Green—Ireland’s been doing it since well before it was a buzzword. And not just for one day each spring in celebration of its patron saint. “In Ireland, everyday is bathed in green,” asserts the country’s visitor’s bureau. That’s no exaggeration. Thanks to heavy precipitation and its mild climate (caused by warming ocean currents), The Emerald Isle is a scientific fact.
It’s also a popular place to visit. When considering a trip to this photogenic and evergreen beauty, forget luck and consider these worthy itinerary entries.
Dingle Peninsula. Considered by many to be the birthplace of Irish culture, Dingle and its titular peninsula are largely to blame for Ireland’s iconic cliches. Rugged coasts and grassy hills. Rural living. Relaxing livestock dotting the horizon. At the country’s westernmost point, Dunmore Head looks to the New World as if to remember the many countrymen she sent across the Atlantic. It’s arguably the most charming place on the island.
National Parking. There are only six national parks in Ireland, but three in particular come highly recommended. If you only do one, make it Killarney National Park, featuring the postcard perferct Gap of Dunloe. http://www.thedunloe.com/gap-dunloe Here you can hike, jog, boat or golf in a magical setting. Also of note: Glenveagh National Park in County Donegal, starring its namesake castle and exotic gardens, and Connemara National Park, which is known for its fairytale-like scenery.
Dublin. The landing spot for nearly every visitor, the capital of Dublin is also deserving of at least a couple of days. Although more than a third of the country’s entire population lives here, the city is relatively compact and easily negotiated on foot. There are the top-flight pubs, of course. But there’s also astonishing architecture, notably the Old Library at Trinity College, the interior of John’s Lane Church and The Chapel Royal at Dublin Castle.
Cliffs of Moher (pictured). If you’ve only seen one photo of Ireland’s great outdoors, this is probably it. Famed for their timeless views, the cliffs (pictured at top) receive more than a million visitors each year and are among the country’s most-visited attractions. One look and you’ll know why. The 400-foot bluffs of grass-covered shale and sandstone ascend from the Atlantic and beg to be photographed. The panorama is so profound, however, you won’t want to click and go. This one and the nearby Aran Islands are worth taking in.
Wild Atlantic Way. Whether by bus or rented car — abominable Irish roads be damned — driving the southwest coast and interior is the seminal way to experience the island. The most popular routes include the 120-mile Ring of Kerry with access to Killarney, the Skellig Islands and other jaw-droppers. Slea Head Drive is another favorite passage with access to Blarney Castle. But if you really want to go big, you can combine those routes and more into one epic, 1500-mile Wild Atlantic Way that passes through Dingle, Moher, Connemara and dozens of other points interest.
PS—Coasteering in Kerry was the highlight of my trip.
This story first appeared in Paste Magazine