Get to a festival in Galway

Get to a festival in Galway In summer, it seems like every weekend is host to a fiesta of some sort, whether it’s a ginormous music festival or a tiny village bash. But Galway is the king of festival season – from the summer races to the Film Fleadh, from the September Oyster Festival to the explosion of theatrics, music and art that is the annual Arts Festival. The streets are alive with performance, with illuminated puppetry taking centre stage. There’s a cracking food scene in Galway all year round, so keep an eye out for the April food festival too – NB While you’re at it: Grab a bite […]

Step into the Hole in the Wall, Kilkenny

Step into the Hole in the Wall, Kilkenny The first time I chanced on this offbeat wine bar in Kilkenny, I ended up writing words of Irish on a piece of paper while watching a documentary on George Clooney. The second time, I got chatting to a group of Canadian visitors who had just been playing hurling. It’s that kind of place – and that’s not even starting on the old Tudor building itself, hidden away down one of Kilkenny’s magical medieval alleyways. Dr. Michael Conway is the modest visionary behind this little gem. Stay long enough, and you may forget the rest of Kilkenny entirely

Visit “Craggy Island” & Father Ted’s House, Co Clare

Visit “Craggy Island” & Father Ted’s House, Co Clare It’s hard to believe that more than 20 years have passed since Father Ted burst onto our screens. It’s even harder to find someone who doesn’t have a soft spot for the series, which is why catching a glimpse of the parochial house is such a thrill. The house itself is found alongside several other locations in the Burren (including the Ailwee Caves), and the owners do a lovely cup of tea and cake (€10pp). Superfans can up the ante with a ticket to Tedfest, the annual festival on Inis Mór. It’s mad, Ted – NB While you’re at it: Swap […]

Visit the southern tip of Ireland, Co. Cork

Visit the southern tip of Ireland, Co. Cork When you get to the very bottom of Ireland, at Mizen Head, there’s a bridge across a gorge. On the other side, set on a tiny rocky outcrop above the wild waters of the Atlantic is Mizen Head Signal Station which was home to three light keepers until 1993. The Mizen Centre museum sets the scene but it’s not until you walk down the 99 steps and then get yourself across the bridge that you feel the power of the ocean and the isolation that the keepers must have experienced in times past – YG While you’re at it: Ireland’s most southerly […]

Climb a sea stack off the coast of Donegal

Climb a sea stack off the coast of Donegal New frontiers are hard come by in travel. So when an email lands telling you of a place fewer people have visited than the moon, you take note. Ireland’s sea stacks are among the least-visited nooks in the land, and more than 100 of them sprout from the sea off Donegal. I drove to the edge of the earth to meet the man behind that email (Ian Miller of Unique Ascent), and he took me on a nerve-jangling taster up Berg Stack, near Glencolmbcille. There was zero signal on my phone, but I never felt more connected – PÓC

Patrick Kavanagh Country, Co Monaghan

Patrick Kavanagh Country, Co Monaghan You’ve heard of Yeats Country. You know Joyce’s Dublin. Seamus Heaney is soon to get his own visitor centre in Bellaghy. So why, oh why, is the gorgeously intimate landscape of Patrick Kavanagh’s life and poetry so off-radar? Within a 13.5km walk, cycle or drive from the heritage centre in Inniskeen, you’ll find the poet’s grave (a modest wooden cross), the family homestead, Billy Brennan’s Barn and Inniskeen Road, where the bicycles went by in twos and threes on that eponymous July evening. Monaghan has its magic, all right –   The bicycles go by in twos and threes – There’s a dance in Billy […]

See wildflower season in the Burren, Co. Clare

See wildflower season in the Burren, Co. Clare There’s no landscape quite like the Burren. At one glance it’s lunar and sparse, but peek again and it’s teeming with life. When the wildflowers poke up between the wrinkled rocks (typically in May), it makes for a scene that could have been lifted from a postcard. Continue the floral theme with a visit to The Burren Perfumery, where you can stroll through their herb garden and enjoy a pot of tea. Don’t leave without driving along the Flaggy Shore, reciting Seamus Heaney as you go Postscript by Seamus Heaney And some time make the time to drive out west Into County […]

Stay at Ballyfin, Co Laois

Stay at Ballyfin, Co Laois Ordinary folk may have to sacrifice the kids’ college fund to stay here, but a visit to Ballyfin is a re-immersaion in the golden age of Irish country house hospitality. From the moment staff greet you on the steps of the Regency-era pile to the lavish stuccowork, sumptuous library and butlers who will unpack your luggage, you’ll feel to the manner born. Arguably, it’s Ireland’s finest 21st century restoration – PÓC While you’re at it: Co Cork’s Ballyvolane is another masterful Blue Book bolthole… this one complete with glamping and its own artisan gin

Ride a horse on the beach

Ride a horse on the beach With so many beautiful beaches around our coast, it’s an exhilarating experience to gallop along the water’s edge and feel the salt spray in your hair. If you’re not at that level, fear not – you’ll find beach-riding treks for all ages and experiences. It was while we were trotting on the beach at Murrisk Bay at the foot of Croagh Patrick in Co Mayo on a drizzly day, that, as if the backdrop of the mountain on one side and Clew Bay on the other weren’t enough, a double rainbow appeared. While you’re at it: Climb Croagh Patrick – allow about two hours […]

Go to Glasnevin Cemetery

Go to Glasnevin Cemetery There’s something so quintessentially Irish about Glasnevin Cemetery. Weave between the headstones and your guide will know the intertwining secrets of practically each soul who rests there; the friends who became enemies, the lovers and the arch adversaries now buried a hop from one other. It’s probably the best history lesson you can get in the city – NB While you’re at it: Get nostalgic with a visit to the Little Museum of Dublin, one of the quirkiest museums around.