Ireland: Insider Suggestions

Eamonn Gardner, 74, has been the concierge at the Dromoland Castle Hotel & Country Estate in the Republic for more than 40 years.

Gardner sends people to the nearby Cliffs of Moher, about an hour's drive away. From there they can continue along the west coast to Ballyvaughan with lovely views of the ocean on the left and cliffs on the right.

"In the summer, when the days are long," says Gardner, "they can go all the way into Connemara [the western portion of County Galway] and perhaps stay the night.

"There are lots of little restaurants along that coast, especially along the cliffs and at Ballyvaughan with lovely views of the water," says Gardner.

Fishermen will also love Connemara, Gardner adds. "Guests who catch trout, or any other fish, can bring it back and our chef will cook it for their dinner."

Heading southeast, visitors can drive to scenic Lough Derg and the lakeside town of Killaloe for pony treks and boat riding. "This is a less traveled route than places like Killarney," Gardner says, "but it's a very nice day trip."

Northern Ireland's Glassdrumman Lodge is located on the coast of County Down in Annalong within view of the rugged and beautiful Mourne mountains, a favorite destination for serious hikers. Bronagh Webb, who assists in running the front of the house at Glassdrumman Lodge, says she often directs guests who are casual walkers to shorter hikes in the Mournes. "There are lots of little walks that we recommend that may not be in the walking literature. There's one walk that takes folks up to what's called Blue Loch, an isolated loch right in the middle of the valley. It's quite a well-trodden path and you can walk as little or as much as you like."

If guests want to quench their thirst or get a bite to eat at a local pub, Webb recommends a pub called the Halfway House. "It's a typical farmers' pub right at the bottom of the road," she says. You get the genuine locals, which in this area happen to be mainly farmers."

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