Out and About; South West Ireland
Peerless golf courses, renowned nightlife, breathtaking sights, and an abundance of culture contribute to the southwest region in Ireland’s rank amongst the world’s best golfing destinations. With open arms, the Irish welcome visitors with unrivaled hospitality, and the opportunity to experience this first hand left a lasting impression.
The Emerald Isles - as it’s affectionately known - is a canopy of rugged, rustic, and wild terrain, with no part or region embodying those traits more than its southwest. A coastline of inlets, coves, and peninsulas meets the craggy inland landscape of rocky outcrops and bogs to unveil nature at its finest. The narrow, windy country roads meander effortlessly through these native lands, offering a gateway to the historic towns and the famed sights that endear so many. Couple such scenic beauty with the Irish culture and you truly have found something special. Be it lineage, links golf, or a wise tail that brings you here, calling Ireland’s southwest home for either a long or a short stay surely will not disappoint.
Lush green fairways, towering dunes, and the classic design each venue possesses pay homage to the early beginnings of these famed courses. The history and culture of these coastal towns have their local links at their core, and a chance to walk in the footsteps of the prior great’s is nothing short of spectacular. Whether it’s Lahinch or Ballybunion, Tralee or Waterville, the list of world-class links so densely packed into Co. Kerry and Co. Clare seems never-ending. A wild, untamed appearance and fescue-covered dunes are noteworthy trademarks of Ballybunion, while the two resident billy goats at Lahinch serve as both the mascot and the local weather guide; if they are sheltering near the clubhouse, prepare your waterproofs and rain gloves because you are in for a wet round. Vistas of the sea, a steady breeze, and the rolling Irish hills offer guests the perfect afternoon oasis.
Where to stay
For those seeking the total package, The Killarney Plaza Hotel is the perfect place to stay. The luxurious 4-star property ideally situated in the heart of town offers unbeatable access to everything this infamous Irish town has to offer. Rooms both rustic and elegant in décor pay tribute to the history of this once small village, while the spa and wellness center offers a peaceful environment to help relax and recharge.
Alternatively, if you’ve come in search of something a bit further removed from the towns’ hustle and bustle, the Aghadoe Heights Hotel & Spa will surely suffice. Set in the rolling hills overlooking Lough Leane and MacGillycuddy’s Reeks is this modern 5-star accommodation where personal service is valued above the rest. With an affinity for their deeply rooted heritage, your experience at the Aghadoe Heights Hotel & Spa is all about the renowned Irish hospitality.
Fancy a bed and breakfast? Look no further than the Vaughan Lodge in the quaint surf town of Lahinch. An intimate 4-star owned and operated by Michael and Maria Vaughan – 4th generation hoteliers – this high-quality retreat is the perfect home away from home for golfers and vacations alike.
Where to play
Situated on a headland some two miles into the Atlantic Ocean, Old Head of Kinsale vaunts picturesque views of the ocean that stretch endlessly into the horizon. As you traverse the undulating clifftop terrain, you are greeted and challenged by 18 uniquely designed holes that harmonize with their surroundings. Far from being merely a visual marvel, a gentle breeze sure to exacerbate any wayward shot, coupled with strategic bunkering and native grasses, commands your focus and attention on every shot. With 15 luxurious suites on site, the “Old Head experience” is one of a kind, and sits comfortably atop my list of golfing delights.
I’d be remiss to not make mention of both Lahinch Golf Club and Ballybunion Golf Club. Constantly jockeying for Ireland’s number one ranking,the venues combine history and an unrivaled setting to offer the best links experience, and are absolute musts in any southwest itinerary. Perhaps overshadowing the few hidden gems in the area, these esteemed links are two of the many championship courses scattered throughout the region. One of the hidden gems that you may not have heard of is Dooks Golf Club. Ideally located on a promontory on the southside of Dingle Bay, Dooks is set amidst the natural surroundings overlooking MacGillybuddy’s Reek along the Ring of Kerry. These stunning views add to the aura that the course exudes, while the native grasses, pot bunkers, and subtle undulations make this the perfect venue to ease visitors into links golf.
Where to eat
Killarney, known for having a variety of cuisines to choose from, offers culinary delights from cultures all around the world. A personal favorite, however, is the family run Porterhouse Restaurant, which serves delectable pub fare. An array of menu items will surly satiate any appetite, all to be enjoyed with live Irish music that creates a fun and relaxing ambience.
The award-winning Yew Tree Restaurant of the Muckross Park Hotel presents elegance and fine dining at its best. Local Kerry produce influences the seasonal creations you’ll find on the menu, while Executive Chef John O’Leary’s careful attention ensures the true flavors of Ireland shine through in his every dish.
To curb your post dinner sweet tooth, Murphy’s Ice Cream is a no brainer. A mainstay in the top 10 rankings of ice cream shops worldwide, the array of flavors and cheery attendants add to the charm this local shop oozes.
Things to do and see away from the course
With arguably the best sightseeing opportunities in all of Ireland, the list below were a few of my personal favorites:
- Cliffs of Moher & The Burren | Rising some 700 feet above the sea below, the Cliffs of Moher offer nature in its purest form. The jagged cliffs are home to breathtaking sights, a noticeable salty air, and an abundance of wildlife that make the stroll inspiring.
- Ring of Kerry | A scenic 110-mile drive around Iveragh peninsula, the Ring of Kerry boasts incredible sights and towns that divulge the history and culture the region possesses. A local tip: it is recommended that travelers make their way in a clockwise direction to avoid delays caused by tour buses.
- Killarney National Park | Encompassing Lough Leane, Torc Waterfall, and Muckross mountain, the history of this 25,000-acre national park is rooted in its natural beauty. Whether you choose to tackle the park via bicycle, car, or horseback, the lists of activities and sights to see are endless.
Nightlife / Local Pubs
The Grand Killarney – which serves as a both hotel and night club – is full of the best craic (Irish for fun) in all of Killarney. Boasting trad music, live shows, and a nightclub, you are afforded the luxury of not needing to relocate to change your experience.
I’d highly, highly recommend renting a car as your means for transportation. Though the roads might be tight and it will take some time to get used to being on the other side of the road, once you acclimate, you take complete control of your trip. I personally loved the fact that I had the liberty to drive and explore freely, and was not beholden to any fixed schedule.