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

All posts in Information: Ireland

Happy 2016!

Happy 2016!

Happy New Year!

After much thought, I’ve concluded that I’m going to have to make some changes to in 2016.

I’ve been struggling physically in writing the blog posts, (I could insert my spine & neck health story here, but I’ll spare you!) and even using voice assisted typing as I’ve done the past few posts isn’t enough– editing and such must be done by hand. I also type with one finger… s.l.o.w…! I don’t make money from this blog, so I can’t pay anyone to assist me. But I think all is not lost!

From anguish to excitement

I am going to go to predominantly podcasting, videos and photos, with a minimal amount of writing text. This website will still be functioning; it will be filled with posts using all of the above, and hopefully with more posts on it than ever! Physically having to spend time at the computer should be less, so instead of being lucky to create 2 posts a month, I think I’ll be able to do more. After months of fretting about my limitations and trying to make something work that just wasn’t & took a big toll on me, I’m now excited about my possibilities!

So, Happy New Year, and I hope YOUR possibilities are abundant in 2016! 😀  Susan

Quick little non-fancy video I just did also as an explainer:

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

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

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

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

Sea Sparkle!

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

Sleep under the stars in an Irish forest dome!

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

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

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

Learn to Speak Irish!

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

Irish gift idea- Once the Musical, summer 2016

Irish gift idea- Once the Musical, summer 2016

Once more in Dublin!

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

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

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

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

The Cat Shepherd and Woolly Irish Pressies!

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

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

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

Find Your Irish Roots!

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

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

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

Love Ireland Gifts!

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

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

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

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

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

Find Jane’s I Love Mayo online shop here

Koo Koo Sneactha Emma Campbell Art; online Irish gift

Koo Koo Sneactha by Emma Campbell Art

Bright & Beautiful Irish Art!

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

Traditional Claddagh, Belleek, More!

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

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

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

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

Give an Irish Outdoor Adventure!

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

Nature Lovers!

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

Book Lovers Bumper Selection of Presents!

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

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

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


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



In Ireland for Thanksgiving?

Here are tips for finding your favourite Thanksgiving foods in Ireland, where to eat a Thanksgiving dinner out, and more.

Updated with more places to eat Thanksgiving dinner in Ireland  for 2015, some recipe ideas, and a Thanksgiving reenactment. If YOU’VE tips, a fab recipe, Thanksgiving event or fun Thanksgiving in Ireland themed photo you’d like to share, contact me. @vibrantireland on Twitter or email Cheers!

Essential for Thanksgiving in Ireland? Libby's classic canned pumpkin.

Essential for Thanksgiving in Ireland? Libby’s classic canned pumpkin.

Thanksgiving food most missed in Ireland? Pumpkin Pie!

But wait, help is at hand! You can now buy that pumpkin pie classic, pumpkin in a can, in Ireland! How many of us grew up with this rather rubbery mass of surprising deliciousness? Often the brand of choice was Libby’s; You may enjoy the blast from the past Libby’s commercial below!

Note: I should say that while I didn’t conduct a rigorous scientific survey, in chatting to other North Americans over the years, Pumpkin Pie seems to top the list of what we miss most when we spend Thanksgiving in Ireland 🙂



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Fallon & Byrne in Dublin carry Libby’s canned pumpkin in their shop; I know that  supplies sell out fairly sharpish in many places, and F & B is no exception. Perhaps just give Fallon & Byrne a buzz to check stock levels before you make a special trip. Of course just eating there in their tasty restaurant is a grand consolation if you find the pumpkin pie cans are all gone! Tel. 01 4721010 (choose 1 for the office) Open Mon to Fri 8am- 9pm,  Sat 9am- 9pm, Sun 11am- 7pm Location: 11-17 Exchequer St, Dublin 2

I’ve seen canned pumpkin occasionally in Aldi or Lidl– it must have been during one of their special ‘American’ promotions (Hotdogs in liquid stuffed a jar, anyone? Umm, how is that even a thing? Did I miss this during my 30 years in the States?) If I were you, I’d keep my eyes peeled over the coming weeks in case these guys put canned pumpkin on their shelves again.

You can order Libby’s canned pumpkin online at where it costs €3.45 a can. They also have some shop stocklists; here’s the list from their website:

Call before you go to make sure they have what you are looking for!

The Food Centre (Grocery, Drinks, Snacks, Sweets)

Unit 1

Cleveragh Business Park (beside Doorly Park)


Ph: 071-91-74077



The Food Centre (Grocery, Drinks, Snacks, Sweets)

Unit 12

Hills Industrial Estate


Ph: 01-601-0952



FRESH, The Good Food Market (Grocery, Drinks, Snacks, Sweets)

1-4 Lower Camden Street

Dublin 2

Ph: 01-475-8033/8036



FRESH, The Good Food Market (Grocery, Drinks, Sweets, Snacks)

Unit 4, Block 1

Grand Canal Square (near the Bord Gais Energy Theatre)

Dublin 2

Ph: 01-671-8004



FRESH, The Good Food Market (Grocery,Drinks, Sweets, Snacks)


Unit 2

Mayor Street

Dublin 2


Ph: 01-672-0977


FRESH, The Good Food Market (Grocery,Drinks, Sweets, Snacks)


Dublin 7




Gleesons of Booterstown (Grocery, Drinks, Snacks, Sweets)

44 Booterstown Avenue (accross from the Booterstown Church)

Blackrock, Co. Dublin

Ph: 01-288-0236



Londis (Drinks, Sweets)

Foxrock Avenue

Foxrock, Dublin 18

Ph: 01-289-4777


McAteers, The Food House (Grocery, Drinks, Snacks, Sweets)

15 Clanbrassil Street

Dundalk, Co. Louth

Ph: 042-932-6420



Super Valu (Rushe’s) (Grocery, Drinks, Snacks, Sweets)

37 Castle Street

Dalkey, Co. Dublin

Ph: 01-285-9477


Sweeties (Grocery, Drinks, Snacks, Sweets)

56 Henry Street


Co. Clare

Ph: 085-732-8759

Fun! And how to make your own pumpkin pie- can or no can

A fun read with a great recipe for pumpkin pie is US expat Imen McDonald’s account of her first Thanksgiving in Ireland. Well! I find some of those reactions to the pumpkin pie almost sacrilegious 😉

Mouthwatering Recipes from ex-pats in Ireland

Thanksgiving can be a bit of a puzzle in regards to vegetarian eating; what main dish can you serve that is special, filling, and delicious? I think this gorgeous dish from Canadian ex-pat Janine may even tempt the meat eaters away from the turkey. (Note: Canadian’s have their Thanksgiving the second Monday in October.) Butternut Squash, Sage, and Buffalo Mozzarella, let’s be having you! The recipe is here on Cooking With Craic; do check it out & her other recipes too!

MY TIP: you can now get Irish made buffalo mozzarella. As well as online and at cheesemongers’, I’ve also purchased it at Aldi, for €1.99. Yum! 

Irish Buffalo Mozzerella - I got this at Aldi for 1.99

Irish Buffalo Mozzarella – I got this at Aldi for 1.99

Janine says:

Here’s a vegetarian lasagna recipe made with béchamel, butternut squash, sage and buffalo mozzarella. It’s not entirely diet-friendly, but we’re thinking of it as one of our final, creamy indulgences before our diet begins on Monday. I hope you enjoy it as much as we did. 

I’m sure we will!

If you’d like to add a classic Irish flair to your Thanksgiving spread, why not try some easy Irish soda bread? Dee has added a few nutty bits to this, and pumpkin seed (sensing a theme?) but you can omit them if you’d like. Dee says:

Irish Soda Bread Recipe -GreensideUp

Irish Soda Bread Recipe -GreensideUp

I don’t recall eating soda bread in the UK, but soon discovered how tasty it is with a chunk of cheese or a bowl of soup when we moved to Ireland; as a result of Colette’s recipe I also learnt that it’s incredibly easy to make. There’s no kneading or waiting for the bread to rise, just throw all the ingredients in a bowl, transfer to a loaf tin, pop in the oven and it’s done. The traditional Irish bread soda recipe contains just four ingredients – flour, salt, buttermilk and bread soda but a few more bits and pieces have been added to this Irish Soda Bread recipe.

Dee grows masses of vegetables in her Irish garden as well as teaching others about vegetable gardening, and she’s great recipes for pumpkin rice and for pumpkin soup.

I also enjoyed this Instagram photo shared on Twitter by @Alanazdinak 😀 Now that’s a quick and easy Thanksgiving dinner!

No need to go home for Thanksgiving. All sorted now! #Merica #dublin2015

A photo posted by AlanaZ (@alanazdinak) on

For something more substantial, why not try Thanksgiving Dinner in Waterford’s wonderful La Boheme? They tell me that:

Our chefs have created a sumptuous feast of traditional Thanksgiving fare. Eric and Christine lived in the States when they met, and when they moved to Europe, they missed this traditional feast and therefore decided to offer the menu in La Boheme every Thanksgiving. Its a hugely popular day and menu in La Boheme, with many patrons traveling from far and wide to participate in the day, so reservations are appreciated. 

Enjoy Thanksgiving dinner in Ireland at La Boheme

Enjoy Thanksgiving dinner in Ireland at La Boheme

A tasty and easy way to celebrate Thanksgiving in Ireland! La Boheme’s Thanksgiving dinner is €29.95 pp, and runs Thanksgiving evening only. You can check out their Turkey Day menu here.


Where else can you eat Thanksgiving dinner out in Ireland?

Well, I’ve gotten some tips via social media. — Over on the Vibrant Ireland Facebook page, Linda Fulton Burke says:  Gleneagle Hotel in Killarney has a nice Thanksgiving dinner. Their website is here:   Twitter supplied an idea for the Eastern side of the country, in Drogheda, county Louth:   

@Eseaboard is Eastern Seafood Bar & Grill, and they have served Thanksgiving dinner for the past 7 years. Give them a shout on their Facebook Page to find out the details for this Thanksgiving. You can get their Brown Hound Bakery pumpkin pie in Dublin, too:  

PIE LOVERS UNITE! #pumpkinpie Brown Hound Bakery Ireland for #Thanksgiving 26.11.15 also available for collection in DUBLIN from The Garden Powerscourt Townhouse Centre, D2 (1pm – 3pm) pre-orders only!

Posted by Brown Hound Bakery Ireland on Thursday, 12 November 2015

Thanksgiving at the Ulster American Folk Park

It could be very interesting for North American visitors to see what they think of the Thanksgiving reenactment at the Ulster American Folk park in Northern Ireland. I’d be quite curious to see this myself, especially as it is based around a family in western Pennsylvania; where the majority of my own family immigrated to from Ireland. You’ll also get to sample some of the Thanksgiving food, including pumpkin pie. I wonder will it be as good as my granny’s? 😀

At the Ulster American Folk Park you can join the Partridge family for Thanksgiving as they prepare the turkey and anxiously await the return of their only son Joseph, an infantryman in the Union Army.

Costumed guides re-enacting a 1800s Thanksgiving at the Ulster American Folk ParkThe American Thanksgiving is an occasion for Americans to remember those from the Old World who first settled on its shores, consider the uncertain future of the pilgrims who faced many a hardship and to pay tribute to the Native Americans who greeted the first European newcomers.

At the Ulster American Folk Park you will be able to immerse yourself in living history to experience this grand tradition first hand. You will have the opportunity to sample the flavour of a Western Pennsylvania rural Thanksgiving in November of 1863, which was the year of the first national day of Thanksgiving.

Costumed guides from the museum will re-enact a Thanksgiving Day from the 1800s. You will have the opportunity to sample some seasonal dishes such as Succotash, Pumpkin Pie and Butternut Squash.

Happy Thanksgiving 2015 – in Ireland or elsewhere!

Dublin ; A Breath of Fresh Air! Hiking to a fantastic view over the city

Dublin ; A Breath of Fresh Air! Hiking to a fantastic view over the city

Dublin; A Breath of Fresh Air

Many of us who live in and/or  love Ireland get tired of the perception that Ireland = pubs = pints.

Sure, the Irish pub culture can be great fun, but there is much more to Ireland than this. Dublin especially has been painted with the It’s All About The Drink brush. So I’m pretty sure I’m not the only person thrilled with these new videos from Visit Dublin which give a much wider picture of Dublin. What do you think? What have you enjoyed in Dublin that wasn’t centered around a pint?

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For example: Is the way to find Dublin’s heart through your stomach?

Fab Food trails Dublin Ireland

Corleggy Cheese! You can get a tasty sampler box for a fiver.

One of the best walking tours of Dublin is not a pub crawl! I think it is the Fab Food Trail. 

Not only will the eats & drinks satisfy your taste buds, a good tour will cater to your craving to experience an area’s history, culture, and local gems. This could be a tall order for something that lasts around 2.5 hours, but it can be done in Dublin with Fab Food Trails. You can find out more about the Dublin City food tour here.

And again, do share some of your favorite things in Dublin aside from the pub culture, especially if they are less well known– let’s spread the word 🙂 Leave a comment below. Thanks! 

There is a plethora of things to explore in Dublin in the arts, outdoors, history, top notch food, and interesting events all year round. Nip on over to Visit Dublin and check things out!

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christmas santa claus with coffee or tea

Looking for Irish Christmas gift ideas to buy online and avoid the shopping crowds?

Well, sit back, pour a cuppa & relax! I’ve handy Christmas present ideas & links for you from Ireland.

I’ve added even more Irish products for 2014 to this gift ideas list, & will continue over the next few days, so check back every so often. And now I’ve just updated *again*; 12 Dec 2014.

First up for your 2014 Christmas list is a beautiful and inspirational new book of photos of Ireland from Foxglove Lane. You can order a hardback copy as a special gift, or download it for a very inexpensive way to share in the seasons of Ireland & life.

Foxglove Lane also offers prints and cards; here is what Catherine of Foxglove Lane has to say about this herself:

Yes folks, the Foxglove Lane Shop is now open and the dark evenings are a perfect time to browse!

Irish Christmas gift ideas : Ireland's Foxglove Lane's book: Seek Light, Embrace Shade, Live Colour

Ireland’s Foxglove Lane’s book: Seek Light, Embrace Shade, Live Colour

The book: 

“Seek light, embrace shade and live colour” A perfect gift to introduce someone to Ireland and to following the creative path. Do you have strategies to bring light and energy into your life and work? I write about finding inspiration in my first little picture book, and you  can buy the hardback book here for 30 euros or  download the book for 3.99 

Prints and cards:

Cards and prints are available here This year you can buy unlimited editions at a special price as the printing part is outsourced to a specialist firm of printers. All of the images on my site are available so pick out your own favourites and have them delivered anywhere in the world.

Prints (8″x12″) start at only 7 euros. 

Cards (5″ x7″) are 4.25 each or 10 for only 25 euros

Gift tokens

I also offer Gift Tokens they start at 25 Euros. Contact me directly to arrange. A good option if you want to avoid deadline panics!

If you prefer, I can print and sign any image for you here in the studio. Mounted prints start from 25 euros +postage. Again just contact me.

The Wild Irish West!

Sligo based Artist Annie West also has a new book out, as well as prints, posters, and cards. Here’s the blurb on the Yeats In Love book from her website:

“Yeats in Love is an illustrated, semi-fictional account of WB Yeats’ obsessive yet ultimately fruitless pursuit of Maud Gonne, illustrated in detail on every painful page by award-winning Illustrator Annie West.

With an introduction by Theo Dorgan, and designed by Amy West, Yeats in Love promises to be the book to delight and amuse lovers of literature, illustration and unrequited love for many years to come.”

Irish Christmas gift ideas : Seasons of Sligo 2015 photo calendar, by Val Robus @MagnumLady

Seasons of Sligo 2015 photo calendar, by Val Robus @MagnumLady

Also in the west of Ireland, photographer Val Robus, @MagnumLady has Christmas cards you can purchase, and a new Seasons of Sligo Calendar. Perfect for lovers of Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way, or if you’ve Sligo in your family tree!


Love Ireland!

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

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

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

Jane is kindly offering Vibrant Ireland & Travel readers a discount on the Ireland papercut poster, from 22 to 17 euro if you tweet her  at @i_love_mayo or email and mention Vibrant Ireland & Travel!

The Ireland papercut poster map is the third pictured below.

See the full range of the iLoveMayo items by clicking.


Unique stocking stuffer for lovers of the quirky!

We have our very own feline farmer right here in county Kilkenny, — Bodacious the Cat Shepherd! He helps his human Suzanna with her flock of Zwartbles sheep, and now her has his very own calendar & postcards! You can see what he gets up to, and order an paw-tographed calendar at 


Bodacious, the Cat Shepherd of Ireland

Bodacious, the Cat Shepherd of Ireland

Bright & Beautiful Irish Art!

For a special present that will bring cheer and zing into someone’s home all year round, have a look at the fabulous paintings and prints from artist Emma Campbell. She’s having a 12 Days of Christmas sale on her fine art prints, and many of her paintings come with free shipping. I’m a huge fan of her work, and she’s all types, from whimsical to more abstract. Here’s a fun wintery one pictured; do check out here website for her full ranges.


Emma Campbell artwork via

Emma Campbell artwork via

 Book Lovers!

Here are two super ideas for Christmas gifts for the book lovers in your life.

Christmas in the House on the Irish Hillside by Felicity Hayes McCoy ; Irish gift ideas

Christmas in the House on the Irish Hillside

Full of wonderful slices of life in the charming Dingle area of Kerry, Felicity Hayes McCoy has books and audio books (also available on Kindle) most everyone will enjoy! The House on the Irish Hillside came out last year, and just out now is Christmas at the House on the Irish Hillside. See more on Felicity’s author page on Amazon, here. She has another great book out soon, keep your eye out for it!

Or what about this book– the quirkily titled & popular Would You Marry A Farmer? The author Lorna Sixsmith writes from her experience on her & her husband’s farm in southeast Ireland:

Would You Marry A Farmer?

A humourous yet relatively realistic look at what marriage to a farmer is like. Do you think farmers are a good catch? You will know whether a farmer is the right partner for you once you’ve read this – and you will know how to find one, how to train him in and how to stay married to him.

Whether you are looking for a farmer, considering marrying a farmer or come from a farming background, you will laugh out loud when reading this book. Forever more, you will know what is involved in “stopping a gap” and how to prevent “misadventures”. If you are a farmer, it will give you plenty of tips to become the perfect farming husband. Non farmers are enjoying it too – particularly the historical first section and the insight it provides into a rural way of life.


For those who ‘have everything’, or who like to try something different– give ’em a Christmas gift voucher for an Irish experience! Here are a few ideas to get you started:

Carlow Tours offer personalized day tours around several areas of Ireland’s Southeast. You can go as an individual or as a small group. I’ve done a tour with Bianka – the owner/tourguide, and she is interesting and fun, not full of dry facts– she makes places come to life. She does gift vouchers for any amount.

Fab Food Trails food tours; Dublin and Cork. I’ve done their Dublin tour, & really enjoyed it. Plenty of samples, new discoveries & interesting storie sand histories. Locals & visitors alike were on the tour, and we all thoroughly enjoyed it.

Go With The Flow river adventures; Carlow & Kilkenny. They’ve all sorts of cool outings available.

One Pery Square, boutique hotel Limerick city

SO relaxing! One Pery Square boutique hotel, Limerick city

A voucher for One Pery Square; Limerick.
If you really want to spoil your gift recipient, consider this!  You can choose a voucher for the fantastic restaurant, spa, or have break in the hotel. We LOVE this place!

Visual & the George Bernard Shaw Theatre; Carlow. Theatre, film, talks & more are presented in this beautiful modern building in the heart of Carlow. Here’s the current events listing– with a voucher your recipient can choose exactly what they’d like to see. PS: there is a wonderful (free) sound-art show on right now at Visual.

Knockdrinna Cheese & Farm Shop- CheeseMaking Course; Kilkenny. As well as a voucher for one of the single-day cheesemaking courses, you can also buy their tasty award winning food products & hampers online. For more on the courses, click here.

If you’d like to give an Aran Irish jumper/sweater, check out my post with buying tips & links to buy online

For those who’d love to see even more Irish made gift suggestions, Dee from has a post with 10 Irish Christmas gift ideas– several available online as well. 

If you’re in Ireland & fancy going to a Christmas/Vintage market, do check out the Christmas listings here- several are happening all over the country.

On the other side of the Atlantic, Irish Fireside has a listing of Irish gifts, too!Christmas gifts ireland

I hope this post gives you some great leads, and if you are looking for a special Irish present but aren’t sure where to turn, in the comment section ask me & the other readers here & we’ll try to help! Also, if you’ve been given a fab Irish Christmas present or have other fantastic Irish Christmas gift ideas that you think we should know about, let us know in the comments section below. Happy Christmas! 



Donegal app

Sure, you see this all the time in Donegal! Flaming bagpipes are everywhere there 😉

Donegal is one very special place.

It really does have a special magic all its own. It’s where I fell in love with Ireland! If I’d had the fab Donegal app back then I might never have left!

It certainly is a bumper time for Donegal. More Northern Lights excitement the other night, two teams in the All Ireland on Sunday, and more and more folk finding out about the charms of this extreme Northwest Irish county.

One of the very best ways to get a feel for this stunning Irish county and to add depth to your trip is to download the free and very comprehensive Donegal App. It is definitely produced with love by the very funny and characterful John Ward of @racontouring.

For 2014 the Donegal App has been launched with significantly increased material for the north west visitor to enjoy. New additions include tours of Donegal’s Wild Atlantic Gems, a Best of Ulster guide and a Best of the Donegal Bay area. Check out one of their You Tube Donegal Abu videos below – they’re a real added treat, as are the extensive podcasts section under the Audioboo icon.

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The Donegal app offers you the ultimate chance to sit down and plan a beyond-the-beaten-track visit to Ireland’s most beautiful region. Picture the scene; you download the new 2014 app onto your tablet or smartphone, and with it you not only get to read about where the great places are (and Favourite them for your itinerary), you find contact details & all you need to know about them, AND you get to enjoy a relevant YouTube video! That’s right, wherever possible, Donegal App have found the most original YouTube video to allow you to savour the wonder of that place. All in one handy spot! The mapping system even allows for turn-by-turn directions on both the most up to date Androids and iPhones/iPads.

The 2014 app is extraordinarily detailed in what it offers the visitor to the north west, yet happily comes in at just under 50 meg. You likely know that the big news in 2014 is the Wild Atlantic Way from Donegal to Cork. The Donegal App has included all of the discovery points that Failte Ireland refer to along the Donegal coast and have augmented those Points of Interest (POIs) by adding a host of hidden gems known only to local insiders! You won’t miss a single treat along the Way’s most picturesque section – 97 interest spots in total. They’ve included the best places to eat, visit and stay along the way with all restaurants having won awards or acclaim for their efforts, with seafood a speciality of course. Accommodation ranges from glamping in Creeslough to a castle by Lough Swilly. *sighs wistfully*

But, wait, that’s not all! Donegal App folk felt maybe they were being a bit narrow in their focus on just Donegal in previous years – after all most travellers don’t just stick to one county, they visit a whole area. So now the curious visitor based in Donegal has App material to guide them to places like the Giant’s Causeway, Toddsleap Adventure centre, or Yeats Country down in Sligo. With your Apps, you have all of the information needed for these visits.

Sligo is Yeats country; Ben Bulben

Sligo is Yeats country; Ben Bulben

Why, now you’ll find a full audio tour of Yeats Country containing a comprehensive audio guide on both his poems and his favourite haunts! Drive along and as you round a corner you’ll be told about Dooney Rock or the Sally Gardens of Ballysdare. Perhaps you’re on the northern half of Donegal Bay? You’re in for a treat – all of the hidden gems along the coastal route to Slieve League cliffs are there for you to discover.

This cross-platform app offers a comprehensive travel guide where audio, visual and social media platforms are handily incorporated into the information. Not only can you connect to a place’s website, send them an email or call them with a click, but you’ll see any interesting YouTube video that exists out there on them. Best of all, the service works offline so that you will not be charged roaming charges when exploring the county! What’s not to love about all this? 😀 You guys, you’ll LOVE Donegal!

There are a total of 8 tours within the one Donegal App:

Donegal’s Arts and heritage – 82 of the best places to visit from trad music to festivals, theatres to museums and the pick of the county’s crafts artists.
Donegal Activities – a guide featuring 75 places for water sports, golf courses, adventure, horse riding & places for children to enjoy.
Best of the Donegal Bay area – 91 POIs from Slieve League to a Yeats Country audio tour, find all of the bay’s treasures.
Best of Inishowen – the northern peninsula that rewards you with 105 hidden gems.
Best of Ulster – enjoy 68 of the very best attractions of the province’s other eight counties from causeways to Nevin’s cuisine.
Donegal’s Greatest ‘shrines’ – from the sacred to the sublime, here are 24 special parts of the county that are worth discovering.
Donegal’s Great Outdoors – here’s a special guide of 80 POIs just for birdwatchers, fishermen, hill walkers and lovers of scenery.
Donegal’s Wild Atlantic Gems – experience nearly 100 of the most enthralling places to visit, stay and eat on Ireland’s finest coastal drive.

Get the Donegal App now in the App Store or Google Play, where all 8 tours download automatically for you. Follow ’em on Facebook or Twitter for further updates or for feedback/suggestions. (Please note that all tours are subject to acceptance of the Licence terms) Available on iPhone, Android, Garmin or TomTom devices – click on the various guides at the top of the homepage to download onto your device. See

childrens aran sweater

Child’s aran sweater at Kilkenny Design Centre

Where can you get affordable, authentic Irish Aran sweaters?

This is a question I’ve been asked a few times, most recently by two travel bloggers visiting Ireland for the TBEX conference. Mariellen, and Kristin from, were looking for some tips on price, styles, and degrees of scratchiness 🙂

It will not come as a surprise to you that these traditionally made Irish jumpers (sweaters) are not cheap. The most expensive are the ones which are completely handmade, next in cost are the ones handmade on a loom, followed by sweaters machine made but hand finished. But, I’ve a tip you may use to save yourself some money!

In our part of Kilkenny we’re very lucky that we’ve 3 local shops that can stock Aran sweaters- the first two are small & wonderful, but they don’t really specialize in the sweaters, although they can have some.

These two shops do have lovely craft items though, and if you are in the area they are worth a visit. Cushendale Woolen Mill in Graiguenamanagh specializes in blankets & knitting wool yarn; they also are online. The Craft Shop & Cottage Museum at Ballilogue Clochan is a total gem, but is only open to non-Inn guests from June through September. Do click & have a look online- you’ll want to make that trip!

Those places are special but only small, so I’m going to give you information from the larger Kilkenny Design Centre, which is located across from the Castle in Kilkenny City. It has a wide selection, a long tradition in Irish craft, and the staff are very helpful. They’ve also an online shop, but for best selection, do go in.

 Irish Aran sweater knit patterns meanings

Irish Aran sweaters: knit pattern meanings

For Aran sweaters, as well as the traditional ‘scratchier’ wool, you can now also get them in softer Merino wool. Prices depend on the degree of hand-work involved. The approximate prices in Euros are:

Handknit (i.e. knitting needles):  190-220

Hand-loomed:  125

 Machine made but hand finished:  50-70

These are the Kilkenny Design Centre prices, I’ve been told by shoppers it can sometimes cost more in different Dublin shops.

If you really want an Aran sweater bargain, also check the second-hand/pre-loved shops! Seriously- that is where I bought my Aran sweater; it only cost a tenner 🙂

The patterns on the traditional Irish Aran sweaters have different meanings; this photo (opposite) tells you some of them.

There are many colours available, and variations of style, as well as new designs & children’s wear at the Kilkenny Design Centre. They’ve plenty of other Irish designed and crafted items, too, and what is also nice is that the shop is just in front of the National Craft Gallery of Ireland. The gallery shows changing exhibits of top-notch modern craft, and often has interesting events for adults, as well as children’s activities. I love this place! Do check their website.

Ireland’s craft scene is thriving, and you may want to see what craftspeople are producing along the lines of more modern Irish knitwear. The Crafts Council site has a listings service where you can narrow down by craft type, county, and price range. Lots to browse!

I must also mention for the Irish Aran sweaters. They are family run shop located in one of our favorite Irish cities, Limerick, but they also have a big online selection. I’ve not been to their shop yet or bought from them online, but they seem a very good place to check if you want a large selection & are buying online or are in Limerick.

More Aran Sweaters to buy Online

I’ve also been told about Quills Woolen Market, which also has a nice online selection, as well as a shop in Killarney. They’ve also some handmade Aran sweaters in lovely colours- the purply/wine is gorgeous.

Recently I’ve been alerted to Aran Sweater Market which are located on the Aran Islands, Shannon Airport and Killarney as well as online. 

Another online shop is Arans of Ireland, who also have a sale on for St Patrick’s Day, 2017. Check it out!

Arans of Ireland has this lovely wrap on sale for St Patrick's Day 2017

Arans of Ireland has this lovely hooded wrap on sale for St Patrick’s Day 2017

You’re spoiled for choice!

Below are a few photos of items available at the Kilkenny Design Centre, and a modern design from Linda Wilson Knitwear. Happy jumper hunting!Crafts for sale Kilkenny Design Centre Irish aran sweaters for sale Kilkenny Design Centre

Kilkenny Design Centre sweaters

Kilkenny Design Centre sweaters selection

modren Irish sweater, from


Petal when found, about 4kg

Petal (She’s not really keen on the camera, as you can see from her expression!)

Here is the lovely little rescued dog Petal; found by Terry as she was running around scavenging for food by the N7 a few days ago.(NOTE: this post was 1st written at beginning of September 2010, & I’ve added updates below, too)

She is skin & bone, & has a hairline fracture of one hip & a slight hip dysplasia on the other, but she is a loving, friendly, trusting little girl. She is about 3 yrs old, looks like some class of terrier l mixed with a King Charles. We love her already.

Terry took her to the local vet to check her for a microchip & get her looked over. He registered her as found with the local vet & the ISPCA, (as well as calling to the local houses- tho ‘ if she was owned by someone there and let to run & starve like that, they don’t deserve a pet!) I’ve checked local and national lost & found websites, but she is not listed as lost. If she was, she’d have been lost a while to be in the extremely thin state she’s in now, so I checked to over 6 months back. That was heartbreaking- so many pets lost or stolen; most not resolved.

If she is someone’s genuinely lost pet, of course we will return her, but as you can imagine, we love her & want very much to keep her. About a month ago, our very 1st dog, Shep, died. We, and our other 2 dogs were heartbroken. Now Petal is here, and she fits in wonderfully. We even know how to care for her while her hip mends, as Shep had broken his not long after we adopted him, too. (We think it was sheepdog vs vehicle. He got out one morning at our old house, and being a dyed in the wool car chaser before we adopted him,  he must have had a chase… Thankfully, with time, neutering, & better fencing that activity ceased!) He was a true gentleman, and his loss is keenly felt.

Shep on a snowy walk

So now Petal is with us, and she is a true lady. She knows we are trying to help, & never growls or snaps, even when we unknowingly jostled her sore hip, or when the vet had to position her on the xray table and it was a bit painful for her. When Terry found her a song with the refrain ”you are my angel” was playing on the radio. And she  is a wee angel- full of snuggles&  kisses.

I hope to post photos and updates as she fattens up and recovers.


Petal UPDATE a few weeks later:

Here’s Petal on the far right, waiting while doggie dinners are being prepped. She started out at 4kg when we found her, & now she is closing in on 5. The vet says we should aim for about 8kg. She’s a quick learner; watching our other dogs & picking up that the canine toilet is outdoors only, and that begging while human alpha male & female are eating is not allowed. Petal learned even more quickly that snuggling on the couch & sleeping in the bed with us IS allowed! :)Our little family feels complete again!

 Next Petal UPDATE:


 Petal is nearly 6kg now!

Petal is nearly 6kg now! The lovely, gentle, Petal is with us several weeks now, and she is really doing well. She’s put on about 2kg- that’s 50% of her original body weight when found!

Her hip is not bothering her, and the horrible abscess she had healed up well with lots of cleaning (by our other dog Pinenut- we nearly had to put a big head collar/satellite dish on HIM as well as on her in order to control excessive licking,) & antibiotics. Now, God love her, she’s in heat! I wonder if it may have been the returning health/weight gain that may have brought that on. Our other 2 are fixed, so a female in heat is new to us. She would like Pinenut to be her man, but he’s not really up to the job ;) Spaying is certainly on the cards for her after this is over.

Pinenut is not so interested in girls!

Petal, loves a pet!

She loves going for a stroll, but even in places when we can let the others loose to run, we now have to keep her on lead like this- no puppies are wanted! We want her to fatten up, but not that way!

Petal UPDATE 2014

Petal dog 2014 kitchen table!

Petal 2014 on the kitchen table!

Petal now LOVES the camera! She is fluffy & happy, and at a healthy weight of around 8kg she’s fond of an ol’ photo.  If you follow Vibrant Ireland on social media, you see her starring in some pics now and again,–probably even more than our other dogs, as she is such a ham for the camera. Here she is cheekily basking in the sun on the kitchen table, and in some other pics below, too.

Note: if you are in the south Kilkenny area & would like to adopt a pet, check out the Inistioge Puppy Rescue– we got our wonderful Rottweiler, Jessie, there.

what you do makes me smileHello? Is anybody out there?

Have you ever felt like this? You’re doing loads, but to no positive effect? I think we all have. I’m going to try to do my part to alleviate that a tiny bit.

A recommendations series is coming your way, featuring at least one blogger and/or someone on social media whom I think you all may be interested in.Enjoy & pass the joy on daisy

I had a very inspiring Twitter conversation yesterday with 2 bloggers. One is a very popular & established blogger who also has a print cookbook, Caitríona from, and the other, Melanie of, a bit more of a newbie food blogger. I’m in between Caitríona & Melanie in blogging experience, but what we all seem to have in common is times of feeling the same way about what we do– wondering are people enjoying it, finding it helpful? Sometimes it is hard to know for sure.

I reckon this is true for a vast majority of bloggers, and for non-blogging  folk who also lovingly share photos, tips, articles and so on in social media. We love what we do, but…does anyone else like it?

When we (you, anyone!) get a hat-tip, or a positive message sent to us it is, as Caitriona put it perfectly in her tweet: ” a virtual cup of tea.” 😀

Those little things can make a real difference.

Perhaps you may already know some of the folk I’ll feature, and if so, great! Maybe send them & others you enjoy reading a little tweet or message telling them how you loved their post or photo on___.

And while we’re at it, lets be sure we tell some folk in our ‘real’ lives how we enjoy _____ that they do.

SO this week, as well as the 2 bloggers mentioned above, let me tell you about @CormacCoyne, who lives on Inis Oírr, one of the Aran Islands off the coast of Ireland. He shares wonderful photos on Twitter, full of beauty, nature, and life on the islands, including puffins! Who can resist puffins 😀



Cormac’s Twitter bio is: Teacher, student, daddy, scientist, gadget nut, amateur photographer and astronomer… As if life isn’t busy enough already!  He’s busy, but not too busy to snap –and kindly share!– his very enjoyable photos with us. Check out his Twitter, and give him a followThanks a mil for sharing your fab photos, Cormac!

And thanks so much for the chat that inspired this post and the series to come, as well as all your tempting recipes, Caitriona & Melanie!

Irish History in 6 Minutes, presented by Manny ManShort and sweet!

Ok, not actually sweet, but you know what I mean. If you are like I was- confused by the convoluted Irish history, this is for you! In a short & fun 6 minute video, you’ll get a grasp of the history of Ireland right up until the present. That’s even better than the comic-book style book on Irish history I read years ago. (Do you remember them? What were they called? There were ones on all sorts of subjects…) Go on, take 6 minutes with a cup of tae & enjoy a watch: Irish History In 6 Minutes, presented by Manny Man; by John D Ruddy.

PS: if you’d like a more in-depth understanding of Ireland’s history, check out the History Festival of Ireland. It is on in June, and is held in a beautiful, historic location, so you really are spoiled for enjoyment.

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