From Galway we headed to County Monaghan to stay at Castle Leslie. And yes, it's a real castle :) They have beautiful sprawling grounds with horses, walking trails, and lots of cozy places to sit and have a cup of tea and read a book.
We had an amazing New Year's dinner there. Every course was better than the last. Seriously, the food on this trip was top notch. Yum!
Our last day Castle Leslie we got to explore the actual castle itself, which was beautiful and still had its pretty Christmas decorations up (I lost count of the number of Christmas trees).
Then we had to start making our way to Dublin to catch flights home the next day :( :(
En route to Dublin we came across the studio of weaver Liz Christy in Castleblaney. We got a little tour of their studio, got to see how a loom works, and left with armloads of beautiful handwoven scarves. She had the most beautiful colors and textures and uses Monet paintings for a lot of her designs. Check her out if you're around! I love my scarf and Fionn said his is almost "too warm" for our below freezing German temps. If you ask me, a scarf being "too warm" in sub zero is a good thing! ;)
Luckily we still had time to squeeze in the Hill of Tara before the day was done! The Hill of Tara is an ancient monument that has traditionally been known as the seat of the High King of Ireland. It's been a gathering place throughout Irish history, even up to the present day. Here's an aerial shot.
There are a series of earth mounds and a tall stone called the Lia Fáil (Stone of Destiny) which was the coronation stone of the kings of Ireland. It was said that when the rightful king touched it, it would roar with joy. It's said that it hasn't roared since the Irish warrior Cuchulainn split it with his sword after it refused to roar for his protege.
When we arrived to see the Hill of Tara, it had been raining all day. As we walked, a man stopped us to warn, "It's like the Somme up there!"
It was a slippery, muddy mess, but we still had fun looking around. It was really cool to be there, knowing what history and significance that place has.
Once we'd had enough of history and squelchy mud, we stopped in Maguire's Cafe right next to the Hill of Tara for tea and scones. Oh, were they good. I'm drooling just thinking of those awesome scones and a big pot of Barry's tea. The best part? Even though they are literally RIGHT OUTSIDE the Hill of Tara, the prices were normal. No rip off here. Hats off to them!
With that we returned to Dublin, packed our bags, and said goodbye as we headed to our respective homes. It was such an awesome vacation and just too short! It was great seeing Fionn's parents and spending our Christmas vacation with them. Couldn't ask for anything better :)
So now the question is...when do we get to go back to Ireland??