There are mainstays of any tourist guide to Ireland: Kilmainham Gaol, the Guinness Brewery, the Cliffs of Moher and Newgrange are permanent fixtures on such lists, and rightly so, given their historical significance, natural beauty and access to the black stuff.
While Ireland has a rich tapestry of tourist destinations, there are attractions that we feel don’t receive the attention that they deserve. We’ve put together a short list of some of Ireland’s quirkier destinations that you may wish to consider on your next trip across the Atlantic.
Cork Butter Museum
While a butter museum may not sound like a must-see tourist hotspot, the Cork Butter Museum actually tells a very important story about Ireland’s development. The museum’s website describes butter as ‘Ireland’s most important food export’, and as Cork’s butter market was the world’s largest, what better place could there be to learn about something so vital to Ireland’s history? The Butter Museum includes such highlights as a 1,000 year old keg of butter, a tour of butter making through the ages and a comprehensive collection of Irish butter labels.
Irish Sky Garden
Located near Skibbereen, West Cork, the Irish Sky Garden is the creation of artist James Turrell. It’s a massive conceptual garden built around a huge crater that contains a central plinth. Lie on the plinth and look upwards and you’ll see the sky framed perfectly by the rim of the crater. Just keep your mouth closed if it’s raining.
Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin
Visiting a cathedral is nothing unusual for a trip to Ireland. More often than not, they’re beautiful buildings steeped in history. Where Christ Church Cathedral in Dublin differs, however, is the bizarre contents of its medieval crypt. Open to the public, Christ Church’s crypts contain a mummified cat chasing a mummified rat (mentioned by James Joyce in Finnegan’s Wake) and the heart of Laurence O’Toole (patron saint of Dublin) amongst other oddities.
Indian Sculpture Park
Victoria’s Way in County Wicklow is home to ’33 black granite stone sculptures and three bronzes…ranging in size from 5ft 6ins to about 15ft’. The creation of a wealthy German with a love of the Far East is behind the Indian Sculpture Park, which contains a number of stunning pieces of art. Please note that the park closes during the winter, check the website for more details.
St. Michan’s Mummies
A return to the crypts for this attraction, this time at St Michan’s church in Dublin. Deep down beneath the church lie the mummified remains of some of Ireland’s most influential families of the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. Some of the remains lie in incredibly ornate coffins, and all are in remarkable condition due to the dry air beneath the church. If you’re going to visit one large collection of mummies while you’re in Ireland, make it this one.
* Originally published in 2014.