KINGS, CASTLES + ZIPLINES

By Nancy Clark

Newgrange by the Photographic Unit, Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government.

Trim Castle was made famous with the filming of Braveheart starring Mel Gibson.Every St. Paddy’s Day spent stateside is a reminder of how celebrating the same in Ireland would at the top of the bucket list. Ask any man on the street for directions and he won’t just point the way, chances are he’ll take the entire afternoon off to escort you to your desired destination.

STAY: If Ireland is on your short list, make it a long weekend for your fill on history and adventure. Reserve ahead to stay in Castle Clontarf, a true kingdom with a four-star reputation having undergone a €10M makeover in 2006. The original castle built in 1172 was held by the Knights Templar until 1308 and since then changed hands rather often in terms of kingdoms, the longest owner being John Vernon and his descendants for 300 years. The current building was designed by the Irish architect William Vitruvius Morrison for John Edward Venables Vernon in 1837 when the former castle was unsafe. The castle is now part of a privately owned collection of upscale hotels.   

Castle Clontarf features 111 rooms and suites and is a wedding venue.DAY 1: Trim Castle where the memorable film Braveheart was filmed is located in nearby Trim Town Centre, a Heritage Town just a stone’s throw away. Constructed over a 30-year period starting in 1176 on the site of an earlier wooden fortress, Trim Castle is considered to be the first stone castle built in Ireland, as well as being the largest Anglo-Norman castle in the country. In the early 1970s archeologists unearthed 10 headless men presumed to be victims of King Edward’s 1465 order demanding beheading of thieves with their heads mounted on spikes as a precautionary message.

DAY 2: the day’s light pass through the megalithic tome at Newgrange dating back to 3200 B.C. The half-acre sized mound of earth is wrapped in white quartz and took an estimated 300 men 20 years to build. The passage and chamber of Newgrange are illuminated by the winter solstice sunrise shining through the roof box over the entrance. Tickets to the solstice ceremony are let by lottery. Even if you’re not one of the 50 lottery winners, the tour is worth the journey.

DAY 3: Tayto Park is a tribute to the vision of yet another king, this one is a king of chips and concepts. Raymond Coyle, C.E.O. of Largo Foods, focused on potato crisp manufacturing. Tayto Park has a western influence seen in The Lodge Restaurant + Shop, a Pow Wow Playground and Indian tipis. Try out the zip line for an overview of the American Buffalo and take tea in the Tree house. Tayto Park is adding to its facility in 2013 by “bits and bobs” with pony rides, falconry and an aviary. While Tayto Park offers plenty of picnicking space, The Lodge menu is mouthwatering.