Ireland: The trip of a lifetime!
I knew I would have a good time on my trip to Northern Ireland, but I could never have imagined I would have that much fun. What a whirlwind of a trip! Moloney & Kelly Travel did a fabulous job of arranging the entire thing. From our costumed Game of Thrones reenactments to visiting St. Patrick’s grave, it was all so amazing. After our day of visiting the home of Lord and Lady Dunleath and our unforgettable Game of Thrones sword fighting at Castle Ward, I wasn’t really sure what to expect. That night ended with a fabulous Van Morrison concert at the Europa Hotel. He is a regular performer in Northern Ireland, doing approximately 12 concerts a year. As you’d expect, it was a sold out show, and we rocked the night away listening to my favorite Van Morrison classics.
Now onto St. Patrick’s Day! We started the day with a wonderful breakfast in a beautiful meeting room in the Europa Hotel. We even had a special guest join us, the Lord Mayor of Belfast! He presented each of us with shamrocks for St. Patrick’s Day. What a treat! After breakfast we headed to visit Hillsborough Castle, which is one of the palaces of the Royal Family. As the guard announced us with his bugle, we were welcomed by the curator and manager of the castle. We were given a tour of the entire castle, and I was in awe of the regal pictures of the Royal Family and their ancestors that were hanging around everywhere. So much history has taken place within those walls, and it was quite a treat for us to be able to experience it. We even had the chance to have tea and scones, just as the Royal Family does! After the tour, we visited the Hillsborough Village for awhile, and then we retired to our rooms to freshen up. That evening we stayed at the Slieve Donard Resort & Spa, which is a 4 star resort that was built in the 1800s as a railroad hotel. It’s the resort hotel for the Irish Open this year, and the tournament is being played at the Royal County Down Golf Club that is adjacent to the resort. After a quick refresh in our rooms, it was off to the races! The horse races, that is. The Down Royal Horse track was such a fun experience, and they specialize in corporate groups. What a great corporate event idea! After the races, we went to the Montalto Estate for an off-site dinner with the estate manager, Mr. David Anderson. David has worked with the Royal Family for 25 years, and he had so many great stories about the Royal Family! The Montalto Estate was so tastefully restored and quite beautiful. It can accommodate corporate groups for meetings, as well as delicious dinners.
The next day we met with Dr. Tim Campbell, a leading authority on St. Patrick, who took us on a tour in the footprint of St. Patrick. We learned all about the history behind St. Patrick and how he came to found the 1st Christian church in Saul, near Downpatrick and then many more churches after that around 400 AD. We also were lucky enough to visit St. Patrick’s grave and the Mourne Mountains Stone Walls. This was such a great experience that I am so thankful that I had the opportunity to have. Following our tour we enjoyed a lovely lunch in the old world atmosphere of Denvirs, an Inn that was licensed to sell ale in 1642. Quite amazing when you think of the history that is involved in this one Inn! When we arrived back at the Slieve Donard Resort we were treated to a relaxing spa treatment in the Resort Spa. It was the perfect thing to end such a fabulous trip!
I would like to extend a very special thank you to Caitriona Lavery – Group National & International Sales Manager of Hastings Hostels, Mr. Howard Hastings – Director of Hastings Hotels, Michael Dalton and Angela Fitzgerald from Moloney & Kelly Travel, A Hosts Global Alliance Member, Mr. Willie Lougheed – Director of the Northern Ireland Tourist Board, and all the wonderful people we met along the way who made our trip so special. I had such a great time in Northern Ireland that I am counting the days until I can return to do it all again! This was truly a St. Patrick’s Day for the books, and one that I will NEVER forget!
Please contact your HGA Global Liaison to help you plan your next Northern Ireland adventure!