By Judy Enright
Special to the BIR
It’s March and, as our readers know, March is all about Patrick – Saint Patrick, that is – and you’d have a hard time finding anyplace in Ireland – or here, for that matter – that doesn’t celebrate the saintly man this month.
Dublin marks St. Patrick’s Day for nearly a week with a parade, 5K road race, walking tours, street theatre, a floating cinema on Grand Canal Dock, a beer and whiskey festival, boat races, all kinds of indoor and outdoor musical events and much more. For details, visit stpatricksfestival.ie online. The Dublin festival began in 1996 as a one-day event but was obviously a big hit because the event was expanded and this year it will run from March 14th to the 17th.
Cork City will be holding its annual St. Patrick’s festival on the same four days. Events include a parade, music, street entertainers and more. See corkstpatricksfestival.ie.
But it isn’t just major cities that celebrate the holiday or the saint. Almost every nook and cranny on the island has some sort of commemorative event. On Achill Island in Co. Mayo, for instance, there’s a long-standing tradition of pipe band parades marching through some of the small villages. Visitors join islanders at the parades and then celebrate afterwards in hotels and pubs around Achill.
When we first visited Ireland nearly 40 years ago, St. Patrick’s Day was a celebration with a very different tone. The day was primarily religious and the greens you saw were live shamrocks attached to jackets and coats. Today, the greens in some of the celebrations are classic buildings that have been flooded with green light – quite different from the “old days.”
If you can manage a trip to Northern Ireland while you’re visiting, a best bet is the St. Patrick Centre in Downpatrick, Co. Down. It’s a good take at any time of year and not just in March. There are coach tours from Dublin if you don’t care to drive.
The Centre claims to be the only museum in the world dedicated entirely to the story of St. Patrick and we found it very enjoyable, informative, and a fun place to stop. There is currently an exhibit in the art gallery at the Centre called “In the Footsteps of Saint Patrick.” The gallery features work by different artists throughout the year. There’s a great gift shop at the Centre, too. For more information, visit stpatrickcentre.com
There are many other March activities to enjoy while you’re in Northern Ireland, and there’s much to see in the area.
The Belfast Spring Festival is on tap (March 10-17), and, in Armagh City Center, there’s a St. Patrick’s Festival planned for March 12-17. More information is available from the Northern Ireland Tourist Board at discovernorthernireland.com.
Be sure to visit the Titanic Experience in Belfast when you’re in that area. It’s fascinating and very well done.
MULRANNY PARK HOTEL
There was a time in Ireland - and also in the US - when travelers relied on railroads and booked extended stays in resort hotels. Destinations were chosen for their beauty as well as activities and attractions available in the area.
One such location was Mulranny, Co. Mayo, and in 1894, the Great Western Railway built a station there and three years later opened the Great Western Hotel overlooking magnificent Clew Bay. There were all kinds of amenities, including a causeway that was built down to the beach. The hotel enjoyed many prosperous years and greeted many famous visitors but as roads improved and car travel became more popular, the big resort hotels in Ireland lost popularity. The same happened here with some of the large hotels in New Hampshire and other areas.
The Great Western Hotel changed hands and finally closed in 1990, looming over Mulranny Village as a sad relic of an era of grandeur. But, happily, in March 2005, the hotel reopened as The Mulranny Park Hotel after extensive refurbishing, rebuilding, and renovation and is now celebrating its 10th anniversary with all kinds of specials, events, discounts and promotions.
Five years after the hotel reopened as The Mulranny Park, the old railway line that ran behind the hotel was reclaimed and revitalized as a mostly off-road walking and cycling trail called the Great Western Greenway. Planning involved several years of discussions and plans and the result is a great tribute to the many landowners who agreed to have the Greenway pass over their property.
The Great Western Greenway links Westport to Achill Island and is no doubt popular well beyond the wildest dreams of the planners. Many businesses – such as bike rental companies - have started up along the route, while other businesses such as restaurants, pubs and the Mulranny Park (the only hotel on the Greenway) have flourished thanks to the many walkers and cyclists. It’s been a huge win-win for the entire area.
Starting March 16, the Mulranny Park Hotel is offering 10 special promotions a week for 10 weeks including rooms, dinners, discount card and Gourmet Greenway gift basket giveaways. Be sure to visit the hotel’s website – mulrannyparkhotel.ie - for more information.
We can attest to the excellence of food at the Park – we’ve eaten there many times and particularly enjoy Sunday brunch. It’s a wonderful hotel and a lovely place to spend time and admire stunning views across Clew Bay to the distant mountains.
Congratulations to the Park for being such a positive influence on the town of Mulranny and for adding so much to the entire area.
Internet hotspots? But, of course! This is 2015 in Ireland, after all! We recently learned that Dooley Car Rentals has Wi-Fi USB broadband modems you can rent for direct “in car” connection via 3G to the Internet through your car’s cigarette lighter or an electric socket in your hotel or other accommodation. It’s also a Wi-Fi Hotspot so other users on Smart phones, iPod, and Android phones can log on. And the modem can handle up to five users/devices at the same time including those logging on through iPads and other tablets and pads. Even laptops can connect.
The product is offered in conjunction with O2, a provider of mobile phones and mobile broadband.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more details or visit the company’s website: dooleycarrentals.com
We were delighted to read that Aine Maguire, a Mayo-born chef with a decade of experience in Dublin, has taken over the Quay Cottage in Westport, Co. Mayo. We have enjoyed dinners at the Quay Cottage in Westport, Co. Mayo, in years past.
Aine plans to reopen the cottage as a 50-seat restaurant with a special focus on seafood and hopes to grow the restaurant’s herbs in a kitchen garden. Be sure to stop in as you travel the Wild Atlantic Way.
There’s a lot going on in Ireland this month beyond St. Patrick commemorations.
• March 4-8, Belfast, Northern Ireland, celebrates country music with Andy Fairweather Low and the Low Riders and Foy Vance topping the bill. For details visit belfastnashville.com
• March 12-15, the Dingle International Film Festival will be held in Co. Kerry. See dinglefilmfestival.com for more.
• March 18-22, The Silk Road Film Festival will be held in Dublin and focuses on Asian, Arab, Persian, Middle Eastern, and European films. See silkroadfilmfestival.com for more.
• March 18-22, Mountains to the Sea, a literary festival, will be held at Dun Laoghaire’s seaside library. See mountaintosea.ie for more.
• March 19-29, The Jameson Dublin Film Festival will take over and create a movie mecca in the capital city. See jdiff.com for details.
Enjoy Ireland whenever you visit and be sure to visit Tourism Ireland’s website, discoverireland.com or Ireland.com, for information on activities, accommodations, and more.