The World Cup has begun. Dublin is alive. And the hostel in which we are staying has converted their ground floor bar area into the ultimate man cave; local brews on tap, Irish food, comfy lounges and an in house cinema streaming every match live…
And that’s before you remember that Guinness is brewed here!
But in between the pubs, live gigs and epic football matches, I’ve relished in the opportunity to walk the canals, explore the Old Library of Trinity College and, of course, pay homage to my much loved Guinness.
Different to other brewery tours I have been on, the Guinness Storehouse was self-guided and bypasses the factory itself. But don’t let that deter you as it was both comprehensive and interactive. The Tasting Rooms are a fairly new addition and offer visitors an opportunity to taste Guinness within a unique environment, scientifically designed to enhance taste perception – trust me you have to experience this for yourself!
The tour wraps up with a lesson in pouring the perfect pint before you’re invited to make your way up to the ‘gravity bar’ for infinite views across the city skyline. Famous guests of the Guinness Storehouse line a wall just outside of the bar including: President Barrack Obama, Tom Cruise, Queen Elizabeth II and the stars of Home & Away. Oh yes, you heard correctly, two Australian soap stars made the cut.
But it was Ashford Castle (just North of Galway) that was the first real tourist site to blow my mind in the South of Ireland. I am such a sucker for well manicured gardens – what can I say? I love them. Weird I know, but one of my favourite television programs is Antiques Roadshow so it’s not that strange you see?
That aside, the place was nothing short of incredible. And although part of it has been converted into a hotel (unfortunately the plastic doesn’t stretch that far) it certainly doesn’t take away from the experience at large. It’s the location that really sells this place though, positioned on the corner of a large lake surrounded by acres of beautifully kept grounds.
I didn’t want to leave but it was lucky I did as I stumbled across an absolute treasure in the small neighbouring village of Cong – The Hungry Monk Cafe. What I loved about this place is that everything on the menu was made onsite and from locally sourced produce; such as:
- Pan fried salmon with potato and courgette gratin,
- Fennel mayo and local leaves,
- Potato and rocket soup with homemade pumpkin & sunflower seed bread, and
- A marshmallow meringue roulade with fresh cream and strawberries.
All of it was divine, the staff were gorgeous and the aesthetic spot on. Enroute back to Galway however, was a completely different Irish food experience again. We called into a very traditional Irish pub Tír na nÓg airing live Gaelic football to a large group of rowdy locals. Admittedly, I couldn’t understand a word of what they were saying, however that didn’t stop us from joining in with a pint of Guinness and hearty serving of beef and Irish stout pie. The food may not have been anything special but the company made me feel at ease and truly a part of the Irish culture.
Cruising in our rental car, we listened to the tunes of Tracy Chapman, Fleetwood Mac and the Backstreet Boys, slowly working our way along the coastline, taking in some spectacular sights such as the Cliffs of Moher and Killarney National Park.
Back in Newcastle we were bid a very special farewell by family friends local to the area. They treated us to a delicious meal at their favourite little haunt down on the main street, a Mediterranean restaurant called Villa Vinci. And I have to say I haven’t had that much fun in years! We shared in a variety of different dishes – my favourite being the ‘fried Irish brie with caramelised onion marmalade’ (so naughty yet so right).
Later in the evening we enjoyed live music from a local gentleman who brought the place to its feet and, being two Australians with very distinct accents, we stood out like baby elephants! And with that came quite a few requests from middle aged women to come join them on the d-floor. Obviously we willingly obliged.
I learnt a ripper phrase from the locals whilst here in Ireland, and I think it’s the perfect way to wrap up today’s blog…Ireland, ‘the craic was ninety*!’
*a wild and wonderful time
Did this post inspire you to taste some Irish food? Drop us a line in the comments below and tell us about your craic!