Located close to Shannon Airport and the Wild Atlantic Way, an hour away from Kerry and Galway and less than two hours away from Dublin and Cork, Fitzgeralds Woodlands House Hotel & Spa is the perfect base for a holiday packed full of local exploring and easy day trips, discovering the very best that Ireland has to offer. Here are our top ten best days out:
1.The Wild Atlantic Way: This is one of our absolute favourite day-trip drives. Head north-west into Co. Clare to the spectacular Wild Atlantic Way via Lahinch before stopping off to experience the magnificent Cliffs of Moher. Stretch the legs along the cliff path, explore the visitor centre, enjoy a coffee and, if you have sea legs, why not take a boat trip to see the cliffs from the water? Next, make your way to the lovely village of Lisdoonvarna (home of the famous Matchmaking Festival!) and then on to the Burren Smokehouse where you will have a chance to Taste the Atlantic and learn all about salmon smoking. If you are looking for somewhere for lunch, we suggest popping into Ireland’s only Michelin starred pub, the Wild Honey Inn. The next stop is the Burren Centre, which is just a few minutes away from Lisdoonvarna in the historic village of Kilfenora, known as the gateway to the Burren which is a world-famous UNESCO Geopark with a beautiful, distinctive wild landscape. Visit the ancient Kilfenora Cathedral and discover the village’s musical heritage too. Meander through the Burren National Park to the village of Gort which links you to the Motorway which will bring you all the way back to Adare.
2. Galway: An hour and a half away by car, Galway City is well worth a visit. It is the only city on the Wild Atlantic Way (in fact, it is exactly half-way along the Wild Atlantic Way). Also known as the City of the Tribes (after the merchant families called the “tribes of Galway” who led the city during the Hiberno-Norman period). Galway has a fabulous, bohemian vibe and is packed with interesting streets, shops and places to eat and drink. Don’t miss Shop Street, St. Nicholas’ Collegiate Church (the largest medieval church still in everyday use in Ireland), Eyre Square and The Claddagh (for centuries, it was an Irish-speaking area home to families who earned their living from fishing who were governed by an elected ‘King’).
3. Kilkenny: The ancient medieval city of Kilkenny is just under two hours away by car. Home to an imposing 12th century castle (Kilkenny Castle)which is at one end of the city’s Medieval Mile, a discovery trail which links the castle to the 13th century St. Canice’s Cathedral. Be sure to pop into the Kilkenny Design Centre where you will be able to visit local makers of all things creative and learn about the origins of Irish art, craft and design. There are food and drink options aplenty in Kilkenny, including the Michelin starred restaurant Campagne.
4. Cork City: An hour and a half down the road is Cork City. Known as the Rebel City, Cork is Ireland’s second largest city, packed full of charm and plenty of things to see and do. Why not get a feel for the place on a guided Cork City Wall Walk? Travel back in time and visit the Cork City Gaol Heritage Centre; visit the magnificent gothic cathedral of St. Fin Barre’s which dominates the Cork skyline; and then graze your way around The English Market, an indoor food emporium which has been trading since 1788. As you wander around the city you will come across traditional pubs, cafes and restaurants galore offering a wide range local food and drink.
5. Ballybunion: A favourite for families right across Limerick, Ballybunion beach is a great spot for a sunny day by the sea. Just an hour away from Fitzgeralds Woodlands House Hotel & Spa by car, Ballybunion can be found in north-Kerry, right on the Wild Atlantic Way. Sit in the sun, go for a refreshing dip in the sea, try your hand at surfing, walk the cliffs, enjoy the local food and drink. And, if you are a golfer, you are in for a big treat. Ballybunion Golf Club is home to two challenging world-class links courses overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.
6. Killarney: Killarney is a very special place indeed. Located just over an hour away by car. The town is part of the spectacular Killarney National Park and the starting point for the Ring of Kerry, a scenic 179km looped drive through the Kerry mountains and along the Wild Atlantic Way. Killarney’s Victorian heritage is evident all around the town and its surrounds, not least at Muckross House and Gardens where Queen Victoria stayed during her visit to Killarney in 1861. The town is also famous for its horse-drawn jaunting cars which carry visitors to the area’s most loved scenic locations.
7. Birr: The county town of Offaly, Birr is well worth a visit, especially if you are a lover of science, engineering and astronomy. Back in the 1800s, Birr Castle was a hub of scientific discovery and innovation and home to what was then the largest telescope in the world which was used to discover the spiral nature of some of the galaxies. For almost 50 years people travelled from all over Europe and beyond to observe the stars with Lord Rosse in his observatory. Lord Rosse’s son, Charles Parsons invented the steam turbine which changed the face of seafaring and led to the invention of the jet engine. The gardens at Birr Castle are also planted with rare trees and flowers and boast beautiful walks along the river and lake shores.
8. Lough Derg: Just north of Limerick City lies the picturesque lakeside town of Killaloe/Ballina which sits on the shore of Lough Derg. There is no better way to discover the area that taking to the water on a hour-long guided boat trip on Lough Derg and the River Shannon with Killaloe River Cruises. If you are feeling really adventurous My Next Adventure offers guided kayaking experiences that take in the magical sights on Lough Derg.
9. Kildare and Newbridge: The 5th century town of Kildare is home not just to centuries worth of history, but also Kildare Village, a shopper’s paradise of an outlet centre packed full of bargains from brands like Coach, Mulberry, Molton Brown, Calvin Klein, DKNY, Jimmy Choo, Kate Spade, Michael Kors and many many more! The nearby town of Newbridge is home to Newbridge Silverware which has a super visitor centre offering a unique guided factory tour and the Museum of Style Icons which houses fashion collections and artefacts which once belonged to some of the greatest style icons of modern times such as Audrey Hepburn, Marilyn Monroe, Princess Grace, Princess Diana, the Beatles and many more. Horse racing enthusiasts will also love the Irish National Stud and Gardens at Kildare which takes visitors on an immersive journey through the history of the sport.
10. Dublin: Ireland’s capital city is absolutely do-able as a day trip by car, train or bus. Learn about Ireland’s most famous drink and pull your own pint of it at the Guinness Storehouse; explore the city’s whiskey heritage at the Teeling Distillery and the Pearse Lyons Distillery; visit Christ Church Cathedral, Kilmainham Gaol or the National Gallery of Ireland, wander around the National Botanic Gardens, take the kids to Dublin Zoo in the Phoenix Park…or simply soak up the atmosphere in St Stephen’s Green Park located right in the heart of the city.