Once upon a time…..
That’s how most fairy tales begin anyway. This specific fairy tale takes place in the land known as the Emerald Isle. If you haven’t been you should make plans to go. There are many affordable accommodation options in Ireland, such as your standard hotels, B&B’s, Air Bnb, etc. That’s not how my story begins though. When I was searching for places to stay in Ireland one in particular jumped out at me: a castle! The lure of wanting to be a princess in a castle and the history alone was very appealing. These castles have been renovated to accommodate guests (ie. flushies). We stayed in other more affordable accommodations as well and all were fantastic, which I will elaborate on throughout. We stayed in two castles and frankly I was a little disappointed in both of the castles that we stayed because I did not experience any paranormal activity in either of the two castles that we stayed or any castle visited for that matter. Surely everyone wants that experience right? Side story: Once while staying at a 19th century mansion belonging to my sister in law’s parent’s my husband and I heard garbled talking and then the window shade flew up in the bedroom we were staying. We were the only ones there. Apparently it’s every man for himself when it comes to ghosts because my husband ran past me and down the stairs.
Regardless of not seeing ghosts, we had many enjoyable experiences roaming around Ireland. We stayed in various accommodations due to wanting to see different parts of this beautiful Island and needing space for our grown children and granddaughter who met up with us the second week. I try to be moderately frugal and it is actually quite easy to do so in Ireland. Of course staying in a castle can be a pretty euro depending upon the castle. However, I chose the more moderately priced castles.
The first castle we stayed at was the Castle Leslie in Glaslough, located in the northeast. As castles go it is considered on the small size, but it packs in much character, friendliness and attentiveness from staff. The food was amazing as well. I am a finicky eater, so if I say amazing you can be fairly certain of the quality of the food. The restaurant is located on the second floor and overlooks the manicured gardens with the pretty purple and pink flowers that I would gaze at while sitting by the window eating my Irish meal. While ensuring that no crumb was left behind I would imagine what it would have been like living here in the 18th century; being royalty of course. In reality my ancestors were blacksmiths, but a girl can pretend. By some miracle that same table that I loved was available every meal on both days. Luck of the Irish I guess. Side note: My spouse and I did one of those ancestry queries and we both have ancestors from Galway, Ireland. They may have been English transplants, but it counts right? Perhaps our great great grandparents knew each other! Although he has a royal English ancestor, so mine probably shoed his/her horse: or stole it. I love horse riding so maybe it’s in the blood.
Castle Leslie is known for its equestrian center and many skilled horse riders come here to ride through the forest and jump over pre-staged logs. I thought this sounded like fun and signed my spouse and I up for a cantering ride. We have been horse back riding on many occasions, but never received formal training. Still, I thought how hard could it be? Apparently very! The stable manager asked us to demonstrate our skills prior to leaving the fenced area. In the ring I was asked to show the manager how to trot my horse. My horse walked off with me still on her when I nudged her to go. As my horse is wandering off my husband asks the manager “how do I tell my horse to trot?” The stable manager looks at us and says, “ok, we’re done.” My spouse turns to me and says, “we should have youtubed how to trot.” I never did get to jump over logs, but they did provide us with a guided trail ride. I know, boring right?
The second castle we stayed at was Cabra castle, which is close to Newgrange. On a side note: Newgrange is a Stone Age (Neolithic) tomb constructed about 5,200 years ago (3,200 B.C.) which makes it older than Stonehenge and the Great Pyramids of Giza. Cabra is a medieval looking castle even though it was built in the 19th century. When I booked the room I was unaware that I would be sleeping in a renovated building near the castle, which they call the carriage house. Perhaps this is where I belonged mind you, or my ancestors anyway, but I wanted to be in the castle. How was I suppose to see ghosts otherwise? (insert angry emoji face here). The walls and ceiling were so thin that I could hear everything being said in the other rooms, which makes sleeping difficult because I’m nosy. When I complained the next day they moved us to the room across the hall. Ummm, what? That solved nothing. The food was okay. I really have nothing great to say about this place, except that the gardens were well kept and the ambience was as stated: medieval. The room had a clawfoot tub that was pretty neat.
The next stay was at a Marriott owned property called Powerscourt. This property is part of the Powerscourt Estate, which is absolutely stunning. From the second that I walked into the room my mouth was hanging open because of the gorgeous views inside and out. The mountains can be seen from the balcony alongside the romanesque and grecian statues. There was a separate living room and the walk in closet is bigger than mine at home. The bathroom had a huge tub and a tv built into the mirror. Everything was controlled by touch screens. I could close the curtains, adjust the temperature, and turn off the tv/music player without leaving bed. Now I know how today’s royalty live! We didn’t pay a dime for it either: or euros. We used Marriott reward points that we saved from other trips. When we checked in I asked if breakfast was included. My spouse turns to me and says, “seriously, you’re asking if breakfast is included in our free room?” The answer was yes! Winner winner chicken dinner! Actually Irish breakfast, but you get the point.
Some of our adult children and granddaughter were to be joining us after the first week, so we rented a house in southern Ireland and then the second half of the week near Dublin. Not all of them made it as originally planned, but I’m not bitter about rearranging my entire trip and losing a $250 deposit on another house to accommodate one of them who did not make the trip, not to mention the extra rooms gone to waste. Oh wait, I am bitter. The owner through VRBO was not sympathetic to our troubles, which was a minor point of discontent. However, we continued to book through VRBO and were very happy with the process. We rented a six bedroom home (that we didn’t need) for approximately $300/night. That would be equivalent to $50 per night per room. Plus, you get a kitchen, living room, and a really cool washer/dryer combo all in one. I’ve never seen anything like it. It washes the clothes and then dries them without having to move them between machines. Oh and the views were simply amazing.
This first rented house was in Killarney located in the southern part of Ireland. It was a true country cottage in the middle of seemingly nowhere, yet not too far from civilization. The directions to get there were something like take the second right past the twin lakes, a right at McFinneys sheep farm, go past the second lake and make a right. That actually is pretty accurate. It was so remote there were no road signs. We got very lost the first time getting there and found ourselves in a forest. It was very peaceful, with the exception of the sheep occasionally baa-ing. It was a good location for getting the feel of Irish country life, but close to the Ring of Kerry, the colorful harbor town of Dingle, and the staggering cliffs of Moher.
The Ring of Kerry is a must do scenic drive in southern Ireland. It is an 111 mile circular route that takes you through panoramic views of lakes, mountains, castles, quaint towns, and views of offshore Skelligs Michael. The Skelligs (Aran word meaning rock in sea) is where they filmed a portion of the latest Star Wars movies. This large outcropping of rocks off the coast is where a Gaelic monastic settlement was established in the 6th -8th century. The stone huts are still there today (that’s where Luke Skywalker was sneakily hiding out). You need to book your boat tour to Skelligs Michael at least several months in advance or you will not be able to land on the island. You cannot rent a boat to land on it either. I tried (insert frowning face emoji). My son told me to stop using drugs when I suggested kayaking there. I don’t do drugs by the way; it was a joke. I drink. Not often though. The west and south part of the island is called the Wild Atlantic Way and I suppose not because the fish are party animals on that part of the island.
The last stay was in a cottage we rented through Air bnb. This 6 bedroom cottage was in a quaint town about 20 minutes from Dublin. I’d tell you the name of the town, but frankly I can’t remember. I tried renting a house in Dublin, but they were too small or expensive. Of course I was looking for a six bedroom that I apparently did not need. The cottage was adorable with it’s thatched roof and located in front of the town square and steepled church. There were two abbeys behind the home.
One was in ruins and the other renovated into a restaurant. We were able to walk to the grocers, restaurants, and local pub. The local pub is an interesting place to go and definitely recommended. The locals love to talk American politics and sports, of which I know nothing, so just smiled a lot and nodded my head. Most of them have lived in America previously and when asked why they would ever leave Ireland the answer was always opportunities. I guess they did not find it because they went back home. I certainly do not blame them. Ireland is a land of beauty and friendly people.
While every area of Ireland is beautiful, from what I saw anyway, it is recommended to spend at least one to two days in Dublin to experience the Guinness Storehouse, Jameson’s Distillery, Temple Bar, Saint Patricks Cathedral, and the book of Kells and the library at Trinity College that dates back to the 15th century. If traveling with less then four people it would likely be financially beneficial to stay at a hotel and you would not need to rent a car; However, why make things easy when you can choose to have adventures instead. Besides, you get a more cultural feel from renting a home. Both Air Bnb and VRBO were valued priced and the owners easily accessible by text message and email. All the accommodation options have pros and cons, it really just depends on your budget and you or your spouse’s comfortability with driving on the left side of the road. The stories of awkward moments and faux pas’ (from my husband) that I could tell would take up a book. Therefore, if not comfortable with driving there are tour options available if one wants to stay in Dublin, or if budget allows book a guided tour around the island. We stayed for two weeks and still never made it to Northern Ireland. Now I have to go back one day to go there and because I forgot to go to the “Dark Sky Reserve” to star gaze which is located in the southwest part of Ireland. I was so tired by the end of the day I actually forgot to do something that I was excited about when planning this vacation. I slept well.