If you've worked with Kendall on the team in depth before, chances are she was helping you plan a trip to either Italy or Ireland. Kendall is our Italy expert and almost single-handedly plans our client's Italy trips herself which makes up a huge portion of our Europe business, but she also has extensive knowledge of Ireland. In her words, she "Just Loves Ireland." I'm passing this week's blog over to Kendall to recap her most recent trip to the Emerald Isle, and explain why traveling in off-season is really the best.
"When I visited Ireland for the first time in March 2017, I fell completely in love with it. The landscapes, people, and the culture were so inviting and it felt like home. I get so excited when clients come to us and say they want a trip to Ireland because I have complete confidence that no matter what, they will have an amazing time simply because the country is incredible on its own. I was able to go to Ireland a couple of weeks ago on my first trip that was fully for personal travel, and it only reiterated why I love it so much. Ireland is such a versatile destination and can be seen so many different ways - a quaint bed and breakfast to a luxury 5-star castle, Ireland has something for every traveler and has a way of winning everyone over."
Top 5 - Ireland in February
1. Galway Food Tour (above and below)
As a first timer to Galway, I could only expect what I have seen and planned for our clients. It’s a cute city with a lot of waterfront activities, great live music scene, and booming population of young people as it’s home to one of Ireland’s biggest universities. As we’ve mentioned countless times before, J5’s favorite way to get an introduction to a new city is by doing a food tour. Food tours are a great way to not only try some of the local cuisine, but also get a general overview and history of the city you’re in. I did the food tour through Galway Food Tours, and due to the time of year, it ended up being a private tour! We tried famous Galway oysters, mussels, local cheese and charcuterie, Irish whiskey, and even visited the new Galway Distillery where they create their cocktails based on the phases of the moon.
2. Ashford Castle (below)
Those of you who have been here since 2021 will maybe notice a repeat on this one…I loved Ashford Castle so much I had to return. Ashford is a place I’m convinced everyone needs to visit at least once in their life. It has such a warm, special feel to it without being overly posh and the activities you can do here truly seem endless. As the former home of the Guinness Family, you can imagine that no detail goes unnoticed. The grounds are expansive and include many walking and biking trails along the lake, tennis courts, gardens, horse trails and stables, a falconry school, a 9-hole golf course, and so much more. I don’t think it’s possible to get bored here. Not to mention it’s a short 45 minute drive from Galway and is walkable to the cute town of Cong, which has many restaurants and pubs open for service during the high season. I tried to fit as many activities as I could into my two days here without feeling overwhelmed, but one really stuck out to me as a highlight, which I’ll talk more about below.
3. Fishing at Ashford Castle (below)
I realize that this may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but for those who really want to enjoy the outdoors, fishing at Ashford Castle can’t be missed. The long-term fishing guide, Frank, takes guests out on one of his hand-made boats and provides everything needed for either a half or full day of fishing. We happened to be there on opening day of trout and salmon season in Ireland, and were lucky enough to catch three pretty substantial wild trout. An additional special experience the castle provides is that the chef will cook and prepare the fish you catch during your trip that you can eat for dinner that night. During the warmer months, they offer a full day trip that includes a stop at an island in the lake for lunch, and they also offer fly fishing lessons for those interested. Although it was very cold and wet, the memory of catching a trout on opening day in Ireland was beyond worth it!
4. Doolin (below)
One of my favorite things about Ireland is the vast difference in accommodation options. I have always said that Ireland does 5-star luxury extremely well, but they also have some of the best family-owned bed and breakfasts in the world. We made our way to the small fishing village of Doolin after our stay at Ashford, and I have to admit that our stay at the Doolin View B&B was just as special as the castle. It’s run by a mother-daughter duo who are from just the next town over. They have poured their heart and souls into this bed and breakfast, and it shows. It’s a quaint, newly renovated house set up on a hill overlooking the town and the Cliffs of Moher from the breakfast room. Complete with an honesty bar, wood burning fireplace, and Sandy’s (the owner) two year old son greeting guests as they arrive, it truly feels like home. Doolin itself is the Irish music capital of the world, which means that there is no lack of pubs and live music on the little main street. Even in the off-season, there were live musicians performing every night and lots of Guinness and gin & tonics to go around!
5. Why Travel Off Season?
Those who keep up with these blogs every week know that we aren’t trying to hide the fact that travel is simply more expensive right now. One of our biggest pieces of advice to deal with this is being flexible with your dates and traveling in the off season, when possible of course. No, February is not the "ideal" time to travel to Ireland. However, the lower rates, small number of tourists and cars on the roads, and the excitement that hotel employee’s and b&b owners show to have guests again make up for an occasional spot of rain or windy day. If you can bring some patience and understanding for some shops and restaurants being closed for the season, then I can almost guarantee your experience will be just as good, if not better, than traveling during peak season. This is true for any destination, not just Ireland.
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I love travel and I love travel planning just as much and I am proud to be building a team as passionate about exploring the world as myself. It took me a very long time to align my career with my undeniable passion for exploring, but now I and the team are here for you. Your personal travel tailors - award reservation and luxury custom itinerary experts. We provide a bespoke service, imagining and creating itineraries for independent minded families and groups.
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