Ah, Ireland, the Emerald Isle. Home of Wilde, Yeats, and Joyce. It’s a magical fairytale filled with charm, history, castles, rolling green pastures and wild coastline. If you’re looking for a truly authentic Irish adventure (away from the tour busses and crowds), here are five ways to travel Ireland, feel like a local and tap into the magic.
1. Stay at Powerscourt Hotel & Gardens
A mere 30-minute taxi from Dublin and just a short bike ride away from charming Enniskerry, you’ll be transported into a romantic land of royal gardens, waterfalls, and private river paths. Recognized by National Geographic as one of the top ten gardens in the world, its lush 47 acres of landscaped garden bliss are full of “secret hollows and rambling walks” to explore. Powerscourt Hotel with its Palladian-style architecture is a stakeholder in Ireland’s sustainability efforts. New energy efficient lights save more than 831 tonnes of CO2 annually and it formed a new partnership with The Cool Planet Experience to help prevent global warming.
2. Explore Mayo County’s Castles & Heritage Houses
“Stunning dramatic unspoilt landscape, friendly locals and a region steeped in culture and heritage, Mayo is the place to go to discover the true Ireland” says Rachel Nolan, owner of Rachel’s Irish Adventures. Stay in one of Mayo County’s Blue Book castle hotels and manors like Enniscoe House, a classical Georgian surrounded by woods on the shore of Lake Conn. It’s home to an organic Victorian garden and dates back to the 1790s. Dinner at Enniscoe House is quite an intimate affair and begins with a drink beside a roaring fireplace. Ashford Castle’s 340 acres of jaw-dropping gardens and 18th-century decor are also a must-see. Dating back to 1228, treat yourself to views of the castle from Lake Corrib on a charming boat tour with a local captain regaling its history and lore. Then warm up with one the finest Irish coffees in Ireland at the iconic Prince of Wales bar.
3. Take the Art Tour at The Merrion Hotel in Dublin
What would be an art tour in Ireland without first a discussion over tea? In the heart of Dublin, the Merrion Hotel, composed of four impeccably restored Georgian townhouses, launched an audio Art Tour concept that begins with afternoon tea in their luxurious drawing room. Next, the tour takes guests through an immersive journey of the hotel’s 19th and 20th-century master works featuring Irish and European artists. Once finished, if you find the experience requires more contemplation, take the inspired conversation down to The Merrion’s iconic Cellar Bar and Restaurant; an original 18th-century wine vault transformed into a popular pub.
4. Drive the ‘Monasteries of the Moy’ Route
There’s not much more of a mystical experience than emerald green pastures dotted with ancient monasteries along the River Moy. Drive the 14km route between Ballina and Killala and prepare to be swept back in time. Some highlights of the drive include: Moyne Abbey, Augustinian Abbey, and the Priory of the Holy Cross at Rathfran. If you prefer to cycle, the Monasteries of the Moy Greenway is near completion and takes you from Ballina all the way to the village of Killala. Complete with an easy stop at the Connacht Distillery for Irish whiskey tasting.
5. Taste the Irish Artisanal Foodie Renaissance
It’s not just pub food anymore. Ireland has gone through an artisanal foodie renaissance where you’ll find farm-fresh organic dishes that combine the very best of Irish traditions with new flavors. Even Irish oats have gone gourmet. Mary Flahavan, matriarch of Flahavan’s, Ireland’s beloved brand of sustainable oatmeal; her Oaty Shortbread Biscuit recipe was featured in the famed MacNean Restaurant Cookbook. And top locales like the Icehouse Hotel and Spa in Ballina, have committed to buying local. The food world (including Alice Waters of Chez Panisse) has taken note of Ireland’s foodie artisanal renaissance.
Truly, there’s no place like Ireland. The Emerald Isle’s wild and wonderful beauty will capture your heart while the Irish locals’ natural penchant for easy conversation and a hearty laugh will endear you forever. Combine that with Ireland’s castles, gardens, and Georgian charm, you’re in for quite a magical experience.
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Images via The Merrion, Ashford Castle, The IceHouse and Tourism Ireland