| Treasures of Ireland:
Along the Banks of The
Story and photos by Tom Weber
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.
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.
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!"
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
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.
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.
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.
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
a three-story, Manhattan-style, brick-faced bistro.
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.
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!
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.
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).
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