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Beach sunset panorama

I recently had the opportunity to visit and experience the southern loop of Ireland with Celtic Tours. I flew through the night and arrived in the early morning. As we descended through the clouds into Dublin, the greens of the Emerald Isle came into view. Once I cleared customs, I was met by my guide/driver, Martin an Irishman through and through. He not only provided historical references during the tour, he kept us entertained with Irish folklore and shenanigans.

From Dublin we headed west. We stopped in Tullamore for lunch and a tour of the Bridge House Hotel. Beautiful hotel, in the heart of town and priced very well. Tea and scones were served in a lovely library.  Then on to Galway. Walking along the shore of Galway Bay, you can see the Connemara Mountain Range. We took the time to shop and sample some of the pubs. We spent the night at Menlo Park Hotel. A 4-star, family owned hotel with a great pub that has become the community hub. Visitors and locals mingle for drinks and dinner. Such a fun way to spend the evening.

As we traveled along the western coastline, we stopped to hike the burren. The limestone landscape formed as sediment approximately 350 million years ago. It’s an amazing walk along the crashing sea! On to the Cliffs of Moher. Wow!  I was totally enthralled by the huge black cliffs, sheer drops and the wild and windy walk along the cliffs. It felt slightly familiar. It’s been used as the location for many movies, such as The Guns of Navarone, The Princess Bride and Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince. O’Brien’s Tower sit’s along the top of the cliffs. It was built in 1835 as an observation tower by a local landowner with the belief that tourism would one day benefit the local economy.

Limerick was next. St. Mary’s Cathedral, founded in 1168 sits near the middle of town. We stopped and toured the Greenhill’s Hotel. It’s a family run 3-star hotel that shows like a 4-star. The staff was extra attentive and the food was great. It’s close to Shannon airport too. It also neighbors with Thomond Park “home of the Munster Rugby”

Our final stop for the evening was at the Killarney Avenue Hotel. It’s a superb 4-star hotel, close to city center, in the shadow of the McGillycuddy Reeks.  The Reeks are the highest mountain range in Ireland, close to 12th century Listowl Castel and near the shore of Brandon Bay, known for its windsurfing, kiteboarding, surfing and fishing. It’s also neighbors with Thomond Park “home of the Munster Rugby.” After touring and checking into our lovely, family owned hotel in downtown Killarney, we spent the evening “inspecting” several of the local pubs, listening to amazing Irish music.  It was clear that the hotel was family owned and it shows in the hospitality of the staff and the beauty of the property.

A new day brought us through County Cork. We saw Macroom Castle (circa 1200), the boyhood home of William Penn. One of the many things I loved about Ireland….the history and the architecture!!  Next stop was the Cobh Heritage Center. Cobh was the last port for the Titanic before its ill-fated journey. Interesting fact…between 1848 and 1950, over 6 million adults and children emigrated from Ireland – over 2.5 million from Cobh. After a morning of learning all about this port town, we boarded our coach and headed for Waterford. First-stop was a tour of the House of Waterford Crystal. These craftsman are amazing! Watching the artistry as they blew class, created beautiful pieces and then patiently etched each into a unique masterpiece.

Our driver, Martin arranged for us to experience the celebration of life (traditional Irish wake style) at the most amazing pub, Jack Meade’s in Waterford dating back to around 1705 . (In 2010, the Sunday Times Travel Guide listed Jack Meade’s as one of the 10 Great Pub Gardens in the British Isles and the only one in Ireland to be recommended) It was an afternoon filled with song, toasts and lots of storytelling!

We checked into Dooley’s hotel, a beautiful family-run hotel in the heart of historic Waterford City overlooking the waterfront. Their goal is to make you to feel like family with live music every weekend.  Our morning began with a walking tour with a local historian. What a fascinating city. Waterford is the oldest city in Ireland. In 914, a Viking adventurer established a settlement and built what would be Ireland’s first city. We saw beautiful landmarks …Reginald’s Tower, a 13th century tower that endured attacks by the native Irish, The Roman Catholic and Church of Ireland Cathedrals.

Back on the bus, we headed to the Guinness Storehouse. We learned the history and heritage of Guinness and the science of how it is made. In the center of the building is world’s largest pint glass, filled it would hold 14.3 million pints! Our tour guide took us to the tasting room where we were immersed in “beer school” and the proper way to pour a pint of Guinness! How fun and tasty. We were all issued a diploma certifying that we crafted the perfect pint of Guinness.  For our final night in Ireland, we checked into the Pillo Hotel Ashbourne, a very contemporary 4-star hotel located on the outskirts of Dublin and easy drive to the airport the next morning. Quiet and relaxing with great food.

It was an amazing week filled with beauty, history, laughter and fun. The Irish love people and truly enjoying sharing with visitors. We saw so much, but there was plenty of time to shop and explore. I can’t wait to go back!

If you would like more information on my journey and help with designing your own adventure in Ireland, please contact me today!

Terri Kunselman
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