I did a series of posts on our 10 year year anniversary trip to Ireland months ago (Ballinskelligs, The Aran Islands, and The Rings of Kerry) but never got around to sharing photos from our night (or “overknight” rather) in a private 16th century castle. When planning our trip I knew this would be perfect stay for my husband Zade, a born and bred romantic, whom has mentioned dozens of times his dream to LIVE in a castle. Our hosts Sonja and Kevin, who felt like friends from the start, are in the process of restoring this gem and their vision and artistry is apparent. Handyman Kevin discovers authentic details on ebay and repairs, buffs, and shines them to a thing of beauty. He is currently working on the “great hall” (I included a picture) where they can host intimate weddings! The night we arrived we were greeted by a jar of honey meed in celebration of our ten years. We turned on renaissance music and were transported to an age gone by. A night we will cherish always!
The one ring to rule them all: the magical Ring of Kerry!
We settled into Ballinskelligs and drove round the Ring of Kerry over the course of a couple of days. Most round the ring in a day. But, we sleep late, drive slower, and stop more. So, we stretched it out!
We explored 15th century castle ruins…
Skipped atop stone ring forts standing strong since 600AD…
Chatted it up with a mill worker while picking up a cute knit at the Kerry Woollen Mill…
Hopped on a jaunting cart, just at rainfall, at Killarney National Park…
Rested in the peace of Derrynane Abbey, a graveyard and abbey ruin only accessible when tide is out..
Discovered stones that, in Irish Mythology, mark the burial ground for a bard magician’s beloved…
Thankful to Zade who gifted me by braving all the harried driving himself!
When we booked our tickets to Ireland my very first decision was to schedule a landing tour of Skellig Michael Island, which in George Bernard Shaw’s words is “the most fantastic and impossible rock in the world.” Steep and rugged, this island preserves a sixth century monastic settlement complete with beehive huts, oratories, and a puffin colony. The night before our tour, we received word that no boats would be venturing off the coast for at least the next three days due to turbulent weather. We were heartbroken. But, our wanderlust was assuaged by the gorgeous AirBnB in Ballinsekelligs that would be our private paradise the next three days: Boolakeel House.
Booking a stay at Boolakeel House was a remarkable gift. Our desired dates were not available. But, I fell so hard for the property that its beauty made me bold. I messaged the host, Peta, asking if any space might be made available and to my deepest joy she welcomed us in and opened up the dates for our stay.
The property is a lavish 50 acre sanctuary boasting exotic gardens, a greenhouse with fruits and herbs which supplied our morning breakfast, a tastefully designed and decorated home, and a fascinating host. On one dusky evening I stumbled into a maze of hydrangea bushes and left wide eyed feeling like Mary Lennox. We were overcome to have such a lovely place from which to explore The Ring of Kerry and the local sites including:
Ballinskelligs Castle, a stronghold which is legend to have been constructed in the 16th century to defend the bay from pirates.
Ballinskelligs Abbey, a peaceful 12th century Abbey where the monks settled after one too many invasions of Skellig Michael by marauding vikings. We sang “Holy, Holy, Holy” as an echo of the saints who lived amidst the walls.
Skellig Chocolate Factory, where we sampled decadent treats and left with a couple boxes of jewel-toned wrapped truffles to share with the family back home.
We hope to return and make it on Michael Skellig some day in the future and of course we will stay at Boolakeel House.
We spent two nights on the quiet Aran Island: Inis Oirr. The last ferry from the island to the mainland leaves in the early evening and it is then that the little island comes alive as local children chase their siblings down to the town pub and join the entire town crowded round the televised football game. We listen to local Gaelic chatter as we spoon steaming seafood chowder and brown bread into our mouths. Our AirBnb host Pairic, whose family has farmed Inis Oirr for generations, shares how this land resides in his heart. He has worked it from brambles and stones and built wall upon connecting wall. My heart is touched to hear of someone so grounded to the land of his birth. Zade sleeps in for a rest day and I wake early for a day of adventure. After Paraic's hearty breakfast of Irish bacon, eggs, and sausage I ferry to explore the more polished and most visited sister island Inis Mor by bicycle. A horse stands waiting to greet me as I cycle by on my way to Dun Aonghasa, a prehistoric semi circular hill fort perched 300 feet above the Atlantic. I race to discover The Serpent's Hole, a natural rectangular shaped pool into which the sea ebbs and flow at the bottom of the cliffs before my ferry returns me back to our sweet Inis Orr for the night. Before sunset we walk the sea path to see the amber rusted Plassey's Shipwreck, a cargo ship marooned by storm on the island in the 60's. Before we leave we choose a few famed Aran sweaters to keep the family cozy this fall. The shopkeeper tells me of his small island "I like it and I love it."
We stop for a quick peek at the Cliffs of Moher, ya know, since we're in the neighborhood.
A few weeks ago we took a low key, last minute getaway trip to the shores of Lake Michigan!
We split an AirBnb with one of Zade's best friends for a couple of days in New Buffalo, MI and then headed north to Holland for another serving of tire swinging, daisy chains, drippy ice cream, bold lighthouses, and sandy shores.
My parents just moved back to the U.S and are house hunting! So glad to have Nene and Poppi closer to grandbabies, but missing their old digs in the UK! Our trip there a year ago created a yearning for more.
Reminiscing on some memories from our trip there a year ago....
We only had a couple days in the city so we hit a few of the "musts:"
The Tower of London with its blood soaked biscuit Raven connoisseurs
Hampton Court with its great halls, rose gardens, and topiary maze
Borough Market for its meat pies and mushy peas
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The cutest, quaintest fishing village jutting colorfully from the Isle of Skye, Scotland. We visited on our family UK trip this summer. I may be a little late in sharing photos...just a little. The small island was fully booked on our travel dates months in advance. So, we got creative and glamped in darling A-frame cabins with Wigwam Holidays. Misty island treks and fresh seafood by day and s'mores by night. One of the most mysteriously dreamy places I've ever been.
My parents moved to Britain a few years ago and in June we were able to join them for a jaunt across the pond. Our first days were spent in darling Edinburgh! We were enchanted by...
Hot chocolate sundaes from Mary's Milk Bar
Hog roasts with sweet chili sauce and haggis
Intricate crown jewels fortified within a high castle
Golden gorse on favored Arthur's Seat
Lots of overdue snuggles with Grandaddy and Nene!