Highlights of three weeks in Ireland; not all the quintessential tourist destinations, but fun, fascinating, beautiful beyond description Ireland. Come join us, The Café in Ireland, Off the Beaten Path (part 1 of 3)!
We've been back from Ireland for a few weeks now but we're still enjoying memories from the delightful trip to the Emerald Isle and thought we'd share a few of them with you. If you're a regular follower of The Café you may have already read the first two posts we shared a; A Magical Week at Ballymaloe and Ballymaloe Behind the Scenes.
It's taken a while to go through the 2,000 pictures (yes 2,000!) from the trip but we've chosen our favorites and today Scott is sharing the first post in a three-part series called Ireland, Off the Beaten Path. He's featuring highlights from the trip, a few of the quintessential Irish tourist attractions but more of what we discovered along the way; fun, fascinating, beautiful Ireland!
Our travels in Ireland centered around two "givens" that were almost two weeks apart. The first was Chris' week the Ballymaloe Cookery School, located in the south coast area and the second was our niece, Kacey's destination wedding at Mussenden Temple near Castlerock - in the farthest reaches of Northern Ireland.
By the time we were finished we had completed a huge circle around Ireland's fantastic coastlines, from the Irish Sea to St. Georges Channel, to the North Atlantic, to the North Channel (between Ireland and Scotland) and back to the Irish Sea!
So much of Ireland is defined by the fact that it truly is an island with gorgeous coastal areas and waters teeming with sea life. If you love seafood, this is seafood heaven!
In addition, we discovered that much of Ireland is agrarian heaven too! Rich, loamy soil, perfect for growing anything green. Just ask the cows and the sheep who dot the verdant hillsides and valleys, here, there and everywhere!
In this three-part series, we're going to take you on a short, (considering I took 2,000 pictures!), journey around the whole island - Ireland and Northern Ireland, so fasten your seatbelts!
Flying into Dublin from our home in the mountains of North Carolina, we decided to spend the first two days at a hotel, just north of the city.
We wanted to get rested, recover from jetlag, and acclimate to driving on the left side of the road in order to be prepared for the week at Ballymaloe. It ended up being a great decision. Although we had every intention of going into Dublin, there was so much to discover just north of the city, we never made it!
Malahide Castle also was the home of one of the first of many contacts we had over the trip with the Avoca Café and Mill stores. Chris has been familiar with Avoca for many years because of their award-winning cookbooks as well as the Avoca cafes and restaurants, which are well known for their delicious and fresh fare.
We discovered that Avoca is so much more than just its wonderful cafés, cookbooks and culinary delights. We learned that the Avoca story actually starts back in 1723 when it was set up as a cooperative where local residents could spin and weave their wool for clothing.
Back then, only uncolored yarn was used in tweed for clothing and blankets for beds. But as the mill evolved, natural vegetable dyes in reds, greens and yellows began to be used which became Avoca’s beautiful signature hues and they continue to be used today.
Although there are still third generation weavers working at the mill, over the years Avoca has grown and spread to 13 locations throughout Ireland These days, in addition to beautiful woven scarves, shawls, throws, sweaters, etc. Avoca is heralded as one of Ireland’s most exciting retail stores, there are Avoca ceramics, clothing, perfumes, soaps and more from their own design studio.
Chris loved the Avoca food markets which are crammed with artisanal ingredients, beautiful porcelain dishware, lovely table linens, kitchen supplies and the wonderful Avoca cookbooks. There are also gardens to explore at many of the locations, as well as florists and garden centers. The list goes on. And all of this from a modest handweaving mill, established in a rural Irish village in 1723!
Howth is a quaint fishing village north and east of Dublin. It was only about 20 minutes from our hotel and similar to so many of the coastal Irish villages. In addition to fabulous, fresh seafood, there are gorgeous walks along cliffs that jut straight down to the emerald sea.
On the road to Ballymaloe
We set out the third day for Ballymaloe. On the way, Chris said, "It would be really fun to see the original Avoca location. It's where they have the mill". Looking at the map, she said, "It looks like it's not far off the path we're on to Ballymaloe."
Four hours later, we were back on the road to Ballymaloe! I have to admit though, the trip to the tiny remote village was a wonderful, albeit frightening introduction into one lane, truck-and-bus sharing Irish country roads! We texted our kids and told them we had aged 5 years since leaving home!
The original Avoca Mill
East County Cork
Once we established ourselves in the quaint town of Castlemartyr (just 10 minutes from Ballymaloe), I ventured out each day while Chris was in cooking school (you can read more about that in this post), exploring new parts of the Shanagarry and the East Cork country. After she finished up for the day, I'd pick her up and we'd check out some of my discoveries.
Ballycotton and the Coast
Ballycotton was just a short drive from Castlemartyr and Chris' cooking school in Shanagarry. The town is adorable, the Ballycotton Cliff Walk is breathtaking, and the fresh seafood straight off the boat- beyond words!
Cork, the City
Once we got our left-hand-road driving (and navigating) skills a little more secure, we began to venture into larger cities. Cork was first on our list!
Although it was a little more off the beaten path (again) we had to visit the quaint coastal town of Kinsale, since several people had told us in our earlier adventures that it was worth the trip! And it was! we beat the tour buses by about an hour and escaped down the road toward Dingle!
Next stop, the Dingle Peninsula! We'll continue there with our next travel post; Ireland, Off the Beaten Path - Part 2. Hope you've enjoyed this glimpse of the Emerald Isle. See you soon with the next installment of the journey!