10 of Ireland's most idyllic escapes
Neil Hegarty, Telegraph Travelâs Ireland expert, selects the best âgreenâ breaks on the Emerald Isle.
1. The Waterford Greenway
The Waterford Greenway is one of the best of Irelandâs new wave of superb walking and cycling routes. Begin in Waterford city itself and travel south and west through the heart of Co Waterford, with the Comeragh mountains to the north and the Copper Coast Geopark to the south. Donât miss the gardens at Mount Congreve (mountcongreve.com). The Greenway is great for families: hire bikes â" and if the children tire, just catch a handy shuttle bus back.
Waterford Greenway Bike Hire (00353 51 295955; waterfordgreenwaybikehire.com) provides bikes from â¬20 (Â£17.90) per day.
2. The Sperrin mountains
The uplands of Northern Irelandâs Sperrin mountains are special: all heathery swells and smoothly weathered, silvery quartzite peaks. If you donât mind going slow, join an experienced guide on a two-day ramble across this wide, windswept landscape for a window into the areaâs ecology, culture, archaeology and the increasingly food-oriented lives of its people. Learn to make soda bread at Bradkeel Farm, and savour the award-winning Dart Mountain cheeses, made within sight of the eponymous mountain.
Slow Adventures (028 7125 3253; slowadventureni.com) offers a Natural Connections Tour from Â£340 per person, including meals, transport and accommodation.
3. The Blueways
The Blueways â" Irelandâs networks of inland waterways â" open up bucolic corners of the island. The Shannon Blueway stretches through quiet Co Leitrim, and offers 62 miles of guided kayaking, plus nearly 19 miles of walking trails. Try the Battlebridge Lock to Acres Lough looped walk (7.5 miles) and trip across a floating boardwalk to the lake; or go for a canoe experience, Canadian-style, across the tranquil lakes fringed with green.
Adventure Gently (00353 85 1821547; adventuregentlyireland.com) offers half-day canoe trips from â¬125 for two adults; also see bluewaysireland.org.
4. Causeway Coast
Tramp the superlative north coast of Northern Ireland via the 30-mile Causeway Coast Way, which offers dazzling seascapes and an abundance of green-topped cliffs, plus a sequence of world-class attractions. Chief among these is the Giantâs Causeway, with its 40,000 hexagonal column s of gleaming basalt; another is the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge, strung vertiginously above the ocean. Experienced walkers can complete the trail in two days; or go slow and enjoy a wealth of dramatic scenery.
Hillwalk Tours (00353 91 763994; hillwalktours.com) offers five-day hikes from Â£399 B&B, including luggage transfers.
5. The Burren
The other-worldly landscapes of the Burren, in Co Clare, disguise a million secrets. This is true karst, where turloughs (seasonal lakes) fill up in winter and vanish in summer â" but these harsh fields of white stone hide an undergrowth of orchids and other flora unique in Ireland. It takes an experienced guide to decode this landscape â" so join the e ngaging Tony Kirby for an exploration of botany, history and geology over two glorious hours. Walks take place come rain or shine, so bring all-weather gear and a good pair of boots.
Itineraries with Heart of Burren Walks (00353 87 2925487; heartofburrenwalks.com) cost from â¬20 person; under-16s go free.
6. Cape Clear
Cape Clear is Irelandâs southernmost inhabited island. A mere three miles long, itâs a wonderful place: tranquil and remote, with bird life, dry stone walls and pebble beaches. Visit at summerâs end for the unique and excellent storytelling festival, which draws on the islandâs Irish-speaking heritage to marvellous effect. A ferry runs from Baltimore out to the island â" and as with all islands, it pays to sort your accommodation well in advance.
The Cape Clear Island International Storytelling Festival (00353 86 8443067; capeclearstorytelling.com) takes place from Aug 31 to Sept 2 2018.
7. River Foyle
Londo nderry is best known for its long and tumultuous history â" but this cityâs maritime heritage is also worth investigating. Combine camping, canoeing and great slow food in a two-day journey north along the river Foyle, exploring its marine life and the history and wildlife of its banks. In the evening, attend a slow cooking demonstration on the riverâs edge â" and sample the fruits along with a glass of local beer from the Walled City Brewery. In an age when travel can feel breathless, this is a way to slow down beautifully.
Slow Adventures (028 7125 3253; slowadventureni.com) is offering a Great Foyle Wild Camping, Canoe and Slow Food Experience from Â£179 per person, including breakfast, dinner and drinks.
With its miles of Atlantic coastli ne, superlative beach, surfing, walking and kiting opportunities, Strandhill has more than enough for any visitor: you could spend all day on these wide sands and still not tire of the place. Add the Voya seaweed baths on the seafront for a different kind of greenery, however, and youâll find a day trip morphing into a weekend. Think deep Victorian baths filled with natural, organic seaweed â" good for the skin and hair (and for a hangover). Shells CafÃ© next door is a marvellous find too, with wonderful baking.
Voya Seaweed Baths (00353 71 9168686; voyaseaweedbaths.com) provides a double bathing room from â¬55 for 50 mins.
9. River Barrow
The river Barrow flows south from the Slieve Bloom mountains to meet the Atla ntic at Waterford Harbour â" and the Barrow Navigation is one of the great rural experiences of inland Ireland. Walk or cycle the river valley, with its woods, riverside villages, industrial heritage and Neolithic remains â" donât miss the granite Brownshill Dolmen â" or brave some of those locks and take in the greenery on a slow-paced barge holiday over seven days.
Barrowline Cruisers (00353 57 8626060; barrowline.ie) provides two-berth vessels from â¬830 for seven days.
10. Marble Arch Caves
The landscapes of the Marble Arch Caves Geopark straddle the Irish border and encompass some of Irelandâs most marvellous scenery. But first, step down â" into the depths of the earth at the spectacular Marble Arch Caves complex, formed from the Co Fermanagh limestone in aeons past, and explore miles of caverns on foot and by boat. Above ground, walk the wonderful Stairway to Heaven boardwalk across the blanket bog to the 2,000ft summit of Cuilcagh mountai n â" or try a spot of kayaking on Fermanaghâs gentle lakes.
Cave entry costs from Â£9.80 adult, Â£6.70 child (028 6634 8855; marblearchcavesgeopark.com).Source: Google News Ireland | Netizen 24 Ireland