If you're lucky in your travels, you just might encounter a local parade. This parade was in Westport, Co. Mayo. (Judy Enright photo)
Someone asked me recently if there is anything to do in Ireland other than visit museums. Are you kidding? There is so much to do on the island that you couldn’t possibly do it all in one short visit.
Of course, there are centuries of history to be told about Ireland, so museums are always interesting to visit, but there is much more to this lively country.
If you are athletic, there is almost every type of sport or recreation and boating is high on that list as you might expect for an island country with many inland lakes and rivers. You can sail, surf, cruise, windsurf, kayak, canoe – anything. It’s all offered there.
Surfing is offered along the country’s rugged coastline and wind surfing is popular, too, on lakes and in the ocean. Surfers say the waters off Ireland make for one of the most prolific and beautiful surfing backdrops in the Northern Hemisphere, if not the world, and we believe it.
Donegal is a particularly prime area for surfers – especially around Bundoran, Rossnowlagh Beach, Lackan Bay, Easkey, Mullaghmore Head, and Tallaghan Strand, but you can find surfing almost everywhere off the Irish coast.
Those boards are hitting the waves down south in Co. Clare around Lahinch and at Inchydoney Beach in Clonakilty, West Cork (westcorksurfing.com). Take a look at surfing-waves.com and goireland.com for more recommendations.
You can always find suggestions, maps, and lots of good ideas for other places to go and things to do at the Tourist Board offices – designated by a big green shamrock – located all over the country.
There are all kinds of activities you can find and enjoy around Ireland including fascinating raptor shows. (Judy Enright photo)
How about sailing? If you’d like to participate and not just watch sailing, there are many places that offer lessons, including Coolmain Sailing Courtmacsherry, Co. Cork. You can take lessons or rent a boat for a quiet day on the water. For information and offerings, visit coolmain-sailing.com. This is just one sailing possibility but there are many more all over the country.
If you’re in Lahinch for surfing, be sure to take a cruise from nearby Doolin out to the Aran Islands or past the Cliffs of Moher.
Several tour companies operate from the Doolin Pier and it’s fun and fascinating to see the Cliffs from the water and see some 20 varieties of birds – puffins, guillemots, and razorbills among them - that nest there.
O’Brien Cruises (doolinferry.com) offers a varied sailing schedule past the Cliffs and out to the Aran Islands at this time of year.
When you get to the 1,400-acre Inis Oirr, be sure to visit the Stone Age fort and the 15th century O’Brien’s castle, the 10th century church (Teampall Chaomhain) and a small 9th century church (Cill Ghobnait), St. Enda’s Holy Well. Also see the Plassey, a freighter that wrecked on the rocks and washed ashore in 1960, or just spend time relaxing on one of the sandy beaches, have lunch in a pub or restaurant, hire a bike, pony and trap, or just walk around the four square mile island. It’s a great way to spend the day.
You can also visit Inis Meain, an island with more than 300 flowering plants from places as far away as the Arctic and the Mediterranean, and the 7,635-acre Inis Mor, with its ancient stone forts, including the impressive Dun Aonghasa, and also several churches, including Teampall Bheanain, one of the world’s smallest, measuring 10.75 feet by 7 feet.
The Aran Islands are a real treat to visit as our readers no doubt know. You can get to the Arans from numerous locations along the coast – Rossaveal and Galway among them - by boat or air.
One of my favorite guide books (Bridgestone’s 100 Best Places to Stay in Ireland) lists several recommended accommodations on the Aran Islands. We don’t always agree with every recommendation in Bridgestone’s 100 Best, but we have stayed in some amazing places, thanks to their reviews and their editors John and Sally McKenna. The McKennas publish a new guide every year so when you’re in Ireland, it’s well worth buying the guide, especially if you are at loose ends for places to stay and want to try new and interesting sites.
One of the recommended accommodations in Bridgestone’s, for instance, was The Park Hotel in Kenmare, a fabulous place to stay and dine. A well-traveled friend said he’s never had a better martini than the one he ordered at the Park!
Fresh oysters from the briny waters around Ireland are reason enough to stop for a meal. (Judy Enright photo)
Another wonderful outing if you’re on the West Coast of Ireland is out of Cleggan by ferry to Inishbofin Island, some eight miles away. There’s so much to see there and several nice places to stay – we stayed at Day’s (now called Inishbofin House and Marine Spa) and we enjoyed it. The rooms were very nice and overlooked the inner harbor. Dinner in the dining room was well prepared and delicious, featuring fresh produce.
Inishbofin is definitely a place for the adventurous and the fit as there’s not much transportation other than your own two feet. But there’s a lot to see and do on Inishbofin – historic ruins, lovely beaches, a wide variety of bird life – including the nearly-extinct Corncrake. You can go hill climbing, mountain walking, or angling from shore or you can contact local providers to find out about all- day, half-day or hourly ventures, including dive charters, dolphin spotting, bird watching, whale and seal watching, or inter-island tours.
‘Bofin has become an Irish music center and you can often catch a lively session there. It’s a great place to visit and not in the mainstream of places visited by too many tourists.
Check out the Discover Ireland website before you search for more about Ireland’s many activities, festivals, and such. The website is updated constantly by Tourism Ireland and has every detail about Ireland that you could ever want or need.
And be sure to check the internet for the latest travel specials. Aer Lingus often has internet deals on flights and ground travel as do other airlines like Delta that fly in and out of Ireland.