Tower at Glendalough













Breakfast at the Powerscourt Ritz

Ritz Hotel Powerscourt

Grounds at the Ritz Powerscourt
Sugarloaf Mountain in the background






Dunbrody House Chef
Dunbrody Cookery School's Edward Hayden






Hook Head Lighthouse, New Ross





Avoca Woolen Mills employee
A fun side trip, perhaps especially for women, is to visit Avoca Handweavers, a clothing manufacturer, retail and food business in Avoca, County Wicklow. It is the oldest working woollen mill in Ireland, one of the world's oldest manufacturing companies and is also Ireland's oldest surviving business.The mill on the banks of Avoca River is said to be from 1723.

Avoca woolen mills





ismore Castle
Lismore Castle

Lismore Castle









Part of Old Town wall, Kilkenny
Old Town wall in Kilkenny



Helen McLoughlin, Bodhran instructor
Helen McLoughlin, bodhran instructor; the bodhran is an Irish frame drum with a goatskin head.




South Coast Attractions
There are many areas of Ireland that appeal to visitors. But with Dublin as a starting point, let's drop down the southeast coast to do more exploring.

If you're driving, you'll want to use N11, a major highway that runs along the coast to Wexford. Roads in Ireland are fairly narrow, so be aware of this: it can be a daunting experience. This is where a trained bus driver on a group tour comes in handy.

Glendalough, which translates into “the valley of the two lakes,” is about 90 minutes south of Dublin, and is a totally captivating spot. It contains ruins from a 6th century monastery, some of which remains today.


The short history of Glenalough is thus: St. Kevin was a descendent of one of the ruling families of Leinster. As a young boy he went to live at Glendalough, and founded a monastery there which continued to expand for 600 years, but was destroyed in 1398. In its prime, the land included churches, monastic cells and workshops, guesthouses, a health center, farm buildings and homes. Most of the buildings that survive date from the 10th through 12th centuries. The most famous is the pencil thin round tower which is 112 feet high with a base 52 feet in circumference. A cathedral, stone churches and decorated crosses also survive. Take your camera along, as Glenalough is excellent for snapping unique pictures, especially if it's a bit foggy. A modern visitor's center features an informative movie about the ruins and its history, and wandering paths in the surrounding valley offer more exploration.

Powerscourt Castle, Ireland

Powerscourt House and GARDENS
Situated in the picturesque mountains of Wicklow, Powerscourt is a large mansion once owned by powerful families such as the O'Tooles and the FitzGeralds, Earls of Kildare. In 1603, Powerscourt Castle and the surrounding lands were granted to Richard Wingfield, who was Marshal of Ireland (a royal officeholder). His descendants remained there for more than 350 years.

Later the castle was remodeled, creating a magnificent mansion around the shell of the former castle. Large formal gardens, a fish pond, cascading waterfalls, grottoes and terraces all form a striking approach to the mansion. The story is told that Daniel Robertson, a garden architect and a leading proponent of Italianate garden design, suffered from gout and directed his operations from a wheelbarrow, fortified by a bottle of good sherry. When the sherry was depleted, Robertson's work ceased for the day!

Powerscourt Ritz Hotel
Powerscourt Ritz-Carlton Hotel

Near the imposing castle is the five-star Ritz-Carlton, overlooking the wooded slopes of Sugar Loaf Mountain. Blending into the countryside, this 200-room, seven-story hotel is ritzy, with a warm Georgian-inspired interior. Afternoon tea, evening cocktails in the Sugar Loaf Lounge, the Gordon Ramsey signature restaurant and a complete Irish pub combine to make a stay here memorable. The hotel's spa is also available to guests, which is on two floors and boasts a 65-foot long Swarovski crystal-lit swimming pool. There's also a 36-hole championship golf course as part of the hotel complex.

Dunbrody Ship Project
In 2011 the JFK Trust launched its replica of a 19th century three-masted sailing ship, the Dunbrody, that brought immigrants to America. This ship is on display in New Ross harbor; an audio-visual experience, guided tours and a convincing performance of costumed actors brings to life the long, difficult journeys made in the 19th century on this ship. A new visitor's museum will be ready this year as well.

For a night's rest in this area, check out the Dunbrody Country Hotel and Spa in Arthurstown. It's a 1830s Georgian manor amid 300 acres of tranquil parklands, not far from Waterford. This four-star hotel, owned by hospitable Catherine and Kevin Dundon, offers 22 rooms. Master chef Kevin Dundon also has a cooking school here and designs one- and two-day cooking courses―there's even a week-long master class. You'll feel rejuvenated after a few days in this setting. www.dunbrodyhouse.com

Dunbrody House
Dunbrody House

If you want to get up close and personal to the water and the Irish shoreline, here's your chance. Hook Head Lighthouse in New Ross has been a guiding light for ships for more than 800 years. There's a visitor's center offering guided tours of the 13th century tower, a gift shop, cafe, art classes and picnic areas.

Waterford crystal artisan Waterford Crystal artisan
Glass blowers and artisans at the Waterford Crystal factory

At Waterford, a stop at the Waterford Crystal factory is a must. Since 1783, the company that George and William Penrose founded has been making stunning glass pieces with a distinctive, silvery white brilliance, which Waterford Crystal's artists enhance with deeply-cut ornamentation. It's said that in all of Ireland, no hands have been more patient, more meticulous, or more blessed with the elusive powers of art, than the hands of Waterford Crystal's craftsmen. Drinkware, serving accessories and decorative crystal from the Waterford factory is still the customary gift for royalty and heads of state. It's not inexpensive, but a factory tour will show you the secret of why this glass has been so highly prized for all these years.

Glass blowers at the Waterford Crystal factory
Waterford Crystal factory

Lismore Castle Gardens
Heading to Lismore, you can visit the beautiful Lismore Castle gardens and gallery. In the Burlington family for more than 400 years, this fairytale castle, originated in 1185, has seen many changes since. Because the Burlington family stills resides there (Lord and Lady Burlington), only the gardens and gallery are open for touring. The gardens are set on seven acres and provide spectacular views of the castle and the surrounding countryside. You might even see Lord or Lady Burlington on the grounds!

When you're looking for a place to land for the night, you might try this hotel located next to the sea. The Cliff House has been described as a five-star cascading luxury hotel sewn into Ireland's coastline, overlooking the small village of Ardmore. Thrown in for good measure is the House Restaurant (one Michelin star), serving both Irish and international cuisine This 39-bedroom jewel is tops for either a holiday (as the Irish call it), or it's perfect as a hideaway to recoup. www.thecliffhousehotel.com

Kilkenny Castle
Kilkenny Castle

At Kilkenny Castle in Kilkenny, you can take a guided tour of this 12th century structure, originally built for William Marshall, the Earl of Pembroke. With many additions and changes over the centuries, this dark gray castle comprises many architectural styles, seen in the various ornate rooms. You'll see the Drawing Room, Withdrawing Room (reserved for ladies after dinner), the Picture Galley Wing with a hammer-beam roof structure, the Library with silk damask curtains and the elegant Dining Room, among other rooms. Surprisingly, the Marquess of Ormonde sold the sprawling castle to the people of Kilkenny for the sum of €50 in 1967.

Kilkenny, Ireland

Afterwards, stroll over to Kyteler's Inn in downtown Kilkenny, and have lunch or supper in this fun, quaint restaurant, established in 1324. Look for the story of the original owner, Dame Alice le Kyteler, on the first floor.

Kyteler's Inn, Kilkenny

Flying back to Dublin
On the way out of Ireland, reserve a room on the last evening at the four-star Barberstown Castle, a short 30-minute drive from the Dublin airport. Situated on 20 acres of flower gardens, this Irish country house has flourished for eight centuries, opening as a hotel in 1971. Its Victorian and Elizabethan extensions have been melded with the original castle battlement of 1288. Since then, Barbertown Castle has had 37 owners, one of them Eric Clapton. The 59-room hotel is now owned by Kenneth Healy, who lives on the property and who purchased it from Clapton (the names of all 37 owners are painted on the exterior doors of the rooms―Clapton's room is #61).

Eric Clapton's room, Barbertown Castle

We've just covered Dublin and the south coast of Ireland. There's more―much more―to see on the the Emerald Isle, but that will have to wait until another time.

Cead mile failte (A hundred thousand welcomes)
Ireland is welcoming and a friendly place, with old-world charm and more castles than you'd believe possible. The Guinness isn't too bad, either.

For more information, go to www.discoverireland.com.

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