Spots the Tourists Miss In Ireland
Ireland offers a lot more than Killarney and Blarney, so while you’re making your way to these big-time tourists spots, try including some lesser-visited destinations...they’re so close by and in many cases outdo their big name neighbor.
The Ring of Kerry
The Republic of Ireland’s most popular driving route has a string of well-known stops like Killarney, but few visitors detour to the ring forts outside Cahersiveen. A “Forts” sign points the way to Cahergall & Leacanabuile Stone Forts. With their close proximity to each other and the fact that one is completely rebuilt and the other is in ruin provides a wonderful contrast. Along the way, the ruins of Ballycarberry Castle are worth a peek as well.
Most people stop by Waterford to see the crystal factory and move on, but the region has a lot going for it. The Waterford Treasures Museum delivers a well-produced and extensive experience for those venturing to city centre. Meanwhile, hikes in the Commeragh Mountains, a daytrip around the Hook Head Peninsula and the coastal drive from Waterford to Annestown can hold their own against the crystal factory.
The Causeway Coast
Northern Ireland’s hotspot-laden Causeway Coast driving route includes the Giants Causeway, Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, Bushmill’s Distillery and Dunluce Castle, but few visitors continue the coastal route into the Republic to the Innishowen Peninsula. The peninsula’s Scenic 100 driving route offers some of the country’s most breathtaking shoreline.
Cliffs of Moher
With the number of visitors to the famous Cliffs of Moher, one would expect the neighboring area known as the Burren to be overwrought with tourists. Not so. The unique landscape looks more lunar than earthly. Getting out of the car, even for a short walk, offers the best way to get a closer look...especially at the spots where the Burren meets the Atlantic.
Since visitors usually take some type of transportation to the Storehouse, they should keep heading west to Kilmainham Gaol (pronounced “jail”). The prison tells the story of the penal system and Ireland’s history through the rebels who shaped the nation.
Visitors to the famous stone are supposed to gain the gift of gab, but that gift tends to turn them into the voice box for the country’s most popular viral marketing campaign. I’m much more a fan of the sites in Cork city and Cohb. And if it's a castle experience you're looking for, Barryscourt Castle down the road near Middleton gives a better look at castle life than Blarney...heck, the countryside is littered with castles...they just don't have the famous stone.
Rock of Cashel
This giant treasure in the Golden Vale rightfully draws a crowd, but the ruin of Athassel Priory in nearby Golden is a titan in its own right. Climbing the stiles built into the wall and crossing the field takes you to the huge, seldom visited monastic ruin with an entire complex of buildings to discover.
Entering the passage tomb at Newgrange is wonderful, if not crowded, half-day experience, but taking the required bus ride to the site and the strictly timed tours don’t offer a lot of solo exploration. About an hour away, the tomb at Loughcrew invites visitors into the tomb without the long lines and you’re likely to have an enlightening one-on-one chat with the onsite rangers as well.
More off-the-beaten-path suggestions at www.IrishFireside.com
Corey is the Ireland Editor for Wandering Educators. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org