My internet search history at the moment is hugely predictable: "easy dinner ideas"; "short movie ideas"; "how to cut your own hair" (a constant temptation) and "places to visit in Ireland". The last one in the list is something I am now in an eternal state of excitement for. Being locked down at home for so long, I am bursting for an adventure. Any at all. I'm fine with not being able to board a plane, I just want to pack a bag and set out, not just further than my flippin' 5km, but all across this glorious country of ours. To swim in the sea, to feel the sand between my toes, to pack for a hike and then give up half way but happily tuck into my pre-made Tayto sandwiches and gaze out at the still-stunning view. I am lucky to have visited many amazing counties so far, so I thought I'd compile a list of my favourites for anyone else who is currently fantasising about an Irish road trip...
This is where I'm from, and I miss it. The above shot was taken atop Vinegar Hill, one of my favourite walks to go on when I am home; it's a great spot for history buffs and gives a gorgeous view of Enniscorthy town. I like to get lunch from the Cotton Tree Cafe or Impresso and bring it up with me, or if it's later in the day, a bag of salt and vinegar soaked Malloca's chips. Mount Leinster is also an incredible walking trail with breathtaking views. Then there are the Wexford beaches; everyone knows of Curracloe, but I love to walk through the Raven's Wood entrance for a quieter side of the beach; it's so worth the extra steps. I also adore Kilmore Quay for a day out, and have such fond memories of getting fish & chips and locally made fudge there. Maybe I'll dedicate an entire post to Wexy soon!
If you follow me on social media, it's abundantly clear that I'm obsessed with Trim, the Meath town we recently moved to. There is just so much to love. The history of the town is spectacular, and sitting out in the Porchfields (known as the Porchies to locals fyi!) whilst gazing up at the 847-year-old castle and fast-moving Boyne river never gets old. The looped walk around the town is so joy-inducing, especially ending up at Bosca @ Marcie's for a speciality hot chocolate (try the Crunchie!). There are loads of cute cafes, from the Olive Tree to Trim & Healthy, an incredible Thai food truck that serves the best Chiang Mai noodles I've tasted since visiting Koh Samui, and plenty of adorable-looking pubs; I cannot wait for those to re-open for trad sessions and evenings cosied up in a snug. I also can't wait to explore more of Meath; from the Hill of Tara to Newgrange, as soon as restrictions lift, I'm there.
I visited this gorgeous county on the West of Ireland just last year, when I stayed in an actual Lord of the Rings-esque Hobbit Hut! An Airbnb called 'Mayo Glamping', it also features Claddagh Fairy Huts and Game of Thrones-themed toilets - plus a cinema room, pizza oven and your very own hot tub. It was the *most* fun. I've also stayed in Knockranny House Hotel in Westport in the past, a fantastic base for a stay in this vibrant, pulsing-with-music town. The food in the hotel's restaurant La Fougère is delicious, and the view of Croagh Patrick and Clew Bay is special. Whilst in Westport, make sure to rent bikes and cycle The Great Western Greenway by day and visit Matt Molloy's for live music and all kinds of craic by night.
The first time I visited Sligo was for a fantastic press trip with Voya, which included foraging for seaweed and later using the goods for my very own seaweed bath at Strandhill, a truly beautiful beach. I returned two years ago to stay in an actual Fairytale-esque castle, the glorious Markree Castle, and I will never forget my weekend there. It felt like a dream, every moment I was there. From the falconry, to exploring the grande rooms and gigantic grounds, to the banquet dinner...I really did feel like I was living my best Downton Abbey life. If you really want to go the extra mile after months of being cooped up, I say 'treat yo'self' - ps, try request the room that Johnny Cash himself stayed in!
This was my last staycation before shit hit the fan and lockdown was first announced. Conor and I had gone away to Killarney for the weekend, and when we came back, he unexpectedly moved in with me. Mad, Ted. Anyway, this is the most magical part of Ireland. Above is a shot of two lovely horses along the Ring of Kerry, which is one of the most beautiful drives you'll ever take in your life. Blast Luke Kelly along the way for extra Irish points. We stayed in Muckross Hotel which is a faultless spot, from the fresh, local seafood to the staff (who made us feel very safe at all times), and we organised jaunting as part of our visit - basically, a local man brought us around in a carriage and pointed out places of interest and regaled us with old tales in a VERY thick Kerry accent. It was absolutely lashing down, but I loved every minute. Another great stay in Kerry is Aghadoe Heights; the ceiling-to-floor bedroom window view is out of this world, and I still think of their breakfast buffet... (RIP breakfast buffets)
I've been to Cork city many times, and always have an absolute ball. My most recent trip there was for the brilliant Cork Jazz Festival; too much Guinness, plenty of bad dance moves and endless amazing music. We stayed in the Montenotte for that, a quirky, colourful hotel that is located just outside the town, making it ideal for a weekend break away. My most memorable stay in Cork though, was in the West of the county, in Inchydoney Island lodge and spa. It was a press trip, and I made the long journey down alone. I will never forget the sense of peace I had walking along the famous beach, and watching the sun come up with a coffee in hand and the early-morning surfers catching some waves as my only company. Pure soul food.
Above are the famous Dark Hedges from Game of Thrones, just one memorable aspect from my trip up North to Antrim, along with the iconic Giant's Causeway, which really is an Irish bucket list moment. The county also claims one of, if not the most luxurious spa in the country; Galgorm resort. I will never forget sipping a cold glass of bubbly in one of their private riverside hot tubs, and having one of the best Skinceuticals facials of my life in their skin clinic. I want to go back with some pals *immediately*.
If you haven't been to Cavan yet, put it to the top of your list. It is so, so beautiful. Said to have 365 lakes, a lake for every day of the year, it's one of the most relaxing places I've been to in Ireland. I was hashtag blessed to have been invited to the opening of Cabu by the Lakes, where we stayed in a dog-friendly cabin that was the most Pinterest-worthy, hygge-esque spot I've ever stayed in. Everything was immaculately designed to ensure for the most cosy but luxurious stay. During the day, we cycled, we went out on a boat across Lough Oughter, and we chilled in an outdoor hot tub by the forest. At night, we dined and drank, and roasted marshmallows, by firepits in the Sitooterie. Cabu is another spot I'd love to return to with a group of friends. Another fantastic stay I enjoyed in Cavan was the Farnham Estate, which is just on the outskirts of Cavan town. We were served the most beautiful food and cocktails, and enjoyed some after-dinner fun and singsongs in the hotel's lively bar. The next day, we soothed our hangovers in the infinity swimming pool and thermal suite; the absolute dream.
I often dream of our trip to Donegal last summer, when we stayed in an electricity-free cabin for three nights for a break from phones and screens and a few days of nature, boozy board games, reading, bbq-cooking and seaside strolling. You can read more about that stay on my earlier post here.
Here's hoping we can all get travelling soon. Happy Paddy's Day!