The Easter School holidays have kicked in and you may be struggling with ideas and what on earth you are going to do to pass the time, if budget is an issue, here is my top ten list of excursions that may be of interest.
1. Portumna Forest Park - located on the banks of the River Shannon in the bustling town of Portumna, County Galway lies this beautiful forest park. With many glorious trails to walk, run and cycle it is sure to leave you feeling refreshed and at one with nature. Look out for red squirrels, deer, duck and buzzards as you explore this magical place. Pack a picnic and choose from the many tables dispersed among the tree's, the kids will surely sleep well at night. If you can only venture outdoors at the weekend, come along to Portumna Park Run, every Saturday at 9.30am, it may be called Park run, but it is open to walkers, children and dogs on leashes.
2. Portumna Castle at Easter - If you have manged not to get lost in the Forest Park, make your way to this magnificent building. Once a holiday home for the Earl of Clanricarde and accidentally burnt in 1826. €13 for a family ticket, which will give you access to the glorious walled kitchen garden, the huge interior of the castle, read all about Fury the dog and afterwards head to the castle courtyard where you will find some yummy treats and delicious coffee in the café and browse the wonderful art exhibition upstairs in the Gallery. On Easter Sunday, the coffee shop is giving an Easter egg to every customers child who colours in the Easter bunny. Also check out the castle's Easter Egg Hunt over the long weekend, there is a mouth watering prize for the winners.
3. Millennium Cross Walk - If mountains and hill walking are more your style, and your kids are more adventurous, this is a fabulous hike. Located 6 km along the Portroe Road out of Ballina, in County Tipperary, this hike is 2.4km on a rough track through open bog land with some steep hills - good for the calf muscles. Ending on the site of the Millennium Cross, which was erected here in 2006. The views are extraordinary, worth the hike in my opinion, but wrap up well as it can get a bit blustery and chilly at the top. There is a small carpark located near the base where there are a few seats for the weary legs.
4. Surfs up in Fanore - living in East Galway we are not near a beach, but when the longing takes us, we pack up our car with the dogs, wetsuits, body boards, camping gas, frying pan, sausages rashers, eggs and brown bread, and we head to the beach. Fanore is our favourite beach, even on an overcast day those breakers are huge, located on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean with the jigsaw landscape of the Burren in County Clare in the background. We walk the dogs, collect shells, draw pictures in the sand, build sandcastles and brave the cold to enter the water. It is always worth the fry up afterwards.
5. Salthill Prom - Galway city can still be explored even if you are on a budget. Make some sandwiches, bake some treats, I find early mornings are best, Shop street can be negotiated easily, walk out to the Spanish arch, visit the museum which is free, but booking advised, it is open from Tuesday to Sunday. Whilst you are waiting for the streets to come alive, walk the prom in Salthill, the coffee is great and don't forget to kick the wall at the end of the prom.
6. If you go down to the woods - Derrycrag woods to be exact, located in the colourful village of Woodford, County Galway. This nature reserve is home to pine marten, red squirrel, badger, fox and fallow deer. It is an old oak woodland, traversed by the Woodford River, there is ample space to picnic, and it is oh so quiet!
7. Island Hopping - A little further up the road from Woodford and you cross the boarder to County Clare. East Clare is a fascinating place to explore full of history and heritage, head to the harbour village of Mountshannon located on the shores of one of the biggest lakes in Ireland Lough Derg. Ring forts, Holy wells, Famine Graves and even a wedge tomb can be found in the area and this place dates back to the 18th Century. But if it is island exploration you are after, Inis Cealtra is a short boat ride away. The island includes a well-preserved Round Tower, the ruins of six churches and a cell like structure, which is one of the most remarkable buildings in Ireland. There are ancient graveyards, high crosses, bullaun stones, a bargaining stone and a holy well. Boat trips leave the harbour every day, bring a picnic and spend a few hours exploring this sacred place.
8. Pallas Castle - we all love a freebie, and this five storey 16th century tower house which was built by the De Burgo (Burke) family is one to visit, free to explore it may be difficult to find, but with the help of Google maps you will find it. Located near the village of Tynagh in County Galway this 16th century structure is surrounded by a well-preserved bawn wall which is often very rare to find these days. Wide open green space for a game of tag or hide and seek, you will probably be the only ones there so enjoy the solitude.
9. Meelick Weir - walk from County Galway into County Offaly. Ever since the new weir walkway was unveiled it has become a favourite location of mine. This foot bridge spans the river Shannon in a little village called Meelick, famous for its fishing. If fishing is not your thing, it is well worth the trip, just to walk from one county into the next. Swans, otter, kingfisher and boats can be seen cruising the river, walk down to the lock and you might arrive at a time when boats are manoeuvring the lock. It is an epic spot to watch a sunset, whilst enjoying a flask of tea.
10. The jigsaw pieces of the Burren Landscape - this place always amazes me, how something so barren can look so beautiful. Burren National Park is one of six national parks in Ireland, there are five marked walking trails in the park, to access the Park, from Corofin, take the R476 to Killinaboy. In Killinaboy take the first right turn (L1112) before the ruins of the sixteenth century church. Approximately 5 km along this road you will reach a crossroads. There is a lay-by just before this crossroads (Gortlecka Crossroads) on the right, you can park there, and begin your walk.
This is just my top ten favourite things to do, that don't cost the earth, if you have any further suggestions please do leave a comment below. Alternatively if you would like to subscribe to my newsletter here https://bernicecookeartist.com/
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