Ireland's Hidden Gemsby Susan Byron
- 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
- "Where to Eat, Sleep & Play in Ireland in 2013" during The Gathering
I am not sure I should really be telling you about the Hidden Places of Ireland, an amalgamation of five of the nicest self-catering properties you will find in the Midlands, as I seem to have stumbled upon a little corner of paradise tucked away in North Tipperary that I would rather keep to myself. Previously I had only imagined what treasures might lie at the bottom of those seemingly endless driveways that wind their way through grassy parklands, studded with magnificent mature trees with only the odd racehorse lazily lifting his head to see who it is that has interrupted his bucolic peacefulness. For this is Aga-land darlings, where life in the big house rubs off nicely on the little houses this nice group of people let out on occasion to the savvy few. There isn’t a sound in these quiet back waters, apart from the rhythmic slushing of the watermill or the butterflies dancing through the flowery borders. Or the buzzing of bees in the organic gardens filled to bursting with exotic varieties of vegetables, asparagus peas anyone....
Not only are each of the properties totally unique like the Manhattan meets Moneygall style stone loft at Ballylina or the rose strew romantic Cottage by the Well at Fancroft . But really clever piece is that the owners each bring something, other than delicious food to the table, that they are happy to share with you. Roderick has a passion for classic cars, Tessa and Wink have horses and love all things equestrian, you can even stay with one of Ireland’s most acclaimed garden designers Angela Jupe and enjoy free access to her beautiful walled garden! how cool is that? There are breakfast packs of organic rashers and sausages from Oldfarm available if you fancy? not to mention brown bread homemade from locally milled flour and fresh eggs from the curious chickens that wander about freely, including vegetables and fruit in season. It’s a little peak at paradise and how the other (wise) half live, that can be yours for a week or a few days at a time....
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God be with the days of the Celtic Tiger when the Galway Race Festival was the richest and most glamorous event in Ireland’s summer sporting calendar. Where the golden circle used to press the flesh and toast their success in an endless flow of free champagne in the hospitality tents, at someone else’s expense! While the ordinary mortals, having spent hours in traffic queues as long as the M50 had to then join the scrum for an overpriced warm drink in a plastic glass, just to be part of the great occasion that is the Galway Races. Not to mention risking the fake tan (rain equals paint stripper) or your silly hat (gale force winds) are all par for the course in an Irish summer and I have never known ‘the going’ to be good enough for any Louboutin heel yet..
But, don’t get me wrong, 500,000 plus visitors every year would surely agree it’s the place to be, but listen up for some ‘hot ‘ tips. How to double your money? Apart from folding it in half and putting it straight back in your pocket? Well for starters? What everybody in Galway knows there is a lot more Sex (or whatever it is you are after) to be had in the City than on the Racetrack, leave that to the aficionados.
The fashionistas will party till dawn, then sleep till noon, spend the afternoon in hair and make up before shimmying on up to any of the top hotels cocktails lounges, fresh as the proverbial daisy, just as the lucky winners trickle in from the helipad….now that’s what I call studying the form girls.
We are getting a rather mixed bag (to put it politely) of summer weather, so here’s a few ideas that will keep you warm, dry and entertained when it’s a soft day ( ie bucketing it down). Top of the list has to be the National Museum of Irelands Fab Four ie the Museum of Archaeology, the Museum of Decorative Arts & History, the Natural History Museum and the Museum of Country Life and the good news is that admission to all four is free!
The Museum of Archaeology on Kildare Street is quite simply fantastic and right in the heart of all the action (government buildings are next door) an iconic architectural gem in its own right with zodiac floor and marble columns, not to mention the gold collection, the bog bodies, plus a horde of Viking treasures. And you can take the weight off your feet for a while and watch a film in the theater upstairs, it also has a very good cafe.
The Natural History Museum just around the corner on Merrion Street, houses what is fondly known in Dublin as the ‘Dead Zoo’ these stuffed animals have been dead for a very long time ie since I was a child, so we are on first name terms Spoticus –the giraffe and me. Rent out ‘A Night in the Museum’ to get kids (or yourself) in the mood and let your imagination run riot!
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