It’s October now and the exquisite colours of Autumn pervade. It is just over 6 weeks since we had our Sumner holiday. We were blessed with an Indian Summer for most of September but last Saturday, Autumn arrived and our already holiday seems like a very long time ago.
Between the work on the house and a desire to have a slightly more ‘Eco’ friendly holiday (I say that in the widest possible terms) this year we have opted to holiday here in Ireland. My Father’s fear of flying meant I spent all of my childhood holidays in Ireland (unless we took the Ferry to England or Wales). In fact I didn’t get to fly until I was 17 and then it was on my own to visit friends in London. I have since chalked up a fair few air miles and love travelling, the more exotic the better.
I have thankfully not inherited that fear of flying but annoyingly our holiday (post Celtic tiger) without the need for a passport has been rebranded by the Tourist board as a ‘Staycation‘. After the crash we were all encouraged to support the economy and spend what little we had here in Ireland. For those who still had some spare cash it seemed more sensitive to holiday in Ireland rather than to appear brash (or arouse suspicion as to how you managed to hold on to that money!).
But I don’t need the weight of social opinion to encourage me to holiday in Ireland.
This country is my favourite family holiday destination.
For starters it’s easy to get to:
Yes, the holiday starts the moment we leave the driveway and the journey itself is a huge part of the enjoyment. It also pretty much never gets too hot! For many, the lack of hot weather gets them down but for me the weather is secondary. I’m a card carrying member of the ‘There’s no such thing as bad weather just bad clothes’ brigade. Pack clothes for every weather eventuality & you’ll be fine. In the West of Ireland you could possibly experience four seasons in one day alone.
Finding somewhere great to drive through or stop off is also part of the fun and since we are in total control of our schedule we don’t have the fear of missing flights or connections to stress us out. If we get to our cottage or hotel two hours late, who cares! This year we also took our two dogs with us for the first time. Not only did we save €40 a day on kennel fees we really did holiday together as a family for the first time.
Tripadvisor we found a gem of a Cafe. The Bastion Kitchen was still packed to the rafters at 1330 so we stayed seated outside with the dogs until they could accommodate us. Once a table was freed-up the dogs were packed into the car parked next to Cafe with the windows open and we ate a fabulous hearty lunch of soup with homemade spelt bread, spicy sausages in floury baps and houmous and falafel in pitta.
I’ve always driven on by Athlone in years gone by in favour for somewhere else but it is a really sweet town with a great array of excellent places to eat. The staff at The Bastion couldn’t have been friendlier and it was great to see so many Irish and foreign tourists there. The kids loved it and the visit was all the memorable for them as they were unusually allowed to have a fizzy drink. Of course not any old fizzy soda but the marvelous Fentimans Curiosity Cola
Once again on the Motorway we made one more stop about 40 minutes before we got to Renvyle just a short drive from Letterfrack. I love this journey from Dublin. The last time we did it two years ago the rain bucketed down for the entirety of our drive but this year we had blue skies and sunshine with only light occasional showers.
One of the things we noticed as we drove was the vast number of insects that hit our windscreen which is tantamount to the reduction of pesticides being used by Irish Farmers in recent years. This is something I have not seen since I was a child and hugely encourages me in the notion that real and effective change is possible. We all felt a bit sorry for the bugs as our windscreen wipers cleared them away……
We arrived at our ridiculously quaint Thatched Cottage (Renvyle Thatched Cottages)and settled in quickly. It was perfect. Clean and welcoming and had every thing we needed. Across the road was a choice of places to eat and Letterfrack has a very well stocked Country Store where we got our supplies for the week. We spent three days in the cottage enjoying the stunning white sand beach at Glassilaun. When it was too cold to swim we flew kites and explored the rock pools.
Another early evening was spent watching our children have a riding lesson in Cleggan.
On our fourth day we headed up to the Connemara National Park in glorious sunshine before meeting up with our friends travelling from the UK and joining them in their family Summer Island Retreat. Locally it is simply known as The Island or Heather Island and was built originally as a Summer home for my friend’s great Grandfather Oliver St John Gogarty.
It is a magical place that is hidden behind trees in the centre of a Lake and can only be accessed by rowing boat. Once past the jetty, about 50 metres, the house comes into view amid a glorious barrage of blue Hydrangea bushes. The house echoes it’s literary past through books and paintings and the attic houses a protected colony of bats. The children are warned to stay away from the Lake and in return have free reign of the orchard, forest and hidden world that is the Island. There is no wifi or TV so when the sun goes down we play cards and toast marshmallows by the fire, exhausted and ready to welcome another day of unadulterated play and fresh air. At bedtime, the children lie under the covers and watch the bats flying about….sometimes inside the house. Totally magical and rather than being scared the children just saw them as dreamy birds.
On the return journey home my better half took it upon himself to change tack at the last moment and instead of making a bee line to Galway City and the motorway back to Dublin we headed up the country towards Westport taking in the The Wild Atlantic Way.
Despite adding a few hours (quite a few!!) onto our journey time it was a glorious addition to our journey. So many gorgeous little towns and villages to pass through and stop and explore. Next year we will make a plan and factor-in stoppage time and I was glad we dragged every last minute out of the holiday.
Roll on next Summer. We’re in memory making mode.