It’s absolutely amazing what you can do in 4 days on a vacation. Thanks to the stellar driving skills of Dan, we were able to see a lot of the countryside, a ruin or two, and sample the small towns. Each drive included a stop for lunch on the way to our destination hotel. I have posted the trip in order, so you can experience the drive just as we had. Will be doing another post on scenic Ireland with more details on hotels, so stay tuned for that.
Day 1: Dublin through Kilkenny to Castlemartyr/Garryvoe
LUNCH Just across the street from the Kilkenny Castle are their former stables and a garden, and just beyond the garden is a charming Georgian hotel called Butler House. We couldn’t have picked a more sedate and delightful place to lunch. butler.ie
(photo at the top of this post) We took over the center table in The Lady Eleanor dining room, which had a grand bay window and a decorative, original plastered ceiling. Right, locally-sourced food made the experience that much better. This was the buratta salad with heirloom tomatoes.
The menu has a cool, minimalist design. Right, there was a huge selection of teas to choose from, probably over 20 brands.
The smoked salmon salad had a lot of Irish staples. First of all the lox were absolute heaven. They were topped with a nice assortment of pickled vegetables, including baby carrots. Right, the best part of this dish was the brown flour scone packed with a lively horseradish cream. This was my best lunch in Ireland, so fresh.
Back in the car: we had been on the main road most of the trip so far, but when we took a detour to our next destination, Garryvoe, the roads became very narrow, with high foliage on both sides. It was a little precarious! Right, the cool thing was we passed by ruins and an old cemetery on the way.
The lobby of the Garryvoe Hotel was grand. Right, we were just a minute’s walk from the shore.
DINNER Castlemartyr was a beautiful resort with its very own castle ruin right on the property. [Our plan was to stay the night at Castlemartyr, where our friends Dan and Allison were staying, about a 12 minute drive away from Garryvoe, but there were no rooms available when we booked. Weird, because it was a Monday night and the hotel had rooms available Sunday and Tuesday.] We stopped into this grand room for a drink before dinner. Right, the table setting set the tone for our fine dinner at The Bell Tower. castlemartyrresort.ie
Let the feasting begin! I so enjoyed the bread selection in Ireland, especially the brown bread. Right, my starter: Pressed Terrine of Rabbit, Ham Hock and Foie Gras with truffle gribiche, pear, toasted brioche.
The Roscoff Onion Tart, saffron potatoes, st. tola goats curd, pumpkin seeds. Right, feeling content and enjoying the pampered state we were in.
A vegetarian risotto was Dan’s choice.
Bob claimed this was the best Sea Bass ever. Pan Fried Sea Bass, carrot escabeche, carrot purée, aubergine caviar. Right, for the second time that day, we overtook the center table in the room. Our dinner reservation was at 7pm, but notice how bright is still is out. I would say, it would not get totally dark until after 9:30.
The sommelier did a neat trick by perfectly removing the foil from our wine bottle, then positioning the cork for our perusal. Nice touch. Right, Skeaghanor Duck Breast, parsnip purée, cabbage, blackberry, port jus. As delicious as it looks.
The castle ruins right outside the restaurant just as the sun was lowering in the sky. Right, there was a tour group of people who owned vintage Jaguars from all eras who were staying at the hotel, and they parked along the back of the hotel on the lawn. Must have been 25 or more. Now I know why there were no rooms available!
It was the day after the finale of Game of Thrones, and we were determined to view it. How appropriate to be watching in a grand space with a castle just a few feet away! We streamed it onto the TV thanks to Dan’s tech abilities. Finally, we could discuss the ending and read all the reviews and feedback.
Day 2: Garryvoe through Kinsale to Killarney
LUNCH We continued down the coast to Kinsale, which was an adorable fishing village with brightly colored houses and shops only about an hours drive away. Each town that we stopped in usually had a self-pay parking lot, so we felt somewhat safe leaving all our suitcases in the car. kinsale.ie
Of course we came across some castle ruins and a cathedral with accompanying cemetery. Here is pose at the top of the stairs that once led somewhere, but now fell short of their purpose. Right, some of the pretty colors painted throughout town. This was a particularly nice combo, in my opinion.
This blue house also had the benefit of a climbing floral vine. Right, I skipped lunch this day, but Bob, Allison and Dan did enjoy sandwiches at this deli sort of spot with quaint relics.
Our next destination: The Europe Hotel and Resort, where we had already booked a 5:30 massage. Located just outside Killarney, this place was all about the spa. As soon as we checked in, we went to investigate the spa, and when we saw the swimming pool and whirlpool heated pool outside facing the mountains, we immediately purchased 2 bathing suits and indulged in the hot water with a view of the lake and mountains before said massage. (see the hotel post for more details on Ireland’s grand resorts) theeurope.com
DINNER I started with the Three Bird Roast a terrine of duck, chicken and turkey, pistachio, wrapped in bacon with crispy kale, and spiced tomato chutney. Loved this. Right, the massage over and done with, we were now hungry and were having our dinner at the hotel, so we did not have to drive anywhere. Here we sit outside the restaurant with pre-dinner glass of wine where we watched the crows watching us. We did feed them some nuts.
Dining room at The Bell Tower restaurant.
Bob watches the sunset. Right, soup of the day was cauliflower and parsnip.
Allison ordered the Caesar Salad topped with crispy bacon and parmesan cheese. Right, Beetroot Cured Salmon with horseradish cream, caviar, truffle oil, crostini.
Another order of the sea bass, which was the catch of the day. Right, I got a special seafood roundup, and it was my favorite dinner of the trip. Each piece was simply grilled to perfection, and started with the best ingredients: The Europe Seafood Platter Grilled fish, Spillane’s smoked salmon, oyster, prawn cocktail, langoustine, and seared scallop.
This is one night we did not skip dessert. The Bailey’s Cheesecake came with a scoop of brown bread gelato, in which the crumbs of the bread were toasted, so added a crunchy, savory texture to the ice cream. A perfect end to a perfect day. Right, the cappucino.
Day 3: Killarney through Adare to County Clare’s Dromoland Castle
After a leisurely morning, taking advantage of The Europe’s gym and whirlpool again, we did not take many detours on this ride, as we were really looking forward to getting to Dromoland Castle, the crown in the jewel of our bookings. We did stop for lunch in Adare, which is known for its quaint thatched-roof houses.
A typical view from the car. If you are looking for green pastures, Ireland is the country for you.
LUNCH We could not have chosen a more charming place to lunch. It was a gorgeous sunny day, and we took advantage of the tables outside. Right, as espresso for energy. bluedooradare.com
Bob got the crab salad, which came styled nicely. Right, poppies at the store next door.
The rest of us ordered this beet salad, which was scrumptious. It was wonderful to sit outside, and enjoy a fresh meal. The servers at The Blue Door were particularly sweet, two young ladies. Right, we kept seeing this tree all over Ireland, which had the most astounding yellow flowers.
DINNER The pièce de ré·sis·tance of our stay: Dromoland Castle. This place struck me to the soul of my heart. It was grand, and had the most positive energy—it really felt like love was in the air. The staff at this hotel were exceptionally cordial, and beyond helpful and friendly. Shea, who was one of the servers at dinner was the bomb. I wish we had stayed more than one night here, but I vow to return. dromoland.ie
The Earl of Thomond dining room took tradition seriously in its grand design. Right, the place setting, a classic, timeless beauty.
The amuse did involve some whipped butter. How appropriate! Right, each dish arrived under its own shiny dome.
I ordered the Foie Gras du jour and was rewarded with more delicious hazel nuts in the mix. Right, the silverware showed a gracious patina.
Dan ordered this dish from the vegetarian menu: tortellini and mushrooms.
The Salad Panache with local salad leaves, pickled vegetables & smoked almonds, rapeseed oil & balsamic was not loved at the table, mostly because the local leave were frisee. Right, I believe this was the Pan-Fried Wild Fillet of Hake with herb gnocchi, seasonal vegetables, crab mayonnaise, bouillabaisse sauce.
This was also from the vegetarian menu, not sure what it was… (I’ll have to see if Dan remembers).
I ordered the local meat favorite: the lamb, which I think was a special of the day. Right, the dessert bites that ended the meal.
Scene in the dining room, a neighboring table gets their wine.
On Day 4 of the drive we headed back to Dublin, a 2.5 hour drive from Dromoland Castle. See our dinners in Dublin, for more spectacular restaurants.
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