Home Uncategorized 21 Awesome Ideas to Staycation Ireland in 2021. (Again)!

21 Awesome Ideas to Staycation Ireland in 2021. (Again)!

by Roberto
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2020 was billed as the year of the staycation. Yet here we are a year on in Ireland in the never-ending lockdown, and one can assume that the best for 2021 might well be a staycation. With Covid-19 bringing world travel to its knees, we are going to have to think once more inside the box. The boundaries of the box are been set by our own governments and in all likelihood, they will once more be limited to borders. So 2021 will surely be the year to staycation Ireland. Again. Hopefully, you didn’t exhaust all the ideas in your imagination when trying to fill last year. If so fear not, my staycation ideas from 40 years of travelling and taking Ireland staycations will set you straight for the summer ahead.

It probably goes without saying that much of 2021 will be spent in search of outdoor pursuits. So it’s with that in mind that we have put together this list for you, to inspire your summer.

Tourism Industries

If the tourism industry is to recover from this catastrophic shock, we must first help regain the confidence of our local markets. Coming from Ireland where 6% of our GDP comes from Tourism, that’s a major shortfall in our economy. Needless to say, it’s not just the Irish economy, the whole world right now is suffering.

A staycation doesn’t need to mean a week in a local resort or tourist centre. It can be as simple as staying at home and visiting some local attractions. Coming up are my top suggestions and the best places for a staycation.

Best staycation Ireland ideas with kids

Naturally, with kids in tow, you are going to have to think of all the variables. Of course, the ideal trip will be days on the beach and good dining options at night, with some adventure thrown in for good measure. However, Ireland isn’t Spain or Portugal and isn’t likely to play ball all the time (most of the time). So you need a staycation destination that’s going to give you options for those rainy and cold days, or when those inconvenient storms roll in. As a father of an eleven-year old, I can relate to the frustrations of summer in Ireland. These are my best suggestions for all-weather family vacations in Ireland.

A Cycling holiday on one of Ireland greenways

Ireland has been slowly adding to its cycling greenways (a little too slowly for some), but there are now about ten available in different parts of the country. They vary greatly in length but are the perfect outdoor activity for families. Most utilise now-defunct sections of the complex Irish rail network which once covered the island. As rail travel went into decline, many sections were left to nature. They are now slowly being restored and provide a great vantage point of the Irish countryside. The other advantage is the safety of taking the kids on a cycle route that is free of traffic and other dangers.

Notable greenways include those on the Royal and Grand Canal which run from Dublin down through Ireland’s midlands, the Waterford Greenway which travels from Waterford to Dungarvan, the Boyne valley greenway, and the scenic Great Western Greenway, which passes the astonishing Clew Bay on its way to Achill Island. For more, this article by aroundireland.ie on Ireland’s best greenways trails, is a good resource.

River cruise on the Shannon

From greenways to waterways, it’s possible that there’s no better time to consider a river cruise. There’s the natural social distancing of the waterways. River cruising requires no licenses or experience of having operated a boat before. The barges are slow-moving and safe, making them perfect for captains and navigators of all ages. Better still the family dog can even be taken along.

The main locations for boat rentals are Carrick on Shannon and Banagher. River cruises generally operate on a one or two-week basis, which gives plenty of time to see much of the Shannon, from Lough Erne in Fermanagh and down as far as Lough Derg in County Clare. Between, the towns of Carrick on Shannon and Athlone are popular stopping-off points, as well as the attractions at Clonmacnoise, Lough Key Forest Park, and Birr Castle. The Shannon is also the perfect river for a wide variety of water sports guaranteed to keep everyone entertained. Along the way is Baysports in Hudson Bay too, Ireland’s largest outdoor inflatable water park.

Ireland’s oldest pub -Sean’s Bar in Athlone

Stay at an all inclusive Family Resort

There are countless family friendly hotel resorts around Ireland offering excellent packages, which means you barely need to leave the confines of the hotel. Most offer swimming pools and walks, with many offering activities such as archery, mini-golf, pony riding, go-karting, tennis courts, football pitches and so much more. Coastal hotels near Sligo and Donegal also offer surfing lessons during the summer. The most popular are CastleMartyr, Kellys Resort, and Delphi Adventure Resort, but you’ll find an excellent list in this Irish Independent article.

Spend a week in Center Parcs Longford Forest

Of course, none of the hotels above can compete with Center Parcs in terms of activities. Its 466 lodges will be very popular during the summer of 2021, and with hundreds of indoor and outdoor activities available, no one will ever be bored. There’s a spa and lots of restaurants catering for the adults, so they can be included in that too. Book now at Center Parcs.

Visit some of Ireland’s best family attractions

Of course, not all of Ireland’s attractions are contained within the grounds of hotels. Across the country, you’ll find zoos, wildlife parks, amusement parks, activity centres, waterparks, ziplining or whatever takes your fancy. Spend a day in Tayto Park, Ireland’s largest amusement park. Learn surfing at Lahinch in Clare. Conquer your fears on the high ropes at Zipit. Say arrrr at the Pirates Adventure Park in Westport House. Learn kayaking or canoeing in Longford, Carlow, Waterford, or in the Carlingford Adventure Centre. Ski without snow at Kilternan in Dublin, or take to the water slides in Tramore, Blanchardstown, Drogheda, Salthill, Athlone, or Bundoran.

Tayto Park
Tayto Park has Europe’s largest wooden roller coaster

Go camping or glamping

Can’t face the prospect of another night looking at four walls? Then why not go camping or glamping. With summer coming you will have a chance to soak up the great outdoors, get some fresh air, have a cheap staycation, and still respect your own personal self-isolation rules. There are numerous camping and glamping Ireland sites to be found in the most idyllic of locations. Looking for one near you? Have a read of this great guide to glamping sites in Ireland from The Irish Road Trip. Alternatively, you can try a bit of wild camping. And mind the bull.

Best staycation Ireland ideas for adults

Take a spa break in one of Ireland’s hotels.

After all, that time cooped up at home may be the last thing you will want is to be cooped up in a hotel. But it might be just the tonic. Throw in the prospect of a spa, a nice comfy king bed, the 18 hole golf courses, amazing food, together with all the social and interesting activities that the best hotels in Ireland have on offer.

Sick and tired of looking at your kitchen, but don’t fancy an evening in a restaurant? The call room service and dine in the luxury of your room. Personally, I’ve always balked at the price of Ireland’s castle hotels, but with the loss of foreign visitors, their prices have become within reach. Now might be the time to knock on the door of Dromoland Castle or Ashford Castle. Alternatively, why not take a look at the exclusive resorts near you.

Kilkea Castle - ideal for an Ireland staycation
Kilkea Castle Hotel in Kildare

City breaks

Perhaps you’ve spent all year in your own little rural corner of the country, and can’t wait to get back to the vibrance of the city. The good news is some of the best parts of those cities will be reopening very soon (forgetting the pubs for a minute). From May 10th galleries, cultural attractions and museums are open. Time to expand that knowledge. From May 17th, all retail will be reopened, so maybe a week of retail therapy is what is needed. Of course, hotels will follow from early June, and pubs and restaurants will be serving outdoors from the 7th, so the set will be complete for a great weekend or week away.

Dublin

Like it or hate it, Dublin is not short of a few things to do. From a huge selection of museums and galleries, to city centre tourist attractions such as St Patrick’s Cathedral, Christchurch Cathedral, Dublin Castle, the Guinness Storehouse, Kilmainham Gaol and the GPO, it’s a great place to get in touch with Irish history. That’s without mentioning the incredible variety in its countless restaurants and bars. Personally, I prefer exploring its quaint villages such as Dalkey and Howth. For more on what I love about Dublin, see the section on being a tourist in your own backyard below.

Guinness Factory Tour at the Guinness Storehouse

Galway

We all know Galway. Though it won’t be the same this year without the roar of spectators at the Galway races, it’s still a super fun city. Often coined as the gateway to the west, Galway the is perfect base for exploring Mayo, Clare, or Galway counties too, before returning to sample its evening delights. Salthill is a charming old seaside scene that’s great to stay in. But of course, if you want more of the city, stay closer to the centre and explore its cathedral, Latin quarter and great craft industries.

Belfast

Belfast is a completely different proposition to Dublin and Galway. The 20th century had the greatest impact on its history, with the Titanic and The Troubles leaving a huge impression on life there. Both form two of its most visited places now, via a walking tour of the Titanic exhibition or via a Black Taxi tour of its peace walls and political murals. Belfast’s pubs are already open now and life is moving faster towards normal there, due to their faster vaccination policy. Perhaps now’s the time to consider Belfast.

Belfast perfect for a city break to staycation Ireland 2021

The Best Road trips in Ireland

Of course, road trips are good at any time but it might just be the perfect idea for a staycation now. Pack up a lunch for that remote picnic and let the road take you and your family in its direction. You don’t even need a destination, just get onto a secondary road, and let it surprise you. Of course, every country has its famed road trips and maybe you feel like finally tackling that one on your bucket list that you haven’t.

Sometimes the road trip that you come up with yourself is often better than the waymarked route. The road less travelled brings far greater reward. Personally, I prefer to get lost in the gentle mountains of Wicklow, my happy place just a short distance from Dublin. Wherever yours is, stay safe in these times.

Wild Atlantic Way

The Biggie. 2500 kilometres along the whole Atlantic Coast of Ireland from Cork to Donegal. Top of the Irish bucket list. It’s questionable if you would want to do it all in one go, and it’s something you really need the time for. But if it’s a commodity you have, then the longest marked coastal drive in the world might just be the best travel memory you can make this year. All along the route, there are excellent towns to spend the night in Kinsale, Kenmare, Dingle, Tralee, Kilkee, Lahinch, Galway, Clifden, Westport, Sligo, and Bundoran. You really are spoiled for choice. That’s before I mention the west coast sights of Slieve League, Achill, Connemara, The Burren, Cliffs of Moher, and Skellig Michael; I could go on and on. Give it a minimum of two weeks, but ideally three to visit the full Wild Atlantic Way.

Donegal

What most tend to do of course is split the Wild Atlantic Way into sections and explore county by county. Your own author included. Donegal, Ireland’s fourth-largest county and one of its wildest is a perfect one to start it. From the windswept Malin Head (Ireland’s most northerly point) down through the Glenveagh National Park, and to the huge sea cliffs at Slieve League, it really lives up to that billing. Offshore Tory Island is a unique self-imposed kingdom, which till recently was ruled by a king. The Atlantic waters here are Ireland’s surfing capital, with the town of Bundoran an advised base for this. With such a huge coastline Donegal has excellent beaches, and Ballymastocker bay is one of the world’s finest. In Harvey’s Point and Lough Eske Castle, Donegal has some of the countries best hotels too.

Mayo

While Mayo is often overlooked as a county where only Stags and Hens end up for one last wild weekend, it’s so much more than that. It is another large county with a great sprinkling of interesting places in it. In the north, there’s the Dun Briste stack, one of Mother Nature’s finest pieces of sculpting in Ireland. Nearby are the Ceide Fields, the oldest known system of fields in the world. Trust Ireland to have the oldest fields. Just off the coast is the island of Achill, where you must see Keem Bay, one of the world’s finest beaches. Further south is Croagh Patrick, Ireland’s holy mountain, views of Clew Bay, and the wild valley of Doolough. It’s a county made for a road trip.

Connemara

With much of its main roads following the Wild Atlantic way, it should come as little surprise that I highly recommend to road trip Connemara. It’s the kind of place you can easily spend a week, there’s that much to see and do. Outdoors is the name of the game here, from the water sports in Clifden Bay to the hiking in the Connemara National Park. It’s best seen of course by car, where you can stop and appreciate its scenery. Don’t miss the Sky Road too, it’s the shortest loop on the route, but the vista at its summit will astound. Families will love Clifden as a base, with its beaches and many water-based activities.

Kylemore Abbey, Connemara Galway

County Clare

One of our favourite counties in Ireland here at CarpeDiemEire, Clare is a road trip paradise. From the wide-open plains of the Burren, to possibly the best coastline in the country, you will really want to stop everywhere and admire the views. That coast has the Cliffs of Moher in its repertoire, one of Ireland’s must-do’s. But the villages and towns that dot the long oceanfront such as Kilkee, Lahinch, and the impeccably cute Doolin are great stops too. Doolin is a perfect springboard to the Aran Islands, with regular sailings. Inland there’s a lot of history in this county, in the castles of Dromoland, Leamaneh, Dysert O’Dea, and Bunratty.

Cliffs of Moher County Clare

County Kerry

Kerry is a county that’s perfect for a break any time of year. It has the hotels, it has the sights, and it definitely has the road trips. Undoubtedly its top of the Irish staycation spots.

The Ring of Kerry is a classic, a 179 km route through some of Ireland’s best scenery. Perhaps best seen over four days, this is my two-day Ring of Kerry itinerary to visit Killarney, the Killarney National Park, and to drive the route.

Dingle is one of Ireland’s liveliest towns, with a roaring nightlife year-round. While the Dingle Peninsula is small, a road trip taking in Connors Pass and the Slea Head drive will take your breath away. There are innumerate things to do in Dingle for visitors of all ages. If you haven’t been then now is surely the year.

Kerry

Causeway Coastal Route

The Antrim Coast and Causeway Coastal Route of Northern Ireland is one of the most aesthetic routes in the whole country. Packed with sea views and some powerhouse sights, it’s the perfect escape for a few days. Along the way, you’ll pass Dunluce Castle, Carrick-a-Rede bridge, and of course the Giants Causeway. This is our suggested Causeway Coastal Route Itinerary, travelling from Belfast up the Antrim Coast. GOT fans will be able to combine the trip with some of the show’s famous filming locations. It’s an exciting part of the country.

Haunted and unusual Ireland

Looking for something a little bit off the usual track in Ireland? Then let me suggest taking in some of its most haunted and unusual locations. Most castles and old houses in Ireland have some tale of haunting attached to them, with most coming from a time when superstition was widespread. They are scattered all over the country and all having a unique history, often influenced by a tumultuous past. Better still you can spend the night in some of these, and test your mettle. Will you see the Wizard Earl come riding into Kilkea Castle? Or experience the Elemental in Leap Castle? These are just some of the ghosts of the 25 most haunted places in Ireland.

Some of Ireland’s gardens have a strong connection to its past. Brigit’s Gardens in Galway explore the Celtic Seasons. The Hill of Uisneach and Dun na Si Heritage Park also presents an unusual vision of our past. Near the famed Guinness lake in County Wicklow is a garden with a real difference. Victor’s Indian Way Sculpture Garden is an amazing place for adults to reflect and enter into the spiritual vision of its owner.

Be a Tourist in your own backyard

I’ve called Dublin home for the last 24 years, and yet there is so much I still haven’t seen and done in the city. I am constantly pushing myself to be a tourist in my own backyard. It’s the first place we should look for things to do, and yet is often the place we neglect the most. It may be a major tourist attraction that you thought you will get around to one day. This is that one day. Perhaps there is a museum that you didn’t think was your thing. I personally always put off visiting attractions in Dublin such as Dublin Castle and Trinity College until recently.

Sometimes all you need is a change of scenery. If you live in a city maybe there’s a fashionable neighbourhood that you haven’t been to ever or in a long time. Or a town within easy travelling distance that you have heard good things about. If there is, I’ll bet that it’s famed for a reason, perhaps it has interesting attractions, and more than likely it has a good culinary scene.

Dublin has some great attractions in Trinity College, Dublin Castle, Epic Museum, Kilmainham Gaol, and Christchurch Cathedral, which all bring different parts of Irish history to life. In its suburbs, Howth, Dalkey, Malahide, and Dun Laoghaire offer the visitor a unique city experience, with great culinary scenes, and a mix of harbours, hiking, and coastal experiences.

Trinity College
Trinity College in Dublin

Fill your year with day trips

Gardens

Ireland’s gardens are the perfect day trips to fill your year with and stretch your legs. There’s no better place to social distance in the country, as open green spaces are our specialty. With the garden county (Wicklow) at Dublin’s door, its gardens such as Powerscourt, Kilruddery, and Mount Usher are the ideal day trip from the city. But gardens are found throughout the entire island, and even off the island in the case of Garnish Island in West Cork. Visiting during the different seasons also brings a different perspective to them.

Ireland staycation
Mount Usher Gardens Wicklow

Street art tours

With each year that passes our streets are becoming more and more like a canvas. Street artists the world over are adding murals and politically and socially motivated messages. It’s a great way to reintegrate back into life on the streets, without visiting crowded shopping streets. I for one will be avoiding those. Ireland has seen major growth in this art form over the last number of years, with urban centres such as Limerick, Dublin, Derry, Longford and Drogheda at the fore. Waterford and its Waterford Walls festival lead the way though. I have spent much time recently exploring the art on the streets of Dublin, and it’s amazing how much you can find with some exploration.

Take a Hiking Break

Hiking is an adventure activity that was made for social distancing. Travel to a remote part of the country, strap on some boots, and get lost on one of the many trails. Figuratively of course. The isolation is perfect for our dilemma. That said since the advent of social distancing many people have turned to hiking so it’s necessary to be inventive with your choice. Glendalough (pictured below) in Ireland is overrun with people as one of its most famed trails. So there is a responsibility to keep away from people even in rural areas. Looking for inspiration- download alltrails.com app and get off the beaten track. Of course, you could aim for one of the best 15 hikes in Ireland, a recent article here on CarpeDiemEire.

Glendalough Ireland staycation
Glendalough- some of Ireland’s best hiking
Wicklow an Ireland staycation idea
Wicklow Mountains

Don’t Forget to Support Local Businesses

This is perhaps the most important of all points of this blog, in terms of your own welfare and that of your fellow country people. As we recover from this unprecedented emergency that is afflicting us, there will be a considerable degree of recovery that we will need to undergo. It begins with us. Those local cafes and restaurants will be at breaking point. Holiday home and Hotels have been severely impacted. Tour buses and private tours are at a standstill. All of the above face possible closure and the job losses are unthinkable. Restaurants will have to observe the outdoor dining rule for the immediate future, so a safe environment will be presented to customers.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive a commission if you click a link and purchase something that I have recommended. While clicking these links won’t cost you any money, it will help keep this site going and me travelling. Thank you for your support.

It shall be a testing year ahead and we all are duty-bound to halt the progress of this terrible virus. But we can still appreciate some of what life has to offer in the months ahead. It’s only with all of our help that we can aid our economic recovery. Whether it’s to discover something new or save our favourites, start with an Ireland staycation to get back into that travelling frame of mind.

Have you a favourite way to staycation Ireland? Let me know in the comments below.

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