The Adventurous Girl’s Guide to Ireland
In need of a hit of chlorophyll? Living up to its nickname of the Emerald Isle the greenness and wildness of Ireland runs through its veins, both in the impressive scenery and a strong sense of place. Expect surprisingly diverse landscapes and epic adventure among the mountains and along the coastline of this beautiful island, plus a warm welcome in pubs and cities where trad music makes a lilting backdrop to a night of Guinness and good craic.
Ireland may be compact but it manages to be home to no less than six stunning national parks. Bike or trek around Killarney National Park, where you can visit the Torc Waterfall, Ross Castle and the Muckross Lake Loop. There’s world-class bird watching at the Cliffs of Moher, overlooking the Atlantic Coast, which is easily accessible on foot. For the more hardcore hikers, try Wicklow Way and the ultimate challenge of Carrauntoohil, the tallest mountain in the country. Water baby? Kayak, paddleboard and surf your way around Northern Ireland’s coastline – Ireland has a thriving surf culture and hitting up the best waves makes for a once-in-a-lifetime road trip.
Ireland’s 33,000 years of human history are showcased in a clutch of brilliant museums, from the charmingly pint-sized Little Museum of Dublin to rediscovering the story of the huge Titanic in Belfast. And a trip to the country that gave the world Guinness is not complete without a tour of a brewery or distillery – as well as sipping the famous black stuff you can sample tipples at the Irish Whiskey Museum, Jameson Distillery Bow St. and the Teeling Whiskey Distillery, all located in Dublin. If you love folk music as much as I do, keep an eye out for live music – in many pubs you can just drop in to a session of barnstorming Irish tunes and find that most of the locals are singing along.
Searching for the perfect view? Head out to the countryside gem of Killarney or to picturesque Waterford. Castle lovers should head to The Rock of Cashel in county Tipperary, Blarney Castle outside Cork and Ross Castle. And in Northern Ireland the Giant’s Causeway and an incredible rugged coast used as the backdrop for Game of Thrones await.
While Ireland is well served by buses and you can easily explore cities on foot or by bike, hiring your own car is the best way to get off the beaten track on a road trip. The Wild Atlantic Way’s 1600 miles is a bucket-list drive that showcases the best of Ireland, while Northern Ireland’s lesser-known Causeway Coastal Route delivers you to the incredible rock formations where giants are said to dwell. Don’t forget journeying by water, too – take a trip to an offshore island such as Inishbofin, on Connemara’s wild coastline, or Achill Island, where The Banshees of Inisherin was filmed.
IS IRELAND SAFE FOR SOLO WOMEN?
The Irish reputation of being welcoming, hospitable, friendly and lots of fun certainly extends to any visitors, female or otherwise. Ranked as the 2nd safest country for solo women by iVisa, Ireland is an easy place to explore, but as with anywhere, be aware of pickpockets in busy areas, especially if visiting for occasions such as St. Patrick’s Day.
WHERE TO STAY
Gorthadroid, West Cork
Got a big group in tow? This gorgeous eco-friendly home sleeps 12 and is one of the best houses to rent in West Cork, with a huge kitchen for cooking up a feast, six comfy bedrooms and deserted beaches, Italianate islands and surfing and kayaking on your doorstep. From £2,700 per week.
The Bushmills Inn, County Antrim
‘Cosy’ doesn’t even begin to describe the vibe at this welcoming inn – think peat fires, four poster beds and a gas-lit bar. Bushmills is the perfect base for visiting the nearby Giant’s Causeway, and even if you don’t stay here you should pop in for an Irish coffee in the snug Gas Bar. I loved the mezzanine bedrooms. From £120 per night.
Blackstairs Shepard’s Huts, County Carlow
Spend the day canoeing across the lake or exploring nearby meadows and woods at these charming shepherds huts. Hike in the hills of County Carlow and County Wexford by day and snuggle down in a cosy double bed at night. From £79 per night.
Trannish Island Bothy, Lough Erne
Pack your tent, hop in a canoe and make your way over to Trannish Island to spend a peaceful night surrounded by the waters of Lough Erne. In colder weather, you can book the restored bothy and warm up by the wood stove. Camping from £6 per night.