With COVID, it took my husband Keith and I two and a half years to travel to the Emerald Isle to celebrate our 40th birthday.e wedding anniversary. The lure of Irish music, castles, churches and seaside cliffs drew us in. We celebrated our anniversary with Keith’s brother Craig and his wife Debbie on their 10th anniversary. With the delay, we technically celebrated our 42nd birthday and their 12th birthday. But who matters traveling through mountains, alleys and castles in one of the most romantic places I know?
Jody Halsted, another travel blogger from Ireland, Family Vacations, helped us plan our trip. We first spent an idyllic day and a half in Dublin, before visiting the southern half of Ireland.
1. Merrion Square
Merrion Square is near the Davenport Hotel Dublin where we stayed. Keith and I took an early morning walk and saw the Oscar Wilde memorial sculpture. We enjoyed taking our picture with the statue and reading its funny quotes. The square is one of Dublin’s Georgian squares and one of the houses nearby belonged to the famous poet WB Yeats.
Pro Tip: Merrion Square is also where you can hop on the Hop on Hop Off tour to get your bearings and learn about the city’s history.
After visiting Dublin, the next day we were picked up by our driver in a luxurious Mercedes van. Our guide, the wonderful John Hourigan of Ireland Chauffeur Travel, took us to romantic and beautiful sites in southern Ireland. We learned that he is married to a woman named Christy from Montana who he met while doing a wilderness training course in the United States!
2. Powerscourt Estate
We visited the amazing Powerscourt Garden which was voted third best in the world! Set on 47 acres, this was one of the most romantic stops of our entire trip! Strolling through the Italian Gardens, we enjoyed climbing the Pepperpot Tower, modeled after a favorite pepper pot at Lord Powerscourt’s dining table. The view from the tower was amazing.
We walked through the Japanese gardens, walled gardens and enjoyed the dolphin pond. We found beauty everywhere we looked! The house itself is a mansion built around a medieval castle. It’s easy to see why this site is often chosen for weddings.
3. The Butler’s House
In the charming city of Kilkenny, we stayed in the shadow of 12th century Kilkenny Castle at Butler House. The inn is the dowager’s house of the castle! Our room had an ensuite bathroom with a huge tub, which is a huge plus for me. The morning Irish breakfast was wonderful. In the evening the breakfast room was a bar where Keith and I had hot chocolate with Baileys for a nightcap.
Pro Tip: Be sure to stop by the Hole in the Wall pub housed in Ireland’s oldest townhouse dating back to 1582.
4. The Rock of Cashel
The Rock of Cashel is the most spectacular castle site we would see on our trip. Even without the roof in place, this castle is where kings and priests resided. The history at the heart of Munster is breathtaking. It was originally the seat of the Kings of Munster, and legend has it that Saint Patrick came here to convert King Aenghus to Christianity. Brian Boru was crowned High King at Cashel in 978 and made it his capital. The beautifully restored nearby chapel was also a treasure to behold. The view with another castle in the distance looks like a fairy tale.
5. Swiss Chalet
After visiting Cahir Castle, a wonderfully intact castle used in productions like Excalibur and the Tudors, our guide showed us a nice path to the nearby Swiss Cottage. It provided a perfect moment to hold hands and stroll down a quiet path to a beautiful cottage to visit.
The cottage was a retreat for those who lived in the large house next door. Built in the early 1800s by Richard Butler, 1st Earl of Glengall, it was quite charming. Resembling the Seven Dwarfs cottage, tourist guides believe it was designed by world-renowned architect John Nash. Originally known simply as “The Cottage”, it looks like a fantastical alpine cottage designed for the Butler family. The design was based on nature. Outside, the chalet was filled with blooming roses and one could imagine a romantic picnic on the grounds!
6. Glasha Farm
Olive O’Gorman is the hostess extraordinaire! She welcomed us all to the Glasha farm located in a charming agricultural estate. This guest house in the countryside offered a perfect retreat of solitude. Olive cooked a wonderful meal. We had time to relax at her place and have fun. With the outdoor patio and the pretty flowers, this romantic stop gave Keith and I the opportunity to relax, enjoy each other and the other guests. Breakfast was also offered as part of our stay!
Pro Tip: Take the half mile walk to James Langston’s Bridge Pub. Enjoy the peat fire and a Guinness.
7. Kenmare Stone Circle and Fairy Tree
My romantic life with Keith has to do with a wishing well, so a fairy tree is also a good fit. Celtic mythology teaches that fairies live under the hawthorn tree and are its guardians. People leave prayers and personal tokens on the branches in hopes of healing and good fortune. We did the same! In the same place is the Kenmare Stone Circle, which is part of the Ring of Kerry.
The stone circle was built during the Bronze Age which encompassed the years 2000-200 BC. Kenmare Stone Circle is the largest of over 100 circles in Ireland with 15 stones. A sign said about the stones, “It may have been used for rituals by Druid priests”, hence the local name “The Druid’s Circle”.
8. Torc Waterfall in Killarney National Park
Torc Waterfall is at the base of Torc Mountain and is a great hike. Standing about 20 meters high, the high water tumbled over the rocks and through the forest of ferns, creating a wonderful backdrop for the photos!
Pro Tip: Descend into the gardens of the magnificent Muckross House where Queen Victoria once visited.
9. Doolin Pubs
While we had some Irish music in other pubs in town, it was in Doolin at McGann’s Pub one night and then again at McDermott’s Pub that we got our fill of the haunting lyrical music we had crossed the ocean to hear. Sitting in a booth after a wonderful meal, the music filled our hearts and souls.
John, our guide, told us a story that the English at one time banned the Irish from using wind instruments. So they created an instrument that didn’t use the mouth. The Irish created the bagpipe, or Uilleann pipe. We had the chance to see this neat instrument played. We also had the chance to chat with the locals and enjoy a bit of camaraderie.
10. Cliffs of Mohr
The Cliffs of Mohr are a wild, windy place of stark beauty. The cliffs drop steeply into the Atlantic Ocean, forcing you to hold on tight to your loved one! The beauty is spectacular in this area of Ireland’s most famous cliffs. This UNESCO site is also home to 70% of Ireland’s native flowers.
Pro Tip: During your visit, take the time to climb the O’Brien Tower built in 1835.
11. Dingle Peninsula
After driving the fabulous Dingle Peninsula, a delightful afternoon was spent in and out of shops and a church in the beautiful little town of Dingle. It was a city which, according to John, our guide, was “full of musicians and artists”.
Together, the four of us enjoyed shopping, looking at artwork, and learning that some hardware stores also have a bar!
12. Kylemore Abbey
John Hourigan shared that this castle, at Kylemore Abbey, was a castle built for love. What a perfect place to visit when we came to Ireland to celebrate love! Connemara is home to Kylemore Abbey. The castle was built in the late 1800s by Mitchell Henry, a wealthy British politician, for his wife Margaret, mother of nine. He and his family were loved by the locals.
Their story ends sadly when her family goes on vacation to Egypt and Margaret catches cholera and then dies. To honor his wife, Mitchell built a chapel in her honor using the four colors of Connemara marble. Mitchell ceded the estate to the Benedictine nuns who have resided there since 1920.
These are 12 places where we found romance to celebrate our birthdays. There are many more, like the wonderful narrow roads with stone walls, the sheep that used to fill the fields, and other equally beautiful and historic stops. Ireland is full of faith, mystery and stories. It’s a wonderful place to ignite sparks of romance!
For more advice on traveling to Ireland, check out these articles: