Irish Day Trips Off the Beaten Path
Discover hidden gems
With the good weather, many of us want to be be outdoors and plan day trips where we can enjoy nature. The good news is that you don’t need to leave Ireland to find some amazing spots. You just have to get behind the wheel of the car and get off the beaten path to discover hidden gems that you won’t find in your conventional tourist guidebooks. Whether you’re looking for an adrenaline-fueled experience or a relaxing getaway, there is a magical destination waiting for you.
Seven natural enclaves worth a visit
1. Irish Sky Garden. Whether you visit it at night or during the day, this place is sure to surprise you. Designed by the famous artist James Turrell, this crater is an incredible vantage point where each element has been carefully thought out so that you can relax and enjoy a sui generis experience. Its steep slopes, free of any distractions, create a very relaxing and quiet atmosphere that lets you enjoy the Irish sky. Lie down on the soft green grass of this huge crater and after a few minutes, you’ll feel like you’re floating among the clouds or stars. To finish off the experience with a bang, head over to the Liss Ard restaurant, where you can try some of the best dishes in West Cork.
Special Area of Conservation
2. Rossbeigh Beach. About a mile from the town of Glenbeigh, in County Kerry, a natural paradise awaits you. In fact, this pocket of land is part of the Castlemaine Harbour Special Area of Conservation, as it is an important habitat for the plants and wildlife in the area. On its beach that spans just over 7 miles, you can swim, practice water sports, lie down and sunbathe or even go horseback riding, a unique experience when the sun begins to fall. If you’re not a fan of the ocean, you can hike along any of the nearby trails. The paths will take you to panoramic viewpoints that offer stunning views over the peninsula.
3. Victor's Way, Indian Sculpture Park. About an hour south of Dublin, a magical place awaits you where you can escape the hustle and bustle of the city. This garden occupies about 20 acres, among which there is a beautiful walkway spanning almost two kilometres long. With more than 30 statues inspired by Hindu mythology and hand carved in South India, this park invites you to spend a different type of day enjoying the peace and quiet that permeates this environment. You can lie on one of its benches to rest, meditate under a tree or go for a relaxing “forest swim”.
A glacial valley with spectacular views
4. Annascaul. National Geographic described the Dingle Peninsula as “the most beautiful place on Earth”, and they weren’t exaggerating. This Atlantic route combines rugged coastlines with meandering country roads where the ocean and land meet to create landscapes of wild beauty. One of these spots is Annascaul, a glacial valley with spectacular views that surrounds the lake with the same name. With mountain sheep as your travelling companions, you can walk around the lake to find the waterfall. Here, you’ll be able to sit and regain your strength with the relaxing sound of the falling water in the background.
5. Aran Islands. Located about 48 kilometres from the County Galway coastline, these stunning islands are bathed by the Atlantic Ocean. It is worth taking a ferry to Inis Mór, the largest of the islands. Ride a bike and get ready to explore the entire island. A landscape with stone walls and huge cliffs awaits you, among which you can find beaches that are perfect for cooling off, such as Cill Mhuirbhigh. When you get back on your feet, you’ll find medieval castles and time-worn churches. Don’t forget to stop at Dún Aengus, a prehistoric castle on the edge of a 100-metre-high cliff above the Atlantic that will take you straight to the heart of Celtic Ireland.
Rugged mountains and deep blue lakes
6. Doolough Pass. Between the impressive Mweelrea Mountain and the Sheeffry hills, in County Mayo, is Doolough Pass, one of the most characteristic points on what is probably the most beautiful route to drive by car in Ireland. Its rugged mountains and deep blue lakes serve as an unbeatable backdrop that will amaze you with its untamed nature round every corner. If you travel here, don’t forget to stop at the memorial honouring people who died during the Great Famine while trying to find food.
7. Kesh Caves. In County Sligo, you’ll find limestone caves at the base of a line of low cliffs that have given rise to numerous medieval myths and legends. Although the journey here isn’t easy, the effort is worth it. When you turn around, you’ll be amazed by the wonderful views framed by the cave’s entrance. Moreover, if you have the soul of a speleologist, you can explore the caves, since they are shallow and some of them are interconnected. If you still have energy for more, continue to the top of King’s Mountain, where the spectacular views will reward the gruelling climb.
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