Every year, hundreds of thousands of Americans flock to Ireland in search of their heritage, a break away from the familiar, or simply the beauty that Ireland has to offer. Visitors explore well known tourist hotspots such as the Blarney Stone, the Cliffs of Moher, and Newgrange so how about we shake things up a little and talk about those destinations that are that little bit harder to find but definitely worth the trip.
You might need your wet gear while you take a stroll down the Irish roads less travelled on your way to the middle of nowhere but destination ‘middle of nowhere’ is often where the real beauty of Ireland can be seen, so lets take a walk.
1. Take a lighthouse tour of Ireland with professional photographer and author, John Eagle.
In a thrilling 8-day tour of the coastal lighthouses of Ireland, John will take you to rugged and remote scenic locations to view the buildings that have withstood the battering of the Atlantic for more than a hundred years.
The Southern Tour includes travelling across Inisheer Island by pony and trap, by boat to greet the puffins of Skellig Michael and walking over dizzying sea gorge foot bridge at Mizen Head. The Northern Tour will take you through the Connemara hills where John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara filmed ‘The Quiet Man’, to walk in Finn McCool’s footsteps on the Giant’s Causeway and even allow you to stay for 3 nights in Blackhead Lighthouse.
These lighthouse tours are a great way to discover the true Ireland that can often be hidden behind the more promoted places. What better way to get to know Ireland than to dive head first into the rugged beauty of the coastal regions in search of these fort-like buildings, each with a story of its own, that have silently stood the test of time and weather
2. Turn yourself into a glamorous camper by Glamping at Teapot Lane
It sounds like a place from a bedtime story but yes, there is a place called Teapot Lane, and it can be found in the north of County Leitrim in Ireland hidden in the midst of 5 acres of woodland.
The fairytale continues as Teapot Lane hosts a number of out of the ordinary accommodation choices which include glamping in a luxury yurt, a beautifully restored thatched cottage, a vintage caravan, a bell tent, and, wait for it … an actual tree house. The fact that Teapot lane is situated less than 5 miles from the border of Counties Donegal and Sligo certainly doesn’t hurt either as visitors have an abundance of beautiful scenery in every direction with 4 beaches only a couple of miles away.
For those of you who don’t know, Glamping is basically a glamorous form of camping and on Teapot Lane you don’t have to worry about those nightmare camping incidents where you’ve accidently brought your two-man tent to fit six adults because at Teapot Lane, one glamps in a yurt which is a hand crafted round tent, furnished with king size beds, scattered cushions and throws and, to top it all off, a wood burning stove.
Teapot Lane is anything but the run of the mill holiday location and is a great way to appreciate Ireland from among its natural environment.
3. Take a wobbly-kneed stroll across Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge
Some scenery is simply worth seeing your life flash before your eyes while crossing a shaky rope bridge over a 30m deep, 20m wide chasm. The spectacular views offered at Carrick-a-Rede is definitely one of these. Just 7 miles away from the Giant’s Causeway in Antrim, the bridge is an extremely worthwhile side-trip to take while on your way to the famous Causeway landmark.
If you’re a wildlife buff then you may enjoy the guillemots, razorbills, kittiwakes and fulmars that populate the rocky island and the occasional glimpse of Basking Sharks, Dolphins and Porpoises that can be seen.
Carrick-a-Rede does receive about 250,000 visitors a year so it’s stunning views are certainly no secret but be sure not to skip it on the way to the Giant’s Causeway as it will make your holiday experience even richer.
4. Step into myth and folklore: visit Queen Maeve’s alleged burial site
In Sligo, a massive cairn on top of Knocknarea mountain is said to be the resting place of Queen Maeve. The 55 by 10 metre neolithic passage tomb can be seen from many miles away and would indeed be a majestic place for the burial site of a royal figure. Though many other passage tombs are also scattered across Knocknarea, Maeve’s tomb is the largest and has never been excavated though it is commonly known as Queen Maeve’s Cairn. The trip to the top of the mountain is long but worth the effort for the vantage point if offers.
5. Climb the walls of an ancient fort for a breathtaking 360 degree uninhibited view
It is said that, on a clear day, you can see 5 counties of Ireland when standing atop the ancient stone fort of Grianán an Aileach (Fort of the Sun) in County Donegal. And indeed that is entirely believable as the Inishowen Peninsula appears to be laid out at your feet as you gaze out from the fort’s restored walls.
The fort can be traced back to 1700BC and is shrouded in myths concerning the Tuatha de Dannan people who invaded Ireland before the Celts. Dagda (The Good God) was said to have been responsible for the fort being built and it is even thought that St Patrick visited the site in the 5th century to baptise the local chieftain.