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Ireland

    Charles Fort, Kinsale, West Ireland

    I’ve decided to grow old disgracefully. I’m going to die my hair purple, wear leather and live in a campervan that travels the length and breadth of every country in the world. I’m going to explore and marvel at everything the world has, until no stone is left undiscovered.

    Charles Fort, Kinsale, West Ireland Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Every morning will start with a delicious helping of eggs benedict, each sunset will be greeted with a something fruity, naughty and delicious. We will roll our bus wherever our delight takes us, stopping at every archaic delectation that hearkens through roadside signs, and every dive-looking motorcycle café that offers greasy coffee so thick you can tar a road with it. We’ll play metal music with the windows down as we drift down highways, searching for the next place to take our fancy.

    Charles Fort, Kinsale, West Ireland Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Our goal will simply be breath stealing views, delicious nibbles and soul changing experiences. Rain, hail or shine we’ll be in search of the next wonderful thing, and somewhere where we can stop off and stretch our (and our travelling cat’s) legs.

    Charles Fort, Kinsale, West Ireland Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Winters will be spent in gourmet foodie havens, researching fair weather trips and demystifying old age. It’s not something to accept, but something to treasure and delight in.

    Charles Fort, Kinsale, West Ireland Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Charles Fort is an awe inspiring set of ruins. To the untrained eye, it’s a pile of carefully mouldering stone buildings overlooking a beautiful natural port. We’ll know that actually it was the scene of sieges to rival Braveheart, family legacies steeped in controversial Irish history, and the site of British occupation of a fierce celtic people.

    Charles Fort, Kinsale, West Ireland Adventures of a London Kiwi

    The walls conjure ghost-like after images of family life in the midst of battlefield warfare, threats of pirates and anti-Treaty burning during the Irish Civil wall.

    Charles Fort, Kinsale, West Ireland Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Or of course, it could just be a beige set piece that once was a thriving star shaped fort, designed to resist cannon fire. As ever, the choice of view is a personal one.

    Charles Fort, Kinsale, West Ireland Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Being young whippersnappers still, starting out from our base in Cork, after a few hours of walls climbing and field-gazing we chose to celebrate our morning with a peaceful cuppa overlooking harbour, stone edifices and plans to venture into Kinsale, Ireland’s self-made foodie capital.

    Charles Fort, Kinsale, West Ireland Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Home to retired rock stars, Hollywood golfing addicts, yachting addicts and Irish ‘royalty’ who all own houses perched on the winding cliffsides, this medieval fishing port was too cute to pass up.

    Charles Fort, Kinsale, West Ireland Adventures of a London Kiwi

    We’ll be back, campervans in convoy, mark my words.


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    Cork and the infamous Blarney Stone

    Dangling over a castle parapet isn’t usually my idea of a good time, but sometimes I’ve learned that you have to push the boundaries of normal life in order to experience the world properly.

     

    When I left the shores of my homeland, there were a few goals I had in mind to complete. Visit the Eiffel Tower, drink wine on a sun dappled Italian river bank, explore every inch of London, espy Stonehenge, and a fair few more.

    Since then, I’ve realised goals I never knew could be attainable; touch Big Ben, sashay around a Buckingham Palace Garden Party, pick up a Doctor Who addiction, visit the Giant’s Causeway, to name but a few. I still pinch myself at the opportunities I’ve been blessed with just by wishing to slake wanderlust and having a Twitter addiction.

    There was one still lurking on that list. (Well actually there are a few, but more on that another day). Kiss the Blarney Stone in Ireland.


    Escorted again by the kindly lads at Paddywagon tours on their ‘hop on, hop off tours’ we rocked up to Blarney Castle in a high state of excitement. Sadly, we hadn’t risen early enough to get their early morning bus – highly recommended by the driver in order to beat the cruise ship crowds which swell numbers – so we had a bit of a queue to overcome.

    Thankfully, good things come to those that wait, and after nearly an hour shuffling through the castle ruins and up a twisty spiral staircase, we emerged upon the parapets. (One should always use upon when reminiscing about castles, right?)  



    The view itself is rather lovely as you make your way up. Beautiful emerald green gardens border the 1454 construction (well worth taking a picnic to), and amusing facts dot the queue route to keep your spirits up. 




    Then, boom, all of a sudden you’re up in the clouds, wishing you were a princess.

     

    Quite simply, that’s how Mr Kiwi and I came to find ourselves being pushed (by some bloke) over a parapet, backwards, whilst holding on to a couple of sturdy steel supports. Kissing the Blarney Stone was once of those ‘pinch me’ moments that blew my tiny little mind, and it was well worth the journey.

    Will I ever become vaguely eloquent? Probably not, and I’m ok with that.




    Just remember chaps…




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    The Cliffs of Moher, County Clare, Ireland

    And, breathe. Blessed with insanely good weather, our city-weary souls began recharging to the soft sound of the Atlantic ocean lapping, rhythmic cries of the birds carrying on the breeze and the hubbub of fellow cliff-venturers a soothing soundtrack to the sun soaked vista open before us.


    Our morning started in Cork (our base for the next few days) a little groggy, both from lack of caffeine and sunshine, but we were promised sunshine from lunchtime. After a wee coffee pit stop in Limerick and brief admiration of their local castle…


    …well, you could say things improved by the time we got to the west coast.


    First conquering the affectionately known ‘baby cliffs’ of the Burren in County Clare (a protected area of outstanding natural beauty) we tumbled out to soak up the sunshine, and gasp at the ridiculously clear waters. 


    Ahoy, Craggy Island from Father Ted, ahead! Sadly we missed out on the annual TedFest, mostly because we weren’t aware of it – the loss of Sheep Tea, multiple Father Jack’s chorusing ‘Feck Off’ and renditions of My Lovely Horse had quite a sobering effect on the holiday. We will be back, perhaps using Cork as a base again.

    Twelve Bens, O’Briens Tower and a Harry Potter reference all crowd in when talking about the Cliffs of Moher, but I think they need no real introduction.

    The cliffs are simply astonishing. We spent the longest time simply awestruck by the view both to the left and right of the main entry to the visitor centre.

    In the ancient Gaelic language, the word Mothar means “ruined fort” and a 1st century BC fort stood where Moher tower now stands. Therefore the Cliffs of Moher means the cliffs of the ruined fort and although there is no trace remaining of this two thousand year old fort it has given name to the cliffs which are visited annually by almost one million visitors.

    Beach feet selfies, eat your heart out.

       

    The path shimmies along the cliff top. You have two choices though, the crazy close route (I wandered along it about halfway before coming to a slice far too close for comfort) or behind a stonewall that hugs the pathway, a much more sensible option. It is after all a 214m sheer drop.

      

    They’re really not joking.

    Quite simply breathtaking, isn’t it?

    * Enlarge me!*

    And best of all? Throughout the day our steed awaited, ready to whisk us to the next fascinating destination. Every single person who has been to Ireland recommended we hop in a car, and explore the southern half of the island, nipping from wee village to wee village enjoying the lush green countryside as we went. Now, call me a chicken, but as the driving would be up to me, I didn’t want the stress of navigating, parking, hill starts, motorways, wrong turns, road rage or remembering to not lose the keys (something I almost managed to do in Disney last year).

    Sadly, as Ireland doesn’t quite have a London level of public transport we had two options: stick around the cities and miss out on the glorious countryside, or jump on one of the many guided tours. They can be rather hit & miss at times, but our PaddyWagon tour guides were pretty blimmin awesome. Funny, knowledgeable and so very friendly. Upon striking up a conversation with their social media team, we were lucky enough to be invited on board as guests – but we can’t recommend them highly enough. They run days trips from all over Ireland, and stop off in some of the cutest little spots. More to come on these soon!

    *Warning: cliff top exploring may cause drowsiness and the driver to giggle at all of the snoring…

    What a day!



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    Dublin’s Guinness Storehouse

    The Guinness storehouse in Dublin was a bit of an enigma for us. Touted as Ireland’s number one tourist attraction and as lovers of brewery tours, we knew we had to go (nb: book online, before you go, it’s cheaper…) but we weren’t expecting the custom made and kitted out Disney-esque extravaganza that greeted us.

    Don’t get me wrong, we loved it, but it’s more of an interactive museum than a brewery. Realistically factoring in how much Guinness is produced, it would be impossible to have millions of visitors each year traipsing through a work environment. Each floor showcases a different aspect of the process, from ingredients, to marketing.  

    You start at the beginning, with the main ingredients; hops, barley, yeast and water. Simple. Twisting your way through the building, and slowly making your way via the circular (Guinness pint shaped, natch) atrium, each level reveals more about the processes involved. 

     I unexpectedly got my 101 in 1001 goal ‘Walk behind a waterfall’ complete… man-made counts right?

    With years of running a pub, and thousands of pints poured under my belt we skipped the ‘how to pour a perfect pint’, and before long we were at the most important part – tasting. guided into a pure white room in order to ‘stop any distractions from the tasting process’. Four columns dominate the room, pouring nitrous oxide smoke with flavours of the ingredients, we were then ushered into another room, this time for a lesson in Guinness tasting.

    Giant hand, normal pint or tiny pint, normal hand?

    That done, and the thirsty work of wandering through Guinness marketing of the decades, we headed to the top of the atrium for a well deserved pint. 

    Ahhh, perfect.

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    Dublin, Ireland

    In a single week we somehow managed to dangle over Blarney Castle ramparts, dance a few jigs, sip the Liffey, explore rugged island coast, taste our way around the country, caught fresh Atlantic sea air that cleared out our London dust and sampled the infamous Irish craic.

    Our first stop was the infamous Dublin. Only 50 minutes flight from London, I’ve tried several times over the years to make this short hop, but struggled. Usually due to a lack of time, impetus and one memorable occasion missing the flight due to my travel mate not wanting to pay the low-cost airline carriers baggage charges. In hindsight we should have made much more effort, because we thoroughly enjoyed our 3 days there.

    Our week of explorations held more than a touch of leprechaun luck, and we had weather more associated with Greece; blazing sunshine, a soft breeze and cotton soft clouds. This is so very unusual, but with such a compact centre even in the drizzling rain I still think Dublin would show her historical charm.

    Originally a Viking settlement, the city is a colourful mismatch of architectural styles and an extremely colourful history. We started our trip (as we do most) with a walking tour to get a feel of the city, understand a little of it’s history and orientate ourselves. We usually pick the ‘free’ tours, preferring to choose the tips at the end of the walk. Our guide was a sweetie, an arts student saving up to go travelling who helped us with loads of advice – including the pubs in Temple Bar that has prices that increase in the evening as punters get drunker. Just be warned…

    He told us of the history of the city, the succession of invaders before Ireland became self-ruling. The highlight for me was the statue of Justice in the Dublin Castle, erected by the British authorities at the time. She’s the embodiment of how the Irish saw English rule; she faces into the square turning her back to the Irish people, she doesn’t wear a blindfold (Justice is meant to be blind to discrimination) her scales aren’t balanced (though that’s partially a design fault) and she smiles as her sword points provocatively outstretched.

    We toured the usual highlights (though sadly the beguiling Molly Malone statue is away for refurbishment) and followed in the Queen’s footsteps of her recent state visit. We crossed the ha’penny bridge, saw the indescribably beautiful book of Kells neslted in Trinity College, admired the Tara broach in the National Museum and enjoyed St Patrick’s Cathedral.

    It’s a perfect long weekend, or even just weekend hop and we knew even before we caught the next leg of our journey that we’ll be back. The city has a great vibrancy, everyone we met was super friendly (rather refreshing in contrast to some of London’s inhabitants) and much to Mr Kiwi’s delight we discovered a fab little local pub near our hotel thanks to a touch of Googling.

    Oh, did we mention the astonishing view from our hotel? On drawing back the curtains, Mr Kiwi exclaimed this was the best view we’d ever had, and all from the comfort from a luxurious bed. It was of course the Guinness Factory. Boys, I don’t know.


    We tripped our way around the compact centre mostly on foot, discovering a wealth of traditional proper pubs, and the odd bank-turned-wine-bar. We also found out that gluten free isn’t just a random *bread not included* meal selection, but catered for in most restaurants. I was in heaven. All that walking needed some delicious cake to balance it out, it’s only fair.

    And you know something else we discovered? Guinness in Ireland does taste much nicer.

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