Souzz and I just took a quick trip to Ireland, and we crammed a lot of touring into four days—including visits to Connemara National Park, Galway, Aillwee Cave, the Cliffs of Moher, Dingle, and Dublin. Our itinerary required a fair amount of driving on the “wrong” (left) side of the road, but that was about the only thing that seemed wrong about our visit. We hiked, went horseback riding on the beach, visited a lot of historic spots, and enjoyed some fantastic food (of course). It’s hard not to have a good time in a beautiful country filled with friendly people.
On the Dingle Peninsula
Beautiful flowers in Dublin
The hike to Eask Tower in Dingle
Cliffs of Moher
Souzz cruising past an old stone building
Aillwee Cave, in the Burren
Aillwee Cave, in the Burren
The Burren, quite a landscape
Cliffs of Moher
Eask Tower, Dingle
Souzz with her new friend Hugo on the beach in Ventry
Slea Head, Dingle Peninsula
Looking north from Eask Tower, Dingle
The locals called this plant a weed, go figure!
I loved the stone fences
Dingle in the distance, in my St Patricks Day jacket
Kylemore Abbey, Connemara
A stone dwelling from 700 AD
Flowers in a park in Dublin
Dingle from Eask Tower
Ireland isn’t generally known as a foodie destination, but the overall scene has expanded in recent years. Fresh seafood is everywhere, chefs are bringing in flavors from all over the world, and there are a bunch of new craft breweries and distilleries. We ate and drank very well on our trip.
broiled oysters in Galway
Mussels are a popular dish
Haddock with lentils and snow peas
The menu board at “Out of the Blue,” a seafood restaurant in Dingle
Our best meal was at a restaurant on the west coast in Dingle (population 2000) called Idás. Chef Kevin Murphy brings a strong emphasis on local and seasonal ingredients, many of which he forages himself. Idás opened in 2014 and gets rave reviews, including a recommendation in the 2017 Michelin Guide. They fill up their intimate dining room most every night, and it was easy to see (and taste) why.
Evening sun in Dingle
Michelin guide listing…a nice compliment!
Chef Kevin Murphy
Our meal at Idás was five courses spanning land and sea, with some dishes a work of art and others plated in stark simplicity. Chef Murphy is trained as an artist, so perhaps it’s no surprise that the presentation is very important to him. And the smallish portions with intensely contrasting flavors conjured up loose comparisons to molecular gastronomy–which was not what we were expecting to find in Dingle.
Radishes and locally foraged greens, served on a plate of rocks from the local beach
Butter with seaweed
Foraged broth from land and sea, Glenbeigh oyster
Scallop, wild garlic, pepper dulse
Pollack roasted over bone, chard, Ballyhoura king oyster mushroom, dillisk
Lamb, sweetbreads, grilled wild garlic, fermented parsley, velvet cloud sheeps yogurt
Rhubarb, Dingle gin, fresh cheese
A palette cleanser with lime and sugar
Souzz enjoying her meal
Our night’s menu
Chef Murphy clearly has a passion for his work, telling us at one point in a serious tone that “you must respect the radish,” and later joking that “foraging through the local fields brings us free ingredients, and then our customers willingly pay for them.”
Hard at work
Perhaps admiring a dish
Of course, we didn’t spend all of of our trip at fancy restaurants, as enjoying a pint of Guinness at one of the local pubs is de rigueur in Ireland (oh, wait, that’s mixing French and Irish, something that the Napoleon tried in 1798 that didn’t go so well, never mind).
The pub scene is memorable not so much for the Guinness or the music, but because of the habit of locals to strike up conversations. We literally made new friends every night.
Dick Mack’s, a classic pub in Dingle
Bruxelles in Dublin, a big hangout for musicians, including Thin Lizzy frontman Philip Lynott
A scene repeated many times
At an outside table in Galway, just after getting scolded by the barkeep for taking my Guinness before it was “ready.” It’s a two-stage pour in Ireland. I guess I’m a tourist.
Street music in Galway
In Galway, we met a cheery guy named Colm at a pub called Tig Coili (“Coili House” in Gaelic, after a family name). Colm insisted on buying each of us a pint before sharing a lot of friendly advice for our trip. Soon the conversation expanded to include Dessie, an older guy in a ball cap who clearly came for the music. I confess that I don’t even really like Irish music, but I found myself captivated by Dessie’s enthusiasm and knowledge. He is a musician himself, and we guessed that he must play regularly at Tig Coili.
Tig Coili, in Galway
Music is the scene
Big bottles on “tap”
Souzz with Colm, our new friend
Bars get kind of busy
Cheers…or should I say Slainte
Later, we saw a poster in town with a familiar face and realized it was our new friend Dessie O’Halloran. The poster was of his 2001 album called The Pound Road, and it turns out that Dessie is a very well known musician that has played with the likes of Sharon Shannon and Willie Nelson.
A poster with Dessie’s album cover
Dessie in the middle of the action a few years ago
Colm suggested a picture with Dessie, and he seemed pleased with the request
Seeing that poster was almost enough to make me want to buy some Irish music…but impulse buys after visiting a pub are almost never a good idea. So I had another Guinness instead.