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Thank you for the e-mail. What a trip!!!! I can only speak for myself, but I would be very shocked if there are any different view points as everyone truly seemed to have a trip of a lifetime.
First and foremost, let me start by saying how terrific Willie was! He really felt like a member of the family. I hope that the gratuity we gave him met his expectations at a minimum. We were very unsure about what was appropriate, so we took our best guess. I hope we were not short because we truly did love having him as our driver/friend. He went above and beyond the call of duty in putting up with a whole lot of nonsense and being extremely flexible any time there was a change in plans. I would highly recommend hiring him as much as possible and we would love to have him take us around on our next trip. The bus was also very comfortable and met all of our expectations.
All of the accommodations met or exceeded our expectations as well. I think the Castle Lodge was everyone's favorite. Gerry and Edyth(sp?) were incredibly friendly and went way out of their way in accommodating us. I am not sure if you heard, but they let us order a Philadelphia ice hockey playoff game which started at midnight and Gerry stayed up watching it with us. They also went out of their way to make sure we had egg sandwiches to take with us on our way to Baltray. Moreover, the accommodations were very nice as it was a very new facility. Further, Malahide is such a great town and the B&B was a short walk from the center. I highly recommend this B&B (in fact I have already recommended it to friends traveling to Dublin).
The other two B&B's were very nice as well. We did not make the same connections with the owners but I think that was largely because we did not spend much time in them at all. We would literally arrive to go to bed and depart shortly after wake up. Susan at the Brier's House was very friendly. The Anvershiel House was great because it was a short walk to the waterfront in Portrush. We ate both nights at the Harbour Bar which had excellent food and was very reasonably priced. I would highly recommend the Harbour Bar to future groups. I would also recommend Quinn's pub in Newcastle (beautiful woodwork) for drink. We did not eat at Quinn's because the kitchen was closed the day we went there. One downside to the Brier's House was that it was not within walking distance to the town. However, this was a minor glitch as the cabs were very inexpensive. This fact would not keep me from staying there again or recommending it.
Lastly, the golf courses speak for themselves! Wow! Every course we played was fantastic and unique in its own way so it is really hard to compare. It is like comparing Michelangelo to Van Gogh. However, for the sake of having fun, if I had to rank, this would be it:
3) Island Club
7) Royal Dublin
I am sure that everyone's rankings would be different. I am also sure that if I played the 7 courses again the rankings would be different the next time.
Cathal, thank you for all that you have done. There is no doubt that I will contact you when it comes time for our next trip. To be perfectly honest, I believe our (at least my) next golf trip will be to Scotland to play the Old Course. Realistically, I am thinking that it will be no earlier than 2012 but more likely in 2013. However, there is no doubt that the first trip after that one will be to the Southwest of Ireland. If I have my way, the trip after that will also be to Ireland, but to the Northwest. In the meantime, I will try to send anyone even thinking about a trip to Ireland your way. I hope this feedback is helpful. Please let me know if you have any questions or if there is anything else I can do. Thanks again!
P.S. Of course, Gibneys was fantastic!
Andrew McReynolds, USA