TRAVEL: Ireland’s Blue Book has superb hotels and country houses stretching from Donegal to West Cork

10 amazing destinations on the Wild Atlantic Way

With 2,500km of spectacular coastline, there’s a lot on offer along the Wild Atlantic Way. Photograph: Getty Images

With 2,500km of spectacular coastline, there’s a lot on offer along the Wild Atlantic Way.

With blue seas and crashing waves on one side, and green fields and gourmet pit stops on the other, it’s no wonder the Wild Atlantic Way so quickly established itself internationally as one of the world’s iconic touring routes.

For us locals, there has never been a better time to enjoy it than this summer, with stunning Blue Book hotels and country houses to stay in every step of the way.

Life’s a beach

Start your Wild Atlantic Way adventure in Co Donegal this summer, staying at Rathmullan House, a Georgian property on the shores of Lough Swilly. This part of the world is famous for its beaches, with regular ‘world’s best’ contender, Ballymastocker, just up the road.

Enjoy trips to Malin Head, the country’s most northerly point, and Fanad Head, with its panoramic views of the Inishowen Peninsula, and don’t miss the cliffs at Slieve League, twice as high as Moher. Don’t forget your togs – not only does the property have its own indoor pool but a short path through its lush gardens brings you to a beach of golden sands.

Check in and chill out

Check in and chill out

Heading south, check into the Ice House Hotel in Ballina, Co Mayo for some urban chic on your wild adventure. Let your cares float downstream with the River Moy, which runs past your bedroom window.

It’s all about laid back luxury here, a space where to check in is to kick back and relax. Book a bike from Ballina Bike Hire and explore Belleek Woods, one of the largest urban forests in Europe, with a fairy trail and scavenger hunt to enjoy. Pamper yourself at the hotel’s Chill Spa. With an aromatherapy heat room, cedarwood hot tubs, and seaweed baths, it’s a guaranteed stress-free zone.

To the manor born

Connemara is at the heart of the Wild Atlantic Way and Rosleague Manor, on the quiet shores of Ballinakill Bay in Co Galway, is a wonderful haven in which to fetch up. Beautifully secluded in 30 acres of woodlands, it is close to Letterfrack and minutes from Kylemore Abbey.

Enjoy the buzz of Clifden, 15km away, the quiet splendours of Connemara National Park, and the island beauty of Inishbofin. Take the looped walk to see the views from Diamond Hill at Letterfrack by morning and follow it up with afternoon tea in Rosleague’s beautiful Victorian conservatory and you’ve a perfect day right there. Clifden’s Station House Hotel is hugely popular with visitors, especially during the annual Arts Week, and the town is also famous as the landing point for the first transatlantic flight by Alcock and Brown. The breathtaking Sky Road has special views of the islands and villages such as Cleggan where the poet Richard Murphy had a house on the pier.

Stay in sustainable style

All along the Wild Atlantic Way you’ll see nature at its best and Blue Book properties are committed to keeping it that way. Sustainability is central to Currarevagh House, on the shores of Lough Corrib in Co Galway. It is home to Henry and Lucy Hodgson, trained chefs for whom seeking out the best of local and seasonal produce is a way of life. This means guests get the perfect blend of fine dining and fine surrounds.

There are 180 acres to explore at Currarevagh, 90 per cent of which are European special areas of conservation. Take a boat and head out to a deserted island and they’ll pack the perfect picnic to sustain you too.

Whether you take your Wild Atlantic adventure in one epic go or in delicious bite-sized chunks, a fabulous Blue Book property awaits at irelands-blue-book.ie

Deluxe delight

Live it up in luxury at Glenlo Abbey Hotel and Estate, a five-star property on the banks of Co Galway’s Lough Corrib. Its serene location is just a few minutes’ from Galway city, giving you the best of both worlds.

That said, you’ll be hard pressed to leave this 138-acre estate, there’s just so much to do, including golfing, falconry and fishing. Glenlo Abbey even has its own movie theatre. It also has award winning chefs and exceptional dining – all aboard the Pullman Restaurant, two fully restored carriages from the original Orient Express. All in all, it’s a genuinely five-star experience.

Beauty on the Burren

Next stop heading south is the Burren. Like Vietnam’s Ha Long Bay, or the giant rock mushrooms of Spain’s Enchanted City, this iconic karst landscape attracts visitors from all over the world. Stay on its doorstep at Gregans Castle, a luxury gourmet eco retreat that ticks all the right boxes, from candlelit dining to modern art and antique furniture.

The gorgeous gardens seem to highlight the lunar landscape beyond.  This is a part of the world committed to ecotourism so there’s loads to enjoy, from guided walks to seaside foraging. Follow your nose to the Burren Perfumery for olfactory souvenirs.

Lakeside living

If ever there was a summer to reacquaint yourself with the majesty of the Kingdom, this is it. Carrig Country House near Killorglin, Co Kerry, started out as a Victorian hunting lodge. That explains its magical location overlooking Caragh Lake and surrounded by MacGillycuddy Reeks.

Stay at Carrig and challenge yourself to the local Big 5 – nominated by a local tourism initiative as hiking to the summit of Carrauntoohil, paddling the length of Caragh Lake, Cycling the 90km Ring of the Reeks, surfing at Inch Beach by day and SUPping (stand up paddleboarding) by night to enjoy the region’s dark sky reserve.

Explore the kingdom from Killarney

Killarney, Co Kerry, is the spiritual home of tourism in Ireland and home to some of our best known visitor attractions, including Ireland’s first ever National Park, Muckross Traditional Farms and scenic boat trips across Lough Leane.

Stay at Cahernane House Hotel, a boutique four-star hotel at the edge of the National Park, to enjoy dinner in a restaurant with views of the Tomies and Purple Mountains, and the unique atmosphere of its Cellar bar. After a day’s hiking and exploring there is nothing lovelier than a soak in one of its free-standing, claw footed baths before sinking back into one of its Seventh Heaven beds, replete with plumped up goose down pillows.

A five-star stay in Kenmare

You don’t go on national television showing other hospitality folk how to do it unless you’ve got service down pat yourself. The brothers Brennan, Francis and John, have certainly done that, which brings guests back time and again to their Park Hotel in Kenmare, Co Kerry.

For this leg of your Wild Atlantic Way, expect your every whim to be catered for, particularly if your whims extend to gourmet food, fabulous spas and great opportunities for hiking and biking. The five-star property is just a stroll from the town centre but with its Samas Spa, pool, cinema, tennis, croquet, falconry and golf, don’t be surprised if you don’t make it.

Coves in West Cork

You could of course start your Wild Atlantic Way adventure in wonderful West Cork and head north. To see the fuchsia in full bloom as you wend your ways along the lanes of Dunmanus Bay stay at Blairscove House and Restaurant is a delight.

This hidden gem comprises a restaurant, stylish suites and small apartments, all of which can be rented for B&B or on a self-catering basis. Don’t miss the restaurant’s famous buffet starter course, with stunning mains and homemade desserts, all made fresh daily.

Side by side, Stena Line’s identical ferries Superfast VII and Superfast VIII carry passengers on the company’s Irish Sea route from its new Loch Ryan Port in Scotland to Belfast.
The two vessels are the biggest ships ever to sail between Scotland and Northern Ireland carrying up to 1,200 passengers, 660 cars or 110 freight units and will make the crossing in 2 hours 15 minutes. The ships offer unprecedented levels of comfort on the Irish Sea with state-of-the-art facilities and even an onboard jacuzzi and sauna.

BILL HEANEY

Whether you take your Wild Atlantic adventure in one epic go or in delicious bite-sized chunks, a fabulous Blue Book property awaits at irelands-blue-book.ie

 

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