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Lancaster

An historical city and the county capital of Lancashire, Lancaster is compact but compelling, and ideal for a short break or a day out, whether it’s exploring canals or enjoying artisan coffee.

There’s plenty of self-catering, holiday cottage accommodation in Lancashire, to make your visit to Lancaster that much more memorable, and flexible when it comes to your itinerary.

 

Lancaster Castle

With its origins in Roman times, and its later use as a prison, as recently as 2011, Lancaster Castle is an unmissable attraction in the heart of the city.

The castle has been part of the Roman defences against marauding hordes of Scottish tribes, and Richard the Lionheart gave it as a gift to his brother Prince John.

During the English Civil War, it became a garrison for the Parliamentarians who captured it, and was then the scene of a siege by the opposing Royalists.

Over the years its gaol has housed, and been the execution site of, various martyrs, dissidents and criminals.

It was a centre for training police officers in the 1930s, and became once again a prison in 1954, until its closure in 2011.

Various parts of the castle date to different times in its colourful history, which makes for a fascinating trip through history, all concentrated in one location. The Keep is a four-storey tower rebuilt during the reign of Elizabeth I; the Well Tower (also known as the Witches Tower) dates from 1312, and its alternative name comes from the Lancashire Witches, who were supposedly housed there before their trial in 1612.

The John O’ Gaunt Gatehouse is perhaps the most impressive of the castle’s buildings, built shortly after the accession of Henry IV; and on the other side of the gatehouse is the 18th century Governor’s House, between the Gatehouse and Well Tower.

English Heritage has described Lancaster Castle as the North West’s most important historic and architectural monument. Public access to interior areas is by guided tour, but there is free access to courtyard areas, and the castle’s café and gift shop.

 

The Ashton Memorial

Located high on a hill in Williamson Park, overlooking the city, you can’t miss The Ashton Memorial.

This Edwardian memorial is a splendidly Baroque construction, sometimes nicknamed the jelly mould. Lord Ashton commissioned it in honour of his late wife, but in fact he’d remarried by the time it was completed.

It has an external copper dome, while the remainder of the building is a combination of granite and Portland stone. The memorial is 150 feet tall, and it provides glorious panoramic views of the city and surrounding area from its first floor, outdoor viewing gallery.

Williamson Park also has a Butterfly House, where you experience a calm, tropical atmosphere and amble along as butterflies perched or fluttering around, including many beautiful species.

 

Shopping and Coffee

Lancaster’s historic streets are home to a diverse range of independent shops, as well as the main high street retailers, including small boutiques, gift shops and vintage stalls.

The city now has its own, unique coffee quarter, centred around the 1837-established Atkinson coffee roasters and its two cafes, The Hall and The Music Room.

You can also use the city centre in Lancaster as the base for exploring the Lancaster Canal, either on foot, or by a diesel-powered pleasure cruise, taking you over the River Lune across a Georgian viaduct on a two-hour return trip.

If you want to stay in a holiday cottage near Lancaster, visit our website, or email info@holiday cottages.cc

Alderney: An Alternative, Natural Island Destination

The northernmost of the Channel Islands, Alderney offers a genuine alternative to anyone looking for a holiday away from everyday life.

The island is small and popular, yet never feels too bustling or overcrowded with holidaymakers, with a welcoming local community, and fantastic, natural surroundings.

It has a good choice of self-catering holiday cottages to make your stay feel that much more independent.

 

Walking and Cycling

Experience the open landscapes of the island either on foot or by bike. There is plenty of beautiful greenery, imposing cliffs and calm, wooded valleys. The island has over 50 miles of paths and lanes – impressive when you consider that at its widest point Alderney is only 3.5 miles by 1.5 miles.

Walking on Alderney, you’ll discover intriguing historical sites, including Neolithic artefacts and Roman remains.

There are also numerous Victorian-built forts and batteries originally designed to protect the island and its harbour from France’s expanding naval forces.

Along with manmade places of interest, Alderney’s natural environment hold many unspoilt treasures, from coastal heathlands to thousands of wild flowers alongside the coastal tracks.

You can also enjoy various guided walks, taking in the town of St Anne and doing a bit of wildlife-spotting.

For cyclists, there are traffic-free routes, and numerous paths and roads to explore, which is a great way getting an impression of whole of the island. There are organised cycling tours, and cycle hire available.

 

Wildlife on Alderney

Alderney is a haven for birds and other wildlife. The island has over 270 different species of birds, including rare migrating species. So, you can expect to see visiting birdwatchers.

Depending on the time of year you visit, you might spot kestrels, ravens, gannets, gulls and puffins.

With its different habitats, such as grassland, shingle and forests of kelp, Alderney makes an attractive destination for these different species of wild birds.

The island is also home to various animals, including bats, seals, shrews, slow worms and hedgehogs. And Alderney’s Blue Bay attracts numbers of bottle nose dolphins.

 

Out on the Ocean and by the Seaside

Alderney is ideal for sailing, though with its strong tides it’s best suited to experienced sailors. However, various charter trips are available, so you can enjoy a spot of island hopping to other Channel Islands, or even France.

You can also book a boat-based wildlife tour on The Voyager, which takes you out on the water for sea views of puffins and other birds, along with dolphins, seals and the occasional basking shark.

There are various water-based sports and activities you can also get involved in on Alderney, including angling and kayaking.

Of course, the island also has its beaches. Best for surfing is Corblets Beach, on the north coast; while the sheltered Arch Bay, Braye Bay, Saye Beach and Longis Bay are family destinations.

If exploring is more your thing than basking in the sun, then try Platte Saline or Clonque Bay.

Explore the Unique and Wonderful World of Sark

Between the Islands of Guernsey and Jersey, 20 miles south of the UK mainland, Sark is a car-free location that feels utterly unique.

Sark offers true escapism, set apart from its neighbouring islands, and from England, with a very special atmosphere and charm of its own.

Why not experience the individuality of Sark on a self-catering break in a holiday cottage?

 

The Gouliot Headland and Caves

On the western tip of Sark, the Gouliot headland points out towards the smaller island of Brecqhou. The headland is an official Ramsar site, which means it is an official wetlands conservation area.

If you visit the Gouliot headland in springtime it is blanketed with wildflowers, including bluebells and primroses. It is also a site for other species of wildflower, including the rare sand crocus.

Here, you can sit on the cliffs and watch the sun set in spectacular fashion from this glorious picnic spot.

Beneath the headland is a network of caves, open to the sea on both sides of the headland. When the tide is very low, under one metre, visitors can access the caves, which display an amazing selection of marine life carpeting every surface.

Because their location is difficult to reach, and because of the closeness of the sea, it’s best to visit the Gouliot caves with someone who has a sound knowledge of the tides.

Big and Little Sark

The peninsula at the southern point of Sark is known as Little Sark. Here you’ll find the Venus pool, a natural rock pool ideal for swimming in, sheltered from the sea. There’s also a megalithic burial chamber, known as a dolmen, located on this part of the island.

A causeway joins the main island, Big Sark, to the Little Sark peninsula. This is known as La Coupée.

This ridge extends over 100 yards and rises some 260 feet above sea level. It’s narrow and is an essential link between the two parts of the island. In fact, the land joining the two pieces of land is gradually eroding, so that eventually Little Sark will become an individual island. This occurred with the island of Brecqhou, which was originally part of the main island.

La Coupée is a dramatic and distinctive landmark of Sark and well worth experiencing for the spectacular views you experience in both directions.

Coasteering and Sark’s Sky at Night

Sark is a great destination for the adventure holiday. Organised coasteering trips offer a unique perspective of the island and its steep, rocky coastline.

Think of coasteering as a kind of multi-activity adventure walk, where you do some hiking, climbing and swimming as you cross challenging terrain, which is why it’s safest, and best, to take part in organised trips.

For a more sedate experience, Sark is a renowned location for stargazing. Viewed from Sark, the sky is exceptionally free from light pollution, making it ideal for seeing the stars. This has led to Sark earning the designation of the world’s first Dark Sky Island.

The Sark Astonomy Society organises various events and offers useful information about the best places on Sark to experience its remarkably clear night skies.

Food Tips for Your Holiday Cottage Break

A self-catering break in a holiday cottage can free up your schedule, and your budget, but, obviously, you do need to consider the catering part of the equation: plan your food, including what you’ll need to take with you.

Eating In or Out?

So, on the one hand your holiday is a break from your normal daily routine, but on the other it requires a routine of its own. And a big part of this is eating.

Of course, it’s fun to eat out, but on a self-catering, holiday cottage holiday part of choosing self-catering is to do just that.

Some of this comes down to location. If your holiday cottage is in a remote area, or a small village, then beyond the village chippy and pub, your nearby options for eating out might be limited.

Also, if one of the reasons for choosing self-catering was to do with your budget, eating out, or even takeaway food, all the time, will soon eat into it.

So, if you’re eating your own food, what do you need to consider?

Reach for Your Recipes

Be prepared, as the old scout motto goes. So, if you have favourite family recipes, take them. Do a bit of recipe research for things like handy, one-pot meals.

Keep it simple though – unless you’re going armed with the contents of your kitchen cupboard.

And on this subject, if there are certain key ingredients you don’t think you can do without, then do remember to take them with you.

Think Local

Do you know what local shops there will be when you get to your holiday destination? Research your location, check for local amenities. And if you’re arriving late at night, have immediate food supplies with you.

Emergency meals are always a handy standby, particularly breakfast items such as cereal, tea-bags and instant coffee.

Don’t do a massive weekly shop on arrival, as if you were at home, because you’ll only end up having to chuck things away.

Your Holiday Kitchen

It might not always be clear exactly what you’ll find supplied in the kitchen in your holiday cottage, such as the size of the cooker, and what cooking implements are to hand.

It makes sense, therefore, to take a few essentials with you, such as a sharp vegetable knife, a tin opener and a corkscrew, along with some key items of cutlery. Don’t take your entire kitchen, but be mindful of what you might need.

Your holiday is an adventure, but while you should be adaptable, you don’t want to feel too restricted.

 

And Relax…

This is the most important point to remember. You’re going on holiday to relax. You’ll need a degree of forethought, planning and organisation, but don’t get carried away.

When self-catering you want to feel happy about your meal choices and, as much as possible, calm in your holiday kitchen.

Avoid feeling pressurised by having to prepare and cook food, and try and combine planning with a degree of spontaneity. Don’t overthink your self-catering.

How to Survive a Group Holiday Cottage Holiday

Of course, it’s great to go on holiday with friends and family, but sometimes it’s not always a case of the more the merrier. You should consider carefully where you choose to go, and how you manage one another’s company when you get there.

A break in a holiday cottage can be a great way to spend extended time with friends, and family, but be sure to take necessary precautions so you don’t all fall out.

Choose Wisely

What do you all want out of your holiday? If some people in your group want to just relax while others want all-out activity, how are you going to reconcile these different expectations?

One way is by location – choose a holiday cottage near to civilization but also the countryside and links to other areas.

If there are a lot of kids in your group, be sure you’ll have enough for them to do, regardless of age range.

Also, think of the accommodation itself. Will there be enough rooms for those who don’t want to share, and is there good mobile phone and internet reception – it’s a brave set of parents who expect their children to go tech-free while holed up with them in a holiday cottage.

Who Does What?

Obviously, with self-catering holidays, there are tasks and responsibilities involved, so it’s best to get these sorted out early on, otherwise you risk festering resentment if certain members of your group perceive that they are doing far more than others.

It may be that you don’t want to get too official with a rota, but at least be aware if someone seems to be bearing too much burden of responsibility for certain tasks, such as cooking meals.

Other People’s Kids

When it comes to their own, and other children, people have different ideas about rules and discipline, so respect one another’s boundaries, and if things do appear to be getting out of hand, try and have a quiet word first, rather than launching all-out war.

No one likes their parenting skills criticised, and you want to avoid a breakdown in relations while you’re all under one roof. Diplomacy is the key.

Perhaps jointly agree some house rules at the outset.

Valuable Me Time

Just because you’ve gone on holiday together as a group doesn’t mean you must do everything together.

It makes sense for your group to split into smaller parts to get some time to themselves if this is what people want.

Remember, the whole point of going on holiday is to enjoy yourself, and not everyone will enjoy doing the same thing at the same time.

When in doubt, give people the space they want, and don’t get obsessed with too many small details, such as who’s had more helpings of that nice cake you got from the local farmers’ market.

You’ve come on holiday because you all get on. Try to keep it that way.

Are Holiday Cottages a Good Green Option?

Your holiday can be as virtuous as you want it to be, but for many people, green holidays are becoming a priority. And as demand increases, so it becomes easier to organise a greener, more environmentally-friendly holiday.

Staying in a self-catering holiday cottage can be a green option, and here are the reasons why.

 

Bringing it all Back Home

The UN’s World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) has called 2017 the year of sustainable tourism. Their focus is on how to make your holiday abroad greener. But in fact, a greener holiday can be something you achieve more easily when holidaying in the UK.

Some of the same guidelines apply: pick areas where you can walk or cycle, and visit local conservation projects. But you can do this on a self-catering holiday in a holiday cottage.

While an all-inclusive break abroad has its attractions, a self-catering break puts you firmly in control. This flexibility is great for going green, because you can choose exactly the kind of accommodation to suit you, and when you’re there, you can plan your holiday according to your needs and values.

Think Local

For your holiday to be a green experience, you need to be able to get the most out of the area you choose to be in. This means planning your stay around what’s on offer for things to do. And if you can be close to local shops and amenities, and help sustain them as part of your break, then all the better.

When it comes to getting about think about your options: are there plenty of things to do within walking or cycling distance?

Take it further and base your entire stay around walking or cycling.

You can also find out about local walking and cycling events held in specific areas and make these the focus of your holiday.

Plenty of holiday cottages are within easy reach of nature reserves and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). You can lend these conservation efforts your support by visiting them as part of your holiday cottage break.

 

Travelling to Your Holiday Destination

Obviously, this can prove a bit tricky: if you’re motoring hundreds of miles to your holiday cottage then you’re hardly limiting your carbon footprint.

However, many holiday cottages are located within easy distance of public transport links and networks. You might take the train, or combine your train journey with cycling to get to your destination – which would make even more sense if you make cycling the theme of your self-catering break.
Visit the Holiday Cottages website to find your ideal, green, holiday cottage holiday.

Choose a Walking Holiday for the ideal Holiday Cottage Break

Walking holidays offer relaxation, exercise and a choice of contrasting locations throughout the UK. Taking a break in a self-catering holiday cottage provides a great base from which to explore the surrounding area, giving you the freedom to plan and enjoy your holiday at your own pace.

Here is a selection of great walking holiday routes and locations.

Explore the Pennine Way

Obviously, you might not expect to explore the entire Pennine Way on your walking holiday, given that it runs a total of 268 miles, stretching from Derbyshire to the Scottish Borders.

However, you can focus your holiday activity on selected parts of the Pennine Way, in different regions of the UK.

The Peak District National Park is great walking country, and at Edale you can access the Pennine Way, where it crosses Kinder Scout at the highest point in the Peak District.

Holiday cottages in the Peak District offer a choice of locations, from small towns and villages to more remote areas.

As the Pennine Way makes its way through the Yorkshire Dales, you can explore the country of the Bronte sisters, at Howarth, in the South Pennines, and the limestone landscapes of the spectacular Malham Cove. The Dales area provides a wide variety of holiday cottages from which you can choose your ideal base.

Further north, and the Pennine Way reaches Hadrian’s Wall. This is rugged country indeed, marked by distinctive crags and some of the most well-preserved sections of the Roman wall itself. The end of the Pennine Way is at the village of Kirk Yetholm, in the Scottish Borders.

Choose your holiday cottage in Scotland, or Northern England to explore this part of the world.

Walking in the Lake District

The Lake District is England’s largest National Park, covering 912 square miles. For the walker, it offers many different terrains and levels of exercise; from scenic lakeside ambles to adventurous climbs up high ridges. The choice is yours.

There are accessible, easy walks, what the Lake District calls its Miles Without Stiles routes. These take in areas such as Pooley Bridge, Bowness and Grasmere. These total 48 routes overall.

There are also the routes made famous by the fell walker Alfred Wainwright, some of which can involve climbing up crags and covering rugged terrain.

Walking distances can range from under three miles to seven miles or more, depending on your ambition, and energy levels.

Lake District holiday cottage accommodation offers a wide choice, from 18th century oak-beamed cottages to converted barns.

Peddars Way and the Norfolk Coast Path

At Holme-next-to-the-Sea, two trails come together to form Norfolk’s section of the National Trail.

The total trail is 93 miles in length, following the north shoreline through Sherringham and Cromer, and passing inland via Swaffham. With this expanse covered, you can choose different parts of the trail to explore, from the forest, heath and low river valleys of the Brecks, to tidal saltmarshes and harbours and villages of the North Norfolk coast.

It is a quite magical area of the country, from the mysterious beauty of the heathland along the Peddars Way to the wild remoteness of the coastal path.

There’s plenty of choice when it comes to holiday cottages with character in Norfolk, giving you somewhere comfortable and welcoming to come back to after a great day out.

Choose Your Holiday Cottage for the Ideal Cycling Break

A self-catering break in a holiday cottage is ideal for a cycling holiday. Staying in your own space gives you full control of your itinerary, allowing you to make the most of your time for adventure, and relaxation.

Here we look at some of the UK’s best holiday cycling routes and their surrounding areas.

The Camel Trail in Cornwall

Stretching some 18 miles from Padstow to Bodmin Moor, the Camel Trail follows the route of a disused railway line that makes for an ideal cycling route, as it’s both arrestingly scenic and largely traffic-free.

Cyclists access the route by following the Camel Estuary before going into the wooded Camel Valley and joining the route there. The trail takes you inland, to the edge of Bodmin Moor, finishing close to the pretty village of Blisland.

The Camel Trail is great for a family cycling holiday as it’s both safe and easy to access and ride on. There’s plenty of opportunity to stop off at charming seaside towns and enjoy the beaches and wildlife.

Holiday cottages in Cornwall provide the ideal base from which to explore the area by bike.

picture by Suzy Dubot

Cader Idris, Snowdonia

Some of the best cycling in Snowdonia is around Cader Idris, in the southern part of the region. This is mountainous country, a lot less sedate than Cornwall’s Camel Trail, but with its own rewards in what you can see and experience.

The scenery takes in high peaks, beautiful, tranquil lakes at Cregennen, and charming villages and towns, like Dolgellau, sheltering under Cader Idris mountain. Other points of interest to take a break from your cycling to see include the tranquil Dysnni Valley, the dramatic Birds’ Rock (or Craig-yr-Adern), and the ruins of Cadtell-y- Bere.

There are plenty of holiday cottages in or near to Snowdonia, offering you a choice of accommodation where you can relax after a day’s cycling in the mountains.

The Jurassic Coast, from Devon to Dorset

This huge stretch of coastline, some 95 miles, isn’t necessarily something you’d tackle in its entirety on a cycling holiday, but it offers plenty of opportunity to explore selected areas of natural beauty and charm.

The coastline between Exmouth and Swanage is particularly good for cyclists, as you explore its narrow seaside lanes. It is hilly in parts – Peak Hill is a designated National Hill Climb – but there are also plenty of beaches for when you want to take a break.

Navigation is easy, if you keep the sea right next to you by following the roads that keep it in sight. There are plenty of lovely towns to explore, including Lyme Regis and Sidmouth.

Choose a holiday cottage in Devon or Dorset, load up your bike, and get ready to explore.

The Yorkshire Dales Cycleway

If you want a holiday with a real cycling challenge, then consider the Yorkshire Dales Cycleway, with its 130-mile circular route that takes in a large area of the Yorkshire Dales National Park.

The idea is to start and finish in Skipton, but in fact you can choose different sections along the route, depending on your fitness level, and how much energy you want to use. You can explore the Yorkshire Dales at a relaxed pace by only covering, say, a section of the route a day.

There are challenging, hilly climbs offset by exhilarating descents; quiet country lanes and charming towns and villages.

There is an excellent range of places to look at when choosing your holiday cottage in Yorkshire, where you can relax after your days out in the saddle.

Kerry, Kingdom of the Perfect Landscape

Picture by Jean Beaufort

With its wild coastline, high peaks and the Killarney National Park, Kerry combines nature at its most picturesque with a whole host of activities, from festivals and fairs to food and drink – and it’s an ideal destination for a self-catering, holiday cottage holiday

The Killarney National Park

Killarney was Ireland’s first national park, when the Irish Free State received a donation of the Muckross Estate. Today the National Parks and Wildlife Service manages this spectacular natural beauty spot.

The park covers some 26,000 acres and within it are notable landmarks such as Muckross House and its gardens, Inisfallen Island and the Lakes of Killarney.

The large area of natural oak woodland covered in the park is itself a stunning natural attraction, as are the herds of red deer on the mountain slopes. Muckross House was originally built between 1839 and 1843, then further improved in 1850, in preparation for Queen Victoria’s visit to Ireland.

Looking out across Muckross Lake, the house is an imposing feature of the park and well worth exploring, as are its surroundings, including its elegant, multi-themed gardens.

Killarney’s Upper, Middle and Lower lakes converge at the aptly named Meeting of the Waters. This is a wonderfully tranquil spot in the national park, which you can only get to on foot or by cycling, making it something of a hidden gem.

On Inisfallen Island are the remains of Inisfallen Abbey, dating from the early Christian period. The monastery dates from 640 and in its desolate state still evokes an air of mystery and spirituality.

Sitting on the edge of Killarney’s Lower Lake, Loch Leane, in the national park, Ross Castle was built in the 15th century. It was one of the last fortresses in Ireland to hold out against Cromwell’s armies, until its fall in 1652.

Recently restored, it has guided tours from April to October but its grounds are open to visitors throughout the year.

The Gap of Dunloe is one of Ireland’s most famous visitor excursions, involving travel through stunning natural landscapes. It combines a coach trip to Kate Kearney’s Cottage, a traditional, family-run venue, and thereafter visitors can travel on horseback through the six-mile pass of the gap.

A trip through the gap will take you to the shore of Killarney’s Upper Lake and Lord Brandon’s Cottage.

 

The Dingle Peninsula

Stretching 30 miles into the Atlantic Ocean, the Dingle Peninsula is a coastline of steep sea cliffs and sandy beaches.

It’s a great centre for angling, walking, surfing and swimming, with a thriving Iocal Irish-language community.

There are eco marine tours to the nearby Blasket Islands, where you can see whales, dolphins and plenty of seabirds, including puffins and gannets. You can also enjoy land-based minibus tours of the peninsula and Slea Head.

Along with action and adventure attractions such as cycling, trekking and climbing, there are various festivals held in Dingle throughout the year. These include traditional music festivals, hill walking and fitness, visual arts and poetry, and even Dingle’s own film festival.

The area is culturally, vibrant, and its landscape is richly, naturally dramatic, providing a whole range of interests and sights for visitors.

Experience and Explore Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way

The West Coast of Ireland is the world’s longest defined coastal tourist route. It stretches for some 1,500 miles from the northern headlands, at Malin Head, to the Haven Coast

Picture by Brian Henry

in the south. It is a coastline of contrasts, from rugged cliffs to blue flag Beaches. It’s ideal terrain to explore from the base of a self-catering holiday cottage.

Rugged Landscapes and Towering Coastal Cliffs

In County Donegal  you can experience the drama of Malin Head and the Sliabh Liag Cliffs.

If you wanted a single place to capture the essence of rugged, outdoor beauty then Malin Head would be a leading contender. Lying on the Inishowen Peninsula, the area’s vivid coastal scenery and birdlife, along with its historical associations, make it an endlessly diverting destination.

The monolithic Banba’s Crown stands at the tip of the peninsula, built by the British Admiralty in 1805 as part of the coastal defences against the possibility of a French invasion.

The raised landscape of Ballyhillin Beach harks back to a time when the sea level was 100 feet higher, some 15,000 years ago. It’s also a repository for semi-precious stones.

If you’re lucky, you might also see dolphins off this coastline, and, on occasion, the Northern Lights.

Further down the coastline, the Sliabh Liag (Slieve League) mountain has some of Ireland’s highest sea cliffs. At the Cliffs Centre you’ll find information about the area and local culture, along with delicious homemade scones and cakes.

As well as exploring the cliffs and taking in the amazing scenery, you can also go on guided hillwalking and hiking tours, which take in the archaeology, heritage and folklore of the area.

The Poetic and Pounding Surf Coast

On the northern edge of County Sligo is Mullaghmore, with some of the most desired surfing waves off its white, sandy beach. Strandhill in Sligo is a favourite centre for surfing, and the local surf school offers surfing lessons for children and adults.

At Mullaghmore you can also take in the beauty of the monastic site of Inishmurray, dating from the 6th century, and Ben Bulben mountain, part of the dramatic landscape that inspired the poet W B Yeats.

The Picturesque Bay Coast

In Connemara and County Mayo , you’ll find a shoreline dotted with characterful dotted with coves, loughs and islands. The beautiful Clew Bay has numerous islands, including Clare Island, the biggest of them. Here are blue flag beaches, and historical and archaeological sites.

For those seeking more active diversions, Collanmore Island is home to many organised water sports, including kayaking, dinghy sailing and paddle boarding.

A must-visit is the Georgian Westport House, providing fascinating cultural insights with its elegant, historically preserved rooms and grounds. Also onsite, are the Pirate Adventure Park and Adventure Activity Centre, making it an ideal family destination.

The Calm South

The aptly named Haven Coast zig zags from Bantry Bay to Kinsale in Cork. This southernmost stretch of the Wild Atlantic Way basks in the more temperate climate of the Gulf Stream and is a focal point for both ancient cultural sites and contemporary food and festivals.

There’s an annual Gourmet Festival held every autumn in Kinsale, hosted by the fishing port’s Good Food Circle restaurants. Kinsale is also a centre for arts and crafts, as well as boasting fine beaches.

South west of Skibbereen, Lough Hyne is a unique saltwater lake, and, as Ireland’s first marine nature reserve, it’s home to a many rare species of animals and plants. Guided kayaking trips are available for exploring the lake.
You can also go whale watching in West Cork, with various species frequently seen in these waters, including Minke, Fin and Humpback whales, as well as dolphins. Day trips for dolphin and whale watching are available throughout the autumn months, departing from Baltimore Harbour.