Monday 24 April 2017

Gardens of EDEN: Ireland's European destinations of excellence

4 to try: short breaks

Picturesque: Clonakilty, Co. Cork
Picturesque: Clonakilty, Co. Cork
Loop Head, Co Clare
Mulranny, Co. Mayo
Deirdre Conroy

Deirdre Conroy

Ireland boasts seven award-winning European Destinations of Excellence, offering plenty of choice for a staycation.

Clonakilty, Co Cork

Picturesque Clonakilty (above) is the only town in Ireland ­accredited with the CittaSlow movement, which aims to slow the pace and traffic in rural towns. Full of 19th-century character, Emmet Hotel does a Champagne afternoon tea, while the Copper Pot and An Súgán combine great seafood with music at night. I stayed at Inchydoney Island Lodge & Spa, a great location, overlooking the sandy, surfing beach.

Get there: clonakilty.ie; cittaslow.org

Mulranny, Co Mayo

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The Great Western Greenway runs 42km from Westport to Achill, passing right behind Mulranny Park Hotel, where you can hire bikes and be collected later from Achill Island after a spot of kite-surfing at Keel lake. Views over Clew Bay and the Nephin Mountains are ridiculously scenic, and it's family-friendly to boot.

Try the hotel's wonderful restaurant, and take a Seashore Safari with Cheryl Browne, foraging in rock pools for dillisk, dulse and sea spaghetti. Kelp is perfect in a warm bath, leaving your skin smooth and glowing. A garden of EDEN, indeed!

Get there: greenway.ie; mulranny.ie

Cavan Town

EDEN (European Destinations of Excellence) is a project promoting sustainable tourism in the EU, and Ireland now has seven national award ­winners. Cavan Town took a prize for its accessible ­tourism, and with its surprising heritage, trad music scene and ­improving restaurants (the Taste of Cavan food festival takes place August 12/13), it is well worth a visit. Branching out, don't miss Cavan County ­Museum with its replica World War I trench and why not spend a day boating or kayaking at the picturesque Lough Oughter (above).

Get there: thisiscavan.ie; disabledgo.com

Loop Head, Co Clare

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Loop Head is a nature trail of dramatic proportions, with soaring cliffs and deep blue ocean offering spectacular biodiversity. 19th-century Kilkee is its gateway town, where you can eat snap-fresh seafood and steak at Murphy Blacks after swimming at the Pollock Holes. The tiny village of Kilbaha has breathtaking views of the Kerry Mountains, and a visit to Carrigaholt offers sea-angling, pub grub at The Long Dock, and the largest group of resident bottlenose dolphins in Europe.

Get there: loophead.ie; dolphinwatch.ie

Top Tip

The Burren Food Trail (burren.ie) is Ireland's latest EDEN award-winner. Carlingford and the Sheep’s Head Peninsula are the others.

That's your next seven short breaks sorted!

For more, see irelandseden.ie.

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