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Top ten green holidays in Ireland

Posted by at 12:47 on Tuesday 22 June 2010

For information on how to travel to Ireland, see our detailed information page:

How to travel to Ireland by ferry

Bog cotton in the Mourne Mountains, County DownBog cotton in the Mourne Mountains, County Down

Green is synonymous with Ireland and visitors come in their millions to seek out the forty shades of it. Now, however, Ireland is making its mark on the European map of truly green and sustainable tourism.. Here are a few of my favourite green places to stay and green activities on the island of Ireland, where you will not only meet the people who know and love their landscape and culture, but also discover parts of the island which are not always in the guidebooks. As an Irish national, I am proud to show them all off as fine ambassadors of what my country has to offer. 

Family Holidays in Ireland

Delphi Mountain Resort in Leenane, Co.Galway, recently revamped to precise green standards, is a stunning stone and timber building, nestled between two stretches of water, Killary Harbour and the Bundorragha River. Activities include kayaking, cycling, archery, hillwalking, surfing, rockclimbing and raft-building. All carbon-neutral.  There is accommodation to suit all too, from luxury suites to dormitory rooms.  You can send kids there on a summer camp, or just go for a spa break, with special treatment of real seaweed baths. It is go, go go, or chill, chill, chill. All happily catered for. 

For more details on Where to stay and how to get there and back without flying, see: Delphi Mountain Resort

Slieve Aughty Riding Centre is a place which makes ethical look easy. It is not just all about riding, but about bringing families out into the surrounding area of County Galway, each stay starting with an adventure of some sort. Walk through woodland with the Centre’s donkeys as guides from your cottage every day, go cycling, walking and,  of course,  riding. Beginners are more than welcome, with natural bitless horseriding a speciality here, and instructors who are gently encouraging to nervous children (and adults!). In fact, everything is natural at Slieve Aughty, from the fine organic, and locally sourced food served round the clock, to the way in which they welcome children into the Aughty fold. 

For more details on where to stay and how to get there and back without flying see Slieve Aughty Riding Centre. Waiting for the surf at Delphi Mountain ResortWaiting for the surf at Delphi Mountain Resort

Cooking holidays in Ireland

Belle Isle Castle is, indeed, on a 'beautiful island', on the northern tip of Upper Lough Erne, County Fermanagh, famous as Ireland’s lakelands. Linked to the ‘mainland’ by a tiny bridge, the Belle Isle estate and working farm, is a designated Area of Special Scientific Interest. In between cookery lessons, walking the hills and shores was like one big nature lesson, as I tried to identify the wide variety of old Irish trees, including huge Horse Chestnuts, Beech, Ash and Yew. The birdlife is so abundant that, on an early morning lakeshore walk, the dawn chorus never seemed to stop. Cooking here is a joy, under the instruction of chef and manager, Liz Moore, using ingredients from the farm, as well as many others sourced locally. Courses vary from one day to a month. One of Belle Isle’s other claims to fame is that it is the first castle in Ireland to go green, recently awarded the EU Flower Ecolabel. 

For more details on where to stay and how to get there and back without flying, see Belle Isle Estate

Activity Holidays in Ireland

Mayo’s Atlantic Story Walking Holiday - County Mayo is one of Ireland’s most unpopulated counties and this tailor-made walking holiday takes in all aspects of its natural wonders. With expert guides, climb the summit of Croagh Patrick, surf the Atlantic waves, discover uninhabited islands, and kayak through the inlets of Clew Bay. You can even go foraging for wild food along the Mullet Peninsula, although you will be guaranteed plenty of Ireland’s own fine produce in your locally owned, carefully selected accommodation, which varies according to your party size and requirements. 

For more details on where to stay and how to get there and back without flying, see Mayo’s Atlantic Story

Wilderness Therapy Break, Lough Allen Adventure Centre, IrelandWilderness Therapy Break, Lough Allen Adventure Centre, IrelandLough Allen Adventure Centre, County Leitrim, takes visitors into Ireland’s wilderness. Its Wilderness Therapy Weekend is one of its house specials which, although it sounds more like a military-style putting you through your paces, it is just a fun getaway that you won’t find in the guidebooks. Kevin Currid, the Centre’s founder and expert outdoor activities instructor, devised this weekend escape to the islands of Lough Allen, for school groups. It became so popular, that adult groups started to enquire about it. They make rafts by tying canoes together with barrels, shelters out of ponchos, build fires and forage, cook outdoors, sleep in hammocks, and laugh a lot. My memories of outward bound sadistic teachers from my youth were, thankfully, shattered. It is quite the opposite here, and not at all intimidating as the eternally effervescent Kevin’s love of the outdoors is totally infectious.

For more details on the weekend and how to get there and back without flying see Lough Allen Adventure Centre

Cultural breaks in Ireland

Cnoc Suain in County Galway is run by two of the best hosts in Ireland. Not just in terms of their innate generous hospitality, but also with regards to their knowledge base. Dearbhaill Standun is a professional traditional musician, and Charlie Troy is a botanist and geologist. Tired of watching coachloads of tourists drive through their Gaelic speaking region without stopping except to take a photo, they have almost single handedly rebuilt four ruined stone cottages on their homestead, where they now accommodate guests either for self-catering, or residential courses in music, crafts, horticulture, herbs, and many more. Listen to local musicians play, poets recite, story tellers share. Cnoc Suain has won awards not only for its green credentials, but because it has succeeded in offering tourists a open door to contemporary Irish culture, without compromising the pride of its past either. 

For more details on breaks and how to get there and back without flying see Cnoc Suain 

Cycling around Ireland's five counties

The Kingfisher Cycle Trail is the best slap in the face for those who grumble that Ireland has become a concrete jungle full ofCatherine overlooking Lough Erne, County FermanaghCatherine overlooking Lough Erne, County Fermanagh alien architecture and Audis. Forests, lakes and farms are just about all you see on the 370 kms of this carefully signposted and mapped trail around five counties of the North West. The Kingfisher is an appropriate name for the country’s first long-distance cycle trail. It is associated with lakelands and, as this trail twists in and out of the extraordinarily endless lakes of Counties Cavan, Fermanagh, Leitrim and Monaghan, the Kingfisher has superb choices of shores to rest upon. Green places to stay along the way include There are many green places to stay near or right on the Kingfisher Trail, including Creevy Cottages, The Breesy Centre, Blaney Spa and Yoga Centre , Belle Isle, and Tawnylust Lodge. 

For more details on the route see Kingfisher Cycle Trail.

Places to Eat in Ireland

I have done my fair share of eating for Ireland on my travels. There are almost too many favourites to mention, but a few stand out. Venison stew at the elegant but extremely homely mansion of Coopershill, County Sligo, where slow food is all important. Handy, as this grand house is located on a wild deer farm. For fish, my loyalty lies with Ballynahinch Castle Hotel, in County Galway. Having a private salmon fishery on its 450 acre estate, as well as an award-winning restaurant does help, of course.  For lamb, it has to be Gregans Castle Hotel in the Burren National Park, County Clare, a luxury hotel which goes out of its way to embrace all local producers, and is a member of the Burren Beef and Lamb Producers Group, whose livestock graze the surrounding limestone magnificence. And for breakfast? Anna’s fresh compotes, home made yoghurt and apricots in ginger, served in her light-filled conservatory at Anna’s House, County Down are still to be beaten. 

Self-catering green getaways

Ireland is coming down with b&b’s as it was always the traditional way of hosting guests before the Celtic Tiger started building hotels in every suburb. My favourite self-catering places, run by people with a green take on things, and a great understanding of their local heritage, natural and cultural include: Tawnylust, County Leitrim, where you can also take part in wild foraging or walking weekends; Creevy Cottages, stone cottages revived and managed by the local fishing community, as well as 10 miles of coastal path beside them for walks from beach to beach; Tory Bush Eco-loft in the Mourne Mountains, County Down, where you walk straight out onto the mountain paths; Belle Isle apartments, County Fermanagh, the converted stables in the castle grounds, located perfectly for discovering Lough Erne and Natural Retreats in Parknasilla, County Kerry, where you won’t be able to resist diving in off the rocks into the Atlantic.    

Green days out

There are so many things to do in Ireland, from walking on the National Trails to surfing off the northwest coast. My special Photo: Whale Watch West CorkPhoto: Whale Watch West Corkmemories include spotting minke whales with responsible whale watching organisation Whale Watch West Cork, run by marine conservationist and general font of knowledge, Nic Slocum; walking in The Burren with expert guide and charming author of The Burren and Aran Islands, Tony Kirby; taking a real seaweed bath in Strandhill, County Sligo, Enniscrone , County Sligo and Newcastle, County Down; night sea kayaking off a tiny pier in West Cork; taking the train just an hour maximum out of Dublin city centre and walking on the Greystones cliff pathcycling around Strangford Lough in County Down, and visiting many of the country’s spectacular islands. The islands of Cape Clear, Inis Meain, Rathlin, Clare Island and Tory Island are all great starting points. 

 

For information on how to travel to Ireland, see our detailed information page: 

How to travel to Ireland without flying.

Top greentraveller trips in Ireland
Green is synonymous with Ireland and visitors come in their millions to seek out the forty shades of it. Now, however, Ireland is making its mark on the European map of truly green and sustainable tourism.. Here are a few of my favourite green places to stay and green activities on the island of Ireland, where you will not only meet the people who know and love their landscape and culture, but also discover parts of the island which are not always in the guidebooks. 
Family fun
Delphi Mountain Resort in Leenane, Co.Galway, recently revamped to precise green standards, is a stunning stone and timber building, nestled between two stretches of water, Killary Harbour and the Bundorragha River. Activities include kayaking, cycling, archery, hillwalking, surfing, rockclimbing and raft-building. All carbon-neutral.  There is accommodation to suit all too, from luxury suites to dormitory rooms.  You can send kids there on a summer camp, or just go for a spa break, with special treatment of real seaweed baths. It is go, go go, or chill, chill, chill. All happily catered for. 
For more details on Where to stay and how to get there and back without flying, see: Delphi Mountain Resort. 
Slieve Aughty Riding Centre is a place which makes ethical look easy. It is not just all about riding, but about bringing families out into the surrounding area of County Galway, each stay starting with an adventure of some sort. Walk through woodland with the Centre’s donkeys as guides from your cottage every day, go cycling, walking and,  of course,  riding. Beginners are more than welcome, with natural bitless horseriding a speciality here, and instructors who are gently encouraging to nervous children (and adults!). In fact, everything is natural at Slieve Aughty, from the fine organic, and locally sourced food served round the clock, to the way in which they welcome children into the Aughty fold. 
For more details on where to stay and how to get there and back without flying see Slieve Aughty Riding Centre. 
Cooking holiday
Belle Isle Castle is indeed a 'beautiful island', on the northern tip of Upper Lough Erne, County Fermanagh, famous as Ireland’s lakelands. Linked to the ‘mainland’ by a tiny bridge, the Belle Isle estate and working farm, is a designated Area of Special Scientific Interest. In between cookery lessons, walking the hills and shores was like one big nature lesson, as I tried to identify the wide variety of old Irish trees, including huge Horse Chestnuts, Beech, Ash and Yew. The birdlife is so abundant that, on an early morning lakeshore walk, the dawn chorus never seemed to stop. Cooking here is a joy, under the instruction of chef and manager, Liz Moore, using ingredients from the farm, as well as many others sourced locally. Courses vary from one day to a month. One of Belle Isle’s other claims to fame is that it is the first castle in Ireland to go green, recently awarded the EU Flower Ecolabel. 
For more details on where to stay and how to get there and back without flying, see Belle Isle Estate
Activity Holidays
Mayo’s Atlantic Story Walking Holiday - County Mayo is one of Ireland’s most unpopulated counties and this tailor-made walking holiday takes in all aspects of its natural wonders. With expert guides, climb the summit of Croagh Patrick, surf the Atlantic waves, discover uninhabited islands, and kayak through the inlets of Clew Bay. You can even go foraging for wild food along the Mullet Peninsula, although you will be guaranteed plenty of Ireland’s own fine produce in your locally owned, carefully selected accommodation, which varies according to your party size and requirements. 
For more details on where to stay and how to get there and back without flying, see Mayo’s Atlantic Story
Lough Allen Adventure Centre, County Leitrim, takes visitors into Ireland’s wilderness. Its Wilderness Therapy Weekend is one of its house specials which, although it sounds more like a military-style putting you through your paces, it is just a fun getaway that you won’t find in the guidebooks. Kevin Currid, the Centre’s founder and expert outdoor activities instructor, devised this weekend escape to the islands of Lough Allen, for school groups. It became so popular, that adult groups started to enquire about it. They make rafts by tying canoes together with barrels, shelters out of ponchos, build fires and forage, cook outdoors, sleep in hammocks, and laugh a lot. My memories of outward bound sadistic teachers from my youth were, thankfully, shattered. It is quite the opposite here, and not at all intimidating as the eternally effervescent Kevin’s love of the outdoors is totally infectious.
For more details on the weekend and how to get there and back without flying see Lough Allen Adventure Centre
Cultural break
Cnoc Suain in County Galway is run by two of the best hosts in Ireland. Not just in terms of their innate generous hospitality, but also with regards to their knowledge base. Dearbhaill Standun is a professional traditional musician, and Charlie Troy is a botanist and geologist. Tired of watching coachloads of tourists drive through their Gaelic speaking region without stopping except to take a photo, they have almost single handedly rebuilt four ruined stone cottages on their homestead, where they now accommodate guests either for self-catering, or residential courses in music, crafts, horticulture, herbs, and many more. Listen to local musicians play, poets recite, story tellers share. Cnoc Suain has won awards not only for its green credentials, but because it has succeeded in offering tourists a open door to contemporary Irish culture, without compromising the pride of its past either. 
For more details on breaks and how to get there and back without flying see Cnoc Suain. 
Cycle around five counties
The Kingfisher Cycle Trail is the best slap in the face for those who grumble that Ireland has become a concrete jungle full of alien architecture and Audis. Forests, lakes and farms are just about all you see on the 370 kms of this carefully signposted and mapped trail around five counties of the North West. The Kingfisher is an appropriate name for the country’s first long-distance cycle trail. It is associated with lakelands and, as this trail twists in and out of the extraordinarily endless lakes of Counties Cavan, Fermanagh, Leitrim and Monaghan, the Kingfisher has superb choices of shores to rest upon. Green places to stay along the way include There are many green places to stay near or right on the Kingfisher Trail, including Creevy Cottages, The Breesy Centre, Blaney Spa and Yoga Centre , Belle Isle, and Tawnylust Lodge. 
For more details on the route see Kingfisher Cycle Trail, as well as how to get there and back without flying
Eating for Ireland
I have done my fair share of eating for Ireland on my travels. There are almost too many favourites to mention, but a few stand out. Venison stew at the elegant but extremely homely mansion of Coopershill, County Sligo, where slow food is all important. Handy, as this grand house is located on a wild deer farm. For fish, my loyalty lies with Ballynahinch Castle Hotel, in County Galway. Having a private salmon fishery on its 450 acre estate, as well as an award-winning restaurant does help, of course.  For lamb, it has to be Gregans Castle Hotel in the Burren National Park, County Clare, a luxury hotel which goes out of its way to embrace all local producers, and is a member of the Burren Beef and Lamb Producers Group, whose livestock graze the surrounding limestone magnificence. And for breakfast? Anna’s fresh compotes, home made yoghurt and apricots in ginger, served in her light-filled conservatory at Anna’s House, County Down are still to be beaten. 
Self-catering green getaways
Ireland is coming down with b&b’s as it was always the traditional way of hosting guests before the Celtic Tiger started building hotels in every suburb. My favourite self-catering places, run by people with a green take on things, and a great understanding of their local heritage, natural and cultural,  include Tawnylust, County Leitrim, where you can also take part in wild foraging or walking weekends; Creevy Cottages, stone cottages revived and managed by the local fishing community, as well as 10 miles of coastal path beside them for walks from beach to beach; Tory Bush Eco-loft in the Mourne Mountains, County Down, where you walk straight out onto the mountain paths; Belle Isle apartments, County Fermanagh, the converted stables in the castle grounds, located perfectly for discovering Lough Erne and Natural Retreats in Parknasilla, County Kerry, where you won’t be able to resist diving in off the rocks.   
Green days out
There are so many things to do in Ireland, from walking on the National Trails to surfing off the northwest coast. My special memories include spotting minke whales with responsible whale watching organisation, Whale Watch West Cork; walking in The Burren with expert guide and charming author of The Burren and Aran Islands, Tony Kirby; taking a real seaweed bath in Strandhill, Enniscrone and Newcastle; night sea kayaking off a tiny pier in West Cork; taking the train out of Dublin city centre and walking on the Greystones cliff path; cycling around Strangford Lough in County Down, and visiting many of the country’s spectacular islands. The islands of Cape Clear, Inis Meain, Rathlin, Clare Island and Tory Island are all great starting points. 
 Green is synonymous with Ireland and visitors come in their millions to seek out the forty shades of it. Now, however, Ireland is making its mark on the European map of truly green and sustainable tourism.. Here are a few of my favourite green places to stay and green activities on the island of Ireland, where you will not only meet the people who know and love their landscape and culture, but also discover parts of the island which are not always in the guidebooks. Green is synonymous with Ireland and visitors come in their millions to seek out the forty shades of it. Now, however, Ireland is making its mark on the European map of truly green and sustainable tourism.. Here are a few of my favourite green places to stay and green activities on the island of Ireland, where you will not only meet the people who know and love their landscape and culture, but also discover parts of the island which are not always in the guidebooks. As an Irish national, I am proud to show them all off as fine ambassadors of what my country has to offer.

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