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Ireland, the westernmost country in Europe is deservedly called the Emerald Isle due to the green of its endless pastures and gentle hills. It’s a land of mystique legends and ancient old traditions that the Celts called home and the Vikings raided. Above all, it’s a country of immense beauty and amazing people worth to be traveled and explored.
Lush fields, pristine national parks, century-old settlements, and castles; I could write a whole book about them, and it still wouldn’t be enough to cover all the beauty of this country. That’s why this is just a teaser; a brief glimpse into the Emerald island and a handful of its most sublime places.
Amazing Places in Ireland
The old town of Killarney has been a tourism destination since the mid-18th century when Thomas Browne — the 4th Viscount Kenmare, had the vision to attract visitors to his hometown and help it flourish. St. Mary’s Cathedral, the Ross castle, Muckross abbey, and Killarney’s lakes are just a few of the area’s treasures worth a visit. Make sure you get to ride Killarney’s famous jaunting cars for a tour to the Gap of Dunloe — a scenic mountain pass through the Black Valley leading to Kate Kearney’s cottage.
Cliffs of Moher
This geological wonder might be one of the most crowded sites in Ireland but is definitely worth a visit. The Cliffs of Moher are a wild seascape on Ireland’s Atlantic coast in County Clare. It’s a thrilling walk right on the edge of sheer cliffs that end 200m below, into the ocean. The views are astonishing, and the many times gloomy weather just adds to the whole experience making the place look even more mythical. If you’re lucky, you may catch a glorious sunset too. Don’t forget to bring your camera.
Great Blasket Island
A couple of kilometers from Dingle peninsula, across Blasket sound, lies the beautiful and mysterious Great Blasket Island. It once was inhabited by a thriving community of fishermen and shepherds and is the birthplace of three prominent Irish folk storytellers: Peg Sawyers, Maurice O’Sullivan, and Thomas O’Crohan. The islanders abandoned the Great Blasket back in 1953, leaving it deserted except for a single guest house and the occasional travelers. If you set your foot on it, you’ll find yourself wandering in a forgotten world. The island’s old abandoned village is like a ghost, a remnant of the people that once existed there and their way of life. It’s one of Ireland’s most genuine corners and a great place for bird and whale watching.
The highest peak in Ireland has a special place in the heart of locals and presents a great opportunity for travelers to get on the top of Ireland since it’s only 1039 meters high. That said, it’s still a summit with enough altitude gain to put people without basic fitness in a tight corner. The easiest route to Carrauntoohil starts from Cronin’s yard and follows the trail to Gouragh and Callee lakes. From there you have to climb the notorious Devil’s ladder, an impressive gully that will take you to a ridge below the summit. Then, it’s just a matter of time and effort. It surely is tiring, but the spectacular sceneries along the way and, weather permitting, the glorious views from the summit will more than make up for it.
Just south of Dublin in Wicklow mountains, lies Glendalough, a picturesque valley with two gorgeous tarns named Upper and Lower lake. At the bottom of the valley, the ruins of St. Kevin’s monastic settlement have become almost inseparable with the nearby forest and the wild vegetation of Wicklow national park. A magnificent place near the capital, ideal for a long walk and to relish the Irish nature while exploring its fascinating history. It’s the perfect single-day trip.
The Great Skelig is an impressive island dominated by two soaring pinnacles that protrude 185m and 218m over the Atlantic Ocean. Near the top of the lowest formation, the monastery of St. Fionan with the beehive stone structures and the breathtaking views is one of the most beautiful sites in Ireland. The island’s popularity was immensely boosted after being featured in Star Wars episodes VII and VIII. The landscapes of Skelig Michael are unbelievable, with impressive rock formations scattered all around, and winding stone pathways leading to the peak. It’s a once in a lifetime experience that you will only live if you book your boat ticket months in advance since the demand is outrageous.
Peaceful and not overly touristic, Kinsale is a small fishing town south of Cork that may not have the wow factor of other places in Ireland, but definitely has the heart and soul. Built on the north bank of River Bandon next to the Atlantic, Kinsale is a charming little town known for the amazing seafood and the formidable Charles fort right next to it. It’s the perfect place to unwind, taste genuine Irish cuisine, and get to know the real side of the country. If you ever go there, don’t forget to taste fish and chips from the Catch of the Day food truck, next to the Bridge of Kinsale.
Millions of years ago, a strange and fascinating geological phenomenon created this amazing site in Northern Ireland, known as the Giant’s Causeway. Thousands of basalt columns, most of them hexagonal, protrude from the earth interlocked together with their tops forming thousands of steps and creating what have could have been the scenery of a science fiction movie. They are formed from basalt which melted due to volcanic activity and then cooled down, creating deep polygonal fractures from contraction. Or, if you prefer the local lore, it was created by a giant named Finn McCool who was looking for a way to go to Scotland without getting his feet wet. UNESCO has included the Giant’s Causeway into the list of world heritage sites.
A few kilometers outside the city of Cork, surrounded by a lush forest next to river Martin, lies the Blarney castle — a stronghold originating from the 13th century. This castle is famous across Ireland for the Blarney stone. Blarney in English is the trait of cunningly deceiving someone without insulting them, and according to the legend, if you kiss the Stone of Blarney you will be gifted with this great attribute.
The castle’s gardens and woodland walks occupy 60 acres and are an attraction all by themselves. You will have the chance to see rare pines, fragrant roses, exotic plants, squirrels, swans, and jays. There is even a poison garden of great interest with potentially lethal plants like Wolf’s bane and ricin. The lake of Blarney is a beautiful place to sit and if you’re lucky you might catch a glimpse of the otter family that live in its water.
Why you Should Definitely Visit Ireland.
The only misfortune with Ireland is that you can never see everything in a single visit. On the other hand, that’s a great excuse to visit the country again. And most of the people I’ve met, who’ve visited Ireland, want to go back. They are forever spellbound by the charms and beauty of this seducing country which shines like an emerald on the gusted waters of the deep blue Atlantic Ocean.
About the Author: Chrisostomos Kamberis
A travel writer by profession and an adventurer at heart, Chris loves hiking long trails and climbing mountains as much as exploring metropolises and tasting street food in some of the most obscure places in the world.