An image of a river and mountains in the distance

“Travel Diaries: Play, Learn, Serve and Rest Well” is a series about the idea of traveling well in a society that minimizes adventure and exploration to mere Instagram likes. It features the best ways to play by enjoying local entertainment, learn through cultural experiences, serve (ways to give back) and rest well by finding respite.

Imagine a trip where you spend more time looking up at your destination than on your phone. Imagine spending your days spent wandering through landscapes that offer more moments you want to capture than curate. Imagine a destination that has been preserved in time and history to allow you to experience a destination as it once was. 

During your next trip, discover a destination where you can disconnect from being tethered by WiFi to share every moment on social media and get lost in the rolling landscapes of Ireland’s west coast. Take a road trip through Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way that covers more than 1,500 miles of the coastline through Westport to the greenery found in Achill Island.

Here’s how to play, learn, serve and rest well on the west coast of Ireland:

Play

Even in the fog and the rain, the best places to play are outdoors. The Wild Atlantic Way is best known for its rolling green hills and seaside vistas. This region is home to several striking natural wonders and dramatic scenery along the Atlantic coast.  From the historic Downpatrick Head to the dramatic cliffs at Erris Head, spend some time outdoors where you’ll run into more sheep than people hiking in this area of the country.

For cyclists and hikers, the Great Western Greenway trail extends from Achill to Westport along a former railway path. The stretch from Achill Island to Mulrany is just over 8 miles in length but offers a flatter area for you to explore at your leisure.  

Learn

One of the richest experiences you can get while traveling is the opportunity to learn about somewhere new. Hear the stories from families that have been on the west coast of Ireland for centuries by hiking along through The Lost Valley (which was designated an “Area of Special Scenic Importance” by the European Union) or to learn the age-old traditions of sheepdog herding and turf cutting at Glen Keen Farm.

This area of Ireland is also home to Wild Nephin Ballycroy National Park, Ireland’s sixth National Park. The nature and wildlife team there is committed to preserving the unique blanket bog landscape and the surrounding mountainous terrain.

Serve

The west coast of Ireland is filled with acres and acres of untouched natural beauty. In an attempt to maintain it, this region is steeped with century-old traditions to of tiling and caring for the land. For those looking to give back and lend a hand while traveling in this region, your best option would be to find an environmental and nature conservation charity to give back.

In Ireland, the Burrenbeo Trust works with the community for active heritage engagement and conservation. Visitors to this region can donate financially or help in one of their community-led conservation efforts. Leave No Trace Ireland is another great initiative that focuses on promotes the responsible use of the outdoors by leaving nature the way you found it.

Rest

Overlooking the banks of the River Moy, The Ice House in Ballina is unlike any other city hotel in this area of Ireland. The guest rooms offer a calming view of the river with floor to ceiling windows and plush bedding. The rooms’ clean lines inspire relaxation and tranquillity matched with cozy elements like the soft, locally-made Foxford wool throw.

Save some time during your trip to stop by the on-site Chill spa with products from the luxurious and organic Voya Seaweed Baths made in Sligo, Ireland. 

Have you been to Ireland? What would you add to this list? How did you play, learn, eat and rest well?

Images via Anthony Bacigalupo, Darling Issue 14

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