Gardens of EDEN: Ireland's European destinations of excellence
4 to try: short breaks
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
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
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
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
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.