Mini picnics, mystery trails and Leitrim: things to do in September

Travel News: From Donegal beaches with toilet facilities to a festival fix for picnickers

Culture craic

Friday, September 17th, is Culture Night (, and while there's cool stuff around Ireland, the capital does have it covered for theatre, open studios, arty bus trips, walking tours and more. For a little graceful old-fashioned (or "classic" if you prefer) city charm, stay at Wynns Hotel, just off O'Connell Street, from €110 B&B per room. It's been around since 1845, and if that's not culture, I don't know what is.

Southern style

Dungarvan, at the western end of the Waterford Greenway, is a super place – right on the ocean's edge, with a choice of fabulous eateries and atmospheric pubs. There's the Tannery, of course, but that's one hot spot on a long list of lovelies. In comparison, the town has always been a little short of choices in places to stay. Now the people behind 360 Cookhouse have opened a sleepover spot, and 360 Stay promises "spirited and unique interactions" right in the heart of town. From €90 per night. Check out packages including bike hire, picnics, cocktails, dinner, B&B, from €295 for two.

On the trail

Did you ever go somewhere and feel you were just scratching the surface? More to the point, did you ever wish you had something extra up your sleeve to distract fractious kids, even on a rainy day? Mystery Trails are cool, self-guided packs setting you off on a clue-strewn trail to fire the imagination. Pick a county, and choose between Murder Mystery, Treasure Hunt or Mission Impossible. Download your adventure and off you go. Routes take you around local landmarks, and are timed and suitable for all the family. Grown-ups can have the craic too. €9.99 at

Taken short, taken care of

I don't want to think about who pees in the sea, but the lads at Esta-America have been putting their minds to it lately, coming up with a vital league table of beaches with toilet facilities. While the south of England wins overall, with 78 per cent coverage, Donegal is right up there, having 13 beaches, and all of them with somewhere to spend a penny – even if we don't use pennies any more. Find the guide at, and stay at the Red Castle Hotel with the Happy Campers package – one night B&B for four, including a tent for the kids to hang out in your bedroom suite, from €199.


Some picnic

Regardless of what the Electric Picnic is or isn't up to, small is definitely more beautiful this year, and the Curious Garden Festival is nicely niche. Popping up in Donerail Estate, Cork, tomorrow, and Emo Court in Laois on September 9th, the people who brought you the Picnic's Salty Dog, MindField and Trailer Park now give you a nice day out from €39, to book in pods of four or six. With music, words and arty bits. Book at When in Laois, spend all your cash at Ballyfin, where rooms start from €770 (oh, the grandeur), or check out the famous breakfasts a the Ivyleigh House B&B in the heart of Portlaoise, from €130.

Green for go

Leitrim – famed for being in the midlands yet also having a bit of coastline, and only two sets of traffic lights in the whole county – is a lovely spot to go, and stop. Carrick-on-Shannon is (as its name describes) right on the water, has the Dock Arts Centre and Ireland's version of the Taj Mahal, the Costello Chapel (tiny, poignant, and worth a visit if only to say you've been). You've also got the whole Shannon cruising, SUP, kayaking thing, plus some really gorgeous walks, and plenty of good foodie pitstops. Stay at the Marina Hotel from €49 pps midweek, or try the Glenview Guesthouse, just outside Ballinamore, with self-catering cottages on site. From €45pps,

Farm feast

You don't have to get your hands dirty, but you can still have fun on the farm with the Aimsir Farm Experience at Kildare's Cliff at Lyons. More Marie Antoinette at her Petit Trianon than Miley in Glenroe, you get an overnight stay with a tour of the new farm and kitchen gardens. It's all still at the growing stage, so you're in at seed level. This means Tom Downes and Stina Hjalmarsson have plenty of knowledge to impart for fresh gardeners, and you'll get tea in the potting shed too. Gosh. Add Aimsir snacks and cocktails in the lounge, before dinner in The Mill, plus overnight of course, from €561 for two.