2019 Update on Dublin courtesy of the NYT!

You can smell the Teeling Whiskey Distillery well before you can see it. Located in The Liberties, it is the first new distillery to open in Ireland in 125 years.  Teeling’s hourlong tour (starting at €17 per person; includes a tasting) details the long history of Irish whiskey-making and takes you through the working distillery, where you can watch the “wort” fermenting in wooden fermenters, and whiskey being distilled in giant wooden stills. The tour ends in the bar, where the guide leads you through a tasting of single grain, small batch and single malt whiskeys.

The imposing Kilmainham Gaol (€8 for the tour, which is the only way to view the site; best to book in advance) has been a tourist attraction since 1966 when the jail was reopened after years of restoration by a hard-working group of volunteers. The hour tour of the cells and stone-breakers yard, where the leaders of the 1916 Easter Rising­ — an armed insurrection against British rule — were executed, demonstrates the grim role the prison has played in Ireland’s history. It housed rebels arrested during every uprising against British rule, and was a holding place for convicts awaiting deportation to Australia. The tour ends in an informative museum, which lays out details of the Easter Rising, War of Independence and Civil War. If certain aspects of the prison look familiar, it might be because scenes from the movies “In The Name Of The Father” and “Michael Collins” were shot here.

In the green heart of the city’s south side, St. Stephen’s Green, you’ll find students lounging on the lawns, tourists feeding the pigeons, and office workers taking a break. Stroll around the ponds and flowers, stopping in the northeast corner to see the tribute to Wolfe Tone, an 18th-century revolutionary considered the father of Irish republicanism. Note the slabs of stone lined up behind his statue; Dubliners, who love to nickname public monuments, have dubbed it Tonehenge. Stroll down Dawson Street for an aperitif at Peruke & Periwig, a cozy bar. Chatty bartenders whip up some of the city’s best cocktails  with spiced gin, local whiskey and enhancements like apple-wood smoke. The cozy second floor, with its velvet chairs, oil paintings and windows looking down onto the bustling street, is an excellent place to spend an hour or two.

Book ahead for dinner at Clanbrassil House, where the chef Grainne O’Keefe brings a new approach to old ideas in dishes like Killary Fjord mussels from the west of Ireland, bathed in a spicy XO broth, and smoked trout layered onto charred sourdough and topped with pickled cabbage. This small restaurant opened in 2018 and serves some of the most innovative plates in Dublin: sausage made in house from pork cheeks; marmalade ice cream; and hash brown fries with an onion mayonnaise. Interesting, Eurocentric wines are served by the glass, and the family-style option, in which the kitchen sends out a range of small plates, starters, mains and desserts, is a fun way to snack around the tempting menu. Dinner runs around €120 for two, including wine.

When you just can’t face another Irish fry, grab an early brunch at Brother Hubbard South, which has one of the most inventive breakfast menus in the city. Middle East-inflected dishes like a crispy halloumi sandwich with pickled tomatoes, or Turkish eggs with whipped feta, are made with ingredients from local producers, and the coffee is roasted on-site. Despite rave reviews, it remains unpretentious and welcoming, and the large patio is a popular spot for al fresco breakfasts when the weather is up to it.

Leopold Bloom, perhaps the most famous character in Irish literature, makes a visit to Sweny’s Pharmacy in James Joyce’s “Ulysses,” where he purchases a bar of “sweet lemony wax” soap that accompanies him around the city. The same soap is still on sale (€5) in this pharmacy, now a small,  museum run by volunteers who happily discourse on Joyce, and hold daily readings and discussion groups on the author’s works. Saturdays between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. are for the “Ulysses” reading, which anyone is welcome to come in and enjoy — or contribute. The pharmacy (in business from 1853 to 2009), with its wooden fittings and dusty bottles looks, one imagines, exactly the same as it did in Joyce’s day.

The Dublin 7 neighborhood is home to an increasing number of excellent restaurants that are well off the tourist trail. Stop on Benburb Street and hop onto a high stool at Fish Shop, where the catch of the day (sustainably fished) becomes a truly excellent battered fish and chips. There’s a selection of natural, and organic wines by the glass. Follow lunch with a “Night and Day” at Proper Order, a cheerfully staffed coffee shop with beans from esoteric European roasters like Square Mile and Fried Hats. The “Night and Day” is a pair of espresso shots, one black and one with milk, that comprise a sort of mini tasting menu, with enough caffeine to power you through the rest of your day.

L. Mulligan Grocer, in increasingly cool Stoneybatter, is the best kind of neighborhood restaurant: locally sourced ingredients, a lengthy and interesting list of local and international craft beers, and a lovingly curated whiskey list with descriptions that are almost poetic. The food, from high-end versions of Scotch eggs that feature pickled onion and Dijon mayonnaise, to delicately braised lamb with juicy carrots and a black-pudding-and-potato croquette, doesn’t look far from home for inspiration, but the execution and ingredients are exemplary and have created a loyal local fan base. After washing down your Irish cheese plate with a specially paired whiskey, stroll over to the trad session in The Cobblestone, a busy pub with live fiddlers going hard every night, where you can sink a Guinness while the talented musicians do their thing.

You can learn an astonishing amount of Irish history from a general history tour (€13.50) of Glasnevin Cemetery, where most of Ireland’s politicians, revolutionaries and luminaries are buried, including many who were jailed at Kilmainham. The efficient, well-informed guides take you to the graves of people like the revolutionaries Michael Collins and Countess Markievicz, delivering a neat summary of each person’s place in history, as well as explaining the intricacies of Ireland’s civil war and what happened after the Easter Rising in 1916. Following the tour, exit through the southwest corner and enter the John Kavanagh pub, colloquially known as The Gravediggers, for a pint where the cemetery workers used to refresh themselves during particularly long wakes.

While away your afternoon snacking around Eatyard, an open-air, gravel-floored courtyard with food stalls selling everything from wings dipped in sauces flavored with Irish whiskey to vegan fish and chips to locally made ice cream. The space also plays host to playful events like potato chip festivals.  Eatyard officially closes in the winter, though it opens frequently for special events. If it’s shut, settle in next door at the Bernard Shaw, a cheerfully ramshackle pub with a tendency to play world music all day long, for a hemp ale or an I.P.A. brewed by the owners as well as a good selection of other locally brewed beers and high end Irish gins.

Dublin’s easy to get around, but staying near the city center will save shoe leather: Look for rentals in ZIP codes D1 and D2. One-bedroom apartments rented through Airbnb cost around $120 a night; more in summer and less in winter.

The chic Iveagh Garden Hotel (doubles from €180) has rooms in a range of sizes, decked out in green and blue velvet accents and with generous bathrooms. The hotel backs onto the lush Iveagh Gardens and is walking distance from many city sights.

Rooms at The Dean start off tiny (the smallest sleeps one or two, and starts at €109) and go up to penthouse size, with a glass-walled rooftop bar and restaurant that offers great city views. The service is extraordinarily friendly, even for a city famous for its warm welcomes.

My 2014 Ireland trip details below.

In 2014, we planned a return trip to Ireland with our dear friends, Carol and Doug.  Carol did some research and wanted to visit Ashford Castle to try her hand at Falconry.  And thank goodness she did.  Because of this itinerary we decided to visit the North West part of the island, arranging our trip around castles, cathedrals, abbeys, and ancient ruins.  We began in Dublin and traveled to Cashel, County Mayo, Galway, County Clare, and flew out of Shannon.  But the highlight of our trip was Ashford Castle and Falconry.

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Dublin

  • Attractions
    • Guinness House
    • Trinity College for the Book of Kells
    • Dublinia Museum – history of the Vikings in Dublin
  • Dinner
    • Fade Street Socialfadestreetsocial.com – Three great venues where you can eat their delicious food – the restaurant, gastro bar, or cocktail bar. Don’t miss ordering from the Wood Fired part of the menu, especially the lamb, fennel & olive & beef & truffle flatbread.  Also loved the Charred & Smoked section, order any of the items and you won’t be sorry.
    • The Winding Starwinding-stair.com – Above a bookstore, this lively bistro restaurant serves traditional Irish food with some modern twists. All ingredients are locally sources and organic, an excellent wine list, and friendly service. Try the Dingle Bay crab on soda bread or a bacon-wrapped pork fillet with roasted onion mash and apple gravy…YUM.
    • Chapter Onechapteronerestaurant.com – Chef Ross Lewis features local farm & small producers. The food is well prepared and mighty tasty.
    • Restaurant Patrick Guilbaudrestaurantpatrickguilbaud.ie – Has 2 Michelin stars for the last 15 years (the only one in Ireland). Chef Guillaume Lebrun cooks contemporary French cuisine in a lovely dining room (or request the heated terrace) looking out over a 16th century garden.  If on the menu, try the lobster ravioli, caramelized veal sweetbreads, and the assiette au chocolat.  Wine cellar is one of the best you will find in Ireland.
    • Thornton’sthorntonsrestaurant.com – In the Fitzwilliam Hotel, with views of St. Stephen’s Green, this Michelin starred restaurant turns out an exquisite range of dishes, including a tasting menu you cannot miss. They also have a Canapé Lounge for wonderful amuse-bouches.  The dining room is warm and stylish, a perfect place to relax at the end of a day of sightseeing.

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  • Pubs
    • Temple Bar (47/48 Temple Bar) – very touristy but soooo fun!
    • Mulligans (8 Poolbeg St.)
    • Farrington’s (29 E Essex St.)
    • The Stag’s Head (1 Dame Court.)
    • Grogans Castle Lounge (15 S William St.)
  • Breakast
    • Queen of Tarts (Darne Street) queenoftarts.ie – this place is very casual, has great scones and all types of tarts, homemade on the premises, like lemon meringue and warm plum.  Of course, they also have a full Irish breakfast (no beans, but delicious potato-chive cake instead).
  • Lunch
    • Doheny & Nesbittdohenyandnesbitts.com a classic pub that has been there for hundreds of year.  Great food and, what else, great beers.
    • Café Tiesan (46B Harrington St)
    • Bliss Café (l48 Montigue St/City Center S)
    • The Lovinspoon (15 N Frederick St)
    • Café Sofia (5A Wexford St)
    • Lenox Café & Bistro (31 Lennox St)

Cashel (County Tipperary)

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  • Hotel Cashel Palace – one of Ireland’s architecturally most important hotels closed in 2015 and is up for sale. The 20 bedroom hotel was housed in a red-brick Queen Anne style building from 1730.  It was built for the Protestant archbishop of Cashel, Theophilus Bolton.  Hoping it gets a new owner shortly and reopens it doors.
  • Rock of Cashel – also known as the Cashel of the Kings, on a slopping hill, is home to the ruins of a great Celtic Cathedral. Legend associates the Rock of Cashel with St. Patrick, but the name comes from Caiseal, meaning “stone fort,” and the hill was originally the residence of the kings of Munster.  Excavations revealed some evidence of burials and church buildings from the 9th or 10th century, in the early 12th century the Rock began to be developed into a major Christian center.  Cormac’s Chapel, a magnificent little Romanesque church that still survives today, was consecrated in 1134, probably for Benedictine monks. The frescoes, which are the oldest Romanesque wall paintings in Ireland, remained hidden until the 1980’s.
  • Restaurants – not many to choose from in this small town but we found some good and lively ones
    • Brian Boru – a true Irish pub, the food was better than expected and the service friendly
    • 42 Restaurant (Baileys Hotel) – contemporary restaurant featuring Irish and European cruise, using local ingredients. Setting is relaxed and staff create a feeling of being home.  The Cellar Bar next door is a gastro pub with interesting small dishes.
  • EntertainmentBru Boru – located at the foot of Rock of Cashel they perform traditional music, song and dance on summer nights.  Touristy.

Kilkenny – this medieval city is over 400 years old.  Filled with castles and cathedrals, endless stream of arts festivals, theater, bluegrass and dance.  This energy is constantly pumping the city with new life and international flavor.

  • Sites
    • Kilkenny Castle – standing dramatically on a small hill this Anglo-Norman stone 12th century castle, has been remodeled and restored with extensive parks, art gallery and playground. It is a must visit.
    • Canice’s Cathedral and Round Tower – 6th century Gaelic Church. The Cathedral has wonderful stained glass and the Round Tower is the oldest standing structure in Kilkenny.  With 121 ladder steps to the top it is a steep climb, but well worth it for the wonderful views of the city.
    • Black Abby – was founded in 1225 by William Marshall, Earl of Pembroke. The church has since been beautifully restored to its original splendor with a spectacular colored stained glass window. The Abbey was part of the Dominican Priory and derived its name from the Black Friars, as the Dominicans were called. Today the friars and the Lay Dominican Chapter assigned here are engaged in traditional apostolates. The public celebration and service is a daily event in which visitors to the abbey are encouraged to participate in.
  • Restaurants
    • Campagne – contemporary Michelin starred restaurant, is located at Gashouse Lane in the center of Kilkenny, serving modern French food using local Irish produce. A great dining experience.
    • Lady Helen – Michelin starred, has panoramic views over the Mount Juliet Estate and the River Nore. Chef Cormac Rowe produces top class artisan food and you will understand why after your first course is served.
    • Ristorante Rinuccini – Family run, this Italian restaurant has been in business for over 25 years. It is a lovely room of little nooks and crannies to allow for an intimate dinner.  The food was Italian, but with a modern Irish twist – quite interesting!  Great wine cellar.
    • Foodworks – Great for lunch. Won the “Best Casual Dining” award.  Located on Parliament Street in what was one a bank, this funky cafe / bistro offers good food at very reasonable prices.
    • Langton’s – Perfect for lunch. Several times winner of a National “Pub of the Year” and a bit of a national treasure, the 67 bar is lively where you can enjoy traditional Irish food.

County Mayo

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  • Ashford Castle Hotel – Built in 1228 on 350 acres, this was the estate of the Guinness family, and opened as a hotel in 1839. Recently renovated, it has been voted “Best Resort” in Ireland by Conde Nast.  All 83 guest rooms are unique, many retaining their original architectural features.   Activities at the castle include horse riding, fishing, falconry, shooting, golf, cycling, kayaking, and a full service spa. The lobby bar is just what you would expect – a cross between a private gentlemen’s club and an upscale pub.  And the restaurants have some of the best food you will eat in Ireland.  It is also home to Ireland’s first School of Falconry.
    • Falconry – This was, without a doubt, the highlight of our trip, and not to be missed. The birds at Ashford are actually hawks, pack birds, who quickly bond with their handlers (and that includes you!). You don a falconer’s glove, stretch out your hand, and your bird will elegantly land with pinpoint precision.  You stroll the forest grounds flying, handling, feeding (this is what brings them back to you), and interacting with these amazing birds.  They seem to leap up to the heavens, gliding through the trees, and returning gracefully to your gloved hand.  You can feel the wind from their wings as they playful swoop around your head, millimeters away, only to perch right back for a quick bite.
    • Boat Ride on the Lough – A fabulous way to experience the magic of Lough Corrib, gliding across the clear waters in the traditional wooden boat. Your guide, Frank, hand-crafted the boat himself, is an approved countryside guide by the Irish tourist board.  He will tailor the itinerary to suit your individual interest and preferences.
    • RestaurantsGeorge V Dining Room (fine dining) and Cullen’s at the Cottage or The Dungeon (casual), a must to dine here as the restaurants were excellent. Chef Philippe Farineau overseas all three restaurants using local ingredients from the nearby farms and towns.  Cullen’s was my favorite, don’t miss their signature dish “Chicken Peri Peri”, slow cooked in their rotisserie oven and the mouth-watering aromas greet you as you walk through the door.

Adare – a designated Heritage Town, is one of the prettiest and friendliest villages we visited.  Was founded in the 13th Century on the river Maigue.  Walk through the string of preserved thatched cottages which are craft shops and lovely restaurants.

Galway – a compact, walkable, harbor city, filled to the brim with small shops, restaurants and cozy pubs.  Get your fill of the views of the rushing River Corrib as it sweeps out to Galway Bay by sitting at one of the pubs, sipping a pint.   At the center of the city is the 18th-century Eyre Square surrounded by shops, and traditional pubs.  In the Latin Quarter, which retains portions of the medieval city walls, stone-clad cafes, boutiques and art galleries line the winding lanes.

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  • HotelPark House Hotel – a grand Victorian-style stone building with a columned entrance situated in the heart of Galway city center.
  • Sites
    • Collegiate Church of St. Nicholas – dates back to 1320 and is still used for services. Note the lovely low Gothic arches, and the smashed faces of the stone angles (damaged by Oliver Cromwell’s troupes during the 17th century)
    • Galway City Museum – by the Spanish Arch is a compact museum featuring exhibits on Galway history, including a life-size Galway hooker fishing boat suspended from the ceiling.
    • Nuns Island – is an easy walk over Bridge Street where you can visit Galway Cathedral and sit on lovely green areas. Romanesque arches and stained glass make this one of the more beautiful modern cathedrals.
    • Oughterard Aughnanure Castle – Aughnanure Castle is one of well over 200 tower houses in County Galway built by large, wealthy, land owning families, mainly of Gaelic stock. Tower Houses are fortified residences and were places of power and control over the surrounding lands. The name Aughnanure comes from the Gaelic Achadh na nIubhar – the field of yews. This Irish Tower House and much of the surrounding area was occupied by the O’Flaherty clan and was built beside, and at some positions straddling, a small river, the Drimneen, that has cut intriguing caverns in the stone below it.

  • Restaurants
    • Malt House – a relaxed place to eat in the center of Galway city, with chic modern art, and serving locally-sources Irish bistro dishes (with a modern twist).
    • Aniar – Michelin star restaurant that advertises themselves as “terroir based”, which they say describes their traditional methods of food preparation and locally sourced ingredients. They aim to capture the rugged beauty and flavors of the surrounding landscape and shores.  The menu is seasonal and reflects the best of what the local countryside offers.
    • Ard Bia at Nimmos – overlooks the Corrib river, the restaurant is warm, inviting, and casual. The table of desserts when you walk in will have you drooling till your meal is over.  They have a large menu filled with homemade dishes for lunch or dinner.
  • Kylemore Abbey (Connemara) – with its Victorian walled garden was built as a castle in 1867. It became home to a community of Benedictine Nuns in 1920 and is still today renowned as a place of spirituality and education.  Nestled at the base of Druchruach Mountain (1,736 ft) on the northern shore of Lough Pollacappul, the heart of the Connemara Mountains, it is regarded as one of Ireland’s most romantic buildings.

County Clare

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  • HotelLodge at Doonbeg – Close to the village of Doonbeg, on the water’s edge, sits this lovely hotel (since I stayed there it has been purchased by Trump International). The accommodations were top quality and the hotel sits in the middle of a magnificent backdrop of rugged landscape, rolling waves and sand dunes.  There are many things to do while at the Lodge including walking or jogging the 1.5 miles of coastline, horseback riding, hiking, biking, kayaking and golf.  We had dinner at the windowed restaurant, taking our cocktails outside to view the magnificent sunset, and ended the meal with a digestif and a walk on the beach.
  • Hike The Burren – the word “Burren” comes from an Irish word “Boireann” meaning a rocky place and is very apropos for this area with a lack of soil cover and exposed Limestone. An  Army Officer in 1651 was said to have remarked “it is a country where there is not water enough to drown a man, wood enough to hang one, nor earth enough to bury them”.  that describes it perfectly.  Burren National Park was bought by the government for nature conservation and public access and contains examples of all the major habitats within the Burren; Limestone Pavements, Lakes, Petrifying Springs, Cliffs…  There are some spectacular trails to hike, so don those hiking boots and start walking.
  • Aillwee Cave – one of the oldest caves in Ireland perched high on the Burren terraced mountain side. Take the 30 minute stroll through the beautiful caverns, over bridged chasms, under weird formations and alongside the thunderous waterfall and the frozen one.

  • Poulnabrone Dolmen – this dramatic site, on the limestone pavement of the Burren, is one of the most famous Irish dolmens. Standing tall in the stark landscape of the Burren, the megalithic tomb at Poulnabrone is one of most interesting archaeological sites.  Dating from the Neolithic period, this monument is a wealth of information about the lives and burial customs of Ireland’s first farming communities.  No one knows for sure how these very large stones were moved, but when entered, twenty-two human remains were uncovered.
  • Cliffs of Mohr – one of the most beautiful, awe inspiring sight in Ireland. The cliffs are 320 million years old, stretch for 5 miles, and consist of various types of overhanging rocks of sandstone, siltstone and shale.  You can walk the majority of the way on trails overlooking the sheer drop and dark blue water.  O’Brien’s Tower is near to the highest point so you can view the best coastal panoramas on the island from the roof platform.
  • Restaurants
    • Vaughans Anchor Inn, Liscannor – maritime themed restaurant, overlooking the coast, serving first rate seafood in a laid back atmosphere. Heaven!
    • Johnny Burke’s Pub, Spanish Point – this gastro pub has many cozy corners and a roaring fire. Bar menu is delicious and they have an impressive whiskey and craft beer selection.
    • The Old Bakehouse Restaurant – Main St., Milltown Malbay, fresh seafood caught locally and traditionally prepared.
    • L’Arco – a modern Italian trattoria situated in the middle of the Burren region, with art deco design. Elegant, but comfortable, the service is friendly, with fresh, locally sourced ingredients.
    • Barrtra Seafood Restaurant – run by the O’Brien family since 1988, is a cozy space overlooking Liscannor bay (sunset is lovely). You have a choice of their “surprise seafood menu” which is five courses of unexpected dishes.

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Kildare

One hotel I just read about and want to try in Kildare, K Club.  Listed it so I remember for my next trip and so you can also check it out.

  • K Clubkclub.ie – this country estate is a member of Preferred Hotels & Resorts, on 550 acres, and only a 30-minute drive southwest of Dublin.  In August they host “Taste of Kildare Festival” in its walled garden with cooking demos, talks and a market.  But year round they offer golf, falconry, fly fishing, and horseback riding.

Recommendations from one of my client executives who loves to travel

  • Powerscourt Estate –  https://powerscourt.com/ located in Enniskerry, County Wicklow, Ireland, is a large country estate, now owned by Marriott Autograph Collection,  noted for its house and landscaped gardens,  occupying 19 hectares. Inspiration for the garden design followed visits by Powerscourt to ornamental gardens at the Palace of Versailles, Schönbrunn Palace near Vienna, and Schwetzingen Castle near Heidelberg.

  • Dramolin Castle Hotel – https://www.dromoland.ie/  Set in a grand, storied castle surrounded by countryside, this stately hotel is 14 km from Shannon Airport and 53 km from the Cliffs of Moher. 

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