By Judy Enright, Special to the BIR
It’s March and Ireland is alive and lively after a cold and stormy winter. It is, of course, St. Patrick’s time to shine and a month when everyone is Irish, regardless of heritage.
ST. PATRICK’S FESTIVAL
From March 17th to the 20th, Dublin celebrates Ireland’s main man with the annual St. Patrick’s Festival, conceived and planned 21 years ago by the Irish government “to develop a major annual international festival around the national holiday over which the ‘owners’ of the festival, the Irish people, would stand proud. It sets out to reflect the talents and achievements of Irish people on many national and world stages.”
The first festival happened a year later – on March 17, 1996 - and lasted for just one day and night. But it was so much fun and so well received that it has since grown into a four- or five-day event in and around Dublin City Center. There’s an outstanding parade on the 17th that draws marchers from around the world. The festivities also include a fun fair, walking tours, street theatre, music, dance and more.
From March 16 to 19, an indoor Irish Craft Beer and Whiskey Village will showcase the very latest beer, cider, and whiskey offerings as well as artisan food and entertainment.
Lots of different types of events are planned, including the Dublin Bay Prawn Festival in Howth from the 18th to the 20th. Howth’s restaurants, bars, and cafes will offer prawn specialties and the Festival Food Village will have a selection of Dublin Bay Prawn dishes.
This is a wide-ranging festival that definitely has something for everyone. For more information, check out stpatricksfestival.ie. And don’t forget that no matter where you go in Ireland this month, there will no doubt be some sort of celebration honoring St. Patrick. So be sure to check with the tourist board wherever you are to get dates and details.
There’s a lot to do in Dublin and Ireland in addition to the St. Patrick’s festivities, including events and exhibits commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Easter Rising of 1916.
Among the commemorative events is an exhibit called “Rising” at the National Photographic Archive in Meeting House Square, Temple Bar. This is the National Library of Ireland’s flagship exhibit for the centennial and showcases the library’s extensive collection of images of events and locations and the men and women of the Rising during Easter Week 1916. See the library’s website, nli.ie for more details.
For other activities, exhibits, commemorations, and attractions in Dublin, visit Dublin.com or Ireland.com.
Longueville, near Mallow, Co. Cork – will celebrate St. Patrick with a “Green with Envy” weekend from March 14-16. Longueville belongs to an accommodation group called The Great Fishing Houses of Ireland. Included in these properties are hotels, country houses, B&Bs, and guest houses that have met stringent standards, have the premises, fly fishing, facilities, and staff to offer a complete angler’s holiday.
At Longueville, guests are invited to walk the 500-acre estate and have the family’s friendly dogs tag along. There is also clay pigeon shooting, flyfishing on the Blackwater River that runs through the property, and more. After your day out, you can book a massage in your room, enjoy afternoon tea, have a delicious meal crafted from locally sourced ingredients, and savor an after-dinner taste of Longueville House Craft Cider or Apple Brandy. A traditional Irish music session is scheduled for Saturday night, March 16, during the “Green with Envy” weekend.
For more information, visit longuevillehouse.ie or email email@example.com
If you book a night or weekend at Longueville House, you’ll be very near one of my favorite Irish attractions, the Donkey Sanctuary in Liscarroll, Mallow, Co. Cork. It’s the most amazing facility and has rescued nearly 5,000 donkeys since it was founded in 1987. The Sanctuary also re-homes donkeys; it had 340 re-homed around Ireland as of December and was looking for homeowners who could take a pair to open up space at the Sanctuary for more rescues.
Paddy Barrett, his father, and his grandfather all worked over many years to rescue, help, and improve conditions for Ireland’s often forgotten donkeys and mules. Paddy, whom we met at the Sanctuary several times, retired in 2014 after 27 years of service. We wish him a long, healthy and happy retirement.
Visiting the Sanctuary is great fun and an interesting outing. There are lots of walking paths that meander past fields of donkeys, and it’s a great place to take kids as well as adults. To learn more about the Sanctuary’s wonderful work, hours, and more, visit thedonkeysanctuary.ie.
Ireland is about six weeks ahead of us weather-wise so if you fly from Boston in the flurry of a March snowstorm, you’ll land at Shannon or Dublin to the joys of green grass, spring daffodils, tulips, and such. Those are just a few things that make Ireland so appealing in the spring.
If you enjoy flowers and gardens, there are many magnificent private gardens all over Ireland that are open seasonally to the public. One of our favorites is the beautifully restored six-acre Victorian walled garden at Kylemore Abbey in Connemara.
A bit of background: Benedictine nuns, who operated an internationally renowned girls’ boarding school in Ypres, Belgium, fled to Ireland when their abbey was destroyed during WWI. They settled at Kylemore nearly 100 years ago, reopened their boarding school, and established day schooling for local girls. The school closed in 2010, but Kylemore is still going strong, albeit in a slightly different direction, and still led by this monastic community of nuns.
The entire property has been refurbished and extended over the years and is now deservedly the biggest tourist attraction on the West Coast along the Wild Atlantic Way. Visitors of all ages can tour the castle and grounds, visit the outstanding craft and gift shop, and have tea or lunch in the café or tearoom.
The Victorian walled garden, glasshouses, and other structures had been neglected by several previous owners over the years and had fallen into total disrepair. In fact, the glasshouses had actually collapsed and only brick foundations remained. But in 1996, the Benedictine community began restoration thanks to grants, loans, and donor generosity. Several glasshouses have been rebuilt along with the head gardener’s house and workman’s bothy. The garden reopened in 1999 and has since won awards and much praise.
Kylemore, under the leadership of Abbess Sr. Maire Hickey OSB, has completed a monastic church at the visitor center, signed an agreement with the University of Notre Dame for construction of an educational excellence center that will be located at Kylemore, and is currently planning a new monastery for the nuns. The vision for the future, according to the website, “is of Kylemore as an educational center, putting its rich resources at the service of the Church and society.”
There’s a lot going on at Kylemore and a visit there is highly recommended. For more information, visit kylemoreabbey.com.
We hope that wherever you go in Ireland and whatever you choose to do there, you will have the trip of a lifetime. Be sure to check online for travel deals with Aer Lingus and other carriers that serve the Emerald Isle. And have a wonderful St. Patrick’s Day.