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.
Kerry scenic route has been named in Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel
The Skellig Ring drive in County Kerry has been named as one of the top ten regions in the whole world to visit during 2017, by travel guide publisher Lonely Planet. The south-west tip of the Wild Atlantic Way is a coastal drive described as a “charismatically wild and emerald stretch of coastline.”
The Best in Travel 2017 was recently unveiled, and Ireland’s Skellig Ring made the top ten, taking the tenth spot as one of the destinations you should travel to during the next year. And with our Ireland holiday cottages in County Kerry, you can do just that.
Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport in Ireland, Shane Ross, said: “I am delighted that The Skellig Ring is being internationally recognised as a place of rugged and ethereal beauty.”
Also welcoming the news was Niall Gibbons, CEO of Tourism Ireland, who said about the recognition, “The inclusion of The Skellig Ring will surely hep to inspire travellers everywhere to put the Wild Atlantic Way on their holiday wish-list for 2017.”
A spokeswoman for Lonely Planet Noirín Hegarty said the region is a spot of “timeless beauty” and “should be on every traveller’s must-see list.”
Choquequiro in Peru was named as the number one spot. Other areas in the Best in Travel category included North Wales, Taranaki in New Zealand, the Azores in Portugal and Coastal Georgia in the USA.
The Skellig Ring has gained attention in the last couple of years due to it being a filming location for Star Wars: The Force Awakens, as well as the sequel film to be released next year.
Part of the Ring of Kerry, which has long been a magnet for tourists, the Skellig Ring has narrower paths, suitable just for cars and pedestrians. When on your holidays in Ireland in the coming months, it is definitely a region to visit.
Here's just a small selection of our cottages on the Ring of Kerry!
Food tourists reveal why Ireland is great for grub
Filmmakers and food tourists have revealed the five reasons they visit Ireland as part of a documentary series. Filmmakers Daniel Klein and Mirra Fine have joined up with Fáilte Ireland for their project The Perennial Plate, which explores socially responsible and adventurous eating.
Klein and Fine are “travelling the world exploring the wonders, complexities, and stories behind the ever more connected global food system.” Spending eight weeks in Ireland, they will screen their documentary project The Perennial Plate at the ‘Food on the Edge’ symposium in Galway next month.
Part of their tour takes in popular foodie destinations of Dublin, Ireland’s Ancient East, and the Wild Atlantic Way. Klein said, “Food, people, and stories are why we travel, and film is the perfect way to share culture and inspire others to partake in the adventure. With its stunning greenery, rich history, world renowned chefs and natural beauty, Ireland is the perfect backdrop for our documentary series.”
Part of their research has already revealed why they, along with many other food tourists visit Ireland again and again. The top five food experiences for holidaymakers in Ireland were given as:
- Going on an urban walking food tour.
- Following a food trail.
- Visiting a whiskey distillery or micro-brewery.
- Attending a food festival or food related event.
- Visiting a local producer or processor, like a farm or smokehouse.
Head of food and hospitality at Fáilte Ireland, John Mulcahy, said: “It’s clear that Ireland has a lot to offer when it comes to food. There is quality produce on the ground and a great many experiences on offer for visitors when they come here. However, what is also clear from the research is that while people are pleasantly surprised by our food offering once they get here, perceptions beforehand may be lagging.”
Visit these fascinating historical sites in Ireland
Wherever you go in Ireland, you are sure to discover a rich and interesting history to the place. Some places have a particularly strong connection to the past, and when staying at our holiday cottages Ireland, take some time to visit some of these places and explore the fascinating historical sites.
Hill of Tara, County Meath
Near the River Boyne in Meath, the archaeological complex runs between Navan and Dunshaughlin and comprises a number of ancient monuments. According to legend, it was the seat of the High King of Ireland. The oldest site at Tara is the Mound of Hostages, dating to 2500 B.C. The Hill itself is 500 feet high, and offer stunning panoramic views of Meath.
Newgrange, County Meath
Dating to 3200 B.C, the tomb at Newgrange is older than the Egyptian pyramids. A large passage mound spreads over an acre and is surrounded by 97 uniquely carved kerbstones. The cremated remains of the dead were buried in stone basins under the mound, accessible by a narrow passage. Part of the Bru na Boinne UNESCO World Heritage Sites, there are similar tombs at Knowth and Dowth.
Ceide Fields, County Mayo
The Ceide Fields are a Neolithic landscape which dates back to 5000 B.C. The oldest known field systems in the world, their name Ceide Fields means ‘fields of the flat-topped hill.’ The rocks defining the field system were discovered by a teacher in the 1930s and it took over 40 years to uncover the true significance of the fields. Fields, houses, and tombs were found under the bog, concealed for thousands of years.
Blarney Stone, County Cork
The Blarney Stone at Blarney Castle dates to 1446. A block of limestone, built into the battlements, the legend goes that kissing Blarney stone endows the kisser with a gift of eloquence. The stone attracts tourists from all over the world, and the medieval castle overlooking the River Martin is wonderful to explore too.
Clonmacnoise, County Offaly
One of Ireland’s most important monasteries, Clonmacnoise is located on the banks of the River Shannon. Founded in 545 by Ciaran of Clonmacnoise, the strategic position of the monastery, which is now in ruins, helped it to become a centre of learning, religion, craftsmanship and trade. It continues to be visited by scholars from all over Europe.
In addition to these amazing historical sites, there are lots of wonderful castles, abbeys, and towns full of history, so wherever you choose to visit in Ireland, you are sure to find some interesting historical sites to explore.
Explore Northern Ireland’s Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty
The whole of Ireland has many areas of outstanding beauty, though only eight areas have been officially designated as official Areas of Outstanding Beauty, which receive similar recognition to National Parks and World Heritage Sites.
Take a look below at these Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) found in Northern Ireland, which are wonderful places to visit when staying at our holiday lettings, Ireland. Northern Ireland is also home to various nature reserves, special areas of conservation and special protection areas.
Causeway Coast, Co. Antrim
Awarded AONB status in 1989, the Causeway Coast has been a leading landmark of stunning scenery. The natural beauty is interwoven with picturesque fishing villages found along the coastline and is also rich in wildlife. Wander the coastline to see a variety of birds and animals who make their home on the rocks.
Mourne Mountains, County Down
One of the most scenic mountain ranges in Ireland, the Mourne Mountains were given AONB status in 1986. Consisting of 12 peaks, Slieve Donard is also Northern Ireland’s highest mountain at 850m. This is also a great location for adventurers on their holidays, as there are places for mountain biking, challenging hiking routes and so many views you’ll be snapping photos every step!
Strangford & Lecale, County Down
Strangford Lough was one of the first places to be given AONB status. The area extends from the Irish Sea inland along the Quoile River, including the historical town of Downpatrick. There is plenty of places to explore, from towns and villages, historic sites and activities in and out the water.
Sperrin, County Tyrone
The Sperrin AONB, which received its status in 2008, encompasses a largely mountainous area rich in beauty. Narrow glens, deep valleys and mysterious lakes, the Sperrin area has held much fascination with people who visit. The Beaghmore site is especially a place of mysticism, consisting of seven stone circles.
Antrim Coast and Glens, County Antrim
The Antrim Coast and Glens AONB, awarded in 1988 is home to some of the most beautiful and varied scenery in Ireland. The area includes Rathlin Island and coastal areas between Larne and Ballycastle. You can explore gentle bays, separated by headlands, rugged moorland, and secluded valleys, home to butterflies, bats, badgers and foxes.
Binevenagh, County Londonderry
Designated an AONB in 2006, this area covers a wide selection of geographical places, from beaches and dunes, the Bann Estuary, cliffs of Binevenagh and the mountain ranges offer breath-taking panoramic views all the way to Islay in Scotland. You can also explore the archaeological heritage found at Binevenagh, as there are many listed buildings and monuments including the statue Manannán Mac Lir.
Ring of Gullion, County Armagh
The Ring of Gullion was given AONB status in 1991 and is a huge part of Armagh’s natural heritage. The Ring has a rich history, along with the stunning scenery of valleys, mountain slopes, and wildlife. People have lived in the area for over 6000 years, and you can discover the history through local folk music, poetry, and literature.
County Longford could become Ireland’s hidden gem
County Longford is Ireland’s least-visited county according to latest figures, but that could all change in the coming years. Book one of our cottages to rent in Ireland to discover the delights of this amazing country, no matter which county you stay in.
Recent figures from Fáilte Ireland show that in 2015, Longford received just 30,000 overseas visitors out of Ireland’s 26 counties, a huge difference to the 4 million who visited Dublin.
But when visiting Longford, it seems odd that it does not receive more visitors. A place of beauty, magic, and mystery, Longford is a place immersed in ancient Irish mythology and is home to several impressive heritage sites.
A tranquil county, Longford is a wonderful place to holiday if you are looking to escape the many crowds of popular tourist spots and is known for the angling and boating activities. The lake lands and waterways are ideal for people with a love for water sports.
There is also the restored St Mels Cathedral in the town of Longford, nicknamed the ‘Longford Phoenix’ due to its stunning restoration after being destroyed by a fire in 2009. The interior sparkles with mosaics, stained glass artworks and is a highlight of any visit to the county.
Longford is also a great place to explore the outdoors, as you can discover some of Ireland’s most remote and unspoilt landscapes. Travel south, and you will discover the Shannon River and the Islands of Lough Ree, a must for any visitors. The northern area, on the border with Counties Cavan and Leitrim, is dotted with hills and lakes, and it is easy to see how Longford is one of the country’s hidden gems.
Here's just a small selection of our dog friendly cottages!
Northern Ireland is going pro-pooch
All types of businesses across Northern Ireland are going pro-pooch and turning into dog-friendly establishments. When staying at our excellent dog-friendly cottages in Ireland, be sure to check which local places are dog-friendly so that you and your pet can get the most out of your holiday.
After years of many businesses having no-dogs-allowed policies, there has been a huge turnaround with dogs now to be welcomed indoors into bistros and bars. Businesses like cafes and pubs have welcomed the increased attraction there is in their businesses as locals and visitors alike are able to bring along their pets.
On establishments’ windows welcoming dogs there are notices and dog owners are celebrating the turn-around as it makes life with a dog a lot easier. There are stipulations of course, as dogs are welcome if they are well behaved, which means no barking, messing on the floor or disturbing staff or other patrons.
Northern Ireland has also been named as one of the top spots in the UK for dog-friendly beaches with 10 of them earning Blue Flag status and receiving a total of 11 Seaside Awards for exceptional quality.
County Down and Antrim are the areas leading the way in the number of pubs, cafes, and bars which are dog-friendly with both having over 10 places across the counties.
Here's just a small selection of our dog friendly cottages!
Five exciting things to do on Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way
A holiday on Ireland’s west coast is unforgettable, with its enchanting landscapes and wild, unspoilt countryside. The Wild Atlantic Way coastal route is a fantastic way to explore the area, and has become a magnet for tourists looking for an adventure.
If you are staying at our excellent Irish holiday homes along the west coast in the coming months, take a look at these five exciting things you can do during your stay that will definitely make your holiday an unforgettable experience.
Visit amazing beaches in Co. Donegal
The beach at Ballymastocker Bay in Donegal was once voted the second best beach in the world, and it is one of the most beautiful beaches to be found along the Wild Atlantic Way. Walks along the coast will bring you to many amazing sandy beaches, perfect for a family day out on the beach.
Get snap happy with your camera in Co. Leitrim
Leitrim has lots of stunning lakes and rivers to travel along by boat, and while cruising along, you will have plenty of chance to take the perfect photographs. There is Glencar Waterfall, Lough Gill and head to neighbouring Co. Roscommon to explore Lough Key, one of Ireland’s most beautiful lakes.
Cycle the Great Western Greenway in Co. Mayo
If you want to escape the busier tourist spots, hire bikes and cycle along the 26mile Great Western Greenway, the longest off-road walking and cycling trail in the country. The route follows an old train line and being traffic-free you can take your time exploring.
Watch pro surfers tackle waves in Co. Sligo
Surfers from all across the world head to Sligo to ride the huge Atlantic waves, known as Prowlers. All along the western coastline you can see surfers tackle these waves, some of which reach up to 100ft. Many places also offer surf lessons for beginners too, if you want to have a go at the adrenaline fuelled sport.
Soak up the beautiful scenery in Co. Galway
In the north of County Galway is Connemara, a place Oscar Wilde called a ‘savage beauty’. The raw, untamed landscapes, wonderful beaches, and breath-taking views that are found here have long been a popular destination for artists and poets. Walking through this amazing part of Ireland will surely inspire you too.
The best visitor attractions to see in Co. Laois
County Laois, the most landlocked county in the centre of Ireland is a stunning place to visit. Mountains, rivers, golf ranges, castles and more make it ripe for exploration. When staying at our holiday lettings, Ireland, why not make County Laois top of your list of places to visit?
Take a look below at the top visitor attractions for in Co. Laois:
Rock of Dunamase
A huge limestone outcrop which towers over the surrounding countryside was a 12th-century stronghold for the King of Leinster. Over the years it changed hands between Normans and Irish before being destroyed by Oliver Cromwell’s forces. The ruins found there include the castle and Earthen rings of the Iron Age. The commanding views in this beautiful setting are not to be missed when visiting Laois.
This former stately home and gardens cover over 100 acres of lawns, woodland and a lake. The house itself is in a neo-classical style, and the stunning architecture is a perfect match of the formal lawns which surround it. Child and dog-friendly, Emo Court is a great place for walking, and the little café is perfect for refreshments.
Gardens, woodland and lakes make up Heywood Gardens which was completed in 1912. The formal gardens are the centrepiece of the property and designed by famous architect Sir Edwin Lutyens, who also designed four other gardens found across Ireland. There are terraces, pools and fountains that make up the beautiful gardens which are well kept and perfect for strolling through.
Slieve Bloom Mountains
These gently rolling hills are picturesque and peaceful and make for a great place to go hiking and walking. One of the least explored mountainous regions in Ireland, the unspoilt countryside is an amazing place to explore. Dotted with little villages, the Slieve Bloom Mountains are some of the oldest in Europe and were once the highest but weathering has reduced them to a height of just 527m. Both experienced and amateur walkers will enjoy exploring this part of Laois.
Here's just a small selection of our Laois cottages!
Oktoberfest Promises to Thrill Dublin
Get involved with some traditional German celebrations this September in the renowned Dublin Oktoberfest! Fill your boots with fantastic foods, cold beers and many more family attractions during the 18-day period.
Beginning on the 18th, Oktoberfest will continue until the 2nd October, you will see O’Connell Street transformed into a German haven, with a wide variety of ice cold German beers providing a refreshing break to your day. Although, for those who do not flavour the beers, there is also a wide range of fine German wines and non-alcoholic beverages available throughout!
Bringing the taste of Germany to Dublin, the food will certainly not fail to impress, indulge in some tasty Bratwurst, pretzels and black forest flavours with an incredible array of delicious foods that will suit any all palettes!
Not only with the food and drink be ‘fantastisch’, there will be some traditional annual Bavarian games, which include a stein (stone) carrying contest, and a jodel (yodelling) contest, as well as dances to German music, with Schuhplattlern and Fliegerlied dances!
Another feature of this vibrant festival is the fairground, with a fair coming straight from Munich to thrill the visitors with buzzing atmosphere for all to enjoy. The fairground theme encompasses the entirety of Oktoberfest, bringing Dublin to life!
On your holidays in Ireland this September, look out for those dressed in Dirndl and Lederhosen to point you in the direction of the best place to be in the city and take a taste of both German and Irish cultures, coming together to form one of the best festivals of the year!
Why not try one of these brilliant Dublin properties for last minute availability?
Ireland’s Ancient East encourages visitors to explore local history
Ireland’s Ancient East tourist attraction takes in miles of places along the country’s eastern region, ranging from Kilkenny’s Medieval mile to Hook Head in Cork. Family breaks in Ireland
are perfect for exploring this beautiful part of the country.
New orientation signs have also been introduced this month at attractions in Co. Wicklow and Wexford. Unveiled by Fáilte Ireland, the Celtic-spiral themed signs are there to inform visitors of things to do and see that are within an hour’s drive of the sign – in every direction.
More of these orientation signs are to be expected at 80 key tourism sites before the end of the year. Shaped like a spiral wheel, the signs have been designed and positioned to make is easy for tourists to find out about things to see and do and highlight the hidden gems. With so many popping up across the East of Ireland, visitors are encouraged to explore the area and make connections to other places in the region.
Jenny De Saulles, Fáilte Ireland’s Head of Ireland’s Ancient East said: “For too long, most overseas tourists have seen the south east, midlands and north east as a region to travel to for a day or simply just to travel through. Ireland’s Ancient East seeks to change all that by creating enough ‘stickiness’ and points of curiosity that visitors will slow down, explore and stay overnight.”
€20 million is being invested by Fáilte Ireland throughout the course of the year in the project, as a follow up to the Wild Atlantic Way touring route on Ireland’s west coast.
Just some of the places you can visit in Ireland’s Ancient East when on your family breaks in Ireland include the heritage town of Carrickmacross, whose charm and cultural heritage will make you fall in love. There are guided tours in the town showing St Joseph’s church, the work house and Essex castle.
Another highlight is Wicklow Gaol, a jail museum experience where visitors can get a glimpse of the prison in the past. An interactive tour is led by enthusiastic actors in period costume. The history is fascinating for the adults, and the kids will love the chance to explore the costumes.
Here's just a small selection of our cottages in Irelands Ancient East!
Wicklow Mountains National Park to be expanded
Wicklow Mountains National Park is set to be expanded by 2,000 hectares, which will make it one of the largest national parks in the whole of Europe. You can explore the beautiful landscapes of the park when on your cottage holidays in Ireland
The 2,000 hectares in the Dublin Mountains, an area also known as the Featherbeds, will be purchased by the National Parks and Wildlife Service from the National Asset Management Agency and added to the 20,483 hectares that already make up the park.
The area to be purchased takes in two reservoirs and includes a large conservation area, and various land from peaty slopes to scrubland. The expansion will help provide a huge tourism boost for County Wicklow.
One of the most scenic parts of Wicklow Mountains National Park is the Glendalough Valley and Deputy Pat Casey said: “The area also has huge potential and the capacity to attract significant tourist numbers if it is developed sensitively. As a person involved in tourism and outdoor recreation all my life, I am acutely aware of how important this land is as an amenity; to local people and visitors alike, due its vast expanse, seclusion and unspoiled habitat.
“I am relieved that the Department has seized the opportunity to expand the Wicklow Mountains National Park into some of the picturesque lands known as the Featherbeds. Such an initiative has the potential to create thousands of jobs in the wider locality and region.”
Deputy Casey also wants there to be a focus on walking trails for the expansion, as well as the optimum effort to market the potential the national park has. It is a wonderful place for walking and hiking among many other outdoor recreational activities.
Here's just a small selection of our Wicklow cottages!
Five Reasons Why You Need To Visit County Donegal
Located on the northern tip of the Irish mainland, the county of Donegal is completely different to the capital Dublin, with its wild and rugged scenery helping it to stand out from anywhere else in the country. Steeped in history, carpeted in rolling moorland and surrounded by 300 miles of rocky coastline, it has an air of wild mystery which makes it a truly unforgettable place to visit. If that description hasn’t convinced you enough to book up a stay at our Donegal cottages, here’s five more reasons you need to pay a visit.
Slieve League Cliffs
The tallest sea-cliffs in Europe, the epic Slieve League Cliffs tower over 600m above the sea water below, making the more famous Cliffs of Moher seem small by comparison. The view from the top of the cliffs is truly incredible, especially by night, when the last of the daylight reflects on the waves lapping on the shore below. Make sure to look out for two especially distinctive-looking rocks, known as the school desk and chair.
Glenveagh National Park
Spanning 170 kilometres of hillside above the grand Glenveagh Castle, Glenveagh National Park is the second largest in Ireland, promising miles of scenic heathland, moorland and bog-land to explore. Here you’ll find some incredible wildlife including the largest herd of red deer in Ireland, as well as the golden eagle, which was once extinct here but reintroduced to the area in 2000. Its emptiness and stunning views came at a price however – 244 tenants were cleared out of their homes by landlord John Adair, in order to enhance the views of the surrounding lands he owned.
St Patrick’s Cross, Carndonagh
Located in the grounds of a church founded by St Patrick in Carndonagh, this 7th century cross is the main remaining monument of St Patrick. Also known as the Carndonagh High Cross or the Cross of St Patrick, it is also one of the most important early Christian relics in all of Britain and Ireland. Carndonagh’s Gaelic name, Tir Connaill, means land of the Connalls, the first family converted to Christianity by St Patrick, with the cross appearing of the clan chieftain’s shield after their conversion. The cross also features one of Ireland’s most important symbols, the tree of life, which demonstrates the link between heaven and Earth.
The Glenevin Waterfall is yet another natural wonder you can discover here in Donegal, located 2 kilometres from the village of Clonmany. Measuring over 40 feet high, the water falls in a wedge-like shape down onto a striking black rockpool known as Pohl-an-eas. Translating as ‘ferment pool’ into English, its name comes from the foam that forms on the surface of the pool’s waters.
Though a trip aboard the Fintown Railway is just a three-mile journey, during those three miles you’ll be thrilled by the views of the mountains and the shores of Loch Finn on offer, showcasing even more of Donegal’s spectacular landscape. The only functioning railway in Donegal, Brian Friel, one of Ireland’s most celebrated playwrights, even wrote about it that “what is on offer is a unique journey along the shores of a lake as grand as any in Switzerland or Minnesota”.
Ireland’s heritage attractions have had a bumper season
A number of top tourist attractions in Ireland have seen strong numbers in terms of visitors in 2016. With our last minute holidays in Ireland offers, you are sure to enjoy these incredible attractions yourself on your visit.
Places such like Loop Head Lighthouse, Cliffs of Moher, Blarney Castle, Fota Wildlife Park, Dublin Zoo and the Guinness Storehouse have seen a great increase in visitor numbers, and the major airports of Dublin, Cork and Shannon have said they will be receiving 100,000 more visitors than the previous year.
For the first time ever, Ireland recorded one million visitors in January and February, a record amount for the winter season.
The huge numbers are being credited to Ireland’s safety as a holiday destination, as people from the UK, the US and Europe are wanting a safer option when travelling abroad.
It is also thought that ‘The Gathering’ initiative has continued its legacy, three years later. The Gathering was aimed to bring those of Irish nationality and heritage who live outside of Ireland to return for organised gatherings and events throughout the year. These events varied from sports events, family reunions and clan gatherings. Those who were unable to visit Ireland during 2013, have made their trips in later years.
The fact that it is heritage attractions that have seen the biggest number of visitors is welcomed by Ireland tourist organisations, as it shows the history and culture of Ireland is what many visitors want to explore in Ireland, as well as the other holiday activities of beach days and water-sports.
With our selection of luxury cottages located throughout the country, your last minute holidays in Ireland
will mean you are sure to visit some of the most popular and amazing attractions during your stay.
Here are just a few of our properties available for last minute breaks!
Romantic spots to see when on holiday in Ireland
As the Autumn months draw near, you might be looking to have a break from the hustle and bustle of work life and have a romantic getaway to Ireland with your other half. We have many romantic cottages in Ireland, which are the perfect place to cosy up together and relax.
When you’re visiting this magnificent country, why not check out some romantic locations too, where you can capture a loved up moment on camera with a stunning backdrop?
Cliffs of Moher, Co Clare
Stretching for five miles looking out to the Atlantic Ocean, the views are simply breath-taking from the top of the Cliffs of Moher, which is the most visited natural attraction in Ireland. You will be able to see the Aran Islands and Galway Bay and the cliff top edge will provide the perfect romantic moment in the wind.
Giants Causeway, Co Antrim
This magical place in Northern Ireland has inspired everyone who visits for decades. The basalt columns are world famous, and you can learn about them from a tour guide or you can go at your own pace and explore the beautiful and legendary location.
Phoenix Park, Dublin
If you’re holidaying at the capital, you don’t want to miss seeing Phoenix Park. Bring along a picnic, rent some bikes or just wander about the expansive park. There is so much to explore in the 1752 acres, from grazing fallow deer, wild flowers, and broadleaf trees to many wildlife habitats. This is an ideal place for a peaceful afternoon.
Glencar Waterfall, Leitrim
Just a stone’s throw away from Glencar Lake, this tranquil spot is the place for a gorgeous end of a walk in the surrounding woods. You will surely see plenty of waterfalls along your route, but Glencar is the most romantic. You can sit with your loved one in the pretty greenery and breathe in the beauty of the Irish countryside.
The ultimate spot for a romantic getaway, the scenery at Gweedore, with the highest mountain in Ireland Mount Errigal in the background is not one to miss. Explore the area on bikes to discover narrow lanes, hidden coves, sandy beaches and further in land you can find fishing lakes to relax by.
Nestled between the counties Tipperary, Clare and Limerick is Lough Derg, by far one of the prettiest lakes in Ireland. On the western side are quaint lakeside villages to explore, and there you can even try your hand at some water activities!
5 of the finest links courses in Ireland
With many of the world’s greatest links courses only open to members and the elite, they often just remain a dream left to the pros. Word is growing, however, of the quality of Ireland’s links courses, which are not only set in some incredible locations but also open to all in many cases. Here are just five of Ireland’s finest.
Royal Portrush, County Antrim
Beginning life in 1888, Royal Portrush’s 18 holes quickly became a sure-fire hit, set on the picturesque coast of Derry-Londonderry. By 1895, the course had already attracted royalty, with the Prince of Wales (later to become King Edward), being named as its patron. Since then, Royal Portrush has seen a whole host of golfing royalty stalk the greens, including Gary Player and Arnold Palmer. In 2019, the course will demonstrate yet more world-class golf when it hosts golf’s oldest Major, The Open.
Waterville, County Kerry
Legendary golf course architect Tom Fazio, who designed the Waterville course, declared the setting as “one of the best I’ve seen for golf”; a notable accolade from a man who has designed over a hundred courses all over the world. After he redesigned the century-old course in 2002, Waterville is now a highly imaginative challenging links course, demanding not only skill and technique but also ingenuity and craft.
Royal County Down, County Down
Regarded by many as the perfect links course, its status as a world-class location was cemented even further when readers of Golf Digest voted it as their No 1 course. Lying beneath the shadow of the Mourne Mountains, the design has been crafted to perfection, with no detail left overlooked across both the Championship and Annesley links.
Lahinch, County Clare
Combining modern touches such as mounting and extra bunkers with classic features like triple-tiered greens, Lahinch showcases both its 120-year history and a fresh and exciting new take on links golf. Described as the St Andrews of Ireland, Lahinch actually comprises of two courses, the Old Course, and the Castle Course, named after the castle ruins found north of the links.
Ballybunion, County Kerry
With its secluded location of the south west coast, Ballybunion remained one of Ireland’s best-kept secrets for many years, until Bill Clinton helped to raise its profile by teeing off there in 1998. Many of the world’s best golfers have now found themselves challenged by Ballybunion, which increases in difficulty as the game goes on right up to the final stretch.
These five courses are just the tip of the links iceberg, however – other notable courses include Portmarnock, Killarney Golf Club, Old Head Golf Links, Ballyliffin and County Sligo Golf Club at Rosses Point. Our cottages in Ireland
can often be found a short distance from many of these courses, making them the perfect place to stay for your golfing holiday.
5 things to consider when taking your four-legged friend on holiday
The annual family holiday is something that we look forward to all year round, the excitement builds in the run up as the calendar counts down to that well-deserved time off. However, the only downside about this time of year is when you have to pop your beloved pooch into the kennels or with a pet sitter to allow you to leave. This could no longer be an issue for you if you decide to stay in one of our dog friendly cottages Ireland
When taking your four-legged friend on holiday there are a few things you will need to consider to ensure that the whole family has some quality time to relax, explore and enjoy each together! Here are the most important things to think about before you leave.
You must ensure to check whether the accommodation you book is dog friendly, they will need to be able to accommodate the needs of your furry friend and be welcoming of your four legged friend. Here at Imagine Ireland, we have many locations available where you can bring along your dog for the adventure, so why not take a look at our accommodation today?
You dog may not need to pack a suitcase in quite the same way you do, however it is important to remember the essentials to keep your pet happy and healthy. Ensure you have enough food and water to last the journey, as well as treats, toys and beds or blankets for optimum comfort - not forgetting a suitable lead and collar. All these things will help them to feel at ease as well as encourage good behaviour!
Before heading out on your holidays, be sure to take your dog to the vets for a check-up. This will help you to be sure that they are well enough to travel, worm and flea free and also offering you a great time to check the details on their micro-chip in-case anything were to happen! Whilst thinking about this topic you may want to take a look at your travel and pet insurance just to be safe and make sure you are all suitably covered.
There are several things you can do to help your pet to settle into the new surroundings quickly, such as taking them for a nice long walk. This will aid them in becoming familiar with their new home, allowing them to stretch their legs after the journey and also give you the chance to explore a little. Getting to grips with the local life in your new holiday home will mean that you get the very best of all there is on offer in Ireland!
Get them involved
When planning a holiday with your pet, you must consider the activities in which you wish to participate, as the dog will not always be able to come along. It’s unlikely that this will restrict you all that much, however it is always worth checking so not to be disappointed. In Ireland there are many beautiful walks and historic journeys to take, where you can immerse yourself in the countryside and feel fully at ease, we’re sure that the dogs will love it all just as much as you!
Here's just a small selection of our dog-friendly cottages!