St. Patrick, by legend, drove the snakes from Ireland, but St. Patrick’s Day drives American tourists to the Emerald Isle. Pronouncements, pledges and promises are made – perhaps powered by pints – while hearing a reel or slip jig on that day. Potter around on TourismIreland.comto visit virtually and to dream and plan. Here’s what I suggest for an authentic, exciting first-time trip to Ireland:
Fly a Delta overnight non-stop from Detroit to London and connect at Heathrow on an Aer Lingus flight into Shannon…not Dublin. Skip Dublin unless you seek a big city, outdoor shopping mall, barely Irish experience. The Ireland you’ve dreamed of is a 30-minute drive away from Shannon Airport when you peer over the edge of the 720-foot Cliffs of Moher which tower over the Atlantic and provide views of the Aran Islands in Galway Bay. The blast of ocean air and a stretch of the legs will do you good after the flight, so spend as much time as you like wandering along the cliff walk and visitor center. Then drive (keeping on the left side of the road) 10 minutes south along the Wild Atlantic Way into Lahinch where you can wet your whistle with your first pint of the trip, or warm up with a Jameson Irish Whiskey, in the colorful and comforting Corner StonePub. Drive 30-minutes further and spend the night at the luxurious Doonbeg Resort and Spa, now owned by Trump, where you’ll get more ocean views from a stylish, isolated manor setting and a fabulous first nights’ sleep, and golf, if you wish, in what I have found to be Ireland’s most baronial and yet tasteful lodging.
A 20-minute car ferry across the River Shannon from nearby Killimer, which departs every 30 minutes, will take you from County Clare into County Kerry for wild and wooly adventures: a pony and trap ride through the Gap of Dunloe mountain pass or a tour of Ross Castle in Killarney, for instance. Or more windswept cliff drives or walks over the thrilling Conor Pass and stunning Slea Head scenic route in Dingle, where the most recent Star Wars movie was filmed. Benner’s Hotel is across the street from Ashe’s Pub (and many others) which Tom Cruise frequented while starring in Far And Away. If you don’t pub crawl to the authentic, timeless Dick Mack’s Pub and then Foxy John’s, you haven’t experienced Dingle. Fear not – you can recover from the revelry in the morning by ordering “the full Irish:” the famed “fry up” breakfast that will keep you full (and thirsty again) all day and is served in every village.
Depart the Dingle Peninsula and continue down the coastal “Ring of Kerry” to Waterville, the town in the extreme southwest of Ireland where aviator Charles “Lucky” Lindberg finally spotted dry land on the first solo crossing of the Atlantic. You’ll feel the same sense of calm and relief when you can spend a restful night or two living like a local in Mary Gifford’s charming Brookhaven Guest House. The world-renowned, waterfront Waterville Golf Links, managed for donkey’s years by the beloved Noel Cronin – a true statesman of Irish golf – are within walking distance. Tiger Woods and Payne Stewart loved these links; and Charlie Chaplin loved the peaceful village (as you’ll see if you stroll the promenade.)
You’ll want to stay within striking distance of Shannon Airport on your last night, and No. 1 Perry Square, a circa-1830, 20 bedroom, Georgian townhouse in Limerick is a stylish member of Irelands-Blue-Book.ie list of rare, historic lodging opportunities. Its serene spa and sophisticated first-floor restaurant called “Sash” are a perfect way to pamper your way home.
Contact Travel Writer Michael Patrick Shiels at MShiels@aol.com His radio program may be heard weekday mornings on 92.1 FM. His latest book is “I Call Him Mr. President – Stories of Fishing, Golf and Life with my Friend George H.W. Bush”