- Lifestyle & Sports
- 26 Apr 22
A globally celebrated tourist destination, Ireland has a treasure trove of treats for those who choose to holiday at home. With summer upon us and the country back open for business, it’s time to start exploring...
Festival season provides a great excuse to visit parts of the country we wouldn’t normally get to see. Be it the expansive surroundings of Stradbally Hall for Electric Picnic, Curraghmore Estate for All Together Now, or Russborough House near the picturesque Blessington Lakes for the family-friendly Kaleidoscope, we’re spoiled for choice when it comes to majestic festival destinations. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg – and booking a few days around your festival can allow you to enjoy an exhilarating staycation in some of Ireland’s most beautiful locations. Here’s a run-down of some of our top picks...
Nearby festivals: Live At The Marquee, Indiependence, Open Ear, Cork Jazz Festival.
Whether you’ve been grooving through the winding streets at the famous Jazz festival, dancing the night away on Sherkin Island for the Open Ear festival, or have just ventured Leeside for a night at the Marquee, there is plenty more to see and experience in and around the Rebel City.
Where to stay: Nowhere puts you closer to the action than the Grande Dame of Cork City centre, the Imperial Hotel (imperialhotelcork.com). Right in the heart of the new pedestrianised zone, the Imperial Hotel gives easy access to Cork’s bustling shopping districts of Patrick Street and Oliver Plunkett Street, numerous fine restaurants and the city’s famously buzzing nightlife. The Imperial offers an ambience of historical elegance, with spacious modern boutique rooms; the luxury Escape spa; the vibrant Sketch cocktail bar; Cork City’s finest afternoon tea; and more delicious on-site dining options, including Lafayettes Café and Thyme at Seventy-Six on the Mall.
There’s also a special ‘Grace and the Chocolate Factory’ package available, which includes a two-night stay in a luxury room with a delicious birdcage breakfast. For good measure, the package also boasts a sumptuous ‘Grace and the Chocolate Factory’ themed Afternoon Tea; the option of a special ‘Chocolate Wrapsody’ treatment from Escape Spa; and a ‘Golden Ticket’ draw, with the chance to win €1,000 to spend in the Imperial Hotel or their sister property, the Old Ground Hotel in Ennis.
Things to do: The Imperial Hotel also puts you within convenient walking distance of Cork’s famous English Market (corkcity.ie/en/english-market), trading since 1788. One of Europe’s oldest covered markets, it is an integral part of Cork’s food culture, offering fresh, local produce with traditional Cork foods, in addition to an array of international delights. Another opportunity to explore the city’s rich history can be found at Cork City Gaol (corkcitygaol.com). A magnificent castle-like building, which once housed 19th-century prisoners, you can take a trip back in time through the wings of the Gaol, accompanied by the shuffling feet of inmates and the jingle of the wardens’ keys. Only five minutes’ walk from the Imperial Hotel, the Crawford Art Gallery (crawfordartgallery.ie) – the regional art museum for Munster – comprises over 2,000 works, ranging from 18th century Irish and European paintings and sculptures, to contemporary video installations.
Day Trips: Outside of the city centre, Cork is filled with some of the most picturesque and charming seaside towns and fishing villages the nation has to offer. Located right at the beginning of the Wild Atlantic Way, Kinsale is a perfect example, with its fascinating medieval past, beautiful beach, and award-winning restaurants serving up the freshest of seafood. Further down the Wild Atlantic Way, one mile off the coast of the shipping village of Baltimore, Sherkin Island is the ancestral home of the O’Driscoll clan, whose castle lies just above the pier. Nearby, you can also roam the ruins of a 15th-century Franciscan abbey. Another popular day out for all the family is Fota Wildlife Park, one of Ireland’s top ten visitor attractions (fotawildlife.ie).
Nearby festivals: Galway International Arts Festival, Galway Early Music Festival, Westport Folk & Blues Festival.
There’s no better base of operations for a stay out on the Wild Atlantic Way than the City of the Tribes. Vibrant, bohemian Galway has it all. From its rich medieval history and the charming cobbled streets of the Latin Quarter, to coastal getaways at Salthill and access to epic natural scenery, Galway is a unique gem on Ireland’s west coast.
Where to stay: You’ll find the award-winning Connemara Coast Hotel (connemaracoasthotel.ie) just a 10-minute drive from Galway City, overlooking the spectacular shores of Galway Bay. It’s a highly glamorous old-world hotel, boasting exquisite restaurants, award-winning bars and sumptuous decor. Panoramic views of Galway Bay make the Connemara Coast a hit with loved-up couples and solace-seeking singles alike. As well as being one of the few Galway city hotels with a swimming pool and gym, it’s the perfect starting point for walking trails around Spiddal and Furbo.
Things to do: On the banks of the River Corrib and overlooking the famous Spanish Arch, Galway City Museum (galwaycitymuseum.ie) houses an eclectic mix of permanent and touring exhibitions, showcasing the vibrant culture of the region. The museum allows you to explore Galway’s prehistoric and medieval past, and be inspired by the diverse programme of special exhibitions. Galway is famous for its live traditional music and Monroe’s Tavern (monroes.ie), Tigh Neachtain (tighneachtain.com) and The Crane Bar (thecranebar.com) are great places to spend an evening.
Day Trips: It would take years to experience all of the beauty contained in the 2,957 hectares of the Connemara National Park. You will never tire of the spectacular mountains, bogs, grasslands and woodland. Four trails can be accessed from the Visitor Centre, near Letterfrack Village. The centre is open 9am-5.30 pm, from March to October (connemaranationalpark.ie). Other nearby attractions include the Cliffs of Moher and the Burren in County Clare.
Nearby festivals: Forest Fest, Electric Picnic, Fleadh Cheoil.
Located in a perfect spot between the jigs and reels of Fleadh Cheoil in Mullingar, and Ireland’s biggest music festival at Electric Picnic in Stradbally, Tullamore is the ‘Gateway to the Midlands’. Set on the Grand Canal, Tullamore is famous for its whiskey, and the grand, gothic architecture of Charleville Castle. It’s also close to one of Europe’s oldest mountain ranges, Slieve Bloom.
Where to stay: The four-star Bridge House Hotel Leisure Club and Spa (bridgehousehoteltullamore.ie) is located in Tullamore Town centre, giving good access to a multitude of shopping and dining options. With its spectacular entrance and elegant foyer, its grand crystal chandelier and magnificent marble stairway, the Bridge House Hotel is a glamorous base for your staycation – renowned for good food, hospitality and world-class service. It’s also only a short distance from Esker Hills Golf Club (eskerhillsgolf.com), designed by Christy O’Connor Jr and home to 2019 British Open winner, Shane Lowry. Quite simply, Esker Hills is absolute must for golf fans.
Things to do: Tullamore is a thriving town with much to offer. A great way to start your evening would be a spot of fine dining at the Michelin-featured, award-winning Blue Apron Restaurant, less than a five-minute walk from the Bridge House (theblueapronrestaurant.ie). From there, there are few better ways to end your evening than with a couple of drinks at the famous Joe Lee’s, a fourth generation bar, lounge and beer garden in operation since 1896, which is famous for its live music (leesbar.ie). Elsewhere, at the newly opened Tullamore D.E.W. Visitor Centre, you can learn about the world-famous whiskey in an Old Bonded Warehouse on the banks of the Grand Canal. Visitors can also experience Ireland’s only custom-built warehouse snug and discover the art of blending, before savouring three award-winning whiskeys (tullamoredew.com).
Day Trips: Tullamore’s convenient access to the Slieve Bloom Mountains gives the more adventurous staycationer access to fantastic hiking trails, horse-riding, and challenging mountain-biking routes in some of Ireland’s most beautiful countryside. For the more sedate traveller, dotted around the mountains are quaint little villages, where you can step back in time to an era when life moved at a slower pace (slievebloom.ie).
Nearby festivals: Wicklow Chamber Music Festival, The Great Gathering, Beyond The Pale.
A jewel in the heart of Ireland’s Ancient East, Wicklow provides the perfect location to both rest up for a busy festival season and wind down from a weekend of festival excess. With some of the nation’s most spectacular countryside, charming towns, and most popular historic sites, visitors never regret a trip to the Garden County.
Where to stay: Established over 50 years ago, the Wicklow Heather is an award-winning family-run restaurant and accommodation in the centre of Laragh, at the heart of the Wicklow Mountains (wicklowheather.ie). Their luxury guesthouses and private chalets provide opulent and relaxing surroundings in which to unwind on the footsteps of Glendalough, while their fantastic restaurant offers a blend of traditional Irish and continental cuisine, served in a homely and comfortable environment.
Things to do: After a quick trip out to Baltinglass for a delicious brunch of fish tacos with parmesan chips, or a rich slice of vegan chocolate tarte, at the Little Acorn (little-acorn-cafe.clickandcollection.com), you’ll be ready for an afternoon spent exploring the area’s archaeological and historical sites. On the hill northeast of the village lies a passage grave that dates to the stone age. Its outer walls are finished in chalk not native to the area, and on bright days it is said to be visible from Kildare’s Curragh, 48 km away!
Day Trips: Visitors to Wicklow are spoiled for choice when it comes to day trips. It is an area of spectacular natural beauty, steeped in captivating history. One of the nation’s most important historical monastic sites can be found at Glendalough, amongst Ireland’s most awe-inspiring landscapes. From here, you can walk the trails and see panoramic views of Glendalough’s Lakes. Powerscourt Waterfall is one of the most unique places in Ireland. At any time of year, you can watch water cascade down the rocky outcrop of Ireland’s biggest waterfall. It’s a must-see when in County Wicklow.