This week, Taoiseach Micheál Martin outlined the reopening schedule for May and June, stating that the country is in a safer position now and that the Covid-19 strategy is “progressing well” in part due to people’s actions and the success of the vaccine rollout, with one of the most significant announcements being the resumption of inter-county travel by 10 May.
Summer 2021 will be a “staycation” season once again. While we lack foreign travel, this gives us the chance to experience this majestic “Emerald Isle” we call home, and an Irish Road trip is a fantastic way to do so. Plus, you can fully immerse yourself in the journey when you travel by car, seeing new (and old) locations up close as never before. Not only will you be able to see more, but you’ll also begin to see (and appreciate) the little details that can often go unnoticed.
For good cause, Ireland has been a very successful international travel destination. We had 11.8 million visitors in 2019, thanks to our beautiful greenery and steep oceanside mountains, as well as our charming towns and iconic landmarks. As a result, we should see it as an invitation to investigate our own country’s inner beauty, to stretch out and explore what our tourists find enchanting about this country, rather than as just another year locked away from exploring the world at large.
You might be shocked to discover that Ireland has it all; whether your passion is exciting adventures, cultural exhibitions, or popular bucket list attractions, you have the pleasure to sample all of these on your journey. Although some of these adventurous tasks can require more than a day, they are surely and incredibly doable in a single day, which is one of the advantages of living on a small island. So, here are three different Irish roadtrips to take this summer.
The Wild Atlantic Way through Kerry
The Dingle Peninsula, located along Ireland’s famed Wild Atlantic Way, never ceases to amaze with its otherworldly scenery (think: evergreen cliffs, craggy coastlines, and vibrant blue waters). Start your journey by taking Slea Head Drive, a scenic road famed for its photo-worthy vistas. If you prefer to explore the peninsula on foot, take the Dingle Way, which is a network of trails that runs the length of the peninsula. Alternatively, catch a ferry to the Blasket Islands to see jaw-dropping cliffs, search for animals (such as sheep and dolphins), and enjoy the solitude of its sandy beaches.
Tralee is an excellent place to finish your road trip because it not only has many notable landmarks, such as the Kerry County Museum and Tralee Town Park (one of Ireland’s largest urban parks), but it also has several charming villages nearby, each with their own unique past and attractions, such as Ardfert with its medieval Cathedral, a historical property with Romanesque features. Furthermore, Tralee is home to the Tralee Bay Wetlands Centre, a conservation haven with stunning scenic walks and, if restrictions are lifted, canoeing and fishing opportunities.
Kilkenny to Waterford
Kilkenny has a plethora of architectural sights for visitors to enjoy. This is due in large part to the town’s previous distinction as Ireland’s medieval capital, which is commemorated today in the Medieval Mile, Kilkenny’s most popular tourist attraction. Kilkenny Castle, St. Canice’s Cathedral, and the Medieval Mile Museum are only a few of the attractions on the Medieval Mile. The Smithwick’s Experience is also located in this historic area of town, where you can learn more about how one of Ireland’s most famous ales is made.
Travelling further south on the M9 brings you to Ireland’s oldest city, Waterford. The capital of the “Sunny Southeast” is steeped in heritage, which is reflected in its attractions. At Waterford Treasures’ Medieval Museum, Reginald’s Tower, and Bishop’s Palace, history buffs can learn more about the city’s Viking origins. They can also take a tour of the Waterford Crystal factory, which dates from the 18th century and shows how the city’s world-renowned crystal is produced. The Waterford Greenway, a nearly 30-mile-long walking and biking route, is ideal for visitors who want to get away from the city.
Galway to Clifden
Galway provides travellers with the best of both worlds. If you’d rather stick close to home, take a walk through the vibrant Latin Quarter, then visit historical sites including the Spanish Arch and St. Nicholas’ Collegiate Church. Galway’s comparatively light yet tangible bustle will appeal to city slickers, while outdoor enthusiasts will appreciate the city’s many scenic beauty spots, such as the Salthill Promenade and the Wild Atlantic Way route into Connemara.
Leaving the city along the Wild Atlantic Way will bring you through the Connemara National Park. When you visit this 5,000-acre national park during the summer, you should expect breathtaking landscapes around every corner. Connemara National Park contains four mountain ranges, as well as woodlands, grasslands, heaths (wild, undeveloped flatlands), and bogs (low wetlands) that can be explored on one of the park’s many trails. Hike the Diamond Hill tracks, the Cong and Clonbur Forest Trail, and the Killary Harbour Coastal Walk to provide a clear glimpse of the park’s varied scenery. Ireland’s only fjord can be found along the coastal trail.
Following the Wild Atlantic Way, you’ll gradually break away from Connemara’s beautiful scenery and arrive in Clifden, a picturesque market town nestled between the Twelve Bens mountains and the Atlantic Ocean, at the mouth of Clifden Bay. The region is known around the world for its diverse nature and cultural heritage. Clifden makes an impression on anyone who comes to visit. It’s a small town with a little bit for everybody.
Summer 2021 will be a season for fun and exploration, and while this year brings with it a slew of new challenges, it also gives us the chance to really get to know this wonderful island we call home.