Ireland is a country filled with amazing history and iconic sights. Each curve of the country’s notoriously winding roads brings a new, breathtaking scene, dotted with castle ruins, fluffy sheep, or achingly beautiful landscape.
It’s these sights, and the stories that accompany them, that bring millions of visitors to Ireland each year, all armed with an itinerary of ‘must see’ attractions. But few visitors take the time to venture from their ‘trail of musts’ to discover amazing Ireland destinations most tourists miss.
The Rock of Dunamase, County Laois
As tourists leave Dublin for points west, the N7 motorway rushes them past one of the most magnificent ruins in Ireland: the Rock of Dunamase. Rising 45 meters above the verdant valley, travelers can still feel authority emanating from the crumbling stone fortress. An upward climb along the rocky path leads visitors through medieval gates and ancient walls before reaching the ruins of the great hall at the pinnacle of the rock.
Cahir Castle, County Tipperary
The most direct route between Dublin and Cork leads tourists through the village of Cashel, well known for the ruin upon it’s rock. But few visitors know about Cahir Castle, also along the route. The castle, built on an island in the River Suir, is one of the largest and best preserved Norman Castles in Ireland. Tourists can explore from dungeon to high tower, and nearly every spot in between, before enjoying the large island park beyond the castle walls.
Lough Gur, County Limerick
As visitors pass through County Limerick, the main route between the Ring of Kerry and the Cliffs of Moher, most will make a brief stop in Adare, “the prettiest village in Ireland’. Not far from here is Lough Gur, a most mystical spot, and home to The Grange, Ireland’s largest stone circle. The lough itself has been partially drained and has revealed amazing Iron and Bronze Age artifacts, while the surrounding hills retain history from the Stone Age through the Post Medieval Period.
The Wild Atlantic Way, Ireland’s 2500km driving route along the dramatic Atlantic coast in europe, draws tourists by the bus-load to the counties of Kerry, Clare, and Galway. But County Sligo, the land that inspired W. B. Yeats, is the least visited along this route. The tourists that do find their way here pass through with quick glances through a window as they travel from Point A to Point B, missing the table mountain of Benbulben, Queen Maeve’s cairn atop the fabled Knocknarea, and the megalithic cemetery of Carrowmore – along with all those places Yeats so eloquently penned into his Nobel Prize winning poetry.
Loughcrew Cairns, County Meath
Newgrange, in County Meath just north of Dublin, is well known the world over for the illumination of the passage tomb at sunrise on the winter solstice. Each year hundreds enter a lottery for the chance to be admitted to view the site. But few know about the passage tomb atop Loughcrew, just across the county. Though a smaller site than Newgrange, visitors can gain entry without being part of a paid tour. Twice a year, on both the spring and autumn equinox, the sunrise illuminates the intricately carved Equinox stone at the rear of the chamber- an event which draws only a handful of people.