The Irish in America

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DAY 8: Ashbrook Arms

Photos of The Ashbrook Arms Restaurant and Guesthouse, Durrow
This photo of The Ashbrook Arms Restaurant and Guesthouse is courtesy of TripAdvisor

Last October, I had an incredible meal at the Ashbrook Arms with Regan, my cousin Jimmy, and his wife, Helen. It was our last night in County Laois, which usually makes me a bit melancholy, but on this night there was a distraction.

We had arranged our special dinner in part because it was our last night, but mostly as a decoy. Jimmy had planned a surprise party for Helen’s birthday and needed to get her away from her stomping grounds in Rathdowney while all the guests converged upon Touhys Bar for the party.

Helen and Jimmy McCormack

Helen and Jimmy McCormack

Since Jimmy was concerned that dinner would not take long enough, I took the opportunity to make my last dinner in Ireland really count. Beginning with a starter of delicious goat cheese on toasted brioche, with a tomato (I believe) chutney. I don’t recall what my dinner companions had that night, but I savored a delightful free-range chicken breast, and ended my meal with the Eton Mess. What’s an Eton Mess? From the Ashbrook menu: Crushed Meringue bound with Whipped Cream and a Raspberry Compote and Served with Vanilla Ice Cream. Divine!

Planning a surprise for Helen is no easy task; she knows everything that goes on. I confess, it was hilarious to see Jimmy fidget each time we would meet a friend in town the week before the party. He was so paranoid that one of them would blow the surprise. When we arrived at the Ashbrook Arms in Durrow, County Laois, Jimmy may have been sweating bullets, but I felt relaxed and looked forward to a great evening.

Jimmy wanted to be sure to give all the invited guests enough time to arrive at the party, so following dinner we stopped across the road for a drink at Bob’s Bar.  Bob’s is a great place. But it was back to Rathdowney and a bar-full of friends and family waiting to celebrate Helen. She was surprised, although she claimed to know we were up to something.

We had a great night, and Ashbrook Arms became my favorite spot for a special meal in Ireland.

Ashbrook Arms, photo courtesy of TripAdvisor

Ashbrook Arms, photo courtesy of TripAdvisor

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DAY 7: The Old Parochial House


Old Parochial House

I love the Old Parochial House in Ballingarry, County Tipperary. The OPH (as the Old Parochial House became known to my family during our stay in September 2009) is in my top two of self-catering stays in Ireland. The OPH offered the total package: beautifully restored 19th century house, huge bedrooms and bathrooms, comfortable rooms to relax and entertain, plenty of room to spread out, spacious, gourmet kitchen, and more!

Party at OPH

Party at OPH

We even did some entertaining during our stay. Click here to read my story about the party we threw for our Irish relatives, which to my surprise was a success.

The house is quite large, with gorgeous high ceilings and big windows, yet it retains an extremely warm and cozy feel. My family had a delightful time, and we speak often of returning to the OPH.

I mentioned that the OPH is in my top two self-catering properties in Ireland. You will need to stay tuned for the other one!

If you decide to book a stay at the OPH, make sure you tell Aileen and Donal that Aine sent you!

McCormack Family

McCormack Family

Photos by Regan McCormack

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DAY 6: U2

I guess it is predictable for someone of my age, but U2 is my favorite Irish band.

I was twelve-years-old the first time I saw U2 in concert. It was The Unforgettable Fire tour and I went with my Aunt Eeny. My mom said that the only way I was going to the concert was if I found an adult to take me. Eeny was the only adult I could picture at the concert with me. She went to Grateful Dead and Bruce Springsteen shows.

I remember the concert was on a school night and the next day I had my all-so-important written test for Confirmation. I was very rock-and-roll.

Today when I think of U2, I picture the guys as they were in 1984 – Bono with his exaggerated mullet, Adam’s afro, Larry’s spiky ‘do, and The Edge with hair. Ahhhh, the Eighties were magical!

Here’s one of my favorite songs, by one of my Irish faves:


DAY 5: Luxury Yachting in Ireland

In the past when someone mentioned “luxury yachting” I immediately thought of Monte Carlo, Richard Branson, sun-kissed and bikini-clad passengers soaking up warm rays on deck, champagne corks popping, and the smooth sounds of Michael McDonald playing in the background.

I certainly never pictured Ireland. But ever since Regan told me about Luxury Yachting Ireland, I’ve been intrigued. As I learned more about Mark O’Dwyer and his business, my conception of luxury yachting began to broaden, and I fell in love with the idea of cruising gorgeous Lough Derg with friends and family aboard a luxury yacht. I am looking forward to my next visit to Ireland so I can experience Lough Derg with Luxury Yachting Ireland.

YachtIt’s definitely a unique way to enjoy a gorgeous part of Ireland. Leave the rental car at the pier, sit back, relax, and let Mark show you the best that Ireland has to offer. By the way, Luxury Yachting offers Ireland’s first and only skippered luxury motor yacht. Here’s what you can expect from a Luxury Yachting Ireland Day Escape:

From 10am to 6pm we experience a unique piece of hidden Ireland, from local artisan food & drink tastings, to visiting one of the oldest operating Church’s, walking through the same door of Brian Boru, to a more exclusive private Castle tour.
This is an all-inclusive day to include all food & beverages on-board, tours, all tastings, 4 course restaurant lunch on the lake shore, guided walks, admissions, afternoon liqueurs and artisan chocolates. Our Gathering Day Escapes are a wonderful way to engage with or revisit authentic Ireland or to gather with friends and family for indulgence and pampering in an idyllic setting.   
– Skipper Mark O’Dwyer, Luxury Yachting Ireland
Lough Derg

Lough Derg

Please visit for more information. Click here to see photos of the yacht and the tours. Follow on Twitter for all the latest news. Mark also offers a fabulous three-day cruise for four…sounds wonderful!

The Gathering Day Escape is featured in March 2013 issue of Tourism Ireland E-Zine.

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DAY 4: Bogs

My knowledge of bogs is very limited, but that hasn’t stopped me from being fascinated with bogs and the things that come out of them. Especially bog bodies. Creepy to some, but I think the ancient, deeply tanned body parts discovered by farmers and turf-cutters – just going about their business – are just the coolest. Bog bodies are the main reason bogs are one of my favorite things about Ireland.

Bogs are everywhere in Ireland, covering one-sixth of the island. When I am in Ireland I often hear people talking about the bog. I know people aren’t regularly coming across bog bodies like these, but I wonder what it would be like to know that at any time you might uncover an ancient body. There are many reasons why I would make a poor turf-cutter, chief of which is that I would never get around to cutting any turf. I would think every twig could be a leathery finger or toe, and each plant root a strand of hair connected to a severed, flattened head.  

Bogs are mysterious and spooky. In 2011, we were visiting family in County Laois and the quickest way back to where we were staying was to take the bog road. There was a lot of talk that week about whether to send the Americans back to their self-catering via the bog road. There was also something about the Green Man on the bog road. It all was a bit complicated – you had to turn off your car and your lights, get out and lay on the road (or something) for a chance to see the Green Man. The road was straight, but extremely narrow and it was super dark and foggy at night. With bog on either side of the road, there was little room for driving error. You might end up as a bog body of the future.

Of course, it isn’t only bodies that they find in bogs…they also find ancient artifacts like bowls, jewelry, tools, and even butter!



DAY 3: Simply Irish Knitwear

All that talk about Youghal yesterday reminded me of one of my favorite shops in Ireland, Simply Irish Knitwear. Located just about ten minutes from Youghal off the N25 Cork-Rosslare road (follow the signs) this delightful shop and studio is my pick for day three of things I love about Ireland.

Cardigan in natural with crochet trim -

Cute cardigan with crochet trim –

There is a lot of knitwear in Ireland, but Ros Ledingham really knows how to design and create stylish and classy pieces. She’s been at it since 1982. The women’s range of cardigans, sweaters, jackets, suits, and accessories is available in an array of delicious colors. I am especially fond of her cardigans, such as the style pictured above. 

My sister, Regan, purchased a cozy fuchsia scarf at Simply Irish Knitwear last September, and I don’t think a day went by this winter that she wasn’t wearing it! Super soft knit and a beautiful color. Can’t believe I don’t have a picture of Regan wearing it since she really did have it on every day!

In addition to the fabulous knitwear, the shop stocks a hand-picked assortment of crafts by other local artisans. This is great for those of us looking for unique, quality, “Made in Ireland” gifts to bring home for friends and family.

Next time you are in East Cork, be sure to stop in at Simply Irish Knitwear…you won’t be disappointed!


DAY 2: One of My Favorite Towns in Ireland

Nearly every town I visit in Ireland quickly becomes a favorite, but Youghal has earned a special place with me ever since I “discovered” it in 2009. Here are a few reasons why Youghal is one of my favorite towns in Ireland…

Continue reading


Ahhhh…April has finally arrived!

I love the month of April. In my opinion, it’s the best month of the year: Spring showers, the start of baseball season, warming temperatures, new life, fresh starts, my birthday…

To celebrate my favorite month, I decided to do something special on the blog. My goal is to share something new each day of the month that I love about Ireland. Might be a person, story, place, poem, photograph, or a song…you will just have to check back each day to see what’s next.

My first choice is obvious, seeing as yesterday was Easter. I guess I still have chocolate bunnies on my mind, because the first thing I thought about was how much I really love…

IRISH CANDY BARS! Continue reading