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

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3 galleries, 1 museum, 2 dance performances, 4 cafes, 1 mexican eatery; 24hrs. Whew! #Dublin you’re fab! Blog posts soon 🙂
— Susan(@VibrantIreland) January 23, 2013

Dublin can be the perfect place for a culture vulture on a budget.
 To get you started, in this-the first of my Dublin posts, I’ll tell you about a stylish, brilliantly located hostel where I stayed January 2013. Oh yes!- the new breed of hostels are not just for drinking-culture vultures, they are for anyone who wants to free up cash to explore & experience the city.
Inside my 4-bed room, & the downstairs common areas at Generator Hostel in Dublin
Lighthouse cinema across from Generator Hostel Dublin

I stayed in a 4-bed private room at Generator Dublin and I found the hostel immaculate, friendly, and well designed. I was very pleased to see the bathroom was actually in the room, as in my experience at other hostels that has not always been the case. (FYI, I chose Generator, & paid for it myself. I was so pleased I then contacted Generator Hostel, & wrote a post on Dublin tips, on their site.)

As you can see from the photos above, everything was spotless, & there was plenty of space, too. The large, padlockable, storage boxes under the beds will fit even quite large suitcases & bags. I also was thrilled with the 2 electrical sockets on the bed, plus the little light. There’s a semi-enclosure at that end of the bed, too, so your light won’t shine out sideways and disturb the person in the bed parallel to you. Clever!

Generator hostel is located in Smithfield- in a lovely section in the square near the Jameson Distillery, and across from the Lighthouse Cinema (often art films here!) There is also a gourmet Fresh food store across the way, so you could pop in there & get some items (not the cheapest grocery shop, but tasty & less than restaurant food) for a ‘picnic lunch’ on the square in nice weather. You could then rent a Dublin Bike (a helpful post on using them is here) and explore the city. Generator Dublin is also just 1 minute’s walk from the LUAS (light city rail)– brilliant for wet days. Note: This northside LUAS doesn’t yet connect directly with the LUAS on the southside of the river Liffey.


Generator’s just a minute’s walk round the corner of Smithfield LUAS stop. And here are the Dublin bikes just down from it
The LUAS will also bring you up to Heuston train station, which is just a 5 minute walk to the Irish Museum of Modern Art. From the hostel you can easily walk to the National Museum at Collins Barracks, or in to one of the shopping districts at Jervis, & then cross the river into Temple Bar. Those are just a few examples of what is nearby. I found Generator’s location excellent- it was central enough to get most anywhere, but wasn’t located in a particularly noisy part of the city.
The gardens at the Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA)
I’m definitely going to stay here again on my Dublin visits, and I’ve booked in already for during The Dublin Dance Festival. There are 2 things for you to be aware of though- the hostel does have a nightclub, so it may be prudent to ask for a room away from it if you are not partaking 🙂 Generator is large- I was on the 4th floor- so it shouldn’t be difficult to be housed away from the action.
Secondly, like many Dublin hostels, if you are staying in a dorm room, unless you pay a bit more for female only, dorms are mixed sex. I’ve stayed in such often, but I traveled with friends– women travelling solo may not feel totally at ease in mixed sex dorms with men they don’t know.
Dublin can be an expensive city, but don’t worry- by staying in a lovely & well located hostel like Generator, you will save money- and many museums & galleries in Dublin are free! Additionally, there are smaller performance venues where you can often see theatre or dance inexpensively, plus there are several places to eat very tasty food & drink good coffee without breaking the bank. I’ll tell you about some of them in an upcoming post. You’ll have a great time here as a culture vulture on a budget. Enjoy Dublin!

Note: Generator has now arranged for me to have a future stay at Generator free in thanks for my writing a post on their site- but my stay & opinion was not in any way intitated or sponsored by Generator! 

My photo of an old postcard, at the wonderful Little Museum of Dublin, Ireland

Kilkenny Castle, Ireland. Looking up from the rose garden.
 Kilkenny- a county of great food, an exciting arts scene, 1,000’s of years of history, and very friendly people. It is a beautiful, special part of Ireland, with rolling, river filled countryside, charming towns, & a splendid medieval city. I’ve gotten an enquiry as to where to stay B&B in Kilkenny, & I wanted to share my answers with you in a blog post.
Kilkenny City
 
If you don’t have a car, or want to stay B&B as close as possible to everything in Kilkenny City, Carriglea B&B looks to be a winner. It is in a lovely area near Kilkenny Castle and you should be able to reach all the delights of Kilkenny City on foot. Though I’ve not personally visited, nor know any who have, their TripAdvisor visitor comments are excellent.
Graiguenamanagh bridge near Waterside Guesthouse
If you’ve a car and would like to sample the delights of the small towns and villages, as well as the city, I’ve great ideas for you. 
Small Towns
 
The first is along the river Barrow in the medieval village of Graiguenamanagh, home to the ancient Duiske Abbey. Around a 25 min drive southeast from Kilkenny City, Waterside Guesthouse is a stone built, restored mill, and all of the rooms have a view of the river. I’ve been inside here, and it is lovely and cosy.
Also, I’ve worked with the owners Brian & Bridget on The Town of Books Festival, and they are good fun. Brian is a real outdoors & nature enthusiast, and Graiguenamanagh is a terrific base for walking, biking, canoeing & so on. Their website will tell you more. For more on what I’ve written on Graiguenamanagh,click.
The second village area accommodation is near Stoneyford, about a 15 min drive south of Kilkenny City. I’ve not been to Lawcus House, but Will who writes at The Cook’s Belly has been twice, and he writes about it here. Stoneyford is also home to the delicious, award winning Knockdrinna cheese, and their farm shop & cafe, which are close to the fab Kells Priory. If they’re serving their pork sambo, get it! Yum!
Kells Priory is also near Lawcus House & Stoneyford- don’t miss it!
Rural Clochan, 5 Star 
 
My final suggestion is located 10 minutes drive south from Graiguenamanagh, but if you’d like to really treat yourself, it is perfect! Ballilogue Clochan is a 5 star guesthouse in an idyllic rural farming area near the river Nore.
The reason I know it so well is that we lived in (rented) a part of the Clochan that wasn’t visitor accommodation. Also, my husband Terry helped restore the main guest buildings- they used to simply be a series of stone barns.
The welcoming owners, Pat & Mark, have created a perfect blend of modern design and traditional charm in the guest buildings, and Mrs Meaney’s Cottage Museum is a real treasure of how Irish living used to be.
Looking out the window of Mre Meaney’s Cottage, Ballilogue Clochan, Kilkenny, Ireland
  *Do stop by to visit  Mrs Meaney’s Cottage Museum  even if you are not staying at Ballilogue.* 
 
To see more posts on Kilkenny City & County, click here
If you have any questions, or would like to ask me for suggestions on specific interests you have, please do so in the comments, or email me at:  hello @ vibrantireland.com
I’ll do my best to give you any tips!
Enjoy Kilkenny!

Lough Corrib, Cong, Ireland

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

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

Settling in for the hurling match

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

Lough Corrib, down from Lisloughrey Lodge

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

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

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

light floods in to the beautiful Vanderkiste room
Absolute Bliss!
If you are looking to treat yourself, Limerick’s Georgian quarter gem at One Pery Square is a great choice! Maybe you hadn’t thought about visiting Limerick, but we found that Limerick City was a good base for exploring the West, and is an interesting place in its own right. (As rural folk, we tend to stay in cities on hols- just for the change.) For my birthday we splurged & booked the 2 night Gourmet Getaway package (great value, you get so much!) and every minute of it was wonderful. We took one of the period rooms, the Vanderkiste, which I highly recommend. Staying in such a gorgeous Georgian house it seemed to make sense to pay that little bit extra to stay in one of the period rooms, and it was so worth it!
(Tip: as One Pery Square is a listed building there are only stairs to the period rooms.)

Out to the garden terrace, or up the stairs to the period rooms

The room was spacious and beautiful, looked out onto the park, & the bed was incredibly comfy. The roll top slipper bath was inviting, & the excellent shower was large and very powerful. We also loved the peppermint & lavender bath items- natural smelling; not cloying or fake-y. Everything was, of course, scrupulously clean.

The Vanderkiste room, a few of the Drawing room & bar; 1 Pery Square
Dinner: 

Dinner, wine, and after dinner port was included in our package, and we enjoyed every single bite and sip in the lovely dining room. From starter to dessert the food at Pery’s Brasserie One was full of fantastic flavour, interesting, and cooked perfectly. The service was superb, never hovering, but always there just as you may need it- attentive, knowledgeable and friendly. In fact, we both agreed that ALL the staff at One Pery Square were incredibly welcoming and helpful.– the whole team was excellent; genuine and warm. Juan in particular was so helpful at dinner, and assisted my husband the next day at Pery’s Wine Shop, picking out some delicious bottles to take home.

Wines from Pery’s Wine Shop
Gleaming Clean!
Hubby & I also had the funny experience of coming out of the respective restaurant toilets, looking at each other & hesitantly saying: ”Was that the cleanest restroom you have ever seen??” I’m not exaggerating- on the night we were there you could have eaten your dinner there– it GLEAMED! (and, no, we hadn’t drank more than a glass of wine yet!) 5 stars for cleanliness, and an extra 6th star because it was so shiny clean 🙂
Breakfast

We also had breakfasts included in our package, and once again everything was tasty and service was good. The menu isn’t massively extensive like Hayfield Manor’s but we had no complaints. I loved the honeycomb with my porridge. (see photo)

Brasserie 1 breakfast & dinner, 1 Pery Square

 

Bar, & Terrace Patio
One evening we had a drink on the garden terrace, which was a nice little oasis of herbs & plants- very inviting on a mild evening. The next evening was cooler so we had a few drinks in the bar- a cosy spot. Terry had a very tasty pint of Guinness, & I had a lovely French Martini- recommended by Juan as I wasn’t sure what I felt like having. We had great chat with Niamh, who was working the bar and connected reception; another example of the excellent staff– we really felt as if we were guests in her home, not that she was there because it was her job. Wonderful! I think that this is what a small boutique hotel is about- not just stylish rooms and good food, but a genuine, person to person experience.
Spa
Also as part of the package we had use of the thermal suites in the spa. Oh, it was bliss! If I’d realized how beautiful and relaxing this would be we’d have gone loads of times instead of just the day we were leaving. Don’t make that mistake! The spa is just gorgeous- candlelit, stone walls, lots of treatments available..you could happily spend ages in it. My absolute favourite of the different thermal rooms on offer was the ‘herbal cocoon,’ which has a dryer type of heat, and the most gorgeous amber-ish aroma. The showers were once again powerful and enjoyable, and we had a nice chat with lovely Tracy on reception as she showed us what else was available.
Tip: if you are a couple check out the couple packages the Spa have- they are very tempting!

The garden & terrace- perfect for a nice g&t!

 

We’ve Found Our Favourite Place To Stay In Ireland!
We fell in love with 1 Pery Square, and recommend it highly. We felt the package we got was quite good value, and that staying in a period room was definitely the way to get the full joy of the place. (Oh, & also there is a lovely drawing room to chill out in- I forgot to mention that!) Additionally, from Pery Square you can easily walk into the the main part of town (abt 10 minutes.) As well as the park, the Limerick Art Gallery is just across the street, & has lovely fresh cakes & more in its cafe, too. We’ll be keeping an eye out for 1 Pery Square’s package deals, and hope to return to this fabulous, welcoming, boutique hotel.

Are you ready to be tempted?

If you are looking for a special place to stay in Cork, Ireland, I wholeheartedly recommend Hayfield Manor.

Hayfield Manor, Cork, Ireland

Hayfield Manor, Cork, Ireland. AMAZING breakfast!

Snobby?

Hayfield Manor is a 5 star independent luxury hotel right in Cork City, and even if you are like my husband and me, who normally wouldn’t splash much cash for a hotel, a stay here is well worth saving for. In truth, I was a bit nervous that I might feel out of place, that it might be snobby ….but I am happy to say I was completely wrong! The staff are all so very welcoming, genuinely warm and helpful–they made the beautiful period manor house more than just a lovely place–they made it a wonderful experience.

A few days after our stay, Hayfield Manor put out this video ( watch at the end of this post)– and yes, everyone is that nice! Have a watch and you will get a look at and a feel for this special place to stay.

 

Highlights

Aside from the staff, the highlights of our short stay were:

1. The incredible breakfast– it was presented so very beautifully, and the dining room took my breath away! We were like kids in a candy shop with the selection- I may have been slightly giddy! 🙂 In addition to anything non-cooked you could possibly desire on the buffet, there were all sorts of cooked breakfast items on offer as table service. And so tasty!

 2. The very big, comfortable bed. (Did you see how small Terry looks on it in the photo collage?) I have back problems and often am not comfortable on normal beds, but I slept like a log in Hayfield Manor’s.

 

Don’t Miss

We stayed just one night, and weren’t really thinking about the pool & spa that are part of Hayfield Manor– mistake! Terry is a fitness trainer, and when he realized they had a personal trainer, pool and more, he called in to the spa to look around. After a nice chat with the staff there he was very sorry he didn’t plan enough time to have a go. Luckily, Hayfield does a nice amount of special offers and packages, so we can save for another visit to fabulous Cork City & Hayfield Manor!

See you there? 🙂

[youtube_sc url=”http://youtu.be/XQFuDN6t39E”]


If gardens are your thing, especially gardens in the grounds of beautiful, old, renovated  Georgian Irish houses, then Kilgraney House Herb Gardens situated between Bagenalstown (Muine Bheag) and Borris in County Carlow, Ireland is the place to head for.
It’s hard to believe that the interconnected herb gardens have only been there for six years – their colours, textures and perfumes fill the beds and air as you amble around. I was told that the end of May/beginning of June is the time of year to really see them in all their glory- which must be a sight to behold as they were pretty impressive in August!
Starting with the medicinal garden (individual beds sown with herbs suitable for different ailments), pebbled pathways lined with granite take you through to the monastic herb cloister, the cosmic herb circle (where each star sign is depicted by it’s own herbs), the aromatic herb & rose garden (located next to the very tempting spar) and the herbal tea walk. There’s also an orchard (bulging with fruit in August), beautiful old trees scattered around the grounds and a kitchen garden where fruit and veg are grown for use in the restaurant kitchens. No chemicals are used in the gardens and the owners of Kilgraney House take on most of the work themselves, carefully researching their planting schemes and always on the look out for new ideas.
If you’re a guest at this very tempting romantic getaway then you’re free to wander around whenever suits you. If not the gardens (only) are open from May to September, Thursdays to Sundays and Bank Holidays from 2.00pm until 5.00pm (current fee €3.00, (groups by prior arrangement). Refreshments are available and herbs are for sale too.  I really can’t recommend a trip out to Kilgraney House herb gardens enough – an inspirational place to spend an afternoon!
 Kilgraney takes its name from the Irish ‘cill greine’ which means ‘sunny hill’ or ‘sunny wood’, and it is located in the beautiful Barrow valley, about half way between Kilkenny City & Carlow town. So whether you’re just looking to enjoy a simple afternoon in the gardens, or perhaps a special weekend getaway in the House itself, this spot in the sunny southeast is worth a look!
**Kilgraney House Herb Gardens were visited ,enjoyed, & written about by Dee, who writes GreensideUpVeg** 
OutsideInItreland     WhereToStayInIreland