On this St Patrick’s Day bank holiday weekend, we have a lot to be proud of in Ireland, says Melanie Mullan, as she rounds up the very best holidays the country has to offer.
It’s easy to complain about everything that is wrong with Ireland, but there are some things that we do well and we should want to celebrate that, especially at a time when staycations have never been so foremost in our minds.
Whether it’s a family break, a solo, or where to find delicious food, we’ve chosen our favourite places to visit right now.
Slieve Gullion Forrest Park, Co Armagh
With the smell of spring in the air, it’s time to get out and embrace the big outdoors. Slieve Gullion’s Forrest Park offers a selection of walking routes as well as exciting activities for children, including a journey through the Giant’s Lair where legends and mythical folklore come to life through innovative and creative art projects. Tired bodies and feet can refuel at Synge & Byrne café before taking on the nearby adventure Playpark and Sensory Trail a day out that the whole family will enjoy.
If family holidays normally include zip lining through the forest and kayaking fjords, then make your next break to Delphi Resort.
There is no shortage of activities to do at Delphi, from abseiling and orienteering to raft building and surfing, children will definitely not be twiddling their thumbs on this break.
If climbing trees or water sports have taken their toll on the body, adults can slip away and relax Delphi Spa’s thermal suite which includes a steam room, sauna, and a jacuzzi overlooking the glorious landscape, or even book themselves in for a luxurious treatment that will no doubt ease any achy muscles.
Centre Parcs, Co Longford
Centre Parcs has been the most talked-about addition to Ireland’s hospitality scene this past year, and rightly so. You name an activity, they’ve got it in this Longford resort. Swimming pools, 10-pin bowling, falconry, and adventure golf are a handful of the many ways time can be passed during a stay at Centre Parcs. Leave the cooking to the professionals while here, with multiple restaurants and lodge delivery services to choose from to that will keep the whole family satisfied.
Galway Coast Cottages, Barna, Co. Galway
Sitting on the edge of Connemara, and a mere 15-minute drive from Galway City, Galway Coast Cottages are ideally located for families looking to explore both the city and the countryside.
These two and three-bedroom self-catered cottages are well equipped for all your needs, including a playground for young kids and plenty of room for your four-legged friend. There are plenty of activities on your doorstep, whether it’s a morning spent at the beach or taking the bikes out to see the best of Connemara.
Kerry Way, Co Kerry
If walking holidays and days of solitude bring a smile to your face, then the 230km stretch of the Kerry Way may be the perfect route for you.
Starting in Killarney, the trail covers the Iveragh Peninsula, looping back round to its starting point.
It’s quite common to go a whole day walking without meeting someone, but there are B&Bs and hostels along the way where you can rid of mucky boots and get a hot meal and bed for the night, before continuing on the next morning.
Howth Cliff Walk, Co Dublin
If it’s a sunny day in Dublin, you can expect a crowd at the beginning of this coastal route, as locals and tourists alike are eager for some fresh air and sea views.
It can be slightly off-putting initially, but once you pass the hustle and bustle, things start to quieten as you head for near Howth Head, with views over Lambey Island and Ireland’s Eye.
There are a couple of route options, all which are well sign-posted, but you’ll get to see the best of Dublin, and up your walking difficulty, as you round the peninsula on the cliff-path loop.
The Western Way, Connemara, Galway and Mayo
Blue skies may not always be guaranteed, but regardless of the weather there is always incredible scenery to be found on this island and Connemara’s The Western Way provides just that.
Starting in Oughterard, on the edge of Lough Corrib in Galway passing through Mayo before drawing to an end in Bunnyconnellan, Co Sligo, the route covers over 200km of ground in total.
There are shorter trails along the route, with distances as little as 3.5km and these can be joined at any stage. For those taking looking to take on the full walk, accommodation islimited, so planning is essential.
Glenveagh National Park, Co Donegal
Whether it’s a Sunday stroll to walk off lunch, or a full day of hill-walking, Glenveagh National Park has a selection of walking routes to choose from, that all offer breathtaking views of the stunning Donegal countryside.
Park at the visitor centre and from here take to the hills or head for Glenveagh Castle and Gardens, where you can pitstop in the tea rooms, take a guided tour of the castle, or wander the gardens.
Tired legs can opt for a bus back to the visitor centre which runs every 15 minutes and costs €1.50 per person one way.
Wild Honey Inn, Co Clare
It’s great to explore the vast Burren countryside and its rugged beauty, especially when there is an abundance of excellent food stops in the surrounding areas.
In Lisdoonvarna, chef Aidan McGrath is heading into his third season with a Michelin Star at Wild Honey Inn, serving excellent quality food in his pub alongside wife Kate Sweeney.
There are no airs and graces about the food McGrath creates, it’s good quality produce, prepared exceptionally well.
Guests can also avail of onsite accommodation in one of the 14 very comfortable and welcoming rooms, that are also run by the duo.
Bastion, Kinsale, Co Cork
Bastion has been no secret to the people of Cork since its arrival to the Kinsale dining scene five years ago, but it finally got the recognition it deserved last year when it was awarded a Michelin Star. What Paul McDonald and wife Helen Noonan have achieved in Bastion is delicious, creative food with impeccable service to match.
The restaurant runs an eight-course tasting menu using local produce that coincides with the seasons, meaning that you're almost bound to try something new with each visit.
Overwood at Balloo, Co Down
Less than a year old, Overwood at Balloo does exactly what it says on the tin by cooking their food over wood flames.
The resulting Dishes are packed full of flavour, served in a relaxed environment with a pretty epic wine list to boot. accompany it. Chef Danni Barry is running the kitchen here, creating a menu that has no-fuss feel, but focuses on the excellent local produce and the flavours. When the weather is dry, guests can aperitif or have a post-dinner drink on the terrace, where a beautiful fire and blankets keep everyone nice and toasty.
Bia Rebel Ramen, Belfast,Co Antrim
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***Why the Irish Need Ramen*** “The louder you slurp, the more respect you give to the chef.” — Keizo Shimamoto Ramen is a complex dish that is served and eaten quickly, which can give the mistaken impression that it’s simple or easy. Our Belfast Ramen takes almost forty hours to make and has 26 ingredients: among them oolong orange blossom tea, apples, ginger, and kelp. Slurping the soup brings all out the aromas the mouth and nose, enhancing the overall experience — according to the Japanese ramen masters. Who are we to argue? Here in repressed northern Europe making noises while eating is generally frowned upon, but then again real lusty enjoyment of food was historically frowned upon as well - and where is the fun in that? English-speaking countries have a weird relationship with food. We either obsess over calories, nutrients, sugar, fats, and restrict or agonise over what we eat; or we eat garbage food from petrol stations (Jambon, anyone?) We do not have a natural & healthy relationship with food. Ramen helps us relax. It’s so deeply comforting and satisfying that you can lose yourself a little to the slippery umami deliciousness and forget your manners. Slurp away folks. No judgements here. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . #belfastramen #ramen #noodles #foodrebels #biarebels #instagood #slurpmynoodles #yum #foodstagram #foodisgood #delicious #food #nourish #realfood #eatwelllivewell #northernireland #ireland #belfastcity #unitedkingdom #lovebelfast #bestofbelfast #visitbelfast
Excellent food doesn’t always come with accolades and awards, sometimes it comes when a bowl of broth and noodles are mixed with vegetables and topped with a perfectly boiled egg, served in the form of a delicious, comforting bowl of ramen.
Bia Rebel is mainly a take-away service, with a couple of counters and window seats and a sharing table, but none of this matters is a factor when you’re slurping homemade noodles that will your mouth water every time you think of them thereafter.
Loose Canon Cheese and Wine, Co Dublin
Whether you’re looking for an hour’s peace at lunch or an early-evening glass of wine, Loose Canon Cheese & Wine has all the answers.
Serving toasties during the day, a selection of light snacks in the evening, alongside an ever-changing list of delicious organic wines, this is any wine-and-cheese lover’s heaven.
Sit on a stool with your wine and a book, or, if the sun is shining, plonk yourself on the bench outside and watch the world go by, you won’t notice the time pass you by.
Creative writers workshop, West of Ireland
If you’re looking to take up a new skill this year, why not unleash your creative side by signing up for a weekend writing retreat in the west of Ireland?
Each retreat lasts six days, exploring ways of developing and telling your story through a memoir workshop on Inis Mór island or a fiction-writing retreat in Doolin, Co Clare.
Both include daily writing workshops, guided walks, and plenty of time to unwind and gain inspiration from the local amenities and the surrounding countryside.
Voya Seaweed Baths, Strandhill, Co Sligo
If the noise and chaos of everyday life is taking its toll, take some time to switch off and relax your body and mind in Sligo. Start your day with a walk along Strandhill beach, soaking up the sea air before booking yourself in for a treatment at the Voya Seaweed Baths. Choose from a wide range of treatments, including seaweed baths, wraps. and massages using award-winning VOYA products that will leave your body feeling rejuvenated and restored.
Ardmore Cliff Walk, Co Waterford
Some days are for exploring the city, others are taking on the great outdoors.
Leave the world behind with a walk along the cliff at Ardmore, embracing vast ocean views and sea breeze in your hair as you meander through four kilometres of cliff-top paths.
The quiet cliff walk is dotted with historic landmarks, some of which are known as places of pilgrimage, as well as beautiful wildflowers and scenery.
Helen’s Tower, Co Down
Built in the 19th century and set in the Down countryside, Helen’s Tower is a very unique getaway for history lovers.
The tower consists of four rooms, all of which are on separate levels, including a reading room that will transport guests back in time with its original wood-carved decor and antique furniture.
Nooks by the window offer an idyllic perch for a morning coffee or to soak up the surrounding greenery. Evenings by the open fire with a good book are a must.
Donaghmore Famine Workhouse Museum, Co Laois
The Donaghmore Famine Workhouse Museum explores the history of the Great Famine through the tragic stories of families who lived and died within the workhouse walls during this time.
Aside from the museum, there is an original workhouse which has been restored to its original state and left empty so visitors can get an insight into how bleak life was back then.
Get a glimpse at life in rural Ireland in the years at followed with a visit to the agricultural museum, where you’ll learn all about the equipment used for butter making and cultivation, thanks to the churns and plough on display throughout.
Hook Head Lighthouse,Co Wexford
As one of the oldest operational lighthouses in the world, there’s a wealth of history to be found at Hook Head lighthouse.
Visitors can take a guided tour of the lighthouse which explores the history of the 800-year-old tower from its early inhabitants right up to the very last lighthouse keeper.
Tours are suitable for all ages and there’s plenty to explore on the grounds, after with an abundance of wildlife to be found.
Keep an eye out in the visitor centre to learn more about the marine species, birds and wildlife that can be found.
EPIC The Irish EmigrationMuseum, Co Dublin
It’s well known that wherever we go in the world, we’ll always find an Irish person and the EPIC museum takes guests on a path of discovery as it explores Irish emigration and the many stories of emigrants who started new lives for themselves across the world.
The interactive tour looks at people from all walks of life, from musicians and artists to scientists and politicians, all who explore the importance of being Irish.