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

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October is a terrific month to be in Ireland! SO many festivals!

And I don’t just mean the fantastic Halloween festivals, there are many, many others. I made a podcast to tell you about some of my Top Picks for October in Ireland, but in the few days after I became aware of a few more I’d like to mention. So, read on & then have a listen to the others on the podcast. Enjoy your October in Ireland ūüėÄ

Cloughtoberfest Gypsy Jazz & Swing

Gypsy Jazz Cloughtoberfest by Eoin Campbell at justmultimedia

Gypsy Jazz Cloughtoberfest by Eoin Campbell at justmultimedia 

Cloughtoberfest is Ireland’s annual festival of “Hot Club” Gypsy Jazz and Swing celebrating the legacy of Django Reinhardt. It takes place in Cloughjordan, Co. Tipperary, and the combination of the cosy village setting with a host of lively international musicians makes for quite a unique atmosphere!
This year, the festival is celebrating its 5th anniversary by extending the festival for an extra day… which means even more amazing, uplifting music, workshops and free fringe events right through the October Bank Holiday weekend. Concerts are all held in the intimate setting of Cloughjordan House, bringing together some of the world’s finest guitarists… and if you play yourself, you might just be invited onto the stage! After the concerts there are legendary jam sessions going on into the wee small hours, where you get to play right alongside the festival stars.
All-Stars invite the audience onto the stage at Cloughtoberfest 2013 (c) by Patrick Bridgeman at Best Self

All-Stars invite the audience onto the stage at Cloughtoberfest 2013 (c) by Patrick Bridgeman at Best Self

There’s lots more music to enjoy at “Trad Manouche” sessions all around town where Gypsy Jazz meets local Trad, “Devlesa”, a gypsy campfire BBQ, or you can brush up your guitar or violin skills at a music masterclass with one of the headline performers. The fringe programme also includes swing dance, film shows and much more to keep you busy. With a great selection of fine Irish foods and craft beers to keep up your strength, this weekend is the perfect autumn pick-you-up to keep you swingin’ right through the winter!

This will be the final outing for this quirky festival, so make sure you don’t miss out.¬† Full details, ticket bookings etc. can be found

My podcast is below, and underneath that is a quick listing of even more October festivals in Ireland

Top Tips for October Events in Ireland

The Belfast International Arts Festival 9 October to 1 November 2015

Cuisle: Limerick City International Poetry Festival 14 October to 18 October 2015

The Waterford Festival of Architecture  13- 18 October 2015 (check out the interesting guided walks!)

The Imagine Arts Festival in Waterford, 15 October to 25 October 2015

The Cork Jazz Festival 22 October to 26 October 2015

Links for festivals mentioned in the podcast:

Savour Kilkenny

The Burren Winterage Weekend

Wexford Fringe Festival

Many Halloween Festivals can be found here

Spirits of Meath

What will you do this October in Ireland?


Did you see any Super Blood Moon Ireland photographs on Twitter?

We were so lucky in Ireland to have mostly clear skies for the SuperMoon and Blood Moon eclipse!

I’ve gathered up some ace photos from the night so you can see them all in one place. I’ve also a tiny video clip I made in the Storify section below, and if you’d like the see the whole video I’ve popped it in at the bottom of this supermoon photo post ūüôā NOTE: Will pop it in shortly– poor data connection not allowing upload at the minute.

The joys of rural Ireland: 3 videos; snippets of wildlife, farm life, & seaside life 

From the interactions via Vibrant Ireland I know many of you feel that rural Ireland is special. All the amazingly varied shades of green (did you know the human eye can see more shades in green than any other colour?), the abundant rainbows, the animals & the landscape speak to us in a manner that manages to both relax and invigorate.

we see the most shades of colour in green

Lately I’ve started recording some videos; I generally share them on the Vibrant Ireland & Travel Facebook page¬†first (do give it a Like if you haven’t already, thanks!) Here are a few recent clips featuring some delights of the Irish countryside: wildlife in the form of playful Pine Martens, farm life in a modern horse round-up (see if you can spot the rainbows), and seaside life along Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way on Loop Head peninsula in county Clare. I hope you enjoy!

Elusive Pine Martens, playing! Video:

“The pine marten is considered one of the rarest and most elusive wildlife species in Ireland. Once common throughout the country, by the 20th century the species had become extinct from the majority of Ireland, surviving only in a few isolated and fragmented populations mainly in the west.” Read more of the information on Pine Martens at¬† I have been lucky enough to see them a few times this summer, especially this pair here. I think they may be youngsters? Any pine marten experts reading that may know, do tell, thank you! One recent morning we were thrilled to see them playing jump & hide on our wall! Here’s the video clip:

[youtube_sc url=”” title=”Pine%20Martens%20Playing%20″]


Irish Rainbow by Vibrant Ireland

Look up! there are plenty of rainbows in Ireland ūüôā


Farm Life: horses & rainbows! Video:

Come to Ireland and chances are you’ll see a rainbow at some point. This past week has seen plenty as the weather does its characteristic frequent changes from sunshine to showers to sunshine again. Along our country laneways, under a rainbow filled sky, horses were being moved from one field to another a few miles down the road. Can you spot the rainbows in the video? They are more vivid in person, so when in Ireland, keep your eye on the sky ūüôā


Seaside Life; Wild Atlantic Way video:

Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way route stretches for 2,500 kilometers along the western side of the country. Lots of you know of the Cliffs of Moher along the route, but did you know that Loop Head has stunning sea cliffs too? And it is very much less crowded than the Cliffs of Moher. If you enjoy getting off the massive tourist-bus track, you won’t go wrong spending time exploring the Loop Head peninsula. Maybe even take the plunge into the sea as these kids & adults did near the natural Bridge of Ross! We brought our dog Jessie along, but she preferred to watch the waves rather than swim.¬†Jessie also wanted to go see the Holy Well on Loop Head, but her big Rottweiler chest was too wide to pass through the gap in the rocks! This photo was taken right after she nearly got stuck– the incident was funny after I got over the moment of panic that she was permanently wedged in!

Jessie wanted to go see the Holy Well on Loop Head, but was too wide to pass through the gap in the rocks. took this right after she nearly got stuck-- was funny after I got over a moment of panic that she was permanently wedged in!

Jessie & Loop Head holy well rocks

This was my first visit to Loop Head, but I’m certainly coming back to explore its wild & wonderful natural life and scenery in the different seasons. Plus, you can go dolphin watching!

TIP: We loved Kilbaha Gallery & Crafts; do stop there for a browse and lovely coffee & cake or bit of lunch. Be warned you will likely be tempted if you love books on the areas you visit- I had to restrain myself; so many with beautiful photos, about the local flora & fauna, history and so on. I was very good and just got one book this trip..and one print from a local artist..and one…well, you get my drift! ūüėÄ The gals there are so very nice, and you can get a flavour for the welcome & friendliness and over on their Facebook page, where you can also check with them if you’ve any questions about opening times as this can vary with the seasons.


Summer festivals in Ireland -- Sunflower Fest in Lisburn & More!

Summer festivals in Ireland — Sunflower Fest in Lisburn & More!

Summer festivals in Ireland are an excitingly varied bunch. From motorcycles to plein air painting, family fun, bluegrass or beer, here are eight epic Irish events.

PS, if you are seriously missing the scorching sun, I’ve thrown in two interesting festivals in Spain ūüėÄ Enjoy!

Plein Air Painting Festival in Wexford Ireland 2015

Plein Air Painting Festival in Wexford

Europe‚Äôs largest ‘Art in the Open’ Festival commences in Wexford

Many scenic vistas in the Southeast will be captured by some of the world‚Äôs finest ‘Plein Air’ artists this week as Europe‚Äôs largest outdoor painting festival¬†Art in the Open¬†runs now til¬†August 3 2015.

A large number of high profile international artists have descended on County Wexford coming from thirteen countries including Australia, Canada, Norway, Sweden and of course the US, UK and Ireland to compete for up to ‚ā¨5,000 in awards.¬†The paint-out¬†Artists¬†can enter two paintings for the¬†Gala Exhibition¬†and these will be on display at in the Old Library¬†in Wellington Place, Wexford town centre Sunday 2nd¬†August at 3pm.

The Art in the Open festival is based on the concept that all work is created outdoors at a daily paint-out location.  Artists must register at each paint-out with a blank canvas which is stamped daily and over the next few hours must capture their own image of the beautiful surroundings.

The public are encouraged to watch this creative process at any of the six paint-out locations, including the infamous¬†Hook Head, the fishing village of¬†Kilmore Quay, the historic¬†Wells House¬†near Gorey and the Viking town of¬†Wexford¬†or enjoy the¬†Charity Quick Draw which will take place at Wexford‚Äôs Bullring on Sunday 2nd¬†August at¬†1pm. The public are welcome to join in this fun event for a ‚ā¨5 registration fee.¬†¬†Proceeds will go to the Windmill Therapeutic Centre.

Other highlights of the festival include a free lecture by Sinead Rice of the National Gallery of Ireland at the National Opera House on Bank Holiday Monday, August 3rd.  Several workshops and demonstrations take place throughout the week by well-known international artists, including Leon Holmes from Australia, Vincent Crotty from the USA, Antti Rautiola from Finland and Rachel Personett from the USA.

See more at


Summer festival fun in Lisburn

Summer festival fun in Lisburn

Birr Vintage Week

“Turn back time in the beautiful Georgian heritage town of Birr! Revel in its contemporary culture with a dynamic range of vintage and modern events for all ages during the Annual Birr Vintage Week & Arts Festival 31 July – 7 August 2015.

The all-inclusive programme includes the fantastic opening parade with its display of vintage, equestrian and community entries; artisan and craft market; the Ormand Flying Club’s Annual Fly-In and display; the Olde Time Traditional Fair; busking competition; free children’s events; antiques and fine art fair; a donkey derby; live music; sporting and literary events; nightly pub entertainment; and a spectacular fireworks display which will illuminate the skies above the town.

The Arts play a central role with a visually stunning and exciting visual arts trail, theatre performances, contemporary dance classes, film screenings and workshops in various mediums taking place across the town. With annual favourites and new events, vintage flavour and modern entertainment throughout, Birr Vintage Week & Arts Festival promises to be an exciting and vibrant event celebrating this charming town’s heritage and culture.”


Feakle Traditional Music Festival

5 – 10 August, 2015

In the little village of Feakle, County Clare, a traditional music festival started almost 30 years ago. It tapped into the area’s amazing wealth of local talent, and Feakle is now recognized internationally by those in-the-know as a centre of traditional music in Ireland. The festival is packed with workshops for musicians, and sessions all week for those of us who just love to listen. ūüôā East Clare is a beautiful area full of quiet lakes, gorgeous green hills, charming boreens lined with hedgerows & stonewalls, and traditionally cut bogs — yet it is off the beaten tourist track; perfect for getting into the heart of ‘authentic Ireland.’ Come explore!

See more at:

Music in Lisburn ©Brian Thompson Photography

Music at Festivals Lisburn ©Brian Thompson Photography

Summer in Lisburn

Don’t forget Northern Ireland on your quest to experience summer festivals in Ireland! There‚Äôs a jam-packed end of summer festival season in Lisburn, starting on 3 August 2015.

If it’s action you’re after, why not head to Lisburn from Monday 3rd August to Saturday 8th August for a week of exhilarating motorcycle race events at Dundrod, culminating in the international Grand Prix, the world’s fastest road race. With vantage points both inside and outside the circuit, the Ulster Grand Prix is fun for all the family.

Lisburn also plays host to incredible local and international music talent this summer.  This year’s Sunflowerfest brings British band Dreadzone, rap rock band Senser and a host of other artists and performers to Tubby’s Farm, Hillsborough.

Hilden Beer & Music Festival

Enjoy a tipple at Hilden Beer & Music Festival

The Hilden Beer and Music Festival is not to be missed. Hosting three stages and stocking over thirty ales, stouts, lagers and ciders sourced from the UK and Ireland, the three-day open air festival is held on the grounds of Hilden Brewery in Lisburn, the oldest independent brewery on the island of Ireland. Interesting- I must check this out myself!

Music at Hilden Beer & Music Festival

Music at Hilden Beer & Music Festival

Are you more of a foodie than a groupie? Well, Lisburn tells me they have it all and it’s the best around. From the Hillsborough International Oyster Festival (Tuesday 1st РSunday 6th September) to a family day at Ballance House’s Raspberry and Tea Day, there are all kinds of delicious, beloved and brand new foods to taste. If you are just out and about in Lisburn, there are plenty of bars, cafes and restaurants, or if you’re feeling like splurging pop into one of the city’s many trendy boutiques.

Contact Lisburn Visitor Information Centre on 028 9266 0038 for details on events, attractions, activities, shopping and hospitality in the area. Visit the Lisburn & Castlereagh website, Like on Facebook or follow on Twitter

Terryglass Arts Festival

12 – 15 August 2015

Terryglass Arts Festival is known for its innovative arts programme, and¬†they’ve a huge amount of workshops available- over 70! Definitely book early, as these fascinating & fun workshops will fill up quickly (see a few below.)

Other highlights include: Paddy Casey, Blood Red Mountain Band and Molly Sterling. For theatre fans there is ‘Back Seat’ and for Art lovers this years festival features Michal Ray’s ‘Nest’ and Paraic Leahy’s ‘Creatures of Costume’ exhibitions. Family entertainment includes Fidget Feet, Jack Wise, Niall de Burca, Dabbledoo and a Fireworks finale.

Here is a sampling of the fab workshops:

Science Soup – Stir up some trouble with alien mixes! Prepare things that go bang, and some other strange fixes! Measure things that go fizz and some more that go slop, and finish it off with some things that just pop! (Wear old clothes)

Alien Slime ‚Äď A fun science workshop that investigates alien life. Make the slime and the aliens that would live in it!

Shadow Play with Joanna Williams from Little Bigtop–¬† Join Joanna Williams to explore and play with shadow. Participants will learn how to make a shadow grow and shrink, explore the shadow effects of different materials and find out how to make simple shadow puppets using coloured gels.

Pallet Furniture & Sign Design– Work with local carpenter, Dave Corboy from Revived and Retro, to design something creative and useful which will be displayed in the village during the remainder of the festival. Materials supplied.

Head over to the county Tipperary side of lovely Lough Derg and experience one of the most creative summer festivals in Ireland!

See more at www.


The Claire Lynch band will play Dunmore East Bluegrass summer festival in Ireland

The Claire Lynch band will play Dunmore East Bluegrass summer festival in Ireland

Bluegrass in Dunmore East ‚Äď 21 years and going strong;¬†Guinness International Bluegrass Festival returns to its roots for 2015

 The 21st Dunmore East Bluegrass Festival kicks off on Thursday, August 27th and heralds the start of three days of dozens of bands, playing over 50 gigs in the villages’ pubs, restaurants and hotels.

Fans of bluegrass, honky-tonk, blues, country, and rhythm ‚Äėn‚Äô roots are in for a musical treat as the Guinness International Bluegrass Festival returns for the 21st year this summer!

The picturesque Co. Waterford seaside village Dunmore East hosts the Bluegrass Festival from the 27th to  the 30th of August, and the 2015 line-up is as impressive as ever.

Credited by Dolly Parton as being ‚Äúone of the sweetest, purest and best lead voices in the music business today,‚Ä̬†¬†Claire Lynch will be at the festival for the first time. Having won a host of music awards, along with two Grammy nominations, Claire developed her love of ¬†bluegrass ¬†and country music when she moved from New York to Alabama at the age of 12.

In the 1970’s Claire fronted the Front Porch String Band, until forming her own Claire Lynch Band in 2005.  Since then Claire and her band have consistently been in demand with festival audiences across the US.

‚ÄúClaire is a pioneer of bluegrass and country music and we are delighted that she will be playing at the International Bluegrass Festival in Dunmore East,”¬†Festival founder and organiser, Mick Daly said. “Not only has she a couple of Grammy nominations, Digital Journal placed her in the Top Ten of ‚ÄúMost Angelic voices of our time‚ÄĚ, putting her on an equal footing with music legends such as Dolly Parton, Sarah McLachlan, Emmylou Harris and Alison Krauss.‚ÄĚ

Big name Irish, European and American bluegrass acts playing free gigs include Demolition String Band (USA), New Section (Cze), Cup O’ Joe (Northern Ireland), The Mons Wheeler Band (NI), the Down and Out Bluegrass Band (NI), Land’s End (UK / Ire) and Irish bands Jigjam and Barefoot.

Another American band making their Dunmore East debut is Whiskey Deaf, made up by Annie Staninec and John Kael.¬† Born and bred on bluegrass music, Staninec has toured the world, featured on countless albums with renowned country, Cajun and blues artists. Kael, an established songwriter, has been playing bluegrass guitar, mandolin, banjo and bass for over twenty years.¬† His award winning song ‚ÄúHandmade Cross‚ÄĚ, features on Grammy nominated album, Hard Love, by Doyle Lawson.

Whilst the Claire Lynch Band will play a ticketed intimate gig on Sunday, August 30th, all the other events throughout the village are free.

For more information about the 21st Guinness International Dunmore East Bluegrass Festival line-up in Co. Waterford visit

For ticket information and bookings for The Claire Lynch band, email or Discover Dunmore on Facebook and Twitter.


BUT… I need heat and tons of sun, I hear some of you cry! Ok then, what about these 2 unusual summer festivals in Spain?

The Viking invasion festival in Spain

The Viking invasion festival in Spain

Some of the most fascinating festivals that are celebrated in Spain are re-enactments. Every year, on the first Sunday of August (this year on the 2nd of August), the residents of Catoira (Pontevedra, Galicia) stage a spectacular re-enactment of the Viking invasions that occurred a thousand years ago.
The climax of the Viking Festival from Catoira is marked by the arrival of the ‚Äúinvaders‚ÄĚ on board a replica 11th-century Viking vessel with the goal of capturing Torres del Oeste Castle, a fortified structure from the 11th century that is one of the most important archaeological and historical legacies in Galicia. Local residents try to resist and attack in festive atmosphere, where the participants end up completely soaked with wine. Folk groups, a picnic with octopus, grilled sardines, pies‚Ķ and the pleasant sound of typical bagpipes in the background add charm to this fiesta.

A different kind of battle, although not exactly a re-enactment, takes places every year in Bu√Īol (Valencia). ‚ÄúThe Tomatina‚ÄĚ tomato festival originated from a children‚Äôs fight in 1945 and has been celebrated ever since on the last Wednesday of August (this year on the 26th of August). Participants have a wonderful time throwing tomatoes at anything that moves. Save the date, if you want to paint the town red in your next visit to Spain.

So, which summer festivals in Ireland will YOU go to? Are you tempted to also top up on your sunshine in Spain? Hope you can enjoy the best of both ūüôā

Ennis, Ireland cheerful shopfronts

Even on a wet grey November day, Ennis is cheerful outside and in!

Ennis deserves its accolade as Ireland’s friendliest town.

I spent 3 days based in Ennis at the Rowan Tree hostel, & was curious to see if the hype was true.

I may have been a bit cynical about Ennis’ title- but any cynicism soon vanished.¬†People called out greetings to each other on the street. I was cheerily greeted in shops. I had a lovely chat with the manager of the Clare Museum (which will feature in my Museum Isle column of spring’s Isle Magazine,) and the folks at Rowan Tree hostel & Cafe Bar were lovely as well.

Rowan Tree Hostel, Ennis, Ireland. Room and view

The view from the balcony of one of the family rooms, Rowan Tree Hostel, Ennis

Rowan Tree is one of those wonderful hostels where things are run with care & pride; there are amenities like free wi-fi, bike & surfboard storage, self-service laundry, elevator, fully equipped kitchen use, and free light breakfast. I found everything to be scrupulously clean.

The hostel is next to Rowan Tree Cafe Bar, and I ended up eating here 2 nights as I so enjoyed the first. The dining room shows off the wonderful features of the Georgian house- large sash windows, high ceilings and an airy feel– but cozy by the fireplace. I popped in for an elevenses coffee and found it hard to pull myself away from my table by the fire. Ok, well.. it might have been eating so many of their fresh pastries that was weighting me down!

My Tips for Rowan Tree Cafe:

  • They’ve a nice selection of wines; I loved the ¬†Mount Vernon Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc- available by the glass.
  • The Early Bird/Set menus are good value for good food;¬†2 courses ‚ā¨16.95, 3 courses ‚ā¨19.95. On¬†Sunday to Thursday the offer is on all night; 5-10 pm, whilst on Friday & Saturday it is is on from 5-7 pm.
  • The¬†Seafood Tagliatelle was very good, but isn’t on the Early Bird/Set menu. Worth a splurge if you’d like!
  • There is also a child’s menu with mains under ‚ā¨ 5.
Rowan tree cafe, ennis, ireland

Lovely morning light comes in through the riverside windows at Rowan tree Cafe, Ennis

Ennis is an excellent base for exploring both the city of Limerick and enjoying the wildness of the Burren, the Cliffs of Moher, and beyond. (While I was there I went to Doolin Cave, home to the largest stalactite you’ll ever see. What a ‘wild’ cave! I recommend it.) You can get your fill of bustling city vibe or soak up the great spaces of sea, rock, and hills and then return to the welcoming cheer of Ennis town. That combination is exactly what I did on my trip. I will definitely return!

There’s more to explore of Ennis, and they’ve some brilliant festivals; Trad Music, Book Fest, Street Fest, Food. I will certainly stay again at Rowan Tree Hostel- it is a budget traveler’s gem.


My Rowan Tree Hostel Tips

  • Rowan Tree is only 20 minutes from Shannon Airport. If you’re renting a car, but are nervous about driving on the left, picking somewhere easier to drive to on your first day is an excellent way to ‘ease in.’ It certainly is less nerve racking than trying to negotiate Dublin or Limerick for 1st timers.
  • There isn’t any on-site parking, but there are (pay-for) car parks nearby.
  • To make your money go even further, do take advantage of the free breakfast of cereal/toast/juice/coffee/tea which is on everyday until 9.30 am. You can also cook your own food in the large, clean kitchen.
  • Rooms start from ‚ā¨30, hostel dorm beds from ‚ā¨15. There are also family rooms- all very good prices. Like many hostels (all to my dismay,) female-only hostel beds cost a few euros more.
  • The beds are quite firm. I stayed in the 6 person family room (1 double bed & two bunks,) and they were all firm. Also, I found Rowan Tree to be very quiet, but I always recommend earplugs when you stay somewhere- hotel, b&b or hostel. Better to have & not need that need & not have! I swear by the soft silicon ones that you kind of mould for your ear.
  • The people working at Rowan Tree are friendly & helpful. Do ask them for any suggestions on what to see, do, eat and so on. Enjoy your stay ūüôā

These photos are all 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. Read the ins & outs of that here on SkimbacoLifestyle.
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I was a guest of Rowan Tree Hostel, and had a gift certificate for 1 free meal in the Cafe. Be assured being a guest doesn’t affect the honesty of my writing. I liked the hostel & the cafe; in fact enjoyed them so much, I went back for another dinner myself, and added a 3rd day to my stay.


Dublin St Patricks Day Parade via

Dublin St Patricks Day Parade via

What can I do in Ireland in MARCH?

March can be a great time to visit Ireland, with less tourists, better prices, and some fab festivals as well as St Patrick’s Day parades galore!

March 17th is St Patrick’s Day, and there are parades and celebrations all over the island. The biggest is Dublin’s St Patrick’s festival, which runs over several days; March 14-17 in 2015. The daily schedule for 2015 is not up yet, (as of 9 Dec 2014) but all of the days are usually full of fun events for all ages.

If you’re in Dublin & have a hankering for some traditional Irish music, one of the very best places to go is The Cobblestone Pub, an authentic, non- touristy pub in the Smithfield area. You can hear trad music played here 7 nights a week.

March in the Irish Countryside

If trad music and craic out in a beautiful seaside & mountainside country town is more your thing, you won’t go wrong in Dingle! As an added bonus the Dingle International Film Festival is on on the 12th to the 15th of March 2015.

Dingle is a charming town, home to great food and the Dingle Distillery, where they carefully craft whiskey, gin, and vodka. I adore the gin, it really does have a unique flavour from the special local ingredients they use:

“We use, amongst other botanicals, rowan berry from the mountain ash trees, fuchsia, bog myrtle, hawthorn and heather for a taste of the Kerry landscape. It‚Äôs a formula unknown elsewhere and is calculated, amongst other things, to create some sense of place and provenance, what winemakers might call the gout de terroir.. ¬†[we use] the purest of water which we draw from our own well, 240 feet below the distillery.”

You must give the Dingle spirits a try! Also in Dingle you’ll find the Louis Mulcahy Pottery, ancient beehive huts, and plenty more to explore. Here’s a clip about the Dingle Film festival. (Video in Irish with subtitles.)

[youtube_sc url=”” title=”Dingle%20International%20film%20festival”]

Also in county Kerry, the Kenmare Lace Festival is on from 19-22 March 2015. A wonderful way of keeping this beautiful Irish traditional craft alive, the festival will have:

Lace making workshops in nine different disciplines running over two days. For the fashion conscious there will be millinery and up-styling workshops, a fashion show, and meet the designers at the Art & Design Cloister. Exhibitions will showcase the very best in lacemaking and Irish design. There will be a full day of children’s craft and fashion workshops including Kenmare Lace making to introduce traditional techniques and design to the younger generation.

Another unique event on in Ireland in March is the Ennis Book Club Festival¬†in county Clare, also located on the west coast. This festival¬†will run from¬†the 6th to the 8th of March in 2015.¬†There is always loads on for book lovers to enjoy, and the 2015 programme will be up soon. Ennis is known as Ireland’s Friendliest Town, and I agree; I’ve visited Ennis and totally experienced that friendliness. You can read about my visit to¬†Ennis and what I thought of where I stayed; Rowan Tree.

Belfast and the Titanic museum are great to visit in March- or anytime!

Belfast and the Titanic museum are great to visit in March- or anytime!

Celebrate St Patrick and Northern Ireland

If you’d like to get more into the Saint Patrick side of things, what about heading up North and exploring St Patrick’s old stomping grounds? There’s a St Patrick’s Trail, 92 miles long and linking 15 sites connected to St Patrick. Not every site will be open in March, but many are, such as the St Patrick Centre, Down Museum & more.

Of course, when up North you can’t miss the Giant’s Causeway! If you’re a fan of the Game Of Thrones,¬†the Northern Ireland Game of Thrones trail is a must do, too. Plus, Belfast is a brilliant place to spend a few days, full of craic, culture, fab food & fun. We’ve been twice and love it! The Titanic Museum is amazing even if you are like Terry & I and not normally a Titanic fan. Two thumbs up from us ūüėÄ

Also in Northern Ireland, Sunday 15 March 2015 sees¬†Shamrock Shenanigans¬†on at the National Trust property Springhill in Magherafelt, co Derry. There’s free entry for anyone who can prove their name is Patrick! You can discover the Shamrock Trail (extra charge) around the grounds and enjoy crafts, food and music from noon to 5pm.

Where will YOU go & what will you do in March in Ireland? Have you more suggestions? Let us know! Comment, tweet Vibrant Ireland, or post on the Vibrant Ireland & Travel Facebook page.

Doolin Cave stalactite Ireland

Doolin Cave stalactite hangs ghostly white in the darkness. It’s huge, but you can’t tell in this pc

You’ll never see better. A better stalactite, that is.

Oh yes, if bigger is better, then I’m happy to bet that you’ll never see better than the magnificent stalactite in Ireland’s Doolin Cave. It’s the 3rd largest in the world, and given that the 2 others are in Lebanon & Brazil (not open to the public,) chances are that for many of us, the Burren’s Doolin Cave is The One To See.


Stalactite in a Class of its Own

It is spectacular, especially as it hangs alone in its regal glory, not surrounded by minions that might distract from its impact. This, though, makes it difficult to photograph to give a sense of its 23ft/7.3metre length, as there is nothing nearby to show the stalactite’s scale. Yet when you see it in real life you’ll find it easy to imagine the awe felt by the stalactite’s discoverers:


Description by Varley and Dickenson of their first view of the Great Stalactite:

“Scrambling over boulders, we stood speechless in a large chamber, of ample width, length and impressive height. As our lamps circled this great hall we picked out a gigantic stalactite, certainly over 30 feet in length, the only formation in the chamber and set proudly in the very centre. It is really majestic and poised like the veritable sword of Damocles.

With our headlamps inadequately flood-lighting this huge formation we tiptoed-believe it nor not! – to the bottom of the chamber, not daring to speak lest the vibration of the first voices ever to sound in this hall since the beginning of Time should cause it to shatter.‚ÄĚ ¬†(quote via¬†

Doolin Cave Ireland

Into the wild! Doolin Cave, Ireland


A Wild Cave

Another very special aspect of Doolin Cave is that it is as close to a ‘wild’ cave as us non-cavers will likely get. You have to don a hard hat due to low passages, and though the cave is safe, it is not brightly lit nor totally filled with boardwalks that remove you from the reality of the stone, mud and water beneath your feet. I loved it!

You’ll descend 80 feet into the very first chamber, and this is done by stairs- 120 of them. Luckily for people like me who have back or other issues, there’s a landing with a seat every 10 steps in case you need a wee breather ūüôā Of course,¬†I was too proud to rest on the way back up and was out of breath with my sciatic pinging at me for my stubbornness. But, ah well, for me the wild cave was worth it!


The Details:

Doolin Cave has a¬†visitor centre with a¬†small shop & cafe and ¬†as well as a farmland nature trail. I went to the cave by special arrangement in November when they are closed, so I’ve no review for those features. I did manage to feed my mug habit – I bought a rustic mug made with the Doolin Cave glacial clay from¬†Doolin Cave Pottery!¬† I also like the ethos of Doolin Cave; they’re very active in eco-tourism & have won Gold standard.

The interesting guided cave tour takes just under an hour, and it is prudent to wear sturdy shoes and bring a light jacket. Strollers cannot be brought into the cave, and babies & small children must be carried.

mug made with Doolin Cave glacial clay

Hmmm, a mug made with glacial clay from Doolin Cave must smell interesting!


Opening Times:

Jan 6th РMid Feb: By appointment only
July 1st РSeptember 30th: 10am Р5pm Tours every half an hour
October: 11am Р4pm weekdays and 10am to 5pm weekends.
Winter : Christmas: Dec 27th РJan 6th 10am Р4pm daily.



You will save 20% on the prices below if you book online.


Adult ‚ā¨15.00
Child ‚ā¨8.00
Family ‚ā¨50.00
(2 adults & 3 children)

Do check the Doolin Cave website for any current offers.
Email or phone 353 (0)65 707 5761 if any queries.


Getting To Doolin Cave:

The cave is around 5 minutes’ drive from Doolin Village, and 15 mins from the Cliffs of Moher. Driving from Limerick City takes just over an hour, so it is a brilliant side trip if you are visiting for the City of Culture 2014. I did just that, and the balance of city & country was perfect.


Other travel times:

Shannon Airport:¬†45 min ¬†¬†Galway: 1 hr ¬† ¬†Cork: 3 hrs¬†¬†¬†3.5 hrs: Dublin. ¬†If you aren’t driving, the best idea may be to email or ring them to see about current bus connections.Email¬†¬†or phone¬†353 (0)65 707 5761

View Larger Map

¬†I was a guest at Doolin Cave, but this didn’t affect my opinion.¬†

Limerick City of Culture 2014

Limerick City of Culture 2014 launch- from fashion to trad & loads more!

Exciting things are happening in Ireland’s West for 2014, and this photo post is a wee taster for you; a preview of two fantastic new additions to Ireland’s many temptations: Limerick City of Culture 2014¬†and the Wild Atlantic Way.

I say temptations because I find that every time I look at my twitter feed I see another Irish event, activity, place to eat, artist or craftsperson, museum, special place to stay or place of natural beauty that I want to visit and tell you about.

Lahinch, Wild atlantic way ireland

Surfers coming in for lunch on along the Wild Atlantic Way, Lahinch strand, Co. Clare.







As well as the upcoming events of¬†music, art, dance, history, fashion, food, sport, literature¬†& more, another thing¬†special about visiting Limerick during the City of Culture is that in just around an hour you can be in¬†the Burren¬†& on county Clare’s stretch of the Wild Atlantic Way. If you enjoy both culture & the outdoors, this combination really is the best of both worlds.

With this in mind, when I was in Limerick for the 2014 launch I stayed in ‘Ireland’s friendliest town,Ennis¬†Co. Clare– which is right in the middle of ¬†both the Burren & Limerick. As I live in Kilkenny, & Kilkenny City was voted by Conde Nast the 9th most friendly city in the world, I had high standards for Ennis! I wasn’t disappointed though, and as I wandered the¬†town I was greeted in the shops and got friendly service/chat everywhere– from the petrol station to the¬†interesting Clare museum.

Ennis has a lovely buzz about it, with cute shops & people saying hello to each other on the streets. There seems a good community spirit, and this weekend the Ennis Trad Fest is on. There’s also a free¬†Ennis app you can get for your phone! I think you’ll enjoy Ennis.¬†I stayed as a guest in one of the private rooms at¬†Rowan Tree Hostel, and below is the photo I took from my balcony- nice¬†isn’t it!

River Fergus from Rowan tree Hostel ennis Ireland

The river Fergus in Ennis. The view from Rowan Tree Hostel- great value, friendly staff- I’ll be back!

Just a scenic half hour’s drive away is the Burren and the Wild Atlantic Way running along its western edge. ¬†The day I went was misty, grey & windy, and after spending time being buffeted by that wind on ¬†surfers’ favorite Lahinch Strand I headed to the market town of¬†Ennistymon.¬†There the cozy Guru Teahouse¬†is a nice spot¬†for lunch & ¬†one of their 100s of special tea blends. I could feel¬†a head cold starting on my trip, and I got helpful advice in Guru tearoom on choosing a tea to help combat it.¬†The tea was was delicious- spicy and fruity; it didn’t taste healthy at all ūüėČ A stop here can warm your ¬†body & heart.

Guru Teahouse was perfect before my next adventure: a decent deep into the Burren’s still-close-to¬†wild¬†Doolin Cave!¬†I’m saving the cave details & photos for another post, but let me say I loved it! They’ll be open again in Spring, so consider a visit when you are travelling the Burren & the Wild Atlantic Way.

Burren cows wild atlantic way ireland

Cows are healthy & hardy on the Burren’s Wild Atlantic Way. These were exploring just across from the sea



You may know that even though visitors to Ireland are increasing again, for the more rural places¬†there is a catch-22 situation with some attractions & accommodations in the low seasons. I experienced it myself during this trip; places like Ennis Friary, the Burren Perfumery, and even the Burren Centre weren’t open because visitor numbers are too low this time of year. (As well as due to cuts in government money for the Heritage centres, etc.)

But, when I went by the Burren centre there were 2 tourists wanting to get in. If tourists can’t get in, they’ll often tell others not tot bother to go to the area– the catch 22…. so please check beforehand that the places you’d like to visit will be open, and if they aren’t, maybe let them/tourism board/Irish government rep know you would have liked to have gone…. it can’t hurt.

This awkward situation is another reason why you may enjoy having the balance between Limerick City, the Clare towns, and the Wild Atlantic Way– there is plenty of buzz and things to see & do, but also there are¬†wide open wild spaces where you’ll¬†not see a soul. The best of both worlds, any time of year.¬†

Limerick City odf Culture 2014

There was some impressive street dancing at the launch of Limerick City of Culture 2014

limerick city ireland

Yikes! Turn the corner into this Limerick City side street and you may get this fright!

Clare, Wild Atlantic Way ireland

The evening light falls onto the water, Clare, Wild Atlantic Way. Not a soul around


Wild solitude.Wild Atlantic Way, the Burren

Wild solitude.Wild Atlantic Way, the Burren

Evening on the sand dunes, Fanore strand. No one else around. Wild atlantic Way

Evening on the sand dunes, Fanore strand. Wild Atlantic Way

Back to civilization-- a lovely glass of wine in a beautiful dining room at Rowan Tree cafe in Ennis

Back to civilization– a lovely glass of wine in a beautiful dining room at Rowan Tree cafe in Ennis

After a day out in the Burren’s Atlantic elements, it is extra enjoyable to relax with a glass of something gorgeous.¬†Even better is to also have a wonderful meal served to you in a lovely Georgian dining room with a fire going–and yet be only a few steps away from your room! This is the case at Rowan Tree Hostel- the Rowan Tree Cafe is right next door. You may even want to take a photo & tweet it, like I did– free wi-fi means your trip back into modern civilization is complete ūüėČ

Ahh, did I say the best of both worlds? Yes? Well,I’ll say it again- perfect!


For the Limerick City of Culture 2014 website, click. PS: even though there are lots already listed, not all events are listed yet!

 In Limerick City, treat yourself to fantastic place to stay at One Pery SquareРone of our favorites anywhere!

Click for more about the Wild Atlantic Way on

Disclosure: My opinions are always honest, even when I’m a guest or sponsored on/by something, as you will know from my Paddywagon post. ¬†I was a guest of Rowan Tree Hostel and of Doolin cave. I also had 1 dinner voucher for Rowan Tree Cafe, but I actually ate there twice as I enjoyed it so. I’ll be doing review posts on these places soon.¬†

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 ūüôā 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 ūüôā

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



This week’s Sunday sampler is making me quite¬†jealous¬†of the folks who will get to go to these wonderful events, as barring a lotto win & bi or tri-location, we can’t go to everything! ¬†Maybe those of you who do get to go will share what you enjoyed- perhaps over on our Facebook page? That would be really nice of you!
Burren wildflowers image from Google images:
One of our favorite places in Ireland is the Burren. If you need an excuse to go there, here you go: the Burren in Bloom festival on 29 April-29 May. There is so much on; something for everyone. I know I’d love to go on the butterfly walk- meeting near the fabulous sounding¬†Burren Perfumery makes it even more tempting! Click on their link as well to see some of the Burren wildflowers you may encounter on the walks. Also the Burren Slow Food Festival week 2011 starts on May 14; they have events on for the Burren In Bloom festival foodie!


Another foodie-friendly event is on in just a few weeks time: the So Sligo Food and Culture Festival¬†on 17-20 March. They are also hosting the World Irish Stew championships- YUM!- and you can work up an appetite with walking trails in town, or treks out in the spectacular countryside. Check Sligo’s lovely tourist website for more info. If you are interested in art even a little bit, you may want to check out The Model Arts Centre. They’ve a exhibit of Jack B. Yeats’ works on (Irish Times article here,) and I am very tempted to go to this festival & see the exhibit while we are there. I also want to eat at Source Sligo, whom I’m following on Twitter- their lunch menu tweets sound fab! The problem is that in my neck of the woods (Southeast Ireland) the St. Patricks Day Festival‘s national Skyfest fireworks are being held in Wexford town on March 19.

Skyfest fireworks last year in Limerick

As mentioned above, the Paddy’s Day Festival is going to be bigger than ever, and will run from the 16-20 March. There are a lot of¬†literary¬†connections in the fest, and you can down load Roddy Doyle’s new short story on their website, so do click their link above!¬†Dublin is the UNESCO City of Literature 2011;¬†click that link to see even more -whew!- literary events this year- some outside of Dublin.

One more bookish event in this week’s Sampler: starting on 2 March & running until Sunday the 6th, is the Dublin Book Festival. Whether you are a writer, a reader, or a publisher, there’s something for you- there are even walks on Sunday! Be sure to click on all the tabs & dropdown tabs on the website, because there’s loads going on & you don’t want to miss all the choices.Another writer’s event I’ve just found out about is the Waterford Writer’s weekend, 18-20 March. Click their link for more info, & have a look right here at their fun promo video!

Now, here are a few quick links to some other events that look interesting: 

image from
Great for kids (even over-grown ones like myself!) Crafted Creatures. Part of the Year Of Craft, at The Ark, 19 Feb-27 March, DublinBarrow River Arts Festival 4-6 March, Carlow (previous post including it here)

Vintage Fair 17 April, Dublin

Waterford Festival of Food, Dungarvan, 15-17 April

Vantastival, 29 April- 1 May, Louth

And last but not least;¬†Tedfest, 24-27 Feb on Inis Mor. FYI if you’ve not booked accomodation yet, you’ll have to camp.
Have Fun & Be Careful!