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Dublin: 9 °C Friday 5 June, 2020

From Achill-henge to an extinct volcano: Tour guide Jen Condon shares her favourite offbeat Irish places

From Achill-henge to an extinct volcano – the highlights of a life well travelled.

Each week, we ask someone who really knows Ireland’s twists and turns to share their favourite places. Today, Jen Condon of Oddball Tours gives us her best hidden spots around the country – and finds it hard to narrow it down to just a couple!

My background: I grew up around lots of world travellers and storytellers. This background coupled with a keen interest in Irish history and diaspora networks — meeting new people and an organiser by nature – tourism seemed like an ideal way to turn things I love to do into a day job. As the old saying goes, find something you love to do…

My most memorable Irish destination: Underappreciated Offaly

I really love Offaly. It’s memorable because you never hear anyone rave about Offaly and it’s such an unexpected delight and really underappreciated.

Think: Obama’s ancestral home of Moneygall, the Haunted Castle Triangle (Kinnitty, Leap & Charleville), Killeen’s Bar & Grocery in Shannonbridge, the site of the ‘Rock the Boat’ world record, the Croghan Hill remains of an extinct volcano, Tullamore Whiskey Distillery, a Milking of the Goat Festival, the Ploughing Championship, the World’s Largest Telescope at Birr Castle… the list goes on.

And if it’s good enough for Kim and Kanye!

Killeen's Bar in Shannonbridge Source: Shutterstock

My favourite town or village: Durrow, Co Laois.

Head there in summer for the always hilarious and extremely imaginative Scarecrow Festival – “the festival that’s outstanding in its field”. While there, pop into Bob’s Bar for a pint by the river.

A runner up is Adare, Co Limerick, which is full of tourists but so picturesque. For a bit of street cred, call into Sprocket & Hubs Motorcycle Shop & Gentlemen’s Bazaar for a cuppa at The Tea Junction. The delightful owners also run the nearby RetroVentures Motorcyle & Classic Car rental complete which boasts a DeLorean in the collection!

Adare, Co Limerick Source: Shutterstock

The best place I’ve ever eaten an ice cream: Spanish Point, Clare

When I think of ice cream and Ireland, the 90s child that I am thinks hazy summer holidays with extended family at Spanish Point in Co Clare. Crazy waves, lots of sunshine… and sunburn. Nostalgia central, happy times.

The best breakfast I’ve ever eaten: An early morning picnic in Leenane

Not quite a breakfast, rather a morning picnic pre-triathlon a few years back on the side of the road in, drum roll, Leenane, Co Galway, looking out at Killary Harbour fjord. It’s possibly my favourite spot in Ireland, just stunning.

Killary Fjord Source: Shutterstock

My favourite place for a hike: The Bray cliff walk

Terribly cliché I know, but the Bray to Greystones cliff walk on a sunny day is hard to beat. And for some reason it always seems sunny when I’m in Wicklow.

My hidden gem that not many people know about: Too many to count

It’s a toss up between Old Irish Ways in Co Limerick (museum / personal collection) or Hell’s Kitchen Bar & Railway Museum in Co Roscommon. Or possibly Achill-henge in Co Mayo, or The Seven Wonders of Fore in Co Westmeath. Sorry — I couldn’t pick just one or even two! And these are just the tip of the iceberg. There are so many hidden gems around the place. 

More: ‘When you get there, it’ll take your breath away’: Photographer Trish Punch shares her favourite Irish places>

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Emily Westbrooks

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