You haven’t fully experienced Ireland until you’ve stayed in a few Irish Bed & Breafast’s…
By Jim Ferri
I love Ireland’s bed and breakfasts.
That’s because I’m not your ordinary traveler. Most travel editors and professional writers aren’t.
Most often we don’t go some place to relax, although there may be relaxing times, but to develop a story we can share with others. That means we’re working all the time, looking for those things that make a place, a restaurant, a museum, even a conversation, unique. It’s why I enjoy Irish B&Bs – they often help make my work a bit simpler.
In Ireland’s Bed and Breakfasts: Ordinary People
In Irish B&Bs I’m interacting with ordinary people – the homeowner who’s lived in the area for years, who knows the local gossip, who visits the local grocery weekly – and not some stilted clerk at front desk. When I glance about their home, and in our snippets of conversation, I get insights into what makes that place, and them, unique. And they usually have the best recommendations on good restaurants and a hundred other things.
In my travels, however, I’ve found that in Ireland the B&B experience is taken to another level of perfection. I’ve decided it’s because the Irish are so accommodating and treat you as a friend, not as a guest. They want you to be comfortable in their home and they go out of their way to help you along, making suggestions as to where to go and what to do, many times without even being asked.
Advice at My Irish Bed & Breakfast: “Close the Gate so the Sheep Don’t Get Out”
This past September, for example, I was at the The Cove Lodge, a typical Irish Bed and Breakfast in Donegal, finishing my breakfast while Joan and her husband were in the kitchen feeding their eight children. Joan’s husband came out into the room where I and a couple from Australia were eating, and asked where I was headed next. When I told him I was off to Northern Ireland, he told me that on the way I really should visit nearby Slieve League, a beautiful and rugged area that had the highest cliffs in Europe.
“When you get up there you’ll see a gate closed across the road,” he told me. “Just open it and drive right through, but be sure to close it behind you so the sheep don’t get out.” I took his advice and was glad I did for it was a beautiful sight. And I kept the sheep where they were meant to be.
A week earlier in Dingle I stayed with Donal and Eileen at their home, the Fiuise Bed & Breakfast, not far outside of town. When I inquired about a good restaurant for the evening and a pub to hear local music, Donal insisted on giving me a tour of town in his car, pointing out all of the places he thought I’d enjoy. He then drove me outside of town up to a hilltop to show me the beautiful view over the surrounding hills.
Some days later, after visiting Galway, I took a ferry out to the beautiful, austere Aran Islands where I stayed in the Beach View B&B. The owner, Bridie, had grown up in the Arans, before emigrating to New York, where she had lived for some 20 years and where she met her Irish husband. During an hour-long conversation one afternoon I found they were married in the same church in New York as my parents.
Regaled With “Danny Boy” at Breakfast
Another time in Clifden up in Connemara, at the Connemara Country Lodge, I was entertained at breakfast by Mary the owner, who regaled all her guests with Danny Boy and other Irish ballads. A few years earlier in a B&B in Westport further north, I remember sitting and having coffee with Peter, the owner, as he helped us map out our journey to our next destination. The time he took with us was not something I would have gotten from many hoteliers.
With Peter, Bridie, Donal and the others I met in B&Bs about Ireland, the way they would tell me stories (oh, that Irish gift of gab!) and how they took such a personal interest in my well-being, made me feel safe and welcome, almost as if I were part of the family.
I’ve learned that staying in bed and breakfasts in Ireland is a great way to experience beautiful Ireland, just driving about and choosing where you’ll stay that night when you see a sign hanging outside someone’s home.
That’s exactly what a fireman from San Francisco was doing when I met him in the Olde Castle Bar & Red Hughs restaurant in Donegal. He had taken several weeks vacation and was driving about Ireland aimlessly, staying in B&Bs he came upon along the way. Although he was traveling solo, he told me he was having a ball.
I can imagine some of the stories he’s likely still telling back in the firehouse.
If you go:
345 Park Avenue
New York, NY 10154
Tel. (800) 223-6470
Tel: 353(0)66 915 2850
Beach View House
Inishmor (Aran Islands)
Tel: + 353 (0) 99 61141
Connemara Country Lodge
Westport Road, Clifden
Tel: +353 (0) 95 21122
The Cove Lodge
Drumgowan, Donegal Town
Tel: + 353 (0)74 972 2302