Staycation planning: Why make a meal out of it?

The secret to a great staycation is knowing what to put in your belly, and where to lay your head!
Staycation planning: Why make a meal out of it?

Look out for local cheesemakers, charcutiers and fish smokers to experience the finest of Irish produce as you explore the country.

After three years of pandemic restrictions, there does appear to be a cabin fever in the air, a stir crazy desire to be ‘anywhere else but here’, especially if ‘anywhere else’ some permanently sunkissed continental idyll.


Check out our Sustainability and Climate Change Hub where you will find the latest news, features, opinions and analysis on this topic from across the various Irish Examiner topic desks and their team of specialist writers and columnists.

I must confess, the Progeny were on my case to do the same, expressing a strong desire for guaranteed sun and a warning that none of my ‘interesting’ additions such as fine dining restaurants and ‘culturally stimulating’ day trips would be tolerated so I resigned myself to a fate worse than package holidays and cranked up the interweb.

Five minutes later, my wallet was on the floor surrounded by medics sparking up the defibrillator and that was without purchasing so much as a single seashell — and it starts with the cost of flights, with prices on some operators having risen by as much as 40% as airlines seek to recoup pandemic losses just as an overwhelming majority have decided they’re ready to fly abroad once more.  And that’s even before factoring in the cost of accommodation and spending money while on holidays!

Increasingly, as well, more and more of us are becoming conscious of the serious environmental impact of casually jetting off on a plane whenever the whim takes us. Now, this old sun-loving lizard is not going to start advocating for a total ban on flying — for a start, we live on a small island at the edge of continental Europe and it is very difficult to take my preferred mode of transport, the train, without at least some flying —but it certainly behoves us to be more environmentally conscious about our decisions to do so.  

But rather than treating that notion as deprivation, turn it around and focus on your privileged position to be living where you are — there is a reason that people travel from all around the globe to holiday in Ireland for it offers scenery, accommodations and food and dining of a world class standard.  

By choosing not to fly abroad and instead investing in the Irish economy, you have already taken two deeply sustainable vacationing decisions; here’s a little guide to maintaining that commitment to sustainability in every aspect of your holiday.  

Where to stay 

For decades, Irish tourism wore blinkers when it came to camping, deciding there was little or no money to be made in the sector so treating it like the unwanted orphan, giving it little or no attention to the point that it vanished almost entirely during the height of the Celtic Tiger. Some 20 years ago, a Parisian hospitality operator illustrated to me the foolishness of such short-termism — there are a surprising amount of camping facilities in and around Paris, which then and maybe still do receive state support, enabling young backpackers to visit The City of Light on a budget in their late teens and early 20s, thus developing a grá for the place that draws them back again throughout the different stages of their lives, inevitably spending more and more on each successive visit.

The crash of the Celtic Tiger saw the return of a native appetite for camping, camper van sites and the introduction of glamping. There’s been a sea change in the last decade that has seen the very best of the new operators put sustainability to the fore.

Also, a quick shout out for ‘wild’ camping, sleeping out away from any formalised camping structures — everyone should do it at least once in their lives but, remember, take your responsibilities to the environment very seriously, cleaning up after you and follow the adage: ‘take nothing but photos, leave nothing behind but footprints.’ And at that, be careful where you leave those footprints!  

Meanwhile, bricks and mortar accommodation only continues to improve year on year in Ireland, and the commitment to sustainability is more and more a hallmark of the very best operators.

What to do

You may not get to pass a whole two week Irish summer vacation sweltering and working your way through gallons of the Hawaiian Tropic, but Irish beaches and coastlines still offer myriad opportunities for activities, fun and entertainment.  

A kayaking trip is guaranteed to provide fun for all the family.
A kayaking trip is guaranteed to provide fun for all the family.

And it’s not just the coasts, as the hinterland beyond and the landlocked midlands offer all sorts of wonderful activities and amenities for all ages, including cycling and biking (especially along the much safer greenways springing up around the country), hiking, hillwalking and a variety of adventure parks for younger tourists.

The Wild Atlantic Way, The Burren, Connemara and its beaches and islands? Come on, people, with places like this on offer all you need to do is get there and let nature take you by the hand and lead you to the heart of nirvana!

Atlantic Sea Kayaking, West Cork 

Multiple seabound packages for all ages and abilities on offer and where this writer first fell in love with kayaking. Best of all is the night time paddles experiencing the magic of otherworldly bioluminescence and led by superb and very safety conscious guides. 

Whale Watch, West Cork 

On a good day, you’ll see not only baleens, minkes, fins, and humpbacks, but also bottle-nosed dolphins, as well as receiving a crash course in marine education and conservation.  

Beyond The Glass Adventure Tours  

Beyond The Glass Adventure Tours offers multi-day guided activity holidays on Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way. It specialises in hiking and cycling small-group tours. 

Airfield Farm, Dublin 

A fabulous working farm right in the middle of Dublin set on 30+ acres, with live animals, plants and crops, education programme and its own farm to fork restaurant, the very wonderful Overends. 

What to eat

Eating the very best food in Ireland invariably means you are eating more sustainably as the best culinary practitioners rely primarily on local, fresh, chemical-free, seasonal Irish produce to backbone their menus.

Create your own Michelin-worthy feast by stocking up on ingredients at a local farmer's market.
Create your own Michelin-worthy feast by stocking up on ingredients at a local farmer's market.

However, it is not always feasible, especially if travelling en famille, to eat out every single night, so we’ll leave you to pick the restaurants and instead offer a brief guide to alternative and deeply sustainable dining options.

The ‘Local’ Picnic 

Look out for local cheesemakers, baker-members of Real Bread Ireland for real bread, charcutiers and producers of cured meats, fish smokers, local growers, for fresh fruit and salads. Buy a good bottle of wine, find a stunning location and enjoy one of the finest inexpensive meals in the country, anywhere in the country.

The Food Tour/The Farm Visit 

Food tours/farm visits offer both opportunities to nibble on site and shop for later, either as a guided tour of several local producers in one package or individual farm or production centre visits such as Burren Smokehouse, in Co Clare, which comes with its own restaurant attached. Food tours also include tours of craft brewers and distillers.

Farmer’s Markets 

Not all farmers’ markets are equal but you are guaranteed the makings of a decent meal from each and everyone, even if you have to do much of the hard yards yourself, either in your rented kitchen later that evening or at an al fresco picnic.  

Irish Food Festivals 

There are Irish food festivals the length and breadth of the island and one thing they all have in common is pretty much all of the established players are nothing short of fantastic. With programmes invariably packed full of food-themed entertainment for all the family, there is food aplenty for mind, body and soul.

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