Hotels are the places to be when you need accommodation and want to immerse in the area’s rich history and culture. In this special look-back episode on one of their past spotlight discussions, Andy McNeill and Todd Bludworth list down their top five unique hotel traditions and events. From the Peninsula on the West Coast all the way to Dromoland Castle in Ireland, the duo discusses how each hotel showcases the extravagant things their respective regions have to offer.
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Looking Back With Andy And Todd: Top 5 Unique Hotel Traditions And Events
In this special episode, Andy McNeill and Todd Bludworth look back on one of their spotlight discussions. This one features unique traditions and events they have encountered in some of the most famous hotels around the world.
Located in Beverly Hills, this is the only five-star hotel in Southern California.
Best Traditions And Events
The hotel implements “Peninsula Time,” a policy where guests can check in and out at any time.
Guest initials are monogrammed on their pillowcases, which they can take home.
The Le Petit Belvedere restaurant pours champagne at every table and toasts to all guests every 8:00 in the evening without fail.
Grove Park Inn
Located in Asheville, North Carolina, this historic hotel that opened in 1931 offers mesmerizing mountain views. Writer F. Scott Fitzgerald stayed in Rooms 441 and 443 around his birthday in September. One of the rooms was used for writing while the other one for sleeping. Fitzgerald came to Grove Park Inn to cure himself of his gin addiction by drinking around 56 pony beers a day. His wife Zelda was also being treated at a nearby mental hospital at that time.
Best Traditions And Events
The hotel offers a room tour with a professor to backtrack Fitzgerald’s historic yet turbulent stay at Grove Park Inn.
During the weekends, a Fitzgerald Gin and Jazz social is held. Guests dress up in 1920’s attire and live out a Great Gatsby theme for a night.
Windsor Court Hotel
Located in New Orleans, this luxury 23-floor establishment opened in 1984 and showcases Windsor England-inspired facilities.
Best Traditions And Events
The hotel offers a traditional Afternoon Tea with a twist. They have special themed tea events throughout the year, such as Mardi Gras Tea, Princess Team, LGB-Tea, and Halloween Tea.
Guests can request assistance from the hotel to make arrangements to participate in different events in New Orleans, especially if they want to be part of a float parade. Some of these world-famous gatherings include Mardi Gras (from Epiphany to a day before Lent, features themed costumes, parades, and balls), French Quarter Fest (every April, features local artists and local food vendors), Jazz and Heritage Fest (every late April to early May, features the best jazz music in the world), and New Orleans Food and Wine Experience (every June, perfect for food and wine lovers who want to go on tasting, seminars, and tours).
May Fair Hotel
Located in the “toniest” part of London that the wealthiest and most fashionable people call home – Mayfair London. This hotel opened in 1927 and initially catered to London’s high society. Nowadays, it has a five-star rating and continues to attract the same elite people.
Best Traditions And Events
May Fair Hotel is the official venue of London Fashion Week every June, the city’s most glamorous time of the year. Guests who visit around this time have a chance to catch the biggest names in the fashion world, especially in their legendary restaurant and bar, May Fair Kitchen and May Fair Bar.
Located in Ireland, this 450-acre property houses a 16th-century castle that has been converted into a luxury hotel since 1962.
Best Traditions And Events
To keep castle traditions alive, the hotel keeps falconry, a lake stocked with trout for fishing, and a clay pigeon shooting area.
Whiskey tasting in the hotel bar is a must-try.
Discover your Irish roots and ancestry by meeting Dromoland Castle’s very own genealogy expert. She will discuss her findings over tea, coffee, and scones, detailing where your family may have originated. This gives you a list of towns, castles, and graveyards to visit that may have a connection to your ancestors.
In this episode, you’ll find out the best time to make Ireland your next destination for business or pleasure. We talk to the experts to see what it’s like to stay in a real Irish Castle. We will give you the best places to plan your next event or visit to Ireland, and hear stories from the two-time Irish storyteller champion, Máirtín de Cógáin. As a true son of Ireland, Máirtín shares with us a unique view of the country, one where tradition meets music and storytelling. Join this fun and exciting conversation to know more about your next meeting or travel destination!
Andy McNeill and Todd Bludworth are travel and hospitality entrepreneurs and owners of the global meetings organization, American Meetings, Inc. From sourcing venues in Irelandto corporate event management around the world, their team selects corporate event venues and meeting planners for a wide array of enterprise business clients, providing ideas for convention themes and strategies for running global meetings and events. Learn more at www.americanmeetings.com.
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The Emerald Isle is a place of unfettered beauty, warm people in mystical legends. We explore this island from the Western shores of Galway to the Eastern edges of its largest city, Dublin. It’s no wonder why this jewel of a country is an inspiration for poetry and lore. It’s sweeping green valleys and the dive into crystal blue seas has brought traveler and adventurer alike for thousands of years. Its people are kind, welcoming, and always ready with the story of times gone by. Whether you’re coming for business or personal adventure, Ireland will never disappoint.
In this episode, we’ll discover a lover’s matchmaking festival, what to do in Dublin, and residing in a castle. We are joined by a two-time National Storytelling Champion, Máirtín de Cógáin, and the gracious host of Dromoland Castle Hotel, Mark Nolan, both of who will share their love and passion for this ancient land while providing bucket list ideas for even the most discerning traveler. Off we head to the Emerald Isle. With a bit of luck, we might find the adventure of a lifetime. Welcome to this episode, Ireland: Castles, Pubs, and Finding Love.
In this episode, we are doing Ireland. I can’t tell you how excited I am. I’m of Irish heritage. I’ve been there probably 8 or 9 times. It’s one of those places that is truly magical. Todd, we’re going to cover North, South, East and West. We’re going to talk a lot about the people, the culture, as well as some great bucket list items and we also have a fantastic bucket list of venue. We’ll be talking about Dublin and Galway and the Ring of Kerry and all the deep and rich history that Ireland affords. We could do 10 or 20 shows in Ireland. I’m excited because I’m going to hit on some of the bucket lists, but not only things to do.
We’re going to stay away from the traditional stuff. We’re going to pick bucket list items that can make your trip an incredible experience and then also talk about a venue that can be used for business or pleasure that will truly knock your socks off. We are going to focus on all of Ireland because there are many great places to see. We’re going to be focusing on the areas in Dublin, in Southern Ireland, and then also on the Western side of the country around the Galway-Shannon area. It’s going to be incredible. Todd, what venue are we looking at?
We’ve got a special guest that’s going to be on and the venue is Dromoland Castle. Dromoland Castle is about a ten-minute ride from Shannon Airport. It’s got easy accessibility. We’ve got Mark Nolan who’s the Managing Director of the Dromoland Castle, and he’s got some great insights for us. We’re looking forward to him.
Let’s kick this whole Ireland episode off.
We are excited to have our next guest here. We have Mark Nolan who has some experience to luxury properties in Ireland. Mark is the Managing Director of Dromoland Castle. Dromoland Castle has gotten a couple of special awards. Travel & Leisure’s Top 100 resort hotels in Ireland and the UK and TripAdvisor 2020 Traveler’s Choice Best of the Best putting you guys in the top 1% of hotels in the world. Congratulations on both of those accolades. That’s wonderful.
We want to get into it. We want to project a bucket list experience for audiences if they’ve been to Ireland or if they haven’t. There’s a history here and there’s a romanticism about going and staying in a castle. Why don’t you start off by giving us a little bit of the history of the Castle and how you ended up being there?
The history briefly at the Castle is it was the O’Brien stronghold. The direct descendants of the first High King of Ireland who was killed in the Battle of Clontarf in 1014. Lord Inchiquin still lives on the estate with his wife, Helen. They sold the property in ‘87 and it was bought by an American investor, Bernard McDonough, who was inveigled by some local Shannon guys to buy this castle. He treated this especially a haven for a North American market only. He opened in April and closed again in September, and did not want any Irish. It was remarkable. He did a great job in the castle. He made it an attractive proposition to come to and he built a few hotels around the Shannon area as a result of his involvement with the castle.
It was a clever marketing perspective and that was from the people who were called way back in the day, that would be $6 to stay in the castle and they had swoon at the price of it and as I’m talking to them, he’d say, “I have another inn down the road at about quarter of the price.” He was always on for captures. He was a great guy. He sold then to a group of North American investors headed up by a guy called Bill Dowling who got a lot of Salomon Brothers involved in the property. They did a complete refurb, reopened again in 1987 and the property has been in the same ownership since. We have a lot of proud North Americans. In actual fact, I’m the only Irish investor now as it stands.
Tell us exactly where it’s located. I know it’s on the west coast, but where exactly on the west coast?
It’s about ten-minute right from Shannon International Airport, which is one for the benefit to us, obviously, at the moment the world we live in and we don’t have too much activity there. Generally speaking, right through and hopefully from next season, we’ll have Delta, Aer Lingus, United Airlines, all flying in daily services, certainly from May to September, October. It’s a big attraction and we’re right on the coast. We’re about 40 minutes transfer time from the Lahinch Golf course. It’s a golfer’s haven. That’s not saying that that’s all we do. We have our own championship golf course and good golf academy and practice facilities, but it’s not. It’s all about the authentic Irish Council. We are the real thing.
If you have a bucket list item to go off at a castle, you guys are the place to go.
I think we’re the place to go. Our signature hole is the seventh. It’s a par three and the backdrop is the castle. We’ve been getting plenty of sunny days for some reason and it’s breathtaking. On the other side, there are a few backdrops on there too.
Now that we’re talking about activities because you guys also cater to families and children. I was looking at some of the activities that you have including the adult side, falconry and shooting, and archery and those kinds of things, which are amazing to me but what about the children also?
All those activities you listed are also for the children as well. We do a lot of family programs and activities based around falconry because it is an amazing experience. It’s hard to explain until you do it. It’s one of those things. We have at the moment 35 birds of prey. We have three full-time falconers. It’s a huge activity on the estate, which is popular. Once people come back, they say, “I get it now.” It’s one of those kinds of quirky activities, but popular.
Do you get to hold the falcon on your wrist?
Yes. You put them on your sleeves and you get the birds to fly and it’s amazing. It’s down to how many ounces they feed the bird the day as to how fast they’re going to fly. It’s extraordinary. They’ve weighing scales are down to grams of how much they feed them.
How long is that entire experience if someone wants to come and do it? Is it an afternoon?
It goes from one hour if you want to do a trek with the birds. Two hours and we go off the estate up to what we call Mooghaun Castle, which is one of the original castle ruins that’s on the grounds of the estate.
I’ve been to Mooghaun and it’s beautiful and a lot of history there. How old is that castle?
Mooghaun Castle will be somewhere around 1650.
Let’s talk about the venues for food and drink because I heard you have a partnership with an Irish whiskey.
Yes, with JJ Corry. We have a limited edition. We produced 100 bottles of whiskey and we were to bring it onto the market but with everything as it is, we are taking a little bit easier. We were going to release the whole stock, but we’re going to release 50 bottles. It’s a fabulous whiskey blended by JJ Corry. It’s a unique type of product. We’re also partnered with Dingle Whiskey as well, who also produced the gin. Dingle is a little further South in County Kerry. They’re renowned for their gin and whiskey, and we also have the barrel of whiskey down there, which we’re going to bring on. It’s a matter of the more mature, the better the quality, the less the volume. What we want to do is have a product that’s strong. We’re reducing that number of bottles. It’s my deputy GM, Simon Hodgson, who has an interest in whiskey. He has taken to that.
The room that’s behind me is the cocktail bar, which used to be a study. I fantasize that there’s a fireplace right back there and sitting in there with a fire going, and having a little glass of whiskey and maybe listening to someone sing a song. That’s a dream right there.
Just beside the fireplace behind your left ear is a case that we completely stocked with our whiskeys. They are all Irish whiskeys. I think there are 48 different blends of whiskeys and they’re all Irish produced and we do flights. In the evening time, if you want to do it, we’ll give you a tasting of three and it’s hugely popular. Irish whiskeys are making a way in the world.
It’s already been sold to me. I’ve bought into it. I can’t wait to try the one that you’re making right now when it gets released.
Ireland: You just can’t lose when you visit Dromoland Castle. The place is absolutely amazing.
Someone can come to the Castle and check 5 or 6 things off a bucket list. Staying at a castle, playing on a championship golf course, doing falconry, doing Irish whiskey flights in an old study. This is an incredible place. You worked at Ashford Castle as well and I’ve been to Ashford as well and I’m sure some of our audiences have. Can you tell what are the differences? What are they going to experience? Ashford is also a beautiful property as well.
Ashford is a stunning property and I suppose, strictly speaking, we are aligned but geographically, we’re not. We’re two transfer time. Ashford is right on the shores of Lough Corrib, an Estonian 83-bedroom castle property. It’s owned by Red Carnation and they have invested incredible amounts of money to make it a fabulous property. It’s probably more formal than we are. We’re more spontaneous. We like people. We employ people that we feel have got that spontaneity. The comments that we would get from the guests that stay, they were coming to a castle and they were a little bit apprehensive because the prospect is daunting, staying in a castle, but we got there and we got it. It’s nice for us to hear it. It means that we blended that nice feeling of a formal castle on the one hand, but you’re treated like you’re home away from home and that’s all our ambition is.
If you have some discerning guests and they want an amazing VIP experience on your property, what are some things that you do to enhance that? Whether it’s the best suite or room that you have or special dinner events or things like that? What do you offer for someone who says, “This is my 50th wedding anniversary. I want it to be over the top special?” What’s something that you guys do offer for people like that?
One of the things we have is a garden suite, which is a fully-equipped kitchen. It’s got a good storage space. It’s got its own little garden and it’s interconnected to another room. If you’re a family, we will cater that room. If you would like to do a fully served dinner in that room with the chef cooking in your kitchen. You’ve also got a golf buggy at your disposal to two of the estate, because it’s 500 acres of woodland. Some of the trees that you won’t see anywhere in the world.
That was Lord Inchiquin who was the visionary at the time. He imported trees from all around the world on his travels. We have got some amazing tree collection, but that aside the cooking part of it will be the key elements of that and our executive chef, Dave McCann, will personalize the menus. The whole thing, as I say is about personalizing experiences and going the extra yard. Somebody that’s saying, “We’d like to be spontaneous.” Our business partner has changed quite a bit as you can imagine over the last year. We’re primarily Irish markets which is sad because we miss our North American customers so much.
The Irish are a little bit more cynical. Spontaneity is our key. People are staying at the moment because they can’t go on vacation. They can’t get out of Ireland. We have Irish people vacationing in Dromoland and staying up to two weeks. There are a couple of superfamilies. One night I’ll go to the table and say instantly, “Dinners with my compliments this evening.” They run up a tab in the cocktail bar with great nightly entertainment with traditional Irish music played by local musicians and they run a tab of a couple of hundred euros or dollars with our compliments.
It’s a surprise. Even when we’re fully-fledged and were primarily a North American property, that’s been honest, but people don’t mind spending $1,500 or $2,000 to stay in a suite and their lovers. What they’ll remember are two glasses of wine that were bought for them by Johnny in the bar or Frank and says, “I’m singing a song.” We’ve also got a singing barman if things are a little bit quiet in the evening. He’s a bit of a Frank Sinatra crooner. He doesn’t sing Irish ballads, but suddenly if it’s quiet in the bar, he might suddenly break into song and people are amazed by this.
It’s all about spontaneity. It’s all about the surprise element. Somebody goes down to the spa and say, “Did you enjoy that spa trip with husband? That’s with our compliments.” That’s a nice thing. It doesn’t matter with these people. Being absolutely honest, most of our people are plenty of money. They don’t need me to compliment, but it’s the surprise element. I would say, “You are great customers. We love you. Here’s your prize.” The other thing we introduced is a daily newsletter. It goes onto your door at about 5:00 in the morning. It tells you what the weather is going to be like the next day, which we’ve got a little bit more courageous about because the weather is getting better here. Instead of telling them, it’s going to be raining. We do Sudoku competition, Sudoku Instagram photograph of the day and there are little rewards. You get a cocktail dropped up to your room at 6:00. We’re always trying to keep people thinking. You’re in the business, you know what it’s all about travel. The smallest gestures mean the most.
You were talking about those things you do for your clients and for your guests that is more of the way you would treat family, than somebody who’s at your property temporarily like throwing out a nice gift, “Have a good night. These drinks are on me. Let me pay for your meal.” That develops a real sense of loyalty with families, friends and returning customers. Is that a year-round philosophy for you or is it during these hard times?
I suppose the long state. Our average day is 1.7 nights, at the moment it’s gone to 2.5 to 3 nights it’s doubled. We do have a lot of people replacing their normal vacation away from home with the staycation, with staying in Ireland. I’m conscious of being there and saying, “What can I do?” The kids are with them as well. We’re trying to put different gifts in the room every day or do something different or send them a book or do all the things as I say, to try and keep it small. I think the next year 2021 will be a year of recovery. I’m confident about 2021. It’s predicated on a few things, but let’s not go on that route. There are already enough people talking about that stuff. I do feel 2021 is going to be the year that is going to be the most amazing experience for North Americans to travel to Ireland. They will be welcomed back.
Are you guys doing anything special?
We’re working on this at the moment. We’re working on developing a program at the moment. My colleague on the virtual trade show. We will be offering special things to attract people. We don’t think it’s all about price. It’s more about added value and you’re adding and making it more experiential. We’ve been doing more complimentary things, nice things that are not a huge cost, but add value to the proposition of coming to stay with us.
For those people outside of the property, what can they experience, or what would you recommend they do around the area?
It depends on what they want to do. Scenically, you’ve got The Cliffs of Moher, the Burren, which are two of the infamous things to see in Ireland. We’re fortunate to have them both within a 40 minutes transfer time. We’ve also got King John’s Castle or Bunratty Castle & Folk Park, which is a wonderfully done development of the castle and they do nightly banquets. There are some fabulous heritage sites. We’re awash with history, the whole region, and spectacular scenery. I mentioned golf. I don’t want that goal to become the whole key, but it is certainly a great location for golfers. Apart from golfers, there’s so much to do.
The one feedback we would have historically would be people saying, “Do you know we only stayed one night because we are near and convenient to the airport?” They say, “Let’s stay the first night. Let’s stay the last night.” They say, “We’re sorry that we didn’t stay the two nights.” Apart from the falconry, clay target shooting, we’ve got our own lake fully stocked with trouts. Fishing is great with the gilly. There are lots of bits and pieces to do. We have a great spa and great leisure center so people want to chill and relax. They do get it within an hour or two, they’re in the groove. We’ll get them in the groove and they’re relaxed. They do say, “I’m sorry. I didn’t stay longer.”
I hope that a lot of our audience plan to come to your property. It sounds unbelievably fantastic and the number of things that you can do in a short drive. How far is Galway from your property?
It’s 45 minutes and then as you say, it’s a fabulous city. Park the car and walk everywhere. Limerick is 30 minutes from here.
As a local, as someone who lives in the area, what are your favorite things to do personally when you get a little time off which probably isn’t that much?
I love to come down to the house here. This is our retreat house in Lahinch. It’s wonderful. I love to walk the beach, play a little golf, and go to a nice restaurant. There are many fabulous restaurants in this whole area. That’s the one thing. You’re alluding to food in Ireland. The quality of food has become the most amazing improvements in quality. I think even this whole situation, everybody’s focused more on what they do in terms of quality and experience.
Even your popup down the village of Lahinch, you have a popup truck that opens on a Thursday to Sunday and does these gourmet burgers that are to die for. You’ve got our local bakery who closed, who would be doing little and they’re packed out because they produce this such wonderful quality sourdough bread and all those kinds of things. Everybody’s focused on quality. That is going to add to the experience for next year. When people come in, they’re going to have a great experience and great quality throughout.
Are you ready for our rapid-fire questions for you?
I’m a little bit worried about one of them, but let’s give it a go.
We do this to share with our audience things that they may not think about travel and get it from the expert. We want to hear your personal experiences. The first one is, have you ever completed any of your bucket list items? If so, what was it?
For my 25th wedding anniversary, there’s a well-known hotelier who writes a journal in the UK called Mary Gostelow, the Gostelow Report. It’s a well-read thing in the hospitality industry. I contacted Mary, she’s a superwoman and I said, “In your wildest dreams, ten days in India.” We stayed in every Taj Hotel. We left our luggage at the airport in Shannon, our local airport, and we didn’t touch our luggage until we were back in Shannon. We had the most amazing experience and it was wonderful. It was full of surprises.
Falaknuma Palace, if you ever get to India, do not miss it and it’s full of surprises. To give you a quick idea, that following morning you’ve got your own butler, a wonderful lady we had who was trained up by Taj, and the Irish Times and the Irish Independent were on our doorstep the following morning. Little things like that. I could bore you with the wonderful things they did. I’ve learned a bit from them. It’s in an industrial area of India. It was originally a castle to the moguls and it is a castle. There are rooms that they would bring you into to show you the scripts of hundreds and hundreds of years old. We could wear all of them in India. It’s the most extraordinary experience. If any of your audience gets to do, do it.
Number two, if you could live anywhere in the world for a year, where would it be?
[bctt tweet=”The more mature the whiskey, the better the quality and the less the volume.” via=”no”]
It’s Paris. No second-guessing there. I love the feel. I love the arrogance, loved the chicken walk everywhere. If you are treating yourself, the Bristol in Paris is the most amazing experience you’ll ever have.
If you could travel with someone infamous or famous, who would it be?
I’m going to say some corny ideas and say that as a hotelier, I don’t get to travel as much as I’d like. My greatest travel buddies are my family. I think travel is all about fun and having as they say in Ireland the crack. I was saying Freddy Flynn is an English guy, you may or may not know and has a great personality or David Beckham. They’re great fun.
When you’re packing for a trip, what is something you pack that may surprise our audience?
For my 60th birthday, we went to California last year and we stayed in the Beverly Hills Hotel. Edward Mady and his team could not have been kinder to us. It was an amazing event. One of the gifts I got while I was there were Bose sunglasses, but they’re also speakers. You can tune them in to your iPhone. I never traveled without them anymore. They’re wonderful to have. The other thing I never traveled without is a corkscrew.
What is your most memorable experience in Ireland?
This is when I stayed in Ashford Castle. They used to close the hotel for the winter. For me to learn a bit more about food, which as you can see, I’m keen on food, I did a thirteen-week full-time cookery course in Ballymaloe. I don’t know if you’re familiar with that, but it’s famous and well-renowned. The late Myrtle Allen was one of the great cooks of Ireland of all time. I learned how to cook properly there for thirteen weeks, with eleven other ladies. It was the finest experience one could ever want in every respect.
When you’re cooking a meal for your wife, what is your go-to meal?
I’m at a dinner party here in Lahinch and we got some lovely, fresh lobster bought locally. Nobody in the palace is buying lobster. It’s at an all-time low price or we’ve got a great local butcher. We’re doing fillet steak and lobster. I tend to cook a lot of chicken and fish, but this is part of a dinner party. Even though my daughters don’t agree, we like a lot of vegetarian dishes. We love lots of pasta, but there’s much in Ireland. The produce is brilliant that even if you’re the worst cook in the world, you couldn’t make a mess of it.
We’d be remiss if we didn’t say your mother is 100 years old, correct?
She’s 101. She’s got to be the best cook of all time. I’d say “Mom, how would you make that dish?” She goes, “This is my hand.” Even at 102, she has a voracious and wonderful appetite.
We wish her longevity and health. Thank you so much for joining us. This has been enlightening. We’re excited to get back on the airplanes and get over and see your property.
We miss you so much and we want to have you back. Please, Todd and Andy, you’re staying with my compliments the next time you’re staying at Dromoland. I will give you the time of your life.
Thank you very much. We appreciate it.
Thank you so much. It was an absolute pleasure. We can’t wait for everybody to see your fabulous property and all the great experiences that you have on the property.
We’re already waiting.
Mark Nolan, Managing Director of Dromoland Castle. Thank you.
At AMI, we are passionate about meeting connections that change lives. For over twenty years, we have traveled our clients all over the globe supporting their business goals and helping them stand apart from hotel sourcing to audiovisual magic. We’ll help make your corporate meetings or events second to none. Go to AmericanMeetings.com to learn more. American Meetings, AMI, meeting, planning perfected.
Thank you, Mark Nolan, who is the Managing Director of Dromoland Castle. Thank you for all of that wonderful information about Dromoland. It is a bucket list item to go there.
I want to do falconry for sure. That is going to be an incredible experience.
It’s all birds of prey too. It’s the falcons and they have owls. It was amazing.
He buys entire groups of people drinks in the bar. That’s another reason they go to the Castle. You can go almost any time a year or two there are things to do whenever.
I think the thing is with Ireland if you don’t mind some rainy days, some overcast days, which I don’t when I travel. I love intimate fireplaces and small streets. I don’t mind walking in a puddle every once in a while. What Mark was saying is the weather has been gorgeous over there right now. You never know what you’re going to get.
It’s a good point. It’s like the Western United States where it’s gorgeous from late May to early September. I’ve been in Ireland all the way into November and it’s gorgeous and it gets dark early. It’s Northern so you have to be prepared for that. It gets dark at 4:00 but the crowds and the deals are great. There’s not a whole lot of crowds and the deals you can get later in the year in Ireland are good when you go offseason. If you’re on a budget, look at it October, November, March, obviously you have St. Patrick’s Day, and what a great experience to experience St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland. It would be a great thing as well.
When you think of Ireland, there are a couple of things you think about. St. Patrick’s Day is one and I don’t know if that’s bigger than the United States now, but it is the first thing that comes to mind. There’s something else you’d think about when you think of Ireland and what do you think about, Andy? Maybe you can guess this.
Probably for you, going to a pub and having a pint.
Ireland: Every North American visiting Dromoland Castle will never get an experience like you will get in 2021.
A pint in a pub. There are two things and you’re right.
There’s a pint on every corner.
There are backup pints for the backup pints that are in front of you.
You can’t swing a leprechaun without hitting a pub in Ireland.
When you talk about pints, Guinness is the beer in Ireland. It’s based in Dublin. I would say for those first-timers going to Ireland, the Guinness Storehouse is a must-see on your list where they’ll teach you how to do the perfect pour. For those of you that don’t drink Guinness, you don’t pull the tap and let it go into the cup. There’s an art to it and if you’ve ever ordered one, it could take some time to pour the perfect pint of Guinness. They either use a spoon or it goes on the side of the cup. I think a spoon is a correct way. You want to check out the Guinness Storehouse and the Gravity Bar on the top of it. That’s in Dublin. In Dublin, there’s also a ton of other pubs, and one of the most notable pubs in Dublin in The Temple Bar. Have you been to The Temple Bar, Andy?
I have many times. It’s incredible.
The Temple Bar is right behind me. You can see it. It was established in 1840 and it has not only pints, but it also has one of the largest whiskey collections in Dublin. It’s a well-known spot. It might be crowded, but rest assured, if it’s too crowded, you can find another pub that’s just as great, probably on many other corners.
They’re everywhere. That’s a great example of a quintessential bucket list item, but there are pubs everywhere. One of the things that I like to go and try to find the oldest pub in the area. One that claims to be the oldest pub in Ireland is The Brazen Head. That’s right down the street from The Temple Bar. There have been lots of famous people like Michael Collins and Garth Brooks have talked about being there as well. You definitely want to go to The Brazen Head in Dublin and that’s a great start, but also google historic pubs or oldest pub and then you can create your own walking pub crawl through Ireland or through Dublin. We did that one year and it was a lot of fun. I highly recommend it. You’ll meet lots of locals and get a real feel for the city of Dublin, which is a walkable city and a fun city to go to.
Ask the hotel concierge where you’re staying if they do have a preset pub crawl of historic spots. I would be surprised if many of them didn’t have that.
Another thing I found this, and I haven’t done this, but I saw that it was great. There’s an area called the Wild Atlantic Way, which is on the west coast of Ireland. Traditionally, the more rural area of Ireland, it’s on the opposite side where Dublin is. There is a seaweed bath you can do in a whiskey barrel. I thought that was an awesome idea. If you google it, it will come straight up. You bathe in harvested seaweed.
What did they say the benefits are?
Skin, aches, body aches, and supposedly helps you sleep. Don’t fall asleep in the whiskey barrel, but you might get a good night’s sleep. I haven’t done that one. While you’re on the west coast, one of the fastest-growing cities in Europe is Galway. Galway is a Norman age town from way back when, and it has a rich history. If you knew what the Claddagh ring is, which is the ring with the two hands and the heart, it was created right outside of Galway and there’s a lot of history around that. Galway is one of those walkable cities, quaint right on the ocean and beautiful. If you’re on the westside, make sure you go to Galway.
Another amazing spot that’s been probably some of the most famous pictures you’ll see and it’s been featured in several films is The Cliffs of Moher. Some of the movies that have been filmed there where you can google photos, but Harry Potter has a scene or two there. There was a movie titled Leap Year with Amy Adams that takes place all around Ireland, but there are some scenes there and then Princess Bride.
It’s amazing because you can walk up to the edge of the cliffs and it’s like a thousand feet down. There’s no fence or line or anything to keep you from tripping over and the winds are barely in about 40 miles an hour up there. My father went all the way up to the edge with his feet hanging over and I’m like, “What are you doing? Get back. You’re making me nervous.” It’s an incredible spot. If you have kids, be careful while you’re there, but it’s one of those awe-inspiring when you are looking out at the Northern Atlantic. It’s beautiful. Right over in that area is the Aran Islands. The Aran Islands are these archipelagos right off the Northwest Coast of Northern Ireland. It’s a fantastic easy day trip to go on the west coast. You can even spend the night there and all these quaint Airbnbs, but it’s almost like the land of time forgotten. When you go there and you feel like you have left the modern era and gone back in time because it’s slower, simpler, and not as developed as Ireland because Ireland is not developed. I highly recommend if you do a west coast trip of Ireland to go put the Aran Islands on that bucket list.
Another great spot that shouldn’t be missed that’s more of a holy site, but there’s a lot of legend around it and that is Croagh Patrick. Croagh Patrick is a mountain. It’s approximately 2,500 feet. It’s also the site of a holy pilgrimage once a year. It’s always the last Sunday of July. They say thousands of people on this pilgrimage go up and for good luck, many of them will carry rocks and they put them on this cairn. The cairns are mountains of stones that are manmade and there’s one at what they call the saddle of the mountain and that’s the midway point and then all the way at the top. The legend has it that St. Patrick was up there and he prayed for 40 days. It’s like the Santiago De Camino where people do this holy pilgrimage once a year and it’s supposed to be great for the soul.
The mountain itself is only a two-hour hike from the base. It’s easy and it’s not that big of a track and anybody can do it. I highly recommend it. The real tradition is to do it barefooted, but it’s not recommended to do barefoot. If you see that, we recommend that you wear shoes there.
You might hear it referred to as the reek. Reek Sunday is that Sunday that they do the pilgrimage.
If you want to go to an event, this is one that we saw and we thought was incredible, especially for someone looking for love and that is a 160-year-old matchmaking festival in Lisdoonvarna. It’s a tiny Irishtown and they call it the Love Capital of the World. It is a multi-week festival that attracts people from all over the world. There are music and dancing every night in all the bars from 11:00 AM to the wee hours of the night, you can look for love in all these great pubs and bars. They have organized activities. If you meet Ireland’s only traditional matchmaker, his name’s a Willie Daly in his office at the Matchmaker Bar, legend has it that you will be married within six months. If you’re looking for love, consider going to the matchmaker festival.
I wonder what the success rate is of a long-term marriage from the Matchmaking Festival.
It’s early September, every year and there are music and dancing. There’s a music festival that goes along with it. One thing you guys need to put on your bucket list is going to Trinity College and see the Book of Kells. It’s a book of the four gospels of the New Testament. It’s done in an ornate way back in 800 AD and it’s in pristine condition. It’s one of those libraries that looks like it’s out of the movie and you’ve got this beautiful book sitting there, and there’s a lot of history to read up on. If you’re in the Dublin area, definitely go and see the Book of Kells. The campus, Trinity College, itself is gorgeous. That’s a great afternoon thing to do in Dublin.
Why don’t you tell us about the Ring of Kerry the drive?
The Ring of Kerry is in Southern Ireland and it’s most arguably one of the most beautiful drives in Ireland and incredible. You start on the Eastern side and go around, but it goes through all of the old, smaller towns in Southern Ireland and it’s gorgeous. I did it with my mom. I’ll never forget. We got stopped. Someone was herding a bunch of goats and the goats like have the right of way there. We got stopped. We couldn’t move the car and got out. There was a little pub right on the corner. We walked into the pub and one of the goats followed us into the pub. Those are the types of experiences you’re going to have if you go to Ireland.
You’re talking about driving. Tell us about what was the vehicle like and what was driving like in the countryside because it’s a small country, but it could take you quite some time to get from one place to the other?
There’s some freeway, but most of it is especially like the ring is it’s all small, long, and winding scenic road. Some are well done. Some are back road, no pavement. You run into everything when you’re going through Ireland. It’s one of the things that makes it a great trip. Traditionally, the cars I’ve driven are usually small so you want to pack light, but you can get a little minivan over there too if you need to for a larger group. The Ring of Kerry is a great way from a scenic drive standpoint to see the best of Ireland. You’re going to hear about it as a popular thing to do. It’s a long trip though. You can do it in a short amount of time, but you shouldn’t stop. The better thing is to spend a few days and do the whole thing and then stop and see all the great towns. You’ll get a feel for the country.
Someone made the recommendation to fly in to either Dublin or Shannon and then if you flew into one, fly out of the other so that you can get across the country and see a lot of it. When you were driving, but what are some of the cuisines? Does each area in Ireland do you think have a specialty dish? Is that anything that you noticed?
Not really. It’s all traditional Irish fair which is brown meats, potatoes, and vegetables. I think that’s the local fair. If you go to the nicer restaurants like to the Castle that we talked to Mark about high-end food, and continental. I haven’t seen a whole lot of different styles in different regions. Ireland is a small country. It’s not huge. I don’t think you’re going to see a lot of large variance in food, but I think it’s some of the more cosmopolitan cities like Galway, Dublin, and Shannon where you will get that more continental and fine foods.
[bctt tweet=”The Irish are a little bit more cynical, so you need to give them spontaneity.” via=”no”]
Ireland to me got this romantic quality about it and sitting out in the country in a small pub that has a fire and you’ve got a pint and there may be some sheep outside. That to me is such you can’t help, but to want to be sitting in that chair to enjoy that moment. It seems like there are lots of moments like that around Ireland, but it’s a bucket list country. There are many bucket lists experiences within that country that you can’t miss. It has got such a rich history. We talk about American history that doesn’t date back far, but you’re looking at some of these places where the St. Patrick was in 400 and 410 or something. History doesn’t end. It seems like you can excavate there and still find things. They talked about finding a chapel on Croagh Patrick that was being excavated and it’s like Roman empires.
Speaking of things to hear and do, we’re going to be listening next to a two-time National Storytelling Champion who’s going to give us a little bit of Irish flavor to close out the show.
We hope you’re enjoying this and when we come back, we have a special guest and a true son of Ireland. His name is Máirtín de Cógáin. He is a two-time Storytelling Champion and his stories are amazing and they’re elaborate. He’s also a musician and an actor.
Tell us a little bit about yourself because you do have a couple of interesting facts about you. You’re a two-time Storytelling Champion.
I grew up in what’s called a rambling house. My father is a great bearer of the tradition and any time a musician would pass by, there will be a party in our house and we’d have a huge dance. It would be a great crack altogether. All the furniture will be thrown outside. It would be tea and sandwiches for the whole place and everyone would entertain everybody. When I was young, I remember all the way back to 6 or 7 that I would have to do my part of the entertaining in the evening. In the house, you had to have a party piece and storytelling seemed to fall upon my shoulders. My father was a great storyteller. His people are all great storytellers and I have taken the mental line and been sharing the stories forever.
Does the storytelling and the music go together?
It does. Coming of age, in such a hoax, you would have all sites of the tradition being given to you. My mother brought me to every type of music lesson she could and I was lucky that after many years of many different instruments, I finally got us with the Irish bodhrán with the drum that we have, our take of tambourine. The singing came to me as well in my teenage years. I was lucky that I could take them and travel the world and making a living of it. I only work two days of my life and I don’t intend to work anymore. God knows the fellow says, “If you enjoy what you do, you’ll never work a day.”
How did you get involved in the traveling then? What town are you from in Ireland?
I’m from Cork the South of Ireland. We have our own Southern drawl. I travel all around America. I live in San Diego and I bring bus tours to Ireland. I’ve organized bus tours for many years where we go to little out of the way places and we travel with a songbook of the topography. We sing songs of all the places that we go to and then we find out the stories that have to do with us at the different places we visited. I was in Cork and I said to my dad, “I’d love to get something about Cork, maybe some literature or something like that for the people that are commonly on this next bus tour.”
He says, “I’ll bring it in to the great Seamus Heaney into the Cork Business Bureau.” The great Seamus Heaney like any good Irish fellow he said, “You’re up in San Diego? We might be in San Diego in June with the Tourism Ireland. I will give you a show.” It’s a small world that the Irish and Seamus got me to sing songs for Tourism Ireland. With that, they’ve had me teach the bodhrán at IMEX and to do a lot of different things for them as a sys and things like that, all these travel expos and around the world. Going back to Ireland is the biggest treat for me and to say that I could bring people with me to show them where these stories like is a blessing.
My father-in-law is a first-generation Irish kid. They settled here. His parents were from Donegal and we bought a summer home with them and like you said, there’s a big pride with the Irish. I’d come to the house because we would use it at different times and whenever I came back, there would be a random nail on the wall with an Irish blessing or an Irish phrase. They were popping up all over the place to the point where I’m big on symmetries.
It drove me nuts, but they were special. He passed, but we still have all these Irish blessings everywhere. He would have family come from Ireland and you’d get a little notice, “We might be around your area.” Then you get a knock at the door and you’re entertaining an Irish clan and you are finding an Irish pub to take them to, and you always have a backup of a pint and a pint and another backup.
It was different for me because they were such a fun eclectic group of people but I couldn’t understand them at first. I was like, “Are they speaking English?” The more pints I had, it became clear. It was like me watching The Full Monty movie or something. The clarity sinks in once the pints start hitting you but the accent was thick. It almost didn’t even sound like English to me. Does that happen a lot around Ireland?
It happens a lot. Even for people in different parts of the country, if they didn’t want you to understand, they might mumble a bit thicker. If you’ve traveled five miles, you’ve got a different accent and people can tell where you’re from that you might roll your Rs. It’s a beautiful part of the island that we have such a variance in accents and people don’t give them away. They might travel for work and they might be 40 or 50 years in another part of the island or another part of the world and every morning they’d be shining it up, making sure that it would be as thick as it was yesterday.
When you’re in Ireland, do you have a favorite spot? What is your ideal getaway when you’re back home when you’re not with your family? Do you have a bucket list thing that you talk about in Ireland that is a must-do for people?
I love going down to West Cork. Cork is the biggest County in Ireland. We’re the Texas of Ireland. We struck on, we were the people’s Republic for six months. We’re A Place Apart is what they call West Cork. When you go to Cork and you go down West, it’s underdeveloped. There are some beautiful pristine places that no one goes to too often, that you can sneak down and take this ancient world of heather and grass and sea air that you don’t get anywhere else. If you’re going to Ireland, get into Dublin airport and get straight out to Dublin and go down to Cork.
You’re not the first person that said that. They’re like, “Go. Get out in Dublin.” Do you have a favorite pub that you go to when you’re back at home?
There are lots of them but if you’re down in West Cork, there’s a place in Clonakilty called DeBarras. It’s an old pub and they’ve great music down there. It’s a fabulous music venue. They’ve got great food, but it’s the welcome that you get in DeBarras. It is fantastic. You go in and it’s rustic. There’s something fantastically chic about it. When you go in there and it’s like stepping in into some Harry Potter feeling. You’re into Diagon Alley when you’re into DeBarras. It’s fabulous. There’s a lot of stone and that feeling of character that you can’t get from a new building. When you go into the DeBarras in Clonakilty and you meet the people, they might be young or old, and they all have the same welcome for you. It’s beautiful down there.
It’s like the Irish bars in America. There was a trend and I don’t know if it’s still happening where the actual interior of the bar was built in Ireland and then they would ship it and then construct it in a new building or somewhere. You had that wood and the stone and they’re trying to duplicate it, but there’s nothing like the real thing. It sounds like this is the spot I need to hit when I get there.
It’s like the whole building wraps its arms around you as you walk in.
Let’s talk a little bit about the storytelling. Stories are a big part of Irish tradition. You were talking about your family. You were talking about the story of Halloween. Why don’t you tell us the Irish take on Halloween and the thin days?
Ireland has an ancient tradition and our stories go way back. They would contend with any Greek or Roman set of legends and that would continue for weeks upon end if you were to start it off. The history of Halloween is centered upon a cave in Roscommon, which is at the center of the country and in this cave it’s called Oweynagat or Cave of the Cats or some call it the Gates of Hell. The light side of the year turns into the dark side of the year. To explain it to the people that are reading, when the bright side of the year, that spring and summer change over to autumn and winter. We have Bealtaine which is the 1st of May. You have Samhna, which is the 1st of November and you have to bring the whole thing into people. Our season starts on those quarter days. We have Samhna on the 1st of November to start winter and then spring starts on February 1. That’s in black.
We then have Bealtaine which is the start of summer, the 1st of May and Lúnasa, the 1st of August which is the start of autumn. You have summer and autumn in the bright side of the year and you have winter and spring on the dark side of the year. In that change more so going from bright to dark, a very thin veil between this world and the next. Those that may have been sent before their time can come back and enact vengeance upon those that sent them. That’s why in Ireland for centuries, we have been wearing a mask to cover our face for those that come back from the next world to find this house and won’t recognize us on the noise of Halloween. In long ago in Ireland, when the sunset that is when the days started. That’s why all of the big celebrations are the night before the day that we celebrate. The big day is Samhna the first November, but we celebrate it with a fire on the night of Halloween, on the night of the 31st of October.
Ireland: The city of Dublin is a very walkable and fun city.
If you go to a place not too far from that. It’s almost directly west from this place in Rathcroghan. If you’re going, there’s a great center there in Roscommon. If you go directly west Sligo and you go where Queen Maeve, who sat her highest seat was in Rathcroghan where she is buried out in Sligo in Carrowmore in this big megalithic tomb, there is a Portal Dolmen. That’s where you have the two big stones and the one on the top which is weighing a couple of tons. How did they lift this? Nobody knows. On the morning of Halloween, if you go there and there’s a fine bright morning from the hills east of there, the sun rises and the sun goes in between the two standing stones and sets of fire ablaze with the glow of the morning sun on Halloween all around the Portal Dolmen to signify those that want to come back that the gates are open.
Let’s assume I’m a tourist and I happened to not know that this is a thing in Ireland. What could I expect to see on Halloween night outside of Dublin? Is it something that would shock me? Is it something that everybody’s doing it?
The ties between America and Ireland are strong. Sometimes the traveling folktale would come over and come back in a new guise and everyone’s going out now with American designed Chinese made costumes around the place looking for sweets. There’s a great festival in Trim Castle. We have a Dracula Festival. Everyone thinks Val the Impaler from the eastern part of Europe. It’s an old Irish legend from County Derry. Bram Stoker grew up in Dublin and he was a great friend of Oscar Wilde and he used to sit with Oscar Wilde’s mother who was a great antiquarian and historian and a fabulous storyteller. She would tell stories along with his own mother, Bram Stoker’s mother who grew up in Sligo as well.
She grew up during the time of the famine. The famine, they used to call it the droch-fhuil, the bad blood. Droch-fhuil or Dracula. There’s a legend that was printed in a book by a man, Patrick Weston Joyce, who was a cousin of James Joyce. He wrote this legend twelve years before the Dracula was published about Abhartach up in Derry where Bram Stoker’s father was from. In this place in Derry, there is the legend that in the fifth century, a tyrant and a dwarf and a magician what’s out killing the people and drinking their blood.
The local chieftain went and killed him. He slew him and placed him into the ground. The following night, he was out again looking for a bowl of blood. The chieftain got the neighboring chieftain and killed him again and buried him standing up, but yet he came back the third time. The chieftain seeks the elder druid to see what he might say and the druid said that, “If you would make a spear out of a yew tree and place it to the heart of the dwarf, Abhartach, bury him upside down and place a massive slab over his tomb, you’d never see him again.”
With that they buried him upside down and placed a slab over him and got the whitethorn tree and threw its brambles around the slab and still now, in a good field for growing crops, you have a massive slab in the middle of this farmer’s field with a whitethorn tree coming out of it. Professor Bob from Queen’s University Belfast went in 2000 to seek it out and if he did, he slipped on it and his back was sore for months after. They went to chop down that tree and men went down with a brand-new chainsaw and it didn’t work. He tried it over and over again and the chainsaw wouldn’t work and they went back with a second chainsaw and it still wouldn’t work. It’s still there now for anyone to visit, but I tell you, I wouldn’t recommend it.
That is a story and you mentioned another one. Let’s talk about the ancient stones. Tell us a little bit about those.
I have been fascinated by stories all my life of Ireland, but the stones of Ireland, the stories that you have connected with these stones, that you can go out and touch, and most of them are in public areas. They’re not in museums and you don’t have to pay for them to go into. One, you do have to pay and it must be said, that it’s probably the most famous stone in the world is the Blarney Stone. The legend behind the Blarney Stone is I think he was Richard McCarthy in the 15th or 16th century. I think it was late 1500 maybe the 16th century, he was in trouble with Queen Elizabeth.
He had to go over and plead his case. It was money issues or something like that and he prayed on one of the ancient gods of Ireland, Cliodhna. He prayed and prayed that she might give him the right things to say. With that, a stone was presented before him that if he kissed the stone and went over, he’d be able to plead his case and get away with it and he did. He was given his land back and she didn’t take any cause for umbrage at him. From that, the idea of a Lord of Blarney came.
He placed the stone above on the top floor of Blarney Castle and they say, “If you kiss that stone, you will have the gift of the god or you’ll be able to talk with anyone.” Another famous stone is the Giant’s Causeway up in the North of Ireland that used to be a causeway between Ireland and Scotland. There was a famous leader of the Fianna the head of the guards of the High King of Ireland and they were called the Fianna. Finn McCool was the head of the Fianna and he became famous that people talked about him much that he grew and grew until he was a giant.
The giants in Scotland, there was a big race of giants to where they are at that time. They were starting to get inquisitive about who this fellow in Ireland was talking about being the best giant in the world. A fellow with Benandonner started to roar and give out about how he was going to crush Finn McCool. Finn McCool went over to look at him and he found him asleep laying down and he thought, “God almighty, he’s massive.” He put his beard into pigtails and went away home and told his wife, Oonagh that he was in big trouble. Oonagh, like any Irish woman, she struggled and she said, “Will you sit down? We’ll have a cup of tea and talk about it?” They sat down and when they were partying over the tea. She says, “Will you suck your thumb?” You may not know it, Todd, but Finn McCool could see the future if he sucked his thumb. He could see the giant coming over and throwing his house in the air and crushing Finn McCool.
Finn McCool started to get dull at the moment. Oonagh said, “I have an idea. Shave your face, put on this diaper, and build a cradle big enough for yourself.” He says, “What?” He says, “Do it. Do what I tell you.” He shaved his face. He built a quick cradle and he hopped into it and she put a pacifier into his mouth. She says, “Don’t wake up now until I tell you.” Long after that, Benandonner was banging on the door and there was Oonagh baking cakes in the open fire and she was cute out. She baked two brown bread cakes. One with the granite stone and one without. Benandonner said, “Finn McCool, come out and face me like a man.” She opened the door and said, “Benandonner, we’ve been expecting you. Finn McCool went out hunting deer. He said you’ll have a feast before you had a fight. Come in and have a cup of tea. Will you have some cake?” “I will so.”
She gave him the brown cake with the granite stone in it. He bit into it and his teeth went flying in every direction in the house. He looked into the cradle while he was holding his broken teeth and he said, “What’s that? A doll? That’s a very big child.” “That’s our six-month-old child. He’s the heart and soul of Finn McCool. He loves him ever. Don’t wake him up or he’ll scream the house down. He’s about to get up shortly for his meal, but he wakes up and is on his cart.” The baby woke up and she fed him the cake and Benandonner watched him eat the cake. He said, “Is that granite cake too?” She says, “That baby loves to eat rocks. I wrap it in a cake for him to swallow it down.”
The Benandonner was shocked. The next thing the wind blew and blew open the door and she said, “Benandonner, are you a gentleman? Would you ever pick up the house and turn it to the other side for we have the southerly winds coming and it is blowing the door open? Finn McCool would be delighted if you would only turn the house along the other side.” Benandonner went out and picked up the house. “Does Finn McCool pick up this house?” “He does. Probably every three months he picks up the house. When he picked up the house and spin it around to the other side, he got an awful praise.
He says, “If the Finn McCool baby is that size and eats rock cakes for breakfast and lifts up a house like this, I haven’t had the hope.” He ran away and with that, he got to the Causeway, he picked up every stone he could ripping up the road that no more would anyone ever be able to travel between Ireland and Scotland by land. Ever since that the Giant’s Causeway has been broken up between the two islands. If you want to go Todd, that’s open and free of charge to go to anytime you want. The steps are there and you can see Scotland on a fine day. It’s only 21 miles away.
To go on to another stone Todd, there’s a thing called the Lia Fáil and that goes back to Finn McCool as well. We had High Kings in Ireland all the years until I suppose the fall of the Clannish Age, when the Norman started to come in on the twelfth century and then it was all over for a while in 1601, put the kibosh on it. We have a stone called the Lia Fáil. They’d say the Stone of Scone is based on this idea, but the Lia Fáil stands in an open field in the Hill of Tara in County Meath, about an hour north of Dublin. Maybe a half an hour from the airport.
In this open field where you could see eleven counties from the top of this hill, you have stones sticking out from the ground that legend says that anyone that would stick its bare feet on it that is the true High King of Ireland. The stone itself will cry out. It’s there and we had all of the big ceremonies, still history tells us of all the High Kings dating way back beyond the first century. Only 20 yards close to that is a thing called the Mound of Hostages. There were scientists back in 1898 who reckoned that the Ark of the Covenant was brought to Ireland because I think a princess of the Israelites married one of the kings of Ireland, and she brought with her the Ark of the Covenant and they profess. Some people still do this. There are a lot of theories going on, on the internet. You could fall down a wormhole of YouTube figuring out what people are thinking. At this place in 1898, they went and they dug up a big patch of that land, looking for the Ark of the Covenant. People said it’s still there and the Ark of the Covenant is the hostages in the Mound of Hostages.
You can sit there and your brain starts going in different directions when you’re hearing the stories because you don’t know what’s going to happen next, but you’re a great storyteller. There’s no doubt about that. Let’s go back to St. Patrick’s Day and this will be the last thing I’ll ask you. Tell me the story of St. Patrick’s Day as an Irishman. I know what we’ve become in the States of when it comes to St. Patrick’s Day, but it’s different when you’re in Ireland. It’s not everybody dressed some green throw shamrocks all over the place and go out and drink beer for an entire day and have a couple of parades. What does St. Patrick’s Day mean in Ireland?
In my lifetime, St. Patrick’s Day has changed a lot in Ireland. When I grew up, we were a poor country at that time when I was born. That was in the last century. During this time, St. Patrick’s Day would fall in the time of Lent. That’s the time before Easter when most of the country would have given up chocolates for the sake of our savior. We wouldn’t eat sweets for the whole seven weeks of lent especially as a child.
On that day, you could break your fast. There was a huge celebration of chocolate and you’ve got to mass in the morning. You’d wear a shamrock on your lapel or on your shirt and there would be a parade inside in the city and park city. I was often in the parade myself, and it was a nice parade in comparison to what you might have down 5th Avenue in New York. The idea of celebrating with a parade started in New York and went up to Canada and then has traveled all around the world.
Everyone is Irish in St. Patrick. You go down to Peru, all over to India, Australia, New Zealand, everyone is out in St. Patrick’s Day. It’s a beautiful celebration to let your hair down in the middle of that time of the year. It falls on the equinox of spring. Nowadays, it’s a national holiday. People take the day off and it’s a big celebration in Ireland. It may not be as big as Chicago or New York or San Diego, but the parades are big in Ireland and they are small. In my town of Carrigaline, it’s a population of about 16,000 people. They have their own parade and it’s beautiful. There are small towns that celebrate the smallest parades in the world. That’s a big celebration for them. People do have the crack. If you’re going to go to Ireland around St. Patrick’s Day, the place is full of crack and that’s not stuff you can buy on the street. This is the stuff that only happens among the Irish. Crack is how we have fun without buying stuff on the street. The idea of having the crack when you go to Ireland, that’s what they’ll tell you that, “What’s the crack? How’s the crack? Where’s the crack?” That’s what we say for having fun in Ireland.
Máirtín, that’s all the time we have but I could talk to you forever because you’re a dynamic speaker and a great storyteller. If anybody wants to get ahold of you or wants any information about you, where can they track you down?
My website is open every day of the year, Christmas Day, Halloween, Easter, and that’s at www.MairtinMusic.com. They can find it all the information more or less there.
Thank you so much for your time. Thank you for sharing with our audiences a little bit more about the history and some of the storytelling in Ireland. Thank you so much, Máirtín. I appreciate it.
[bctt tweet=”The smaller gestures mean the most. ” via=”no”]
We’re excited to share with you all the great things that we’ve learned about Ireland and experienced there. There’re many things to do. You could go back. Like I said, I’ve been there 9 or 10 times. It’s been an incredible experience each time. What were some of the things that you want to put on your bucket list?
Without a doubt, Dromoland Castle. That place is amazing. The activities they have on-site and pubs. I want to get a car and go drive around the countryside and stop and random spots and check them out. I don’t think you can lose.
My family is from the western part of Ireland. I spend a lot of time there. I think flying into Shannon and heading north into Galway in the Donegal area. There are beautiful beaches there. There’s so much to do. There are castles right there. There are lots of different castles that you can stay in. Some are stunning and we have not spent any time talking about golf as this entire show. I wouldn’t even have time to talk about how much golf you can do in Ireland. If you’re a golf aficionado, or if that’s your sport, it’s a place to put on your bucket list. You will get the most amazing views.
We did mention that there is a championship eighteen-hole golf course at Dromoland Castle.
Thanks, everybody. We will see you next time. We are excited to bring you all these great destinations. Thanks for joining us.
Máirtín de Cógáin is a singing, dancing, story-telling bodhrán player who also is a noted playwright and actor. He performs in his native Ireland and all over the U.S…. and between and beyond, too! An infectious personality, Máirtín pleasantly commands the attention of any collection of people, from a concert hall to an intimate porch.
Descended from a long line of storytellers and with two CCÉ All-Ireland’s for Storytelling under his belt, Máirtín gets no more joy out of life than the telling of stories. If you are lucky enough to catch him spinning a few yarns, you are in for a treat. When touring the globe with The Máirtín de Cógáin Project & The Fuchsia Band, Máirtín is also a true promoter of the Ballad. He is searching ever for those forgotten songs of old to give them new life, and also writes some of his own. Máirtín learnt from many famous Irish singers such as Danni Maichi Ua Súilleabháin, Séamus Mac Mathúna, and Ciarán Dwyer. A fluent speaker of Irish (Gaelic), his love of the ‘Teanga na Gael‘ stems from his parents, who brought him up in a bilingual house and sent him to primary & secondary schools taught in the medium of Irish. Máirtín then earned a Degree in the Irish language from University College Cork. If not on stage singing, storytelling, dancing, or playing the bodhrán, Máirtín is threading the boards as an actor, most notably in the film The Wind that Shakes the Barley. He has co-written many productions with the Be Your Own Banana Theatre Company, recently playing De Bogman off-broadway in NY. Máirtín has been playing the bodhrán for a long many moons, learning first from Eric Cunningham (The New De Danann) and later from Colm Murphy (The Old De Danann). Máirtín has taught Bodhrán technique at the Catskills Irish Arts Week, August Irish Week as well as giving workshops at major US festivals including the Kansas City Irish Fest, CelticFest Mississippi, Minnesota Irish Fair, and La Crosse IrishFest. He also gives private tutorials along the road while touring, be sure to inquire if you need a lesson.
About Mark Nolan
Mark Nolan, Managing Director of Dromoland Castle Hotel, personifies the dedication to contemporary excellence, artfully blended with bespoke tradition that together distinguish the hotel within the luxury hospitality sector. Mr. Nolan began his career in 1981 with a diploma in Hotel Management from Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology. After a year at the Dunfey Hotels in New York, he accepted a duty management position at Ashford Castle, advancing quickly to Deputy General Manager. Eight years after earning his degree, he arrived at Dromoland Castle to assume the title of General Manager. Mr. Nolan has served as Managing Director of Dromoland Castle since 1996, adding the post of Managing Director of The Dromoland Collection in 2009 where he undertook a four-year management contract with Castlemartyr Hotel & Resort in Co Cork. He works closely with the balance of the five-member Board to maintain Dromoland Castle’s sterling reputation as one of Europe’s finest resorts and, most recently, to welcome the Clare Inn Hotel now rebranded ‘The Inn at Dromoland’ to The Dromoland Collection. Mr. Nolan’s boundless energy extends also to Hallmark Management, a company he created to undertake small design and fit-out projects at other five-star hotels; he sits on the boards of the regional advisory board of Irish Business and Employers Confederation; the Atlantic Connectivity Alliance, and Shannon Chamber of Commerce. He also sat on the Board of Directors of the Shannon Airport Authority in 2010/2011. An aficionado of art, boating and golf, Mr. Nolan is privileged to live on the Dromoland Estate, a mere sand iron’s distance from the 14th fairway, with his wife Maria and their children Jessica, Andrea, Gillian, Marcus and dog “Callie”.
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