Can we let you in on a secret? Slow travel is the way to go if you want to discover the real island of Ireland.
It’s all about ditching the checklist, sinking into your destination, soaking up the local culture, and really making a meaningful connection with the people and the places you visit.
It’s also a way to be more sustainable because by appreciating the traditions of a place, respecting the natural beauty all around you, and supporting proud local producers, you can help keep the real Ireland alive for generations to come.
Here are four ways to slow down in Ireland and enjoy the journey along the way
Off the beaten track
Ditch the scenic drive and make it a scenic bike ride. Across the island of Ireland are spectacular cycling routes to suit any level – from casual sightseer or intrepid road racer to mountain biking enthusiasts. You’ll find a number of Greenways, which are designed for cyclists and cover some of the most memorable landscapes imaginable. From the Great Western Greenway, reaching from the town of Westport to Achill Island, to the Waterford Greenway, which runs between Dungarvan and Waterford City.
Bike rental services are also widely available across Irish towns and villages such as OutWest Living on the Dingle Peninsula in Co Kerry, who offer a range of electric, hybrid or road bikes and will assist in picking the best route for your experience. From winding country roads of West Kerry, to hilly mountains or along the famous Slea Head route, the options are endless!
Other ways to experience the beauty and fresh air of Ireland is on horseback. Meander with your guide through green fields, pretty ponds and quiet pastoral woodland, glimpsing wild deer darting through the trees. Or horse ride across Ireland’s sandy and flat beaches, the wind in your face and the Atantlic ocean by your side. Why not head to Galway and take to the saddle of the highly-regarded Connemara Pony, a horse breed indigenous to the island of Ireland?
Immerse in the culture
The rich heritage of Irish storytelling and music should be savoured. Enjoy Ireland’s best tunes in places such as the Doolin Music House in Co Clare along the Wild Atlantic Way and experience the music as it’s meant to be listened to, around a crackling fire with the soft murmur of voices in the background.
Discover Ireland’s Celtic past at An Gobha Iron Works & Experience in Co Meath, an immersive and interactive show of traditional iron age metal forging. Demonstrated by the character “An Gobha”, the Blacksmith of the Boyne Valley in Ireland’s Ancient East, the experience is delivered through theatre, stories, myths and fun.
While a visit to Scullion Hurls in Ballymena, Co Antrim in Northern Ireland will bring you closer to the culture of Ireland. Hurling is one of the oldest field games in the world – believed to date back to the Celts, and here you can hold a hurl in your hand, connecting with not only local culture but also thousands of years of history while also learning about the ancient game.
An escape with a difference
Ireland is teeming with sustainable places to rest your head that are also unique and charming escapes. Dreamy Ard Nahoo Eco Retreat in Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands unveils rural Leitrim to yoga enthusiasts and canoeing groups alike; while The Dolphin Hotel on Inishbofin Island off the coast of Galway, shows off the flora and fauna of wild Inishbofin to perfection.
Sleep under the stars at Finn Lough in Co Fermanagh. Tucked away in a private forest, their transparent Forest Domes give you uninterrupted views so you can immerse yourself in nature and sleep beneath the starry skies. Enjoy the views from the 19th-century Killeavy Castle Estate, set on a mixed farm and woodland in Co Armagh’s stunning Slieve Gullion.
Fall asleep in a converted shepherd’s hut, looking out at the Blackstairs Mountains at Blackstairs Eco Trails, Co Carlow. While the award-winning Croan Cottages in Kilkenny are self catering accommodation that’s proud to be eco-friendly and uses electricity generated from wind.
Eat like a local
By slowing down your travels you have the chance to experience life like a local especially when it comes to food. Combine sightseeing with tasty treats and take a food tour from a local guide. They know everything about the area and are invested in showing you the best of their surroundings. And they’re also great for getting recommendations about what else to see and do.
In Dublin, you can explore the city with Fab Food Trails who will bring you to the new international and contemporary tastes all using great Irish produce. As you enjoy the food, you’ll also learn a little about the culture and history of the lively and charming Dublin City from your local guide, many of whom are well-established Irish food writers.
Best known for the neolithic passage tombs of Brú na Bóinne, the Boyne Valley is also a foodie destination. From apple blossom walks and midsummer solstice suppers to street feasts, harvest markets and maritime festivals, these are great opportunities to break bread with the locals. Rock Farm Slane offers the experience of an electric bike tour of local farmers, cheese-makers and cider producers.
While a stroll through Cork City’s historic English Market is a chance to discover some traditional Irish food’s greatest treasures, from crubeens and drisheen to sweet smoked mussels and buffalo mozzarella. This place is a pleasure to not just follow your nose through, but to meet the makers and sample their flavours.
How will you slow down your travels in Ireland? An adventure is waiting for you. So go on, “Fill your Heart with Ireland” and discover an experience like no other.
This article is presented proudly in partnership with Tourism Ireland. To learn more about Tourism Ireland and get inspired for your next visit to Ireland, check out their website at www.ireland.com.