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Holidays in Ireland

Castles, Caves, Camping, Cycling…So Many Things to do in the Munster Vales

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We cycled, swam, foraged for seaweed and even went axe throwing! We explored castles, caves and a cottage – all while staying in a wonderful eco camp. With 96 attractions and 1,100km of walking trails, check out my top things to do in the Munster Vales.

 

With both of my parents from Tralee, I spent countless summer holidays in Kerry. My brother has been living in Cork for the past 30 years too, so between visits to Cork and Kerry, I reckon that I have driven through the Munster Vales over 200 times. I recall driving through Cahir and seeing Cahir Castle, but never stopping. Mitchelstown Cave was another marker for me – when we passed the sign I knew it would not be long until we reached our destination.
 

 

 
When Munster Vales asked me to spend a weekend enjoying some of its top attractions, I was delighted to see both Cahir Castle and Mitchelstown Cave on the list. The Munster Vales stretches over 1,100km through Cork, Limerick, Tipperary and Waterford and incorporates five different mountain ranges. It is also home to some of the top things to do in Ireland, as well as some hidden gems.  

zipline munster vales ballyhass lakes

Cahir Castle and Swiss Cottage: Cahir, Tipperary

Cahir Castle was our first stop and, contrary to what the song says, it is not a long long way to Tipperary – it is less than two hours from Dublin. Cahir is a delightful town. Located on the banks of the River Suir, with colourful streets, and the medieval Cahir Castle, it was a great start to our adventure in the Munster Vales.

cahir castle tipperary - one of the top things to do in the munster vales
 

 

 
Cahir Castle is one of Ireland’s largest and best-preserved castles. Its location on a rocky island in the middle of the river adds an air of prosperity to the town. The castle fell into the hands of the Anglo-Norman Butler family in the 14th century and, despite many sieges, retains much of its original structure. There are some small exhibitions inside, as well as an audio-visual show, but it was the dining hall that impressed me the most. It is hard not to notice the 10,000-year-old giant elk antlers that grace the far wall as you enter the room. The windows are eye-catching too, and reflect the light beautifully. This medieval room holds traditional music sessions every Tuesday evening – a wonderful experience, I am sure.

 

 
 
 
 
 
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The 2km walkway from Cahir Castle to the Swiss Cottage is a delight in itself, and is the start of the Suir Blueway, a relatively new experience with over 56km of walking trails, 53km of paddling experiences and a 21km cycle route. Swiss Cottage was built in the early 1800s to a design by the famous architect John Nash (of Buckingham Palace fame). It has been beautifully restored and the short guided tour gives a wonderful insight into wealthy lifestyle at that time.

 

 
 
 
 
 
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Nire Valley Eco Camp

We left Swiss Cottage for a short drive to the newly opened Nire Valley Eco Camp, our home for the next two nights. We were warmly greeted by Ruth, Paul and their rescue dog, Milo. As we walked through the meadow to get to our cabin, I knew immediately I was going to like it here. The views of the Comeragh Mountains were spectacular, and all five cabins had acres of space around them – it felt like we had the place to ourselves.

 

 
 
 
 
 
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Our cabin was beautifully furnished with a large comfortable bed and a bathroom with shower and toilet. The kids loved their beds on the mezzanine level. The first thing that struck me was the heat: the cabins were roasting inside. I was interested to learn about how these eco-cabins were built. All of the electricity comes from solar panels, and hot water for showers and heating in winter comes from a biogas gas boiler. Ruth and Paul chose specific locally sourced materials, not only because of their resistance to rot, but they didn’t need any paint or chemicals to preserve them.
 

 

 

 
Another thing that sets it apart from other glamping sites is the breakfast! Ruth arrived every morning with a large picnic basket full of delights. All the foods were locally sourced, with free-range eggs, delicious fruit and hot, freshly baked brown bread. On our second morning Ruth made fresh pancake mix for the kids – just because it was Sunday! We were able to sit outside and enjoy a delicious breakfast in the morning sunshine. It was wonderful – although unfortunately during the month of August the wasps wanted to join us for breakfast too!

 

 
 
 
 
 
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Nire Valley Eco Camp is located near the small town of Ballymacarbry. There are two pubs in the village, but not too many restaurant choices. We dined in the Galileo Cafe in Clonmel, a good family friendly restaurant with a BYOB policy. A little closer to the camp is Hanora’s Cottage. This is a traditional Irish Country House with a restaurant on site and is less than 10 minutes drive from Nire Valley Eco Camp. The room was homely and the food was hearty – they even served potatoes in their jackets! They were nice and floury, just as my Mum would make. They make their own breads, sauces, dressings, chutneys, jams and ice-creams on site, and grow a lot of their own produce. All other ingredients are locally sourced. The seafood chowder and seared Kilmore scallops with Inch House black pudding were both tasty starters, and although main courses were good too, the portion sizes are huge. 

hanoras cottage nire valley munster vales

Nire Valley Eco Camp is ideally located for exploring the Munster Vales. It is only 30 minutes drive from Cahir and just over an hour to our next stop, Ballyhass Lakes in Cork.
 

 

 

Ballyhass Lakes, Mallow, Cork

We had a great time at Ballyhass Adventure Centre – the staff and the facilities are superb. After our nerve- wracking experience at Center Parcs, I don’t know how we managed to get back on another zipline. The staff at Ballyhass Adventure Centre were so encouraging and, well, basically gave us no choice! We had to take a zipline across the lake to try crate-stacking. This was a new activity to me, but was such good fun. Luke and Alex tried it first and then myself and Cormac followed. We had to pile crates on top of each other while tied to high ropes. The object is to try to stack as many crates as possible on top of each other without falling off. Needless to say we didn’t last too long, but we had great fun trying!

crate staking ballyhass lakes
 

 

 
We then spent a little time in the Aquapark, one of the most popular activities available. There are numerous inflatable slides and bouncing castles on the lake, and it is suitable for children age six and upwards. We had the best fun on the ringos though, another first for all of us. We had to hold on to inflatable rings while we were zipped across the surface of the water by a cable at speeds of 25km per hour! 

ballyhass lakes - one of the top things to do in the munster vales with kids
 

 

 
There are over 20 different outdoor activities here, including wakeboarding, kayaking, raft building and high ropes. We also tried axe throwing – another first! I was surprised at how easy it was to hit the target, and it’s a great way to let off steam. Needless to say, this is not suitable for children.

axe throwing munster

You can choose just to use the Aquapark, €20 per hour for adults and €15 for children, or choose various packages with multiple activities. Many require a minimum of eight people so it is best to check with the website before booking.

ballyhass lakes - one of the top things to do in the munster vales with kids
 

 

 

Mitchelstown Cave, Tipperary

The first thing I learned about Mitchelstown Cave, is that they are actually in Tipperary – I always assumed it was in Cork! I was delighted I finally got a chance to visit this landmark that I had passed by so many times. One of Europe’s best showcaves, Mitchelstown Cave is really impressive. The short 30-minute guided tour makes it suitable to visit for both adults and children. Found accidentally by a farmer in 1833, the entrance to the Cave remains in the same spot and tickets are still purchased in the same farmhouse near the cave entrance.

mitchelstown cave munster vales
 

 

 
After descending 88 steep steps, we arrived into the first of three massive caverns. It reminded me of my school days: there were hundreds of stalagmites and stalactites, one of the few things I remembered from geography class! Concerts are held here throughout the year. The superb acoustics and the natural auditorium must ensure a unique experience.

mitchelstown cave one of the top things to do in the munster vales

 

Dungarvan and The Waterford Greenway, Waterford

After a wonderful two nights in Nire Valley Eco camp, it was time to check-out and drive to our next destination in the Munster Vales, County Waterford. We took The Vee drive, a spectacular route that overlooks three counties, valleys and mountain ranges. Despite my constant requests to stop for photos, we still managed to arrive in Dungarvan in time for lunch.

The Vee drive in the Munster Vales
 

 

 
Dungarvan is the foodie capital of Waterford. We dined in 360 Cookhouse, which is located beside King John’s Castle and the WW1 Memorial Wall, in Dungarvan’s culinary quarter. It was the best meal we had throughout our stay. It is extremely family friendly. Mini Connect 4 and Dominoes are supplied at the table to discourage the use of mobiles, and they even allow pets! I would recommend 360 Cookhouse for couples and singles too. The food and service were excellent and the prices were reasonable. I loved the Castletownbere Dressed Crab and Cormac still talks about the Beetroot & Blackwater Gin Cured Salmon Gravalax – and they were just the starters! Our mains were tasty too, as was the Chocolate Crunchie Mousse with Vanilla Ice Cream.

360 cookhouse dungarvan
 

 

 
Dungarvan is the finishing point of the Waterford Greenway. This walking and cycle track stretches for 46km from Waterford City to Dungarvan, and I had wanted to cycle it since it opened in 2017. With two kids in tow, 46km wasn’t an option, so we drove to Durrow and opted for the 10km route back to Dungarvan. We rented our bikes from TheGreenwayman.com in Durrow. Garvan Cummins, the owner, is one of the original campaigners for the Waterford Greenway and also happens to offer some the best rates. Bike-hire is priced at just €15 per adult and €10 per child per day. Some of his competitors charge €25 per day.

 

 
 
 
 
 
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Garvan kitted us out with the correct bikes and cycled with us on the start of our journey, pointing out some of the highlights on the route. This short route from Durrow to Dungarvan is often described as the most picturesque, and it wasn’t long before I could see why. We cycled along Clonea Strand, underneath the Ballyvoyle Tunnel and through a wonderful fairy trail. We also crossed the Ballyvoyle viaduct, which was blown up in 1922 during the civil war. Garvan encouraged us to cycle the opposite direction for about 1km to see the Durrow Viaduct too, as well as the ruins of the Durrow train station. We all really enjoyed our cycle, despite a sudden downpour towards the end. This part of the track is so easy to cycle, we practically glided for about 4km.

 

 
 
 
 
 
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We arrived into Dungarvan feeling extremely satisfied and Garvan was there to meet us to bring us back to Durrow to pick up our car. This is a wonderful service and amazing value for money. 
 

 

 
After a short drive back to Dungarvan, we checked into The Park Hotel for our last night. Although only a 3-star hotel, its convenient location, combined with a leisure centre on site, make it a good option for a family stay. Dungarvan is a pretty town and one I wanted to explore, but we were all pretty tired after the preceding 48 hours, so decided to dine in our hotel that evening. We will have to come back and try some more of its world-class restaurants that I keep hearing about.

the park hotel dungarvan
 

 

 

Copper Coast Geopark

On our last morning we drove another one of Waterford’s scenic drives, the Copper Coast Drive. This stretches along the coast from Dungarvan to Tramore with stunning seascapes, beautiful beaches and over 460 million years of history. Once home to the biggest copper mining industry within the British Empire, this rugged coastline is home to the Copper Coast Geopark, which was declared a UNESCO Global Geopark in 2004.

copper coast drive
 

 

 
We paid a visit to the visitor centre where the kids enjoyed interacting with the augmented reality sandbox – don’t worry I had no idea what it was either! Through the use of technology and software from MIT in Boston, as well as an XBOX 360, this sandbox shows the changes in the topography of the landscape over time. It is the only one of its kind in Ireland! I was fascinated to learn that this visitor centre is primarily a social enterprise – make sure you pay it a visit if you are near the area. 

copper coast geopark visitor centre - munster vales
 

 

 
One of its volunteers, Bruce (originally from Sydney, Australia), brought us to the nearby beaches of Kilmurren and Bunmahon. We went foraging for seaweed and even learned how to use it to make sushi rolls. Bruce was so good with Luke and Alex. They searched rock pools and found crabs, sea anemones and learned all about the sea creatures that frequent our coastline. 

 

 
 
 
 
 
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These tours can be booked on the Copper Coast Geopark website, along with surf lessons and sand art workshops. Don’t miss a visit to the nearby Tankardsown mines too, where you can see the old mine workings and get the best views of the Copper Coast.

things to do in the Munster Vales - copper coast geopark
 

 

 
It was finally time to leave the Copper Coast and the Munster Vales behind. As we drove our short drive back to Dublin, I wondered why I never stopped at some of these places before. I started thinking about how many more of Ireland’s hidden gems have I, and many of us, passed by. Isn’t it time we all explored our home country? With 96 attractions, nine heritage sites and 1,100km of walking trails, the Munster Vales is a good place to start.

 

Thanks to Munster Vales for organising our trip. All views, as always, are my own.

 

Like holidays in Ireland? See more here.

 

Sarah

The Travel Expert Sarah Slattery

Travel

Ten Great New Year’s Eve Hotel Offers in Ireland

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If you’re looking to escape the age old problem of making plans for New Year’s, why not skip all the rigmarole and plan a luxurious escape for yourself. Check out this list of ten great New Year’s Eve hotel offers in Ireland which will hopefully provide you with some inspiration.

 

Every year the same debate always pops up; “what shall we do for New Years?” More often than not, this normally pops up just a couple of days before and everyone is already exhausted from Christmas. Instead of falling into the same traps, why not plan a bit ahead this year? If you look around even now, there are lots of great New Year’s Eve hotel offers in Ireland to be had. The below list aren’t in any particular order, they are all four stars and they are spread all around this beautiful Ireland of ours. Enjoy! 🙂

Treacys Oakwood Hotel – Limerick

Price: €51pp

Shannon is more than just a river! Situated right in the heart of Shannon Town, you will find the charming Treacys Oakwood Hotel. It is just a short spin away from Bunratty Castle and has the fabulous Pierre 17 restaurant where you can enjoy a delicious meal… and a glass or two of wine. 😉

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New Year's Eve Hotel Offers - Treacys Oakwood Hotel

 

Sneem Hotel – Kerry

Price: €58pp

Sneem Hotel is right in the middle of the stunning Ring of Kerry. You will be able to enjoy some breathtaking views and forget about all the hectic madness of the weeks previous. There is a sauna and a steam room where you will be able bring 2018 to a close in style.

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New Year's Eve Hotel Offers - Sneem Hotel

 

Ballina Manor Hotel – Mayo

Price: €54pp

Ballina Manor Hotel is a chic and stylish four-star hotel right in the heart of Ballina. It has a lovely swimming pool on site if you’re looking to take a dip and it’s location means that there is some great bars within walking distance. If you’re on the hunt for a drink and a sing-song, you won’t have to look far!

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New Year's Eve Hotel Offers - Ballina Manor Hotel

Radisson Blu Hotel Letterkenny – Donegal

Price: €68pp

The Radisson Blu Hotel Letterkenny sits just a short walk away from the centre of the extremely colourful town of Letterkenny. Again there is a swimming pool available for patrons to spoil themselves and you will also find Glenveagh National Park just a short drive away.

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New Year's Eve Hotel Offers - Radisson Blu Hotel Letterkenny

 

Shirley Arms Hotel – Monaghan

Price: €70pp

The Shirley Arms Hotel is one of the gems of the midlands. It is a smaller hotel of only twenty-five rooms. That doesn’t mean that it’s not right up there when it comes to luxury. It’s only an hour away from Dublin and Belfast and has an amazing restaurant for those of you who like a bit of fine dining.

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New Year's Eve Hotel Offers - Shirley Arms Carrickmacross

The Beacon – Dublin

Price: €58pp

The Beacon in Dublin is a very trendy hotel that is both as far away and as close to Dublin as you want it to be. It is still only a short spin in a taxi into the centre of town if you’re looking to celebrate in a big way. It’s also just far enough away where you enjoy some intimate alone time with your loved one.

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New Year's Eve Hotel Offers - The Beacon Dublin

Carragaline Court Hotel & Leisure Centre – Cork

Price: €61pp

The Carragaline Court offers a relaxing escape from the stresses of daily life at the best of times. During the holiday season though, its peaceful surroundings will be nothing short of a godsend. Collins Bar should be a nice place to grab some drinks and share a few laughs as midnight approaches.

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New Year's Eve Hotel Offers - Carragaline Hotel & Leisure Centre

Harlequin Hotel – Mayo

Price: €65pp

The Harlequin Hotel in Castlebar is our second offering from the beautiful county of Mayo. It’s boutique design gives off a very modern vibe and it is again just a stone’s throw away from some brilliant bars and restaurants in Castlebar. Dining Room and The PIZZA Bros are two places worth checking out.

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New Year's Eve Hotel Offers - Harlequin Hotel

 

Kingswood Hotel Citywest – Dublin

Price: €77pp

If you’re looking to escape the capital but don’t want to travel that far, you can enjoy a mini getaway in the Kingswood Hotel Citywest. Even a a few kilometers between yourself and home can give you that much needed change of scenery. This hotel is very easy on the eye and has a fantastic reputation, so why not check it out? 🙂

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New Year's Eve Hotel Offers - Kingswood Hotel Citywest

Old Ground Hotel Ennis – Clare

Price: €70pp

I have extremely fond memories of Ennis from my childhood as we would head west every summer for our family holidays. The town just has this infectious charm that undoubtedly goes into overdrive during the holiday season. Experience this charm for yourself in a truly lovely hotel.

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New Year's Eve Hotel Offers - Old Ground Hotel Ennis

Lough Rea Hotel & Spa – Galway

Price: €85pp

The Lough Rea Hotel & Spa is another beautiful four-star hotel that could offer you a peaceful alternative to your local pub. Its lakeside setting is highly romantic and it’s only a short two hour spin from Dublin. Don’t let this one pass you by!

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New Year's Eve Hotel Offers - Lough Rea Hotel & Spa

 

A nice change of pace and a chance to spend some quality time with one of your nearest and dearest is what it’s all about. For all the investments you will probably make over the holiday season, I could guarantee you that a night away in one of the above hotels will be one that you’ll be glad that you made. 🙂

 

Prices are correct at time of issue but are subject to change. Please note that these links are affiliate links where we receive a small commission if a booking is made.

 

Martin McKenna – The Travel Expert Team

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Holidays in Ireland

My Review of Fota Island Resort

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I’m a firm believer that the ultimate family staycation is one that combines a touch of luxury, with activities for children. Fota Island Resort has both in abundance.

 

When I was offered a trip to Fota Island Resort, a five star hotel with a wildlife park next door,  I jumped at the chance! We have enjoyed a Dublin Zoo family pass for many years; we are animal lovers who also happen to be fond of nice hotels, this seemed like the perfect staycation! After a short two and a half hour drive from Dublin we arrived at ‘the island’. I had never really paid much attention to the name before but when we drove into the lavish grounds and arrived at Fota Island Resort, the penny suddenly dropped,  we were in fact on an island! The gardens are superb (more on that later) and first impressions were really good. I couldn’t help but notice the pretty bronzed sculptures throughout the gardens and my daughter Alex was quick to notice them too 😍

We stayed at one of the new Fuchsia lodges, which were outstanding. Just check out my video below and you will see what I mean! The three bedroom lodge (house being more accurate) has a ‘good room’, a massive living area with modern kitchen, and a perfect back garden for the kids to roam around. Upstairs all three bedrooms are ensuite and two have walk in wardrobes! There is also a balcony off the master bedroom with views across the grounds. Rabbits were constantly bouncing around the garden so when the kids weren’t outside chasing them, the balcony was a great viewing point!


I was conscious that there are only six of these available for rent so I made a point of looking at the Courtyard Lodges too. I was really impressed with these also and they also have the advantage of are also beside a great outdoor playground. I was thinking how handy it would be to relax in your lodge while the kids played happily beside you.

fota island resort

The Fota Island Resort hotel  has a warm cosy feel, with dark bog oak furniture in large lounge areas. Personally I preferred the bright modern décor of the lodges, but I couldn’t help but think that it would be fantastic at winter time, especially with the log fire blazing ❤. I also investigated the hotel rooms and found them bright and spacious with modern decor. Fota Island Resort offers great facilities for children including a kids club and an indoor swimming pool. My kids loved the pool, however we didn’t have time to try the kids club on this occasion. During school holidays the Fota Camp operates daily for children aged 4-12 and there is also an adrenaline adventure centre for children aged 8 and over. Children will love the obstacle course and can try kayaking, learn about bush craft and lots more. Budding golfers will love their golf camp – suffice to say there are camps to cater for all children. We enjoyed tasty meals in the bar and Fota Restaurant, although perhaps not five star standard, but they offered an excellent kids menu. I noticed many groups of girls enjoying afternoon tea so I asked how they were getting on. They had booked a spa package which came with this incredible array of food. It seems Fota Island Resort is not just ideal for families!

fota island resort

I mentioned the lavish grounds earlier and thankfully on our last morning I look the opportunity to walk around them. There are numerous walking trails from 2.5km to 7km, each one was better than the next. You can walk through woods, along the golf course (did I mention there is a championship golf course here?) and along the waters edge. I spotted wildlife at every turn, red squirrels, rabbits and exotic birds; along with, I was told, the finest collections of rare trees and shrubs to be found in Ireland. Children will love the new Fota fairy trail, that has over 20 magical Fairy Doors hidden throughout the woods.  You can also choose to walk the 1.7km to the wildlife park, but with two young kids in tow, we decided to drive. After a few short minutes we were at Fota Wildlife Park.

fota island resort

We were only in the park a few minutes when my son spotted a peacock roaming around. This set the tone for the entire day. Everywhere we looked there were animals roaming free, it was so refreshing to see. My son was re christened ‘the spotter’ because he constantly spotted animals hiding in nearby hedges. There were wallabies hopping through the parkland and lemurs scampering up trees. We planned our visit around the Cheetah’s feeding time and seeing them run at an incredible speed was quite special. My son, Luke (9) was mesmerised. After the cheetah ‘show’ we strolled pass the numerous giraffe and bison and arrived at the Asian sanctuary ,where lions and tigers were happy to meet us.

The 100 acre park is very easy to navigate and it wasn’t long before we were at the lakeshore. This was our highlight. We got up close and personal with kangaroos and lemurs as well as the hundreds of friendly birds, ducks and geese. They even have a food dispenser (50cent). The kids loved feeding the birds and geese, the odd peck added to the excitement. The kangaroos are so used to visitors you can easily stand right beside them and get some amazing photographs. After a three hour visit we decided to hop on the train back to the entrance. It only costs a €1 so if you have tired children, this is a Godsend. We all loved the wildlife park, in fact I have already been asked when we are going back.

Fota Island Resort also has the luxury of being only minutes from the pretty Cork town of Cobh. Famous for being the Titanic’s last port of call in 1912, you can’t help but fall in love with this historic town. Take a the Titanic experience tour or have lunch in the Titanic bar. There is also a heritage centre and museum. If you fancy a boat trip, take a trip to Spike Island and explore the fortress that held 2300 prisoners. The town itself is pretty with lots of shops, bars and restaurants and the colourful streets are an instagram favourite.

I would highly recommend Fota Island Resort for a family break away. The proximity to Cobh and the Fota Wildlife park combined with a luxurious family friendly hotel and excellent lodges, make for a truly memorable holiday.

 

For more information visit FotaIsland.ie

Check out Ireland Before You Die for more information on things to do with kids in Cork

 

Like holidays in Ireland? Read more here.

 

Sarah

The Travel Expert

Holidays in Ireland

10 Photos That Will Make You Want To Visit the Causeway Coast Right Now!

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Despite living close to Antrim, I only visited the Causeway Coast for the first time this year. We had rain for the first two days but that didn’t matter. In fact I think it made some of the images more dramatic! Here are 10 photos that will make you want to visit the Causeway Coast.

 

1. The Giants Causeway

I felt like I was at the edge of the world at the Giants Causeway. You will be surprised at how people step aside, so it is possible to get the perfect photo!

Causeway Coast

2. Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge

The Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge is a must do when on the Causeway Coast. The turquoise sea and the stunning views are incredible, regardless of weather!

3. Dunluce Castle

This 14th century  Dunluce castle was the inspiration for the castle in C.S. Lewis tale of Narnia – need I say more?

Causeway Coast

4. A ‘wee’ Ulster Fry

Take the morning Ballycastle Food Tour and enjoy the perfect start with the perfect breakfast – ‘A Wee Ulster Fry’ – at the Bay Cafe, Ballycastle.

causeaway coast

5. Fair Head Drive

Just a few miles from Ballycastle – the Fair Head drive is perfect for a road trip. Steep hills, winding roads and perfect sea-views.

Causeway coast

6. Typical Irish Images.

This one was taken along the Fair Head drive but images like this are all over the Causeway Coast!

Causeway coast

7. Bushmills is here!

The Causeway coast is home to the town of Bushmills. Take the whiskey tour in the Old Bushmills Distillery, have lunch or overnight in the cosy Bushmills Inn and have a delicious dinner at Tartine Restaurant, in the Distillers Arms.

causeway coast

8. Aerial view of Ballycastle

Voted the best place to live in Northern Ireland for the past two years, this coastal town is the perfect base to enjoy the Causeway Coast. Enjoy the sandy beach, cliff walks and many great restaurants.

9. The Best Seafood Chowder you will ever taste!

After a mornings outdoor pursuits pop in to the Central Wine Bar, Ballycastle for some amazing seafood chowder!

causeway coast

10. The Dark Hedges

No visit would be complete to ‘Game of Thrones’ country without a visit to the Kings Road.

causeway coast

For visitors information visit  the Causeway Coast and Glens or DiscoverNorthernIreland.com

 

Like my pics? Follow me in Instagram to see more!

 

Sarah

The Travel Expert Sarah Slattery

 
Holidays in Ireland

West Cork to Kerry along the Beara Peninsula

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Whilst I do love a trip abroad, there is also something special about a ‘staycation’ in Ireland. When Chill Insurance asked me to write about my favourite #HiddenDrive, it was an easy task. From West Cork to Kerry along the Beara Peninsula is, in my opinion, one of Ireland’s best road trips.

 

After a recent stay in Bantry, county Cork, we decided to do a little exploring with the kids.  My husband and I had not taken a road trip from Bantry to Kenmare since before we were married, so it was about time we returned to one of Ireland’s best #HiddenDrives.

Taking the N71 from Bantry for a twenty minute spin will see you into Glengarriff, right in the heart of west Cork. Glengariff is known by locals as ‘the Natural Meeting Place’. On the Beara peninsula, a town of approximately 800 inhabitants, it can get very crowded in peak season. The popular Eccles hotel is a magnet for tourists, it is a great place for lunch with sea views. We took the short ferry ride to Garnish Island which I would highly recommend. Renowned for its beautiful gardens, it also boasts a Martello Tower which offers stunning views of the bay from the top. The kids loved it too.

Road Trip from West Cork to Kerry along the Beara Peninsula

Once back on the road, we left Glengarriff, turning onto the R572 and drove south west along the Beara Peninsula. An hour (and about 50 kilometres) later we reached the fishing village and sailors favourite, Castletown Berehaven. Also known as Castletownbere, it is the principle town along the Beara Peninsula, two and half hours from Cork city. A little known fact, Castletownbere is the second largest natural safe harbour in the world. If you have the time, you must visit MacCarthy’s Bar. Genuine and original with groceries on sale in the front of the premises and a bar to the rear. It also won Irish pub of the year in 2016, so that’s as good an excuse as any to pay a visit! Much to my husbands dismay, we did not stop and kept driving. We were only about seven kilometres from Allihies, Co. Cork. Pulling into Allihies, we were now as far away by road from home as we could be! Allihies is 394kms from Dublin making it the furthest village in Ireland from the capital. Just some more trivia for you! 🙂

Road Trip from West Cork to Kerry along the Beara Peninsula

It was time for lunch and we chose O’Neills Bar in Allihies, famous for its ‘warm atmosphere and delicious local food’. Once inside, you feel instantly welcome with an open fire, piano and old photographs, creating a homely atmosphere. The sun had decided to make an appearance so we ordered food and opted to sit outside. You are pretty much on the roadside as you sit on the wooden benches. We had soup and toasted sandwiches, crab salads and the kids tucked into fish and chips. If you have time, try the restaurant upstairs too. They will never admit to it but O’Neills is possibly one of the most iconic bars along the Wild Atlantic Way and has featured on posters worldwide promoting Ireland as a holiday destination.

Road Trip from West Cork to Kerry along the Beara Peninsula

Next stop Eyeries, a village renowned for the bright pastel paintwork of its terraced houses and the sweeping views of the Beara Peninsula. Eyeries is one of those places that demands you to stop, grab a camera and walk for a while. Overlooking Coulagh Bay and the Atlantic ocean beyond, Eyeries is a place where you can let the sound and smell of the ocean take your thoughts. Here we walked the beach and did a little beachcombing before the final push to Kenmare and our next overnight stop.

Road Trip from West Cork to Kerry along the Beara Peninsula

Most people might take the direct route from Eyeries to Kenmare along the R571 but we knew better. Driving north out of Eyeries, past the post office, take the coastal road to Kilcatherine for the most breathtaking scenery. You will drive through Ballycrovane. This small fishing harbour also offers spectacular views of Coulagh Bay. Continuing on the road you will arrive at Kilcatherine and then head back towards the R571 to Kenmare. As you drive, look left out to sea were you will see the world heritage and monastic site of Skellig Michael and Little Skellig Rock in the distance. Perhaps more famous of late for being the reclusive home of Jedi Knight Luke Skywalker in Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

Road Trip from West Cork to Kerry along the Beara Peninsula

 

Leaving the Kilcatherine coastal road behind us we rejoined the R571 and made our way to Kenmare in Co Kerry, crossing the county border between Cork and Kerry, just north of Ardgroom. The road is mostly along the coast and can be precarious in places but breathtaking at the same time. It was only about 40 kilometers to Kenmare but the last leg of our Beara Peninsula adventure took a little over an hour to complete before we made it to our hotel.

Road Trip from West Cork to Kerry along the Beara Peninsula

The total journey from Bantry to Kenmare via this amazing drive is about 175 kilometers and should only take you about three and half hours to do without stopping. However in my opinion, you will need a full day to do it properly. Stop for coffee, stop for lunch, tour the villages, listen to the ocean and give your head peace.

So there you have it, my favourite #HiddenDrive is from west Cork into south Kerry along the Beara Peninsula. Whatever you do, don’t rush it, take your time and Chill.ie. 😉

 

This post was sponsored by Chill Insurance.

 

Like holidays in Ireland? See more here.

 

Sarah.

The Travel Expert Sarah Slattery

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