Dublin & the Hidden Heartlands of Ireland.
2019 with Tina Flower
Dublin, the capital of the republic of Ireland& located on the East Coast, at the mouth of the river Liffy. For a small capital, this city has a huge heart bursting with an array of historical architecture, open parklands through to its world-famous Temple Bar area, teeming with a mix of bars, music venues, restaurants and funky boutiques and secondhand shops. Not to missed, Dublin is the home to the Guinness storehouse where you can not only learn to pour the perfect pint of stout but savor its unique smoothness whilst enjoying a 360-degree view of the city from the gravity bar.
From the city we travel inland to explore the relatively unknown center of Ireland. With its abundance of lush green forests, beautiful hiking trails, lakes and canals as well as castles and stately homes to explore throughout this fairytale scenery from Killaloe in the South through to Cavan which boarders Northern Ireland in the North. this area is known as the Hidden Heartlands of Ireland.
Over the next week we will take a cruise along the River Shannon and Lough Derg from the picturesque
riverside town of Killaloe. Taking in the beautiful patchwork of numerous green rolling hills with what
will become a daily custom of a glass of Irish whisky Coffee.
We make a visit to Portumna Castle & Gardens. Built sometime prior to 1816 by the De Burgo family, it
was home to one of the most powerful noble families for over 200 years. Although gutted by fire in
1826 you can still see and feel the grandeur when entering this gated castle and grounds. you are able
to visit the ground floor and hear tales of the castle’s history and its colorful residents.
Onwards to Athlone town, situated in the center of Ireland, being halfway between Dublin and Galway
travelling cross country. Split in half by the Shannon river this medieval town is steeped in history
where a visit to Athlone castle you can see history come alive and discover tales of bravery, sacrifice and
territories won and lost. You cannot leave Athlone without a well-deserved drink at Sean’s Bar. Not
only the oldest bar in Ireland, dating back to AD900 but also now confirmed to be the oldest pub in
Europe. Filled with local characters, friendly and always ready to spin a yarn and they even have their
own whisky which I must say is not a bad drop.
Travelling northbound through Rathcroghan and onwards to the stately Clonalis House in Casterea. An historic Irish manor, its history reflects the turbulence of Irish hist
ory and it is the ancestral home of the O’Connor Don who is a direct descendant of the last High King of Ireland. Here we enjoy morning tea with fresh homemade cakes and a tour of the house with direct descendants of the O’Connor’s. Should one wish to stay longer and live life as the lady of the house you can have a night’s B&B with your very own 4 poster bed.
As we say a fond farewell to the O’Connor’s we travel onwards to Strokestown Park House in Roscommon. This 18th century mansion is a step back in time with all its original furnishings offering a look at a Georgian Ireland in its purest form. It would have to have the best original kitchen I have ever seen, hidden from the world until uncovered when restorations began. Situated in the grounds you can also visit the Famine museum and read through original documents and images from the Strokestown Parks own collection explaining the circumstances of the Great Irish Famine of 1840.
Crossing further northbound in Roscommon we arrive at Arigna Mines. Famous for its shallow coal deposits mining was carried out in Arigna for over 400 years until its mines were closed down in 1990. Located high on the hillside with yet another amazing view of the surrounding countryside, a tour of these mines is definitely worth a visit. With firsthand knowledge and stories from the ex-miners escorting the tours, retelling of the daily life underground. I found this to be a very humbling experience.
As we leave behind the beautiful untouched Irish Heartlands and head towards the east coast again, I can’t wait to plan my return. This area is so beautiful and a perfect destination for those that love the water with so many activities offered here and a perfect option for those who have ever wanted to skipper their own boat and enjoy a holiday on the water. Ideal for families who want to experience a stay in the countryside with numerous hiking trails, the castles and parks to explore and even for those that have previously visited the Irish coast but want a more relaxed paced stay living as a local with the locals. Exceptional and unique places to stay with beautiful home cooked meals from the local pubs and restaurants served with the best hospitality one could ask for.
We finish off our magical 8day tour with an overnight stay on the East Coast at Dun Laoghaire. A pretty little coastal town with a very English feel. Situated just 30 minutes by road or train to central Dublin makes a great stop away from the city life should you wish to just take life easy.