Sunday 17 December 2017

Readers' Favourite Trips: Why you love our Great Little Country

Staycation Nation

Peace and tranquility: Very few sights top that of the gleaming Caragh Lake, overlooked by Carrauntoohil, an all-time favourite of Carmel O’Connor. Photo: Paul Garnett
Peace and tranquility: Very few sights top that of the gleaming Caragh Lake, overlooked by Carrauntoohil, an all-time favourite of Carmel O’Connor. Photo: Paul Garnett
Valentia Island on The Ring of Kerry
Round tower and High Cross at Kells, Co. Meath

Online Editors

We asked you, our readers, to share your favourite journeys around Ireland. We received many fab responses and here are a few of the best...

Connemara road trip

The journey from Barna to Spiddal is quite wonderful. Not only does it remind me of the happy times I spent with my sister and her family, when they lived in the locality, but it's a truly lovely landscape with a lively, friendly vibe.

Where, except Barna, would you be offered "a driver's glass of wine" or a pizza from a Napoliforni pizza oven with a Connemara twist? And as you drive onwards, soaking in the sea view, you can start rehearsing the cupla focal that you will be able to use, for sure, when you reach Spiddal. When you see the road signs written in Irish you know you have arrived, it's a wonderful feeling of familiarity.

If you're into crafts, the workshops at Spiddal have gorgeous things on offer, and it's something to look forward to. You can stock up with all sorts of items such as soaps, jewellery and crockery.

And then you can visit the simple little church or maybe the quiet reading room/library if you are in contemplative mode.

The best part though is the sense of connection with people, some of whom are no longer there except perhaps in spirit.

And the connection with the landscape and the heritage which is waning in many parts of the country. And the space all around you that lets you breathe freely and deeply the clear air that will set you up for another while.

- Margaret Boland

Coming home to the Kingdom

ring of kerry.jpg
Valentia Island on The Ring of Kerry

The Ring of Kerry (Photo: Getty)

My favourite journey is very simple, but oh so special.

It's the journey I make every time I come home to my wonderful parents in a special place called Keel in Glencar in Co. Kerry.

It has unspoilt, breathtaking scenery throughout all the seasons. When I take the turn-off for Glencar after the Red Fox Inn on the Ring of Kerry road, no matter what is going on in my manic life this drive never ever fails to immediately remind me how bloody lucky I am to belong to this area.

The gleaming Caragh Lake, the ever-changing face of Carrauntoohil; snow capped, foggy, so clear you can see The Cross, whatever the view it's always majestic, and when the moon is shining, wow.

The variety of animal and bird life is a welcome bonus to the drive; cattle, horses, donkeys, deer, goats, hares, rabbits, badgers, hedgehogs, squirrels, and of course sheep.

And this unforgettable experience is a six mile drive. It just has to be seen.

And you can then stop off at Lickeen Woods and have a picnic on the stones of the very aptly named Blackstones Bridge.

 Simply divine and a natural paradise.

- Carmel O'Connor

Slieve league, Donegal

Donegal, Slieve League sea stacks, Getty.jpg
Slieve League, Donegal, Ireland

Slieve League clffs (Photo: Getty)

Nowhere was it more confirmed for me that Ireland really is a great wee country, than during my recent journey which began in Ardara, a chilled-out little heritage town, six miles from Glenties in stunning southwest Donegal.

We stopped in Teagues Bar next to The Church of the Holy Family for coffee and banter with the landlady, Eileen, a vibrant and warm-hearted woman who can knit as fast as she talks, and offers beverages of any kind accompanied by a slice of her very own brown bread, straight from the oven and on the house.

We drove on through dramatic Glengesh, a scenic U-shaped valley, formed by retreating ice sheets during the last Ice Age.

Thatched cottages dot the landscape and there are neat little piles of turf gathered and mounted with pride.

Shortly after, we arrive in Teelin, a charming little Gaeltacht village, great for fishing, traditional music and scuba diving.

At the pier at Teelin, we are greeted and welcomed by Paddy, captain of The Nuala Star, and taken on a 90-minute voyage which will stay with you forever.

Paddy takes us to view the breathtaking and spectacular sea cliffs which don't disappoint. He also recounts historical facts about the look-out towers as well as many Cromwellian stories.

He entertains us with his folklore stories and philosophy. After only 20 minutes afloat, our boat is suddenly and without warning surrounded by up to 150 bottle-nosed dolphins.

These delightful creatures were escorting us to Bunglas and beyond, they stayed with us all the way, enchanting us for miles as we sailed.

On this journey from Ardara to Teelin and beyond to the Cliffs of Sliabh Liag, we were welcomed by the gentle kind people of the area.

And on that journey that day with the dolphins we returned to our spirit, our inner child and we were anchored after that boat trip, in more ways than one.

 - Catherine Breslin

Canal bank walk, Kildare

There's a glorious, almost undiscovered, little walk along the canal in Milltown, Co Kildare. It's my most favourite walk in all the world. On a sunny day, there's nowhere like it. It's so peaceful and you can walk for miles along the still, clear water surrounded by green fields either side. Reward yourself with a well-earned pint or a plate of loaded potato skins at the award-winning Hanged Mans Arch at the end of your journey. Pure bliss.

- Laura Allen

The Kells Triangle

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Round tower and High Cross at Kells, Co. Meath

Kells Round Tower and High Cross (Photo: Fáilte Ireland)

I suggest a visit to what I call The Kells Triangle. To get there is quite simple. Take the M3 motorway from west Dublin, travel NW for 50 minutes and leave at the Kells south exit.

Kells needs no introduction, a busy market town with a long history of monastic settlement. It forms the western point of the triangle's base.

Heading east through pleasant scenery, we arrive about 15 minutes later at the jewel in the crown, the multi-award winning village of Moynalty (pronounced M'nawwlty by the locals). A classically planned hamlet, with immaculately tidy streets, footpaths, and street furniture, it has won the Tidy Towns competition several times.

When we manage to drag ourselves away from this special place, we embark on the short trip (5km) north-westward to the next point of our triangle, the village of Mullagh.

Less than a kilometre over the county boundary into Cavan, it is a classic, traditional Irish village, established by a local landowner in the early 19th Century. Mullagh Lough, 1km west of the village on the R194, is a great place to stop for a picnic or a spot of fishing, and a visit to the lovely old church of Templekelly.

If the car passengers feel a need to stretch their legs, an ideal opportunity presents itself in the climb up Mullagh hill, via the pretty track off the road - half a km from the lake.

The way to the top invites you to stop and read the poems affixed to the fence, while catching your breath.

To the north-east, you can clearly see the Mournes, and to the south-east (on a clear day) the faint outline of the Dublin and Wicklow mountains.

To round off the trip, why not talk a walk down the Lake road, a 1km country lane that runs alongside the western edge of the lake.

From Mullagh, it is a short hop back onto the M3 (about 4km), and a return journey of around 50 minutes back to the city.

- Andy Jones

Wild about West Cork

Inchydoney in West Cork

Inchydoney strand

It was the mention of Brendan's Auntie Nell that got me going. I remembered my own Aunties Nellie, Jo and Rena and a tiny bike ride, a very small journey indeed, that I made 10 years ago after a swim on Inchydoney.

It was August. It was warm. I was flying on that bike feeling so content and looking forward to lunch with my aunties, a glass of wine and an afternoon snooze.

I flew down that hill towards Clonakilty without a care in that moment. You know that feeling that lasts a second but stays forever with you?

I had that moment passing a hedge of fuchsia. It must have been the warmth that made the scent so amazing.

I tell you this because the moment was filled with such mixed emotions, made especially poignant, as I had just lost a young brother and so wished he could have smelt the fuchsia too.

A simple bike ride, sun or no, out and back from Clon to Inchy. Heaven.

 - Nora Moore

A Trip to Tipp
Glen of Aherlow, Co Tipperary

Glen of Aherlow (Photo: Derek Cullen/Fáilte Ireland)

Often, in the evening, to alleviate the tensions of the day, I will pack a mini picnic, get in the car and take a two mile spin to the scenic Glen of Aherlow, Tipperary

I drive to the makeshift car park near the Christ the King statue and stride boldly towards the mountain, Up, up I go, up the narrow, winding steep hill, breathing in the yellow fragrant gorsebush on all sides until I come to a small clearing, known as Rock an Thorabh, (Rock of the Bull).

It's not far but it is such a beautiful, secluded spot, with wonderful views of Tipperary town and the countryside below.

On a clear day you can see for miles. It's a tourist hotspot yet I've rarely had to share this little area with anyone.

I could stay here for hours and sometimes do, if the weather permits. Sitting still in the heart of nature and leaving the real world behind, it is an exhale of stress - the peace, the stillness, the vast beauty somehow leads to an effortless awareness of the present moment, that connection we all strive for in this busy, modern world.

I head off home feeling re-booted and replenished.

- Valerie Oakley

Top prize for best journey

We've teamed up with Discover Ireland to give a fantastic prize for the best journey. Congratulations to winner Nora Moore, who will receive a luxury 2 night break for 2 sharing staying at the wonderful 4-star Brehon Hotel and Angusa Spa, Killarney.

The prize includes a stay in a superior deluxe room, breakfast both mornings and a candle lit dinner on one evening of the winner's choice. Check out the hotel at

There will also be fabulous prizes for reader's suggestions in the forthcoming categories of great places to eat, great pubs you keep going back to, and great free attractions.

Entry details for this week's A Great Little Country competition are available at the bottom of Brendan O'Connor's column.

For year-round inspiration and loads of special offers, find Discover Ireland on Facebook, @discoverirl on Twitter or check out #thisisLIVING.

Sunday Independent

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