Hidden Treasures – Ireland’s best kept secret’s
If you’re a native of the Emerald Isle or just a frequent visitor, there’s a good chance you’ve ticked off all the attractions on the ‘must-see’ list. You know the ones; Giant’s Causeway, the Ring of Kerry and the Cliffs of Moher to name but three. So where do you go next?
Well, fear not, as there are dozens of attractions and places of interest that plenty of people don’t know about but are just as impressive as the ones everyone does know. To get you started, we’ve picked out five hidden hotspots to uncover on your next trip.
1. Torc Waterfall, Killarney National Park
Located just four miles outside Killarney in the south-west of Ireland, Torc Waterfall is the kind of natural beauty spot you would traditionally associate with more tropical climates. Coming down from the Torc Mountains via a river known as the Devil’s Punch Bowl, the 60-foot drop of gushing water is both powerful and beautiful in equal measure. And it’s just a short walk from the parking lot.
If you’re feeling fit and fancy getting some miles in those walking legs, you can climb the 220 steps up from the waterfall to a trail that delivers stunning views of the area lakes. The two-to-three-hour walk will eventually take you back to where you’re parked. Oh, and the whole thing is free of charge, too.
2. Aran Islands, County Galway
A 40-minute ferry ride from Rossaveel, just outside Galway, the Aran Islands are truly unspoiled Ireland at its finest. Gaelic remains the main language spoken here, and the local residents still get around the old-fashioned way: on foot, by bike, or horse and buggy.
Inis Mor (or Insihmore) is the largest and most visited of all the islands, and is the more developed of the group, offering many of the conveniences favoured by visitors such as B&Bs, bike rentals and a youth hostel. Explore the island by bike for the day and stop at the ruins of Dun Aengus, an impressive Iron Age fortress walled on three sides, with a jaw-dropping 300-foot drop on the open fourth separating you from the sea!
The other two islands, Inis Meain and Inis Oirr, receive far fewer visitors so even more reason for you to venture there. On a clear day you can see popular Irish attraction the Cliffs of Moher from the shores of Inis Oirr.
3. Beara Peninsula, Counties Cork and Kerry
This region of Ireland is most famous for the Ring of Kerry (and with good reason too), but if you’re looking to stay away from herds of tourists who flock there each year then look no further than the Ring of Beara on the Beara Peninsula.
Wild, rugged and rocky, the peninsula’s many rambling footpaths are great for walkers, whilst everywhere you look you’re surrounded by picture postcard scenery. If you prefer to stay in your car, you can cruise around this natural landscape on four wheels, which is no less an exhilarating experience.
4. Hore Abbey, County Tipperary
No tour guides, no crowds and no entrance fee? What more could you want from an off-the-beaten-track day out? In stark contrast to the nearby Rock of Cashel, which is unquestionably an impressive collection of medieval buildings but very, very popular with visitors, Hore Abbey is a gorgeous deserted ruin that you have all to yourself (well, pretty much).
Most of the abbey was built in the thirteenth century, although many changes were made in the fifteenth century, including the addition of the tower in the centre of the transept. The ruins are now surrounded by fields of sheep and cattle and are easily accessible to the public.
5. Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, County Antrim
Another attraction in the shadow of a much better-known one (in this instance, Giant’s Causeway). Not that it’s a complete unknown of course (approximately a quarter of a million people visit it each year), and you would certainly label it a tourist attraction, but just one that’s a little more low-key.
The bridge itself connects the tiny island of Carrickarded (“Rock of the Casting”) to the mainland and is maintained by the National Trust. Probably not for those who don’t like heights, but the views are spectacular and let’s be honest, how often do you get to cross a 66-foot bridge? It’s open all-year round (weather permitting) and there’s a small fee payable to the National Trust for the privilege.