Weekend Warriors - James Bond Getaway
For our first adventure, JOE's Alan Metcalfe is heading to Limerick this weekend for the ‘James Bond Getaway’ with thanks to DiscoverIreland.ie.
“Al!” they said. “What are you doing this weekend?” They said.
“Nothing” I said. “Well, apart from the Ryder Cup, The All Ireland Final Replay, and sitting in my pants eating coco pops by hand straight out of the box. Why do you ask?”
They handed me an Envelope.
Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to make your way to Limerick for some fast cars, faster living, gambling, Vodka Martini’s and some extremely dangerous adventures…
“Hmmmm… Can I still watch the Ryder Cup?”
So after everyone in the office finally stopped slapping me, I hopped in the car and was en route Shannon side for my James Bond weekend.
First stop – Croagh, Co. Limerick, to pick up my car.
I rocked up in my ma’s 1999 Nissan Micra. That’s right, ladies, I was rolling on 14’s. When the owners of Heritage Sports Cars stopped laughing, they handed me the keys to one of their babies for the weekend.
Chris and Elaine run Heritage Sports Cars from their own home, and have some beautiful cars for both Chauffer and Self Drives. From a 1970 Jaguar E-Type and a 1960 Ford Zodiac, to a 1978 Porsche 911 and a 1980 Ferrari Mondial, you can rent one of these classics for as little as €109 a day.
Chris took the Micra from me – I’d say he was dying to take that little baby for a spin – and handed me the keys to a 1973 Triumph TR6 Convertible. This thing is really tasty - 2.5 litre flat 6 rear wheel drive, and kicks out about 105 bhp.
The clincher? Nowhere on any of the cars you get from Chris or Elaine does it say “Heritage Sports Cars” – so everywhere you go you can pretend it’s yours, without the “Ah, it’s not his, he just rented it for the weekend…” judgment. So much so, that I had to bluff my way through a conversation about classic cars with a few American tourists, John and Robin, who saw me arrive in the TD6. They themselves proud owners of a 1960 Austin Healy.
Anyway, roof down and trying not to look like a complete idiot as I drove around with a massive grin on my face, the next stop was Adare Manor.
This “Manor House” (though I’d just call it a castle) was built in the 1830’s by Lord Dunraven, who had nothing better to do – his missus nagged him into doing some home improvements while he was laid up with gout. The result, nearly 200 years later, is a 5 star Hotel and Golf resort that is, quite literally, my favourite place on the planet.
I have been lucky enough to play the Robert Trent Jones Snr. designed course at Adare, and it is, in my opinion, the best parkland course in the country. There are hundreds of courses in Ireland that are a tough test of golf, and hundreds that are beautifully picturesque – but very few that manage to put the two together. Adare Manor has held the Irish Open a couple of times, and my brother’s stag do too. Both ended in similar fashion at the signature 18th hole
Richard Finch gets wet on route to the Irish Open Title
Having walked the grounds and relived Richard Finch’s finest moment during his 2008 Irish Open win, I was escorted back to the Manor House where I was served Afternoon Tea.
Now, Afternoon Tea at Adare Manor is all about the room and the experience, rather than what you’re eating. Don’t get me wrong - the food is fantastic – but it’s hard to concentrate when the Manor House itself is so amazing to look at, the view through the windows to the gardens and golf course are so beautiful, and the American female tourists in the restaurant equally match the hotel’s 5 star rating. Let’s just say I took my time over my last scone.
From there, Pat Ford from Adare Country Pursuits led me out to the Gardens for what turned out to be a life changing experience.
When I saw the itinerary for the trip I said “James Bond Experience” in the title. Sports Cars, Afternoon Tea in a Country Manor, Shooting Guns – all stuff I was expecting. Falconry, however, never even crossed my mind.
Jurgen Hick had 8 birds of prey sitting waiting for me on their perches. Have you ever been surrounded by eight birds who look like they would rather eat you alive than have you speak to them? Coppers is one thing lads, but when these birds have talons that could pull your eyes out… Well, let’s just say I nearly messed my tuxedo.
For 2 hours I had my mind blown. I handled everything from a barn owl to a falcon, and made friends with Oscar the Eagle Owl. Granted, he looks like he hates me, but I’m assured we were buddies really.
Handling these things is indescribable. They perch up on your arms, nuzzle up to you like a cat, eat from your hands, and when you put them back on their perches, constantly try to fly back to you – they really love the human contact. And yet they have the power to swoop in and fly off with foxes and sheep. Incredible creatures, and Jurgen was a wealth of knowledge, and a man who clearly cares deeply for them. Oscar was born and bred on Jurgen’s house, and will perch on the couch and watch telly with his wife and 5 kids!
We finished our time with the birds with a hawk walk. Ben the hawk was let loose to fly away, but followed us, almost protecting us, as we walked the grounds. From time to time I would hold out some food for him, and he we could out from hiding, swoop down to my arm and eat from my hand. As I say – an indescribable experience.
So feeling particularly manly, rich, at one with nature, and sh*t cool in my classic convertible, I headed for Limerick City for a night at the dogs – there’s no Baccarat tables in Munster.
In Dublin, I live about four minutes walk from Shelbourne Park Greyhound Stadium, and rather typically, I’ve never actually been to a race night. So I was genuinely looking forward to seeing what a night at the dogs had to offer.
I arrived to the Limerick Stadium in Greenpark, and was greeted by Imelda Cahill at reception, who happened to be a stone cold fox. She presented my with my form book, a list of the races, a dummies guide to betting, and showed my to my table which, was right next to the glass at the finishing line.
As I had a leaf through the form book (it has to be said, it looked like I was revising for my Junior Cert mocks), the waitress came and took my order for food (Steak, obviously. Ever seen Bond eat a salad?) and handed me a pint. Handy.
The Totes came to the table in between races to take bets and deliver winnings (30 quid up for the night. Like a boss.), and the waitress kept delivering food and booze. Add all of that to the atmosphere and excitement of a race, and you’re pretty much guaranteed a good night.
Still without a Bond Girl, I made my way to my hotel for the night – The Absolute Hotel and Spa in Limerick City. Seriously modern, massive rooms, and a brilliant bar (it was Ryder Cup Saturday remember, I needed a big screen), the Absolute is perfect for a work trip or a getaway. Had I found a Bond Girl, I would’ve definitely sent her into the Spa for the day while I chewed my nails off wondering if Oli’s men could turn it around.
After eight hours kip in a bed that was bigger than my apartment, I awoke to find an envelope under my door. Downhill Mountain Biking in torrential rain? Bring it.
DiscoverIreland.ie organised a visit for me to Ballyhoura Mountain in Ardpatrick, Co. Limerick… to hop on a bike and throw myself down a mountain. Sound.
I hopped back in the TD6 and spun out to the Deebert House Hotel where Elaine had a packed lunch ready for us. The Deebert is THE place to go if you have a bike and want to do something reckless. A beautiful hotel, they cater for everyone, but are Mountain Biker friendly – with bike storage rooms and drying rooms for clothes and equipment. With a picnic basket full of sandwiches, fruit and local cheese, I continued on to what I was pretty sure was certain death.
Now, Bond would’ve done this in a pair of chinos, slip on’s and a sports coat – but I opted for trakkies, blue runners and a wet gear top. And because I’m half blind, my glasses. Mmmmm. Sexy.
Declan from TrailRiders.ie welcomed me, showed me around my bike, and handed me over to Ruth Herman, an instructor from Ballyhoura Outdoor Recreation. We headed off on a 6km trail, which I assumed wouldn’t be too bad – my cycle to and from work is about that. Thing is, in order to cycle down a mountain, you have to cycle up it first.
So having reached the top of the mountain, and nearly puked twice (Afternoon Tea + Pints + Greyhound Racing + More Pints + Full Irish = Pulling a Whitey on a 21 Speed Bike), we were ready to go. Ruth gave me full instruction and technique tips to, you know, not fall off the side of a cliff, and then we turned for the sea.
I’m more of a 18 holes on the links kind of guy, but I left Ballyhoura on Sunday seriously thinking about buying a bike. Ruth was amazing – she led the way and didn’t throw me into anything I wasn’t ready for. But as I started to find my feet, we took tighter turns, deeper drops, and I even followed her over a few jumps here and there. You never forget that it’s an incredibly dangerous sport, but the more you do, the more confident you get, and you start to feel very capable very quickly. Ruth even talked me into doing a second trek. More puking. More adrenaline.
Once I remembered how to walk, Ray Sampson from LazyDogShooting handed me a shotgun. “You wouldn’t be Bond if you didn’t know how to shoot”. Fair shout, though my license to kill only extended as far as Orange Discs made of clay.
Another one of those activities people always talk about but I had never experienced, Clay Pigeon Shooting is GREAT craic. You start feeling like a pro after you’ve downed your first clay, and Ray had a number of guns for people to try, no matter what size or experience. I was using a standard 12 gauge shotgun, but there was a .28 for Ms. Moneypenny had she been with me, and “Betsy” – a 12 gauge shotgun with lots of bells and whistles to stop the gun from kicking back and bruising smaller shoulders.
Having killed my fair share of fake birds, I was feeling pretty invigorated. Guns and High Speed Pursuits down a mountain with a hangover – what more could you want? I made my way back to the Absolute Hotel, scraped off the mud, showered, changed and headed to the bar for dinner.
I ordered a burger. Not very Bond. BUT it was one of those burgers that was like a steak in between two pieces of bread. Amazing food in the Absolute Bar and Grill, and the atmosphere was great too – lots of American Tourists in town, so the Ryder Cup banter was brilliant.
So after 2 mental days living the life of 007, I was ready to sit back, relax, and enjoy a nice Vodka Martini. Shaken. Not Stirred.
And I managed to find myself a Bond Girl too.
Triumph TR6: firstname.lastname@example.org
Afternoon Tea: Adare Manor Hotel & Golf Resort. AdareManor.com
Greyhound Racings: igb.com/Limerick Hotel: AbsoluteHotel.com
Mountain Biking: TrailRiders.ie / http://www.discoverireland.ie/Activities-Adventure/the-ballyhoura-mountain-bike-centre/74102
Clay Pigeon Shooting: Lazy Dog Shooting – LazyDogShooting.ie For more information, see DiscoverIreland.ie/Limerick Twitter.com/DiscoverIrl #WeekendWarriors