The Best Under-the-Radar Places in Ireland for a Tourist-Free Vacation

Clip-clop along bog roads on a horse-drawn caravan for a one-of-a-kind vacation

two women sitting at the front of a colorful horse drawn carriage

A horse-drawn caravan trip was one of the most relaxing vacations I’ve ever had.

Kathy Mangan

Taking in the countryside at a slow pace, in the open air, to the sound of jingling horse harnesses and the clip-clop of horse hooves, is an entirely different experience from a cooped-up car trip. In fact, it’s one of the most relaxing vacations I’ve ever had.

Western County Mayo near the coast north of Galway is the perfect place for it with quiet bog roads, traditional pubs, and historic sites. I enjoyed working with the team at Mayo Horsedrawn Caravan Holidays in Belcarra, which offers brightly painted traditional wagons with barrel-shaped tops pulled by mild-mannered workhorses and full support.

I’m not used to handling horses, but the team showed me how to harness, feed, water, and direct the horse. They checked on us (and the horse) at various points and instructed the horse’s cool-down, grooming, watering, and feeding. They also planned scenic routes averaging three to seven-and-a-half miles maximum daily, which takes about two to two-and-a-half hours with the caravan, to ensure animal wellbeing. We camped overnight on farmyards with bathroom facilities, electrical hookups, and horse pastures, and made photo stops at places like the ruins of Donomona Castle and Burriscarra Abbey.

When horses were happily grazing, we explored Ballintubber Abbey, built in 1216, and Moore Hall, which is the shell of a grand estate burned in the Irish Civil War that’s supposedly haunted. We wrapped up each day at a cozy pub.

The 2022 Mayo Horsedrawn Caravan season is July through August. Book a three-, four- or
seven-night itinerary, or a glamping overnight at the Belcarra base.







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