24 Hours on a Midlands Loop. Heritage Hotel - Mikey Ryan’s - DEW - Birr Castle - National Stud-Japanese Gardens
24 Hours on a Midlands Loop
Heritage Hotel - Mikey Ryan’s - DEW
Birr Castle - National Stud-Japanese Gardens
|Small waterfall in Birr castle grounds|
With the improvements in Ireland’s roads, one can pack a lot into twenty four hours as our recent run illustrates, from Cashel to Birr to Tullamore to Laois and then a grand finalé in Kildare.
|Here's looking at you. Birr's Giant Telescope|
When you’re on tour, even one as short as this, you need a good base. We had an excellent one in the Heritage Hotel in Killenard on Co. Laois, just a couple of minutes from the motorway, ideally situated for all our visits.
|In the lobby of the Heritage|
There is an amazing 4-storey staircase (left) here, based, we’re told, on that of the Titanic and exceedingly popular for wedding photos. Indeed, there are very expensive special overhead lights installed to help achieve the best shot.
The lobby and that staircase are indeed spectacular and the whole enterprise speaks of space and comfort. There is a magnificent high-ceilinged dining room, the Arlington, and the food is top class. You may also dine in the Slieve Bloom Bar. No craft beer here but they do have plenty of gins including a few local ones, Brennan’s and the more impressive Mór.
Breakfast is also taken in the Arlington and again it is impeccable. There is even a generous display of breads and cereals for coeliacs. Staff are very friendly throughout and even volunteered directions as we headed off in the morning.
Had been tipped off about Mikey Ryan’s, the relatively new Gastro-pub in Cashel, and that was our first call on the way from Cork. Very impressed and enjoyed a lovely lunch there.
An hour or so later and we were in Birr, heading for the castle and grounds. It has no dedicated parking so you park across the way and, by the way, you pay seven days out of seven.
There is a separate tour of the castle, but only in the mornings. The grounds are well kept but I love how the meadows are allowed grow, especially the wildflowers. You’ll have no problems finding your way around.
One of the highlights for us was undoubtedly The Great Telescope, built by the 3rd Earl of Rosse in 1845 and, for over 70 years, the biggest in the world. It is still an amazing sight, still impressive.
|Wisteria 100 years+|
Make your way to the formal gardens and the amazing hornbeam arches, in the form of cloisters, with “windows” cut out of the hedges. And another highlight is the Wisteria, over 100 years old. It flowers impressively in May-June so we timed our visit well! Close by is the Moon Gate celebrating the family’s links with China.
Lots more to see here; no shortage of facilities either, including a café.
Back to the car then and the flat drive to Tullamore for a tour and tasting at the DE Williams refurbished bonded warehouse (they have a new distillery on the outskirts of the town). No parking though at the warehouse - you’ll have to take pot luck in the area. We found the tour efficient rather than engaging before trying three of the whiskies at the end: the original, the 12 year old reserve, and the 15 year old Trilogy (my favourite). More on our DEW visit here.
Our final destination was the National Stud and the Japanese Gardens, two names but one place, one ticket. One outstanding visit, check out our excellent experience here. After a lot of walking and listening, we enjoyed lunch in the lovely airy café onsite before hitting the motorway and heading home.
National Stud and Japanese Gardens
More Photos of Visit to National Stud and Japanese Gardens
Mikey Ryan's Cashel