Donnerstag, 8. Oktober 2015

ALPEN TRAVEL TIPS & PICKS: IRELAND Of Wedding Bells, Field and Fell - Ireland tis' a callin'

Fall 2015
by Mary Dawn DeBriae

"Life is like a book - those who do not travel have only read one page"
My own Claddagh and engagement ring symbolizing
Love, Loyalty and Friendship
(Ring by John Weldon Jewelers, Dingle, Ireland)
Further to my post, A Romantic Spring Fling in Europe, describing the magical trip I organized for my own special partner (and since then Fiancé), to impress him with some of my favourite hotels, restaurants and places to visit in Europe, I am now going back this fall in quest of the perfect setting for our own wedding which will take place next spring in either Ireland or England - two countries I hold very dear to my heart.

Romantic remote coastal setting for the wedding
BUT FIRST, I will have the great delight of attending the beautiful wedding of my good Irish friend, Marie, who will be celebrating her marriage with a romantic Irish Blessing on a remote north western cliff in Ireland. With castle ruins for a backdrop and overlooking the tumultuous North Sea and her man's favourite Irish surfing spot (yes, I did say surfing!), Marie and her husband will consummate their wedding with a special Irish Blessing created together. Wow! Romantic or what?!?

This post features my ITINERARY around the wedding of my friend in addition to the planning of my own. I am delighted to share my favourite, handpicked places in which I have chosen to stay, things to do and settings that would make for the most amazing romantic holiday abroad...whether travelling alone, getting married or committed. Previous trips to the Emerald Isle can be found in my formerly posted Alpen Travel Tips and Pics HERE. 

My friend's beautiful seaside
Wedding Blessing - Easkey Castle, Co. Sligo Ireland

(in order of appearance):

Galway | Enniscrone | The Burren | Doolin | Dingle | Adare | Dublin


This year I will be flying an airlines I have never flown before: Aer Lingus (how very appropriate!) from JFK direct to Shannon. As the wedding blessing will be on the upper west coast, Shannon proved to be the best airport into which to fly.

As it is such a short flight from New York, we will arrive at the crack of dawn, get our rental car and drive up to Galway to begin our trip. My travel companion will be a good friend of both the Bride's and mine, and so I took on the joyful task of taking care of our Itinerary for the complete trip. It will be her first time in Ireland and I intend to show her my personal favourites - at least what one can fit into a 10 day trip.
Note that in the Republic of Ireland they do not accept the standard car rental Insurance that our American credit cards give us. If you have not booked Insurance with your car they will sell you a very expensive local insurance...or take a huge deposit from your credit card - like 6k+!
For this trip to be safe, I booked my car rental through AutoEurope. They assured me that the insurance they have included will be accepted by the Irish, HOWEVER there will still be a $2000 deposit that will be held on my card for the duration of the booking.

ACCOMMODATION TIP:  The Swanky "g" Hotel

Designer colours everywhere at the "g"

For our first day/night in Ireland, I chose to book Galway's luxurious (and only) 5* hotel - the "g" Hotel & Spa. The hotel is unique in Ireland as it was designed by famed milliner Philip Treacy. It is the only hotel in Ireland designed by an internationally acclaimed Irish designer which is particularly relevant in 2015, the year of Irish Design.

He created the hotel with the sea in mind as Galway city always reminded him of visiting the seaside with his family and there are numerous marine themed details throughout the hotel as well as vibrant injections of Philip’s own personality and love of colour.

Bright spacious room at the "g"

Besides the pampered comfort we will receive at the "g", I purposely selected this hotel as it offers a luxury spa called the ESPA. It boasts a vitality pool, with massaging water features, a crystal steam room, rock sauna and heated tepidarium loungers. I thought that with our early arrival, we could relax in the ESPA (and perhaps even take a nap in their Relaxation Room overlooking their rooftop Zen garden.
ESPA at the "g"
Afternoon Tea at the "g" - yum!

After relaxing in the ESPA and checking into our 387sqft "Deluxe" Room,  we will rejuvenate ourselves with a scrumptious "Afternoon Tea" in their award winning restaurant  - one of my favourite afternoon pastimes in Ireland and England which you will get to learn about me!

The "g" Hotel

Unique LUNCHEON TIP near Galway:
Moran's Oyster Cottage "On the Weir"
Moran's Traditional Seafood Pub

A pint of Guinness with Oysters -
part of the tradition
The Bride has decided to meet-up with us on the day of travel up to Enniscrone (where the wedding will take place) at one of her favourites's - a 250 year old thatched pub, Moran's on the Weir, which has been part of the seafood trade in this area for centuries.

Moran's is a 7th generation owned and operated Irish pub, featuring outstanding seafood and specializing in its own superb Galway Oyster dishes, farmed from its own oyster beds just off the coast.

Served of course with freshly tapped Guinness to wash down its amazing seafood delicacies.
For me a glass of crisp white wine...
Of course, there is always an exception to the rule...I will have my traditional glass of white wine along with my seafood course to join into the Irish antics with my friends on the way to Marie's Irish wedding blessing!

Moran's Oyster Cottage on the Weir

PART II:  ENNISCRONE and Easkley, Co. Sligo
Following our stay in Galway, we will drive up the picturesque coast to Enniscrone, which is the closest village to the site of the wedding. There, my good friend Timothy will be joining us from England for the rest of the trip.

Enniscrone is known for its sandy beaches, great surf and sunsets. It is a popular and picturesque seaside holiday destination for the Irish. It is also known for its seaweed baths, which I am curious to try.

The wedding blessing will take place just north of the town in Easkley with a castle backdrop overlooking a popular surfspot. I have personally never been to this remote Irish coast and look forward to sharing its beauty and what I have discovered with my Alpen Tips and Pics fans post journey. I also hope to get some pics of the bride's hubby out there tearing it up on the surf!


For the long wedding weekend, I chose to book a whole house for Timothy, Franny and myself in which to make ourselves "home". I booked it through AIRBNB which has always proven to be reliable, great, clean accommodation.

The house I have booked is a short walk to the famous three mile beach and within walking distance to downtown Enniscrone where the pre-wedding pub crawl and the formal dinner will take place. The house has three bedrooms (2 ensuite), sea views and its own enclosed garden. A true seaside retreat!
  "Surf's Up" listing can be found on AIRBNB HERE

Post the wedding blessing weekend, we will drive down past Galway and through the rugged Burren on our way to the quaint musical village of Doolin.

The mysterious rock of the Burren
The word "Burren" comes from an Irish word "Boíreann" meaning a rocky place - and so that it is! This is an extremely appropriate name when you consider the lack of soil cover and the extent of exposed Limestone Pavement. However, it has also been referred to in the past as "Fertile rock" due to the mixture of nutrient rich herb and floral species growing between the bizarre rock formations.

Poulnabrone dolmen

The BURREN is a fascinating geographical area in which resides a lonely, rather large Neolithic tomb called Poulnabrone dolmen dating back almost 6000 years.  The stone portals are huge and just as much a mystery as the famed Stone Henge...but far fewer tourists which makes this site much more a pleasure to experience.

Making perfumes from local flora

Following our stop at the tomb we will pay a visit to the Burren Perfumery where they make a variety of pleasant smelling parfums, soaps and lotions from the area's abundant flora. What a perfect Irish handmade souvenir to bring back home!


Following our day trip through the Burren, we will spend the night in musical Doolin - known throughout Irelend for its Traditional Irish "sessions" in the local pubs.

To spend the night, I have chosen a traditional family run and owned B&B called the Roadford House. They have won numerous awards for their Irish hospitality and their attentive level of service given to their guests. They also boast an award winning restaurant, so I am sure that our Irish Breakfast will be absolutely fabulous.

Both husband and wife, Frank and Marian Sheedy come from a hospitality background, with their "ethos" to provide a truly hospitable Irish experience.

I am very much looking forward to our stay with the Sheedy's in the quaint seaside village of Doolin.



The Irish are known for their love of music, and both the quaint seaside villages of Doolin and Dingle have a reputation in Ireland for putting on the very best and most regular musical Irish "sessions". Sessions typically take place in pubs and involve random musicians getting together to jam traditional Irish music. Fiddles, pipes, bodhráns - all instruments are welcome.

Foolin in Doolin - a Traditional Irish Band
which forms a session every Monday night
at McDermott's Pub
Our hosts at Roadford House have already recommended which pub will have the best session for the one evening we will be in Doolin. Evidently McDermott's Pub hosts a group called "Foolin in Doolin" with the lead person being a well known uileann pipes player (uileann pipes are the Irish form of a bagpipe).

Now THIS should be an evening to remember! Stay posted!

Yes, I took this photo...I made sure
I had a good foothold!

Following our stay in Doolin, we will drive the scenic western coast of Ireland, perhaps and perhaps pop over to the famous Cliffs of Moher - although beautiful and impressive, it is not necessarily my favourite place to visit, as it is typically crawling with bus tours and a zillion tourists - which takes away from the zen and awe of the overall experience.
My last visit to the Cliffs of Moher

With that said, they do offer magnificent views and a rich history of we shall most likely make the visit and then be on our way to take the ferry over to the beautiful, remote peninsula of Dingle.

Dingle Village and Harbour
Dingle (the town and peninsula) is a MUST for me to take my friends, as Dingle is truly a magical place.  The Dingle Peninsula is the most westerly tip of Europe and is known for it's archaeological sites. This remote peninsula, and in particular the Slea Head drive, provide some of the most beautiful scenic areas in the world. Once described by "National Geographic" - as the most beautiful place in the world!
The Slea Head w Rainbow
My guide to the archaeological
sites, Colm Banbury
My previous POST features my trips to Dingle, elaborating on all there is to do in this area, from breathtaking hikes, to its ancient cultural history, to meeting its resident dolphin, Fungi, to visiting an amazing aquarium and of course its rich musical scene in the many pubs adorning An Daingean ( or Dingle Town). Indeed, Traditional Irish (Gaelic) language is still spoken all over the peninsula. It is an officially protected area to preserve the heritage of the traditional ancient Irish language.

Dingle, above all, holds a very special place in my heart and is indeed where I found my most special Claddagh (ring)...which now doubles as my engagement ring :)

Read more about my adventures, Tips n Picks in this spectacular area HERE on my former BLOG posting.

For this trip, I booked us three enthusiastic travelers into a lovely, newer B&B overlooking the colourful Dingle marina and harbour - The Dingle Marina Lodge. It is perfectly situated within walking distance of Dingle's best restaurants and famous pubs featuring the traditional Irish Sessions I spoke about previously. (Did you know that Dingle has over 50 pubs...with a population of only 2000?!?)

The Marina Lodge looks clean and cozy and their breakfast sounds divine! I am looking forward to my stay - and this time to share the experience with my two dear friends.
Dingle Marina Lodge

Traditional Thatched Cottages

Norman Church in Adare

Following a couple of days in Dingle (never enough!), I will drive my friends to spend a night in the story book village of Adare, decorated with quaint thatched cottages and colorful gardens.

A Colourful Cottage of Adare
Dating back before the time of the Norman Conquest this picturesque village owes its appearance to the 3rd Earl of Dunraven who, in the 1830s when other landlords were furiously replacing thatch with slate went against the trend and rebuilt Adare with larger thatched houses.

Adare Manor
The village back in the day was "owned" by the lord of Adare Manor, a palacial home neighboring the village and  which is now a luxury hotel and golf course.

For our stay in the charming old world village of Adare, I  decided to treat ourselves to true countryside luxury and book us into one of Ireland AND England's oldest family run Country House Hotels, the historical DUNRAVEN ARMS HOTEL.

Steeped in history, this 18th century built home offers country luxury just steps away from Adare village.

With its perfectly manicured gardens adorning the the River Maigue, the property boasts charming antiques, an award winning restaurant  - one of the best in Southern Ireland, luxurious rooms with tranquil garden views and its own pool and spa in which to pamper oneself.

The Dunraven Arms is very much reminiscent of the magnificent country properties I would stay in all of the time when I lived and worked in England many years ago.

This charming hotel,  as well as Adare village, are popular spots for weddings, and therefore, I will be fully enquiring about its facilities and offerings as a potential candidate for my own wedding which I am planning for next year!



Following our adventures on the west coast of Ireland in Galway, Enniscrone, Doolin, Dingle and Adare, we will attend the second part of Marie's wedding celebration in her own home town of Portarlington, south west of Dublin. This should be quite the shindig, with all of her long time Irish friends and relatives attending the "BIG" post wedding celebration party in a local pub (and Traditional Irish dancing runs in the family so who knows what kind of entertainment we might be in store for!).


After the 2nd (wedding) celebration (on this trip) in the sleepy farming community of Portarlington, I wanted to show my travelling companions a bit of Dublin proper, and therefore, I chose once again to go the Air BNB route. It turns out that around that particular weekend the Dublin Marathon will take place, about which I did not know and which was the cause of just about every B&B and hotel to be booked or what was left, unrealistically raised prices.

I therefore turned to AirBNB which once again provided us with a wonderful booking of two rooms in a palatial, clean and beautiful home in a trendy suburb of Dublin.

The village is called Ranelagh and apparently has a lovely village feel  to it. Indeed, it boasts some of the best restaurants in Dublin with over 25 in the village. The walk to town is about 20-25 minutes and the public transport is frequent and fast and the local tram service is few minutes away with only 3 stops into town - bringing one to St Stephens green, Grafton Street, Trinity college etc. There is also free parking at the house so we won't need to worry about city parking with our rental car.


21 Sandford Rd Ranelagh, Dublin, Dublin Dublin 6, Ireland


On to PART II of my trip: ENGLAND 

Check out the exciting 2nd half of my fall 2015 trip "Of Wedding Bells, Fields and Fell" taking place in England

ME! In a pre-historic
Irish Bee Hive Hut
European Travel Adventures
Enjoy your next trip to Ireland. Please don't hesitate to contact me with any questions when planning your own trip to England, Ireland, Switzerland, Austria or Bavaria! After living in and travelling to Europe for almost 30 years, I love to help plan and recommend as and when I can! I can even assist in bookings and being a personal guide if one likes! My trips offer a different and much more personal perspective to traveling in Europe.

Read a little bit more about me and my travel style and services in my BIO HERE

Enjoy the adventure!
Mary Dawn DeBriae
European Tips and Picks -
Alpen Schatz Style

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Mittwoch, 7. Oktober 2015

ALPEN TRAVEL TIPS & PICKS: ENGLAND - In Quest of the "Right" Stones

In Quest of the "Right" Stones for a
Perfect Wedding Setting
Fall 2015
by Mary Dawn DeBriae

"Life is like a book - those who do not travel have only read one page"

One of my favourite stone circles: Castlerigg in the Lake District

Following two delightful weeks in Ireland to celebrate the cliff top wedding of my good friend Marie, I will fly to England in quest of the perfect location for my own wedding next spring :)

Rollright Stone Circle - Oxfordshire
My fiancé and I have decided to do something a little bit different from the classic church ceremony. Both being lovers of the outdoors and both having Celtic blood running through us from Welsh and Irish heritage, we have decided to get married in some romantic, countryside location in the centre of a Neolithic, late Bronze Age stone circle!

The enigmatic stone circles erected in Great Britain 3-6000 years ago remain places of mysterious beauty and oozing subtle energies - a marriage of nature and ancient mankind's influence upon it to channel energy.

I have narrowed down my search to three of my favourites that I have frequented over the years:

CASTLERIGG - Britains oldest stone circle, located in the Lake District. A bit far for my guests (esp. those coming from Germany and America), but still one of my favourites.

The Merry Maidens engraved by W. & G. Cooke  in 1804
ROLLRIGHT STONES - In the beautiful Oxfordshire countryside - easy to access and close to both the Cotswolds and Oxford - both great locations for the post ceremony celebration for our guests.

MERRY MAIDENS - near Lands End in the most remote , romantic western part of Cornwall (and the UK) - where legend has it, "the last bloody battle between the Celts and the Crusaders was fought and the river ran red for weeks with the last dying Celtic tribe's blood in the country".

This post features my ITINERARY around this quest and the wonderful places in which I have selected to stay during my journey and the exciting things I have planned to do during my visit.

We might have some
 "extra" guests at our Wedding!

Previous posted Tips and Picks to the UK, Ireland and Europe can be found in my formerly posted Alpen Travel Tips and Pics HERE and HERE (my Fiance's first trip with me abroad in this posting!). 

(in order of appearance):



Aaaah. It is always so refreshing coming "home" to my beloved Oxfordshire, where I lived, worked and loved for a good part of my life. My stay in Oxford will be filled with seeing old friends, checking out the Rollright Stone Circle as a location for our ceremony and scouting out local hotels and B&B's for our wedding guests and post wedding party.

Exciting news! In addition, I will be establishing Alpen Schatz UK Ltd (yes, due to high demand from the European market, my little Alpine Treasures import company, Alpen Schatz, will soon have a European Web-site and distribution center based in the UK!)

ACCOMMODATION TIP:  Gables Guesthouse

When I return to Oxford, it is always important to me that I find a peaceful place to reside, offering me that "home away from home" feeling. As I am often inspired to write and reflect on my trips back to England, it is important that my accommodation choice offers me that quietude.

For this trip, I have chosen the GABLES GUESTHOUSE, as it is situated in the quiet neighbourhood of Botley, which although quiet, is not far by bus, car or foot from the bustling centre of Oxford proper. 

The Gables Guesthouse boasts beautifully appointed rooms, gourmet breakfasts, a magnificent garden and cozy nooks and conservatories, offering me a peaceful retreat in which to escape, write and reflect, when not busy meeting my friends, shopping and exploring the countryside. 

They have an Award of Excellence from Trip Advisor and stellar reviews from its many guests. Indeed, Hostess, Sally Tompkin, has been named Landlady of the Year so with all of these stellar reviews, I am sure I am in for a wonderful stay at the Gables Guest House!

The Gables Guesthouse
6 Cumnor Hill, Oxford


Oh, the rugged, romantic beauty of the rough and tumbling coast of Cornwall is calling my name. Having not been down to this most remote part of the UK for many a year now, I felt compelled to include a visit on this trip on my Alpen Tips & Picks, as well as consider the Merry Maidens Stone Circle as a potential setting for our wedding.

Picturesque Cadgwith Harbour
Surrounded by 300 miles of dramatic coastline, boasting cliffs, captivating fishing harbours and pristine beaches, and not to forget to mention a surfing mecca, Cornwall also holds some of the most romantic stone ruins from Celtic civilizations long gone. It also hosts some of the most historical locations and castle ruins thought to have been associated with King Arthur legends.

What better setting to celebrate our wedding vows for eternity!


Room with a view. Spectacular!
To explore the magical mysteries of Cornwall, I have chosen the Mount Haven Hotel near the uncrowded, unspoilt western most tip of Cornwall.

The Mount Haven Hotel overlooks the Atlantic sea, with unrivalled views of St. Michael's Mount - one of the legendary Arthurian castles perched on a rock in the bay. It is situated in the tiny, artsy village of Marazion which is known for enjoying more hours of sunshine than anywhere else in the UK!

Sunny view of St Michael's Mount
 from the village of Marazion - near Penzance
The area is also known for their exceptionally spectacular sunsets behind the Mount. Indeed, on the weekend that I will be staying at the Mount Haven, there will be a photographic workshop going on, hosted by a local famed photographer, Baxtor Bradford, who has photographed the area's sunrises and sunsets for years - in addition to many other of Cornwall's natural beauty. I hope to meet him and see some of his work!
Dining at the Mount Haven
The Mount Haven Hotel also boasts an award winning restaurant - of course with views! I look forward to sampling their local fare, especially their freshly caught seafood dishes.

I am greatly looking forward to my stay at the Mount Haven and finding out more about their wedding packages and exploring the local area!

The Mount Haven Hotel
Marazion, near Penzance

OUTING TIPS:  Southwest Cornwall

There are so many beautiful places to explore in the remote regions of south west Cornwall.

My number one draw has always been the most ancient remnants and development of mankind  - and yes, I should have become an anthropologist...but never knew I had it in me until discovering and feeling the various ages of antiquity going back thousands of years in Ireland, the UK and in Europe when I first moved there three decades ago!

So my tips and picks for my exciting outings in Cornwall include:

1) A visit to the ancient Neolithic Stone Circles and Ritualistic Monuments erected 3-6000 years ago in Cornwall
The Merry Maidens

The Merry Maidens - the best preserved complete stone circle in Cornwall and heart of ancient ceremonial grounds and features.

Mên-an-Tol  One of the best megalithic pieces in Great Britain, Mên-an-Tol is a unique stone formation believed to have been used for ancient betrothal and fertility ritualistics. It is believed that ancient man held hands through the hole for matrimonial ceremonies and that if a woman passed through the stone she would soon become pregnant!

2) An outing to St Michael's Mount

Ancient cobbled pathway to St Michael's Mount
Michael's Mount is a tidal island off the north coast of Cornwall (with fantastic views across the bay from the Mount Haven Hotel

Once surrounded by vast forests thousands of years ago, there are remnants of Neolithic man on the rocky outcrop overlooking the turbulent sea. By the time of the Norman conquest in 1066, St Michael's Mount had come into the possession of the monks of its sister isle, Mont St Michel in Normandy, France. These French monks built the church and priory with their own hands in the 12th Century. These edifices still stand at the heart of the 16th century castle built (and still owned!) by the St Aubyn family.

I plan on timing my visit with the tides, so as to be able to walk the ancient cobbled path to explore this fascinating island and its rich history.

3) A visit to the Minack Theatre

Built into the cliffs above a gully with a rocky granite outcrop jutting into the sea, the Minack Theatre is touted as the 9th Wonder of the World. Overlooking mediterranean blue waters, it is supposedly a great place to spot seals and basking sharks!

Unfortunately, its season for performances will be over, however I look forward to seeing one on a future visit. It must be a spectacular setting to see a play!

Also check out...


ME! In a pre-historic
Irish Bee Hive Hut
European Travel Adventures
Enjoy your next trip to England. Please don't hesitate to contact me with any questions when planning your own trip to England, Ireland, Switzerland, Austria or Bavaria! After living in and travelling to Europe for almost 30 years, I love to help plan and recommend as and when I can! I can even assist in bookings and being a personal guide if one likes! My trips offer a different and much more personal perspective to traveling in Europe.

Read a little bit more about me and my travel style and services in my BIO HERE

Enjoy the adventure!
Mary Dawn DeBriae
European Tips and Picks -
Alpen Schatz Style

"LIKE" this Post? Be sure to "LIKE" our Facebook Page:

and our super cool Euro Alpine style website: