Ireland's Hidden Gemsby Susan Byron
- Irish jewelry designer creates a contemporary Ring of Kerry
- Barron's Bakery, a family-run, Waterford staple baking the best bread in Ireland for over 125 years
- Step into a storybook garden with a fairytale castle at Lismore Castle and Gardens Arts Centre in County Waterford
- Colorado native has a eureka moment - sets up "Full Irish Whisky Tour of Ireland"
- Ireland's top ten tourist attractions in 2013 - Where to go and what to see in Ireland
Butlers Chocolate Experience is the No 1 visitor attraction in Ireland right now in my opinion and I should know, having personally reviewed over a hundred such sites for my website www.irelands-hidden-gems.com.
Butlers Chocolate have to be commended for their innovation (a glass walkway tour over the factory floor) which is an amazing blend of information and fun (hands on chocolate painting workshop) and value for money (all the chocolate you can eat and your own personal chocolate bear to take home).
Only after the tour (a behind the scenes glimpse of the chocolate making process)did it occur to me that the same fastidiousness that goes obvious goes into producing and packaging their chocolate products, is what had been applied to the Butlers Chocolate Experience, which is a sure fire recipe for success if ever there was one....
Farmleigh house in the Phoenix Park was purchased from the Guinness family by the Irish government in 1999 for €29 million. A fantastic mansion on 78 acres, albeit in need of refurbishment the purpose was to provide a venue for state occasions and a place for visiting dignitaries to stay.
It is next door to Aras an Uachtarain, home of the Irish president currently Dr Mary McAleese and her family which you can also visit for free if you are lucky.
A limited amount of tickets are issued each Saturday at the Pheonix Park Visitor Centre. However Farmleigh is open all year round unless it is hosting government functions and its also free If you visit around Christmas time the house is beautifully decorated but a pleasure year round nonetheless with beautiful staterooms, a magnificent galleried Jacobean wood panelled library and Victorian conservatory complete with potted palms.
Glasnevin Cemetery is not where you might expect to find Ireland’s only Thea award winning visitor attraction and in fairness, not what I would normally recommend as a family day out? But the new museum at Glasnevin is so good, it’s hard to put into words.
Death is something we all have to face at some stage and far from being macabre or morbid, the Trust’s imaginative, sensitive and respectful handling of a difficult subject is to be applauded along with all the other accolades it has picked up since it opened in 2010.
Every Dubliner has some connection with Glasnevin and their excellent new online genealogy service is helping people from all over the world retrace their Irish roots. And to celebrate their first birthday the Glasnevin Museum are giving away 10 free vouchers to their Irish American friends for the best comments on this post.
Driving in Ireland is no longer the ordeal it used to be with new motorways linking all the major towns and cities. And you will soon get used to driving on the left hand side of the road if you stay in the flow of traffic and take your time at the first couple of roundabouts (traffic circles) Tolls are relatively cheap and you can pay at the kiosks as you pass through. The only tricky one is the barrier free M50 which is the tolled ring road around Dublin, this €3 toll is simply charged to your car rental account so you don’t need to worry about it. Petrol ie gas is expensive, currently €1.49 a litre so it’s worth upgrading to a diesel car if you intend doing a lot of mileage.
And its only when you leave the motorways that you will encounter the narrow country roads that for some reason seem to terrify our American cousins? Relax, you are in for a treat especially if you take any of the coastal routes? For example the road from Ballyvaughan to Doolin, out along the northwest coast of Clare has been voted one of the best road trips in the world by Conde Nast Traveller and is truly spectacular with the wild Atlantic Ocean on one side and the mountains of the Burren on the other, ditto Dingle and Donegal. Nor can you beat the wild heathery mountains and inky blue loughs of Connemara either. Just keep your eye out for sheep; they love to sleep on the tarmac verges.
Anybody crafty enough to detour off into the midlands will have the inland waterways, lakes, boglands and drumlins all to themselves as apparently only 1% of visitors go there in their rush to the east or west coasts. I can never understand this, as it’s absolutely beautiful, with Belvedere House, Birr Castle, Clonmacnoise and the Rock of Cashel, not to mention not one but two whiskey distilleries Lockes &Tullamore Dew waiting to be explored.