With COVID, it took two and a half years for my husband Keith and I to get to the Emerald Isle to celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary. The lure of Irish music, castles, churches, and seaside cliffs pulled us in. We celebrated our anniversary along with Keith’s brother Craig and his wife Debbie, for their 10th anniversary. With the delay, we technically celebrated our 42nd anniversary and their 12th anniversary. But who is counting when traveling through mountains, lanes, and castles in one of the most romantic places I have ever been to?
Fellow travel blogger Jody Halsted of Ireland Family Vacations helped us plan our trip. We first spent an idyllic day and a half in Dublin, before touring the southern half of Ireland.
1. Merrion Square
Merrion Square is near the Davenport Hotel Dublin where we stayed. Keith and I took an early morning walk and saw the Oscar Wilde Memorial sculpture. We enjoyed taking our picture with the statue and reading his fun quotes. The square is one of Dublin’s Georgian squares and one of the houses nearby belonged to the famous poet W.B. Yeats.
Pro Tip: Merrion Square is also where you may board the Hop on Hop Off Tour to get your bearings and history of the city.
After touring Dublin, the next day, we were picked up by our driver in a luxury Mercedes van. Our guide, the wonderful John Hourigan of Ireland Chauffeur Travel, took us to romantic and beautiful sites in southern Ireland. We learned that he is married to a woman named Christy from Montana who he met while taking a Wilderness Training Class in the States!
2. Powerscourt Estate
We toured the amazing Powerscourt garden that has been voted third best in the world! Set on 47 acres, this was one of the most romantic stops of our entire trip! Wandering through the Italian Gardens, we enjoyed climbing the Pepperpot Tower, which was modeled on a favorite pepperpot from Lord Powerscourt’s dining table. The view from the tower was amazing.
We traipsed through the Japanese gardens, Walled Gardens, and enjoyed the Dolphin Pond. We found beauty everywhere we looked! The house itself is a mansion built around a medieval castle. It is easy to see why this site is often chosen for weddings.
3. The Butler House
In charming Kilkenny, we stayed in the shadows of the 12th-century Kilkenny Castle at the Butler House. The inn is the Dower house for the castle! Our room had a connected bathroom with a huge tub, which is a huge plus for me. The Irish breakfast in the morning was wonderful. In the evening, the breakfast area was a bar where Keith and I had hot chocolate with Baileys for a nightcap.
Pro Tip: Be sure to stop at the Hole in the Wall pub housed in Ireland’s oldest surviving townhouse dating from 1582.
4. The Rock Of Cashel
The Rock of Cashel is the most dramatic castle site we would see on our trip. Even without the roof in place, this castle is where kings and priests resided. The history in the heart of Munster is stunning. This was originally the seat of the kings of Munster, and the legend is that St. Patrick came here to convert King Aenghus to Christianity. Brian Boru was crowned High King at Cashel in 978 and made it his capital. The beautifully restored nearby chapel was also a treasure to behold. The view with another castle in the distance is fairytale-like.
5. Swiss Cottage
After touring the Cahir Castle, a wonderfully intact castle used in productions like Excalibur and The Tudors, our guide showed us a lovely path to the nearby Swiss Cottage. This provided a perfect time to hold hands and stroll down a quiet path to a beautiful cottage to tour.
The cottage was a retreat for those who lived in the big house nearby. Built in the early 1800s by Richard Butler, First Earl of Glengall, it was quite lovely. Looking like the Seven Dwarfs cottage, the tour guides think that this was designed by world-famous Regency architect John Nash. Originally, simply known as “The Cottage” it resembles an Alpine, fantastical cottage designed for the Butler family. The design was based on nature. Outside, the cottage was loaded with roses in bloom and you could picture a romantic picnic on the grounds!
6. Glasha Farmhouse
Olive O’Gorman is the hostess extraordinaire! She welcomed us all to the Glasha Farmhouse set on a lovely farm estate. This bed and breakfast countryside location offered a perfect solitude stop. Olive fixed a wonderful meal. We had time to unwind in her home and enjoy ourselves. With the outdoor patio and lovely flowers, this romantic stop offered Keith and me a chance to kick back, enjoy each other, and the other guests. Breakfast was also offered as part of our stay!
Pro Tip: Take the half-mile walk to James Langston’s Bridge Pub. Enjoy the peat fire and a Guinness.
7. Kenmare Stone Circle & Fairy Tree
My romantic lifetime with Keith has a connection to a wishing well, so a fairy tree also fits in just fine. Celtic mythology teaches that fairies live under the Hawthorn tree and that they are its guardians. People leave prayers and personal tokens on the branches in hopes of healing and good fortune. We did the same! At this same place is the Kenmare Stone Circle, which is part of the Ring of Kerry.
The Stone Circle was built during the Bronze Age which encompassed the years of 2000-200 B.C. Kenmare Stone Circle is the largest of the over 100 circles in Ireland with 15 stones. A sign stated about the stones, “It may have been used for rituals by Druid priests,” hence the local name “The Druid’s Circle.”
8. Torc Waterfall In Killarney National Park
The Torc Waterfall is at the base of Torc Mountain and is a beautiful hike. Standing at approximately 20 meters, high water tumbled over rocks, and through the fern forest, making a wonderful backdrop for pictures!
Pro Tip: Walk on down to the gardens of the beautiful Muckross House where Queen Victoria once visited.
9. Doolin Pubs
While we got a bit of Irish music in other town pubs, it was in Doolin at McGann’s Pub one night, and then again in McDermott’s Pub, that we got our fill of the haunting lyrical music we had come across the ocean to hear. Sitting in a booth after a wonderful meal, the music filled our hearts and souls.
John, our guide, told us a tale that the English at one time forbade the Irish to use any wind instruments. So, they created an instrument that didn’t use the mouth. The Irish created bagpipes, or Uilleann pipes. We got a chance to see this neat instrument played. We also got the chance to talk with the locals and enjoy a bit of camaraderie.
10. Cliffs Of Mohr
The Cliffs of Mohr are a wild, windy place with a stark beauty. The cliffs fall steeply into the Atlantic Ocean requiring you to hold tightly to your loved one! The beauty is spectacular in this area of Ireland’s most famous cliffs. This UNESCO site also hosts 70 percent of Ireland’s native flowers.
Pro Tip: When visiting, take the time to climb O’Brien’s Tower built in 1835.
11. Dingle Peninsula
After driving the fabulous Dingle Peninsula, one delightful afternoon was spent flitting in and out of shops and a church in the beautiful little town of Dingle. This was a town that John, our guide, said was “full of musicians and artists”.
Together, the four of us enjoyed shopping, looking at art, and learning that some of the hardware stores also offer a bar!
12. Kylemore Abbey
John Hourigan shared that this castle, at the Kylemore Abbey, was a castle built of love. What a perfect place to visit when we came to Ireland to celebrate love! Connemara is the home of Kylemore Abbey. The castle was built in the late 1800s by Mitchell Henry, a wealthy British politician, for his wife Margaret, a mother of nine. He and his family were beloved by the locals.
Their story ends sadly when his family went on vacation to Egypt and Margaret caught cholera then died. To honor his wife, Mitchell built a chapel in her honor using all four colors of Connemara marble. Mitchell turned the estate over to the Benedictine nuns who have been in residence since 1920.
These are 12 places where we found the romance to celebrate our anniversaries. There are many others, like the wonderful narrow roads with stone walls, the sheep that filled the fields, and other stops that were equally beautiful and historic. Ireland is full of faith, mystery, and stories. It’s a wonderful place to ignite sparks of romance!
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