Kilkee, Co. Clare

Here’s the thing: I love going on holidays. Two week breaks, long weekends, overnight stops, it doesn’t matter, I adore them. But as a student with a part-time job, I don’t quite have the budget to finance my love of gallivanting. As much as I’d like to hop on a plane every few months, it doesn’t pan out like that for me. This desire to ‘get away’, combined with my small budget, means that my trusty travel companion (my boyfriend) and I always end up settling for wherever the train and some buses can take us. But long before I gained my independence and my own bank account, my family and I went on many fantastic trips, which instilled in me the belief that you don’t have to leave the country in order to have an amazing time. There are so many good times and experiences to be had in this country, without ever having to step foot on a plane.

When I was younger, family holidays were mostly spent in Cork and Kerry. Glenbeigh in Country Kerry is what I would describe as heaven on earth; a little village that’s on the road between Killarney and Cahersiveen, with access to a stunning beach that goes on for miles and miles. My family liked it so much that we went there twice (rare for us), and in a nice little twist of fate, it turns out that my boyfriend was actually holidaying two minutes up the road. We try to get down once a year now, just the two of us, and it’s an oasis of relaxation. Apart from chilling out, it’s a great spot to plant yourself if you’d like to see more of the Kingdom; we spent the day exploring Killarney, made the trip out to Valencia Island, and once he made me do the Coomasaharn walk, which if you’re the athletic type, you’ll probably love. Needless to say, I’ll pass next time. Most recently, we visited Tralee, which is another holiday spot where the town centre is on your doorstep; always an advantage.

Fun fact: I saw Graham Norton in Supervalu in Bantry. That’s literally my only brush with stardom.

Cork people are famed for insisting that it’s the best county in Ireland, and to be honest, I’d be inclined to agree with them. The scenery is stunning, the people are nicer, and they’re just great spots to get away to. Crosshaven, a coastal village about an hour outside of Cork city, is the definition of ‘picture perfect’. Bantry, Glengarriff and Castletownbere are three friendly towns all on the same fishing coastline, containing pockets of pretty beaches. Fun fact: I saw Graham Norton in Supervalu in Bantry. That’s literally my only brush with stardom. I’ve recently returned from a brief trip to Waterford, a city which is brilliant example of the right way to showcase their rich Christian history, building a museum over local ruins.

The West has been increasingly popular in the last few years, thanks to the marketing of the Wild Atlantic Way, and offers a variety of types of trips. If it’s nightlife you’re looking for, you don’t need to look past Galway city; you get straight off the train or the bus and you’re in Eyre Square. Galway is what I’d call an ‘anti-city’; it seems hellbent on being a large town, which is why it’s such a lively spot. There’s a real sense of familiarity and friendliness. Through Galway you can also access the Aran Islands; and let’s be honest, it doesn’t get more Irish than that. In the late nineteenth century, J.M. Synge wrote of the Aran Islands that “every article on these islands has an almost personal character, which gives this simple life, where all art is unknown, something of the artistic beauty of medieval life.” Things have moved on a little since then, but there is still a sense that a quality of life now lost to us has been preserved here.

Westport is one of the cleanest places I’ve ever visited; there’s something incredibly serene and relaxing about it. If it’s outdoor pursuits you’re after, then Kilkee is the spot. Without a doubt my favourite Irish destination, it’s got everything; beaches, cliff walks so steep that they’re awe-inspiring, a vibrant town, and it’s a good base for exploring Clare.

Another family trip brought us to Enniscrone in Sligo, about which I only have two things to say: Enniscrone is possibly the windiest place on earth, and if you go there, make sure you’re blaring Sinéad O’Connor’s Faith and Courage album as you drive through Sligo. It’s an experience.

In terms of the further flung corners of this island, Donegal is so beautiful and worth the drive. I once went on a fleeting overnight stay to Belfast city, and since it was Christmas time we were able to explore the markets. It’s a rich and vibrant city that offers something for everyone. The Titanic museum is fantastic, but if you want real, tangible history, Crumlin Road Gaol is eye-opening.  

Another family trip brought us to Enniscrone in Sligo, about which I only have two things to say: Enniscrone is possibly the windiest place on earth, and if you go there, make sure you’re blaring Sinéad O’Connor’s Faith and Courage album as you drive through Sligo. It’s an experience.

All this being said, the real secret to a good Irish ‘staycation’ is to get out the regional train and bus timetables and figure out the options available to you. As a student, your student card is an invaluable resource to avail of discounted fares up and down the country. The scenery and experiences are there, and waiting for you. In an age where air travel is cheaper than ever, it’s important to keep the money at home, and not to lose sight of what’s on your doorstep.

Kilkee, Co. Clare