The Emerald Isle is incredible, not only because its people are unquestionably the most hospitable in the world, but because its natural, historical, and cultural landscape are unbeatable. Here are some of the places in Ireland that every human needs to visit. Trust me, they'll take your breath away.
At the end of the northern tip of Ireland, where rocky land meets the fierce sea, an ancient volcanic eruption left behind the most stunning rock patterns and formations. From afar, you might think a giant stepped down from the skies to create an intricate sandcastle with the help of thousands of buckets. Walking along on the stunning trail that crosses the Causeway, you'll come by the organ pipes, a true feat of nature. An awe-inspiring place not to miss!
Step to the edge of the world and admire the view of the wild sea from some of Ireland's tallest cliffs. Not only are tourists few and far between in this gem of a place, but dolphins have been spotted playing in the crystal blue water below, a rare sight. As eagles soar and dive around you, you'll undoubtedly feel free as a bird in the absolute wilderness of this truly Irish landscape.
When one of my dear adopted Irish mams spoke to me of her love for Galway with tears pouring down her face, I knew I had to visit. "It is the land of poets and artists," she told me. "The place where Irish song and dance fill the streets, the cultural heart of the country."
Galway is 2020's European Cultural Centre. And this summer, things are about to get even more unique, with art festivals, concerts, and street performers galore. So pop into a hall for a lively céilí or grab a dark pint at the many pubs lining the cobblestone streets and prepare to fall in love with this soulful city.
Friendly locals, live music pubs, extensive art galleries, numerous free museums, huge parks, amazing literary scene, incredible architecture, and beautiful nearby coastal towns. What's not to love? Make sure you pack an umbrella and get ready to explore for days.
You'll discover dark myths about the history of Guinness and stumble across manuscripts of fascinating illustrations from 1200 years ago. If you seek hard enough, you might find a mummy to shake hands with and bump into a leprechaun at the famous Leprechaun Museum. There are tons of things to do; all you need is an endless amount of time…and an umbrella.
I'm letting the cat out of the bag here about one of Ireland's best-kept secrets. There is a bay in Donegal County, hidden beyond a green, dense forest that is well marked and nicely trailed, (in case you're looking for a great nature walk), that evokes thoughts of the Caribbean. With a variety of white sandy beaches and turquoise, shallow seas that stretch on and on into eternity, you might find yourself wondering what side of the Atlantic you're on, especially if it's on a warm, sunny day.
There is also a coffee shop located in the friary with some decent food, so you'll find the amenities you need to spend the day. It's a quiet spot that's positively perfect if you're looking for some beauty coupled with light physical activity. I've visited at least a dozen beaches in Ireland, and this is, by far, my favorite.
Ardara is a teeny tiny town in County Donegal, in the amazingly untouched northern parts of Ireland. This destination boasts everything from two yearly music festivals, a walking festival to bring avid hikers to its many trails (over 30 miles long), and glorious history to boot.
Since the 1700s, Ardara has been thriving, thanks to its arts and crafts tradition and hand-woven goods. Just a few minutes away, the mythical Caves of Maghera, as well as its sandy beach, are a must-see. And to top it off, there's also a gorgeous waterfall that may inspire you to take a plunge.
Imagine rolling green meadows and hills upon hills of Gaelic crosses, set against the backdrop of an old archaic monastery - in ruin. The scenery cannot be any more stereotypically Irish, yet it is haunting and powerful. The saints who have walked this land have left their mark through intricate stone crosses, rough, hand-carved churches and monasteries, and even a castle.
Clonmacnoise is as eerie as it is majestic. This place will have you dreaming of a bygone era dating back 2,500 hundred years, where devout pilgrims would walk barefoot for miles on the natural stone formation. Later, it became a huge monastic city and frequented by knights, kings, and queens alike.
According to the National Geographic Traveler, the Dingle Peninsula is "the most beautiful place on earth." An area that has been awarded for being a bastion of Irish language and heritage, it boasts craggy cliffs, miles of sandy beaches, verdant pastures and delicious seafood. The town of Dingle, though small, is entirely self-contained with its very own distillery; it is host to an international music festival, "Other Voices," that takes place every December.
What's remarkable about Rossnowlagh is that even though it's a tiny village, it has a humongous beach, on which you can drive, swim, kitesurf, surf, run, and bird-watch. Visitors can catch views of the hills of Donegal while the massive tides roll in – they are unbelievably quick. It's beyond spectacular. The sunset is well worth waiting for on a sunny day, and the colors are as fierce as the waves.
Kiss the Blarney Stone at the Blarney Castle before heading out of Ireland, and you'll get a rush of wisdom to take back with you. And make sure you leave some time to stroll through the extensive gardens, they're beyond pretty. One of Ireland's sunniest cities, Cork, was once a monastic city surrounded by a vast fortress. After the Vikings expanded it in the 900s, it became one of Ireland's most populous regions. The area has so much culture and history to offer, well worth a visit.