A Trip to...Ireland (part two)

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

In case you missed part one you can check it out HERE and since it was sooooooo long ago that I wrote part one, even if you did read it you may want a little refresher. My instagram is telling me that we went to Ireland 11 weeks ago, so bear with me if the details are a little less than fresh. In part one I took you along on our travels to Dublin and Kilkenny with the help of a million pictures of rolling green hills, a few sheep and a few drinks. Let's pick up where we left off and I'll show you the rest of our trip to see the Rock of Cashel, Killarney, Valentia Island, Waterford & Wexford and the Hook Peninsula.

From our home away from home (our beautiful guest cottage) in Urlingford we made day trips to all these locations. The only exception was our overnight stay on Valentia Island. It was "grand" to come back to our own space with a kitchenette and a lit wood stove (our friend's parent's are the best)!  First up, the Rock of Cashel:

Our next stop was Killarney National Park. The highlight for me was seeing Muckross HouseThis nineteenth century Victorian mansion is like being transported back in time, complete with original furniture and decor and the grounds of the house are absolutely stunning -right on the shores of Muckross Lake. Here's a little history lesson I got on our guided tour (via):

Muckross House was built for Henry Arthur Herbert and his wife, the water-colourist Mary Balfour Herbert. This was actually the fourth house that successive generations of the Herbert family had occupied at Muckross over a period of almost two hundred years. William Burn, the well-known Scottish architect, was responsible for its design. Building commenced in 1839 and was completed in 1843.      
Originally it was intended that Muckross House should be a larger, more ornate, structure. The plans for a bigger servants' wing, stable block, orangery and summer-house, are believed to have been altered at Mary's request. Today the principal rooms are furnished in period style and portray the elegant lifestyle of the nineteenth century landowning class. 

The significance of the history lies in the amount of respect that was given to Queen Victoria. Despite her stay of only a few days, major renovations took place and were a burden on the owners even amidst their wealth. The Queen’s visit in 1861 is only one of four visits to Ireland, but it seems that each visit to Ireland was quite warm and welcome despite the animosity occurring between English and Irish. Lastly, the preservation of the estate displays historically how such wealthy people lived and the contrite contrast between the wealthy and poor, which we still see today. One should be reminded that the home was finished two years prior to the potato famine, which had devastating effects on Ireland, specifically those of the lower class.

We accidentally parked near the horse and carriage station (you can drive around the grounds and park in style) but it made for a lovely walk as we passed the lake, the abbey and then came upon the grand entrance to the house.

After we gathered tonnes of inspiration from the kitchen (okay maybe just me) we strolled around the gardens which very nearly looked fake they were so green.

After touring the Muckross House we continued driving along the coast in a day of perfect sunshine and spectacular views (the oohing and aahing continued). We planned to spend the night on Valentia Island as our friend's parent's had become friends with the owners of a little B&B called Atlantic Villa. This little house was well worth the drive and ferry ride, it was perfectly quaint, had the best bedding, the most comfortable bed I've ever slept in and you got a gourmet breakfast.

Here's a little blurb from their site that is 100% true!

Atlantic Villa is right in the heart of Knightstown yet secluded within its own private organic gardens. Run by Jackie and Brian Morgan, the house itself is a spacious period residence built in 1873, overlooking the sea. The house was built for the cable master at the time of the trans-Atlantic cable that was laid from Valentia Island to Hearts Content, Newfoundland and Canada. Brian & Jackie have put their hearts into renovating this fabulous house and it shows!!

“Our guests tell us that they enjoy the breakfasts made using fresh ingredients from our own organically grown gardens, the homemade jams, breads and muffins. The free range hens (and ducks on the way) provide our eggs. We have bee hives and we  harvested our first crop of honey last year”.

The island is also home to Skellig Michael- A UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is a remote hermitage perched on a rock and is one of the most spectacularly situated of all the early medieval Irish monastic sites. Unfortunately it was a day of true Irish rain and climbing the steep rocky terrain was out of the question.

Now I may have this out of order again, but at some point in our trip we also visited the Waterford & Wexford area. Our friend took us on this lovely hike to work up an appetite for fish & chips. 

Below was the Hook Head Lighthouse at Hook Peninsula. We found out that apparently this area is the reason for the saying "By Hook or By Crook". It is claimed that the phrase is derived from a vow to take Waterford by Hook (on the Wexford side of the Waterford Estuary) or by Crook (a village on the Waterford side) made by Oliver Cromwell. Well that solves that one then. We had a bit of tea to ponder this.

We also stopped in to Dunbrody Country House Hotel to have a drink and sit in their gardens.

The bartender told us about Luftus Hall 'The Most Haunted House in Ireland' which is just down the road. It was sadly closed but I would recommend trying to see it as it did look like it lived up to it's name.

I don't want to wrap this up with an image of a haunted house, so here's one more of rolling green hills and a few sheep...

How I'll actually wrap this up is by telling you about our nightmare trip back home, thanks to Aeroplan tickets. Who doesn't love to make a million stops and criss-cross their way through Europe to get home-thanks Aeroplan! The only blessing in disguise was the fact that we stayed overnight in the Goteborg airport in Sweden. Design wise, I now feel like the Swedes can do no wrong. We slept on a couch with pillows, in dimmed light and then had the best breakfast ever. I also could have bought up the entire gift shop. 
So thank you Ireland and thank you Swedish airport, we had an amazing time. Now I'm convinced I want to go and visit Sweden properly and maybe steel some of those airport lights! If you made it this far thanks for following along on my two part recap. Now I can dive into sharing the plans for the new house-stay tuned! 

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