The best under-the-radar spots in Ireland for a tourist-free holiday

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

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

Kathy Mangan

Contemplating the slow-paced, open-air countryside, to the sound of horses’ harnesses clanking and horses’ hooves lapping, is a whole other experience than an enclosed road trip. In fact, it was one of the most relaxing vacations I have ever had.

West County Mayo, near the coast north of Galway, is the perfect location for this with quiet bog roads, traditional pubs and historic sites. I enjoyed working with the Mayo Horsedrawn Caravan Holidays team in Belcarra, who offer brightly painted traditional wagons with barrel-shaped roofs pulled by mild-mannered pack animals and full support.

I’m not used to handling horses, but the team showed me how to harness, feed, water and steer the horse. They watched us (and the horse) at various times and ordered the horse to calm down, groom, drink and feed. They have also planned scenic routes averaging three to seven and a half miles per day maximum, which takes around two to two and a half hours with the caravan, to ensure animal welfare. We camped overnight in farmyards with sanitary facilities, power hookups, and horse pasture, and made photo stops at places like the ruins of Donomona Castle and Burriscarra Abbey.

When the horses were grazing happily, we explored Ballintubber Abbey, built in 1216, and Moore Hall, which is the shell of a large estate burnt down during the Irish Civil War that is believed to be haunted. We ended each day in a cozy pub.

The 2022 season of the Mayo horse-drawn caravan runs from July to August. Book a three, four or
seven-night itinerary, or one night glamping at Belcarra base.