EVERY PLACE HAS its draws — usually specific attractions like the Grand Canyon, Stonehenge, or big cities like London or New York are what bring in visitors. A patchwork of notable spots makes up the place’s appeal, and everything in between tends to get skipped over.
And yet Ireland’s allure is…
1. The Dark Hedges, County Antrim
If this sounds like something out of Game of Thrones to you, you’re not wrong. The magnificent
The best photos are generally taken from the south end, and know that you’re only about half an hour from the Giant’s Causeway, so it’s an easy stop.
2. Glendalough, County Wicklow
The name translates as “Valley of Two Lakes,” which gives you a big hint about where you’ll find this spot.
If you’re interested because of reason one, know that the valley sits in the Wicklow Mountains National Park. There are nine color-coded hiking trails around the lakes (their starting points surround the information office by the Upper Lough), and the Wicklow Way — a long-distance walking trail — passes through this area. Rock climbing and bird watching are popular here as well. As for reason two, St. Kevin founded an ancient monastic city here, and its remains can be seen today. The Round Tower, standing at 100 feet tall, is arguably the most impressive structure, though the Gateway is also worth your attention.
3. The Rock of Cashel, County Tipperary
Ireland may not be overflowing with aurulent palaces, but that just makes its noble history all the more tangible and real.
It’s worth the €8.00 (about $9.50) to explore the inside — you’ll see one of the best collections of medieval architecture and Celtic art in the world — but definitely wander the grounds (sheep!) for a shot of this towering behemoth lording over the hillside.
4. The Burren and Cliffs of Moher, County Clare
Ireland’s been covered by ice many times over the eons, and the scars left behind are the best showcase of Mother Nature’s powerful, artistic influence. Many of those effects — limestone eroded into towers and caves, boulders strewn all over the place — are on full display in
And not too far away you have one of the most beautiful — and most popular — spots in Ireland. The
5. Carrick-a-Rede Bridge, County Antrim
You’re seeing this, too, right? This
Crossing the bridge is £7 for adults (a little over $9), and hours vary by season. The views, however, don’t vary — they’re always incredible.
6. Cobh Harbour, County Cork
Not all Ireland’s best views come in shades of green, as proven by the rainbow houses of Cobh. But it’s more than just pretty scenery here — it’s history, too. The Titanic paid a visit just over a hundred years ago (Cobh was the ship’s
If history is your thing, know that Cobh hasn’t changed much since 1912 — the streetscape and the piers remain virtually the same, and the spire of St. Colman’s Cathedral, reigning over the hills stretching out to the ocean, is the icing on the cake.
7. Croagh Patrick, County Mayo
If you truly want to honor St. Patrick, make the pilgrimage to
To do the trek yourself, head to the village of Murrisk, roughly five miles outside the town of Westport (you’ll find the information center there, too). Most hikers will need about about two hours to reach the 2,500-foot summit. When you get there, you’ll be rewarded with stunning views of Clew Bay, which is supposedly filled with 365 islands, one for every day of the year. Have fun counting!
8. Cave Hill, County Antrim
For the best views over Belfast, you’ll need to make the 4.5-mile trek up to the top of
On your way (which will be unpaved and challenging at times), you’ll run across three caves — rumored to be man-made — but the real draw is the summit. An hour and a half later, you’ll be stepping foot on the grounds of McArt’s Fort, looking out over the entire city, and gazing as far as the Isle of Man.
9. Aran Islands, County Galway
Three islands — Inishmore, Inishmaan, and Inisheer — off the west coast of Ireland make up the
For starters, the islands’ inhabitants, while definitely fluent in English, speak mostly Irish. But beyond the strong local culture, there’s a number of Bronze and Iron Age forts that date back to the 1300s. These are some of the oldest archaeological remains around, and considering they’re sitting on some pretty epic coastline, they’re likely only going to become more and more popular. To visit, ferries run year-round, with the most common time to jaunt over from the mainland being summer.
10. Howth, County Dublin
Would you believe it if we said this is a suburb of Dublin? Yep. If only all suburbs looked like this.
11. The Gobbins, County Antrim
The most dramatic walk in all of Europe? Possibly. This
Put this one on your calendar for spring of 2018, as the walk is closed until then. You’ll also need to book a tour for the roughly two-mile, two-hour experience. Bring sturdy footwear for the steep ascents, keep an eye out for puffins, and, of course, don’t forget your camera. Whatever you sneak a peek of here, it’s sure to be incredible.