"Graiguenamanagh is in County Kilkenny; St. Mullins in County Carlow. The two are separated by the Barrow River, the life and soul of the area. Choosing between these two outposts of Irish country living, you may be torn. Each has its assets. The good news is that, living in one of these villages, you'd have easy access to the other by foot or bicycle along the 4-mile-long riverside towpath that joins both. "Graiguenamanagh comes from the Gaelic 'Gráig na Manach,' meaning the 'village of the monks.' Founded in 1204 at the point where the Douskey tributary joins with the greater Barrow River, Duiske Abbey, in the middle of the village, is today a buried treasure. Behind its basic exterior, you'll find a vast, bright, and uplifting space where the light bounces off the white stone walls and radiates through the stained-glass windows. "It's hard not to be drawn to places with such history. "The present town, though, is more defined by its remarkable stretch of river than its monastic past. Approaching from the Carlow side of the Barrow provides an extraordinary view of the quayside with its stone buildings, cottages, and line-up of pleasure boats and barges. "Completely off the rest of the world's radar, Graig is one of Ireland's best-kept secrets. Most who make it here do so by boat or by foot along the towpath and feel lucky and special to have stumbled onto a place of such natural beauty and tranquility. Life here, again, revolves around the river, but there's plenty to do out of the water, too. Golfers have great options. Just 2 kilometers outside Graig, on the Carlow side of the river, is 18-hole Carrigleade Golf Course. Other notable courses in the county are Kilkenny Golf Club, Callan Golf Club, and the prestigious Jack-Nicklaus-designed Mount Juliet Golf Course that has twice hosted the WGC-American Express Championship. If you're not a golfer, the Mount Juliet resort is ideal for a leisurely stroll and a treat of afternoon tea. "This southeastern region of the Emerald Isle is rich with old estates, gardens, castles, and period homes to satisfy the history aficionado. Kilkenny Castle and its gardens are a main attraction, but Rothe House, also in Kilkenny Town, is a lesser-known treasure. It's the only surviving merchant's townhouse from the 17th century, today a museum with recently reopened gardens. From Graig, it's just under 20 minutes to Woodstock House and Gardens in Inistioge. "These two towns on the banks of the Barrow, Graiguenamanagh and St. Mullins, have held on to their unspoiled natural beauty. Life here feels more like the 1950s than the 21st century. Go a little beyond either village, and you could imagine yourself in any past century. This is the lost Ireland so many retirees dream of. "Thinking more practically, Ireland is not a super-affordable retirement choice; however, property values today are down 50% and more from their pre-2008 boom-time highs. Markets elsewhere in Ireland, especially in Dublin, are moving up again. This remote region of County Kilkenny, though, remains seriously undervalued, one more reason it's worth a look..." Again, Lynn's complete guide to retirement life in County Kilkenny, including a detailed budget and current property listings, is featured in the current issue of my Overseas Retirement Letter. If you're not yet a subscriber, get on board here now. Kathleen Peddicord P.S. Lynn provided video footage of this idyllic corner of the Emerald Isle. Take a look.
My favorite outpost here is Graiguenamanagh, the "village of the monks," on the River Barrow. While "Graig" has all the appearances of a sleepy Irish village, the river is a hub of activity. Visitors here don't come for the nightlife. They come to swim, jump from the diving boards, kayak, barge, fish, and eat some of the tastiest home baking from local tearooms and cafes. Last week, I spotted the perfect retreat here currently on the market for 75,000 euros. I'll be reporting in full on this special area for Overseas Retirement Letter readers later this year. Lynn Mulvihill P.S. Ireland is one of the 21 countries we'll be featuring during this year's Retire Overseas Conference taking place in Nashville next month (Aug. 29–31). You have 48 hours remaining to register for this, the biggest and most important retire-overseas event of the year, taking advantage of the Early Bird Discount. The current US$300 Early Bird Discount expires Thursday at midnight. Sign up now here.
1. The Wexford Strawberry You can pick up strawberries in any part of Ireland, but those that hail from Country Wexford are the sweetest and most revered berries of the lot. Wexford, the most southeastern county in Ireland, enjoys the best sunshine hours, as well as the best soil conditions (high in potassium, low in calcium and nitrogen) for strawberry growth. Wexford farmers pop up stalls (usually manned by students on summer break) along the main routes around the country, setting out each morning with punnets of fresh berries. Traveling as far as 100 miles from home, it's the first appearance of their vans that signals the arrival of the Irish summer. You can't move far around the country without seeing a roadside sign for "Wexford Strawberries and New Potatoes," flagging the presence of a trailer-load of strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, potatoes—and, often, jam and fresh juice produced by the farm. But the strawberry is the main attraction. A good-sized punnet averages 4 euros (US$5.50). The berries are just as delicious served on their own as they are with fresh cream or ice cream. 2. Traditional Fish And Chips After a long day at the beach, there's nothing like unwrapping layers of paper and opening a white cardboard box to reveal an oversized golden, deep-fried, battered cod, lying on a bed of thick-cut chips. You may not be aware that you're hungry. But, if you're within walking distance of a good fish and chip shop, the vinegar-soaked brown-paper bags will quickly alert your senses. Far from skinny American fries, the Irish "chipper" dishes out rough, chunky potato chips, drenched in vinegar with a fair lobbing of salt. (Most chippers will ask for permission before adding these condiments, but be sure to intervene early if you prefer to abstain from either. If you prefer just a little seasoning, it's probably best to politely ask if you may add your own.) Lennox's in Cork claims to be the best chippie in Ireland. Popular options around Dublin include Leo Burdock's at Christchurch and Beshoff's in Howth. In the coastal town of Tramore, County Waterford (my closest beach), it's hard to beat Dooley's fish and chip shops (with branches just off the main promenade and in the center of town). A box of fresh cod and chips from Dooley's costs 9 euros (US$12.20) and is worth every cent. 3. The 99 Ice-Cream Cone The national favorite cool-me-down on a hot summer day is the "99"—layers of soft, whipped vanilla ice cream, served in a wafer cone, with a chocolate flake bar protruding from its side. Shops selling these delicious, creamy cones often have a large model ice cream on display outside or some sign to indicate a whipped ice-cream machine onsite. Meanwhile, ice-cream trucks drive around neighborhoods, blasting out their musical call to dessert. To be honest, I prefer to skip the chocolate flake and enjoy a plain cone. But, by all means, give both a try... Above all, don't get ripped off. I've heard of people paying a ludicrous 3.50 euros (US$4.80) for a 99 near Dublin Zoo. Elsewhere, 1.60–1.80 euros is more typical. Certainly, you shouldn't pay more than 2 euros (US$2.70) for this creamy refreshment. Lynn Mulvihill
And, if values, properties, and locations are as they've been represented, we may also consider buying one of this city's waterfront apartments ourselves. For us, this is as much a personal decision as an investment, given our honeymoon connection and our instinctive appreciation for Istanbul's history, geographic location, and Continental-chic lifestyle.We've learned through long experience that buys that meet both personal and investment criteria are the most successful long-term...one reason Istanbul is at the top of our list currently.From Istanbul we plan a quick stopover in Macedonia. This is a tiny country at a dramatic turning point in its history. We like little countries working hard to make a place for themselves on the world stage, so we're going to take a look at what Macedonia is up to.Later in July we'll be in Nicaragua (to vet current property offerings and to finalize plans for the Live and Invest in Nicaragua Adventure we've added to this year's events calendar) and in the Cayman Islands (to vet new banking, tax, and structures resources).The first two weeks of August we'll be in Belize with our kids. Our agenda for this leg is kayaking, canoeing, hiking, river-tubing, horseback riding, and spelunking. We hope to be as unplugged as is possible for a family to be these days. Two weeks without X-Box, Netflix, Skype, or Facebook sounds like just what the doctor ordered to this mom.We'll finish the summer in Nashville, where Lief and I will be co-hosting our Fourth Annual Retire Overseas Conference Aug. 29–31. We're two months out from the event and have more than 200 attendees registered. They and we will be joined by more than four-dozen speakers, correspondents, expats, and friends from around the world for three days of discussion and discovery. I'm very much looking forward to it. Never been to Music City before.I'm also looking forward to the eight weeks between then and now. I won't be MIA the whole time, but Lief and I are hoping to be offline for a couple of extended periods. Specifically, the coming two weeks in Istanbul and the first two weeks of August in Cayo, Belize.Don't get too excited. You're not off the hook entirely. I've enlisted reinforcements.Starting tomorrow and continuing through mid-July, you'll hear each day not from me but longtime friend and fellow editor Lynn Mulvihill...whose efforts will be supported by correspondents Paul Terhorst, Wendy Justice, Lee Harrison, Rob Cary, Jocelyn Carnegie, Lucy Culpepper, and others who've offered to help hold down the fort while Lief and I try to be disconnected.We will be in touch from the road in Istanbul and Macedonia from time to time. Look for us back in your inbox reliably again the week of July 14.Meantime, enjoy your summer...and, if you haven't yet, make your plans now to join us in Nashville. This is going to be the biggest and most important retire overseas event of the year and a whole lot of fun, to boot. Hope to see you there.Kathleen Peddicord
Dating from the 1800s, early celebrants would have hunted a real wren, killed it, and tied it to a holly branch or pole to parade around town. From door to door these "wran boys" went, wren on display, begging for money to bury the "evil bird." The funds were then used to hold a dance for the whole town.
Why the lack of mercy to one of the most innocent birds? Stories from Irish folklore fail to present the wren in a good light. The most popular tale (that's believed to have started the tradition) goes back to Cromwell's invasion of Ireland. On one occasion, as Irish troops prepared to advance on Cromwell's sleeping soldiers, a wren perched on one of the soldier's drums made a noise that woke the sentries just in time to save their camp.Today, no birds are harmed in the celebration of The Wran. A fading tradition, "wran boys" gather in only a handful of places around the country. But, for the town of Dingle, County Kerry, Dec. 26 is a major date on the social calendar.Starting Christmas Eve, and often right up to noon on the big day, men gather in local pubs to hand-weave their traditional straw costumes ("rigs") in a process that takes hours. Come Wren's Day, thousands of spectators line the streets of Dingle to watch this spectacle of men, dressed in rigs and brightly colored costumes, take over the town. Starting at noon and going on until the early hours of the following day, The Wran is a blaze of color and a lot of noise, thanks not only to the accompanying musicians' fife and drums, but to the collection boxes the wran boys shake. Rather than paying for a dance for the whole town, today's funds go to local charities. Be warned. Innocent by-standers will often get swept into the parade or chased down side-streets. "It's like Ireland's version of Carnival," my friend Alison, a Kerry native, recently explained. As a child, Alison made the trip to Dingle every year with her family. She recalls being both terrified of the revelers and in awe of their beautiful costumes. Efforts have been made in recent years to revive this dying tradition. For the last 20 years, Sandymount in Dublin has been running a big Wren's Day fundraising event. And, as part of its September harvest festival, the town of Listowel, County Kerry, hosts an Annual All-Ireland Wren Boy Competition. But for a true sense of the spirit of The Wran, follow the crowds to Dingle.
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Kathleen Peddicord is the founder of the Live and Invest Overseas publishing group. With more than 25 years experience covering this beat, Kathleen reports daily on current opportunities for living, retiring, and investing overseas in her free e-letter.
Her book, How To Retire Overseas—Everything You Need To Know To Live Well Abroad For Less, was recently released by Penguin Books.
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