Guide to planning a family holiday to Ireland
If you have decided that a family holiday to Ireland is the trip for you this year, then you are in for a real treat. The weather this year is already looking as if it is set to be a year for beautiful sunny weather, meaning that there are plenty of sights to be seen and activities to be enjoyed. Planning a holiday for the family can often be quite a task, however, our guide is here to help make the process a little easier:
Where to go in Ireland
Where you decide to travel in Ireland will largely depend on what kind of trip you are looking for. There are a plethora of exciting destinations that can offer everything from an action-packed itinerary to a slow-paced retreat. Here are just a few of our favourites that are great for families:
Dublin is naturally one of the top choices, with the vibrant city life of shopping, history, food and drink, then a beautiful coastline just minutes from the city centre, Dublin offers the best of both worlds. Offering both child-friendly activities such as the Leprechaun Museum which can be enjoyed by people of all ages.
Galway is a perfect destination for those who loves sightseeing and walking, as you can pretty much walk anywhere! The vibrant pubs, quirky shops and friendly locals will have you feeling at home almost immediately, great for families!
With over 400 years of history, Kilkenny is one of the best places to visit in Ireland for an authentic experience. The mighty medieval castles, cathedrals and abbeys will leave you in awe, and the vibrant festival scene, you will never be short of an exciting excursion just around the corner.
Cork is the third largest city in Ireland, and it is particularly well known for its vast collection of bridges! Cork is another area best explored on foot, where you will really experience the true sense of the town. Along your adventures, you’re sure to be engaged in an interesting conversion with one of the local residents who will be happy to inform you of any hidden gems in the area!
Where to stay
Although hotels are often the most popular choice, there is nothing more authentic than staying in an Irish holiday cottage. We have many cottages available that are perfect for families and will make your trip much more enjoyable as you can have your very own holiday home. This helps the children to settle in; and if you are staying for more than a long weekend, they are certainly worth looking in to! Take a look at our range of family friendly holiday cottages in Ireland
Getting to Ireland
The choices of transport into the island come in the form of either a ferry or a plane. If you are thinking of taking a road trip, then the ferry would be highly recommended as this means you can take your own car and explore Ireland at your own leisurely pace, and you can sail into one of six ports in Ireland. If you would prefer to fly, however, there are 10 airports in total in Ireland, meaning that no matter where you are travelling, there will be an airport nearby. This is often the quickest and most cost effective way to travel to Ireland, particularly with kids.
Once you reach your destination, the best ways to get around will also depend on where you are staying. If you are in any of the main cities and towns, then the local public transport services are very versatile and regular, making your trip very accessible. Take your pick from public buses and trams to trips down the river to see the beautiful sights. However, if you are in one of the more rural, countryside areas and are keen to explore further afield, you might like to consider renting a car to make the most of the surrounding areas. Alternatively, many areas in rural Dublin are easy enough to travel around by foot or bike, just ensure to pack some comfortable shoes!
Creating an itinerary
With just a little bit of research, you should be able to create a rough itinerary based on the area in which you chose to stay. Try to include a mixture of activities that will keep the kids entertained as well as yourself! Ensure that the list isn’t too long, as you don’t want to have to rush around to fit everything in, plus a little bit of spontaneity in Ireland is a wonderful thing. It’s good to have a brief plan, which you can use to excite the children and make the most of your time.
A guide to Irish Easter traditions
The Easter holidays are almost over, and if any of you have ventured over to Ireland for a trip away, then we’ve got a few traditions that you might find interesting to learn of. Easter Sunday is known as one of the most important celebrations of the year (second to St. Patricks day) for both people who are religious, and those who are not. Therefore, the traditions have been passed down through generations, and many are still celebrated today; here are just a few of the Easter traditions that the carried out by the Irish:
The preparations for Easter Sunday would have traditionally begun 40 days in advance when lent begun. This meant that partakers would often give up eating meat for the full 40 days, as well as a cherished favourite food such as chocolate, biscuits or sweets. Some even decided to give up other things for lent such as television!
Another commonly observed tradition in Ireland is to have a fish dinner, which would be eaten every Friday in the lead up to Easter Sunday. This was often cooked into a soup and encouraged families to gather together to be thankful for all they have, including each other.
Many saw it as bad luck to complete works outside on this day, so pubs and restaurants were often shut, shops were closed, and many were to have the day off work, which today, we have as a bank holiday. Only small meals were allowed to be eaten, such as the fish supper and small portions of bread and water, and the TV was to remain off for the entire day.
To ensure that family homes were ready to welcome an abundance of guests for an Easter feast, the spring cleaning rituals were a big part of the celebration. This meant that everyone in the family would have to get involved, cleaning the entire house from top to bottom! This left the house ready for the year ahead, and for those who are religious, prepared the house to be blessed by the local priest.
On in the days leading up to Good Friday, families would often plant seeds of crops in their gardens to bring blessings to their families. These were traditionally not flowers, but plants that would grow into a product that can be eaten in the future.
Eggs were another item of food that was not to be eaten during the time of Lent, instead, a basket of beautifully painted eggs would be presented to an Irish household to be eaten on Easter Sunday, ‘Easter eggs’. This is a tradition that many still observe today, although though the vast majority of the delicately decorated eggs that would have once been gifted have now been replaced with the more popular, chocolate alternative Easter eggs. The eggs are to be presented after the Easter feast, and were meant to only be given to those who had managed to complete Lent and eat their full dinner.
To mark the end of Lent, a traditional Irish feast is cooked up including potatoes, meat, stuffing, vegetables, bread and any other traditional items that were special to the family. This is a time for the families to come together and celebrate, as well as marking the end of Lent and the new beginning that is offered by Easter.
In larger celebrations, a ‘cake dance’ often took place on Easter Sunday, where many would dance together in the spring weather. The person who was thought to be the best dancer of them all would then win a delicious cake for their family to enjoy.
However you decided to celebrate the Easter holidays, we hope that it is filled with joy, laughter and family on your holidays in Ireland!
5 Outstandingly Beautiful Lakes in Ireland
Ireland has a diverse and interesting landscape. With mountains, stunning rivers, streams and luscious green hillsides, it is a fantastic place to immerse yourself into nature and to fully relax. Lakes are often a forgotten area of beauty, making them quiet and secluded. Here are some of the most striking lakes in Ireland to visit on your next trip.
Lough Neagh borders five of Northern Ireland’s six counties. Its waters are in Derry, Antrim, Down, Tyrone and Armagh. Lough Neagh has a unique landscape, with a tranquil atmosphere and abundance of wildlife. It is the largest commercial wild eel fishery in Europe, the eels caught there are exported all over the world and in some places, are classed as highly prized, expensive delicacies. In the Netherlands, Germany and Japan the eels are very popular and are either smoked or pickled. Lough Neagh produce around 400 tonnes of eels a year, conservation and sustainability are top priority as eels do not breed in captivity so it is important to not deplete the supply, there are restrictions to the number of boats allowed on the lake and the quantity of eels each boat can catch. Why not try the delicacy of eels and cook yourself a tasty supper at one of our luxury Irish holiday Cottages?
Try property 15573Lakes of Killarney
The enchanting landscape of the Lakes of Killarney, County Kerry, will take your breath away. With a combination of over 25,000 acres of rugged mountains, woodlands and waterfalls the scenery does not disappoint. There is a choice of cycle routes, varying in ability around the lake, which give a great view of the scenery on offer. Keep a look out for the red deer in the park, which are one of the only native species in Ireland. After a tiring day of cycling there is no better way to top it off than a meal in a traditional Irish pub. Killarney has live music most nights and the performers often encourage patrons to join in with songs they know. Try property 7722 Lough Caragh
Also within County Kerry is Lough Caragh. This stunning place is a Special Area of Conservation and offers fantastic views of the highest mountain peak in Ireland, Carrantuohill, which is 1038 metres high. To explore the lake in a traditional way, you may want to hire a horse, so you can enjoy the unspoilt countryside and beautiful scenery in a peaceful way.
Try property 15000Lough Corrib
Lough Corrib is just 27 miles outside of the city of Galway, there are over 200 islands within the lake that are covered in woodlands and are wildlife havens. The lake is a great spot for game fishery, but it is advised that you use a guide as there are many underwater surprises, which with some help you will be able to avoid. The wildlife to keep an eye out for are hawks, otters, minks and bats. Try property 9336 Lough Derg
Lough Derg in County Donegal is set in the stunning countryside with a blend of mountains, hills, woodlands and farmland. It makes the perfect place to relax and unwind on a quiet stroll. The calm lake waters will charm and inspire you as you absorb the natural beauty. The shores of the lake have been settled on since prehistoric times and the Holy Island is a brilliant attraction. The secluded island has buildings on it that were built before the year 1000, and there are graveyard slabs which date to the 12th century. Also on the island is an 80ft Round Tower, a Holy Well and the ruins of six churches.
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Whether you are visiting Ireland for its interesting heritage or for the beautiful landscapes waiting to be discovered. You will not be disappointed with the vibrancy and authenticity of outstanding Ireland.
Great activities for the whole family in West Ireland
Ireland is a fantastic place to take your children on holiday: where ever you are on the island, you will find fun activities to keep them occupied while you all make unforgettable memories.
Moher Hill Open Farm, County Clare
Moher Hill Open Farm is the perfect place no matter the weather. It is a 14-acre family fun park with an indoor and outdoor play area. On your visit, you will learn about farming life, including the welfare of animals and how a modern farm functions. Visitors are encouraged to meet the animals and interact with them, whether you are feeding them their favourite snack or brushing their coats they will all appreciate your company. There are a variety of animals there and visitors always come away with a favourite. Whether it’s the alpacas, donkeys, goats or rabbits, you with leave wanting your own furry friend at home. Also on the farm, there is a collection of antique farm machinery, so if tractors and diggers are your children’s sort of thing, then they are in for a treat at Moher Hill. Each day there are demonstrations of how the machinery works and what they were used for. As if that isn’t enough to keep your little one’s busy, there is a mini golf course and bouncy castle. If you wanted to stay for a bite of lunch, the Moher Hill café serves delicious, home cooked food. They do allow you to bring your own picnic if there is nothing on the menu that you fancy; there are plenty of beautiful spots to sit down and enjoy it, either through the woodlands or at the picnic area.
Doolin Cave and Farmland Nature Trail, County Clare
Hidden amongst woodlands and fields of wild plants you will find the Doolin Cave and Farmland Nature Tail. If you have never been inside a cave then this is a fantastic example to start with. As you walk deeper down into the earth, you discover a magical space with an unusual feeling. There are guided tours available which take around 45-60 minutes, the guides have a wealth of fascinating facts about the cave and will tell you how and when it was formed. There are a lot of steps to get down into the cave so make sure you are all wearing suitable footwear. Once inside, you will see one of the best-known examples of a free hanging stalactite. The stalactite is 7.3 metres long and was formed thousands of years ago from drops of water which then created calcium salts which take the form you can see today.
Aillwee Cave and Bird of Prey Centre, County Clare
Aillwee cave is another underworld of beauty, although very different in what you will find compared to the Doolin Cave. You can take a short 30-minute walk through unusual rock formations, underground waterfalls and hunt for fossils in the cave walls and ground. Next to the cave is the Bird of Prey Centre, where there are talks about the conservation of the ancient partnership between birds of prey and humans. Many years before guns were used for hunting, humans teamed with hawks, falcons and eagles and mastered the art of hunting with animals. There is also the opportunity while there to see the birds up close and being fed.
Galway Atlantaquaria, County Galway
Trips to the aquarium are always a child’s favourite thing to do. To learn about and watch the colourful sea creatures swimming in the massive tanks is very special for the younger audience. There are a range of unusual life forms and creatures from under the sea at the Galway Atlantaquaria, with tours available you will all learn something new. The aquarium actively works to protect and conserve the marine environment and your cost of a ticket will be used to help this worthy cause.
Glengowla Mines, County Galway
Throughout history, Ireland has been one of the biggest leaders in mining in Europe. Discover just how valuable this industry was to the country by taking an underground mine tour at Glengowla Mine. You will learn about the process, when it started and where it is today. Found there are the rare and stunning octahedral crystals of fluorite and quartz, which historically, monks used on their most important objects such as books and manuscripts.
Why not give one of these days out a go on your family break in Ireland. Your children will enjoy the action-packed days that are planned, whilst you all learn about the history of this amazing country!
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Fantastic water activities to try in Ireland on your next holiday
Water sport and beach activities have always been a highlight of holidays in Ireland, being away from your home and routine give you a new lease of life and willingness to have a go at something you have never done before. Ireland is a popular destination for experienced and beginner surfers; big wave riders flock to the island from all over the world to tackle the monster Atlantic swells which bring waves over 12 meters high. Water sports are not restricted to the professionals, so don’t let that put you off. Dotted all around Ireland are beautiful coves and expansive stretches of uncrowded golden sand. It is a great place to learn new skills, and there is no better time to do this than on your holiday to the majestic Ireland, with plenty of instructors and courses to teach you the skills, you will be a professional before you know it. So, grab a decent wetsuit, booties and wetsuit gloves because you are not in the warm waters of Hawaii now!
Tullan Strand in the county of Donegal is a well-known spot for great waves and fantastic scenery. The two-mile beach can be seen from a height on the drive down, offering stunning views of the dunes, sea and mountains. There are highly recommended surf schools in the area, allowing you to hire the kit you will need and give you guidance on how to get up on the board. If you don’t fancy a dip in the sea then there are some great sights to see; the ‘Fairy Bridges' are sea stacks that form a natural arch over the water. Legend has it that fairies haunted the bridges, hence the name. There is also the ‘Wishing Chair' which is a rock formation offering a comfortable seat with amazing views of the Wild Atlantic Ocean; some believe that if you make your wish while sitting there, it will come true.
The golden sands of Enniscrone, County Sligo, is claimed to be one of the safest beaches in Ireland, making it a great spot for swimming. The pier is a popular place for divers as the deep water and shelter from the waves make for the perfect conditions for jumping in – brave the heights and have a go for a thrilling experience! After your day of exercise, there is no better way to relax and unwind than with a seaweed bath. The long, hot soak will detoxify and invigorate your skin, leaving it soft and smooth.
Fanore Beach is in the heart of County Clare, near the majestic limestone cliffs of the Burren. The beach is wild and beautiful with no big towns nearby or crowds of people. On a quiet day, you will hear nothing but the ocean. Body boarding is quick to pick up and can be a great way to experience being carried by the force of the sea; there are places nearby where you can either buy your own board or hire one. After your day of water sport, you may want to spend the evening, watch the sunset, listen to the waves crashing while sitting around an open fire with a cup of hot chocolate or a glass of wine.
Inch Strand is situated on a small peninsula, just off the larger peninsula of Dingle, in the County Kerry. The name suggests that it is a small cove, but an inch here is actually three miles long! The location has outstanding views of the sea, surrounding land and a perfect spot for kayaking. There are idyllic private coves to be discovered and explored while you are on the water. It gives you the chance to admire Ireland from a different angle. Why not grab a fishing rod and try and catch yourself a sea supper while you’re out there? When you are in the area be sure to drive over Conor Pass, this is a twisting, narrow road which takes you to the summit of the nearby mountain and gives you fantastic views of Ireland's raw nature and beauty from the comfort of your car seat.
Whichever location or activity takes your interest, our selection of Irish holiday cottages will accommodate families, couples, or groups of friends. Get out of your comfort zone on your holiday to Ireland and experience new things, it is a great way to refresh and excite your body and mind.
Learn how beers are made and have a taste of some of the best at the fantastic microbreweries in Ireland.
Microbreweries are opening all over the world and Ireland is one of the leaders in the beer and ale revolution! There are now over 20 microbreweries in Ireland, which means there are plenty of delicious samples for you to try. Microbreweries are usually much smaller than the typical brewery and are limited to the quantities of beer they can make, 460,000 gallons of each beer a year to be exact! Craft breweries have a limitation to how they brew the beer and can only produce 2000,000 gallons. The breweries pride themselves on the quality, flavour and technique of their tipple. The consumers of these varied drinks are usually looking for a new flavour and style and with so many microbreweries opening and pubs now stocking them, the choice is no longer so limited.
We have looked at some of the most popular microbreweries Ireland has on offer, the ingredients used and a simple method of brewing for you to try when you return from your holiday to Ireland.
Galway Bay Brewery began its brewing journey in the back of the pub, The Oslo. An official brewing site was only added in 2009. They now brew in over 10 different bars in Galway. Their most popular beers are the Full Sail, Bay Ale, Althea and Buried at Sea.
Trouble Brewing has been producing exciting Irish beers since 2010. The breweries name is ironic in that since they were founded they have gone on to have a range of their beers on draught in over 20 pubs in Ireland. It all began when three friends got frustrated with the limited variety of drinks available. After testing a few combinations of homebrew at home, the first batch was brought to the public, this recipe is still a popular one today, be sure to try the ‘Deception Golden Ale’ if you can.
Franciscan Well Brewery was founded in 1998; they brew lager, ale, stout and wheat beer. The well they have on site and the water they use has historically been known to have healing properties, especially for people with eye problems. Giving you even more reason to try their flavoursome brews.
Blacks of Kinsale brewery came to be when a couple became passionate about making their own beers at home. This quickly became a fascination, and now they have been creating craft beers for the public since 2013. Make sure to try their popular KPA Kinsale Pale Ale, Black IPA and The Session.
Most craft beers are made up of four main ingredients, simple, right? If you fancy having a go at making your own after you have been inspired by the brews you’ve tasted on your holiday in Ireland, then we have included a very simple recipe for you to try.
Malts are grains. The most widely used malt for brewing is barley, although you can use wheat, rye, oats, corn or rice. The final flavour will depend on what you use. The grains you buy will need to be crushed or milled.
The water from your tap will be just fine. Some say that the final drink can be affected if your water is not the best quality or filtered, but as its probably your first time brewing, you don’t need to get to hung up on this.
Hops are the flowers from the plant Humulus Lupulus. There are many varieties of hops and each type will give your beer a different flavour. They are the ingredient that gives your beer the bitter taste. They also have antibacterial properties and help keep your brew from spoiling.
The magical organisms that turns your mix into tasty beer. The yeast works by consuming the sugar in the mix and leaving alcohol in its place. Be careful with your homebrew as it can be difficult to know the strength of it when it’s ready.
What you will need:
• 3kg Malt Extract
• 50g Hops
• 1 packet of dried yeast
1. Boil the water. Wrap the grains in a muslin and steep in the water for twenty-thirty minutes.
2. Add the malt extract and leave to boil for a further hour.
3. Allow the mix to cool.
4. Add the yeast.
5. Stir thoroughly and leave in a closed container for roughly two weeks or until you can see bubbles in the mixture.
6. Siphon the mix into your chosen bottles, pop the cap on and then within two weeks it will be ready to drink.
After a busy day exploring and enjoying yourself on your holiday, you will want to have a comfortable place to come back to. We have a great range of cottages to rent in Ireland, which will give you just that.
Fantastic walks for you and your four-legged friend in Ireland.
Can’t bear to be parted from your furry friend? We believe our dogs are important members of the family and with our dog friendly cottages, Ireland, there really is no need to leave them behind. We have put together a list of some of the greatest walks in Ireland for you to explore with your pet. Including mountains, lakes, coastal parks and woodlands, Ireland is a fantastic place to discover untouched landscapes and get back to nature.
The Causeway Coast Way is a two to three-day walk stretching for 33 miles, although if you wanted to make it shorter, you can finish or stay over-night in either Portrush, Bushmills or Whitepark Bay. The track has a varied terrain, some parts are very well maintained and others are more rugged, it clings to the edge of the coast so you will see a range of dramatic cliffs, small harbours, sandy coves and waterfalls flowing towards the sea. The walk will also take you past the famous and stunning Giants Causeway. You can begin your walk in Portsteward and follow the clearly signposted trail to Ballycastle, most of the villages and towns along the route have a regular bus service, so you can get on and off the route when you choose.
Hare’s Gap is a mountain pass through the Mournes, which is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The shorter route of the trails is 2.1 miles, one way. It is a great walk for beginners and could be attempted by all the family. The changing terrain of the path and beautiful scenery will keep you intrigued as to what you will find around the next corner. The mountain pass was used as a smuggling route for cargo in the 18th and 19th century and the route that was taken then, can still be walked upon today. You will also discover the Mourne Wall, built in 1922, it is 22 miles long and constructed to keep cattle and sheep out of the boggy areas of land.
Divis Ridge Trail, just outside of Belfast, guides you through rolling hills and spectacular mountains. It is a steep walk through heathland which offers spectacular skyline views of Belfast and beyond. It is a great spot for bird watching, keep a look out for red grouse, falcons and skylarks. Due to the wildlife along the trail it is advised that dogs are kept on a lead, although don’t let this put you off as there are views that will take your breath away. The majestic mountains you will see on the route have been used as a back drop for films including ‘Dracula’ and ‘The Shore’.
Glendalough Lake has something for the most experienced walkers or those of you just looking for a Sunday stroll. ‘The Valley of Two Lakes’ is in the Wicklow Mountains National Park and is the perfect place to still your mind and enjoy the beautiful surroundings. You may also come across on your walk the famous Monastic Site and Round Tower which dates back as early as the 12th century, the tower is 30 meters high and the area was home to monks, there are remains of their churches and living areas which can still be seen.
The grand Canal Way is perfect for all the family and your pets. You can make your walk as long or short as you like and there are many towns and villages you will pass through to stop off for some lunch or to make your way back to where you are staying. The trail is all off-road, with a predictable terrain. There is no need to worry about navigation on the canal as the route naturally carries you forward – great for pondering and taking your time.
Taking your dog on holiday can be easy, it can also give you a great excuse to discover trails or visit areas you wouldn’t usually choose. Having a pet isn’t a chore, they bring us joy and company, so let’s treat them to a holiday, too. Ireland offers expansive areas of natural beauty, fresh air and the opportunity to stretch our legs and explore, and our four legged friends can even join us on the journey.
Fantastic day trips in the County of Derry for your next holiday to Ireland.
Derry is the second largest city in Northern Ireland and has lots to offer on your family holiday to Ireland. The city has a rich heritage, vibrant culture and many fascinating sites to visit.
Derry is the last remaining walled city in Ireland and it is one of the best examples of its type in Europe, there is constant conservation work carried out to preserve the structure. The historical monument was built in 1618 and stands 26ft high. The walls were used as a defence for early settlers from England and the original cannons are situated on top of them still to this day. A fantastic view of the city map and beyond can be seen on a walk around the top.
The Peace Bridge
The Peace Bridge was designed with a symbolic meaning in mind, it was intended to be a ‘structural handshake’ between two areas of the city which had the natural barrier of the River Foyle between them. The iconic structure was opened in 2011 and is a must see in Derry. Many Catholics and Protestants still to this day live in separate areas of the city, go to separate schools, shop in different areas but the residents of the city want peace, so this iconic structure is a representation of the unity that is taking place.
Giants Causeway is the result of a volcanic eruption 60 million years ago and is now an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. There are four stunning trails you can choose from depending on your ability which will guide you through the inspirational landscape. The unusual rock formations, sea and greenery will take your breath away. The name originates from the myth that the rock was carved by a giant, the Giants Boot and Wishing Chair are also related to this myth.
The Guild Hall
The Guild Hall is one of the most recognisable landmarks in the city. Built in 1887 it was originally used as an administration centre for the city and has stunning stain glass windows and neo-gothic architecture. The building has recently been renovated to restore its original glory and inside is an interactive museum.
The Tower Museum
The award-winning and iconic Tower Museum has two main exhibitions. The first informs visitors of the history of Derry, taking you on a journey from 7000BC and the first evidence of humans in the area to where the city is now. The second exhibition is the Armada shipwreck, there is an extensive collection of artefacts that were recovered from the ship that sank in 1588 of Lacada Point, Northern Ireland.
Derry Craft Village
In the centre of Derry is a unique and idyllic craft village. The cobbled streets and period style shop fronts are the perfect place for independent restaurants and artisan shops. There are over 70 crafters that operate from the village selling handmade items, you can see people demonstrating their craft and have custom made items. There are regular events held there, with musicians, street theatre and workshops an everyday occurrence. The craft village is full of interesting people and objects to find.
Titanic Belfast is around an hour’s drive from Derry but is well worth the travel. It is situated in the exact place the original titanic was designed and built. There are exhibitions that tell the story and show what it would’ve been like on the ship. You can take a tour around examples of dining areas, staff cabins, the engine room and decks. There is also a detailed explanation of the voyage the Titanic took, and a tribute to the lives that were lost.
Derry is a cultural hub, with regular street celebrations including music and theatre, each street you wander down will hold a delightful surprise. Whether you are organising a packed itinerary or you’re waiting to see what you find, the city is alive with activities and sights to see.
4 stunning places to visit in Galway, Ireland on your next holiday
There are endless reasons to want to visit Ireland - the vast areas of natural beauty, dramatic coastline, culture and people. To stay in a stunning holiday cottage in Ireland and be surrounded by the idyllic and peaceful countryside, is guaranteed to recharge your batteries. Galway is a beautiful city close to amazing sites and filled with quirky independent shops and restaurants, making it a great central place for site seeing on your holiday.
A visit to a castle is a must when visiting Ireland and Dunguaire will not disappoint. Built in 1520, the majestic and lovingly restored structure sits on the rocky shoreline of Galway Bay. Historically, the castle has hosted many traditional feasts which is continued today. You can enjoy and be part of medieval style banquets which includes a four-course meal and wine. Stories of Ireland, myths and recited poetry on the evening will give you an insight into lifestyle through the years since 1520.
Lady Augusta Gregory was the manager of the Abbey Theatre, famous Irish play writer and previous owner of the Coole Park Estate. The grounds and building were a central hub for inspiration and a place for writers and performers to come together. There is a well-known tree on the estate referred to as the ‘autograph tree’ – it has the initials of the celebrated William Butler Yeats, Shaw, Synge, Douglas Hyde and Lady Augusta Gregory. Coole Park is now a nature reserve covering over 1000 acres. There is much to explore with woodlands, lakes, nature trails and a walled garden to wander through. There are also some of the best examples of Turloughs which are lakes that can naturally fill and empty within hours, the water from them travels through passages in the rocks under the ground. Why not take a picnic by the lake and see the marvel for yourself? Entry to the estate is free and there are amenities there for your convenience.
Inis Mór is the largest of the three Aran Islands situated in the Galway Bay. There are fantastic sites to see once there and a great view upon the mainland. You can hire a bike on the island and cycle around it in just over 40 minutes, although it will probably take you longer as there are historical sites and areas of beauty that you will want to stop and enjoy. There are recordings of settlements that date from as early as 3,000BC and dotted around the island are stone buildings, tombs and burial grounds.
The Killary Fjord forms a natural border between the counties of Galway and Mayo. The deep valley stretches from the Atlantic Sea for 10 miles into the mainland, it is over 45 meters deep and is surrounded by mountains and uninterrupted views. There are boat trips that will take you down the Killary Fjord so that you can take in the spectacular scenery. Mussels, oysters and clams are in abundance on the Killary Fjord, so be sure to book yourself a table at one of the restaurants close by for a taste of some of the freshest seafood.
Why not have a look at some of our holiday cottages in Ireland, there are places that will take your breath away in the glory of them and we all need a break now and again!
Fun for all the family at the St Patrick’s Day celebrations in Dublin.
The best way to celebrate St Patrick’s Day is in Dublin! Come along and enjoy the festivities in the motherland of all things Irish.
There is fun for all the family throughout the long weekend of the festival, from Thursday 16th – Sunday 19th March it will be jam packed with great things for you to do. We’ve looked at some of the exciting activities on offer for the young and older generation, for you to celebrate St Patrick’s this year in style.
A great way of uncovering the hidden gems and history of Dublin with your family is to join in on the treasure hunt. It will take you through the city streets looking for some of Dublin’s most famous buildings, you will find clues around the city to answer questions in the hunt which will help you move on to your next destination. It is sure to make explorers out of your little ones for the weekend, while you all get to enjoy the city and find the celebrated landmarks. A treasure hunt wouldn’t be complete without a prize for the winner. So, don’t stroll around too aimlessly if you want to be in with a chance of winning!
After a busy day, there is nothing better than sitting down with your family and watching a film. Head to the medieval Swords Castle to catch an outdoor screening of the classic: In America. Sticking with the Irish theme the film is semi-autobiographical, it follows an Irish family and their story of moving to America. Make sure you bring blankets and something warm to drink.
You are never too old for a story and Brendan Nolan is one of the best story tellers Ireland has. With his experience and original ideas, the whole family will be captivated by his narrative and wild imaginations of Ireland. This snippet of calm will give you time to catch up on the excitement of the day and unwind to a beautiful story telling session.
The festival will be full of enticing smells and delicious foods for you to try. You will find more than the traditional Colcannon, cabbage or Irish stew. With many street food stalls, there will be something for every ‘fancy.’ You won’t need to walk too far to find a warm and tasty meal as they will be dotted all around the city to tempt you at each turn.
No festival would be complete without a fun fair! Candy floss, bright lights and fast rides will enliven the children and maybe even the adults, if you still have the stomach for it. There is plenty of time to head down there as it is staying all weekend.
St Patrick’s day is well known for the colourful street parade on the 17th March. There will be street performers, brass bands, extravagant floats, outrageous costumes and music. Bring everything green you have and you will fit in to the parade perfectly.
If you are planning a holiday in Ireland, then the weekend celebration of St Patrick’s day should be in your agenda. The city of Dublin comes to life with the vibrancy of the parade and there is a buzz of excitement within the city from all the people and enjoyment to be had!
Recent reports highlight tourism peak to Ireland, but why?
New figures by the Central Statistics Office (CSO) have outlined that overseas trips to Ireland have increased by an impressive 7.2% over a three month period, from November 2016 to January 2017, bringing the number of tourists to over 1.8 million. A staggering 126,400 more visitors than the same period the year before. Now, that’s a lot of guests to our charming little island!
Many of the tourists included residents of the UK, with a reported 841,700 visits made. Other European citizens also made their way over to the charming country, with holiday figures rising to 588,500. Whilst North Americans also wanted to see what all the fuss is about, with 314,500 visits, almost a third more than how many visited in the same period in the previous year.
CEO of Tourism Ireland, Niall Gibbons, is particuralry ecstatic about these figures, noting that the figures released by CSO are “very positive”.
Why you should visit Ireland?
These figures are not surprising for anyone who lives or has been to Ireland before. Ireland is a magical place, full of rustic charm and captivating history, not to mention endless green pastures and picturesque landscapes to explore. It is no wonder that visits from tourists are on the rise, we can only expect to see these numbers increase as more and more people discover the magnificence of this spectacular island.
So, why should you consider coming to Ireland?
1. Wander through time and history
Standing gracefully and dominantly in the Irish landscapes, the mystical, gothic and ghostly Irish castles bring visitors all year-round. Get lost in the captivating history, with visions of brave kings, dark dungeons and fair maidens, that is still very much present in the atmosphere; a fun activity for all the family.
Thousands make their way to the Blarney Castle in County Cork to kiss the Blarney Stone, legend goes that one smooch on the Blarney Stone will grant you the gift of eternal eloquence. But this is not the only gift this castle offers, with battlement views, elegant gardens and an enticing tunnel of underground caves for you to explore.
2. For the love of Guinness
Calling all Guiness drinkers, if you have not yet been to Ireland- you best book your tickets as soon as possible. For those who have yet to sample the delights of this Irish tipple then there is no better place to try than at the Guinness storehouse, the original brewery of the classic drink.
The St. James Gate Brewery in Dublin welcomes a staggering 1-million visitors annually. Even more staggering is the amount of pints they make on a daily basis, with 3-million of the delicious drinks being made on a daily basis. Bare witness to the brewing process as the Guiness pints are made, and even get hands-on experience of pulling a fresh Guiness pint. You could even enjoy one more pint as you take in the 360- degree views of Dublin from their Gravity bar.
3. Experience adventure
For those who love the thought of outdoor adventure than look no further than Ireland. Make your way across the rugged countryside or take your hand to thrilling outdoor pursuits such as surfing, sea kayaking, paragliding, rock climbing and hiking. National Geographic have even put a thumbs up to Ireland, voting Ireland’s hikes as some of the best walks in the world. So, wrap up warm and make your way along the breath taking trails.
4. Encounter history around every corner
The captivating ancient legends that encompass this little island draw visitors in. Spoilt for choice for which historical site to visit, the history of Ireland is a discovery that will leave you speechless. Walk around the Bru na Boinne in County Meath, a site older than the legendary Stonehenge and the Pyramids. This site, encompassing henges, standing stones and burial chambers is dated at 3200 B.C. Visit during the winter solstice for a truly magical experience when beams of sunlight pierce through the mysterious opening in the Newgrange mound, lighting up the chamber for a few brief moments.
5. Fall in love with the picturesque scenery
Ireland’s picturesque scenery is shaped by the rugged countryside, still lakes and coastal views with post-card worthy places for you to explore. When you encounter the magical air of the Irish countryside and coast, it will not surprise you that the dramtic backdrops in Ireland have been the set of many well-known film and TV sets.
6. Join in with the lively, vibrant atmosphere
Renowned for their energetic and welcoming atmosphere, the Irish pubs are full of conversations, music and friendly hospitality. The pub culture is big in Ireland, with Lonely Planet in their travel guide suggesting pubs as one of the must-see attractions of Ireland. With live music performances, hearty dishes and a great range of alcohol the Irish truly do have the crown for the best pub life.
If you love a good dance, great music and a lively party atmosphere, head over to Ireland to join in with their many festivities. Irish festivals are perfect for music, food, literature, literary, celtic, film and comedy lovers. From the St. Patrick’s Day Festivals to the Galway Arts Festivals, there are over 400 events annually for you to enjoy.
7. Welcoming cities
From the pub culture to the family-friendly attractions, the city of Dublin is far from the cold and distant rap that many cities get. Dublin’s lively persona is full to the brim with personality and buzz, in addition to the welcoming atmosphere. With many options for entertainment, interesting museums and beautiful architecture, Dublin is pefect for everyone.
8. Lose yourself in Irish folklore
No visit to Ireland is completel without discovering some traditional Irish folklore. With fairies, merrows and leprechauns, the mystery and wonder of Irish folklore will capture the imagination of your children. Explore the Giant’s Causeway, a UNESCO World Hertiage Site in Northern Ireland, home to a big and cherished Irish legend of Fionn mac Cumhail, an Irish giant, who built the pathway to keep his feet dry on his way to Scotland.
9. Dine on Irish delicacies
Whilst many other destinations in the world are renowned for their cusine, Ireland’s cusine world is a secret you need to discover. Foodies are soon realising that Ireland is a must-dine destination, with traditional delicacies such as Irish stew, soda bread, colcannon and farmhouse cheeses to sample. Restaurants focus on fresh and locally-grown produce to create some of the most freshest and quintessentially Irish dishes, with Wild Atlantic salmon, oysters, scallop, lobster and Dublin Bay prawns, amongst other fish catches, to try.
There are many Irish holiday cottages that you can call your home away from home when you visit Irleand and everything it has to offer.
Over half of tourists are return visitors to Ireland
More than a third (37%) of tourists visited Ireland for the first-time last year, but over half (57%) are return visitors to the region, having holidayed in Ireland more than once, according to new data.
These figures come from the 2016 Europcar Tourism Index conducted by Europcar Ireland, one of the biggest car rental companies in Ireland.
The Index was conducted among 6,094 tourists who journeyed to Ireland between April and November 2016, and rented Europcar vehicles.
The biggest portion of these visitors from Europe came from the UK with 23%, whilst visitors from Germany and France made up 5% and 4% respectively. Outside of Europe, 17% of visitors came from the United States, 6% from Australia and 4% from Canada.
A number of Irish people decided against going abroad in 2016, instead taking a holiday at home. One in five (19%) chose a domestic break as their annual holiday last year, deciding to enjoy the wonders of their home country. Cork and Kerry were the most popular regions for 32% of staycationers to visit, but the West of Ireland attracted just over a quarter (26%).
According to the report, the West of Ireland is the most popular attraction destination, with 65% driving the Wild Atlantic Way. 39% spend 2-3 days travelling the western stretch, whereas 29% opt for a day-trip.
Whilst travelling the Wild Atlantic Way, 76% of tourists chose pubs as the best places to eat, whilst 62% of tourists were so impressed with their experience that they stated they would like to return and drive part of it again!
Unsurprisingly, a massive 77% of tourists indulge in Guinness tasting during their trip, and we can’t say we blame them!
Commenting on the results of the 2016 Tourism Index, Colm Brady, Business Development Director of Europcar Ireland said: "The results of the 2016 Index shed interesting light on tourists’ holidays and attitudes towards Irish culture, services and infrastructure.
"Similar to 2015, most of the Irish tourist base consists of our UK neighbours with the US close behind. With so many tourists hiring cars to explore the country and 65% driving some part of the Wild Atlantic Way it is reassuring to know that most (79%) feel safe when driving on Irish roads."
Whether you are a returning visitor to Ireland, or you are looking to take your first trip to the country, we have a range of cottages which are perfect for family holidays in Ireland. Why not take a look and book your trip today?
5 things to add to your Irish bucket list
Ireland is a beautiful country, full of attractions for people of all walks of life, and you will have no doubt made a note of the areas you want to visit on your next trip to one of our Irish holiday cottages.
But if you are seeking some inspiration, we have looked at 5 things you should think about adding to your Irish bucket list:
Visit "Craggy Island" & Father Ted's House – Co. Clare
It has been more than 20 years since Father Ted first graced our screens, and it’s hard to find someone who doesn’t have a soft spot for the series, which is why setting your eyes on the house from the series is such a thrill. The house itself is located alongside several other locations in the Burren (a National Park in Co. Clare), and the owners even do a lovely cup of tea and cake for €10pp – go on, go on, go on!
If you are a bit more of a super fan, you can pick yourself up a ticket for the annual Tedfest celebrations held on Inis Mór.
Visit Kylemore Abbey - Connemara, Co. Galway
It may look like a fantasy castle on the outside, but Kylemore Abbey is actually a Benedictine monastery and is still home to an order of nuns. You can take a short tour of the house and wander the walled garden, but the best part of the visit is arguably feasting on freshly baked scones and enjoying pots of tea. The views of the beautiful lake at the foot of a mountain is also something pretty special to behold.
Drink a pint of Guinness in Kehoe’s - Co. Dublin
The Guinness Storehouse in Dublin is the city’s most visited attraction, and is probably high on the list of many would-be tourists. But what you should really be doing is visiting Kehoe’s at 9 South Anne Street. The difference between enjoying a pint of Gat here and at the Gravity Bar is like seeing animal in the wild vs seeing one in the zoo!
Kehoe’s is regularly packed but is most definitely the real home of the Black Stuff. If you want an atmosphere unlike any other, visit this pub when you’re in Dublin – just don’t look at the carpets!
Visit One Man's Path and feel the fear - Co. Donegal
There is breath-taking natural beauty right across Ireland, with coastal cliff views being a particularly special site. But if you want to take your sightseeing to the next level, you should visit the aptly named One Man’s Path at Slieve League, which is just two-feet wide in some parts.
The cliffs are some of the highest in Europe, rising nearly 2,000 feet from the Atlantic. For some people, the drive from the lower car park to the upper viewing point is enough of a thrill, but the adrenaline junkies amongst you will probably want to get a bit more involved!
Visit Newgrange – Co. Meath
Stepping foot into a passage tomb which is more than 5,000 years old is an incredible experience, and that what you will find when you visit the UNESCO World Heritage Site Newgrange; the jewel in the crown of Ireland’s Ancient East.
An even more incredible experience is visiting it during the winter solstice. Once a year, the passage becomes illuminated with the morning sun, causing the chamber to light up as the sun rises. However, it is not easy to see this, as access to the winter solstice is limited to 50 people a year.
The good news is that it is decided by a lottery so there is no bias, but the bad news is that around 30,475 people applied last year and there’s no guarantee of sunlight!
These are just a few ideas of things you might wish to add to your list for your next Irish visit; let us know your ideas for an Irish bucket list on our social media channels!
Did you know the origins of these St. Patrick’s Day traditions?
St. Patrick’s Day (17th March) is a holiday known to celebrate all things Irish! From leprechauns to the colour green, we’ve looked at how the symbols associated with the day came to be, as well as those that were purely American inventions. For example, did you know blue is the traditional colour associated with St. Patrick’s Day, and not green which is now become widespread?
If you are going to be staying at one of our Irish holiday cottages for the big day, you may want to keep these in mind:
The shamrock, also known as the “seamroy” by the Celts, was a scared plant in ancient Ireland as it symbolised the rebirth of spring, and by the 17th century it had become a symbol of emerging Irish nationalism.
As the English began to take Irish land and make laws against the use of the Irish language and the practice of Catholicism, many Irish people began to wear the shamrock as a symbol of their pride in their heritage.
The original Irish name for these mythical creatures of folklore is “lobaircin”, which means small-bodied fellow. The belief in leprechauns probably stems from the Celtic belief in fairies, which were tiny men or women who could use their magical powers for good or evil.
Leprechauns only played a small role in Celtic folktales, as the cranky souls responsible for mending the shoes of other fairies. They are well-known for their trickery, which they were often used to protect their much-fabled treasure.
It has long been said that during his mission in Ireland, St Patrick stood on a hilltop – now called Croagh Patrick – and with only a wooden staff by his side, banished all the snakes from Ireland.
In truth, the island was never home to any snakes, but the banishing of the snakes was a metaphor for the eradication of pagan ideology from Ireland and the triumph of Christianity. Within 200 years of Patrick’s arrival, Ireland was completely Christianised.
Music plays a big part in Irish culture in general, but is certainly prominent during St. Patrick’s Day celebrations. The Celts had an oral culture, where history, religion and legend were passed on from generation to generation via stories and songs.
After being forbidden to speak their own language, the Irish turned to music to help them remember important events and hold on to their history.
Today, traditional Irish bands produce their music with instruments that have been used for centuries, including the fiddle, tin whistle, the bodhran (a type of framedrum traditionally used in warfare) and the uilleann pipes – best described as an elaborate bagpipe!
This more of an Americanism than a conventional event, but thousands of Irish Americans gather with their friends and family on St. Patrick’s Day to share a “traditional” meal of corned beef and cabbage.
Although cabbage has long been an Irish food, corned beef only began to be associated with St. Patrick’s Day at the turn of the century. Irish immigrants living in New York City substituted corned beef for their traditional dish of Irish bacon to save money – a cheaper alternative they learned from their Jewish neighbours.
Top golf courses around Ireland
Ireland is continually named as one of the best destinations for a golfing holiday, and golf tourists love to try out the many different courses located throughout the country. If you are planning your golf holidays to Ireland this year, check below to see where the locations of the best golf courses in Ireland are to decide on the perfect location.
Adare, County Limerick
A short drive from Shannon Airport, this 18-hole championship course is set against the backdrop of Adare Manor Hotel and features a few aquatic challenges around a 14 acre lake in the first nine holes. There is also the River Maigue making it way around the course – so this course is definitely a challenging one!
K Club, County Kildare
The two courses at this club located in beautiful Kildare countryside were designed by Arnold Palmer. Both of the courses provide numerous challenges, with water hazards, rolling fairways and long greens. After a round of golf, why not treat yourself to a delicious dinner and spa at the country club?
Lahinch, County Clare
Dubbed the ‘St Andrews of Ireland’, Lahinch features two challenging courses and has also been the host of the South of Ireland Championships. You might also need to watch out for goats who roam the green, descended from goats who were owned by a Lahinch caddie.
Waterville, County Kerry
Located in south Kerry, Waterville includes a practice facility and short game area with fantastic views of the Atlantic Ocean and surrounding hills. The practice facility is surrounded by large hedges, providing relief from the wind coming off the ocean and helps prolong the playing.
Portmarnock, County Dublin
Just outside of Dublin is this spectacular course, which has been the host of The Canada Cup, The Walker Cup and The Irish Open. The practice facilities at this golf course include a driving range, short game area, putting and chipping green, all of which are at championship standard and perfect for improving your game.
Baltray, Country Louth
This course has hosted several national and international events at both amateur and professional levels. The natural beauty of this course has made it a popular place for golf tourists, and Golf World magazine named it one of the best-kept secrets of Irish golf.
Tralee, County Kerry
The Tralee Golf Club has previously been named as one of the top Ocean Courses, and it is easy to see why. From each hole, you have a picturesque view and a story behind it. The designer of the course Arnold Palmer said of the course, “I designed the first nine holes, but surely God designed the rest.”
Ballybunion, County Kerry
This course overlooking the Atlantic Ocean has frequently been named as one of the top courses in the world. The Old Course features challenging holes nestled among grassy dunes and the Cashen Course on the shoreline is even more wild and rugged.
Royal Portrush, County Antrim
This course In Northern Ireland is the only club in Ireland to have hosted The British Open and includes the challenging Dunluce Links championship course and the Valley Links course. This is the place to go if you want to challenge your golf play!
Royal County Down, County Down
Located in Newcastle against the backdrop of the Mountains of Mourne, Royal County Down tends to have a drier climate than the other courses mentioned here. The course has frequently attracted many professionals such as Tiger Woods, who has played there as preparation for the Open Champion. Rory McIlroy could be seen playing a round of golf while you’re there too!
Head off the beaten track in Ireland to find these treasures
Ireland has many popular tourist spots, with millions visiting them every year, but when staying at our holiday cottages, Ireland, why not head off the beaten track and discover some of the country’s hidden treasures?
Comeragh drive and Nire Valley
In County Waterford, embrace the breath-taking scenery and splendour of the mountains on a drive through the Nire Valley. Highlights include pre-historic sites, standing stones and cairns at Kilbrien. There are many places to stop and leave the car, heading off a public footpath to get up close the quiet serenity this part of Ireland offers.
Grianan of Aileach
In Donegal, seek out the stone fort of Grianan of Aileach, which sits on a hilltop by the town of Inishowen, 250 metres above sea level. The origins of the fort date back to 1700 BC and is linked to the Tuatha de Danann who invaded Ireland before the Celts, building forts in strategic places.
Drombeg Stone Circle
Down in County Cork, Drombeg is one of the most famous stone circles to be found in Ireland. These places of ritual and ceremony in the later Bronze Age period (1500-600 BC) and are often associated with human burial. Visit Drombeg as the sun is setting and see how the sky lights up the stones to create powerful shadows.
This castle in County Offaly should only be visited if you are prepared to see any ghosts, as this is considered to be Ireland’s most haunted castle and one of the longest continually uninhabited castles in the whole country. It’s rich and fascinating history delights many visitors, and it an interesting place to seek out on your holiday.
In County Kerry, head to the Dingle Peninsula and discover the small picturesque bay of Ferriter’s Cove. Offering fantastic scenery and an interesting history, the Bronze Age site was only excavated in the 1980s and 1990s.
The Wonderful Barn
One of the stranger looking places on this list, The Wonderful Barn in County Kildare is definitely something unique. The corkscrew-shaped barn was built in 1743 at the edge of Castletown House Estate, its unusual shape has its stairs running around the exterior. Theories about it say it was a dovecote or gamekeepers tower or granary.
The Swiss Cottage
Located in County Tipperary, this quirky building is a must-see. Built in the early 1800s by Richard Butler and based on a design by a famous Regency architect John Nash, the peculiar looking cottage is said to be inspired by nature, with rustic features including a thatched roof and exterior woodwork looks like branches of trees. The cottage is also open to the public.
The Hurdy Gurdy Museum of Vintage Radio
Tucked away in County Dublin is this museum, a perfect place if you want something other than your typical museum. Housed in a 19th century watchtower in Howth, its only 30 minutes from Dublin’s city centre. The Hurdy Gurdy Museum demonstrates the history of telecommunications from its origins in the 1840s to present day and has many exhibits including Morse code equipment.
Located in Roscahill in County Galway, Brigit’s Garden and Heritage Centre is made up of four Celtic gardens, each one representing one of the seasons and Celtic festivals of Samhain (Winter), Imbolc (Spring), Bealtaine (Summer) and Lughnasadh (Autumn). The unique design of the gardens creates a tranquil and natural space, and the garden is surrounded by meadows, a lake and woodland paths.
Game of Thrones and Star Wars helped boost Irish tourism in 2016
Recently released figures from the Central Statistics Office have revealed that more tourists visited Ireland in 2016 than ever before, with a little help of some Hollywood magic.
A grand total of 9,584,400 people visited Ireland last year, which is an increase of 10.9% on 2015. A spokesperson for Tourism Ireland noted a plethora of factors which helped to contribute to this increase, including easier air access to Ireland and a stronger global economy.
But it was the star filming locations for Game of Thrones and Star Wars that really helped to pull in the visitors last year. Tourism authorities are planning to build on these figures in 2017 by promoting regions like Ireland’s Ancient East and the Wild Atlantic Way, whilst also capitalising on the Hollywood connection.
In terms of where visitors came from, numbers from different regions of the world rose across the board last year.
North American visitors increased to just under 2 million, which is an increase of 19.4% on 2015 Visitors from the UK increased by 3.9 million, an improvement of 10.6% on the last year.
Meanwhile, there were an increase of 3.3 million people visiting from mainland Europe, which is an 8.5% increase on the last year, while visitors to Ireland from the rest of the world rose by over half a million people, an increase of 2.2%.
Officials are confident that 2017 will continue in the same vein as its predecessor, bringing more people to Ireland from around the world.
Skellig Michael in County Kerry featured in the recent film Star Wars: The Force Awakens, with the UNESCO site representing the location of a Jedi temple. Skellig Michael was the location of a Christian monastery founded on the island at some point between the 6th and 8th century, remaining occupied until it was abandoned in the late 12th century.
The filmmakers have used this monestary as inspiration for their Jedi temple, but have opted against filming on the UNESCO site itself, instead heading to Ceann Sibéal further north. Make sure you keep your eyes peeled for the location on the big screen in December 2017 when Star Wars: The Last Jedi comes to cinemas.
Game of Thrones:
Northern Ireland has featured extensively in the smash HBO hit Game of Thrones, with its dramatic landscapes making the perfect setting for the medieval feel of the series. One such location is the Dark Hedges, a haunting avenue of serpentine beech trees near Armoy, County Antrim.
But it is not just nature that features prominently in the series, with many of Northern Ireland’s castles making an appearance. Fans of the show will know Winterfell as the home of House Stark, but filming actually takes place in Castle Ward, County Down. Similarly, some of the interior shots of the dungeons of King’s Landing take place in Shane’s Castle, located in County Antrim.
If you are fan of Star Wars or Game of Thrones, you will no doubt want to check out these filming locations. Why not make 2017 the year you take a holiday in Ireland and visit these beautiful filming locations for yourself?
Ultimate guide to understanding Irish place names
When visiting Ireland, you are sure to come across some place names which are impossible to pronounce. Who would have thought Dun Laoghaire would be pronounced as ‘Done Leery’? But the beautiful thing about these places is how they describe the area they are naming. There aren’t often famous names (excluding St Patrick) used for places but the names have been passed down in through the centuries and are packed with geographical information.
Irish place names have on occasion been anglicised as the British attempted to understand the original Irish names which resulted in distorted versions that we know today. There are however, ways to retrace the spellings and place names back to the original which help to understand the area more. Take a look below at some of the most common and their meanings.
1. Drum/Drom such as Drumwood and Druumloe.
Meaning ‘ridge’, ‘Drum’ or ‘Drom’ comes from the Irish ‘Droim’. Places with this in the name, such as Drumwood are located around or near a stone ridge, such as ones that can be found in the Burren in County Clare.
2. Cloch/Cloich/Clough/Clogh like Kilclogh or Dromclogh
Meaning ‘stone’ or ‘stone building’ this is another one for the rockier parts of Ireland. However, this place name can be found in the majority of counties, and it could also refer to a single standing stone. For example, Ballyclogh or Baile Cloch in Irish, simply means ‘town of the stone.
3. Letter/Leitir such as Letterkenny or Lettermacaward
Meaning ‘hillside’ this is a very appropriate name for places like, Letterkenny which is located in the hills of Donegal. Letterkenny comes from ‘Leiter Ceannain’ meaning ‘Cannon’s hillside.’
4. Lis/Lios like Lismore or Liscasey
Meaning ‘ring-fort’ or ‘enclosure’, place names with ‘Lis’ are located near past or present places of ring-forts or enclosures, usually military or defensive structures. These places such as the town Lismore or ‘An Lios Mór’ are often historical places with some remnants of ancient places.
5. Kil/Kill such as Kilcok or Kilkenny
Meaning ‘church’ or ‘wood’ the name can either stem from ‘coill’ meaning wood or ‘cill/chill’ which is church. If you want to find out whether the place you are visiting is connected to a church or wood, you can investigate maps or the area itself to find a connection.
6. Glen/Glan such as Glenties or Glanmire
Meaning ‘valley’, this more obvious name is derived from a Gaelic ‘gleann’ and means a deep valley in the highlands, and many places with ‘glen’ or ‘glan’ can be found in valleys between the mountains across Ireland.
7. Bally/Balli like Ballybunnion
Meaning ‘town, field or place’, you can find these names everywhere, though it is not as simple as it seems. The original Irish ‘Baile’ can be town, field or place’, there is also ‘Baile na’ meaning town, place or field, but the ‘na’ refers to ‘Town of the..’ and the ‘Beal’ which is mouth of a river and can translate to ‘Bel’.
8. Carrick/Carrig/Carraig such as Carrickfergus or Carrigcastle
Meaning ‘rock’, places with ‘Carrick’ are abundant across Ireland and other versions have a ‘g’ on the name. Towns or villages with this name can be found to rocky outcrops or large rocky terrain.
9. Clon/Cloon like Clonmel or Clonfert
Meaning ‘meadow’ or ‘pasture’ and this is one will sometimes include a person’s name, having been named after the owners’ meadow or land. These meadows in question are long gone, having been built over. In the instance of Clonfert or ‘Cluain Fearta’, ‘Fearta’ means graves and you can still find graves from the 6th century at the monastery in Clonfert.
10. Loch/Lough such as Loughgall or Loughinsholin
Meaning ‘lake,’ this is possibly the most well-known Irish place name, as it is still used for the names of Irish lakes, for a place name it also refers to the fact there is water in the area. For example, Ballinlough is ‘Baile an Locha’ meaning ‘The Lake Town.’
Now you know a little more about Irish place names, while travelling about on your holidays to Ireland, try and spot how many you recognise!
6 of Ireland’s top tourist attractions
Ireland is full of incredible attractions, with each and every County offering something a little different; no matter whether you are looking to see the dramatic sights on an Irish walk or to visit the Leprechaun Museum and hear stories of folklore and fairy tales from Irish history. A holiday to Ireland is sure to offer something for everyone to enjoy whilst staying in one of our Irish holiday cottages. Here are just 6 of the top attractions for 2017:
Cliffs of Moher, County Clare
The Cliffs of Moher have often been voted the number one tourist attraction in Ireland, with the awe-inspiring views and environmentally friendly, world-class visitor centre ensuring that every guest gets the full experience. It is no surprise that this is the most visited natural attraction in all of Ireland! O’Brien’s Tower is a 19th century building that offers spectacular views over the seascape, which, on a clear day, allows you to see Galway Bay, the Twelve Pins, the Dingle Peninsula and the Blasket Islands, which is a real treat to the eye!
The Guinness Storehouse
The Guinness Storehouse has long been a tourist favourite attraction, pouring hundreds of thousands of one of the most iconic drinks of the country every single day. A visit here will guide you through the Guinness journey, from the beginning of its time, to today’s productions. Not only will you be able to learn about the brewing process and the history, but you’ll also get the chance to taste the dark drink straight from the source, and learn to pour a perfect pint! The guided tours and interactive activities mean that every room offers a new, special experience. Be it your first, second, third or tenth visit to Ireland, this will always be an absolute must-visit!
The Ring of Kerry, County Kerry
An attraction that has drawn tourists for hundreds of years to its mystical and magical setting is The Ring of Kerry. Here you can embark on a number of different outdoor pursuits including golf, water sports and even fishing, or if you’re looking for a more relaxing activity, test out some of the magnificent beaches! The 179-km tourist route is a real treat, no matter how you cover it, and the vast array of activities to partake in means that it makes for a perfect trip for families and friends!
The Wild Atlantic Way
Another attraction of natural beauty, The Wild Atlantic Way is a lengthy tourism trail that passes areas of the north, south and west coasts, totalling around 2,500km! Although you might not be willing to complete the entire path in one go, dipping in and out at different parts will still give you an insight into the grand way, with around 157 discovery points, 1,000 tourist attractions and over 2,000 activities to undertake during a trip, it is a rollercoaster of a journey! Having only been officially launched in 2014, this has quickly become a favourite for Irish tourism!
Hook Head, Country Wexford
Hook Head has an extra special feature that really makes a trip worthwhile, with the oldest working lighthouse in the world being situated here! Alongside the stunning views, you can enjoy other aspects of the Hook Peninsula from Hook Head including the Maritime Museum, before indulging in a refreshing treat from the lighthouse café! This is an idealistic area to catch a sunset over the water, which is particularly perfect if you are planning to embark on a romantic retreat to Ireland!
General Post Office, Dublin
One of the most famous buildings in Ireland is the General Post Office, (GPO) situated in the heart of the city on O’Connell’s Street. Although this doesn’t sound particularly grand, it is a grand part of Irish history for those of you who are interested. It was the headquarters for the leaders of the Easter uprising in 1916, and although much of the original building was destroyed in a fire during the rebellion, the original facade remains to this day. A visit to this exhibition will give you a glimpse into the Ireland’s historic past. The centre has recently seen a refurbishment, making the exhibitions more interactive and offering as truer experience as possible to what it would have been like back in 1916.
5 of the best walks in Ireland
Ireland boasts some of the best walks around, with stunning views of coastal paths and woodland hidden just minutes out of the big city centres. There is so much for you to explore, and with our dog friendly cottages in Ireland, you can bring your four-legged friend along to enjoy the ride too! Take your pick of difficult and time and embark on the adventure of a lifetime exploring the wonders of Ireland. Most of these walks last between 2 and 4 hours, however, all of which are fairly easy to cut short if you are not quite up to the challenge.
The Howth Cliff Walk, Dublin
Time: 2-3 hours
Everyone knows Dublin for it’s vibrant city life, celebrating all things Irish in the most well known city in Ireland. If you are visiting and want to take a step back from the hustle and bustle of the city, then The Howth Cliff Walk is the perfect place. The path begins not too far from the city centre itself in a small fishing village called Howth, bringing you to a mighty cliff walk. If 2-3 hours solid walking is a little too much for you in one go, then you can stop off at a cosy pub near The Summit for a bite to eat. The serene setting that is offered by this walk will have you thinking that you’ve stepped into another world, and the city seeming so far away. Other sights you will see include beautiful views over the beaches, the Bally Lighthouse and, if you’re lucky, you’ll be able to spot Dublin itself from Howth Head! This is the perfect trail to bring your dog along as the easy pathways and lakes offer a mixture of challenges and times of rest.
Torc Mountain, County Kerry
Time: 2-3 hours
Ever dreamed of climbing Mount Kilimanjaro but thought you may be dreaming to big? Why not tackle a smaller task first to test if you are up to the challenge? Torc Mountain is certainly a much more attainable dream, with the journey both up and back down totalling an average of 2.5-hours, this is a great starting point for your mountain climbing hobby! Whether you are an avid walker or simply someone who likes an occasional stroll, this walk will prove to be a slight challenge, but is suitable for those of all ages and fitness levels. The panoramic views from the top are breathtakingly beautiful, giving you a real appreciation for the towns, lakes and countryside offerings of the local area. Don’t forget to snap a few pictures while you’re here too, for the holiday album!
Croagh Patrick, County Mayo
Time: 4.5 hours
Croagh Patrick is a desirable mountain that has been well travelled for well over 5000 years! An annual pilgrimage on the last Sunday of July each and every year sees hundreds flock up the sacred mount, which is steeped in history. A wonderful journey for all, particularly those who have an interest of stories of the past, take a trip to the visit centre for extra information, equipment and any mementos you may want of your trip. The trail is well marked so you needn’t be worried about losing your way. Although July is the favourite time to visit, anytime between March and October makes for a wonderful trip when the trail is quieter. Just be sure to note the sunrise and sunset times, as you won’t want to be halfway up the mountain as the sun begins to set!
Slieve League, County Donegal
Duration: 4 hours
The Slieve League walk in County Donegal offers a slightly more challenging route through the Irish coast. One of the highest in Europe, supposedly on a clear day you can see almost a third of Ireland all at once, a real once in a lifetime treat. This trail isn’t for the faint hearted though, as you can watch the waves crash below from an enormous height, but do take due care to ensure your safety! Often thought to be one of the most incredible walks in all of Ireland, these views are almost indescribable; you’d have to see them for yourself to understand the amazing features that can be seen here!
Diamond Hill, Connemara, County Galway
Duration: 2-3 hours
This walk is almost like travelling through a giant adventure playground, with wooden boardwalks, areas of woodland and gravel paths. The terrain changes all the way through, keeping you on your toes and ensuring you are looking all around to get the full effect of the areas beauty. Chances to glance over the Connemara coastline are a plenty, along with many architectural masterpieces that can be seen along the way. Connemara’s National Park visitor centre is the best place to start to pick up any extra information, and if you’d like to extend your trip, explore the national park itself for a real taste of the Irish country.
- Ensure to bring along a bottle of water and some snacks (maybe even a picnic) for your journey to ensure you are hydrated and energised throughout.
- Check the weather before you leave. Many of these walks are perfectly safe in good weather, however, in poor visibility or high winds, they are best to be saved for another day.
- Pick up a guide. Many visitor centres have guides available either for free or to purchase and these will help you to learn stories of the paths and know what wildlife and flowers you should look out for along the way!
- Enjoy yourself! Some of these may be a little challenging, but should be enjoyable none the less, take some time to absorb the sights and the relaxing atmosphere and make the most of the quality time with your loved ones!
The most scenic landscapes in Ireland and where to find them
It is no secret that Ireland has numerous scenic spots boasting beautiful landscapes that take your breath away with one look. When staying at our Irish holiday cottages in the coming months, be sure to seek out the most awe-inspiring places along with your camera to capture life-long memories of your holiday to Ireland.
Have a look below to find out our favourite spots across Ireland and Northern Ireland:
Rock of Cashel, Co Tipperary
Outside the town of Cashel along the Old Dublin Road, you will find the Rock of Cashel sitting atop a hill. The iconic building has a backdrop of the Galtee Mountains and is a great place to visit, with the views from the Rock just as amazing as the view of the centuries-old building itself. The Rock is reputedly the site of the conversion of Aenghus the King of Munster by St. Patrick in the 5th century. Before the Norman invasion, the Rock of Cashel was the seat of the High Kings of Munster, though there is little else besides the Rock that shows evidence of that claim.
Giant’s Causeway, Co Antrim
If you are staying at our luxury cottages in County Antrim, then a visit to the Giant’s Causeway must be top of your list of things to do. The place is Northern Ireland’s only UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the famous tourist attraction is astounding to see. Walk along the Grand Causeway, the largest of the three outcrops, visit the Giant’s Boot on the beach and sit on the Wishing Chair, a natural throne formed by perfectly arranged columns.
Hungry Hill, Beara Peninsula, Co Cork
The highest peak in the beautiful Beara Peninsula overlaps the border of Cork and Kerry. Hungry Hill is ideal for those on a walking holiday as group walks are frequently held, leading out from Castletownbere. The views across the Beara Peninsula walking up Hungry Hill are just as stunning as those panoramic views you can see from the top at the cairn. There are a few standing stones to the south and east of the peak of the mountain, and at its eastern foot are Coomadayallig and Coomarkane lakes.
Cliffs of Moher, Co Clare
On the western coast of Ireland in County Clare is the famous Cliffs of Moher, one of the most popular tourist destinations of the country, but still unspoilt and breathtakingly beautiful. The cliffs stand at 214 metres at their highest point and stretch for 5 miles along the Atlantic Coastline. On days with clear blue skies, you can see the Aran Islands and Galway Bay looking north, the Maum Turk mountains when you look inland, Loop Head to the south and the Blasket Islands in Kerry. To take in the best views of this popular landscape, you just need to walk along the coast path or head up O’Brien’s Tower.
Glendalough, Co Wicklow
This picturesque landscape is easily accessible from around County Wicklow as well as Dublin. Named ‘the valley of the two lakes,’ people have been drawn to Glendalough for centuries due to its spectacular scenery, an abundance of wildlife and rich history. Part of Wicklow Mountains National Park, as well as walking and hiking around the lakes, you can also take a scenic drive via Glencullen and Kilternan to the Sally Cap, a crossroads between Kippure Mountain and the Djouce Mountain where you can capture some of the best views to see in the National Park.
Aran Islands, Co Galway
The Aran Islands, which can only be accessed by ferry from Rossaveel in Galway or by plane, provide some of the best views in Ireland which are not part of the mainland. A group of three islands off the west coast are made of limestone and resemble the landscape of the Burren in Clare. The 1,200 residents primarily speak Irish and as well as gorgeous scenery you will also discover a traditional Irish way of life. The best way to explore the islands is to hire out bikes and explore the various sights, from the wildlife, stone walls, Celtic monuments and churches and 8kms of cliffs.
Slieve League, Co Donegal
If you are searching for the best sea vista in the whole of Ireland, you can’t get much better than the Slieve League cliffs in County Donegal. One of the highest and finest marine cliffs in Europe, the best way to experience these views is leaving the car behind and walking the few miles to the cliff top. The views from the top are terrific, as you look out to the Atlantic Ocean and towards Donegal Bay. There are also boat rides that take you along the coast to the cliffs, giving you spectacular views from the base. And if you are lucky, along with the way you might meet some dolphins and seals!
Old Head of Kinsale, Co Cork
For those of you visiting Ireland for a golfing holiday, the Old Head of Kinsale in County Cork is one of the best, and also has some of the best views – so remember a camera as well as the clubs! The headland is also home to a 17th-century lighthouse which provides the best views over the deep blue seas of the Atlantic Ocean, as well as views towards County Cork and the sloping mountains and hills.
Ladies’ View, Co Kerry
Along the Ring of Kerry on the N71 just 20km south of Killarney is the celebrated viewpoint called Ladies’ View. The location is a fantastic spot offering panoramic views of Killarney’s Lakes in the National Park. The name comes from Queen Victoria’s ladies-in-waiting who admired the place when they visited in 1861. A major stopping point for visitors along the route, it is always a busy place, but that does not stop you from capturing some of the best views in County Kerry and indeed the whole of Ireland.
Try property 5451Sky Road, Co Galway
This seven-mile circular drive just west of Clifden offers striking views of the Atlantic and the Twelve Ben Mountains. One of the region’s best attractions, the Sky Road is just 11km long and along the route, you will be stunned by the rugged beauty and unspoilt scenery. The route is clearly signposted and as you travel away from the road separates into the upper and lower roads. The upper road offers views of the entire area, and the lower road takes you closer to the coast.
10 films to watch before your holiday to Ireland
If the winter blues are getting you down fear not, for we have the perfect solution to brighten up those long, dark and cold nights over the next few weeks. If you have an upcoming holiday to Ireland to look forward to, or are looking for destination inspiration, there is a whole host of films that give fantastic insights of what it means to be Irish. Some of the most common genres of film include romances, docudramas about civil conflicts and comedies. Below is a collection of movies that offer viewers a taste of the country’s complex history, culture, and mythic aura, to perfectly prepare you for a stay in one of our holiday homes in Ireland.
Silence – 2012
This film follows the story of Eoghan, a sound recordist who returns to Ireland for the first time in 15 years thanks to a job offer that means he must find and record places which are unpolluted by any kind of man-made sounds. The spectacular footage manages to capture an array of beautiful landscapes, portraying the wild Irish countryside in its raw, wild and authentic state. His journey sees many encounters and conversations that remind him of the life he had left behind, with underlying themes including history, memory and exile. Silence accurately portrays the beauty of rural Ireland, giving any viewers who might be considering a holiday to Ireland a rich historical context.
The Secret of Kells – 2009
This French/Belgium animated film was directed by Tomm Moore and Nora Twomey, and was nominated for an Oscar in the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature. Brendan lives in a remote medieval outpost that is under threat from raiding barbarians until one day a celebrated master illuminator shows up, carrying an ancient, unfinished book that is full with secret wisdom and powers. Steeped in Irish mythology and heritage, Brendan must embark upon a journey that takes him through the enchanted forest, where mythical creatures will help him in his quest. The animation is intricately designed, and the story can be enjoyed by both children and adults alike, making it a fantastic option to watch before your holiday, or even in the car on the way there to build excitement.
Hunger – 2008
Steve McQueen creates a fantastic breakthrough film depicting the hunger strikes of the Irish Republican detainees in the Maze Prison just to the south-west of Belfast. Starring Michael Fassbender as Bobby Sands, this plot follows his idea of refusing to eat until Irish and British officials are willing to acknowledge the IRA as a legitimate political organisation. A conflict of ethics and morals and many debates with a priest, Hunger is a rich retelling of the troubled times that were being experienced up and down the country during this time.
Once – 2007
A modern-day musical directed by John Carney and set on the streets of Dublin, Once follows the story of a street busker and a Czech immigrant, documenting their eventful week as they write, rehearse and record songs that reveal the unique nature of their love story. Great for anyone wanting a preview of the bustling capital city and the Georgian architecture of Dublin features throughout. Once encapsulates many themes about love in Ireland and constitutes a true reflection of Ireland’s relationship with Eastern Europe.
The Wind that Shakes the Barley - 2006
Set in 1920, this gripping war film tells the story of two West Cork brothers who fight together in the IRA brigade, but finds themselves on opposite sides during the Irish Civil War. Steeped with the controversial history of the complex time, the film looks at the difficulties faced by many, including the moral and ethical battle of taking sides with such a wealth of factors to consider. An excellent movie that outlines this tragic period but be warned, this classic is an absolute tear-jerker and there won’t be a dry eye in the house by the end!
Waking Ned Devine – 1998
A slightly lighter Irish film, Waking Ned Devine follows the story about a small town called Tulaigh More, where one of their 52 inhabitants wins the lottery jackpot of 7 million pounds. When the money isn’t claimed, the town goes on a search to find out why, only to discover old Ned Devine dead, with a smile on his face clutching the winning ticket. If the lottery officials were to discover Ned dead, he would forfeit his money so in a hilarious turn of events the town attempt to work together with the hopes of getting a share of the winnings. A funny, light-hearted film that gives you a fantastic insight to local Irish lifestyles.
In the Name of the Father – 1993
Based on a true story, a small time thief from Belfast is wrongly implicated in the IRA bombing of a pub which kills several people while he is in London. The story shows how he and his four friends are bullied by the British police until they are coerced into falsely confessing their guilt. He is imprisoned for 15 years whilst his father, with the help of a British attorney, attempts to prove his innocence and set him free. A great film that includes soundtracks from Irish super stars Bono and Sinnead O’Conner.
The Commitments – 1991
A Roddy Doyle novel adaption, this film charts the creation, progress and demise of a soul group based in Dublin. Jimmy Rabbitte successfully brings together a talented, albeit eclectic mix of characters to create the ultimate soul group, but as the band grows so do the clashes of personality and the future for the group is seemingly uncertain. Unapologetically Irish, parts of this film were shot in the now demolished Ballymun tower blocks which are famous for their community spirit. The movie received a number of BAFTA awards, as well as Oscar and Golden Globe nominations.
The Field – 1990
Adapted from a play of the same name but with some significant adaptions, this story is inspired by a real murder case and follows the consequences of a dispute over lands in rural Western Ireland. The film includes some powerful imagery of Aasleigh and Leeane in County Galway as well as beautiful shots of the valleys of rugged Connemara.
The Quiet Man – 1952
A golden oldie starring John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara in the celebration of all things Irish, with a focus on tradition and culture. The film features members of the cast speaking in Irish Gaelic and it doesn’t get more authentic than that, even if the vision of village life in Ireland is slightly exaggerated. The filming in Count Mayo and County Galway is absolutely breathtaking and no one can deny that this movie is a truly entertaining classic, which portrays authentic Ireland like no other and should definitely be seen before you go!
Begin your Irish holiday today, with any of these fantastic films about or based in Ireland, a country with a history so rich, it is hardly surprising that so many great stories are centred around it. Sit down in front of the fire and forget the sub zero temperatures, for your family holidays in Ireland is always closer than it seems!
The best time to visit Ireland
Truthfully speaking, every month offers something unique and special within the Irish country and it would be difficult to pinpoint one month as being better than another. However, we’ve created a month-by-month guide to help you to decide when the best time would be to visit Ireland for you! Plan your trip around some of the countries biggest events, or pick a time when the tourist season is quiet and you will have a truly authentic experience exploring the hidden gems in Ireland.
The average temperature in January is between 4 and 7 degrees, as this is one of the coldest months of the year! This month is usually fairly quiet after the festivities of Christmas and the New Year die down and normal life resumes. However, this is the perfect time to visit if you’d like to visit the magnificent museums, take a trip to the theatre and if you are brave enough, embark on a winter walk! Take your time to stroll though the Irish streets and enjoy the peaceful nature before the bustle of the tourist season picks up!
A similarly cool month to January, February sees the beginning of the Dublin International Film Festival, hosting a range of film premieres and big shot actors! Taking place between the 16th and 26th February in 2017, and you will get the chance not only to see some incredible silver screen premieres, but also the hidden talents of young filmmakers. Any film enthusiasts will find this to be an eye opening and enjoyable experience. For any Father Ted fans out there, head down to the Tedfest in Galway between the 23rd and 26th February for a laugh-a-minute festival in honour of the much loved TV series.
The weather in Ireland in March is usually beginning to warm up by this point, averaging between 7 and 8 degrees each day, and once spring sets in the rainfall lessens too. This is perfect time to take a city break, March is of course the month in which one of Irelands favourite days take place, St. Patrick’s Day! In many towns and cities all over the country you will see the patriotism alive and well as they celebrate St. Paddy’s Day, grab yourself a pint of Guinness and get involved in the amazing local culture to celebrate in a party quite unlike any other! The biggest festivals can be found in Dublin and Cork during this time.
The sunnier weather of April means that you can really see spring setting in, with daffodils popping up along the walkways and the outdoors really coming back to life. April is of course Easter-time, and with this comes a wide array of festivals, from foodie fests to literature, arts and of course music. Take your pick from the Cuity International Festival of Literature in County Galway to the Cork International Choral Festival and enjoy the buzz of the atmosphere!
May and June are said to be one of the sunniest months of the year, so the weather is usually perfect for strolling down the streets and doing a little bit of exploring! Head out on walks in the wild countryside near your Irish holiday cottage, there are some truly stunning sights to be seen all over, particularly if you are staying in a coastal location. If you are in Dublin, head to the Leprechaun Museum to hear folklores and fairy tales told as you experience what life as a leprechaun is really like and don’t forget the Guinness Storehouse either!
As mentioned above, June is one of the sunniest months of the year, which makes it a perfect time for the festivals featured during this month. The Cork Midsummer Festival celebrates all things Irish with a wide range of food stalls, theatre, music and literature performances which are suitable for children and adults alike. If you are looking to dress up smart and make a few calls on the horses, you are in luck, as the Irish Derby also takes place in June in County Kildare.
July is when the peak season for visitors really gets under way, particularly popular for families, as this is when the summer holidays start. Although Ireland becomes a little more crowded in the summer, the mass array of events, festivals and attractions means that everyone can be kept entertained. Make the most of the long summer days if you are in the countryside, with barbeques, picnics and lengthy walks being an absolute must to make the most of the local area!
The good weather usually continues into August, offering a great chance to take a late summer break or a long weekend away, particularly as the summer festivals are still in full swing. Kilkenny Arts Festival is a real aesthetic treat, with strong displays of visual arts forming the main focus. Oul’ Lammas Fair also takes place at the end of August, which is said to be one of the oldest traditional fairs in Ireland! Experience the authentic setting with horse dealing and many other free forms of entertainment to be enjoyed throughout!
September sees the end of the peak period as the children head back to school, this means that the off-season returns and holiday prices are lowered, however, the quality of entertainment remains high. Head to County Clare to visit one of the more unusual festivals in Ireland, Lisdoonvarna Matchmaking Festival; this traditional harvest festival has a bit of a twist, pairing up singletons to dance and party together through the night by a board of matchmakers, in the hope that everyone will not leave without finding their true love!
One of the biggest events in Ireland in October is Dublin’s Oktoberfest, bringing a taste of Germany to Ireland, with pretzels, Weiss beer and bratwurst forming the diet of the festival; both the food and the atmosphere will fill you with a sense of warmth and enjoyment. If you are keen to explore the great outdoors, then October is a good time to do so before the weather takes too much of a turn for the cold and wet. As the autumn sets, in the colour schemes are rich and beautiful, making for postcard-perfect pictures!
Although the daylight hours are limited during November, this can spur you on to make the most of your day and pack in as many experiences as possible before heading to a local pub to cosy down for some traditional Irish foods, singing, and of course a pint of Guinness! It might be worth bearing in mind that some of the smaller attractions and castles shut for the November/December period, so you’re best off heading to the larger attractions around the country that open all year around, for this reason, city breaks are perfect for this time of year.
As the festive period arrives in December, the cold weather continues, adding to the magical wintery environment. December trips to Ireland are best spent exploring the local Christmas markets for trinkets and gifts, all of which can be enjoyed whilst sipping a cup of mulled wine or hot chocolate! The towns and cities of Ireland really come alive in the wintertime during the festive season, in a completely different way to any other time of year, meaning that if you’ve visited Ireland in the summer, you must visit in the winter to get the full scope of experiences!
Romantic spots in Ireland that will sweep them off their feet
Ireland is home to beautiful green countryside, fascinating history and makes for the perfect setting for romantic weekend breaks. Ireland has so much to offer, that you are sure to find that spot to sweep her – or him! – off their feet. At Imagine Ireland we have many luxury cottages all across the country, you will be spoilt for choice before you even choose the destination!
Kinsale, County Cork
For a relaxing weekend getaway, the picturesque village of Kinsale in Cork is a top location. Only 15 miles from Cork city and close to many of our luxury cottages in Cork, Kinsale can be found on the mouth of the River Bandon. During the summer months, the beautiful waters of the harbour are home to hundreds of sailing and fishing boats, which are great for yachting trips out to sea, where you might be able to spot a whale or dolphins. In the village, the excellent gourmet restaurants and cafes in Kinsale are great for eating out and sampling the best local delicacies, and the many craft shops, galleries, book shops and more found in the winding streets are wonderful places to explore.
Bunratty Castle, County Clare
If you are heading to the beautiful County Clare on a romantic weekend break, a trip to the stunning medieval fortress of Bunratty Castle will make for a fun day out. Walk through the halls of the castle and discover the amazing 15th and 16th century furnishings, ornate tapestries and works of art that truly capture the life of those bygone times in Ireland. If the weather turns in your favour to be a day of sunshine, a walk through the walled gardens is worthwhile, especially during the summer months. One of the best gardens in Ireland, its Victorian style is in constant upkeep so every single visitor reaps the rewards of its beauty.
Ross Castle, County Meath
North of Dublin, County Meath is home to some breath-taking scenery and many ancient castles and buildings – some of which are said to be haunted like Ross Castle on the banks of the Lough Sheelin. According to stories, the ghost of Sabina Nugent roams the castle searching for her lost love. She died from a broken heart when the man she was hoping to marry, Orwin O’Reilly, drowned crossing the lough. As well as the wonderful love stories County Meath has interwoven with its history are the actual evidence of the magical past. UNESCO World Heritage Site Brú na Bóinne is the largest place of prehistoric art found in Europe.
Lakes of Killarney, County Kerry
A romantic trip to County Kerry is a haven for lovers, with the green landscapes, mountain views and golden beaches. The area also has three main lakes, Lough Leane, Muckross Lake and the Upper Lake, in the Black Valley. For the best views, head to Ladies View on the N71 road between Killarney and Kenmare. The natural, in addition to the historical interest of the lakes has drawn many people here over the years, and you are sure to find your own peace of heaven during a visit here too.
Whitefriar Street Carmelite Church, Dublin
A romantic city break in Dublin must include a visit to Whitefriar Street Carmelite Church, which has remains of the Saint Valentine found inside. Located in the centre of the city, the church has become a landmark of sorts, and prides itself on being an oasis of calm and peace in the middle of the bustling capital. The church has become a pilgrimage destination for those seeking, celebrating or even denouncing love.
If you have booked a stay at one of our dog-friendly cottages in Ireland next year, you might be on the lookout for the best country trails to take the whole family on – including the dog. There is nothing better than filling yourself up with a traditional Irish breakfast and heading out to walk through the beautiful nature of the Emerald Isle.
There are lots of walking routes across Ireland, some suitable for the experienced hiker and some suitable to even take a pushchair along them, so take a look below to find out which ones are the best of them all.
Sheep’s Head Way, County Cork
Starting in Bantry and taking you to the top of the peninsula at Sheep's Head, the whole trail is a total of 55 miles. Cork is a beautiful place, and one of the most popular tourist destinations in Ireland, but this area is one of the most idyllic in the county. Primarily a shoreline route there are a couple climbs and the walk is moderate and suitable for most abilities.
The Burren, County Clare
320 square miles of silvery limestone that stretch across Clare to the Atlantic Ocean, the Burren is an unusual landscape that rivers run through and there are caves carved into the soft rock. The region offers both shorter looped walks, as well as the long-distance routes for those seeking a challenge.
The Wicklow Way, County Wicklow
Stretching along 83 miles through the Wicklow Mountains up to the suburbs of Dublin, the trails on the Wicklow Way provide travellers with some of the best of Ireland’s scenery, with lush valleys and spectacular mountain ranges. The central section covers Wicklow Mountains National Park and also partly follows the Military Road, built in the 19th century by the British to gain access to southern Ireland.
The Kerry Way, County Kerry
One of the most popular trails in Ireland, the Kerry Way is also referred to as the Historic Way as it follows routes of the old driving paths and coach roads. Along the way, you can see out to the Iveragh Peninsula, as well as some of the most stunning flora and fauna found in the country. The routes along the Kerry Way vary in length, and you can choose which ones are suitable to your ability.
Antrim Hills Way, Country Antrim
A short trail of just 22 miles, this route is not for the faint-hearted. The heather and tussocky ground of the Antrim Hills can be difficult to navigate for the inexperienced hiker, and the walk is mostly off-road through fields. But the plus side is the awe-inspiring views that greet you, from the Antrim coastline and ruins of Dunluce Castle to the Giant’s Causeway and the seabird colony on Rathlin Island.
Beara Way, County Kerry
The next-door neighbour to The Kerry Way, the Beara Way, is a quieter holiday spot that offers beautiful vistas. The entire trails add up to a total of 120 miles, but you can pick and choose the routes best suited to you and your walking group. Some of the trails will take you through abandoned copper miles, old bog roads, low rounded hills and rocky coastline. This is definitely a trail your dog will love too.
The Glen of Aherlow, County Tipperary
Tucked away between the Galtee Mountains and the Slievenamuck Hills, the Glen of Aherlow trail offers everything from low-lying strolls along river banks to hikes up the Galtees mountains. The trail can be divided into various lengths, some lasting up to four hours, and those who want a challenge should head to Lough Curra and Lake Muskry that have wooded foothills, mountain streams and moorland.
Connemara Way, County Galway
At 49 miles, the Connemara Way is one of the shorter trails, starting at Oughterard and stretches to Westport, County Mayo. There is fine scenery every step of the way, and walks through the quiet countryside is a perfect way to relax. You will come across small loughs along the way, but beware there tends to be a lot of rain in the area, and only 30% of the trail is by road.
The Slieve Blooms, County Laois and County Offaly
The rural and unspoilt trail travels through the Slieve Bloom Mountains and keeps you close to nature, with nothing to hear but the birds and wind in the trees. A circular trail just 33 miles long, there are splendid panoramic views from the hills and on clear days you can see the highest points of all four Irish provinces: Mweelrea in Connaught, Slieve Donard in Ulster, Lugnaquilla in Leinster and Carrauntoohil in Munster.
The Dingle Way, County Kerry
One of the first national walking routes in Ireland, the Dingle Way is over 112 miles long, following country roads and across beaches. The most dramatic part, which is a highlight for all walkers and hikers, is the 1,200 feet descent across the Brandon Mountains between Ballydavid and Cloghane. The walk takes you around the Slieve Mish that juts into the Atlantic Ocean.
Unusual and quirky travel destinations to see on holidays to Ireland
There are lots of fantastic tourist attractions across Ireland, from the ever-popular Guinness Brewery and Cliffs of Moher, yet there are some places which are often overlooked, which we think would make your holidays to Ireland unforgettable.
Take a look below at some of the more unusual and quirky locations found across the Emerald Isle that you should consider on your next holiday, especially if you are staying in one of our family-friendly holiday cottages.
Irish Sky Garden
Located in West Cork near Skibbereen, the Irish Sky Garden is the creation of artist James Turrell. A conceptual garden built around a crater, at the centre is a plinth which if you lie upon it, the sky is framed perfectly by the edge of the crater, with no distractions to catch the viewers eye. The design allows the viewer to experience the sky at that exact moment, day or night, and is one of the most unusual attractions found in Cork.
Indian Sculpture Park
In County Wicklow, Victor’s Way is a garden full of Indian sculptures, from dancing figures, Hindu deities and Buddha-like figures. The pieces are intended to show the spiritual progression to enlightenment, and the collection of statues took 20 years to complete. Unfortunately, the park is closed during winter months, and admission is only for adults.
Cork Butter Museum
Though a museum about butter will most likely not be on your list of things to do while visiting Cork, the Cork Butter Museum actually tells an important piece of Ireland’s history. Cork’s butter market was once the largest in the world, and the museum highlights include a 1,000-year-old keg of butter, a tour of butter making throughout the years and a collection of Irish butter labels.
Christ Church Cathedral
Though visiting Christ Church Cathedral in Dublin might not be an unusual outing on your holidays to Ireland, as it is a beautiful building surrounded by history. In fact, it is the bizarre contents of the medieval crypt which make the attraction unusual. The crypts contain a mummified cat and rat, and the heart of the patron saint of Dublin. These are just a few of the odd items found in the crypts.
St Michan’s Mummies
Another church in Dublin, St Michan’s, is also home to some weird items which can be found in the crypts. Beneath the church, visitors can find the mummified remains of some of Ireland’s most influential families, dating from the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. The coffins are unbelievably ornate, and all the mummies have stayed in a great condition, due to the cool, dry air below the church.
Your holiday in Ireland is sure to be unforgettable if you add these weird and quirky attractions to your list of things to see and do!
Christmas traditions in Ireland
Ireland is a country rich in Gaelic and Catholic heritage and a vast amount of Christmas traditions as a result. Here we look at a couple of traditions you can think about on your holidays to Ireland!
The widespread tradition of decorating front doors with a ring of holly originated in Ireland. It gave the poor the means to decorate their home, as it flourished during the winter, meaning there was plenty to go round.
Candle in the Window
A widespread tradition in the 1970’s, but now houses that host candles in their window seem to be few and far between. The candle represents a welcome to Mary and Joseph as they wandered in search of somewhere to sleep. The candle acted as an indication to strangers, and particularly the poor, that there may be an offering of food inside the house. In a more historical context, throughout the Penal Times Catholic priests were banned from performing mass, as such, the candle acted as a signal that the inhabitant was a Catholic believer, and that mass could be held in the premises.
Mary, the mother of Jesus, was especially celebrated in Ireland over Christmas. The candle in the window often had to be lit and extinguished by a girl named Mary while the taking down of decorations in January were also initiated by her. The name, at one time, was by far the most popular female name in the country.
The Wren Boy Procession
It is thought that the Irish tradition of visiting friends and relatives on boxing day, or St Stephens day, stems from the events of the ‘wren boy’, of which there are several different legends. One tale tells the story of a plot against some British soldiers during Penal times. The soldiers were about to be ambushed, when a group of wren birds pecked on their drums to raise the alarm. Following the failure of the plot, the wren became known as ‘The Devil’s Bird’. To commemorate, a procession takes place from house to house, with participants carrying a pole with holly on, dressing up in old clothes and blackening their faces. The procession has been revived in recent years in Dublin and other locations, but the use of an actual dead wren on the pole has now been scrapped.
After the festivities have taken place, decorations are usually taken down on January 6th, known as ‘Little Christmas’. It is considered to be bad luck to remove any decorations or the tree before then.
Modern day traditions
Festive traditions in Ireland in the present day are different to the conventional methods of celebration. St Stephens Day remains as a day to be spent with family and friends, but also is host to a fantastic array of sports such as football and horse-racing. Most workers take the whole week off between Christmas and New Year as many businesses completely close-down during this time. A Christmas Day swim now takes place in certain parts of Ireland.
Nollaig Shona Duit! – Merry Christmas!
The top five picturesque historic Irish villages to visit on your holidays
To truly get a sense of Irish people and culture when you are staying at our cottages to rent in Ireland, a trip off the beaten track and away from the major cities and towns is the best idea. You can immerse yourself in the beauty and tranquillity of Ireland’s most picturesque and historic villages.
Instead of visiting the more obvious tourist attractions in popular towns and villages, head to one of the historic villages found across Ireland, many of which have roots dating back to Celtic and Viking times.
Cobh, County Cork
South of Cork City, Cobh’s history is linked to its port. Millions of Irish left Ireland from Cobh during the Great Famine for a new life in the Americas. It was also the last port of call of the Titanic and has also seen many immigrants leaving Ireland from its port. For any visitors, whose ancestors came from Ireland, Cobh is a wonderful place to get back in touch with their own personal history. The village is also part of Ireland’s Ancient East and a place for everyone to enjoy.
Birr, County Offaly
One of Ireland’s best-preserved Georgian towns, Birr is spacious, welcoming and has been home to the Parsons family for 400 years. The family has made a large contribution to Birr, through botany, astronomy and engineering, and has helped make Birr the wonderful place it is today. Birr Castle, which dates to medieval times, has survived sieges and been rebuilt and restored a few times as well, and is still home to the Parsons family. Tours can be taken through parts of the castle where you can see family heirlooms, tapestries and all sorts of treasures. At the castle, you can also find one of the largest astronomy telescopes in the world.
Cong, County Mayo
Cong, a village on an island surrounded by streams, was once home to the father of poet and playwright Oscar Wilde. There are many things to see and do in this village when staying at our cottages to rent in the area. There is the Royal Augustinian Abbey, a fine example of early architecture in Ireland, with much of its wonderful craftsmanship still in place. Ashford Castle is another popular attraction of Cong, where you can explore the estate, enjoy a spot of fishing on Lough Corrib, do a round of gold and walk the surrounding trails.
Rosses Point, County Sligo
Rosses Point, a village in the area known as ‘Yeats’ County’ guards Sligo Town’s harbour, and is marked by the Metal Man lighthouse, which was built by local seafarers in 1821. Standing 12 feet high, the guardian statue has become an iconic landmark of the area. The area is known to have some interesting seafaring stories, as north of Rosses Point, three shipwrecks from the Spanish Armada were uncovered by marine archaeologists in 1985. The area has been nicknamed ‘Yeats’ County’ as the poet William Yeats would holiday in Sligo around Rosses Point during his childhood.
Roscrea, County Tipperary
This historic market town has a 13th century castle at its centre and has been designated as an Irish Heritage Town, due to the many historical buildings that are well preserved in Roscrea and its status as a trading town. The highlights include Roscrea Castle, with its walled courtyard and angled towers, which was taken over by Cromwell’s forces during the 1600s. Another popular historic site in Roscrea is the three-story 18th century Georgian Damer House built by local merchant John Damer. Designed in Queen Anne style, Damer House was restored and saved from being demolished in the 1980s and tours are now open to the public.
Why you should spend your holidays in Ireland
Why you need to stop what you’re doing and book a holiday in Ireland!
From the dramatic coastlines to the tours of a whiskey brewery, Ireland truly has it all. Here are just some of the reasons you should spend your holidays in Ireland this year.
Spectacular road trips
For many, the dreaded drive to your final holiday destination is a curse. In Ireland however, the fun starts the moment you enter the country. Long road trips are a pleasure, as the rolling landscapes, dramatic coastlines and picturesque valleys welcome you to the gorgeous country. The Wild Atlantic Way is a great example of this, stretching over 1500 miles long across the west coast from County Donegal down to County Cork. This route allows you to see Connemara, The Burren and the Cliffs of Moher to name just a few of the iconic places along the way.
8 miles long, 702 feet high and outstandingly beautiful, the Cliffs of Moher were deemed good enough to film Harry Potter at… so it’s good enough for us! The sensational cliffs shaped by weather, waves and time are so spectacular it’s hardly surprising that the site is considered one of the natural wonders of the world. Game of Thrones fans assemble, for Ireland is host to Westeros – or the real-life equivalent at least. The show films in multiple locations throughout Northern Ireland, allowing you to appreciate jaw-dropping scenery, such as parks, woodlands, waterfalls and iconic castles all without the risk of bumping into Jon Snow.
History buffs rejoice, as tombs such as the Bru Na Boinne tombs in County Meath date back 5000 years in the Neolithic or Late Stone Age. Lovers of literature, there is plenty for you too, with Ireland being home to the likes of WB Yeats, James Joyce, CS Lewis and Samuel Beckett to name a few. Dunluce Castle in County Antrim is even said to be the inspiration for Cair Paravel, home to the fictional king and queen in The Chronicles of Narnia.
Although food may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Ireland, the culinary delights should not be overlooked. Recently, farmhouse cheese has been recognised on a global scale, with each region having its own speciality. Accompany your cheese with a traditional roll of Blaa and make it a truly unapologetically Irish experience. Gather your ingredients and a variety of other local and organic produce with a visit to any of the artisanal farmers markets up and down the country. For those interested, you can even check out the Rayanne House, and eat the same 9-course menu that was prepared for the Titanic’s first class cabin on their last evening dinner.
A country famed for the strong stuff, an array of brewery tours up and down the country is a great way to spend the day – particularly when tasting is required! Be sure to check out the Guinness Storehouse where the tour ends in the Gravity Bar with 360-degree views of Dublin. Pubs themselves are an integral part of Irish tradition, with some establishments dating back to 1198. A lot of the pubs in Ireland offer traditional Irish Folk music throughout the afternoon and into the evening, where after one too many Guinness’s you can dance the night away.
A warm welcome is guaranteed!
The people of Ireland are renowned for being as friendly as they come. If you get lost on your holiday or need directions to anywhere, rest assured help is on the way. The capital was even voted as the 5th friendliest city in the world by Conde Nast Traveller.
Wrap up your trip with a traditional kiss of the Blarney Stone, a block of limestone which is said to give the gift of eloquence to all.
Dublin: The Best Destination for a New Year Celebration
With December fast approaching, there is a lot of excitement in the air as Christmas is just around the corner. The Christmas lights are lit across the UK, and families are frantically planning their festivities and buying the presents to fill the stockings. Lucky for all of us, the excitement doesn’t end when Christmas is over, with New Year following a couple of days after!
With only a few days break from work during Christmas and New Year why waste your free-time at home? Dublin is easily accessible, and holidays to Ireland are particularly great and easy to organise if you’re yet to plan what you are doing for New Year. If you’re someone who loves the idea of a fresh start every year, why not consider spending New Year’s in place you’ve never been before, and what better way to bring the new year in than experiencing some Irish charm?
The New Year Festival in Dublin is a three-day festival, running from the 30th December to January 1st. This festival has been going for several years now, and each year it just gets bigger and better! If the thought of Dublin makes you swoon at the idea of a stereotypical Irish atmosphere then the festival on Dame Street is an event not to miss- showcasing the best of local music, arts and food, and including poetry slams and the Luminosity light show- you are bound to have an unforgettable New Years! If this sounds like something you’d love to visit, then booking tickets is advised.
Don’t worry if they’re all sold out though, there are activities, performances and shows across Dublin and lots of things for free, so wherever you celebrate New Year’s in Dublin you will have a fantastic experience!
When many other places shut down during the New Year period, Dublin comes alive. Visit the quirky and amazing shops Dublin has to offer. A few minutes away from Dame Street you will find the Avoca shop which showcases beautiful knit ware, blankets and goods to keep you warm during this winter period. Then make your way over the Cocoa Atelier, the renowned confectioners that offer a dark salted caramel that is simply gorgeous!
If you fancy a drop of wine and a bite to eat after all that shopping (well, you deserve it!) make your way to the wine cellar at Fallon and Byrne that have an impressive 600 wines on the menu, that are accompanied by a selection of cheeses, smoked fish or charcuterie boards.
If you fancy seeing the New Year’s in outdoors than make your way to the Procession of Light, which is a truly magical event, where you will be a spectator to a glistening sea of lanterns, as the parade makes it way from St Stephen’s Green to Dublin Castle. This event is particularly great if you have kids in tow this New Year, or if you’re wanting to snuggle up with a loved one for a magical memory; and don’t just take our word for it- the event attracted a staggering 10,000 spectators in 2014!
Make your way to the Christ Church Cathedral to ring the New Year in with the ringing of the bells at the stroke of midnight. Dubliners and tourists, of all generations, gather here to hear the nineteen bells chime and experience a dramatic atmosphere with the firework displays.
If you feel like starting the festivities early, and love a drop of whiskey, then head over to the Teeling’s distillery for a tour. The Teeling’s whiskey distillery is the first to open in Ireland in over a century, and is worth a visit on your trip to Dublin! If whiskey isn’t to your tastes, then the ever-popular Guinness Storehouse will be the place to go, especially if you want to try a classic Guinness in its birthplace!
If your head is feeling a little sore on New Year’s Day take a journey on the DART train (the Irish rail service) for a quick trip to the seaside for a breath of fresh air. Walk along the granite walls of the Dun Laoghaire pier for a quiet place for contemplation and to set your new year’s resolutions, or head over to the Phoenix Park, which is one of the largest parks in Europe, where you are likely to see herd of red deer!
Dublin is such a fantastic destination for a New Year getaway because it offers you the electric vibes of the city and an idyllic countryside escape all in one. So, if you’re still wondering what you will be doing this New Year’s then start planning your getaway to Dublin, the place to be this New Years!
Here's just a small selection of our properties in Dublin!
The perfect spots for stargazing in Ireland
In the winter months when the skies darken early in the evening, stargazing is easy to do. All you need to do is head out from your Irish country cottages to a spot with no light pollution or any buildings or trees obstructing your view and look up to the sky. With two areas of Ireland already being named International Dark Sky areas, and more places being funded to fight the light pollution, there is no better time to go stargazing in Ireland.
Kerry International Dark Sky Reserve
In 2014 Kerry named an International Dark Sky Reserve. The night sky around Iveragh Peninsula has captivated the people of Ireland for thousands of years, with the Neolithic inhabitant building stone monuments to track the cycles of the Sun, Moon and stars. Ancient inscriptions in the region have also been said to depict celestial observations. Head out on a clear night when staying at our luxury cottages in Kerry and spot the stunning constellations and even the Milky Way.
Mayo International Dark Sky Park
Ballycroy National Park and Wild Nephin Wilderness in Mayo jointly recently received Dark Sky Park status. A Gold tier classification was also given to the region, which recognises the most exceptional dark skies and stunning nightscapes. The Park covers one of the largest areas of peatland in Europe and supports a huge diversity of species in its unique habitat. The Dark Sky status not only protects the sky but the whole environment and habitat of the region.
Just south of Dublin, Ireland’s biggest city, you might be surprised to an area perfect for an evening walk and a bit of star gazing. Though the Wicklow Mountains does not have Dark Sky status, the area is free of light pollution and the nightscapes are stunning, especially during the winter months. The area is also great for amateur astrophotography for those wanting to capture a shot of the starry sky.
The wild countryside of Donegal is another ideal location for winter stargazing. Take a telescope and camera out in the evening to get ready to capture the wonders of the night sky in the Donegal countryside, away from any light pollution. Being so far north in Ireland, Donegal is also one of the best places in the country for a chance to see the Aurora Borealis or Northern Lights. They can often be seen from places like Fanad Head or Malin Head. The county is also treated to an array of shooting stars in the summer months, making it the perfect place to go all year ‘round for stargazing.
Five reasons why winter is a great time to visit Ireland
When you are planning family breaks in Ireland, you may think it’s a bit strange to overlook the summer months and book your holiday during the winter season. However, there are a few reasons why winter is actually a great time to visit Ireland.
Even with the cold and rainy weather (but it does rain all year round anyway in Ireland!) the Emerald Isle is a fantastic place to visit in the shorter days of winter, and have a look below to find out why.
It’s not as cold as you might think in Ireland during the winter months. The island country has a moderate climate, so the temperature doesn’t drop that low in winter. Nevertheless, it’s always good to wrap up warm and pack your waterproofs. Even if you hit a dry spell during your family holiday, the weather is also a little temperamental and can switch to rain in a flash.
Flights and ferries to Ireland are a lot cheaper during the winter months, so travelling there is a lot cheaper in winter than in the summer. There is also a chance to get a fantastic deal with some of our cottages located across Ireland. Have a look at our special offers here, from small party discounts, two weeks for the price of one and late deals.
Main attractions are open
Though there are few seasonal tourist attractions that close from October to March or April, the majority of Ireland’s popular tourist attractions are open all year, especially in Dublin. Places such as National Parks are open to the public all year too, so even through the colder winter months, you will rarely come across a ‘closed’ sign.
Avoid the crowds
Though you might not be the only people opting for a winter break, the chance is you won’t be coming across hordes of people as you walk the breathtaking Cliffs of Moher, which will give you plenty of time to take in the views and snap some fantastic photos. At places like the Guinness Storehouse or Trinity College in Dublin, the queues will take a lot less time too, with only a few minutes’ wait.
After a day of sightseeing and exploring the beautiful Irish countryside, a warm cosy pub with a pint or whisky is just what you need, and you’ll be spoilt for choice for where to go. The warm pubs will give a welcoming reception, and you can settle in for a fun evening of live music and laughter.
Warm up this winter with a delicious pie – complete with an Irish twist
When staying at our self-catering Irish country cottages this winter, why not try making some traditional Irish food like stew, or even this pie, and add an Irish twist to it. There is nothing better after a day out exploring the beautiful Irish countryside than coming home to some delicious home-cooked food.
Have a look below at how to make this steak and cheese pie – with a dash of Guinness!
- Olive oil
- 3 medium red onions, peeled and chopped
- 3 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
- 30g butter, plus extra for greasing
- 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
- 2 sticks of celery, trimmed and chopped (optional)
- 4 field mushrooms, peeled and chopped (optional)
- 1kg of stewing beef or steak, cut into 2cm cubes
- A few sprigs of fresh rosemary, chopped
- Salt and pepper, for seasoning
- 1 can of Guinness
- 2 tablespoons of plain flour
- 200g grated cheddar cheese
- 500g ready-made puff pastry*
- 1 large egg, beaten
*You can make your own puff pastry, but ready-made saves you a bit of time so you can start eating sooner!
Preheat the oven to 375°F or 190°C. In a large oven-proof pan, heat a tablespoon of olive oil on a low heat. Add onions and fry gently for 5 to 10 minutes. Turn up the heat and add the garlic, butter, carrots, celery, and scatter in the mushrooms, if you are including them in your pie.
Mix everything together well before stirring in the beef, rosemary, a pinch of salt and a teaspoon of pepper.
Fry for 3 to 4 minutes, then pour in the Guinness, stir in the flour and a little bit of water to cover the ingredients. Bring to a simmer, then cover the pan with a lid and place in the preheated oven for 1½ hours. (Alternatively, if you don’t have an oven-proof pan, transfer the contents to an oven-proof dish before putting it into the oven).
Remove the pan or dish from the oven and give the stew a stir. Leave in the oven until the meat is very tender and the stew is rich, dark and thick, up to another hour. A perfect pie filling needs to robust, so if there is still some liquid in the pan, add a little more flour to thicken the sauce.
Remove from the oven, and stir in half the grated cheese, season carefully and leave to cool.
Cut about a third of the pastry from the ready-made block. Dust a clean work surface with flour and roll both pieces of pastry out evenly with a floured rolling pin to the thickness of half a centimetre.
Grease a pie dish with butter, and then line it with the larger sheet of pastry, leaving the edges hanging over the side. Spoon your stew into the lined dish and even it out, before sprinkling the remaining cheese over it. Brush the edges of the pastry with the beaten egg.
Cut the rolled sheet of pastry to fit the top of the pie dish, and criss-cross the top lightly with a knife. Place over the top of the pie, and fold the overhanging pieces of the base to close the pie filling in. Brush the top with the rest of the beaten egg, then place the pie on the bottom of the oven, cooking it for 45 minutes or until the pastry is cooked, puffed and golden in colour.
Serves 4 to 6 people, along with some garden peas and potatoes!
Magical and mysterious caves to explore on your holidays in Ireland
Ireland is home to beautiful National Parks, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, stunning historical sites and an amazing coastline full of hidden coves, so your stay at our Irish holiday cottages will be unforgettable.
Exploring the 3000 miles of coastline in Ireland will lead you to beautiful beaches and hidden coves, as well as some magical caves which all have an interesting history. Take a look at some of the caves you can discover when on your holidays in Ireland in the coming months.
Aillwee Cave, County Clare
At the heart of the Burren, you will find Aillwee Cave, which was first discovered in 1944. You can enjoy a tour of the cave system at the Burren, where guides can show you the large calcite formations, the underground waterfall and bear pits – hollows scraped out by brown bears – the only ones found in Ireland.
Doolin Cave, County Clare
Also located at the Burren is Doolin Cave, which has over six miles of passages, Doolin Cave has the ‘Great Stalactite’ which is 7metres long. One of the largest free hanging stalactites in the world, you can see this wonder, and explore the passages on a tour of the cave.
Crag Cave, County Kerry
Located in Castleisland, Crag Cave was discovered in 1983 and is thought to be one million years old. One of the longest caves in Ireland, guides can take you on a 30-minute tour through the 3.8km cave to view the stalagmites and stalactites. Be sure to bring a coat too, as the cave gets quite chilly!
Maghera beach Caves, County Donegal.
One of the most scenic areas found in Ireland, the natural sea-eroded Maghera Caves are located along the silver beach below the mountains. The route to the caves on the southern shore has streams tumbling down the rock face, with one of the most spectacular being the Assaranca Falls.
Dunmore Cave, County Kilkenny
Dunmore Cave has been named a National Monument, and you can find some of the most spectacular calcite formations in the country there. The cave consists of a series of chambers formed over millions of years. In 928AD the cave was plundered by the Vikings of Dublin, and around 1000 people killed, the human bones found in the cave were thought to be remains of the victims.
Marble Arch Caves, County Fermanagh
The Marble Arch Caves European Geopark allows visitors to explore an underground world, with rivers, waterfalls and winding passages. Take the 75-minute tour with an expert guide to learn the history of the cave, and take a boat ride along the subterranean Claddagh River.