Where limestone hills kiss the sea - County Clare, Ireland
The Burren's landscape is otherworldly. It is John Betjeman's "Stony hills poured over space". The thousand year old limestone, stretches from ring forts high in the mountains to the Atlantic coast. Wild goats stumble around stone age ruins in the stripping wind.
After you have followed the rock ridges down to the roaring waves, you don't want a shabby place to stay with stale sandwiches and tepid water. You want the luxury of Gregans Castle. You want an open fire, a bed that hugs you, thoughtful decor and food that is so good that, to paraphrase Mrs Brown, "feck me it's like getting 10 early numbers at the Bingo".
Gregans Castle doesn't need my small plaudits to add to it's heap of awards (most recently, it made the National Geographic's top 25 Irish hotels) but, in case any extra applause is needed for my favourite details, let's hear it for Aveda goodies in the bathroom, trails around the grounds where you might bump into a donkey, breakfast that is a showcase of local produce, cream teas that almost made me cry, Sunday night meals with a large merlot in the Corkscrew Bar watching the Burren roll into Galway Bay....
The hotel also organises walks with, guide, Shane to give you the opportunity to hike The Burren with an extremely knowledgeably and entertaining local. Shane explains how events as distinct as the Irish Ice Age, the beginning of tenant farming, the famine, the Celtic Tiger and "Clare girls all upping sticks to live in Dublin and get their nails done" have all contributed to the changing landscape.
- www.gregans.ie/. Look out for their special packages which include a half day walk with Shane and a gourmet meal in the restaurant. The hotel can arrange transfers from Shannon, most likely with Shane's cousin Tom.