«Craic is an atmosphere,» says Tom, owner of one of the island’s traditional estates, Shelburne Lodge in Kenmare. We are on the west coast of Ireland and have driven four hours on the wrong side of the road to get here. We have just been welcomed to a beautiful country house, built by a prime minister a couple of hundred years ago, now it’s Tom who rules here.
We are served tea and biscuits on the finest porcelain by a servant. It is fire in the fireplace, guests who greet, old bookshelves, ancient books wherever we look, the Irish are known to be well educated and very talkative. Tom is a wonderful example, before we have drunk our tea, we know that the craics ingredients are music, lively talk, a pinch of nonsense, a few drops of Guinness and a cup of tea and laughter – a lot of laughter. We sip our tea and smile and think that this is exactly what we dreamed of when we decided to visit Ireland.
The wonderful country life
We are in the middle of the adventure, looking forward to stay here for some days, in the wild, green, grass, sea, wind, and daily dizziness even when the sun is shining. A landscape clean of everything that smells of artificiality, sheep everywhere, cozy villages with brick houses in bright colors and signs with traditional names. We are in Kerry, known for The Ring of Kerry. We could have taken the train, but chose The Hard Way, and are suitably dizzy after driving the opposite way in lots of roundabouts.
Dizzy, incredibly dizzy
We started in Dublin, this city with one leg in the past and the other in the future. We arrived at the airport in the middle of the day, the sun was shining and we took the bus into the city center. Suddenly we were in O’Connell Street with a 121 meter high spire of shiny steel, the Stiletto in the Ghetto, as the Dubliners call it. We stay at the Wynn’s Hotel in Lower Abbey Street, close to the main street. We found the pulse of a 24-hour, party-minded city, bustling, incredibly bustling, loud, cheerful, close, restless, yet just good vibrations as we cross The Liffey, the river that separates Dublin in two.
Being away, feeling like home
Dublin was shabby, a city where everything stood still a couple of decades ago, but then it exploded, and today Dublin is modern and energetic, but still cozy, the feeling of being away, still at home, a laidback city with personality, you fall head over heels as you cross The Liffey and head into the beating heart of the city. Dublin is beautiful, you easily see this when you stand on the bridge and look south towards Trinity College.
No high buildings that overshadow the historic ones. The first thing you do is to go into Trinity and look at the world’s most beautiful book, Book of Kells with its 680 ingeniously illustrated pages under a strictly guarded glass. It was here, in the cathedral-like Long Room with a quarter of a million books and a barrel-shaped wooden roof, that Jonathan Swift, Oscar Wilde and James Joyce laid the foundation for writing.
Guiness – The black stuff
– A couple of jars of the black stuff? says the man behind the counter. When in Dublin, you drink Guinness. We’ve left Trinity, walked in and out of shops, street musicians on every corner, everyone’s buying flowers, it’s a special day today, it’s St. Patricks Day. We’ve done half of Crafton Street, the shopping paradise, filled with coffee, even more coffee, now it’s time for the brown syrup in a pub in an alley of hundreds of years old cobblestones. The pub is called Hairy Lemon, and we order another of the Irish’s oil served in beer glasses. – Another pint of Guinness, please?
Dublin – the compact city
After living park life for a few hours in Dublin’s Hyde Park – St. Stephens Green – an oasis full of fountains, majestic oak trees, couples kissing, dogs finding sticks and old men reading the newspaper – we headed for Temple Bar, Dublin’s trendy, lively and innovative quarter. The city is compact, we are there in a few minutes, and on our way we pass St. Patrick’s Cathedral, where Jonathan Swift was domprost and wrote Gulliver’s Travels on a bench in a secluded aisle.
The golden moment
Small intimate eateries, cool restaurants next door, bricks, metal, glass and ceramics, street musicians, colorful galleries, tourists, and more tourists, Americans, 50 percent of them are from Ireland, in Temple Bar they find the cradle. On our way into the bar, we met 2 Spanish senoritas, discussed U2 and The Dubliners, and we did not quite agree who is the coolest.
Full Irish breakfast
– A full Irish breakfast, Sir? White tablecloths, linen napkins, silver cutlery, fresh flowers. Outside the window are huge lawns, evergreens, oaks and counties that make you think of the books of Kate Morton, Katherine Webb and Rosamunde Pilcher. Suddenly we are in Shelburne Lodge on the west coast.
Green, greener, Ireland
Grazing sheep, blackheads, as they are called. The air is raw, the sky is blue, the roads are ultra-narrow, both hands on the steering wheel. A sign shows the way to the most spectacular cliff, we are going there, but before we will stop and take photos. Green, greener, Ireland, and we enjoy every single moment. We have been to Killarney, named the best city in Ireland in 2007, it is historic and scenic, yet a tourist destination, we are happy when we are on the scenic road again.
Portmagee is magical, and an abandoned fishing village. Last outpost, peace and quiet, a breath of fresh air, fish’n’chips at the pub, we buy a woolen sweater, we just have to have it, and of course we choose the original. one We have driven through the most beautiful nature. The Atlantic rolls towards the pier, it gnaws into the landscape and makes hundreds of meters high cliffs.
On the edge of Europe
– 4 euros, please! We have to pay to get access to the last three hundred meters on the edge of Europe, and it’s worth it. Almost scary, formidable views. Far down the waves hit the land. We can not get enough of the magnificent view, the feeling of freedom before we stroll down to the car. Then we drive past small castles, places with names we can not pronounce, Ballaghisheen, Derdeendarragh and Macgillycuddy. Later this evening we sit in the super cozy Limetree in Kenmare, and a four-course fish menu exceeds what we dreamed of, we realize that Ireland is yes-thank-you-both. City and country, green and beautiful, gray and wet, beer and wool.
Accomodation in the West
We stayed at Shelburne Lodge (www.shelburnelodge.com), a traditional 18th century estate, five minutes outside Kenmare. Lovely location, large clean rooms, friendly atmosphere, full Irish breakfast and a fantastic host. 180 euros per night for a double room and you should book in advance. A cheaper option is Picin Cottage (www.picincottage.com).
Ring of Kerry
The scenic Ring of Kerry around the Iveragh Peninsula is the most popular drive in Ireland, and one of the most beautiful. It takes three to four hours to drive the 17.5 mile long ride, but that assumes you do not take too many detours, and you do. The trip is a mixture of deserted marshes, beautiful coastal areas, rugged mountains, small fishing villages and the Atlantic, and you should set aside a whole day.
Accomodation in Dublin
We stayed at Wynn’s (www.wynnshoteldublin.com), a good 3+ hotel with full Irish breakfast included in the price. If you want to be a little bohemian, The Morgan (www.themorgan.com) in Temple Bar is a good tip. Slightly more expensive than Wynn’s, but all the more charming. If you go for a little luxury, The Merion (www.merrionhotel.com) is definitely the place, the hotel consists of 4 newly restored Georgian houses, and is located next to the parliament.
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