HAPPY CHRISTMAS EVE!!! (if you’re celebrating) and if not, enjoy your regular ol’ Monday. This trip wasn’t too long ago…early Novemberish. I’m home again in Dublin for Christmas, right beside the cosy fire as I type this. Well, as close as I can fit ol’ right and left leg comfortably, as my two greedy (but loveable) cats are sprawled out in front of the hearth. They’ve created a fuzzy obstacle course that makes feeding logs to a dwindling flame that little bit more dangerous.
Things have been a little hectic since I arrived (just over a week ago) so I’m quite late posting this one. I just came on quickly to say hi, do my usual rambling and check in before the year is out. Better late than never, I say. I guess you could also say this is my last travel post of 2018.
Does this even qualify as a ‘travel’ post if it’s my home country? I doubt it. But it was Iñaki’s first time to Kilkenny so maybe it does in some teeny way.
Right, long story short so we can get on with the nice pictures – For Iñaki’s birthday last year, I surprised him with a trip to Kilkenny. He’s a big fan of castles. Especially Irish ones. As his 30th was drawing closer, I encouraged him to start thinking about using the previous year’s present, as it seemed kinda silly to drag this delightful trip gifted by a precious angel (I know, I’m good to myself) into his 31st year, so we settled on early November. It seemed like the best time to use it as we could spend a few days in Dublin for the Ireland vs Argentina rugby match, visit Kilkenny for fun and frolicks and come back to Dublin in time for my sister’s birthday. Operation Birthday-Kilkenny-Guinness-Rugby-Sister trip was firmly in place.
Soon the day arrived and I got up nice and early (as I often do) and enjoyed my pleasant morning walk around our neighbourhood in Granada, followed by a lovely quiet read of the paper and a pre-flight breakfast of churros, chocolate and a café con leche. There they are above, look at that slick silky chocolate. Iñaki decided he’d save himself for a sandwich at the airport and do some last minute packing. Weirdo.
By the early evening we had arrived home to my parent’s house to a cosy fire (look how neat and well behaved Misty is in front of it, causing no obstruction at all, its only when the two brats are together that trouble’s afoot. Or apaw…?) and the welcome pack from my Irish Mammy; a fry and a pint of Guinness, along with another ridiculous amount of food, drink and warm hospitality.
We enjoyed this wonderful treatment for a couple of days* and had friends over to watch Ireland beat Argentina and LOL in Iñaki’s face at the win. Just kidding, Argentina played so well, it was touch and go for a while. The next morning we set off for Kilkenny, with all the tunes. It’s so handy it’s so close to Dublin, I’m pretty sure we only got through two albums and a Cadbury’s chocolate Santa each (more food from parents. They think of everything.)
*The days after Kilkenny we tried the new Thai restaurant in Swords called Ko San. The food was impressive, the restaurant modern and comfortable with a good atmosphere and the prices were good for both food and cocktails. Service was way too fast but they will most likely find their rhythm with time.
To celebrate my sister’s birthday, we went to Il Sorriso in Malahide, somewhere I reviewed over 3 years ago (link here!) Its still got it, hearty Italian food with a good mix for those who aren’t into pasta (ahem…me) and a decent early bird menu. It right in the centre of the town so you can pay a trip to the famous Gibney’s for a pint before or after. Note all the pictures of Guinness above! Pints at home on tap, and a trip to O’Connor’s is always on the agenda. Guinness is unbelievably gross in Spain, so we enjoy it while we can in Ireland.
Ok, back to Kilkenny and Lyrath Estate. The team at reception gave us a warm welcome and offered to park the car, help with our luggage and book dinner for us if we fancied dining in the hotel, all of which was greatly appreciated. Check in was swift and we headed straight to our room, where we were found another lovely touch; a welcome note from Deirdre Grant (Marketing Manager at Lyrath) a bottle of prosecco and Lily O’Brien chocolates.
Just look at our awesome room and how huge it is! We stayed in the executive double, which was bright, airy, with the best views, plenty of space and kitted out with all the stuff we needed. Actually, more than we needed! A giant couch, two large flat screens, a coffee machine, long hallways and plenty of wardrobe space, a desk with lots of nice stationery and an extra lamp (which came in handy as I had some work to do) two bathrooms, a huge bath, a separate shower and Rituals Cosmetics. I love Rituals, and I’m happy to see they recently opened a store on Grafton Street. They’re so good for hand creams, candles and shower foams/oils.
The weather wasn’t great that night, it started raining just as we hopped into a taxi to take us to the centre of town. Kilkenny has so many wonderful pubs that sometimes it’s hard to choose, but we knew we had the whole weekend to (attempt to) visit them all. We went to Kyleter’s Inn first, one of the cosiest spots. I had my first Appleman’s cider (definitely less sweet than Orchard Thieves, I like O.T. but after a while my tongue goes fuzzy) and Iñaki had Guinness. No surprise there.
Due to the rotten weather, I only took Iñaki on a very short walk around the town, promising to show him lots more the following day. Since our first night was pretty chill, we picked somewhere for dinner at random, and settled on Harper’s Restaurant, the new spot at The Hibernian. Well, it’s new to me. Last time I was in Kilkenny was 2016 and I’m pretty sure it wasn’t around then! Or maybe I just need glasses. One hopes, I always kinda wanted glasses.
Anyway, trailing off as always. Our server was so frickin’ nice. She showed us an amazing offer of dinner for two and a bottle of wine for €60, such a bargain. We had a bottle of La Trilla Sauvignon Blanc from Chile, chicken wings to start for Iñaki and Caprese salad (my favourite, yaaaas) for me. Iñaki then had the beer battered cod and I had the 8oz sirloin steak with café de Paris butter and confit shallots. To finish, a selection of ice creams and the Valrhona chocolate fondant with brown bread ice cream for me. I was excited to see Valrhona on the menu, anytime I see something with Valrhona chocolate I have to order it, because I know the dessert is going to be good and there’s a pastry chef behind it who cares.
We really enjoyed our evening and I loved the music and old jazz posters. Our server encouraged us to take the wine into the pub where we enjoyed live music (another thing I love about Kilkenny, it’s everywhere!) and we went back to the Lyrath for a drink at the bar, and had the soundest sleep in the comfiest marshmallow bed that was ready and waiting for us, complete with turn-down service.
Hotel breakfast buffet! My favourite part. Lyrath Estate serve a mean breakfast. Everywhere I turned there were special treats. My neck was sore from the excitement of it all to be honest. You know when people rubberneck when they see a car crash? That was me, eyeing up the trays of fresh pastries coming out of the kitchen.
Firstly, you’ll find the counter full of breakfast cereals, raw whole honeycomb, juices, water and milk. There there’s the station with fruit, yoghurt granola parfait, berry compote, porridge, muesli, smoked salmon, fresh vegetable juices and all those healthy colourful things. Then you’ll find all kinds of bread (including their own Guinness bread) for toasting; croissants, pain au chocolat and other pastries, and butter, jam and Nutella to slather all over everything in your life.
The best part is the hot buffet. Big domed silver food protectors I can only describe as shiny igloos with handles are ready and waiting just for you to take the goods – piping hot sausages, pudding (Clonakilty, what else) rashers, grilled tomatoes, mushrooms and eggs a few ways; fried, boiled, poached – and the poached ones are beside muffins and Hollandaise sauce so you can make your own eggs benedict.
If that’s not enough for you, you can order an omelette, baked smoked kippers or pancakes with blueberries and maple syrup at your table.
I swear I had colourful fruit stuffs and some yoghurt and smoked salmon too. I just forgot to take a picture to include above. You’ll have to take my word for it.
Some shots of the lobby and exterior of the hotel. The hotel is set on a massive 170 acres of Irish countryside and you’re free to roam the grounds. It’s so quiet and peaceful; perfect for a post-breakfast walk to fill your lungs with fresh clean air.
Reception then organised a taxi for us and we were back in the centre in no time at all. The price one way always seemed to average between €12-€13 euro, not too bad.
Castle time! I enjoyed the tour far more than I was expecting to. Peter Kenny was our guide, he knows the history of the families who lived in the castle and the castle itself like the back of his hand. He was pleasant and engaging and each room was better than the last. I learned plenty (ask me some Kilkenny Castle questions!) and before we knew it, the hour was up and the tour was over. Awww. We went to the old kitchen (which is now a cafe) so Iñaki could look around and take some pictures and we spent some time in the rose garden and grounds.
Here I am, in front of the castle, looking like a fresh graduate throwing my (imaginary) cap in the air. I’m not much of a natural when it comes to posing.
This one’s a little better. Out of like, fifteen.
We then walked around the whole town in a circle, stopping in shops and galleries. My fitbit was in heaven, it was buzzing all over the place.
We then went in the direction of McDonagh Junction and along the river that way, to see the views from the other side. We had planned to visit some other touristy spots but most were closed by 4pm which was a shame, but at least Iñaki saw all of the town. It’s pleasantly walkable.
We went to Langton’s for a coffee, Matt the Miller’s for a drink and on to Dylan’s Whisky Bar (shouldn’t it be whiskey?!) where we stayed for a while, Iñaki loved every pub in Kilkenny but particularly enjoyed Dylan’s as the fire was going. The Hole in the Wall was full when we tried to stop by, which doesn’t surprise me. It only fits about 12 people. We’ll be back, so I’m not too cut up about it you guys.
For dinner that night we had a reservation at Rinuccini‘s, a place everyone seems to recommend. It’s right beside the castle, you can’t miss it. I didn’t take many pictures, above is the chicken liver paté I had to start, Iñaki had ravioli. For my main course, Kilmore Quay black sole with Kilmore Quay prawns (supplement applies) Iñaki had more pasta, his favourite food.
The food was really good, I couldn’t fault it. I did find my main course quite pricey (well I did add prawns!) and unfortunately, I couldn’t finish it, I felt a little overwhelmed.
The restaurant is cramped (afterwards I found there’s a roomy upstairs area, ridiculous that it wasn’t open) so I felt too claustrophobic to enjoy my meal. Where we were sitting, the wine shelf was right beside us, so anytime a customer ordered a bottle of wine, a waiter would shove his hand in front of Iñaki’s face to grab one. Not ideal. He didn’t seem to mind, but I would.
Our waiter was really pleasant and we really enjoyed chatting with him, so the service was good and professional apart from shovey-hand-in-face-wine-bottle guy. I don’t think I’ll return – it’s simply too small and too cramped. If they took out 2/3 tables from the smaller room or opened the bigger one every day there wouldn’t be an issue.
We went to the Left Bank right next door (I have so many good memories from that bar over the years!) for a nightcap but ended up staying a little longer than intended as the band were so entertaining – Pete Fagan & the Boys. If you go to Kilkenny, check online to see if they’re live in any of the bars while you’re there. You can thank me later!
Although having said that, all the live music nightly in Kilkenny is incredible, such amazing talent, whether it’s traditional Irish music or more modern stuff. Kilkenny has the best nightlife for sure. Especially for those who hate clubs. Like me… 🙂
Turn down service! And the best issue of Image Magazine I’ve read in a while.
The next morning after breakfast we checked out, left our luggage with reception and went to Oasis Spa (we booked treatments as soon as we arrived as it can get busy!) It’s such a nice spa, there are so many little details. The relaxation room is perfect for lounging in big fluffy grey robes with a tea, coffee, piece of fruit or a detox juice in hand.
The changing rooms are heated with all the amenities one would need and lockers are secured with a key. There’s a basket full of cosy Lyrath slippers if you want a sneaky pair for home. There are plenty of treatments for both men and women (you’ll find the list in your hotel room so you have time to choose) and you can access the thermal suite if you don’t feel like going for a treatment but would like to avail of the sauna, steam room and hydrotherapy pool. Just make sure to bring a swimsuit!
Post-spa with melty muscles (don’t you love that floaty feeling?) I drove us back to Dublin after a wonderful weekend with The Cats in The Marble County. Google those terms if you think I’ve gone bananas.
Lyrath Estate Hotel has a huge range of special offers and packages if you feel like getting away for a few days but don’t want to spend too much time driving (if you reside in Dublin, of course!) They also sell gift vouchers if you haven’t finished your Christmas shopping yet (you can buy it and print immediately)and if you spend over €500 you can choose from a complimentary meal for two or an afternoon tea for 2.
This isn’t an ad, but full disclosure – the Lyrath Estate Hotel are one of my longstanding clients. I wouldn’t recommend a hotel or stay there if it wasn’t incredible. The staff, facilities, grounds, spa, bar and breakfast are all excellent. Nothing is too much trouble for the team and the two golden retrievers are such gentle friendly pups!
For more information on Kilkenny tourism, events, music, dining and of course the castle:
That’s it from me for now! Not the most festive post but a post all the same.
I’m looking forward to covering my South Africa travels in early 2019; we did so much on that trip it’s going to take a while to cover all the amazing adventures. It’s currently summertime there, so the timing of the posts should work out well.
Happy Christmas Eve and Happy Christmas 2018!
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