The decision to honeymoon in Ireland in December was a risky one. Ireland is known for its erratic and cantankerous weather so the decision to spend a week driving from the bottom of the country to the top and back again was one we hoped wouldn’t require divorce papers before our marriage even got a chance to take off.
Our honeymoon kicked off in the Belfry suite of the Muckross Park Hotel, Killarney. The hotel, one of the oldest in County Kerry, is located on 25,000 acres of magnificent mountains, lakes and streams, and is the ideal romantic setting. It was part of the original Muckross House Estate owned by the Herbert family, who were in such good social standing that they enjoyed a visit from Queen Victoria in 1861. The hotel complex is home to the G.B. Shaw Restaurant, named in tribute to the playwright who spent the summer of 1923 here, writing Pygmalion (the play that became My Fair Lady). It is also features Kerry’s famous Molly Darcy’s Traditional Irish Pub & Restaurant, where lunch, followed by a late night of beverages with friends, provided the perfect start to our honeymoon.
Our next stop was The Hotel Europe and Resort, which offers breathtaking views of the Lakes of Killarney. A multi-million-dollar renovation has brought Hotel Europe to a level that few hotels in Ireland can compete with. We were shown to our suite by a fine gentleman named Patraig and took a few minutes to revel in the fine linens and magnificent view of the lakes before exploring the hotel. The lobby has massive floor to ceiling windows and a fireplace in the center where we sat and enjoyed a drink.
The following morning, my 31st birthday, John breakfasted in bed, while I got pampered in the spa.
Una, the masseuse, welcomed me with warm towels and then soothingly transported me into another world.
An hour or so later, I had to be pried from the relaxation lounge with its views of the lakes as John had our bags packed ready for our journey up the country.
Let the road trip begin.
After a quick trip to Killarney town for a spot of unnecessary shopping, we settled into our midsize Ford Focus car (rented from Dooley Car Rental at Shannon Airport) for a two-hour trip to County Clare.
I had heard about Americans spending endless weeks exploring Ireland’s castles so a stay at Dromoland Castle was a must on my birthday night.
A lovely drive up through Kerry and Limerick brought us to one of the most famous baronial castles in Ireland – the seat of the O’Briens, direct descendants of Brian Boru, and resident here until 1962, when financial difficulties forced the 16th Baron to sell to Bernard McDonagh of West Virginia who converted the castle and grounds into a luxury hotel and resort.
Some of the world’s most famous people have stayed here, including President George W. Bush who spent a night here in 2004 while he attended the EU- US summit held on the grounds.
We received a warm Irish failte from a receptionist named Catherine who urged us to “Take a stroll in the gardens tomorrow; ye will love them and dinner in the dining room is a must.” We took her advice in due time, but first the bedroom.
We were soon standing on plush carpet in one of the castle’s finest suites where, after taking off my five-inch heels (a gal has to look her best in these castles), I was tempted to dive straight into a box of chocolates, courtesy of the management. John reminded me that we had dinner reservations at the quaint Earl of Thomond restaurant. We opted for the romance of having our steak in front of a roaring fire in the gallery section of the castle instead. Seated underneath portraits of former Ladies and Lords of Dromoland, we felt privileged to be spending a night under the same roof that these historical figures had once called home.
We took an after-dinner stroll around the castle before returning to our suite where we made full use of the oversized sofa to watch a late movie.
An early wake-up call and a light breakfast and we were on our way again. The weather cleared up nicely the farther northwest we went, and we soon arrived at our next port of call – the uber-trendy G Hotel in Galway City.
Designed by Philip Treacy, Galway native and world famous hatter (think Camilla’s wedding hat), the G exudes glamour. The lobby evokes old-fashioned Hollywood allure while the reception area is brought to life by an enormous fish tank full of Connemara-bred seahorses. (I was quick to remind John that it’s the male seahorse who gives birth!
The ground floor of the G is home to three lounges, each with its own individual style. I was much taken with the bold theme of the Grand Salon, the gentlemanly Blue Salon, and my favorite, the Pink Salon with its fabulous art and an oversized 1950s-inspired rug.
I longed to linger in the lounges where people laughed, drank and some sang (a group of girls on a bachelorette party), but my husband was eager to get to the bedroom where a gas fire glowing beneath a large plasma television set the scene nicely. The views of both Galway Bay and the city skyline, and the luxurious bathroom, with its double walk-in shower, freestanding egg-shaped bath, double hand basins and another flatscreen TV, added to the romance.