A Literary Guide to Dublin, Ireland

In a country with a rich literary history, it’s no surprise that travelers journey to Dublin to find those inspiring places made infamous by the writings of Joyce, Wilde, Beckett and Doyle.

From historic buildings to the pubs of Temple Bar, the capital of the Emerald Isle offers an endless array of must-see places to find the lasting mark of Irish writers past and present. Discover and learn about Irish literature’s best-known scribes (and a healthy dose of Irish history) through these well-known neighborhoods and places.

 

Dalkey:

Journalist and novelist Maeve Binchy grew up in the pretty seaside suburb of Dublin that is now home to Irish A-listers. Starting her career at The Irish Times, Binchy soon turned to writing novels and short story collections like Circle of Friends and Tara Road, which can be easily found in Dalkey’s The Gutter Bookshop, a popular local independent bookseller.

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Abbey Theatre:

Opening its doors in December of 1904, this theatre (also known as the National Theatre of Ireland) was founded by poet W.B. Yeats and dramatist Lady Augusta Gregory. The first state-subsidized theatre in the English-speaking world, the Abbey Theatre is also noted for staging the first (and highly controversial) production of The Playboy of the Western World by John Millington Synge.

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The James Joyce Centre:

The avant-garde poet and novelist has left a lasting mark on his hometown. Local revelers dress up as Leopold Bloom for the annual celebration of Bloomsday on June 16, the date on which Joyce’s novel Ulysses takes place. If you can’t visit on that day, the James Joyce Centre (hosts of Bloomsday) has permanent and rotating exhibits that give you an intimate look into Joyce’s life. Learn about Joyce’s legacy, and then toast his life at Davy Burn’s Pub, a 100-year-old gastropub well known for its amenable atmosphere, tasty cuisine and mention in Ulysses.

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Saint Patrick’s Cathedral:

Also known as The National Cathedral and Collegiate Church of Saint Patrick, this is where St. Patrick baptized converts in Dublin. Its best-known literary connection is cleric and writer Jonathan Swift, who wrote Gulliver’s Travels and A Modest Proposal. Swift was dean of the cathedral from 1713 to 1745, and is buried in the church’s graveyard.

 

Merrion Square:

Make the pilgrimage to this pretty Georgian park to gaze at Danny Osborne’s colorful sculpture of poet, essayist, novelist and playwright Oscar Wilde. But what’s more important is across the street at One Merrion Square; the author’s childhood home is now restored and part of the American College of Dublin.

 

Kilbarrack:

Although his stories showcase fictional Barrytown, readers of novelist Roddy Doyle can visit the real life inspiration. One of the oldest neighborhoods of Dublin, Kilbarrack is where Doyle grew up and worked as a teacher. The suburb also became a star in the filming of his book The Van, as local pub The Foxhound Inn was included as a movie location.

 

Trinity College:

The oldest university in the city has many literary alumni, including Samuel Beckett, Oscar Wilde and Bram Stoker. Trinity College is also home to the largest library of Ireland. Featuring The Book of Kells, an illuminated manuscript of the four Gospels of the New Testament dating to 800 AD, the library also includes The Long Room, containing 200,000 of the library’s oldest books and one of the remaining copies of the 1916 Proclamation of the Irish Republic.

 

National Library of Ireland:

With over eight million items, this reference library focuses on preserving Irish cultural identity through its collection of personal papers, letters and writings of many Irish writers. Fans of writer Colm Tóibín can learn about his early years as a journalist and burgeoning novelist/playwright at the library, where his literary papers, as well as works from his teacher/father Michael Tóibín, are accessible.

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Titanic Belfast beats Eiffel Tower to ‘best tourist attraction’ spot

Titanic BelfastTitanic Belfast has fended off one of the most iconic buildings in Europe to be named the continent’s best visitor attraction.

The 300m Eiffel Tower may have breathtaking views of Paris, bit it was Northern Ireland’s top tourist spot which won over judges at a major travel awards event in Berlin.

It also beat off stiff competition from artist Claude Monet’s Grand Gardens in France and the London Eye.

Inside an impressive exterior – designed to resemble the ship’s prow – Titanic Belfast contains a number of exhibitions on early 20th Centrury Belfast, the ship-building industry, the ship’s sinking and its legacy.

It was the only attraction from across Ireland to be recognised at the European Group Travel Awards.

CEO of Tourism Ireland Niall Gibbons said: “Congratulations to Titanic Belfast on this very well deserved award. Since its opening in 2012, Titanic Belfast has become a truly iconic and ‘must visit’ attraction for overseas visitors to Belfast.”

The inaugural European Group Travel Awards (EGTA) were organised to recognise and celebrate the best suppliers in the group travel sector, with group travel buyers around Europe asked to submit their nominees in 21 different categories.

 

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How to Take a ‘Game of Thrones’ Tour of Northern Ireland


Game of Thrones MapCourtesy Northern Ireland Tourist Board

The Northern Ireland tourism board hopes to attract tourists by billing itself as “The Real Westeros,” thanks to its large number of Game of Thrones filming locations.

Game of Thrones has already brought more than £87 million to Northern Ireland, where many of the show’s scenes filmed, but that hasn’t stopped local officials from looking for new ways to cash in on the hit HBO show. With GOT’s fifth season debuting on April 12, the Northern Ireland Tourist Board has put together a map of the series’ filming locations, including a three-day itinerary for the ultimate Game of Thrones road trip. The new, free resources are designed to bring more tourists, and tourism dollars, to the region.

The Discover Westeros tour includes stops at Castle Ward, better known to fans of the show as the Stark’s home, Winterfell; Ballintoy Harbour, which stood in during a pivotal scene for Theon Greyjoy in season two; and The Dark Hedges, which is featured during Arya Stark’s escape from King’s Landing with Yoren, of the Night’s Watch.

You can download the full itinerary, maps, and details about where Game of Thrones will be filming next at www.discovernorthernireland.com/gameofthrones.

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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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Ireland’s most unusual tourist attractions

Sky Garden
There are mainstays of any tourist guide to Ireland: Kilmainham Gaol, the Guinness Brewery, the Cliffs of Moher and Newgrange are permanent fixtures on such lists, and rightly so, given their historical significance, natural beauty and access to the black stuff.
While Ireland has a rich tapestry of tourist destinations, there are attractions that we feel don’t receive the attention that they deserve. We’ve put together a short list of some of Ireland’s quirkier destinations that you may wish to consider on your next trip across the Atlantic.

 

Cork Butter Museum

While a butter museum may not sound like a must-see tourist hotspot, the Cork Butter Museum actually tells a very important story about Ireland’s development. The museum’s website describes butter as ‘Ireland’s most important food export’, and as Cork’s butter market was the world’s largest, what better place could there be to learn about something so vital to Ireland’s history? The Butter Museum includes such highlights as a 1,000 year old keg of butter, a tour of butter making through the ages and a comprehensive collection of Irish butter labels.

 

Irish Sky Garden

Located near Skibbereen, West Cork, the Irish Sky Garden is the creation of artist James Turrell. It’s a massive conceptual garden built around a huge crater that contains a central plinth. Lie on the plinth and look upwards and you’ll see the sky framed perfectly by the rim of the crater. Just keep your mouth closed if it’s raining.

 

Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin

Visiting a cathedral is nothing unusual for a trip to Ireland. More often than not, they’re beautiful buildings steeped in history. Where Christ Church Cathedral in Dublin differs, however, is the bizarre contents of its medieval crypt. Open to the public, Christ Church’s crypts contain a mummified cat chasing a mummified rat (mentioned by James Joyce in Finnegan’s Wake) and the heart of Laurence O’Toole (patron saint of Dublin) amongst other oddities.

Dublin Christchurch

Indian Sculpture Park

Victoria’s Way in County Wicklow is home to ’33 black granite stone sculptures and three bronzes…ranging in size from 5ft 6ins to about 15ft’. The creation of a wealthy German with a love of the Far East is behind the Indian Sculpture Park, which contains a number of stunning pieces of art. Please note that the park closes during the winter.

 

St. Michan’s Mummies

A return to the crypts for this attraction, this time at St Michan’s church in Dublin. Deep down beneath the church lie the mummified remains of some of Ireland’s most influential families of the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. Some of the remains lie in incredibly ornate coffins, and all are in remarkable condition due to the dry air beneath the church. If you’re going to visit one large collection of mummies while you’re in Ireland, make it this one.

 

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By Public Transit From Dublin…

Hikes, Vistas and Seafood, All for a Song

For its vertical limestone cliffs and unspoiled sea views, Ireland’s dramatic western coastline may get top billing. But visitors to Dublin hoping to catch a glimpse of the rugged beauty of the Emerald Isle needn’t spend extra hours and expense traveling west. For little more than the cost of a pint, they can hop on Dublin Area Rapid Transit, or DART, the city’s electric rail network that winds roughly 30 miles along the eastern coastline, for convenient under-an-hour escapes. The following day trips — whose draws include staggeringly scenic sea cliffs that are destinations in their own right, a James Joyce museum and, no surprise, excellent seafood and beer — promise memorable, and frugal, additions to any Dublin vacation. (Factor in maximum prices for “the Dort,” the Dublin Bus, and the Luas light rail tram system — at 10 euros a day, $12.20 at $1.22 to the euro, or 40 euros a week — and travel costs become even cheaper.) And while wintertime daily highs average in the mid-40s, confining swimming to only the hardiest souls, with views like these, who needs a dip in the ocean?

Sandycove

About 30 minutes by DART from central Dublin (6 euros for a round-trip ticket, or 4.82 euros when purchased with a prepaid Leap card), the village of Sandycove has one pub, one bistro and little more than a handful of other storefronts. Its main lure is the sea, most notably at the Forty Foot, a (free) bathing spot set among a promontory of rocky outcroppings, with its “Gentlemens Bathing Place” metal sign still intact, though no longer enforced. It is popular year-round — especially on Christmas Day, when hundreds of swimmers line up along its stone steps to plunge into the icy waters in what has become an annual tradition.

On the chilly autumn afternoon I visited, I watched a steady stream of seasoned bathers peel off their jackets and sweaters to bathe in the frigid sea, among them Caineach Brady, a 67-year-old Dublin priest who said he swims two to three times a week at the Forty Foot through winter. “It’s absolutely wonderful, the sea against skin,” Father Brady said. I got my feet wet, but demurred at the thought of a full dip, and instead soaked in views of the sea and the sprightly swimmers.

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Sandycove’s other main attraction, just beyond the Forty Foot, is the stone Martello tower where James Joyce had stayed for six fateful nights when he was 22, and provided the setting for the opening scene of “Ulysses.” After a six-month renovation, the James Joyce Tower and Museum (free admission) reopened in April. I pored over a small, captivating collection on the first floor that contained various first editions and other rare books that included a 1935 printing of “Ulysses” with illustrations by Henri Matisse, and a hodgepodge assortment of Joyce’s possessions: a guitar, a leather cabin trunk, a checkered tie he gave to Samuel Beckett, and his last cane.

James Joyce Tower

But it was when I left the first floor that things got more intimate. I climbed my way up an extremely narrow, winding set of very short stone steps — each was about half the length of my foot — and found myself in a re-creation of the “gloomy domed livingroom” Joyce had described in “Ulysses,” with an iron-framed single bed covered with a tattered blanket pushed up against one wall, and a hammock slung across a corner nearby. Up another set of tightly wound steps, and I was on the circular rooftop of the 40-foot tower, with superb views of the endless expanse of Dublin Bay.

“The snotgreen sea” was how the “Ulysses” character Buck Mulligan described it, but as I stood where he made his pronouncement, I couldn’t help but think that description was ungenerous. With waves crashing onto the sharp-edged gray rocks below, sea gulls squawking plaintively above and the heady smell of salt in the air, the turquoise-gray water before me felt meditative, mystical and potent.

Bray

Five stops south of Sandycove on the DART, and about 40 minutes from central Dublin (6.65 euros for a round-trip ticket, or 5.74 euros prepaid) lies the town of Bray, which in the mid-19th century had been one of the country’s largest seaside resorts. During a visit in late October, I found its beachfront — whose sandy stretch gives way to a wide swathe of gorgeously smooth, oval stone — calming and restorative, dotted with just the occasional kite flyer and dog walker, as well as another brave swimmer.

But I found real tranquillity when I ambled along the roughly four-mile Cliff Walk, a stunning coastline path hugging the side of the nearly 800-foot-high Bray Head that squashed my long-held belief that the more challenging a hike, the greater the payoff. The Cliff Walk has a gentle incline (less than 400 feet from bottom to top), picnic tables and benches generously scattered about for frequent rest breaks, and beautiful low stone walls and wire cliff railings in place for much of the path. In return, it affords views of strikingly scenic slate cliffs and Dublin Bay’s thousand shades of blue while winding past stretches of shoulder-height fern and patches of flowering yellow gorse. Out there, I found colors so sharp and vivid, it was as if they had been passed through a saturation filter.

The walk ends in the quaint town of Greystones, whose DART station marks the southern extent of the train line. I popped on a waiting train back to Bray (3.15 euros for a one-way ticket, or 2.41 euros prepaid) where I rested my legs and ordered a crisp flatbread loaded with shrimp, sweet red peppers and caramelized onion (9 euros) at the year-and-a-half-old Platform Pizza Bar, easily the most stylish — and eye-catching — restaurant in town, housed in what resembles a slate-gray shipping container across from Bray’s mile-long beachfront promenade.

Revitalized, I went off to explore the town’s beer scene, starting first at the Porterhouse Bray, the original brewpub that belongs to one of Ireland’s earliest and largest microbreweries, which now has pubs in Dublin, London and New York. I parked myself in front of a roaring fireplace and sampled its super smooth Plain Porter (4.50 euros) followed by its Oyster Stout (4.50 euros), a spicy, bitter beer that takes its name from the fresh oysters used during preparation. Both came dark, cold and with luxuriously creamy heads.

Harbour Bar

I whiled away the rest of the evening at the nearly 150-year-old Harbour Bar, voted the “best bar in the world” in 2010 by Lonely Planet. It was also a haunt of Peter O’Toole, who gave it a giant moosehead decades before taxidermy-lined drinking dens came into (and went out of) vogue. It’s now a warren of cozy rooms brimming with bric-a-brac large and small — framed nautical knots, an Underwood typewriter, a rowboat — serving an excellent selection of beers like the beautifully nuanced amber ale from Wicklow Wolf (5.30 euros), a brewery just a five-minute walk away.

Howth

About 30 minutes on the DART from central Dublin (6 euros for a round-trip ticket, or 4.82 euros prepaid), Howth has a distinctly different mood from Bray: there’s a sandy beach, but it’s not visible from the center of town, unlike the working harbor. And compared with Bray’s Cliff Walk, the Howth Head walk, whose shortest loop runs 3.7 miles around the Howth Peninsula that juts into the Irish Sea, feels less cosseted and more raw.

In late October, when I attempted the walk, I wavered between feeling exhilarated and nerve-racked when the path wound dizzyingly close to the edge of the steep sea cliffs with their precipitous drops and noticeable absence of safety railings. (The misting rain didn’t help either, nor did the abundant “Dangerous Cliffs” signs.)

But I continued on, and I’m glad I did. I passed fields of purple heather and brushed up against bright-green moss-covered stones. And when I approached the summit, I had to agree with H.G. Wells’s description in his 1918 novel “Joan and Peter” of the view from Howth Head as “one of the most beautiful views in the world.” Cliffs now seemed to drop gently into the sea, enveloped in cascading blankets of tawny-colored heathland before the white Baily Lighthouse, which stood at the peninsula’s tip. Shafts of light cut through the clouds, and across Dublin Bay, I made out the looming shapes of the Dublin and Wicklow Mountains.

Elated by the view, I headed back to town, where I angled for a seat at Crabby Jo’s, a popular restaurant attached to the Wrights of Howth fish market, more than a century old. As I warmed myself with a bowl of seafood chowder (5.95 euros), I became convinced all chowders would benefit from the addition of smoked haddock, whose rich, salty flavor permeated the creamy version at Crabby Jo’s. I also ordered the open crab sandwich, two lumps of fresh-tasting Kilmore Quay crab tossed with diced apple and celery on a bed of arugula and shallots on dense, crumbly brown bread (9.95 euros).

On a warmer trip, picnic options along the edge of the water abound, including piping-hot fried hake with chips from Beshoff Bros. (8.95 euros), and a messier alternative in whole smoked mackerel with a loaf of bread from Nicky’s Plaice (5 euros, fish priced by weight), a no-frills fish market near the end of the Western Pier. But I was just as happy to be enjoying a nourishing meal in a spot perfect for a wintry Dublin getaway.

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A-Z OF DUBLIN

Ha Penny Bridge
With students wanting to travel further and further afield nowadays, it would be easy for most to overlook visiting Dublin. However there’s every reason to explore the Republic of Ireland’s lively capital, especially if you’re a fan of Guinness. With this in mind Impact travel lists its top attractions in Dublin:

GUINNESS STOREHOUSE

Whether a fan of the Irish stout or not, the Guinness Storehouse is Dublin’s most loved tourist attraction. Located on seven floors at St. James’s Gate Brewery, highlights include a step by step guide of the brewing process, an insight into the company’s advertising and sponsorship campaigns, and an opportunity to pour the perfect pint. Make sure you finish your visit relaxing over a glass of the black stuff in the Gravity Bar where you can admire panoramic views of the city.

NATIONAL GALLERY OF IRELAND

For art lovers, a trip to the National Gallery of Ireland is essential. The museum’s collection includes 2,500 paintings and 10,000 other works of some of the world’s most famous names, such as Caravaggio, van Gogh and Monet. There’s also major works from Irish artists Jack B. Yeats and Louis le Brocquy, and to top that off, it’s free to visit too.

ST. PATRICK’S DAY FESTIVAL

Remarkably, people celebrate St. Patrick’s Day all over the world, and whilst there is much fun to be had in drinking an overpriced, warm pint of Guinness in a wannabe Irish pub halfway across the world, why not celebrate it in Ireland’s capital? They don’t just celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in Dublin either; they make a whole weekend of it, with the highlight being the St. Patrick’s Day Parade. Next year’s celebration takes place on the 14th-17th of March.

BOOK OF KELLS AND TRINITY COLLEGE

For those of you who love exploring the history of a city, make sure you see the Book of Kells. The manuscript can be found in the Old Library at Trinity College and contains the four Gospels of the New Testament, all written in Latin. Afterwards take a walk around the grounds of Trinity College – Dublin’s equivalent to Oxford and Cambridge universities.

KILMAINHAM GAOL

Chosen by Trip Advisor as the top attraction in Ireland for 2014, a trip to Dublin won’t be complete until you visit Kilmainham Gaol. Formerly a prison, it is now a museum where visitors can take a tour of the spooky location and learn about how it played a crucial role in Ireland gaining independence.

FOOD

Part of the joy of visiting other cities has to be trying all the local delicacies on offer. One traditional hearty Dublin dish is the Coddle: a sausage, bacon, onion and potato hot pot. Expect to also find a wealth of Guinness based stews, pies and cakes, and make sure you warm up with an Irish coffee on cold days.

Phoenix Park
PARKS

Take a walk around the beautiful deer-filled Phoenix Park, home to Dublin Zoo and Áras an Uachtaráin; the official residence of the president of Ireland. Entrance to the park is free, however there is a charge to visit the zoo. If you want to go to a more central park, head to St Stephen’s Green, and visit the Shopping Centre while you’re there if you’re in need of some retail therapy.

DUBLINIA

Dublinia is an interactive museum based upon Dublin’s Viking and Medieval history. The museum is a fun way to learn about the city’s past and includes special Halloween exhibits, as well as various living history events and themed exhibitions throughout the year.

Aviva Stadium
SPORT

Dublin is a great sporting city and the perfect place to watch a game. The Aviva Stadium, which opened in 2010, is the home of Ireland’s national football and rugby teams. It will also host four matches in Euro 2020, so there’s every opportunity to watch some of the best sports stars in the world. If you’re up for an unusual experience, head to Croke Park for some Gaelic football, or if sport isn’t your thing, take the Skyline Tour where you can enjoy fantastic views of the city from five viewing platforms.

BARS

If you’re unsure about where to spend your evenings in Dublin, head to the Temple Bar district. Here the pubs and clubs are focused around tourists, so expect slightly inflated drinks prices. Try the area in the day and you’ll find a wealth of cultural attractions, from stunning architecture to one of Ireland’s smallest theatres; The New Theatre, and a wealth of galleries and arts centres.

 

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36 Hours in Dublin by the New-York Times

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After decades of tumultuous change, a more refined wave of affluence has reached Dublin, where visitors will find a restaurant renaissance, musical creativity and a glorious sense of history.
Video by Fritzie Andrade, Max Cantor, Chris Carmichael and Aaron Wolfe on November 12, 2014. 

Dublin’s been through tumultuous change in recent decades, from the Celtic Tiger years, when BMWs were de rigueur, to the post-crash depression, when the cacophony of incessant building suddenly went silent. Today, signs of economic recovery are emerging, but it’s a more refined wave of affluence than what the flashy boom years had to offer. The city is finding a new way to exist — neither ostentatious with wealth nor bowed down under debt. A hugely popular bike share program has replaced the “beamers,” craft beer is gaining precedence over elaborate cocktails, and Dublin restaurants are undergoing a creative renaissance that prioritizes imagination and Irish ingredients over heavily stylized and overpriced dishes. Throughout it all, from its centuries-old pubs to its Georgian architecture to the stately Trinity College at its center, the city has retained its glorious sense of history.

Friday

1. ­Begin in the Bog | 3 p.m.

National Museum of Ireland

The National Museum of Ireland on Kildare Street (free admission) is worth multiple visits, thanks to a well-signed archaeological collection that provides an excellent background for a visit to Ireland. Bronze Age gold jewelry dug up during turf cutting, Viking swords and medieval farming tools are all on display in this handsomely decorated Palladian structure that dates back to 1890. The stars of the show, however, are the “bog people” — preserved corpses of men who were killed (presumably sacrificed) and tossed into peat bogs during the Iron Age. The preservative qualities of the bogs ensured that the bodies are in remarkable condition — one still has nearly a full head of curly hair.

2. ­ Craft on Draft | 5:30 p.m.

The craft beer scene has exploded in the last few years, with bottles of Irish-made lagers, ales, stouts and ciders now standard issue at almost every city watering hole. For one of the biggest selections of craft brews, head to Against the Grain, an unpretentious pub on Wexford Street with hundreds of offerings, including Irish-made bottles from O’Hara’s, Eight Degrees Brewing and Mac Ivors. The pub is owned by the Galway Bay Brewery, which produces its own range of delectable drafts.

3. ­ French-Irish Cuisine | 8 p.m.

The Green Hen, a much-lauded restaurant on buzzy Exchequer Street, has won many admirers with its combination of French atmosphere and Franco-Irish cuisine made with locally sourced ingredients. Try the pan-fried duck breast, which comes with a purée of parsnips and a celeriac mash, and be sure to order a side of bread, a moist, dark version of classic Irish wheaten bread, made with Guinness and black treacle. Dinner for two, about 80 euros, or about $100, at $1.21 to the euro.

4. ­Late-Night Tipple | 10:30 p.m.

Down the street from the Green Hen is Fallon & Byrne, a hybrid food hall, deli, restaurant and wine shop, housed in a former ­telephone exchange, that specializes in high-quality produce and artisanal food. The basement houses the wine cellar, a chic and convivial space where you can pull bottles off the shelves lining the walls and enjoy them at the communal tables scattered around the cozy room, along with a menu of bar snacks like cheese, crostini and oysters.

Saturday

5. Medieval Cathedral | 10:30 a.m.

Much of Ireland’s history can be read in Christ Church Cathedral, which dates back to circa 1030. William of Orange came here to give thanks after he ensured the Protestant ascendancy at the Battle of the Boyne; it houses Strongbow’s tomb; and parts of the television series “The Tudors” were filmed inside (admission, 6 euros). The medieval crypt is full of treasures, including a mummified cat and rat discovered stuck in an organ pipe (so iconic they rate a mention in James Joyce’s “Finnegans Wake”). The belfry tour (4 euros; 11:30 a.m. and 1:15 p.m.) provides a beautiful view from the top and an up-close look at the flying buttresses, as well as the chance to try bell-ringing. If you want to go even farther back in time, get the combination ticket (13.25 euros) that includes the Dublinia museum, the Viking “experience” connected to Christ Church by bridge, where hokey but entertaining exhibits impart an extraordinary amount of information about Dublin’s beginnings as a Viking settlement.

Christchurch

6. Bikes by the Bridges | 1:30 p.m.

Dublin got a bike share program in 2009, and its enormous popularity (it’s now one of the most successful such programs in Europe) has led to the creation of a number of city center bike lanes and a cycling-friendly culture. Grab a bike from one of the many stations (locations at dublinbikes.ie; 5 euros for a three-day ticket after which every ride of 30 minutes or less is free) and cycle down the banks of the Liffey River, which slices through the city. Stop at one of Dublin’s famed bridges, each of which tells a story: the Ha’penny (the city’s first pedestrian bridge; payment to cross was once a halfpenny), the O’Connell (a part of Dublin life since 1794, said to be unique in Europe for being wider than it is long), and the newest, the Rosie Hackett (named for a trade union activist involved in the 1913 Lockout and the 1916 Easter Rising, and the first to be named after a woman since 1792).

7. Go for a Guinness | 3 p.m. ­

Craft beer may be the new thing, but a pint of “the black stuff” is still required drinking on any trip to Dublin. The enormous Guinness Storehouse museum (admission, 18 euros), set amid the cobbled streets and imposing buildings of the St. James’s Gate brewery, explains how the stout is made and gives the history of the company, along with a selection of the familiar “Guinness is good for you” advertisements. The best part of visiting the storehouse comes near the end, when an employee supervises visitors in pulling a proper pint of Guinness (it’s a strictly adhered-to method involving holding the glass at the correct 45-degree angle and waiting 119.5 seconds before topping it off). Take it up to the top floor Gravity Bar, where the 360-degree view of Dublin is worth lingering over.

8. Restaurant Renaissance | 7 p.m. ­

Forest Avenue is a new addition to Dublin’s booming culinary scene, and it might just have the most exciting food in the city. The owners, John and Sandy Wyer, opened this small, airy spot in November 2013, and it’s been getting rave reviews for its tasting menus. Dishes like a salad of Annagassan crab with smoked salmon and chilled zucchini, and beef carpaccio with smoked oyster mayonnaise, pickles and horseradish quietly impress with their flavor and innovation. Changes appear on the menu weekly, but with food at this high a standard, that’s just more reason to return. Dinner for two, about 120 euros.

9. Beyond ‘Trad’ Music | 9 p.m. ­

Live music is in Dublin’s blood, but just about the only Irish accents you’d hear in a city center pub advertising traditional music are either on the stage or behind the bar. Leave the renditions of “The Fields of Athenry” for the countryside and head instead to the Sugar Club, a central venue with an eclectic calendar of live music and a fun-loving vibe. Anything from indie-folk to soul to country music to hip-hop can be found most nights of the week, along with the occasional high-energy comedy, burlesque or cabaret night.

Sunday

10. ­Go North | 11 a.m.

The “north side” of Dublin (meaning north of the Liffey) has traditionally been more working class than the upscale south side. A stroll around offers glimpses into lives that haven’t changed much in half a century, from the hawkers selling fruit from baby carriages to the elderly ladies pulling their wheeled shopping bags behind them. Begin with a coffee and homemade pastry at Brother Hubbard, a bright and welcoming cafe on Capel Street then stroll down Henry Street, the north side’s main shopping precinct. At O’Connell Street, check out the towering silver Spire of Dublin, built for the millennium and nicknamed, in classic Dublin fashion, “the stiletto in the ghetto.” It’s just up the street from the General Post Office, an earlier incarnation of which was occupied by rebellion leaders during the 1916 Easter Rising. Whether the holes in its pillars are bullet holes from that historic conflict has been long debated, but even the suggestion is enough to stimulate the imagination.

11. ­Gaelic Games | 3:30 p.m.

There are a few “Gaelic games” unique to Ireland, and two of them are played at Croke Park, Dublin’s 82,300-capacity stadium. Gaelic football, which has the highest attendance of any sport in Ireland, is played with a ball similar to a soccer ball that can be picked up as well as kicked, while hurling, possibly the fastest field sport in the world, uses wooden sticks called hurleys and a small leather ball that can reach speeds of 100 miles per hour. The atmosphere at a Sunday afternoon match — matches are played March through September; admission 10 to 15 euros (standing and seated) — spent cheering on teams from all over Ireland in the company of their passionate fans, is unbeatable.

LODGING

The Marker (Grand Canal Square, Docklands) is Dublin’s hottest new hotel, drawing trendsetters to its rooftop bar and tourists to its comfy, colorful, modern rooms. It’s part of the Daniel Libeskind-designed Grand Canal Square in Dublin’s new tech hub.

The Marker Rooftop

Dating back to 1824, the Shelbourne (27 St. Stephen’s Green) is an elegant historic hotel overlooking St. Stephen’s Green. Its Horseshoe Bar is a Dublin landmark; anyone who’s ever been anyone in Ireland has stopped here for a drink.

 

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Top ten sites in Ireland where history comes alive

In Ireland, history is everywhere. But in some places, there is an especially strong connection with the past. Here are IrishCentral’s choices for the top ten historical sites in Ireland.

1. Newgrange, County Meath

At Newgrange, County Meath, the wall of the passage tomb decorated with a Celtic spiral.
Dating back to 3200 B.C the passage tomb at Newgrange is older than the pyramids in Egypt and is officially a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Newgrange is a large passage mound, spread over an acre and surrounded by 97 uniquely carved kerbstones. The cremated remains of the dead were buried in large stone basins under the mound in a chamber accessable by a narrow passage.

At dawn on December 21, the shortest day of the year, sunlight shines directly into the central chamber of the tomb. It is believed that this was an ancient way of measuring the passage of time, like a calendar for the ancient farmers, or that the light has some religious significance for those in the afterlife.

Newgrange is part of the Bru na Boinne complex, which includes similar tombs at Knowth and Dowth.

Newgrange
2. Hill of Tara, County Meath

The Hill of Tara is also located near the River Boyne in Meath. It is an archaeological complex that runs between Navan and Dunshaughlin and contains a number of ancient monuments. According to tradition it was the seat of the High King of Ireland (Árd Rí na hÉireann).

The oldest archaeological site at Tara is the Mound of Hostages, which dates back to 2500 B.C.

The hill itself is 500 feet high and has some of the most panoramic views of the plains of Meath.

3. Rock of Cashel, County Tipperary

The Rock of Cashel is not a rock at all – a common misconception among tourists reading the name off the map.

This Rock of Cashel was a fortress in the 4th century. The medieval structure has four edifices, including the Connac’s Chapel, the round tower, the cathedral, and the Hall of the Vicars Choral.

It was the traditional seat of the Kings of Munster for several hundred years before the Norman invasion. Very little of the original structure survives. Most of what remains dates from the 12th and 13th centuries.

Rock of Cashel
4. Ceide Fields, County Mayo

The Ceide Fields are a Neolithic landscape dating back to 5000 B.C. They are the oldest known field systems in the world. Their name, “Ceide Fields,” literally means “fields of the flat-topped hill.”

The rocks delineating the field system were originally discovered by a school teacher cutting turf in the bog in the 1930s. It took over 40 years to unravel the true significance of the fields. Fields, houses and tombs had been concealed under the bog for thousands of years.

5. Clonmacnoise, County Offaly

Clonmacnoise is one of Ireland’s most important monasteries and is located on the banks of the River Shannon. It was founded in 545 by Ciaran of Clonmacnoise. Until the 9th century it had very strong ties with the Kings of Connacht.

Its strategic location also helped it to be become a center of religion, learning, craftsmanship and trade. Together with Clonard, it is one of the most famous monastic sites in Ireland and continues to be visited by scholars from all over Europe.

6. Jerpoint Abbey, County Kilkenny

Jerpoint Abbey is a well-known Cistercian abbey, founded in the 12th century. Its most famous asset is its sculptured cloister arcade with unique carvings.

It was constructed in 1180 by Donogh O’Donoghoe, the King of Osraige, and is dedicated to the Blessed Virgin. The monastery thrived until the Dissolution of the Monasteries by Henry VIII.

7. Blarney Stone and Blarney Castle, County Cork

Six miles northwest of County Cork, Blarney Castle and the Blarney stone date back to 1446. The castle was a medieval stronghold on the River Martin. Although earlier fortifications were built on the same spot, what is left standing today dates back to the MacCarthy dynasty, King of Desmond.

The castle and the stone are among the most popular tourist attractions in Ireland. Legend has it that if you kiss the Blarney stone you will have the “‘gift of the gab,” meaning “clever, flattering or coaxing talk.”

8. Kilkenny Castle, Kilkenny City

Kilkenny Castle is certainly one of Ireland’s most impressive fortresses. The castle dates back to 1191 and stands with three tall towers.

The original castle was built by William Marshal, the 1st Earl of Pembroke, to control the crossing point on the River Nore. Some of the stone has been replaced.

The castle is now run by the Office of Public Works and sits in the midst of beautiful parkland.

9. Leap Castle, County Offaly

Not only is Leap Castle an extremely historically important castle, it is also said to be one of the most haunted locations in Ireland. This castle has been the scene of some truly appalling acts.

It was built in the 15th century by the O’Bannon family and was originally called “Leap of the O’Bannons.” In 1513 the Earl of Kildare Gerald FitzGerald attempted to seized the castle and three years later attacked again. In 1557 the O’Carrolls had possession.

Within the O’Carroll family, there was great rivalry which culminated in murders and killings in the chapel. This is just a brief chapter of the castle’s sordid history. Later. when the castle was being studied, a dungeon where people had been left to die was discovered.

10. Skellig Michael, County Kerry

Skelling Michael (which literally means Michael’s rock) is a steep and rocky island in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Kerry. It was founded in the 7th century and for 600 years it was the center of monastic life for Irish Christian monks.

In 1996 it was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Reached only by boat, Skellig Michael is one of Europe’s most famous but least accessible monasteries. As a site it is very well preserved, and the Spartan conditions inside the monastery illustrate the ascetic lives of those who built it and were devout there. The monks lived in “beehive” huts perched over the dangerous cliffs.

Skellig Michael

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