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Getting back to nature

 

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Into the West: Exploring Achill by foot

Into the West: Exploring Achill by foot

Woodstock Gardens in Kilkenny

Woodstock Gardens in Kilkenny

A stroll through Nephin Park, Mayo

A stroll through Nephin Park, Mayo

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Into the West: Exploring Achill by foot

Take a hike in Louth, explore our thriving bog wildlife in the midlands or go whale watching in West Cork — there’s a whole world out there waiting to be discovered.

Watch whales in West Cork

Eco-tourism has gone from niche player to a vital conservation industry in recent years, and Whale Watch West Cork keep both the region’s biodiversity and community at heart. Tours operate out of Baltimore with skipper and marine expert Nic Slocum offering a trawl of knowledge. Fingers crossed for dolphins and minke whales on your journey. whalewatchwestcork.com; €55 — TB

While you’re at it: Further along the coast, Bantry Bay Charters offer bespoke wildlife tours. bantrybaycharters.ie

 

Disconnect in Donabate

For the ultimate nature walk, head to Turvey Nature Reserve, a glorious North Dublin domain where wildlife is king. Overlooking tranquil Rogerstown Estuary, the park offers fantastic walking and cycling opportunities through woodland, parkland, farmland and wetland. Nature lovers will be thrilled by the birdlife and there’s even a hide for some fun bird watching. — JB

While you’re at it: The Shoreline Hotel at Donabate Beach has a great beer garden overlooking the beach, perfect for a bite while watching the kids play. shorelinehotel.ie

 

A Cool Planet in Co Wicklow

Reconnected with nature in lockdown? Cool Planet is an interactive interlude on a day out at the Powerscourt Estate. Taking visitors on an immersive hour-long experience, it uses high-tech displays, games and competitions to reveal what climate change is all about. Kids will love learning about how simple, everyday choices can collectively make a difference. By appointment for now. €10.50/€7; coolplanetexperience.org — PÓC

While you’re at it: There’s a new Dark Sky Observatory in Co Tyrone’s Davagh Forest… in the heart of the Sperrins Mountain range. midulstercouncil.org 

 

Find your Irish Herbal Roots

As entertaining as they are educational, herbalist Lisa Guinan’s guided walks through the boreens and byroads of the Burren offer a nostalgia-rich masterclass on the botanics behind traditional Irish remedies. Tours cost from €15 for adults (kids free). irishherbalroots.ie — TB

While you’re at it: For an intimate West Clare ceol fix, pull up a pew at Doolin Music House and Secret Garden hosted by Christy Barry & Sheila Quinn.

 

Bog off to Offaly...

Clara Bog is a gorgeous protected bogland teeming with wildlife, from delicate bog flowers and scattered pine to butterflies and lizards. A 1km stretch of timber boardwalk means you can explore the bog without damaging it, and you can take a peaceful amble while trying to spot frogs and dragonflies. clarabognaturereserve.ie — NB

While you’re at it: The Dún Na Sí Amenity and Heritage Park is only 15 minutes away. dunnasi.ie

 

Fresh fruit in Wexford

Nothing says summer like Wexford strawberries. The Wheelock family has been growing fruit in Enniscorthy since the 1950s, and they’ve adapted their farm shop to provide the best local produce. You can take everything from breakfast rolls to strawberries and ice cream to the courtyard outside. “On a fine day, people love it, and there’s lots of space between tables,” says Cyril Wheelock. You’ll be able to pick your own fruit later in summer, too — “as soon as we feel it’s safe”. thevillageatwheelocks.ie — PÓC

While you’re at it: Check out the fab Facebook videos Cyril has made of local businesses during lockdown. facebook.com/WheelockfruitsEnniscorthy

 

Forests and caves in Fermanagh

Any Fermanagh local will recommend the seven-mile drive through Navar Forest. The view from the car park at the top of the cliff looks over Lough Erne from Enniskillen to Donegal and the Atlantic Ocean. While you’re there, check out the Marble Arch Caves UNESCO Global Geopark, which straddles the uplands and the gentle rolling lowlands of counties Fermanagh and Cavan. marblearchcavesgeopark.com — KD

While you’re at it: If you overnight in Enniskillen, check out the Killhevlin Lakeside Hotel. killyhevlin.com

 

Explore Achill Island

Ireland’s offshore islands may reopen a little later than the rest of the mainland, Achill will be welcoming visitors from June 29 (you can thank the bridge for that). Make the most of the island with a big old walk — the Currane Loop is a great one, and it’s always nice to stroll around the deserted village. You may even see basking shark in Keem Bay. achilltourism.com. — NB

While you’re at it: Pick up a takeout pizza from kite-surfing hub Pure Magic. puremagic.ie

 

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Woodstock Gardens in Kilkenny

Woodstock Gardens in Kilkenny

Woodstock Gardens in Kilkenny

 

Kick back in Kilkenny

Kilkenny is easily accessible from all over, with loads of outdoorsy things to do — think of Nore Valley Park, Castlecomer Discovery Park for starters. Near the pretty village of Inistoge, you’ll find the wonderful Woodstock Gardens and Arboretum. Features include a walled garden, recreated Turner Conservatory, rare and exotic trees and lovely walks. It’s the kind of place pottering and picnics were made for. woodstock.ie; visitkilkenny.ie — PÓC

While you’re at it: Kilfane Glen is a rugged but beautiful garden with a 30-foot waterfall. €7; kilfane.com

 

Explore the Antrim Glens

Nine glens make up the awesome Antrim Glens, each with its own scenic drive, with lyrical names such as Glencloy, Glentaisie and Glenballyemon. Don’t miss Glenariff Forest Park, set in the ‘Queen of the Glens’, with bracing walks and beautiful waterfalls. Stop off in pretty towns and villages such as Glenarm, Carnlough and Cushendall. discovernorthernireland.com — KD

While you’re at it: Scenic paths winds through the village of Cushednun, where Mary McBride’s Bar does a famous steak and Guinness pie. mcbridescushendun.com

 

GIY in Waterford

While it was already taking root, the Grow it Yourself trend has really flourished during lockdown — so the HQ of the Irish movement makes a great spot to visit this summer. The Waterford centre features a top-notch café, inspiring gardens plus a gift shop to fuel your future harvests with everything from crop of seeds and grow-boxes. giy.ie — TB

While you’re at it: Take a spin to Seagull Bakery in Tramore for home-inspired patisserie delights.

 

A lighthouse in Carlingford Lough

Carlingford Lough Ferry has launched a new cruise service designed for those seeking “a safe and socially distanced cruise” on the lough. The cross-border ferry, which usually operates between Greenore and Greencastle, will resume later this summer. Until then, you can hop on board for a trip coming within 400m of the historic Haulbowline Lighthouse. Passenger numbers will be at 50pc of capacity. €17.50/€10; activitour.io/ferry-sailing — PÓC

While you’re at it: On Yer Bike is open for rides on the 7km Carlingford to Omeath Greenway. onyerbike.ie

 

Back to nature in Brigit’s Garden

Open since June 22, with the café following on Monday, this “open-air museum” near Rosscahill has 11 acres to explore, with the beautiful Celtic Gardens at the heart of it all, set among the native woodland and wildflower meadows. There’s a fairy fort, nature trail, thatched roundhouse and crannóg, as well as the largest sundial in Ireland. a new Earth Quest trail provides a fun way to learn about nature and energy. €8/5; brigitsgarden.ie — PÓC & NB

While you’re at it: Take a boat trip to the tropical gardens on Garnish Island. garnishisland.com

 

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A stroll through Nephin Park, Mayo

A stroll through Nephin Park, Mayo

A stroll through Nephin Park, Mayo

 

Beauty in Ballycroy

Around 11,000 hectares of Atlantic blanket bog and mountainous terrain cover an unspoilt wilderness in Co Mayo. A few years ago, adventure writer David Flanagan sought to find Ireland’s most remote place, by identifying and visiting the most distant point from a public road. He found it in the Nephin Beg mountain range here. You don’t have to go that far — there’s a visitor centre and some short looped trails to enjoy. wildnephinnationalpark.ie — PÓC

While you’re at it: Mayo is also home to an International Dark Sky Park. Stargazing, anyone? mayodarkskypark.ie

 

 

A coastal walk in Clogherhead

You don’t have to head west for stunning sea views. The short walk around Clogherhead, Co Louth, takes you to the only high, rocky headland between Dublin and the Mourne Mountains. Aside from the views, you’ll find brilliant bird life, and you can replace any lost calories with a warm bowl of chowder from the little stove bubbling away in Fisherman’s Catch in Port Oriel. — PÓC

Next up: Head north to The Glyde Inn and its restaurant, Linn Duachaill. theglydeinn.ie

 

Foraging in Connemara

The brilliantly-named Mungo Murphy runs a coastal foraging walk in Rossaveal, where you can explore the Wild Atlantic Way while learning about (and tasting) edible sea plants along the way. Afterwards, pop into the boutique abalone farm for a tour and tastings on Galway Bay. €50pp; mungomurphyseaweed.com — PÓC

While you’re at it: In Cork, the Montenotte Hotel has a ‘Green Fingers Getaway’ that includes a garden tour from €189 for two. themontenottehotel.com

Online Editors