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Monday, 25 October 2010

Honeymoon in Ireland - Page 2

Written by Christina Kay Bolton
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We started in the labyrinth area learning how to cast on the wide lawn so we could practice as much as we wanted without getting the line caught in the bushes at the water’s edge. Then we went down to the river to try out our new skills. Jonathan was a great teacher and patiently untangled our lines from the brush when they got caught. The river is picture perfect for fly fishing – many people come here just to fish salmon. A light rain started in late afternoon and then we saw many trout and salmon jumping. We didn’t catch any, but we did have a great time learning—it was very meditative and relaxing as well as authentic and fun. We warmed ourselves by the fire and then headed back to our room. We ordered room service which was delivered on large wooden trays with starched linens and real silver and ate in our pretty room while enjoying the view.

IMGP4885After another lovely breakfast, we headed out to Roundstone village where the fishing boats are as colorful as the houses. Connemara is a place of wild, rugged beauty from the craggy cliffs of the seashore to the hills with sheep grazing in the lush green between rocks. We drove along the seashore and stopped at a beach with millions of little shells where the sand was just roughly pulverized shells, not good for barefoot walking, but excellent for beachcombing.

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We stopped for coffee in Clifden, the main town in the area with its brightly painted shops and then headed towards Kylemore Abbey just before it started to pour. We managed to capture a couple of pictures before running back to the car. We continued across to Ashford Castle just across the county line in Cong, co. Mayo.

IMGP4901Ashford Castle is a 13th century castle that really feels like you’re stepping back in time when you enter. We arrived at the large gated property where the smiling gate keeper let us in, not fazed by the rain. We drove through many acres of plush lawns and golf greens before crossing the old bridge just before the castle itself. The friendly staff greeted us and walked us through rooms filled with antiques. We had a nice room on the 2nd floor overlooking the lake and the old castle towers. Ashford Castle is surrounded by 300 acres of gardens as well and feels very expansive.

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There are two restaurants at the castle – the formal George V Dining Room with an award winning chef where a 4-course menu is 68 euro and jackets are required for men. Though the menu looked fabulous we chose to go to the bistro style Cullens Cottage for a lighter meal. The meal started with quite a variety of breads with flavored oils. I ordered the duck confit salad and my husband chose the salmon with mashed potatoes and strawberries which was delicious. The menu’s here are also planned by the head chef of the George V. There are also light meals and afternoon tea served in the drawing room during the day.

IMGP4907After our dinner we played backgammon on the large elegant board next to the bar while we listened to the live entertainment. There was a piano player and a personable singer taking requests for old standards. If you do stay here be sure to visit all the rooms near the lobby area, especially the one with walls filled with antique plates. There is also a hallway upstairs with pictures of famous people who’ve stayed here.

Breakfast was truly a feast. The buffet had 25 items and then from the menu I chose the light, airy pancakes served with berry compote and thick clotted cream—delicious.

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On our walk around the grounds we saw the School of Falconry, which Ashford Castle is known for. We didn’t participate, but did see a class in progress with the large hawks perched on the thick gloved hands of the students before flying off and coming back again. More than a sport, it was a traditional way to capture food brought to Europe and the British Isles from the Far East.

Ashford Castle is in the cute village of Cong with its rows of pastel houses with window boxes overflowing with flowers and the ruins of an old abbey. It is about 45 minutes north of Galway, our Sunday afternoon stop. Galway was very busy—its IMGP4968pedestrian streets were full of people popping in and out of shops and sitting at sidewalk café’s—I’m sure it helped that it was a sunny afternoon, but we were surprised how much was going on. There was a street market selling snacks and arts and crafts from Ireland as well as far flung places like India. Many street performers were trying to catch a crowd, even quite a few with little (or no) talent! There are several museums and cathedrals to see in Galway, too, if you have time to spend more than a few hours.

(Page 2 of 5)
Last modified on Sunday, 16 December 2012

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