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An Autumnal Trip Exploring Ireland’s Ancient East

If you thought staycations were reserved for sunnier months, you’ve been sorely mistaken.

Firstly, you clearly haven’t had the pleasure of exploring Ireland’s Ancient East. Secondly, Irish summers don’t stray too far from Irish springs, autumns and winters – the common denominator being unexpected downfalls of rain.

Luckily, Fáilte Ireland gave us the perfect guide to maximising travel plans in spite of dreary weather, and we enjoyed an action-packed weekend away in lovely Louth.

After a short and sweet 40-minute drive from Dublin, we arrived at the site of one of Ireland’s most significant historic battles: The Battle of The Boyne. It goes without saying, but if you’re a history fanatic, this has to be on your list.

First, we met with two of the centre’s extremely well-informed guides who told us all about the grounds. Then, we were brought into a small cinema room to watch a re-enactment movie of the battle itself, describing the context and background of the event in great detail.

If you’re not historically inclined, don’t be disheartened; the grounds are just as impressive as the legacy behind it. With hundreds of beautiful flowers, winding pathways and one of Europe’s only sunken Octagonal Gardens, we found ourselves spoilt for choice.

Following our strolls through history and floristry, we moved on to what ended up being the highlight of our trip: Listoke Distillery. After being warmly welcomed by Bronagh and Sean, we were educated on the mechanics of creating a good bottle of gin* before getting down to business and beginning to create our own.

Opting for the prettiest aromatics, we went for a blend of Cornflower, Lemongrass, Cardamon, Rose, Hibiscus and Sumac. It tasted amazing (take our word for it), but it was no match for Listoke’s own Chocolate Inferno formula. Try it with chilli-infused ginger beer – as recommended by Bronagh – and thank us later.

While we waited for our gin to distill, Listoke co-founder Sean brought us down memory lane to learn about the business’ story. From two barn owls (called Gin and Tonic) to making hand-sanitiser from the residue of gin batches, this pair of co-founders have some amazing stories to tell – but we won’t spoil them all on you, go and hear them for yourself.

Feeling tuckered out from all the fun, we were delighted to be received with open arms at Scholar’s Townhouse. Teeming with ambience from the get-go with dripping red candles and striking interiors, this hotel is truly a slice of paradise.

After catching our breath, we headed down to dinner and found a beautiful candlelit table set by the window, overlooking the beautiful water fountain and flowers outside.

If you can’t stay the night, at least book in for a meal – the food was absolutely incredible. From start to finish we were blown away with every dish (each paired individually with wine) as well as with the wonderfully attentive service we enjoyed throughout our meal. We’re still thinking about the honeycomb cheesecake.

If you’re athletically inclined, this is a no-brainer. However, with three different levels of difficulty to choose from in terms of the aerial courses alongside an array of other options, there really is something for everyone to enjoy.

Full disclosure, I am not the most athletic individual so my hopes were not high. Thanks to the wonderful care and reassurance of our guide, though, we both conquered our fears and managed to have a lot of fun doing it – even venturing to the second level! I was genuinely pleasantly surprised.

Taking ‘go hard or go home’ to a whole new level, we decided to treat ourselves to a post-sky park cycle. OK, they were electric bikes.

Richard got us suited and booted before the three of us set off on our journey along Carlingford’s greenway. Following what used to be an old railway track, the route takes you by the beautiful lough and through various nooks and crannies. A keen historian as well as a cyclist, Richard shared some local history and stories of folklore with us along the way.

Top tip: stop at Café Rosa in Omeath to fuel your journey back and be sure to nab a slice of lemon meringue pie.

After an extremely fun day of activities, we checked into our home for night two: The Four Seasons Hotel.

We had one thing on our minds, and that was the thermal spa. Quickly throwing on our robes and slippers we headed to the hotel’s Luxe Spa where we found thermal pools, rainforest-simulating showers, infrared saunas and Himalayan salt saunas.

Safe to say everything was put to the test, the result being we didn’t want to leave. Ever.

For our second night’s dinner, we had a reservation at The Kingfisher Bistro. A few locals had mentioned it being a fabulous spot for foodies during the day, and they were absolutely correct.

Once again, we had absolutely nothing to say. Each dish was cooked to perfection, bursting with flavour and stunningly plated (I’m no food critic, but the pictures speak for themselves).

Even if you’re just passing through, do yourself a favour and stop for a bite. You won’t regret it.

The next morning, we headed to Carlingford Castle, finishing our trip off as it started: teeming with Irish history.

The wise and wonderful Sheila walked us around the castle’s grounds and through the ancient ruins, filling us with endless facts and insights as we went.

At the end of our tour, Sheila brought us to a point that looked out onto Carlingford Lough, telling us the view we were beholding is one that remains relatively unchanged since it was constructed in the 12th century.

A fantastic way to end an utterly amazing weekend adventure, case-in-point; don’t let some drizzle stop you from exploring Ireland’s Ancient East – just bring a brolly.

Source : RTE