New Wild Atlantic Way Tour June 28th to July 5th 2020

Donegal to Dingle

A sensational Journey

So what is the Wild Atlantic Way?  How does 2,500 Km of spectacular Irish coastlines, epic craggy cliffs, wild landscapes and hidden sandy beaches sound to you?  Next summer we will launch a new tour route that will stretch from the northern heights of Slieve League (Sliabh Liag) in Donegal to  the Dingle Pininsula in the southwest atlantic coast looking out to the Blasket Islands.

Immersing ourselves in culture we will visit areas that are Gaeltacht (places where the Irish language is spoken).  Both Inishmore on the Araon islands, and Dingle are places where the Irish government subsidizes the survival of the Irish culture. Whilst English is spoken everywhere, it’s always a treat to encounter the past by hearing Gaelic spoken by the locals.

Last but not least we will be staying in incredible accommodations including the 4 star Harvey’s Point in Donegal, the 4 star Twelve Hotel in Galway and the 5 star Europe Hotel in Killarney.  We will feast on the best of Irish food and Taste the Island as we travel.  By the end of the week you will be ready to dance to some toe tapping Irish music sessions in one of the Killarney’s famous pubs, where the fun never ends and Guinness is ever flowing.

Here a few pictures of what’s in store on our Wild Atlantic Way Tour….

Here’s the website if you want to join us… with love from Judith x

http://www.shamrockandpeach.com

 

Ireland – Land of Saints and Scholars

Monastic Ireland

Cross of the Scriptures

In Ireland’s core you will not only find its oldest pub, but one of its finest early Monastic sites.  The Monastery at Clonmacnoise dates back to AD 544 when St. Ciaran,who studied under St. Finian at Clonard Abbey, founded the site. Considering its central  ancient East/West land route on the banks of the River Shannon you can see why it bloomed during Ireland’s golden age of learning – a ‘land of saints and scholars’.  Many historical manuscripts can be traced to this site with stories of High Kings, ancient feasts and  even whiskey!

The site is peaceful and tranquil today and visible remains include a cathedral, seven churches, two round towers, three high crosses and fascinating grave slabs.  Considering the site has endured attacks from the Irish tribal wars, the Vikings and the Normans it’s a miracle so much still stands today. One of the many hi lights of the site includes ‘the cross of the scriptures’ that is mentioned twice in the annals of the Four Masters.  I cannot help to imagine a time when the Irish could not read or write and they would learn bible stories by the carvings on  the crosses, from the betrayal of Christ to the Crucifixion and the Judgment that is still to come.

Cross of the Scriptures

Founded by St. Ciaran in 544 AD

This Sunday Shamrock and Peach tours will return to walk this ancient site and look forward to sharing this jewel with guests next summer on our Wild Atlantic Way tour.

Joy in the Journey!

Judith

Ireland’s Oldest Bar and the Birthplace of Irish Whiskey

Sean's Bar

Situated in the heart of Ireland

Athlone is a medieval town in the center of Ireland with a huge 12th Century Norman Castle and just beside it, you will discover the oldest bar in Ireland, and perhaps in the world no less!

Yes, Sean’s Bar in the heart of Ireland is recorded in the Guinness Book of Records with documented proof it dates back to 900AD.  This summer we got a very warm welcome and a history tour when we stopped by  for some refreshment with one of our US tour groups. During the tour we learned that in 1970 during renovations they discovered  the walls were made of “wattle and wicker” and old coins that are now in display in the National History Museum in Dublin. The city of Athlone or ‘Atha Luian’ (the Ford of Luain) is named after the man who built the pub as an Inn and he is said to have helped travelers cross over the river.

History Tour

During our history tour of the pub we learned that the story of Irish Whiskey was birthed in the 6th century when the skill of distillation was introduced by traveling monks; with links to a small town in the surrounding area called Lough Ree and the monastery at Clonmacnoise.  The earliest mention of whiskey is recorded in ‘the annals of Clonmacnoise’ when it mentions the death of a chieftain to taking a surfeit of ‘aqua vatae’ at Christmas.  The name Whiskey is an anglicized version of the phrase ‘aqua vatae’ or ‘Uisce breatha’ that means ‘water of life’.  So when you visit Athlone we recommend you take time to sip and savor and drink in it’s history in the way that the Irish have been doing it for centuries…. Slainte… Oh, and did I also mention Sean’s bar even have their own signature whiskey for sale in partnership with the West Cork Distillery?

Sean’s Bar

Looking forward to our next visit to Ireland’s core…

Shamrock and Peach

A Cork Gem and Keeper of Secrets

St. Finn Barres Cathedral

A Cork City Gem

If you ever have a chance to visit Cork you will find St. Barre’s Cathedral tucked away near the heart of  the city in the South side of the River Lee. The looming spires are easy to spot in the sky line but navigating through Cork’s one way system and the narrow streets is another story!  Still, it’s a worthy pursuit to visit as part of an organized tour or, if you are exploring on your own. The Neo-Gothic style Cathedral was the project of  the English architect William Burges and it was completed in 1879. Built with local Cork limestone and marble, the building is a marvel to behold and contains some of the most magnificent stain glass windows with interesting biblical themes.

Our guide reminded us us that just like so many great cathedrals, it’s also a keeper of secrets. I loved the amusing story about the woman who was eves dropping to a Free Mason meeting inside the Cathedral, and she had to be invited as it’s first female member rather than have her divulge it’s secrets. Or, one of my other favorite stories was from the Seige of Cork in 1690 and the 24lb cannon ball hanging up at the back of the church.

Finally, my other surprising highlight is walking the labyrinth at the back of the church – a perfect way to end your visit.  Legend has it that the actual site was founded by the city’s patron Saint Finn Barre and  so there are…absolutely, no surprises we will be returning again next July on our Summer Elegance tour… and I cannot wait to go again to discover more about this magnificent keeper of secrets.

Shamrock and Peach

The Irish – Rich in Family and Friends

Hayfield Collection Hotels

The most rewarding thing about being a tour operator is sharing joy and creating memories for guests who travel with Shamrock and Peach Tours. I work really hard to tick all the boxes with luxury travel, selecting interesting and historical top notch 4 and 5 star accommodations, award winning restaurants and gorgeous grounds, but it’s a universally accepted truth that the greatest commodity in Ireland cannot be bought, but found in it’s people. I remember when I was teaching a cooking class in Atlanta a student said to me “the Irish are rich in family and friends” and it really struck a cord in my heart.  I am lucky enough to have found many unique places in Ireland who can deliver personal connections to my guests in the way of service, laughter and hospitality. Experiences such as an Executive Chef taking time away from the kitchen to explain his locally sourced menu, a surprise welcome gesture on arrival to a resort and feeling cared for just like family is unforgettable .

Dining in Hayfield Manor

There are many such properties I want to feature in my blog over these next few weeks , but let me start with one of Cork’s finest 5 Star Hotel, Hayfield Manor.  The hotel is owned by the Scally family and is lovingly tucked away the heart of the city beside University City Cork.  An unexpected retreat of luxury, surprise and just an escape from it all! Many of my Alumni have already experienced the hospitality in Killarney Royal as well as Hayfiled manor and know exactly what I am talking about.  Time and time again my guests will mention by name the bar tender, the receptionist and the maids and hope they are still working there because their experience felt so personal.  When you stay in a Hayfield Collection hotel there is a sense of warmth, of Irish welcome, of passion and pride. Oh, and I also should add that both hotels are listed in both Ireland’s blue book and Small Luxury Hotel’s of the World?   And of course there is “the craic” (the good time and the fun).

So, it’s also with great joy, honor and passion I am announcing our Southern Elegance Tour dates are June 14th to 21st 2020! You are in for a treat in a home away from home retreat when you visit Cork, Ireland next summer with Shamrock and Peach Tours.

Slainte!

http://www.shamrockandpeach.com

Judith

Shamrock and Peach

Kintra on the Causeway interview…

It’s not every day that I get the chance to on the BBC, but this evening we were thrilled to listen to an interview that Helen Mark and the Kintra team from BBC Radio Ulster carried out during one of our tour group stops at the Giant’s Causeway in County Antrim.

Kintra is a weekly magazine radio program broadcast on BBC Radio Ulster that explores all things Scotch-Irish (Ulster-Scots) and this week they caught up with one of my tour groups to explore the links between America and Northern Ireland to celebrate the 4th of July. It was a joy to meet Helen and Johnny, and to hear from our guests what they thought of visiting Northern Ireland – everyone spoke so well, and they even interviewed my boys Peter and Jack on which American Presidents had Scotch-Irish ancestry!

The show was broadcast on BBC Radio Ulster, and was listened to throughout Northern Ireland, and Ireland. What a fun experience. See a link below to listen – our wee bit is just 6 minutes long, so you can check it out for fun!

https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/m0006krl

Hope you enjoyed the 4th of July weekend, and it is a joy to explore how strong our links really are on both sides of the Atlantic! – and thanks to my friend Mark Rodgers from Dalriada Kingdom Tours who organized this, and who is beyond doubt the best guide in County Antrim! – thanks Mark!

Judith x

Twelve out of ten in Galway…

Some restaurant score an eight out of ten for food and service excellence. some even score an impressive ten out of ten….but in my experience, the wonderful ‘Twelve Hotel’, one of my favorite Irish hospitality hotspots, scores a twelve for the incredible local Irish produce from Connemara and Galway Bay that is magically converted to an unforgettable gastro experience each time I bring guests to visit.

Connemara Lamb by Chef Martin O’Donnell

What sets Irish food apart when in Ireland is the sheer quality of the produce, and Chef Martin O’Donnell really knows how to bring the best out of the best. Whether it’s scallops or lobster, or seaweed, or Irish beef or as in the is case, Connemara lamb. The lamb was slightly smoked by a local producer and crafted into the meal experience we enjoyed tonight with fermented truffle and a fine jus. My tour guests were blown away, and they all now totally get why Ireland is such a foodie island!

Thank you Martin and Fergus, and all at the wonderful Twelve in Galway. Can’t wait to come back wit more Shamrock and Peach guests!

Fine Irish food indeed!

Judie, the Irish foodie!

http://www.shamrockandpeach.com

Spectacular Scotland

Shamrock and Peach Tours are celebrating our 10th year of being in business with a brand new exciting tour offering, going to the Highlands of Scotland.  We have been working on launching our new Scottish tour for several years now and I cannot say how excited we are with all of our incredible accommodations and all the places we will be seeing. To me, it’s kind of like a bucket list itinerary including luxuries such as staying at the spanking new and fabulous  Kingshouse Hotel in the heart of Glencoe with spectacular mountain views and highland stags roaming around ( this is the place where Jame’s Bond’s famous movie Skyfall was filmed) – and the equally new 5 star Ness Walk Hotel in Inverness, not far from the famous Spey Whisky trail. We’ll also get to visit Rosalyn Chapel, the Kelpies and Holyrood Palace while staying in Edinburgh – all delightful and wonderful sights to see! – We will pack it in, and it will be incredible.

The website is taking bookings for 2021 as our tour for next year has already sold out.  I am very proud of my Irish homeland but Scotland is Spectacular!.  My husband and I did a dry run of our tour earlier this year and I am happy to share just a few of his pretty amazing pictures!

Shamrock and Peach

Judith x

Cracking Good Easter Wishes

Wishing everyone a cracking good Easter as we celebrate today!  Yesterday my friend brought over three day old baby chicks for me to dote over. These new born balls of fluff sat peacefully, although loudly chirping, in my hand as I cradled them.  The chicks are named “true blue and green whitings”, and are to me a symbol sign of new life and new beginnings this Easter morning.  I also got to cook up some freshly laid eggs for breakfast this morning, and we were all so enamored by the beautiful pinks, powder blue and yellow shells.  These chicks really made our family feel like Spring is here after such a rainy cold winter and I hope they bring you hope and joy!

Joy in the Journey

Shamrock and Peach (Judith)

Featured in Irish Country Living!

As a girl, growing up on the farm in County Armagh, we always had a copy of the Irish Farmer’s Journal in our home. My father loved to read all the latest on sheep and cattle whilst my mother loved to read the magazine and all the interesting articles and recipes. It is essential reading to this day, and is for most of the Irish rural families dotted across the green landscape of Ireland, it is a staple of weekend life. A cup of tea, and the copy of Irish Country living

So, it was really an honor for me to be featured last weekend in Irish Country Living, the magazine portion of the newspaper. I was just so pleased with the article and felt it was a true interpretation of my story and just excellent journalism. (Thank you so much Ciara Leacy for truly ‘getting it’)

For my faithful blog followers who have followed me over the  years I hope you enjoy reading my story about the birth of both Shamrock and Peach Foods, and Shamrock and Peach Tours. Here it is..

toot, toot, toot!

Enjoy….

Page one feature story

Page two feature story

Shamrock and Peach

 

Judith x