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Ireland is known for its vast Celtic mythology, folk music, rugged landscapes and lofty castles. While it can be tempting to stay in the pub sipping a Guinness next to a peat fire, the Irish countryside has so much more to offer than just kissing the Blarney Stone. So grab your camera and walk out the door, you might not find any leprechauns, but we are sure you will cherish these ten magical sites.
The Cliffs of Moher
The sheer cliff face of the Cliffs of Moher on the west coast of Clare is perhaps best known to some as The Princess Bride’s ‘Cliffs of Madness’ or Harry Potter’s ‘Horcrux Cave’. These spectacular 700-foot cliffs are a common filming spectacle and the star of the Burren UNESCO Global Geopark. On a clear day you can see the Aran Islands, Galway Bay, the Twelve Pines and the Maum Turk Mountains in Connemara from the top of the cliffs.
The Aran Islands
A short ferry ride from Doolin, the Aran Islands are famous for their Celtic ruins and natural wonders. The largest of the islands – Inis Mór – is home to the historic medieval Dun Aonghasa Fort, overlooking the spectacular 300-foot cliff edge. To get the most out of your experience, rent a bike and cycle the path between ancient rock faces and the ruins of a church. Follow the mysterious path of painted red arrows to find the “wormhole,” a naturally rectangular rock pool carved by waves into the foot of the cliff.
The crown of Downpatrick Head, near Ballycastle, is the colossal pile of rocks known as Dun Briste or the “broken fort” in Gaelic. The 150-foot-high rock formation was once part of the mainland, but now stands lonely at sea. There are many myths and folklore that speculate how this happened, some say it was. of a great ogre while others claim it was the work of Saint Patrick himself!
Gap of Dunloe
Along the Ring of Kerry you will find the Gap of Dunloe. This picturesque valley sits between the highest mountains in Ireland and takes its name from the meandering River Loe running through it. It can be a very popular tourist attraction, so if you want to get a good photo avoid the tourist bus. Instead, you can hike the 14 km trail, cycle along the river, or even take in the views on a horseback excursion.
Ireland’s largest mountainous region, the Wicklow Mountains, lies just south of Dublin. The mountains themselves are beautiful and a great location for hiking, especially the trail around Lough Bray Lake, but the surrounding area offers outdoor activities for the whole family. Try your hand at clay pigeon shooting and archery in The Orchard Center, or falconry at National Center for Birds of Prey for an experience you will never forget.
The Skellig Islands
These unique islands in the south of County Kerry are renowned for their archaeological and ornithological wonders. Choose from two of the exciting tours available to explore the islands and their surroundings. the Eco Tour allows you to cruise around the two Skellig Islands and admire the Northern Gannet colonies and historic sites. Meanwhile, on the Skellig Michael Landing Tour, you can embark on the island and explore the ancient monastery, as well as a filming location for the new Star Wars trilogy.
Home to the 23-foot chandelier-shaped stalactite – the largest in all of Europe – Doolin Cave is an intriguing adventure for your Irish getaway. Take the cave visit to learn more about the history and significance of the Magic Cave. Then stroll along the nature trail to see some of Ireland’s most beautiful wildflowers, sheep and dwarf goats.
the Blasket Islands are an archipelago of seven islands, branching out into the North Atlantic from the Dingle Peninsula. The imposing cathedral rocks that are on Inis na Bró, resemble the outline of a beautiful Gothic cathedral. Take a boat trip to the rocks and keep an eye out for whales, seals, dolphins, and orcas. The islands provide shelter and are known to be one of the best places in Ireland to view marine life.
It wouldn’t be a real trip to Ireland without at least a trip to the ruins of a castle, and our favorite is Dunluce Castle. This 16th century castle ruin is surrounded on three sides by sheer cliffs overlooking the rugged ocean. If you follow the steep steps down below the castle you will find the ‘Mermaid Cave’ leading to the sea. Don’t forget your camera for this amazing photo opportunity.
Although technically this attraction is in Northern Ireland (UK territory), we just couldn’t overlook Giant’s Causeway on our list. The famous natural rock formations of curiously interlocking hexagonal columns are not to be missed. They are the result of volcanic fissure eruptions although they play a prominent role in much of Celtic folklore. Stroll along the cliff top trails, admire the ‘giant’s boot’ and wish in the ‘wishing chair’ for good luck.
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