As the year draws to a close and we look back at the range of fantastic trips that have taken place this year, we take a moment to consider a few of the special features Ireland has to offer. Known as the Emerald Isle we have taken inspiration from all over the country in listing twelve locations you may have forgotten or may like to visit in 2017.
Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, County Antrim
Are you brave enough to cross the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge? With beautiful views and lots of natural beauty, this is not only a pictureqsue spot but also an exhilarating rope bridge experience. Traditionally the bridge was erected by fishermen to check their salmon nets however today it is visitors who are drawn here simply to take the rope bridge challenge!
Once you cross the bridge and reach Carrick Island, you will be rewarded with seeing the diverse birdlife and an uninterrupted view across to Rathlin Island and Scotland – a fantastic spot on a clear day. Remember there is only one way off the island – back across the swinging bridge! Don’t look down!
Inis Bo Finne (Island of the White Cow) measuring 5.7km by 4km, lies seven miles off Galway’s coast. A hub for farming and fishing, the island is also a popular choice amongst visitors to Ireland.
Take in the spectacular views from the wild Atlantic scenery Inishbofin has to offer, an island which was inhabited as far back as 8000–4000 B.C. Sail around the tower into the harbour where you will notice Cromwell’s 16th Century Barracks. It was used as a prison for catholic priests from all over the country after the English Statute of 1585 declared them guilty of high treason.
Hop to Dalkey Island, an island inhabited by a large number of rabbits! Making sure they are not alone on the island is a herd of goats, usually about twenty to thirty at one time.
For those interested in birdwatching, the island is home to some of the most endangered sea birds in Europe. The Roseate Tern is the rarest of terns breeding in Ireland, and is of special conservation importance to Birdwatch Ireland who initiated a breeding programme to develop a colony on Dalkey Island. Only one other colony exists in Ireland.
Boat trips to Dalkey Island run throughout the year, and if you are lucky, you may also view the local seals at play on your trip. Oh, and you can also paddle your own kayak there and back if you’d prefer!
The Conor Pass
The Conor Pass is the highest mountain pass in Ireland, and is the most scenic way of entering the town of Dingle.
The views from the road are breathtaking, as the glaciated landscape of mountains and corrie lakes comes into view. On a clear day from the summit of the Conor Pass there there are views as far as the Aran Islands off County Galway.
In the west of County Cork lies Dursey Island.This peaceful island connected to the mainland by Ireland’s only cable car, has only a handful of semi-permanent residents.
The Dursey Island cable car remains, to this day, the most used means of transport across the turbulent waters of the Dursey Sound. As Ireland’s only cable car that traverses open seawater in all of Europe it is one of the great attractions of the island. Dolphins and whales are regular visitors to the rich waters that surround Dursey, in addition to a wide range of different types of seabirds and butterflies.
Step back in time and take a stroll on the Giants Causeway. As one of Northern Ireland’s most famous landmarks the Giant’s Causeway has been an official Unesco World Heritage Site since 1986.
Formed between 50 and 60 million years ago, the ’causeway’ takes its name from the legends of Finn MacCool and draws people from far and wide to this corner of north Antrim. If you are planning a trip to Ireland this is a must see!
Fans of the iconic Star Wars films can combine a look behind the movie magic with a dose of history at one of Ireland’s most important early Christian sites, the idyllic and magical Skelligs Islands.
Featured in the latest instalment of the franchise, The Force Awakens, it’s no surprise that filmmakers chose to set part of the film on this secluded UNESCO world heritage sites; as Irish poet GB Shaw noted in 1910, it’s an “incredible, impossible, mad place” that’s “part of our dream world.”
The Skelligs actually comprises two remote sea crags whose rich history dates back to the sixth century, when a group of early Christian monks settled on Skellig Michael. Amazingly, the well-preserved hermitage and monastic remains can still be found on the island, despite the monks leaving in the 13th century.
Take a stroll in the gardens which began as an earl’s lawn and still has many of the original landscape features in place or which have been restored.
Centrally located in Dublin City Centre, the Iveagh Gardens have a history dating back over three hundred years. Features such as the yew maze, the rosarium, and the fountains make for a refreshing stroll away from the hustle and bustle of Dublin City Center. Iveagh Gardens are popularly known as Dublin’s ‘Secret Garden’ and it is obvious to see why this is such a hidden gem in the city.
The Passage Grave of Newgrange is one of the most historically significant locations in not just Ireland, but in Europe. The Passage Tomb is only rivalled in importance by Stonehenge in Europe.
What makes Newgrange particularly special is that on the winter solstice annually, a beam of sunlight travels the length of the tomb and illuminates the floor. Newgrange is a designated World Heritage Site by UNESCO and attracts in the region of 200,000 visitors annually.
Torc Waterfall, Killarney National Park
There are some benefits of heavy rain in Ireland and like all waterfalls,Torc Waterfall is best seen after heavy rainfall.
Situated a short walk through some scenic woodland of Killarney National Park, the Torc Waterfall is a spectacular attraction for visitors to Ireland. If you are feeling energetic and want a good viewing point for the lakes then push yourself a little further and climb the 100 or so steps. The magnificent sight of the lakes is a popular choice with tourists to Killarney.
One of the most rewarding things to do in Ireland is to climb any of our tallest peaks. One such mountain, Croagh Patrick, allows for spectacular views over Clew Bay in County Mayo and out over Clare Island.
A popular choice for those looking for a real challenge, the mountain is covered by loose shale and rocks making it a difficult yet rewarding hike. Annually, on the last Sunday in July thousands of pilgrims, many barefoot, venture to hear mass at it’s summit in honour of St.Patrick.
Rock of Dunamase, County Laois
This ruined fortress on a rocky outcrop in County Laois is a must see for any Game of Thrones fans.
It was here that Diarmuid MacMurrough, King of Leinster, brought the wife of the rival King of Breifne, after kidnapping her, an event that precipitated the Anglo-Norman invasion of Ireland. On a clear day you can see the Timahoe round tower to the south, the Wicklow mountains to the east and the Slieve Bloom mountains to the west, but even when the sky is not as clear, the views are magnificent.
This snapshot is only a tiny taster of the vast range of places to experience around Ireland providing an insight into the history and culture of Ireland as well as access to unusual activities along the way. With Christmas approaching, it is time to begin planning for a new year so deciding which of our twelve gems of Christmas you plan to visit in 2017 is a good place to start!