With about two hours of coastline and emerald-green farmland still ahead before we cross the River Shannon, en route from the Dingle Peninsula, Big Mike, our larger-than-life tour director/concierge/storyteller, persuades the intrepid “band of merry media” — 18 travel writers and photographers invited by Insight Vacations on its Treasures of Ireland journey — to put on their creative caps and scribble down five lines of non-sensical verse in honor of our next destination: Limerick.
Like open-mike night at the Laugh Factory, we take turns up front reciting our G-rated, anapestic metered, AABBA rhyme-schemed prose, better known as, you guessed it, a limerick. AHEM. Here goes:
There once was a man called Ignatius
Who traveled with Insight Vacations
While visiting Dingle
He tripped on the shingle
And everyone cried “Goodness Gracious!”
As simple as a child counting car colors, license plate states or white horses spotted along the way during a long road trip to visit gramps, Mike’s impromptu, limerick-laced “throw-down” helps pass the time and the luscious scenery. And, before you know it, Eugene, aka The Quiet Man, brings our motor coach to a full stop in front of the Castle Oaks House Hotel, Insight’s four-star, Georgian country estate overlooking the River Shannon in Castleconnell, just outside Limerick City.
The engine barely turned off, Gobnait O’Connell, the effervescent owner/manager of the hotel, bounces aboard, takes the microphone and greets us with a warm, “Céad míle fáilte! One-hundred-thousand welcomes.”
She then invites us inside for a hot cup of tea and some freshly baked, just-out-of-the-oven scones while staff unloads our bags.
This family-run establishment, voted the “Friendliest Hotel in Ireland,” is warm, cheery and bright. Despite the creaky floorboards, which enhance the legend and folklore of the historic house, I’m given a large, first-floor view-room. Too bad I’m only here for the night.
Speaking of night, dinner in Limerick is less than two hours away, so we’d better hustle if we’re going to catch the sunset before that rose-colored sky vanishes into the dark.
Lens caps off, let’s chase the light and explore a bit of Castle Oak’s 25-acres of greenery and paths down to the banks of the Shannon, Ireland’s longest river.
Just a short drive into Limerick, the Emerald Isle’s fourth most-populous city and where the mouth of the Shannon kisses the Atlantic, we politely exit the coach and head straight into Cornstore, a three-story, Manhattan-style, brick-faced bistro.
Voted Ireland’s best watering hole of the year, with a fab wine and cocktail bar to prove it, this group of “working press” has obviously come to the right place.
Sure, we’re here for the liquid, but we’re also here to try some of the signature dishes prepped from quality foods sourced locally by the kitchen’s award-winning chef, Maura Baxter.
Selecting a la carte — there are no pre-fixed menus when you dine with Insight — I begin with a fresh spinach leaf salad in a pomegranate vinaigrette accented with small cubes of goat’s cheese for a starter, followed by oven-roasted Irish salmon with herbed quinoa and sweet potato fries for the main, and I end dinner with a flourish, a surprising rhubarb and ginger crème brûlée for dessert. How delightful!
Care for a virtual nibble?
For complete information on Insight’s 100+ premium and luxury-escorted journeys around Europe, including the Treasures of Ireland itinerary, where there are always plenty of great sights, an abundance of great food and plenty of craic, like a limerick or two, just click HERE, or call toll free 1-888-680-1241, or contact your travel agent.
With a relaxed start on the agenda for tomorrow, I’ll see you at nine bells back here on the motor coach as we venture further along the Wild Atlantic Way, stopping long enough at the iconic Cliffs of Moher for a knee-knocking peek over the edge.
Oíche mhaith (Good night).
©The Palladian Traveler