When I turned 40, I decided it was time to visit Ireland. I have long wanted to make this trip and I wasn’t getting any younger. So, I reached for my Virtuoso catalogue of properties, and selected 4 intriguing Hotels located in different regions. Then, I plotted a route between them using Google Maps so I could figure out the shortest distances between each, and establish optimal arrival and departure airports. My Mother decided to join us, so we were the “Fab 5” on a new adventure.
In the first week of July, we flew Continental Airlines round-trip from Miami, via Newark to Dublin (a direct flight that took just under 6 hours). We stayed at the Merrion Hotel and thanks to our Virtuoso amenities, we received a generous upgrade to the Main Building with very large connecting rooms and sumptuous beds. Full buffet breakfast was included in our room rate and we had a chance to try all of the Irish specialties on the menu. We also enjoyed the delightful “Art Tea” which is served in the Drawing Room of the Hotel. The Merrion is located very centrally in Dublin and within walking distance to shopping and supermarkets, and a wide array of restaurants. Across the street from the Hotel is a nice little pub offering delicious fish and chips and other fare at reasonable prices. The Merrion Hotel is also very close to Trinity College and the Book of Kells exhibit. The adults appreciated this event but the children were wildly bored.
While in Dublin, we bought tickets for one of those double-decker bus sightseeing tours and spent the day, hopping on and off as we pleased. We visited the Kilmainham Gaol
which offered a fascinating tour. The children were intrigued by the damp, dark spaces and we were surprised and amused at how well behaved they were in prison! Don’t miss out on the Dublinia exhibition- fun for the young and old. I regret not doing the tour of the Guinness Storehouse. We drove around the buildings and factory but deterred by the long admission lines, did not venture inside. However, we did manage to sample the product in a Pub one evening.
We spent three days in Dublin and on the last, rented a car and drove roughly 2 hours to Thomastown, and the Mount Juliet Estate.
The approach to Mount Juliet is spectacular. You enter the gates and drive along beautiful, gated fields with horses until you see the Main Building in the distance.
It’s like a scene from a Jane Austen movie. We booked one of the Estate’s Rose Garden Lodges, an apartment, offering a fully stocked kitchen, living room and balcony, and 2 large bedrooms and bathrooms. There was more than enough space for my family of 5 to spread out, prepare a meal and relax. There are so many activities for the entire family at Mount Juliet. The children putted on the golf course, took an archery lesson, rode ponies, and attended the Kid’s Club. My husband enjoyed clay-pigeon shooting. The food was delicious at Mount Juliet. I had some of the best roast beef and Yorkshire pudding of my life. In addition to the lovely gardens, there is a little playground for the children very close to the Cottages.
We drove to Waterford City one afternoon and paid a visit to the Waterford Crystal Showroom. It was a bold move with young children who wanted to run and touch all of the shiny things but worth the trip. Waterford Crystal very kindly shipped our purchases directly back to the US for us, free of charge with a minimum purchase. There was also a photo booth in the showroom where you could send your photo to any email. We surprised our relatives back home with a family shot of our audacious expedition.
We could easily have spent a week relaxing at Mount Juliet. If you are an avid golfer, this would be your paradise, as the spectacular course is designed by Jack Nicklaus. If golf can’t tempt you, the delightful hand made truffles they delivered to our rooms should do the trick.
Our next destination was Killarney, and the Killarney Park Hotel. En route, we paid a visit to Blarney Castle in Cork. Large grounds, and a fun place for kids, but the walk up to the tower to view the famous “Blarney Stone” is not for the weak! Kissing the stone is even more daunting and only my husband was brave enough in our group.
Killarney is a busy tourist town and the Hotel, situated in the center, was a surprisingly quiet oasis. We had booked a suite and this turned out to be a very large set of separate rooms including a sitting room with a fireplace and a kitchenette.
We spent a day at “Muckross House”, a traditional farm, house and gardens. This was a very entertaining option for all of us. The children learned how butter is made and tasted it right out of the churn. There were farm animals to play with, and lots of places to explore and run freely. We toured the House and took a horse and buggy ride around the grounds. Highly recommended.
Our journey home was via Shannon Airport and we concluded our trip with a three-night stay at Dromoland Castle, just a few miles away. Dromoland Castle, like Mount Juliet, is spectacularly sited on impressive, well-manicured grounds.
In its transformation from single-dwelling castle to a Hotel, the property inherited an unusual layout of rooms and staircases. Our bedrooms were beautifully furnished with all of the modern conveniences one might expect, but the bathroom was especially luxurious, as were the bedroom slippers that each person received. Very formally attired waiters and waitresses served delicious breakfasts at this Hotel. In the town, just a few minutes drive away, we had dinner one evening at a Pub called “The Weavers Inn”. If you are ever in the area, the Inn is a perfect place to enjoy scrumptious Indonesian food in addition to updated classic pub offerings. Save room for dessert or you’ll be very regretful! Our table sampled quite a few of the options but my favorite was the “Sticky Toffee Pudding”. I still dream about it.
Our trip went flawlessly, thanks in no small part to the Brownell-Virtuoso relationship that enhanced all of our Hotel stays, and also to the research and pre-planning. Driving on the left side of the road as opposed to the right, like here in the U.S. was never a problem for us. There was no confusion, and no collisions, so don’t be deterred from touring this way. You can also set your own pace, stop as many times as needed, and enjoy the beautiful, green countryside. We loved Ireland. The people were incredibly genuine and friendly, welcoming us, and especially the children, into restaurants and exhibits. We are definitely plotting a return.