The best places to holiday in Ireland

Entries have been flooding in from readers, for our competition to find Ireland’s best holiday destination. Here’s a flavour of the entries so far

Wed, Mar 13, 2013, 06:00

Ten days ago, The Irish Times launched the Best Place to Holiday in Ireland competition, inviting members of the public to nominate their favourite town, village or district for the award. So far we have received almost 70 entries from around the country.

All of the coastal counties in the Republic are represented in the nominations, but the midlands and North have been slow to talk themselves up. The Irish Times would like to hear about places in the majestic Shannon region, the unspoilt northern counties and the lakelands of Cavan. Surely Kathryn Thomas isn’t the only person who will sing Carlow’s praises?

You can nominate anything, from a city to a remote beauty spot. Its special quality could be the beautiful natural setting, the activities and cultural life, the second-to-none tourist infrastructure or the unbeatable welcome.

Residents and visitors are welcome to enter at Pitch, argue, convince and gush.

Conor Goodman, Features Editor

Dunmore East, Co Waterford
There is nothing like quite like the first glimpse of twinkling sea as the winding road from Waterford pops out of the trees at the top of Dunmore East. A moment to appraise this glorious seaside village, your natural orientation gained instantly as you spy al-fresco diners outside the Strand Inn below one of Ireland's most stunningly-positioned golf courses, draped like a giant picnic rug slipping from the side of the sandstone cliffs over Counciller’s Strand.

A winding road hugged by quaint and colourful houses will take you down to the beach. Much of the town is set at the top of the cliffs, with gaps and secret paths leading to swimming spots and secret coves.

Considerate planning has left Dunmore more-or-less unchanged for years, save for the lamentable absence of the quaint and classy Candlelight Hotel.

Dunmore East harbour remains one of our island’s key fishing hubs and is always a superb spot for a mosey-around. A stroll to the end of the pier on even the most blustery of days is frequently rewarded by the sight of the day's catch of crab and lobster being unloaded from a recently docked trawler. Anyone can buy fresh fish and seafood from the harbour shop.

But when the sun comes out, get your spot on Ireland's classic town beach and share a day with folks who built sandcastles and hunted crabs on this strand just like their grandchildren do now.

Years of memories piled like the strata of Dunmore’s cliffs endure in your heart long after you’ve gone home. It won’t be just one summer holiday.

Jody O’Dea

Achill, Co Mayo
For the past few years my holidays have always involved a stamp on the passport but this year I decided to leave it at home, pack the raingear, and head west to Ireland’s largest island, Achill. Admittedly I was incredibly fortunate to get two weeks of glorious weather but my fun-packed days were not always dependent on the weather.

Achill is one of Ireland’s cycle hubs and the roads allow you to explore the island on two wheels rather than four . So every few days we would meander through the island on the bikes, taking pit stops to visit some of the sites, such as the deserted village, Achill Henge or more relaxing refreshments dotted throughout the island.

W hile Achill is not renowned for its gourmet dining, there are some good establishments serving the staples: chowder at The Cottage, superb coffee in the Beehive, Gieltys famous c aramel s quare, authentic French bread from Pure Magic, and fresh local seafood in The Bayside Bistro to name but a few.

Achill may be known for its fabulous sandy beaches but there was more than the wild North Atlantic to keep us active.

A few rounds of pitch and putt were played at the Valley Hostel. The greens may not have been world-class but the views of Slieve Mor and Inisb iggle certainly were. One day we headed over to Inisb iggle, thanks to a local farmer who provided us with a free taxi service on his motoris ed currach. It provides a glimpse of island life without any evidence of modern commercialism .

Apart from a few trips on the Western Greenway, I left the island just twice during our two-week stay . We went on a free guided walk of Ballycroy National Park. Its impressive visitor centre has panoramic views back over to Achill. My second trip was to the more cosmopolitan town of Westport, less than an hour’s drive away.

There were the mandatory rainy days (two in total) where one got to witness the Achill m ist. Even that didn’t deter us as we spent a relaxing morning kayaking across Keel Lake. At the end of my first Irish summer holiday in 1 5 years I was surprised by how the days were filled with activities and little adventures. Ireland is a place where you have to make your own fun at times and Achill offers the opportunity to do this no matter what the weath er.

Elizabeth Hickey

Dunfanaghy, Co Donegal
As a Dubliner now living in the south of France, I regularly return to Ireland to catch up with family and friends. I really hesitated before nominating Dunfanaghy, not because of a lack of faith in the village but because I’m loath to share it with too many people. However, the thought of attracting more visitors and more income to this incredible place for the benefit of the local economy has won out.

Why Dunfanaghy? Quite simply, it’s the people who live there. There is a warmth that wraps its generous arms around you the moment you arrive. I’ve always felt that the people of Donegal were special but the natives of Dunfanaghy seem to have this quality in spades. I’ve been on several holidays there and have never been disappointed.

Dunfanaghy is situated on the edge of the Atlantic about a 30-minute drive north of Letterkenny. The surrounding countryside is beautiful and is the perfect spot for those who enjoy long walks or jogs or even horseriding on the local beach .

Go there and have the holiday of your life.