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Head north-west for a great escape

Donegal and Sligo offer action-packed activity breaks, great-value accommodation and sumptuous food

The Abbey Hotel in Donegal town.

The Abbey Hotel in Donegal town.


Time to play? Get moving this summer with one of the action-packed activity breaks available all over Ireland, the adventure playground on your doorstep. With a range of activities and great-value accommodation options right here at home, who needs the stress of air travel and the boredom of the ferry.

Head north-west to the Abbey Hotel in Donegal, the perfect location from which to explore the Inishowen Peninsula, visit Five Finger Strand, home to some of Europe’s largest sand dunes, a fantastic spot for bird watching, and experience the roar of the sea at Hell’s Hole, a 250m chasm.

Explore the rugged north-west tip from Slieve League Cliffs to Malin Head on an environmentally friendly electric bike with Electric Escapes Ireland.

The Abbey Hotel is right in the centre of Donegal town and guests have the option of booking a cruise on Donegal Bay on the Donegal Bay Waterbus. It departs twice a day from Donegal Pier and cruises for 70 minutes out past a seal colony and includes live music and a bar.

The hotel is currently offering two nights B&B including cruise from €229 for two people sharing, which is wonderful value and gives you loads of the time to explore by land as well as sea. Guests eat at its Abbey Bar, famous for its entertainment and its catch of the day – after a day exploring in the sea air nothing quite beats the taste of fresh cod and chips with mushy peas.

On the second night, go for the Steak on the Stone experience at its Market House Restaurant – fillet steak served on a hot stone so you get to cook it to your liking, with choice of sauces, peppers, onion rings and home-cut chips. Fresh seafood straight from Killybegs is on the menu daily including scallops, oysters and lobster.

Slieve League, the highest sea cliffs in Europe, are a 40-minute drive away. Take the coastal route via Killybegs. Make the most of Donegal’s famous Blue Stack Mountains too, with walking treks to suit novice and serious walkers, led by expert local guide Anne Leonard. You won’t go hungry, the Abbey offers walking packages that include dinner by night and packed lunches by day to fuel your adventures.


Head south and stop in Bundoran, one of the country’s top surfing centres. Or hike around Mullaghmore Head, staying over in the village of the same name, which offers great opportunities for scuba diving and deep sea fishing. If it’s been a particularly adventurous day, recover with a relaxing seaweed bath at Voya’s in Strandhilll or Kilcullen’s in Enniscrone.

To keep the action going, book into the newly refurbished Sligo Park Hotel and Leisure Club. The family-run property has a range of activity packages to suit both couples and families.

These include its ‘Escape’ family activity package, a three-night stay at the hotel from €529. The package includes on-site fun for kids with a children’s welcome pack, access to the leisure club and pool – with inflatable floats – bicycles, tennis courts, an obstacle course, an adventure fairy trail and movie nights.

Sligo Park Hotel’s ‘Go Wild’ couples package has two nights’ B&B and one dinner from €318 and also includes a choice of activity – either a surf lesson, a SUP (Stand-Up Paddleboarding) session or a Voya seaweed bath. You’ll also get full access to the hotel’s new-look health and leisure club with its 16-metre heated pool, Jacuzzi, sauna, steam room and plunge pool.

The contemporary and stylish four-star hotel is a great getaway for active families of all shapes and sizes. Located on the outskirts of Sligo town, there are loads of things to do within a 10-minute drive, including a flotilla of surf schools plus opportunities for kayaking, canoeing and snorkelling.

When you’ve tired out your sea legs, make like a landlubber and explore some of the many trails around the county – from the Benbulben Forest Walk and Queen Maeve’s Trail on Knocknarea to The Devil’s Chimney and Keash Hill Trail. Check out the Sligo Walks website for many more.

There’s mountain biking, rock climbing and horse riding nearby and plus an opportunity to ‘rewild’ yourself, getting back to nature with an overnight wild camping experience from North West Adventure Tours.

Life’s a beach in sunny Wexford

It drives other parts of the country nuts but you can’t argue with Mother Nature and her decision to make Wexford the sunniest county in the country.

Make the most of it and stay at the Ashdown Park Hotel, winner of the Best Hotel Bar 2018, Best Hotel Manager 2017 and Best Hotel Restaurant 2016. The hotel is run by the Redmond family, with amenities that include an excellent 18-metre pool, fitness gym, exclusive Environ Skin Gym Salon, and an active kids’ club.

It’s also just minutes away from Wexford’s famously sandy beaches, its forest walks and family visitor attractions. The food couldn’t be fresher either, much of it coming from the Redmond family farm eight miles away.

The hotel’s new Power Off and Connect package is all about encouraging all members of the family to put down the devices and have some real-world fun instead.

“We love families to stay and explore the south east with its myriad of Ancient East treasures, family attractions, beaches, watersports, horse riding, adventure centres and lots more,” says hotel manager Paul Finegan, who is promoting indoor adventure too.

“We have a range of board games in reception which will get the whole family having fun with more negotiation than Brexit! Games like UNO, Beat the Parents, Scrabble, Ludo and more. It is great to see a family going from heads down devices up to devices down and all engaged. Makes for a much more memorable holiday.”

A two-night Power Off and Connect stay includes B&B for two adults and two children sharing, dinner and tickets to a selected local attraction. That means you get to choose from Wells House and Gardens, Kia Ora petting farm or Pirates Cove fun park, all from €363.

The Amber Springs Hotel.
The Amber Springs Hotel.

The nearby Amber Springs Hotel is another great option with a particular focus on family fun. It has an has adult and kids’ swimming pool and a great kids’ club plus its own pet farm, mini golf, go-karting and mini train. It also has a virtual reality room for teens and tweens.

The award-winning property has also just opened an 80-seat cinema providing two free screenings each day. For toddlers and younger kids, there’s an indoor playzone with jungle gym, ballpool and slides.

The hotel has an exclusive family suites wing, 55sq m rooms with an internal kids’ den that has a private area where the children can sleep and play while the adults can relax in comfort. It’s a great option to retreat to after a day spent adventuring.