Castles, Gardens, Food Festivals…and a Paycheck at the End

One of my favorite things about Ireland is its festivals. Then, of course, there’s the castles…and the gardens…and the music…and the people…

I started out by researching my Irish ancestry and now I’ve been guiding tours to the island for 18 years. It’s a natural calling for me and I picked it up really quickly. Anyone can do it.

I love teaching people as they travel. I take my groups to places like the West Waterford Food Festival held every year in Dungarvan, County Waterford.

This small market town is steeped in history. King John built the castle that flanks the harbor and for the duration of the festival the town is transformed with re-enactments and historical tours.

The town center is made pedestrian friendly and fills with stalls full of great things to eat and local crafts. I get to chat about food and what is happening in the local area while listening to some of the best local bands…and of course, eat.

At night, the restaurants all open as great chefs come and cook together. Tasting menus abound with wine flowing…chefs come out to talk about what they’ve cooked for you…and the night doesn’t stop there. We move on to the pubs for more conversation and live music.

I love it…and so do my groups.

Afterward we travel along the River Blackwater and are engulfed in one of the most beautiful areas in Ireland and transported to the romance of a bygone era at Lismore Castle—which is still lived in to this day—and its beautiful walled garden.

There are fruit trees, vegetable gardens, borders filled with cutting flowers and an orangery, once used to produce citrus fruits, but now used for more tender plants such as tomatoes and herbs, grown year round.

I could spend hours wandering around gardens…which is why I always include visits to Irish gardens on my tours. That way I get to do something I love, for a living. My tours pay me around $10,000 each and I get to spend my summers in Ireland.

The views from the garden sweep down to the River Blackwater bordering the castle making for the perfect photo opportunities with the castle’s spire flanking the side. The added bonus is the castle’s art exhibition that changes yearly.

We also go to the small village of Cappoquin, home of the Waterford Blaa (a lovely floury bap baked at Baron’s Bakery since 1887) and Cappoquin House. We even get a private visit of this historic Georgian house and gardens, built on the site of an old FitzGerald castle.

I take five groups a year with 12 people in each. Showing them my favorite places, and having the chance to spend time in Ireland, is the real perk of leading tours for me.


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