Ireland – Part One of the Mighty Tour

I’ll start by saying I love Ireland.  I also love Irish people as many of them are my relatives.  So, just saying, this will be a completely unbiased blog.  We’d decided to take seven month old Mr Baby on a tour of Ireland – to visit all the many rellies – cos Irish relatives don’t come to you, you have to ‘come home’.  So I felt akin to the Duchess of Cambridge when she took young Prince George on his first royal tour as we travelled around showing off ‘da baby’.  This epic trip is covered in two parts as we found a lot of gems in our fortnight of showing off.

TRAVEL & DUBLIN ACCOMMODATION

Mr Baby at Carton House

Mr Baby at Carton House near Dublin

From Aberdeen you can fly to Dublin with Aer Lingus. I’m more a Shannon girl but you have to schlepp to Edinburgh airport for that so we went the whole hog, loaded up the car (I’d even packed a tupperware of lentils to make homemade dahl for my newly weaned angel, which he happened upon as a fab new rattle) and headed for the ferry from Troon on the other side of Scotland.  This was too long a journey in one go, especially with the deadline of a morning ferry, and especially if your car breaks down (again) likes our did, so it was a good opportunity to stay with pals in Glasgow.  The P&O ferry the next morning was at a really civilised time (if you wake up nearby), departing at 11.45am and arriving in Larne in Northern Ireland around 2pm  There were play areas and multiple cafes on the ferry but we sat in our upgraded lounge drinking free coffee and letting seven month old Mr Baby destroy a complimentary newspaper just to keep him occupied.  We apologise P&O.  From here we drove straight to Maynooth, Dublin to start our holiday with a treat, staying at the 18th century country seat, Carton House, just 14 miles outside the city.  Grace Kelly and Prince Rainier, Peter Sellers and Marianne Faithfull all knew it well and, now, so did Mr Baby.  Our stay was a treat, partly because the hotel is lush, but also because we booked a suite so we had a separate bedroom and living area.  We did this, not to add to the showing off, but to allow Mr Baby to sleep in one room whilst we hung out in the other.

Our room had a balcony, where we ate our dinner outside, Mr Baby slept in his travel cot in our bedroom which had a bath in it (next to the window so you can take in the views and vice versa), there was also a shower room/toilet and a living room where we could chill out and enjoy a glass of wine and plot our schedule without bothering the cherub’s sleep.

CASTLETOWN HOUSE

There’s clearly loads to do in Dublin and we opted for something a bit less obvious than the usual tourist choices.  The following morning we met some relatives who also have small children at Castletown House, some 20km outside the city, built in 1722 and renowned as Ireland’s largest and earliest Palladian style house.  It seems to be a meeting point for Dublin families who want a breath of fresh air: it has extensive grounds, walled gardens and walks to explore; as well as the actual house itself, access to which is by Guided Tour Monday to Saturday at 10.15, 11am, 12pm, 1pm, 2pm, 3pm, 4pm and 5pm.  The tour was pretty thorough, interesting and engaging if you’re into that kind of thing, which I am.  It took about an hour and Mr Baby didn’t last the course but the tour guide was really lovely about Mr Baby’s sudden screaming and let us disappear out a side door without too much fuss.   Overall we were barely charged for any part of the trip so I presume the estate makes up a lot of its money at its very busy cafe in the restored 18th century kitchen wing.  Lots of families ate picnics in the grounds which would have been a wonderful way to pass the afternoon if we were anywhere near that organised.

Once back at the hotel we took Mr Baby for a swim in the 18 metre pool and I stared longingly at the extensive spa facilities.  One day…

KILLALOE

Our next stop was the super cute Killaloe in County Clare, situated on the river Shannon and Loch Dearg, with a bridge connecting it to Ballina in Tipperary. We have relatives there so after Mr Baby was bundled about with cuddles and I managed to extract Mr Husband from Goosers pub we ventured out.

Killaloe

Killaloe

Killaloe is historically renowned as the birthplace of the great Irish king Brian Boru (940-1014), who lived and reigned in Killaloe, making it at one time the capital of Ireland.  Today it is way more relaxed and low key, with a picturesque marina, an old cathedral and a Sunday Farmers market which sells some mean chilli chocolate.  There’s a few galleries, coffee shops and boutiques and overall it’s just a very quaint and picturesque town and a great location for water sports and sailing.

KILKEE – the place to take a wee baby swimming and play on the beach…

Our next stop was the full on seaside town of Kilkee.  Straight up it delivers- it’s not flash, it’s not trendy, it’s an honest to goodness fun seaside town with a fab kilometre of sandy beach and all the amenities you’d need day to day.  It’s very sheltered and safe so it’s perfect for families and small children, and I loved it.  It was real.  It also helped that the sun was splitting the sky. We stayed at my aunt’s holiday flat just a few feet from the sand, and we simply rolled up onto the beach every day, rolled home for lunch, slathered Mr Baby in more factor 50 and rolled back again.  Life was simple.

The town has an elegant history as the Victorian aristocracy used to take waters here and in its heyday it attracted the likes of Charlotte Bronte, Alfred Tennyson and William Makepeace Thackeray.  There are echoes of this Victorian grandeur in the architecture but nowadays it feels a far more grounded and down to earth kind of town.

Kilkee

Kilkee – view on approach to Diamond Rocks

One gem is the Diamond Rocks Cafe – its location is gorgeous.  It’s on its own, at the end of the town, facing the sea and it’s just a heavenly spot to spend time watching the waves crashing onto the shoreline.  After a coffee-and-cake-stop there’s a cliff top walk starting right next to the cafe.  Again, great views, a lovely way to spend time with family but it’s a raw, authentic walk i.e. no safety rails, no barriers, nothing spoiling the natural beauty, so a sling is probably the best idea for babies.  Another key point about Kilkee is it’s the gateway to Loophead and this you just have to do if you’re in the area.

LOOP HEAD – for the drive of your Irish life…

Mr Baby peruses menu at Keatings

Mr Baby peruses the menu at Keatings – the nearest Irish bar to New York

Loophead,a wee slip of land jutting into the Atlantic, is Ireland’s most westerly point.  It’s a great wild drive, especially if you want to send a baby off to sleep, or you can stop and get out of the car repeatedly at the multiple walks, viewing stops, cafes and cliffs.  This is pretty sublime territory, unspoilt and dramatic.  It’s safe if you use common sense.  To this end we popped Mr Baby in a sling again as we didn’t quite trust ourselves with a buggy.  The area attracts artists but as well as creative inspiration there’s dolphin watching, walking, cycling, fishing, watersports or the Kilkee Thalassotherapy Centre offering seaweed/seawater therapy to indulge in.  We went for the simple walking/driving option which was fulfilling enough.

Mr Baby on a clifftop walk at Loophead

Mr Baby on a clifftop walk at Loophead

It’s a given that Loophead should have a fine offering of seafood and eateries being near the Atlantic and the River Shannon. Having Mr Baby with us we pulled in quite randomly at a place at a time that suited us – it turned out to be Keatings, the last stop on the west to get a Guinness before New York!  In this traditional family run bar/restaurant I absolutely stuffed myself on crab.  I was delighted with myself.  We sat in the little outdoor tarpaulin style section of the bar with views over Kilbaha Bay. Mr Baby was bounced around on one of our laps for the entire duration of the meal, cute for other people, quite demanding for us, but at least he didn’t cry.  He partook of some milk and quality puree mush and we were on our way.

From Kilkee we ventured onto Kerry, which is tourist heaven before returning home via other key Irish cities.  This journey will be Part Two of the Mighty Tour which intrepid Mr Baby and I look forward to sharing but if you’re considering Dublin, Country Clare or Tipperary I hope this has been helpful.

And if you’re wondering if Mr Baby ordered a Guinness from the restaurant menu then remember their marketing strapline, the best things come to those who wait- he’s got about 17 years and 5 months to go…

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