Looking out over the North Atlantic from mainland Ireland’s most northerly point at Malin Head feels a bit like reaching the end of the world, with little separating you from the Arctic other than ocean – you can even see the Northern Lights from here if you time it right. This area is also home to the popular mobile coffee shop Caffe Banba, so you can enjoy a warm beverage while you take in the view.
The crowing point of County Donegal’s Fanad Peninsula is a lighthouse dating back to 1818, when it was built in response to the sinking of a warship in Lough Swilly, in which the sole survivor was its parrot. Still in operation, Fanad Head Lighthouse is one of 12 that make up Great Lighthouses of Ireland – a new initiative allowing visitors the chance to visit or stay in an Irish lighthouse.
Donegal’s largest town Letterkenny is known as the Cathedral Town, for having Donegal’s only Roman Catholic cathedral. It is also home to the Donegal Museum, set in a former famine workhouse and officially recognised by the Irish government as the best of Ireland’s county museums.
Slieve League’s cliffs aren’t as well known as the Cliffs of Moher, but they are nearly three times taller. Europe’s highest sea cliffs at 601 metres, seeing them is truly a once in a lifetime experience.
Inis Meáin, Aran Islands
The smallest of Galway Bay’s Aran Islands in terms of population, Inis Meáin is described as ‘one of the most important strongholds of traditional Irish culture’. An extension of The Burren’s karst landscape, this beautifully remote area is also home to the celebrated Inis Meáin Restaurant & Suites – a wonderful place to rest your head for the night.
Strandhill is the biggest coastal village in County Sligo and one of its most scenic, nestled at the base of Knocknarea hill and looking out across the Atlantic. A surfer’s paradise, the area also has a local market, seaweed baths, a golf club, plus plenty of restaurants and pubs.
County Mayo’s Ballina town has some notable architecture, with many Georgian buildings, and is also the site of the Jackie Clarke Collection – a major private collection of more than 100,000 Irish historical artefacts, including letters from Irish revolutionaries, rare books, maps etc.
A Benedictine monastery based in a 19th century castle on a picturesque lakeshore, Kylemore Abbey in Connemara is well worth visiting. As well as exploring the abbey itself, visitors can tour the entire 1,000 acre estate, including six acres of Victorian walled gardens.
Welcoming and colourful, the harbour city of Galway has everything you could possibly want from an Irish city, from fantastic places to eat to lively pubs and music venues to cultural attractions – it is even set to be European Capital of Culture in 2020.
Inside the Doolin Cave in County Clare you will find the longest free-hanging stalactite in the entire Northern Hemisphere. A staggering 7.3 metre (23 feet) structure hanging from the ceiling, it was formed from calcium deposits from a single drop of water, dripping over thousands of years.
The Cliffs Of Moher
As one of Ireland’s most visited sites, the majestic Cliffs of Moher on the Clare coast need no introduction. Providing views of the Aran Islands, the Maumturks and Twelve Pins mountain ranges, and Loop Head peninsula, these spectacular cliffs are a natural national treasure.
Clare’s 15th-century tower house known as Bunratty Castle has become another major tourist attraction, famous for its long history (the site was originally a Viking trading camp in 970) and its medieval-style banquets – a tradition that has survived since 1963.
Slea Head Drive
Taking in some of Ireland’s most striking vistas, Dingle’s circular Slea Head driving route has so many fabulous stopping points that it’s impossible to pick just one. Travellers are advised to set aside at least a half-day to get the most out of this breathtaking journey.
Mizen Head Signal Station
The southerly equivalent of Malin Head, the cliffs at Mizen Head have their own visitor centre, where the brave can cross a startlingly high bridge and watch for seals, whales and dolphins in the waves below.