Best places to holiday: Westmeath, Kerry, Wexford and Cork

Our Best Place to Holiday in Ireland contest continues to draw submissions from the public. Read these, then nominate your own personal favourite


Valentia Island, Co Kerry
With a father from Kerry and a mother from Derry, we were always destined to travel. Holidays for us meant travelling from Inishowen peninsula in north-west Donegal to Valentia Island in Kerry. It was a long way to go but worth it.

Located off the mainland and accessed by bridge from Portmagee and car ferry (summer only), Valentia is a magical spot to kick back, relax and holiday in. The vibe is laid-back and the pace of life gentle, but in summertime the island comes to life. The scenery all year round is amazing.

But what can we do there, I hear you ask. You can check out the island’s numerous beauty spots and marvel at dramatic landscapes. Hike up to Bray head and enjoy majestic views of the Skelligs, Portmagee and Dingle Bay. Hire bikes and cycle the entire island (seven miles by three miles).

Drive back to the cliffs at Culloo, walk along the bogs and bird-watch, rent a kayak from the sea sports activity centre in Knightstown harbour or go deep-sea fishing or diving. Take the kids to the excellent playground or down to the lighthouse or on a dinosaur footprint hunt.

Traipse through sub-tropical gardens at Glanleam or bathe in the nearby cove. If you are longing for a sandy beach, jump on a boat and spend the day on neighbouring Beginish island. Take a packed lunch and a boat trip to enjoy a day away from it all on Skellig rock. Climb up stone steps to discover puffins, beehive huts and another era quite literally perched on the edge of civilisation.

If none of that appeals you can grab the paper or a book and simply sit in any of the coffee shops on Valentia and gaze out to sea.

And if the mist descends and the rain falls sideways, go indoors and immerse yourself in the island’s history at the local heritage centre.Visit the local candlemaker, who runs workshops for kids. Discover how ice-cream is made at the farmhouse dairy.

Over the years the magnetic pull of Valentia Island has got stronger. It is a perfect place to make holiday memories in.
Siobhan Lynch

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Lough Ree, Co Westmeath
Lough Ree and its surrounding area is my favourite place to holiday in Ireland. It is located only five minutes’ drive from Athlone and is one of the most scenic places in the midlands.

Athlone is steeped in history and culture. The Latin Quarter is home to some of the nicest pubs and restaurants. Sean’s Bar is a great spot for a pint and a trad session.

Lough Ree is the biggest lake on the Shannon and a breathtaking environment. There are many lovely walks in the area with many beautiful views along the way. Baysports activity centre is a fantastic way to spend the day. With many activities from kayaking to motor-boating to water trampolining, it is brilliant fun for young people and families.

Athlone Golf Club, located on the shores of the lake, is a great course to play, and the green fees are very reasonable. We stayed in the Hodson Bay Hotel on the shores of the lake. The room was lovely with an excellent view of the lake.

We visited the old monastic settlement of Clonmacnoise on the final day; it is only half an hour from Athlone and was well worth going to.

Overall, we had a fantastic time and I feel the midlands do not get enough credit as a tourist destination. Most people flock to the coastal places such as Kerry, Galway, Cork, Wexford etc. There is so much to see and do in the midlands that people don’t know about, and it is often a lot cheaper.

I would recommend the Lakelands of Athlone to anybody and everybody, and will most definitely return.
Conor Fitzsimons

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Rosslare, Co Wexford
Rosslare Strand is in the heart of Ireland’s sunniest county, far enough from the greater Dublin area for holidaymakers to relax, and yet within striking distance via the N11.

Rosslare Golf Club’s golf links is over 100 years old and there are two other courses nearby. The beaches in the locality are safe and family-friendly. Wexford’s chequered history – from the Norman landings to the 1798 Rebellion – forms only part of the area’s heritage.

The Wexford Festival Opera in the impressive opera house extends the holiday season, and the town itself punches well above its weight in musical terms, with three light opera societies and two choirs. The standard is high, and locals and visitors are spoiled for choice throughout the year.

The term “sunny south-east” was coined by the late hotelier Paddy Fitzpatrick. Whether you’re staying in your own holiday home or in one of the impressive hotels, Rosslare and its hinterland is the place to be, far away from the maddening crowd.

Ray Corish

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Sherkin Island, Co Cork
As we drive into Baltimore and look across the harbour, we smile as we anticipate the fun ahead on Sherkin Island. Sitting outside Bushe’s Bar with a pint and a sandwich, smelling that sea air and waiting for the 4pm ferry to dock must be one of our favourite places to be.

Twenty minutes after boarding the ferry, we are walking towards Sherkin Island Abbey. Not long after that we are enjoying a swim in the Silver Strand, followed by a walk along a roadway festooned in montbretia and fuschia.

For the more energetic, there is a swim off the pier in clear, clean waters. A cruise around some of Carbery’s hundred isles, dolphin-sighting or a trip around the Fastnet are all options.

Some hours later, it’s time for an evening meal in the Islander’s Rest, where you are guaranteed the freshest langouistines and French fries with a crisp salad. The views across the harbour, the peace of the surroundings, combined with friendly service, makes this worth the trip in itself.

It doesn’t take much planning. It doesn’t take hours to get there. It doesn’t cost the earth. Yet, it is a truly relaxing way to spend a day or – if you choose to linger in the Islander’s Rest for a night or two – even longer. Ah yes, roll on the summer.
Rod McAlpine

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