Understandably, most of us remain tethered to this island for the foreseeable future; and whilst an Irish summer doesn’t guarantee endless sunshine, we are lucky enough to have an endless supply of stunning places to visit. To avoid the queues, why not pack up a home-made picnic and go on a mini-adventure on this fair isle. For inspiration, we’ve compiled suggestions from our colleagues of their perfect places to picnic. And don’t worry, if anything should go wrong on your trip AA Membership covers you in any car nationwide. Our patrols fix 8 out of 10 cars at the roadside meaning you’ll be back on the road and tucking into your sambos in no time!
GLENCAR WATERFALL, LEITRIM
Located off the N16, west of Manorhamilton, Glencar Waterfall is a magical place to spend the day. The car park has some disabled spots and there are also wheelchair accessible toilets, a picnic area, playground and café on site. The waterfall is about 200 metres from the car park on a hard-surfaced path. W. B. Yeats was a visitor to the waterfall in his youth and mentioned Glencar Waterfall in his poem The Stolen Child. This place is poetry and Instagram worthy; it could inspire you too.
DÚN NA RÍ FOREST PARK, CAVAN
Pack up some treats, grab your water and roam the gorgeous Dún na Rí Forest Park outside Kingscourt in Cavan, off the Kingscourt/Carrickmacross Rd (R179). An Access for all Trail means visitors of different abilities can enjoy the stretches of snowdrops, foxgloves, ferns and bluebells (when in season) as well as the many trees and sculptures dotted around the park. Lay out a picnic blanket by the river or avail of the picnic benches available. There are also public toilets for your convenience and make sure you have coins with you for the car park!
KILLARNEY NATIONAL PARK, KERRY
South of Killarney town centre is Killarney National Park which includes the McGillycuddy’s Reeks, Ireland’s highest mountain range. If scaling the 1000-meter summit is not on your agenda, enjoy the stunning lakes, woodlands and waterfalls at ground level. The park is listed as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and forms part of a special area of conservation. Make sure you leave nothing behind but your footprints when you visit this area of outstanding beauty. The park offers a guide to the different levels of walking trails available here including a multi-access trail with smooth surfaces suitable for all users.
CURRAGHCHASE FOREST PARK, LIMERICK
Curraghchase Forest Park is located off the N69 at Kilcornan village. It’s a perfect place to spend a day walking or cycling with over 300 hectares of woodland, lakes, playgrounds and even a pet cemetery to explore. Their 1.1km lake trail is described as ‘multi-access’ and allows visitors of all abilities to enjoy the smooth forest road and trail. If you’re touring the area, Adare village is a 15 minute drive/half-hour cycle away or if you have your walking boots with you, a mere two hour jaunt on foot. You will need €5 in coins for the car park so again, have some change handy.
NEWPORT VILLAGE, MAYO
Newport in Mayo is a gorgeous village on the N59, north of Westport and west of Castlebar. It’s a great place to refuel if you’re doing The Great Western Greenway on foot or on wheels. Picnic benches are available by the banks of Newport River on the Westport approach and there is also a playground very nearby. There is plenty of parking by the quay if travelling by car and lots of places to eat in the village. Newport is a real gem.
THE PHOENIX PARK, DUBLIN
Located north of the River Liffey in Dublin City, the Phoenix Park has a mere 707 hectares of open space for you to enjoy on foot or on your wheels. You won’t be able to lay out your picnic blanket on the lawns of Áras an Uachtaráin or the American Ambassador’s residence but there’s plenty of space elsewhere. You may see teams playing polo or cricket whilst you’re there, or even some deer hanging around. There are lots of public transport options nearby with the Luas Red Line stopping at Heuston Station and Dublin Bus routes 25, 25a, 25b, 26, 37, 38, 38a, 38b, 39, 39a, 46a, 66, 66a, 66b, 66e, 67, 68/a, 69, 70, 145, 155 all stopping near the park. Note, there is also an accessible toilet available in the Visitor Centre located near the Phoenix Park monument off Chesterfield Avenue.
MEMORIAL PARK, DUBLIN
Not too far from the Phoenix Park is Memorial Park, off the South Circular Rd at Islandbridge. Enjoy the sunken rose garden or find a spot along the River Liffey where you might see some of the various boat clubs, including the Garda Boat Club, rowing by. When you’re done, the grounds of IMMA and Kilmainham Gaol are a 15 minute walk/7 minute cycle away. Wheelchair access to Memorial Park is possible via the Islandbridge entrance with a mixture of smooth and gravelly surfaces within.
CASTLETOWN HOUSE AND PARKLANDS, KILDARE
Castletown House and Parklands in Celbridge is an ideal place for a visit come rain or come shine. If the heavens open you can always do a tour of the restored mansion on the grounds, but if the weather is dry spend the day walking the grounds. Keep in mind if you are a wheelchair user, while the house has a lift, it is not a fire lift so only the ground floor is universally accessible. If venturing outside, there is plenty to hold your interest including the landscaped gardens, lake, the Batty Langley Gate Lodge and the Conolly Folly. Entry is free and dogs are welcome but must be kept on a lead. Make sure you check their website for opening and closing times of the gates before you set out on your trip.
POWERSCOURT WATERFALL, WICKLOW
Powerscourt Waterfall is a ten-minute drive, 25-minute cycle or one hour walk from Enniskerry Village. Home to Ireland’s highest waterfall, there is also a 1.5km walking trail, sensory trail, a playground, picnic benches and a café. The areas surrounding the waterfall are largely accessible for wheelchairs and there are also accessible toilet facilities on site. Powerscourt House and Gardens are located nearby too if you want to go for the double Powerscourt experience.
If you’re making a trip by car, AA members can avail of breakdown assistance 24/7 from AA Membership meaning a car breakdown doesn’t have to ruin your getaway.