Ireland, which celebrates its famous St. Patrick’s Day on 17 March and has become one of the biggest holiday hotspots for pop-culture fans alike thanks to the ever-growing popularity of Game of Thrones, has even more to cheer about as it continues to draw Australian travellers to its rugged coastline in 2016.
Leading travel brands CostSaver and Trafalgar have reported a 78% and 63% increase respectively of guests travelling on its guided holidays throughout Ireland in 2016, with the growth in passenger numbers influenced by the desire for experiential travel experiences and value-based holidaying.
Solo travellers are also taking advantage of group travel to Ireland with an 83% increase in solo travellers booking the popular 10-day Best of Ireland guided holiday in 2016.
Matthew Cameron-Smith, Managing Director, Trafalgar Australia said: “Our guests are becoming far more interested in exploring Ireland’s less-visited places; places that take them into the heart of local towns, such as Strokestown, Sligo and Liscannor Bay, where they can interact with the local Irish characters, in their personal surroundings, to allow for a deeper understanding of Irish culture and traditions.”
From Celtic castle stays to foraging for food on the Wild Atlantic Way, Trafalgar has listed five key experiences you need to have on your next visit to the Emerald Isle.
1) Dress like GOT’s Jon Snow for the day
A trip to Ireland wouldn’t be complete without a trip to the filming locations of Game of Thrones. On Trafalgar’s Celtic Filmscapes trip, you’ll have exclusive access to Castle Ward – the filming location of Winterfell. You’ll explore the Whispering Woods and recognise key scenes including Robb Stark’s Camp, the Baelor battle and when Brienne confronts the Stark men. However the highlight experience is being able to dress up in the original costumes from the hit TV show and fire live arrows in a replica of the Winterfell Castle archery range. This 11-day drama-based trip is priced from $3995 per person – twin share and visits various filming locations from Outlander, James Bond, Cloud Atlas and Chariots of Fire.
2) Explore Lough Corrib in style
One of Ireland’s oldest and prettiest lakes, Lough Corrib is located in the West of Ireland and is the inspiration behind William Wilde’s, father of Oscar Wilde, book, Lough Corrib: Its shores and islands. Drift along its shimmering waters on-board ‘The Isle of Inisfree’ with Captain Patrick, Ashford Castle’s Local Specialist. He’ll share with you his local knowledge of the lake and its surroundings as you glide through the peaceful waters on what is considered one of the country’s finest passenger ships before a lone piper escorts you over the drawbridge to Ashford Castle. This magical cruise is just one of the experiences you can have on Trafalgar’s Iconic Ireland and Ashford Castle guided holiday priced from $3150 per person – twin share.
3) Forage on the Wild Atlantic Way
Ireland has never made it high on the list of getaways for gastronomes. Yet the countryside’s rich soil and regular rain makes for fertile growing conditions, producing an abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables. Trafalgar offers guests the opportunity to forage for fresh produce on the wild beaches of the Atlantic Edge with a local horticultural tutor, Oonagh. She’ll take you to meet her friend, Theresa, who cooks you a delicious meal prepared from the food you’ve scavenged. Situated overlooking Liscannor Bay, this authentic Be My Guest will change the way you think about Irish cuisine. This foodie adventure is available on the Best of Ireland guided holidays priced from $2675 per person – twin share.
4) Stay in a Celtic castle
There aren’t many people who can claim they’ve stayed in a royal residence. But with approximately 1,000 castles dotted throughout Ireland and no royalty left to reign, this incredible experience is now within reach. A number of medieval castles across Ireland have been converted into hotels. Most recently is Ashford Castle, a magnificent property set on 350 acres on the picturesque shores of Lough Corrib. Following extensive refurbishment, rooms have been restored to their regal best. Fine dining, luxurious spa options and activities such as falconry and equestrian on offer all add to Ashford’s royal opulence. Live like a King and Queen on Trafalgar’s Iconic Ireland and Ashford Castle and experience a complete circle of Ireland including its fairy-tale castle stay.
5) Learn Ireland’s poetic history over the dinner table
A dining experience that will merge Irish history, culture and delectable cuisine in the one sitting – this is one travel experience you won’t want to miss. Trafalgar invites its guests into the rustic home of Damien and Paula Brennan in a Be My Guest experience that overlooks Lough Gill. Paula, a noted chef in the community, will serve you up a traditional feast; while Damien, a Local Specialist on poet Williams Butler Yeats, will share the inspiration behind some of the lyrical lines penned by W.B Yeats. This special experience is available to travellers exclusively on the 8-day Secrets of Ireland priced from $3495 per person – twin share.