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West Ireland: A Perfect Summer Travel Destination

Photo by Jennifer Boyer via Flickr/CC BY 2.0

If you adore white sand beaches, deep brown tans, and tropical drinks, then summer will provide you with a surfeit of vacation destinations. For a sun disciple, “summer vacation” means “the beach,” and going anywhere the temperature doesn’t top 90 would be a total waste of time in the sun.

And that’s great. Because when everyone else heads off to the beach, it leaves more options for travelers who prefer hiking shoes to flip-flops, stout to margaritas, and slipping on a light jacket to basting up with sun-oil to suffer the glare of day’s eye.

A coastal trail at Howth, near Dublin. Photo by Beth Green

A coastal trail at Howth, near Dublin. Photo by Beth Green

If you are seeking a temperate summer destination, you’d do well to visit Ireland, where the noonday sun tops out in the high 60′s, (15-20C) and a variety of natural and cultural delights wait throughout. To illustrate this variety, we will examine three destinations, each located on Ireland’s western coast.

 

Historical opulence

Ireland is studded with castles, barrows, and other historical sites, but few match the sheer luxury of Ashford Castle, a 13th-century Norman fortress transformed slowly over the centuries into a sprawling 5-star retreat in which the fortunate guests relish period furniture, stunning views, and fine dining. They can also luxuriate in the health and beauty center, or enjoy the outdoors with horseback riding, golfing, or learning falconry. Nothing says “luxury” like learning falconry!

Photo courtesy http://www.ancestryimages.com

Photo courtesy ancestryimages.com

 

Irish culture

The city of Galway is considered by many to be the cultural and artistic cornerstone of the country. With representation in nearly every field of human entertainment, from poetry to theatre to a broad sporting history (as well as just being a smashing town to shop and relax in), Galway has recently become known for its many festivals and celebrations. Most notable of these is the Galway Arts Festival (held every July; 14th-27th in 2014), a two-week, 27-venue artistic explosion, where visitors can view any number of musical performances, theatrical presentations, or dance and comedy exhibitions.

Natural splendor

So we’ve covered both an excess of luxury and excess of art. What can possibly top these possibilities for purity of emotional response? In order to truly appreciate the wonder of Ireland, you need to get out beyond the limits of civilization, and see some of the most amazing unspoiled natural terrain anywhere. While Ireland is blessed with thousands of miles of breathtaking hiking (wear the right hiking shoes!), the natural wonder I’m talking about now is on the rolling western coast—the Cliffs of Moher south of Galway Bay. The dizzying cliffs of shale and sandstone (seen in The Princess Bride and Harry Potter and The Half-Blood Prince) are truly spectacular, both in their sheer and imposing appearance, and as a home for an estimated 30,000 birds.

These three vacation options (each within a relatively short distance from each other) are a mere sliver of what awaits within the blissfully temperate confines of Ireland, and serve to hopefully encourage you to explore the possibilities for yourself.

Have you been to Ireland recently? What was your favorite destination?

 

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