The coastal roads provide an ever-changing landscape around the Iveragh Peninsula, with snapshots of the famous offshore islands popping in and out of view around every corner.
3. The Cliffs of Moher
The most famous and breathtaking parts of Ireland’s craggy west coastline are the Cliffs of Moher, which feature some of the most breathtaking views on the entire island.
The Cliffs stretch for almost 5 miles and rise up to 702 feet over the waters of the Atlantic ocean. The amazing view from the Cliffs includes the Aran Islands,Galway Bay, The Twelve Pins and the Maum Turk Mountains. The landscape and seascape of the Cliffs of Moher have, for centuries, welcomed a multitude of visitors; close to 1 million people per year now travel to this iconic location.
But don’t get the wrong impression – just because many people flock to the site, this in no way spoils the experience of being there; it’s easy to forget your surroundings and lose yourself in nature as you stand near the edge of the majestic Cliffs.
4. Giant’s Causeway
The Giant's Causeway, a coastal area of about 40,000 basalt columns near the town of Bushmills in County Antrim, is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Northern Ireland.
Folklore tells us that an Irish giant named Finn MacCool once lived in the area, and from across the sea he could see a Scottish giant, Benandonner, his rival, whom he had never met.
Finn challenged Benandonner to come to Ireland to fight. Because no boat was big enough to carry the giant, Finn built a causeway of stones in the water so that Benandonner would be able to make it across.
When Finn realized the Scottish giant was far bigger than he had expected, he fled to the hills where his wife disguised him as a baby. This move foxed Bennadonner because he thought that if the child was that big, the father would be even bigger. Benandonner fled back to the Scotland, ripping up the causeway behind him, so that Finn wouldn’t be able to follow him.
In truth, Giant’s Causeway was created by a volcanic eruption 60 million years ago – an interesting fact, but the Finn MacCool myth is a bit more fun to believe.
No matter how it came to be, the Causeway is one of the best places to walk through in the North.
5. Aran Islands
A trip to Galway would be incomplete without a visit to the Aran Islands, the collective name for the small islands, Inishmór, Inishmaan and Inisheer. The mystical, frozen-in-time islands are famous for their preservation of a rural existence largely unchanged, at least culturally, over the centuries. There may be some electricity there these days, but the ways of the past are carefully preserved among locals who make their living much the same way their ancestors did.
The residents of the islands are happy to accommodate guests, whether by raising a pint in friendship or unraveling the folklore of the enchanted isles.
Elizabeth Zellinger, a Swiss citizen, moved to Inishmór, the largest island of the three, in 1974 and grew to love it so much that in 1996 she founded Celtic Spirit (www.irish-culture.ch), an organization that runs cultural vacation experiences on the island every summer. Groups of eight to 14 people shuttle back and forth to classes and workshops held at the Creig-an-Chéirín Centerin Inishmór, overlooking the sea and the mountains of Connemara. The program is a great way to explore and learn about this fascinating island group.
If you’d rather explore Inishmór on your own, rent a bike and make a loop around the entire island. On your one-day cycling tour, you’ll encounter ancient ruins, lots of livestock and even miniature houses for leprechauns (or is it for the tourists?).
6. Guinness Storehouse
A trip to Dublin's most popular tourist attraction is pretty much compulsory for any self-respecting tourist in Ireland's capital. Or, at the very least, it should be.
The Guinness Storehouse tells the story of how Guinness is made and how this famous drink came to be one of Ireland's best-known exports.
It is in an awesome building: its core is in the shape of a giant pint glass, and consists of seven floors. After walking around for about 45 minutes and being constantly told how wonderful Guinness is, pretty soon, the subliminal messages start to kick in.
Before you know it, you find yourself craving a pint of the black, delicious stuff, like your life depended on it, even if you were previously not a fan. (It is, after all, an acquired taste.)
The top floor, which has the Gravity Bar, is the most fun. There you get a complimentary pint of Guinness. You also get the most spectacular view of Dublin, which is worth the admission price alone.
7. Trinity College Dublin
Trinity College is Ireland's most prestigious college- and although its rivals atUniversity College Dublin might dispute this, it's probably the best university in Ireland.