The Irish Bucket List
1. Take the Dursey Island cable car, Co. Cork
It’s not what you’d expect to find at the tip of the Beara Peninsula – a cable car to Dursey Island. The tide is too strong at Dursey Sound for boats, hence the unusual method of getting across. The journey takes about 10 minutes, and once you set foot on the island, just enjoy the walks and views. Although people do live on Dursey, there are no hotels or B&Bs to stay overnight (there aren’t any shops or restaurants either, so make sure to bring food) – YG
While you’re at it: Also on Beara, visit Garnish Island for its Italian Gardens. Boats are available from Glengarriff.
Details: Durseyisland.ie; bearatourism.com
2. Drive the Causeway Coastal Route
It ticks everything off the checklist of scenic drives – sheer cliffs on one side, the lush green Glens of Antrim on the other, rock arches to drive through, heritage villages along the way (Cushendall and Cushendun) and the ruins of a mysterious castle on a cliff’s edge (Dunluce). Throw in forest parks and an unusual rock formation of 40,000 basalt columns (The Giant’s Causeway) and it’s no wonder it’s often voted one of the world’s top drives.
While you’re at it: To calm the nerves after Carrick-a-rede rope bridge, drop into the Old Bushmills Distillery for a tour and a tasting – YG
Details: Causewaycoastalroute.com; bushmills.com
3. Drink a pint of Guinness in Kehoe’s, Dublin
The Guinness Storehouse is Dublin’s most visited attraction. But the difference between a pint in the Gravity Bar and a pint in Kehoe’s (9 Sth. Anne St.) is the difference between experiencing a leopard in the zoo and a leopard in the wild. Regularly packed and possessing some of the best pub details in Dublin – including a buzzer in the snug (you’re welcome) – this is a real home of the Black Stuff. Ignore the state of the carpets, and enjoy your pint (sensibly, of course) – PÓC
While you’re at it: Nobody agrees on Dublin’s best pub (or pint), and that’s the beauty of it. Try Grogan’s, Mulligan’s and Toner’s as alternatives.
4. Experience Grafton Street at Christmas
It doesn’t feel like Christmas until Grafton Street is lit up like… well, a Christmas tree. When dusk draws in, and the shop fronts are glittering with baubles and wreaths, even the Scroogiest of folk can’t help but be filled with festive spirit. Even if you’re just nipping out for a pair of socks – NB
While you’re at it: For a break from the high street, pop into the Powerscourt Centre for unique gifts and fabulous independent shops. I love Article for homewares and The Pepper Pot Café for a well-earned slice of cake.
Details: graftonstreet.ie; powerscourtcentre.ie
5. Take a seaweed bath in Sligo
Nothing beats the feeling of sinking into a piping hot bath. And if that bath is filled with seaweed harvested from the shore that morning? All the better. A visit to the Voya Seaweed Baths in Strandhill will leave your skin silky soft and your mind struggling to remember exactly what “stress” is. My tip? Skip the fancy shampoo and dunk your head back into the mineral-rich water – your hair will dry in perfect, beachy waves – NB
While you’re at it: Take a bracing walk along Strandhill beach, then pop into Shells Café for their unbeatable chicken burger.
Details: voyaseaweedbaths.com; shellscafe.com
6. Ride a horse on the beach
With so many beautiful beaches around our coast, it’s an exhilarating experience to gallop along the water’s edge and feel the salt spray in your hair. If you’re not at that level, fear not – you’ll find beach-riding treks for all ages and experiences. It was while we were trotting on the beach at Murrisk Bay at the foot of Croagh Patrick in Co Mayo on a drizzly day, that, as if the backdrop of the mountain on one side and Clew Bay on the other weren’t enough, a double rainbow appeared.
While you’re at it: Climb Croagh Patrick – allow about two hours to get to the sacred mountain’s 764m summit… and views of Clew Bay’s islands – YG
Details: murrisk.ie; croagh-patrick.com
7. Watch Munster at Thomond Park, Limerick
Limerick’s original fortress is the recently revamped King John’s Castle, but its modern-day battles are fought up the road at perhaps Ireland’s most iconic rugby stadium. Munster’s fortunes may wax and wane, but the atmosphere here can still raise the hairs on your neck – with a museum including artefacts once belonging to legends like Tony Ward, Ronan O’Gara and Paul O’Connell (including a photo of Padre Pio he once carried in his sock). After seeing the changing rooms, you can even walk the walk… out towards the hallowed turf itself – PÓC
While you’re at it: Take in a hurling or football match at Croke Park. And don’t forget the sambos…
Details: munsterrugby.ie; thomondpark.ie
8. Get to a festival in Galway
In summer, it seems like every weekend is host to a fiesta of some sort, whether it’s a ginormous music festival or a tiny village bash. But Galway is the king of festival season – from the summer races to the Film Fleadh, from the September Oyster Festival to the explosion of theatrics, music and art that is the annual Arts Festival. The streets are alive with performance, with illuminated puppetry taking centre stage. There’s a cracking food scene in Galway all year round, so keep an eye out for the April food festival too – NB
While you’re at it: Grab a bite at Kai or Loam, the city’s newest recipient of a Michelin star.
Details: giaf.ie; discoverireland.ie
9. Drive Slea Head, Co Kerry
You can’t get more Wild Atlantic Way than this half-day drive on the Dingle Peninsula, with every type of coastal scenery from sea cliffs to golden beaches and those lovely stretches of single-lane cliffside road. Start in the town of Dingle and stop off at Ventry Beach to feel the sand between your toes. Look out for the mysterious Blasket Islands offshore, and learn about them at the Blasket Centre at Dunquin (Dún Chaoin). The stories of island life may make you feel emotional, or just remind you of reading Peig in school – YG
While you’re at it: Kerry’s Skellig Islands recently featured in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Boat trips are seasonal and weather-dependent, but you can get a great view from the Ballinskelligs Peninsula too.
Details: dingle-peninsula.ie; skelligexperience.com
10. Tuck into tea and scones at Kylemore Abbey, Connemara
It might look like a fantasy castle on the outside, with its magnificent lakeside setting at the foot of a mountain in the middle of Connemara, but Kylemore Abbey is actually a Benedictine monastery and is still home to an order of nuns. You can take a short tour of the house and explore the walled garden, but one of the best parts of the visit is tucking into pots of tea and freshly baked scones with butter and jam afterwards – YG
While you’re at it: Take a boat trip on Ireland’s only fjord, Killary fjord and also visit the village of Leenane, where film The Field was set.
Details: Kylemoreabbey.com; killaryfjord.com