ireland photo diary: loughcrea

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It was cold and rainy as we boarded our taxi in Loughcrea.  After a 2.5-hour bus ride our hearts were missing Aingeal and our tummies were missing her scones.  This was hanger at its finest, my friends, and after a day full of wet mountain biking, you can throw sore booties and jelly legs into the mix as well.  Our destination (one of the very last of the trip) was the mysterious Slieve Aughty Centre.

Our stomachs growled audibly and as if in deliberate cacophony as we twisted and turned, bumping up and down the rough dirt roads on our way up to the Bed and Breakfast.  Kevin broke the silence for the first time in 20 minutes, declaring his extreme craving for Italian food after 2 weeks of bangers and mash, and I was just starting to feel nauseous when our ride ended.  The rain lifted away a bit to reveal The Towers.  When we stepped out to clear the taxi-window-lense that stood between us and our home for the night, K and I were speechless.  Even in rain the Slieve Aughty Centre was beautiful.  A lush organic garden to its right, and stables out back, the only thing missing was a rope swing and some dogs…oh wait! there they were, all convened under the wrap-around porch, taking a break to dry off.  Pure farmland perfection.

As we entered, we were greeted with the friendliest of faces, inviting us to come sit for dinner, which we had not even reserved.  Maybe they can feel our hangry energy, and it’s upsetting the peaceful aura of this place, I thought.  The dining tables were so elegant, with candles and rustic flower arrangements, lilac placemats and water carafes.   Like a dream.  But then it got even more dream-like.  After slurping up a bowl of the best tomato soup I’ve ever tasted (for the record, I’m not much of a tomato soup fan at all), the chef hoisted out a heaping bowl of spaghetti onto the little buffet table, with a big bowl of bolognese to spread over the top.  Kevin’s pasta prayers had been heard!  The dinner was incredible.  It’s really amazing the way organic ingredients transform a basic meal into something worth bragging about.  Don’t even get us started on the melon icecream and berry cobbler that followed…we could go on and on about that one all night.

Our bedroom felt like a rustic spa retreat, with white linens, more water carafes, and an all-natural body wash to be used in the shower, so not to contaminate their water supply with our chemical-ridden other worldly soaps.  With full bellies and clean hair, we slept like babies that night.

 The next morning we awoke for another delicious meal and the long-awaited “donkey tour” I’d reserved for us.  It had become very clear to us then that not only were we the only guests outside of the large family of Germans staying in the B&B, we were quite unmistakably the only non-horseback-riders. Being the sole couple without riding pants on at breakfast is a strange feeling.

We headed out to the stables to collect a map of the forest trails and our donkey so we could be on our way.  Out came Hero, our designated donkey tour guide, looking a bit tired but ready for his morning brushing, which we were all too glad to give him.  A few moments later and we were on our way, trekking through the woods with just Hero and the trees.  Do you remember the scene from Snow White where she runs away into the black forest and all of the trees are covered in moss and they have spooky faces?  And then the scene in the morning when she wakes up and everything in the forest is alive, beautiful and happy to see her?  I’m convinced this was the exact forest from that movie.  With its patches of desolation and darkness, sections that glowed with light from the inside out, and a blanket of greenery covered absolutely everything,  it was right out of a fairytale.  Just breathtaking.

We hiked and hiked for several hours, singing to Hero as we went.  We decided that he was more of a “Badass” than a “Jackass”, and serenaded him with donkey-fied versions of “Bad to the Hooves” and other classic donkey hits.  In the end, when our Badass started to get a little fussy, we realized that we had essentially paid these people to brush and walk their donkey that morning, but checking Walk a Donkey Through A Magical Forest In Ireland off of our bucket list made it all worthwhile.  We were now friends with an Irish donkey, and how many people can say that, really?