Our fascinations with the green country began as a child with the breakfast cereal “Lucky Charms” and the commercials of the leprechaun chasing the pot o’ gold. It continued into adulthood with the blockbuster movies “PS, I Love You” and “Leap Year.” Ireland quickly rose to the top of our bucket list of a place we had to visit.
Our journey began with a quick stop in Dublin, so we could explore the old world charm of this capital city. We selected a hotel in the main area of Stephen’s Green, which placed us in the heart of the districts, renowned for shopping, fashion, art, culture, theater and of course we can not forget, the infamous pubs, each with its own eclectic personality. Our hotel and suite were immersed with charm and character neatly tucked away on the famed Grafton Street.
We spent the afternoon strolling in the Stephen’s Green Shopping Centre, an outdoor/indoor high-end shopping area, which is complete with every international fashion brand and an area with historic pubs, where locals and tourist venture out to find the perfect Guinness. We celebrated our arrival that night with a traditional Irish dinner at The Old Mill, in the cultural center, known as the infamous Temple Bar. This area is visited daily by millions of tourists and when you have made it here, you feel the pulse of Dublin. Our meal consisted of fish and chips and lamb shank, recommended by the chef, as our way to taste the real Ireland.
The next morning we awoke early to visit the Saint Patrick’s Cathedral on our way out of Dublin and off to the Rock of Dunamase Castle. The sunrise was stunning and captured the essence of the cathedral, despite our small mishaps navigating our selfie stick.
The Rock of Dunamase are ruins that were highlighted in the movie “Leap Year” and so we wanted to explore their history. Located just outside Portlaoise and about a 3-hour drive from Dublin, is one of Ireland’s most inspiring spots, yet not often traveled to by tourists. The Rock of Dunamase consists of the ruins of what used to be Dunamase Castle. We hiked up to the top and took in the spectacular views of the lush green fields and the Slieve Bloom Mountains in the distance. If there’s anything that makes the Irish countryside even more beautiful, it is the jagged bits of the castle rising out of the ground. We visited the church at the foot of the castle ruins and then continued our journey onward.
Later that day, we arrived at our final destination for our trip to Ireland, Belleek Castle. Our first glimpse of the castle was driving into thousand-year-old guard gate, miles outside the entrance, which at one time in history surrounded the village. Upon entering the long drive to the front of the castle, we were transported to an enchanted forest that surrounds the magnificent grounds. Driving through the woods you can’t help but hear the mysterious sounds and imagine the years of soldiers, royal successions and loyal subjects that had one time traveled this same path to the imposing front lawn and entrance to Belleek Castle.
Upon our arrival, we were given the royal treatment, greeted with a red carpet and a champagne toast by our lovely host and hostess, Paul Doran and Maya Nicoleva , along with an itinerary of activities fit for a king.; actually two kings! As members of the staff at the castle organized our suite, we quickly changed into our hunting gear and were escorted to the bogs on the other side of the property with our personal hunting companion, the castle’s very own, Reece, a beautiful, German short-haired Pointer and Paul, who guided us through the many obstacles of the bog, and continued to help us hunt for woodcock and Snipe.
The next morning we ventured out early, driving through the lush, green countryside, on our way to Downpatrick Head. One of the most distinctive features of Ireland are the unique and breathtaking cliffs that protect the country from the sea, and at one time from the enemy propelled to attack. The elements of the wind and water have created their unique mark embedded in the ominous cliffs that surround the Island. In an instant, you are so high above the powerful waves crashing upon the cliffs below you that feel as if you are touching the sky.
Written and contributed by Pol’ Atteu and Patrik Simpson