School’s out, the sun’s been shining, and we have a beautiful island to explore, so here’s your guide to the best things to see, do and experience this summer
The latest in a stream of Irish greenways, this 40km route links Rathkeale, Newcastle West and Abbeyfeale along the old Limerick-to-Kerry railway line, in the beautiful western part of the county. It’s just gotten a €10m reboot, and there’s plenty to see along the way, from medieval ruins and Norman castles to pretty stone bridges and countryside views aplenty. You’ll also pass Ferguson’s Viaduct and the 115-metre Barnagh Tunnel. limerickgreenway.ie
While you’re there: The nearby Mustard Seed in Ballingarry has a ‘Great Escape’ offer bundling B&B with dinner in its country-house restaurant from €129pp. mustardseed.ie
We’ve heard a million times that this is an outdoor summer. Luckily, there are loads of creative ventures out there to keep things interesting, like the Pop Up Movie Club. They’re doing outdoor screenings in fantastic Cork locations, so you can watch Finding Nemo overlooking Kinsale Harbour, or Jurassic Park on the grounds of Fota House (hopefully with the distant roar of lions in the background, for a surround-sound effect). Movies will be showing on two weekends, August 7-8 at Fota, and 21-22 in Kinsale. €15.50/€10 per adult/child; popupmovie.club
While you’re there: Did you know you can book a ‘Behind the Scenes’ experience at Fota Wildlife Park? A two-hour private tour with the chance to feed some animals costs from €160 for two adults. fotawildlife.ie
In truth, you could spend far more than a day here — aerial trekking courses, a tree canopy walk rising 9m above the ground, a woodland Segway tour, Swedish puzzle house (the Boda Borg) and Stand Up Paddling are just some of the adventures on offer. If you’re lucky, you might be able to book a slot in the caravan and camping park, too. From €8/5 (other attractions priced individually). Bring €4 in coins for parking. visitroscommon.ie; loughkey.ie
While you’re there: Bring the bikes. A 7.9km cycling route takes you from Boyle to Lough Key — passing King House, Boyle Abbey and proceeding along the banks of the Boyle Canal through woodland into the forest park itself.
South Bull Wall, Dublin
Catch the last of the day’s rays with a sunset walk on the South Wall or go at high tide for a swim at the Half Moon Club, which is particularly memorable when the evening ferry looms large on the one side of the wall as you bob about over on the Sandymount side. And the changing area makes a sheltered suntrap for a post-swim picnic. See tide-forecast.com for high-tide times, and check beaches.ie for up-to-date water quality.
While you’re there: Stock up en route at Lotts & Co (Beggar’s Bush), Kennedy’s (Fairview) or the new Elm Epicurean (Mount Merrion) and Barrow Market (Grand Canal Street) from the Mamó/Margadh crew. lottsandco.ie, kennedysfoodstore.com, elmepicurean.ie, barrowmarket.ie
If you can’t make it to Santiago this summer, grab your hiking poles for the newly launched St Declan’s Way — also known by some as the Waterford Camino. The walking route follows the trail that Declan took from Ardmore to Cashel to meet St Patrick in the fifth century. Stretching 90km in total and traversing the stunning Knockmealdown Mountains, six days are recommended to complete the trail in full. Daytrippers, however, can lace up for scenic, shorter stretches, like the Blackwater-to-Celtic Sea leg from Villierstown to Ardmore. munstervales.com
While you’re there: Phil and Elaine Brennan of waterfordcamino.com offer several guided walking options, from tasters to a full six-day hike with accommodation.
Lough Gill is the perfect lake for kayaking, and the trips run by Sligo Kayak Tours give you a fabulous introduction. You’ll paddle past forests and shores, alongside tiny lake islands and jetties, and pitch up for refreshments along the way, too. While their most popular paddle is the Lough Gill tour, they also run trips on Glencar Lake, where you can paddle right past Glencar Waterfall — made famous by WB Yeats. You’ll need to get a gang together to do it, but if there are a few of you interested, it’s well worth it. From €50pp. sligokayaktours.com
While you’re there: Keep the adrenaline up by booking a hike, cycle or SUP trip. adventuresligo.ie
This little-known wild-swimming spot is hidden away on the eastern edge of the Slieve Blooms, where the dark waters of the Owenass River tumble over the Cathole Falls and into a deep pool. The water is surrounded by flat slabs of rock, which are the perfect place to soak up the sun on warm days. Beside the car park, there is a nice grassy area ideal for a post-dip picnic, and if you follow the path further downstream through the woods, you’ll find a number of very pretty waterfalls and deep pools. Remember to follow water-safety advice and never swim alone. laoistourism.ie
While you’re there: Afterwards, drive 20 minutes to the Kea-Lew Business Park in Portlaoise. The Store Yard is great for exploring antiques, salvaged goods and curios (it’s got a tasty café too) and Kelly Lou Cakes is across the road.
The new Clew Bay Bike Trail is a 105km bike and ferry route taking in not only the beautiful curves of Clew Bay, but Clare Island and Achill, to boot. It incorporates the Great Western Greenway, from Westport to Achill, and extends right to the tip of the island at Cloughmore, where you hop on a ferry to Clare Island. After a zip around the island, you hop on another ferry to Roonagh before cycling back to the trailhead in Westport. clewbaybiketrail.ie
While you’re there: Book an overnight stay at Mulranny Park Hotel — there’s bike hire, too. mulrannyparkhotel.ie
From the fishing village of Kilmore Quay, Ballyteige Burrow, a beautiful crescent of golden sand backed by tall dunes and a tidal lagoon, stretches west for over 10km. The Burrow’s beach, dunes and wetlands are a designated nature reserve and a unique habitat, home to a number of extremely rare plants and insects. The 20km walk along the beach to the mouth of the River Muck and back has a wonderful wild feel, with nothing but sea, sand and sky for company. On your return to civilisation, you will certainly have earned your fish and chips from the legendary Little Saltee chipper beside the pier. visitwexford.ie
While you’re there: It’s best planned as a daytrip in itself, but the trip to the Saltee Islands (particularly in puffin season) is a stunner. salteeferry.com; salteeislands.info
Not as well known as Malin Head, Ireland’s most northerly point, Dunaff Head is a Donegal insider’s secret. Located on the western side of the Inishowen Peninsula, this is a place of spectacular beauty. Pack a picnic and take in the breathtaking views of Roxtown Harbour and Bothanvarra sea stack. A short drive away, the market town of Carndonagh is a good spot for lunch, with Baker Street a trendy new addition. Other options include Caffe Banba and Café Donagh. govisitdonegal.com
While you’re there: On the other side of the peninsula, a trailhead leads you to the top of Inishowen Head. From here, the blue Atlantic opens up and you can see the remains of an old church founded by St Columba. Sturdy boots are a must.
Galway is getting its first-ever walking festival this month, with 16 tour guides teaming up to tell stories on 25 different routes throughout the county, ranging from Coole Park to the NUI Galway campus. In the city itself, you can join a Literature & Film trail, learn why it’s called the City of the Tribes, and even follow a “night watchman” as he does his rounds by torchlight, discovering what life was really like within the walls of medieval Galway... with a few scares, to boot. July 9-25. galwaywalkingfestival.ie
While you’re there: See the city from a different perspective with a boat tour around the inner bay with skipper and guide Ciaran Oliver. From €20pp; galwaybaytours.com
There’s nothing quite like the cliffs in Mayo, and Benwee Head is spectacular. If you want to see it in all its glory, the 12km Benwee Loop starts in Carrowteige village, taking you all the way to the tip of the head, where you’ll find the Children of Lir sculpture. From there, you’ll weave along the top of the cliffs, with beautiful views of the sea stacks and churning waves as they crash below. You can even veer slightly off the loop and head down to Rinroe Beach, which is the picnic spot that dreams are made of. mayo.ie
While you’re at it: Drive along the Céide Coast, one of Ireland’s most underrated strips of coastline, stopping off at the Ballinglen Museum of Art at Ballycastle. northmayo.ie
Explore the gentle waters and lush banks of the historic River Boyne in a traditional currach. Hand-crafted by Ross Kenny, who built boats for the Game of Thrones series, the 7m-long wooden boat holds eight paddlers plus a helm. During the 90-minute tour, you will paddle along the river as Ross shares his deep knowledge of the Boyne Valley’s nature, folklore and history. €25pp, boyneboats.ie
While you’re there: Stay at the refurbished Station House Hotel in Kilmessan — a former stop on the Dublin & Meath line. stationhousehotel.ie; discoverboynevalley.ie
There are lots of water activities available at Dunmore Adventure, from sailing to kayaking, as well as their giant Wibit Wipeout Aquapark, where you can leap around the inflatable slides and trampolines. You can also add a session on one of their giant SUP boards, which fit 6-10 people. Depending on your family dynamic, you’ll either have heaps of fun… or push someone overboard. €45 per adult for Wibit and Giant SUP. dunmoreadventure.com
While you’re there: There’s a beautiful coastal trail linking Dunmore East to Portally Cove — and onwards towards Rathmoylan and Ballymacaw. visitwaterford.com
The iconic flat-topped Benbulben mountain has dominated the landscape in the west of Sligo for over 300 million years. Visible throughout the west of the county, you can really get a feel for its sheer size and otherworldly shape by exploring the trails and laneways at its base. The forest-walk trail begins in a secluded forest before opening out to provide stunning views of Benbulben Head. As the walk loops around, you take in vistas of Slieve League and Donegal Bay as well as Classiebawn Castle at Mullaghmore. The trail starts and finishes at the car park at Gortarowey, and takes about an hour and a half. sligotourism.ie
While you’re there: The outdoor dining at Davis’s Restaurant and Yeats Tavern at Drumcliffe, 6km away, is operating on a first-come, first-served basis. yeatstavernrestaurant.com
If a walk through some of Ireland’s finest scenery, with little chance of meeting anyone or seeing any signs of modern development, is something that appeals, then this is the walk for you. A section of the old Creeslough-to-Burtonport railway line has been cleared and made suitable for walkers. This 6km route to the Falcarragh station passes along Lough Agher and cuts through rocky outcrops showing some of the engineering feats involved in the construction of the original railway. To find it, turn off the N56 opposite the Doe graveyard, just on the north side of Creeslough. Drive for a few kilometres, past Muckish Sand & Gravel, and you will see the walkers’ signs on the left.
While you’re there: If you’ve worked up an appetite, stop at Batch in Falcarragh. The small family-run café is worth a stop for the coffee alone. batch.ie
The gaelcholáistí may have their doors dúnta, but kids can still enjoy some summer spraoi this year in the Cape Clear Gaeltacht. Islander Paula Ní Ríogáin runs Maratacht, a week-long maritime camp where children aged 10-15 can enjoy an outdoors course focused on marine and ecology matters, with Irish modules stitched in also. Participants can ferry over from the mainland, and spots were still available as we published; from €250 per child. lasmuigh.ie
While you’re there: For for the ultimate Gaeltacht experience, you can avail of the self-catering option to stay over at the island’s Tír na nÓg hostel. capeclearisland.ie
Did you know Line of Duty was filmed in Belfast? You may not be able to float up the Lagan in a bubble, but you can follow in the footsteps of Superintendent Hastings, Detective Inspector Arnott and DI Fleming with this new tour of locations from the hit series. Hastings Hotels and McComb’s Coach Travel teamed up to create the tour, which ranges from the Invest NI building (the setting for AC-12 HQ) to the famous subway rendezvous point and sites of the top car chases. It starts with lunch in the Grand Central Hotel and finishes with an AC-12 cocktail or Wee Donkey mocktail in the Observatory, Ireland’s tallest cocktail bar. It runs July 17 and 31, August 14 and 28, and September 11 and 25; £49pp. mccombscoaches.com
While you’re there: You can book the tour as part of an overnight package from €256. grandcentralhotelbelfast.com
Coffee, it’s not for kids! That’s the motto at least at The Old Barracks in the scenic Tipp village of Birdhill, which bills itself as Ireland’s first adults-only coffee shop. The Pinterest-perfect café-cum-roastery features a menu to impress the most fervent of caffeine connoisseurs, with coffee profiles hailing from Ethiopia and Guatemala, as well as a gorgeous homewares shop. Children are allowed if accompanying an adult ordering to-go! theoldbarracks.ie
While you’re there: Fuel up on caffeine and delicious gluten-free snacks before tackling the nearby Tountinna trail, which gives one of the most epic views over Lough Derg.
For over 400 years, coal was extracted from the Arigna Valley until the last mine closed in 1990. In 2003 the mine reopened to visitors as the Arigna Mining Experience. The distinctive visitor centre, which is perched high above Lough Allen, has a fascinating display of historical documents, photographs and mining equipment, and a good café. However, the highlight of a visit is the tour of the mines. In the company of an ex-miner, you make your way through the cool, damp tunnels and will be sure to leave full of admiration for the determination and the toughness of the people who worked in such challenging conditions. €13/€7. arignaminingexperience.ie
While you’re there: Follow in the miners’ footsteps by walking a section (or more) of the Miners’ Way & Historical Trail around Boyle, Arigna and Keadue. visitroscommon.ie
Book into a cocktail masterclass or tour the botanical gardens at Dublin 8’s Stillgarden Distillery, followed by a complimentary cocktail on their heated terrace, with pizza available from Rascals Brewing Co next door (€10 for the garden tour, €30 for a masterclass). Meanwhile, in Co Leitrim’s The Shed Distillery, home of Drumshanbo Gunpowder Irish Gin, a €3m investment has created an intriguing visitor centre with a curious botanical trail from ancient China back to the Honey Badger Bar in the majestic Botanical Glass House, by way of a special tasting of The Shed Premier Grand Cru Irish Whiskey (€19/€10). Don’t miss the tasty breakfasts and hearty lunches at its Jackalope Café. stillgardendistillery.com; thesheddistillery.com
While you’re there: Don’t depart the Drumshanbo area without a walk on the floating boardwalk at Acres Lake! It’s the start of a 6.5km linear walk along the Shannon.
Leave the twinkle of village lights far below as you hike into the starlit night in an after-dark adventure with expert guides (and head torches!) through ancient landscapes steeped in history and astronomical connections. Share memorable stories and learn what our ancient ancestors thought about the skies while chilling out under the stars enjoying a warm drink and toasted marshmallows. Keep an eye on Northwest Adventure Tours’ website for scheduled hikes that tie in with meteor showers, full moons and other astronomical events, or opt for a spectacular sunset hike. €35/€25. northwestadventuretours.ie
While you’re there: Starstruck? The Blue Book’s Coopershill House has a romance package including two nights’ B&B and a four-course dinner from €554. coopershill.com
Thornfield Farm’s unique glamping pods are located on private farmland, a 10-minute walk from the famous Dark Hedges. With their own coffee dock and shower rooms, the pods sleep up to four — two adults and two kids — with a comfy double bed and integrated bunks niftily tucked away. There’s a minimum two-night stay for July and August, with prices from £115. thornfieldfarm.co.uk
While you’re there: From here you can drive to the stunning Dunluce Castle or the Giant’s Causeway, or take a trip to the village of Bushmills, home of the oldest whiskey distillery in the world. discovernorthernireland.com
“Is there anything to be said for another Ted tour?” Well, thanks to the newly launched app by Clare adventure company E-whizz, you can now enjoy your own self-guided Father Ted tour around the Burren. Whether travelling by car, bike or hike, you can reminisce over unforgettable scenes from the iconic show, from the parochial house to Vaughan’s pub in Kilfenora. Think of it as a trip to Craggy Island without having to leave the mainland. Download the Craggy Island Tour app for free via the App store.
While you’re there: Sheedy’s in Lisdoonvarna has a two-night walking break, including B&B, a half-day guided walk, dinner and packed lunch from €265pp. sheedys.com
And now for something completely different, as you release your inner Viking at a secret riverside woodland location. Join Matt Levell and Heath Dawson of Axe Club as they share their love of axe throwing, archery and bushcraft like wildlife tracking, gold panning and campfire baking. Choose from various packages, including a four-hour Family Nature Adventure with a professional wilderness guide — or €160 for a family ticket. There will also be Dublin sessions every Friday and Saturday from this month. axeclub.ie
While you’re there: While away an evening around a campfire lit from flint and steel, with an overnight camp-out complete with axe-throwing competitions and “edible/deadable” plant-identification games. It costs from €95pp.
A self-guided cycle tour of Derry taking in Troubles-era landmarks and the iconic Derry Girls mural is a great way to cover the city. Run by Far and Wild, Freedom Cycles is their latest cycle offering, recommending some great coffee stops along the way. Rates are available for full-day and half-day bike hire, with prices from £25 to £35. There’s much to see in the Maiden City — walk the ancient city walls or cross the Peace Bridge to Ebrington Square, where a huge regeneration project is under way. farandwild.org; visitderry.com
While you’re there: If you are stopping overnight, Bishop’s Gate Hotel is a stylish choice in the city’s Cathedral Quarter. Overnight stays start at €160. bishopsgatehotelderry.com
The tiny island of Shenick lies just off the Dublin coast south of Skerries. At high tide it’s separated from the mainland by 800m of water, but during low spring tides it’s possible to walk across the sand to it. Needless to say, this can be extremely dangerous and care must be taken to ensure that you aren’t trapped by the flooding tide, which moves very quickly (remember you have to come back, too). Once safely on dry land, it won’t take long to explore the six-hectare island and its only feature of note, a Martello tower.
While you’re there: The Shoreline Hotel in nearby Donabate sits right above the beach. It has a ‘Dine Out, Stay Out’ offer with B&B, a two-course dinner and a bottle of wine from €169 midweek in August. shorelinehotel.ie
You can view some of Northern Ireland’s most stunning coast from above with Cutting Edge Helicopter Tours. It’s not cheap, but you get a bird’s eye view of spectacular locations including the Giant’s Causeway. Other tours include the Mussenden Temple Experience, which sees passengers depart from City of Derry Airport towards Binevenagh Mountain and its magical hidden lake. You can enjoy stunning views of Inishowen Head, the never-ending Benone Strand, Mussenden Temple and the picturesque towns of Castlerock and Portstewart. Many of these sites are backdrops in the hit series Game of Thrones. The Mussenden trip is priced at £125pp. cuttingedgehelicopters.com
While you’re there: Another way to get a novel view on this coast is by boat. See our feature on Rathlin Island on p38, or book a sea safari with aquaholics.ie.
If you’ve always fancied leaping out of a plane, but the whole “plummeting towards the ground” thing gives you pause for thought, this is the perfect middle ground. At We Are Vertigo in Belfast’s Titanic Quarter, you can try your hand at indoor skydiving. You’ll be propelled into the air by full-power winds up to 120mph, without having to build up the courage to head up into the sky. The best news is, it’s suitable for kids aged four and up, so they’re not left out of the fun. From €52. wearevertigo.com
While you’re there: A ‘Maritime Mile’ connects several attractions in the Titanic Quarter, from the old slipways and HMS Caroline to the iconic Titanic Belfast itself.
If you love cycling but want to take it up a notch, the hydrobikes from Castle Archdale Boat Hire & Watersports make for a cool little adventure. You can take these floating bikes out for a gentle pootle along the lake, or make it more of a cardio challenge. But either way, you’ll get gorgeous views of Lough Erne as you explore the water. If you have a water-loving pup, you can also bring the dog with you, and you can rent a child seat, too. From €18. castlearchdaleboathire.com
While you’re there: The five-star Lough Erne Resort has teamed up with Blue Green Yonder to offer a new range of outdoor activities on the lake — from water biking to SUPing, bushcraft, guided walks and more. bluegreenyonder.com
Who doesn’t love toasties? Nobody, that’s who. The king of the sambo has gone up a serious gear in Ireland’s summer outdoors, with gooey, cheesy slabs of pleasure being dished out of horse trailers, hatches and food trucks all over the island. Try the Tall Boy Toasties airstream in Greystones, Co Wicklow, where the Bacon Jam Ham Sam adds Limerick ham to an in-house melted-cheese mix; or Griolladh, which began life in a Malahide garden and is now toasting up a storm in Bray, Phibsborough and Carrickmines, and is due to open in Dundrum this month. Simple pleasures, indeed. tallboytoasties.com; facebook.com/griolladh
While you’re there: You can’t visit Greystones these days without taking a selfie at the ‘Enchanted House’ in the historic and posh Burnaby estate. It got the makeover for Disney’s Disenchanted, starring Amy Adams.
Wherever you go on your holidays, there’s always a tricky balance at play when it comes to families. Which is why the pop-up Summer Glamp has the right idea — midweek, it’s a family-friendly affair, but at the weekends, it’s adults-only. Whenever you go, there’s plenty to keep everyone happy, from an outdoor cinema to wood-fired hot tubs, with food trucks supplying pizza, fish and chips, and even ice cream. Accommodation is in luxury bell tents that sleep up to six, with double beds, storage and full electricity hook-up. The pop-up is running at Slaney Manor from July 2, for eight weeks. From €400 midweek. summerglamp.ie
While you’re there: Spend the night at the Irish National Heritage Park next door, where you can stay over in a replica Viking house from €400. irishheritage.ie
Many Rebel City rookies will be signposted to the justly legendary English Market, but for another al fresco attraction this summer, head to the new Marina Market in Cork’s Docklands. Set in the city’s iconic old Ford factory, the market is an open-air smorgasbord of shipping containers-turned-food stalls, selling everything from cheesy raclette goodness from Lekker to Brendan’s (muy bueno) Burritos. Open seven days, 9am to 7/8pm. marinamarket.org
While you’re there: Pair your visit with a stroll from the docks to Blackrock Castle via the Marina Greenway. The new Dean Hotel is a 15-minute walk across the river. thedean.ie
Dublin’s tiny Allta restaurant has gone on tour, setting up a tented outpost in the grounds of Slane Castle for summer, giving you the opportunity to party at what used to be the location of the VIP hospitality enclosure on gig days. Niall Davidson is cooking over fire and serving his food family-style. Limited overnight accommodation is available and there’s also a taxi service so you don’t have to draw straws for the designated driver. Thursday to Sunday, €95pp, groups of four to six. alltasummerhouse.ie
While you’re there: Arrive early, bring a picnic blanket and enjoy the pastoral splendour. Or walk the 8km Boyne Ramparts from nearby Navan to Stackallan.
The summer season got off to a great start at Roe & Co’s Cocktail Village D-8TE, with pop-ups by Spitalfields and Pickle, and this weekend and next, it’s the turn of Richie Castillo’s Bahay, serving big-flavoured Filipino food, something we don’t get enough of in Ireland. Next up is Nightmarket, with a regional Thai menu from Jutarat Suwankeeree, also known as ‘R’, to be followed next month by Nico Reynolds of Lil’ Portie, who describes his (delicious) food as “Caribbean with Latin influences via Ireland”. Thursday to Sunday, €40pp, whiskey cocktail pairings €30pp, groups of 2-6. roeandcowhiskey.com
While you’re there: In the absence of overseas visitors, this summer is the time to see places like the Guinness Storehouse without the crowds. guinness-storehouse.com
Diamond Dogs, Paul Flynn’s new hot-dog cart, is named in tribute to David Bowie and it’s one of several food huts located in the grassy area beside Dungarvan Castle. The lightly smoked pork dogs come from McGeough’s in Connemara and options include Cheesy Onion, Boston Bean and Reuben; there’s also a duck version with Asian-style slaw. If you’re not a hot-dog fan, there are other options including chowder and toasties, and rumours that over the summer Flynn will serve his signature crab crème brûlée. If you’re lucky enough to be staying in the Flynns’ Tannery Townhouse, you can dine indoors; word is that new head chef Damien Derwin, formerly of The Pig’s Ear, has hit the ground running. The Tannery also has delicious-sounding picnics available this summer at €35 for two people. Instagram @castlegreenmarkets; tannery.ie
While you’re here: The Park Hotel Dungarvan has transformed a shipping container into a brand-new Garden Bar. It’s doing barbecues this summer. parkhoteldungarvan.com
Visiting the Banner County? Then make a beeline for the Burren Smokehouse in Lisdoonvarna where you can pick up a West of Ireland picnic, packed with local provenance: think organic smoked salmon on homemade brown bread with St Tola’s goat’s cheese, all paired with your choice of apple juice… or Champagne. Smokehouse owner Birgitta Hedin-Curtin can offer you plenty of spots to enjoy it: one of her top tips is Lough Bunny, a freshwater lake in the heart of the Burren and the perfect spot for a pre-picnic dip! From €10. burrensmokehouse.com
While you’re there: The revamped Visit Clare website has hundreds of suggestions, from glamping stays to surf lessons, walking loops and yoga in the Burren. clare.ie
If ever there was a summer to embrace the art of the picnic, it’s this one. But putting together a top-class version — rather than just a few ham sandwiches and packets of crisps — is a lot of work. Much better to hand over the responsibility to Simone Cullen of Project Picnic, who has put together a very classy offering with a menu that changes weekly but always includes her signature (and very delicious) free-range pistachio pork Scotch eggs with Sri Lankan ketchup. Add on Cúán Greene’s delicious non-alcoholic Vintner’s Companion if you’re driving, and bring the box of deliciousness to somewhere green and beautiful — there’s always plenty of space in the Phoenix Park. Cullen will also do food for garden lunches. €70 for a picnic to serve four. project-picnic.clickandcollection.com
While you’re there: Looking for a treat in town? The Westbury has new Luxury Terrace Suites with private terraces and city views from €640 per night. doylecollection.com
You’ll need to get your order in early if you want to secure one of the coveted lobster lunches at Cleggan’s The Sea Hare on Saturdays, but if you miss out on those, there are Killary mussels on Sundays and all manner of delicious things (including fabulous lunches and scrumptious doughnuts) on other days. Ask Sinead Foyle and Philippa Duff nicely and you might even secure a last-minute seat at one of the Glasgow-Diaz (of the much-missed Eastern Seaboard in Drogheda) pop-ups on July 14 and 15, which were sold out at the time of going to press. You never know who you might bump into in Cleggan — Miggledy is just one of the celebrities who’s been spotted at The Sea Hare. This is a pit-stop worth travelling for, or great to combine with a nearby walk. Find them on Instagram @theseahare.ie
While you’re there: Take a daytrip to Inishbofin, a glorious escape just seven miles off the Connemara coast. Ferries from Cleggan cost from €25/€10. connemara.ie
Inch Field is a wildflower garden set next to Cahir Castle, and it boasts a unique sculpture trail as well as an Excalibur’s sword, embedded in rock. There’s lots of space to lay down a picnic blanket, so why not combine it with a feast drawn from members of the local Tipperary Food Producers Network? It has announced a Summer Food Tour series together with Tipperary Tourism, which will see producers from Cashel Farmhouse Cheesemakers, Magners Farm, Galtee Honey, The Apple Farm, Brookfield Farm, Crossogue Preserves and Blackcastle Farm open their doors to the public. Yum. tipperary.com; tipperaryfoodproducers.com
While you’re there: The Suir Blueway is a 53km kayaking and canoe trail from Cahir to Carrick-on-Suir, and a 21km walking and cycling trail from Clonmel to Carrick-on-Suir (or vice versa) along the beautiful River Suir.
Variety Jones chef Keelan Higgs will be back open as soon as indoor dining is permitted, and if you’ve always wanted to eat in a Michelin-starred restaurant, but are put off by the idea of starched tablecloths and stiff service, this is the place for you. The food is (ostensibly) simple, tasty and served sharing-style, and the wine pairings are brilliant. Whet your appetite with a pre-dinner stroll through the Liberties — and maybe a cocktail at Anti Social on Francis Street. Set menu, price TBC. varietyjones.ie
While you’re here: The Hyatt Centric Dublin has been offering B&B with dinner from €75pp. It includes discounts for local attractions in the Liberties. hyattcentricdublin.com
Barbara Nealon’s Saint Francis Provisions brings a touch of San Francisco cool to Kinsale, and the restaurant’s newly expanded outdoor seating area means that there’s plenty of space to enjoy lunch and dinner. Think local plates and natural wines (and a humdinger of a roast beef bun). You’ll want to eat everything on the menu. Plates from €7.50. Find them on Instagram at @stfranciskinsale.
While you’re there: Take your foodie explorations outdoors with a Foraging & Picnic Tour by the coast with Suzanne Burns’ Kinsale Food Tours, €60pp. kinsalefoodtours.com
Limerick’s tourist fortunes are on the up, having been announced as an official gateway city to the Wild Atlantic Way last month. So what better way to toast the city than with a tour of the Treaty City Brewery, in the heart of Limerick’s medieval quarter? Brewery owner Steve Cunneen guides you through 300 years of Limerick brewing history, all chased by a tasting flight of Treaty City beers. If you’ve worked up an appetite, head to Moll’s around the corner for their famous fish and chips. Tour €21. treatycitybrewery.ie
While you’re there: The Bedford is a lovely recent addition to Limerick city, a townhouse hotel and café on Bedford Row with B&B from €129. thebedford.ie
Iveagh Markets, Dublin
DineTown Dublin, Marcus O’Laoire’s new venture in what was the old horse-and-carriage yard of the (now almost derelict) Iveagh Markets is filling up nicely with new food trucks, including his own Sambo Ambo (whopper sandwiches), Smok’n Shack (Brazilian barbecue), Fuppin Delish (tacos), Serious Dough (pizzas) and Ciao Cannoli (make mine a pistachio, please). Mel Roddy’s Gursha, serving Ethiopian cuisine, is the latest arrival (TBC when going to print). This is a seven-day-a-week operation, open evenings from Thursday to Sunday. Instagram @dinetowndublin
While you’re there: Pop over to Capel Street, which has sparked back to life with trial pedestrianisations and outdoor dining and drinking from Pantibar to Brother Hubbard.
Dublin gave the world the spice bag and now Cork aims to woo you south with the seafood spin-off. There are a number of options in food-fanatical East Cork to sample the spicy feast of scampi, chips and peppers. Skinny’s Diner in Ballycotton is a great spot to fuel up after exploring the famous cliff walk nearby (they also have a gluten-free option), while you’ll find the Trawler Boyz food truck parked up at either Garryvoe or Ardnahinch strands after your beach walk. For opening times, check Skinny’s Diner and Trawler Boyz on Facebook.
While you’re there: Make a night of it with a B&B-plus-dinner deal at the Bayview in Ballycotton from €230. It has limited availability left this summer. thebayviewhotel.com
Ciarán Sweeney, who garnered legions of loyal followers at Dublin’s Forest & Marcy with dishes such as fermented potato bread with bacon mousse and cabbage — a modern classic — has returned home to his native Donegal and is the new chef at The Olde Glen Bar, one of the oldest pubs in Ireland. Early reports suggest that Sweeney may be in line for a Michelin star, a first for Donegal. And in further good news, his à la carte menu features that signature dish.
While you’re there: If you are lucky enough to nab one of the rooms — called Clara’s Cots — you can eat indoors pending the full return of indoor dining. Deluxe rooms are quoting from €240 on a B&B basis on its website, with B&B and dinner from €260. oldeglen.ie; govisitdonegal.com
On July 26, Irawo Kitchen will host its A Taste of the Good Life pop-up, and for anyone wanting to try West African food, this is a great opportunity to tuck into the dishes that look so good on its Instagram, hopefully including jollof rice. “Irawo” means “star” in the Yoruba language and the people behind the pop-up at Gilli Café, Marrowbone Lane, say they want to introduce Ireland to Afro-Fusion cuisine, a combination of traditional dishes from different ethnic groups — Nigeria is home to 200 of these, so there’s no such thing as Nigerian cuisine per se — blended with “healthy-ish” ingredients to create “memorable tastes through [the] chef’s individual expression”. Tickets €50, to include a cocktail. Instagram @irawo.kitchen
While you’re there: It rarely features in city guides, but Harold’s Cross is a ’hood full of intrigue — from Mount Jerome Cemetery to little parks, interiors store Home Street Home and cafés and restaurants like Craft and Green Fox.
If you’ve always dreamed of being the kind of person who brings an elaborate hamper on a picnic, packed with proper cutlery and crockery, now is your chance. Pudding Row has launched a brand-new luxury picnic, served up in a beautiful wicker hamper that’s packed with delectable treats. Think free-range sausage rolls with homemade chutney, artisan cheese and crackers, pear and bacon sandwiches and hummus bagels. You can pick them up from noon, head off down to the beach and return the basket by 5pm, with full bellies and big smiles. From €45. puddingrow.ie
While you’re there: Easkey literally means “abundant in fish”. As well as tucking into local seafood, enjoy the local walks around the estuary and coastline. easkey.ie
There’s always an enviable line-up of boats in the Dún Laoghaire harbour. But none can compete with Brian Ború, a traditional wooden-hulled sailboat that spans 65ft and is topped with soaring red sails. On a cruise around Dublin Bay, you’ll sail along the Howth and Dalkey coastline, as you learn how the ship’s namesake took on the Vikings in the Battle of Clontarf. You can join in with the sailing too, learning how to set the sails and steer, or crawling out on to the netting right at the front of the ship as you zoom over the waves. €69; dublinundersail.com
While you’re there: The People’s Park Farmers’ Market runs every Sunday from 11am to 4pm. You’ll find some great picnic pickings here... arrive early to beat the crowds.
No visit to the stunning seaside village of Strandhill is complete without a surf lesson. The range of waves here make it a great place to learn or improve your surfing skills. At Paul Buchanan’s Strandhill Surf Club, there’s a range of lessons to suit your ability — each takes three hours, with all wetsuit gear and equipment provided. Changing rooms, outside shower and storage facilities are also available on site, with prices ranging from €35 for children to €45 for adults. You can also check out the live webcam with great views of the beach and Benbulben in the background. strandhillsurfschool.com; gostrandhill.com
While you’re there: Take the Killaspugbrone coastal looped walk and reward yourself with some Mammy Johnson’s ice cream. Strandhill Lodge & Suites has packages bundling walking and surf options. strandhilllodgeandsuites.ie
Avoid the crowds by getting a view of the stunning Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge from sea level below. Abhainn Cruises run river trips, lough and sea excursions all over Northern Ireland, but their Carrick-a-Rede cruise is a standout, not to mention a photographer’s dream. The trip begins in the seaside town of Ballycastle, passing by Kinbane Castle before heading for the world-famous rope bridge. If it’s calm, the trip ends with a bucket-list swim in a sheltered cove. The trip takes about an hour and a half and is available for private charter priced at £150 for up to six passengers. abhainncruises.com
While you’re there: You know the Giant’s Causeway. But what about the Cushendun Caves? They’re smaller but lesser-known, the village is steeped in myth and charm, and the Glens of Antrim await. discovernorthernireland.com
Images of humpback whales breaching in Cork and Kerry have been floating around social media in the past month, proving you don’t have to be in Norway or Nova Scotia to experience a cetacean sensation! Marine biologist Nic Slocum offers his thrilling Whale Watch West Cork tours from buzzing Baltimore throughout the summer. Expect sightings of anything from dolphins and porpoises to fin and minke whales on this outing, which is glorious for the seascapes alone, €55pp. whalewatchwestcork.com
While you’re there: Get even closer to the local wildlife with a sea-kayaking tour. No prior experience is required with Atlantic Sea Kayaking. From €60pp. atlanticseakayaking.com
Fungi may be sadly absent from the Dingle Peninsula this summer but the dolphin has left a fine legacy of green tourism in his wake. Skipper Billy O’Connor offers a Blasket Island eco-tour where, aboard the Peig Sayers boat, you’ll leave Dingle harbour for the Great Blasket, where you’ll also enjoy time to explore the island. Highlights include the cottages of the abandoned village and what’s said to be Ireland’s largest colony of grey seals, who you’ll find languidly basking on the island’s horseshoe beach. The tour costs €65. greatblasketisland.net
While you’re there: Dingle’s Castlewood House has a special including two nights’ B&B, a daytrip to the Great Blasket Island and a picnic put together by The Little Cheese Shop, from €595 for two. castlewooddingle.com
If you’d like to take a fresh look at the Clare coast, then marine biologist and former Cliffs of Moher ranger-turned-guide Cormac McGinley has the inside track. His private guided tours take in the cliffs, coasts, boreens and byroads of the Burren, offering the ultimate local léargas into the region’s unique flora and fauna. Walks can be tailored to tastes in history, geology or wildlife, and Corman’s beautiful sheepdog Teelin is available by request, too. Three-hour tours from €150 per couple. cormacscoast.com
While you’re there: Get another inside track by walking from Doolin to the Cliffs along the coastal path, guided by local farmer Pat Sweeney, from €10pp. doolincliffwalk.com
This off-grid cottage is tucked away along a remote stretch of the Causeway Coast. Surrounded by the sea on one side and cliffs on the other, it is only accessible by boat or via a careful scramble down a steep, winding path. While the bothy doesn’t have electricity or running water, its interior has a simple, rustic charm with a wood-burning stove and a sleeping platform that accommodates eight. It is maintained by the Causeway Coast Kayaking Association and must be booked well in advance. £100 per night for eight people. ccka.co.uk
While you’re there: Lots of people drive the Causeway Coast, but did you know you can walk it? See walkni.com for details of the 53km trail from Ballycastle to Portstewart.
Of all the white sandy beaches in Donegal, Narin Blue Flag Beach is one of our favourites. If the tide is out, you can walk across the causeway to the island of Inishkeel, where the remains of an ancient monastic site are still visible. But be sure to put safety first and check on tides before you venture out. During the summer months, there’s yoga on the 2km stretch of beach, which is as white and sandy a beach as you’re likely to find on this island. Located 8km from Ardara or 10km from Glenties, this impressive Blue Flag beach has safe waters for bathing and is attended by a lifeguard during the summer months.
While you’re there: There are good dining options and crafty shops in Ardara. Nestled in among them is Eddie Doherty’s handwoven-tweed studio with its loom still in immaculate working order. handwoventweed.com
Various coastal locations
Whatever the Irish weather throws at you, a soak in a whiskey-barrel hot tub with silky Atlantic seaweed should set you right — especially in locations as pretty as Galway’s Paradise Pier, Clare’s Clahane Shore or Cork’s Rocky Bay, where the mobile Wild Atlantic Seaweed Baths regularly turn up. Check online or social media for updates — the locations are announced each Wednesday, so you can book without too much notice. Prices start from €40 solo, or €60 for two people sharing. wildatlanticseaweedbaths.com
While you’re there: If the dry heat of a wood-fired sauna is more your thing, interspersed with a cold dip in a lake, river or sea, then Shirley Fitzpatrick at Bosca Beatha is your woman: see her website and Facebook for summer locations ahead of her regular residency in Wicklow’s Glenmalure Valley from September; from €20pp. boscabeatha.ie
For such a small island, Ireland’s Eye really packs a punch. Between the Martello tower, the sea stacks and the seabirds flitting around the cliffs, there’s plenty to take in. A boat trip around the island takes an hour, and you can listen to the commentary about the local wildlife and maybe even spot a few seals, if you’re lucky. Then, when you’re back on dry land, you can take yourself off for lobster and chips in King Sitric (kingsitric.ie), right by the East Pier. Boat tour, €20. irelandseyeferries.com
While you’re there: Several walks on Howth open up the Dublin Bay views, from the well-known Cliff Path to the Bog of Frogs and Tramline loops. visitdublin.com
Galway Bay to north Clare
Chase the sails of Galway Hookers as they race their traditional routes through Galway Bay in a series of regattas featuring unique Irish boats, from the tiny Púcán to the sturdier Bád Mór and Leathbhád. Upcoming dates include Lá Mhic Dara (Carna, July 17 and 18), Leitir Mealláin (Lettermullen, July 31 and August 1), Gaillimh (August 14 and 15) and An Cheathrú Rua (Carraroe, August 21 and 22). Cruinniú na mBád in Cinn Mhara (Kinvara, August 7 and 8) is a particularly fun one to catch, with its celebration of the traditional annual turf delivery from Connemara to North Clare. galwayhookers.ie
While you’re there: Réalt na Gaillimhe is a restored Galway Hooker bought by Taylor’s Bar to be used as a resource for people to learn to sail. From August; €150; taylorsgalway.ie
Skellig Michael has always been a blockbuster — even without the Star Wars hype. And now, with the site’s much-awaited reopening having finally taken place, it’s arguably the Wild Atlantic Way’s headline attraction for summer 2021. You’ll need to book well in advance (and cross your fingers for sailing conditions), but a one-hour boat ride from either Portmagee or Ballinskelligs will get you to the Unesco site, where you’ll have three hours to explore its natural and historic wonders. You’ll need a good head for heights, and bear in mind that there are no facilities on the island, but ascending upon the monastic settlement at the island’s summit is nothing short of Hibernian heaven. Tickets teeter around €100. heritageireland.ie
While you’re there: Clare’s Scattery Island offers an offshore visit with a far shorter crossing! Ferry transfers and a guided tour start from €25/€12. scatteryislandtours.com
Ireland’s smallest county boasts a 100km coastline, and has a tasty reputation for seafood. From Carlingford oysters to Dunany crab, it’s synonymous with the best you can get, and the shoreline is peppered with spots that are paradise for food lovers, which is why the brand-new Sea Louth Seafood Trail is a winner. You can pick up a free passport in one of the tourist offices, then follow the trail to any of the 14 scenic viewpoints. It also lists the best places to get your seafood fix along the way. sealouth.ie
While you’re there: The 7km Carlingford-to-Omeath Greenway is up and running, offering a short cycle or a 1.5-hour walk with super views, to boot. visitcarlingford.com
Crystal-clear turquoise waters, gently lapping waves... on a fine day, you might think you’re in the Mediterranean. The sea-kayaking daytrip at Fort Dunree is one of the ultimate days out for adults and older children — under-14s are not eligible for this trip. The outings are led by Inish Adventures, a sea-kayaking and watersports outfit based in the seaside town of Moville. Wetsuits, helmets and life jackets are all provided by the operator. Leaving the fort behind, you paddle out into Lough Swilly, stopping to explore the caves in the area as well as the secluded coves. It’s like discovering a whole new world from the water. A half-day trip costs €50 per adult. inishadventures.com
While you’re there: Another cool coastal experience in the area is the 3km coast-hugging path linking Moville and Greencastle, along the shores of Lough Foyle.
Sherkin is known as an island of the arts, and it’s going ahead with a socially distanced plan to hold a series of exhibitions in its community hall this summer. Take the ferry from Baltimore to see work from the likes of Jo Ashby and Robbie Murphy (July 13-21), Vanessa Richardson and Nigel Towse (July 23 to August 2) and Tara O’Donoghue (August 4-9). Don’t forget to pack your hiking boots and togs: there are several short and sweet walking trails on this island, and glorious beaches. Daily, 12-5pm. sherkinisland.eu
While you’re there: Tina Reed is another artist who has just moved to Sherkin, along with husband Pat Rodgers — who has taken over H2O Sea Kayaking on the island. Tours start from €60pp for three hours. h2oseakayaking.com
Lough Derg revealed ambitious plans earlier this year to emerge as Ireland’s equivalent to Lake Como — so to see how it shapes up, why not take a little giro di lago with Killaloe Cruises? The one-hour, family-friendly cruise takes you downriver along the history- and wildlife-rich banks of the Shannon before doing a scenic loop around the southern shores of Lough Derg. Fittingly, the Spirit of Killaloe vessel also has a bar on board so you can enjoy a tipple while you cruise. Cruises from €15. killaloerivercruises.com
While you’re there: Airbnb released a rundown of its most “wishlisted” rentals in Ireland. Among them was Pops Dream, a converted boathouse set on stilts over the Co Clare side of the lake near Whitegate. airbnb.ie/rooms/7225846
Last month saw the launch of a brand-new route from Aran Island Ferries, making a quick daytrip all the easier. The new day tour zooms you over to Inis Mór from Galway city centre, taking in the other Aran Islands on the way. You’ll get to spend a good few hours exploring beautiful Inis Mór, before heading back to Galway city in the afternoon. But there’s an added bonus — on the way back, the ferry swoops past the Cliffs of Moher, so you can tick off two big attractions in one day. Get really lucky, and you might just spot some dolphins or puffins along the way; priced €49. aranislandferries.com
While you’re there: Kick back in comfort after your journey with a special rate at the five-star g hotel. It includes dinner and sweet treats from €348 midweek. theghotel.ie
Bundoran may be known as a surfers’ mecca, but if you fancy a swim in a pristine outdoor swimming pool, the Thrupenny Pool is an unforgettable swim spot. The Thrupenny got its name because that used to be the price of admission (three old pennies). Fortunately, the pools are now free and are filled by fresh seawater from the tide. You can refuel at Buoys and Gulls, a dog-friendly café where the surfers like to hang out. discoverbundoran.com
While you’re there: A walk along the clifftop and seashore of Bundoran’s West End is a must if you’re stopping in the town. The route starts from the Tourist Information Office and then you head west towards the River Bradog, which brings you into the West End. On a clear day, you can see the stunning Slieve League cliffs, which are just across the bay.
The East Coast Nature Reserve just east of Newcastle covers 90 hectares of coastal grasslands, marsh, fen and wet birch woodland. It’s a wonderfully quiet spot that is home to a wide variety of birds including the little egret, kingfisher, wintering geese and swans. Follow one of three signposted walks or head straight for one of the three wooden hides where you can sit in comfort and scan your surroundings. Don’t forget your binoculars. birdwatchireland.ie
While you’re there: You may know the Bray-to-Greystones cliff walk, but did you know you can continue all the way along the coast to Newcastle, and beyond? B&B with dinner at Hunter’s Hotel from €100pp in August. hunters.ie
It’s not everywhere that can promise that the admission fee includes a tractor ride — or a dancing cockatoo — never mind the chance to feed a pet lamb, hold a chick and feed the deer. But Killinkere Visitor & Pet Farm does. Throw in about 20 more animals, including piglets and kittens, goats and llamas, miniature horses and guinea pigs, rare birds and fowl, plus pony rides, nature walks, a heritage trail, a ringfort and tea house, and you start to realise that Killinkere is a whole lot more than a traditional working farm… though it’s that, too. Children €7; adults/toddlers €5; pre-booking essential. killinkerevisitorfarm.ie
While you’re there: The Killykeen Way is a 12km greenway linking Killykeen Forest Park and Killeshandra. There are hip new cabin stays at Cabü by the Lakes, too. thisiscavan.ie
A tour of beekeeper Ailbhe Gerrard’s Brookfield Farm is the excuse you need to discover Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands on the shores of Lough Derg. Learn about the Irish black bee and the importance of pollinators, sustainability and regenerative agriculture as you walk Brookfield’s wildflower meadows and native woodlands, before tasting the landscape you’ve been exploring with raw honey from farm hives — or opt for the All About Beekeeping tour, and make your own beeswax candle to take home. From €15 per person. brookfield.farm; discoverloughderg.ie
While you’re there: The two-hour tours leave plenty of time to explore nearby Portumna Forest Park or enjoy lunch at Peter and Mary Ward’s Country Choice in Nenagh.
Deep in the woodland on the shores of Strangford Lough, Finnebrogue Woods is a peaceful reprieve from the madness of the world. If you feel chained to your desk, this is the place to go for a hefty dose of the great outdoors. This summer, they’re running a series of workshops that will help you reconnect with nature, whether you want to learn how to cook over an open fire (very on-trend) or spend the day foraging for wild food. If you’d rather someone else do the work, they’re also running a fireside feast night, where you can sample their foraged delicacies and eat by the fireside; from £35. finnebroguewoods.com
While you’re there: There are bushcraft and “wild sleeping” experiences available too, from £80 to £120.
Lorraine O’Dwyer of Gallivanting Tours is a natural-born storyteller, qualified guide and a self-taught expert on Ireland’s ancient trees and our Celtic ancestors, for whom those trees provided food, medicine, weapons, tools and shelter. A guided walk in Courtown Woods in her knowledgeable company is an invitation to see this natural resource in a new light — and to learn about the ancient Brehon Laws and Ogham “Tree” writing system and the Fifth Earl of Courtown, who planted 400 rare and unusual species of trees in these special woods — while enjoying some seasonal foraging and local Wild About nettle cordial under the canopy; €15pp, three evening/mornings a week. gallivanting.ie
While you’re there: Wexford is full of lovely walking trails, from the new loop at Cahore Point to the Raven Point Loop near Curracloe, where nature lovers can see seals, red squirrels, pine martens and terns. wexfordtrails.ie
Described by Monty Don as one of his favourite gardens anywhere, Mount Usher is one of Ireland’s favourites, too. Home to over 5,000 species of plants — many of them rare and exotic — the distinctive informality here makes it a world-class example of a Robinsonian “managed wild garden”. Herons, kingfishers, songbirds, otters and hedgehogs all call this idyll home, too. And look up! You may see one of Wicklow’s red kites; €8/€4. mountushergardens.ie
While you’re there: Want to linger longer in paradise? Book yourself an Airbnb overnight stay in the garden lodge and wake up to the sound of the burbling River Vartry that flows through this lush and sheltered valley. airbnb.ie
Malahide Castle is home to far more than an 800-year-old pile and a ghost named Puck. A Cambridge glasshouse in its walled garden hosts what is said to be Ireland’s only Butterfly House, where you can watch more than 20 species fluttering around the tropical plants. “It’s a paradise for both amateur enthusiasts and experienced lepidopterists,” they promise, giving us our new word of the day. Castle tour tickets include entry (€14/€6.50), as do separate garden tickets (€8/€4.50). malahidecastleandgardens.ie
While you’re there: You can pretty much plan a day here, from the castle to the gardens, playgrounds, walks, Avoca shop and 1.8km fairy trail through the West Lawn woodlands. Oh, and there’s the Model Railway Museum, too...
Sliabh Beagh is an area of upland heath and blanket bog straddling the Monaghan, Tyrone and Fermanagh borders. It’s one of those places that many Irish people would struggle to pinpoint on a map, and it is home to rare birds like red grouse, golden plovers and hen harriers, as well as some fantastic flora. Off-radar, in other words. Contact Sliabh Beagh Adventures to make the most out of your visit (weekends only); they can organise guided walks from easy 6km strolls to the 46km Sliabh Beagh Way, as well as cycles, trail running and, erm, “battle archery”. Bike hire starts from €15/€10 for a half-day, too. sliabhbeaghadventures.ie; monaghantourism.com
While you’re there: Sliabh Beagh is also home to Ireland’s only community-run hotel, a basic stay with bedrooms, a restaurant and bar at Knockatallon. sliabhbeaghhotel.ie
A spectacular spin down from the wilds of the Sally Gap past Blessington Lake leads to two charming sibling gardens, both open to visitors. At Hunting Brook Gardens (€8pp; kids free), Jimi Blake has created a dreamy space that alternates from the calm of a woodland glade and babbling brook to riotous tropical collections, with a Bronze Age ringfort reached by a wildflower meadow walk. Also on the family farm, June Blake’s Garden and Nursery (€6pp; run by Jimi’s sister, June) specialises in perennials, shade-loving plants and ornamental grasses. Ample parking means that if one happens to be full due to Covid restrictions, the other will likely have space. huntingbrook.com; juneblake.ie
While you’re there: A 6km Blessington Greenway now links the town with Russborough House. There are shoreline and forest sections, but you will need to use a footpath and cross the Valleymount Road (R758) in parts. visitwicklow.ie
Some castles have it all. At the ancient seat of the Esmondes, that includes a fascinating 400-year history, sumptuous and intriguing interiors (with a temple to the Egyptian goddess Isis), beautiful grounds populated by strutting peacocks and clucking hens, an ornamental lake and 500-year-old yew walk, plus a rustic woodland adventure playground, gift shop and tea room. €6/€3 for garden entry; €12/€6 for castle tours. huntingtoncastle.com
While you’re there: You can call one of those four-poster beds your own too: Huntington Castle offers B&B in oak-panelled period guest rooms — and with the award-winning Sha Roe Bistro and Osborne’s traditional pub at the end of the avenue, dinner and drinks are sorted. sha-roe.ie
City cards aren’t just for New York or London, you know. DoDublin, the booking platform, has partnered with six top cultural attractions to launch a Days Out Card aimed at encouraging people to get into the capital this summer. The Little Museum of Dublin, EPIC, Christ Church Cathedral, MoLI, Dublinia and St Patrick’s Cathedral are included, and the price (€39/€23 or €124 for families) saves you 40pc compared to buying individual tickets for each. It can be redeemed once at each place, so multiple trips into the city are an option. In other news, EPIC and The Jeanie Johnston in Dublin are offering free entry to children under 16, once accompanied by a paying adult, through the months of July and August. dodublin.ie
While you’re there: When were you last in the city? Combine your museum visit with a meal, some shopping or a gallery trip, and you have the makings of a great day out.
Waterford is putting some spraoi in its step this summer. The city’s popular performance-arts festival will return to the streets in August, with “community spirit” being the showcase theme to the celebrations. Throughout the month, visitors will be able to enjoy performers in the city, shows along the Waterford Greenway and a special Spraoi performance entitled Prism in the grounds of Waterford Courthouse. spraoi.com
While you’re there: A new Explore More Waterford app for iOS and Android is out now — the aim is to help us explore towns and villages, beaches and mountains that make Waterford “one of the most beautiful places in the world”, they say.
For over a thousand years this island near the eastern shore of Lough Ree attracted saints and their followers. The first church was established in the sixth century by St Ciarán, who went on to found Clonmacnoise, but the remains that are visible today date back to the 13th century. The island is connected to the mainland by a narrow strip of marshy land and, as you wander across the causeway and along a series of boreens to the ruins on the northwest corner, it’s easy to see why the devout were drawn here. longford.ie
While you’re there: Continue your trip back in time by driving an hour east to explore the Seven Wonders of Fore Abbey (including water that flows uphill and a tree that won’t burn). Talk about Ireland’s “hidden” heartlands. visitwestmeath.ie
A few kilometres southwest of Thomastown, overlooking a bend in the River Nore, lies the remains of the medieval town of Newtown Jerpoint. Founded in the 12th century, the town was once a thriving place, attracting pilgrims to visit the tomb of St Nicholas — the man whose generosity inspired a certain Mr Claus. However, it slipped into obscurity in the 1600s and it’s only in the last decade, as the town’s ruins are reclaimed and restored, that its true extent has become apparent. jerpointpark.com
While you’re there: Kilkenny city is just a 25-minute drive away and has made huge strides with its outdoor eating and pedestrianisation efforts. You can now pre-order picnic baskets at Kilkenny Design, too. visitkilkenny.ie
The tour of Doagh Famine Village, located on the Isle of Doagh near Ballyliffin on the Inishowen Peninsula, transports you to a bygone age. Set among traditional thatched cottages, tour guides take visitors on a journey showing how communities have lived on the edge, generation after generation, adapting and surviving as the environment and society around them changes. €9.50/€4 for tours lasting around 45 minutes, and you can refuel at the Red Roof Barn & Tea Rooms next door. doaghfaminevillage.com
While you’re there: The nearby beach with its caves, where the movie Grabbers was filmed, is perfect for exploring. A short drive away, Pollan Beach leads to the ruins of Carrickabraghy Castle. Good options for lunch include Nancy’s Barn, a converted barn in Ballyliffin. nancysbarn.ie
It might be a while before gigs (as we know them) return, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a night of live music. This series of socially distanced concerts will be held all over the city, from ballet performances in Smock Alley to movie soundtracks performed by a string quartet in EPIC The Irish Emigration Museum. The venues will be illuminated by candlelight, so you can listen to the strains of the Amélie score or the theme from Legends of the Fall, bathed in a flickering glow; from €19. feverup.com
While you’re there: Lacking overseas visitors and big events, Dublin’s hotel rooms offer some of the best value in Ireland right now. Brooks Hotel has a ‘Shop Local and Stay’ offer from €249, for example, including B&B, dinner, a glass of prosecco and local shopping discounts for two. brookshotel.ie
Phoenix Park, Dublin
Going to see art can be as much about the day that unfolds around it as the moments of reflection that it offers: especially if experienced in the civilised setting of Farmleigh amid the wilds of the Phoenix Park. This summer, Passage, Fold & Multipolar explores three major strands in recent work from acclaimed painter and Aosdána member John Noel Smith. Exploring themes of conflict and resolution, collapse and reorganisation, Smith describes his textural paintings as “perhaps more about the moment of cohesion than the instant of fragmentation” — a timely theme as we start to come back together after all this time apart. Free, 10am-5pm until September 5. farmleigh.ie
While you’re there: Afterwards, continue exploring the park “where Dublin goes to breathe”, as they say. The Phoenix Café is at Ashtown Castle, and you can hire bikes inside the main gate on Parkgate Street. phoenixpark.ie
The folks behind Wild Roots are hoping to be the first successful festival of the season, with a number of provisions in place, like rapid antigen testing. Set along the shore of Lough Gill in Co Sligo, the shindig is set to have everything you’ve been missing, from a comedy tent to a circus area, as well as a bohemian spa with hot tubs. They’ve even spent months building a Wild West Village, an immersive installation of a Western-style town. A socially distanced, zoned area will be in place for camping, as well as health checkpoints for body temperature and on-site isolation facilities staffed with medical personnel. The line-up includes Kaiser Chiefs, James Morrison and Damien Dempsey. August 10-13; day tickets from €80. wildroots.ie
While you’re there: Sligowalks.ie is a great website that does what its says on the tin. A short stroll through nearby Hazelwood Demesne is just one option.
The grounds of the Culloden Estate are always a dream to walk around. But for the next week, they’re even more impressive. The Holywood International Art and Sculpture Fair has brought a remarkable collection of artworks together, from artists like Banksy, Damien Hirst, Dalí and Picasso. There’s an entire room dedicated to work by Andy Warhol, too. You’ll see 125 sculptures dotted around the 12 acres, including work by renowned Irish artists like Patrick O’Reilly. There’s also a Bolli Bus in the garden, serving chilled Bollinger Champagne. But it’s only running until July 18, so be quick! Entry is free. hastingshotels.com
While you’re there: Belfast’s EastSide Arts Festival is scheduled from August 5-15. There are 80 events, both in person and online, including Mary Coughlan singing the music of Billie Holiday at Stormont. eastsidearts.net
Earagail Arts Festival, running until July 25, is now in its 33rd year, and it offers a hybrid programme of online and live performances for people to engage in, at home and in person. From Ireland’s most northerly village of Malin to the lowlands of East Donegal; from the gateway of Letterkenny to the townlands and islands of the West Donegal Gaeltacht, Tumble Circus’s Cycle Circus and Fidget Feet’s aerial street-arts programme traverse the county. Highlights include the Cosán Choilm Cille — Art and Poetry Walk, bringing people on a short walk with Irish and Scottish writers and artists to the top of Cnoc na Naomh at Magheraroarty. Along the way, you can see their work and listen to their poems and stories. eaf.ie
While you’re there: Did you know you can stay in several lighthouses and keepers’ quarters in Ireland? Fanad and St John’s Point are two in Co Donegal. greatlighthouses.com
Collins Barracks, Dublin
This summer, a travelling exhibition inspired by the life and work of Wexford-born designer and architect Eileen Gray returns from its setting of Roquebrune-Cap-Martin in France — where Gray’s iconic E-1027 villa currently hosts it — to the National Museum of Decorative Arts & History in Dublin. Curated by Wexford artist and designer Richard Malone, Making and Momentum: In Conversation with Eileen Gray celebrates the legacy of modernism in Ireland, and the legacy of modern Irish art and design worldwide. Until then, you can catch the permanent exhibition on Eileen Gray that has now reopened in Collins Barracks. From August 20 (TBC). museum.ie
While you’re there: Dublin has a new aparthotel. Zanzibar Locke is right next to the Ha’penny Bridge, with studios starting from around €120. lockeliving.com
Ever heard of the word “horological”? We hadn’t either. Horology is the study of the measurement of time, and now Ireland has its very first horological museum — the Irish Museum of Time in Waterford (€5). Here, you’ll find incredible artefacts like the oldest Irish-made grandfather clocks and watches, as well as pieces from all over the world. You’ll also learn about the incredible craftsmanship that goes into creating timepieces. And it’s not the only new museum in town — the Irish Silver Museum has just opened, too. A new ‘Freedom of Waterford’ ticket includes a guided walking tour and entrance to several museums in the Viking Triangle, from €15pp. waterfordtreasures.com
While you’re there: Afterwards, take a trip to Tramore for one of the hottest outdoor tables this summer, at Mezze or Beach House. Book ahead, though! tramore.ie
Waterford’s crystal-making history dates back to the 1600s, but you’ll find one of its more contemporary chapters sequestered down on the scenic headland of the Ring Gaeltacht. Criostal na Rinne is an artisan workshop owned and run by master craftsman Eamonn Terry, who did the unthinkable and left his job at Waterford Crystal in the 1980s to start up his own business. Today, visitors are welcome to his workshop on a drop-in basis, where they can watch Eamonn crafting his latest pieces — the true peak of Déise design. While in An Rinn, enjoy a seaweed bath at the Sólás na Mara centre, too. criostal.com; solasnamara.ie
While you’re there: Making a weekend of it? Bike & Hike Adventures is a new Dungarvan-based business offering e-bike experiences and more. bikeandhikeadventures.ie
Could the Brennan brothers kickstart the renaissance of Ireland’s townhouse hotels? The much-awaited opening of The Lansdowne Kenmare took place last week, after the Brennans’ Midas-touch refurbishment of the historic landmark property. Check in to one of 28 charming rooms, or make the daytrip to dine at one of the tasty new food options: The Lansdowne Café or LK Wine Bar. lansdownekenmare.com
While you’re there: A hike through Kenmare’s gorgeous Gleninchaquin Park should whet your appetite.
Home to the Brabazon family since 1618, the 800-acre Kilruddery estate has been lovingly transformed into a working farm and very special destination. The old horse yard houses a garden centre, farm shop, Grain Store Café (where Niall O’Sullivan, ex-Bang, is executive chef) and a well-curated Saturday market selling sample-sale fashion and craft gifts alongside micro herbs, sourdough and jamón ibérico. Don’t miss the Versailles-inspired formal gardens and orchard picnic area complete with sandpits and clucking hens — or you can book house tours or estate hikes, archery or craft workshops (killruddery.com/partner-activites). Entry is free to the café, shops and market; it will cost €8.50/€3 for the gardens. killruddery.com
While you’re there: Nearby Belmont Demesne has upped its game, offering walking routes (including a steep option to climb the Little Sugar Loaf), off-road mountain and pump-bike trails, and food from Arthur’s Barn. belmontdemesne.ie
Just two miles from Armagh City, the Navan Centre & Fort is a treasure trove of information about the seat of the High Kings of Ulster, Emain Macha. After learning all about Cú Chulainn and the Red Branch Knights, youngsters will love the ecology trail and the indoor and outdoor archaeology trail. There’s even a chance to meet the resident Celtic Clan, view their period dwelling and be regaled with their stories of past glories. While they might look fierce, fear not, visitors are assured of a warm welcome — as long as they stay a spear’s length away. Prices are £8/£5, with family tickets at £24. visitarmagh.com
While you’re there: The FE McWilliam Gallery & Studio is a cool stop off the A1 outside Banbridge. Don’t miss the garden, and grab a bite at Quails at the Gallery. femcwilliam.com
Wicklow and Cork
Here’s a rainy-day activity with a difference. Wicklow Gaol not only has a “day tour” guided by macabre Mary Morris (€9.50/€6.50), but a three-dimensional virtual-reality tour (€15/€10) guaranteed to have you jumping. Meanwhile, Spike Island (€22/€11), reached by ferry from Cobh, has a super mix of outdoor and indoor elements, providing a surprisingly deep dive into its history as a sixth-century monastery, British fortress, the Victorian world’s largest prison, and, of course, the riots of 1985. Costumed actors, deadly dummies and terrible tales give a great mix of chills and culture. You can even book after-dark tours in August. corkcitygaol.com; spikeislandcork.ie
While you’re there: Delgany’s brilliant Firehouse Bakery now has a café in Wicklow town (thefirehouse.ie), while The Quays in Cobh does walk-ins for outdoor dining (thequays.ie).
Did you know the OPW is offering free admission to its heritage attractions throughout 2021? Usually, a family visit to Clonmacnoise would set you back €20. Entry to Ross Castle in Killarney could cost €13. For the rest of this year, however, visits to both will be free — along with dozens of other heritage sites, parks and gardens. Bear in mind, however, that some indoor facilities may remain closed due to Covid-19 restrictions... so check in advance to avoid disappointment. You can see the brand-new visitor centre at Brú na Bóinne, for example, but there is no access for now to the burial chamber at Newgrange. heritageireland.ie
While you’re there: Lots of heritage sites have stunning parks and gardens — from Emo Court in Co Laois to Altamont Gardens in Co Carlow. Pack up a picnic!
Crammed with fascinating geology, archaeology and over 2,000 years of legend and history, the Ring of Gullion is one of the most famous ring dykes in the world — yet largely unknown to Irish daytrippers. Trek to the summit of Armagh’s highest peak; you’ll be rewarded with stunning views across the Mourne and Cooley mountain ranges and the Armagh Drumlins. The Slieve Gullion Forest Park adds a great Giant’s Lair, with a children’s story trail including fantastical wooden sculptures. It’s less than 10 minutes off the N1/A1 between Dundalk and Newry, and there’s a decent café and playground, too. ringofgullion.org
While you’re there: Book dinner and a night away at the lovely Killeavy Castle Estate next door. killeavycastle.com
All aboard the “Sunset Express”! The Waterford Suir Valley Railway, a nostalgia-steeped narrow-gauge train running along the former Waterford-to-Dungarvan line, has added a new service this summer: an evening sunset tour. Passengers can enjoy prosecco, strawberries and a music reception at the platform before boarding one of the train’s private carriages for the 10km journey from Kilmeaden to Bilberry. You’ll also receive a picnic box featuring a range of local Waterford produce to feast on; €30. wsvrailway.ie
While you’re there: It’s an obvious tip, but if you haven’t cycled the Waterford Greenway, you really should.
Roscommon to Dublin
The National Famine Way is a new walking trail linking Roscommon and Dublin along a 165km route once taken by 1,490 Famine emigrants. It’s just added a new app aimed at bringing the experience to life — centred on the experience of 12-year-old Daniel Tighe who, remarkably, survived the journey to a new life in Canada (audio recordings are connected to 32 pairs of bronze children’s shoes along the route). There are video pieces, too. nationalfamineway.ie
While you’re at it: Don’t fancy walking the full trail? Walk a short section, or visit the gardens at Strokestown Park; Wednesday to Sunday, 10.30am to 4pm. strokestownpark.ie
The Hunt Museum has created a new public space in the Treaty City. ‘Museum in a Garden’ is an urban garden formed by the removal of railings around its green space, with “super-sized” sculptures replicating artefacts inside, as well as a sensory garden, chess set, boules, benches and more. “By allowing our objects to escape the museum walls, we hope to intrigue and entertain many more people,” says director Jill Cousins. You can, of course, continue to visit the indoor collections too. huntmuseum.com
While you’re there: A new Street Art Trail by Draw Out takes walkers around 10 years’ worth of murals in the city. Find the PDF on limerick.ie — an app is to follow.
Irish National Stud
Looking for rainy-day ideas? Here’s a Kildare campus that gives the best of all worlds. Outside you can explore the Japanese Gardens, see horses and foals in the fields, and hit up the play areas, while the new Irish Racehorse Experience offers an indoor exhibit mixing history, storytelling and cutting-edge tech in a journey culminating in a real-time horse-race experience where you can buy, train and ride your own horse in a virtual race; €19/€13. irishnationalstud.ie
While you’re there: If you’re remotely interested in style, pop in to the Newbridge Museum of Style Icons nearby. Outfits worn by Princess Diana, the Beatles and Audrey Hepburn are just the start; free entry. visitnewbridgesilverware.com
How long has it been? Indoor dining is on hold, but museums and galleries are open, with carefully managed crowds providing much-needed respite on rainy days. Think of Dublin’s Dead Zoo (Natural History Museum), or the Medieval Mile Museum in Kilkenny, and don’t forget small finds either — which can throw up brilliantly random intrigue. Just one example: Carlow County Museum is home to the remains of Kevin Barry’s last cigarette. museum.ie; medievalmilemuseum.ie; carlowtourism.com
While you’re there: Is your kids’ room a mess? It’s nothing compared to Francis Bacon’s studio. See it recreated in all of its chaotic glory at Dublin’s Hugh Lane. hughlane.ie
NB: All prices and details subject to change and availability. Check ahead in case pre-booking is required.