The Perfect Road Trip Stops for your Summer Staycation
Whether it’s that last minute dash to the beach for a surprise sunny day or a planned vacation at home to explore some unvisited towns and sights, never underestimate the power of the staycation.
Ireland has some incredible destinations, so we’ve compiled a list of ideas for enjoying time at home in Ireland this summer. As food and travel are the perfect pair, we’ve also given you some ideas of where to stop for some top nosh or pick up those essential nibbles for a truly legendary picnic.
Ireland’s lower altitude mountain ranges make them the perfect playground for avid hikers and people looking for a relatively simple outdoor activity, but a good physical challenge with the benefit of spectacular views. Mount Brandon on the Dingle Peninsula is a fantastic four-hour (8.5km) moderate hike and at 952m, it is the ninth highest peak on the island. If that’s not enough of a challenge for you, you could always drive to Killarney and take on Ireland’s highest peak, Carrantouhil, at 1,039m!
Hiking either of these two mountains in the kingdom, means loading up on some packed food and energy snacks. Mary’s Organic Store in Milltown is the place to do so, located on a crossroads to Killarney, Castleisland, Tralee and the Dingle Peninsula. Mary’s Store stocks a great range of produce including wholefoods, gluten and dairy-free foods, organic fruit, vegetable and eggs, cheese, spelt bread, organic chocolate and wine, inspirational books and food supplements.
When you’re in Dingle, you can’t beat My Boy Blue and Bean in Dingle for coffee stops and tasty bites or takeaway lunch for your hike. Just arrived back from your hike and looking for something quick? It has to be Reel Dingle Fish takeaway for the best fish and chips you’ll ever have. Happy trekking!
It’s hard to pick just one reason to visit west Cork, but when I think about where I’d like to spend a staycation, it is definitely on Barleycove beach. It’s near Mizen Head, the most southern point on the island, which is also certainly worth a visit, and the nearest village is the charming Goleen (which always makes me think of Dolly Parton’s song Joleen, sorry, that’s likely to stick in your head!), where you can stock up on food for a barbecue in Tim & Marie McCarthy’s Butchers or sandwiches and salads in Along the Way Café that opens in the local post office on weekends.
It goes without saying that while down in west Cork, you should explore and eat as much as possible. There are too many places to mention here, but don’t forget it is home to Gubbeen Farm in Schull, Rob Krawcyzk’s fabulous new restaurant, The Chestnut, in Ballydehob, the essential stop at Pilgrim’s in Rossacarbery and Mews Restaurant in Baltimore, which has exclusively seasonal opening hours.
Not an activity that will suit everyone, but for those comfortable with being underground in small spaces, this is a must. Explore a myriad of caves that are accessed through a hole in the ground in a forest and spend time climbing and scrambling through the large network of underground crevasses. Interestingly, The Burren Caves have more active stream caves than any other part of Ireland.
While in The Burren you won’t be stuck for great places to eat and drink. The best idea is to follow the Burren Food Trail, which is a group of committed people who are are passionate about food from the region, growing and producing it locally for you to enjoy. There is a list of not only places to shop, eat and drink – Roadside Tavern, Anam Coffee, St Tola Goat Farm, Ballyvaughan Market, and Wild Honey Inn. There are also lots of experience-led food activities too that are not to be missed.
One of the prettiest stretch of beaches, and near the capital too, makes Brittas Bay a firm favourite with many. In particular if the sun makes a sudden appearance, it is a good last-minute dash destination! If planning ahead, make sure and head early and bring lots of provisions, from food to frisbees.
En route, stop off in Avoca at Kilmacanogue, which is handy as its literally just on the side of the N11, for some picnic necessities. If taking the coastal route, The Happy Pear is great for a healthy bite and their famous range of juice, hummus and pesto are good additions to a picnic on the beach.
Probably one of the more unique experiences you can have, taking the boat to Heir Island is amazing for so many reasons. Not only is it idyllically beautiful and teaming with local heritage, but it is home to Island Cottage. Owned by John Desmond and Ellmary Fenton, they have created a home on the island that is enviable and a business that is a true retreat from everything and an oasis of food and art.
Take the boat to the island for a morning cooking class with John or stay for a longer course to truly immerse yourself, while staying on the island too. The restaurant is open for the summer season on various days for lunch and dinner, just make sure and book in advance.
The inland waterways in Ireland are a vast network of rivers, canals and countryside waiting to be explored. Think you can drive? Try parking a cruiser in Dromineer and then we’ll talk! That is part of what makes this experience so fun.
Start at Banagher or Portumna and navigate your way along Ireland’s longest river, docking along the way in picturesque towns for a night of midlands hospitality. The Derg Inn in Terryglass is a worthy stop as the food menu is as good quality as the ‘craic agus ceol’.
While driving through the midlands, meander your way to Country Choice in Nenagh. Peter and Mary Ward are legendary purveyors of quality Irish food. You’ll be able to pick up local produce for your boat trip here, enjoy a bite to eat or a chat with Peter about local food and history. Either way, you’ll be glad you stopped off.
If you cruise up as far as Carrick-on-Shannon, there are a few spots to eat some top nosh including Sham Hanifa’s The Cottage Restaurant in Jamestown, then his sister place in the centre of town, Buffalo Boy, serves up a fantastic steak, and St. George’s Terrace Restaurant is a treat if you want something elegant in a French classical style.
Finally, take a trip to The Organic Centre in Rossinver is a brilliant experience for families. The aim of the centre is to provide training and education, information and demonstration of organic gardening, growing and sustainable living. Take part in a class on growing, tour their gardens, or attend an event that happen regularly throughout the year, such as their Annual Fundraiser Event on July 15th with Neven Maguire or the Apple and Harvest Feast on September 23rd.
Dee likes to describe herself as a professional eater! Taught to cook by her father and sisters at a young age, starting a life-long passion for cooking and the enjoyment of food. Soon after qualifying as a journalist, she began a career writing about food and travel.
Her passion for Irish food and the people behind it – those who grow, produce and cook – has only been amplified over the years and led her to many roles in the industry including; member of Irish Food Writers’ Guild, chair of Slow Food Dublin, organiser of Slow in the City food festival, curator of Food on Board at Body&Soul Festival, and a judge of Blas na hEireann and Food&Wine Magazine Restaurant Awards.