Rugged and Rough Ireland’s West Coast beckons
Don't have weeks to explore Ireland? Here’s an alternative.
In a whistle-stop tour of Ireland’s west coast, certain key landmarks stand out as particularly worth a visit.
Kerry is a simply breathtaking county. The mountainous landscapes, exquisitely carved out during the last Ice Age, rival even Norway's beautiful vistas, but the county is best known -- at least among tourists -- for its picturesque towns, such as Killarney, Kenmare and Tralee.
Perhaps the surprise highlight of a trip to Kerry would be a voyage out to Skellig Michael, an ancient monastic settlement built on a rock that protrudes out into the Atlantic Ocean and, despite safety concerns, is a UNESCO heritage site that could rival even the best.
Climbing the winding staircase and being rewarded with a stunning vista over the Atlantic -- where the next landmass is America -- it would be hard not to have some thoughts about how we live today (“how selfish we’ve become in life,” mused one visitor on travel website tripadvisor.co.uk, presumably moved by the site’s relative scarcity in comparison to our lavish lifestyles).
Within Killarney, there’s enough to do to occupy yourself for an entire holiday, and it’s a place where any visitor to the West of Ireland simply has to stop by. Within Killarney, Muckross House and Gardens, a formidable Victorian mansion, warrants a mention as a must-see and as one of the country’s leading stately homes.
For those with green fingers, or even green “eyes,” the Killarney National Park, a magnificent 24,000 acre expanse of lake and mountain, is certainly worth seeing. It’s a natural habitat for deer and the Meadow Pipit bird, as well as many other fascinating creatures.
The park is also host to the Killarney Lakes, which seem to have a magnetic attraction for visitors to the region. The lakes are beautiful and the site alone makes the journey worth it!
Within Kerry, there’s the chance to visit some of the country’s few remaining Gaeltachts, which are traditional Irish-speaking areas.
The Gaeltacht of Kerry is represented by six towns or villages -- Baile an Fheirtéaraigh (Ballyferriter), Baile na Sceilge (Ballinskelligs), Ceann Trá (Ventry), An Daingean (Dingle), Dún Chaoin (Dunquin) and An Fheothanach (Feothanach), and while one could find something unique to do in each of them, a trip to An Daingean (Dingle) is a particular favorite among tourists seeking a more traditional Ireland, which is becoming harder and harder to find among the increasingly westernized cities.