Portstewart Strand
Portstewart Strand

Summer in Ireland: 10 Can’t-Miss Activities to Enjoy

Are you planning to visit Ireland this summer?

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Summer in Ireland is undoubtedly a more expensive time to visit given that is high season.

However, if you’ve budgeted for your trip, chosen the most economical airfare, and booked your accommodation and car rental in advance, the sticker price won’t hurt your wallet as much.

And while I often suggest that budget travelers book their vacation to Ireland at other times of the year, there’s a lot to do during the summer months.

Ireland’s lengthy summer days are a blessing if you want to pack in as many activities as possible and if the weather cooperates, then you’re in luck!

Here are 10 can’t-miss activities to choose for your summer vacation in Ireland, some of which will give you a greater insight into Irish history and others that will get you out and about in its beautiful landscape.

1. Visit a Working Farm

There are many places where you can experience farm life in Ireland but one of my favorites is the Ireland West Farm Stay in County Mayo.

You’ll even get a chance to “cut turf,” a common practice in rural Ireland that has been going on for generations.

The stone cottage at Ireland West Farm Stay. Photo courtesy of Ireland West Farm Stay Facebook.

Owner Eddie Joe Dooney takes his guests on the nearby peat landscape, explaining the difference between a living bog and a working bog.

Other old farming traditions that you can experience at Ireland West Farm Stay include stonewall building and blacksmithing.

Dooney runs a working beef farm and as a result, there are lots of animals to see there, including chickens, pigs, sheep, and Bonnie, the sheepdog.

Sheep are one of many animals you'll find on the Ireland West Home Stay Farm. Photo: Pixabay.

Choose from a 1, 2, or 3-day farm experience, or a more extended visit if you like.

All the experiences on the farm are also available separately without having to stay at the property.

If you want to stay in a restored traditional Irish cottage on the family farm, this is indeed the ideal opportunity.

Three one-hour activities are included in the cost (the working farm tour, the bog tour and walk, and the blacksmithing workshop).

A self-catering breakfast basket is also part of the package.



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2. Take a Greenway Cycle

There are plenty of greenways to cycle and walk on in Ireland, thanks to recent efforts to rejuvenate old railway tracks throughout the country, but one, in particular, will give you an insight into a county and area of Ireland that is unknown to many.

The Green Heartlands Cycle Route meanders through mid and south County Roscommon, a 164-mile (263 km) route that is broken into 7 stages, making for an enjoyable one-day adventure.

Hodson Bay Hotel, a resort on the shores of Lough Ree and a scenic peninsula that is a short 10-minute drive from Athlone, is located at Stage 1 of this cycle route.

Old implements on display at the Derryglad Folk & Heritage Museum. Photo: Sonder Visuals.

Quieter country roads will lead you to the Derryglad Folk Museum, with its collection of machinery and other artifacts that were commonly used in rural Ireland over the years.

On this stretch of the journey, you’ll come close to the beautiful Clonmacnoise monastic site and an ancient holy well dedicated to Saint Brigid, Ireland’s female patron saint.

Cycling in County Roscommon. Photo: Chris Hill, Failte Ireland/Tourism Ireland.

There are many other attractions at various stages of the greenway.

They include the chance to see a very rare Iron Age structure with symbolic Celtic markings called the La Tene Stone (also known as the Castlestrange Stone), which dates to about 200 B.C. and refers to the La Tene style of architecture created by the Celts.


The La Tene Stone in Roscommon. Photo: Sarah777 at en.wikipedia – Own workTransferred from en.wikipedia, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17004887

Only three other similar stones have been found in Ireland. They include the Turoe Stone in County Galway, the Killycluggin Stone in County Cavan and the Derrykeighan Stone in County Antrim.

Archaeologists believe they served a religious/ritualistic purpose.

3. Enjoy a Boat Ride on the Shannon

While taking a self-drive along the River Shannon, Ireland’s longest river, can be a tad expensive (a 7-day cruise for 4 will set you back about $2,500 and up), day cruises are a more budget-friendly option.

Killaloe River Cruises offer one-hour cruises on a 50-person passenger boat that passes by several historical landmarks along the river and nearby Lough Derg, including St. Flannan’s Cathedral (also known as Killaloe Cathedral), a Church of Ireland Gothic church.

St. Flannan's Cathedral along the banks of the Shannon. Photo: Photo: https://www.flickr.com/photos/cafuego/ https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

The cathedral houses the Kilfenora Cross, a 12-foot monument that is one of seven crosses made between the 9th and 12th centuries.

4. Visit the Ancient Monastic Site at Skellig Michael

No visit to Ireland, especially during the summer months, would be complete without visiting Skellig Michael, the craggy island off the coast of County Kerry.

The journey to Skellig Michael is one that will leave you in awe at the difficult environment that Irish monks managed to survive in over hundreds of years.

An aeriel view of Skellig Michael. Photo: Valerie O'Sullivan, Tourism Ireland.

The UNESCO World Heritage site contains the remains of two oratories and six beehive huts. There is also evidence that a vegetable garden and a cistern existed on the site.

Be prepared to walk the 600 steps to the top of Skellig Michael.

You can get a ferry from Portmagee, Valentia Island, Ballinskelligs, or Derrynane Harbour in Caherdaniel.

Discover the Ring of Kerry, Including the Killarney Lakes and National Park in a Day

5. Stay the Night in an Irish Castle

Staying in an Irish castle is a dream for many first-time visitors to Ireland but the cost can be prohibitive for many, unless you are traveling with several other people and you can split the cost.

One castle in Co. Kilkenny, which is also an Ireland on a Budget Tourism Ambassador, is ideal for, say, four or five couples traveling together or a larger group of singles.

a castle at the end of a road Ballybur Castle
Ballybur Castle in Co. Kilkenny. Photo: Ballybur Castle.

Spend a night in the 16th-century Ballybur Castle and put yourself in the place of the residents who lived there centuries ago.

Some of the castle’s original features include the stone staircase with its 57 spiraling steps, as well as the original beams that remain on the ground and first floors, and the vaulted ceiling in a third-floor bedroom that was once the castle’s Chapel Room.

Don’t let the age of this beautiful castle fool you.

Its structure may not have changed in 450 years, but the interior has all the modern conveniences that you would expect from any other accommodation in Ireland.

There is also a lodge beside the castle that is available for rent.

6. Play Golf on an Affordable Links Course

Golf is a popular activity for many tourists in Ireland, but it can be expensive, especially if you choose a well-known links course like the Royal Portrush in County Antrim, the Ballybunion Golf Club in Kerry, or The Royal County Down Golf Club, also in Northern Ireland.

But you don’t have to drain your budget for the sake of playing on Ireland’s more expensive courses.

The golf course at the Old Head of Kinsale. Photo: LC Lambrecht for Failte Ireland.

There are many more golf links around the island of Ireland that are much more affordable.

The Achill Island Golf Course is surrounded by incredible beauty, with green fees as low as €20 to play on its 18-hole course.

Located on Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way, the course is within easy driving distance of Mulranny, where you can stay in the popular Mulranny Suites and Lodges, and Westport, a favorite destination for many.

affordable golf courses to play in Ireland
Cruit Island off the Donegal coast where you'll find the Cruit Island Golf Course. Photo: Tourism Ireland.

The Cruit Island Golf Club off the coast of County Donegal is another gem worth playing and won’t cost you a fortune, with green fees at approximately €50.

This beautiful course, which is surrounded by the Arranmore and Owey Islands, is connected to the mainland by a bridge.

Find a Vacation Home in Ireland

7. Relive the Journey of Ireland’s Famine Victims on the National Famine Way

Combine your love of Irish history with a yearning to experience Ireland’s charming countryside along the Royal Canal.

While the 165-km heritage trail from County Roscommon to Dublin’s Docklands is quite the journey and one that most tourists won’t complete at one time, doing parts of it is completely doable.

Costumed actors pictured at the docks in Dublin recreate the journey taken in 1847. Photo courtesy of the National Famine Way.

Grab an official passport/guide and OSI map, which details the ill-fated journey that almost 1,500 people took in 1847 at the height of the Great Famine.

The experience is based on the life of a 12-year-old boy named Daniel Tighe, one of the original famine walkers who started the journey with his family at Strokestown Park in County Roscommon.

Their goal was to reach Quebec via a famine ship from Dublin.

The immersive experience, available on the National Famine Way app for iPhone and Android phones, will really take you into the lives of these tragic victims of circumstance.

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You can listen to vignettes on the app, written by the award-winning author Marita Conlon-McKenna.

bronze shoes summer in Ireland
One of the bronze shoe displays you'll find along the National Famine Way walk. Photo courtesy of the National Famine Way.

The stories are connected to 30 pairs of 19th-century bronze children’s shoes, which you’ll find at different locations along the route.

Take a Tour of the Jeannie Johnson Tall Ship and Museum Tour in Dublin

8. Immerse Yourself in Viking Culture

Whether you stay in a Viking ringfort overnight at The Irish National Heritage Park in Co. Wexford or you sign up for one of its three guided tours that delve into the rituals of the ancient Norse culture, a visit to this outdoor museum is a must if you want to know more about the Viking influence in Ireland.

Plus, it’s a perfect activity for the summer months.

a living room inside a tent summer in Ireland
A ringfort house interior at the Irish Heritage Park in Co. Wexford. Photo courtesy of Irish Heritage Park.

You’ll learn about the early hunter-gatherers who lived in Ireland over 3,000 years ago, the monastic sites and monks that came after them, and the turbulent years that followed when Ireland was invaded first by the Vikings and later by the Normans.

The park is set in 40 acres of natural woodland, where you’ll discover historic sites and trails and lots of activities for kids, too.

If you’re looking for other Viking attractions, be sure to visit the Viking Triangle in Waterford.

Read More: Lonely Planet Gives Nod to 8 Irish Attractions

9. Walk Part of Ulster’s International Appalachian Trail

Have you heard of an amazing hiking trail that starts in County Donegal and meanders through Northern Ireland, ending in County Antrim?

Despite being divided by an enormous ocean, this region of Ireland is part of the Appalachian Trail in the U.S., the 2,200-mile trek that starts in Maine and ends in Georgia.

The total length of the trail was created when several minor continents fused to form one supercontinent.

a stone path near the cliffs summer in Ireland
A pathway at the Sliabh League Cliffs in County Donegal, where the International Appalachian Trail Ulster begins. Photo: Martin Fleming, Failte Ireland/Tourism Ireland.

The collision created mountain ranges on both sides of what is now the Atlantic, from the Appalachians to the Bluestack Mountains in Donegal and the Atlas Mountains in Morocco.

The International Appalachian Trail Ulster is Ireland’s only coast-to-coast walk and can be done in several shorter walks.

The trek itself can be difficult in places, but if you’re adventurous and an avid hiker, this activity is totally worth it, plus it's a great sustainable activity if you're concerned about leaving your carbon footprint on Ireland's pristine environment.

a beach summer in Ireland
The beach at Portstewart, a great spot to visit during the summer months. Photo: Tourism Northern Ireland.

Shorter sections of the trail include the 10-mile journey from Castlerock to Portstewart, the Waterfoot to Glenarm route, which is 12 miles, and the 14-mile Glenarm to Larne trek, which is the last stage on the route.

Many points along the trail are quite desolate, so it’s a good idea to pack provisions before setting out.

Stay in the 17th-Century Ballygally Castle in Larne, Northern Ireland

10. Stroll on One of Ireland’s Most Beautiful Beaches

Summer and beachgoing don’t always match up in Ireland due to its notoriously changing weather, but despite that, walking along an Irish beach is the perfect activity at this time of year.

a sandy beach summer in Ireland
Glassilaun Beach is the perfect place to visit if summer in Ireland is in your plans. Photo: espy3008 for Getty Images.

And one that I’d recommend is the much-touted Glassilaun beach in Connemara, which was just named one of Europe’s best by The Guardian newspaper.

Describing it as a rival to beaches in the Caribbean, Glassilaun’s main asset is not only its crystal-clear waters but its truly magnificent location, with views that extend to Achill, Inishturk, and Clare Island.

Cows are a common sight at Connemara's Glassilaun Beach. Photo: Courtesy Chaosheng Zhang for Failte Ireland.

The cows that graze alongside the beach add to the location’s pastoral setting.

A beach shack called the Misunderstood Heron offers a host of flavorful food, including its well-liked Connemara lamb samosas and Killary mussels.

Are you traveling to Ireland this summer or sometime in the future? Let me know in the comments below.

colette

Colette is a County Sligo native who created Ireland on a Budget to provide her readers with money-saving tips on how to get to Ireland and then save even more when they're there. She's a professional copywriter who lives in the New York area with her husband and two children.

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