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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 🙂


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 

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 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 to check. Do have a look at their other activities too!

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=”” title=”Figures%20″]


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 Thanks!

Loftus Hall, Ireland's most haunted house!

Loftus Hall, Ireland’s most haunted house!

Battle Cries at Loftus Hall

Ireland’s most haunted house celebrates its rich and bloody heritage.

Here’s another reason to head out to Wexford’s wild & wonderful Hook Peninsula— Loftus Hall is having a new festival! They’ve told me & I’m passing it on to you:

It was 845 years ago when Raymond Le Gros brought his ships to Baginbun Head, Fethard, County Wexford. Instructed and equipped with just 10 knights and 70 archers by Strongbow, it seemed unlikely that this humble beginning of the Norman Invasion of Ireland would be successful… but never underestimate a Norman, especially not Raymond Le Gros! To celebrate this momentous and pivotal point in Ireland’s history, “the creeke of Baginbun, where Ireland was lost and won, Loftus Hall will be hosting “A Norman Knight” The Raymond Le Gros Festival, on Saturday the 5th & the Sunday 6th September, 2015.

With the Hall’s own 666th year Anniversary looming in 2016, this is set to be just the beginning of Loftus Hall’s up and coming varied offerings. “The scale of potential here at Loftus Hall is immense”, claimed Anne Power, a Loftus Hall staff member. “We are really looking forward to developing Loftus Halls historical offerings over the next 18­24 months, whilst maintaining the strides we have made this year into the more paranormal side of the Halls attraction. With Halloween just around the corner too, there’s always something exciting and different going on at Irelands most haunted house, Loftus Hall: and that’s what makes it such an amazing place to visit again and again.”

Redmond hall; before it was Loftus hall

Redmond hall; before it was Loftus hall

Loftus Hall, originally Redmond Hall, was built by direct descendants of Raymond Le Gros. Situated on the beautiful & wild Hook Peninsula in county Wexford, Loftus Hall welcomes all for this new and exciting festival. As well as Loftus Hall’s daytime house tours, visitors will be able to: explore a Norman village in the walled gardens, enjoy archery demonstrations,hear traditional music, and on the Saturday night, be a part of a battle banquet and slavery auction. (!?)

The owner of Loftus Hall, Aidan Quigley, has a strong passion for this period of history and its inextricable connection with Loftus Hall. “This festival will be a fitting way to end our 2015 summer season. Raymond Le Gros is an extraordinary character from Ireland’s history, and played a crucial role in the Norman Invasion of Ireland. The heritage of the Hook Peninsula is unbelievably rich, and it’s fantastic to have the opportunity to share this with visitors from Ireland and overseas.”


Waterford Living History group will be at Loftus Hall

Waterford Living History group will be at Loftus Hall

Loftus Hall owners and staff are delighted to involve a local Norman reenactment group, Waterford’s Living History group, in the “A Norman Knight” festival. As well as setting up a Norman village in Loftus Halls walled gardens, they will be on hand to share all they know about the Normans; how they fought, lived, and how they were so successful.
One of the founding members of Waterford’s Living History group, Darren Golding, is extremely excited to be taking part in this festival. “From the very first inception of the
Waterford Living History group three years ago, we have been trying to find a way of including the first Norman landing into our activities. So when Loftus Hall contacted us, we jumped at the opportunity. It will be a fantastic event in a spectacular location.”

Loftus Halls “A Norman Knight” The Raymond Le Gros Festival will take place on Saturday the 5th and Sunday 6th of September 2015 at Loftus Hall, Hook Head, County Wexford. To find out more visit or call 051 397728.

PS: Did you know that you can Whale Watch in the Hook Peninsula area? You can even go on a whale watch boat tour at certain times of year. It’s fantastic 😀

What do Mick Jagger, Daniel O’Connell, Medieval monks & learning to play the bodhran have in common? Why, it’s the old Smithwick’s beer brewery in Kilkenny; now open to us ordinary folk as The Smithwick’s Experience.

A pint being poured after the Smithwick's Experience tour in Kilkenny, Ireland

A pint after the Smithwick’s Experience tour in Kilkenny, Ireland

That’s Kilkenny beer, right?

Well, yes and no. Let’s clear up some other confusions. Smithwick’s beer originated in Kilkenny City in the 1710 established Smithwick’s brewery, which sent the rich scent of brewing aloft over Kilkenny at the site where the medieval monks of St Francis’ Abbey first brewed. Smithwick’s was Ireland’s oldest operating brewery -303 yrs continuously as Smithwick’s- until 2014 when production was moved over Dublin way to the St James’ Gate Guinness/Diageo factory. Though the actual production of beer has moved, the site now houses The Smithwick’s Experience which opened in summer 2014 to bring to multi-media life the Smithwick’s Brewery’s captivating history.

The Smithwick’s Experience experience

Named as one of Lonely Planet’s top must-see attractions for 2015, I found The Smithwick’s Experience to be done very well & worth the €12 adult ticket and the 70 minutes it takes to do the tour. TIP: minus 10% if you book online. On the Smithwick’s Experience tour you’ll discover tidbits like why on earth these bathtubs are here, what enabled Catholic John Smithwick to found his brewery at the time of the punitive anti-Catholic penal laws, why the ‘Irish Liberator’ Daniel O’Connell became a good friend to the Smithwick family, and how Smithwick’s joined up with a rival Kilkenny brewer to help during the Irish Famine. And of course you’ll learn more about brewing! Don’t miss smelling the different varieties of fragrant hops; very intriguing scents! One should be a perfume- I loved it. You can also try out a brewery job, like giving a barrel of beer a stir. No sneaking a sip, please 🙂 TIP: the video at the very start of the tour is rather over the top. Don’t worry, folks, the rest of the tour isn’t so flowery.  

Peruse over a pint!

After the tour, you may want to linger a bit over over your pint of Smithwick’s Red Ale to peruse the wall photos of celebrities who’ve enjoyed the hospitality of the Smithwick’s. Perhaps try the Smithwick’s tasting trio of beer for an extra €6; interestingly the general consensus at our table was that the Smithwick’s Pale Ale led the pack as our favourite. We toured as part of a group of beer/food/travel loving journalists, & were specially treated to an engaging meeting with Paul Smithwick, who, although the company was sold to Diageo many years ago, still is keenly involved with Smithwick’s and sits on the board along with his brother. Paul told us of  visits from Mick Jagger, Marianne Faithful and many others; we snooped around old Smithwick family guestbooks, full of the signatures international celebrities– and original letters from Daniel O’Connell! Told you Smithwick’s history is captivating!

Smithwicks Exerience famous signatures Mick Jagger

Mick Jagger & Marianne Faithful signed the Smithwicks’ guestbooks in the swinging sixties!

So what’s the story with Kilkenny beer?

I’ll let Wikipedia explain:

Kilkenny Cream Ale is similar to Smithwick’s Draught; however, it has a cream head similar to Guinness, and it has a stronger and more bitter taste than Smithwick’s. The Kilkenny name was originally used during the ’80s and ’90s to market a stronger version of Smithwick’s for the European and Canadian market due to difficulty in pronunciation of the word “Smithwick’s”, but it now refers to a similar yet distinctly different beer. (via Wikipedia)

Knowing that TIP, & the following, will help you be like a local:

  • Don’t ever say the w in Smithwick’s. Try saying it more like Smidicks, or Smithicks with the th rather soft & short. Say it more like 1 syllable, not 2.
  • If you enjoyed your pint/glass of Smithwick’s on the tour & are thirsty for more, just down to the right a bit & across the street from the Smithwick’s Experience building you’ll find a charming row of pubs. Cleere’s is the one that the Smithwick’s brewery employees often frequented themselves, and I reckon that’s a great endorsement. In fact, ex- employees still meet up there on Thursdays. Maybe you’ll overhear some old brewery tales 🙂 
    Paradise Row! Colourful pubs in Kilkenny Ireland

    Paradise Row! Colourful pubs in Kilkenny Ireland

Fuel for many a trad music session!

It’s nice being like a local, but some touristy things are great craic too! I can be skeptical of certain of these activities, but I’m willing to give ’em ago & see if that wariness is justified. In the case of learning to play the bodhran (Irish traditional drum) at Kytlers Inn pub with Damien of Irish Beats, my skepticism was rhythmically washed away by laughter, Smithwick’s Pale Ale, and the booming sound of this ancient instrument. As Kytlers serves the different varieties of Smithwick’s we all settled in with our choice as the lesson began, but we didn’t get many sips in; Damien kept us busy with nary a dull moment. Starting off simply, he gradually led us into more complexity, keeping us hard-bitten journos 😉 laughing with his quips. See my wee video below for a taster of the session & our musical abilities.

Beer with a side of witchcraft

Pat Tynan, Kilkenny Walking Tours

The Knowledge! Pat Tynan has been giving Kilkenny Walking Tours for 32 years.

Kytlers Inn is a rambling medieval stone built inn turned pub with lots of nooks; sort of easy to get lost in– perhaps due to its witchy history! Dame Alyce Kytler first started the Inn in the 1200’s, but after all 4 of her husbands died one after the other, she was accused of serving up more than pints and hospitality; she wound up convicted of witchcraft. You can discover her tale, and how she escaped being burnt at the stake, along with more of the wide-ranging history of Kilkenny on one of Pat Tynan’s Historic Kilkenny Walking Tours. Pat has been leading his tours in Kilkenny for over 30 years, and I highly recommend going along on one to get yourself better acquainted with this amazing little city. Kilkenny is small- it’s Medieval Mile is pretty much the length of the city, but it is choc-a-bloc with hidden spots & stories which you just won’t discover without a bit of help. Seriously, you all, Kilkenny City is a wondrous tapestry of charm, history, fine craft, culture, and top notch local food which you may not encounter without a bit of extra local knowledge. Don’t just zip in for a day visit, just mainly taking in the Castle & Cathedral– you’ll be missing so much! 

A Canadian friend who has traveled much of Ireland, the UK, and Europe put it this way

“Kilkenny has a big character & a fascinating history, and so much to offer for such a small city. I’m struck by how un-pretentious the people here are even though they live in this gem. You can see they love their city, are eager to share it and tell you about it– without the pretentiousness I’ve found in similar spots in other countries. Kilkenny City is really accessible– not just because it is small and easy to walk everywhere, but because the people are genuinely welcoming and friendly. Going on the Historic and the Fab Food walking tours gives you the added bonus of meeting some of the people who are behind the small places which add to Kilkenny’s character; like Pat Tynan, who has been doing his tours for 30 years but yet still is enthusiastic about his city and its history. I’m impressed with Kilkenny.”

Kilkenny Fab Food and Craft Trail

Kilkenny Fab Food and Craft Trail

Stunning stones & tasty treats

The Fab Food Trail of Kilkenny also lets you meet some Kilkenny craftspeople as well as sample foodie gems. Wait til you see the unique gem jewellry of Rudolph Heltzel– stunning enough for a Rolling Stone, or you! I’ve done this tour twice with Eveleen, and also her Fab Food Trail of Dublin, and yup, they are fab. From traditional family butchers to modern artisan foodstuffs, you’ll see why Kilkenny is a food lovers hot spot. The Fab Food Trails Kilkenny tour tends to be on Saturdays, with the odd Friday- do click the link to see current dates. The tour lasts about two and a half hours (€50 at time of writing,) and you will be tasting several food delights. One of the tour stops is the downstairs cafe at The Kilkenny Design Centre– TIP:  the upstairs cafe changes character & becomes a  full service restaurant on Thursday through Saturday nights in season.

Night delight

Anocht's Smithwick's inspired menu, Kilkenny Ireland

Anocht’s Smithwick’s inspired menu, Kilkenny Ireland

The nighttime incarnation upstairs at the Kilkenny Design Centre is called Anocht. (Generally from 5.50 to 9.30pm Thurs-Sat.) Like a local TIP: ‘Anocht’ is the Irish word for ‘tonight’. I’d been meaning to go eat here for ages; they’ve gotten good reviews, won awards, and as an enthusiastic cash-strapped fan of Early Bird menus I found Anocht’s Early Bird tempting for a special night out. But I just never got there. Luck would have it that I finally went as part of this Smithwick’s Experience inspired tour. A special menu incorporating Smithwick’s as an ingredient in most of the dishes was the challenge to the chefs, and boy did they do well. (See photos in my video.)Thank gawd I still had my gallbladder at that point or I would have been devastated to not be able to eat it all :-0 If you’ve got YOUR gallbladder, go! Or, even if you haven’t, go! Apparently once a gallbladder-less person’s liver adjusts, you become able to eat normally/mostly normally again. So, I’ll be back, Anocht. YUM!

Super spot to soak up the sun

Whilst on the subject of food, I must mention the enormous & very tasty lunch portions at our accommodation, the River Court Hotel. Go with a big appetite! One of the fab things about having food, coffee, or a pint here is that you will find that the River Court has a large outdoor seating section along the river with a spectacular view of Kilkenny Castle just across the Nore. TIP: On a sunny day, this is one of the best outside places to sit and sip or sup in Kilkenny. If river, duck, & people watching as you have a drink or a bite is your thing, check it out. On the warmest days you may even be treated to the sight of daring young people diving into the river from John’s bridge. Bring your swimsuit & join in? 😉

River Court Hotel Kilkenny

River Court Hotel Kilkenny

Experience Kilkenny!

You don’t have to be Mick Jagger to get satisfaction from a Kilkenny visit (ahh, couldn’t resist..) As well as the things I’ve mentioned here there’s loads more you’ll enjoy in Kilkenny City. And the green & gorgeous Kilkenny countryside is full of treasures, too; from the Neolithic to the present. You can find out more here; I’ve even made a Google Map trail you can follow. If you’ve any questions about Kilkenny, I’ll do my best to answer; you can ask via Vibrant Ireland & Travel’s Facebook page, or @VibrantIreland on Twitter, or comment on this article. Cheers! Enjoy your pint of Smithwick’s & I hope you will love Kilkenny as much as I do 😀

Having the craic at Kytlers bodhran lesson

Having the craic at Kytlers bodhran lesson

Transparency: I was a guest of Smithwick’s on this sampling of Kilkenny. Being a guest doesn’t change my opinion of what I experience, but it does enable me to tell you about things I couldn’t otherwise afford– for example as a Kilkenny resident for over 10 years I’d never stayed in accommodation there. Being able to stay at the River Court Hotel now means I have firsthand experience & I can advise; I’m often asked about places to stay. Our room looked out over the river to the castle, and was quite nice. The bed was big & super comfy, and I slept well. As always, I advise when you stay anywhere to bring good earplugs (I swear by the soft silicon ones.) I forgot mine this trip! Oops. One of the prices you pay for staying so central in cities/large towns is that they are filled with people & noises. I had the window open & heard a few late night revelers messing about over by the bridge. Shutting the window helped of course, but TIP: be aware that the John’s Bridge & John’s Street area of Kilkenny has very active, often loud, late-night pub-clubs – if you are a light sleeper ask about a room farthest away from the street.

Sample the fun! Video of my Smithwick’s Experience inspired tour of Kilkenny:

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Have fun on YOUR Kilkenny visit!

I’m back from a super fun overnight in Kilkenny City– and have made a little video to show you some of the highlights for you to add to your visit!

[youtube_sc url=”″ title=”Kilkenny%20tour,%20Smithwicks%20and%20more”]

Smithwick's inspired menu at Anocht, Kilkenny

Smithwick’s inspired menu at Anocht, Kilkenny

The Smithwick’s Experience hosted me as a guest on a Smithwick’s inspired tour, complete with a delish dinner at Anocht in which the menu was made up of dishes using Smithwick’s beer as an ingredient! We also did a historical Kilkenny Walking tour, a Fab Food Trails Kilkenny tasting trail with both food & craft, and learned to play the bodhran at Kytlers with Irish Beats— which turned out to be some laugh, even though I cynically started off thinking it could be a bit too touristy. That’s me shown! 😀

I’m in the back-end of beyond in the Irish countryside now, greatly struggling with the internet again (surprise!) as well as getting ready to go into hospital for an op in a couple of days. I’ll give you tips & more details for these Kilkenny gems in a written post once I’ve recovered a bit. Til then, I’ll be hoping against hope that the hospital bed will be even slightly like the super comfy bed at The River Court hotel and the food will be more like Anocht than the normal dry tea & toast! Do you think I may be setting myself up for disappointment? 😉

Duckett's Grove Castle will be holding Duckett's Grove Christmas 7 Dec, 2014

Duckett’s Grove Castle will be holding Duckett’s Grove Christmas 7 Dec, 2014 Carlow

Picturesque castle? Check!

Family fun? Check!

Local markets for gift shopping? Check!

Christmas at Duckett’s Grove has this & more!

Here’s a super Christmassy afternoon out for the whole family! Duckett’s Grove is a very romantic part-ruined gothic style castle in county Carlow, and on the afternoon of 7 December 2014 (Sunday,) from 12 to 5pm it will be filled with events, Santa & his grotto, craft and food stalls, demonstrations & more.

childrens band at Ducketts Grove Christmas fair

Childrens band at Ducketts Grove Christmas fair

Put your family and friends into the car (only €7 per car; the events & Santa etc inside are FREE- click here for more on them) and take a wee trip to Duckett’s Grove. If you haven’t seen this hidden gem in Carlow, the Christmas fair is a great reason to see why those who have been love Duckett’s Grove so. Green & Vibrant brought some bloggers to visit there, and here is some of what they said:

Lorna has been to the Christmas Fair at Duckett’s Grove before, and she says: “The Ducketts Grove Christmas fair is like a winter wonderland – crisp winter air, music in the background, yummy food to sample and purchase, great gift buys and finish it off with a marshmallow topped hot chocolate.For those who like to shop local (and I do!), this type of Christmas shopping supplies all the feel good and happy hormones! ” – Lorna Sixsmith, Irish Farmerette

“I just loved Duckett’s Grove Castle. The Castle suddenly seems to appear before you, with a magnificent drive up to it. We walked around the Castle and Gardens, and, of course, stopped at The Tea Rooms for tea and the most delicious scones ever.”  -Margaret, A Year In Redwood duckett's grove at night

“The fantastic thing about Duckett’s Grove is that you can spend hours exploring every detail of the majestic ruins or in true awe looking out over the surrounding Carlow countryside. The newly restored walled gardens allow gardeners to use their imagination and think about how they would have looked when they were fully functional in their heyday.” – David Corscadden, Beyond The Wild Garden

“Duckett’s Grove, while in ruins, is a stunning architectural example of an 1830’s family estate house. We happened to visit on one of the most beautiful September days with brilliant sunshine and blue skies – I was captivated by it as a photography subject. The tea room and craft shop give you an added excuse to make a morning or afternoon out of you visit and while we didn’t have enough time to go for a lengthy walk that day – the long drive and surrounding countryside lends itself to one.” – Lisa McGee, Isle Magazine

Duckett's Grove Christmas Fair 2014

Duckett’s Grove Christmas Fair 2014

UPDATE: Christmas at Duckett’s Grove is over for this year, but watch the video clip from it below! The Christmas Fair here is a fab, authentic, local Irish experience, & I really think you will enjoy it. The Carlow cheeses at the fair’s market are just fantastic, and there are so many wonderful local handmade & artisan items & foods. Add in the beautiful setting, traditions like the Hunt, carol singing, Santa & so on, and a visit to the duckett’s grove Christmas is a special afternoon that you may want to add to your 2015 Christmas calendar 😀 [youtube_sc url=”” title=”Christmas%20at%20Duckett%27s%20Grove%20castle,%20Ireland”]

Carlow has loads on for the Christmas season, (download the programme: Christmas in Carlow 2014across the whole county. The Christmas markets & fairs are fantastic places to pick up a unique handcrafted gift from local producers & craftspeople. I was just at the Taste of Carlow Christmas market in Carlow town on 30 Nov, and I got loads of gifts & goodies. A fair few of the stands there will also be at Duckett’s Grove Christmas, plus additional stalls. I’ve made a little video of some of the treats you may find in Carlow: [youtube_sc url=”” title=”Christmas%20In%20Carlow”]

Not sure where Duckett’s is? Here’s a map to help you; it’s actually not far outside of Carlow Town and the M9.

–> More info on the events of Ducketts Grove Christmas 7th December 2014

Feeling the Christmas spirit yet? Hope so!

“There hoved a great hall and fair:
Turrets rising in tiers, with tines at their tops,
Spires set beside them, splendidly long,
With finials well-fashioned, as filigree fine.
Chalk-white chimneys over chambers high
Gleamed in gay array upon gables and roofs;
The pinnacles in panoply, pointing in air,
So vied there for his view that verily it seemed
A castle cut of paper for a king’s feast.
The good knight on Gringolet thought it great luck
If he could but contrive to come there within
To keep the Christmas feast in that castle fair
and bright.”

– from Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

ALSO, the Sunday beforehand, 30 November, there’s another event to get you in the Christmas spirit & also help with your gift list– Taste of Carlow Christmas is on with lots of artisan food & craft stalls. To see what the summer’s Taste Carlow event was like, click.

For even more places to visit, events and more in Carlow,

I hope you’ll come to Duckett’s Grove Christmas, and I’ll be there too, live sharing photos and making a little video and I’m proud to help to promote this fantastic local event 😀

Culture Night in Belfast pic via Visit Belfast
Culture Night in Belfast pic via Visit Belfast

Roller Derby? Yep!

Choral Evensong? Yep!

Family Fun? Yep!

Culture Night Belfast? YEP!

Belfast has become an exciting city for cultural events of many varieties, and Belfast Culture Night is a rainbow of choices; from calming to zingy & everything in between.

Culture Night Belfast 2014


Afterparties   Dance   Family   Film   Music   Street Culture  Theatre   Visual Arts   Words & Ideas   Workshops

Those event genres give you an idea of the fabulous choices on offer, and if you’re anything like Terry & me, you’ll be trying to figure out how you can twin or even quadruple yourself so you can see all you’d like. Or perhaps you’ll find you’re tempted to figure out how to grab a bit of holiday time so you can book a visit to Belfast. Never fear, though, if you can’t make it to Culture Night Belfast 2014, you can get a taster of it in a few different ways.

Muriel's, Belfast.

Muriel’s, Belfast. We had fab cocktails & eats there last visit. Bril Gin menu!

Photos galore will be shared, I’m sure– definitely so by me! I’m chuffed to tell you that on Culture Night (Sept 19 2014,) and that weekend of the 20th-21st, I’ll be live tweeting on the Discover Northern Ireland twitter account! Follow it on @DiscoverNI, and the hashtag #DiscoverNI.They are trusting me with their Twitter account even though I’m hoping to have a gin or two of Northern Ireland’s own Shortcross Gin on the night. LOL! 

During Culture Night another hashtag to keep your eye on is #cnb14. Belfast Culture Night has their own twitter account, @CultureNightBel, which should be a good one to follow, too. I’ll also be sharing over on the Vibrant Ireland Facebook page, and checking into places & sharing publicly over on my personal profile that weekend, too. Hopefully you’ll get a nice wee taster of Belfast through these channels, as well as Vibrant Ireland’s Instagram

Culture Night Events are happening all around the City (and the whole island!) but I think Terry & I will base ourselves be in Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter. There’s several events in the area that we don’t want to miss. Roller Derby’s one of them:

Belfast Roller Derbyroller derby

18:00 – 21:00 Every half hour at Writer’s Square

Live demonstrations of full contact roller derby. At this year’s Culture Night, The Belfast Banshees and Norn Iron Maidens will be swapping the flat track for Writer’s Square as they demonstrate how this hard-hitting, fast-paced sport, which is growing rapidly in popularity, is played. Like what you see? Why not watch the Banshees take on Limerick Roller Girls on September 20th or ask about our upcoming recruitment session in October!

Dancing, and a good natured competition of a less bruising nature, is also on in Writer’s Square; Boys v Girls will do their dancing thing via Swing Belfast from 8-8.30 pm. You’ll see them ”lindy hop, triple step and strut their way through this dance off, in a flurry of polka dots, petticoats and dapper chap braces.” And you won’t be left out, because after the dance off, Swing Belfast will be teaching everybody a fun & easy Charleston. Bring the kids & give it a go!

A bit less physical is the Poetry With Personality(ies) over at the MAC. From 4pm to 10pm there will be readings on the hour and half hour, and they sound quite interesting!

poetry quotePoetry With Personality(ies)

Pop in, join in & be surprised by our readers & the poems they love. Be part of a project that promotes reading for pleasure and connecting with people in a new way. Poetry readings on the hour and half hour – brought to you by Reading Rooms, a programme of shared reading based at the Duncairn Centre for Culture & Arts in partnership with the Verbal Arts Centre in Derry. Readers include Anna Lo, Hong Kong-born NI politician; Tony Dunlop, boxing coach, Kronk Boxing Gym; Linda Ervine, Irish language development officer in East Belfast; Jo Egan, playwright; Katy Radford, Senior Researcher, Institute for Conflict Research; plus musicians and sports people.

Another event which all ages can participate in is Growing, Preparing, Sharing seed bombing with Root Soup over at Cathedral Gardens. There is so much on that is interactive as well as things to watch/hear; I am very impressed with the Belfast Culture Night line up.

seed-bomb-growing via thinkgeekGrowing, Preparing, Sharing

by Root Soup

17:00 – 22:00 Seed Bomb Sessions every half hour

Interactive field-2-fork activities & seed bombs! Help us to plant the crop that will become our soup, then roll up your sleeves and get your hands mucky with our interactive seed bomb workshops. Hop on our blender bike and help us to blitz some of our famous, ethical and locally produced soup! Buy some ‘Suspended Soup’ and help someone more needy than you…

I can’t quite get my head around some of the events on offer. Like, what in the world is a Slow Bicycle Race? We’ll have to go see for ourselves! UPDATE: I came across this tweet from @TheFredFestival- organizers of the SLOW BIKE RACE:
“sign-on 6.15pm
4 bikes per race
RND 1: 4 races. 2 slowest go into:
SF: 2 races. 2 slowest go into to final.
F: 1st takes all!” 😀
A bicycle thing I can understand though, is a bike tour, and this next one sounds very tempting. And you know, all these events are FREE, so take up these great opportunities if you can! This twilight bike tour  leaves from St Anne’s Square at 5pm.

Belfast twilight nighttime cityscape

Belfast twilight cityscape

Magical Mystery Twilight Cycle Tour

by Belfast City Bike Tours 17:00 – 20:00

A twilight tour which gets to places others can’t! A guided magical mystery Belfast cycle tour – includes twilight bike-lit river crossing, spectral alleyways and mysterious venues with Belfast tapas enroute – all at a leisurely pace on our comfy City Cruiser bikes with Intelligent Sensor Technology and cool and quirky co-riders.

Culture Night in Belfast generally starts at 4pm on 19 September 2014, and there are around 100 different events. By the way, the calming Choral Evensong I mentioned at the beginning is on at 5.30 -6.10pm in St Anne’s Cathedral. You gotta love the contrast with the boisterous Roller Derby! We’ve only been to Belfast the once, but this is an example of what we loved about it; the mix of things, and the way this mix is becoming a very interesting and more harmonious whole. The people we met during our visit had in common a welcoming friendliness and a love of their city & the great strides it has made. They made us smile and laugh, and yes, they did make us fall in love with Belfast– even though we didn’t really expect to.

Belfast city hall at night

Belfast city hall– extra beautiful at night!

After our first Belfast trip in May, Terry & I hoped to visit again on our own steam this Autumn. (The first trip was courtesy of the NITB as part of filming the Belfast videos we featured in.) The problem was choosing when, as so many fantastic events were on in the Autumn, like The Belfast Festival 16 oct- 1 Nov, and the Belly Laughs Belfast Comedy Fest 25 Sept- 5 Oct. Luckily, it turns out we didn’t have to thrash out what dates to choose, as NITB (that’s the Discover Northern Ireland crowd– Northern Irish Tourist Board) contacted us asking if we’d like to return for Culture Night weekend. OF COURSE WE WOULD!

What I’m going to say next may come back to bite me, but… Terry & I both rather prefer Belfast over Dublin. I think this is because Belfast is a smaller City, and just as friendly as Dublin, but perhaps Belfast is a bit more exciting to us as visitors. Plus, 15s!!! Who wouldn’t adore Belfast after eating one of their signature tasty and so-decadent treats. I’ll be sure to photo some for you this time. Last trip they just went into our mouths too quickly for pics 🙂

The MAC Belfast

Visiting The MAC is high on our list this trip

We are thrilled to bits to be returning to Belfast as guests of the NITB. Maybe after last time our hopes for a brilliant Belfast experience are *too* high, but we’ll see! I’ll be sharing photos & tips on visiting, both on the social media mentioned up above, and as blog posts later on here on Vibrant Ireland. Terry’s going to fire up his tweet machine, too, and you can follow his Belfast tweets at @FurnaceFitness.

We’d love YOUR tips on what to see/do/eat/drink! In addition to soaking up all we can on Culture Night, we’ve also a few ideas ourselves: see art at The Mac, visit & gobble up some award winning CoCouture Chocolate, see a show or 2, check out the Ulster Museum, Material Subversion craft exhibition, the Autumn Fair in the Botanic Gardens & who knows what else! There will be culture! There will be fabulous local food! There will be gin! There will not be drunken tweeting! But, there will be fun. I hope you’ll  join in and #DiscoverNI 🙂

See a full listing of Culture Night Belfast events 2014

See ideas on visiting Belfast in Autumn

See videos & more about our Belfast trip in May

Check out crowd-sourced tips on Belfast from our 1st visit 

Here’s a mini-summary of our last Belfast trip.

At one end of Ireland's Medieval mile, Kilkenny Castle stands guard over the city at night

At one end of Ireland’s Medieval mile, Kilkenny Castle stands guard over the city.

Kilkenny archaeology is popping up in the city!

Every Thursday in August, that is! Under the magnificent gaze of Kilkenny Castle you can get up close & personal with artefacts & events at the Kilkenny pop up museum.

Are you interested in archaeology but would like to enjoy it too?

Whether you are from overseas or over the road, come along to the Kilkenny Pop-up Museum! There is something for all, adults and children, do check it out!

The Kilkenny Pop Up Museum takes place every Thursday in August alongside the Kilkenny Farmers’ Market. While you eat the medieval treats on offer, explore the Archaeological Story of Kilkenny exhibition. Chat to experts about the artefacts. Enjoy the ‘Great Archaeology Discoveries’ lunchtime lectures, attend the witty 10-Minute Theatre. Then & Now play. See animation artists interpreting medieval times while kids can uncover the Big Dig excavation pit and adults can enjoy the experimental archaeology team.

Date:  Every Thurs in August – 7th, 14th, 21st, 28th

Time:  10am – 4pm

Location: The Parade, Kilkenny alongside the Farmers’ Market

Kilkenny Pop Up Museum

Kilkenny Pop Up Museum

Kilkenny is a wonderful wee city, and there’s tons to enjoy there. Did you know that Conde Naste readers voted Kilkenny the 9th Friendliest city in the WORLD? Plus Kilkenny’s full of stories, arts & culture, and historic buildings. 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 Medieval 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

One of the best ways to discover the gems & hidden histories is to take one of the walking tours. Then at your leisure visit the places that especially intrigued, perhaps having some of the famous-amongst-those-in-the-know homemade soup pub lunch in Cleeres! Right next door to Cleeres is The Brewery Corner, which serves a huge selection of Craft Beers, many Irish.

Smithwick’s Brewery Visitor Centre & tours are just opening as I write this on 31 July 2014. I’ve not been yet as it is so new, but when I do go, I’ll report back to you! Here is the link to their webpage. Smithwicks was Ireland’s oldest beer, the monks having brewed on this Kilkenny site in Medieval times. Diago has now moved all the Smithwicks brewing to Dublin, and apparently struggled to recreate the special qualities of the Kilkenny water. See, Kilkenny IS very special! 😀

August is an exciting time in Kilkenny, with the 10 day Kilkenny Arts Festival running from 8-17 August 2014. Many fantastic events and exhibitions will be taking place for all ages. I’ve picked 7 of the most vibrant events to enjoy; you can see them here.

For more posts where Kilkenny features, have a look here. Have fun in Kilkenny!

Yeats statue, Sligo, Ireland

WB Yeats statue, Sligo Town

Another super Sligo fest! Tread Softly Festival

Sligo’s Festival in Celebration of the Yeats Family

27th July – 8th August

The third Tread Softly festival, celebrating the link between Sligo and the Yeats family will take place 27 July – 8 August 2014.

The many dimensions of this family of famous artists –

Nobel Prize winning poet William Butler,

Painter Jack B,

Embroiderer Susan

Fine press printer Elizabeth

will be brought to life over two weeks of theatre, exhibitions, cinema, music, literary events, talks and tours, alongside a programme of children’s events.

The Yeats Experience menu, host, silverware

The Yeats Experience

W. B. Yeats is considered by many to be the greatest English language poet of the 20th Century. Throughout his life he wrote about Sligo and the beauty, folklore and spirituality of the surrounding landscape. His brother Jack once said he never created a painting ‘without at least a thought of Sligo in it’. Sisters Susan and Elizabeth Yeats ran the Cuala Press which printed the work of W. B. Yeats and many other well-known writers including Ezra Pound, Douglas Hyde, Rabindranath Tagore and Elizabeth Bowen.

You all may remember that I was in Sligo in June for the So Sligo food & culture festival, and that I was mighty impressed with all that Sligo Town & countryside has to offer. You’ll see that for yourself in Tread Softly’s many events. I’ll just point out 3 which I’ve taken part in myself.

The Yeats Experience

This is a unique and beautiful experience of Irish hospitality, history, and of course, Yeats. I was lucky enough to attend the dinner with the other So Sligo visiting bloggers, one of whom is Dee Sewell, who wrote this post about  the evening. (Yeats &  Sligo worked their magic on us, and the wonderful So Sligo tour inspired us to create Green & Vibrant...more on that another time!)

When you go and enjoy this special experience, keep a look out for the  lovely cows there in the yard 😀

“The Yeats Experience is situated overlooking Lough Gill providing magnificent views over landscapes described in four of Yeats’ earlier poems for your group (10 to 50 people). A unique Sligo experience. Dine at Lunch or dinner on the finest contemporary Irish cuisine, locally sourced and/or grown in our own garden. As you dine you and your guests learn of the early life of William Butler Yeats, the Sligo of his youth and the wonderful poetry he wrote out of his experience in the Land of Heart’s desire. Enjoy it all in the style and comfort of a private home.”

calf dinnertime at Yeats Experience

Calf dinnertime at the Yeats Experience!

Booking: Booking Essential to Damien Brennan (10 person minimum) at 087 2320820

Streedagh Seaweed Walk

Try this guided exploration of the beautiful beach near the famous mount Benbulben. There you’ll be amazed at the truly tasty seaweeds you can nibble straight from the ocean, and Prannie’s knowledge and recipes are top class. This walk is another fab activity I took part in during So Sligo, and it totally inspired me! You can read more about it, & try Terry’s Easy Seaside Summer Bean Salad recipe here.

“Guided walk by author, chef and seaweed expert Dr Prannie Rhatigan on the rich and varied seaweed growing in the backdrop of bare Benbulben. Walkers will learn about harvesting and using this natural resource.”

Start time: 11am
Degree of difficulty: Easy, looped walk
Duration: 2 hours
Start Point: Streedagh Beach Car Park
Tickets: FREE

Walking Tours of Sligo Town with Yeats Family Points of Interest

Sligo Town, Ireland

Walking tours with a great guide are one of the very best ways to get under the skin of a place whilst having a bit of craic. We certainly did just that when we did the Sligo Town tour with Niamh! Best FREE you’ll ever spend 😀

Start time: 11.00am
Days: Monday – Saturday
Duration: 2 hours
Tickets: FREE
Booking: Booking, pick up and return at 1.00pm from Tourist Information Office

Here are a few more tidbits on the Tread Softly festival:

This year’s festival’s theatrical highlights include performances of The Man in the Woman’s Shoes by Mikel Murfi and A Brief Taste of Lightening performed by Blue Raincoat Theatre Company.

An exhibition entitled Jack B Yeats The Music Has Come at the Model will look at his interest in song.  The venue is also presenting a display of Norah McGuinness’s illustrations of William Butler Yeats, The Stories of Red Hanrahan and the Secret Rose, and the first comprehensive solo exhibition of work by Susan Hiller.

The Hamilton Gallery will be home to Confluence: A Merging by Janet Pearse, reflecting on her experiences in Ireland and India in recent years, and The Factory Foyer to Wandering Shades by Katie McDonagh, inspired by the ‘dance plays’ of W. B. Yeats, which were in turn influenced by Japanese Noh Theatre.

The Factory will also be the venue for one of the films featuring in the programme, Sanctuary by Blue Raincoat co-founder Malcolm Hamilton, based on the stage play of the same name.

Speaker’s Corner is a new departure for the festival programme this year; an informal gathering of politicians to discuss their visions for Ireland as the centenary of 1916 approaches. Such a discussion seems a fitting element in any celebrations of Yeats’ life and work.

Out and about, the festival will offer a programme of walking tours Yeats and the landscape – Walking in the Footsteps of Yeats. 

The festival runs alongside the 55th annual Yeats International Summer School, Ireland’s longest running summer school, which will be opened this year by Alan Gilsenan at the Hawk’s Well on 27th July. The Summer School continues until 8thAugust.

Have a gander of the full list of Tread Softly events here.

For full information and programme details: or contact Sligo Tourist Office O’Connell Street Sligo on Tel: 071 91 61201

Ticket Booking: The Hawk’s Well, Temple Street, Sligo Tel: 071 9161526

For more posts on Sligo, have a look here.

logo Carlow arts festivalThe Carlow Arts Festival, Eigse, is on 6 – 15 June 2014; it’s 35th year!

There is music, street art, busking, street traders, a vintage trail, cultural workshops, alfresco dining, and gallery spaces!

And did you know Carlow Arts Festival now includes 2 exciting literary/spoken word events? The Borris House Festival of Writing and Ideas and The History Festival of Ireland are branch festivals in the county, whilst in Carlow town the festival invites you to experience the potential of a street brought back to life through a myriad of events. This weekend check out the Street Art Carnival Sat 7th & Sun 8th June, and tomorrow, Friday 6 June, you can hear musician Mick Hanly play. See below for more:


Street Art Carnival, Dublin Street, Carlow

Saturday 7th & 8th June

Initiated by the Carlow Art Festival 2014, Dublin Street Carnival will sow a seed that presents back to the town a potential cultural quarter. Pure Thinking Community Group, collaborating with Barrow Valley Painters and Carlow regional Youth Services, have created  several large scale exterior murals, fresco and frieze works and a multitude of small-scale street art installations on Dublin Street, joining Frank O’Sullivans lady, which enters its second year without a scratch.

The Delta Centre makers have designed street decorations, bunting, lighting, wild costumes and giant sculptural works – think giant stiletto….  The thoroughfare will be ‘knit-bombed’, vintage clothing stores will spill onto the pavements, street food will sizzle, tables and chairs will appear on sidewalks, and musicians and performers will lay their hats on the ground and fill the neighbourhood with melody and fun.

*on mobile, list is wonky; click Carlow Arts link to see it & all events*


Saturday 7th  June                                                                                             Sunday 8th June

1pm                                                                                                                                 12pm

Spontaneous pop-up theatre from Carlow little Theatre                        Gospel Concert on steps of the Courthouse

12-7pm                                                                                                                  4pm

Musicians busking throughout the day                                                      Spontaneous pop-up theatre

7pm                                                                                                                        12pm-6pm

LIve music from the Town Hall Plaza                                                          Musicians Busking throughout the day

8pm                                                                                                                        3pm

The Good Thief by Conor McPherson @ TBA Speakeasy                  Stiletto Sprint: The 2nd running of this Charity Spectacular


If you’re in the mood for some tunes, check out Mick Hanly, who will perform at 9pm on Friday 6 June, the opening night of the Carlow Arts Festival.


Mick Hanly will be at Carlow Arts festival 2014

Mick Hanly will be at Carlow Arts festival 2014


The Milford Room, Seven Oaks, €15

Mick Hanly was born into a music loving family in Limerick. He was inspired by mid-50s rock ‘n’ roll before he became more interested in folk in the 60s. He went on to perform and record with Donal Lunny, Andy Irvine, Matt Molloy, Paddy Glackin, and Declan Sinnott. In the 80s be became lead singer with Moving Hearts after Christy Moore left. He subsequently turned to country music, and became a singer-songwriter for artists such as Mary Black and Hal Ketchum. His hit ‘Past the Point of Rescue’ reached the top 10 in the US charts. {I’ve added a video of it below}

“His songs are real, they mean something. He is one of the best songwriters around.”— Garth Brooks

You can get your tickets at

For group bookings or special bookings such as wheelchair seating and hearing loop requirements, please call the box office on 059 9172400.

[youtube_sc url=”″ title=”Mick%20Hanly”]

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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