Whether you’ve visited Ireland just once or a hundred times, you’re sure to find something off the beaten track that the thousands of other visitors to the country may not come across.
The beauty of being a tourist in Ireland is that no matter how many times you visit there’s still something you’ve missed and this was summed up in the latest TripAdvisor list of the Top Ten Irish Landmarks for 2016.
As you might expect, Kilmainham Gaol, Blarney Castle and Trinity College featured in the top three places but further down the lists caused some upsets to big sights such as the Dún Aonghusa and Newgrange, which didn’t feature at all.
According to the popular travel website, Dun Dúchathair on the Aran Islands, Arigna Mining Experience, Co. Roscommon, and Leap Castle, Roscrea, Co. Tipperary are among their travelers favorite Irish landmarks, three relatively unknown attractions when compared to the likes of Clonmacnoise or Bunratty Castle in Co. Clare, which also didn’t feature on the list.
Compiled through "millions of valuable reviews and opinions from TripAdvisor travellers," the site’s 2016 list placed Kilmainham Gaol in top spot for the fourth year in a row, yet even the country's two UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Brú na Bóinne and Skellig Michael, could not make the top ten.
That is not to say the three surprise entries are not excellent in their own right.
Located on Inis Mór, one of the Aran Islands, Dun Dúchathair (meaning “black stone ringfort”) is a large stone fort that sits on a rocky promontory stretching out into the sea. Tourists looking for a more peaceful experience may prefer visiting this fort over the more popular Dún Aonghasa.
For those on the search for their ancestors in the afterlife, Leap Castle is also a must-visit. Believed to be one of the most haunted places in Ireland, maybe even in the world, it’s only open by appointment if you get in contact with the owner. Terrifying stories from the castle include one from the “Bloody Chapel” where a sibling rivalry caused a brother to burst in on his family at prayer while his priest brother was saying mass and brutally murder the priest in front of his whole family.
A slightly newer attraction is the Arigna Mining Experience which uses lighting and sound effects to demonstrate life working in some of the narrowest coal seams in the western world.
"We're delighted that people that people rate us so highly," Valerie Stenson, Manager at the Arigna Mining Experience, told Independent.ie Travel.
"We're a community tourism initiative preserving our 400-year coal mining history. Everybody is proud of it, and we try to give the best possible customer experience."
You can find more of Ireland’s greatest secrets in our current travel series available here.
See the full TripAdvisor list, below:
1. Kilmainham Gaol, Dublin
2. Blarney Castle & Gardens, Co. Cork
3. Trinity College, Dublin
4. Muckross House & Gardens, Co. Kerry
5. Kilkenny Castle, Kilkenny
6. Dun Dúchathair, Aran Islands
7. Bunratty Castle, Co. Clare
8. Arigna Mining Experience, Co. Roscommon
9. Leap Castle, Roscrea, Co. Tipperary
10. Glendalough, Co. Wicklow
What would you put in your Top Ten Irish Landmarks? Let us know in the comments section, below.