What an amazing adventure! Going to Ireland has always been a dream of mine, and to have it come true is almost too much to believe. The memories are ones I will cherish for a lifetime. Here's what we did! Thank you to Gloria Hole, Rita Sturiale, Nicole Hughes, Jessie Rayot, and Deidra Russel for sharing your photos, and capturing some of the moments I missed!
DAY 1 - Saturday, June 3rd - I arrive in Dublin
After a long, long, long day of travel, I arrived in Dublin! The Maldron Hotel was my refuge as I collapsed into sleep. I hadn't really been able to sleep on the plane over, and the night before that I was too nervous to sleep. So I was very grateful to the hotel for getting me in my room early so I could rest. I grabbed dinner at the hotel and went right back to bed. Well, I tried. Jet lag is real, ya'll!
DAY 2 - Sunday, June 4th - Everyone else arrives and we go to Galway
After a quick (but pricey!) continental breakfast, I raced back to the airport to meet our tour guide Agnes and the rest of our travelers. There were 18 of us in total, and I couldn't have asked for a better group of people! I knew a few of them already, but over the next few days, they all became friends. Agnes and our bus driver Dom were phenomenal, and made hopping straight onto a bus way more fun than it sounds!
We stopped for a quick lunch, then continued the 3-hour journey to Galway. Once there, we had a panoramic bus tour of the city and got to walk around for a bit. There was a maker's market happening in front of a medieval cathedral, and we got to visit Galway Cathedral as well. I found a few souvenirs for friends before landing at the Ardilaun Hotel for our welcome dinner that night. Then blessed sleep.
Day 3 - Monday, June 5th - It's all about the sheep... and castles!
Good thing we got some rest because Monday was go go go! We started off our journey with a stop at a bog - like the kind where they found the famous bog bodies! It wasn't at all what I pictured - the water was clear and cool, and the scene was stunning. There were sheep dotting the fields around us, and you could see where they were cutting peat to burn later.
Back in the bus and we were off to Kylemore Abbey and Gardens, which used to be Kylemore Castle. It was built in 1867, by Mitchell and Margaret Henry, and the public rooms feature their belongings, including a pair of delicate gloves that I'm pretty sure were crocheted! There is a Gothic cathedral on the grounds, and it all felt quite surreal. The Benedictine Nuns arrived in 1920, and they established a school that was open until 2010. Today, Kylemore Abbey is still run by the nuns - but where the visitors don't really see them.
Back on the bus once more, we were off to the Connemara Sheep and Wool Centre, where we ate lunch, shopped, and saw spinning and weaving demos. A few of us tried out carding and spinning - but that loom was intense!
Our final stop of the day was Killary Sheep Farm, where we got to get up close and personal with the yarn-on-the-hoof! This is a working farm overlooking the Killary Fjord, and I can't image a more beautiful setting to work in. We started off by hearing about how they train the dogs to herd the sheep - and then we got to see Rex the sheepdog in action! I was amazed at how well he listened, and how attuned he was to his master's voice. Then it was time to sheer a sheep, and feed and hold the baby lambs! Such a treat!
After a quick dinner at the hotel, it was time for a talk and demonstration from the Headford Lace Project! Two wonderful volunteers showed us what makes Headford Lace unique, and how to make it. It kind of broke my brain - it's somehow simultaneously so simple... and impressively complex. It was fascinating hearing about how the woman and girls made the lace and did so much for their families - despite being paid a pittance. I purchased a print of one of the cottages in support of the group, and just have to decide where to hang it!
Day 4 - Tuesday, June 6th - Time to rest and learn
After such a busy day it was a relief to sit and stitch! We started off the morning with my first workshop, introducing the Irish Adventure Bag. Of course, I didn't get any pictures of that, I was busy teaching! But after a quick lunch in the hotel cafe, we were back in the classroom for a needle felting workshop taught by Belinda from Chasing Dreams Felt Art. The 3 hours just flew by, and everyone's projects were amazing!
After class, we had the rest of the day and evening free, so it was time to get out and explore! Our first stop was a real Irish pub, Thirteen on the Green. I headed for this one specifically, as it was formerly known as Garvey's Pub - and one of their distant relatives is a close friend of mine here in Iowa! We saw lots of street art and had lots of fun wandering around. I finished the night with Dingle Sea Salt Ice Cream from Murphy's - delicious!
Day 5 - Wednesday, June 7th - Cliffs and more castles
This morning we said goodbye to Galway and headed back out on the bus, exploring the Irish countryside. Everyone says it's a beautiful country, and it really does look like the photos. Crumbling towers and castles dot the green fields marked by stone walls dating back centuries.
Eventually, we stopped at the Cliffs of Moher! Featured in numerous artworks as well as movies, we were able to spot the caves where Harry Potter found a Horcrux as well as the Cliffs of Insanity from The Princess Bride. Even without the movie references, it was a stunning view worth the long hike up. (And there's a golf cart for those who can't make the trek.)
Back in the bus again, we headed to Bunratty Castle and Folk Park, which was straight out of a storybook. Here we explored the castle, which the MacNamara family built around 1425! It was occupied as a family home right up until 1804. Today it's full of authentic medieval furniture and tapestries, complete with tight and twisty (and slightly scary) staircases. The surrounding Folk Park features over 30 buildings - some set up to represent how people lived in ages past, and some filled with artisans selling their handmade wares. Many more souvenirs were purchased here! Lunch included some of the most delicious potato salad I've ever eaten (sorry, Mom!).
Finally, we landed at the Brehon Hotel Killarney, which might have been my favorite hotel on the trip. (The Ardilaun was a strong second!) There I had some lovely Irish stew and tried a bit of Sticky Toffee Pudding. I spent that evening prepping for my next workshop in the morning!
Day 6 - Thursday, June 8th - Yarny and Blarney
This morning I taught my second and last workshop of the trip, going over some of the trickier bits of the Irish Adventure Bag. Our session flew by far too fast, but I know that many got the hang of it - and others are looking forward to the video tutorials along with the rest of you. Thank you to Gloria for getting a rare picture of me teaching! One of the best surprises came from Laura Jack, who told me that the front cable pattern of the bag is meant to represent the stone walls and fields of western Ireland. I wish I could say I planned it, but it was quite a happy coincidence!
Then off we went to the surprise of the trip - a stop at the Hedgehog Fibers Showroom! This was a rare treat - and our group had so much fun shopping the beautiful hand-dyed yarns. Even Agnes, our tour guide (first row on the right), couldn't resist the allure of the pretty pretty colors. Of course, I got a couple myself - watch for them to show up in future projects!
Our last official stop of the day was Blarney Castle and Woolen Mills. More shopping, and an opportunity to kiss the stone - though I'm not sure any of our group went through with that part. We took some photos of the castle (you can see a bit of it from the parking lot for free) and we wandered the grounds. I had a quiche for lunch - with still more amazing potato salad!
That evening we were free to explore Killarney, and we had a fantastic dinner at The Porterhouse. I recommend the Crispy Chicken Wings and Parmesan and Garlic Fries, but I have it on good authority the Pork Belly was a great choice as well. And the signs on the bathroom doors were amusing enough to need photographing as well.
Day 7 - Friday, June 9th - Back to Dublin
In shock that things were already winding down, we boarded the bus to head back to Dublin, where we would finish out our stay at the Hilton Kilmainham, the most "American style" of all our stays. It was a long day of driving, but on the way we made a couple of stops. The first was a visit to Adare Village, where we were able to grab a cuppa and wander down a street full of cottages featuring thatched roofs. Once the cheap way to roof a home, nowadays it's quite pricey - but still beautiful and oh-so picturesque.
Up next we stopped at Springwools, the largest yarn store in Ireland! By American standards, it wasn't overly large, but I did of course find something to purchase - and some purchased enough that the shop agreed to mail it back for them. And one of the magazines in the shop featured a pattern by one of the members of our group, Andee Graves!
That evening we were free to explore Dublin, having a drink at The Boar's Head and landing at a random restaurant for fish and chips - Friday night in Dublin is busy busy so we weren't picky! We finished our adventures with a much sought-after bubble waffle gelato cone from Cloud Nine. It was as tasty as I'd hoped, and we enjoyed our ice cream seated on a sidewalk bench listening to live Irish music. A passing elderly couple was astonished we were eating ice cream so late at night - but when it's light out until 10:30pm it doesn't feel that late!
Day 8 - Saturday, June 10th - Oh deer, it's the last day
Our final day of the trip started off with a panoramic bus tour of Dublin, dropping us off right near some of the biggest attractions. There were more historic buildings and sculptures and monuments than I could hope to keep track of, and on this day I just about walked my feet off! One of the most surprising sites was this large herd of deer, just chilling out in the park in the heart of Dublin! Even the locals were astonished, as they are usually more reclusive.
Our first big stop was the National Museum of Ireland Archeology. There we saw prehistoric and neolithic artifacts, including some actual bog bodies. I've chosen not to share my photos here, as they are a bit graphic - but you can click here to see the photos on the museum website. There were displays on medieval life in Ireland, including the Vikings who came, and I spotted some weaving tools as well as ancient drop spindles!
We lunched at Beshoff Bros, where I had the best fish and chips and the very best mushy peas of the whole trip! If you are gluten-free or traveling with someone who is, this is a must-stop on the itinerary. After lunch, we explored the courtyard of Dublin Castle, the scene of numerous historical events (and a spot you might recognize if you've watched the film, Michael Collins).
Finally, it was time to see the Book of Kells at Trinity College. Photographing the book itself isn't allowed, but there is an informative exhibit before the book and lots of photo ops in the Long Room. Again, this might look familiar to Harry Potter movie fans!
Thoroughly worn out, we joined our fellow travelers for a final farewell dinner back at the hotel. It was hard to believe it was all over, and that these strangers turned friends were no longer going to be the faces I saw every day, accompanying me on fantastic adventures.
Day 9 - Sunday, June 11th - Fly away home
A final bus ride took us to the Dublin airport, where we all boarded a flight to JFK. We were all sat together, continuing the good group feelings for just a few hours more. At the airport, there were group hugs and maybe a tear or two as we finally said our goodbyes. My final flights home weren't until Monday, so I spent the night at an airport hotel. As a final hurrah, dinner was at Neir's Tavern, where they filmed scenes from Goodfellas as well as Tower Heist. I can't say I've seen either film, but the burger was delicious!
Getting home on Monday started way to early and ended way later than scheduled (gotta love unscheduled plane maintenance), and while I'm so glad it happened, I'm also glad to be home again. I am eternally grateful to all of my fellow travelers for making this an unforgettable experience I will treasure forever. And that includes my most special souvenirs - a book handmade by Jessie Rayot, and an original watercolor by Deidra Russel (they both made enough for the whole group - amazing!!).
And thank you too to all of you who have followed Moogly and given me this opportunity! Thank you to the amazing Agnes, the dashing Dom, and Craftours. It was the trip of a lifetime.
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