As indoor hospitality remains closed, a former resident advises on what to see if you’re heading for a visit
From a picture perfect moment worthy of Walt Disney himself, to an escape room adventure on a boat moored in Dublin, to closing your eyes on a 10-minute sea crossing, there’s plenty to enjoy over the border. This is by no means an exhaustive list and do check for updates regarding social distancing regulations before you get into the car and get driving.
Taxi requests to Enniskerry were up 142% in May, and all because of visitors hoping for a glimpse — and photo op — of the town given the Disney touch while Hollywood stars filmed the Enchanted sequel, Disenchanted. Local shops were given magical modifications with colourful facades and new names befitting their Disney status: a trip to Beauty and the Book, anyone? Or Potions, Notions and Lotions? While Enniskerry is no stranger to filmmaking, this Wicklow wonderland definitely has to be seen, and enjoyed, to be believed. Actors and crew are believed to be returning on July 21 so there’s time to get down and get snapping before the shoot restarts.
Speaking of magic, if you’re in the Waterford area, ensure you head towards Mahon Falls. Park your car at the bottom of the hill, put it in neutral, remove the handbrake and try not to panic when the car begins to roll backwards and uphill, rather than what you expect. An optical illusion? We prefer to believe it’s thanks to a little bit of enchantment.
Although there’s plenty of attractions to be found in Dublin, one that should go on your list is a trip to the award-winning Little Museum of Dublin. Launched in 2011, there’s over 5,000 artefacts, loaned and donated, in the collection, including a permanent exhibition devoted to the 40-year career of U2. From James Joyce’s death mask and a first edition of Ulysses to a lectern used by President John F Kennedy, it’s an eclectic mix. No wonder its unofficial motto is: boring museums are ancient history. It’s of particular interest to little visitors (worksheets and quizzes are available). littlemuseum.ie
In an explorative way, of course, within the Kildare Maze. Opt for the Hedge Maze, inspired by St Brigid, the patron saint of Kildare, or the Wooden Maze. There’s 1.5 acres of hedge-lined paths to navigate, but if you prefer your puzzles with a little less foliage, find the eight control points in the Wooden Maze. The route is frequently changed to ensure you stay on your toes. There’s also crazy golf and an adventure trail for those wanting to feel less stressed at the thought of getting lost. thekildaremaze.com
Ever been tempted to try an escape room? They’ve popped up throughout Ireland and are great fun for all ages. One of the best, in our experienced opinion, is Escape Boats Dublin. Set in Grand Canal Dock, teams from two to 10 work together to solve puzzles, crack codes and free themselves from games named SOS or Convicts on the Zorg Ella boat. Can you escape within an hour? Expect the unexpected in these craftily comprised games, the pressure building all the more as you’re confined within an enclosed space. Prices from €20 per person. escapeboats.ie
Yes, the Long Room in Trinity College is impressive and well worth a visit — taking in the Book of Kells at the same time — but Marsh’s Library, the oldest of its kind in Ireland, has been in existence since 1707. One of the few 18th century buildings in the country still used for its original purpose, it contains 25,000 books and over 300 manuscripts, plus approximately 80 books from before 1501. History of literature meets Irish history in the location — if you look closely you’ll spot bullet holes from the Easter Rising when the Jacob’s factory next door was occupied. Please note, the library is not open on Sundays or Mondays and joint tickets can be bought for the library and the neighbouring St Patrick’s Cathedral. marshlibrary.ie
Dominated by the 200-year-old Fort Mitchell, Spike Island (nicknamed ‘Ireland’s Alcatraz’), a 10-minute ferry ride from Cobh, has a rich and colourful heritage from monks to convicts. The After Dark tours is particularly recommended and will give visitors a side to the location’s history and access to area not normally open to the public. After arriving, you’ll learn the background and stories of former island residents as you walk past abandoned villages and former homes. At Fortress Spike you’ll hear of the history of what became the largest prison in the world in the 1850s (during the Famine there were over 2,300 inmates). spikeislandcork.ie
Take to the sky with the Dursey Island cable car in West Cork, which departs daily, year-round. A 10-minute trip, it’s the only cable car in Europe that crosses open sea. At 6.5km long and 1.5km wide, the island was historically made up of three townlands, and several buildings can still be seen today. Dursey doesn’t have pubs, shops or restaurants so make sure you bring plenty of snacks if you plan to visit. Birdwatchers will reap the benefits as there are plenty of seabirds to be seen. durseyisland.ie
If you’re looking for somewhere a little alternative to rest your head, consider one of Ireland’s lighthouses. St John’s Point and Fanad Head in Donegal, Loop Head in Clare, Clare Island in Mayo and Galley Head in Cork are available for visitors and maritime lovers. Think of it: fresh air, crashing waves and stories of former inhabitants — an unforgettable experience. greatlighthouses.com. On the theme of lighthouses, check out the Spire of Lloyd in Co Meath. It tends to open on bank holiday Mondays but check out before visiting (contact the Kells Courthouse Tourism and Cultural Hub on +353 (0) 469 247 508).
Irish caves believed to have been used over several millennia, the Caves of Keash are 17 chambers, some interconnecting, located near the village of Keash in Co Sligo. Remains of brown bear and Irish elk, plus human remains dating back to 10,000BC, have been found. The caves are associated with the otherworld in Celtic mythology. Oh, and their use is considered to have predated the pyramids of Egypt by 500-800 years. A hike to the caves will take up to 30 minutes but walkers beware: there’s a steep incline and if it’s wet, the ground is slippy. Ensure adequate walking shoes.