Six Irish attractions listed on Lonely Planet’s world top 500 must-see sights

Six Irish attractions have made it onto a 2015 list of the world’s top 500 must-see sights of all time, compiled by guidebook publisher Lonely Planet.

The listings, which also included Grand Canyon National Park and Machu Picchu (see top 20 below), are from the publisher’s new book “Lonely Planet’s Ultimate Travelist.” It was compiled by the company’s travel experts and authors on the ground who rated the world’s best mega-sights and hidden gems.

The Irish sites included in the listing include:

Giant’s Causeway, County Antrim (#103)

The Giant’s Causeway is 40,000 interlocking basalt columns stretching out into the sea. They are the result of an ancient volcanic eruption.

Most of the columns are hexagonal, although there are also some with four, five, seven or eight sides. The tallest are about 12 meters (39 ft) high, and the solidified lava in the cliffs is 28 meters (92 ft) thick in places.

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Bru na Bóinne, County Meath (#224)

Brú na Bóinne is the largest and one of the most important complex of Megalithic sites in Europe, dating to the Neolithic period. The complex is situated around a wide bend in the River Boyne.

It’s most well-known large passage tombs are Knowth, Newgrange and Dowth, built some 5,000 years ago in the Neolithic or Late Stone Age. There are about 90 additional monuments recorded in the area.

Read more: Travel through the mysteries of the ancient Boyne Valley (PHOTOS)

 

The Cliffs of Moher, County Clare (#378)

The Cliffs of Moher, located at the southwestern edge of the Burren region in County Clare, rise to their highest point of 214 meters (702 ft) just north of O’Brien’s Tower.

From the cliffs visitors can see the Aran Islands in Galway Bay, the Maumturks and Twelve Pins mountain ranges to the north in County Galway, and Loop Head to the south. The cliffs rank amongst the top visited tourist sites in Ireland, and receive almost one million visitors a year.

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Titanic Belfast (#424)

The Titanic Belfast is a visitor attraction and monument to Belfast’s maritime heritage on the site of the former Harland & Wolff shipyard in the city’s Titanic Quarter where the RMS Titanic was built.

The museum tells the stories of the ill-fated Titanic, which hit an iceberg and sank during her maiden voyage in 1912, and her sister ships RMS Olympic and HMHS Britannic. The building contains more than 12,000 square meters (130,000 sq ft) of floor space, most of which is occupied by a series of galleries, private function rooms and community facilities.

Titanic Belfast

Trinity College, Dublin city (#468)

Trinity College Dublin,is a research university right in the heart of the city center. It was founded in 1592 as the “mother” of a new university, modeled after the collegiate universities of Oxford and of Cambridge. It is one of the seven ancient universities of Britain and Ireland, as well as Ireland’s oldest university.

 

The Rock of Cashel, County Tipperary (#497)

A spectacular group of Medieval buildings set on an outcrop of limestone in the Golden Vale including the 12th century round tower, high cross and Romanesque chapel, 13th century Gothic cathedral, 15th century castle and the restored Hall of the Vicars Choral.

Rock of Cashel

Speaking about the Lonely Planet listings, Fáilte Ireland Head of Communications, Alex Connolly said “The Irish sights which made it onto the list reflect the range of attractions Ireland has to offer and demonstrate that for a small country, Ireland is certainly punching above its weight internationally.

“The Lonely Planet is one of the premier sources of information for people all across the world when researching a holiday and lists like these quite literally put Ireland on the map and in the mind’s eye of thousands of potential visitors.”

Ireland was listed among some seriously impressive tourist attractions around the world.

Here’s the top 20 from the Lonely Planet travel list:

1. Temples of Angkor, Cambodia

2. Great Barrier Reef, Australia

3. Machu Picchu, Peru

4. Great Wall of China, China

5. Taj Mahal, India

6. Grand Canyon National Park, USA

7. Colosseum, Italy

8. Iguazu Falls, Brazil-Argentina

9. Alhambra, Spain

10. Aya Sofya, Turkey

11. Fez Medina, Morocco

12. Twelve Apostles, Australia

13. Petra, Jordan

14. Tikal, Guatemala

15. British Museum, England

16. Sagrada Familia, Spain

17. Fiordland National Park, New Zealand

18. Santorini, Greece

19. Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

20. Museum of Old & New Art, Australia.

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Ireland’s spectacular south west coastline

Between the breathtaking aerial footage flying high over staggering cliffs and the panning shots showing the magnificence of Ireland’s great house and castles, Brazilian filmmaker Junior Braun has managed to make Ireland look incredible even on a dull and rainy day.

In his latest video of the counties in the south west, Braun treks through Kilkenny, Tipperary, Cork, Kerry, Limerick, and Clare, capturing something magical at every turn.

Moving to Ireland to learn English and be in close proximity to the rest of Europe so as to further his travel prospects, Braun was instantly enamored with the country’s landscape.

“When I came to Ireland, my first thought was that I needed to make a video about this amazing country,” he told IrishCentral.

“I went on this trip with my wife and another couple. We had just have 4 days and we wanted to find the most beautiful places in Ireland in 4 days.

“We started to do research and to find the best places to go and found a route starting in Dublin that went through Kilkenny, Tipperary, Cork, Kerry, Clare, Limerick and finished in Dublin again.”

Ireland almost feels abandoned as Braun puts together the beauty of all the south west’s most remote and isolated havens, even happening across deer through the branches of a wood.

(…)

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The 20 best days out in Ireland

The judges of the ‘Irish Times’ Best Day out in Ireland competition have chosen their long-list of 20 excursions. Skellig Michael, Glenveagh and the Burren are on it. Is your favourite?

We set out to find the country’s most impressive visitor attractions, leisure experiences and great destinations, and asked our readers to help by nominating their favourites. Marble Arch Global Geopark in Fermanagh was one of those nominated.

The judges of the Irish Times Best Day Out in Ireland competition have chosen their longlist of 20 great ways to spend a day.
We set out to find the country’s most impressive visitor attractions, leisure experiences and great destinations, and asked our readers to help by nominating their favourites.
A memorable day out can take many forms: an adrenaline-pumping outdoor activity, a visit to a museum that brings its subject to life, a relaxing day at a pampering centre, a ramble through a little-known corner of Ireland – or a combination of the lot.
(…)

A day on the River Shannon

Categories: Families, Couples, Great Outdoors

“Cruising along the Shannon is a therapeutic as well as a challenging activity for families and couples alike . . . a fantastic day out and adventure for the entire family to enjoy.”
Nominated by Cian Guckian.
Information Numerous outlets rent all kinds of craft – kayaks, rowing boats, cruisers, barges – along the river.

A day on the Co Antrim coast

Categories: Families, Couples, Great Outdoors, Heritage

“Carrickfergus Castle, the Giant’s Causeway, Ballygalley, Cushendall, Ballycastle for a picnic lunch on the beach, the rope bridge to jangle the nerves at Carrick-a-Rede, crashing white waves at Whitepark Beach, Dunluce Castle, and Bushmills, home of the whiskey. What a day. What a drive.”
Nominated by Irene Moran.

Skellig Michael, Co Kerry

Categories: Great Outdoors, Heritage

“Landing is risky, but once you get on, the peace and tranquillity of the place take over. The long winding path to the top takes you past puffin and gull nests and follows the steps of monks of more than 1,000 years ago. The view from the top makes you realise that you have come to a magical yet remote place. I have never had such an exhilarating or memorable day.”
Skellig Michael

Lough Boora Parklands and Birr Castle, Co Offaly

Categories: Families, Couples, Great Outdoors, Hidden Wonder, Heritage

Lough Boora: “Abundant with nature, fun for all ages. The former Bord na Mona site, now a heritage park, is a hidden gem awaiting discovery.”

Birr Castle: “From the beautiful Courtyard Cafe to the country’s largest treehouse, Birr Castle is a treat.”

Clare Island Adventures, Co Mayo

Categories: Families, Couples, Great Outdoors

“Clare Island Adventures give a wonderful day out, full of adventure and challenges. You can go coasteering, rock climbing and abseiling, snorkelling, raft building. I was enormously impressed with the professionalism of the staff and the confidence they instilled in me, not to mention the sense of achievement I felt at the end of the day.”

Dolphinwatch, Co Clare

Categories: Families, Couples, Great Outdoors

“Along the wonderful Wild Atlantic Way, stop off at the beautiful seaside fishing village of Carrigaholt and take a trip out on to the Shannon estuary with Dolphinwatch, to see and learn about the local dolphins, birds and cliffs. Afterwards eat your fill in the award-winning Long Dock restaurant, followed by trad sessions and great pints in Carmody’s pub or Keane’s pub.”

Dublin Bay Cruises, Co Dublin

Categories: Families, Couples, Great Outdoors

“We boarded the boat at Howth. The day was dry and bright, and I thoroughly enjoyed seeing my home town from a different vantage. As a Dublin native I don’t do touristy things, but viewing both the north and south sides of the city at sea was quite an experience.When we landed in Dún Laoghaire we had brunch and a ramble around before heading back to Howth on the Dart.

Connemara, Co Galway

Categories: Families, Couples, Great Outdoors

“A cycle on the Clifden to Roundstone Loop is breathtaking. Take in the Bog Road, with its lakes, pools, heathers, sheep and views of the Twelve Bens. Experience seafood direct from the busy harbour at Roundstone. Visit Gurteen and Dog’s Bay, with their pristine sands.”

Big Day Out in Co Leitrim

Categories: Families, Couples, Great Outdoors

“Join Leitrim Landscapes Guided Walks for an hour-long guided foraging nature walk. Next let Adrienne and Graham from Adventure Gently help you explore the Shannon Blueway by Canadian canoe. Then cycle the easy way on a one-hour electric-bike cycle with Electric Bike Trails. Finish with a hearty meal, creamy pints and lively trad.”

Glendalough, Co Wicklow

Categories: Families, Couples, Great Outdoors

“Calling Wicklow a garden limits and inhibits its wild, fresh-aired, lung-filling wonder. Glendalough is best experienced with a crowd – cousins, college friends, whoever. Eat first, then wander, chat and be amazed at nature’s offerings. This is best done in several weathers, as sun, wind and rain change the scenery, and it’s worth seeing in many variants.”

Hook Peninsula, Co Wexford

Categories: Families, Couples, Great Outdoors, Heritage

“Driving down the narrow peninsula, one can see nothing but ocean to the east, south and west. Go to the salt mills in Slade and walk the coast to Hook lighthouse. Have you the nerve to visit haunted Loftus Hall? Settle your nerves at Kevin Dundon’s pub, the Local (next to his Dunbrody House). Great beaches too: Dollar Bay and Booley Bay are safe and perfect for swimming.

Donegal sea-stack climbing

Categories: Great Outdoors, Hidden Wonder

“For the past eight years we have been exploring the previously unclimbed sea stacks of Co Donegal, visiting many places where nobody has ever stood before. During the course of these adventures we have played with killer whales, basking sharks, Artic skuas and puffins. We guarantee you a day out you will never forget in places you never knew existed.”

Marble Arch Geopark, Counties Cavan and Fermanagh

Categories: Families, Couples, Great Outdoors, Hidden Wonder, Heritage

Marble Arch Caves, Co Fermanagh:
“A subterranean boat ride into a mile of caves. Beautiful and unique.”

Cavan Burren Forest Park:

“A gem of megaliths . . . You see, or feel, a presence of our ancient ancestors.

Slieve Gullion Forest Park, Co Armagh

Categories: Families, Couples, Great Outdoors, Hidden Wonder, Heritage

“The park has something for everyone – a play park for the kids, an adult fitness area, a scenic drive with views of the Ring of Gullion and of the Mourne and Cooley Mountains. There is a range of walks, including the 10-mile circular walk of Slieve Gullion. A great addition is the brand new Giant’s Lair, an innovative magical living storybook.”

Killarney National Park, Co Kerry

Categories: Families, Couples, Great Outdoors, Heritage

“Start with a visit to Muckross House, where the historic home gives up its rich and colourful history. The park is a place you could spend days exploring, skirting around lakes, under mountains and all the way back into Killarney town. Take a boat ride around the lakes and see its magnificence from the water. Killarney National Park is as close to heaven as you’ll get in your lifetime.”

Glenveagh National Park, Co Donegal

Category: Great Outdoors

“In sun, rain or shine Glenveagh National Park takes my breath away. A quick stop at the visitor centre and you’re off. Hire bikes or take the shuttle bus – either way, the views are the same. Take a guided tour of the castle and learn about its fascinating past.
If you’re feeling energetic, head into the hills on one of the trails – and, if you’re lucky, spot one of the deer that live in the park.”

Fota Wildlife Park, Co Cork

Categories: Families, Heritage

“A wonderful day out for both adults and kids. A beautiful walk, whether it’s in sunshine or rain, with all sorts of exotic creatures to keep everyone entertained. Easily accessible by rail or car, and, for those of us lucky enough to live locally, very reasonable prices with the season pass.”

Great Western Greenway, Co Mayo

Categories: Families, Couples, Great Outdoors

“Words alone cannot describe how fantastic the Great Western Greenway is. Nothing I can say here will come close to describing the experience of walking, jogging or cycling along all or any part of the greenway between the beautiful costal town of Westport and the rugged wilderness of Achill.”
Nominated by Fintan Conlon

The Burren and Cliffs of Moher Geopark, Co Clare

Categories: Families, Couples, Great Outdoors, Heritage

The Burren: “Many attractions for many people: natural history, rockclimbing , wild flowers, lush green fields to the east and swirls of limestone to the west.
Nominated by Nancy Cantwell

The Cliffs of Moher: “We stood above the seas as they pounded the cliffs and looked around at the most amazing integration of sea and land.”

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The Barrow trail, Co Carlow

Categories: Families, Couples, Great Outdoors, Hidden Wonder

“From historic Carlow town to ancient monastic Saint Mullin’s, you can walk, cycle or canoe along a trail that follows the course of the Barrow river. It’s easy, away from traffic, and full of nature. Bring a picnic if you can. Listen to the birdsong. Jump in and have a wild swim. The Barrow trail is a place to share and to create treasured memories.”

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The Best Days Out project is In partnership with Discoverireland.ie

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Ireland’s most popular counties and what to visit

The following counties are among the most widely visited in Ireland. With their lively arts and culture attractions it’s not hard to see why.

Cliffs of Moher

COUNTY ANTRIM

Belfast City (in Irish, Beal Feirste) is the capital of Northern Ireland and is located in County Antrim, one of Ireland most visited counties. History and politics have always played a major role in the fabric of Belfast, and perhaps for that reason its citizens are among the most vivid and witty people you’ll ever meet.

Belfast

Unsurprisingly, Belfast is rich in culture, art, music, dance, sports, shopping, attractions and historical sites. City Hall, one of the main seats of power, is located on Donegall Square and dominates the area with its magnificent classical renaissance style architecture and Italian marble interior. It was completed in 1903.

The Linen Hall Library, also located on Donegall Square, was established in 1788. It houses an Irish collection of over 20,000 volumes and a Robert Burns collection. Visit and you’ll be keeping company with many noted Irish authors.

The Crown Liquor Saloon is the most famous pub in Belfast and, frankly, one of the most beautiful pubs in the world. Featuring Victorian architecture, with the outside covered in thousands of colorful tiles, the inside decor has stained and painted glass, carved oak screens and mahogany furniture. Don’t miss it.

The Botanic Gardens, the rose gardens and herbaceous borders were established in 1920 and are unmissable. Two greenhouses dominate the gardens and the Palm House has a conservatory containing tropical plants like coffee, sugar, and banana plants. The Tropical Ravine has a high walkway that provides a great viewpoint.

Overlooking the city, Belfast Castle was built in 1870 and was the former home of the Donegall family, who gave the main square in the city center its name. The castle offers a spectacular view of the city. There is also a heritage center, antique shop, and children’s play area on the premise.

 

COUNTY CLARE

County Clare in the Republic of Ireland is steeped in history, and it offers beautiful seascapes, landscapes, lakes, cliffs, caves and music. Highlights include The Burren (an ancient perfectly preserved landscape), The Cliffs of Moher (700 foot high cliffs facing the wild Atlantic), and Bunratty Castle and Folk Park (an impressive castle dating from the early Middle Ages).

Clare

The Burren is over 500 square miles of limestone located in the northwest corner of County Clare. The area is a haven for botanists and ecologists because of the unique flora and rock. The ground surface is a floor of gray rock with long parallel grooves, known as grykes. There is an amazing variety of flora with Arctic, Alpine, and Mediterranean plants growing in spring and summer. For that reason there’s also an amazing range of color in the flowers, ferns and mosses.

Alwee Caves were discovered in the 1940s. There are caverns, underground waterfalls, stalagmite and stalactite formations and remains of brown bears, which have been extinct in Ireland for thousands of years. The caves are open for guided tours.

The Cliffs of Moher are one of the most spectacular sights of The Burren. These majestic cliffs rise more than 700 feet above the windswept Atlantic Ocean and stretch five miles along the west coast of Clare. Composed of shale and sandstone, the Cliffs’ ledges make ideal roosting homes for birds. On a clear day you can see as far as the Mountains of Kerry, Connemara and the Aran Islands.

Bunratty Castle and Folk Park is one of the most complete and authentic medieval castles in Ireland. This being Ireland it also has a long and bloody history.

The castle is a combination of earlier Norman castles and the later Gaelic Tower Houses furnished with a fine collection of medieval furniture, artwork and ornate carvings. A four-course Medieval Banquet and entertainment with performers in traditional costume is offered in the evenings.

 

COUNTY CORK

County Cork is the largest county in Ireland and Cork City is the second-largest city in the Republic. A unique and lively second capital, the distinctive people are as much an attraction as the place itself.
Saint Finbarr first built a monastery on the site that would later become Cork City in the year 650. The city grew along the banks of the River Lee at the point where it splits into two channels.

Cork

Cork City is essentially an island with 16 bridges. The main commercial area is located along St. Patrick Street, Grand Parade, Washington Street, Oliver Plunkett Street and Main Street. The charm and beauty of Cork City revolves around the contrasts the city offers. There are a multitude of theaters and a variety of arts. There is also a diverse range of excellent restaurants, cafes, and pubs with traditional Irish music.

The city also has many unique and quaint shops. Across the Southern Channel are some of the oldest streets in Cork, along with the campus of University College, Cork.

The nearby Blarney Castle was built by Dermot McCarthy, King of Munster in 1446 and should be at the top of your must visit list. The castle is located on a thousand acres of beautiful woodland, and is partially hidden by trees, some up to a thousand years old. The castle has been witness to the triumph and turmoil of Irish chiefs and enemy armies.

Cobh, (pronounced cove) is a picturesque town located on the Great Island, one of three large islands in Cork Harbour. It was the port of departure for many Irish during the Great Hunger from 1844 to 1848 and has the distinction of being central for two of the worst maritime disasters in history. Cobh was the last berth for the Titanic and the nearest port to the Lusitania when it was torpedoed and sunk off the south coast of Ireland. The Titanic sank on its maiden voyage while crossing the Atlantic after leaving Cobh (then Queenstown).

Nearby Kinsale is a fishing and resort town with a picture perfect harbor. The town’s narrow streets are lined with colorfully painted buildings and it is widely renowned for its art galleries and gourmet restaurants. Kinsale is also considered the Gourmet Capital of Ireland. Many of the pubs offer traditional Irish music and upscale fare.

 

COUNTY DONEGAL

With its sandy beaches, unspoiled boglands and friendly communities, County Donegal is a leading destination for many travelers. One of the county treasures is Glenveagh National Park, the only official national park anywhere in the Province of Ulster. The park is a huge nature reserve with spectacular scenery of mountains, raised boglands, lakes and woodlands. At its heart is Glenveagh Castle, a beautiful late Victorian “folly” that was originally built as a summer residence.

Donegal

Donegal’s rugged landscape lends itself to active sports like climbing, hillwalking, scuba-diving, surfing and kite-flying. Many people travel to Donegal for the superb golf links — long sandy beaches and extensive dune systems are a feature of the county, and many golf courses have been developed. Golf is a very popular sport within the county, including world class golf courses such as Ballyliffin (Glashedy), Ballyliffin (Old), both of whch are located in the Inishowen peninsula. Other courses to note are Murvagh and Rosapenna.

The Donegal Gaeltacht (Irish-speaking district) also attracts young people to County Donegal each year during the school summer holidays. The three week long summer Gaeltacht courses give young Irish people from other parts of the country a chance to learn the Irish language and traditional Irish cultural traditions that are still prevalent in parts of Donegal.

 

COUNTY DUBLIN

Dublin is the capital of the Republic of Ireland and is divided by the River Liffey. The Royal Canal and the Grand Canal provide connections between the port area and the northern and southern branches of the River Shannon.

Dublin

Dublin is a city steeped in history and boasts of having the oldest pub in Ireland, The Brazen Head, and the oldest university, Trinity College. It is a center of art and culture and the largest truly cosmopolitan city in Ireland.

O’Connell Street is the main thoroughfare and the widest street in Europe. At the south end, sits a huge monument of Daniel O’Connell, the Irish patriot. The General Post Office (GPO) is also located on O’Connell Street and was the headquarters for the Irish Republican Brotherhood, and the provisional government of Ireland in the 1916 Easter Rising.

The Dublin Writers Museum is a restored 18th century mansion located at the north end of Parnell Square. The museum houses manuscripts and first editions of the works of some of Ireland’s best writers, including: Behan, Joyce, Shaw, Swift, Wilde, and Yeats. It is also home to an impressive collection of painting, photographs, and memorabilia of the various writers.

The Temple Bar Area is the cultural quarter of Dublin. This is a historical and eclectic area filled with art, theater, music, pubs, cafes, and the highest concentration of truly upscale restaurants. There’s also the Market in Meeting House Square serving organic foods, unique shops, book and music stores. It also plays host to many open-air events.

Trinity College is one of the oldest centers of learning, dating back to the 16th century. The library is home to the world renowned Book of Kells, a Latin text of the four gospels, with meticulous artwork around the borders, created in the ninth century.

The National Museum of Archaeology and History is located on Kildare Street. This branch houses artifacts from 2000 B.C. through the 20th century and includes the National Treasury with many archaeological treasures of Celtic and Medieval art, such as the Ardagh Chalice and Tara Brooch.

Christchurch Cathedral is Dublin’s oldest place of Christian worship. The Christian Norse, King Sitric, founded it in 1038. Part of the structure goes back to the 12th century. It is presently an Anglican Church.

St. Patrick’s Cathedral is the National Cathedral for the Anglican Church. Originally built in the 12th century, it is the burial site of Jonathan Swift, a former Dean and author of Gulliver’s Travels.

 

COUNTY GALWAY

Galway City is known as the City of Tribes after 14 merchant families who controlled and managed the city in medieval times and is situated along the River Corrib at the mouth of Galway Bay.

Galway

Today, the city is a growing and thriving university city that offers the best theater in the country. There is also a vibrant nightlife and music can be found everywhere. During the summer, Galway offers many festivals.

Connemara, known for its wild beauty, is located north of Galway City, at the western tip of the county. It is one of the most unspoiled regions of Ireland and a vibrant Gaelic-speaking area.

The Aran Islands, also a Gaelic-speaking area, are located 30 miles off the Irish coast. The islands themselves consist of three islands, Inishmore, Inishmaan, and Inisheer.

Inis Moir, meaning Big Island, is eight miles long and two miles wide, and has a population of 900. The fort of Dun Aengus is built on the edge of a sheer southern cliff with a defense forest of sharp stone spikes.

Inishmaan means Middle Island. It is three miles wide and two miles long, with fields bordered by high dry stonewalls, and marked by vast sheets of limestone rock. The island peaks at 300 feet and a series of giant terraces slope down to Galway Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. The island has a Gaelic speaking population.

Inisheer is known as the Little Island. It is 27 miles from Galway and covers 1,400 acres. It has a population of about 300. This island is an outcrop of the Burren landscape, consisting of bare limestone that is used for the many cottages, stonewalls, roads, and pathways around the island. The Gaelic-speaking island is a haven for birdwatchers and those interested in flora and fauna.

 

COUNTY KERRY

The locals know County Kerry as The Kingdom, a reference to the contrasts you’ll see in its astounding scenery, which suggest Ireland in miniature. The climate in Kerry is more unique than other places in Ireland, thanks to the warm waters of the Gulf Stream, and it’s actually possible to swim here year round.

Kerry

Kerry has preserved its heritage in many ways. The oak woods at Derrycunnihy and Tomies, for example, are the last of Ireland’s primeval forests. There are many small villages that are still Gaelic-speaking too, adding to the character of the county. Dingle Town is a fishing village that offers a wonderful selection of shops, restaurants and pubs with traditional music.

THE RING OF KERRY is located on the Peninsula of Iveragh. It lies between Dingle Bay and The Kenmare River. It is 110 miles of gorgeous coastal and mountain scenery, enveloping the towns of Killorglin, Glenbeigh, Caherciveen, Waterville, Sneem, Kenmare and Killarney. Each town has its own personality. The coastal drive is one of the most spectacular sites in all of Ireland.

The locals know County Kerry as The Kingdom, a reference to the contrasts you’ll see in its astounding scenery, which suggest Ireland in miniature. The climate in Kerry is more unique than other places in Ireland, thanks to the warm waters of the Gulf Stream, and it’s actually possible to swim here year round.

 

COUNTY KILKENNY

Kilkenny is a county looked on enviously by other counties, and not only because of the county’s incredible track record in the ancient Irish game of hurling. Kilkenny is a county filled with enchantment and delight. From the spectacular scenery of the Nore and Barrow river valleys to the cultured beauty of Kilkenny City, the county provides the perfect setting for whatever holiday you desire.

Kilkenny

Known through history as the Marble City because of its distinctive indigenous jet-black marble, Kilkenny City offers a curious, yet undeniably attractive mix of perfectly preserved old buildings and the vibrancy of a modern city which has made festivals like the Kilkenny Cat Laughs comedy festival, an event with international recognition. St Canice’s Cathedral and Kilkenny Castle are extremely important monuments and quality tours are available.

There are plenty of other things to see inside and outside the city and throughout Kilkenny’s rural hinterland. Some of Ireland’s finest craft studios are to be found in Kilkenny, from pottery to gold and silver-smithing. The experience of seeing a master craftsperson is not one to be missed.

For more physically active tourists, Kilkenny has no limit to the range of choices available. The Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course at Mount Juliet is one of the finest in the state. Arguably the best river wild trout fishing is to be found near Durrow on the River Nore.

The county has numerous ancient sites including Iron Age fortifications, inscribed stones and crosses, castles, and abbeys. The Dunmore Caves in Ballyfoyle are important both for historical and environmental reasons. The site of a massacre of the Irish by Viking raiders in 928, and according to legend, the place where The Lord of the Mice was slain Dunmore is best known these days for the wondrous sight of stalagmites of huge size dominating the chambers.

 

COUNTY MEATH

County Meath has traditionally been known as the Royal County, being the seat of the ancient Kings of Ireland at Tara. In the Boyne Valley of County Meath are some of Ireland’s most important archeological monuments, including the Megalithic Passage Tombs of Newgrange, Knowth, Dowth, Fourknocks, Loughcrew and Tara.

Meath

Newgrange is the most famous of these prehistoric monuments. It was originally built around 3,100 B.C. and accidentally discovered in the 17th century.

 

COUNTY OFFALY

The heart of the Midlands, County Offaly offers bogs, meadowlands, and undiscovered pastures. Clonmacnoise, located at Shannonbridge on the banks of the River Shannon, is one of the most famous monastic sites.

Offaly

Begun as an isolated monastery founded by St. Ciaran in 545 A.D. it is to this day an ecclesiastical site, with ruins of a cathedral, eight churches, and three high crosses.

Irish chieftains, Vikings and Anglo-Normans plundered Clonmacnoise. Cromwell’s forces devastated it beyond restoration. There are guided tours during the summer months; a video presentation at the Visitor Center, and an informative five-mile trail tour of the Blackwater.

 

COUNTY TYRONE

Located in the center of the historic province of Ulster, County Tyrone is blessed with an array of places to visit. The Ulster American Folk Park, for example, is located three miles north of Omagh.

Tyrone

The Folk Park is an open-air living history museum that explores Ulster’s links to the many famous Americans who trace their ancestry to the North of Ireland. The park is comprised of an indoor gallery with information on the causes and patterns of immigration. Outside are a variety of reconstructed buildings of 18th and 19th century Ireland.

Throughout the park are costumed guides and craftsmen that add to the authenticity. Also on site is the Centre for Emigration Studies, an extensive research library. Plan at least half a day to explore the park.

 

COUNTY WICKLOW

County Wicklow is often referred to as the Garden of Ireland, due to its breathtaking scenery and located just south of Dublin it makes for a wonderful day trip or overnight stay away from the ‘big smoke.’

Glendalough is a 6th century monastic site that was founded by St. Kevin.

Wicklow

Nestled into the heart of the Wicklow Mountains it offers a truly spectacular setting, featuring a stone tower that stands 110 feet tall. There is a visitor center and guided tours are available.

Wicklow National Park is an unspoiled natural wonder with nearly 50,000 acres of raw beauty. A drive through the Wicklow Gap from Glendalough to Hollywood is one of jaw dropping beauty.

Powerscourt is a beautiful upscale estate with some of the finest gardens in Europe.

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Cliffs of Moher reach 1 Million visitors

2014 will mark the fourth successive year of growth at Ireland’s most iconic visitor attraction, the wonderful Cliffs of Moher.  And with several weeks to go yet, the one million visitor mark has already been passed, an enormous success story.

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