1. Cliffs of Moher, County Clare
Eat your heart out Great Ocean Road, because the Cliffs of Moher are where it’s at. Towering 700 ft above the Atlantic ocean, these craggy cliffs stretch for miles and provide ample opportunity for wildlife spotting and coastal walks. Come rain or shine (or snow or hail or fog), it makes for a breathtaking view. And if you happen to venture out in inclement weather, the cliffs will be all the more dramatic framed by stormy skies.
2. The Giants Causeway, County Antrim
Easily one of Northern Ireland’s most famous attractions, the surreal rock formations of the Giant’s Causeway have to be seen to be believed. It’s the crowning jewel of an already scenic Antrim coastline, with spookily symmetrical stones rising from the sea. Legend has it that these ancient basalt columns were the work of Irish giant Finn MacCool – he built the causeway to reach Scotland, intent on battling rival giant Benandonner. Whether the spectacular remnants of volcanic activity or a mythical marvel, we’ll leave it to you to decide!
3. Ring of Kerry, County Kerry
Hit the road in County Kerry and I promise, it’s a place where you probably won’t mind driving round in circles. Winding past unspoilt beaches, rolling hills, roaring waterfalls and ruins so old it’s nearly impossible to comprehend – Staigue stone fort was built in the late Iron Age – this circular trail is exemplary of all that is captivating about Ireland.
4. Malin Head, County Donegal
Malin Head is home to rugged coastlines, amazing rock formations and some of the most impressive sand dunes in Europe. Driving along the circuit will take you to the northern most tip of Ireland, marked by the somewhat derelict former Napoleonic tower Banba’s Crown. On a clear day you can see all the way to the Scottish Hills. Scramble along the cliffs to Hell’s Hole, a yawning chasm of 75 metres where you can witness the roar of the oncoming tide.
5. Newgrange, County Meath
Newgrange is the most well-known of the Brú na Bóinne mounds, an ancient passage tomb made up of megalithic structures and a façade of striking white quartz stones. Over 5,000 years old, the chambers are older than Stonehenge and have been plundered throughout the ages – by Vikings all the way to the Victorians.
6. The Burren, County Clare
An otherworldly, barren plateau situated in northwestern Ireland, the Burren has a sort of primordial allure for travellers. Its name is derived from an Irish word meaning "stony place" and aptly so, given its jigsaw formation of ruts, fissures and rocks.
7. Coral Beach, County Galway
Whitehaven who? Otherwise known as Trá an Dóilin, this Irish beach has done away with the seaside ideal of pristine silica sand. Instead, it’s composed of extremely fine coral and strewn with seashells – every beachcomber’s delight.
8. Aran Islands, County Galway
If you want to get a real feel for Irish history, the windswept Aran Islands – Inishmore, Inishmaan and Inisheer- are the places to do it. Traces of ancient Gaelic culture still remain, complemented by the prehistoric sites of grand stone forts found scattered across the islands. With a similar geology to the Burren, the limestone pavement makes for a haunting landscape, evoking a beauty both bleak and timeless.
9. Dunluce Castle, County Antrim
Originally built in 1500, this medieval castle by the sea is a true blend of mysticism and majesty. Richly steeped in history (and legend), one of its myths tells of how, on a wild and stormy night, the kitchen sector fell into the ocean and took seven cooks along with it. Enchanting even as it stands in ruins, Dunluce Castle is cited as the source of inspiration for Cair Paravel, the castle in C. S. Lewis’s Narnia book series.
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Whilst we were at it, we thought you could do with watching our handy 24 guide to Dublin where we uncover the hidden gems of the city for you.