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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This beautiful course, which is surrounded by the Arranmore and Owey Islands, is connected to the mainland by a bridge.
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.
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.
Their goal was to reach Quebec via a famine ship from Dublin.
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You can listen to vignettes on the app, written by the award-winning author Marita Conlon-McKenna.
The stories are connected to 30 pairs of 19th-century bronze children’s shoes, which you’ll find at different locations along the route.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.