Make it Munster
In times gone by, visitor attractions for tourists were confined to the spectacular stretch of pubs on a certain street. And the crumbling castle in the background.
Not any more. With the increase of foreign visitors to these shore, and sustained promotional campaigns by Fáilte Ireland and Tourism Ireland, attractions and activities have exploded in recent years. That explosion hasn’t bypassed Munster with a wide range of activities available in every county. So when you’re looking for some weekend breaks around the province, or even just a day trip, take into consideration some of these activities that can be a great way to relax, unwind or get invigorated by with friends, family or the kids.
We couldn’t mention Clare without mentioning the stunning Cliffs of Moher. One of Ireland’s most famous natural landmarks is located about 30 minutes from Ennis, and prices to walk along the cliffs is only €6 for adults. With the Cliffs making the final stages last year for the new seven wonders of the world, they're not to be missed.
If treading the edge of the Atlantic isn’t your thing then maybe pony trekking is. Clonlara Stables in East Clare is located on 130 acres and has an international size indoor and outdoor manage for equestrian trekking. With both novices and experienced catered for, along with Pony Camps for children run throughout the summer, why not trot over and check out their offers at http://www.clonlaraequestrian.com/asp/section.asp?s=1
But back West, and no trip to Clare could be complete without a trip to the famed limestone region of the Burren, located in the village of Kilfenora. With megalithic tombs and monuments older than the Pyramids of Egypt, coupled with valleys of streams and wildlife and flora.
The Burren visitor centre offers tours in rain or shine, so there’s no excuse not to visit one of the oldest places on earth, between the hours of 9.30am and 5.30pm of course.
No trip to Kerry could possibly be taken without a boat-ride in Dingle to see if Fungi still lives. Good news, he does. The dolphin has worked his magic over the years to earn himself a place in our hearts, and even a statue on Dingle Pier. After you’ve checked his pulse, why not pop over to the aquarium where a host of sea-life now lives – much to the delight of the childlike visitors, both young and old.
The Blasket Islands gained notoriety when one of them was bought by a certain former head of government. No names being mentioned here but a trip to An Blascaod Mór is really special. The Blasket Islands are not called the parish next to America for no reason, and with the Heritage centre on the mainland to tell you the history then a few hours, of not a day can be spent learning about at all the stories of the islanders.
After the history lesson, why not head over to Inch beach and take a stroll along its rolling sand or, if you’re feeling lucky, dive into the Atlantic waters with or without a surfboard. With a beautiful headland on either side of the beach, there is rarely a better feeling then coming out of the ice-cold water – for a number of reasons!
If sporty landmarks are your thing, then check out what Limerick has to offer in the hallowed turf on Thomand Park. The newly designed stadium, the site of many a famous win for the mighty Munster, also now has a fully interactive rugby museum that showcases the best of the proud rugby tradition in the city.
With impressive memorabilia such as the match ball from the famous 1978 win over the All-Blacks and the 2006 Heineken Cup Final, this is a must for any sport mad fan. There is also a stadium tour that brings you deep within the heart of the stadium, where only the players usually get to. Tours can be booked in advance at www.thomandpark.ie.
Continuing the sporty theme, why not check out the Ballyhoura Country experience with the largest network of mountain bike trails in Ireland. Test your own biking skills to the max at this high-octane trail. If biking isn’t your cup of tea, why not check out everything else Ballyhoura has on offer, from Clay Pigeon shooting to kayaking in the Outdoor Adventure Centre. It’s all to play for at www.visitballyhoura.com.
Back in the city, why not stretch those literary legs and take the Angela’s Ashes tour, which encompasses all of the schools, churches and building described in the world famous novel of life in Limerick City. Be warned, it could be raining, but that'll only add to the atmosphere.
Follow in the steps of royalty and visit the famed Rock of Cashel, the only place outside of Dublin and Cork where Queen Elizabeth II visited last year. The medieval complex contains a castle, a cathedral and a round tower dating back to 1014 AD.
If you have children in tow and want a bit of walking, mixed in some awe-inspiring underground vistas, then check out the Mitchelstown Caves in Cahir.
Tours of the famous caves take you through three massive caverns surrounded by dripstone formations of stalactites and stalagmites. The caves also boast one of Europe’s finest calcite columns in the huge Tower of Babel. Parking is also provided for cars and buses near the caves first discovered in 1833. For more information on the caves visit www.mitchelstowncaves.com.
For the more active among you the Glen of Aherlow provides over 16 miles of valleys and countryside to meander through. With a nature park also thrown in, there is acres of unspoiled land to walk, jog or bike through including the opportunity to fish and even a golf course. Accommodation is provided through a slew of Bed & Breakfasts nearby and in Tipperary town. Even more amenities to choose from can be found at www.aherlow.com.
One of the jewels of the South East has more than its fair share to offer visitors to Ireland’s oldest city. The world famous Waterford Crystal, saved with the help of Waterford City Council, is a must see attraction for any tourist to the region, where-ever they come from. The tour offers an insight into the intricate detail that is required to produce the world-class crystal items. At the end of the tour you also have the chance to purchase a piece of the crystal, either for yourself or as a present – if you have the cash that is!
Head out to Tramore to breathe in that sea-air, and to take a jaunt out to the famous Metalman.
The Metalman stands atop one of the three pillars facing towards the sea. First built in 1823 by Lloyds of London to warn ships coming to port of the dangers of the rocks, the Metalman is a man-made feat of engineering that continues to stand proud today. Local produce and hospitality in the town of Tramore is also one not to be missed.
The Copper coast European Geopark is also something to visit during your stay Suirside. The park stretches from Tramore to Dungarvan with its 25 km of 19th Century copper mines offering stunning sights to visit in rain or sun. The rocks of the Copper coast record geological events over 460 million years.
Dear old Cork. No trip to the three crowns of Munster would be complete without a trip to the Rebel Capital. And what better way to start off a trip to the Real Capital than to trot up the steps of St Anne’s Church at Shandon, locally known as the ‘four face liar.’ On your way to the top, where stunning views of all of Cork city can be seen, why not pull a few chords attached to the bells, with instructions for all to play some neat little ditties, including a rock song or two!
After than it could be time to check out Fota Wildlife Park, which saw over 1 million people visit in 2011. With ostriches, eagles and tiger or three, wow the kids, and yourself, with a day out amongst the animals. Whether you like to stroll around the wide open fields with giraffes nuzzling nearby or take the on-site train past the baboons, there’s something for every animal lover.
For a more relaxed vibe, take a drive down to Kinsale and sit back and relax. With a host of local shops, pubs and restaurants to choose from, what better way to get to know the locals than with a taste of their own produce, in their own back yard.
Whatever you decide to do these summer months, keep it local, keep it Irish – and make it Munster.