Avoid the crowds at these hidden Irish holiday destinations

With another week of sunshine ahead, we want to escape to somewhere a little less crowded, and a lot more relaxing. There's only so much time one can spend in their back garden, and it is the weekend after all. If, like us, you want to escape the madness of city life and be at one with nature, see our three favourite places to unwind in the sun, below:

Athlone, County Westmeath

Athlone is at the heart of Ireland and can be reached from almost anywhere in the country within an hour. The town's deep Viking history and picturesque location on the River Shannon make it a beautiful summer destination. Sip on cider while cruising down the river towards the monastic site of Clonmacnoise, or enjoy a meal on the balcony of Bacchus Restaurant which overlooks the harbour. The quiet streets of the town (and indeed the banks of the river) are dotted with quaint pubs, many of which have outdoor seating areas. One such pub, which can't be missed, is Seán's Bar. It’s the oldest pub in Ireland, dating back to 900AD, and is located just a few steps from Athlone Castle. With its traditional open-turf fireplace, sawdust floor, live music and sunny beer garden, it'd be rude not to "go in for one". Alternatively, relax your body and unwind the mind in Sirana Spa at the Sheraton Hotel. Or, if you prefer a bit more activity, visit BaySports waterpark. It currently holds the Guinness World Record for the tallest floating slide, suitable for both adults and children. Why not bring the whole family?

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Portnoo, County Donegal

Do you need a break away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life? Switch off your phone, pack a bag, and check into one of the beautiful cottages in Portnoo. Located on the northern shore of the Dawros peninsula in Donegal, Portnoo is the perfect place to breathe in fresh sea air. Read a book and sip some tea while gazing across the Atlantic Ocean. Those of you who enjoy golf can make use of the Narin & Portnoo Golf Club, a scenic 18-hole links course with sweeping views of Gweebarra Bay. The course has recently been redeveloped and the new par-73 layout offers a range of teeing areas and challenges to suit all golfers. Nearby Narin beach, which is manned by a lifeguard during the summer months, is an ideal place for swimming and surfing. Its bright Blue Flag has been flying high for years, symbolizing the beach's high environmental and quality standards. Afterwards, indulge in dinner and drinks in the on-site bar and restaurant. Alternatively, nearby towns including Glenties and Ardara offer a variety of fresh local cuisine.

Crosshaven, County Cork

Home of the Irish Redhead Convention (yes, it's a thing), Crosshaven in South County Cork is a peaceful seaside village. Not only does it boast a colourful seafaring and boat building tradition, it also offers a variety of leisure activities to locals and tourists alike. There are a number of scenic walks to explore, one of the most popular ones being the Crosshaven Railway Walk and Cycle Lane. Along the route, you’ll see many species of birds and wildlife, as well as the gently flowing Owenabue River. Relax with a picnic at the amenity areas provided and soak in Cork’s great history. Much of the walk runs along the former Crosshaven railway line, which operated from 1904 to 1932. Back in the village, choose from an array of pubs, restaurants and bars. Fitzy’s Bar is perfect for anyone who loves live music, while family-owned Cronin's Pub serves delicious fish and chips. The locals here are particularly friendly and help to make tourists feel at home.

Sunset in Crosshaven. #crosshaven # Ireland #sunset

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Photo: Alvin Balemesa, Unsplash

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