WE'RE ALL planning our summer 'staycations' for the second year running- here's one that's more than a little different.
Ireland's weather is notoriously unreliable, meaning any plans to sit with a pint in the sun or relax on one of the Emerald Isle's countless gorgeous beaches can often be ruined with torrential rain or gale-force winds.
But an ingenious new tour from whiskey company The Sexton and travel agency Travel Matters ensures that it doesn't matter if the sun is shining during your staycation-- because you'll do all your sightseeing at night.
The seven-day tour allows holidaymakers take in three of the darkest locations across Ireland, providing the perfect conditions for moonlit tourism, stargazing and night-time inspired cocktails.
Titled Destination: Darkness, the unique nocturnal tour is touted as "a once-in-a-lifetime experience that satisfies the most restless of spirits with an unconventional holiday designed by an unconventional single malt". Adventurous holidaymakers can swap sandy beaches and summer sun for a glorious vista of shooting stars and moonlight in some of the most beautiful dark sports around Ireland. .
The tour begins with 'nocturnal-themed' cocktails at the DIAS Dunsink Observatory in Dublin, home to some of the most incredible starry skies in Ireland, before guests are whisked away to Skibbereen in the South of Ireland, where stargazers will be treated to "a spectacle beyond their wildest imaginations" as they kayak under the starlight, with the view of the rising moon paired with the astonishing light show of bioluminescence against the dark peace and serenity of the night promising to satisfy even the most restless of souls-- topped off with two nights at the luxurious Liss Ard Estate close to Lough Hyne and Castlehaven Bay.
From Skibbereen guests will be chauffeured west to County Kerry to experience the only Gold Tier Dark Sky Reserve in the Northern Hemisphere, and the best location to view the stars on the Wild Atlantic Way: the Kerry International Dark Sky Reserve, with experts mapping out the night sky with a 'sky guiding' session, complete with cocktails and three nights at the Park Hotel Kenmare.
From there it's further west, out to the County Mayo Dark Sky Park and a two-night stay at the Five-Star Ashford Castle, perfectly located between the magnificent Nephin Mountain Range and the unspoiled Atlantic coastline: a perfect canvas to showcase some of the darkest, most pristine skies on the planet.
Holidaymakers will be given a guided night-time tour around Tóchar Daithi Bán to the elevated plateau of Cleary’s Hill, providing unrivalled panoramic views of the night sky, including a clear view of The Milky Way and even the furthest planets of the solar system-- all with the naked eye.
The trip then concludes back at the DIAS Dunsink Observatory in Dublin, bringing curious lovers of darkness full circle.
Karen Simmonds, Founder at Travel Matters said: “We’ve all spent the last twelve months sitting at home planning our next great adventure; but with limited travel options abroad, Destination: Darkness is a bespoke once-in-a-lifetime holiday that will be the envy of all your friends, providing those Instagram-ready moments which will rival any country that lures you to discovering the untouched and unexplored.”
Georgia MacMillan, Mayo Dark Sky Park Development Officer, said: “Mayo Dark Sky Park offers some of the darkest most pristine night skies in Europe and with several designated viewing points in the Park, is a perfect location for those looking to get in-touch with their ‘dark’ side, providing stargazers an unrivalled experience under the night sky."
The trip is certainly a once-in-a-lifetime adventure, not least because the luxury trip will set you back €5,059 per couple-- or rising to €13,594 for a chauffer-driven package-- which includes all accommodation, activities and meals.
You can find out more or book your spot on this unique experience by visiting the Travel Matters website here.