Inside information & tips on what to see, do, eat, & special places to stay; Ireland, London & beyond!
Vibrant Ireland

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Irish Sea Sparkle by Vincent Hyland would make a gorgeous gift!

Irish Sea Sparkle by Vincent Hyland would make a gorgeous gift!

Someone in your life love Ireland? Here are some handy Irish gift ideas, for Christmas or anytime.

From an absolutely amazing romantic getaway in a transparent Irish forest dome, to Irish art, books, Aran sweaters and more, you’ll find an online Irish gift you’d love to give – or receive!

Sea Sparkle!

One of the most unusual photographs I came across this year is by artist & photographer Vincent Hyland. He has 2 different prints available of the special natural phenomenon known as sea sparkle, here by the shores of county Kerry. Magical! Have a look at Vincent’s online shop to start you off on your online Irish gift shopping adventure 🙂

Sleep under the stars in an Irish forest dome!

Ultimate Irish gift! Stay in Finn Lough Forest Dome in Fermanagh

Ultimate Irish gift! Stay in Finn Lough Forest Dome in Fermanagh

For the ultimate romantic gift, a getaway to Finn Lough in one of there exclusive Forest Domes can’t be beaten. I’ve stayed here, and I was totally wowed! The food at their Finn Lough Kitchen is so very delicious– do avail of a package that includes dinner! Highly recommended! See more about the Finn Lough resort and their forest domes here.

Learn to Speak Irish!

What if your gift recipient can’t get to Ireland yet but wants to immerse themselves in it in some way? Or do they have a trip planned and would like a bit, or alot- of the native language? Bitesize Irish Gaelic teaches you as much or as little as you want to learn, with a free trial, and monthly or yearly plans. A very thoughtful and unique gift! See more at www.bitesize.irish.

Irish gift idea- Once the Musical, summer 2016

Irish gift idea- Once the Musical, summer 2016

Once more in Dublin!

Romantic Once, the musical, is returning to Dublin this summer! Tickets will make a super gift if you’ll be there between 2 July – 27 August 2016. In case you don’t know of Once:

Based on the movie sensation of the same name, filmed and set in Dublin, Once features music and lyrics by Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová, including the Oscar winning Falling Slowly, and a Tony award-winning book by Enda Walsh.

Once is about going for your dreams and the power of music to connect us. This funny, moving and life-affirming love story with glorious music has captured hearts around the world. Seeing it where it all began, at home in Dublin, is incredibly special.
8 Tony® Awards including Best Musical, Oscar Best Original Song, Falling Slowly, Grammy® Award Best Musical Theatre Album

You can book Once here to see it at  it’s ‘home’ in Dublin next summer.

The Cat Shepherd and Woolly Irish Pressies!

We have our very own feline farmer right here in Ireland, — Bodacious the Cat Shepherd! He helps his human Suzanna with her flock of Zwartbles sheep, and now he has his very own calendar & postcards! You can see what he gets up to and order postcards or a paw-tographed calendar here. You can shop online for the blankets and knitting wool made from his Irish Zwartbles sheep, here.

Bodacious the Cat Shepherd has fab gifts you can order online from Ireland

Bodacious the Cat Shepherd has fab gifts you can order online from Ireland

Find Your Irish Roots!

Someone on your list interested in Irish genealogy? A subscription to Irish Roots would be a perfect gift!

“Irish Roots magazine is dedicated to helping you to trace your elusive Irish ancestors. Each quarter Irish Roots magazine is packed with lots of interesting, informative and practical articles written by Ireland’s leading genealogists. Irish Roots is a powerful resource tool for all those wishing to trace their family history.”

Irish Roots magazine is published quarterly in December, March, June and September. Subscriptions are: Ireland €25, UK £25, USA $37, Australia $42, Rest of world €27. All prices include postage.

Love Ireland Gifts!

Aw Go On - Classic Father Ted is a perfect Ireland themed online gift from I love Mayo

Classic Father Ted-ism; perfect Ireland themed gift by I love Mayo

On atmospheric Achill Island, papercut artist and painter Jane Steger-Lewis creates items that are perfect for gifts; cards, too. She says:

“I want to make things that bring joy into our homes and that make us smile. My Love Ireland range is all about referencing Irish culture in a contemporary, bright and fresh way, products that fit well with modern homes, I hope you like them.

The products you can purchase here are hand crafted with love, not mass produced in the cheapest labour markets. The emphasis is on quality, originality and care; I’m proud of every package I send out and I want you to be delighted with your purchase.” 

Find Jane’s I Love Mayo online shop here

Koo Koo Sneactha Emma Campbell Art; online Irish gift

Koo Koo Sneactha by Emma Campbell Art

Bright & Beautiful Irish Art!

For a special present that will bring cheer and zing into someone’s home all year round, have a look at the fabulous paintings and prints from artist Emma Campbell. She’s having a 12 Days of Christmas sale on her fine art prints, and many of her paintings come with free shipping. I’m a huge fan of her work, and she’s all types, from whimsical to more abstract. Here’s a fun winter one pictured; she has several different themes. Check out her online shop here – Emma is having a Christmas sale!

Traditional Claddagh, Belleek, More!

If someone on your list would love Irish Claddagh rings, Belleek pottery, or if you are frankly not sure what Irish- themed gift to give, a trip to Gilmartin’s online shop is in order!  A (physically) small traditional family run shop in the little village of Belleek on the Fermanagh/Donegal border, Gilmartin’s has made the leap online with an extensive treasure trove of gifts. Known far and wide for their knowledge and customer service, it is wonderful to see a wee shop like this survive the recession by extending online. Go to their site and click their listings for Himself or Herself & away you go 😀

If you’d like to give an Aran Irish jumper/sweater, click here for my article with buying tips & links to buy online

Pure Shores by Magnum Lady, Val Robus. Belmullet, Sligo, IrelandThe Gift of Irish Summer!

Yes, it’s Ireland, not the Caribbean! See, we do have beautiful weather in Ireland 😀 But it may be wise to capture it like Val Robus, aka Sligo photographer Magnum Lady, has done. Give the gift of a year round Irish summer with this photo print, or peruse Val’s other items over on her MagnumLady Etsy shop.  I think all of us in Ireland could use this gift about now! Wind, rain, flood… that’s been our past few  Nov/Dec weeks!

Give an Irish Outdoor Adventure!

From gentle medieval history based river rafting to exciting white water rafting & more, Boyne Valley Activities in Ireland’s Ancient East probably has something your special someone will enjoy. We took the Medieval river float tour this October, and it was excellent! There’s a plethora of terrific sites in the area from prehistoric right on up; if you’d like to explore more as a gift to yourself do check out the Boyne Valley Area and the outdoor adventures at Boyne Valley Activities. PS, if you are in Ireland in October and your giftee loves Halloween, this is definitely the place to be! The Spirits of Meath festival is fantastic! I went to several of the events and had a brilliant (and scary!) time. I’ll have a full post on it in a few weeks, but til then, keep your eye on The Spirits of Meath running 15 October to 1 November in 2016. And if you’d like to recover from your fun & frights in a beautiful Georgian period suit, check out this video  (will embed video in this article when my internet is better) of when I stayed at the Darnley Lodge Hotel 😀

Nature Lovers!

Did this photo make you say ‘Ahhh, cute!’? If there is a lover of Irish Wildlife on your gift list, then check out photographer Christine Cassidy’s wonderful photos on her In Touch With The Wild Photography page.  Red Squirrels, brilliant turquoise Kingfishers, Irish Hares & more are available as prints. Have a look and then just message her on the page if you’d like to place an order. Enjoy her lovely page!

Book Lovers Bumper Selection of Presents!

Books are a perennial favorite, whether ebooks or physical books. Watch this video to help you choose some special Irish books. Before you do, let me add on one more author I missed telling you about in the video & podcast. Full of wonderful slices of life in the charming Dingle area of Kerry, Felicity Hayes McCoy has  physical books, audio books, and ebooks/Kindle. In regards to Dingle, The House on the Irish Hillside book came first, and is now joined by Christmas at the House on the Irish Hillside, and Enough is Plenty. See more of her books, and purchase, on Felicity’s author page on Amazon, here.

Some of the Irish book ideas include a retelling of Little Red Riding Hood in modern Dublin, fun reminiscences of a boy’s getting up to mischief in 1940’s Belfast, a seriously based history of Irish farm wives with some dashings of tongue in cheek humor, a book filled with photos on Irish thatched cottages that will have you dreaming of one of your own, and several more fab books too.

[youtube_sc url=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c-E0r0jSSiY” title=”Ireland%20books%20gift%20ideas%20to%20buy%20online”]

If your internet is a bit slow for video (mine often is *sobs*) have a listen to this podcast instead 🙂

 

I could go on; in fact I might! I know I’ve forgotten some Irish gifts that I’d love to mention, so check back periodically 😀 Susan


You may be able to explore inside the largest Loughcrew megalithic tomb via Loughcrew Megalithic Centre

You may be able to explore inside the largest Loughcrew megalithic tomb via Loughcrew Megalithic Centre

What the heck is choreosonography? How can I visit a locked 5,000 year old megalithic tomb? Some November events events & ideas for cultural adventure in Ireland!

This is the first in a series for the more adventurous person; not as in bungee jumping or skydiving kinds of adventure– this is for those of us who enjoy being a bit adventurous in the areas of Arts & Culture. Are you a cultural adventurer Check these out! 

In this week’s suggestions we have 2 cultural adventures that involve the outdoors, a challenging piano concert, a charming book and tour idea, plus several tips for enjoying Ireland’s very first City of Culture, Limerick. 

Let’s start off with some ‘easier’ adventures. Irish thatched cottages are the darling of many a postcard, but they are actually an endangered architectural species, with less than 1,600 left on the whole island. Many are private homes, but some are open to the public; one such one can be found at the Loughcrew Megalithic Centre. I visited it last week, and the young men reviving this family cottage are a delight, as is the cottage itself. I’ll have more on the centre in an upcoming article focusing on county Meath, but it’ll pop up again here when we explore the 5,000 year old megaliths. In an example of perfect timing, this landed on my desk:

Map of Irish Thatch Cottages by Emma Byrne

Map of Irish Thatch Cottages by Emma Byrne

A charming book to inspire gentle adventure.

Irish Thatch by Emma Byrne Provides a rich visual theme for a gentle adventure round Ireland. Emma and her husband Johnathan live in a county Wexford thatched cottage, and the author is well versed in the joys and judders of living under thatch in a 200 year old cottage. (Fancy water pouring out of a ceiling light, anyone?) In her book, Emma brings you through the history & craft of Irish thatched cottages, and on a charming pictorial tour of these traditional beauties throughout Ireland. She took to the open road (or, winding road as the Irish case may be,) visiting these cottages herself; the book contains over 350 photos and an illustrated map listing thatched cottages open to the public. The thatched heritage cottage at Loughcrew was not yet open at the time of the book’s writing, so you’ll have to pencil it in yourself. You can purchase Irish Thatch at many bookshops, or order online from O’Brien Press.

 

This November, why not dream up a journey centered around Irish Thatch Cottages? Book by Emma Byrne

This November, why not dream up a journey centered around Irish Thatch Cottages? Book by Emma Byrne

While we are on the subject of thatch, let’s just also have a spot of Seamus Heaney, which is always a good idea 🙂

Thatcher

Bespoke for weeks, he turned up some morning
Unexpectedly, his bicycle slung
With a light ladder and a bag of knives.
He eyed the old rigging, poked at the eaves,

Opened and handled sheaves of lashed wheat-straw.
Next, the bundled rods: hazel and willow
Were flicked for weight, twisted in case they’d snap.
It seemed he spent the morning warming up:

Then fixed the larder, laid out well honed blades
And snipped at straw and sharpened ends of rods
That, bent in two, made a white-pronged staple
For pinning down his world, handful by handful.

Couchant for days on sods above the rafters,
He shaved and flushed the butts, stitched all together
Into a sloped honeycomb, a stubble patch,
And left them gaping at his Midas touch.

-Seamus Heaney

Explore the 5,000 year old ‘Hill of the Witch’ megalithic tombs at Loughcrew

With amazing views of approximatly 11 counties, and built around the same time as their famous neighbor Newgrange (which is now complete with fancy visitor center and a steady stream of huge tour buses), the cairn complex at Loughcrew near Oldcastle in county Meath is a very large, and much quieter, site. The feeling of wildness, of being generally ‘untamed’ by the OPW & tons of health and safety regulations, is strong. To get the most out of your visit to, arranging for a guide is best; usually your guide can get a hold of the key so that you may actually enter into the largest cairn on Slieve na Calliagh (The Hill of The Witch/Hag.) This ancient tomb/ritual place is home to the Hag’s Chair, and one the largest amounts of megalithic art in Ireland. At the autumn and spring equinoxes the rising sun sends its rays into the chamber, illuminating the back stones and rock art. A powerful sight! The aforementioned Loughcrew Megalithic Centre can give you updates on what equinox events may be happening, and as they are also open all year they’re super handy for a cuppa tea or coffee with cake or lunch in their cafe. Needed after the fairly steep walk up to the cairns! (Note; the way up to the cairns is not wheelchair friendly at time of writing; all steps.)

Guide: I had Malachy Hand as my guide– what a treasure trove of info and stories this gentleman is! You can contact him at malachyhand@hotmail.com 

Loughcrew Megalitic Centre: The two young men running it are Niall and Fechin. Theirs is a real labour of love, and as well as the thatched heritage cottage and cafe, they also provide camping & hostel accommodation. Shoot them an email at info@loughcrewmegalithiscentre.com and I’m sure they’ll be happy to answer any enquiries you may have.

 

Float Through Time! A Medieval River Tour of Trim

You can do a Medieval Float Through Time in Trim, Ireland

You can do a Medieval Float Through Time in Trim, Ireland

On a raft but no real paddling required! It’s all play and not really any work required as you float downstream on the river Boyne. I reckon you’ll love this fascinating and just oh so pretty journey through medieval Trim offered by Boyne Valley Activities. We went last week; the autumn leaves where ablaze and the hour & a half gentle float was just gorgeous. James knows tons of interesting facts and stories that you probably won’t find out elsewhere, so listen up! If you don’t capsize the boat anywhere (I imagine that would be pretty hard to do!) at the end of the river tour you’ll call into the tiny 14th century pub Regan’s at the riverside for a sip of what you fancy before the van brings you back to the centre. At the time of writing this, the Medieval River Tour is priced at €25 per person, and I feel that this is a terrific bargain & perhaps even a bit too low for all the work that James puts into it. Don’t miss this wonderful cultural adventure in Trim, county Meath! I’ll have more on this in my upcoming Meath article, too.

Tip: Depending on the state of the river & weather, this tour may not run in the wintery months. Contact James at info@boynevalleyactivities.ie to check. Do have a look at their other activities too! boynevalleyactivities.ie

Challenging the boundaries of music and dance

Figures, by Óscar Mascareñas

Figures is a new work for piano conceived, devised and directed by Irish-based, Mexican-born composer Óscar Mascareñas in collaboration with Mexican dance artist Nora Rodríguez. The work is the result of eight years of research in sound and movement that Mascareñas has been undertaking at the University of Limerick in Ireland.The aim of this project is to transform somatic forces into sounds through an exploration of the relationship between the piano and the body; the former not only seen and understood as a musical instrument, but also, and most importantly, as a space where the body moves, plays and interacts with its physicality and its sonic potential.  To describe the work, he coined the term choreosonography, a concept that involves the physicalisation of sounds and the sounding of physicality. A choreosonography is both a process and a work.

This conceptual work is the first of its kind, and represents a unique, innovative, state-of-the-art proposal that aims to challenge the boundaries of music and dance, as well as to provide a space for collaboration between artists of different disciplines, creating a discourse that will eventually change the way we approach, think about and experience composition and performance.

Óscar Mascareñas began to collaborate with Nora Rodríguez in September 2014  as part of their work at the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance, in the University of Limerick, and have worked on Figures since the beginning of 2015.

The full work will consist of seven to ten studies for piano, with a projected programme duration of one hour.

When? Thursday, 12 November, 8pm

Where? Tower Theatre, Irish World Academy, Univeristy of Limerick (see map below the video)

How much? Free

What else is in Limerick to see? Plenty! The Hunt Museum is always a good choice for the culture lover; have a look here for the Hunt’s current exhibitions. Until the 19th of November, there will be works by Brian MacMahon  on view, amongst others. You can check out the talks on at the Hunt Museum here. Just up O’Connell Street from the Hunt is Ormston House, another arts venue worth checking.  Also see another music event here, farther below. 

 

Limerick Docks by Brian MacMahon

Limerick Docks by Brian MacMahon

Any other tips? Whenever I’m in Limerick, I love to spoil myself by either eating or staying at One Pery Square in Limerick’s Georgian Quarter. (The Limerick City Gallery is just across the street.) One Pery Square does wonderful Afternoon Teas– and if you really want to indulge, how about an Afternoon Tea combined with a Thermal Spa? AHHHH! Check out their daytime menu with Afternoon Teas here. If you’d like to explore the Georgian Quarter a bit more, get in touch with Declan, over on Limerick Walking Tours. He’s great! He also does Medieval & Angela’s Ashes tours.

What’s for lunch? Well, there’s lots; if you are visiting the Hunt Museum their cafe is good, and just a wee stroll up O’Connell Street is one of my favorite Asian places, the award winning Aroi. Check out the Eat In Limerick guide map here.

Artists Biographies

Óscar Mascareñas (PhD) (Mexico/Ireland) is a poet, composer, performer and musicologist. He has given concerts, conferences and master classes extensively in Ireland, the UK, Slovakia, Hungary and Mexico. He is the founding course director of the BA in Voice and Dance, and was acting and assistant director of the MA Ritual Chant and Song at the Irish World Academy. Óscar is also founding director of the Irish ensemble HIBERNIA, and founding chair of the Cage-Cunningham Professorship in Contemporary Performance at the Escuela Superior de Música y Danza de Monterrey in Mexico. His forthcoming poetry book ‘[Sketches for] A Poetry of Desire’ will be published at the end of the year by the University of Nuevo León press in Mexico. He currently lectures and researches in music and contemporary performance at the Academy.

Nora Rodríguez (Mexico) is a versatile dance artist based in Limerick, Ireland. Her main interest is to develop live performance and video. Since 2009 she has been exploring the notions of corporeality, emotion, memories, space and sound. Nora has presented and performed work internationally. She is currently Dance Co-ordinator of the BA in Voice and Dance programme at the Irish World Academy in the University of Limerick. Nora is continuously engaged in the development of interdisciplinary projects. She is currently working with Óscar Mascareñas on a series of musical explorations between movement and sound, and on her piece (ALLOW) EVERYTHING SOMETIMES with actor Kevin Kiely Jnr. and poet Shane Vaughan.

Info via Limerick 2020, do give their Facebook page a like as they often share interesting cultural events happening in the city.

Trailer for Figures, by Óscar Mascareñas:[youtube_sc url=”https://youtu.be/eHGBgW8dcpE” title=”Figures%20″]

ART SONG – AN EXPLORATION OF BEAUTY, NATURE AND LOVE

Also in the area that day, you may also like to check out this free daytime performance by Eve Stafford (soprano) and Yonit Kosovske (piano,) which is based on four elements: poet, composer, singer and pianist.

“An art song strives to be the perfect combination of music and text. Songs become a marriage of exquisite music and beautiful poetry.”

This programme features works by renowned Irish, English and other European composers, including Michael Head, Haevlock Nelson, Hector Berlioz, Hugo Wolf, Hubert Hastings Parry, Eric Coates, Armstrong Gibbs and Roger Quilter.

Soprano Eve Stafford has won numerous competitions at the Féile Luimní, including ‘Voice of Féile Luimní’ (2013), in operatic solo, art song, lieder and sacred music. She won prizes at Feis Maitiú Corcaigh in early music, show songs and the soprano soloist category.

While specializing in classical repertoire, she sang Rosalia in West Side Story, her first musical to date, with the Cecillian Society. A student of Olive Cowpar, she enjoys a freelance performance career and has sung in various venues throughout Limerick, including the Hunt Museum and the University Concert Hall.

When? Thursday 12 November, 1.15pm

Where? Irish World Academy of Music & Dance, University of Limerick, Limerick

How Much? Free

What can I eat nearby? La Cucina Italian isn’t far, and is very tasty! Tis only small inside, but they also do a top notch Italian takeaway menu; check that out here.

So, which cultural adventures do you fancy doing? If YOU know of or have an event, book, tour, etc that you think would fit in well with the Vibrant Ireland cultural adventure articles, get in touch! You can email hello AT vibrantireland.com Thanks!