Ireland Forever

  • cliffs-of-moher-03Cliffs of Moher
  • LahinchLinks at Lahinch Golf Club
  • adare-manor-castle-ireland-7Adare Manor
  • lodge-at-doonbeg-golf-club-county-clare-ireland-105393-3Doonbeg Golf Club in County Clare
  • dromolandCastle6Dromoland Castle
  • Ballymaloe HouseBallymaloe House

You would think that after many return trips to Ireland the novelty would have worn off by now. Well, it hasn’t!

Once the plane lands amongst the green fields at Shannon, I feel a great sense of excitement.

Many people still believe that they will find a place where people live in thatched cottages and travel by donkey and cart, but that’s no so true in Ireland today. It is now a wealthy nation — a recent change after years of barely making it — and is among the most prosperous countries in the world. Nearly 500 U.S. companies employing nearly 100,000 people operate in Ireland. The sudden rush into serious money has changed the fabric of the country.

With that said, the country still has a magical lure with its many miles of unspoiled, rugged coastline and dwellings that range from ancient castles and Georgian mansions to quaint cottages and humble farmhouses.

Being the returned “Yank” isn’t the novelty it once was. Ireland is overrun with us. But still the Irish offer a warm welcome, and you feel instantly at home. Not known for their direct compliments, the best you can expect is, “Aren’t you aging nicely?”

On this particular visit, I was based mainly in Limerick, a prosperous city located in southwest Ireland and close tomany beautiful areas of interest. I lived in this city until I was 10 years old, and even though it has changed dramatically, the surroundings were familiar to me.

From there, we ventured out to the Cliffs of Moher, rising 750 feet from the sea. This day was particularly poignant, as many of my family members gathered for a family memorial. Afterwards we visited the lovely seaside town of Lahinch with its famous “links” golfcourse.

Speaking of golf, the country is mad about the sport!

We had the pleasure of attending the Irish Open, which was held at the spectacular Adare Manor. Not just for golf enthusiasts, the quaint town of Adare and the Manor is a lovely spot to stay in Ireland. We all had a brilliant day out!

It seems like many of the spectacular properties are surrounded by a golf course. On one particular warm day, we ventured out for a drive to Doonbeg Golf Club and Resort in Country Clare. We had to negotiate a truly scary two-lane road to reach our destination, but it was well worth it! You don’t have to be a golfer to appreciate the obscenely deluxe accommodations, seaviews and warm welcome at Doonbeg.

Close by is terrific hiking on the cliffs at Kilkee. Incidentally, this is a sister property of Kiawah Island in South Carolina.

Another outing took me to the famous Dromoland Castle. I know for a fact that several people from Jackson have graced their presence at this unforgettable property and have returned with rave reviews. And I am sure they also left a favorable Southern impression there. You know that the doorman’s eyes were twinkling when he heard, “Hey y’all…we just loooove this precious castle!” The castle, once a private residence, has all the comforts of home (flat-screenTV’s and beautifully appointed bedrooms and bathrooms), so we Americans don’t feel neglected. It also boasts a state-of-the-art spa, which just opened last year. The grounds are breathtaking — the golf course and walking trails are tranquil and gorgeous.

And did I mention the food? An Irish “high tea” fit for a king. The scones and smoked salmon are a must. And what better way to retire for the evening than with a pint of Guinness in a medieval bar on the property.

A notable change in Ireland over the past several years is its emergence as a gourmet capital. No longer are meat and potatoes the staple of the Irish diet; there are now numerous award-winning restaurants throughout the country. I visited the famous Ballymaloe House in County Cork, which is located on the south coast. This is not an ultra-luxurious property; rather it’s just a refined, country-style home whose kitchen turns out some of Ireland’s finest fare. And whether you are an accomplished cook or just a “wannabe,” there is the famous Ballymaloe cooking school that holds several sessions throughout the year.

With respect to traveling to Ireland, Chicago, Atlanta and New York are among some U.S. cities that offer a non-stop flight into either Dublin or Shannon. Another way to visit this “Emerald Isle” is by cruise. There are several cruise lines that offer a terrific British Isles itinerary visiting several ports in Ireland.

A couple of years ago I had the pleasure of accompanying a group of Jacksonians on such a cruise and introducing them to my homeland. We are still laughing about our escapades and our encounters with the locals… probably my relatives!

All in all, it was good “Craic” (translation – good times)! You come for the friendliness of the people, the culture and the natural beauty. Conversation is often said to be an art form here. If you ask directions, be prepared to encounter a “muck savage” (translation – country bumpkin) who will entertain you with colorful tales before telling you “Take a right, take a left and you can’t miss it.”

Once again, we raised our glasses and toasted with a “Slainte” (meaning cheers in Gaelic) and promised to once again return to my native land.