Staying put and rediscovering our own gorgeous country is to 2016 what Full Moon parties in Thailand were to 2008; the thing to do. With the last month of summer fast approaching and a bank holiday weekend on our hands, we’re in the mood to hit the open road around this stunner of an island, where a wealth of awesome staycation options are waiting. Here we map out The Travel Two’s pick of the best.
1. For the explorer who appreciates some glam
Take thee to Donegal. Here’s our ideal itinerary: Walk to the top of Ireland’s highest cliffs – Slieve League – and eat ‘Ireland’s best ice cream’ from the van at the summit. Unbelievable spot. The views are mind-blowing. Top tip: Don’t take the boat that sails below the cliffs; the view from the summit is SO much better and free! 2-hours north of Slieve League you’ll find Portsalon, here you can stay in a Yurt at Portsalon Glamping followed by a surf lesson on Donegal’s famous surf coast the following morning (included in cost of stay). You could also catch the Tory Ferry from Magheraroarty to spectacular Tory Island and meet Patsy the King of Tory. He is a living legend! Tell him we sent you.
2. For those who want to do nothing but chill
One of the most incredible (and affordable, hurrah!) B&Bs we’ve ever stayed in is Temple House. We’d literally come here for the breakfast alone (please, please eat ALL of Roderick and Helena’s homemade granola for us! It’s DIVINE.) because sometimes holiday breakfasts are enough of a draw, right? It’s super chilled, there’s sheep roaming freely, they’ve got a big open fire where you can blissfully roast your toes off and they operate an honesty bar which for us is as cool as it gets. The service is second to none; these guys are warmth personified. It’s also steeped in history with the most amazing castle ruins on the grounds. What’s more, you can paddle board up the lake out the back to an eagle sanctuary! In a word, unreal.
3. For the nature lover
Bosca Beatha is one of Ireland’s coolest mobile experiences. It’s a sauna that travels around the country stopping off at various incredible points near the sea and lots of inland lakes too. The idea here is that you book an hour slot (€10) and dip in and out of the sea or lake and back into the sauna multiple times. Check in on their Facebook page to see where they will be on your weekend of choice (they don’t update too far in advance) and then plan the rest of your trip around it. A truly unique experience. Pick up a little pot of Shirley (the owners) homemade nettle pesto while you’re there too!
4. For the yogi
The Burren Yoga retreat is arguably Ireland’s best; the views alone will ‘zen’ the hell out of you. They do lots of flexible retreats so you’ll always find something that works for you. If it’s the bank holiday you’re after, they run a Friday to Monday retreat every bank holiday weekend of the year. Be prepared for 7am starts and a chance to digitally detox.
5. For the islander
If you take the phrase ‘get away from it all’ super seriously, venturing to Inis Meain will do the trick and with this hotel, you’ll struggle to ever return home. We can’t quite put into words how stunning this experience will be but if the stress levels have been soaring lately just stop what you’re doing and book it. From here you could take the short trip by boat to Inis Mor to visit the famous Serpent’s Lair or Dun Aonghasa. In the opposite direction you’ll find Inis Oirr, the smallest of the three Aran Islands, and the only one to boast no street lights, one newsagents, 3 pubs and a population of 250. Plus if you’re lucky you’ll meet Dusty, Inis Oirr’s resident dolphin!
6. For the mountaineer
Driving through the Kerry mountains is always an awe-inspiring experience, but taking it one (or, erm, several) steps further by climbing Carrauntoohil is rather life-changing. The views are obviously spectacular on a clear day. We recommend a stay at the Purple Heather B&B or The Brehon hotel if the thoughts of a post-hike spa treatment motivate you to the top. The next day, roam around Killarney National Park and let your Instagram nature shots go WILD.
7. For the ultimate foodie
The Dingle Food Festival, taking place this year from September 30th to October 2nd. Dingle is one of our favourite places in Ireland; it has SO much to offer and their food festival would rival the world’s best, but with added banter, of course, because everyone is beyond sound and music is very much a part of the proceedings. Plus, you only spend money on what you buy so no costly entry fees for the luxury of breathing the festival air *eye roll*. Most of the events are free of charge and it’s all run by volunteers and not for profit. With a taste trail in over 60 outlets, we reckon you’ll want to pack those Joey-style Thanksgiving pants from Friends. The area has plenty of holiday rentals, B&Bs, and hotels, so finding somewhere decent and affordable to stay will be a walk in the park. We love The Rainbow Hostel (no critters) but a gaff rental between a group of pals will no doubt wind up just as cheap.
8. For the cyclist
When you complete a scenic cycle, chances are you’ll crave a hot, refreshing shower, but why stop there? Why not finish off with a dip in a natural seaweed bath? A weekend in Strandhill Sligo ticks all of our staycation boxes (we know; we use the word ‘unreal’ a LOT but it suffices every damn time!). Read all about the incredible bike to bath experience here and add it to your bucket list.
9. For the brewery enthusiast
Lots of what we’ve featured here is about rest and rejuvenation with a side order of nature, but if you want to really get loose, this 5-day craft beer trail along the Wild Atlantic Way will make for the perfect balance between having the craic and getting your culture on. If 5 days sounds a little excessive, they also operate a 3-day tour along the copper coast Co.Waterford. Incredible food, scenery and, yes, beer.
10. For the stargazer
Nothing beats the glass domes on Finn Lough in county Fermanagh. Sitting in your own bubble house with your every need catered for as the stars twinkle peacefully above you? Nope; we doubt that could ever be topped. Just look at the photos. Can you feel yourself unwinding already?