If you haven’t had the opportunity to visit already, Ireland should be the next must-see destination to cross off your bucket list. Regardless of the season, you will always receive Caed Mile Failte, or a hundred thousand welcomes! Your palate will be impressed with the cuisine options ranging from local pub favorites to haute cuisine entrees. You will also find a range of accommodations perfect for every type of traveler—from traditional properties to intimate manor houses and authentic castles. Whether you travel as a couple or a family, you will marvel at Ireland’s plentiful bounty.
A Place for All Seasons
Ireland is the perfect place to visit year-round with plenty of activities, ranging from an invigorating winter hike through the Burren to a fragrant spring garden display in the Muckross House or Castle Dunloe Gardens, or a beautiful fall bike tour through Limerick or Glendalough Mountain area. Of course, the summer is fabulous for just about every activity, and a tranquil boat ride on the Lakes of Killarney or a cruise under the majestic Cliffs of Moher would cap off any day or evening. Regardless of the time of year you travel, Ireland has a special sense of wonder, and its people are full of warmth and a good sense of humor! My favorite time to visit is during the off-season, which falls in April and May and also September and October, because of the lack of crowds. On my recent trip this April, the weather was comfortable with average temperatures in the 60s and varying sunshine and rain. I found it refreshing to be traveling during this time of year, as it was much less crowded than it is during peak summer travel months.
Cantering through Killarney National Park in a jaunting cart with a beautiful chestnut horse at the lead, I enjoyed the lush greenery of the park. I also had an impressive tour of Muckross House Manor, which is set amidst the grandeur of the MacGillycuddy’s Reeks mountains. From cradling and bottle feeding a baby lamb to testing the skills of falconry and owl training, and partaking in endless outdoor activities like biking, hiking, and horseback riding through rugged landscapes—there are many uncommon ways to delve into all Ireland has to offer!
A jaunting cart ride in Killarney National Park with Muckross House Manor in the background.
One of my favorite experiences was hiking with our knowledgeable guide, Shane, in the Burren. This amazing landscape is unlike any other in the country. Here, over 900 plant species thrive, including plant species that survived through the last Ice Age. The mystery of their survival is part of the allure of the area. Bending down to inspect a crevice, I noticed a beautiful orchid peeking through the ground, and quite surprisingly, next to it was a sprig of rosemary. The Burren is a fascinating experience for any age, and depending on the level of activity desired, the pace can be leisurely or challenging.
For those fascinated by history and culture, I recommend visiting Clonmacnoise, an ancient monastic settlement built in the 6th century. Clonmacnoise became a major center for religion, education, craftsmanship, and trade by the 9th century and was often visited by scholars across Europe. With a rich and interesting past, this site remained significant until its religious standing was revoked in the 12th century, as Ireland moved away from its religious monastic framework to a diocesan one.
If you are a purposeful wanderer like me, Ireland offers endless opportunities to visit charming cities, like Dublin or Galway, and small remote villages. My favorite is the tiny village of Cong on the banks of Loch Corrib (near Ashford Castle) with its historic Cong Abbey and old fishing house ruins. Another quaint village located on the peninsula is Dingle, which is adorned with colorful houses, a brightly lit harbor filled with fishing boats, and countless galleries and shops. I marveled at the owner of a tiny weaver shop, as she demonstrated her process for making a custom rug.
Traditional Irish Cuisine and Stunning Culinary Offerings
Whether you are savoring the perfect puff pastry full of Irish cream and poached fresh fruit or baked Alaska that sizzles and drizzles, you will find endless delectable culinary options throughout Ireland. The country boasts several Michelin-starred restaurants, one of which is the Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud in the Merrion. I dined at Patrick Guilbaud, known for its traditional Irish cuisine and innovative food presentation. I enjoyed carefully curated and flavorful citrus-infused salmon with herbed gratin potatoes and snow peas in mint.
Cruise along an exclusive private lake near Galway with a dessert of Baked Alaska.
As impressed as I was with Patrick Guilbauld, I was also able to enjoy dinner at another fabulous Michelin-starred restaurant, the Wild Honey Inn, during my stay in County Claire. With its unassuming façade on the outside, one would never expect the unique offerings on the inside. My favorite was my dessert, which was their rhubarb sorbet in champagne and meringue.
Don’t bypass the opportunity to dine at the local pubs, where you can enjoy hearty traditional bowls of soup accompanied by Irish brown bread. Typically paired with the company of a local musician or singer, this experience is not to be missed!
A delightful meal of Irish brown bread and a butternut squash soup with truffle aioli at the Mad Hatter in Galway.
Castle Stays, Boutique Properties, Grand Hotels, Charming Manor Homes
After a long day of adventures, you’ll appreciate the comfortable and luxurious accommodations! Whether you want to relax in beautiful plush bedding or recline in overstuffed chairs with a good cup of tea and your favorite book, there are a variety of options to choose from.
Here are a few of my favorite recommendations from my recent stay:
- Ashford Castle is the ultimate in luxury and authenticity; here you can stay in a castle dating back to 1128 and meander through the endless 26,000 acres of property. Each room is designed and decorated differently, adding to the character of the castle. Ashford Castle also offers various activities for its guests. You can choose from jump-starting your day with an early morning walk with the resident Irish wolfhounds, or relaxing and reclining in the evening in their posh movie theatre which offers movies every evening.
Junior Stateroom at Ashford Castle.
- Striking and imposing on the outside, Adare Manor boasts a lively atmosphere, warmth, and character on the inside. Located right in the heart of the picturesque village of Adare, with its thatched cottages and local restaurants, the manor offers various activities for guests, including a self-guided architecture and garden tour, or an archery or falconry experience for those craving traditional adventure.
- A perfectly restful and serene stay with an opportunity to enjoy the countryside and catch up on my reading, was time I spent at the charming Gregans Castle Manor. With only 21 bedrooms and suites, the historic Manor is surrounded by the Burren’s unique landscape and lovely gardens. The perfect place to disconnect, you will find no TVs here, so the roar of the fireplace or the soft music occasionally coming from the bar are welcome sounds in this tranquil countryside escape.
- Iconic properties in the heart of Ireland’s major cities, such as The Merrion Hotel in Dublin, offer the chance to embrace city life but still feel as if a quiet oasis surrounds you. I loved the fact that I stepped outside its doors and was within a short walk to the National Art Gallery and the St. Stephen’s Green Park, or the spirited pub called O’Donohue’s. The Merrion’s Georgian architecture and gorgeous world-class art throughout the property all surrounded by its well-appointed gardens make for a splendid stay.
- My stay at the Killarney Park Hotel was the ideal base from which to explore the famed city of Killarney, full of vitality and Irish charm. You can also traverse Killarney National Park and the surrounding Wild Atlantic Way! This nine-county tour of the beautiful western coastline of Ireland offers breathtaking views, interesting historical sites such as the beehive huts, megalithic sites such as Carrowmore, and charming small towns and villages such as Kenmare, Kilkee, and Ballyshannon, to name a few. Just easy steps from many shops and pubs in this lively town of Killarney, I found myself being drawn into a pub right by the hotel with its Irish music and rousing cheers and salutes.
Ireland is an ideal destination with plenty of year-round activities in both the city and countryside. Frontiers, along with our well-connected onsite partners, will create a perfectly crafted, magical experience for you to discover all that the Emerald Isle has to offer!
Some photos courtesy of Gregans Castle Manor, Killarney Park Hotel, and The Merrion Hotel.