Now that we are back on Cadence, and reminiscing on our horse trip to Ireland, the sores on my rear end are a distant memory. This allows for more clear thought enabling me to give a better description of our trip, or maybe just the opposite. We all arrived the same day in Dublin coming from different airports, and squeezed into our rental car with our luggage, resembling perhaps refugees fleeing a crisis somewhere in the world but in reality on our way to a luxurious equine cross country trip. If this sounds insensitive as to the unfortunate plight of many in the world, please realize its just the opposite, rather me pointing out the dichotomy of the scenario and always remembering how different the ways of life are for people in the world. We are very fortunate indeed.
My daughter Grace, sister Mary, niece Marilyn, aka the real equestrians, and Jess and I booked into the Tinakilly country house in Rathnew.
This was like stepping back in time to when hotels created a homey type atmospheres and welcomed their guests as family. The lovely manor home, converted to hotel, sat on a large property high atop a hill overlooking the Irish Sea.
Beyond the views of the gardens there were pastures of multiple shades of green with polo horses grazing as well as several foals who darted around the fields playing as all children do. We all settled into our large rooms with views you don’t forget. For Jess, this was a very welcome change as her broken toe has kept her holed up on the boat, unable to escape. Now she could hobble around the hotel and enjoy the amenities with endless scenes to draw and paint. After a large Irish breakfast we made our way to Ballinabarney Farm, the home to Wicklow Equitours. We were greeted by a band of misfit dogs all pretending to protect their farm but in reality welcoming us with a barking chorus. We had streamliner (or the ant eater), Cujo the pit bull that only wanted to cuddle, the giant of the group, Duke, afraid of his own shadow, the pot licker from Grenada who was a true refugee
but taken in by his dog family, and two Jacks that Marilyn dreamt of smuggling away with. Amanda and Mick are partners on the farm and keep a stable of Irish hunters at the ready for their adventuring guests. We fortunately were the only group so we got the full attention of both of them. Amanda, originally from Jamaica is a lifelong trained equestrian and recent degreed veterinarian. Mick the quintessential story telling Irishman has worn many hats in his varied life, but cherishes more than anything being on a good fox hunt as the master of the chase in his green jacket.
Our first day out we went on a trek that was supposed to be about 4 hours but turned into more like 5 when we got lost on Carrick mountain. The only one in our group concerned was our guide Amanda, the rest of us were still in awe with the beauty of the surroundings. We were on trails in a state park with beautiful forest and often stunning vista views of emerald green fields as far as you could see. Once Amanda summed us all up as competent riders, me putting on my best imitation of a rider somehow passing muster, we went on long gallops.
The first day I had the fastest horse, a thoroughbred named Dollar. I would be turning over this lightning bolt to Grace for the remainder of the week as she was more suited to dealing with such an animal. I would then be matched up with a mare named Molly. She was a true beeeaatch that enjoyed pushing the buttons of all the other horses. In the end we fell in love but she was pain in the ass both literally and figuratively. Mary had a big hunter named Maggie that was almost as fast as Graces steed. Despite having a few hangups about things like power washers, random leaves blowing in the wind, or crossing a small stream of water, would do anything you asked. Marilyn got the prize of the group, Starsky. A dutiful Irish hunter that you could run into a burning house need be, or take into battle and would do whatever asked. A true champ in my humble opinion. All in all, they were all very well behaved and well looked after horses that were excited to be put to work.
Once back to our country estate home, we were treated like royalty by the staff of the Tinakilly. We all took afternoon tea before going to wash up. Then we would meet up in the cozy bar with its wood paneled walls, red tartan plaid rug and big comfy chairs. The walls were adorned with pictures of a past era when the original owner had her built in the late 1800’s. The hotel served up a delicious dinner for us in a unique setting. We all retired early, exhausted but excited to see what the next day would bring.
Day two took us on a long trek from the farm to the town of Laragh. We spent about 6 hours in the saddle, with varying terrain. We went down small paved farm roads with few if any vehicles passing by, to crossing over the top of one of Wicklow counties beautiful mountains, through deep forest to where we met up with the horse truck left by Mick and Amanda the night before. We finished our day with a big Irish pub lunch and a 45 minute ride in the truck back to the farm.
Day three we had to change plans as their was apparently a gruesome murder and the Irish army had been deployed to the surrounding woods we were to ride in, looking for body parts. We instead went to the beach at Arklow. The abandoned beach went on forever and we rode as fast as the horses could go. We had a long walk just off the beach through beautiful beach grass. The horses all seemed thrilled to be able to let loose on the beach, all ears were forward this day. It is so nice to be on a coast that has not been overtaken by houses or hotels.
Day four took us to another gem of an area called Glenmalure. Beautiful mountain views through forests and distant waterfalls coming down lush green landscape made for a mental picture that none of us will forget. Our final day was spent again on the beach, this time Brittas Bay. We again as on each day were able to ride as fast as we could. Grace always leading the pack on her tall thoroughbred followed by Mary, then either Marilyn Mick or Amanda with me and Molly taking sand in the face at the rear. I was just glad to be able to stay in the saddle, after all my whole goal was to return to Cadence with nothing broken. Besides a sore rump, I was no worse for the wear and we all had a week not to be forgotten.
Our last night of the trip was spent in Dublin where we rented an Air BnB so we could all be together. We enjoyed visiting the Guinness brewery where we stocked up on t shirts for all those at home needing a gifty while their loved ones were away. I will say that the Guinness in Ireland is much better than anywhere else I have been. We were told, but I am not sure I believe it, that the Guiness exported to the US is sent freeze dried and reconstituted when it arrives in the states. Doing some research I have found that indeed most people concur that Guiness is much better in Ireland than anywhere else. Perhaps its just fresher, or it could be the atmosphere, but I can say that I am looking forward to getting back to the Emerald Isle for more of its creamy goodness.
We enjoyed our last pub dinner together before all went their separate ways being Colorado for Grace, Spain for Jess and I, New York for Mary and back to the horse life in Connecticut for Marilyn.