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Cooke's Restaurant in Galway
Ireland Gluten Free
Ireland is in one word - fabulous! According to the Ireland Coeliac (how they spell celiac) society, Ireland has one of the highest prevalence of celiac disease in the world, which makes it a very friendly place to travel gluten free.
Before You Go:
Beyond Restaurants: According to Ireland Coeliac Society, eleven manufacturers provide gluten free products in Ireland:
Gluten free flour, bread, bread mixes, biscuits, pastas and cereals can be obtained in most of the major supermarkets in Ireland including Dunnes Stores, Tesco, Superquinn and SuperValu. We stopped at a Tesco to pick up some snacks and were thrilled to find many options labeled "coeliac friendly."
Our trip to Ireland was made even more dreamlike because our reason for visiting Ireland was a wedding (in a castle nonetheless). We could have easily spent another week or two, but here is what we did with the time we had:
Dublin We arrived in Dublin after a very long trip from the states. We were exhausted (the kids were too excited by the movies to sleep on the plane), but we were also hungry. Again, our planning ahead saved us as we knew exactly where to go for a quick light dinner - we had dinner at Cornucopia - a vegetarian restaurant very near Grafton and the heart of the action in Dublin. We tried to stay awake and watch the Spain and Russia soccer match, but finally passed out and sleep for 12 hours.
Ashford Castle Our mission today was to find our way across Ireland to Ashford Castle.
Everything you hear about driving in Ireland is true. First, you are driving on the wrong side of the road, most streets are not marked, and we have bike lanes in Seattle that are wider than the roads in Ireland. In addition, outside of Dublin, in place of shoulders they have solid brick walls. Yes - I let out a few "yelps" when I was certain I would die in Ireland by crashing into a rock wall.
After finding our way out of Ireland, we drove toward the west coast stopping along the way at remains of a monastery that was built in 580. The scene was straight out of Pillars of the Earth.
Before heading to Ashford Castle, we stopped for dinner in Galway (one of our favorite cities in Ireland) at Cooke's restaurant. The food was fantastic - I had chicken with mashed potatoes and yes, gravy!!! The Gluten Free Kid had what she declared were the best mashed potatoes ever. The setting was as lovely as the food - an ancient stone building, antique furniture and a candle light meal. Fantastic!
We spent two nights at Ashford Castle, near Cong. It was the most wonderful place I have ever stayed - an 800 year old castle on the shores of Lake Corrid with beautiful gardens and fun castle passageways to explore. I keep waking up in the night (not entirely by my choice as the jet lagged kids spent their nights sleep walking and talking) having to remind myself that I was in Ireland in a castle.
We had a wonderful breakfast in the formal dining room of the castle - wood paneling, crystal chandeliers and a tremendous buffet. We even had gluten free toast.
We took a short drive to the enchanting Kylemore Abbey - enchanting because it seemed the place of fairy tales - stone castle majestically reflected off the waters of the surrounding lake which was perfect all the way down to the Lilly pads. The kids spent time on the grounds searching for fairies!!
On the drive we saw miles and miles of stone walls (how did they ever make all of those walls), ruins, cottages, sheep and, of course, plenty of Guinness signs and pubs.
Back at the castle, the "kids" (including Dad), took a shot at archery (how else would you spend your afternoon in an 800 year old castle), challenged Mom to a game of chess and enjoyed a lot of castle exploring. We had yet another wonderful meal at Cullens, the castle's informal restaurant.
Kilkea Castle Our next stop was Kilkea Castle near Kildare Ireland, the setting for the wedding. On our way there we stopped at the Cliffs of Moher- a site not to miss. The misty ocean water surging against the abruptness of sheer cliffs that soared hundreds of feet into the air.
The wedding was magical - bag pipes, an Irish band, great friends. Eating again was no problem - we simply told the caterer we needed a gluten free meal and we had a wonderful dinner along with all of the other wedding guests. I will never forget the girls dancing their hearts out to the Irish music.
While I would not recommend a stay at Kilkea Castle (a little too authentic as some of the dust in our room seemed to be 500 years old) our favorite Gluten Free Sandwich Shop in Ireland was nearby in Athy, The Bay Tree Restaurant.The best gluten free bread we have ever eaten. We went here twice it was so good.
Back to Dublin We headed back to Dublin for a couple of days before our flight back to the states.
We spent the last two nights in Ireland just off St. Stephens's Green at the fabulous Shellbourne Hotel - doormen in top hats, silk wallpaper, the most beautiful chandeliers I have ever seen. And the history of the hotel - it played a central role in the Easter Sunday uprising.
While in Dublin we indulged Dad with a trip to McDades pub - as authentic of an Irish pub as you can find, strolled along Grafton, took in the Riverdance at the Gaity Theater, and drove out toNew Grange - a megalithic tomb built around 3200 b.c.
What did we eat - we had room service for breakfast (which included gluten free toast).
For lunch, we had fabulous (how many times am I going to use that word?) buckwheat crepes at Lemon Restaurant. It is just around the corner from the House of Ireland for some quick souvenir shopping. We had gluten free pasta for dinner at Cafe-Bar Deli.
Our one unplanned eating excursion was High Tea at the Shellbourne. We were delighted to snack on gluten free finger sandwiches while sipping our Peacock Tea.
I truly loved Ireland and don't think I will ever look at an Irish person the same way again. It is not that I ever thought anything particular about them, it is just that I did not know their history and culture. While we only got a small glimpse of it, we did learn that the Irish have suffered great hardship which has made them a strong people, but also very warm and friendly. I will never forget the ruins that dot the rolling landscape, the abbeys and cathedrals and the soft blue eyes of the Irish people.
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