“May you have all the happiness, And luck that life can hold
And at the end of your rainbows, May you find a pot of gold”
Ireland is truly one of the most spectacular countries I have ever visited. The only thing more beautiful than the country is the people themselves whose hospitality and friendliness is as warm as the wool sweaters for which they are famous. I have been to Ireland twice, my husband has been four times and each time we come away with an appreciation for the welcoming people, the lush, green landscapes and the rich cultural history of a people who are fiercely proud to be Irish. First stop, Belfast…
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Belfast is part of the area known as Northern Ireland and part of the United Kingdom. It’s where the Titanic was built, home to the spectacular St. Anne’s Cathedral and Belfast Castle, and houses a rich night life with inviting pubs and unique restaurants. We stayed atThe Merchant Hotel, once a bank but now restored to an elegant and sophisticated hotel.
Exploring and hiking through the surrounding areas of Belfast, we hired a driver to take us on a “Game of Thrones Tour.” Much of the filming for this popular series was filmed here and so we thought it would be fun to see some of the sites. We also hiked the Giants Causeway, a unique spot where the rock formations are shaped like hundreds of rectangular stones. Finally, after a full day of exploring, what better way to end the day than at a colorful pub with a pint of local Guinness, Harp or Hop House?
From Belfast, we drove (on the left!) to Galway, a picturesque three hour drive down a well maintained highway that took us to charming, country roads. It is here that we start to see the sheep farms with their famous stone walls, the green rolling hills and colorful farmhouses that dot the landscape. We drive through Galway on our way to Ashford Castle, a beautifully restored five star resort set in 350 acres of forest trails and landscaped grounds. If the legendary leprechauns and fairies of Ireland truly do exist, surely it is here where they live. This magical place sits on the shores of Lough Corrib, a 110 square mile lake filled with fish and surrounded by homes owned by families for hundreds of years. The activities offered here are seemingly endless but a few highlights include fishing, equestrian trail riding, falconry, clay shooting and archery. Of course, golf, tennis, boat trips, and a visit to the spa can be scheduled. We only had two days here but we managed to get a few adventures in ourselves. I wish we had a few more days to try everything. The falconry was booked because of its popularity so if you go, get your reservations right away.
Our two days passed too quickly and we were back in the car and headed for Killarney. We thought it would be fun to change gears entirely and we booked the recently renovated and sleekly modern The Europe Hotel and Resort. This is a five star hotel overlooking the world famous lakes of Killarney and is considered one of the leading luxury hotels in all of Ireland. The opulent grounds make for lovely walks with views of the magnificent McGillycuddy Reeks mountain range. Here we explored downtown Killarney, a tourist hot spot with fun shops and pubs of course. Our favorite shop was the old fashioned candy store where we stocked up on sweet bon bons (a chewy fruity candy) and some supremely sour balls that the shopowner kindly shared with us – you can see the delight on our puckered faces!
Of course, no trip to Ireland would be complete without a stop at the famous Cliffs of Moher, a truly breathtaking spot that happened to be on our way to Killarney. I’ll leave you with one photo that shows the awesome 700 foot high cliffs overlooking the icy Atlantic coastline and this Irish blessing.
Wishing you a rainbow
For sunlight after showers
Miles and miles of Irish smiles
For golden happy hours
Shamrocks at your doorway
For luck and laughter too,
And a host of friends that never ends
Each day your whole life through!