Eeep. It has been a pretty minute since I went on this trip to Ireland in 2015, so please forgive the old iPhone photography and spotty recollections. I popped over to meet my dad after a semester in Belgium (and after 10+ hours of train rides through English countryside and ship rides across the Irish Sea). In Dublin, I hopped off the boat and onto a bus, where I promptly realized that I couldn’t pay the fare because I hadn’t remembered to change my pounds back to euros. So that was neat. An excellent start, some might say.
I showed up, and we immediately left the hotel for Temple Bar in search of Guinness and pies. We walked to and sat at the bar of Gallagher’s Boxty House, which did not disappoint. We drank and were merry, which was really great, as we hadn’t seen one another for a few months by that point. We spent the evening talking and plotting and planning the rest of the week.
We took the next day to walk around Trinity College, but didn’t have the chance to visit the Book of Kells, as there was already a line that stretched to Mars. We pushed that visit to the tail-end of our trip and made a reservation, like any reasonable person (a lesson I have well learned since then!). Instead, we went shopping on Grafton Street (he bought cigars, I walked away with child-size Timberlands), had some tea/whiskey (where my dad saw Sean Bean, and I did not), and bickered our way through the tiny Dublin streets.
My dad had done a cool thing and rented a car for the duration of our stay, so we spent the vacation zipping across the country on arbitrary deadlines and making stops as we saw fit. If you ever get the chance to talk to him about it (and you should), he’ll tell you that I had a hard time driving the manual car on the left/wrong side of the road. I’m 100% here to tell you that I did SO WELL, especially given that I hadn’t driven in months (MONTHS!) and that we were dealing with obstacles like rain and sheep and cranky fam.
First up was Ballymaloe House in East Cork, in the south. The grounds were stunning and living was easy. There was a litany of things to do, from using the driving range (upon which I hilariously donned the aforementioned Timberlands) to a demonstration at the Ballymaloe Cookery, which was a delight (I still have those recipes around here somewhere!).
We spend an entire afternoon at the Jameson distillery, where we were led around by a fabulous tour guide named Brian who gave us free whiskey. 10/10.
me, pretending to take a photo of blarney castle
We’re all able to tell that this was just an excuse for a selfie.
I’ve heard that too much Benny Goodman and sunshine will make anyone cranky (right? that’s a thing?), so by the time we made it past Cork and to Blarney Castle, my dad and I were bickering so hard that we weren’t really talking (which, if you know anything about the Blarney Castle/Stone, is really very amusing). The sun was shining! The grounds were beautiful! The line to kiss the Blarney Stone was very long. I made us wait in a line for the better part of an hour, but once we reached the actual stone, I decided there wasn’t enough sanitizer in the world to get my face any closer to that rock.
Our next stop was Ballybunion, the only Irish town to have a statue of Bill Clinton. Dad and I ate mussels and watched “Fargo.” While I don’t remember which hotel we stayed in, I do remember that it was definitely not the seaside inn we were expecting - he and I stayed in a wooden room about ten minutes away from shore. We mostly just passed Bill’s statue and the links on our way out of town.
Moy House in Lahinch was my favorite stop of the entire trip to Ireland. The hotel was absolutely beautiful — I routinely think about it and get upset that I am not there. Moy House had incredible views and an “honesty bar” in their parlor that was better stocked than most dive bars in New York. Every meal felt like a luxury, which was wonderful (but also a little weird, as the waiter we saw most frequently looked exactly like my ex-boyfriend, except with an Irish lilt). Town was very small and very cute, but we didn’t spend too much time there, because my dad was not keen on letting me drive down small roads.
From Moy House, we took a day trip to the Cliffs of Moher, which are spectacularly beautiful (but also crawling with idiots who venture past the rope guards and get too close to the edge). We also made a stop at the Lahinch Golf Club (me in my Timberlands, once again, and a heavy rain jacket, and him in his seasonally inappropriate warm-weather golf apparel). He went out for nine holes, but when the misty rain started coming in, I elected to stay at the 19th hole and have some tea. During the course of said solitary tea, I surmised that Irish country club women are exactly like those back home—they all have colorful, fitted gold attire and all travel to the club at the same time.
Some time after I had finished my tea, an older man ventured over to my (admittedly large) table and sat down to watch Rory McIlroy disappoint him in the Irish Open. Golf turned to rugby, which eventually turned to Irish football. By this time, the man (name of Patty O’Brien, for real) had divulged the full history and rules of both sports to me, as well as why we were rooting for Munster. By the time my dad returned, I had two pints of Guinness and roughly seven new friends.
Our last stop, Ballynahinch Castle, was a surprise, actually - a really good surprise, since we ended up sleeping in a castle with glass walls facing a babbling brook and sunshine and sheep. I haven’t been able to dig up the photos of this last leg, which is really sad, given how the castle and grounds were both beautiful and unusual all at once. The castle was once owned by the Maharaja Jam Sahib of Nawanager, and thus has a significant number of portraits and Indian artifacts throughout the dining rooms and living spaces, juxtaposed to traditional furnishings and the gorgeous Irish landscape.
After an afternoon walking the bright green grounds and talking about our feelings, we spent the evening eating a large, lengthy meal, talking about our feelings and falling asleep to the “Princess Bride.” Quite perfect.
Two hours on the road, one trip to the Book of Kells, a waltz through the Trinity College library and one argument with an Irish Hertz representative later, he and I were in the air, heading back home.