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October 9, 2013


Ireland’s Treasures

by Julianne Mooney
Photo Credit: Northern Ireland Tourist Board

Photo Credit: Northern Ireland Tourist Board

Last week I wrote about girls weekend breaks in Lisbon and Bordeaux, two cities I love. However, no matter how much you want to, sometimes it’s just not possible to get a weekend abroad with the girls.

So I thought I’d come up with some ideas closer to home. We’re spoilt for choice with the buzzing cities of Galway, Cork, Belfast, Dublin and Sligo, luring us with the promise of fantastic shopping, dining and spa experiences. But I’m staying away from the obvious options and going to suggest somewhere off the beaten track, and another, more popular, but intimate spot.

This morning on Ireland AM I was chatting about Fermanagh and Kinsale, Co. Cork. All information from the slot is below.

Photo Credit: Belle Isle Castle

Photo Credit: Belle Isle Castle

Fermanagh, Northern Ireland

Fermanagh, with its glistening lakes and scenic countryside, is one of Ireland’s hidden gems. It is the perfect escape for a group of girls, with everything from cookery schools, adventure sports, spas, great shopping and country walks.

Don’t Miss

Belle Isle Cookery School 

Located on the picturesque Belle Isle Estate, the cookery school runs private cookery classes for groups of 4 – 14 people. They also have a class schedule each month, with classes covering; fish, Autumn dinner parties, desserts, Indian, Christmas meals and lots more. The self-catering cottages are very affordable and surrounded by beautiful walks. Ideal for a fun weekend in nature, or you can simply partake in the cookery courses and base yourself in Enniskillen.


Get Active

  • Hire bicycles and cycle the Kingfisher trail, which brings you past the Marble Caves, Belleek and Castle Caldwell.
  • Jump aboard one of the leisure boats and cruise along the breathtakingly beautiful Fermanagh’s waterways 
  • Stay at Lusty Beg Island where you can hire a wooden cottage and take part in some group events – off-road driving, archery, clay pigeon shooting, cycling and then dip into a steaming seaweed bath in the spa.


Shopping & Spa

Lough Erne Resort – they are running cooking master classes where guests watch a demonstration by the head chef and then enjoy dinner in the dining room. The Thai spa offers a range of treatments and half-day packages start at €100.

Belleek Pottery – The 19th century building sits on the banks of the River Erne and is the original site of the Belleek Factory. Today, the building is now a visitors centre, with guided tours offered around the building, showcasing the different stages in creating pottery. The history of Belleek is told in the theatre and there is a tearoom and shop.

Enniskillenis great for shopping with a good selection of high street and boutique shops. There are also some great cafes and restaurants with lively bars for the evening.

Where to Stay

Lough Erne Resort From €109 per person – cookery demonstration, B&B and dinner.

 Enniskillen Hotel – From €70 per person per night – Dinner bed and breakfast

Belle Isle Cottages – Self-catering cottage from €100 per night (Sleeps 4)

 Lusty Beg Island – B&B or Self-catering from €130 per person – 2 nights B&B and 1 dinner

 Waterville Apartments, Enniskillen – Self-catering from €235 for 2 nights – sleeps 4 people


Photo Credit:

Photo Credit:


A half-hour south of Cork city, at the mouth of the River Bandon, Kinsale is a popular weekend spot. Its maze of narrow streets are lined with brightly painted buildings, buzzy bars, restaurants and cafés.

Don’t Miss

This weekend is the 37th Gourmet Food Festival in the town and the town will be alive with entertainment.


Hire bicycles or walk over to Summercove and do a tour of Charles Fort, walk the headland and then have lunch at The Bullman Bar.

Kinsale Equestrian Centre – offer treks around the area and along the River Bandon.



Kinsale Pottery and Arts Centre 

Run courses in Pottery, batik, glass fusing, millinery, costume jewellery-making, needle-felting, rag weaving and even Christmas decoration making.

Day courses from €60

Weekend courses from €200


Quirky options include:

Ben Russell  

Runs woodcarving and digital photography day/weekend courses

Prices from:

One day course from €85


Where to Stay

Actons Hotel  – From €75 per person B&B and 1 dinner

Blindgate B&B  – From €99 per room per night

Old Bank House Hotel – From €45 per person per night or €65 B&B and 1 dinner



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