Author: Jim Riney
Date of Trip: November 2012
We’ve been talking about a trip to Ireland for at least 10 years…Finally it has come to fruition. My niece Marsha and husband Sam along with their son Matt and wife Laura agreed to allow my wife Diane and I to travel with them to Ireland for a November vacation. Now November may not have been the best time to vacation there but it fit our plans perfectly. Actually, it was fantastic for us because our desires evolved mostly around seeing the countryside, getting to know the people, enjoying the local cusine and drinking a pint or two of Guinness. One would surmise that you could accomplish those things virtually any time of year but November was great because places were not crowded and the people were relaxed.
My family name is Riney – Irish to the core and it’s been a lifelong dream of mine to visit there. As my niece Marsha spent a number of years in the travel business, she took on the task of organizing our trip – not, however without lots of input from the “peanut gallery”. Everyone had different requirements – great places to eat and drink, good walking paths, countryside Bed and Breakfasts, golf at LaHinge, Riney’s pub in Sneem. Marsha was, however, up to the task and came up with an itinerary that included Brown’s Country House, www.brownscountryhouse.co.uk near Bushmills in County Antrim; Moran’s Oyster Cottage www.moransoystercottage.com in Kilcogan (near Galway); Churchfield B&B http://doolinaccommodations.com in Doolin, County Clare; the Sneem hotel www.sneemhotel.com in Sneem, County Kerry – also home of Riney’s Pub; the Hotel Kilkenny www.hotelkilkenny.ie in Kilkenny, County Kilkenny and finally the Trim Castle hotel www.trimcastlehotel.com in Trim, County Meath.
She had some excellent help in setting everything in motion from Elma with myGuideIreland.com. Elma listened closely to our needs and requirements and acted efficiently as our in-country spokesperson. At the end of this trip, Diane and I stayed an additional three days in the Dublin area at the Dublin Hilton on Charlemont near Dublin Centre. As our plans were to be our own guides, we hired a car (as the say in Ireland) – a 9 passenger VW Caravelle wagon. As I once traveled for two weeks on the European continent in a Ford Mustang with 4 adults and one toddler, I expected the van to be overkill. The van turned out just fine with sufficient passenger and luggage room and thanks to my nephew Matt and his newly acquired left side of the road driving skills, we traversed almost 1800 kilometers without incident.
Planning and anticipation are two things that always make a vacation great. Because normally, the vacation time itself goes far too quickly. Therefore, my plan included plenty of anticipation and thought about what it was I wanted to do while in Ireland. Along with that, Diane and I put together gift bags for our fellow travelers which we presented after our arrival in Dublin during our first days travel to the Bushmill area. The bags included green candy, green sunglasses, green journals for the girls and golf balls for the guys along with green solo cups (if you can do it with red, you can do it with green) and Guinness cup holders – they were well received. We also ordered Irish flag wrist bands at the last minute – but alas, they did not arrive in time for the trip – great Christmas gifts however. Some of our anticipation highlights follow:
8/24….Woohoo! Only 76 days to go….Think Green and Stay Healthy – drink at least two Guinness a week to kill anything the vitamins miss.
10/31 – Dinner tonight with people who will house/dog sit while we are gone. John and Kathy have recently moved back here from Northern Virginia area and are still looking for a place to live. Nice people – hope they know what they are getting into with our pooch.
11/6 – Where has the time gone and the anticipation is killing us….but only 4 more days until we depart. I talked to Marsha today and she has everything packed and ready. Diane and are just getting started with our packing but have a lot of stuff laying aside that we plan to put into suitcases sometime this week. I DID put our passports aside several days ago as we’ve already had one experience in our lifetime where we tried traveling without them (another story for another time but suffice it to say that Marsha also came through for us then, sending our passports via airline counter to counter over a labor day weekend).
11/8 – 2 more days….getting close now. Marsha and Sam did some airline seat juggling and are now in the same exit row as Diane and I.
Finally – time to depart. Rather than detail our trip experience, I’ve decided to provide some bulletized highlights to wet your appetite for a similar experience.
• Brown’s Country House B&B in Northern Ireland near Bushmills – What a great find. Sam and Jean Brown are superb hosts. Jean’s tea and biscuits (cookies by any other name) were a delightful arrival treat and who could forget Sam’s stories as he served us our morning breakfasts hot off the grill.
• Royal Court hotel bar in Northern Ireland near Bushmills – Excellent service and outstanding food. Don’t forget to try the desserts.
• Golf at Lahinch on the Irish West Coast – the views were absolutely magnificent (I did lose my share of balls, however, in the monkey grass)
• Cooking class with Rita and Margarite at the Berry Lodge in Spanish Point (near Lahinch) – the ladies spent the day here while the guys played golf then we got to enjoy the fruits o f their labor.
• Riney’s Pub in Sneem, County Kerry – a fun place with some wonderful people. Oh, and the breathtaking views along the road between Killarney and Sneem
• Touring the Rock of Cashell and walking through town on a brisk Saturday evening.
• Trim Castle (where the movie Braveheart was filmed)
• Bushmills Distillery, Guinness Store House, Old Jameson Distillery as well as the many fine pubs we visited.
• The Irish People – what a delight. EVERYONE we dealt with from the local convenience store/gas station, to pub owners and bar tenders , to taxi drivers, to hostelry – each and every one were accommodating beyond imagination – not a single incident or bad experience.
Every vacation trip is, of course, what you make it. But I think the hallmark of this experience is in all of our desires to return and stay longer.