The Burren in Co. Clare

 

Unique landscapes of Ireland : The Burren in co Clare

The Burren, or the Rocky Place reveals a lot in its name.  The Burren is made up of limestone, a porous young rock substance formed at the bottom of the sea. Over time due to the plates of the planets movement (Plate tectonics), this limestone has risen from the sea bed to form much of the Irish landscape. Here, however the limestone is bare, barren exposed stone, making this place quiet unique. The plateaus of limestone were exposed to glaciers, several ice ages, over the millions of years of its formation. As these glaciers melted, this melted water moved above the rock and below the ice to erode intricate patterns, many of which have geological classifications. It is these patterns in the stone that make ‘the Burren’ so unusual, often described as a moody place due to how the light reflects on the grey stone. Thus you will find a dry, arid, moonlike landscape of limestone.

The Burren

Looking closer, you will find a wide variety of Burren flora, representing more than 75 per cent of the biodiversity in Ireland in just less than a per cent of the country. The Burren is home to 1,100 species of plants out of the 1,400 in Ireland. It is the only place in Europe where Mediterranean and Arctic Alpine plants grow together in perfect harmony. Rare flowers include Lady’s Tresses, Bee Orchids, Fly Orchids, Irish Orchids, Pyramidal Orchids, Lesser Butterfly Orchids, and Fragrant Orchids. This makes it a treasure chest for botanists to visit, especially come spring time. The secret of the diversity of this area comes from its glacial artic history and its temperate climate.

Flowers in the Burren

The Burren is Ireland’s most important cave area. This strange hundred square mile limestone “desert”, where only one river reaches the sea by an over ground course, has more active stream caves than any other part of Ireland. Over 35 miles of cave passages have actually been surveyed; this area is also full of large caves that can be explored with its accompanying stalactites and stalagmites.

Keep an eye out for the feral Burren Goat that roams the hills of this area. These goats get culled frequently as they can be seen as a threat to the biodiversity of the area. There is about 1,000 of these goats roaming the upper-Burren area. Other mammals living in this environment would include the Pygmy Shrew, a little ratlike mammal that is only 5 grams in weight and would fit in a matchbox. Among the seven species of bats inhabiting this part, is the lesser known Horseshoe Bat, which is endangered in an international context.

Feral Goats, The Burren

As you travel through the Burren you will notice the dry stone walls that mark boundaries all the way to the tops of the hills. Dry stone walls are typical of the west of Ireland. They range in size and style and have been maintained for centuries under a variety of state and community initiatives. Some walls are said to be as old as the Neolithic; these are found in Connemara in a particular site called the Ceide Fields. While others, are from the Iron Age where clans/tribes built their forts on the top of hills, excellent views above, of the sea and the surrounding area.

stone walls in the Burren

More commonly the stone walls of this area date from 2 distinct times; Resettlement and Famine. The resettlement of Gaelic families was common place during the 16th and 17th centuries, where families who rebelled against English settlers lost their lands on the east to them and were sent to these harsh areas of the island as a punishment.  During particular times of hardship like the Famine of 1847, poor houses were set up. These houses were extremely difficult places to survive; disease was rife, hunger, malnourishment and unhygienic conditions were the norm. The Workhouse was an extension of the Poor-house; people had to work for food. One of the key types of work was restoring and building these dry stone walls which are a symbol of our turbulent past.

The Burren is a highlight on our Cliffs of Moher tour
  

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Experience the Northern Lights in Norway

Experience the Northern Lights in Norway

The northern lights are a science enthusiast’s dream. Even those not interested in the science behind the phenomenon have the northern lights on their bucket list. They have fascinated people from the earliest recorded times with the lights mentioned in writing by Aristotle and others. Intense study of the phenomenon occurred in the 17th century and this is how information was gathered to explain the aurora borealis.

It was a physicist from Norway named Kristian Birkeland who created a comprehensive theory of the northern lights. His research and development of his theory became the basis of modern research into the northern light. It is an area that continues to fascinate scientists. NASA even produced an experiment that successfully recreated the phenomenon in the laboratory in 2013.

The Aurora Borealis or the northern lights are created when electrically charged particles originating from the sun collide with gases in the Earth’s atmosphere. The magnetic field of the Earth moves these particles towards the North and South Poles and this is why the lights can only be seen from close to the magnetic poles. The Aurora Australis or the southern lights are visible closest to the South Pole so best viewed from Antarctica or the southern parts of Australia, New Zealand and South America.

Northern Lights

The lights are not always the same colour, which makes then an exciting and ever changing phenomenon to see. The colour emitted depends on the gases the particles have come into contact with in the Earth’s atmosphere. It also depends on where in the atmosphere the collision between the particles and gases took place. The simplest way to categorise this is determined by scientific observations and roughly: if the collision occurred more than 150 kms from the surface of the Earth, it will be red light; if it occurred between 120km and 150km it will be yellow-green light; if it is less than 120 km, it will be blue-purple light.

The northern lights are also influenced by the sun’s activity such as solar winds. Strong solar winds can intensify the northern lights. Norway is an excellent place to try to view the lights because the darkness of the polar night makes them more prominent in the sky.

To see the northern lights it needs to be very dark, cloudless and it can be an activity that takes time. You may not see them the moment you get there, but if you persist you may be lucky and get very good views of the northern lights. The best months to see the lights are October, February and March. The weather is usually the most significant obstacle to seeing the northern lights. There is a greater chance of stable winter weather inland and in the inner reaches of the fjords.

shutterstock_69051394

Light pollution from buildings and roads may degrade the viewing experience, so try to find viewing areas away from sources of light. The full moon may have the same effect, but may actually help you if you plan to take photographs. The moonlight may light up the foreground and surroundings and make it easier to focus and get a clear image. I asked an expert about what is needed to get the best photographs of the northern lights. Because as amazing as it would be to see them, you also want to capture some photographs!

Equipment:

Tripod; Camera; Lenses – wide angle 14-24 mm, narrow view 70-200 mm.

Tips:

Use the tripod as you will not be able to hold the camera steady for the amount of time needed to get a clear shot;

Camera setting on full manual;

The F point is about 2.8;

Manual focus;

Shutter speed to be adjusted to between 5-15 seconds;

Use a remote for the shutter release (there are apps for your phone that can be connected to the camera through Wi-Fi and a remote shutter release can be done);

Use a strong background – not flat landscape but trees, mountains etc in the background;

Can use light painting techniques;

Meet our guide: Darren Smith

Darren has led the tour to Norway 8 times. He and the group have been lucky on each visit and have seen the Northern Lights. I had a chat to him about how he prepares for a tour and his experiences in Norway.

How do you prepare for a tour?

It’s more about making sure clients have all the information, everything is booked and the kit is prepared. The kit is made up of Merino thermals, socks, inner and outer layers etc.

Do you need to check to see what the weather may be like?

At this time of year the weather is quite settled, it is high pressure cold which is best for seeing the lights.

Has anyone ever come completely unprepared for the cold?

I had someone come wearing canvas shoes before (sailing shoes)! Fortunately even if someone in the group is not fully prepared, there are kits for usage that contain all the required clothing for extreme weather. For the activities such as snowmobiles/dog sledding etc, the providers usually want their own kit to be used even if we all our have our kits.

The extreme cold can affect the enjoyment of the experience and we do everything we can to ensure that all clients have access to the gear needed to be protected from the cold. We want them to be able to focus on enjoying the experience rather than on how cold they are.

Can you describe the northern lights for people that have not seen them? Is it something that everyone just has to see once?

It’s a magical experience; it makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. The colours are not just green like many of the photos – it can be red, purple, and orange – many colours. It’s hard to describe, you do need to see it to understand it.

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Hiking in Ireland – Gap Of Dunloe

There is no doubt that Kerry has some of the most stunning scenery in Ireland and many people drive through the countryside stopping every now and then to appreciate a view. To really experience the beauty of Ireland I have to recommend getting out and hiking a bit of the Irish countryside. There is a beautiful area in Kilarney national park called the Gap of Dunloe, it is accessible by car at Kate Kearneys cottage and you can take a short hike to the top of the gap or a ride with the jarvies on a horse drawn cart. There are however a number of walking routes and I would recommend one of these in Particular.

Circular route : 

This is a strenuous walk beginning and ending at Kate Kearneys cottage. It is about 15 km long and can take up to 5 hours. The first part of the Hike is a mountain trail and brings you across open and challenging terrain, there are some steeper slopes and minor scrambling is needed in places. The recommended route Heads to the right and follows a trail into the eastern Magillacudy reeks up purple mountain. You return via the Gap of Dunloe comprising of a string of Lakes, a feature known as a pater noster of lakes. This create a stunning vista at the end of a hard walk.

Gap of Dunloe

Recommendations:

  • Wear good climbing clotes and boots (terrain can be rough and boggy)
  • Be of a good fitness level
  • Plan your trip
  • Bring water
  • Download detailed map and gps ActiveME  iPhone App and Android App

You can find a map directions and more details here

Black Valley and Gap of Dunloe Hike

You can either start the tour at Kate Kearneys or you can start at Ross castle in Kilarney national park. I recommend starting at Ross castle as you finish your hike with spectacular views of the gap of Dunloe.

Depart from Ross castle by boat. Travel through the famous lakes of Kilarney and enjoy the views  I recommend the smaller boat as it can get into the  meeting of the water surrounded by woodland on the other side which is an almost surreal experience. You then have a short hike to Lord Brandon’s cottage. You depart from here on your hike proper. The hike is along a path so no knowledge of hiking or previous experience is needed. The initial walk is an easy gradient and very enjoyable, The gradient increases zig zaging up the hillside to the gap of Dunloe. When you summit the hill and get your first views of the Gap of Dunloe it will take your breath away. The walk down to Kate Kearneys cottage is beautiful and relaxing. Enjoy a pint in Kates before getting the bus back to Kilarney.

Gap of Dunloe

This walk is perfect for those with little to no experience, the views are stunning and the distance of 11km is accessible to most.Time to complete 2.5 to 3  hrs to do the hike and allow one hour for the boat ride

Gap of Dunloe

Recommendations

  • Bring sufficient water
  • Bring a snack
  • Wear comfortable clothing and footwear (no special equipment or clothing is necessary)
  • Be of moderate fitness

I highly recommend this walk as the scenery is stunning especially the Gap of Dunloe, when you earn the view through a hike you appreciate it all the more!

 

 

 

 

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Walking Ireland – Mourne Wall Hike

Walking Ireland – Mourne Wall Hike

The Mourne wall is a 1.5 meter high wall stretching for 32 km  across fifteen mountains in the Mourne mountain range. The mountains range in height between 332 meters and 850 meters. Slieve Donard being the highest mountain in the mountain range. The wall took eighteen years to build and was built to designate a catchment area for the silent valley Reservoir. It disects the mountains bringing those that choose to walk it to the peak of every mountain.

Walking Ireland , Mourne mountains

This is not a stroll in the country but a serious endurance test. Two of the guys from our company did it as training for climbing Mount Blanc and said that it was one of the most challenging tests they had ever faced. The amount of ascents and descents one after the other grinds your willpower down.

Walking Ireland, Mourne mountains

The mountains of Mourne are a designated area of outstanding natural beauty and the views while doing this hike make it a rewarding experience. Many hikers break this expedition into two camping overnight. We would recommend this as it makes it a lot more doable and a little more enjoyable.

Mourne walk, walking Ireland

Route; The Route is circular in nature and takes in 15 mountains

  • Slievenaglogh 445 m (1,460 ft)
  • Slieve Muck 674 m (2,211 ft)
  • Cairn Mountain 587 m (1,926 ft)
  • Slieve Loughahannagh 619 m (2,031 ft)
  • Slieve Meelbeg 708 m (2,323 ft)
  • Slieve Meelmore 684 m (2,244 ft)
  • Slieve Bearnagh 727 m (2,385 ft)
  • Slievenaglogh 586 m (1,923 ft)
  • Slieve Corragh 691 m (2,267 ft)
  • Slieve Commedagh 765 m (2,510 ft)
  • Slieve Donard 850 m (2,790 ft)
  • Rocky Mountain 525 m (1,722 ft)*
  • Slieve Binnian 747 m (2,451 ft)
  • Wee Binnian 460 m (1,510 ft)
  • Moolieve 332 m (1,089 ft)

We recommend starting in Donnard and heading to your left as this breaks your water refill areas into the appropriate distance to take full advantage.

Recomendations:

  • wear appropriate hiking clothing and boots
  • Bring a proper durable hiking tent (winds can get very strong)
  • Bring plenty of water ( it is very easy to underestimate the amount of water needed and there are 2 areas to refill your supply)  We would recommend a minimum of two liters and suggest 3 liters.
  • Start in Donnard. This helps with the spacing of your water refill points.
  • Only attempt this if you have good fitness and endurance levels.

A very good and comprehensive guide can be downloaded here 

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Ireland’s Ancient East

Ireland’s Ancient East

The West coast of Ireland has a stunning Coastal drive stretching from Cork to Donegal known as the Wild Atlantic way. With stunning landscapes mountains, sea cliffs and sandy beaches it is no wonder that it is a huge draw for people visiting our country. The landscape in the East is beautiful but it lacks the dramatic contrast of the West but this part of Ireland is steeped in history, Folklore and stories spanning from the Stone age through to modern history. The West Coast of Ireland is carved out by God while the Ancient East is testament to mans conquest.

Ancient sites: Dotted all around the eastern counties there are many ancient neolithic sites including stone circles, Dolmens and most famously passage tombs. The Dolmen is one of the most prolific neolithic structure and it is thought that they where used by the druids as alters and that the grooves on the surface of some of these alters like the Drennanstown Dolmen in Carrickmines are to facilitate the flow of Blood after an animal sacrifice to the Gods.

Dolmen, Irelands ancient east

There are two major sites in the Boyne Valley region which feature some of the most unique megalithic features in Ireland the Passage tomb. The Bru na Boine site is home to Knowth, Dowth and of Course Newgrange passage tomb. All three of these passage tombs is very impressive with stone carvings but it is the alignment of Newgrange with the rising sun on the morning of the winter solstice that sets this site apart. This is an amazing feat of engineering for its time 4000 bc and is the oldest known astronomical structure in the world.

Newgrange, Ireland's ancient east

Loughcrew is the other major site in the Boyne Valley area with a collection of Megalithic tombs. It is not as well known as the bru na Boine site but is just as impressive and less  touristic. Cairn t is the most impressive passage tomb at this site and it too as a celestial alignment with the passage being lit up by the rising sun on the morning of the Spring and Autumn equinox on the 20th of March and the 23rd of September. It is not known what the purpose of the passage tombs where and there is no doubt that they where used as tombs at some stage. It is hypothesized that the were ritualistic sites and places of worship so they where more similar to ancient temples.

loughcrew, Ireland's ancient east

For information on all the megalithic sites and their location megalithic Ireland is a great resource.

Ancient High Kings : Medieval Ireland had Five kingdoms Ulaid (North),  Connacht (West ), Mumhan (South) and the two kingdoms in the Ancient East were Laighin and Mide. Each area had its own tribal king and there was a high king who a had his seat in Mide at the hill of Tara where disputes were settled and arbitration took place under Brehon law. The laws were a civil code concerning payment of compensation for wrongs done and settling disputes between individuals.

In mythology Fionn MacCoole is said to have come from the Kildare area and fought a great battle at the hill of Tara against Aileen for which he was awarded leadership of the Fiana. When you travel through the land every area will have a story that is directly connected to this fantastical figure. One of the most famous of these stories is the Salmon of Knowledge which is based around the Boyne River. Fionn was serving an apprenticeship with Finnegas who had been trying to catch a famed Salmon that would bestow great knowledge to the first person who would taste his flesh. After many years he succeeded in catching the fish and asked Fionn to prepare the fish for him. while cooking the fish Fionn burned his thumb on the fish and put it in his mouth. From that moment on when Fionn needed knowledge he only had to suck his thumb and the answer would be clear to him.

Abbeys and Vikings :  Christianity took a foothold in Ireland between the 3rd and 5th century and many monasteries and Abbeys were founded throughout the country. Ireland became known as the land of saints and scholars and produced many treasures the best known being the Book of Kells an ornate scripture which is on show in Trinity college. The east coast has an abundance of monasteries including Monasterboice which is home to two of Ireland’s finest high crosses and the second highest round tower in Ireland, Glendalough set in the Wicklow surrounded by mountains valleys and lakes and Mellifont Abbey in co. Louth which is the first European style monastery built in Ireland and used by William of orange as his base in the battle of the Boyne. The church acquired much wealth which brought the  attention of the Vikings who raided and pillaged along the east coast from 800 to the early 12th century. During this time the vikings settled on coastal harbors and founded the original Dublin. The vikings gained rule over much of the land and it wasn’t until 1014 and the battle of Clontarf when the Brian Boru had a substantial victory against the vikings that the Irish gained freedom from foreign domination.

Glendalough iRELAND'S ANCIENT EAST

Monasterboice, Ireland's ancient east

Lords and their Castles : Nearly every county will have a castle or a stately home some belonging to ancient Irish lords and many more belonging to English lords who were instated after the many occasions when Ireland was conquered and planted by the English. Ireland’s largest and best preserved Norman castle, Trim castle can be found in Co Meath. This castle was built by Hugh De Lacy in 1173 and completed by his son in 1224. This was a fortress and over looks a fording point on the River Boyne, the occupant of the fortress could control what goods were ferried up and down the river and collect taxes accordingly. It was also occupied by the Cromwellian forces in 1649 during the Confederate wars.

Trim Castle, Ireland's ancient east

Malahide castle also has a fascinating history. It dates back to 1175 and has stayed in the hands of the Talbot family until 1975 except for a brief spell in the middle of the 17th century when it was granted to Miles Corbert by Cromwell. This was short lived and Corbert was executed and the Talbots reinstated. The history of the castle and that of the Talbot family is one of the same and a guided tour is highly recommended.

Malahide castle, Ireland's ancient east

There are many other castles to visit some in perfect condition and others in total decay.

 

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Ireland’s 7 Natural Wonders

 

The Cliffs Of Moher

Cliffs of Moher, Natural wonders

The First of our Natural wonders – The Cliffs of Moher are Situated on the West Coast of Ireland in County Clare. They Rise vertically from the Atlantic ocean to a height of 214 meters and stretch for a distance of 8 kilometers. Code Naste Traveler ranked the views from the Cliffs as the best cliff-view on the planet. The views change with the seasons and the weather, Sometimes they can appear stormy and foreboding and other times tranquil  but always fantastic.

The Giants causeway

Giants causeway, Northern Ieeland

The Second of our Natural wonders - The Giants Causeway is situated in Antrim. This natural landscape was formed 60 million years ago due to intense volcanic activity.  It is comprised of 40,000 interlocking bassalt columns. Many features such as the Giants boot, the chimney stack and the giant’s gate are linked to the fable of Finn Mac Coole and the Scottish giant.This is a Unesco world heritage site and is a must for anyone visiting Ireland.

The Ring Of Kerry

Ring of Kerry , Natural attractions

The third of our Natural wonders - The Ring of Kerry is situated in the South West of Ireland and is considered by many to be the most scenic area in Ireland. There is a fantastic contrast of Sea ravaged coastline, sandy beaches mountains and valleys along this route. there is literally a fantastic view around every corner.

Wicklow Mountains

Wicklow Glendalough, Natural attractions

Lough Tay, Natural attractions

The Fourth of our Natural wonders - Wicklow is sometimes called the garden of Ireland and entails some very contrasting Terrains. There is the beautiful Green pastures lakes and valleys, one of the best examples and most beautiful areas is Glendalough which is home to the ruins of Saint Kevin’s monastery. Then there are the Barron hill tops covered mostly with blanket bog, these areas are awash with colour Yellow of the gorse bushes in the Summer and the purple hue of the Heather in the Autumn. The Black bog lakes are a wonderful contrast to the barren landscape. A journey into the Wicklow mountains is highly recommended to anyone spending time in Dublin.

Connemara Lakes

Natural attractions Connemara

 

The Fifth of our Natural wonders - Connemara gives stiff competition to the ring of Kerry as Ireland’s most beautiful area. The unspoiled landscape of lakes Mountains and home to Ireland’s only Fjord make this a stunning location. The lakes of Connemara are famed for their beuty with a backdrop  of the Maum Turk mountains and the Twelve pins. Connemara is one of only two places in Ireland where sheep have the right of way over cars on the road!

Slieve League

Slieve League, Natural attractions

The sixth of our Natural wonders - The Slieve Legue sea cliffs are situated on the North West coast of Ireland in county Donegal. The Cliffs are the highest sea cliffs in Europe towering to a height of 600 meters ( almost three times as high as its more famous sister the Cliffs of Moher ). To fully enjoy this spectacle it is advised to do the Cliff walk where you will be afforded fantastic views of the Atlantic Ocean, the Sligo mountains and Donegal bay. You can continue hiking onto one man’s pass and loop around onto the pilgrims path.

The Burren

 

The Seventh of our Natural wonders - The Burren is a unique landscape in County Clare Ireland and means the fertile rock, It is a Karst landscape which seems totally barren but on closer examination of the clints and grikes you will discover a diverse variety of flora with a mixture of arctic mediterranean and alpine plants. Three quarters of Ireland’s variety of Ireland’s species of flowers are found in the Burren. The spring gentian is a bright blue alpine flower and is the symbol of the area, you can also find a selection of Orchids that grow.

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Backpack Challenge

Back Pack Challenge For The Homeless

The amount of homeless people on the street is rapidly increasing in Ireland. Focus Ireland estimates that there are up to 5,000 people at any one time who are homeless in Ireland. 
As part of tackling this problem and making things a little bit easier for those homeless, Basecamp have started an initiative in association with Dublin City Council and Crosscare Social Support Services, which is a backpack challenge to help the homeless. 
The aim of this challenge is to get as many backpacks as possible filled and sent up to the Bru Aimsir service that is currently housing 100 homeless people every night in Thomas St.
The backpack challenge can be filled with a wide range of things such as
• Hats
• Water Bottles
• Socks
• Scarves
• Long Sleeved T-Shirts
• Waterproof Clothes
• Jackets
• Flasks
• Toiletries
• Hoodies
• Jumpers
• Lip Balm
Backpacks can be dropped into the Basecamp store in Middle Abbey St or dropped directly into the Crosscare Staff in Thomas St. Want to help the homeless this Christmas? Create a video yourself today and nominate friends/family on Social Media to get them involved.

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Northern Ireland: History Attractions And Tours

Extreme Ireland / Irish day tours Travel the length and breadth of Ireland and have always incorporated Northern Ireland into our itineraries both in our multi day tours and our day tour offerings. Northern Ireland has spectacular scenery as well as an historic past both recent and ancient that makes this area one of the must visit locations in Ireland.
The recent history of Northern Ireland has its roots in the first plantation of the Provence of Ulster back in 1570 this was a failed plantation and the local lords retook the land. In 1609 there was a second plantation after there had been a revolt by the local lords led by Hugh O Neill. The revolt was quelled and the Earls fled to France. The second plantation was the biggest plantation in Ireland with mass confiscation of land and a complete change in the demographic of Northern Ireland. The majority of the new settlers were presbyterian or church of England.

The six counties were separated from the other twenty six counties at the time of the treaty (1921) between Ireland and England after the war of independence. There was relative peace in Northern Ireland until the late 60’s. At this time a civil rights movement began looking for equal rights for the catholic community. The Majority protestant community felt threatened by this uprising of the Catholic community and tried to quell the protests with violence. The violence escalated and divided communities which led to what became known as the troubles. This was a dark era in Northern Irish history with bombings and killings happening on a regular basis. Both sides have seen the futility of the killing and moved onto political discourse back in 1999. This makes it possible for us to safely visit this region of Ireland. The Belfast day tour gives you a great insight into the history of Belfast which was a flash point for the troubles.

Northern Ireland, peace wall
Some of the most beautiful places in Ireland are situated in Northern Ireland and surprisingly the most northern part of Ireland Malin head is situated in the republic. Donegal has a dramatic Atlantic coastline and is home to the highest sea cliffs in Europe the Slieve League cliffs. The mountainous terrain is stunning and an adventure playground for anyone with a sense of adventure. Lough Neagh is the largest lake in Ireland with 5 of the 6 counties touching its shorelines. There are many fantastic views from different viewpoints and there is a nature reserve at Oxford Island. The Mourne mountains are the biggest mountain range in northern Ireland with slieve Donard being the highest mountain. This is an area of outstanding beauty with pending national park status and is used by many trekers and hill walkers exploring this rural region. The coastal route along the Antrim coast is in my opinion one of the most scenic coastal drives or walks in the whole country of Ireland. We have to include the famous Giants Causeway as one of the top attractions in Ireland. This is Ireland’s first Unesco site. It was formed by volcanic activity 50 to 60 million years ago which created a spectacular vista of 40 thousand interlocking columns. You can visit this and do the Antrim coastal drive on the Giants causeway tour.

Antrim coast, Northern Ireland
There are a number of special visitor attractions that have being developed by the northern Irish tourist board.

  • Visitor centre at the Giants causeway which gives information on the causeway how it was formed and the stories and fables surrounding it. You can do a guided tour of the causeway or pick up a linguistic audio guide.

Giants causeway, Northern Ieeland

  • The national trust operate and maintain the Carrick-A-Rede rope bridge. This was a rope bridge originally erected by fishermen 350 years ago but it is now a tourist attraction and affords spectacular sea views. This is a part of the Giants Causeway tour from Dublin.

Carrick-A-Rede ropebridge, Northern Ireland

  • The Titanic visitor centre opened its doors in 2012. This centre relays stories of the Titanic from its building fit out to its sinking. It is an interactive exhibition and is crammed with interesting and engaging exhibits.

Titanic centre, northern Ireland

  • Saint Patrick Centre; This is situated in Down Patrick which is home to the grave of Saint Patrick. The centre tells the story of Ireland’s patron saint .

Saint Patricks centre Northern Ireland

  •  Oxford Island National nature reserve. The lough Neagh Discovery centre has staff with expert Knowledge, a tourist information centre and a café. Then explore and enjoy the national nature reserve.

Lough neagh, northern Ireland

  • The Gobbins sea walk : There was an old path along these cliffs that had fallen into terrible disrepair and was closed in 1954. In 2014 the path was rebuilt with paths bridges suspended crossings constructed. You get to walk along a specially constructed pathway for a mile along the base of the Gobbins cliffs, enjoy stunning scenery and have a truly unique experience.

The Gobbins Northern Ireland
There is much more to explore and discover in Northern Ireland including the walls of Derry, Castles including Dunluce castle, the dark hedges and quaint villages. The people are friendly and welcoming and you are guaranteed an experience that will stay with you a lifetime.

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Places To Visit In Ireland

Places To Visit In Ireland

Ireland has so much to offer in a relatively small country and can cater to the needs and wants of any traveller.

Kylemore Abbey

City Breaks : Dublin is the ideal destination for a two or three day visit with Dublin airport a short 20 minute bus ride from the city centre. There is so much to see and do including free galleries and museums. The Dublin sightseeing bus brings you to a multitude of destinations and at €22 for two days it is highly recommended. Irish pubs are famed the world over and needless to say you are spoiled for choice for where to go in Dublin. I will keep my list down to four centrally located pubs as I don’t want you spending all your time sampling the finest Guinness in the world.

  • The Stags head is a fantastic bar with an interior that is bound to impress!
  • Grogans (the castle) the last pub in Dublin where you will probably meet a writer or poet
  • The Palace bar has an old wordy feel about it and is one of the best whiskey bars in Dublin
  • The Coblestone : For trad music this is the best bar in the city!!

There are a few Great attractions that everyone should do while in Dublin Kilmainham jail, Guinness storehouse and the Irish whiskey museum to name but a few. While in Dublin You can also take the opportunity to see some more of the country with day tours leaving Dublin daily to some of the most iconic destinations in Ireland.

Guinness storehouse, places to see in Ireland

Walking Holidays : One of the best ways to discover and experience Ireland’s hidden gems is to take to the walking trails and go off the beaten track. There are many ways marked out and all will bring you to areas of outstanding beauty. You can do this by yourself or through a walking tour company who will organise your accommodation provide you with maps and arrange baggage transfer giving you the freedom of walking with just a day pack on your back.  There are also guided packages which allow you to explore a larger area while being led by a passionate enthusiastic guide. To discover some of the top places to visit in Ireland these tours are highly recommended.

Recommended destinations.

  • Wicklow mountains including Glendalough
  • Connemara – with contrasting lakes mountains and wild Atlantic way coastline
  • Kerry – Killarney national park is highly recommended.
  • Donegal is spectacular but should only be attempted by an experienced walker with navigation skills.

hiking Ireland

Day Tours : With a selection of seven Day tours leaving Dublin daily it is very easy to base yourself in Dublin enjoying all the urban attractions and still seeing the top places to visit in Ireland. Attractions visited are on every ones bucket list.

  • Cliffs of Moher
  • Giants Causeway
  • Blarney Castle
  • Connemara
  • The Burren
  • Glendalough
  • The Boyne Valley

Cliffs of moher, Places to see in Ireland

Driving Holidays : For those visiting Ireland with their own transport the whole country is open to them and the newly developed Wild Atlantic Way which is now the worlds longest defined coastal route is packed full of places to visit in Ireland all well signposted and an adventure around every corner. The area is full of historic and natural attractions and there is also a great chance to mingle and party with the locals either in the local pubs or at the numerous festivals going on from the flea ceoil to the matchmaking festival at Lisdoonvarna.

Places to see in Ireland

Picture by Raymond Fogarty.

 

 

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Kissing the Blarney Stone with Caitlin

Blarney Castle and Cork Day Tour

Hello again!

For visitors to Ireland, one question outweighs the rest. “Do I kiss the Blarney Stone?” Leaning backwards over the edge of a 26 meter (85 foot) tower at Blarney Castle is asking a lot, especially when the goal is to kiss an old rock surely covered in hundreds of years of tourist slobber. Is the gift of gab really worth it? This is our debate as two of the other Extreme Ireland interns and I head out on our Blarney Castle and Cork tour.

Luckily, our argument is temporarily put to rest by our tour guide, Mac. A school principal in his other life, Mac provides a wonderful mix of history lessons and hilarious stories. As Mac teaches us about everything from ancient Neolithic passage tombs and Brehon Law to the Guinness family and Arctic explorers, we travel across County Kildare. We fly by the 16th century Tudor plantations, a horse racing course originally set up for British Calvary training, and hundreds and hundreds of cows. Mac claims that cows always face the same direction because they don’t like the wind in their faces. I’m skeptical, but we keep our eyes peeled and Mac isn’t proven wrong once all day.

Rock of Cashel

At 9:30am we arrive at the Rock of Cashel. According to legend, this rock originated in the Devil’s Bit Mountain where St. Patrick drove Satan out of Ireland. While undoubtedly an impressive act, apparently it wasn’t enough to gain Patrick sainthood. Mac reveals that one of the world’s best known saints was never technically canonized by the Catholic Church. We wander around the abbey and admire the ancient stonework and carvings. The cemetery has plots dating from the early 1700s and from here we can see miles of fog dusted hills and fields.

Cashel

As we head to our next destination, Mac tells us about the famous Cork accent and teaches us some of the local lingo. We arrive at Blarney Castle at 11:30am and spend the next two hours crawling through the caves at the foot of the keep, meandering through the gorgeous Poison Garden, and finally climbing to the very top of Blarney Castle to reach the stone. On our way up, we pass through the remains of bedrooms and great halls and look out windows that have seen centuries of change.

Summer 2015 Import 222

At the top of a dizzying winding staircase, we reach the roof and take in the incredible panoramic view while awaiting our turn at the Blarney Stone. My companions put their collective foot down and refuse to kiss the stone, but I jump in line. After all, how often do you get to take part in such a ridiculous tradition?

Blarney view

I don’t know how I thought the whole “Kiss the Blarney Stone” thing would work, but I definitely wasn’t expecting it to entail me laying on the ground and inching myself backwards over the ledge while a staff member hung on to me. This angle certainly gives me a new perspective on Blarney Castle as I spy the people wandering around the base of the castle far below me. I kiss the wrong stone before the staff member corrects me and lowers me even further over the ledge, so maybe that explains why I come away from the experience with my gab skills seemingly unaffected.

Blarney Kiss

After enjoying lunch at the cafe near the stables, we climb back on the bus and are in Cork’s city centre by 2pm. Originally an island, Cork is a neat mix of hills and harbours. Mac leads us up to an old church where we use a songbook to play tunes like “Amazing Grace” on the steeple bells. Afterwards, I take a walk through the downtown. An “echo” rings through the streets as men call out the sale of Cork’s local paper, the Evening Echo. I also duck into the English Market, which is definitely worth a visit. A traditional indoor marketplace, it’s full of fresh fruits and vegetables and mouth-watering pastries.

English Market

At 4:15, we’re all back on the bus and headed home. A highlight of the day is still to come when Mac impresses us all with his renditions of classic Irish songs like “The Foggy Dew” and “The Town I Loved So Well.” By 7:30 we’re back in Dublin and I am officially checking kissing the Blarney Stone off of my to-do list!

Until next time!

Caitlin

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