Castles, Cuisine and Aristocracy
Ireland: A magical land of craggy cliffs, towering castles, genuine hospitality and mythical scenery.
Just a couple of weeks ago, I was afforded the exciting opportunity to explore the magical landscape of Ireland by special invitation from Admiral Travel partners in the destination. Each night we dined and overnighted at a different five star property to give a thorough overview of the options in the region available for discerning Admiral Travelers. We stayed in everything from ancient restored castles to manor homes built for royalty.
Ireland is undoubtedly a feast for the senses with bright green rolling hillsides, imposing cliffs jutting out over the Atlantic Ocean and elaborate historical castles around every bend, but what truly makes the country magical is their genuine sense of hospitality. Each property sought to portray what sets them apart from the others and we were always welcomed with open arms and warm smiles. Regardless of the room type or overarching theme of the property, the staff were attentive, friendly, and had an uncanny knack for knowing our names before we could tell them.
All properties were well-appointed with all the trimmings one would expect, and so much more. There were all the well-known classics, the welcoming and luxurious Merrion, the magnificent Ashford Castle, the picturesque Sheen Falls Lodge, but there were also some surprises. The K-Club in Kildare, just a short 45 minute drive into the countryside from Dublin, has an exclusive use property called Straffan house that was the epitome of an elegant country retreat with only 10 ensuite bedrooms, a Private Swimming Pool, Spa & Gym. Another chic surprise was the manor home Ballyfin. Set at the foot of the Slieve Bloom Mountains in the center of Ireland, this beautiful property of just 20 rooms has been considered the most lavish Regency mansion in Ireland.
Our days were filled exploring the many noteworthy sights through the southern part of the country in the able hands of a knowledgeable guide, truly the only way to go. From decades old monasteries to the site where the titanic left port on that now infamous first (& last) voyage, these scenes would have had much less significance without the in depth explanation and historical reference described by our expert guides.
We had whiskey with the Jameson sisters, toured the expansive gardens at Birr castle with the Earl of Rosse and were greeted by horses and hounds from a local hunt at Dromoland. A personal favorite interaction was the day we went into the tiny town of Doolin, known for its music scene. We were lucky enough to witness two of the towns oldest traditional fiddle players play a tune for our group while enjoying a delicious Irish coffee!
One thing that may surprise travelers about Ireland is the food. They are truly experiencing a culinary renaissance with a focus on farm to table cuisine. Each menu included various products found in that respective region. We had salmon from the river beside the hotel at the Ballynahinch in Connemara, lamb that grazed from the hillside near Castlemartyr in Cork and dry aged Venison from the forest of Wicklow at Gregans castle in Ballyvaughan. At the Cliff House Hotel in Waterford, the produce is picked directly from the valley adjacent to the hotel by a local expert forager. The flavors are fresh and carefully paired with a vast selection of fine wine (and whiskeys).
In all, Ireland blew me away. The hospitality was first class, the sites were breathtaking and the food was extraordinary. If you’re looking to go, speak to one of our expert advisors who can customize an itinerary to your preferences or use this itinerary as a reference point: http://www.admiraltravel.com/experience/item/enchanting-ireland.html?category_id=16