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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.



Causeway Road, Bush­mills,

Co. Antrim

Tel: (028) 2073 1855 na­tion­al­

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.


CAVE HILL COUN­TRY PARK Antrim Road, Belfast vis­it­

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 ti­tan­ic­

“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.


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

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 cliff­sof­mo­

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?


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

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.


Em­mett Place, County Cork

Tel: (021) 480 5042, craw­for­dart­

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).



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

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, glas­nev­in­mu­

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

Rock star­dom: Gi­ant’s Causeway

Crawford Art Gallery: one of Cork’s top at­trac­tions

EPIC The Ir­ish Em­i­gra­tion Mu­seum: an es­sen­tial stop-off in Dublin

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