By Mary Elizabeth Kaufman, Travel Coordinator
Like many Americans, my family roots are from Ireland. It has been a dream to take my family there, and I thankfully experienced the Green Isle recently. It was hands down our favorite family trip we have ever taken. The cool summer days and evenings, the gorgeous green hills and steep seaside cliffs, the welcoming people and their relaxed demeanor…all of this and more makes Ireland truly magical. King and Whitson Travel had designed a trip for us that gave us a full adventure over the island without rushing us through a set agenda which many tour companies will do. We literally experienced almost the entire island’s circumference! It was customized to our requests, and it was truly a DREAM!
Do you Game of Thrones fans recognize this line of trees??!!
We began our adventure along the northern Antrim coast and the city of Belfast. We were able to visit the mystical Giant’s Causeway which is one of the most amazing natural phenomena I have ever witnessed. Many of you Game of Thrones fans will recognize much of the countryside throughout this region.
In Belfast, it was humbling to experience two memorials to tragedies that have affected Northern Ireland…the Titanic museum and the Peace Wall. The Irish have overcome so much in their history and it has made them a strong, and more than ever, a united culture.
A piece of the Peace Wall
As we ventured down to Dublin we hit those major highlights of the capital city of the Republic of Ireland. My favorite tour was the amazing Trinity college with its infamous library and the Book of Kells. The nightlife in Dublin, including the pub scene and a production of Riverdance, is not to miss!
Library at Trinity College
As we moved south towards Cork, we stayed at the Cliffhouse in Ardmore. This sleepy seaside town had fabulous restaurants and maybe the most beautiful hike I have ever taken, high above the sea on rocky cliffs. At Cliffhouse, they have a Michelin star restaurant which our family enjoyed one evening for a fabulous culinary experience!
Gorgeous views from Ardmore
We stayed in other fabulous accommodations such as Sheen Falls outside the town of Ardmore and Trump Doonbeg on the sea. While in Doonbeg, my son was able to fish for trout on the property’s pond, and he enjoyed catching “the big one!” The restaurant there cleaned the fish for him, and prepared it in the kitchen for his lunch that day. He was in heaven!
Lovely river outside Sheen Falls
One of the many trout he caught!
The service here was FABULOUS! We also experienced a shebeen (“sha-bean”). A shebeen used to be the illegal place for making moonshine, but now it refers to an authentic gathering of Irish stew, music and dance. It was in an old stone home and was quite an experience for my dad and all the way down to my youngest child…such a great multi-generational activity all will enjoy!
An evening at the Shebeen
Of course, we had to visit the Cliffs of Moher…they are NOT to be missed! But our highlight was our last evening. King and Whitson Travel had set up an EXCLUSIVE experience for us on the River Shannon. We boarded a private yacht, with champagne and appetizers and fun drinks for the kids. We slowly made our way to two homes which were “tastes” of Ireland. The first was a renovated 16th century castle. The family welcomed us in, gave us a tour of the property, and spoke about its history and the building’s renovation. We enjoyed tasting authentic mead and loved exploring a real ancient castle. Next, we traveled to another family’s brand new home, filled with modern art and floor to ceiling windows overlooking the river. They treated us to a private seafood dinner with more options and tastes than we could possibly finish! A private Irish dancer came and performed some Irish jigs and we all joined in learning the steps. We had a private whiskey tasting back on board the yacht and were given a photo of our family from the evening before returning to our hotel. It was a magical evening! What a way to end our Irish travels!
My kids are just a tad bit excited, and my husband is already eyeing the champagne!
I have visited many places, and can’t wait to explore the NEXT country that comes my way. Ireland was different. All it made me want to do is go back…again and again. I feel like there is more to explore and so much I would love to go see again. Maybe my Irish DNA is drawing me to it, or more than likely, the Irish people and their land is so welcoming and beautiful you don’t want to leave! We would love to help you plan out your Irish dream!
The Cliffs of Moher