Ireland – a place of unplanned treasures

Bonnie Rohrberg
Contributing writer

***image1***As we planned our first trip to Ireland, all my kids wanted to know was: “What are we going to do there?”

We wanted to have our own itinerary, determined to make plans that didn’t include going from one pub to another. So we decided to travel around the southern coast, going from west to east, and just see what Ireland had to offer as we went. We were in for a surprise!

The best way to travel was Ryanair by far. Hotel or bed and breakfast? My family stayed in the Travelodges as we drove across the country, from Dublin to Waterford.

Seeing the tide pools in Tramore, just five kilometers from Waterford, was an exceptional experience. All afternoon we climbed over what looked like lava rocks and explored the many rocks, sea life and treasures on the beach cove. It was the kind of afternoon that makes you glad to be with your family.
As we set off the next day to County Cork, we stopped to explore Cobh, The Queenstown Story. Stepping back to look at our heritage, we got to see firsthand how and why the Irish immigrated to America. The exhibition of the tragic voyages of the Lusitania and Titanic brought to life the reality of what happened and how it affected Irish life in Cobh.

***image2***A little stop turned into a big adventure when we stopped at the Edmon Collection of pewter and hand-painted chess sets. The shop is in the middle of a winding road outside of Cork, but is well worth the drive. After a demonstration of how the figures are made, the master craftsmen showed the painstaking efforts of painting the figures. The kids – and adults – dug into the many boxes of figures to find their own treasures and make their own chess sets.

As we drove through many villages and towns, the old castles and abandoned houses gave way to my imagination of who lived there and why they left. We saw the Muckross house, a house where Queen Victoria stayed and was previously owned by the Guiness family in Killarney.

The Ring of Kerry had many demonstrations of the Irish way of life, with everything from weaving to stone cutting. To step back in time, you must drive the ring with its narrow, winding roads, driving on the left side of the road of course. The views are spectacular.

There are so many castles in Ireland. After kissing the Blarney Stone, the kids were glad to see the Norseman and Irish battle reenactment at Bunratty Castle.

***image3***We explored the Burren area at the end of the trip, saving the best for last. The coastal drive was indescribable. The barren area, with outcroppings of beautiful flowers, was amazing. We meandered our way, stopping whenever we felt like it, exploring the rocks jutting up from the ocean. The kids spent hours hopping from one rock outcropping to another, seeing who could find the deepest crevice. They also watched for dolphins and looked for fossils.
We finished our tour with the Caherconnell Stone fort, which with has 22 war heroes buried in the middle of a sheep field.

Our time spent in Ireland was a treasured experience that we will never forget. There was so much left to see and do, but the taste of what we did see left us ready for our next exploration in the land of the Irish.