Flight of Fancy Travel

Driving around the Emerald Isle — notes from Ireland

Ard Na Sidhe, the boutique country house built in 1913

Ard Na Sidhe, the boutique country house built in 1913   | Photo Credit: Rainer Hofmann

Sheep-spotting along the Ring of Kerry, gardening in Kenmare and a trip to the Guinness brewery rounds off a summer trip to Ireland

I woke up deep in the lush foliage of Caragh Lake in Killorglin, Ireland, to the brilliant news that Guinness, the ultimate emblem of Irish enterprise, was granting fathers 26 weeks paternity leave. There it was, the headline screaming from the front page of The Irish Independent. What a progressive step towards sharing the burden of childcare, which, across the world, falls primarily on the shoulders of women. I was scrunched up over the paper at the Ard Na Sidhe hotel, a gem of a boutique country house built in 1913 with 18 rooms, with the most colourful flower garden and sloping views of the lake below. We were two days into our drive around the ruggedly scenic Ring of Kerry, a trip I had last done 20 years ago. I had always remembered it as one of the most stunning coastal roads, cliffs diving straight into the Atlantic, sandy beaches appearing unexpectedly and miles of green pastures dotted with fat sheep and cows grazing. In fact, it was easier to spot animals than people — given that Ireland’s population is only 4.7 million!

We were blessed with sunny skies, a must to enjoy this gorgeous part of the world. After landing in Cork, we had driven through Kenmare, where I managed to find a tiny antique store run by an elderly couple. When I helped the gentleman with the credit card machine, he immediately offered me a job working for him. So if all else fails in Mumbai, you will know where to find me in the future. Our first rest stop was the Parknasilla Resort & Spa, an amazing property of 500 acres of islands, beaches, and forests, replete with seal spotting! I went on a three-hour walking tour, where our guide gave us the entire history of this magical place. More than half a century ago, the resort’s reputation was so grand, it was considered ‘the south of France for anybody with money in Ireland’. The original owners were a family called Bland, whose descendent Dorothy (aka Dora) was mistress to William Henry, Duke of Clarence, who subsequently became the English King William IV. They had 10 illegitimate children together, and amongst their descendants are David Cameron, former Conservative Party leader. Thanks to Dora, Cameron is fifth cousin twice removed of Queen Elizabeth II.

Not only did I learn this on our tour, I also got an impromptu gardening lesson. One of the Irish women in our group was a fountain of knowledge on plants and herbs. With the sun shining down on these undulating acres of rolling grounds, limitless lake and freshest air, I wondered why more people don’t visit Ireland.

Our week ended in Dublin, with two nights at the Westbury, which came recommended by our pal Paul McGlade Jr. We had gotten to know Paul when he had spent time living in Goa, where he started Marbella Beach Club, at the time, a pioneering Ibiza-esque club in Morjim. The Westbury did not disappoint. Apart from being centrally located, it has a great lobby café and an old school bar called Sidecar which makes the most fabulous drinks, including a Pimm’s cocktail that looks like a fruit salad! It’s the kind of bar you can’t help but feel grown-up in — in a good way.

Of course, no trip to Dublin would be complete without a tour of the Guinness brewery. It’s a must-visit for beer and non-beer drinkers alike, because the company is such an integral part of the local economy. Not only did they pay higher than market wages, they also built low-cost worker housing across Dublin. We learned all this while going through the mechanics of the beer production process, before stopping for the obligatory drink at the topmost floor of the former plant to take in an aerial view of the city. I guess the two decades it took me to revisit this special country was apt given the Guinness tag line —“Good things come to those who wait.”

This fortnightly column tracks the indulgent pursuits of the one-percenters.

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Printable version | Feb 23, 2020 1:31:08 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/travel/driving-around-the-emeral-isle/article27377451.ece

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