Andrew Fine, 25, law student, and David Andersson, 25, city project director
Duration: Two Weeks
“We plan our trips around hiking and outdoor experiences, and even registered for our wedding at REI. We recently spent ten days in the Canadian Rockies, where the mountains were enormous and the glaciers amazing. We also make an effort to find local beer wherever we go.”
Go here: Western Ireland
Why now:Emerald Isle weather is temperate throughout the year, but winter is the best time to go if you want to avoid the crowds that clog the winding countryside roads and fill all the B&Bs in summer.
What to do: The last leg of the Great Western Greenway opened just last year, completing the 26-mile walking-and-cycling trail that connects Achill Island to the towns of Newport and Westport in County Mayo. Bike rentals are available along the route, which demands a stop at holy mountain Croagh Patrick. Set aside a day to tour tiny Achill Island (achilltourism.com), where you can surf, golf, hike, and fish year-round. Farther south is the Kylemore Abbey & Victorian Walled Gardens (from $15; Connemara Loop; 353-9-552-001), a Benedictine monastery on the grounds of the gothic Kylemore Castle, which dates back to 1867. After touring it, join one of the Abbey’s guided hikes (from $19), which wind through an oak forest.
Where to stay: The Knockranny House Hotel & Spa (from $70 per person; knockrannyhousehotel.com) just added a vegetable garden, which supplies its La Fougère Restaurant with seasonal ingredients. Its Couples Treat package ($438) includes a one-night stay with breakfast, dinner, and two hours of pampering at the property’s Spa Salveo.
What to eat: Start with a pint of Guinness and live Irish music at Matt Molloy’s (Bridge St., Westport; 353-9-826-655), a pub made famous by its eponymous, Chieftains-member owner. If you’ve worked up an appetite at Kylemore Abbey, visit the adjoining Mitchell Henry’s Restaurant for some home-cooked Irish fare based on recipes provided by the nuns.
Buy this: Not everyone has the stamina to summit Croagh Patrick, but you can still pick up an “I Nearly Climbed Croagh Patrick!” T-shirt ($13) at the Leaping Lizard gift shop (Bridge St., Westport; 353-9-850-212).
Also consider: Kungsleden, a.k.a. “King of Trails,” in Lapland, Sweden, a 275-mile route snaking through four national parks, a nature reserve, glaciers, and some of the tallest mountains in the country.