This month, we were lucky enough to spend time at my grandmother’s house in Cornwall, England. And beforehand, the boys and I stopped for a few days in Ireland, just the three of us (Alex had to work), since I used to go there as a little girl. Here are a few photos, if you’d like to see…
The boys and I flew directly from New York to Shannon, Ireland. Our first day, we stayed in Killarney, a quaint town next to a national park. We wanted to explore but were sleepy from the flight, so we took a carriage ride with a charming redhead named Damien. We rode over bridges, went through the forest, and saw a castle; and when the wind kicked up, he gave us woolen blankets.
When planning trips, I’m usually a research nerd who LOVES making painstakingly slow decisions about hotels and Airbnbs. But! The boys and I had stumbled across this YouTube video of the staff of the Killarney Park Hotel singing the Beauty and the Beast song “Be Our Guest.” We were immediately sold.
We even met a few of the staff members from the video! Starstruck!!!
Next we headed to Dingle, a small fishing town in southwest Ireland. The brightly colored shops were so charming, and everyone was beyond friendly. Above are the boys doing our daily stop for Murphy’s Ice Cream, which is handmade in Dingle with milk from local grass-fed cows.
We stayed at a family-run bed and breakfast called Greenmount House. Since Ireland is so northern, the summer days last forever — here’s the view from our room at 9 p.m.!
My friend Sharon once noted that every trip has a “trip toy” — an inexpensive trinket that you pick up and play with on repeat. For us, it was this yoyo. Anton practiced it at our hotel, walking down the street, on the playground, in the car, literally everywhere.
One wild afternoon, we drove the Slea Head Drive, a 46 kilometer loop around the Dingle Peninsula. It’s one of the most scenic drives in the world, although the narrow road often winds along cliff edges — not for the faint of heart.
Never not yoyo-ing.
How gorgeous is this view? Can you spot the house with the red door?
After two nights in Dingle, we drove a couple hours north to County Clare. On Instagram, I had connected with a local reader named Peggy, and she invited us over for lunch! We ate sliced steak, potatoes and salad with her delightful family. “My husband is not a regular Instagram user, so you can imagine my explanation as to who is coming for lunch,” she wrote to me before we arrived. “Luckily he is used to me and we very much have an open-door policy.”
Our final night, we were lucky enough to stay at Dromoland Castle, which has welcomed guests since the 16th century.
The interiors felt right out of Downton Abbey. Before arriving, I wondered if we would be tiptoeing around, but the staff was jokey and warm. We swam in the indoor pool and pedaled go-karts on the tennis court.
We kept expecting his head to move.
One last thing I love about Ireland is how sweet everyone is to kids. On trips, I sometimes feel like I need to shush my children in public or tell them to settle down, but in Ireland, adults fawned over them. At restaurants, whenever Toby and Anton would request a dish, the waiters would say, “Good man, good man”; and store clerks often slipped them sneaky candy or ruffled their hair. It felt so relaxing to not worry if your kids were bothering people — it was clear they never were!
Our day traveling from Ireland to England had a few hiccups (as all trips do!), but we finally made it to…
…my grandmother’s house in Cornwall! Home sweet home!!!
Not pictured: squawking seagulls and the smell of seaweed and roses.
It felt so good to squeeze my aunt Lulu, who lives with my grandmother and welcomes us all with such joy and generosity.
We reunited with Alex (yay!) and were right on time for drinks o’clock. (Can you spot the two preteens in this photo?)
Toby and his English cousin Bo are the same age and have grown up together — here they are at one, four, six, eight and nine. But, holy smokes, at age 12, they suddenly turned into twins!!! How uncanny is that resemblance?
One day, we decided to take out the boat.
My grandmother joined us, which was a treat. She loved pointing out birds and drinking tea. And she went absolutely bananas for Anton’s yoyo. She kept saying, “Well, aren’t you a clever chap? Lulu, you must come see him, he’s quite extraordinary.”
The water was freezing, but everyone was very brave!
Also, did you know that Cornwall has tons of jellyfish? They leave you alone, but it’s wild swimming next to them all. Toby and I counted 24 on the sandy beach one afternoon.
We finished each day with ice cream. I now think Lulu should find a lipstick that’s the exact shade of blackcurrant.
The last evening, we tried to soak up every sensation — the bracing wind, the salty smell, the taste of marmalade, the creaking boats, the ocean views.
Milly, a mother of six, with four of her 10 great-grandchildren
When we got home to New York this week, our neighbor asked how our trip was, and I started weeping. “It was a trip of a lifetime,” I told her, tears streaming down my face. I was embarrassed but also deeply grateful. These days, trips to Cornwall feels bittersweet because I’m not sure how long it will all last, but this was such a great and wild time. Lots of love and thanks so much for reading. xoxo
P.S. Past England trips, including when Anton was a baby, and my grandmother’s house tour.
(First Slea Head Drive photo by PER Images/Stocksy.)