You will you will you will - Ireland for St Patrick's Day and beyond
Tis St Patrick’s Day on Monday! Possibly, the date could be shifted each year so that it always falls on a Saturday, giving a full two evenings of celebrations and a day in which to recover/sort laundry before another week begins.
Or, one could celebrate all things Irish all year round, picking a different place to visit every month or two, and filling in the time between by perfecting one’s champ recipe (add more butter), disowning Jedward and learning how to play the bodhrán. Yep, that sounds doable.
As it’s already Thursday, we’d like to raise you an early glass for St Patrick’s birthday – and share a few of our top picks on what to do in Ireland this spring, summer and forevermore:
Nerd out at Newgrange
Newgrange , a 5000 year old Stone Age tomb and probable temple in Slane, is ‘Ireland’s national monument’ and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s a rocking four hundred years older than its more famous cousin Stonehenge and is one of Ireland’s most popular tourist attractions – we very much dig it. Pick up a ticket at the Brú na Bóinne Visitor Centre to see the stones; the price also includes a potter around the 300 or so stones at Knowth, the largest group of Megalithic art in western Europe.
Slane Farm Hostel is less than two kilometres from Slane and on the doorstep of Slane Castle. Guests can pick up free-range eggs for their Irish breakfast or pick produce from the park’s vegetable plots. Pitches start from £17 for tents and motorhomes and include an awning, gazebo and pup tent. The park is open now.
Also in Co Meath
Trim Castle , the biggest Norman castle in Ireland and the shooting location for Braveheart
The Hill of Tara , ancient seat of Ireland’s kings
Bikes and books in Dublin
If you’re staying at Slane, Dublin is only about 45 minutes’ drive away: we recommend a day trip cramming quite a few things in via a Dublinbike, then coming back to peaceful ancient countryside.
If we thought for too long about picking just one thing to do in Dublin we’d get as confused as when we tried to read Finnegans Wake, so we shall hastily say that the Dublin Writers Museum is a worthy place to leaf into Ireland’s voluminous literary history, with info on Joyce, Yeats, Shaw, Beckett, Stoker and other scribblers. The museum has a specialist bookshop to pick up tomes by all, although the weighty Ulysses and Finnegans Wake might be better carried about on Kindle.
Also in Dublin
Deer, gigs, monuments and Dublin Zoo at Phoenix Park
The Little Museum of Dublin on St Stephen’s Green: award-winning museum on Dublin’s people, with a tourist greeter programme described by the Sydney Morning Herald as ‘the best free thing to do in Europe’.
Act out in Galway City
Gorgeous gorgeous Galway…festival country, Ireland’s cultural heart and the home of the country’s biggest festival, the Galway Arts Festival over two weeks in July. In 2013, the festival had 190 performances mixing local, Irish and international theatre, music, literature, comedy and visual arts; in 2014, it's more of the same, with one of the main highlights the world premiere of Enda Walsh’s new play Ballyturk, starring Cillian Murphy and Stephen Rae. At this pre-Paddy’s Day time of writing, Ballyturk is the fastest selling show in the festival’s history, so get in sharpish if you’d like to go.
Where to stay
Alternate days at the festival with days at the beach and bunk down at Clifden Eco Beach Camping and Caravanning Park , ‘nearly wild’ camping at Connemara’s capital, set among the sand dunes with views of the Atlantic, a private park beach and private fishing points. Pitches for tents, tourers and motorhomes start from £17, and the park is open now.
Also in Co Galway
Tedfest : you will you will you will...
Wildlife spotting and island hopping at Lough Corrib , the Republic of Ireland’s largest lake
Fish for salmon on the Shannon
Fisher folk come from all over the world to land salmon from the Shannon, Ireland’s longest river. Of its 160-mile route, the Lower Shannon (from Shannonbridge to the sea) is the most prolific salmon spot, especially at the Castleconnell, Meelick fisheries, Plassey and Long Shore fisheries. Trout fishing (sea and brown) is also popular on the Shannon, and there are shoals of spots for coarse fishing to land pike and other scaly specimens.
Where to stay
The Shannon runs through several Irish counties including Roscommon, Cavan, Clare, Galway and Westmeath. To combine a fishing trip with Ireland's most visited natural attraction and a place that made us vow we'd park a campervan under, like, forever, head coastwards to Co Clare’s Doolin Riverside Caravan and Camping Park , a small family site near the simply stunning Cliffs of Moher; we are still awed out. Grass and hardstanding pitches with optional electric are available now and start from £16.16.
Also in Co Clare
Walking the East Clare Way
Puffins and the lighthouse at Loop Head Peninsula
Bunratty Castle & Folk Park medieval fortress
Romance the stone in Co Cork
It’s one of the more clichéd aspects of Irish tourism, but a visit to the Blarney Stone at Blarney Castle is always a hoot to see eloquence-seeking tourists hang upside down to snog a rock. The much-visited Blarney Stone is of course where politicians, statespeople, writers, actors and mere mortals have bent backwards at for a couple of centuries, hoping to be bestowed with the sought-after gift of the gab. Recent politicians do not appear to have completed the ritual.
Where to stay
Blarney Caravan and Camping Park is just 8km from the Blarney Stone and has pitches for tents, tourers and motorhomes from £18.16. It opens on 1 April and is available to book now.
Or talk your other half to Co Cork glamping at Top of the Rock Pod Páirc and Walking Centre (try saying that after several pints of Guinness) among nine miles of walking trails near Cork’s west coast: standard, family and luxury camping pods here start from £33.17 – £50.18 and the park is open now.
Also in Co Cork
The English Market , described by Rick Stein as ‘the best covered market in the UK and Ireland’
Thursday night tours at Cork City Gaol
Tee off in Donegal
Like ‘things to do in Dublin’, it’s a toughie to declare a top golf course or county in Ireland, but we’re going for Co Donegal here for its links courses among dunes and on long beaches – and also because it has what’s been called Ireland’s most challenging course in wind (there might be slight wind if you're staying on Ireland's Atlantic coast side. Bring hair stuff/comb in day pack/pocket). The 36-hole Glashedy Links at Ballyliffin is also Ireland’s most northerly golf course (that might explain the wind) and hosted the North West of Ireland Open in 2002.
And, while it’s a bit of a drive away at 60 miles, a golfing holiday in Donegal means you can also swing across the border for a day and tee off at the very viewsome Royal Portrush Golf Club in N Ireland, former host of the British Open. Teehee.
Where to stay
Corgreggan Mill near the coast is open now and has hardstanding electric pitches for motorhomes from £25.51 for up to four people; one dog can stay for free.
Glampwise, Portsalon Luxury Camping (open 3 May and available to book now) is next to the village of Portsalon, where – surprise – you’ll find another acclaimed golf course with acclaimed views. Book a yurt for up to four from £59.53 with gas, electricity and parking for two cars included.
Also in Co Donegal
Surf at Bundoran : the town has four surf schools, including Ireland’s biggest, with lessons for all abilities
Tory Island : not, alas, a place to harangue politicians, but a tiny island off Donegal's north-west coast
Climb the Donegal sea stacks , including the highest in Ireland, Sturrall Ridge (one of a dizzying 2800 recorded Donegal rock climbs)
Irish festivals for spring and summer
Clifden Traditional Music Festival , 10 – 13 April, Co Galway
Galway Garden Festival , 5 – 6 July, Galway Castle
West Cork Literary Festival , 6 – 12 July, Co Cork
A Taste of Donegal Food Festival , 22 – 24 August, Donegal
Galway International Oyster and Seafood Festival , 25 – 28 September, Galway