Wicklow Way Christmas Tree Farm

Every December, buying our Christmas tree is a major event in our house.  Okay when I think about it more, it is ME which makes it a bigger deal than it and I love the memories it brings for me and the kids.  As a child, we never cut down our tress – we just bought  one from the local seller and brought it home and put it up.  I have no cozy memories of tree farms  and I want that for my little ones.

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Our first year in Dublin, we set out on an adventure to cut down our own tree and ended up at Slade Valley Christmas Tree Farm. and it was brilliant.  The tree was lovely and I want a good experience again this year with a bit more atmosphere.  You can’t beat a real tree which we pick out, cut down and enjoy in our home.  Plus a real, freshly-cut tree looks and smells great.

Only this year we will try a different tree farm in the Wicklow Mountains – Wicklow Way Tree Farm in Roundstone.  Their  website looks great, clearly a full campaign was put in place.  If for some reason we could not find it, there are several in Wicklow so I’m sure it would be fine.

While it seems far, the drive from our house was just over 1 hour so not bad at all and we were into the mountains.  There was a bit of snow the night before and much more expected Sunday along with the fact that Nils is heading to the US for a week, we took advantage of this one day we had to get the tree in the mountains.

Once we reached Roundstone it was very easy to find our way – these blue signs lead us right to the farm.

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The farm was lovely – the staff was very friendly and informative and the instructions were clear.  Tag the tree, flag down a guy in blue and then relax and warm up while they cut down.  We parked the car and got out wellies on as the ground was very mucky and wet.  It wasn’t even 5 minutes before the kids noticed the white fluffy snow which fell last night and they were off and going crazy in it.

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We walked a while trying to find the right tree… kids played with the snow while I keep searching for the right one.  A few measurements and we found one that we all liked.

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After Soren watched the man cut down our tree, we had complimentary hot chocolate and minced pies & treats while we waited for our tree to be brought down from the field and a net put around it.

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Overall the experience was great – we’d highly recommend this tree farm to anyone who is looking to go pick out your own tree.  The cost was very reasonable too at £8. a foot, you can choose how much you want to spend.

Only problem is that our tree this year is a bit taller than before so I don’t have enough lights to cover it so tomorrow, we’ll go buy more led bright lights to add to it.

Will post a photo when completed with loads of new glass ornaments.

And the final decorated tree.

Dublin, Ireland: Glasnevin Cemetery Halloween Mid-Term Tales Tour & Botantic Gardens

Today we met up with friends to take the Children’s Mid-Term Tales Tour of the Glasnevin Cemetery.  Glasnevin Cemetery hosted a one-of-a kind Halloween tour for children aged 6 – 12, running  The tour will be given by the Ace of Spades, who will terrifically terrify you with tales of gruesome truths and funny folklore. Are you curious to discover how the legend of the headless horse man came to pass or perhaps you’d like to hear the story of the unfortunate Vincent brothers and the cursed ‘Black Aggie’ statue?   The tour guys Alan and Warren very amusing!

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We first ate our lunch at the Whitworth Pub where the kids had their faces painted and then we headed off for a quick look at the decorated pumpkins at the Botanic Gardens.

 

With their faces painted and costumes on – we set out for the tour with Alan and Warren.

 

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It was really fun and the cemetery is really nice –  after being here for 3 years, it was our first time.   It’s a very peaceful, beautiful place and next time we’re at the Botanic Gardens for a walk through, we’ll pop over here being so close it’s a must.

 

Fall in Ireland = Blackberry picking

Back home in New England it’s a big tradition to visit farms, go apple picking, pumpkin picking and “leaf peeping” and eat all things pumpkin spice in the autumn. It’s the season I miss most!!

Here, sadly, we might spy a colourful tree and  I freak out. There is this ONE tree near the Dart station which I point out each time I drive by on the way home.   If I remember, I’ll take a photo of this poor one tree.  Weather permitting, we’re going to pop over to the Botanic Gardens next weekend – hopefully some nice leaves will be on the trees/ground.

Soren was at soccer practice, Maebh and I set off behind Deer Park in Howth and picked some blackberries.

For some reason, all the lovely bushes along Howth Celtic were crushed down by a bulldozer – not sure why but I must ask Michael next home game.

You can find loads of blackberries up behind Howth Castle.

It is best to avoid polluted areas such as busy roadsides and fields, which have been sprayed with chemicals.

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Sadly all these bushes were toppled and crushed.

I have no idea what to make with them so they are in the freezer until we decide what to do – probably a crumble.

 

Ireland Road Tripping: Donegal

Last October during the October half term break, we booked three night stay in Letterkenny, Donegal, but after much consideration, we cancelled it and headed to Clifden at the kids’ request. We agreed, we’d head there during the “summer” in the hopes that we had better weather and could do more exploring.

Now fast forward 9 months and we’re heading that way for a 3 night break.  This time, we’ve booked in the Gweedore Court Hotel, which is located in the Gaeltacht heartland, An Chuirtli. With only 66 rooms, it is not as large or modern as the hotels we would prefer, it’s closer to the ocean than Letterkenny and works for us.  Plus it was the only hotel in the area with a pool, pub and availability for the time we chose. The hotel’s pool seems okay but the kids club is only for kids under 8 so we won’t bother. I’ll post photos of the place when we arrive, but while it’s listed as a 4 star hotel, I am not holding my breath that it’s anything special.  Though all the reviews say it’s a very clean hotel – we’ll see.  The views from the area are amazing.

One day we’re going to have to visit Leo’s Tavern.  It’s supposed be renowned for its music being the family home of world famous musical talents Enya, Clannad and Moya Brennan. Not sure we’ll enjoy a Trad session as it tends to kick off at 10 pm (when kids in pubs are banned).

There is just nothing available in any part of Ireland for the long weekend (well, in our budget!)  Clearly, I was not thinking ahead for this weekend away the way I normally do.  I booked Christmas in July and May at Christmas.

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I have “Friday Summer hours”  so once the kids are done at camp and me from work, we’ll head up to Donegal. I suspect it will take a good four hour drive but as it’s a new destination, probably a bit longer.

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As we’ve never been to Donegal before, I’ve been doing some research on things to do and see while there.   I’ve come up with the following list.

View the Kilclooney’s Dolomen – which, according to my information, we must first knock on the cottage and ask the old couple permission to go up and view it. The kids are going to love that part!

Amazing Beaches:  It’s no secret the area is home to some of the most stunning beaches in Ireland so we’ll be sure to stop off at some.

Killybegs – We’re definitely going to stop by this “town” to check it out. I suspect it will be a combination of Howth and Cobh.  The fishing heritage of Howth but the cruise ships visiting like Cobh.  The tourist information says to stop by the visitor centre and get info on the Killybegs Heritage Trail which will take you on a journey back in time to discover this historic harbour town of years gone by.  Maratime Museum in Killybegs looks like something we’d do too.

Glenveagh National Park:  It looks like a beautiful place to explore.  And on Monday of the August bank holiday (Aug 7th) there will be a family nature walk from Stalker’s Hut.   Their site says to book a place on our trail walkers bus at 10am from the car park.  Enjoy the walk down the Bridle Path and meet the education guides at the Stalker’s Hut from 11 am.  Toast marshmallows by the camp fire, traditional music and nature crafts.  Or another idea would be to rent bikes and cycle around the park and walk to the waterfall. For this we’ll certainly have to book in advance if we do this.

Tropical World:  If it’s really bad weather and we need a place to go indoors, we can visit this place.  But then again at €28.00 for our family to visit, they might have more fun bowling, movies or even a giant indoor water park like Waterworld Bundoran which we’d pay €45 for the four us. At 7 & 9, they’ve visited many zoos and butterfly houses in the past so not sure can justify the costs. 

Now not sure if we’ll get there as it’s 1.5 hours from our hotel, but how cool would it be to visit the “Most Northern Point in Ireland – Banba’s Crown on the Inishowen Peninsula, near Malin Head.  Especially since we’ve visited Mizen Head which we always thought was the most Southerly Point but later learned it’s Brow Head, County Cork (though until I just did a search and this map, I no idea were that is exactly!)

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If we do go that far, then I think we should stop off at Dunree Fort too.

One thing is for sure, my new charger & battery for my “better” camera better be here by then as it’s on backorder.   I want some good photographs from this trip!

This post is a work in progress as I find new places to explore and of course will update with photos once there.  

Aviva Stadium: Ireland vs. Uraguay

Yesterday we took the kids to see the friendly fixture against Uraguay as part of the 2018 World Cup series the the Aviva Stadium.   Luis Suarez played for like 10 minutes – probably part of his “contract fulfillment”.

We all first met up at the Bloody Stream for a couple pints then headed in on the DART – Howth to Landsdown Road (super easy!). Funniest thing is Soren was at a playdate earlier so he didn’t join us until the Sutton stop.

I have never been there before so was happy that we all went together.   We will do a stadium tour another time.  The stadium is beautiful, new, loads of bars, food stands.  Speaking of stands and bars – there was a rule you could not bring your beer to the stands!  They loosened up the rule in the second half.  But as I am a self-professed​ beer snob, I would not waste my money. Plus, I had two Hoegardens already at The Bloody Stream.

In order to sit together, we swapped our tickets with another coach, so our tickets were in premium section 324 which was great but the rest if the group was up in 511, we moved 1/2 way thru. There the kids would be with their pals and it made going home a lot easier.

On the DART on the way home, some of the boys were cracking us up climbing the poles and trying to do chin ups, etc. A little brother was the best!!

Great night and all was safe – there was a no bags policy in place but it was outside in the crowds which was my most uneasy period.  I did not see one armed Garda – yes, I still have strange feeling about the fact that most of our police do NOT carry guns!!  A few issues with drunk losers but thankfully that didn’t  escalate.  Anyway on the DART, no worries only laughs at the climbing monkies.

Fun time with a great group of kids and parents and awesome that we won!

Rock of Cashel & Kilkenny Castle Park

Our friends from The Netherlands came to Dublin or a few a days, so we headed down to the Rock of Cashel in County Tipperary on Friday with them.

The Rock of Cashel is one of Ireland’s most spectacular archaeological sites, a prominent green hill, banded with limestone outcrops, rising from a grassy plain and bristling with ancient fortifications.

After a picnic lunch and a walk around we drove over to Kilkenny Castle Park before heading home to Dublin.

The day before we had drinks and dinner in Howth.