Ireland is a country full of wonderfulness, split up into charming counties that each have multitudes of things to see and do. Really, you could spend months there and not see everything.
As it happens, I had two days.
It’s true, I can probably pack more into a day than your average, run-of-the-mill, tourist. In this case, I really did cover a lot of ground, literally and figuratively, with my sister as co-pilot.
And so, I share with you my sure-fire itinerary for Counties Kilkenny, Waterford, and Cork.
Here’s Day One.
Your home base absolutely must be the Inn at Ballilogue Clochán, in County Kilkenny. No argument, no looking around online for an alternative, just trust me and look no further.
Now let’s get on the road.
You’ll need a car, and you’ll need to drive on the left. Just remember that everything is the opposite of driving in the States. I reached for the seatbelt on my left for three days. (Now I’m home and still reaching for it on the right.)
Just to ensure the safety of all (or to remind the eejits), they’ve put up reminder signs.
The first day we headed southeast, stopping at Cushendale Woolen Mills, in Graiguenamanagh (don’t ask me how to pronounce it), where they make the lovely blankets that are on the beds at Ballilogue Clochan.
Head towards Waterford, and stop there if you’re interested in crystal. (We weren’t so we didn’t) Then take the N25 along the water, through several little villages, each one cuter than the last one. Just take a look at this thatched roof with the twisty chimney.
Seeing a sign for Ardmore Crafts, we made a swift detour, into a gorgeous little village right on the sea.
We found the Ardmore Pottery & Gallery, which was definitely worth the detour, both for the Irish-made crafts inside, and the view down to the sea outside.
Back on the N25, head into County Cork. The highlight in Cork was lunch at the English Market. Since 1788, the market has supplied produce, dairy, and meat to the masses. On a balcony overlooking the market is the FarmGate Restaurant.
They serve up wonderful traditional dishes like shepherd’s pie and Irish stew, using the ingredients from the market. I was happy with a ham and cheese sandwich on homemade bread…leaving room for the incredible bread pudding with hot custard.
Not far from Cork is the coastal village of Cobh (pronounced “cove”), famous for being the last port of call for the Titanic.
St. Colman’s Cathedral stands on a cliff overlooking the village and the port.
I loved the Celtic pattern of the mosaic floor.
April 11, 2012 was the one-hundredth anniversary of the sinking of the famous ship…so souvenirs, and Titanic history tours, are abundant here. We looked around for a memorial…and practically walked right by it. It is a fairly nondescript stone on a street corner.
Leaving Cobh, we headed back to our home away from home in Kilkenny County. One of the many enchanting sights in Ireland are the ancient castles around the countryside. This is Grennan Castle, circa 1210.
By now it’s time to find dinner…
Within minutes from Ballilogue Clochan is the pretty little village of Inistioge.
The town’s claim to fame is that it was the location for the 1995 film, “Circle of Friends.” There’s even a restaurant of that name there now.
The restaurant was not open.
Neither was any other restaurant in town. I stopped a couple of women in the street to ask.
In classic Irish form, their reply was,”Oooh dear, you woon’t foind a restaurant open on a Moonday.”
Suddenly, they had a brainstorm, and sent us to the fabulous Mount Juliet.
Mount Juliet, named by the Earl of Garrick after his wife Juliet, is a Georgian mansion on 1500 acres of rolling hills and woodland. It’s now a hotel, which explains why it’s open on a Monday when all other restaurants are closed.
The tall windows of the elegant Lady Helen Dining Room look onto the river below and lush fields beyond, where horses and cows leisurely graze.
The food was every bit as stunning as the view, not to mention delicious. This deconstructed parfait is an artful presentation of beetroot, pear, goat cheese, and hazelnut truffle, with anise purée.
A starter of seared sea scallops was plated on a spring pea velouté, with apple, pea greens, and baby radishes.
Irish soda bread and rosemary brioche accompanied the starters.
Opting for a light, vegetarian entree, my sister and I both chose the barigoule of violet artichokes with gnocchi and fennel, topped with orange foam.
As we finished eating, the sun set over the meadows.
With one last look at the magnificent Mount Juliet, the day was done.
Time to rest up for day two.
The Inn @ Ballilogue Clochán
Cushendale Woolen Mills
Ardmore Pottery & Gallery
Access via Princess Street, Grand Parade and Oliver Plunkett Street
Cobh Titanic Memorial
“Circle of Friends” (Movie filmed in Inistioge)