Ireland with Christine (Part 2)

Agent Name: Christine
Date: September 2009
Trip Location: Dublin & South East Ireland

Places Visited: Dublin, Co. Kildare, Co. Wexford

Overall Impression: Beautiful, Scenic, Lush and Historic, that is how I would describe Southeast Ireland.

Kilkenny CastleFrom Waterford we traveled back south to the Historical city of Kilkenny where a visit of the Kilkenny Castle is one of the attractions I recommend visitors take in. Guided tours or self-guided tours are available. Kilkenny Castle is one of the most recognized buildings in Ireland.  Only in 1967 was the property given to the Government by the Butler Family who had bought the Castle in 1391 and had lived there until 1935.  There were Earls, Marquesses and Dukes of Ormonde and lived in the castle for over 500 years. After 32 years of being vacant and upkeep difficult to maintain, the family turned over the property to the Nation as a Historical Attraction. Only some of the original furniture is still within the castle walls however period décor is apparent throughout and you will also find a formal reception room, a long gallery offering guests the chance to view a restored picture collection of the Earl’s, Dukes and Marquesses who had lived in the Castle during various periods.

Traveling further south to Carlow we stopped at Altamont Gardens. Known as the most romantic garden in Ireland, it ranks in the top ten of Irish gardens and then onwards to Glendalough. On route to Glendalough we passed the same fields where the movie Braveheart was filmed.  Glendalough valley is located in the Wicklow Mountains National Park. It was carved out by Glaciers during the Ice Age and the two lakes, from which Glendalough gets its name, were formed when the ice eventually thawed. The Valley is home to one of Ireland’s most impressive monastic sites founded by St. Kevin in the 6th Century. The area is full of history, monuments, archeology, architecture, wildlife, parks and walking trails.  Of the most impressive remains is the Round Tower which stands 30 meters high. The main group of monastic buildings lies downstream from this Tower. The Priest’s House, The large granite cross and St. Kevin’s Kitchen, a barrel vaulted oratory of hard mica are also located here. The remains of an old stone fort and three stone crosses can be found between the Upper and Lower Lake. Beautiful walking trails are easily accessible and guided tours are available all year by advance booking. I found this an absolutely beautiful area to take pictures. It is an area that truly exudes the beauty and rich history of Ireland.

Church in Kilkenny

My last stop in Southeast Ireland before heading to Dublin was Powerscourt Estate, Enniskerry Co. Wicklow.  Powerscourt Estate is considered one of Europe’s finest treasures and it is where Irelands most famous House and Gardens are located. Near the Wicklow Mountains and only 20 minutes from Dublin, Powerscourt offers to visitors one of the world’s greatest gardens, sweeping lawn terraces, ornamental lakes with secret hollows and over 200 variations of trees and shrubs. The 18th century Powerscourt house offers a terrace restaurant overlooking the gardens, specialty shops, garden pavilion, an interiors gallery and an exhibition on the history of the Estate. It is here too that private functions can be arranged for small or large groups offering astounding views of the gardens along with the elegance and charm of a regal country mansion. The Ritz Carlton Powerscourt is located on these grounds. Ultra luxurious accommodations, exceptional customer service and attention to every detail, however little, are what guests can expect when checking into the Ritz Carlton Powerscourt. Two 18 hole golf championship-calibre golf courses, a 30,000 square foot spa and a Gordon Ramsay signature restaurant are also among this luxury hotels attractions.

Sightseeing by Horse and Carriage in Dublin

From Powerscourt, Co. Wicklow we made our way back up to Dublin to spend our last day exploring this enchanting and very historic city.  Whether you like an escorted bus tour, hop on-hop off, self exploration, or exploring the city by horse and buggy, you have the option to experience it in a variety of different ways. During my brief time in Dublin I visited Croke Park, home of the Gaelic Games. A monster of a stadium able to hold 82,300 spectators, it also houses the Gaelic Athletic Association’s museum where the history of the games and various sports are showcased along with interactive games. Croke Park holds a special place in the hearts of the people of Ireland. It is here where Ireland’s individual County hurling teams battle it out for the top County honors in the sport. Playing a sport, not for money, but for the enjoyment and passion for the game and his county, a mailman one day could very well be the star of the game the next playing in front of 82,000 spectators.

What better way to follow up a visit to a Sports arena than a visit to the Guinness Storehouse. The core of the Guinness Storehouse building was built to represent a giant pint glass, stretching up from reception on the ground floor to The Gravity Bar in the sky. They say that if you filled it, it would hold approximately 14.3 million pints of Guinness. The Guinness Storehouse offers tours daily that will take you through the history and the making of Guinness, a Tasting Laboratory, interactive exhibits and finally, a visit to The Gravity Bar where you can enjoy a panoramic view of Dublin while enjoying a complimentary pint of Guinness beer. Also located in the Guinness Storehouse is the Brewery Bar, a relaxing, informal dining experience where you can enjoy Irish cuisine with traditional Irish recipes that use Guinness as the defining ingredient.  The Guinness Flagship Retail store is the perfect finish where you can end your visit by purchasing a memento of your visit. A multitude of Guinness treats, gifts and souvenirs are found here.

There is certainly no shortage of shopping in Dublin. From lively pedestrian shopping streets in the heart of the city with buskers and street performers displaying their talents, to shopping centers and markets offering hand made products, there is something for everyone. Grafton Street is definitely Dublin’s most well known and famous pedestrian shopping street. You can find everything here from designer to everyday wear, shopping centers to boutiques; cafes, pubs, restaurants and specialty grocers are all available within this area. Hotels can also be found on Grafton Street. A perfect place to spend a night or two while visiting the City is the Westbury Hotel. Literally located steps from Grafton Street, the Westbury, A Leading Hotel of the World, is in the centre of this vibrant shopping and entertainment district allowing you the flexibility to be near major sightseeing attractions, cultural activities, fabulous restaurants and the exciting nightlife Dublin has to offer. A 5 star Luxury property, it is one of Dublin’s hotel gem’s.

Dublin is an historical, cultural and vibrant city.  St. Stephen’s Green, a 9 hectare Victorian park, a tranquil sanctuary within the hustle and bustle of Dublin’s City Streets; Trinity College, Ireland’s oldest University which houses the Book of Kells, a 9th century illuminated manuscript, the Books of Durrows and an early Irish harp  which are displayed in the Treasury and Long Room which houses over 200,000 of Trinity’s oldest books; Jameson’s Distillery, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the Dublin Zoo and the Temple Bar District are also ‘must see’s’ for visitors to Dublin.

Dublin

While I only had the opportunity to visit the Southeast area of Ireland and Dublin I have seen and experienced the beauty and hospitality that I know is prevalent of the whole country and I can’t wait to experience the rest of this beautiful country. I am already planning my next visit.

Favourite Place: Glendalough

Favourite Hotel: The Ritz Carlton Powerscourt, Co. Wicklow

Local Foods to Try: Irish Soda Bread, Guinness, Butler’s Irish Chocolate

Best Time to Travel: April/May or Sept/Oct, both are considered shoulder seasons and can save you money on airfares and accommodation

What to Bring: Umbrella, rain coat, good walking shoes, 220V converter

Things to Buy: Waterford Crystal, Butler’s Irish Chocolate, wool clothing

Travel Tips: VAT tax can be as high as 21% on some goods. You may be entitled to a tax refund as a non-European visitor to Ireland on goods bought in stores that display a “tax free shopping” sign in the window. To obtain a refund, complte a valid tax refund document on departing the European Union. This can be done at the airport before departure.

Best Time to Travel: April/May or Sept/Oct, both are considered shoulder seasons and can save you money on airfares and accommodation

What to Bring: Umbrella, rain coat, good walking shoes, 220V converter

Things to Buy: Waterford Crystal, Butler’s Irish Chocolate, wool clothing

Travel Tips: VAT tax can be as high as 21% on some goods. You may be entitled to a tax refund as a non-European visitor to Ireland on goods bought in stores that display a “tax free shopping” sign in the window. To obtain a refund, complete a valid tax refund document on departing the European Union. This can be done at the airport before departure.