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IRELAND Castles, gardens & rugged coastline

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Castles, gardens and rugged coasthne

" by Barbara Ramsay Orr

I have become a believer in the luck of the kish. On a recent tour of the southwest of that gireen island, I lost a 20 euro bill, and found it stuck

inside my touring map. A random choice of pubs for lunch in Glengarriff resulted in the best seafood chowder I have ever enjoyed, and, against all odds, I snapped a photo of an Irish castle that

will

forever be my tangible memory of heland.

had been trying to get a good photograph of historic Dromoland Castle but every time I reached for my camera, the sun disappeared and it would begin to rain. Not rain exactly, more like a light mist,

I

what the Irish call'soft'weather. So I had little hope as I headed out in the fog to tour the grounds. An hour later, returning to the castle via a curving path that wound around the famous golf course on the properry I emerged from the trees at the exact moment that the sky cleared and the sun lit up the castle. The light lasted only long enough lor me to take a few pictures,

before the clouds descended again. I felt I had been in the right place at the right moment

-

Irish luck.

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IRELANL)

seduce vou into long nalks.

On a drivr along tlte lrish coast from Shannor.r to ecl the cl.riete l rorrds. With ninimal planuing irncl soure hish luck. these roacls took

Cork Citr: I fbllori

me to serisiclc to\\'lts that cach possessed a character :rnd a

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Knightstorrn. on \alentia lslancl. partrvav along the Ring of Kcrn: is a tidv litrle village that borders the hirrbour.-lhis is a sumurer holidav place, uith \\'rlter sports. lishing ancl boating. It is best lilto\\rt as the placc rihere the Tlalsatlantic Cable nas cornpletccl.

\ou

.iJ

crrn take thc fern' from Knightstou'n to the

Skellig tslands.

tui!

riith

Skellig Michael being particu-

larlv interesting. Rockv and forbidding. this.jagged island rias houre at olte time to a group of ascetic monlis uho cravecl the rsolation and austeritv that the islancls pronrisecl. for their spiritual healtli. The rcmains o[ iheir monasterl: trbandoned in the I2th

ffr,

ccntuD. arc a compelling

ar-rd

sobering r.ision of

monastic lile that rvor-rld once

herve been

tl"re

lived here.

but the climb up rockv steps can be challenging. arrd the trip out to the islauds can onll'be rnade in good \\'eather. The island is a Unesco World Heritage site. ,4

3

Alter an island adventure. The Moorir-rgs in Portmagee rs thc place to \\'alln up b1'the fire. can

spe

ncl the night in a

rot'n.r.r

Yor-r

u,ith a harbour vieu;

erloy great sea{bocl and r-na1'be spend a few hours in the Bridge Bar listenirrg to tl-re locals r-nake rnusic u'hile vou sa\'our a glass or tu'o ol Guinness. You could even join in. if 1,ou kno* a sor-rg or can carD'

,fiffi

a tulte.

Waten'ille is a small

to*n further along the

coast that boasts one o[ the best golf courses m

tl-re

collntr)l Tiger \\bocls cornes here to golf and fish. Silent film star Cl-rarlie Chaplin lived here for

1'ears,

Barack Obarna has i,isited and Ricl-rard Nixon hid

orlt in Watcrville House after

l-ris disgrace. "So'entecr.r U.S. presidents har,e roots in lreland."

Elur irr thc mist. Dromolancl

Castle Hotel is dra-

mntic. This five star propcrt)'is a short 12-kilonretres

fiom Shannon Airport alrd thc perfect place tcr

alter a lorrg llight. Its also an icleal startiug point for a clrii ing tour of the southu,est ol lreland. Driving thc Irrsh roads is less inLimiclating tl-ran Lrur,,'ir-icl

it u:ccl to

be uunl'roads have been rvidened, and

thele ale modcrn muLti-lane highu'a1's tl-rat can get

i'ou l'he re )'ou \\ant to go quicklv and easillr But in ireland. getting thcrc is not tl-re point. ancl the lrelanci )'ou \\'a11t to experience \\'ou't be lound rlong thc fi-coi'ays. \bu need to take the *,inding roacl: that lc.rd 1ou along the coastline. through the mounttrins. ancl iuto the vrllages rrhere pubs lure yru into stoppiirg {or rr pint or t\\'o alud lush gardens 82.

iFrrari:lra[]i\,

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rrrr llish frirrrd \\ill rLll: rrrc. I think a feu,Canadian Prime Ministers have had lrish connections too. Kenmare is a serene to\\,u coutprised of quiet streets lined with colourlul shops and cottages. There is a stone circle and a haunting [air1' tree, under rvhich r-rnbaptised babies lvere traditionallv buried irr thc past. Visitors still leave little tokens tied to the trees for luck, and to appease the fairies. "Be careful to speak quietly r,vhen )'ou are near

- the fairies don't like to be disturbed, and thel' are rrotoriousll' dangerous when thel' aren't happy,' Will wanls ute. the tree

hr the centre ol torvn is

tl-re

Park Hotel Kenmare,

delight, with green sloping lanns leading dou'n to the bay and paths r,vhose grounds are a gardeners

lined lvith rhododendron and azalea.


For an iniand diversion, head out from Kenrnare

ful in every season. In springtime, the rhodos and

through Molls Gap to Killarney National Park, where you can boat along the lakes and hike the McGillycuddys Reeks, or take a jaunting car

A few miles from the coast, in the country near Skibbereen, is Liss Ard, another hotel gem with

through the Gap ol Dunloe.

farnous gardens. This estate, a rer-narkable mash-up

East along the coast from Kenmare is Baltirnore, where the town's castle is worth a tour, to hear the story of Barbary pirates who raided the village in 1631. If you take the local ferw out to Sherkin lsland, you can tour the ruins o[ a Franciscan abbey, walk the island or visit one o[ the two pubs. In Bantry Bay, in the sheltered harbour o[ Glengarriff, you'11 find Garinish lsland which is home to a subtropical garden property The gardens

of classic country house design and contemporary aesthetics, is known for its extensive gardens that

were designed by Harold Peto and are lushly beauti-

azaleas are

in full bloom.

occupy 150 acres around the hotel. The centrepiece of the gardens is Jarnes Turrells Sky Garden Crater, a green experience that is both memorable and almost surreal. I[ you descend the crater and lie on your back on the stone plinth in the centre, your view o[ the sky and the grassy bowl of the crater's sides is otherworldly, especially at dawn or dusk. I stopped in Kinsale to visit the wine museum

in Desmond Castle and to sample the sealoocl

zrncl

then headed for Shannagarry and Ballynaloe [1ouse.

This lovely propeily near the end o[ mi' ch.ive is a quiet retreat, a country manor that feels like home, or how home would feel i[ motntnv q'ere Lady Ballynaloe. Each roorn in the hotel is clillercnt and unpretentiously comfortable. I\n in the Flos'er Room, with a view of the rvalled garden. Thc big draw at Balll.maloe is the dining toottt, t-cttolvtrecl for its cuisine and for its dedication to local proclucts and producers. The hotel is run by Allen faurily Jr-rst

down the road is the Balll.maloe Cookery School,

run by more Allens, cookbook ar'rthor ancl chcl Darina and her daughter Rachel. You cau mke cooking classes, walk in the extensive grounds, cujov r>

West of the

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IRELAND

peaceful hikes to the coastal cliffs or plan a rnsit to the Jameson

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For

Distillery for a whisky tasting.

a bustling and prosperous city

._

or two in Cork, with is awell known

a change o[ pace, spend a day

English Farmers Market. The Hayfield Manor Hotel is a serene pocket of gardens and sophistication in

1*i

the middle of the city, situated next to the university where guests are welcome to walk through the quadrangle and enjoy the campus. Blarney Castle and the

Titanic Museum are nearby.

If returning to Shannon, arrange to spend a mght at Ballyfin, just a 90-minute drive lrom the airport. This 600-acre estate hotel was named best new resort o[ 2012 by the Robb Report. A ten-year renovatlon has brought the venerable property lrom near ruin to near perfection. lt is gorgeous, authentically lumished wrth period antiques but possessing all the modem luxuries.

High tea in the consenatory at Ballyfin, with scones, creatn and jam, is a winsome way to bid goodbye to lreland's green gardens and stately castles.

And with a bit of Irish luck, you will back again. !5

FEATURING: TOM BINNS I EDDIE BORGO I VITA FEDE

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lfYouGo While you could depend on lrish luck to help you find your way, the lrish Tourist Board has excellent maps and driving routes,

complete with not-to-be-missed hlghlights, dining suggestions and available accommodation choices. Visit ireland.com for more information.

dromoland.ie moorings.ie parkkenmare.com lissardestate.com ballymaloe.com

hayfieldmanor.ie ballyfin.com

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WestoftheCity

July20'13

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West of the city