Have an August adventure
Make the most of the last days of summer with a short holiday at home. You don’t have to go far – or spend much – to find some great breaks
A short holiday at home is the perfect way to spend the last days of summer. Photograph: iStock
There’s nothing as depressing for kids as trying on new school uniforms in summer, so how about schools of a different kind? A boat trip from Dolphinwatch at Carrigaholt, Co Clare, gives you a chance to get up close and personal with some of the hundreds of dolphins that live in the mouth of the river Shannon, eavesdropping on their chatter via on-board hydrophone. It runs up to four trips a day through August, with tickets for adults at €35 and for under 15s just €20.
Or throw a tent in the boot and head to Lough Key Forest Park in Roscommon. At €22 a night for a four-person tent pitch, it’s a great-value option that gives you access to hundreds of hectares of parkland to walk, cycle, e-bike, segway and zip-line through.
Don’t miss the Boda Borg, which requires you to overcome an obstacle or crack a code to proceed through a series of rooms: it’ll help get their brains back in gear – or at least out of the Xbox – before school. All day passes cost €25.
Pure Camping (purecamping.ie) in Co Clare is an environmentally friendly campsite on a south-facing bank of the Shannon estuary – it has a 10-acre native woodland in which you can pick a spot and pitch your tent from €12 a night per adult. There’s an open-ended kitchen with a clay oven for making pizza and an outdoor sauna.
Although the Wild Atlantic Way gets all the attention, it’s not the only Way to travel. Water lovers can get an entirely different view of the coast along the Blueway, a network of five water trails along the Atlantic coast that includes Inisboffin and Killary Fjord in Co Galway, Keem on Achill Island, and Mannin Bay and the Old Head in Co Mayo.
Each has onsite information boards with trail maps, safety details and information on equipment hire and tuition for kayaking and snorkelling.
August is the perfect time to surf too, with the Atlantic as warm as it’s ever going to be. A two-hour surf lesson with all gear provided costs €30 per adult and €25 per child at Surf Mayo, on Carrownisky Strand at Louisburgh.
Despite being peak season, there’s loads of great hotel value to be found in August, and properties that are perfectly located for adventure. The Slieve Russell Hotel, Golf and Country Club in Ballyconnell, Co Cavan, for example, sits on 300 acres, including 50 acres of lakes, with loads of activities on its doorstep.
Hire a kayak and explore the region’s extensive selection of canals, rivers and lakes or rent a cruise boat for a day and enjoy the waters and islands of upper Lough Erne and further afield.
Rev things up at ODD, the nearby outdoor games centre which has laser, paintballing, clay-pigeon shooting, hovercrafting and race buggies. Paintballing (for over 14s) costs €10, while multi-activity days can be had from €99 per person.
Or slow things down with a healthy hike around the nearby Unesco Global Geopark and Marble Arch Caves, including hill-walking on Cuilcagh Mountain. Bike hire is available for both adults and children and the hotel can point you in the right direction for horse-riding lessons and trekking available locally. There’s a teddy bear centre at nearby Bawnboy if you prefer your furry friends to stay still.
Two nights’ B&B and one dinner for two adults and up to three children at the Slieve Russell start from €430 midweek or €455 at weekends. What’s more, each booking includes a free family B&B voucher which can be used again, free access to the kid’s club, evening meal for the children at the kid’s club and free green fees on the par 3 academy course.
Breaffy House Resort in Castlebar, Co Mayo, is another great family summer holiday destination, with a full entertainment programme running right through August. It has a fun-packed schedule including everything from organised morning jogs, to pizza baking, storytelling, kids yoga, mocktail making and clay-pigeon shooting.
It also has great facilities including two playgrounds – the newest added just last year – a crazy golf course, astro turf pitch and GAA pitch, a fairy garden and three orienteering trails to explore.
The resort also has a swimming pool with paddling pool, and Breaffy Buddies kids club, which offers a full programme of events including movie nights, pool fun, arts and crafts and the Breaffy Breakfast Train where kids are collected from their bedrooms by the kids club team for a private breakfast – genius.
Three nights’ B&B and one dinner for a family of two adults and two children costs from €462 this August and, if you want a bit more space, supplements from €60 a night will get you interconnecting rooms.
For more fun-filled family adventures, head to Westport House and Hotel in Mayo, which has loads of new attractions to enjoy this summer. It offers ease of access not just to the beautiful and historic town but to boating and diving on Clew Bay, hiking up Croagh Patrick and cycling the car-free Greenway, as well as miles of sandy beaches.
Then again, with 400 acres around Westport House to enjoy, you might just stay put and relax. Explore the house with the new audio-tour app, visit the dungeons, ramble the grounds and enjoy its Victorian afternoon tea. Then make a beeline for the Pirate Adventure Park, with loads of slides and rides, or head for the Adventure Activity Centre for zip-lining and archery.
There are go karts, off-road mini jeeps and a 24m inflatable obstacle course too, plus swan pedalo boats and a miniature train ride which takes you through the estate and into the town. There’s great value here too because you get two days’ entry to Westport House or the Pirate Adventure Park for the price of one.
Stay at the four-star Hotel Westport on the estate grounds, just a five-minute stroll from the house. All Hotel Westport guests receive a 25 per cent discount on entry to Westport House and the Pirate Adventure Park and go to the top of any queues with their very own “Premium Pass” – only available to hotel guests.
One-night family breaks for two adults and two children aged under 12 at Hotel Westport start from €99. Or camp out at the Westport House Caravan and Camping Park, where bell tents cost from €110 per tent per night and cater for two adults and up to four kids. They’ll still be talking about it come mid-term.
And for grown-ups
It isn’t all about the kids. Those heading back to work in September are just as in need of a break as those heading back to school – more, arguably.
The Clifden Station House Hotel in Clifden, Co Galway, has an August walking event that could provide just what desk-bound grown-ups need. It runs from August 28th to 30th, truly the last hurrah of summer, and includes an array of complimentary walks – led by an experienced local guide – around Omey Island, Tully Mountain and Máméan.
Omey Island is accessible only at low tide and well-known for its scenic drama but Tully Mountain deserves to be better known than it is, standing as it does opposite Connemara National Park and offering a different perspective of Connemara and its beaches. To add to its sense of adventure – and your delight at having an experienced guide – the path is undefined. To cap it all, there’s a surprise lake at the top.
Prices for a three-night B&B stay at the Clifden Station House Hotel, including two dinners, start from €145 per person, based on two adults sharing.