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August 29, 2012

Countryside Breaks

by Julianne Mooney

I don’t know if it’s because I’m getting older or the fact that I live in the city, but I’d take a holiday in the countryside over a city break anytime. Walks around hidden, tranquil lakes and grassy mountain trails, drinks by the fireside in small, local bars and drives along narrow, country roads with random pitstops in tiny villages and towns.

It all sounds a bit romantic, but it’s true. Escaping city life, with all its hustle and bustle, into the countryside is the perfect tonic for us city dwellers. Quiet walks and smiling locals. Life moves at a slower pace when you’re out of the city and the urgency of things seems to slip away the moment you unpack the bag, nestle into a cosy armchair and soak up the peace of the countryside.

A few years ago, I lived in a tiny hamlet in the South of France for the summer, not a shop or cafe within walking distance. No TV, newspapers, car or even radio. For three months I learnt to wake to the sound of the birds, sleep in complete darkness and not feel the need to check my mobile phone every ten minutes. My mind became clearer and I wrote and read for hours each day. Surrounded by forest, I learnt about its inhabitants, explored its pathways and forgot what city life was. This was my perfect time and I’ve never felt more alive.

Today, Thursday 30th August 2012, I talked about some perfect countryside retreats. All information is below.










The peaks of the White Mountains dominate the landscape of New Hampshire, which is primarily covered by forest (84% of the state is forested). October heralds the changing colour of the leaves, drawing thousands of tourists to New Hampshire to experience what the Americans call, the Fall. Yellows, reds, ambers, bronze and ochre decorate the trees throughout the state creating a vibrant landscape of colour.

The season also brings harvest time and the roads of the state are lined with stalls selling their freshly harvested produce, towns are packed with farmers-markets brimming with delicious goods. Signs along the highways direct you towards farmhouses where you can go and pick your own apples, making it a novel and fun experience.

This is New Hampshire in the Fall and while the winter attracts skiers, summer, hikers, the Fall attracts nature lovers from all over the world.

Don’t Miss

  • Drive along the White Mountain trail, which offers stunning scenery, covered bridges, waterfalls and historic villages and towns. Cross the Kancamagus for some of the best foliage views
  • Spend a few days in one of the picturesque towns on the State’s largest lake, Lake Winnipesaukee – Meredith, Center Harbor and Wolfeboro
  • Walk part of the Appalachian trail
  • Go shopping in North Conway, famous for its outlet stores
  • Pick up unique pieces along New Hampshire’s Antiques Alley, located along Route 4 in Northwood. This is New England’s oldest antique shopping district and includes the towns of Lee, Epsom and Chichester.
  • Enjoy a ride in the world’s first mountain-climbing cog railroad – Mount Washington Cog Railway in Bretton Woods or up the Conway Scenic Railroad

Getting there Flights Direct to Boston from €150 one way

Accommodation Costs From €50 per room per night

Special Offers Cost: €1,589 including return flights, transfers, 8 nights accommodation, guided excursions around New England

American Holidays  Cost: €1,455 per person Departing 10 October 2012. Ref 801110 Includes: Direct return flights to Boston, 6 nights accommodation and 7 day car hire with fully inclusive insurance.

Sunway Cost: €1,459 including return flights from Dublin or Shannon to Boston, 11 nights accommodation and car rental for 8 days.












Salzkammergut has some of the most beautiful Alpine scenery in Europe. Mountains, lakes and valleys, it is a nature lovers paradise. The mineral waters are said to have healing powers and places like Bad Ischl have been a popular destination with tourists for years, with people wanting to bathe in the healing waters. This is an area for hiking through the mountains, lazing by the lake and visiting pictuesque and charming villages.

Don’t Miss

  • Visit Hallstatt, a beautiful lakeside village only a short distance from Salzburg
  • Stroll along the forested shores of St Wolfgang
  • Take the steepest steam cog railway from St Wolfgang, up some 1,190 mt, from where you are rewarded with breathtaking views across the region
  • Explore the Dachstein Ice Caves, with caverns laden with stalagmites and stalagtites and dense ice formations
  • Visit one of the many salt mines
  • Take a boat across one of the region’s tranquil lakes

Getting there

Flights direct to Munich

From €40 one way and and

Train from Munich to Salzburg (2 hours) From €30 one way

Accommodation Costs Starting from €60 per room per night

Special Offers

Cost: €1,149 per person including return flights, transfers, 7 nights accommodation (4 star), guided excursions on 3 days









Mayo is a lightly populated county with rolling, green hills, lakes and a rugged coastline dotted with small islands including the beautiful Achill Island famous for its white, sandy beaches.

 Don’t Miss

  • Explore the Ceide Fields, the oldest intact field and farm system in the world. Be careful of the high winds on the exposed cliff
  • Cycle the Great Western Greenway – a 42km traffic free route through stunning countryside following the old Westport –Achill Railway line
  • Visit the beautiful lakeside village of Cong
  • Take the kids to Westport House set in a parkland overlooking Clew Bay. There’s a Pirate adventure park, with slides, bouncy castles, tennis courts and you could even camp overnight
  • Spot some wildlife in Ballycroy National Park
  • Visit the stunning beaches of Achill Island
  • Be adventurous and climb Croagh Patrick
  • Sea Kayak in Clew Bay
  • Take a boat trip out on Killary Fjord
  • Drive from Leenane along the R335 to be awarded incredible views across Clew Bay 
  • Go surfing

Accommodation Costs Starting from€60 per room per night

Special Offers Family Deal at the Best Western Plus Westport Woods Hotel

2nights Dinner, Bed & Breakfast for 2 adults and 2 children €320

3nights Dinner, Bed & Breakfast for 2 adults and 2 children €499

5nights Dinner, Bed & Breakfast for 2 adults and 2 children  €579

Ice House Hotel  From €209 per person includes 2 nights B&B, dinner, spa treatment, light lunch


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