Ireland is most certainly a not-to-be-missed country. T and I have had the pleasure of visiting Ireland three years in a row now thanks to his former television show. His show shot mostly in Canada, but exteriors were filmed in Ireland. I always enjoyed tagging along because, after all, it’s Ireland!
I promised I would share some of my favorite spots in Ireland, so here they are! Over the past three years, we have been lucky to visit Dublin, Tullamore, Galway, Cong, Wicklow, and more. Ireland is such a beautiful country with so much to explore and discover.
First of all, it’s no secret that I am obsessed with afternoon tea especially in Europe. I’ve had afternoon tea at four different places in Ireland (there was a fifth I wanted to try but they were all filled up).
My first afternoon tea experience in Ireland was at Ashford Castle. T’s former television show shot at Ashford Castle for a couple years, and when I would go visit him I would enjoy a lovely cup of afternoon tea (hot chocolate) while he filmed just outside. Having tea in an historic castle built in the 1300s? Yes please!
This past Ireland trip, I enjoyed afternoon tea at three different popular afternoon tea spots. The first was at our hotel in Dublin, the Shelbourne. The Shelbourne is well-known for their afternoon tea. I have to admit that this tea service has been my favorite afternoon tea experience in all of Ireland (so far). The food is extraordinarily delicious, the setting is quaint (a live pianist!), and the tea (well, I drink hot chocolate) was perfect. We were lucky that we came at the time of year where they have their Chocolate Afternoon Tea (cue angels singing above), which means every single dessert featured chocolate. You can also add a glass of champagne for the extra classy experience.
The second spot we enjoyed afternoon tea was at the Powerscourt Hotel in Wicklow. T was busy filming in the middle of nowhere during that trip, so I decided to stay behind at the hotel and try their tea while reading my favorite Jane Austen novel (Sense & Sensibility). Tea (hot chocolate), finger sandwiches, and an uninterrupted view of the Wicklow Mountains? I’ll take it!
The third place we tried was back in Dublin at the Westbury Hotel, which came highly recommended to us by two friends. While sipping on tea (hot chocolate), you get to enjoy a view of Grafton Street (EXCELLENT for people watching) in a comfy blue chair that feels like your throne.
There was one more spot that was recommended to us that we didn’t get to try this time which is at the Merrion Hotel in Dublin. Hopefully next time I will get to try afternoon tea there! Have any of you tried their afternoon tea?
While I feel like all I do in Ireland is eat, there are three restaurants that pop into my mind immediately when I reflect back on dining in Ireland and all three are located in the same area in Dublin.
This past trip to Ireland, we traveled with two of T’s costars – C and A. On our first night, we were all incredibly jet-lagged but knew we would feel better with a hearty dinner in our bellies. C researched restaurants in the area that were within walking distance. He found Stone at Rustic not far from Grafton. For my first two trips to Ireland, I wasn’t eating meat. My dining experience was a lot different this time around since I started eating meat again, especially at Stone. I highly recommend their steak. It comes served on a hot stone where it finishes cooking to your liking (we all joked how it felt like a meat facial). I also highly recommend the potatoes in the lemon-dill mayonnaise.
The next time we all went out as a group for dinner, we again trusted C to find a tasty spot. As it turns out, a few floors above Stone at Rustic is another restaurant called Taste at Rustic. Taste is officially my favorite restaurant in Ireland so far. It’s a twist on Japanese cuisine, with the menu designed to have you explore all kinds of tastes such as bitter, sweet, sour, salty, etc. The restaurant reminded me a lot of Ja Bistro (my favorite restaurant in Toronto) which is probably why I liked it so much. We all left the restaurant ready to explode from eating too much – it was that good.
And finally, for lunch one day our friend S (who was born and raised in Dublin) took us to Avoca just off Grafton Street. I always shop in Avoca when I travel to Ireland for authentic Irish gifts for friends and family, but on the top floor is a quaint restaurant. We dined on sandwiches and burgers (which were very tasty), but we kept talking about their divine lemonade! It was perfectly refreshing. I had the regular raspberry lemonade (HEAVENLY) but T and S downed their lemonade with an elderflower pressé and couldn’t stop talking about how delicious it was.
That same friend also highly recommended The Winding Stair as a delicious dining spot; unfortunately we didn’t get a chance to eat there with our schedule. It’s on the list for next time!
For our past two Ireland trips, we have been very lucky to stay at some pretty exceptional hotels. Since we would be there for about two weeks each trip for T’s television show, each hotel became our home away from home.
The Shelbourne was conveniently located in Dublin City Center, which made it quite easy to sightsee and walk around the city. It is also right next to Grafton Street (Dublin’s version of NYC’s SoHo) which was dangerous to our wallets.
The two grandest hotels we have stayed at are Ashford Castle and Powerscourt Hotel. Ashford Castle is located on the west coast of Ireland in County Cong. It is actually a castle, having been built in the 1300s. It sets as the backdrop for T’s former television show, but it also felt like a retreat when I visited. While T filmed somewhere on the castle grounds, I would enjoy lunch in the parlor (yes, parlor. I squealed) or afternoon tea. It was also at this castle where I learned to shoot a bow and arrow, and a shotgun (we practiced with clay disks). In the evenings after T and his costars would wrap, we would all gather for a group dinner in the dungeon (yes, the dungeon) and then head upstairs to the bar where we would play Cards Against Humanity until midnight. I will always have the fondest memories at Ashford. If not there with a group, I highly recommend it for a romantic getaway.
Powerscourt Hotel is located on the east coast of Ireland in County Wicklow, about 45 minutes south of Dublin. It is an impressive hotel right next to the Powerscourt Estate and Gardens (which are a must see!). The rooms were incredibly spacious (our first visit we had a wraparound suite) with stunning views (we had a view of the Wicklow Mountains). The spa was also refreshingly perfect (their hot stone massage was the best I have ever had).
If you don’t have much time in Ireland or find yourself primarily on the east coast, I highly recommend an overnight trip to Galway. On our first visit to Ireland, T and I stayed in Dublin but he really wanted to take me to the Cliffs of Moher, which is on the west coast. We took a morning train from Dublin to Galway (about 2 hours and with wifi) and explored Galway in the afternoon before ending the day with dinner at a French restaurant. The next morning, we rented a car and drove 90 minutes south to the Cliffs of Moher. If you’re visiting Ireland, you need to see the Cliffs of Moher (even if you’re afraid of heights). It truly shows you how impressive nature is. We drove back to Galway afterwards and took a train back to Dublin just in time for dinner.
I feel very grateful I have had the chance to visit Ireland three times over the past three years. Ireland was never at the top of my “Must Visit” list but it should have been. It is probably one of the most naturally beautiful and luscious spots in the world.
Have you been to Ireland? What are some of your favorite spots?