Planning a short break to Ireland, but not sure what to see and do while you’re there? SuperBreak’s Travel Writer Competition entrant, Lorna Lloyd shares her experience with lot’s of top tips on how to make your trip amazing…
My sister and I had been given a “child-free weekend pass” by our husbands and we couldn’t wait to decide on a destination. But, what to do… Beach? City? Countryside retreat? Well… why choose one when you can have it all?!
We both agreed that Ireland would be the perfect place to visit – with super-short flights from most mainland UK destinations we really could make the most of our free time away.
We flew from Birmingham to Dublin, both incredibly excited – rather like two children with day off from school! Once landed we went speedily through arrivals, grabbed ourselves a little hire car and set off to explore this spectacular country. First stop – Dublin City Centre. Well, you can’t come to Ireland without sampling the Dubliners legendary hospitality! We headed straight to the Cornucopia Restaurant (Wicklow Street, Dublin) and enjoyed lunch in this gorgeous little vegetarian café, bustling with people from all walks of life. The food was absolutely fantastic and the friendly, informal atmosphere provided light relief from the hustle and bustle of Dublin’s Temple Bar. We just had time to get swept away with a song or two in one of the Irish music bars (and sampled a quick half pint of Guinness!) before escaping the city for a more sedate pace of life.
We had booked a room at the Ballyknocken House and Cookery School, about one hour’s drive from Dublin. It is a fantastic base to explore County Wicklow, with glorious places such as Glendalough on your doorstop. Glendalough – the valley of the two lakes – draws thousands of visitors each year to experience its spectacular scenery and rich archaeological heritage. There are two very beautiful lakes a very short walk up the valley, but if you fancy something more off the beaten track then there are miles of tracks and trails to take you away from it all. It is worth stopping off in advance and taking a picnic with you to enable you to really explore Glendalough and all its glory.
Whilst staying at Ballyknocken, we were looking to soak up the country atmosphere, so drove the few miles to Avoca (the meeting of the waters). This is where they filmed Ballykissangel and there’s a traditional bar by the bridge where we stopped for a bite to eat and to sit and watch the world go by.
The main reason for our visit was to meet Catherine Fulvio and attend her cookery school, based at Ballyknocken House. Ballyknocken is a gorgeous little Victorian Farmhouse, with just seven guestrooms. The welcome from Ballyknocken is superb – with tea and lemon drizzle cake upon arrival – always a winner for two exhausted travellers. Dinner at Ballyknocken starts with sherry in the drawing room; a quaint tradition which allows guests to get to know each other. Dinner was superb – with homemade breads and pates to start, and a selection of deserts to top it all off. We ate so much we were concerned that we wouldn’t have room for our cookery lesson the following day!
The course we were booked on was “Seven Meals in Seven Days”; an opportunity to learn how to cook a selection of family meals for every day of the week – aiming to take the hassle out of cooking. Catherine led the class; her naturally vivacious personality and pure infectious enthusiasm for food was inspiring. The class included novices and experts alike as Catherine and her team helped us recreate mouth-watering dishes, whilst at the same time they dispensing helpful advice and top cooking tips (I now freeze my left-over ginger for future use!). Before we knew it the class was over and we finally got to sample the fruits of our morning’s cooking – delicious!
Having ticked off the “city” and “country” elements of our tour, we headed to the beach to walk off our lunch and discuss all the tips we had gained from Catherine and her fantastic team. We just had time to visit Powerscourt Estate and Gardens (please do make time to visit Ireland’s highest waterfall on the estate if you go to Powerscourt – it is spectacular) before hot-footing it back to Dublin airport. We had a weekend of wonderful memories, and the promise that we would return again one day!
Planning a trip to Ireland for St Patrick’s Day 2016? Let us know if you’d trial any of Lorna’s recommendations by using the comments box below.