08 May 2011

Ireland and the search for the right Irish brown bread.

I've been meaning to write about our honeymoon, but between adjusting to the time change on the way back and our normal schedule kicking my butt the past week, I was too exhausted. I've been craving Irish brown bread, which we ate daily, since we've returned home. I have a loaf of it in the oven as I type (smells wonderful), so I figured, "What better time to reminisce?"

We flew out on 15 April to Dublin, Ireland, landing in Dublin at 8:00 AM on 16 April. We were told try to sleep on the flight and not to sleep when we got to our first bed and breakfast. The World Irish Dance Championship was taking place the same week we were there, so our flight was full of teenagers competing in the championship. Needless to say, they were excited and we didn't get much sleep because they didn't sleep. We landed, retrieved our luggage and rental car and head off to our first stop, Cornerville Bed and Breakfast in Howth, about twenty minutes outside of Dublin. After quick showers we took the train in to Dublin to tour Trinity College (fortunately, our guide was hilarious) and see the Book of Kells. The campus is beautiful and the Book of Kells is amazing. You can only view the four pages on display, but the art work is stunning. We met up with a friend from Dublin for dinner and our first pints of Guinness in Ireland (it tastes so much better there). After dinner we headed back to Howth and went to bed early. We were exhausted.

Driving on the opposite side of the car and the road took some getting used to.
 Trinity College

The next morning we woke early to a wonderful breakfast with brown bread and tea. I don't know if I'll go back to drinking coffee. After we packed up and loaded the car, we headed to Powerscourt Estate in Enniskerry, Bray, Co Wicklow. We had a wonderful lunch there overlooking the Italian garden and enjoyed a cream scone for dessert. We walked the grounds on a self guided tour from which the views of the Wicklow Mountain were gorgeous. From there we drove to Kilkenny Castle, Kilkenny, Co. Kilkenny, toured the castle and grounds. Then on to Ballinure, Cashel, Co. Tipperary and for a one night stay at Derrynaflan House. They make their own cheese and yogurt (delicious!).

 Kilkenny Castle
 Derrynaflan House

We started our third day touring the Rock of Cashel and Hore Abbey, Cashel, Co. Tipperary. St. Patrick visited the Rock of Cashel and the tour was very informative, accompanied by beautiful views. We walked to the abbey which was a mile or so down the hill. I bought some Irish wool yarn and then we drove to Ballyferriter West, Dingle, Co. Kerry and spent two nights at An Speice. We really loved Dingle. The major town is cute, but the area we were in is a little more remote. Ballyferriter really only consists of 3 pubs, a hotel/bar/restaurant and a school. We walked most places. We spent a day driving the Slea Head Drive; going to Gallarus Oratory, Kilmalkedar Church (we saw ruins with ogham!), Reask Monastic Site and Dunbeg Fort.We stopped at the cafe at Louis Mulcahy Pottery for tea and the chocolate biscuit cake I mentioned here.

 Rock of Cashel
 Rock of Cashel from Hore Abbey
 A postcard from Rock of Cashel showing the chapel (it was behind scaffolding).

Ballyferriter West, Dingle

 Gallarus Oratory
 Kilmalkeder Church and Burial Grounds
 Reask Monastic Site
 Slea Head Drive views.

On our fifth day, we drove to the Cliffs of Moher, County Clare. It was rainy and quite foggy when we arrived, but beautiful nonetheless. In the past you could walk out on the cliffs, but due to so many deaths, they've closed off the path. The wind can be strong and has blown people off into the sea. We spent that night in Doolin at Harbour View bed and breakfast. We went to dinner at a great pub called McGaan's, talked to the owner most of the night and listened to traditional music played by local musicians.We had wanted to take a ferry while in Doolin to view the Cliffs of Moher from the ocean, but it was foggy and rainy in the morning causing their first tour to be at 4:00 PM, too late in the day for our plans.

 Like I said, rain and fog.
 Stunning nonetheless.
 Happy honeymooners!

With the ferry ride in Doolin now not being a possibility, we headed north to Galway. We spent two nights at Kilbrack House. We went in to Galway the first day to shop a bit and had dinner at The Dáil Bar. We briefly met up with a friend of mine to say hello. The next day we took a ferry to Inis Mór, the largest of the Aran Islands. We took a mini-bus tour of the island and hiked up to Dún Aengus Fort. I'd really wanted to rent bicycles but it was pouring rain when we got there, though our day had started out sunny. I wouldn't have traded a sunny day for anything as our tour driver, Mr. O'Toole, was so charming and funny. He knew every inch of this island and every inhabitant. We saw seals laying on the beach and what he called leprechaun cottages. This location was my favorite part of the trip. I love the Aran Islands and I told T that I would like to retire there someday. The have a gaelic language summer school!

On our eigth day, we headed back to Dublin stopping at Trim Castle, Trim, Co. Meath, Hill of Tara; Teamhair na Rí, "Hill of the King", Co. Meath and Newgrange and Knowth, Bru na Boinne, Co. Meath. Trim Castle was really neat and we loved walking around the grounds. It is on the River Boyne, very picturesque. The views from the Hill of Tara were amazing and something about that site gave me chills. Sometimes you go to places you've never been and they seem so familiar. When heading to Newgrange we had some issues finding our way to the visitors center. We had a GPS the entire trip and it had worked pretty well, but when we went to Newgrange, instead of directing us to the visitors center (where you purchase tickets and take a shuttle to the site) it took us directly to the Newgrange passage tomb. You're not allowed to park there and just walk up to it. We left, drove around in circles trying to find the visitors center and finally asked where it was. By the time we got to it, Newgrange was sold out and we could only see Knowth. I think Knowth is the better of the two because they discovered more at that site than at Newgrange. T said he was expecting to see the Teletubbies at any moment. We finally made it back to Howth, where we stayed at the same bed and breakfast we had stayed our first night. We decided to have a nice honeymoon dinner at King Sitric Fish Restaurant. We had seen it on Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations. It was wonderful and the service was amazing.

Trim Castle

 Hill of Tara (first picture is a scanned postcard)


 Newgrange (scanned postcard)

On Easter Sunday,our last full day in Ireland, we took the train from Howth into Dublin and took a hop on hop off bus around the city. We were told it was the best way to hear about the history and the easiest way to get to Guinness Storehouse and Kilmainham Gaol. The Guinness Storehouse was amazing and a bit like a pilgrimage for me. I was so impressed that my husband liked Guinness while we were in Ireland. He hates it here at home. Admittedly, it does taste different and is so much better in Ireland. Kilmainham Gaol had a memorial for those executed for the 1916 Easter Uprising, so that was pretty eerie but also amazing. I had read so much about these men and women and to see where some of them spent their last days really brought their fight for freedom home.

The birthplace of Oscar Wilde
 Christchurch Cathedral
 St. Patrick's
 Guinness Storehouse

 Kilmainham Gaol (pronounced jail)

 Jospeh Plunkett's cell

 Grace Gifford (Joseph Plunkett's wife) read more about it here.
 Inside Grace Gifford's cell (she was an art student and painted this).

 Eamon De Valera's cell.

Our last dinner in Ireland at The Bloody Stream in Howth.

We flew home the next day. We took about 900 photographs total. It was beautiful and we only had rain on 2 days (in the morning), which was very lucky. I can not wait to return.

So, let's talk about this brown bread. The recipe I tried, is just wheat Irish soda bread and not what I have been raving about. The brown bread I had in Ireland was more of a yeast bread, a little more dense and moist than a soda bread.  So while the recipe I made tonight was fine, it is not what I wanted. I've been searching all night and think I may have found it! It may be referred to as Ballymaloe Brown Bread. I'm going to try to make it soon and I'll be sure to let you know how it goes.


  1. Oooh, molasses. I can get behind that.

    Beautiful pictures and description--just makes me that much more eager to go!

  2. Thank you and thanks for reading all that!

    I think I'll try making the bread this week.