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.
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?
Looking forward to our next visit to Ireland’s core…
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.
Chef Jonathan Keane and his team forage daily on the 350 acre Estate at Ashford Castle and were willing to share their experiences with Shamrock and Peach tours this summer. Eating Wild foods is growing in popularity in Ireland and so has the idea of working with what we have. Certainly, a value my parents taught me and I feel ingrained in the Irish psyche. There’ nothing like the flavor of fresh wild greens, flowers and berries just hand picked that day. Our guests got to taste this first hand when dining at Wilde’s restaurant. One of the culinary highlights of our meal at Wilde’s restaurant was the wood sorrel sorbet. The tangy acidic herb (also know as sourgrass) has a tart green apple flavor and it was the perfect palate cleanser with our feast.
May you enjoy the bounty of fields, forests, gardens and coast!
Shamrock and Peach would like to congratulate Northern Irish Golfer Rory McIlroy and Erica Stoll on their recent marriage and wedding at Ashford Castle, in Co. Mayo. It’s just lovely to see a fellow countryman enjoy so much success and still maintain the Irish values of humility and generosity. I loved reading how the couple met in 2012 and did not date until 2015 and Rory appreciated the fact they were friends first before going out together. The fairy tale wedding was this past weekend at the 800 year old Ashford Castle built by the Anglo-Norman de -Burgos. The castle has had several owners since including the famous Guinness family. The Castle is nestled in 350 acres of gardens and woodlands and the perfect setting for this grand affair.
Shamrock and Peach tours are gearing up to visiting the Castle staying at the Lodge at Ashford this June. Here a few pictures from our stay last year!
Shamrock and Peach tour group
Irish Wolf Hound Welcome
With my parents at the Castle
leprechauns on Range Rovers
1939 movie the Quiet Man
Keep up the great work Rory and we will be raising a toast to you this June!