My first night in Ireland is spent at The Courtyard B&B in the hamlet of Bunratty, an easy 15-minute drive from the Shannon Airport where I’ll greet new guests Margaret, Elisabeth and Jennifer on Sunday. The Courtyard has become like a second home since I first stayed here in 2000 while on a scouting mission around Ireland in preparation for a special family history-related tour. Hosts Michael and Mary are like my surrogate Uncle and Aunt and it’s always a warm, welcoming feeling to enter the house. Rooms are spacious and ultra clean, with Mary’s attention to detail evident throughout. A high-ceilinged guest lounge is filled with books, many of them guide books left behind by travelers. The sunny breakfast room is through two narrow windows which used to mark the end of the original cottage. Speaking of breakfast, Mary and Michael work as a team to provide one of the best. Guests have their choice of cereals, fruit, joghurt and juices from the “cold buffet,” before the hot service starts at 8 a.m. Those who are terrified of the concept of eating black pudding in the morning need not worry – Michael takes your order and you can pick and choose your favorites out of what the Irish call their “Full Irish Breakfast.” (Similar to the English Full Breakfast but without the gross beans and butter-soaked bread)
A tremendous advantage of staying at the Courtyard is the fact that it’s right next to a terrific restaurant. “Gallagher’s” is a seafood-themed restaurant located in a grass-roofed house with plenty of choices on the menu to please even those who shy away from fish. A new pub, J.P. Clarke’s, has opened in a former antique shop adjacent to Gallagher’s.