Staycation Inspiration in Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands
We like to think we know our country inside out, every which way from top to bottom and back again. We like to think we know where to go, what to do, what to see, yet for many, the variety of what is out there is hidden in plain view. The Hidden Heartlands is a part of Ireland enveloped by and invested with pure, natural beauty and focused around a central element of what makes our country really and truly tick: community. From walking and water trails, from lakes to locks, from charming villages to charismatic towns, the Hidden Heartlands has them all. Seeing is believing.
WINEPORT LODGE, GLASSON, CO WESTMEATH
Is there any staycation hotel in Ireland better named than Wineport Lodge? Situated as serenely as you like on the banks of Lough Ree, and cosseted by native rustic scenery, Wineport is an ideal place to while away the evenings after a full day exploring the surrounding areas. From cycling along the rail trail Greenaway path from Athlone to Mullingar (no bike? – not to worry, you can borrow one from the lodge) to mooching around Lough Boora Discovery Park, from exploring the Dún na Sí Amenity and Heritage Park in nearby Moate to walking around the early Christian site at Clonmacnoise, all bases are covered.
More Info – www.wineport.ie
CENTER PARCS, LONGFORD
The good news is that, even in such tricky times, Centre Parcs is operating many of its superlative activities, and that its full 400 acres of forest, outdoor playgrounds and beach areas are open and ready for you to discover. The really good news is that the centre’s Subtropical Swimming Paradise is open for as many splashes as you can make and take (hi, kids!) and the Aqua Sana Spa is, with certain amendments, back in business (hi, parents/guardians!). Our advice? Bring your A-game, not your Plan B.
More Info – www.centerparcs.ie
LOUGH KEY FOREST PARK AND ACTIVITY PARK, BOYLE, CO ROSCOMMON
Wide spaces, fresh air, beautiful scenery, earthy fragrances of the landscape, walking trails through vast woodland areas, and being at one with nature – that’s what you get from this staycation, which by its very nature is (literally) a moveable feast. For those that like to travel around by campervan (the sales of which in Ireland have increased in the past three months), Lough Key’s Caravan Park and campsite is a magnet. Perfect for families that like to feel the ground under their feet and vast habitats that are home to deer, fox, squirrel, rabbit, and an array of birds, your days here will fly by in seconds.
More Info – www.loughkey.ie
FARNHAM ESTATE SPA & GOLF RESORT, CAVAN TOWN
There is, believe it or not, a ‘Stairway to Heaven’ close to Cavan’s Farnham Estate – it is called that by the multitude of visitors that have walked the Cuilcagh Boardwalk Trail. The trail takes about six hours to complete, but that’s okay – after it, and many other outdoor activities, you can take yourself back to this wonderful 1,300-acre country spread on the fringe of Cavan town and melt into a puddle of rustic charm, contemporary décor, stunning cuisine and spa treatments. Question: what’s not to love about that? Answer: nothing.
More Info – www.farnhamestate.ie
MACNEAN HOUSE & RESTAURANT, BLACKLION, CO CAVAN
About 20 minutes from Enniskillen and about 45 minutes from Cavan and Sligo towns, McNean House and Restaurant awaits. Truth is, this is something of a mecca for foodies, so if you want to mix gourmet bliss with a localised staycation, then be our guest. Frankly, we’re not sure what to say that hasn’t already been said about the accommodation (five units of no small comfort). As for the restaurant, words are virtually superfluous – Neven Maguire’s pedigree as a chef is beyond question, with both his reputation and skills making MacNean House & Restaurant Ireland’s most sought after destination eatery. Local attractions include the UNESCO Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark, Florence Court House, and Belleek Pottery.
More Info – www.nevenmaguire.com
KILRONAN CASTLE ESTATE AND SPA, BALLYFARNON, BOYLE, CO ROSCOMMON
A staycation at a luxury 4-star castle hotel? In a secluded nook in the Hidden Heartlands? Count us in. Imagine entering the world of Downton Abbey, except it’s in Ireland, it has a spa, a terrific dining experience, and more indulgent pleasures than are probably good for your system. Kilronan is also quite unique – a Gothic manor with subtle swathes of modernity that doesn’t forsake the benefits of onsite activities such as walks through its 40 acres of natural woodland and electric bike trailing. Many other off-site activities are available within a 30-minute drive.
More Info – www.kilronancastle.ie
SHERATON ATHLONE HOTEL, CO WESTMEATH
Bang in the centre of Athlone, with spacious rooms, a smart restaurant (La Provence) and elegant overnight accommodation prices that are on friendly terms with your debit card, the Sheraton Athlone Hotel is pitch-perfect and match fit. The town’s riverside restaurants are a few minutes walk away, and the truly historic Athlone Castle is within a long stone’s throw.
More Info – www.sheratonathlonehotel.com
LOUGH RYNN CASTLE ESTATE, MOHILL, CO LEITRIM
The most well-appointed and grandiose hotel in Co Leitrim (and, indeed, one of the best hotels in the West of Ireland), Lough Rynn Castle Estate has been astutely transformed from an ancestral home (once the domicile of Lord Leitrim, no less) into a staycation property of the highest, most distinguished order. Brimming with luxury and history (as well as, let it be known, a fair amount of charisma), you can just as equally luxuriate in the interior as the outside. Bonus points here, however, are the self-catering cottages on the grounds, which are ideal for family gatherings. Off-site activities include boat hire on the River Shannon, horse riding, and guided tours of the Arigna Mining Experience.
More Info – www.loughrynn.ie
CLONALIS HOUSE, CO ROSCOMMON
Built in the Victorian Italianate style in 1878, Clonalis House has been in the O’Conor family for an impressive 27 generations. Regarded by many as one of Ireland’s most important historic properties (it is, no less, the ancestral home of the O’Conors, Kings of Connacht), accommodation here is old-school sophistication and charm, with guests availing of house rooms or from a range of self-catering cottages. Dinner is a wholesome and homely affair, cooked and presented in classic ‘country house’ style, while breakfast is – all too inevitably – fit for kings and queens.
More Info – www.clonalis.com
SLIEVE AUGHTY CENTRE, CO GALWAY
An eco-friendly activity, leisure and equestrian centre set on close to 20 acres of glorious Co Galway terrain, the Slieve Aughty Centre firmly ticks many boxes. If you’re searching for eco-centric accommodation (from swish rooms in the Three Towers Eco House and lodges to glamping/camping), organic sustenance (from the on-site garden, shop, and restaurant, which are certified by the Irish Organic Association) and a rake of activities (from eco-trails and horse riding to cycling and bird watching), then you really need look no further than this family-owned delight.
More Info – http://slieveaughtycentre.com/
WRITTEN BY TONY CLAYTON-LEA
IRELAND’S HIDDEN HEARTLANDS
Tap into the relaxed rhythm of Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands to uncover unexplored tracks and trails, beguiling Blueways, exciting waterside towns and picturesque rural villages.
Pedal, walk, float or paddle along the tranquil tracks and waterways of this picturesque region – less than 2 hour from all of Ireland’s major cities.