The 20 best days out in Ireland

The judges of the ‘Irish Times’ Best Day out in Ireland competition have chosen their long-list of 20 excursions. Skellig Michael, Glenveagh and the Burren are on it. Is your favourite?

We set out to find the country’s most impressive visitor attractions, leisure experiences and great destinations, and asked our readers to help by nominating their favourites. Marble Arch Global Geopark in Fermanagh was one of those nominated.

 
The judges of the Irish Times Best Day Out in Ireland competition have chosen their longlist of 20 great ways to spend a day.
We set out to find the country’s most impressive visitor attractions, leisure experiences and great destinations, and asked our readers to help by nominating their favourites. 
A memorable day out can take many forms: an adrenaline-pumping outdoor activity, a visit to a museum that brings its subject to life, a relaxing day at a pampering centre, a ramble through a little-known corner of Ireland – or a combination of the lot. 
The Irish Times is visiting all 20 locations before whittling the list down to a final five, then naming an overall winner in late June. 
 
A day on the River Shannon 
Categories:
Families, Couples, Great Outdoors
 
“Cruising along the Shannon is a therapeutic as well as a challenging activity for families and couples alike . . . a fantastic day out and adventure for the entire family to enjoy.”
Nominated by Cian Guckian.
Information Numerous outlets rent all kinds of craft – kayaks, rowing boats, cruisers, barges – along the river. 
See iwai.ie/rentals/rentforaday. Guided cruises from Carrick-on-Shannon: moonriver.ie

A day on the Co Antrim coast
Categories: Families, Couples, Great Outdoors, Heritage
 
“Carrickfergus Castle, the Giant’s Causeway, Ballygalley, Cushendall, Ballycastle for a picnic lunch on the beach, the rope bridge to jangle the nerves at Carrick-a-Rede, crashing white waves at Whitepark Beach, Dunluce Castle, and Bushmills, home of the whiskey. What a day. What a drive.” 
Nominated by Irene Moran.
 
HM3SKELLIGWARS_WEB
 
Skellig Michael, Co Kerry 
Categories:
Great Outdoors, Heritage
 
“Landing is risky, but once you get on, the peace and tranquillity of the place take over. The long winding path to the top takes you past puffin and gull nests and follows the steps of monks of more than 1,000 years ago. The view from the top makes you realise that you have come to a magical yet remote place. I have never had such an exhilarating or memorable day.” 
Nominated by Ciaran Kelly
Information skelligislands.com
 
Lough Boora
 
Lough Boora Parklands and Birr Castle, Co Offaly 
Categories:
Families, Couples, Great Outdoors, Hidden Wonder, Heritage
 
Lough Boora: “Abundant with nature, fun for all ages. The former Bord na Mona site, now a heritage park, is a hidden gem awaiting discovery.”
Nominated by Majella O’Dea 
 
Birr Castle: “From the beautiful Courtyard Cafe to the country’s largest treehouse, Birr Castle is a treat.” 
Nominated by George Dempsey 
 
Clare Island Adventures, Co Mayo
Categories: Families, Couples, Great Outdoors
 
“Clare Island Adventures give a wonderful day out, full of adventure and challenges. You can go coasteering, rock climbing and abseiling, snorkelling, raft building. I was enormously impressed with the professionalism of the staff and the confidence they instilled in me, not to mention the sense of achievement I felt at the end of the day.”
 
Nominated by Gina Corbett
 
Dolphinwatch, Co Clare 
Categories: Families, Couples, Great Outdoors
 
“Along the wonderful Wild Atlantic Way, stop off at the beautiful seaside fishing village of Carrigaholt and take a trip out on to the Shannon estuary with Dolphinwatch, to see and learn about the local dolphins, birds and cliffs. Afterwards eat your fill in the award-winning Long Dock restaurant, followed by trad sessions and great pints in Carmody’s pub or Keane’s pub.”
Nominated by Emma Walsh 
Information dolphinwatch.ie
 
Dublin Bay Cruises, Co Dublin
Categories: Families, Couples, Great Outdoors
 
“We boarded the boat at Howth. The day was dry and bright, and I thoroughly enjoyed seeing my home town from a different vantage. As a Dublin native I don’t do touristy things, but viewing both the north and south sides of the city at sea was quite an experience.When we landed in Dún Laoghaire we had brunch and a ramble around before heading back to Howth on the Dart.
 
Nominated by Siobhán Farrelly 
 
Connemara, Co Galway
Categories: Families, Couples, Great Outdoors
 
“A cycle on the Clifden to Roundstone Loop is breathtaking. Take in the Bog Road, with its lakes, pools, heathers, sheep and views of the Twelve Bens. Experience seafood direct from the busy harbour at Roundstone. Visit Gurteen and Dog’s Bay, with their pristine sands.” Nominated by Amanda Burke 
Information Amanda likes to cycle, but you can also drive and walk: 
 
Big Day Out in Co Leitrim 
Categories: Families, Couples, Great Outdoors
 
“Join Leitrim Landscapes Guided Walks for an hour-long guided foraging nature walk. Next let Adrienne and Graham from Adventure Gently help you explore the Shannon Blueway by Canadian canoe. Then cycle the easy way on a one-hour electric-bike cycle with Electric Bike Trails. Finish with a hearty meal, creamy pints and lively trad.” 
Nominated by Eileen Gibbons
 
Glendalough, Co Wicklow
Categories: Families, Couples, Great Outdoors
 
“Calling Wicklow a garden limits and inhibits its wild, fresh-aired, lung-filling wonder. Glendalough is best experienced with a crowd – cousins, college friends, whoever. Eat first, then wander, chat and be amazed at nature’s offerings. This is best done in several weathers, as sun, wind and rain change the scenery, and it’s worth seeing in many variants.” 
Nominated by Hazel Reid
 
Hook peninsula
 
Hook Peninsula, Co Wexford 
Categories: Families, Couples, Great Outdoors, Heritage
 
“Driving down the narrow peninsula, one can see nothing but ocean to the east, south and west. Go to the salt mills in Slade and walk the coast to Hook lighthouse. Have you the nerve to visit haunted Loftus Hall? Settle your nerves at Kevin Dundon’s pub, the Local (next to his Dunbrody House). Great beaches too: Dollar Bay and Booley Bay are safe and perfect for swimming. 
Nominated by Elizabeth Browne 
Information hookpeninsula.com
 
Donegal sea-stack climbing
Categories: Great Outdoors, Hidden Wonder
 
“For the past eight years we have been exploring the previously unclimbed sea stacks of Co Donegal, visiting many places where nobody has ever stood before. During the course of these adventures we have played with killer whales, basking sharks, Artic skuas and puffins. We 
guarantee you a day out you will never forget in places you never knew existed.”
 
Nominated by Iain Miller 
Information uniqueascent.ie
 
Marble Arch Geopark, Counties Cavan and Fermanagh
Categories: Families, Couples, Great Outdoors, Hidden Wonder, Heritage
 
Marble Arch Caves, Co Fermanagh: 
“A subterranean boat ride into a mile of caves. Beautiful and unique.” 
Nominated by Ronan Rasdale
 
Cavan Burren Forest Park: “A gem of megaliths . . . You see, or feel, a presence of our ancient ancestors. 
Nominated by Barbara Smith 
Information marblearchcaves
 
Slieve Gullion Forest Park, Co Armagh
Categories: Families, Couples, Great Outdoors, Hidden Wonder, Heritage
 
“The park has something for everyone – a play park for the kids, an adult fitness area, a scenic drive with views of the Ring of Gullion and of the Mourne and Cooley Mountains. There is a range of walks, including the 10-mile circular walk of Slieve Gullion. A great addition is the brand new Giant’s Lair, an innovative magical living storybook.” 
 
Nominated by Therese Hamill
Information ringofgullion.org
 
Killarney National Park, Co Kerry 
Categories: Families, Couples, Great Outdoors, Heritage
 
“Start with a visit to Muckross House, where the historic home gives up its rich and colourful history. The park is a place you could spend days exploring, skirting around lakes, under mountains and all the way back into Killarney town. Take a boat ride around the lakes and see its magnificence from the water. Killarney National Park is as close to heaven as you’ll get in your lifetime.”
Nominated by Pat Coffey 
 
Glenveagh National Park, Co Donegal
Category: Great Outdoors
 
“In sun, rain or shine Glenveagh National Park takes my breath away. A quick stop at the visitor centre and you’re off. Hire bikes or take the shuttle bus – either way, the views are the same. Take a guided tour of the castle and learn about its fascinating past. 
If you’re feeling energetic, head into the hills on one of the trails – and, if you’re lucky, spot one of the deer that live in the park.”
 
Nominated by Jo Bradley 
 
Fota
 
Fota Wildlife Park, Co Cork 
Categories: Families, Heritage
 
“A wonderful day out for both adults and kids. A beautiful walk, whether it’s in sunshine or rain, with all sorts of exotic creatures to keep everyone entertained. Easily accessible by rail or car, and, for those of us lucky enough to live locally, very reasonable prices with the season pass.” 
Nominated by Cian O’Connor 
Information fotawildlife.ie
 
 
Great Western Greenway, Co Mayo 
Categories: Families, Couples, Great Outdoors
 
“Words alone cannot describe how fantastic the Great Western Greenway is. Nothing I can say here will come close to describing the experience of walking, jogging or cycling along all or any part of the greenway between the beautiful costal town of Westport and the rugged wilderness of Achill."
Nominated by Fintan Conlon 
Information greenway.ie
 
The Burren and Cliffs of Moher Geopark, Co Clare
Categories: Families, Couples, Great Outdoors, Heritage
 
The Burren: “Many attractions for many people: natural history, rockclimbing , wild flowers, lush green fields to the east and swirls of limestone to the west. 
Nominated by Nancy Cantwell 
 
The Cliffs of Moher: “We stood above the seas as they pounded the cliffs and looked around at the most amazing integration of sea and land.”
Nominated by Dan Venedam
Information burrengeopark.ie
 
Barrow
 
The Barrow trail, Co Carlow 
Categories: Families, Couples, Great Outdoors, Hidden Wonder
 
“From historic Carlow town to ancient monastic Saint Mullin’s, you can walk, cycle or canoe along a trail that follows the course of the Barrow river. It’s easy, away from traffic, and full of nature. Bring a picnic if you can. Listen to the birdsong. Jump in and have a wild swim. The Barrow trail is a place to share and to create treasured memories."
 
Nominated by Charlie Horan 
Information riverbarrow.net
 
 
 
_________________________________________
 
The Best Days Out project is In partnership with Discoverireland.ie
 
 
 
 
 

 

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