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At the coastal Lodge at Doonbeg in western County Clare, Ireland, guests can play a round on a Greg Norman-designed links course, enjoy Irish-inspired treatments at the White Horses Spa, and participate in tastings with a whiskey sommelier. Uniquely, they can also plumb their family’s lineage. Prior to arrival, a guest can submit an online form and the hotel’s resident genealogist will research the person’s family tree, finding any Irish roots. Depending on what Doonbeg digs up, once in Ireland, guests may plan an excursion to an ancestral village or even meet a long-lost relative.
With salty breezes blowing across the links and green hills unfurling in the distance, the Emerald Isle is an unforgettable place to tee off. Best of all, Ireland’s top golf resorts cater to seasoned pros and spa-bound revelers alike. Check out these listings for every budget with packages from less than $400 to more than $700.
Even with newfangled GPS gadgetry out there in increasing numbers, a good, old-fashioned map remains a staple for any self-respecting adventure traveler.
To that end, the National Geographic Society, the gold-standard source for maps for nearly a century, recently announced plans to expand its AdventureMaps line. The expansion will bring travelers a slew of new options for finding their way in increasingly popular adventure destinations such as Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Ireland, Mexico, New Zealand, South Africa and Thailand. Countries and cities in Africa, the Middle East, South America, Asia, and Europe are also on deck for a total of 60 new destinations by the end of 2012, and 30 more by summer of next year.
Dolls This pint-size boutique features a carefully edited collection of muted basics and stylish footwear by rising Scandinavian designers as well as Irish ones like Lucy Downes, known for knit dresses and cardigans. Other standouts include owner Petria Lenehan’s cashmere sweaters and ’40s-style silk dresses; high-waisted trousers by Fabiana Filippi of Umbria, Italy; menswear by Peter Jensen; and velvet sandals by The Jackson Twins. A second outpost of Dolls recently opened on Emorville Avenue in the Portobello neighborhood. 32B Clarendon St.; 011-353-1-672-9004
Cow’s Lane Designer Studio This 2-year-old designer co-op offers shelf space to a dozen Irish creative types, with an emerging jewelry designer occupying one corner and a second-generation millinery occupying another. (The latter once supplied hats to Aer Lingus flight attendants.) Among the locally made wares at Designer Studio are goat’s milk–and-almond soaps from the Curlew Mountains, sterling silver and stone baubles, and grosgrain ribbon-adorned straw or felt hats by Shevlin. West Essex Street; 011-353-1-874-0447; cowslanedesignerstudio.ie
There’s magic in Ireland’s mystical scenery, rolling fields full of abandoned relics, and ancient castles that act as a portal into the past. On the other hand, its unfriendly weather makes it a gamble when shelling out top dollar for the annual vacation. Late summer is undoubtedly the best time to go (weather-wise), but airfare costs skyrocket to around $900 round-trip. That’s why this impressive 6-night package is such a steal. Not only does it include airfare, but it also bundles accommodations at castle-hotels and a manual car rental for just $899.
THE VALUE: Accommodations alone at Bunratty Castle, Kilronan Castle, and Clontarf Castle total over $400 when booking separately. After factoring in flight and car rental this package, you’re easily saving over $650 per person.
THE CATCH: This offer is based on double occupancy, so you’ll need to find a travel buddy. Flights are based out of New York. Add $20 for flights from Chicago and $50 for flights from New York. Other routes are available.
THE DETAILS: Visit www.dooleyvacations.com.
WE’VE GOT MORE: Locate the best restaurants, attractions, and more in our Ireland Travel Guide.
Looking for great travel packages? Take a look at this week’s Top 25 newsletter.
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Dating back to the 13th century, Ashford Castle is one of the oldest castles in the British Isles and also one of the most upscale hotels to stay in Ireland. Create your own fairytale with this Aer Lingus Vacation that flies you to Shannon in the beautiful southwestern region with iconic rolling green hills and dramatic cliffs. Stay one night in the four-star Strand Hotel in Limerick along the banks of the Shannon River and then three nights in small Irish B&Bs. Travel between charming seaside villages in your included rental car with unlimited mileage. The fourth night is in the lavish Ashford Castle where estate activities include golf, horseback riding, fishing and even falconry, and the final night is spent in Limerick at the Strand before departing from the Shannon airport.
THE VALUE: One night at the Ashford Castle is over $200/nt alone so getting the rest — including airfare and rental car — for $749 is a steal. Full breakfast is included everywhere except The Strand.
When St. Patrick’s Day rolls around ever year, it’s hard not to cringe at the contrast between the obnoxious stateside celebrations (I mean, really – green beer?) and the rugged, raw beauty of Ireland, where the holiday originates. But Ireland’s craggy cliffs, sheep-dotted countryside, and 3,000 miles of coastline provide more than just stunning photo opps – the geography is tailor-made for adventure. Plus, the country’s glorious pub culture offers endless opportunities to raise a pint to the day’s activity and share in the craic – pronounced “crack” and loosely translated as a rollicking good time – with the locals.
Need more incentive? Flights and accommodations are usually cheaper in the off-season of late winter/early spring. (I visited in February, a usually cold, rainy month, but I enjoyed a week of sunny skies. The Irish eyes must have been smiling on me.) Here, some highlights you can easily recreate during your own trip: Read more
Getting in touch with your Gaelic ancestors is a 5-star affair with the Ireland Deluxe Resort Package, sponsored by the Aer Lingus Vacation Store. For just $539 until March 10, and $599 between March 11 and April 30, the rolling, green plains and aromatic whiskies of Ireland await you at The Heritage Golf Resort and Spa in Killenard. Priced less than a peak-season flight to Dublin, this package features a 6-night stay in a 2-bedroom, luxury villa, round-trip airfare from the United States, and a car rental.
The Luxury The quintessential Irish castle experience awaits at this stunning 13th century estate (once a summer haunt for the Guinness clan) on the fringes of western Ireland’s evocative Connemara region (a 45-minute drive north of Galway City). The Ashford Castle’s common areas radiate refinement, with Waterford chandeliers, crackling wood-burning fireplaces, and exquisite period furnishings and objets d’art. The 350 acres of landscaped gardens and wild forests on the shores of Lough Corrib (Ireland’s second largest lake), provide endless opportunities for the outdoor adventurer, from golf to horseback riding to the incredible School of Falconry. Read more
If you’re looking to break away from traditional Christmas celebrations here in the States, consider spending the holiday in a stunning castle in Ireland. Situated on 350 lush acres in County Mayo on the banks of Lough Corrib, Ireland’s second-largest lake, the five-star Ashford Castle is offering ShermansTravel.com readers an exclusive package that is sure to make this year’s Christmas more memorable than ever.
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