By Kumiko Matter and Kristine Cruzat
Ireland is known for its captivating rolling hills and green pastures that make up the interior of the country. Travel outside of the main cities and you’ll fall in love with the natural landscape that the Emerald Isle has to offer. All of these landmarks are easily accessible for daytrips, but you’ll end up wanting to stay longer by the time you have to leave! Planning a trip to Ireland? Check out these landmarks for the best scenic views in Ireland.
The Ring of Kerry
The Ring of Kerry is truly a magical and undeniably scenic tourist trail located in the southwest of Ireland. As one of Ireland’s most famous circuits, you will surely enjoy the drive because it covers about 100 miles of stunning scenery around the Iveragh Peninsula. You’ll enjoy breathtaking Atlantic Ocean views, panoramic views of mountains, astonishing islands and visually attractive villages. The Ring of Kerry has over 20 major attractions and provides amazing insight into the ancient heritage and some of Ireland’s finest historical buildings. While driving is the classic way of visiting the natural beauty of this popular tourist route, you can hike within the Ring of Kerry and explore amazing landscapes, especially Ireland’s incredible and highest peak, Carrauntoohil.
Situated in County Clare, the Burren is a wide-open area of limestone rocks looking over the Atlantic Ocean. Local farmers stack up the limestone to build natural fences, which you’ll spot frequently. West Ireland’s windy weather creates an interesting, wind-swept look for the permanently bent trees around the Burren. Visit during the summertime and you’ll see many orchid and heather species blossoming between the slats of rock.
Killarney National Park
A walk around Killarney National Park, located in the south of County Kerry, will up close and personal with beautiful wildlife and natural landscapes. Seek out Torc Waterfall, which is layered and comes around a bend surrounded by lush greenery. Visit just after heavy rainfall, and you’ll be able to see the waterfall gushing down the hill. Just a short hike up the walking route brings you to a gorgeous viewpoint looking over Middle Lake. You can also go down by the lakes in Killarney National Park for more views and can canoe to the small islands in the middle of the lakes.
Cliffs of Moher
Every woman dreams of a romantic kissing scene overlooking a stunning view, like at the end of the movie, “Leap Year,” when the main characters kiss at the Cliffs of Moher. Maybe that dream of an epic kiss won’t happen, but you’ll definitely be swept away by the magnificence of the view! You might find birds hiding in the crags, small waterfalls dripping over the edges, or big waves crashing up against the cliffs. This dramatic coastline of Western Ireland is a view you won’t find anywhere else.
According to Irish legends, the Irish giant, Finn MacCool, created Giant’s Causeway to make his way across the North Channel to fight the Scottish giant, Benandonner. As lovely as it would be for that story to be true, scientifically the Giant’s Causeway was created as a lava flow cooled and cracked, which created the basalt cliffs we see today. These hexagonal columns sweep down from the cliffs down into the sea. While they are fun to walk across, don’t get too close to the water’s edge as a precaution.
Situated almost eight miles off the west coast are the Skellig Islands. Little Skellig is home to over 25,000 sea birds while the larger of the two, Skellig Michael, is known as the mysterious abandoned medieval monastery of Ireland. According to George Bernard Shaw it is “an incredible, impossible, mad place” that is “part of our dream world.” That is why this ancient island monastery is featured in the Star Wars movies. This remote, rocky island has a steep stone pathway. Reaching the top after 618 steps is rewarding as it’s where you’ll be able to explore the Christian monastery and see hundreds of birds flying up above. Until today, the structure remains intact and unchanged thanks to the Christian monks who inhabited the island from 6th to the late 12th century.
Just an hour-long drive south from Dublin is the popular hiking destination, Wicklow Mountains National Park. It is a great area to drive through, walk along marked trails, and a lovely place to swim and have an afternoon picnic. The Wicklow Mountains are exquisite around summertime, when the hills come to life with wildflowers and heather. Make your way down to Glendalough, the vast lake set in the valley of the mountains, to finish off your hike and cool off in the refreshing waters.
The Burren: Sergio via Flickr
Couple at Cliffs of Moher: Seth Sawyers via Flickr
Wicklow Mountains: Kara Nagai via Flickr