My favorite summer photo is of my daughters holding freshly picked apples, standing in a meadow of wildflowers under the blazing sun. It is one of those idyllic moments that we want on vacation and that we want to record.
I took the photo at The Apple Farm, just outside Clonmel, County Tipperary, on a beautiful sunny day in late August. The farm is a magical place, with two friendly donkeys, rabbits hopping and hiding in the tree trunks of the orchard, and a shop full of local products, with which you fill the trunk of the car to try and recreate this magic of the home farm.
Tipperary was a revelation. We had often bypassed it on our way to other counties which seemed a more obvious choice for a visiting family. We will not make this error again.
We visited on our last trip in the summer of 2021. My gang of four have been to family hotels, Air BnBs, independent homes, beach resorts, rural retreats and city breaks, but all in places we visited before the pandemic. .
Our last trip of the year was going to be different: it was time to step out of our comfort zone and discover something new. With three and 18 month old daughters, we wanted to try family outdoor activities, eat good food, and see a part of the country we had never been to before.
For a weekend, we didn’t want to travel too far from home in County Kildare, so Ireland’s Ancient East was the perfect choice. We settled in Tipperary, a county we didn’t know very well, but which has a lot to offer for a family trip.
Hotel Minella, in Clonmel, is a perfect family retreat. The welcome is warm and immediate, and the hotel is suitable for children. Big sigh of relief for mom and dad. We had adjoining rooms which were spacious and had everything we needed including crayons and coloring for them, a travel cot, and a door that closed so mum and dad could relax in the evenings. Hooray.
The hotel is the perfect place to explore the surrounding countryside and you will absolutely want to do it. From our room we could see the Suir blue lane, which has 53 km of paddling trails and a 21 km cycle path. We decided to do it by bike and Tom from Blueway Bike Hire delivered two bikes and a bike stroller to the hotel recreation center.
After a good breakfast, we left – breakfasts at the hotel are one of the great joys of any vacation and this one does not disappoint. As we tied the girls up, people stopped to ask if we knew where we were going, what to watch out for and where to stop for a drink, great views and ice cream.
Obviously, the girls only heard the ice cream part!
The blue path is beautiful: you meander along paths with ruined castles, orchards, fields full of happy cows on one side and the River Suir on the other.
My favorite thing is how well it is used by locals. There were friends walking, couples running, people fishing; and in general by taking advantage.
Sometimes we think these amenities are great for tourists, but I loved how everyone uses them.
The past year has turned us all into outdoor living and exercise and the Green and Blue Lanes across the country are an integral part of that.
We cycled to the lovely village of Kilsheelan, where we stopped for a coffee and the aforementioned ice cream, before heading back to town. You can continue to Carrick on Suir if you have older children or reasonably fit legs.
Part of our reason for visiting Tipperary was that we knew the food would be good. They have some of the best producers in the country and we went to Dooks, Fethard, to taste some for lunch. Dooks also has a nice store and I left with a nice stock of ingredients for the house.
For dinner we booked at Befani’s in the city center – a place I will definitely be back.
With antipasti and pasta this good, I knew there had to be an Italian connection, or an Italian chef, in the kitchen and, lo and behold, I found out it belonged to an Irish wife and a Sicilian husband. . My husband had a really delicious huge steak. Everybody was happy.
As part of Ireland’s Ancient East, you expect history and Tipperary has it in spades. There is so much to see and do. The Butler Trail is an app-based ride that includes Cahir, Clonmel, and Carrick-on-Suir. Along the way you will discover Cahir Castle, Ireland’s best-preserved medieval fortress, and Ormond Castle, a truly wonderful place that was built in 1565 for a visit by Queen Elizabeth I of England.
There are wonderful gems all over the county, including the Tipperary Museum of Hidden History, a state-of-the-art museum in Clonmel, where you can immerse yourself in tales of castles and conquests, murders, courage and superstition.
The rest of our weekend was spent splashing around in the huge swimming pool of the Hotel Minella. The hotel serves local chips (O’Donnell’s), apple juice and ice cream (Boulabán Farm) which is a nice touch.
History, great food, friendly people and lots of things to do make for a great break and it was a great break. It’s a joy when you can discover new favorite places and it comes at the top of our list.
We stopped by the well-known James Whelan Butchers to add to our Tipperary transport, before heading back home. We will eat like a local for a while yet.
- Jennifer was a guest of Fáilte Ireland, whose “Keep Discovering” campaign encourages Irish people to discover the joy of discovering the many hidden gems Ireland has to offer. If you need inspiration on where to go and what to do, visit Discoverireland.ie. This short domestic break was in line with Fáilte Ireland’s health and safety policy on Covid-19 government guidelines.