Ireland Oct 2008
Submitted by Beth Burnard - Baxter office
Beautiful country and friendly people
If someone is going to do a self drive they should understand that the roads are quite narrow and a smaller car will be easier to navigate. They drive on the left also so an automatic might be a better choice than a manual transmission.
The two most popular Cathedrals in Dublin are St. Patrick's and Christchurch. Keep in mind that neither of them are Catholic. They are Protestant. Just some FYI in case you ever have someone traveling that wants to attend a Catholic mass.
If traveling in both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland there is a change in money. The Republic of Ireland is on the Euro and Northern Ireland is still on the Pound.
We stayed at The Four Season Hotel in Dublin.Absolutely beautiful 5 star luxury property. Wonderful rooms and public areas and service. Their attention to detail is noticed all over the hotel. The Ice Bar at the hotel is the trendy spot to start the evening before venturing off to other places in Dublin. The Ice Bar has a sushi bar. There is also a bar off the Lobby area that is called the Whiskey Bar. It has 91 different types of whiskey.
One site that most people will want to see, while in Dublin, is the Book of Kells at Trinity College. It is an illuminated manuscript in Latin containing the four Gospels of the New Testament with other various texts and tables. It was transcribed by Celtic monks (ca.800). It is regarded as Ireland's finest national treasure.
The next hotel we stayed at was Europa Hotel in Belfast. This is a 4 start property that is located right next to the Grand Opera House and is also close to the Waterfront. There are a couple of pubs across the street (The Crown and Fibber Mcgee's) that the locals enjoy but they do get quite crowded on the weekends.
While in Belfast we had a visit to what will be know as the "Titanic Quarterâ€ when they are finished. If you were not previously aware, the Titanic was built in Belfast. The 100 year anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic will be in 2012. The Titanic Quarter is supposed to be done by then. We were taken to where the Titanic was in dry dock prior to leaving Belfast. I think it will be an interesting place to visit come 2012.
We visited the Ballygally Castle Hotel at Ballygally Bay dates back to 1625. You can visit the "Ghost Roomâ€ if you dare while visiting this property. We stopped here for morning coffee on our way to Giant's Causeway. Some of us took a quick trip up the tower to the Ghost Room. (Very steep steps up to a very small room)
We had a stop at Giant's Causeway it is a beautiful sight to see.
Another hotel we stayed at was City Hotel in Derry. The rooms and the amenities at the hotel were very basic. The bar and restaurant area seemed to be a bit more upscale than the rooms were. We had dinner in the restaurant and the food was very good.
We also stayed at the Lough Erne Golf Resort and Spa (Enniskillen). This is a 5 star resort that has a mix of old world heritage and new world luxury. They are finishing up the last 9 holes on the golf course and will have a full 18 hole course soon. Some rooms are in the hotel area of the resort and then they have 2 and 3 bedroom luxury lodges that are in separate buildings from the rest of the resort/hotel. There is also a Thai Spa at the property. This property is on lower Lake Lough Erne.
In the morning we visited a place called Orchard Acre Farm. Here we were able to learn some Irish Dancing, basket weaving, and used beads to make bracelets. They have cultural and craft workshops, farm and garden tours, gourmet food events and much more. This was a fun stop for all of us.
We had lunch on the Lady of the Lake boat (owned by the Manor House Resort Hotel) out on Lough Erne Lake. The weather was beautiful and sunny this day unlike the day before at Giant's Causeway.
We had a visit to the Belle Isle Castle Estate after lunch. It is a 470 acre estate spread over 8 islands. There are some paintings by Edwin Landseer whom was Queen Elizabeth's favorite painter. There is an area away from the castle where they have the Belle Isle School of Cookery. There are several options to choose from and they do have a minimum and maximum amount of people for the classes. There are also accommodation options for those classes that are longer than one day.
We stayed at Kinnity Castle. Since the castle is supposed to be haunted, there were several in the group that thought this castle was creepy. I thought it was unique. There are no elevators here so this is not a good place for a handicapped person. To get to some of our rooms you had to go down one flight of stairs only to turn around and climb another. This property was rebuilt, the last time, in the late 1920's. It was built similar to the original so it still appears to be older. There is only one section of the courtyard wall that is from the original building. (No ghosts came out to play while we were here..
We were very lucky to also stay at Dromoland Castle Estate. This is one of Ireland's finest 5 star castle properties and one of the few estates tracing back to native Gaelic Irish families of royal heritage. It is one of the most desired destinations in Europe. Dromoland is an absolutely beautiful property.