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An idyllic spread of countryside punctured by the ancient ruins, cloud-shrouded mountain peaks and jagged cliff edges, Kerry is the quintessential picture of Ireland. Take a drive along the famous Ring of Kerry route, which winds past the ice-cream-coloured houses of Kenmare town and on through Killorglin – home to the kooky goat-celebrating Puck Fair. The long-running event’s origin is a toss-up between pagan festivals or the legend of a fleeing goat that warned of the arrival of Cromwell’s army. Make your rural escape all the more authentic with a stay at this newly renovated stone-built cottage on the Ring of Kerry. It comes with modern facilities including a log burner, and even its own sheep farm. And for supplies, you’ll need only walk a few minutes to the village of Beaufort.
An idyllic spread of countryside punctured by the ancient ruins, cloud-shrouded mountain peaks and jagged cliff edges, Kerry is quintessential Ireland. Take a drive along the famous Ring of Kerry route, which winds past the ice-cream-coloured houses of Kenmare town and on through Killorglin – home to the kooky goat-celebrating Puck Fair. The long-running event’s origin is a toss-up between pagan festivals or the legend of a fleeing goat that warned of the arrival of Cromwell’s army.
Strewn with the crumbling ruins of medieval abbeys and castles, Ennis is rich in history and character. The town’s picturesque centre is lined with rows of colourful buildings and pulsing pubs that regularly come to life with live Irish music. The surrounding region is a treasure trove of fossils and archaeological sites such as the Burren – a vast jigsaw of glacial-era limestone that appears like something from another planet. Stay close to the town centre’s lively atmosphere in this modern two-bedroom flat. Spread over two floors, it has a fully fitted kitchen and a double sofa bed in the living room if needed.
Embark on a time-bending tour of this charming market town and be transported to its medieval past. Your guide will lead the way down its labyrinth of narrow streets and show you sights like the towering bronze Daniel O’Connell monument – paying homage to his “Irish liberator” status – and the weathered stone ruins of its 13th-century abbey. Along the way you will be painted a picture of the famines, rebellions and riots that shaped the town over the years and see why the town earned its reputation as a hub of traditional Irish music.
Known in Gaelic as “the place of shells”, Sligo is infused with the salty air of its surfer-magnet bays. The county is a goldmine of coastal villages and rugged landscapes that sit along the Wild Atlantic Way. The cinematic scenery has found fame as the inspiration behind W.B. Yeats’ many works – with the poet even being buried near the foot of Benbulbin mountain – and more recently as the setting of Sally Rooney’s phenomenally popular novel (and equally popular TV series) Normal People (2018). If you’re travelling with friends or family, this four-bedroom bungalow on the outskirts of town offers plenty of outdoor space to relax and great access to natural beauty spots, thanks to its location at the foot of Knocknarea on the Wild Atlantic Way.
Under the guidance of a born and bred Strandhill native, take to the waves of this world-class surfing location for a thrill-seeking experience. Rain or shine, professional body border Seamus McGoldrick has created a safe environment for aspiring surfers to learn the ropes and find out a bit of local history while they’re at it. Backed by rolling sand dunes and overlooked by the neolithic tomb of mythological Queen Maeve (that tops the summit of Knocknarea), the surf lesson’s striking setting is reason enough to try riding the tempestuous waves of Sligo.
The Connemara district is a rugged sprawl of untamed hinterland and secluded, Atlantic-facing fishing villages. Tradition oozes out of every blade of grass and the cracks of Gothic Revival castles. You may hear the melody of classical Irish folk songs spilling out of traditional pubs or sit down for a hearty sea-faring meal in one of the coastal restaurants. The region is also predominantly Irish-speaking – a perfect excuse to try a phrase or two in the mother tongue. Nestled in the mountainside with stunning lake views from all angles, Kylemore Hideaway provides an extra special experience when it comes to accommodation. The picturesque farm cottage is located right beside a waterfall on the shores of Lough Fee. You can spend your days mountain climbing, fishing, or exploring the Connemara National Park by car. The villages of Letterfrack and Leenane are also nearby.
Drift away from the buzz of civilisation and into the soothing sway of Connemara’s remote coastline on this kayaking expedition. The trip can be tailored to your preference, giving you the choice between paddling under fiery morning skies or the misty twilight of the evening. After wrestling on a wetsuit and listening to the introductory briefs you’ll be pushing off into the current and put the skills you learned into practice. A guide will lead you to see shadowy sea caves and weather-beaten rock formations while providing insight into the marine life and history surrounding the area.
Known as the festival capital of Ireland, Galway vibrates with the wild beat of live Irish folk music carried on the wind from characterful buskers and colourful pubs. The harbour city splinters out from its 18th-century hub of Eyre Square and is speckled with the architectural vestiges of its medieval roots. Once you’ve taken in the limestone structure of 16th-century Lynch Castle and the striking spires of the collegiate church of St. Nicholas, you should head to the Salthill suburb to try one of the famous oysters. And if you’re keen to experience a truly off-the-beaten-path escape, look no further than this beautifully restored cottage on the edge of the city. Surrounded by lacy stone walls and secluded gardens, the retreat is tech-free with a focus on simple living.
Witness the thriving aquaculture of County Galway’s Atlantic coast as you follow in the foraging footsteps of our primeval ancestors. Set off on an eye-opening ramble along the Atlantic shores, breathe in salty sea air and discover the allure of its unspoiled wilderness while learning about the edible sea plants (such as seaweed) that creep along the coastline. With your fresh haul in tow, return to explore a boutique abalone farm and discover the mechanics behind running the sustainable business. The tour finishes with a tasting of the fresh seafood that you’ve been learning about, serving up inspired dishes like abalone sashimi, sea lettuce and samphire.