Following our Kilimanjaro trek last fall, my friend Judy and I decided to take a milder trip where one can actually sleep on a bed and eat more readily palatable food. I was so incredibly busy with work and delegated all aspects of the trip to Judy who organized the itinerary and most of the B&B type of accommodation (not your average B&B, but beautiful, charming grand old manors and lodges). I will admit, I was not very exited about the trip, much preferring exotic, untravelled, challenging venues but having broken my heel and torn a ligament, my walking is still rather painful.
Was I in for a surprise! On day one, driving on the left side in a stick shift on roads whose narrowness I haven't ever encountered before (short of Bhutan, but that is another story) I didn't expect to fall head over heels in love with Ireland. It truly was love at first sight, the lushness, greens, architecture, enchanting villages, magnificent landscapes, majestic coast line of this country and its gentle kind people.
We landed in Shannon, drove on to Bantry in Cork county, visiting ancient castles and gardens under a rather hard rain. From Bantry, we followed the coastline to beautiful, quaint Dingle where we spent our second night. Amazing sunshine and warmth stayed with us there on. In Dingle, I ate my best seafood meal ever!! We shopped our hearts out for bed and table linens and cashmere. From Dingle we moved on to Doolin where we spent two nights. We took a ferry to the Aran Islands and spent the day biking around this dry, rugged beautiful island. I swore I would return, rent a cottage for a couple of weeks and read, read, read and work on my book. Finally, we moved on to Connemara, visiting on the way the romantic gardens and Abbey of Kylemore. Connemara is an idyllic enchanting place, the land of green hills, rivers, mountains ... a visual feast. We stayed two nights at the delightful Delphi Lodge which felt as a home away from home, with the most attentive, entertaining staff, delicious meals and grand architecture and surroundings.
I'll let the pictures explain...
Entry to Bantry House
Beautiful Romantic setting for this old grand House, witness to a time gone by
The old steps leading to what must have been an extraordinary garden
Encountering some financial hard times, the lady owner and one gardener are trying their best to keep some sort of structure. I found this garden enchanting
Very pleasant setting for lunch
The ancient castle is the site of beautiful parks and gardens
The beautiful coastline
Driving and walking around the deserted villages and the Burren, you can fully sense the devastation and the suffering of the Irish during the dark times of the potato famine.
Biking on the Aran island. Pure bliss!
I want to rent this cottage for a week of two, read, bike, swim, eat fresh seafood, sleep,enjoy the moment
Ireland has a yearly contest for tidy houses. Each homeowner and shop owner take incredible pride in their house and village. The houses are pristine, the villages are perfectly clean with flower baskets and gardens, not a shred of discarded paper in sight. These villages are incredibly charming, welcoming, with great local shops and bookstores. I picked up a few novels by contemporary Irish writers.
The famous Cliffs of Mohair
A farm on the Aran Islands
On our way to bucolic Connemara
The magnificent Delphi lodge, where we ended our stay. I pledge to return as I truly loved everything about this lodge,the house, the guests coming from all parts of the world to fish, and the incredible suroundings. Judy and I decided to climb up the hills to explore on a mild walk. Asking the manager for a map, he offered to drop us off quite a long few miles away which concerned me a little as my bandaged heel cannot take too much stress. His directions were quite precise: go up that hill all the way to the top, but stop under the fog-line (it was raining quite hard on that day), then go straight across these hills and walk down to the lodge. You can't miss it.
Famous last words, we went up and up, and then down to avoid brittle rock faces, climbed over and under numerous barbed wire fences, got stuck in mud and bogs filled with nasty leaches. Could not get a sure foot on the ground as these hills were too steep. Totally lost, we went up again in hopes of seeing the lodge. We took a gamble and walked in one direction ... again up and down the hills and ... victory we recognized the loch by the lodge... 6 hours later, soaked, covered in mud we found the lodge.
But what an adventure