Visiting Ireland, on horseback and off, for St. Patrick’s Day


Rose McKinney, riding Benji and holding Yeats, explored rural western Ireland and Dublin with her husband, Joe. (Joe and Rose McKinney/Joe and Rose McKinney)
June 5

Our readers share tales of their rambles around the world.

Who: Joe and Rose McKinney of Brandy Station, Va.

Where, when, why: Ireland, March 17-26. We wanted to spend part of our time horseback riding but also take a few days in Dublin to be typical tourists and see the sights.

Highlights and high points: On the Internet, Rose discovered the An Sibin riding center in County Clare. As part of the accommodations, An Sibin offered self-catering Derrygill Cottage, with an adjacent barn, located about 10 miles from the riding center in a national forest. An Sibin would provide the horses, and we would be on our own.

We left Washington on Saint Patrick’s Day with eight inches of snow on the ground. Driving west across Ireland the next day, it was wonderful to see lush green fields and blooming trees. We hoped to enjoy springlike weather. Upon arriving at Derrygill — after a couple of wrong turns on Irish back roads — we found the key under the doormat and moved in. A few hours later, Bertie and Nicola Cumins, the owners of An Sibin, arrived with a trailer and two horses, Benji and Yeats, along with tack, feed, hay and bedding for the stalls. For the next three days, we rode the trails and gravel roads in the forest and never came upon a single other person.

On Saturday, rested and relaxed from our stay in the forest, we drove to Dublin for three days of sightseeing: Dublin Castle, churches, museums, Trinity College, and — naturally — the Guinness Brewery.

Cultural connection or disconnect: Electricity for Derrygill Cottage was provided through a meter that needed to be fed with 2-euro coins, so we had to make daily trips to nearby towns for change. On a couple of occasions, we were reminded that we hadn’t fed the meter when the lights unexpectedly clicked off. We did our best to conserve energy, and a nightly fire of compressed peat bricks kept us cozy.

Biggest laugh or cry: On our last day of riding, we left the national forest and followed back roads into Woodford, a nearby small town. As we entered the outskirts, it began to rain, so we turned around to head back to the cottage, hoping to avoid getting too wet. After re-entering the forest, we took up a trot to make better time. As we pounded up the gravel road at a good clip, the wind picked up and the rain turned to sleet. In moments, we and the horses were coated in about an inch of ice. Benji and Yeats, completely unfazed, trotted on, while we laughed at our fate — winter was apparently not yet done with us.

How unexpected: In Dublin, we were pleasantly surprised by the Guinness Brewery. It’s a well-done tourist attraction, both informative and fun. The management is serious about its beer: how to sniff the roasted grain and hops, how to savor its taste on the palate, and even how to pour a “perfect pint.” The Storehouse, where the tour, gift shop and restaurants are, is on the site of the original Saint James Gate brewery, where Arthur Guinness developed his brew in 1759. There’s probably no better place to enjoy a pint or two (which we did).

Fondest memento or memory: This vacation gave us the opportunity to see and enjoy two distinct and contrasting aspects of Ireland — the peaceful tranquillity of the Irish countryside, and the vibrant bustle and culture of Dublin. We can’t wait to go back and do it again.

To tell us about your own trip, go to www.washingtonpost.com/travel and fill out the What a Trip form with your fondest memories, finest moments and favorite photos.

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