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Ireland holidays: Why the Emerald Isle makes for a gem of a break

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We don’t at all times appreciate what’s on our doorstep. That’s definitely the case in terms of Ireland — and it’s particularly relevant this 12 months as airports report long delays and form-filling remains to be insisted on by some overseas countries.

There aren’t any restrictions in any respect when visiting Ireland, and none while you return to the UK, either. All in all, it means Ireland is back on the tourist map: live music in pubs, legendary craic, majestic coastlines, rambling castles, historic towns, fresh oysters, soda bread — and pints and pints of Guinness, which at all times tastes much better there than it does anywhere within the UK. 

All that is just a brief flight or ferry hop away. We’re leaving out Dublin since it needs no introduction. So follow our guide and discover one of the beautiful, and definitely one in every of the friendliest, countries in Europe.

CLARE CALLS

Irish charm: Scenically, County Clare is awfully wonderful. Above are the county’s famous Cliffs of Moher

Splash of colour: The exuberantly painted houses of Doolin village - a haven for lovers of traditional music - in County Clare

Splash of color: The exuberantly painted houses of Doolin village – a haven for lovers of traditional music – in County Clare

Lisdoonvarna¿s Matchmaker Bar. The Clare town hosts a matchmaking festival every September

Lisdoonvarna’s Matchmaker Bar. The Clare town hosts a matchmaking festival every September

In the event you don’t fall in love with County Clare, you’re not trying. Scenically, it’s extraordinarily wonderful, from the steepling Cliffs of Moher to the good limestone escarpment of the Burren, and the dainty Aran Islands inside easy reach. For lovers of traditional music, there may be Doolin village.

For golfers, there may be a stunning wind-swept links course at Lahinch. 

For romantics, there may be Lisdoonvarna, with its matchmaking festival every September. Accommodation is plentiful, but there’s something to be said for staying inland fairly than on the coast, perhaps on the likeable town of Corofin, near the romantically wooded Lake Inchiquin.

DON’T MISS: The 24ft Great Stalactite at Doolin Cave (doolincave.ie).

WHERE TO STAY: Two nights on the charming Corofin Lake Cottages, sleeping six, from £327 (booking.com).

COUNT ON CORK

Cork's Sheep¿s Head peninsula, pictured, marks the southernmost point on the Wild Atlantic Way, which extends up the whole of the west coast

Cork’s Sheep’s Head peninsula, pictured, marks the southernmost point on the Wild Atlantic Way, which extends up the entire of the west coast

During your visit to Cork, enjoy a glass of bubbly on arrival at the Montenotte Hotel (pictured)

During your visit to Cork, enjoy a glass of bubbly on arrival on the Montenotte Hotel (pictured) 

Above is the cinema room at Cork's Montenotte Hotel. Bed and breakfast doubles are priced from £173

Above is the cinema room at Cork’s Montenotte Hotel. Bed and breakfast doubles are priced from £173

Cork is Ireland’s second largest city, and an incredible base for exploring the country’s south-west. After kissing the Blarney Stone at Blarney Castle, head west towards the Atlantic, where you will see craggy peninsulas, secluded coves, Bronze Age stone circles and walking trails wealthy in photo opportunities.

The gorgeous village of Durrus on the Sheep’s Head peninsula embodies the very best of the region and likewise marks the southernmost point on the Wild Atlantic Way, which extends up the entire of the west coast (wildatlanticway.com).

DON’T MISS: A pub crawl in Cork, from the Shelbourne Bar to Costigan’s Pub via Mutton Lane Inn.

WHERE TO STAY: The Montenotte Hotel in Cork from £173 B&B, with a glass of bubbly on arrival (themontenottehotel.com).

DON’T MISS DONEGAL

After a walk around the gardens (pictured) at Glenveagh Castle, stop for a brew at the charming tearoom

After a walk across the gardens (pictured) at Glenveagh Castle, stop for a brew on the charming tearoom

Above is the mighty Glenveagh National Park, one of the many attractions in the beautiful county of Donegal

Above is the mighty Glenveagh National Park, one in every of the various attractions in the attractive county of Donegal 

Check into the Whispering Willows cottage (pictured) in Carndonagh, where seven nights cost from £361

Check into the Whispering Willows cottage (pictured) in Carndonagh, where seven nights cost from £361

Arguably Ireland’s most beautiful county, against stiff competition, Donegal offers an exciting combination of rugged hills, sheltered coves and vast sandy beaches. Donegal tweed is legendary the world over, the region throbs with traditional music and, from the busy heritage village of Ardara to the beautiful coastal town of Dunfanaghy via the mighty Glenveagh National Park, every corner of the county tugs on the heart-strings.

DON’T MISS: Tea on the charming tearoom at Glenveagh Castle after a walk around the gardens (glenveaghnationalpark.ie).

WHERE TO STAY: Seven nights on the Whispering Willows cottage sleeping two in Carndonagh from £361 (sykescottages.co.uk).

SCENIC CONNEMARA

The main town in Connemara is Clifden (pictured), steeped in quirky history and nestling snugly between the Twelve Bens mountains and the ocean

The fundamental town in Connemara is Clifden (pictured), steeped in quirky history and nestling snugly between the Twelve Bens mountains and the ocean

You will get an eyeful of five-star views from the hilly walking trails in the Connemara National Park (pictured)

You’ll get an eyeful of five-star views from the hilly walking trails within the Connemara National Park (pictured)

Seven nights at Cottage 201 near Claddaghduff village costs from £420. Above is a scene by the beach in the pretty west coast village

Seven nights at Cottage 201 near Claddaghduff village costs from £420. Above is a scene by the beach in the beautiful west coast village 

Traditional Irish music in a pub in Galway city, east of Connemara

Traditional Irish music in a pub in Galway city, east of Connemara

Fabled for its ponies, peat bogs and traditional music, Connemara is a very delightful enclave to the west of Galway. It is sort of a microcosm of the mythical Ireland that point forgot.

Whether your taste is for watching the Atlantic waves crash against the Errismore peninsula or for hilly walking trails within the Connemara National Park, you’re going to get an eyeful of five-star views. The fundamental town within the region is Clifden, steeped in quirky history and nestling snugly between the Twelve Bens mountains and the ocean.

DON’T MISS: The ten-mile drive from Clifden onto the Kingstown Peninsula with splendid coast views (guidetoconnemara.com).

WHERE TO STAY: Seven nights at Cottage 201, sleeping 4, near Claddaghduff village from £420 (loveconnemaracottages.com).

MORE MAYO PLEASE

St Patrick fasted for 40 days on top of the magnificently rugged mountain of Croagh Patrick, pictured, in Mayo

St Patrick fasted for 40 days on top of the magnificently rugged mountain of Croagh Patrick, pictured, in Mayo 

Pictured above is Keem Bay on the dramatically landscaped Achill Island, off County Mayo's west coast

Pictured above is Keem Bay on the dramatically landscaped Achill Island, off County Mayo’s west coast 

Baa-rilliant: Above, a sheep gazes down on the azure waters of Keem Bay

Baa-rilliant: Above, a sheep gazes down on the azure waters of Keem Bay  

Above is The Quiet Man Museum in Cong, the village where the 1950s movie was filmed

Above is The Quiet Man Museum in Cong, the village where the Fifties movie was filmed  

St Patrick put Mayo on the map within the fifth century, when he fasted for 40 days on top of Croagh Patrick, a magnificently rugged mountain in a county with no shortage of them. 

Achill Island, off the west coast, boasts an equally dramatic landscape. 

Other must-visit destinations in Mayo include the beautiful Georgian town of Westport and tiny Cong, the village where The Quiet Man was filmed within the Fifties.

DON’T MISS: The Royal Abbey of Cong, the atmospheric ruins of a Thirteenth-century Augustine monastery.

WHERE TO STAY: The Quay Holiday Apartment, sleeping two, is a 15-minute walk outside Westport and shut to pubs and a beach, from £61 an evening (holidaylettings.co.uk).

GO-GO SLIGO

The pretty fishing village of Mullaghmore, pictured above, is among County Sligo's many treats

The gorgeous fishing village of Mullaghmore, pictured above, is amongst County Sligo’s many treats

Around the breathtaking Benbulbin flat-topped rock formation in County Sligo, pictured, you'll discover some great hiking routes

Across the breathtaking Benbulbin flat-topped rock formation in County Sligo, pictured, you may discover some great mountain climbing routes 

The poet William Butler Yeats' grave in Drumcliffe cemetery is rightly a place of pilgrimage for lovers of Irish culture

The poet William Butler Yeats’ grave in Drumcliffe cemetery is rightly a spot of pilgrimage for lovers of Irish culture 

Anyone who got hooked on the BBC’s Normal People will likely be curious to see the county where Marianne and Connell grew up. 

A variety of the filming took place around Tubbercurry — quintessential small-town Ireland with a suitably bonkers name to match.

Other Sligo treats include the beautiful fishing village of Mullaghmore and the thrillingly uncrowded beach at Rosses Point. 

For lovers of Irish culture of an older vintage, Sligo can be often known as ‘Yeats Country’, and the grave of the poet in Drumcliffe cemetery is rightly a spot of pilgrimage.

DON’T MISS: The Benbulbin flat-topped rock formation; great hikes nearby.

WHERE TO STAY: Three nights at Beezies Self-Catering Cottages, sleeping 4, near Lislary Beach, from £328 (sligoselfcateringcottages.com).

RING OF KERRY

If you fancy a bracing mountain hike pre-Guinness, look no further than the majestic MacGillycuddy¿s Reeks, pictured, in County Kerry

In the event you fancy a bracing mountain hike pre-Guinness, look no further than the majestic MacGillycuddy’s Reeks, pictured, in County Kerry 

Check in to the Killarney Towers Hotel during your visit to County Kerry. Pictured is the hotel's pub - O'Donoghue Public House

Check in to the Killarney Towers Hotel during your visit to County Kerry. Pictured is the hotel’s pub – O’Donoghue Public House

Above is the swimming pool at the Killarney Towers Hotel, where double rooms are priced from £98

Above is the swimming pool on the Killarney Towers Hotel, where double rooms are priced from £98

A waterfall in the beautiful Killarney National Park

A waterfall in the attractive Killarney National Park

The Ring of Kerry, winding imperiously around the Iveragh peninsula, can get congested in high summer, but there may be a lot to admire on this famously pretty corner of Ireland that it’s value adding to your shortlist. In the event you fancy a bracing mountain hike pre-Guinness, look no further than the majestic MacGillycuddy’s Reeks.

DON’T MISS: A protracted walk in the attractive Killarney National Park (killarneynationalpark.ie).

WHERE TO STAY: Doubles on the Killarney Towers Hotel in Killarney from £98 (theringofkerry.com).

LOVE LOUTH

County Louth has plenty to offer - Carlingford Lough, pictured, is extraordinarily easy on the eye, with the Mountains of Mourne for a backdrop

County Louth has plenty to supply – Carlingford Lough, pictured, is awfully easy on the attention, with the Mountains of Mourne for a backdrop

Explore the remains of Mellifont Abbey near Drogheda, the first Cistercian abbey in Ireland

Explore the stays of Mellifont Abbey near Drogheda, the primary Cistercian abbey in Ireland

Known affectionately because the Wee County, as it’s the smallest in Ireland, County Louth has plenty to supply, and is definitely accessible from each Belfast and Dublin. Carlingford Lough, on the border with Northern Ireland, isn’t just extraordinarily easy on the attention, with the Mountains of Mourne for a backdrop, but a magnet for bird-watchers. Louth’s two fundamental towns, Dundalk and Drogheda, are steeped in a lot history that, if you desire to grasp the complexities of Irish politics, they make excellent starting points.

DON’T MISS: The stays of Mellifont Abbey near Drogheda, the primary Cistercian abbey in Ireland (1152).

WHERE TO STAY: An evening at one in every of the trendy self-catering apartments, sleeping two, overlooking the lough at Carlingford Marina from £210; greater apartments available (carlingfordmarina.com).

WATERFORD WONDERS

Head on a ramble in the towering Knockmealdown Mountains. Above is the Vee Pass on the Tipperary side of the mountain range

Head on a ramble within the towering Knockmealdown Mountains. Above is the Vee Pass on the Tipperary side of the mountain range

Easily accessible via the ferry to Rosslare, Waterford is yet one more Irish county wherein history and geography form an enchanting marriage. The cathedral city of Waterford, a rabbit warren of curiosities, was founded by the Vikings within the tenth century.

Further afield, the colorful Copper Coast, between Tramore and Bunmahon, can have amateur geologists purring, while Lismore castle is delightful. And what lover of wordplay could resist a ramble within the towering Knockmealdown Mountains, followed by a slap-up lunch?

DON’T MISS: A visit to the House of Waterford Crystal to see how the famous crystal is made (waterfordvisitorcentre.com).

WHERE TO STAY: Doubles on the stunning Cliffhouse Hotel within the village of Ardmore from £216 (cliffhousehotel.ie).

WICKED WICKLOW

Green and pleasant land: Wicklow¿s rolling fields. The county, set to the south of Dublin, is known as the Garden of Ireland

Green and nice land: Wicklow’s rolling fields. The county, set to the south of Dublin, is often known as the Garden of Ireland

To make the most of your time in Waterford, trek through the heather-rich wilderness of the Sally Gap (pictured)

To benefit from your time in Waterford, trek through the heather-rich wilderness of the Sally Gap (pictured) 

Spend a week at one of the Glendale Holiday Cottages, pictured, in a pretty rural setting near Glendalough National Park

Spend per week at one in every of the Glendale Holiday Cottages, pictured, in a reasonably rural setting near Glendalough National Park 

County Wicklow, to the south of Dublin, is often known as the Garden of Ireland. Whether your taste is for the heather-rich wilderness of the Sally Gap or the formal gardens of Powerscourt and Mount Usher, you’re in for a treat. Head for the ocean, at Wicklow Head, or inland to the valley of Glendalough, for a glimpse of the tranquillity that’s quintessential Ireland.

DON’T MISS: Kilmacurragh’s National Botanical Gardens (botanicgardens.ie).

WHERE TO STAY: Per week at one in every of the Glendale Holiday Cottages, sleeping as much as six, in a reasonably rural setting near Glendalough National Park from £362 (glendaloughcottages.com).

TRAVEL FACTS

Return ferry tickets from Holyhead to Dublin or Pembroke to Rosslare cost from £180pp based on two travelling by automotive (irishferries.com). Return flights from Stansted to Cork from £26 (ryanair.com). Automotive hire available from economycarrentals.com.

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