When we think of Ireland, we may envision the great green hills of the countryside, wind gusts atop the Cliffs of Moher or the Blarney Stone tucked securely in the gray walls of its towering castle. 

Just like its legends and lore, the Emerald Isle has many interesting stops full of adventure, magic and romance—after all, the land and its people are the lifeblood of these centuries-long stories!

We certainly recommend a visit to all the iconic landmarks like Giant’s Causeway, Connemara, the Ring of Kerry, Blarney Castle…they are popular and must-sees for a reason, and if you’ve ever stood in the midst of any of these places, you know why (and even if you’ve seen them several times, it never gets old!). 

But maybe you’re a second-time traveler to the country, or maybe you’d like to add a few stops off the beaten path. Either way, we have a few ideas—check out five of Ireland’s hidden gems below. You might need your hiking boots! 

Caves of Keash (Kesh)

Have you ever just felt that a place holds secrets? You’ll feel it here the moment you gaze into the mouths of these gorgeous caves—a total of 16—at the top of Keshcorran Mountain in County Sligo. The area offers stunning panoramic views once you venture uphill a ways, and you can explore most of the caves’ interiors.

Studies performed here show fossils of wild animals from prehistoric times, as well as many sets of human teeth from perhaps the Medieval Era, which could be the result of some sort of religious ritual. Creepy! If only these caves could talk, right? 

While the climb is steep, the views do not disappoint, and you’ll learn the area’s most intriguing myths. For our hikers and history buffs, this one’s for you! 

Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge

If you’re looking for an exhilarating experience, here’s one! The rope bridge, suspended nearly 100 feet above the Atlantic, gives you a gorgeous bird’s-eye-view of the green water and caves below. Now, this may not be for those afraid of heights, but the foamy waves and dramatic cliffs are worth the view from this angle.

If you dare to cross, you’ll find the bridge sways and bounces a bit (you’ve been warned!), and you’ll step onto the tiny island of Carrick, which once was a haven for Atlantic Salmon fishermen. You could spend hours exploring the small island and its scenery. There is also a guided tour of the Fisherman’s Cottage, a small dwelling used for years by various seamen, where you can learn the impact of salmon fishery on local life. 

The bridge is located on the Causeway Coastal Route in Northern Ireland.

The Wormhole

Also known as Poll na bPéist or the Serpent’s Lair, this incredible formation is located on the Isle of Inishmoor in the Aran Islands, which you can travel to aboard a ferry. The almost-perfect rectangular shape would make one think the opening was man-made, but it was, in fact, never tampered with.

The Wormhole, essentially, is a tidal pool that opens below to many waterways leading to the sea. At high tide, strong, buoyant waves crash over the craggy rocks and fill it up. Be prepared to walk across some rocky landscape to get here, but seeing this in person is definitely a bucket-list item!

Recently, the tidal pool has been used for the Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series. Can you imagine diving headfirst into these dark waters? It’s also been used as a Game of Thrones filming location.

Sliabh Liag Cliffs

In west Donegal on the Wild Atlantic Way lies one of Ireland’s best kept secrets, Sliabh Liag, the highest sea cliffs in the country (and some of the highest in Europe)! This trip is an adventure for the whole family, and you can enjoy a boat tour from the viewpoint of the sea—you might even find some friends, as dolphins and seals are often spotted around these parts, or walk among the mountains themselves and feel as if you’re up in the clouds.

Much like the rest of Ireland, these cliffs are rich in history and are known to be an old monastic site. If you embark on a guided tour, you’ll hear about its ancient history as well as wildlife and other fascinating facts. Don’t forget to stop and breathe in that fresh, salty sea water every once in a while. This view is not one you’ll see anywhere else!

Gap of Dunloe

The gorgeous Gap of Dunloe is a narrow, winding road through County Kerry. It’s best to walk or bike if you’re unfamiliar with the terrain (or, you can even hire a horse carriage!).

This small passage was made between two mountains—MacGillycuddy Reeks and the Purple Mountain range. The small road ventures over the river Loe and passes five lakes that reflect the mountains and sky surrounding them. The scenery here is magical, and you’ll have time to go at your own pace and discover every nook and cranny.

You’ll also cross a charming bridge called the “Wishing Bridge,” and it’s said wishes really do come true here. If you do visit the Gap of Dunloe, let us know if your wish comes true! 

 

 

Photo credits (in order of appearance): Caves of Keash: ©SligoWalks.ie; ©Eddie Lee/Ed Lee Photography; ©Eddie Lee/Ed Lee Photography. Sliabh Liag Cliffs: ©Failte Ireland. Gap of Dunloe: John Hession.

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