Monday, June 25, 2012

Irish interlude

Following our Kilimanjaro trek last fall, my friend Judy and I decided to take a milder trip where one can actually sleep on a bed and eat more readily palatable food. I was so incredibly busy with work and delegated all aspects of the trip to Judy who organized the itinerary and most of the B&B type of accommodation (not your average B&B, but beautiful, charming grand old manors and lodges). I will admit, I was not very exited about the trip, much preferring exotic, untravelled, challenging venues but having broken my heel and torn a ligament, my walking is still rather painful.

Was I in for a surprise! On day one, driving on the left side in a stick shift on roads whose narrowness I haven't ever encountered before (short of Bhutan, but that is another story) I didn't expect to fall head over heels in love with Ireland. It truly was love at first sight, the lushness, greens, architecture, enchanting villages, magnificent landscapes, majestic coast line of this country and its gentle kind people.

We landed in Shannon, drove on to Bantry in Cork county, visiting ancient castles and gardens under  a rather hard rain. From Bantry, we followed the coastline to beautiful, quaint Dingle where we spent our second night. Amazing sunshine and warmth stayed with us there on. In Dingle, I ate my best seafood meal ever!! We shopped our hearts out for bed and table linens and cashmere. From Dingle we moved on to Doolin where we spent two nights. We took a ferry to the Aran  Islands and spent the day biking around this dry, rugged beautiful island. I swore I would return, rent a cottage for a couple of weeks and read, read, read and work on my book. Finally, we moved on to Connemara, visiting on the way the romantic gardens and Abbey of Kylemore. Connemara is an idyllic enchanting place, the land of green hills, rivers, mountains ... a visual feast. We stayed two nights at the delightful Delphi Lodge  which felt as a home away from home, with the most attentive, entertaining staff, delicious meals and grand architecture and surroundings.

I'll let the pictures explain...

Entry to Bantry House

Beautiful Romantic setting for this old grand House, witness to a time gone by

The old steps leading to what must have been an extraordinary garden

Encountering some financial hard times, the lady owner and one gardener are trying their best to keep some sort of structure. I found this garden enchanting

Very pleasant setting for lunch

The ancient castle is the site of beautiful parks and gardens

Kylemore Abbey

The beautiful coastline

Driving and walking around the deserted villages and the Burren, you can fully sense the devastation and the suffering of the Irish during the dark times of the potato famine.

Bantry coastline

Biking on the Aran island. Pure bliss!

I want to rent this cottage for a week of two, read, bike, swim, eat fresh seafood, sleep,enjoy the moment

Ireland has a yearly contest for tidy houses. Each homeowner and shop owner take incredible pride in their house and village. The houses are pristine, the villages are perfectly clean with flower baskets and gardens, not a shred of discarded paper in sight. These villages are incredibly charming, welcoming, with great local shops and bookstores. I picked up a few novels by contemporary Irish writers.

The famous Cliffs of Mohair

A farm on the Aran Islands

On our way to bucolic Connemara

The magnificent Delphi lodge, where we ended our stay. I pledge to return as I truly loved everything about this lodge,the house, the guests coming from all parts of the world to fish, and the incredible suroundings. Judy and I decided to climb up the hills to explore on a mild walk. Asking the manager for a map, he offered to drop us off quite a long few miles away which concerned me a little as my bandaged heel cannot take too much stress. His directions were quite precise: go up that hill all the way to the top, but stop under the fog-line (it was raining quite hard on that day), then go straight across these hills and walk down to the lodge. You can't miss it.

Famous last words, we went up and up, and then down to avoid brittle rock faces, climbed over and under numerous barbed wire fences, got stuck in mud and bogs filled with nasty leaches. Could not get a sure foot on the ground as these hills were too steep. Totally lost, we went up again in hopes of seeing the lodge. We took a gamble and walked in one direction ... again up and down the hills and ... victory we recognized the loch by the lodge... 6 hours later, soaked, covered in mud we found the lodge.

But what an adventure

A Bientot,



  1. Oh Francine, What a wonderful trip you had! Your photos are simply stunning. I felt as if I were there; in fact you moved this destination much higher on my bucket list as result of this post. Thank you for such a nice start to my week.

  2. Francine-
    This is such an amazingly beautiful place. The steps and the pond with the boat speak to me.
    Thank you so much for sharing.
    Happy Monday.

  3. Oh my, Ireland calls to me, it is in my blood and I have always longed to do exactly what you and Judy have done--despite the fact that yes, it is less dramatic than our other travels! I read your gorgeous post this morning and had to wait to write pour le digerer. And then to see your comment, it brought me back to you!
    Francine, I am so disappointed--certainly in myself--that you were so close and we did not meet, despite the weather and that I do not drive.
    Hopefully in September?

  4. What a lovely getaway! Enjoyed the photos and information on the lodges. Would love to bike and hike through the Irish countryside some day. As an owner of two black labradors, I appreciated the group photo.
    Thanks for sharing your adventure.

  5. It is a beautiful country. Green, green, green. And the price you pay for that, and in UK is all the rain, that comes from the jet stream over the Atlantic.

  6. These photos are breathtaking beautiful! I would love to visit Ireland one day. Must be amazing to stand there and absorb it all. xo

  7. beautiful place, I really like the steps completely green, pure nature, very nice...

  8. What beautiful photos. So evocative, such a green summer.

  9. Oh Francine.... I want to go to Ireland this second after reading your words and seeing your beautiful images... Magnificent... I can't believe I have never been there... Ridiculous as I am so close... Happy Sunday and thank you for this beauty... xv

  10. Francine, your tale of taking a "mild" walk amazes me. How can you do this and think it is FUN? But, I love all the images, the coastline, the horses, the dogs, the beautiful old structures and the colorful towns. My daughter and I dream of travelling to Ireland one day, I will have to ask you where to visit, leaving the walkabout completely out. Sending love, my adventuresome friend.

  11. Francine what a glorious countryside and the villages are lovely. The historical significance is everywhere!

    Art by Karena

  12. I took my son around the Ring of Kerry in a horse-drawn caravan, first time I had been to Ireland, and I was completely overwhelmed by its beauty and emptiness. I had brought a book about the Famine and it made a double impression on me, passing green hummocks which once had been villages - I didn't find it lacked drama. Perishing cold though!

  13. Dear Francine,
    Ireland is indeed a beautiful country and your photographs are testament to this. The countryside, scenery and beautiful buildings just remind me how stunning it is. Our niece studied cookery with Dorina Allen at Ballymaloe, which is a wonderful place to stay as well. I think that most countries have different types of beauty that can be admired. I will remember the places you stayed at for future reference. Much love. XXXX

  14. Francine,
    Absolutely amazing! I have not been to Ireland but need to add it to the list in the coming years.


  15. How funny to have stumbled upon your blog and to see your instantly recognisable photographs of Bantry House - which was featured on Channel 4's 'Country House Rescue' last week. I am not sure if you can view this programme but for the next few days the link is:

    Your photographs are beautiful!

  16. What beautiful photographs. The colours are just breathtaking.


  17. Francine I saw that Abby too. Some of the coast looks like the Moon surface, We played Golf at BallyBunion, did you see that village. It was wonderfull.

  18. My husband and I visited Ireland in September/October 2009 & 2010 and fell madly in love with the country. We just can't wait to go back. We stayed in Dingle 2 nights and just loved walking around, shopping at Dingle Crystal,driving the peninsula. Kylemore Abbey setting is just beautiful! YES the roads are very narrow in most places. Thanks for the memories.


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