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The smart visitor’s guide to the best historic sites, adventure centres and museum tours around Ireland.

Ireland is real-life wonderland with stunning vistas from north to south, east to west. Let PETER McGORAN take your hand and be your guide.

ANTRIM

GIANT’S CAUSEWAY

Causeway Road, Bushmills,

Co. Antrim

Tel: (028) 2073 1855 nationaltr­ust.org.uk/giants-causeway

Legend has it that the Giant’s Causeway was carved from the coast by the great

Finn MacCool, although scientists believe an ancient volcanic eruption a more likely explanatio­n. Whatever the truth, the 40,000 columns of interlocki­ng layered basalt that make up the Giant’s Causeway are a spectacula­r sight and attract over 750,000 visitors every year to the impossibly wild Antrim coast. Having been a Unesco World Heritage Site since 1986, the travel company Expedia also included it in its Top 12 most Instagramm­ed locations in the UK list. The Visitor Centre is open daily from 9am.

BELFAS T

CAVE HILL COUNTRY PARK Antrim Road, Belfast visitbelfa­st.com

Climbing to the top of Cavehill over unsurfaced paths, caves, moorlands and meadows, you’ll arrive at the most breathtaki­ng vista at the top of McArt’s Fort; a sweeping panoramic view of Belfast, the Lough, and (on a good day) the outline of Scotland and the Isle of Man can be seen from the hill’s pinnacle. The surroundin­g country park also features a variety of wildlife, several historical and archaeolog­ical sites and the famous Belfast Castle.

TITANIC BELFAST Titanic Quarter, Belfast

Tel: (028) 9076 6386 titanicbel­fast.com

“It’s really quite phenomenal. It’s a magni cent, dramatic building, the biggest Titanic exhibit in the world,” enthuses Titanic lm director James Cameron, and we’re not about to disagree with him. The Titanic Belfast is an unmissable experience and since opening, thousands of visitors have thronged to the centre to learn about the history of the world’s most famous shipping disaster. It was even voted the World’s Leading Tourist Attraction at the 2016 World Travel Awards in the Maldives, an honour comparable to an Oscar nod in the world of tourism. Titanic Belfast is open daily.

CLARE

AILLWEE CAVE Ballyvaugh­an, Co. Clare Tel: (065) 707 7036 aillweecav­e.ie

Stalactite­s, stalagmite­s and caves, oh my! Located in the heart of the spectacula­r Burren in County Clare, the Aillwee Caves encapsulat­e the sense of wonder, beauty

and discovery that has long made this region a family favourite. Allow expert guides to accompany and inform you through a fascinatin­g tour of the caves, taking you over bridged chasms, under unique formations and alongside thunderous waterfalls, which may well spray unsuspecti­ng visitors! Children and adults alike will love seeking out unusual crystals and fossils, and you can round off your day by visiting the Birds of Prey centre and the Hawk Walk, where you can get up close to hawks, falcons and owls.

THE CLIFFS OF MOHER Liscannor, Co. Clare

Tel: (065) 708 6141 cliffsofmo­her.ie

One of the world’s great natural wonders, the Cliffs of Moher draw millions of visitors from across the world every year. In 2019, the Cliffs of Moher were voted Ireland’s favourite visitor attraction in the Irish Independen­t Readers Travel Awards. One factor that may be contributi­ng to their popularity is the Wild Atlantic Way initiative, which has encouraged holiday-makers to explore the entirety of the western seaboard. Whatever it is that draws the crowds, who could argue with the astonishin­g beauty of the cliffs?

CORK

BLARNEY CASTLE Blarney, Co. Cork Tel: (021) 438 5252 blarneycas­tle.ie

Built nearly 600 years ago by one of Ireland’s greatest chieftains, Cormac MacCarthy, Blarney Castle has attracted worldwide attention ever since. Aside from being an internatio­nal landmark in its own right, Blarney Castle is home to one of Ireland’s greatest treasures, the Blarney Stone. Millions have ocked to the Cork town to visit the attraction, which according to legend grants remarkable powers of eloquence, or ‘the gift of the gab’, to those who give it a kiss. It’s worth taking time to explore the various gardens too – from the tranquil waterfalls in the Bog Garden, to the curiositie­s in the Poison Garden, there’s something to tickle everyone’s fancy.

CRAWFORD ART GALLERY

Emmett Place, County Cork

Tel: (021) 480 5042, crawfordar­tgallery.ie

Looking to initiate yourself into the world of Irish art? Look no further than Cork’s Crawford Art Gallery, a museum containing over 4,000 works. Though this spot does play host to internatio­nal collection­s, such as the casts of Roman and Greek sculptures originally housed in Rome’s Vatican Museum, the place is known for centring contempora­ry Irish artists and re-asserting their place in the canon. Admission is completely free, with notable current and upcoming exhibition­s including Heroes & Villains (commencing April 14); Mary Swanzy: Voyages (running until June 3); and Andrew Kearney: Mechanism ( running until May 26).

DUBLIN

EPIC THE IRISH EMIGRATION MUSEUM

The CHQ building, Custom House Quay, Dublin 1 Tel: (01) 906 0861 epicchq.com

One of the newest major attraction­s in Dublin, EPIC The Irish Emigration Museum tells the unforgetta­ble story of the 10 million Irish people who left their homeland over the centuries – and how they in uenced and shaped the world. The interactiv­e galleries make this family-friendly experience an essential destinatio­n for everyone with an interest in Ireland’s people, culture and history. The museum also houses the Irish Family History Centre, with experts helping visitors uncover their Irish roots. Shortliste­d for European Museum of the Year 2018 and included in the Top 5 Irish Museums on TripAdviso­r, EPIC is open from 10am to 6.45pm daily (last entry 5pm).

GLASNEVIN CEMETARY TOURS Finglas Road, Glasnevin, Dublin 11 Tel: (01) 882 6500, glasnevinm­useum.ie

The largest non-denominati­onal cemetery in Ireland, Glasnevin is the resting place of some of the most famous gures in Irish history. Daniel O’Connell, Charles Stewart Parnell, Michael Collins and Éamon de Valera are buried here, next to well-known artists such as Brendan Behan, Luke Kelly and Christy

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Rock stardom: Giant’s Causeway
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Crawford Art Gallery: one of Cork’s top attraction­s
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EPIC The Irish Emigration Museum: an essential stop-off in Dublin

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