Ireland’s #Hiddendrives

When  my friend comes over for a visit from Germany, we always do a day of exploring around Ireland. Generally around the region of Sligo. She hasn’t been to visit me since we moved to County Kildare. Can you imagine how much we have to explore here? It would take us days, if not even weeks. We only live at the border of County Dublin and everything is so easily accessible once you have a car with an up to date insurance ie. Chill.

But back to Sligo… We never really have a destination when we explore Ireland. We take one road and that’s it. Who knows where it is leading us to. That way we have found some amazing and beautiful gems. Some that I would like to share with you and maybe you might even want to explore yourselves in the near future.

Streedagh Beach, Co. Sligo

This beach is located outside of Sligo on the way to Bundoran/ Donegal. It’s actually near Mullaghmore which is off the main road. We discovered this beach randomly. This was sometime in  May and the weather was nice enough to walk around. I used to be a big climber when I was a child but not so much now. The view from one of the cliffs on Streedagh Beach is incredible though. Definitely recommended to all photographers out there.
On the way you can even visit Mullagmore. It is famous for its dolphins and I think you can even take a boats tour depending on the weather. There is a pub beside the hotel which does delicious fish and chips.

Lissadell

Another place we explored together is Lissadell and its beach. To get to Lissadell, you have to take the road to Bundoran/ Donegal again but turn off in Drumcliffe. For this adventure I also took Matthew with me. He loved all the running around on the long beach. He is a huge fan of the beach in fact. We haven’t been to the beach in quite some time now. It is a bit further away for us now but we can make a day trip out of it.
We didn’t go into Lissadell House. I can’t remember if it was even open at the time because I know it was closed for a while but it has since reopened and they have exhibitions running.

Caves of Kesh

This was probably the most adventurous experience we have done. I would recommend to wear good boots. Hiking shoes would be more appropriate. It involves a lot climbing and you certainly get your work out from this. Located on the outskirts of Ballymote, Co. Sligo is a little village called Kesh. It’s in the middle of nowhere but the caves from the top give you the most beautiful view.

Knocknarea

It wasn’t the brightest day when we decided to climb up Knocknarea in Strandhill, Co.Sligo. In fact it was in January. Not the nicest weather to be expected in that month, especially in the west of Ireland. We walked it anyway. Not too long they opened a new nature trail called Queens Maeve Trail. They’ve designed a set of wooden stairs to go around the mountain. We didn’t have the time to do the whole lot as it will take you around two hours.

Have you explored any of these hidden gems before? 

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Afternoon Tea Bucket List

Last year a friend and work colleague of mine and I started going for afternoon tea around the Sligo area. So far we have been to three places and I reviewed them on the blog in the past. Now that I have moved to County Kildare, I would like to extend the list. It is probably not the cheapest hobby and certainly not the best if you want to look after your figure…BUT it’s not like we are planning on doing this every week. More than likely it’s every few months because one of us will always have to travel and that involves a cost too of course.

Afternoon tea can also be a great way to catch up with all friends. Sometimes it’s better to have a bit of everything rather than having a huge lunch or dinner. Afternoon tea generally starts around 2pm and in most places you have to reserve in advanced. We got caught before where we didn’t reserve but ended up taking someone elses place who did reserve. (oops)

Prices for Afternoon tea ranges from €19.99 to the more posh one which is €40. These are generally in upper class hotels like The Ritz, Four Seasons, you name it. We have experienced afternoon tea in hotels as well as restaurants in the past. For me afternoon tea in hotels are much better than they are restaurant but that might have been also just a bad experience we had.

The following list of afternoon teas I handpicked from across the country with the help of my friend Sandra who will join me in most of these (I hope anyway)

• Traditional Afternoon Tea Ashford Castle

” The long established tradition of Afternoon Tea has been wonderfully preserved at Ashford Castle since 1868 – you’ll notice the original silver tea set displayed in the Connaught Room, which was presented to Lord and Lady Ardilaun to celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary in 1896.”

• Afternoon Tea at Killashee House

“Afternoon Tea in Turners is one of our favourite traditions. Served from 2pm-5pm in the serene surrounding of Turners Restaurant, it’s the perfect grown up treat. Chat over a delicious spread of dainty sandwiches, spoil yourself with some delicious cakes, catch up on gossip or simply relax and enjoy the gorgeous views of our gardens.”

• Afternoon Tea on a Vintage Bus Tour

“There’s no better way to experience the city than on our Vintage Routemaster. Experience our freshly prepared seasonal afternoon tea and sit back and enjoy the sites of the Dublin City.”

• Afternoon tea at Powerscourt Hotel

“Watch the world go by while enjoying a scrumptious Afternoon Tea in the Sugar Loaf Lounge, overlooking the mountain after which the lounge is named.”

• Afternoon Tea at The Westin

The Westin has many different afternoon tea options including the traditional afternoon tea, mad hatters afternoon tea and even take away afternoon tea. They also have an option for children to enjoy afternoon tea.

• Mobile Afternoon Tea with SocialBee

I came across this crowd online while browsing for afternoon tea in all different places in Ireland. They offer afternoon tea on the go whether that’s for your wedding reception, your own private in your four walls or a romantic picnic in the park. They provide it all. Pretty cool.

• Afternoon Tea at the G Hotel Galway

Apparently the best afternoon tea in Galway. We shall see.

• Afternoon Tea at Titanic Belfast

“Step back in time to a period of luxury, elegance and 5-star service with our Titanic Sunday Afternoon Tea. Set in the opulent surroundings of the Titanic Suite featuring the stunning replica staircase, our Afternoon Tea is an experience not to be missed!”

• Afternoon Tea at Ardgillian Castle

“Enjoy a leisurely afternoon in our stunning Drawing Room, an inspirational Downton Abbey-esque ambiance that once belonged to the Taylor family, savouring a selection of delectable treats. Soak up the eighteenth century setting and embrace the character of Ardgillan. Sit back, relax and enjoy.”

• Afternoon Tea at the K Club

“Relax and enjoy Afternoon Tea in the The K Club’s opulent Chinese Drawing Room overlooking our outdoor terrace and beautiful manicured gardens with open log fires.”

Have you ever experienced Afternoon Tea before?

10 Years in Ireland

This day ten years ago I started an adventure. An adventure I didn’t think would end up me starting a new life in a different country ten years later. When I was only 19 years of age, I decided to leave my home country Germany behind and learn the culture of another country. This was going to be Ireland. At home I did a bit of research. I heard that it would be a great opportunity to work as an Au Pair. In the end I found a lovely family on greataupair.com who had a boy aged 7.

My massive suitcase was packed and my mum and I drove to Berlin airport. The allowance for Aer Lingus was 30kg at the time but they allowed you to go over that a bit. I think I ended up carrying 32kg but I am not a 100% on that. Somehow I have a number 40 in my head. It was time to say my goodbyes. Luckily Ireland is only a 2 hours flight from Germany so I went over to see my family multiple times including Christmas of course.

When I arrived at the airport, I was greeted by my hostmum. They only lived 20 mins down the road from the airport, a town called Malahide. I minded the boy for a year. It involved many tasks. I don’t want to go into much detail but I wrote a blog post about it a while ago if you are interested, read about it here.

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Sightseeing in Howth

During my Au Pair time I learnt a lot. When you leave your home at the age of 19 you don’t know much. I didn’t know how to cook, I didn’t know how to use the washing machine etc. I had to become independent.  Overall I managed quite good in fairness and learnt it all one step at a time. I knew a few Au Pairs in and around Malahide from a language school we went to. We met up a few evenings in our favourite pub Gibneys in Malahide.
It’s mad how you can bump into people, but my hostmum’s friend got an Au Pair from Germany a few months later and she introduced me to her… This was Karo who I mentioned a good few times on my blog who is now my bestie. Mad isn’t it?

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Having a pint of Cider in Gibneys

Of course I cannot forget to mention our crazy times. Most of us were mad into a boyband called Westlife. Some of you may know them. Anyway, they were quite successful during that time and we all spent so much time going to all their concerts, even flying to London for a few days. Au Pair life can be handy sometimes I guess.

A year passed and I had to decide what I wanted to do next. I applied for jobs but was unsuccessful at the time. In the end I decided to work for another family in the same town. We are into the year 2008 now. I went home for a few weeks to see my family that summer.  When I came back, I moved from Dublin to Sligo, from East to West. A few of my friends moved into an apartment and there was a free room for me to stay in. 3 weeks on I got a job in a local super market. It wasn’t the job I hoped for but it was a start I guess. I remember our wild nights at the weekend or during the week when no one had to work. It was great craic and something I will keep in memory for a long time.

I also moved into my own rented apartment which was kindly paid by my mum. It was a lovely apartment I have to say. A friend of mine moved in with me as it had 2 bedrooms. I only ended up living there for 6 months though. My mum and I celebrated Christmas together in my place.

During that Christmas period I also met my now other half/ best friend… 21st December in fact. It was so random. I was out with the girls for a few drinks (You can probably gather from this post that I went out A LOT before I had children) but as you do I had a bit too much and decided to go home. At a corner I met hubby, he walked me home and the rest is history.

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In early April 2009 I got my first car. Hubby got it all the way from Waterford and brought it up to Sligo for me. That’s love. We had some fun times with that car. It didn’t last too long. There was water coming into the passenger seat but I still drove around in it. Even to an outdoor concert in Sligo with my mum. Good memories. The engine blew up in the end and we got rid of it.

In May 2009 hubby and I moved together. He only just bought a house before I met him, that’s timing isn’t it?
I was without a job then. I couldn’t put up with my job in the grocery store anymore. Hubby was so nice and told me I could apply in his company. You can imagine how the interview went with his colleague. I am still working there today and love my job.

We settled down in those years. First we got a cat, then we started talking about having children, we got engaged in October 2011 etc. Matthew came along in August 2012, then there was Chloe in February 2015. So many events happened in just 10 years. There is probably way more I can tell you and I could probably go into great detail but I don’t want to bore you with that.

Our future is looking bright. We are moving to another town due to work circumstances. Hubby is working a lot in Dublin every week since our company was bought which leaves me minding the kids on my own 3-4 days a week. It can be tough. He also misses seeing the kids all the time. For that reason we decided to move to Naas, Co. Kildare which is basically on the border of Dublin. We bought a new built house there. At the moment we are quite busy going through the process of selling our own house and signing the contract on the new house at the same time. I had to decide on the kitchen and tiles in the last week or so. We should be moving in October I’d say. The kids are already signed up in the new creche and I hope it all goes smooth and they get used to it pretty quickly.

My Ireland Travel Bucket List

This September marks 10 years of me living in Ireland. How time flies. I can’t believe I have lived on the Emerald Island for 10 whole years. Neither have I thought that I am going to actually stay here. The plan was to spend one year in a foreign country which in my case was Ireland. I had no intention of staying, finding a job, a home, a man and start a family. After spending one year in Ireland in 2007, I wanted to stay a bit longer. It dragged out. Soon I realised it was mean to be. Leaving my home country Germany behind and starting a new life in a complete new country.

Ireland is a not a big island. It takes approximately 5 hours to travel from Sligo to the South of Ireland. With that in mind you’d think in those 10 years I have seen most places. You thought wrong. I know Dublin and the West of Ireland and some places in the midlands but mainly the South of Ireland is non existing to me and my camera.

I created a bucket list of places I would like to visit. My aim is to complete this list in the next year or two. Ireland has beautiful landscape to offer. Even though it can be a hit and miss sometimes with the weather. It rains a lot unfortunately. I suppose to make the most out of it, get the rain gear out and off you go.

Aran Islands

Image Credit: Lallytours
Image Credit: Lallytours

The islands are located off Galway and Doolin. I was in Galway so many times but I have never managed to buy a ticket in Salthill and go over. Maybe soon.

Ring of Kerry

Image Credit: GoWest
Image Credit: GoWest

You hear a lot about the Ring of Kerry and it’s one of the biggest tourist attractions in Ireland. To some it might be just a normal road route but it’s famous for its beautiful scenery and heritage. It starts off in the town Killarney. You can take three roads which are the N70, N71 and R562, To give you heads up on the road names, the N Roads are generally easy to drive. The R roads are typical country roads which can be very narrow and bumpy but in saying that they can also be the best roads to bring you to the most beautiful scenery.

Rock of Cashel

Image Credit: Wikipidea
Image Credit: Wikipidea

One of the most popular and most visited tourist attractions is located in Country Tipperary. It’s also known as Cashel of Kings and was seat of the High Kings of Munster.
Right now you can visit Rock of Cashel between 9am and 7pm with an admission fee of €7. The first Wednesday of every month gets you in for free.

Dingle

Image Credit: Wikipidea
Image Credit: Wikipidea

Dingle is located at the very bottom of Ireland slightly West. It would take me over 5 hours to drive from Sligo. It’s also the home of the famous dolphin Fungie. One of the reasons why I would like to visit. There are one hour Dolphin boat tours operating from the Pier of Dingle.
While in Dingle I will also have to drive the Slea Head Route. It is advised to leave early during the summer month and to drive it clockwise as the roads are very narrow. It takes around three to four hours. On the way you’ll find multiple attractions like the town Inch with its beautiful beach.

Blarney Castle and the Blarney Stone

Image Credit: Wikipedia
Image Credit: Wikipedia

Blarney is located 8km from Cork City. The castle itself is mainly a ruin but some parts of it can be viewed. What makes the castle so famous, is its “Stone of Eloquence”. The stone is said to bestow the gift of the gab on all the people who kiss the stone. It is advised to have a second person helping you kissing the stone because you have to lie on your back, dangling over the edge, trying to reach the stone with your lips. A kind of dangerous attraction but well worth it if you follow the instructions.

Dursey Island Cable Car

Dursey Island is located in the Western part of Cork. This is where Ireland’s only cable car operates and traverses open seawater in all of Europe. You might get lucky and see the dolphins jumping in the water while going over. The cost is 8 Euro return.

Whale Watching in Cork

Image Credit: Whale Watch West Cork
Image Credit: Whale Watch West Cork

West Cork attracts minke whales, fin whales and humpback whales. Weather depending you can book your trip on Cork’s Whale Watching Website.

Powerscourt Gardens

Image Credit: Powerscourt.com
Image Credit: Powerscourt.com

Moving to the East of Ireland… Powerscourt Gardens and its Waterfall located in County Wicklow. The waterfall is the highest one in all British Isles. You’ll see many beautiful things in the garden such as Japanese gardens and old trees. I can imagine this place is glorious on a warm summer day. A packed picnic is well worth it to have here.

Afternoon Tea @ Eala Bhan

Eala Bhan

On Sunday, two friends and I decided to go for some afternoon tea in Eala Bhán in Sligo town beside the Garavogue River. We got into the habit now of trying out all local afternoon tea places. I booked the space ahead in case it was full. But in fact normally there is no afternoon tea on a Sunday. Thanks to the owner Anthony, he still allowed us to enjoy some afternoon tea in his restaurant.

When we arrived, we were greeted by the friendly staff and were guided to our seats. The table setting was already done up in a nice cosy area by the window. We were asked whether we want to have tea or coffee. The tableware was all China.

afternoon tea 3

A few minutes later, we got the first lot of our afternoon tea food. As we were three people, we were presented with a 3 tier each. The options were a creamy goats cheese on bagel and bread, chicken pesto and egg mayonnaise. All canapes were garnished with some rolled up ham and cheese, chives or tomatoes.

afternoon tea

afternoon tea 2

When we were finished, we took a few minutes to ourselves to make room for the dessert. We also got a top up of tea. Apart from the tea, you also get a jug of water by the way. When our stomachs were set, the waitress came with our desserts. These were presented on a kind of “chalk board” plate. It looked pretty cool. On the plate we had the choice of lemon tart, chocolate fudge cake and what looks like it was profiteroles but there was no cream in it so it was a plain choux pastry. A bit too dry for my liking.

afternoon tea dessert

afternoon tea dessert 2

So what did I think about the whole afternoon tea experience?

The staff were very friendly and helpful. They asked multiple times if we were ok or if we need anything else such as more tea or water. The setup in Eala Bhán is nice and peaceful. The afternoon tea itself was a bit different as I would have expected it to be if I am honest. A packed 3 tier full of sandwiches and desserts is the traditional afternoon tea way. I suppose everyone has their own kind of ways and expectations. One or two scones on the side would have been nice too. In saying that, nevertheless we came out with a stuffed stomach.

Afternoon tea is served between 12pm – 3pm Monday to Saturday at a cost of €24.95.

*I was invited by Eala Bhán to try out their afternoon tea. All photos and opinions are my very own.