Ireland is one of the most lush, beautiful countries in the world. Its quiet pace and the warm, friendly manner of the Irish people are sure to draw you in. Whether you are traveling with your family, a solo backpacker or a couple on a romantic getaway, there is no place like Ireland to captivate your fancy. Filled with ancient mystique and bright green landscape, these hidden treasures are some of Ireland’s most unique, unspoilt places.
Perhaps Ireland’s most starkly beautiful place, Connemara is full of bluff landscapes and rocky beaches. Situated on the northwest coast of Ireland, in County Galway, Connemara is a “Gaeltacht” area where the Irish language is still spoken by the locals. In the town of Clifden, you can experience traditional Irish food and purchase hand knitted jumpers made from the wool of Connemara sheep! Kylemore Abbey, near Letterfrack, is a Benedictine monastery and one of Ireland’s most ornate architectural gems, while Killary Fjord is Ireland’s only natural fjord and offers spectacular views. The best time to visit is in early summer before the tourist crowds start, or in late autumn when the leaves are turning brilliant colors!
Set in County Wexford beyond sloping sand dunes is the majestic Curracloe Strand, voted one of the best beaches in Ireland. The Irish Sea meets land at Curracloe Beach with crashing waves along the lengthy, sandy shore. In the summertime, families and friends go sunning and swimming here, while the winter is more desolate and striking. The far end of Curracloe Beach was the filming site for the Normandy scene in the film Saving Private Ryan, and it takes no imagination to see how this outstanding shoreline has been a regular winner of the Blue Flag Beach award.
Cliffs of Moher
The Cliffs of Moher are quite simply awe-inspiring. When we imagine the rugged West Coast of Ireland, the Cliffs of Moher in County Clare are exactly what come to mind. Sheer rock drops from windy heights into the craggy, unforgiving sea below. There is no best time of year to view the Cliffs of Moher, as the newly built Cliffs of Moher Visitors Centre and viewing platform that makes them accessible year-round. Summertime is the busiest, and you may find yourself shoving for the best views, while winter is quieter but often features very high winds, rain and low visibility. The price of one car offers unlimited entry for everyone in the vehicle. The visitors’ center, which is carved into the hillside, is worth a look and tickets can be purchased for an extra fee.
County Sligo might receive less international tourism than some of Ireland’s other well-known spots, but it is no less scenic. The rural countryside of Sligo has an untamed feel, and its coastline is as breathtaking as any in the world. Strandhill Beach is the most prominent of Sligo’s beaches, as well as the most dangerous. Extreme tides and the rough waves of the Atlantic Ocean make Strandhill Beach a favorite with surfers and ocean-admirers. Strandhill Beach is stuck out at the end of a peninsula south of Sligo Town, and the charming Strandhill Village, where you can find cute beachy shops and quaint pubs for a pint of Guinness and warm, hearty food, encloses the beach itself. The best time to visit is summer when the weather is more reliable and the water is more alluring.
Perhaps the most unique place in all of Ireland is The Burren, a rocky Karst landscape in County Clare that overlooks Galway Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. The countryside is made up of rocky limestone fields that have an austere, almost lunar look to them. Although devoid of the greenery that Ireland is famous for, The Burren has an appeal all its own. It is home to dozens of megalithic tombs, cave sites and unusual plant species, and the plethora of traditional Irish music in the area make it a great place to spend a few days exploring. The Burren is viewable all year round, but it is most spectacular at sunset, when the low rays of the sun across the Atlantic Ocean cast an eerie atmosphere over The Burren’s smooth, black rocks.