Saying goodbye to family is always so hard – especially when you only get to see them every few years. Today was no different. After a fun few days, it was definitely tough to say goodbye to Máire Ann, Tomas, Áine, Sean, John, Aunt Noreen, Pol, Patricia, and everyone else.
After a 4.5 hour drive, we finally made it to Bunratty. We splurged for our last night and are staying at the Bunratty Castle Hotel, which happens to be pretty close to the airport. After settling in, we walked down the street for dessert (yum!). At my parents’ recommendation, we decided to treat the kiddos to the medieval banquet at Bunratty Castle for Will’s birthday. It didn’t disappoint. Bunratty Castle was built in 1420, and we enjoyed a four-course meal and lots of mead and wine, singing and music. They even sang Will “happy birthday!” It was the perfect way to end the trip. Flying home tomorrow afternoon!
After a late breakfast, we took the kids out on the rowboat for a tour around the lake. It was fun (mainly because Adam did the rowing and I just got to sit back and enjoy the picturesque view). After that, we headed off on the Wild Atlantic Way route North to Donegal. The WAW route is a stretch of gorgeous road that begins in Southern Ireland and goes all the way over to Giant’s Causeway, along the rugged and, well, wild coast. So much gorgeous countryside! Oh, and lots of sheep ☺️🐑
Once in Donegal Town, we made the split-second decision to tour Donegal Castle, which was a fun segue for all. The castle was built in 1474 by the O’Donnell clan. It was so neat to see the relatively in-tact remains of a castle that old and see how people used to live (especially people with a family last name!). O’Donnell is the last name of my Nana’s sister, who married into the O’Donnell family.
After that, we were on our way up “home.” My lovely cousin, Máire Ann, had a delicious dinner waiting for us, and it was a fun evening catching up with family. We headed right up to visit Nana’s sister, Noreen, who lives right next door. To say that I was happy to see her is an understatement.
Tomorrow: family, the beach, and who knows
We landed at 0740 in Shannon and immediately searched out breakfast for the kids (and me… who am I kidding? I was way hangry). It’s been a very, very long 24+ hours with minimal sleep. After a bit of a mini-debacle with the rental car, we were on our way! Adam only almost killed us once while adjusting to driving on the left side of the road.
We decided to head to Galway for a little stretch of the legs (and of course Ed Sheeran’s “Galway Girl” was stuck in my head the entire time). We came upon a really neat 13th century church – and one that Christopher Columbus actually prayed at. We then decided on an impromptu visit to the Knock Shrine in… Knock. It was my Nana’s favorite shrine, and I always remember her Knock Holy Water Font in her house by the front door (made of Connemara marble, of course). It was something else for sure.
We finally arrived at our hotel for the evening in Ballymote, Sligo. What a fun, neat find. It’s a 16th century property, a 19th century re-designed Georgian Manor House on a lake, and features not one but TWO castle ruins – one of which happens to be a Knights Templar Castle. The kids enjoyed exploring and going on a walk, we saw some sheep (out of the 1500+ that call this 1,000 acre property home), and decided we are going to attempt to go for a row on the lake in the morning before we leave.
We finished up with an amazing four course dinner with some other couples while our kids fell asleep in the parlour on the couch after their (considerate) dinner of pasta and ice cream (every kid’s dream). As I am not a fan of seafood, the chef was kind enough to make me a starter of roasted duck leg confit, a pickled watermelon and mint salad, short ribs done two ways (braised and croquette with fried potatoes, and a delicious dessert of raspberry sorbet with dark chocolate. 🤤🤤🤤 Adam said the seafood was pretty good. We highly recommend this place and can’t wait to come back!
My family has a long history in Ireland. That’s why I refer to it as the Motherland. Both of my grandparents on my mom’s side were born in Ireland – Nana in Co. Donegal (Craugheyboyle) and PopPop in Co. Tyrone (Strabane). Most of their family still lives there and this visit is mostly going to be time spent in Gaoth Dobhair (Geeedore) and Knockastollar in Donegal with my amazing family.