Exciting times are ahead!
We’ve finally been let loose to travel inter-county and we’re all rearing to go. We’ve been cooped up for ages in our 5k, slowly going nuts as we walked the same routes and saw the same things again and again. But now that we’re free, how can we tell where the best places are to take advantage of this freedom?
Travel writer and mum Sara Slattery has done all the scoping out for you!
Her Instagram page and blog ‘The Travel Expert’ is full of her adventures over the years, as well as all her tips and tricks for when you get there. She’s travelled the length and breadth of this country and many others, discovering small and pretty villages as well as hidden gems in city centres and compiled them all on her blogs to help you to travel better.
Published in many major media outlets, Slattery is the expert on all things Irish travel, and we’ve picked out her top Irish spots worth visiting and her expert advice on how to make the most of the journey!
Doolough Valley Co. Mayo
‘Throwback to one of my favourite drives in Ireland - from Louisburgh to Leenane through Doolough Valley. It’s one of the many #hiddengems in Ireland.’
There’s an almost mystical quality to Doolough Valley, with it’s peaceful lakes nestled amongst the towering, majestic mountains. Along the Wild Atlantic Way, it has an untouched feeling to it that belies its history.
You’ll come across the memorial erected to the victims of the ‘Doologh Tragedy’ in the form of a cross at the northern end of the valley. It commemorates that the desperate famine-era population of Louisburgh who died on the journey to Delphi Lodge to seek assistance and food. Most died of hunger on the return journey.
Ticknock Forest, Co. Dublin
‘Lucky to have Ticknock forest so close to home. For anyone putting off a trip because of the parking, we went at 12 today and it was great. We missed the early risers (really busy in the mornings), and the afternoon strollers!’
Ticknock has a little bit of everything, from forest walks to mountain hikes. Offering spectacular views of Dublin city all the way to the Wicklow mountains, there’s a walk for every level. The forest walks are thoroughly manageable, with the Fairy Castle walk being a particular favourite amongst visitors.
Silver Strand Beach, Co. Mayo
‘Throwback to a gorgeous beach I discovered in #Mayo this summer - this was taken in July and it was virtually empty. I think we are going to flock to the beaches as soon as we can travel again, so with that in mind I've published a new post on my top picks on places to stay along the Wild Atlantic Way.’
A popular beach among locals, Silverstrand is as of yet, fairly untouched. Located between Salthill and Barna, you can visit both villages – which offer plenty of attractions – on your way. Great for view right across Galway Bay, the sandy beach is safe for swimmers and a good spot for a walk.
Loughshinny Beach Co. Dublin
‘Thanks to all of you who recommended the cliff walk at Loughshinny, we had another great day out in Dublin. We only did the short, easy loop, (spent too much time taking photos!), but you can walk all the way into Rush, which I'm told takes about 2 hours…
One of the things I loved about this walk was how quiet it was, there were so few people there. If you fancy a quiet, socially distanced, easy walk, then it's perfect. We also got lucky by getting an outside table in the heated terrace at the @gourmetfoodparlour in Skerries, it's only 10-minute drive from Loughshinny. It was the perfect end to a perfect day.’
Next to the small village by the same name in Fingal, Loughshinny beach is known for the Martello Tower that dots its coastline and the stunning rock formations along the coastal walk. Situated between Skerries and Rush, it’s a popular walking spot with visitors.
‘I finally got around to cycling the #waterfordgreenway - can’t believe it’s taken me this long! We loved it, it’s a great family experience and even young kids could do it, the paths are so smooth. We practically glided for 4km. We started in Durrow and got our bikes from Garvin, The GreenwayMan.com (not on Insta). He was one of the main campaigners to get the Greenway introduced and he only charges €15 per day, most charge €25! We cycled from Durrow to Dungarvan and saw viaducts, seaviews, tunnels and fairy doors! It’s a great route to take, 10km but manageable for anyone who can cycle, even young kids. Would highly recommend it for anyone to try, the scenery is spectacular - the easiest exercise I’ve ever done!’
What used to be a famously stunning railway line has been converted into an utterly scenic walking and cycling route of about 45km long. With both coastal and inland scenery to take your breath away, it stops off at the famous Mount Congreve Gardens, the Durrow, a 7-arch Viaduct, the Ballyvoyle brick-lined tunnel and the lovely town of Dungarvan, with its stunning views across Dungarvan Bay.
Keem Bay, Achill Island, Co Mayo
‘If you go to Keem Beach on Achill Island (which you definitely should btw - the water really is that colour), make sure you take the time to climb the 40 minute hike to the top of the mountain behind it. Thanks to all of you who recommended this, the views are spectacular.’
Another ‘untouched gem’, Keem Bay can be found at the western end of Achill Island. Relatively uninhabited, it’s beyond picturesque because it can be hard to get to, accessible via a twisting clifftop route on the side of Croaghaun mountain. The sandy beach is flanked by cliffs that feature stunning views form the cliff walks along the island’s coastline.
War Memorial Gardens, Kilmainham, Co. Dublin
‘If, like us, you are living in Dublin and looking for somewhere outdoors to visit, check out the War Memorial Garden's in Island Bridge, near Kilmainham. They are free to enter, with plenty of wide open spaces, beautiful gardens and monuments. They are also an ideal picnic spot, you might see the UCD rowers practising in the canal. They are dedicated to the memory of the 49,400 Irish soldiers who died in the First World War.’
Among the most famous memorial gardens in Europe, they commemorate the Irish Soldiers lost between 1914 and 1918 in World War I. Their names are inscribed in the granite bookrooms. The gardens are extensive and lush, making it a beautiful spot to stop by any time of year.
Castlecomer Discovery Park, Co. Kilkenny
‘Horse riding in @mountjulietestate in the morning and flying down Ireland's longest zip line in the afternoon - all in a day's work. Believe me when I tell you jumping off that ledge (or having to be pushed in my case) was not easy! @castlecomer_discovery_park is a fantastic park, 80 acres of woodlands, lakes and so much to do for kids of all ages, paddle boats, tree top walks, archery, - a must visit with kids. I would even say take a day trip from Dublin if you are not staying in Kilkenny, it's worth it! I love that it's a non-profit too, go support them.’
Set in the former grounds of the Wandesforde Estate, Castlecomer Discovery Park comprises of 80 acres of stunning natural woodland and lakes. It began as a community project to rejuvenate the town of Castlecomer following the closure of the coal mines in 1969.
This relatively ‘young’ park opened to the public in 2007 with the launch of the Coal Mining Exhibition, Visitor Centre and Design Craft studios which are located in the former stable yard. The Park continues to evolve and is actively developing a range of exciting recreational, cultural and educational activities for visitors of all ages.
Copper Coast Drive, Co. Waterford
‘I was really surprised by the #coppercoastdrive in Waterford. Make sure you stop off at the #coppercoastgeopark too, it is a non-profit, social enterprise and they offer great insight into the local area. They also offer surf lessons and seaweed and rockpool exploration tours - which we really enjoyed…It’s one of those rare activities that suits adults and children.’
Featuring panoramic views and incredible clifftop scenery, this stretch of land between Dungarvan and Tramore is known as the Copper Coast. Dotted with beautiful seaside resorts and pristine beaches like Clonea and Bunmahon, the area is still relatively unknown amongst Irish tourists.
Arthurstown, Co. Wexford
'It was my first time to visit Arthurstown, the village next to @dunbrodyhouse_ireland in Wexford. I am always amazed when I come across these pretty country towns in Ireland and wonder how I haven’t seen them before. I thought I had seen a lot of my home country but last weekend just proved to me how much more I have to see.'
Small, seasidey and utterly pretty, Arthurstown is a beautiful base from which to explore south county Wexford. The picturesque village is near the breathtaking Hook Peninsula which features a dramatic coastal walk, lighthouse and plenty of gorgeous historical sites like Tintern Abbey, Loftus Hall and Dunbrody Abbey.