At this time of year, many of us bloggers sit down and reminisce about the past year of travels. From the heights of warm vacations and great times in New York City to the lows of illnesses while abroad and missed flights, this has been a busy year for me and the kids. Instead of recapping the year, I wanted to do a special blog dedicated to one of my favourite trips I have taken with the kids, the land of saints and scholars, Ireland.
We arrived in Ireland and spent the first few days in Dublin staying at the Four Seasons Dublin. Located outside of the city centre, the Four Seasons is nestled in Ballsbridge, a residential neighbourhood where we were able to experience the life of locals. We spend our days eating in local restaurants and visiting parks with Irish families.
Our favourite way to pass the time was to explore the lustrous Herbert Park, which is used by runners, families, dog walkers, and tourists alike. The park features a gorgeous duck pond as well as tennis courts and two different children’s playgrounds. Although we did head down to Grafton Street and other famous spots, the locations closer to our hotel in Ballsbridge were our favourite by far. A great tip for any Four Seasons is to tell them you are visiting with children at or before check-in. We arrived to cookies and treats as well as two miniature sized bathrobes that the kids loved. The hotel also lent us a stroller and car seat while we were staying with them.
Once our time was up in Dublin, we packed up and drove to Powerscourt, Ireland in Wicklow County. Arriving on the grounds of the Ritz-Carlton Powerscourt, I felt we were transported to an Ireland of years past and witnessing tea time I also felt I had been given a walk-on role in Downton Abbey. I recently was broken hearted to find out that this hotel has since been re branded as a Marriott. I am not sure what of the hotel has stayed the same or been changed but I do know that the famous Gordon Ramsey restaurant has shut down. One of my favourite attributes of the Ritz was the incredible staff and babysitters as well as the wild horses that roamed free on the property and I can’t be sure that any of these remain. That being said the hotel is located on gorgeous grounds right next to the well-known Powerscourt Golf Club and the stunning Powerscourt Gardens and due to location alone, it is still worth visiting.
Although I could go on and on about County Wicklow, our next stop was quite incredible too. I packed the kids and and drove to Cork, Ireland. The drive should have taken around 3 hours but we couldn’t help but stop to visit amazing sea-side villages along the way. Once we arrived in Cork, we headed to the Fota Wildlife Park. I had spent quite a bit of time researching Ireland and I knew this would be a great day out with the kids. The Fota park is an incredible place where many of the animals roam free on the grounds. The park is filled with primates, birds, bisons and giraffes. We spent an entire day roaming the grounds and had an incredible time being so close to such incredible animals. Admission to the park is a reasonable 14.30 Euros for adults and 9.20 Euros for kids.
After a few days exploring Cork, I knew we needed to do something incredibly touristy and well-known so I decided it was time to head to Blarney Castle. Most famous for the Blarney Stone, which visitors line-up to kiss in order to be granted the gift of eloquence or the gift of gab, Blarney Castle is an incredible site. Heading there with young children is an experience on its own.
Firstly, I must warn you that the castle is plastered with warnings that the young and the elderly should not enter the castle but if you are like me, you will walk right past those signs and then literally spend the rest of the time praying your children won’t fall out of the castle. Essentially, the stairs are tiny and complicated to manoeuvre and you must hold on to your children at all times since there are actual holes in the castle floor. Other tourists helped the kids get around and it was definitely worth it to visit the castle but be prepared for how difficult it is for young kids to explore. Mine loved the dungeons and looking out from the castle but I mostly remember praying that we would soon be firmly and safely on the ground. I did engage in tradition and lean over the edge with two burly Irishmen holding on to me tightly but must admit I was far too short to even reach the Blarney Stone which in all honesty I didn’t even see. The good news is I already seem to be overly blessed with the gift of gab.
After the excitement of Blarney Castle, we began the drive back to Dublin and on our way found a wonderful spot, The Farm located in Grenagh, County Cork. We found the Farm by literally driving by it and couldn’t believe our luck. The farm is a mix of education centre, play centre and an actually farm. The kids loved meeting donkeys, exploring how cows are milked and raised and playing on the slides and playgrounds. The Farm also has an indoor restaurant/cafeteria where we enjoyed the best potato soup in all of Ireland.
The end of the year is always a time of reminiscing and I’m so glad I had the chance to write this blog post about Ireland. Its a time I will always remember for the people, the places and frankly the world’s friendliest donkeys and horses.
On to 2014 and a world of adventure!