Tuesday, August 4, 2009

My summer of Irish holidays

In 2006, there were 6,981,000 trips made by Irish people abroad. That means that the average Irish person made nearly two trips abroad that year.

There are no statistics for this year available, but from asking people I found that many who would normally holiday abroad in a resort in Spain or Portugal in the summer were considering holidaying at home instead, as were those who may go abroad more than once per summer.

The reasons for this decrease in overseas travel are fairly obvious, but the opportunity is there for Ireland to capitalise on increased domestic tourism.

This summer I did not go abroad. I stayed and travelled in my own country. Here I offer my views on the various destinations I travelled to around Ireland.


I started out my summer early with a weekend in Galway city in late April. Staying in the lovely (and reasonably priced) Jury’s Hotel opposite the Spanish Arch and overlooking Galway Bay, this was my first ever trip to Galway.

Getting there wasn’t a problem, as the hotel is within 15 minutes of the train station and bus depot. Getting around Galway is easy, with most of the sights within walking distance of the city centre.

Walking along Galway Bay at sunset was a favourite pastime of mine and if you start at the hotel you can take in the Spanish Arch and wonderful views of both the bay an the city of the tribes.

Going out to Connemara is a must. Although many bus companies run buses from the city out to Connemara, I managed to swindle a lift out to Connemara from a relative. Driving out towards Inverin (Indreabhan) and Spiddle (Spideal) we took in great views of the Atlantic coast and the various picturesque villages we passed through.


Since I was a young boy, I, like many Dublin people, have holidayed in Wexford. This year I stayed in the lovely village of Blackwater (midway between Wexford town and Enniscorthy) which is easily accesible through the N11 from Dublin and is a long-time haunt of mine. Although the village suffered a big loss this year when the Blackwater Lodge Hotel shut down, it still retains a few Guesthouses, including the Innishladhru Guesthouse.

The mid-Wexford area is ideal for walking and cycling, and Blackwater features a number of excellent routes. A short walk starting at the side entrance to Etchinghams will take you along the Blackwater river and through a small wood, leaving you on the road to Ballyconnigar Strand. From here you can head on to the beach or back to the village. Canoeing along the Blackwater and down to the sea at Ballyconnigar is also really worth a try.

Wexford is famous for the quality of the beaches in the county, and Blackwater possesses a number of beautiful beaches. Ballyconnigar is the nearest beach, although it is quite rocky. You can continue along the beach for miles, taking in the beaches at Ballyvalloo, Ballinesker (where the D-Day scene in Saving Private Ryan was filmed) and Curracloe. All of these beaches are brilliant for sunbathingn and swimming and all are easily accesible by turning off the main Blackwater – Wexford road.

Wexford town is a 20-minute drive and is a great place for a spot of shopping. The town features a number of sights worth taking in, not least the bridge (the longest bridge in Ireland) going in to the town from the Blackwater road, which goes across the sea. There is also the recently redeveloped Wexford Opera House, Bride St. And St. Iberius Churches, the Highlanes Art Gallery and Cafe, and the wonderful boardwalk along the harbour.


After my trip to the South-East, I headed West again, where I had the fortune of staying in the beautiful village of Mulranny. Mulranny features perhaps the most uniquely beautiful beach I have ever seen. The village proves to be an ideal base for travelling to see Achill or Westport (the nearest train and bus station) which are both around 30 minutes away. The local Mulranny Park Inn once accomodated John Lennon and Yoko Ono, and features a lovely restauraunt and bar.

Achill is a famous destination for tourists, with highlights being the abandoned famine village up a mountain and the beaches and sea-views on the island. A trip to Broadhaven Bay is also recommended, to see the ongoing Shell To Sea protest camp and controversial Shell gas terminal (however the scenery in the bay is truly breathtaking, even if it is somewhat sullied by the sheer amount of security and heavy machinery in the area). Westport is a town also worth a visit, with many of the local beaches ideal for surfing and wind-surfing.


The very mention of “Monaghan” usually brings up memories of Patrick Kavanagh poems learned off in school, or else a different response- “Where?”. For a county so often bypassed on the way North or West, Monaghan has a lot to offer.

I spent a weekend in Dartry wood, which is near the Cavan border (Rockcorry and Cootehill are the nearest towns.) I stayed in the Tanagh Outdoor Education Centre facilities (Tanagh OEC do activity weekends for groups in the area.) Tanagh OEC led us on forest hikes through Dartry wood, and a canoeing trip through the same forest (which also featured impromptu swimming.)

I didn’t manage to see much outside the forest, but the scenery was romantic and truly memorable both in the forest and on the bus home.

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