Travel tips: Cahergal Farmhouse, County Clare Ireland

Sometimes travel can be a series of crapshoots. As we found out during our trip to Skerries, all the great reviews in the world can still net you some cruddy experiences. County Clare Ireland was nothing but fabulous from start to finish, I am happy to say. Through a series of Google searches, I found that many Irish venues offered Easter weekend events for families. The two-day Craggaunowen and Bunratty Folk Park ticket sounded perfect, so we searched for nearby lodging. Another search brought me to Cahergal Farmhouse Bed and Breakfast. The reviews were great, Google Maps showed me it was close to both venues, and their website mentioned that they offered horseback riding (a major draw for my 6-year-old).

To fully appreciate how good this part of the trip was, you have to know that (1) I typically hate bed & breakfast lodgings and (2) high-end department stores are my thing, not working farms. We landed in Dublin early on a Saturday morning, moved our suitcases into a Citroen Berlingo (the horror at first), then shot off west to the farm.

cahergal farmhouse county clare ireland

Cahergal Farmhouse Bed and Breakfast

Owned by Michael and Noreen McInerney, Cahergal is a 100-acre working horse, sheep, and cattle farm located in the heart of Newmarket-on-Fergus. They literally don’t have an address. We used Google Maps to get close, then followed signs to the tree-lined drive. Noreen greeted us with brown scones coated with creamy butter and jam, as well as a pot of hot tea. Our room was roomy and comfortable; the bathroom shower was consistently hot with decent pressure. When showing us the room, Noreen mentioned that the master bed was a queen. Honestly, it was closer to the size of our king at home. Little Harper co-sleeps with us most of the time, so we had plenty of room for 2 1/2 in the big bed. Zoey’s twin bed was termed a cot but it was also extremely comfortable. Honestly, though, the farm itself was the star of the show. Even in early April, the grass was emerald green and dotted with beds of yellow daffodils. Just driving onto the property, we heard cows moo-ing. It was just quintessentially Ireland.

Being spring, baby animals were a fixture at Cahergal. Michael was so kind to let us bring both girls out to the barns. It was almost comical how unprepared I was. I literally walked into a barn stall with over-the-knee boots and a leopard coat. I promise that I’m not usually that…I know there’s some derogatory term to describe that.  I was timid; we brought two boisterous girls into a stall with five delicate newborn sheep. Michael, on the other hand, took one look at Zoey and started filling her arms with warm, wooly lamb. As I watched her fumble, I went into total panic mode. Not Michael. He started folding that baby up into her arms and told me loudly “No worrying. Take pictures.” Next up was the side of the barn with pregnant cows moo-ing for their breakfast. Michael handed Zoey a pitchfork (inciting fear in my heart) and showed her how to rake silage toward the eager mouths of five hungry post-partum cows, two pregnant cows, and one really eager new bull. Even when she nearly poked the pitchfork into a soft nose, Michael was totally cool.

On another day, one of Noreen and Michael’s adult sons took all the guests on a trek though the fields. The sheep and cows wanted to keep their space…especially from the eager 6-year-old, yet this was so much fun. Noreen took pity on me and gave me her boots to wear through the field so I wouldn’t sully my poor choice of packed footwear. It was just such a great experience. None of us were ready to go on a real horseback ride but Zoey was allowed to take a short escorted ride on one of the farm’s horses. Again, Noreen’s son kindly took her on this “ride,” which absolutely thrilled her.

And after all this, I’ve neglected to talk about the “breakfast” part of bed and breakfast. I’m by no means a vegetarian but bacon and sausage and ham and eggs…not my speed. I figured “when in Ireland…” and just decided to eat what Noreen cooked. (She did provide a wide array of cereals and breads, too.) My traditional Irish breakfast included a fried egg, two slices of bacon (what we called country ham back in Missouri), two sausage links, white and black pudding, and toast. I tried it all. That Noreen…she’s a great cook. Admittedly, I was most drawn to her pumpkin seed brown soda bread but…BUT…I actually liked all of it. The black pudding (made of congealed blood) was a little too much for me to wrap my head around. I did taste it but left it at that. The white pudding was awesome. I wound up eating an Irish breakfast each morning that we were there, then found that no one’s breakfast compared to Noreen’s after we left.

Cahergal was such a great experience, I felt it was worthy of an entire post. Check back for more on our trip to County Clare Ireland. And if you want to make reservations with Noreen and Michael, make sure you visit their site: cahergal.com.

 

Travel tips: Skerries Ireland

So…Skerries Ireland. Haven’t heard of it? Neither had I. We were looking for one more place to visit before flying back to Italy, read about the Skerries Windmills, and decided that was as good a place as any. Skerries is a seaside village just outside of Dublin. We had a rental car and drove it in about half an hour, but I have heard it’s quite easy to get public transportation from Dublin to the Skerries station.

Things to do in Skerries Ireland

Skerries Mills.
After a week in Ireland, this was one of our favorite attractions. Traveling with two very small kids, we were constantly in search of spots that were appealing to adults but kid-friendly. I thought this was an iffy pick; turns out it was perfect. Although I didn’t see any signs of active flour milling, the self-guided tour (€12 for a family) allows you to see the fully-functional mill. Once we made it through the various rooms in the millhouse, the reception person came through and turned on the wheel, allowing us to re-visit the mill’s rooms to see everything in action. Once exiting the mill, visitors are allowed to walk the fields to see the small and large windmills.

After freezing outdoors, it was a real treat to come back to the millhouse for warm drinks at the Watermill Cafe. Although we only chose a pot of tea for ourselves and hot cocoa for our 6-year-old, the cafe served really delicious-looking scones, pastries, and sandwiches. And they do have a liquor license, so Irish coffees are ready to go in seconds.

Especially with a small market outside, there were plenty of opportunities to shop at Skerries Mills. The gift shop had oodles of made-in-Ireland items like pottery, woolens, jewelry, and flour (duh…it’s a flour mill). The market in the courtyard seems to be new. There were very few vendors that Saturday morning but I have a feeling it’s growing based upon the fact that their ramping up their social media efforts.

mills collage

Ardgillan Castle

I love a good castle in ruins. My kids, however, prefer the fully-restored variety. For this reason, we figured Ardgillan Castle was a good bet. As it turned out, they weren’t giving tours of the actual castle that day. We still managed to make the best out of the visit. The tea room is the spot where the tours begin. Since it was lunchtime and tours were out, we decided to grab lunch there. The sitting-rooms-turned-dining-rooms were pretty. The period decor was busy enough to keep the kids entertained–nothing was drab or boring. They had highchairs, too, which was a major bonus. Sans tour, we headed back out to see the grounds. Early spring is probably not the best time to view the walled gardens. There were plenty of blooming flowerbeds but the gardens appeared to be geared toward mid-summer-bloomers. The view of the sea was breathtaking. Perhaps the real winner here, though, was the huge play area. The playground was divided into an area for little ones and an area for big kids. It was perfect for letting the kids run out some energy.

ardgillan castle

The biggest “bust” of the day was our Bed & Breakfast. Despite its great reviews, it was terrible. The bedroom looked clean enough but the rest of the house was nasty. It was so bad, we paid half a night’s stay to get out of there and booked a room at Maldron Dublin Airport. Maldron was a little overpriced but it’s a 5 minute shuttle to Terminal 2 at the airport. Most importantly, the Maldron was clean.

As a whole, I wouldn’t skip someplace like the Cliffs of Moher or Rock of Cashel for Skerries, but if time permits and you have little ones, Skerries might be worth your time. Especially in the summer months when sea breezes don’t lead to frigid windchills, you could easily spend the day beachcombing.

If you’re traveling to Ireland–especially if you are traveling with kids–check back in the coming days. I will have some other can’t-miss attractions, places, and pubs to discuss. Visit me over on my Facebook page if you have questions or just feel like discussing Skerries Ireland.