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,
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.
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.
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?
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).
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
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