We only had a short time in Dublin and our priority was seeing Trinity College Library at the University of Dublin. This is the largest library in Ireland and houses the famous Book of Kells. We bought tickets to tour the Old Library and I rented the audio guide. The story of the ancient texts is fascinating and the intense work that the scribes performed is amazing to think about. After finishing the tour of the Old Library, we climbed the stairs to reach The Long Room. What an impressive sight it is! The library was built between 1712 and 1732 and has a lower and upper gallery. It holds 200,000 of the library’s oldest books.
A cool piece of trivia is that it was believed that The Long Room was used as the basis for the Jedi archives in the movie Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones.
After the library, we went to Kehoe’s Pub. It was such a beautiful, sunny day that while the street outside the pub was packed, inside we found seats and ordered Guinness, of course. This pub is very popular and we can see why. It has a great atmosphere and lots of “snugs”, alcoves and partitions so you are sure to find a cozy spot to sit and enjoy your pint of the “black stuff”.
Dinner was at the Cliff Restaurant which we walked to from Kehoe’s Pub. The restaurant is in an elegant townhouse which it turns out is also a hotel. The restaurant is a long rectangular room, with white walls, white table cloths and mirrors hanging on the walls giving it a very glamourous atmosphere. Continuing our quest for seafood, we ordered the seafood platter. This was an impressive display and included Oyster Rockefeller, brown shrimp, Dublin Bay prawns, crab claws, smoked salmon, scallops, lobster and mussels. What a feast!
We continued on and about an hour later we arrived at our destination, Ashford Castle. Wow! We drove up to a gated entrance where a uniformed porter offered a warm welcome. As we drove through the gates and up the winding driveway we were transported to a different world. There were green lawns and lush trees surrounding us as we approached the bridge taking us to the castle where we would be spending the remainder of the afternoon and the evening. We were greeted warmly by all the staff as they welcomed us and escorted us to our room. We had a surprise upgrade to a two-level suite.
When we entered our room for the night, we were simply amazed. We had a living room with a gas fire and dining table set with chocolates for us to enjoy. The view from our room was of the gardens and lake. We had two bathrooms on this floor with heated floors. Upstairs was our bedroom which was in the turret of the castle. The bedroom walls were green velvet and matched our bedspread. We had a walk-in closet with fully stocked minibar and another bathroom ensuite. Simply unbelievable!!
While it was tempting to sit and enjoy our luxury accommodations we wanted to explore the castle. We set out to walk the grounds and take in the beauty of the lush surroundings. There were tall, beautiful trees set in woods, then there was an opening to a green field dotted with sheep and then there were beautiful gardens. It was one delightful discovery after another. We were so enthralled that we took photos of everything we could.
We had dinner reservations in the George V dining room and knew it would be special. The waiters wore tuxedos and knew our names, greeting us personally one after the other as we were taken to our table. While it was formal, the staff were so warm and kind, making us feel at ease. Dinner included toasting with champagne then cured mackerel and langoustine tartare, followed by sautéed cod and slow roasted pork belly. We had cheese and grapefruit soufflé for dessert.
After dinner, we went to the lounge and enjoyed listening to the lady singer with a beautiful voice singing melancholy songs like “Danny Boy” with accompaniment by a pianist. After she finished her last song we moved on to the bar and enjoyed after dinner drinks for a while longer. I just didn’t want the evening to end. It was that good.
Day 2 in Ireland started with breakfast in the guesthouse. We had made our selections the night before on a form left in our room along with the time we wanted breakfast. When we entered the small dining room, they had pastries, granola and yogurt set up and offered us tea or coffee and shortly afterwards brought out our cooked breakfast.
We had such a short time in Ireland that we had to set off right after breakfast and we headed southwest to fit in a visit to the Cliffs of Moher. The drive was not long but you have to be alert. For the most part, the roads are single lanes going in opposite directions and you are sharing the road with cyclists and large tour buses. The views are beautiful with green fields along gently winding roads and of course, charming towns that you drive through along the way.
Once we reached our destination we parked our car in the large parking lot and walked across to the visitor center. Since we were short on time we didn’t spend much time there but headed out to see the cliffs. The impact of the cliffs creeps up on you. You have to stand there for a few moments and just soak it in and then it strikes you just how amazing the view is. We saw people walking along the cliffs in several different directions and weren’t sure which way would offer the best views. After a short walk to the right, we decided to turn around and go the other way. That was the right decision. As we walked we seemed to be getting higher and higher and had ever more breathtaking views. There are no words to describe the experience!
After we completed our visit of the Cliffs of Moher we got back in our car and headed to our next stop where we would be spending our second night. We drove back along the same roads we had taken earlier in the day as we were heading north. Along the way, we spotted a sign for a restaurant that was recommended to us and we decided to stop and give it a try. Moran’s is famous for seafood and its reputation is well earned! We sampled smoked salmon and crab but the highlight for me was the oysters.
I arrived in Dublin on Friday morning and met my husband in the arrivals hall. He had already picked up the rental car so we would be ready to go as soon as I arrived. As a side note, if you have rental car insurance through your credit card company, ask them for a letter outlining that coverage. The Avis representative asked for such a letter when my husband declined the extra insurance they wanted to sell us.
We hit the road heading for Galway. It took us approx. 2.5 hours and was a fairly easy drive with little traffic.
Once there we had lunch at a restaurant overlooking the bay and afterwards walked along Salthill Promenade taking in the ocean views. We were very lucky with the weather and had clear skies and enjoyed our stroll along the Galway Bay.
Afterwards, we drove into the city center to check into our accommodations for the evening. We stayed at a quaint guesthouse where the rooms had names, not numbers. The location was excellent, opposite a cathedral, with beautiful views of the river and swans floating by. Each room was decorated differently with comfortable furnishings including a sitting area, desk, wardrobe, and a tray for tea and coffee laid out which was a lovely touch.
We set out right away to walk to the city center and discovered what a charming city Galway is. We walked around Eyre Square where a man was blowing giant bubbles with a rope and children were jumping with joy around him. People were picnicking and enjoying the beautiful day. We proceeded to walk down Shop Street to the Spanish Arch and along the river before heading back to a pub we had spotted on Shop Street to enjoy some Guinness and lager.
After relaxing in the pub, we headed to Oscar’s for dinner. What a pretty restaurant it was! We ordered potted crab and sautéed shrimp for appetizers and for main course we had pan fried hake with steamed mussels in a white wine sauce and plaice and dover sole. We wanted to try a local dish for dessert which was a salted caramel & Baileys Carrageen pudding with vanilla ice cream. Carrageen Moss is a seaweed which is found in the south and west coasts of Ireland, which when boiled yields a gelatin like substance, so Carrageen pudding turns out to be like an Irish Panna Cotta. It was delicious! The restaurant staff were beyond nice and warm and we couldn’t say enough good things about our meal and entire experience at Oscars!
As an added bonus, the restaurant manager gave us a tip about a local pub to go to which was within walking distance where we could listen to traditional Irish music. We went straight there and were so grateful for his suggestion! The place was a real find! The band was playing upstairs in this old, dark pub and we had to stand in the doorway because the room was packed! The music was indeed traditional Irish music and we loved it! Eventually we found seats in the room as people left and enjoyed the atmosphere, the musicians and a few drinks into the wee hours.
What a full and fabulous first day in Ireland!