The judges of The Irish Times Best Place to Holiday in Ireland competition have selected an initial longlist of 25 locations. They include tourist-friendly towns and cities, remote beauty spots, inland and coastal locations. Some are suitable for two week-holidays, others for short breaks.
Four islands (Achill, Inis Meain, Inishbofin and Valentia), two quiet west-Cork locations (the Beara Peninsula and Gougane Barra lake) and Kerry's famous tourist towns of Killarney and Dingle have been longlisted.
The Irish beach holiday is represented by Carherdaniel and Derrynane, Co Kerry; Dunmore East, Co Waterford; Gweedore, Co Donegal; Rosslare Strand, Co Wexford; and Strandhill, Co Sligo. The cities of Cork, Dublin and Derry also feature.
North of the Border, Cushendall, Co Antrim, and the Fermanagh lakelands featured. The judges selected three inland destinations – the Shannon River, the Glen of Aherlow, Co Tipperary, and Boyle, Co Roscommon.
Researchers will now visit these locations before the judges narrow the search down further. A shortlist will be announced on May 20th, and the overall winner on May 27th.
For the competition – which has been running since early March – members of the public were invited to nominate the places they love to holiday. There were more than 1,400 entries from every county in Ireland.
Judge Steve McPhilemy, a tour guide and hostel owner in Derry, said he had been cheered by the quality of entries for some of the less-celebrated midlands destinations, such as the Glen of Aherlow in Co Tipperary, "but the old stalwart locations like Kinsale and Dingle showed they still have it too".
Irish Times journalist Rosita Boland, author of A Secret Map of Ireland, said of the judging: the hardest thing for me as a judge was teasing out what 'holiday' means. It means different things for the readers who sent us pitches, usually to do with the length of time spent in a place."
Another of the judges, Eamon Ryan, leader of the Green Party and a former tourism entrepreneur, was impressed by the entries submitted by the public. “I liked that the entries were very personal. People communicated that attraction or love they felt for a place; they weren’t corporate and didn’t smack of advertising.”
“Being honest, I found the judging process difficult,” said Ryan. “You can’t help letting your personal experience of a place colour your assessment. And the process is going to get worse as we try to narrow it down. It’s shouldn’t be a beauty contest, but it is.”
THE LONGLIST (In alphabetical order)
ACHILL ISLAND, CO MAYO
Nominated by Elizabeth Hickey, who wrote: "At the end of my first Irish summer holiday in 15 years I was surprised that the days had been filled with activities. In Ireland you have to make your own fun … Achill offers the opportunity to do this no matter what the weather."
Read the full pitch at http://iti.ms/YYxiwL
BALLYVAUGHAN, CO CLARE
Nominated by Orla McEvoy, who wrote: "A beautiful coastal village with a personality all of its own. Spectacular views around every bend, wonderful west of Ireland atmosphere in the pub, and the Burren is one of the most stunning limestone settings on earth."
Read the full pitch at http://iti.ms/YYxtbf
BEARA PENINSULA, CO CORK
Nominated by Siobhan O'Connor, who wrote: "The physical beauty is overwhelming. The people are unique. It is a gem we should treasure. It is my heritage."
Read the full pitch at http://iti.ms/181aTFO
BOYLE, CO ROSCOMMON
Nominated by Mervyn Boles, who wrote: "This town is steeped in history and unspoilt, with friendly, independent shops. King House and Boyle Abbey have been restored and Lough Key Adventure Centre has an excellent playground for kids, a new zip-it adventure for teenagers and for the less energetic tree-top walks and bog garden trails."
Read the full pitch at http://iti.ms/YYxN9X
CAHERDANIEL & DERRYNANE, CO KERRY
Nominated by Kevin Dwyer, who wrote: "Beaches spread from Derrynane bay to the sheltered harbour, sand dunes abound. You can be as active or as lazy as you like. For 42 years I spent my holidays in Derrynane. It is not only my favourite Irish holiday destination, it is part of me."
Read the full pitch at http://iti.ms/18ezhDV
Nominated by Brian McCarthy who wrote: "Cork is a vibrant city, alive day and night, and a haven for foodies. It is easy to explore on foot and well situated for exploring Co Cork and the beautiful south coast."
Read the full pitch at http://iti.ms/YYy39d
CUSHENDALL, CO ANTRIM
Nominated by Jim Owens, who wrote: "Cushendall, 'the Heart of the Glens', is at the foot of Glenballyeamon one of the most striking of the nine Glens of Antrim, where the scenery is equal to anywhere in Ireland."
Read the full pitch at http://iti.ms/181bhEe
Nominated by Peter J Mackenzie, who wrote: "Derry has so much to see and do. Great live music in so many venues and a growing quality hospitality industry, and a great base to explore the natural beauty of Donegal on one side and the splendour of the Causeway coast."
Read the full pitch at http://iti.ms/181btTV
DINGLE, CO KERRY
Nominated by Kylie L Smith, who wrote: "In all the places I have been in the world Dingle, with its narrow streets, colourful housing and glorious peninsula, is the best. Friendliness oozes from its people, shops and eating and drinking places (of which there are many!)."
Read the full pitch at http://iti.ms/YYyvUJ
Nominated by Kate Rooney, who wrote: "Although not the most attractive county, Dublin is the best to actually spend time and money. You don't need empty beaches, you need entertainment and action to have a good holiday."
Read the full pitch at http://iti.ms/181bLds
DUNMORE EAST, CO WATERFORD
Nominated by Jody O'Dea, who wrote: "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 accompanying grandchildren do now."
Read the full pitch at http://iti.ms/ZXESb8
GOUGANE BARRA, CO CORK
Nominated by Joan Healy, who wrote: "Wake in the morning to the sound of birdsong, watch the trout jumping in the lake, walk the crags of the mountains before a sumptuous meal. Peaceful, tranquil Gougane Barra has a magnetic attraction."
Read the full pitch at http://iti.ms/181bSpx
GWEEDORE, CO DONEGAL
Nominated by Seán Mullin, who wrote: "The sheer, narrow inlets mash the surf into slosh pits of creamy foam next to beaches of smooth rocks which clack and rustle with each monster wave. I'm in New Zealand now. I still compare everywhere I go here to Gweedore."
Read the full pitch at http://iti.ms/YYzaFT
INIS MEAIN, CO GALWAY
Nominated by Nicole Trewartha, who wrote: "It feels remote, removed from the rest of the world, and the sky somehow seems larger than anywhere else in Ireland as there is nothing to interrupt your view. But the people are warm and generous. There are no strangers here."
Read the full pitch at http://iti.ms/181ctr7
INISHBOFIN, CO GALWAY
Nominated by Hugh McMahon, who wrote: "From the minute you get off the ferry you know that you are in a magical place. The scenery, the Atlantic air and the pace of life allow you to leave behind the mainland and the personality you inhabit there."
Read the full pitch at http://iti.ms/YYAyYT
KILLARNEY, CO KERRY
Nominated by Maighread Forde, who wrote:"The view is the first thing that takes your breath away. But one can't holiday on views alone. Around Killarney you can walk, take boat trips on the lakes, cycle, tour Muckross House or Ross Castle, go to the playground or the pet farms, go horse racing, golfing, fishing, run a marathon or learn to cook."
Read the full pitch at http://iti.ms/181czz5
KINSALE, CO CORK
Nominated by George Harding, who wrote: "Cork might be Ireland's second city, but Kinsale is its first town. Known as the gourmet capital of Ireland, it has restaurants to suit every taste, from the award-winning Fishy Fishy, to high-end fish-and-chippers."
Read the full pitch at http://iti.ms/YYAQir
THE LAKELANDS OF CO FERMANAGH
Nominated by Patricia Thirgood, who wrote: "Fermanagh is so green and not always wet, with amazing walks, lovely lakes, mountains sea breezes, and even the G8."
Read the full pitch at http://iti.ms/181cHP5
LOOP HEAD PENINSULA, CO CLARE
Nominated by Mary Redmond, who wrote: "Beautiful, wild and unspoilt … with three beaches , the wonderful cliff walk in Kilkee, and loop head walk at the light house and the ruins of Carrigaholt Castle."
Read the full pitch at http://iti.ms/YYBmgl
LOUISBURGH, CO MAYO
Nominated by Catherine Duffy, who wrote: "Louisburgh, nestled under Croagh Patrick, is where Westport people go on holidays. For the painter, the pilgrim, the photographer, the forager, the fisherman, the foodie, the walker, the geogologist, the historian and the child there is no better place."
Read the full pitch at http://iti.ms/181cQSB
Nominated by Jennifer Joyce, who wrote: "Time slows down on the Shannon. Enjoy the pace of your boat as you travel through Loughs Derg, Ree, Allen and Erne. Cruise, then drop in to any of the picturesque harbours for a meal, or cook on board and enjoy the peace."
Read the full pitch at http://iti.ms/YYBxZc
ROSSLARE STRAND, CO WEXFORD
Nominated by Ray Corish, who wrote: "Rosslare Strand is in the heart of Ireland's sunniest county, far enough from the Greater Dublin Area for holiday makers to relax and yet within striking distance via the N11."
Read the full pitch at http://iti.ms/181eP9F
STRANDHILL, CO SLIGO
Nominated by Megan Boyle, who wrote: "A holiday destination for all ages, whether you just want to walk on the beach, take a seaweed bath, have a nice bite to eat or a surf lesson, climb the mountain and hit the pubs for a great night of music and madness."
Read the full pitch at http://iti.ms/YYEAR0
THE GLEN OF AHERLOW, CO TIPPERARY
Nominated by Frank Kelly, who wrote: "Good company, camping, guesthouses, quality hotels and an amazing 16th century castle, activities in a pleasant environment, local guides and quality food experience, all great value."
Read the full pitch at http://iti.ms/181fc3P
VALENTIA ISLAND, CO KERRY
Nominated by Siobhan Lynch, who wrote: "Valentia is a magical spot to kick back, relax and holiday in. The vibe is laid back, the pace of life gentle, the scenery all year round is amazing. But what can we do there?, I hear you ask. Quite a lot."
Read the full pitch at http://iti.ms/YYENne