BY JUDY ENRIGHT
SPECIAL TO THE BIR
Summertime is fun time, especially in Ireland. Every visitor can find something fun and something of interest when the weather is fine and the cities and towns are bustling and bursting with activities, events, and festivals.
Some travelers say it doesn’t much matter where you spend the night because it’s just a place to stow your luggage and sleep. Well, there is some truth to that, but there is much more involved in ensuring an enjoyable overnight experience. The place you choose to stay on your holiday should be fun, interesting, and add a whole new dimension to your trip.
Ireland, like everyplace, has undergone a huge change in the accommodation market.
Airbnbs are everywhere now and even some Tourist Board-approved B&Bs and farmhouse accommodations have added Airbnb to their listings. There is a huge range of accommodation available from private homes and hotels to castles and nearly all have a internet presence and website where you can take a look at what’s offered and book a stay.
One of the most famous Irish castles is the 5-star Ashford in Co. Mayo, which has undergone millions in renovations and upgrading in the past few years. When we stopped by this spring, Paula Carroll, director of sales and marketing, shared that the castle’s 83 rooms were fully booked at that point. “We’re having a phenomenal year,” she said. Thanks to a BBC program, “Amazing Hotels – Beyond the Lobby,” that featured Ashford, bookings from the UK were up 1,530-percent, she said.
And, just an aside, in case you wondered whether Ashford might be a good place to work. Carroll noted that employees had logged more than 600 years of service there, including 200 years in food and beverage. General Manager Niall Rochford is celebrating his 16th year at Ashford and Carroll said a number of other employees had been on the rolls for more than 40 years.
So, you’re traveling in Ireland with your family and you love Ashford Castle, the manicured grounds and all the available offerings, but, sadly, Ashford is a bit pricey for your budget. The perfect solution, according to Carroll, is the nearby Lodge at Ashford.
Located just a short walk away (transportation can be provided), The Lodge offers suites and rooms and restaurants – everything you need. And, Carroll said, staying at The Lodge costs about 40 percent less than the price at Ashford Castle.
And, she added, rooms at The Lodge are “funky, fun, different, and more contemporary.” Furthermore, The Lodge has 24 designated family units that suit multigenerational travelers better. There are only four family rooms in the Castle.
We visited The Lodge where Phillip Kelly, the duty manager, said many wedding parties choose to stay. “We often have three generations here for a wedding,” he said. Visitors come from aboard but also from the local, Irish, and European markets. All rooms are individually designed and all suites feature fabric wallpaper and original art.
The ballroom at The Lodge not only accommodates weddings but also conferences, fashion shows, and other gatherings.
No matter when you visit Ireland and the Lodge or Castle, Carroll said, “there‘s no such thing as bad weather – just bad clothing!”
For more information, visit the lodgeac.com
Of course, the summer focus for an island is the surrounding water, beaches, and water sports. This year, Ireland has received a record number of Blue Flag certifications for 83 outstanding beaches and seven marinas.
The Blue Flag standard is awarded by the Foundation for Environmental Education and is an internationally recognized citation for compliance with bathing water quality and sewage treatment regulations.
Beaches and marinas that win the award must adhere to specific criteria for water quality, site management, safety, and environmental education. Irish beaches and marinas that won Blue Flag status last year retained that status this year.
So grab your beach chair, bathing suit and towel, and head to one of Ireland’s beautiful, clean beaches.
Love horses? If so, you would have a hard time seeing a more beautiful or exciting selection than at the Dublin Horse Show in Ballsbridge from Aug. 8 to Aug.12. More than 1,500 horses and ponies annually participate in more than 130 events, competitions, and classes at the five-day show.
Be sure to enjoy Ladies Day at the show on Aug. 9, the Aga Khan on Aug. 10, and the Puissance high jump competition on Aug. 11. See Dublinhorseshow.com for more.
Music, the spoken word, comedy, theatre, debate, art, and workshops will be the fare for visitors to Curraghmore House, Co. Waterford, from Aug. 3 to Aug. 5 at All Together Now. There will be 10 stages and performers including Fleet Foxes, Underworld, Villagers, and Mura Masa. See alltogethernow.ie for more.
From Aug. 9 to Aug. 19, the Kilkenny Arts Festival will be held at various venues in Kilkenny City. The 10-day event will include theatre, music, dance, the spoken word, art, design and other attractions. See kilkennyarts.ie for more.
If you’re in Co. Mayo from Aug. 5 to Aug. 12, be sure to see the series of Memorial Cup races in the 2018 Achill Yawl Festival. On Aug. 18, the Achill Beg Festival Yawl Race will be held at 3 p.m. and on Sat., Aug. 25, there will be an All Girls’ Yawl Race from Achill Sound. The Dominic Kelly Family Butcher’s Race will be held on Sunday, Aug. 26, from Achill Sound at 6 p.m. See achilltourism.com for more.
TASTE OF DONEGAL
The 10th Annual “A Taste of Donegal” Food Festival will be held from Aug. 24 to Aug. 26 in Donegal Town and will feature 20 celebrity chefs, including Neven Maguire, Kevin Dundon and Gary O’Hanlon, food tents, demonstrations, music, fireworks and other entertainment. See a tasteofdonegal.com for more.
While you’re in Donegal, be sure to stop by the Donegal Craft Village on the Ballyshannon Road to see many great works for sale by Papertree, McGonigle Glass Studio, Michael Griffin, Clare O’Presco, Johnny McCabe, and Michelle McKee. My favorite artist at the Village is Niall Bruton, who creates sculptures but also designs lovely jewelry from precious metals and gemstones. I am the proud owner of several pairs of his silver earrings, one of which I bought as a gift for my sister but couldn’t bear to part with!
While you’re at the Craft Village, delicious lunches and pastries are served at “Aroma,” which is highly recommended and a definite draw anytime I’m in the area.
Another foodie event is the Seafood Weekend (Aug. 25-27) at Newport House in Newport, Co. Mayo, where Padraig Gannon of Croagh Patrick Seafoods will showcase his fresh, native Clew Bay and Pacific oysters. See newporthouse.com for more.
National Heritage Week 2018 is planned in counties all across Ireland from Aug. 18 to Aug.26. See heritageweek.ie for listings of all the events on the agenda.
Looking for active fun in August? There are daily activities offered for those between 8 and 80 at the Killary Adventure Co. in Leenane, Co. Galway. Activities include bungee jump, a climbing tower, clay pigeon shooting, archery, wakeboarding, waterskiing, kayaking, windsurfing, and much more. You can stop by for a day, a weekend or a midweek break. Visit killaryadventure.com for more information.
Also in that area is the Killary Sheep Farm where you can see sheep shearing, sheep dog demonstrations, bog cutting, hill walking and more. See killarysheepfarm.com
If you’re interested in equestrian adventures, Moorlands Equestrian and Leisure Centre in Drumshanbo, Co. Leitrim, is one place to enjoy horseback riding or pony trekking with fully qualified instructors. Weather is no problem since the Centre has indoor and outdoor facilities. The Centre also caters to disabled riders. See moorlands.ie for more.
Enjoy anyplace and every place you visit in Ireland. For more information on activities and accommodation, visit Ireland.com.
BY JUDY ENRIGHT