

Next on the list is a stroll through the bustling Galway Market in Church Lane by St Nicholas’ Church that is full of stalls selling locally produced art, crafts and food.


Making our way to Quay street we happen upon Cofferwerk + Press, a cool coffee and craft shop – combining two things I love (and another reason to love Galway). As soon as we step inside, good vibes surround us.  It feels like we could be anywhere in Europe, like Amsterdam or Berlin, which I understand are the cities that influence the owners. The ground floor serves coffee and teas while the second and third floors display quirky art and crafts from Galway and other European cities. There is also a funky record player with a brilliant selection of vinyl records to play.

Next stop is Tigh Neachtain’s for a pint (minerals for Sadhbh and designated driver). We grew up in a family pub business and we like to check out other 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 into the main bar, which stocks a large and varied selection of drinks, including its own home brewed beers.

We find a spot in the corner to sit and watch the comings and goings.  An elderly gentleman at the bar counter is chatting with staff and looks 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 happens. He takes a seat at the old piano in the corner beside us, lifts the lid and delves into a beautiful rendition of ‘Moon River’ and for the next 20 minutes we are serenaded. In true Irish form, and just as we were settling in, our piano player answers a call on his mobile – a call to let him know his dinner is ready so he has to leave…only in Ireland!


Sadhbh’s phone dies (#Catastrophe) and it’s time to go. Dinner and our final night in the hotel awaits. There is so much more to see and do in Galway city but it will have to wait until the next time.

Galway won the 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. The city and country also hosts the European Capital of Culture in 2020 on behalf of the Irish nation. See more details here.

A successful yet brief day-trip to this wonderful, cultural city! Sadhbh loves it. I love 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.


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.

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!


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…

IMG_8897Kerry 3IMG_8896IMG_8894



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!