On the Road with Reid 'Round Ireland: Bed, Breakfast, and Beyond
Picking the right Irish B&B, and where to find alternative cheap lodgings in Ireland
By Reid Bramblett
Cavangarden House, outside Ballyshannon on the road to Donegal, is a gorgeous Georgian manor house built in 1750, surrounded by farmland, wooded glens, and burbling streams, and is but one of the 1,700 B&Bs in the Town and Country voucher catalogue
(Originally published May 29, 2003 on MSNBC.com. Reprinted with permission. All photographs by Reid Bramblett, save the ones of Reid Bramblett, which are by Frances C. Sayers. This article won a Lowell Thomas award for travel journalism.)
I ring the bell, and a smiling face appears at the door. "You must be Reid!" They shake my hand, usher me in, and right off apologize for the weather, which is well on its way to crowning this May as the rainiest in recorded history.
They ask where I'm from, "Oh really, what part of New York, then?" and always brighten when I answer "Queens" as everyone in Ireland has a relative in Queens. Then, after the ritual of explaining which is the front door key (regular) and which the room key (skeleton), come the two inevitable and much anticipated questions: "When do you want breakfast tomorrow?" and "Will that be the full Irish, then?"
That arrival scene was repeated at almost every B&B we checked into across Ireland, and the answer to that last question about was invariably "Yes, the full Irish please!" I imagine what happened next was we climbed the stairs and settled into our room, but I can't rightly recall as I was always beset by that point by expectant visions of the next morning, which would bring platters piled with thick back bacon, soft sticky sausages, a fried egg, half a tomato, brown bread and toast with butter and (usually) homemade jams and preserves, a fried mashed potato patty, cereal, fruit, yogurt, and possibly hot porridge, all of it accompanied, as always, by a pot of piping hot Irish Breakfast tea. Can you just taste all the cholesterol?