Secret Ireland: 10 sites to discover

Already familiar with Dublin, the Dingle Peninsula and Giant's Causeway? There is still a lot to discover in Ireland, an island small in size, but large in its natural, cultural and human resources. From the Beara Peninsula to the Sperrin Mountains, here are 10 sites that will make you love the Green Island even more ...

Kilkenny (County Kilkenny)

Located in the south-east of Ireland, in a magnificent setting of forests and rivers, the small town of Kilkenny is as charming as it is lively, with its narrow cobbled streets, boutiques, numerous pubs, where live bands perform, and restaurants, including Kyteler's Inn, a tavern that opened in… 1263.

In Kilkenny beats the heart of medieval Ireland, and remains of the 13th century abound, between the St Canice Cathedral, which adjoins an older round tower (9C), the imposing castle Anglo-Norman style, Black Abbey Abbey, founded by the Dominicans, and that of St Francis, whose ruins were occupied in 1710 by the oldest brewery in Ireland, Smithwick's. Today bought by Guinness, the latter continues to perpetuate the tradition by making the famous red beer, better known in France under the name of… Kilkenny.

Cape Clear and Hare Islands (County Cork)

Two islands located off the southwestern peninsulas, accessible from Baltimore. Sure Cape Clear, in the very south of Ireland, the inhabitants speak mainly Gaelic. The island, very hilly and sparsely inhabited, has few roads. The cliffs of the island offer wonderful vantage points. Do not hesitate to explore the extreme south, on the rocks of the southwest. Cape Clear also offers some great birding opportunities.

Located between Baltimore and Schull, hare island remains a well-kept secret of 2,5 km by 1,5 km, offering splendid and windswept vistas over the entire bay. Beautiful cliffs and a few beaches for a picnic.

Mizen Head (County Cork)

Mizen Head, the southwestern tip of Ireland, offers splendid landscapes. Steep cliffs battered by rushing waves, coves drowned in fog, flocks of sheep ... An authentic piece of Eternal Ireland. Off the peninsula, we can see the highest lighthouse in the country (54 m), planted on the Fastnet Rock. Nicknamed "Ireland's Teardrop", the rocky islet was the last image that emigrants on their way to America had of their homeland.

Au Visitor Center, after the small museum, you reach the spectacular bridge that leads to the mizen lighthouse, automated since 1993. If you are lucky, you might spot seals, dolphins or even whales.

Beara Peninsula (Counties Cork and Kerry)

Beara : one of the less traveled peninsulas on the entire west coast and shared between the counties of Cork and Kerry. In the center of the peninsula, two beautiful mountain ranges: the Caha Mountains and the Slieve Miskish Mountains.

Departing from Glengarriff, the tourist route of Ring of Beara, very quiet, goes around the peninsula. The landscapes are wild and varied. Between the cut ribs and the Caha mountains, the gaze lingers on the green pastures where cows and sheep graze, the stone walls, the rocks which emerge on the moor and the yellow of the gorse.

Don't miss the pass Tim healy pass, between Adrigole and Lauragh: a mountain road, offering splendid points of view on the two slopes. At the bottom, deep in the mountains, we can see the superb Glanmore lake, in the middle of a rich preserved nature, chaos of rocks and beautiful vegetation.

Burren (County Clare)

A vast desert region, rich in lunar landscapes where karstic rocks are omnipresent. The rocks are home to many caves, streams of water flowing into pockets called "giant pots" and turloughs, lakes that disappear during the summer. The Burren, dotted with many dolmens and megaliths, offers a very rich flora in spring.

The Burren is also a hiker's paradise, including the Burren Way (123 km of marked trails). The most popular section is a 45 km linear route starting from Ballyvaughan to Liscannor and Lahinch, passing through Formoyle, Ballinacken, Doolin and Moher.

Achill Island (County Mayo)

Achill Island, in County Mayo, is the largest in Ireland. It is accessed by a road bridge. Windswept, it unfurls its wild landscapes: arid mountains, sandy beaches, high cliffs, green meadows where sheep graze. A real Irish postcard!

Superb jagged coastline, which can be easily discovered by car from the road overlooking the sea (do the Atlantic Drive!). The interior offers landscapes of desolate moor and barren hills in tones of fawn, yellow or red, typical of this corner of Ireland.

As you drive along the Atlantic Drive tourist route, you will discover fabulous viewpoints, crossing the old fishing port of Dooega and its modest white houses, the Kildownet Marine Cemetery, where many victims of the Great Famine lie, the Carrickildavnet tower, which is said to be the castle of Irish pirate Grace O'Malley.

From the top of Minaun, you will have a magnificent panorama of the island. At the western tip is one of Ireland's best beaches: Keem Beach, pretty cove of clear sand bordered by turquoise water. If you are in good shape, climb to the top of the Croaghaun Mount, where stands the highest cliff in the country (688 m). A fabulous belvedere!

Sligo (County Sligo)

Located 140 km from Galway, in the north-west of Ireland on the Donegal Road, Sligo is a pleasant little town, inhabited by Celtic legends and heroes from the neighboring mountains: to the west, the Knocknarea and, to the north, the Ben Bulben. It is also the Yeats homeland, poet of Republican Ireland, one of the greatest men of letters of the English language (Nobel Prize for literature in 1923). The city is even a place of pilgrimage for its many fans.

The region is also famous for the high quality of its traditional music, which can be listened to in one of the cool pubs in the bustling city center. Finally, the church of Sligo Abbey in ruins will surely seduce you. To see also in the surroundings: Carrowmore megalithic tombs.

Slieve League Cliffs (County Donegal)

Much less frequented than those of Moher, the Slieve League cliffs, located in the north of the Republic of Ireland, are 600m cliffs falling steeply into the sea: the second highest in the British Isles after those of Achill Island.

The landscape is magnificent, forming a sort of moving end of the world. From there, depending on the condition of the trail (often out of use), you can in principle join the Slieve League by the crest path, taking the one man's path (not made for people prone to vertigo). Be careful, the trail can be dangerous when it is windy. In addition, be careful, it slips a lot.

Dunluce Castle (Northern Ireland)

One of the beautiful spots on the coast in Northern Ireland, not far from the famous Giants Causeway and the no less famous distillery of Bushmills whiskey. In ruins, the dunluce castle is no less superb, a veritable sentry posted on its promontory, 30 m above the sea. Dunluce was abandoned in 1659: to discover its history, stop by the Visitor Center.

In the castle, panels with illustrations allow to get an idea of ​​the organization of the places. Below, stairs lead to the Mermaid Cave, natural underground passage where boats were hidden in order to flee to Rathlin Island in case of need. Beautiful panorama from the Magheracross belvedere, 1 km to the west.

Sperrin Mountains (Northern Ireland)

Located in Northern Ireland, between Cookstown and Derry, this mountain range (720 m peak), one of the largest in Ireland, stretches 60 km from east to west, offering sumptuous wild panoramas. The alternation of groves of pines, shady glens and rich pastures gives an indisputable charm to the wide valleys. It is a pleasure to travel through them on their adorable little roads, on foot, hiking (the Ulster Way), by bike, even by car, but not necessarily in winter.

Find even more new destinations in the beautiful Routard book: Our 120 secret corners in Europe

Consult our Ireland online guide

Read our feature The best of Ireland

Audio Video Secret Ireland: 10 sites to discover
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