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

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Ennis, Ireland cheerful shopfronts

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

Ennis deserves its accolade as Ireland’s friendliest town.

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

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

Rowan Tree Hostel, Ennis, Ireland. Room and view

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

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

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

My Tips for Rowan Tree Cafe:

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

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

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

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


My Rowan Tree Hostel Tips

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

These photos are all from my Instagram account. Each Thursday, the hashtag #IGtravelthursday shows photos from peoples’ travels all around the world- local travels and far flung. Use the hashtag & join in! If you are a blogger, you can also join in with a blog featuring one of your trips/visits and your Instagram photos from it. Read the ins & outs of that here on SkimbacoLifestyle.
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I was a guest of Rowan Tree Hostel, and had a gift certificate for 1 free meal in the Cafe. Be assured being a guest doesn’t affect the honesty of my writing. I liked the hostel & the cafe; in fact enjoyed them so much, I went back for another dinner myself, and added a 3rd day to my stay.


Yeats statue Words detail, Sligo Town

Yeats statue detail, Sligo Town

Sligo! Who knew?

Yep, that’s one of Sligo’s hashtags, and it’s true– Sligo and Sligo town are full of delights, but they’re lesser known to folk who stick to the main tourist trails.

This colourful town will win you over– Sligo’s a perfect visit for lovers of outdoor beauty, adventure, arts, eats, culture, and craic! Located along the NorthWest section of Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way, Sligo resounds with the natural magic that inspired Yeats as well as an eclectic buzz in Sligo Town.

Over a series of posts I’ll give you a few tasters so you can see for yourself why you should visit Sligo. In this post I’ll give you 3 tidbits about where to stay, eat, &  what to do in Sligo Town

The Glasshouse Hotel, Sligo town, Ireland

The Glasshouse Hotel in Sligo town is pretty cool! Top left: view from my room & the swans, top right in the bar upstairs, under that is moi & the Glasshouse behind me. The groovy turquoise is in the lobby; the rest are of my room

1. Get Groovy in the Glasshouse Hotel!

Located right on the river in Sligo town, the Glasshouse has really fun decor, an award winning restaurant, and 2 bars. The rooms are in vibrant oranges or greens, and zingy colours are used throughout the modern building. I do see how an orange themed room could be a love-hate affair, but I’m firmly on the side of love!

I also enjoyed watching the numerous swans float along the river as I sat by my window. The wi-fi was strong, the slick telly had plenty of channels, and the bed was comfy. Happy days! No complaints at breakfast either, and I really enjoyed the fruit smoothie. The only slightly off thing was the little-bit-dim underground carpark– really handy, but creeped me out a wee bit. It’s probably just me being freaky, though!

I’d happily stay at the Glasshouse again, and in particular, their midweek Special Offer sounds good to me:

Midweek – 3 nights B&B and 1 Evening meal

Why not treat yourself to 3 Nights Bed & Breakfast and one Evening Meal in our Kitchen Restaurant on the night of your choice.
Min Stay: 3
From: €125 per person sharing

Having dinner at the Glasshouse would be nice, I believe, as Chef Alan Fitzmaurice seems on fire for good food. (I only had their So Sligo party tapas, but those made a dinner seem promising.) Sligo has plenty of tasty places to eat, so filling your tummy the other nights would be no problem!

Hargadon's traditional pub, Sligo Town, Ireland

Hargadon’s traditional pub is cozy, and even has a few snugs- you’d get your pint thru the wee opening as you conducted your ‘secret’ conversations. Try the Irish Stew, it’s ace!

2. Fill up with Fab Food!

In fact, Sligo has a whole festival based around food (which is why I was there,) and taking a look at what goes on will whet your appetite for Sligo and 2015’s So Sligo festival (which will incorporate Yeats Day-his 150th birthday!) Check out the Savory, and Sweet, tapas trails So Sligo ran! That’ll give you ideas for where you might want to eat.
Uh oh… looking at the listings again I realize I defo need to go eat more places in Sligo town… I’m totally dreaming of that Glasshouse Midweek Offer so I can check out the tasty places I missed. Writing this blog post is dangerous! 😀

Tip: Check out Osta cafe & wine bar, on the other side of the bridge from the Glasshouse. I sampled a few dishes and they were delish. (Osta stops serving at 7pm early week & 8pm later in the week, so just be mindful of that.) The whole area by Osta is rather lovely; sitting out having a glass of wine along the river would be quite romantic, and with the Glasshouse Hotel just across the way…

3. Suss Out Sligo Town!

Sligo Town collage, Yeats & more

Pub ‘Shoot The Crows’ was so called due to the gun shop across the street. To test a gun before buying, folk went outside & shot the crows hanging out on the pub roof!

Sligo town is an interesting place, and it’s not all due to Yeats. There’s the Dracula connection, modern film shoots, and lots more– the free guided tour will tell you all the best bits! When we did a truncated version the tour as we only had an hour free, but the tour is great like that– you can drop in & drop out as it suits you. The tour leaves Mon-Sat, 11am from in front of the Discover Ireland Tourist office, O’Connell St. The full tour’s 2 hours long, and believe me the time will fly by because you’ll be finding out so many interesting things.

The Model Arts Centre & Gallery is an grand place for all ages. As well as showing exciting contemporary art exhibitions, they also have Jack Yeats’ paintings, a myriad of events (not just ‘artsy;’ there’s a regular vintage flea market too!) and a cafe. The Model is a combination of an 1846 period building (built as a Model School,) and modern extensions. It is quite beautiful inside; light and airy. I certainly want to spend more time in here, and I bet many of you will too.

Right!– see you in Sligo, so! 😀

Check out my other posts on So Sligo Festival here and here.

AND, don’t miss another super Sligo festival- Tread Softly, on 27 July- 8 August 2014!

Dee of and Val of have also written about Sligo & So Sligo; have a read:

Ecotourism: 10 Fun Things You Can Do In Sligo – GreensideUp      Celebrating WB Yeats In Sligo – GreensideUp 

Só Sligo – so much fun (Part 2) – MagnumLady         Só Sligo – so much fun!!! – Part One – MagnumLady

Find out more about visiting Sligo &  driving the Wild Atlantic Way 

Transparency: I was kindly included on a 2 night So Sligo tour for bloggers, thanks to sponsorship by Connacht Gold butter. Of course, all my opinions are genuine as always, and certainly Connacht Gold didn’t influence me to eat more butter, because, c’mon, we all know how FAB Irish butter is, right? You can just have a look at my roundy frame & see I’ve been eating loads of Irish butter for YEARS. 😀 

Butter is good for you! Connacht Gold butter at breakfast Glasshouse Hotel Sligo town

Butter is good for you! Connacht Gold butter at breakfast, Glasshouse Hotel

Happily, butter is actually GOOD for you! OonaghEats has the scoop, and taste tasted some of the variations.

These phoinstagram-travel-linky-rulestos are almost all Instagram photos, and I’m sharing them as part of #IGTravelThursday. You can join in,too! See the rules to the left, and find out more on this post from Skimbaco.

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Farnham Estate pillows & bed

Ahhh, and relax! Snuggle up in comfort at Farnham Estate

Do you ever treat yourself to a stress-relief break?

Relaxation seeking or not, one of the best hotels I’ve been to in Ireland is Farnham Estate in Cavan.

 treatment room, Radisson Blu Farnham Estate Cavan

One of the treatment rooms, pic via Radisson Blu Farnham Estate Cavan.

Maybe you’re feeling good but want a treat, or perhaps your body has aches & pains, your mind feels frazzled, or your emotions have been a bit raw. I know when I went for an overnight at Farnham Estate I was less than rosy! I’ll use my achy & slightly frazzled self to illustrate in this review why I reckon you’ll enjoy Farnham Estate.

I wasn’t sure if visiting the spa would much benefit  my spine & shoulder pain, though I sure felt in need of a soothing break. But, YAY! The overnight spa break eased the pain and refreshed me greatly. I was on a tight budget and only availed of the indoor/outdoor infinity pool & the thermal suite, yet even without any hands-on spa treatments I felt better for days. Here are some reasons why you’ll enjoy Farnham Estate, too:

The stairway to bliss; ie Thermal Suites & Infinity Pool at Farnham Estate in Cavan, Ireland

The stairway to bliss; ie Thermal Suites & Infinity Pool, Farnham Estate, Cavan.

Total relaxation and comfort.

It’s not just the spa that makes you feel the cares of the world lifting, it’s the peaceful country estate surroundings, elegant historic building, and the friendly, capable professional staff. Yes, Farnham Estate is a beautiful, safe place to bliss out and rejuvenate. And sometimes we just need that!

“Going to a spa is a way of getting taken care of that is psychologically and culturally acceptable — and we can carry that feeling of being cared for with us for a period of time, and very often that can help us cope better with stress,” says NYU professor of psychiatry Virginia Sadock, MD via

Of course, you needn’t go with total relaxation in mind, you may want use the 4 star Farnham Estate as your base to explore and visit the Cavan area. (Do visit the Cavan Burren!) But let me warn you, once you get to Farnham Estate you may find it hard to part from it 😀

AHHH…Thermal Suite and Spa

Fancy a treatment? There’s a wide array, and the treatment areas looked fantastic. You can also have lunch in the spa, chillin’ in your robe. I didn’t do either of these as I was completely broke. (Same for why I didn’t eat dinner at Farnham’s main restaurant, Botanica. But the menu sounded bril, & they’ve won awards.) I did do all the free spa stuff though- it was ace! It made a nice difference to my aches and pains. Do try all the thermal suites!

Sunlight streams in through the sash windows in the Jr suite in the historic house part of Farnham Estate, cavan, ireland

Sunlight streams in through the sash windows. Jr suite in the historic house part of Farnham Estate

In the thermal suites there are several hot and cold therapies. I didn’t think I’d enjoy the more extreme ones, but I SO did. On the warm side there is the Reflexology Foot Basin, the Aroma Steam Bath, the Amethyst & Salt Room, the Laconium, and the warmest, the Finnish Sauna. In between rooms you can refresh yourself in the Snail Showers; I adored the Fresh minty one, gently zingy! On the colder side of things you can have a cool/cold rain Snail Shower, step through the Kneipp Walk which alternates temperatures, and coldest of all, the Ice Fountain. I was so surprised by the Ice Fountain; I totally enjoyed it! Perfect after the Finnish Sauna (which I also thought I mightn’t enjoy, but did! If you’ve not done a sauna, do try!)

Ice Fountain 

This is an ideal contrast to the heat treatments (sauna, steam bath)
The crushed ice stimulates the circulation and boosts the lymphatic and immune systems. The continuous falling ice and the refrigeration give a powerful and uplifting feeling, which is why ice fountains are used in medical spas to treat anxiety, stress and depression.
How to get the best results?
Take handfuls of ice flakes from the Ice Fountain and rub them vigorously all over the body, this contracts the pores of the skin rapidly, forcing out impurities. via

YOU GUYS, THIS WAS FAB! I did the rounds several times, and went back again next morning. It was then that I had a very special experience:

The Infinity Pool: a mist-ical experience!

Farnham Estate’s indoor/outdoor infinity pool can be used year-round as it is heated. It’s quite nice to paddle, water exercise, or swim, but for me the magic happened in the morning, in the pool’s outdoor section.

Outdoor section at night; Infinity Pool. Pic via Radisson Blu Farnham Estate Cavan

Outdoor section at night; Infinity Pool. Pic via Radisson Blu Farnham Estate Cavan

It was early Spring when I visited Cavan, so the mornings were still quite cool. When I went to the pool only a handful of folk were about, and none had gone through to the section outside. There, steam from the heated pool rose up to meet the mist and fog that had settled upon Ireland overnight. I lowered myself into the pool and headed to the divider between inside and out.

The cool fresh air rushed forward to greet me as I slid back the clear panel and it shut behind me. Suddenly I was enveloped in fresh mist. It was wonderful! As a robin sang out from the hedgerow, I turned onto my back and floated… just me, the caressing mist, the warm supportive water, and springtime birdsong. All I could feel and see was softness, infinity. No edges; not to the pool, not to the world around me. Bliss.


misty morning, Farnham Estate, Cavan, Ireland

The morning mist,, Farnham Estate

Will you be lucky enough to experience the same? Have a morning or evening swim– who knows when the mystical Irish mist may descend 😀  The Farnham Estate Spa is open daily from 8am to 9pm. Find out more about the Spa and the treatments available here.

Tip: If you are staying at Farnham, change into your swimsuit and (provided) robe & slippers in your room; the spa changing rooms are for day-spa guests. I wasn’t too sure it was okay to walk from my room in the historic part of the hotel and cross the lobby to the spa in my robe, but the receptionist reassured me that is exactly right. You know, sometimes in very nice hotels I get a little intimidated, and it is lovely when staff are warm & genuine when you ask (perhaps ‘obvious’) questions like that. You could think a place is gorgeous, but if you feel unwelcome, of course you’ll never go back. I felt very welcome.

Oh, and There’s Golf.

Tee hee (I’ll get my coat!..); what I mean is there is actually plenty at Farnham I didn’t experience. Golf is a big thing for many people, and Farnham Estate is big on golf.

Relax in grand style! The historic house lounge at Farnham Estate

Relax in grand style! The historic house lounge at Farnham Estate

Jeff Howe designed their course and that seems to be a good thing – LOL- I’m completely golf ignorant, but by the standard of what Farnham does elsewhere I reckon the golf is class!

You can also rent a bike for €15 a day, and there are 7 km of walking trails on the Estate. Or go fishing on their lakes- you can hire tackle for €15 at reception. They’ve a gym in the spa, too,  for fitness fans like my hubby Terry.

Time to Cocoon; Lovely Rooms

In both their modern and historic wings, Farnham Estate has very appealing rooms. I had a wonderful upgrade to a junior suite in the 400 year old Farnham Estate House. So lovely! I’m a huge fan of period properties, and the elegant, airy proportions of the Georgian era just seem to say: be at ease here.

The junior suite bathroom at Farnham is my favorite of any hotel I’ve stayed in so far; it just felt lush. The toiletries were divine; you’ll feel so pampered! A soak in the big beautiful tub, as well as a splash under the fantastic rain shower is a must.

The bed was enormous, sheets so smooth and soft; you’ll sleep like a log, especially after all your spa-ing! Of course, I say always bring earplugs (I find the squidgy silicon ones best) to any hotel. Especially in period properties where preservation doesn’t allow for elaborate sound proofing; you never know how noisy the other guests may be even if the general surroundings are quiet.

Standard room, Radisson Blu Farnham Estate Cavan, ireland

The standard rooms in the modern section of Farnham Estate are lovely, too! Pic via Radisson Blu Farnham Estate Cavan

Everything you’d expect from a fine 4-star hotel is at Farnham Estate, and the suites have Nespresso machines; fantastic. I dearly wish other hotels in Ireland would follow suit; it is disappointing (and fairly yuk!) that many only have instant coffee. (So far the other hotel where I’ve found Nespresso is the affordable-fab executive room in Belmore Court in Enniskillen. Others have ground coffee & supply a French press, which is good, too.)

Delicious Food, Local Ingredients

Farnham Estate’s breakfast buffet will tempt you to eat yourself to bursting! There is a plethora of delicious options and locally sourced ingredients; plenty to make both veggies and dedicated carnivores happy. This breakfast impressed me, and in my brekkie experience is second only to the 5 star Hayfield Manor in Cork. That is high praise!

Hot breakfast items, Farnham estate hotel, Cavan, Ireland

Hot breakfast buffet looking and tasting good! Farnham Estate hotel, Cavan, Ireland

The dinner menu at Farnham’s AA Rosette winning  restaurant Botanica is mouth-watering, and the Wine Goose Cellar Bar seems a cozy place for a drink, but as mentioned I hadn’t the funds this stay to do either. Have you been? Tell us! I had a few folk via Twitter tell me that they love the Sunday Lunch there. You can find out more about dining at Farnham Estate here.

Special Offers

Special offers are the business! Certainly I can’t afford to stay 4 star without them, and Farnham Estate has good ones. They also have competitions, so sign up for their newsletter & follow their Facebook to stay in the know. (This is a good tip in regards to many hotels.) Farnham is also part of the Radisson Blu network, so I think if you a person who has Points, you get deals too; sadly on the subject of Points I’m as clueless as I am on golf!

One thing I do know, though, is I like the sound of this (current at time of writing) Special Offer:

Dine and Stay Two Nights

This package includes:

  • Two Nights accommodation
  • Super Breakfast Buffet each morning
  • Set Dinner in the Botanica Restaurant on an evening of choice
  • Unlimited use of the Health Spa’s Indoor/Outdoor Infinity Pool, Watermint Thermal Suite, Gym, Relaxation Rooms and 7Km of Walking Trails through the Ancient Woodlands
  • VAT and applicable taxes included

Midweek Rates from: €149.00 per person sharing
Rates are valid for Sunday – Thursday and are subject to availability

Weekend Rates from: €207.50 per person sharing
Rates are valid for Friday or Saturday and are subject to availability

So keep your eye out for special offers, and consider treating yourself to a break at Farnham Estate. It’s actually good for you 😀

So you know: I negotiated a special price and upgrade with Farnham Estate. I think it is always a good idea to go to individual hotel websites directly, and/or to talk/email to the hotel if you’re looking for their specials or are having an occasion such as a birthday or anniversary. Big booking engines usually can’t get you the same special deals in nice rooms. Worth a shot!

Photo gallery, Farnham Estate hotel, Cavan, Ireland:

Jump In! 

frosty Lusty Beg Christmas, Fermanagh; boat on lake by frosty trees and cottage

A frosty Lusty Beg Christmas, Fermanagh

Ok, it’s time to stop freezing up and ignoring the C-word.

I mean, really, we can’t keep postponing sitting down & dealing with it; as I write this it is 6 weeks til Christmas. You may have a party to plan. You want everyone to enjoy it, women and men both. Well, I have a brilliant tip for you– I got a bit Lusty a few months ago and I totally recommend it for both sexes– Lusty Beg Christmas!

You see, sometimes when you head to a secluded, special resort like Lusty Beg, the gals are loving the gentle massages &  relaxation they can receive in the spa, the lakeside walks and the hot tub & pool, but the guys can be, well, a bit bored. The fellas want a bit more action; 4×4 off roading, boating, clay pigeon shooting and such. And you know what? At Lusty Beg, they get it! 😀 Now, I’m just being a bit silly here, because truthfully when I visited Lusty Beg we women enjoyed just as much action as the men, and I don’t think the men hated the relaxation aspects either. My point is, on this ace island in the Fermanagh Lakelands there is indeed something for everyone.

archery at Lusty Beg in Fermanagh; woman archer

Robin Hood has nothing on this fabulous Maid Marion! Archery at Lusty Beg in Fermanagh!

The food, wine, and cocktails we had were delicious, our room lovely and comfortable, the staff super helpful and friendly. (See my photo of our twin room below) I was quite impressed. I had driven up to the ferry that brings you to Lusty Beg (5 minutes crossing) when I had a visit to Fermanagh in March, and I was quite curious about Lusty. So, when I was invited as part of a press trip in September to spend a night & 2 days trying out what Lusty Beg had to offer, I went with my friend Dee. I’ll be writing an article about our spa experience & more next week, but I’ve just received information on Lusty’s Christmas Party packages & I’d like to pass it on. Having been myself, I think that it is really great value for what you get. Have a look:

It’s that time of year again…time to start racking your brains for a venue for the annual Christmas party.  But this year why not take the hassle out of the Christmas bash and give your guests what they really want – their own island paradise, for one night only, on Co Fermanagh’s fabulous Lusty Beg Island.

Lusty Beg is Ireland’s best kept secret venue, a luxurious island resort nestled in the heart of scenic Northern Ireland.  Famed for its incredible natural beauty, mouth-watering food, indulgent spa and the non-stop craic in our cosy Thatch Bar, it’s the perfect place to get away from it all and let your hair down in the run-up to the hectic festive season.

The Thatch pub Lusty Beg, Fermanagh. thatched cottage

We got cozy in the Thatch pub Lusty Beg, Fermanagh

Our Christmas party package includes a delicious four course meal, live music from Paddy Shannon, one night’s accommodation and a hearty Irish breakfast to set you right the next morning.  With tasty roast beef, festive turkey and exotic red snapper on the menu, you’re bound to find something to tickle your fancy.  Prices start at just £40 per person sharing, or £50 for single occupancy.

Only on Lusty Beg Island can you blow away the cobwebs the morning after the night before with onsite activities such as clay pigeon shooting, archery or off-roading, or just enjoy a scenic stroll around the island and take in the sights.  If rest and relaxation are more your thing why not spend the day recuperating in the Island Spa, availing of our wide variety of treatments including seaweed baths, luxury facials and massages?

We hope to have the pleasure of welcoming you to Lusty Beg during the festive season. To book, call 028686 33300 or email

Here are a few more photos from our stay at Lusty Beg; our twin room was a perfect size, and we both slept like logs. (Double room & couples spa bath pics courtesy Lusty Beg.) Let me know if YOU have a Lusty Beg Christmas 😀

If you’d like to check out Lusty Beg yourself, head over to their website, and if you’d like to see more about Fermanagh’s Enniskillen Castle, and a place to stay in Enniskillen Town, I’ve an article in that link. 

Royale de Luxe Limerick City of Culture. Photo,Tom Swift

Royale de Luxe Limerick City of Culture. Photo,Tom Swift via


Limerick is full of excitement this year as City of Culture, and now Royal de Luxe Limerick Giants are coming!

A new video was launched today, specially created to highlight the flagship event of this year’s Limerick City of Culture programme, ‘The Giant’s Journey’. The event, presented by renowned French street theatre company Royal de Luxe, will take place over 3 days and 3 nights in Limerick this September. It promises to be a wonderful spectacle, and I reckon you’ll want to be there! (See link to map of the Limerick Giant’s path at the bottom of this post)


One Pery Square, boutique hotel Limerick city

SO relaxing! One Pery Square boutique hotel, Limerick city

If you are staying overnight in Limerick City (and you should, there’s lots to see & do!) I so recommend the gorgeous boutique hotel One Pery Square in Limerick’s historic Georgian Quarter. This has been the 3rd year in a row that we’ve stayed at One Pery to celebrate my birthday, and we love it. Ace rooms, food, wine & cocktails, super staff, Spa; it has the whole delicious package. Even if you aren’t overnighting in Limerick, check out their Brasserie One for Dinner or Sunday Brunch; or maybe Afternoon Tea. You can even combine Afternoon Tea with a visit to the Spa’s Thermal Suite. Heaven! (I could stay forever in that beautiful Spa..)

Anyhow, this is our favourite Special Offer at One Pery Square. It is a terrific deal, so much included! (See other Specials here)


2 Nights Wine & Dine Escape

Description : Enjoy 2 nights B&B, seasonal a la carte dinner in Brasserie One on one night with a bottle of wine to the value of €30.00.  An hour in the Spa’s Thermal Suite. Package also includes tea & scones on arrival and car parking.
A selection of sample dinner menus can be viewed on

Min Stay : 2 nights
From : €169.00 per night

So, Limerick Giants! A 60-second film has just been released featuring the giant, elaborate marionettes of Royal de Luxe winding through the streets of Nantes, in France – giving people a flavour of what to expect when this dramatic pageant comes here this autumn.

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Limerick is Ireland’s first-ever City of Culture  – and now the spectacular street theatre of Royal de Luxe is another wonderful opportunity to increase awareness of one of our favorite Irish cities as a cultural and historic destination.

Limerick has such a great vibe about it the past few years, and it keeps getting better. Particularly exciting is the Draw Out group and the fantastic street art that has been created around Limerick City by international giants in the scene, and by local artists and school kids. There are pieces gigantic and small all over Limerick. Check them out on Draw Out’s map here. Note: it doesn’t seem to show on mobile, at least not on my phone.

Excellent new street art is being added all the time, and Draw Out aims to keep the map updated fairly frequently. August 16-20 sees more artists arriving, so keep your eyes peeled! Limerick City street art

Draw Out’s Culture Night Tour

This is probably the most complete tour we have. This is an amazing option for those who want to cover as much ground as possible in one day, experiencing all of the urban Art in the city and getting an insight into the process of delivery for each piece.

September 20, 2.30pm

For a taste of Historic Limerick, try a Medieval, Georgian, or Angela’s Ashes walking tour with Declan, The Limerick Guide. Terry & I have done the Georgian walk with him, and though Terry pretty much went along to humour me, he ended up loving it. Declan doesn’t give you dry old facts, he shares interesting stories, and is a humourous, friendly guide. Another Limerick ‘giant’ of hospitality 😀  Declan’s website is here:

Speaking of taste, for a really tasty Asian dinner at a brilliant price, try Aroi on Limerick’s O’Connell Street. It is open at noon until 10.30pm, and we’ve found it delish, friendly & scrupulously clean both times we ate there.

street art on Limericks Paint Parade

Aroi is not far from the street art on Limericks ‘Paint Parade, by Bank place

TIP: Do note that if you’ve an egg allergy, you’ll need to ask for no egg in your fried rice dish, as they include egg as standard but this is not (yet) noted on the menu.


Aroi is associated with the eating experience in Asia. Pronounced (Aroy) means delicious or tasty.

Aroi is a casual dining venue which offers a single course dining experience and service with the minimum of fuss.

Our ethos is to serve market fresh, locally sourced ingredients. Our healthy cuisine avoids the obscure chemicals and additives so common in our food today.

Aroi sources authentic herbs and spices and we do not use M.S.G. in any of our preparation.

Have a look at the Menu at Aroi, Limerick

If I were you, I’d mark my calendar & get booking a place to stay for September 5-7 when those Giants will be in town 🙂

 Limerick Giants! Royal de Luxe

The world renowned company will unleash the Giant Saga on the unsuspecting Irish public – an original tale, developed and specially scripted for the city of Limerick. Limerick will be transformed as the massive Giant rambles through the streets, transfixing audiences for 72 hours of free entertainmentYoung and old will rub shoulders as they follow the Giant’s progress on its epic three day journey.

Already more than 18 million spectators have been moved by the universal sagas of the Giant’s stories and the ‘Limerick Story’ will soon be part of this international saga and make a mark on the collective memory of the city for future generations.

This project is partnering with local cultural organisations, local artists, technical crews and other Irish suppliers & supporters to realise this inspiring vision of Royal De Luxe.

Find out more at and the MAP of the Giant Granny’s path is here.

The first time we stayed at One Pery Square 3 years ago, I wrote this post. I’ll have one from our 2014 stay soon.

See what’s on at Limerick City of Culture 2014 

 Have fun in Limerick City!


Pimms at Afternoon Tea, one Pery Square

Pimms at Afternoon Tea, One Pery Square

stay in a stone cottage in Kilkenny IrelandFancy staying in a stone cottage on your Kilkenny visit?


Enjoy a charming slice of country life during Kilkenny Arts Festival, or beyond!

You can rent the cottage by the day, week, or longer. I know the person renting it out, and though I don’t usually post places to stay if I’ve not been there myself, when I saw she was renting it I said I’d let you all know about it;  it seems a fab place to stay if you’re visiting Kilkenny during the Arts Festival–it’s located just a short drive from Kilkenny City. The cottage is located on the grounds of her home, too, so you won’t be totally isolated, but you will of course have your privacy.

Here are the cottage details:

Newly refurbed stone cottage
Located 8km from Kilkenny down a country lane, bordered on either side by Stud farms
Private Garden and secure parking

Studio Apartment with Mezzanine double bedroom
Ground floor with living area, solid fuel stove flat screen TV
Small kitchen, opening into a dining area for four people
New large shower and WC


Arts Week / August Rates

Daily rental €75 per night
Weekly rental €400
Monthly rental €1000

Kilkenny cottage you can rentThe stone cottage is an ideal place to retreat and get away from it all and still be close to beautiful city of Kilkenny. It’d also suit a mature student moving to Kilkenny for NUI Maynooth (St. Kierans College Campus) on a September start. If right tennant found a special term time rate could be arranged for the academic year.

If you are interested in staying in the cottage, email Anne Marie:  info (AT)

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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Cavan Burren; old walls & megalith The Calf House

The moss reclaims the wall of a farm abandoned in the 1950s, while in the left corner the prehistoric megalith ‘The Calf House’ or ‘Druid’s Chair’ stands tall

The thrill of discovering an amazing place little-known to the wider world is priceless.

I think I speak for many folk, Irish and International, when I say I had no idea that there is a Cavan Burren, nor that the surrounding areas are so charming!

cavan burren megalith Lady's Grave

The Lady’s Grave. There is possible rock art on some of the stones, tho’ experts are divided.

The Cavan Burren Forest is a place where you can see millions of years of history; geological formations so old you can barely comprehend the timespan, prehistoric megaliths that echo with tales of the Tuatha de Dannan and fairy-magic, and the remains of farms from ancient times up right up until the 1950s.

This spring a visitor centre and 5 walking trails are opening there, and an app will also be launched. I got a sneak-peek when This Is Cavan arranged for project manager Grainne to give me a tour.

Grainne was brilliant– she really is on fire for the Cavan Burren Forest Park and the whole team are dedicated to having the park & sights accessible for all whilst also being eco-friendly and sustainable. The afternoon I visited, the skies tipped out the rain, so our walk round was cut short– but that’s okay, it just means I’ve a fab excuse to go back for the Summer Solstice grand opening celebrations on 21 June!

 Going to this is a great idea for a daytrip or as part of a longer holiday!

Celebrate the Summer Solstice at Cavan Burren Park

Date: 21st June Time: 1pm – 6pm

Celebrate the Summer Solstice at Cavan Burren Park, Blacklion, co Cavan!  Inspiring and intriguing human history of West Cavan is on display– monuments, megalithic tombs, hut sites and pre-bog walls survive from prehistoric times and some are older than the pyramids. The festival on the 21st will see an exciting and packed programme of celebratory activities for all the family at Cavan Burren Park, with historic re-enactments, music, guided tours of the park and the new visitor centre, children’s activities, food stalls and lots more.

An exciting new visitor centre opens in Spring 2014 and will interpret the inspiring and intriguing human history of Cavan Burren Park. Visitors will have the opportunity on the 21st June to explore the new visitor centre and the new walking trails around the park. Burren is a very special place located in a breathtakingly beautiful part of Cavan. Visitors will be very pleasantly surprised as to what they will find there. Cavan Burren Park is in the heart of the Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark.

For more info, phone  049 4378 614 or email :

West Cavan Charm


West Cavan is beautiful countryside full of lakes, hills, & the Breffni/Breifne mountains, and charming small villages. I stayed in one of them; Bawnboy (An Bábhún Buí) at the foot of Slieve Rushen. At The Keeper’s Arms you get the real Irish village experience- a welcoming guesthouse with pub where you’ll also find locals having a chat & a pint, as well as the warm hospitality of owners Sheila & Bryan. As I was still recovering from flu, I had a hot whiskey in their pub & then slept like a log in my country-cozy bedroom that night.

photo montage of The Keepers Arms, Cavan Ireland

Irish country charm & hospitality in spades at The Keeper’s Arms!

The morning dawned with birdsong, and I took advantage of the free wifi in my room to Tweet, too 🙂 I was the last one down to the big Irish breakfast because of my dawdling, and because it was the low-season, owner Sheila was doing all the food duties- cooking and serving. This meant, though, that we could have a good chat, and I’m glad we did.


Teddy Bears & more!

Sheila is a passionate advocate for the area, and you’ll learn lots about  the local gems from her. Plus, she has very engaging stories of village life 🙂 Sheila brought me for a spin while she did catering deliveries, pointing out the teddy bear heaven that is Bear Essentials as well as a lovely & unusual local church– it has by-gone era ‘parking spaces’ under the building for the carriages of wealthy folk! Shelia also shared about the local Workhouse and the hopes & plans of the village in restoring it. I totally see why folk who’ve been to The Keepers Arms rave about her when I mention that’s where I stayed!

Recommended for a slice of Irish village life!

I think that whether you’re visiting Ireland from abroad, or are living here & want a holiday that’s a nice slice of village life, Keepers Arms will fit the bill. There’s also loads to see in the wider area, and that’s exactly what I did. (Posts on that later.) Still, I’ll have to go back, as there is much I didn’t have time to see. I’ve really fallen for the Cavan & Fermanagh area and I highly recommend spending some of your Irish vacation time there!


Families! You may be interested in the Teddy Bear Adventure Walk

The Bear Essentials & Cavan Walking festival are doing a Teddy Bear Adventure Walk in Bawnboy on Sunday 5 May. You’ll ”Discover the History of Teddy Bears while walking through the beautiful surroundings of Bawnboy forest. This is a family event. If you bring small kids, this walk is suitable for off road buggies.” How fun is that!

The Cavan Walking Festival has over 30 guided walks & runs from 2-11 May, 2014. Be sure to go to the Cavan Burren Forest Park then, too! For in-depth information & the stories associated with the Cavan Burren, do have a look at

Note:  ThisIsCavan arranged my Cavan Burren tour and sponsored my overnight at The Keepers Arms. Being sponsored does not affect the truthfulness of what I write, and when there are problems somewhere I tell you, like I did in this post.

These photos are 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, or how you use Instagram to plan travels, like in Reeta’s post this week. Read the ins & outs of that here on SkimbacoLifestyle.

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Love history? Love FitzGeralds?

Carton House- wow! Photo via broadsheet ie

Carton House- wow! Photo via broadsheet ie

I certainly do. Hubby is a FitzGerald!

You may be interested in this lecture series being held at the beautiful Carton House in county Kildare over the next several months. The last lecture in the series is on the loss of the FitzGerald fortune, which I certainly am sad about 😉 (The loss not the lecture!)

OOOH, very nice place to stay, too!

I’ve never been to Carton House, but I had a look around their website, and was impressed. Not only are the rooms gorgeous and the menus tempting, but the whole place seems to have that extra-special touch.

For example, I looked at the Christmas menu; at the start you get a description of the dining room’s setting– the large windows & the special trees they look out onto. And then the mouth watering menu!  Also on their website Carton House has videos on cooking, gardening tips, and more. Love it! There are walks you can do (with bluebells in Spring…ahh..) golf & other activities you may enjoy. They’ve got some nice packages for treating the family to a break, too- Tayto Park anyone? Well, our kids are all dogs so this FitzGerald family can just do a spa break instead 🙂

Here’s the Lecture Series information I was sent:


In the year of The Gathering, luxurious resort Carton House is inviting members of the FitzGerald clan from around the world to join them in celebrating the momentous occasion of the 250th anniversary of Lord Edward Fitzgerald’s birth. This week marked the beginning of a series of thought provoking historical lectures taking place at the luxurious resort in Maynooth, examining life as a FitzGerald. The inaugural event titled The Lord Edward FitzGerald Commemorative Lecture by Dr. Liam Chambers examined The Lives of Lord Edward FitzGerald 1763-1798 and attracted an impressive turnout with over 90 attendees at the event on Tuesday 15th October

“We are delighted to be hosting such an interesting series of lectures here at Carton House. It is very fitting that we have programmed these lectures and are naming October, the month of the FitzGeralds due to the long and varied history Carton House has with the name. The estate first came into the ownership of the FitzGerald family shortly after Maurice FitzGerald played an active role in the capture of Dublin by the Normans in 1170 and was rewarded by being appointed Lord of Maynooth” commented Conor Mallaghan, Owner, Carton House.

“The first record of a house at Carton was in the 17th century when William Talbot, Recorder of the city of Dublin was given a lease of the lands by the 14th Earl of Kildare and is thought to have built a house. The house and lands were forfeited to the crown in 1691 and in 1703 sold to Major General Richard Ingoldsby, Master General of the Ordnance.” 

FitzGerald’s will celebrate their heritage in the luxury resort, discover their roots and learn how the FitzGerald clan enjoyed life at Carton House and their contribution to Irish society over the generations.  Along with the lecture series, guests can enjoy a reading from the play The Loves of Lord Edward FitzGerald.

LECTURE 2        Monday, 18 November                                                       8.00 pm
Dr. Ciaran Reilly (National University of Ireland, Maynooth),
‘Fun and games at Carton’: The education of the young FitzGeralds in the early nineteenth century.

LECTURE 3       Monday, 9 December                                                       7.15 pm 
Christmas lecture followed by dinner in The Gold Salon.
Prof. Marian Lyons (National University of Ireland, Maynooth),
Garrett More FitzGerald, ‘the Great Earl’ (c. 1456-1513), architect of the Kildare Ascendancy: an assessment of his career on the 500th anniversary of his death.’

LECTURE 4        Tuesday, 4 February                                                           8.00 pm
Prof. Christopher Ridgway (Curator, Castle Howard),
No Longer Swimming against the Tide? The Future of the Landed Estate in the 21st Century. Carton House, Castle Howard and other examples.

LECTURE 5       Tuesday, 11 March                                                           8.00 pm
Prof. Terence Dooley (National University of Ireland, Maynooth),
The loss of the FitzGerald fortune, 1903-1948.


Tickets for the lecture series are €10, with a sumptuous dinner in the Gold Salon on the 9th December at €50 (ticket price included).

For further information, to book a FitzGerald Stay at Carton House or a ticket for the Carton House Lecture Series call 01 651 7708 or log onto

Carton House pool Kildare Ireland

Carton house pool. Yes! this should be me/you enjoying a dip after some interesting history.


Sigh…if Terry’s FitzGerald family hadn’t lost that fortune, I’d be booking a week-long stay Carton House this very night!

Luckily the talks are only a tenner 🙂 

Graiguenamanagh – A sparkling treasure waiting to be discovered

Evening along the river, Graiguenamanagh, Kilkenny, Ireland

Evening along the river, Graiguenamanagh, Kilkenny, Ireland

Dee Sewell of enjoyed a short break off the beaten track in the medieval village of Graiguenamanagh. She’s been kind enough to share her photos and unvarnished opinion. Do have a read: 

I’ve visited Graiguenamanagh on several occasions over the years given it’s not too far from home. The enchanting Town of Books Festival is held there every September and the place comes alive with book sellers and buyers ambling along the narrow pathways, clutching new and old books to their chests as they pop in and out of quirky old shops and marquees.

Graig’s a pretty riverside town, one of many dotted along the River Barrow in County Kilkenny, a waterway that runs through six Irish counties making it the second longest in Ireland. The deep channel that flows southwards along the end of the town, makes it perfect for high and spring board river diving on balmy summer evenings (lifeguard on duty at set times) and boats and barges of all shapes and sizes moor up along the tow path and weir, their occupants conveying the relaxed lifestyle they lead in their unhurried mannerisms.

Graiguenamanagh buildings collage

Some Graiguenamanagh buildings & the river Duiske running through town

I love the way places change the instant you ditch the car and travel by foot (or boat) and it happened once again the day we checked into The Waterside, a colourful B&B located on the riverfront in Graiguenamanagh (pronounced grey-g-na-man-ah).

We were hot and flustered having left our house and children in the capable hands of granny for the evening but we threw our bags into the clean and bright room of the converted mill and immediately headed out to explore our surroundings.

Our initial impressions of Graig were mixed… So many empty shops and closed up businesses poignantly highlighting the many casualties of a struggling country. We were especially saddened by the boarded up Anchor pub/restaurant/B&B, established in 1810 that would once have stood proudly at the bridge end of the High Street, but now empty with sycamore trees growing out of its guttering. How the building must have looked in all its glory! Now its a home for jackdaws and swallows and wildflowers that are nesting in its crumbling facade.

We continued our walk on the warm summers afternoon, looking for craft or bric a brac shops to entice us in, but sadly there were none, just more boarded up frontages. [Ed’s note: Duiske Glass is just a minute’s walk up High Street, but obviously needs good signage to it!] We wandered along, taking in the architecture of the old houses and the Duiske Abbey, then headed up the hill to the traditional Cushendale Woolen. Mill The mill still makes and stocks a colourful array of pure wools and yarns, including the newly launched Zwartbles range, but we were disappointed to find it was closed on Saturday afternoon and Sundays. That does mean however, that I’ll be returning again soon to buy a ball for my winter glove making project and perhaps stop for a cup of tea and cake at the Coffee On High Cafe,  but that didn’t help us part with any money on that particular Saturday.

Riverside; Graiguenamanagh, Kilkenny, Ireland

Riverside; Graiguenamanagh, Kilkenny, Ireland

In the absence of craft centres, we headed back to the river to look at the boats and found ourselves walking along the tow path towards St Mullins ‘Carlow side’. Within minutes the stresses of life left our shoulders. We slowed down and began to relax as the gently flowing river wove her magic.

We noticed the varied and colourful wildflowers that made us stop every few minutes to capture them, listened and watched the fish that splashed in their shoals alongside us. We felt the breeze as a large Heron majestically flapped its wings as it flew along the length of the river before flying high across the treetops. A fleeting highlight of our walk happened when the flash of a kingfisher whizzed past us, it’s vibrant blue catching the light of the sunshine before disappearing out of sight.

We didn’t walk to the next village on this occasion as we weren’t suitably prepared for the 2 hour round trip, but now we’re aware of these beautiful towpath walks we will return to do so. For keen walkers there’s a portage service that will carry your bags from one village to the next, allowing you to stroll unencumbered.

Food at the Waterside Guesthouse, Graiguenamanagh

Lots of locally sourced food at the Waterside Guesthouse, Graiguenamanagh

You’ll also find many well priced, clean and friendly B&Bs along the route, as we did in The Waterside which also provided us with a delicious three course locally sourced meal, with a menu that included Knockdrrina cheese, Goatsbridge trout and Lavistown sausages as well as a carefully chosen wine list and the nicest porridge I’ve ever tasted for breakfast!

Whether you’re just exploring a small portion of the South Leinster Way as we did, the full journey on foot, or the Waterways of Ireland, this is really what these villages are about – the alluring river. You can walk, cycle, row or canoe along any part of it, sleep in a tent or a b&b, stop for tea or a pint, soup or three course meal and sing with the friendly locals in a bar or quietly read a book shaded by a tree.

If only more people were to stop their cars and take a little stroll in the fresh air, perhaps some of the riverside villages might begin to regain their splendour. The boards may start to come down and they’ll no longer be hidden gems but sparkling treasures.

Thanks to Dee for this wonderful post, tis so true; these ‘hidden’ special villages like Graiguenamanagh are charming, but need people to come to them & spend a little if the villages are to survive, thrive, & then have new businesses.  

Here’s a little more about Dee, and check out her blog for things green & growing– in fact here’s her post on the wildflowers she found in Graiguenamanagh 🙂

 Dee Sewell runs an owner managed business that teaches growth, teaches green in Old Leighlin, Co Carlow. She blogs over at  about growing your own, recipe ideas, community gardening, the natural world and anything that might cause environmental concerns. She also loves all things purple.