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Treasures of Ireland:
Along the Banks of The
River Shannon
(Dispatch #11)

Story and photos by Tom Weber

Insight Vacations tour director Big Mike

ith about two hours of coastline and emerald-green farmland still ahead before we cross the River Shannon, en route from the Dingle Peninsula, Big Mike, our larger-than-life tour director/concierge/storyteller, persuades the intrepid "band of merry media" – 18 travel writers and photographers invited by Insight Vacations (Insight) on its Treasures of Ireland journey – to put on their creative caps and scribble down five lines of non-sensical verse in honor of our next destination: Limerick.

Dingle Peninsula

Like open-mike night at a comedy club, we take turns up front reciting our G-rated, anapestic metered, AABBA rhyme-schemed prose, better known as, you guessed it, a limerick. AHEM. Here goes:

There once was a man called Ignatius
Who traveled with Insight Vacations
While visiting Dingle
He tripped on the shingle
And everyone cried "Goodness Gracious!"

white horse along the road to Limerick

As simple as a child counting car colors, license plate states or white horses spotted along the way during a long road trip to visit gramps, Mike's impromptu, limerick-laced "throw-down" helps pass the time and the luscious scenery. And, before you know it, Eugene, aka The Quiet Man, brings our motor coach to a full stop in front of the Castle Oaks House Hotel, Insight's four-star, Georgian country estate overlooking the River Shannon in Castleconnell, just outside Limerick City.

the Castle Oaks House Hotel

The engine barely turned off, Gobnait O'Connell, the effervescent owner/manager of the hotel, bounces aboard, takes the microphone and greets us with a warm, "Céad míle fáilte! One-hundred-thousand welcomes." She then invites us inside for a hot cup of tea and some freshly baked, just-out-of-the-oven scones while staff unloads our bags.

flowers in a suite, Castle Oaks House Hotel

This family-run establishment, voted the "Friendliest Hotel in Ireland," is warm, cheery and bright. Despite the creaky floorboards, which enhance the legend and folklore of the historic house, I'm given a large, first floor view-room. Too bad I'm only here for the night.

Castle Oaks grounds and the Shannon River

Speaking of night, dinner in Limerick is less than two hours away, so we'd better hustle if we're going to catch the sunset before that rose-colored sky vanishes into the dark.

Lens caps off, let's chase the light and explore a bit of Castle Oak's 25-acres of greenery and paths down to the banks of the Shannon, Ireland's longest river.

the Cornstore bistro

Just a short drive into Limerick, the Emerald Isle's fourth most-populous city and where the mouth of the Shannon kisses the Atlantic, we politely exit the coach and head straight into Cornstore, a three-story, Manhattan-style, brick-faced bistro.

inside the Cornstore

Voted Ireland's best watering hole of the year, with a fab wine and cocktail bar to prove it, this group of "working press" has obviously come to the right place.

Sure, we're here for the liquid, but we're also here to try some of the signature dishes prepped from quality foods sourced locally by the kitchen's award-winning chef, Maura Baxter.

dishes at the Cornstore prepared by chef Maura Baxter

Selecting a la carte – there are no pre-fixed menus when you dine with Insight – I begin with a fresh spinach leaf salad in a pomegranate vinaigrette accented with small cubes of goat's cheese for a starter, followed by oven-roasted Irish salmon with herbed quinoa and sweet potato fries for the main, and I end dinner with a flourish, a surprising rhubarb and ginger crème brûlée for dessert. How delightful!

Insight Vacations brochure

For complete information on Insight's 100+ premium and luxury-escorted journeys around Europe, including the Treasures of Ireland itinerary, where there are always plenty of great sights, an abundance of great food and plenty of craic, like a limerick or two, just click HERE, or call toll free 1-888-680-1241, or contact your travel agent.

the Cliffs of Moher

With another relaxed start on the itinerary for tomorrow, I'll see you back on the motor coach at nine bells when we'll shove off and venture further along the Wild Atlantic Way, stopping long enough at the iconic Cliffs of Moher for a knee-knocking peek over the edge.

Oíche mhaith (Good night).

Related Articles:
The Dingle Peninsula; Grazing on The 19th Green; The Ring of Kerry; A Jaunty-Good Ride Through Killarney National Park; Dinner at Killarney; The Rock of Cashel

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Let Tom know what you think about his traveling adventure.

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Feedback for Destination Bosnia: Inside Sarajevo's Tunnel of Hope

Spent time in Sarajevo in the fall of 1973…beer was excellent!

--- David

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Hi Tom,

I must say, you're photographs are always amazing. They are top notch. You bring so much class to Traveling Boy. It's photographs like yours that make me want to go out and do my own traveling. Please don't get tired of sending us your amazing adventures. It's such a delight for the soul.

--- Raoul, Whittier, CA

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Hi Tom:

I'm also an American living in Italy. I've read with interest your blog and articles. I'd like to speak with you regarding residency and citizenship for Americans in Italy as you do seem to have a great deal of knowledge on all of these subjects. Would it be possible to give you a call on the phone? If so, please let me know how to reach you. If not, I can ask my questions via email.

Thank you!

--- David

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Hey Tom – Wow! Love those photos – they are so super that they make me A) Want to start eating NOW. B) Go there myself. C) See all that pristine beauty that looks so restful and peaceful. Great story, superb pix!!! Bravo!!

--- John, Los Angeles, CA

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Feedback for Destination Southwestern France: Saint-Émilion

Good job, Tom, and timely info. St. Émilion is in the list of places Jim Hayes and I will visit in September 2014. If we get the chance, we will exploit your experience to enhance the trip!

--- Bobby Harper, Dameron, MD

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Feedback for Vicenza Walks – Monte Berico

I lived in Vicenza for 4 years in the U.S. ARMY from 1963 to 1967. A wonderful place to explore. Palladio’s works are amazing. Have been back twice since and find new places to visit. My favorite is MONTE BERICO where I have some wonderful photos of my family.

--- Dr. Albert Pizzi, Hanover, MA

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I liked the new TB particularly the Vicenza article that took me back as a youth when we lived in Naples and travelled up there for a baseball tourney (U.S. Military Bases dependent schools played each other.)

Took me back to the plaza.

--- Bill

Feedback for A Canterbury Trail (Sutri)

Very interesting note. I have wedroned which route the early pre-Christian and Christian pilgrims travelled to Rome from England. Is it still possible to travel the Francigena trail?

--- Pawel

You can find out more info on walking tours of Via Francigena at this site: Thanks for stopping by and commenting..


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Good article, enjoyed reading it. Saved your recommended sights for future use.

--- Dardenne Prairie, MO

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You're going to be great at this Tom. Congrats.

--- Donna Vissa -Montreal

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