Back in January, you might have seen future-you on a city break sipping wine in an Italian piazza; but we won’t get into what’s happened since then. As the saying goes, there’s no use crying over spilt Pinot Grigio, and when you start to look a little closer to home you’ll soon see that there are some big perks to booking a city break in Ireland. While shorter travel times may seem like the obvious answer, there’s also a feeling of security that comes with holidaying at home; and with AA Membership providing roadside rescue 24/7 and AA Travel Insurance covering stays of two-nights or more, you can feel even more at ease.
From medieval Kilkenny, to the cobbles of Galway; it’s the year of appreciating what's (kind of) on your doorstep. You may think you know Ireland’s cities like the back of your hand, but there’s always something new to discover. The hardest part is choosing where to go…
St. Patrick's Bridge in Cork City
The first stop after your trip south has to be The English Market. It’s a foodie’s field day in there, with the freshest grub around. Walk off your feast at the gorgeous Fitzgerald Park and continue your stroll across Mardyke Bridge and along the Banks of the Lee Walkway. To add a history lesson to your trip, Cork City Gaol is back open to visitors as is the 17th-century Elizabeth Fort, which provides the best views of the city from its ramparts. The seaside towns of Cobh and Kinsale are both just over a half an hour from the city and a 10-minute drive will take you out to Blarney, where you can explore the famous Blarney Castle and Gardens. If you thought you couldn’t kiss the Blarney Stone in a pandemic, you’re wrong. Sprays and sanitizers make up some of their elaborate safety protocols outlined here. Anything for the gift of the gab, aye?
Statue of Daniel O'Connell in Limerick City. Photo credit: Stevesphotography
On the banks of the Shannon, Limerick City is steeped in history. If you don’t know the city, The Three Bridges Walk is a great place to start. At just under 4km long, it’ll loop you over bridges and along the riverbank. Veer off the path to for a trip to the medieval ages at King John’s Castle, and then visit the beautiful St. Mary’s Cathedral - standing since 1168. The Limerick City Milk Market, one of the oldest markets in Ireland, is a must for some weekend nibbles; and museum-fans will love the Hunt Museum with its cornucopia of treasures. Travelling out from the city, Clare’s Bunratty Castle & Folk Park is a treat for all ages, mountain bikers can enjoy the Ballyhoura Mountains, while walkers can breathe in the fresh air of Curraghchase Forest.
The Claddagh, Galway
Not even a pandemic can dull Galway’s Claddagh-gold shine. The cobbled streets and colourful shop fronts of The Latin Quarter are the perfect welcome, and you can buy an Aran jumper and eat an evening meal all in the one pretty setting. At the nearby Spanish Arch, you’ll see the fast-moving Corrib spill into the Atlantic, with that iconic landscape of the colourful houses along The Claddagh a short walk away. The Galway Museum is free to visit, or you can opt for a river or canal walk to visit the impressive Galway Cathedral. A trip out to Salthill is a must, and if you’re feeling brave, you can join the locals and jump off Blackrock pier at high tide. If you have a car, there are endless opportunities as you venture further west towards the stone walls of Connemara, making an essential stop at Spiddal Craft Village.
Dublin's Ha'penny Bridge
When’s the last time you allowed yourself to be a tourist in the capital? Now you can tick off those essential sights with the added benefit of less crowds. There are museums and galleries in abundance in the city, with the three National Museums, the Guinness Storehouse, The Little Museum of Dublin, the Hugh Lane Gallery and the National Gallery among those open to visitors again. A walk in the Phoenix Park or St. Stephen’s Green will always be a treat; and if you fancy venturing outside the city, why not hike the Dublin Mountains to the Hellfire Club, take a walk through Ticknock Forest, or enjoy sea views from Killiney Hill. The scenic coastal towns of Howth and Dún Laoghaire are also great options for a stroll. You can enjoy any cuisine you like back in the city centre, and with many Dublin restaurants taking orders through phone app, you can relax and enjoy your meal whilst feeling safe.
The River Suir in Waterford City. Photo credit: William Murphy
Founded by Vikings, Waterford is Ireland’s oldest city. The Viking influence is unmissable, with Reginald’s Tower, Bishop’s Palace and the Medieval Museum making up the ‘Waterford Treasures’ museum trio - all within The Viking Triangle in the city centre. The House of Waterford Crystal is open again, where you can see how the iconic crystal is made and maybe nab some for yourself at the famous shop. If you want to get active and discover more of the county, cycling the Waterford Greenway is the way to do it. The 46km-long treck along a disused railway line stretches between Waterford, Kilmacthomas and Dungarvan, with bike hire spots in the three towns. Family favourite Tramore and the picturesque Dunmore East are both within a half an hour drive of the city if you’re craving the coast.
Kilkenny Castle and Park
Pretty shop fronts, a castle and a river - what more could you ask for from a medieval town-turned modern city? The hurlers on the vast green expanse of Kilkenny Castle Park will reassure you that you’re in the home of the Cats, and you’ll soon see how the castle, paired with the medieval city walls give the city its unique charm. The Kilkenny Design Store will be an essential first-stop for some, and you can follow up with a taste of history at the Medieval Mile Museum or by exploring the 17th century Rothe House and Gardens. Daily cycling tours are a great way to see the city, and there are plenty of scenic walks; be it along the banks of the Nore or around the castle grounds. Venturing elsewhere in the county, families can get active at a trip to Castlecomer Discovery Park, while hikers can enjoy panoramic views atop Brandon Hill.
Face coverings are now compulsory in many indoor settings such as shops and museums, so be sure to pack enough for your trip. While driving, be extra mindful of pedestrians and cyclists as they may need to move out from the roadside to allow for physical distancing, especially in cities.
The last thing you want on holiday is to wind up broken down on the side of the road with no one to call. AA members can avail of breakdown assistance any time, any place from AA Rescue. Why not sign up now for peace of mind when you hop in the car.