As anyone who has ever planned a hen party can probably testify, putting together a day or weekend to remember is no simple task. When hen parties first became a regular part of the Irish social calendar, you could pin an L-plate on a veil, take the blushing bride to the pub, fill her to the brim with alcohol and your work was done.
These days, however, the world of hen parties has opened up to include a range of activities to suit all manners of tastes, budgets, and schedules—no blow-up dolls or novelty straws required.
If you’re trying to come up with some fun alternative hen parties to a night (or weekend) in the pub, we’ve got you covered. Check out the seven ideas below for inspiration.
1/ GO VICTORIAN
The first usage of the term “hen party” was recorded in 1887. Back then, it simply meant a “gathering of women”. Charming!
Still, given the etymology of the phrase “hen party”, the Victorian era is as good a place as any to start this list. If your bride is a history buff or loves a good excuse to get dressed up, then a Victorian-themed hen party could be the way to go.
One idea for any Downton Abbey lover is the Victorian Escapade’s dinner party with a difference. You and your guests will be hosted in Clonard House, Mullingar, Co. Westmeath, a period home built in 1801 by the second Earl of Belvedere, George Rochfort. The experience requires you to immerse yourself in history: on arrival, you will be dressed as servants and do household chores, such as making a dessert, laying the table, or maybe lighting a fire. After, there’s another change of clothing, but this time you’ll get the chance to dress up as ladies of the era (with costumes provided). You will then get to play parlour games and engage in some traditional dance in the drawing room.
Hen parties can book either an afternoon tea or dinner in the dining room. Gluten-free and vegetarian options are available. See victorianescapade.com for pricing and availability.
Alternatively, for a little afternoon tea with some more recent history, check out Vintage Tea Tours. For €50 a person, you can book a VIP seat on the top deck of a refitted vintage bus from 1961. With jazz playing in the background and a host on every tour, this is a great way to see some of Dublin’s best historical sites in style.
2/ FIND YOUR ARTISTIC SIDE
Handy with a paintbrush? A fan of the human form? Then a life drawing party could be right up your street.
Drawanude.ie runs classes all over the country that will let you and your party stretch their artistic muscles and create a masterpiece to bring home. They’ll provide the model, music, and art materials as well as a few drinks to get the muse flowing; you bring your artist’s eye.
Classes take about 90 mins and cost €30 a person for just the activity or from €135 for packages. See http://drawanude.ie/packages.html for details.
One thing to note: This might not be the best choice for a hen party where the bride’s work colleagues or Great-Aunt Sheila will be in attendance (although, Great-Aunt Sheila could surprise you). Still, for a hen party with a difference, this is one to pencil into your diary.
3/ TRAMP ABOUT WITH AN ALPACA
Gorgeous Co. Wicklow: Home to lakes and mountains, historic towers…and one of the quirkiest hen party ideas we’ve found. If our Instagram and Pinterest feeds are anything to go by, alpacas are having a moment. K2Alpacas will allow you to get up close and personal with one of these big-eyed beauties for an alternative hen party you won’t forget.
With bookings available for Saturdays or Sundays, the K2Aplacas team will bring you on a trek with their much-loved alpacas, on the grounds of the Glenview Hotel. Each member of your group will get their alpaca to lead for a one-hour trek over two to three kilometres. This activity is suited to people with a range of fitness levels. See www.k2alpacas.com/alpaca-trekking-events for pricing and group bookings.
4/ LEARN SOMETHING NEW AT THE ICA
Surround yourself with some incredible women for your hen party and learn something new by checking out the Irish Countrywomen’s Association’s weekend offerings. As the oldest women’s organisation in Ireland, the ICA has a lot of form in teaching mná na hÉireann (women of Ireland) a range of traditional and modern skills.
At their countryside manor, An Grianán, the ICA offers weekend courses for €185 for members or €195 for non-members. Courses on offer include embroidery, painting, photography, cooking, jewellery making, patchworking and a lot more besides. See www.ica.ie for more details.
5/ GLAMP IT UP
It’s always nice to get back to nature, but that doesn’t mean you need to rough it for your hen party. Based in the beautiful surrounds of the Grand Canal Way, in the village of Daingean in County Offaly, Hen Party Glamping offers one- and two-night packages that are guaranteed to have you bonding around a campfire.
You’ll stay in a “glampsite” of luxury, comfortable cabins and yurts and will be welcomed with a complimentary cocktail on arrival. Then, the day stretches out ahead of you to be filled with activities in the great outdoors. Free on-site bikes and kayaks are available and in 2019 archery will also be available on site. Meals will be served around a campsite, and then you and your party will be taken to a local disco where another complimentary drink is provided. Prices start at €120 per person and you can BYOB. After the complimentary drinks and what you bring with you, there’s a good chance you’ll be singing Kumbaya all the way home. See www.henpartyglamping.ie for more details.
6/ RECHARGE WITH A YOGA RETREAT
The run-up to a wedding can be a hectic time for a bride, so what better alternative hen party could you arrange than to attend a weekend yoga retreat?
The Courtyard Yoga Retreat Ireland, based in Co. Wicklow, offers regular retreats on its spacious grounds for those wishing to recharge their spiritual batteries. Meals are provided as part of the weekend and are all vegan or vegetarian meals cooked by owner Olivia, a Ballymaloe chef. Meditation, wellness, and of course yoga practice forms the basis of the weekend. Pricing for available retreats comes in at €430. Visit www.thecourtyardyogaretreats.ie for available dates and retreats.
7/ SAMPLE GALWAY'S BEST FOOD
Foodie brides out there will savour the opportunity to sample some of Co. Galway’s best cuisines on a culinary food tour. The tours are organised by Franco-Irish food and wine lover, Sheena Dignam. Originally from Wicklow, Sheena grew up in France’s Loire Valley, where she studied Culinary Arts & Wine, so she knows where to find all of Galway’s best bites to eat.
Available tours include a Galway City food and Connemara pub tour and a Connemara and Aran Island food tour. On these tours, Galway Food Tours will take you to sample a range of foods, bespoke to each tour. Treats on the line up include artisan chocolate, sushi, small craft beer, and gourmet cheeses. Tours take 3.5 hours, and hen parties can be accommodated by request. Go to www.galwayfoodtours.com/corporate-events to find out more about organising a private event.
-- Erica Mills