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Vibrant Ireland

All posts in Castles & Ruins

Enniskillen Castle, Ferma Northern Irelandnagh,

Enniskillen Castle stands proud at the riverside

Fermanagh’s Lake district is a wonderful area to explore.

And an excellent base for doing so is Enniskillen– a town on a river island complete with castle!

Enniskillen Castle is 600 years old, and was built by Gaelic chieftains, the MaGuires. They had control from the 1400s until the 1700s, when the castle became an English Garrison. Military history throughout the ages is well represented here, and there is lots to see.

Military museum displays, Enniskillen Castle

Military museum displays, Enniskillen Castle

Even if you are not particularly interested in the military, some of the displays are moving, like the story and illustrations of Henry Lamb in the 1st World War. And if you are quite interested, you’ll be thrilled! I saw one older boy moving through the displays at a snails pace, enrapt.

Fermanagh County Museum is also on-site, and is full of natural history & history displays; very child friendly, too. At entry, kids get a booklet, and if they complete it they receive a prize!

The castle, later buildings, & military equipment in the castle yard make for interesting photos. I took a rake of photos of cannons & guns even though they aren’t my thing at all!

Mon 2 – 5 &  Tues – Fri 10 – 5

Sat (Apr – Oct) 2 – 5 & Sun (Jul & Aug) 2 – 5

Bank holidays; see website. 4£ adult, kid 3£ 

Fermanagh Museum Enniskillen castle

The Fermanagh Museum at Enniskillen castle

Home is your castle, whether it is an actual castle, a cave a la the Fermanagh Museum, or a temporary home–your hotel. When you are busy exploring an area, afterwards you want to go ‘home’ and relax, sleep like a log, and then head off to explore anew. I spent 4 days discovering the Fermanagh Lakelands and I still didn’t see all I wanted to. I want to go back, and yes, I’d return to the hotel where I stayed: Belmore Court. [note: Belmore Court is a hotel in Enniskillen, not the Castle itself. I think a few commenters just skimmed this post and were confused. ]

If you’re like me and love good value but also want special comforts, Belmore Court is the place to stay in Enniskillen!

Below these photos of the castle’s, cave’s, & hotel’s views, is a my review of Belmore Court and my tips:

Belmore Court Executive room, Enniskillen

Belmore Court Executive room, Enniskillen

The value! I stayed in an Executive room, and it was quite smart. Yet prices can start from just 68£ on special offer. Belmore Court has a wide range of rooms, all affordable. There is also the 50’s retro Motel section which has mini kitchens and family apartments.

The Special Offers! I always look for the special offers on hotel websites, and you should too. Belmore Court has plenty of offers all of the time.

The Executive room. Calming, spacious, good looking, had a nice flat screen TV with a pretty wide choice of channels, a great bunch of brochures & info on the area, a big comfy bed with wonderful, smooth & soft  sheets and–>

Nespresso!! LOVED this touch in the executive room. Many other 4 star hotels in Ireland & Northern Ireland still don’t have Nespresso.

The Wi-Fi. It was strong!

The bathroom. Spotless, good shower, great hot water for the bath, and the room was never chilly.

Birdsong. There was birdsong in a nearby hedge in the mornings, and the view from my room over the town to Cuilcaigh Mountain was nice. Some Executive rooms have a balcony.

The friendliness! Everyone in all staff areas was friendly and helpful, and Belmore Court has just won The Reception Staff Of The Year Award in Northern Ireland. I know why!

The cleanliness. This should go without saying, but some accommodations aren’t as tip top. Belmore Court was spotless.

Green Policy. I really like that Belmore not only has a Green Policy, but constantly renews it. They’ve also got an Electric Car charge point in their car park!

Car park. Plenty of spaces, on site & free. And for seeing all the Fermanagh Lakelands has to offer, you do want a car. So much to discover! Do visit the website above- there are lots of brochures you can download, and apps, too. 

Breakfast Belmore Court

Breakfast Belmore Court

Location. Just a wee walk to Ardhowen Theatre to see a show, Tesco to get some ready-to-eat grub for those of us on a tight, no-eating-out budget (moi!)  Also only a 20 min walk to the lovely Castle Coole House & grounds, and the same walking time to Enniskillen Castle. You’ll be in the very centre of town with lots of restaurants in about a 10 minute walk.

Here’s Belmore Court’s Website.

Other bits of info & tips:

The Belmore Court breakfast buffet is mainly cereals, fruits, breads (scones, croissants, bagels, toasts,etc) and yogurts and so on.There is a good selection of these things most of the morning, but if you get there quite late on busy morning as I mention in the photo, some yummies like the chocolate croissants may be gone. Handily, Belmore has breakfast busy-ness times & days posted around the place to help you plan 🙂 There are also hot sausages & bacon, but they weren’t anything to write home about.  The breakfast foods are quite handy for grab & go if you are in a rush– I put together a cream cheese bagel & take away coffee one rushed morning. BUT, please note below:

Coffee lovers may struggle in Enniskillen, and I also struggled in a lot of the Lakelands area, too. I couldn’t find a good coffee anywhere. I really tried. Part of me wonders is it the limey water building up in machines? The only really enjoyable coffees I had were the Nespressos in my room at Belmore Court. They are not at the breakfast buffet, so coffee-up before you go down to breakfast if you’ve a Nespresso room. And if you don’t, if you are a coffee lover, I’d skip coffee at the buffet. I tried both the pour & the machine & didn’t like.

enniskillen castle museum animals

Castle museum animals watching out like hawk for good coffee 😉

(Can you help? What do others think of Enniskillen coffees? Am I just a total coffee snob now? I’d be happy to hear if the coffee improves in the Belmore breakfast buffet, and in Enniskillen in general. What coffee places do you readers recommend in the Lakelands area? Let me know in the comments or on Facebook or Twitter!)

I ALWAYS suggest silicon earplugs. No matter where you stay, there may be noise. Better to be looking at ’em than for ’em is my motto. You won’t always need them, but you don’t want to be without them. Belmore Court is in a good sized town, and is by roads. I wouldn’t say the road was particularly noisy, and I never heard noise from any other rooms, but silicon (not foam) earplugs will really muffle any sounds you are not used to. (Except if you are in a room with no soundproofing directly over a live band in a pub. Needless to say I won’t ever be recommending that place!) If you aren’t sure what silicon earplugs are, here’s a link to the ones I get in Boots.

I had no idea how much there is to see & do Fermanagh before I went, and I totally recommend at least a few days’ visit there. Also,to be perfectly transparent, I want to tell you that I was a guest at Belmore Court so that I could afford to stay and explore the area over more than one day. This does not change my opinions, and as you know if there things I don’t like I will write honestly about that, as I did in my Paddywagon post.

I hope you enjoyed the photos as well as the info; they are my Instagram photos! Each Thursday, the hashtags #IGtravelthursday (& #IGTT on Twitter) show photos from peoples’ travels all around the world- local travels and far flung. Use the hashtag & join in! If you are a blogger, you can also join in with a blog featuring one of your trips/visits and your Instagram photos from it (like in Satu’s Italy post), or how you use Instagram to plan travels. Read the rules of joining in here on SkimbacoLifestyle.
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Devonshire day Lismore Castle waterford ireland

Enjoy afternoon tea in the Pugin Room at Lismore Castle and experience a unique preview of Lismore Castle Spring Gardens takes place on Sunday March 16 – served by the castles very own Butler Mr. Denis Nevin – Photograph Patrick Browne.

A unique opportunity!

Afternoon tea in Lismore Castle & tour of the Spring Gardens.

If you don’t already have plans for Sunday 16 March, do consider this, as these teas & tours are not normally offered; tis for the annual ‘Devonshire Day’ at Lismore Castle in county Waterford.

Don’t miss out! It’s an interesting way to  change the pace in addition to your traditional St. Patrick’s weekend festivities. 

Plus, Devonshire Day is a fundraiser for one of my favorite festivals, the Immrama Festival of Travel Writing. The festival itself will run from June 12 to 15, 2014, and will be extra good this year as it features the always entertaining Mark Graham launching his A Year Of Festivals In Ireland book. I had him speak back in 2012 at Graiguenamanagh’s Town of Books festival and he was a huge hit. Keep an eye out for his book & talk at Immrama.

Here’s a bit more about the day, why Devonshire Cream Tea is special, and more on the Lismore Castle gardens:

Commenting on the launch of Devonshire Day Mr Jan Rotte, Event Manager of Immrama said, “We are delighted to host Devonshire Day at Lismore Castle, it is a wonderful opportunity to enjoy Devonshire Cream Tea in the most picturesque surroundings. We understand that Devon have recently applied for Protected Geographical Status for Devonshire Cream Tea but we are sure it will always be available to be served at the Irish home of the Duke of Devonshire and for guests to the castle to enjoy each year at Devonshire Day. After enjoying tea visitors can experience a guided tour of Lismore Castle Gardens, given by the Head Gardener. The gardens are set in seven acres within the 17th century outer defensive walls and have spectacular views of the castle and the surrounding countryside.”

Serving Devon Cream Tea:

The Devon method is to split the scone in two, cover each half with clotted cream, and then add strawberry jam on top.

Traditionally it is important that the scones be warm ideally, freshly baked and that clotted (rather than whipped) cream and strawberry jam, rather than any other variety, are used. Butter is generally not included, and the tea should be served with milk. Last year the classic “Devon cream tea” was voted the Devon region’s favourite ‘food speciality’.

 About Lismore Castle Gardens

The Lower Garden was formerly known as the Pleasure Grounds and is spectacular in the Spring Time. A number of camellia, rhododendron and some particularly magnificent magnolias can be found here. There has been extensive planting over the last number of years and the gardens are being constantly refined and improved. The walls surrounding the garden date from the early 18th century and have been planted with roses such as Francis E, Lester, Bobbie James, Rambling Rector to name a few. The Lower Garden also boasts some spectacular sculptures by well-known artists Eilis O’Connell, [Note- one of my fav Irish artists; whenever you have a chance to see her work, do have a look] Anthony Gormley and Marzia Colonna.

The Upper Garden is one of the few Jacobean gardens to survive in anything like its original form. The first Earl of Cork helped by his gardener John built a high surrounding wall and a raised terrace terminated at either end by turrets. The Central Walk, which is between the herbaceous borders, is backed by yew hedges and was laid in dramatic alignment on the Pain spire of the Anglican Cathedral. The hedges provide a suitable background for the herbaceous borders as one walks towards the top terrace. Located here are some artistic works by Bridget McCrum, Simon Thomas, Emily Young and Edwin Whitney Smith.

The Immrama Travel Writing Festival Committee is hosting this event and proceeds will help fund the 2014 festival programme.

Tour Times:

11.30 a.m.,  12.40 p.m.,  1.50 p.m.,  3.00 p.m.  and 4.10 p.m.

Entrance is by ticket only, Children under 10 go free but must be pre-registered with the ticket office. Tickets are available from the Immrama office and Lismore Heritage Centre and cost €20.00.

For further enquiries and bookings contact 058-53803 or 058-54975 or see

Sounds like a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon! Enjoy!

Medieval stone carving, rude bishop Kilkenny

This sure does look like a rude gesture! I reckon the Bishop is telling the Kilkenny witches to feck off 😉

Mischievous Medieval Folk!

Witches and rude Bishops are just a few of the characters you may meet on Ireland’s Medieval Mile in Kilkenny City.

This charming & friendly small city is full of stories & historic buildings, and with the launch of the Medieval Mile even more gems are being restored– and new attractions added! Kilkenny is definitely a destination to add to your Irish vacation or staycation list.

The Mile roughly runs from Kilkenny Castle to St Canice’s Cathedral, and takes in Rothe House, The Thosel, St Mary’s church and much more. Visit Kilkenny have made a handy interactive map that shows you places of interest. Do note that medieval spots aren’t just on the main mile, but fan out from it as well. Gardens, brewery experiences, The National Museum in Kilkenny, art galleries & more are all in the works, so keep an eye on Visit Kilkenny for updates.

Medieval Knight in Kilkenny. Ireland's Medieval Mile

Sometimes the Medieval walking tour runs in characters & costumes. I took this tour last summer, & it was very good. We were escorted by this medieval knight & met Mr Rothe of Rothe House, Bishop Ledrede, and Dame (witch?) Alice Kyteler. Our Knight was in Big Trouble because he lost his shoes that day!

One of the best ways to discover the gems & hidden histories is to take one of the Medieval walking tours, and during Medieval Week, March 28th – April 6th 2014, they will be lead by costumed actors. I took the tour last year, and it was an interesting & fun way to orient yourself in Kilkenny & learn some history– do try to go!

There are several cool events on for Medieval Week; check out this one where you can meet the pesky Bishop Ledrede  & his nemesis witch Alice Kyteler. It runs Sat 29 March & Sat 5 April at St Mary’s Cathedral, Chapter House Tea Rooms and Kyteler’s Inn:

Dinner with Bishop Ledrede and Dame Alice Kyteler

A chance to meet two of Kilkenny’s most interesting characters! Complimentary drink on arrival at St Mary’s Cathedral, followed by tour of the Cathedral with Bishop Richard Ledrede – in full regalia!  A light bite medieval starter in the Chapter House follows the tour. Bishop Ledrede will then bring our Guests down to Kyteler’s Inn where they will be greeted by Dame Alice who will give them a glass of “Petronella’s Poison” and a little history of her infamous Inn. Main Course will be served – again in keeping with our Medieval Menu. Followed by Dessert. Scroll/Parchment certificates handed out to those who participate.

Booking essential, €17.50 per person (suitable for children)

T: +353 56 7703885   E:


There is plenty more happening on Medieval Week!

Try your hand at glassblowing, the kids can do medieval craft workshops, you can sample medieval cider–  why not check out all the listings county-wide at: . You can also download the Medieval Week brochure with the full events list.


Kilkenny is a fantastic city, and you can check out some of my other posts on Kilkenny here. Please feel free to ask me any Kilkenny questions you may have, and if I can’t answer I’ll do my best to find someone who can. Come visit and enjoy Kilkenny, Ireland!

 These photos are from my Instagram account. Each Thursday, the hashtag #IGtravelthursday shows photos from peoples’ travels all around the world- local travels and far flung. Use the hashtag & join in! If you are a blogger, you can also join in with a blog featuring one of your trips/visits and your Instagram photos from it. Check out the stunning images of Winter in Scandinavia on Satu’s blog!

       Here are the rules for participating:
– Link to a new Instagram travel post and use the permalink of your post, not the homepage URL.
– Only new posts from the week of the linky and no giveaways, other linkys or sales pitch posts.
– Don’t add links to your Instagram profile in the linky, only links to your blog.
– Link back to one of the Instagram Travel Thursday hosts.
– Visit a few other posts in the linky and show them some love (comment, tweet, Pin etc.).
– Links that do not follow the guidelines will be removed.

Read more on the ins & outs of join in here on SkimbacoLifestyle.

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A county of sparkles!

Fermanagh is a county of sparkling lakes, sunrises, and sparkling ideas.

Twitter has alerted me to her charms and now I want to alert you!

There are several events & attractions open for free in Fermanagh on 7-9 March 2014 during their Open Weekend:

Aughakillymaude Mummers Centre – 
Open to the public for FREE on Saturday 8th of March 10am – 3pm

Belleek Pottery – 
Open to the public for FREE guided tours on Friday March 7th 10.15am -12.15pm and 1.45pm – 3.00pm. The Centre will also be open on Saturday 8th from 10.00am – 5.30pm and Sunday 2pm – 5pm Admission free, but no guided tours available.

Drumskinny Stone Circle –
Explore Drumskinny Stone Circle with an experienced guide from Erne Heritage Tours to explain the history of the site. (Guide on site Saturday & Sunday 10am – 4pm)

Enniskillen Castle Museums – 
FREE Admission on Fri, Sat & Sun 10am – 5pm

Headhunters Railway Museum – 
FREE Admission on Friday 9.00-5.30pm, Saturday 9.00-5.30pm & Sunday 10.00-5.00pm

Janus Figure, Boa Island
Experienced guide on site to explain the significance of this historic figure. (Saturday 10am – 4pm)

Lady of the Lake – 
Enjoy a FREE sailing on board the Lady of the Lake on Saturday 8th March at 11.30am and 1.30pm departing from Innishclare Jetty.

Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark –
Guided tours of the Marble Arch Caves will be offered on Saturday 8th and Sunday 9th March at half hour intervals from 12:30p.m. until 4:00p.m. Booking is essential. Places are limited to 21 persons per tour and will be allocated on a first-come-first served basis. Please be advised that the Caves may close for safety reasons following heavy rain. 20 minute information sessions about the wider Geopark will also be delivered throughout the afternoon of the 8th & 9th.

MV Kestrel –
Depart for a short tour of Enniskillen Island Town from the Lakeland Forum Jetty, each hour on the hour from 12pm to 4pm on Saturday 8th March.

National Trust Properties –
3 Fermanagh National Trust properties for free on the 8 and 9 March.

Castle Coole
Parkland open 10am – 7pm
House tours will run from 11am with the last tour at 4pm*
Shop and tearoom will be open 11am – 5pm
* House tours are booked at Visitor Reception and are subject to availability
Shop and tearoom will be open 11am – 5pm

Florence Court
Gardens and park open from 10am – 7pm
House tours will run from 11am with the last tour at 4pm*
Shop and tearoom will be open 11am – 5pm
* House tours are booked at Visitor Reception and are subject to availability

Crom Estate
Grounds open 10am – 5pm
Visitor Centre open 11am – 5pm (Exhibition, shop and tea room)

**Watch out for National Trust Membership Offers happening over the weekend**

Share Inishcruiser
Saturday 8th March Cruise 10.30am
Sunday 9th March Cruise 10.30am
Departing Share Discovery Village to Crom Estate rtn approx. 2hrs sailing
Booking essential +44 (0) 28 6772 2122 – spaces allocated on first come first served basis.

Walk and Talk Tour of Enniskillen
FREE tours of Enniskillen town on Sunday 9th March at 12 Noon and 2pm. Tours to start from Fermanagh Visitor Information Centre, Wellington Road, Enniskillen – no booking required.

Fermanagh Visitor Information Centre will be open over the weekend – Fri 9am-5.30pm, Saturday 10am-2pm & Sunday 10am-2pm

 Fermanagh open weekend 7-9 March 2014Additionally Fermanagh Lakelands has a visitor guide and maps & brochures you can download from their site. There are also apps. Check ’em out!

I’ve never been, but the Fermamnagh Open Weekend has opened my eyes. I’m planning a visit! Given how I love caves (Doolin Cave in the Burren anyone?) the Marble Arch caves are high on my list. If you’ve any tips & suggestions on what to see do eat & so on in Fermanagh let us all know in the comment section below.


Halloween in Ireland is special.

Halloween in Ireland is spooky!

Halloween in Ireland is spooky! This is Kilkenny Castle.

After all, Ireland is the home of the Halloween tradition. Samhain originated here, and Ireland is an exciting & spooky place to be during October- especially in one of the many ancient castles. You are spoiled for Halloween choice- so many places are haunted– castles, lighthouses, crannogs & more! There’s plenty on, and I’ll give you some highlights.

No matter what your age or how nervous your temperament, there’s probably something Halloween-y on that you’ll enjoy.

If you have the nerve, you could set yourself a fantastically spooky tour of the events & festivals listed here. Do you dare? If you do, let us know in the comments below; tell us YOUR favorite Halloween events/outings/tales/treats.

For the HUGE array of Halloween events for 2015, please click to the newest article here.

Candlelit Halloween Tours of Huntington Castle

One of the Halloween things we did last year was the nighttime candlelit adult tour of Huntington Castle in county Carlow. We loved it! Huntington is about 500 years old and is a castle full of stories; for example did you know it is home to the Temple of Isis? It also is home to lots of screams during the tour– I think mine are still echoing there 🙂 Thank fully there are also family tours for those with kids under 12, and the castle tearoom is open for a cheery restorative Halloween bun & coffee after your frightening experiences. Click Huntington Castle for all the details and to book.


Halloween in Ireland: Huntington Castle Ireland

Huntington Castle has a fab, fun Halloween tour

Halloween at Rathwood

At the side of county Carlow (Wicklow border) you’ll find Rathwood. I’ve heard lots of good reports on Rathwood and their falconry centre, woodlands, garden centre, shops & more. Plus, The Chocolate Garden is next door. Now, that’s frightening — for those on a diet! 😉

Renowned for their magical Christmas train experience, this Halloween families can jump onboard the spooky delights of Rathwood’s Halloween train. Travel through the enchanted forest, magical fairy playground and meet some friendly ghoulish creatures. Children and adults alike can enjoy a pumpkin pick and pumpkin carving with Rathwood’s witches. All children will enjoy a complimentary hot chocolate after the Halloween adventure.

Babies (0-12months) go free, €5 per adult and €10 per child. Halloween trains running from October 19th to October 31st. 

For bookings visit


Halloween in Ireland Rathwood

Love this pic from Rathwood! The scary face the wee lad on the left is making 😀

 Virginia Pumpkin Festival

Head to county Cavan for the Pumpkin Festival, with events from 25-30 October. There’s the national giant pumpkins competition, Haunted Forest Walk, pumpkin pie contest, artisan food & craft fair, treasure hunt, fireworks, and musicmore happening as well. A great time for the whole family!

Unlike some of the next Halloween highlights- for adults only!

Loftus Hall- the Devil Visited!

Loftus Hall in county Wexford, where the devil is said to have visited, does have a children’s event listed, but it also has a tour for over 21’s only! How scary must that be? Too scary for me, that’s for sure. They also have an adult only murder mystery night running on Friday the 13th of December. Click the link above to find out more, if you dare…

Halloween in ireland: Loftus Hall

I’m not! Are YOU? Loftus Hall is spooky!

Haunted Spooktacular Horror Farm

Another adult only Halloween event is the over 16’s only Haunted Spooktacular Horror Farm in county Meath. I’m a big scardy-cat, so I’ve not been to this, but here’s a 30 second video of the scares. They do have a family friendly day on Oct 27th, Halloween Bank Holiday Monday…that may be more my speed 🙂

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 Shankill Castle: Midnight Halloween Tour

Shankill Castle in county Kilkenny has events for both over 15’s– accompanied by an adult- and for families. The candlelit tours bring you through the most haunted parts of the castle, and also out into the graveyard. The tours start running 18 October, and there is to be an extra-special one at the witching hour of midnight on Halloween. They are also having 2 murder mystery nights, which include a 4 course meal as part of Savour Kilkenny. To find out more about all the events Shankill Castle is running, click here.

Children: Get ready for Halloween!

In Kilkenny City, the 16th century Rothe House is holding events for children ages 5-12 on Halloween day:

11.00 – 12.30:  Get creative, and make your Hallowe’en mask and lots more scary stuff.

12.30 – 1.00:  Break (bring your own lunch)

1.00 – 2.00:   Michael Moylan of Irish History Live brings past Hallowe’ens to life, with scary stories.

€6.00 each session (morning and afternoon), or €10 for both. To book: +353 56 7722893 or 

Thank goodness this sounds nice and non-heartstopping! I was getting the creeps just writing about all the very scary Halloween events. I’m sure there are others, but I’m too scared to write about any more 😉

Right; now all I have to do is go and suit up for the Vampire Hunt at the Bram Stoker Festival. Stake; check. Holy water; check. Garlic…uh oh…hubby cooked with it..  Find out more on the Vampire Hunt and the festival, here.

Will you need this vampire hunting kit at Bram Stoker Festival?

Will you need this vampire hunting kit at Bram Stoker Festival?


Dunguire Castle, Galway, Ireland

The tide is out beside the lovely seaside village of Kinvara’s Dunguire Castle, Galway, Ireland.

What a whirlwind on the Wild Atlantic Way!

A 3-day PaddyWagon tour along part of the new Wild Atlantic Way last week means I’ve some lovely photos to share with you this Instagram Travel Thursday. We visited counties Galway, Clare, and Kerry, and the visits were a whirlwind as there was much ground to cover.

The weather the first day was just glorious. Our stops that day were mainly in counties Galway & Clare, and included the Cliffs of Moher before we headed into county Kerry for the night.

Along the way, our font-of-information driver/guide Mike stopped at a spot in Clare when he saw some adorable baby donkeys. The donkey family was very friendly, and this youngster even wanted to scale the wall to check us for carrots 🙂 I’ve a video of them on my Instagram account.

Young donkey wants to get closer! Any carrots? clare, Ireland

Young donkey wants to get closer! Any carrots? County Clare, Ireland

The close of our first evening was just glorious, the clouds beautiful even before the sunset turned everything a heartwarming orange. I got some decent snaps from the moving bus window- well done Samsung Note.

I’ll have a posts for you on the other sites we saw along the Wild Atlantic Way, as well as the pros & cons of doing a PaddyWagon tour. Until then, there are a few more photos below to whet your appetite for the gorgeous Wild Atlantic Way of Ireland.

As well as the PaddyWagon tour ( which was compliments of Paddywagon and Daytoursworld,) I was at a travel conference in Dublin (TBEX) and met lots of other travel bloggers & some  #IGTravelThursday instagrammers, like Satu. A great group; do join in with us if you instagram or blog!

TIP:These are the signs for the Wild Atlantic Way, so keep your eye out for them on your travels.

Wild Atlantic Way sign

Signs of the Wild Atlantic Way ( frm

Sunset over county Kerry, Ireland. From the Paddywagon bus window!

Sunset over county Kerry, Ireland. From the Paddywagon bus window!

Minard Castle, Kerry, Ireland

Minard Castle, Kerry, Ireland. Did you know the saying is that when gorse is out of flower, kissing is out of fashion? IE, it is usually in flower somewhere all year 🙂

Great meat at Dingle Food festival!
Great meat at Dingle Food Festival! This young man was lots of fun to chat with & the Irish chorizo was FAB!

Rainbow at the journey's end. Harvested hayfield, Ireland
Rainbow at the journey’s end. Harvested hayfield, Ireland



medieval round tower

Looking up out of the bottom half of the medieval round tower

One of the things that is so magical about Ireland is there are half-hidden treasures nearly everywhere you turn in the countryside, be it a spectacular view, a photogenic cottage or farm, or an atmospheric ruins.



Just this Sunday we made a new discovery of medieval ruins in Kilkenny! Ok, a new discovery to/by us– other people know about it, though not too many. Aghavillar in Irish is Áth an Bhiolair, meaning “field of the watercress” and there is a holy well nearby, so I reckon that watercress would be extra good for your salad!




medieval stairs

Hello! It’s a long, steep way down in the church building.


We stumbled across it (well, drove by it!) on our way to visit the Megalithic site of Knockroe passage tomb. You can feel a peace in the site, and what is amazing is the 12th century stone church is open to explore. Often times ruins like this that still have access up to the higher floors are locked up, but this beauty was waiting for us to climb up the narrow, steep stone steps and imagine times gone past..


I shared some of my Aghavillar photos over on my Instagram account, and I figured they would be a good subject for this week’s Instagram Travel Thursday. If you’d like to join in on Instagram, hashtag your travel (local travel in your area also counts) photos with #igtravelthursday. If you blog as well, go check out Simbaco Lifestyle’s post on how to take part.  There are lots of beautiful photos & stories being shared, and one of my favorites right now is  where she has shared some of her favorite Instagrammers.

gravestone 1700s

The carving on this gravestone from the 1700s is lovely.

Have a go yourself. Show us your phot0s!

Celtic high cross and round tower at Clonemacnoise Ireland

Clonmacnoise is a site full of monuments and ruins

These photos are from the extensive ruins of Clonmacnoise in county Offaly, Ireland. We went during the off season and were lucky that this much visited site was nearly deserted of visitors. It costs €6 to enter, and the staff in the centre were very welcoming.

TIP: Unfortunately, I think I should tell you to avoid the coffee on site. Pity. They could really use some tips on having a nice heritage site cafe from The Irish National Heritage Park in Wexford.

Here’s a wee bit of background on the site:

Clonmacnoise is an Early Christian site founded by St. Ciarán in the mid-6th century. Located on the eastern bank of the River Shannon, it includes the ruins of a cathedral, seven churches (10th  -13th century), two round towers, three high crosses and the largest collection of Early Christian grave slabs in Western Europe. The original high crosses and a selection of grave slabs are on display in the visitor centre.

via Heritage Ireland: Clonmacnoise. <Click for more visiting information.

Clonmacnoise Castle is falling down the hill were it once stood proud.

Clonmacnoise Castle has been like this for many many years!

 Here ‘s a close up.

Close up of the castle, sticking out into thin air

How has it stayed  hanging like this for so long?

TIP: Clonmacnoise is on the tour bus route, and in the summer months gets very crowded. If you are looking for an atmospheric, quieter site during high season – or any time- I suggest the 11th century ruins of  Kells Priory in county Kilkenny. I’ve photos and information on that site, so click for more.

The old castle on an island in Rosscommon's Lough Key is like something out of  mythology.

The old castle on an island in Lough Key is like something out of mythology.

Roscommon Ireland.
It is sort of like another world.

We visted on St. Patrick’s Weekend, and we found castles, a windmill, a whole lot of fantastic craft beer in a wonderful pub, tasty local food, and more!

Twas a very relaxing holiday & I’ll give you my reviews & tips in an upcoming post.

For now, enjoy this scenic photo teaser 🙂

Elphin windmill , Roscommon, is from the 18th century.

Lots in Roscommon was other-worldly, or of another time.

This old phone box, now home to a statue of the Child of Prague, kept away the rain from Roscommon’s Paddy’s Day parades!

Did he phone a friend?

There aren’t many towns where a 5 minute stroll will bring you to an enormous ruined castle.


Roscommon Castle, Ireland

Hope you enjoyed!

Lough Corrib, Cong, Ireland

Enemy territory! Yes, Cong,  Mayo is on the Galway border (where the John Wayne film The Quiet Man was filmed,) and was enemy territory for Kilkenny folk on Sunday, the 9th of September, 2012; it was the All-Ireland hurling final of Galway vs Kilkenny.

But as we had won a Secret Sunday package from Lisloughrey Lodge, located by Lough Corrib, we braved the sea of Galway flags and had a 24 hour visit to this lovely part of Ireland.

Settling in for the hurling match

The match was kicking off at 3.30, and we arrived at the lodge in time to settle in to their Quay Bar in a prime telly-viewing position. The remaining guests from the last night’s local wedding were still around and started filtering in.Yep- Galway supporters.
Our room was just getting the final touches, so we could only drop off our bags; there was no possibility of hiding our Kilkenny cheering by watching in there. Uh oh! Ahh, no- actually I’m just being dramatic; we’ve always found hurling fans to be quite respectful of the opposing supporters. And so it was at this match- we all enjoyed great banter with each other. The match was exciting & close the whole way through, and ended in a draw! It was win-win for us, really, as we didn’t have to feel rude celebrating if Kilkenny won, or feel dejected while all around us celebrated if Galway won. Perfect. Plus, the pints in The Quay Bar were good 🙂

Lough Corrib, down from Lisloughrey Lodge

After the match we went for a little wander before dinner at Lisloughrey’s Wildes restaurant. (Which turned out to be our top dinner of 2012! I MUST do a post..) You can see the lough from the lodge, & we headed down to the small quay there, snapped photos, & made a note to do the historic Lough Corrib cruise in the morning. (365 days a yr,trips 2 times a day.) Then we drove the few kilometers into Cong village.

I wasn’t sure what to expect, thinking the village might just be touristy tat about The Quiet Man, which neither of us had seen, although Terry’s Dad had actually worked on the movie. In fact, he had a spooky experience during that work, when he stayed in Ashford Castle. Have a listen to what happened:

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 Well! Luckily for us, Cong was quiet enough, but not spooky or lifeless! As it was the evening, there were no tourist buses, but there were some folk enjoying the nice weather & the outdoor seating at the many inviting pubs. The village itself  has had a bit of a spruce up thanks to the local folk in Tidy Towns, according to Susan at Lady’s Buttery Irish art & crafts shop, and Cong really is gorgeous! There were flowers in boxes, baskets & beds- and not just bedding plants- beautiful & bee-friendly perennial plants, too. Many of the old houses & buildings that were empty had been painted cheerful colours & decked out in flowers, so that before speaking with Susan we’d had no idea they were empty. Well done!
Look how the water goes right under the building in the middle pic!
Generally, myself & Terry are not peeps who do much shopping, but we got a few things in Cong at Lady’s Buttery (named after a cave where local women used to store butter.) The owner Susan was happy to let us take a few photos of the shop, where her husband Robert also sells his paintings. He was also involved in the painting of the buildings mentioned above; I wonder can we entice him to Graig 😉 Speaking of Graiguenamanagh, I only bought 1 book in Cong’s intriguing Rare & Recent Bookshop because our Town Of Books Festival is on in 2 weeks. Me buying more books is like bringing coals to Newcastle! Though I was tempted, especially by the nature & travel/adventure books from the 1950’s on back, my weakness…
Lady’s Buttery, full of treasures & Terry modelling his Aran jumper purchase
Robert let us know that a good coffee was to be had next door to their shop, at The Hungry Monk Cafe. (Always good to get the inside scoop!) He was right; they had nice coffee, and a lovely fresh scone, too. What was also very nice was the big warm ‘Hello!’ we got upon entering the cafe, even though the place was quite busy. (We did our shopping visit in the morning, so this was about 11.15am–it seemed to be just about the time the tour buses start arriving, so if you want to avoid the bus crowds, it seems early morning or later afternoon are quieter.)
We liked what we saw of Cong on our short visit, & we also fit in a wander around the atmospheric Cong Abbey.
lovely scone & coffee at The Hungry Monk, Cong, Ireland
I think Cong Mayo deserves more than a flying visit; there are walks, Ashford Castle, the Lough Corrib cruise that we we too full of breakfast to take (!) and more in the area besides. The village is charming, especially with the sprucing up that was done, and it would be a pity to just rush around it bumping into people. Head in early, stroll slowly around and enjoy the scenery & history, pop in to the wee shops and museums that interest you, and then stop & enjoy a coffee or pint as you watch the world go by or chat with people. Cong is a slice of charm (ok, idealized, perhaps, but still charming) and is nice to just relax into it & not rush off. Save the rushing off for the middle of the day in summer, & escape any bus tourist hordes by doing a hike or walk further afield. The tourist office is helpful, and I believe they have a booklet or such to guide you to places associated with The Quiet Man if you are into the movie. There are lots of gently charming places in Ireland, it is true, and Cong is certainly one of them- so think about it if you are considering visiting the Galway/Mayo area.
Yes, we only did a flying visit 🙂 Must go back for the falconry 😉