Frequented by showbiz royalty and actual royalty alike, Irish castles have long been famous for their ancient history and heritage, their beauty and romance, and with many also offering the ultimate in five-star luxury. What better way to explore Ireland’s past then with an ultimate road trip visiting the following wonderful castles and their gardens.

Dunluce Castle, County Antrim

North Coast Sept 2011

The sprawling ruins of the medieval castle sitting at a cliff edge are all that is left of the fortress that was once the seat of the earls of Antrim. Dunluce Castle was home to rebellion and intrigue over centuries and is said to have inspired CS Lewis to create Cair Paravel, capital of Narnia. Here you might have to share the space with banshees (fairy ghosts) that are said to haunt the ruins.

Glenarm Castle, County Antrim

Since 1636 Glenarm Castle has been an important centre along the spectacular Causeway Coastal Route in Northern Ireland. Here you could relax in the sumptuously decorated lounge while viewing portraits that date from the early 17th century. Imagine strolling through the walled garden and then ending the day with a restful sleep in a four poster bed dating from 1754.

Tullynally Castle, County Westmeath


Overlooking the lake where the legendary Children of Lir were said to swim when they were turned into swans, Tullynally is a beautiful gothic-style castle. With over 120 rooms including the magnificent Great Hall, you would have plenty of space to roam. Outdoors the grounds include a grotto, a walled flower garden, two ornamental lakes and a llama paddock.

Birr Castle, County Offaly

Birr Castle, County Offaly

Indoors and outdoors you’d be surrounded by splendour at Birr Castle. The opulent interior rooms include a Victorian dining room and octagonal Gothic saloon. The gardens are some of the most stunning in Ireland with exotic flowers, waterfalls and lakes and in the grounds sits the fascinating Leviathan telescope, once the largest in existence.

Blackrock Castle, County Cork

Originally built to protect Cork Harbour, imposing Blackrock Castle with its towers and turrets is today home to the astronomical research centre of the Cork Institute of Technology. The castle offers splendid views over the water and you could amuse yourself by spending time at the award-winning interactive astronomy exhibition, Cosmos at the Castle.

Ballynahinch Castle, County Galway

This fairytale castle set against the gorgeous backdrop of Connemara’s Twelve Bens mountain range has been home to some of the most infamous figures of Irish history, among them the pirate queen and chieftain, Grace O’Malley, and the ‘Ferocious O’Flaherty Clan’. The extensive grounds provide an ideal walking area and the evening could be spent curled up in front of an open fire.

Germany’s Oldest Palace, Original Home to Meissen, Innovates with the Histopad, an Augmented Reality Tour, in 2020

Albrechtsburg Castle above the River Elbe.

Just outside of Saxony’s cultural city of Dresden, Germany’s fourth most popular destination, the
palace of Albrechtsburg in the town of Meissen awes its visitors with its extraordinary murals and
original interiors as well as state of the art video installations about the making of porcelain, or
“white gold.” But now this famous palace has gone a step further by implementing an Augmented
Reality Tour with the Histopad that facilitates an unprecedented depth and breadth of discovery.

Already at the time when it was being built in the 15th century, the Albrechtsburg Castle that
towers over the River Elbe was considered cutting edge architecture. The sophisticated arched
curtain windows and the cellular vaulting throughout the castle as well as the large spiral
staircase were architectural novelties. Today, however, the innovation lies in technology and
beautifully crafted, highly interactive 3D videos that engage visitors on a very sophisticated and
comprehensive level that is fun at the same time as educational.

The so-called “Histopad,” the first in Germany, is an augmented reality tour created by
Schlösserland Sachsen and a French firm, Histovery. The tablet guide brings history alive in 3D,
uncovering delightful facts and tidbits about the palace’s hidden secrets, such as where the
treasure was stored; what they ate for dinner; what they would be talking about in the morning;
what they wore to work or on a weekend; what was served at their banquets; how did the
chemical laboratory for the porcelain really look? It takes history to a whole new level of detail of
day to day life that makes the characters and their palaces come alive as real people and
places. Every detail has been researched and verified by the well-respected experts at the
Stately Palaces and Gardens of Saxony.


The late-Gothic castle complex – the Meissen Albrechtsburg Castle – was built between 1471
and 1524 on behalf of the two brothers, Ernest and Albert of Wettin, who jointly ruled Saxony in
the Middle Ages. The new residence was a representative administration center and residential
palace – the first of its kind in German architectural history. It was meant to showcase the power
of the Wettin Dynasty and how closely this was tied to the Saxon kingdom. The architect, Albert
von Westfalen, was considered a trendsetter in building design and the palace he created was
considered the best in all of Europe. Soon after the palace was built however, the Wettin
brothers split their kingdom and so the palace went unused except for an occasional ceremony.

The beautiful Saxon capital of Dresden.

It was not until a few hundred years later, in 1710, that Augustus the Strong floated 20 miles
down the Elbe to Meissen and mandated the creation of a porcelain manufactory right in the
middle of Albrechtsburg Palace. He imprisoned his top scientific minds of the day in the
fortifications of Dresden to work together to create the white porcelain and after many years,
they succeeded in 1708, and the European hard porcelain was born. All of the European
aristocracy, and Augustus the Strong in particular, were seized by the lust for porcelain, or white
gold. He called it the maladie de porcelaine or porcelain fever. Today, many of the best pieces of
Augustus the Strong’s extraordinary porcelain collection are located in the Dresden State
Art Collection’s Porcelain Collection in the Zwinger Museum. They are a testament to his
17th century pursuits and ultimate success not only in amassing an enormous collection of
porcelain from around the world but also for building and creating Europe’s finest porcelain

The special exhibition “Augustus the Strong – History. His Myths. His Legends.” at Moritzburg Castle (Schloss Moritzburg) deals with the glorious life of the former Elector of Saxony.

The Meissen Manufactory stayed in the Albrechtsburg Palace until 1853 when it was then
moved just a few blocks away to today’s state of the art facility where visitors can visit the
Meissen museum, shop in the showroom, dine on Meissen porcelain and watch the artists at
work and even participate in workshops. Meissen porcelain is a signature product of Saxony and
has been a mainstay of the state’s economy providing jobs, income and hard currency revenue
even during the reign of the GDR. Today it is still an important company in the state of Saxony
and Germany and it has become a cultural center hosting artists each year to participate in its
exhibitions and add to the famous Meissen designs.

Weesenstein Castle (Schloss Weesenstein)! The unique ensemble is located in the Mueglitz valley near Dresden 

In addition to the porcelain exhibition in the Albrechtsburg, the other tours include the palace
architecture, the dynasty of the Wettins and the monumental murals. Unlike other major projects
in their time, Albrechtsburg Castle did not grow over many building stages, but as a holistic
design of the master builder Arnold von Westfalen. From 1471 on, it was he who created a real
trendsetter for late-Gothic architecture. The Wettin Dynasty ruled in the heart of Europe and
were influential in spreading Luther’s ideas.

The dynasty ruled until 1918 at the heart of Europe.

At the end of the 19th century, after the porcelain manufactory had moved out, Wilhelm
Rossmann, Privy Court Councillor, developed his artistic design: “a painted picture book” which
are actually enormous murals that show visitors historical events of Saxony and have become a
central memorial site of Saxon identity that goes back to the original founding dynasty.
Today Meissen and Dresden are an extraordinary destination for people interested in history,
culture, architecture and, especially, decorative and applied arts. But this also applies to all of
Saxony where there is so much art, history, classical music and culture. Saxony is a place of
history but also of the future and technology is appreciated and used to make the arts and
culture come alive in the 21st century.

Dresden Christmas Garden is the new microsite from Saxony Germany where lovers of
history, castles, classical music, art museums and charming towns can experience Saxony at its
most beautiful. A perfect antidote to the stay at home corona virus regulations, this microsite
takes you there, to Saxony, creating an immersive visual and audio experience.

For further information, please contact Victoria Larson, USA Press Representative, State Tourist Board of Saxony at

www. #saxonytraveldreams #visitsaxony

All photos are courtesy of Saxony Tourism.


A Taste of Saxony

Upper Lusatian Buttermilk Pancakes, in German Buttermilchplinsen, are easy to prepare and taste like heaven.

Ingredients for 6 people:
2 1/8 cups buttermilk
8.2 ounces flour
1 dash of salt
1 pinch of baking soda
2 eggs

Mix buttermilk with eggs, then add flour, baking soda and salt and mix until all ingredients are thoroughly combined.

Allow the dough to rest for ten minutes. Melt some butter in a pan, put some dough in it to and fry the pancakes from both sides until they are golden brown. Sprinkle sugar on top and serve with apple puree.

Saxony Travel Dreams: A New Microsite for Immersive Visual and Audio Experiences

Saxony Engages Travelers with Compelling Microsite is the new microsite from Saxony Germany where lovers of history, castles, classical music, art museums and charming towns can experience Saxony at its most beautiful. A perfect antidote to the stay at home corona virus regulations, this microsite takes you there, to Saxony, creating an immersive visual and audio experience.

” We are making sure that memories of Saxony are kept alive in the minds of our international guests,” says TMGS managing director Veronika Hiebl.Whether you love history, castles, wine, charming towns and palaces, classical music or art museums, Saxony has it all so you don’t have to choose.

The land of Luther and Bach brings its charm and talents to the fore in the new #saxonytraveldreams campaign. Stocked with beautiful videos and photographs, visitors get a taste of the beauty and creativity that is alive in Saxony today. Although you may not be able to hop on a plane and travel there, this eastern state in Germany is a bastion for the arts and music and you can get a sense of these treasurers from your own home. The videos from journalists, bloggers and influencers are outstanding and objectively showcase Saxony at its most beautiful. 

Two times per week the music city of Leipzig, broadcasts live stream performances from the world-famous Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra. Broadcasts start every Thursday and Friday at 12 pm (Europe time) and are then available for 24 hours. In Dresden, the landmark Frauenkirche (Church of our Lady) that rose from the GDR ashes produces a short“musical greetings”on the church’s YouTube channel or visitors can choose to go on a 360-degree tour. Jan Vogler, the director of the Dresden Music Festival has organized an online music festival to replace the recently cancelled Dresden Music Festival.

The spa town of Bad Elster, a hidden gem in southern Saxony, goes digital with its philharmonic and presents a range of live recordings every Wednesday and Saturday at 7.30 pm (Europe time) plus special music performances by individual orchestra members. But it’s not just music, there is art and incredible towns to explore. From the movie town of Görlitz, where The Grand Budapest Hotel among many other movies was filmed, to Radebeul, Leipzig and Torgau: Saxony’s enchanting towns and cities delight with unique architecture, fascinating history, interesting museums and character.  

Truly there are many undiscovered gems and places that are not crowded and worth every penny to visit. Also, many of Saxony’s castles are off the beaten track and in this site, you will visit some of them and receive two very special immersive experiences created by local students built around famous palaces and castles in Dresden. Two sites which have been awarded UNESCO World Heritage status impressively underline Saxony’s reputation as the number one cultural tourist destination in Germany: “Muskauer Park/Park Muzakowski”, a joint Polish-German site, and the “Ore Mountains/Krusnohori Mining Region” site of German/Czech cultural heritage. You can take 360 tours of these beautiful areas.

For example, known as Saxony’s “silver town”, 800-year-old Freiberg at the foot of the “Ore Mountains has beautiful patrician townhouses, reflecting the wealth derived from the once thriving mining industry, and features a fascinating cathedral – discover the town on a 360-degree tour. These are only a few of the highlights that Saxony has to offer and they will whet your appetite for when you are able to travel again.



A Castle in the Hills of a Historic Family Vineyard

Following the Muhlbach Stream as it  gently flows through downtown Oberkirch, a marvelous collection of timber-framed, multi-stories houses, cobblestone streets, brightly painted shutters and window boxes overflowing with cascading blooms, we bounce along in Martin Renner’s topless  Range Rover into the vast orchards and vineyards, climbing the ever narrowing road up the verdant hills of the Black Forest.

The journey is Renner’s Weinburg Safari, which in better weather includes both the Range Rover ride and a hike. But today it’s raining and though Renner, who is giving the tour, has handed us layers of warm clothing, I’m guessing that the reason why none of us are complaining about getting pelted by rain are the samples of wine we had earlier at Julius Renner Weinhaus & Weinkellerei, his family’s third generation business founded by his grandfather, Julius, in 1937.

The wines we tasted are made from the classic varieties such as Klingelberger, Muller-Thurgen, Ruländer and Blauer Spätburgunder that thrive in the special climate and topography that makes this part of the Black Forest perfect for growing a cornucopia of luscious fruit. As usual, I’m impressed not only by the quality of German wines but also their low cost. Indeed, their Pinot Rose Brut at the time was 9.99 euros and the dry Oberkircher Blanc de Noir, made from Blue Pinot Noir grapes, went fo for 5.99.


To add to the picturesque scene, lovely even in rain, the Renner vineyards are nestled beneath the ruins of Schauenburg Castle, a long abandoned citadel built in the 10th century, part of the dowry that Uta, Duchess of Eberstein, the richest heiress in Germany at the time, brought to her marriage to Duke Welf VI in 1131.  

But if we’re looking for real history, Martin Renner tells me after we’ve returned to the weinhaus, housed in what was once a butcher shop built in 1708 (you can tell by the sketch of a butcher’s clever along with the date on the building’s corner edge),  you won’t find it here. After all, he says, as if the event just happened a few months ago, French troops sacked Oberkirch, burning the Medieval village to the ground in the late 1600s during one of those interminable European wars—this one lasted 30 years which is much better than the 100 year war waged by the French and British from 1337 to 1453. As an aside, if you’re wondering about the disparity between the dates and the name of that war, they took a few years off to rest before fighting again.

There’s disdain in his voice about the newness of it all and I try to explain how in America, old is anything built before 1950 and that we probably have fewer than fifty or so buildings in the entire country dating back to 1700. But then this is Germany where you can walk into the Kessler Champagne cellar in Esslingen and when you ask the guide how old the place is, there’s a nonchalant shrug accompanied with the year 1200 as if it’s no big deal. So maybe 1708 is a little too nouveau after all. Martin Renner and writer Jane Simon Ammeson

Next door to the wine store, the Renner Wine Tavern is all cozy Germanic charm. The menu is intriguing and very reasonably priced and more so when I make the conversion from Euros to dollars for such items as lamb chops with rosemary potatoes and homemade garlic sauce,  Walachian trout with creamy horseradish, Strasbourg sausage salad with Gruyere cheese and spaetzli–those wonderful German dumplings often baked with ham and cheese. There’s also bread served with either butter or Bohnert’s apple lard. Lard is frequently on menus here in southwest Germany and it is amazingly delicious. A quick fact check: Pure lard, rendered from pork, is much healthier—yes, really—than the oleos and processed shortenings we consume here.

Noticing that the restaurant doesn’t open until 6 p.m., I ask why so late?

“We’re farmers and wine makers,” Martin, a graduate engineer in viticulture and oenology, tells me. “We don’t eat until then.”

Karotten or karotten in bier gedunstet (carrots in beer) and spaetzli are both on the menu at Renner Wine Tavern. Here are Americanized versions of those dishes.

Karotten (Carrots in Beer)

4 large carrots

1 tablespoon butter

1 cup dark beer, any brand

1⁄4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon sugar

Peel and slice carrots into long, thin slices.

Melt butter in medium-size frypan; add beer and carrots. Cook slowly until tender, stirring frequently. Stir in salt and sugar.

Cook for another 2 minutes and serve hot.


1 cup all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground pepper

2 large eggs

1/4 cup milk

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 tablespoons minced fresh chives

In a large bowl, combine the flour, salt and pepper. In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs and milk together. Making a well in the center of the dry ingredients, pour in the egg-milk mixture. Gradually mix well until the dough should be smooth and thick. Let it rest for 10 to 15 minutes.

Bring 3 quarts of salted water to a boil in a large pot, then reduce to a simmer. To form the spaetzli, hold a large holed colander or slotted spoon over the simmering water and push the dough through the holes with a spatula or spoon. Do this in batches so you don’t overcrowd the pot. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes or until the spaetzli floats to the surface, stirring gently to prevent sticking. Dump the spaetzli into a colander and rinse quickly in cool water.

Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat and add the spaetzli and toss to coat. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes and then sprinkle with the chopped chives.  Season with salt and pepper before serving.

For more information:

Juluis Renner Winery & Winehouse