Once you've ticked off your bucket list with Ireland's Popular Attractions and best-known destinations, it's time to explore the lesser known gems hidden of Ireland. As you begin to discover areas that are usually not included in the 'greatest hits' catalogue of Irish travel, you'll also begin to wonder why. Most of these destinations won't have the queues or activity of, for example, the Guinness Storehouse or Blarney Castle, but they certainly have no lack of character or charm.
Just don't tell the locals we gave up their secret!
While the East of Ireland continues to be the most popular region of Ireland for visitors, very few, especially, on their first visit, venture beyond the well known attractions. While these attractions are hugely popular for a reason, once you have ticked them of your list it is worth while looking further a field, to the lesser known attractions of the East.
Visitors who set off in search of ramparts and turrets are likely to walk past Dublin Castle in search for something more medieval-looking. So, be warned that there won't be jousting and suits of armour. For 700 years the bastion of British rule in Ireland, the castle is really a Victorian architectural mish-mash, and wouldn't look out of place in London or Paris.
This might not be the most exciting attraction you'll find set against Dublin's vibrant backdrop, and it's certainly not a day out for the kids, but the 45-minute tours are frequent and informative. A visit to the castle will appeal to anyone who has a keen interest in Irish history.
A splendid neoclassical building designed by Sir Thomas Newenham Deane and completed in 1890. The original building is generally considered the most significant and most important for visitors to see on their Ireland tour.
Among its most notable attractions are various Bronze and Iron Age attractions, including The Ardagh Chalice, the Tara Brooch, the Broighter Gold Collar and the Loughnashade War Trumpet. Equally stunning is the Cross of Cong, which was crafted in 1123 A.D.
Built between 1745 and 1748 as the city residence of the Duke of Leinster and Earl of Kildare, James Fitzgerald. This attraction is most notable for politically-minded visitors - it is home to the Houses of the Oireachtas, the seat of government in the Republic of Ireland. Watch politics in action as the laws of the land are made right here before you.
The original Poolbeg Lighthouse was, allegedly, the first lighthouse in the world to run on candlepower when it was built in 1768. It changed to oil in 1786. The structure that survives today was built in 1820. Poolbeg Lighthouse stands on the Great South wall of the Port of Dublin, extending nearly 4 miles out into Dublin Bay.
Originally a hunting lodge built sometime around 1725 by William Conolly, an Irish politician. The building was known as Mount Pelier until it was taken over by the Irish Hell Fire Club in the 1730's. It is said that the Hell Fire Club was then used as a meeting place for occult and other sinful practices.
The original building was constructed on an ancient passage tomb. Its roof was blown off in a storm shortly after its completion, leading locals to believe that the building was haunted... by a giant black cat.
The tower, built in 1805, was originality used to guard Ireland from the possibility of an invasion by Napoleon. From 1825, the tower became a part of the Irish Coast Guard's anti-smuggling campaigns. In 1852, the tower was used as a terminal for the first telegraph connecting Ireland to Wales. The founding fathers of radio, Lee de Forest and Guglielmo Marconi (both who claimed they invented the radio as we know it today), also used the tower in their pioneering tests of radio technology.
After a refurbishment the tower was reopened in 2003 as Ye Olde Hurdy Gurdy Museum of Vintage Radio. Collections include early televisions, radios, gramophones, records and Morse-code systems.
Fought in 1690 between two rival claimants of the English, Scottish, and Irish thrones, catholic King James II and protestant King William III of Orange, the Battle of The Boyne would shore up the growing strength of protestantism in Ireland, precipitating James's swift departure for safety in France.
The battle itself was fought on a stretch of land between the counties of Meath and Louth which now belongs to the Oldbridge Estate Farm. On site, there is a visitor centre with a short show, original and replica weapons, and a battlefield model. There is also a tea pavilion to which the battle-weary can retreat for hot drinks and cakes.
For information about great driving routes in this area, look up www.boynevalleyroute.com - a really useful resource for those considering a self-drive tour of East Ireland.
Accessible by car, this is also one for the thousands hill walkers who visit Ireland each year. Sally Gap offers visitors some of the most beautiful scenery you will find anywhere on your tour of Ireland, so don't forget to bring your camera along with you. Sally Gap is one of two west-east passes across the Wicklow Mountains, and affords fantastic views of Lough Tay and Lough Dan.
The many small towns along Ireland's east coast are a dream for anyone wanting to uncover the real face of Ireland, known and loved by the locals.
As just one example, while perhaps less well known for its own tourist attractions, Kildare Town remains a great little stop-off for those who wanting to experience the bustle of East-Ireland life.
Similarly, Trim in County Meath is a quaint town sitting the shadow of its dramatic castle and ruins. You'll find a busy bustle of little streets so look out for your souvenirs here. Also look out for St Brigid's Cathedral before heading over to the Irish National Stud. Another town of note, 30 miles north of Dublin, Drogheda straddles the River Boyne. There is a great museum here and plenty of beautiful old buildings.
The Jealous Wall is a 'sham-ruin' or folly, a building designed with no other reason apart from decoration, constructed in Belvedere House and Gardens, County Westmeath. It is one of three Gothic follies found on the gardens, along with the Gothic Arch & the Octagonal Gazebo.
It is said to have been built by Robert Rochfort as a way to block the view of his brother George's house. George, apparently, had a nicer looking house.
Revealing the location of this small beach could land us in some hot water with the locals. Silver Strand Beach, about a 10-minute drive from Wicklow Town, remains relatively unknown compared to the beaches closer to Dublin: Howth and Portmarnock. The difference between those two beaches and Silver Strand is that Silver Strand is never over crowded and has silky smooth sand instead of course fine stones disguised as sand.
The cliffs surrounding the beach keep the wind to a minimum and the blue water, combined with the silky sand, could trick you into thinking that you are on a beach in the Mediterranean... weather permitting of course.
Lough Dan is a picturesque, boomerang shaped, lake in County Wicklow. It remains relatively unknown by tourists but is hugely popular with locals for kayaking and hiking. Lough Dan has an average depth of 44ft.
The South East is a region of Ireland that is hugely popular, especially in the Summer months, both with visitors from Ireland and abroad. If the weather is right spending a day on a Wexford beach is ideal. As is a leisurely stroll through the ancient city of Waterford or the town of Tipperary. But to get a true scene of the South East, it is worth looking past the main attractions, once you have ticked them off your bucket list of course, and looking towards the lesser known areas.
The Glen of Aherlow is a valley found in the western part of County Tipperary, between the Slievenamuck and Galtee Mountains. The main village of the valley is Lisvarrinane. The Irish poet and Catholic priest Geoffrey Keating took refuge in the caves of the valley while on the run and writing his masterpiece 'Foundation of Knowledge on Ireland'.
The Swiss Cottage is located near the town of Cahir in County Tipperary. It was built around 1810 and was a part of the estate of Lord and Lady Cahir. The Irish Georgian Society restored the cottage in 1985 and was opened to the public in 1989 as a historic house museum.
Dunmore East is a fishing village in County Waterford. It is located in the area which saw a huge influx of Norman and Viking invaders and eventually settlers (circa 795-1170 B.C). Dunmore East has subsequently become home to a fishing port and a harbour, constructed by Royal Mail, for the purpose of transferring mail between England and Ireland.
Today, Dunmore East is a thriving village, buoyed mainly by tourism in the summer and fishing throughout the year.
The Eighteenth Century is perhaps one of the most formative times in the history of Western democracy. It is also one of the bloodiest. The American and French revolutions would have a significant effect on the Irish sense of identity, not to mention the revolutionary spirit which ran through it.
The 1798 Rebellion Centre charts the history of the attempted revolution of that year, thwarted by British military superiority and the ruthless deployment of spies, informants and torture tactics. After a bruising campaign, the Irish rebels regrouped on Vinegar Hill in Enniscorthy, County Wexford, where they would make their final stand against the British. The result was a crushing defeat for the Irish, whose superior numbers could not make up for the firepower of the redcoats below. Armed mostly with pikes, the Irish dead would number high in the thousands.
With its monumental round tower, St Canice's Cathedral rises majestically above the north of Kilkenny's city centre. Perhaps understandably so: ranking just behind St Patrick's in Dublin, it is Ireland's second-largest medieval cathedral. Gothic in style, it is characterized by its iconic round tower which affords commanding views of the surrounding area. The history of the building itself, long and varied, began - at least according to legend - in the Sixth Century with the establishment of a monastery there by St Canice, Kilkenny's patron saint.
Founded in the second half of the Twelfth Centrury and recently partially restored, Jerpoint Abbey is one of Ireland's finest Cistercian ruins. The main church, with its Romanesque flourishes, dates from these earliest days in the abbey's long history, but visitors will also find additions from the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, Fifteenth and Sixteenth Centuries. Look out for figures carved into the cloister pillars, some of them quite entertaining.
A secluded seaside village in Waterford, Ardmore attracts summer visitors to its long, sandy beach, as well as its cliff walks, shops and early Christian monuments. Visitors should add to their to-do list any and all of the following depending on your interests and group make-up: St Declan's Church, Ballyquin Beach and Ardmore Pottery which will leave you well placed to finish the day with a cliff-top stroll before dinner.
If you were looking for a single example of what people might expect a picture-postcard Irish castle to look like, Lismore Castle might be the one. Although the original castle dated back to 1185, what visitors see today was in fact built in the early 1800s, so its turrets and towers are in immaculate condition.
What might impress visitors rather less is the lack of access, so take note before you make a special trip: you won't be able to go inside the castle itself, the interior spaces of which are closed to the public. You will, however, be able to explore the extensive and ornate gardens which, considered the oldest in Ireland, are arguably worth the trip in themselves, especially for the more green-fingered visitor.
This stunning region of south-east Ireland was declared a European Geopark in 2001 and a UNESCO Global Geopark in 2004. It earned its name following generations of metal-mining industry, the legacies of which now make the region such a tourist attraction. Today, it retains all of its geological diversity, with various marked walking trails offering unique access to this most charming face of Ireland.
The hidden gems of the West are almost hiding in plain site. They run so naturally together, with the rural terrain, that it feels like everywhere you turn you've wandered across one. Sprawling fields that suddenly flow into a giant cliff face and an ancient monastery that seems to be a continuation of the stone walls that surround it are just a few ways that the spectacular landscape and its landmarks blend together in the West of Ireland.
Found in one of the most northerly parts of County Clare, Flaggy Shore is a geologist's dream. Made up of mainly grey limestone there are also the remnants of glacial rock from the last ice age, over 12,000 years ago, in the form of granite and limestone. Fossils of creatures from over 330 million years ago have also been found in the limestone. For us non-geologists of the world, Flaggy Shore is also just a simply beautiful sight.
Kilmacduagh Monastery is located just outside the town of Gort in south west County Galway. Today only the ruins remain. Saint Colman is said to have founded the monastery in the 7th century. Legend has it that as Saint Colman was walking through the woods of the Burren when the belt from his robe fell to the ground. Saint Colman took this as a sign that this was to be the location of his monastery.
It was also said that in the village of Kilmacduagh, no man will die from lightning. This myth was tested when a man was struck by lightning and send over a ditch, into the neighbouring County Clare, where he was declared dead. It is not known if he died when he was stuck or after he crossed the border, so the myth lives on.
Located just north of the village of Ballycastle in County Mayo, Downpatrick Head is a heritage site which gives visitors a unique view of the Atlantic ocean. The Dún Briste sea stack lies close by, which looks like a chunk of Downpartick Head that has been cut away from the mainland. Also found on Downpartick Head are the ruins of a church founded by Ireland's patron saint Patrick, a holy well, a stone circle and nesting sea birds.
Dereen Woods, also known as Bluebell Woods, is located outside the town of Boyle in County Roscommon. Each year, from the start of April to the middle of May, the woods are carpeted with Bluebells. Bluebell Woods, during these months, is one of the most unique sights in Ireland.
The Caves of Kesh are 16 caves, some of which are interconnected, found in the village of Keash, County Sligo. Remains of humans and animals dating back to as far as 10,000 B.C have been found in the caves during excavations in the 20th century. Amazingly, remains of reindeer were found on top of burnt charcoal, suggesting that the animal had survived in Ireland until the human period.
The Spanish Arch arguably stands out more because of the vibrant atmosphere which pervades the surrounding area, particularly in summer when visitors and locals mingle together, eating out in the sun and enjoying the buskers and street performers. The arch itself is thought to be part of the original medieval city walls.
Situated on the Clare and Tipperary banks of Loch Deirgeirt respectively, Killaloe and Ballina offer a tale of two cities ... well, two villages, perhaps. Close enough to be considered one destination, they have quite distinctive and different characteristics. Pack your camera before you head to Killaloe, the epitome of beautiful County Clare; then use it to get some foodie snaps over dinner in Ballina, where you will find fantastic pubs and restaurants.
Comprising three thousand hectares of mountains, bogs, heaths, grasslands and woods, Connemara National Park is a nature-lover's paradise; home to countless native species including red deer, wild ponies and peacock butterflies. The park is also home to several of the famous Twelve Bens, the unmistakeable range of mountains which gives such character to the landscape of this part of Ireland. Dedicated walkers will find plenty of challenge here, but easier strolls can also be found on nearby Diamond Hill.
If Riverdance did festivals...? This showcase of Irish traditional folk music and dance combines the best of Irish trad culture with a great open air festival atmosphere. Featuring world-champion dancers, as well as some of the Riverdance cast, the show has met with near-unanimity in its positive reception among visitors. The price tag might rule it out for some, especially larger families, but those who go are in for a treat. Be sure to book well in advance: shows sell out months ahead.
Ireland's South West region, made up of the Counties of Cork, Kerry and Limerick is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Ireland. It has a number of the must-see attractions of Ireland, the Ring of Kerry and Blarney Castle, to name just two, but it is also a region that boasts hidden gems that, if featured anywhere else on the planet, could easily be their top attractions.
As a city, Cork retains a great deal of its historical and archaeological heritage, and there is no finer example of this than Cork City Gaol, a towering edifice situated just 2km north-west of Patrick's Street. Opened in 1824, the gaol was heralded as "the finest in three kingdoms", though inmates at the time might not have agreed.
Located in the Sunday's Well area of Cork, Cork City Gaol is currently a museum and visitor attraction. Visitors can step back in time and witness what life would have been like for both prisoners and guards of Ireland's most famous gaol. Open 1824 to replace the old Gaol of Northgate Bridge it soon became seen as marvel of architecture and a feat in logistics for its time.
In its hay day of the 19th and early 20th Centauries Cork City Gaol was home to some of Ireland's most notorious prisoners. During the early 1800's the gaol's walls housed many temporary prisoners before they were taken to convict ships bound for Australia. Later in the same century the gaol's guests included Young Irelanders Derry Lane, Terence Bellew McManus and Ralph and Isaac Varian. In the 20th century its most famous prisoners included Fenians James Mountaine and Brian Dillion and revolutionary nationalist Countess Markievicz.
Today the gaol has been redesigned as a visitor centre, refurbishing the cells as they would have been hundreds of years ago. Original scrawlings on the walls of the cells added with eerily realistic wax figures of both guards and prisoners give the whole experience a very voyeuristic feel.
Unlike their predecessors, visitors today have the freedom to roam the gaol's catacombs for the price of €8 (concessions available). The tour takes visitors back in time, recreating the harsh realities of nineteenth-century incarceration, while exploring some of the underlying causes of contemporaneous crime.
The self-guided tour of the gaol is available in 13 different languages. Cork City Gaol has a souvenir shop, tourist information, picnic area and a cafe.
Built in 1845 the Cork Public Museum known then as The Shrubberies is located on the grounds of Fitzgerald Park. It was originally built by Beamish family and was for years their family home. Cork Corporation eventually purchased the house and its surrounding land and used it as a showcase for the Cork International Exhibition of 1902 and 1903.
The museum officially opened in 1910 but after the burning of Cork City in 1920 it was used as the city's Municipal Offices. After being used as an Air Raid Protection office during World War II the museum finally opened in 1945.
Today, the Museum gives an expansive history of Cork and covers a wide selection of topics. Everything from barrel-top caravans to costumes of the 18th century, from Ireland's oldest shovel to a selection of Cork Silver can be found within the museum exhibitions.
The Riverside Café has recently opened within the Museum and gives visitors the perfect opportunity to enjoy the marvellous views. Cork Public Museum really has something for all ages and, if the weather holds up, a walk around the magnificent Fitzgerald Park is a must.
Opened to the public in 1906 and has since become a bustling attraction for both visitors to Cork City and locals alike. The magnificent gardens of the houses of Sunday's Well can be seen from one side of the Museum while the roadside view is flanked by buildings owned by University College Cork.
Bring your Euro and a sense of curiosity as you explore the small, Bohemian shops which line the narrow streets. A favourite destination for international and Irish visitors, Kinsale is hugely popular on our own Ireland tours.
The Franciscan Well Brewery was founded in 1998 by Shane Long. It was built on the site of an old Franciscan Monastery. It is said that the well within this monastery had was given to curing the aliments of those who drank from it. People would come from across Ireland to make use of its miraculous powers.
Brewers, operating from the well today, still harness its unique output while adding modern technology and techniques learned from across Europe. It is currently Ireland Number 1 Craft Brewery. The Franciscan Well have collaborated with fellow Cork drink makers Jameson Whiskey to create a truly Corkonian beverage a Jameson-Aged Stout.
The brewery is where new drink ideas are formed and if they pass the brewers standards they are then served up at the Brew Pub in Cork City. If they are successful here then they will be exported further afield.
The Brew Pub, located within the original brewery on Cork City's North Mall, is currently one of the city's hot spots. It's a modern pub with an historical twist. The original brewing vat sits in the middle of the beer garden, alongside a huge pizza oven. The latest creations from the brewery are tested by the clientele and, if the weather holds out, entire evenings can be spent arguing about the best pizza and beer combination.
The inside of the pub, built on the burial ground of the old monastery, is also a fantastic spot to sample some of Cork's finest delights ...as long as you don't mind the occasional ghost.
We couldn't resist visiting this amazing brewery ourselves to sample the legendary beers and pizza. Click here to find out how our visit went.
Ideal for a lunchtime stop more than a full-day excursion, Kenmare and Sneem both give a great insight into the relaxed pace of life which characterises this part of Ireland. Pull up a chair and take your time over a nice coffee ... or maybe a Guinness.
A living-history museum, Kerry Bog Village offers a heritage-award-winning insight into the harsh realities of life for the rural poor in famine-ravaged eighteenth-century Ireland. Thatched cottages within the village are decorated and furnished to represent, with well-researched exactitude, the real-life experiences of those who lived their lives in this part of Ireland during the nation's harshest times. A valuable and rewarding trip if you want to understand this chapter of Ireland's history.
Today, the Skellig Islands themselves are a birdwatcher's paradise. During the boat trip out to the Islands themselves, you can expect to see gannets, kittiwakes and storm petrels. Skellig Michael has also, in recent years, been part of the set of the newly rebooted Star Wars movie franchise. Click here to find other famous on-screen destinations in Ireland.
Elizabeth Fort was built in 1601 by Sir George Carewan and was named after Queen Elizabeth I. It is located outside the medieval walls of Cork City, Originally built on wood, stone and mud it is torn down within two years by the people of Cork after the death of Queen Elizabeth. English reinforcements are brought in and seize control. The people of Cork are forced to pay for the forts reconstruction
In 1626 the fort is rebuilt in stone. The design takes on the present day star shape and the majority of the fort from this rebuild survives today. Oliver Cromwell orders the fort walls the be heightened in 1650.
During the 18th century the fort is used as an army barracks. Including the barracks in the nearby Barrack Street, there are 750 soldiers housed here. In the early 19th century the fort is used as a prison for convicts waiting on transportation to Australia. In 1929 the Fort became a Garda station and was in use as such up until 2013.
Today the Fort is a free visitor attraction and a fascinating step back into history. There are different aspects of each of the stages of the forts history including statues of soldiers, cannons and model radio control rooms. Probably the most spectacular part of the tour today is the view that visitors receive of Cork City and the nearby St.Finbarr's Cathedral.
The English Market is a food market which connects Princes Steet and The Grand Parade in Cork City. It has been in its present location, in one form or another, since 1788.
The name 'The English Market' was thought up in the 19th Century to differentiate it from The Irish Market (currently the Bodega on Cornmarket Street). From 1788 until 1980 the interior of the market changed very little. A fire on 19 June 1980 saw the Cork City Council undertake an extensive refurbishment of the property.
Today the market is a focal point for Cork's shoppers. The diversity of its products, friendliness of its traders and its overall aesthetic beauty ensure both locals and visitors to the Cork City flock to its stall on a daily basis. Queen Elizabeth II, on her 2011 Tour of Ireland, made sure to drop by The English Market to take a look around.
Breaks from the shopping can also be enjoyed in the market's cafes. The ready to eat hot dogs, from one of the many butchers, are also an unmissable treat. So if you are in Cork and are looking for the best quality food, exotics produce or simply going for a stroll, a visit to The English Market is essential.
One amazing treat that we came across was in The English Market was The Chocolate Shop. A delightful one stop shop for the finest chocolates found throughout Europe. They are completely independent and are not tied down to any particular manufacturer. They only stock chocolate that passes their standard... and wow, it's quite a standard. A must for any chocolate lover in Cork City.
Built in 1722 and overlooking North Gate Bridge, Shandon Tower is one of the most Famous members of Cork City's skyline. Originally the site housed St. Mary's Church before it relocated to Shandon Street in 1693. At the start of the 18th century the area around Shandon became the hub of the world's butter trade.
The famous Red and White sporting colours of the Cork teams in both Gaelic Football and Hurling are said to have their origins within the walls of Shandon Tower. The North and East walls are made of red sandstone while the South and West walls are made of a white ashlar limestone.
The eight bells of The Shandon Tower are accessible through steep steps which takes you up past the clockwork operating the four sized clockface. These clock faces became known locally as 'the four faced liar' due to the four clocks seemingly never showing the same time. The salmon shaped weather vane known as 'the goldie fish' is four meters long and covered in gold leaf.
Caulfield Orpen designed the The World War one memorial and is said to be one of the finest of its kind. There are five stunning stained glass windows including St. Luke's window by Hubert McGoldrick. After climbing the 132 steps the views on Cork City are nothing short of breathtaking. Ringing the bells that are heard across the city of Cork is a once in a life time experience.
|November to February||11am-3pm (Monday to Saturday), 11.30am-3pm (Sunday)|
|March, April, May, October||10am-4pm (Monday to Saturday), 11.30am-4pm (Sunday)|
|June to September||10am-5pm (Monday to Saturday), 11.30am-4.30pm (Sunday)|
The Beara Peninsula runs along Ireland's south west coast, between Kenmare Bay in County Kerry and Bantry Bay in County Cork. There is evidence of human settlements in the Beara Peninsula dating back to 3,000 B.C. In the 17th century the area was used by the British army against French invasion. There are currently 6,000 people living here, before the Great Famine of the 1840's there was almost 40,000. It is home to two mountain ranges, Slieve Miskish Mountains & Caha Mountains, and is part of the Wild Atlantic Way.
Find out more about the Beara Peninsula.
Located 5 miles from the County Kerry town of Killarney, Torc Waterfall is one of the town's more spectacular tourist attractions. The surrounding woodland is heavily populated with red deer. A public hike leads from the waterfall to the top of Torc Mountain. The waterfall is one of the highlights of the 120-mile Kerry Walking tour.
The Black Valley is area of MacGillycuddy's Reeks in western County Kerry. The Black Valley is seen as the remote part of MacGillycuddy's Reeks, MacGillycuddy's Reeks is seen as a remote part of Ireland. The area was the last part of Ireland to be connected with electricity and telephone networks, (1979). The valley is located between the Gap of Dunloe to the north and Moll's Gap to the south.
Inch Beach, contrary to its name, is a 3 mile long blue flag beach. It is not one of the best kept secrets but, due to it remote location, is usually only visited by people in its vicinity. If you are lucky enough to be near by on a good weather day you won't want to be anywhere else on the planet. It is a haven for bathing, angling and water sports. Inch Beach is located 14 miles east of the town of Dingle, County Kerry.
Having come into its own in the world of tourism, over the past two decades, Northern Ireland has plenty to offer people who look beyond its more well known attractions. While the Giant's Causeway and the Titanic Exhibition are, undoubtedly, on most peoples bucket list, the North also has attractions that are a little more hidden from the mainstream but are also well worth a visit.
Although their history spans over a century, and although they began as a unionist motif, it was in the early 1980s that Belfast's iconic murals would gain the prominence that now draws tourists, when Republican depictions of the infamous hunger strike of Bobby Sands and his follow prisoners began to spread across Republican districts of the city.
For two decades, murals on both sides of the city voiced the deep divisions between communities whose differences seemed insurmountable. On the Unionist side, imagery was chiefly militaristic, with slogans like "No Surrender" a near-constant refrain. In Republican communities, depictions drew on a more diverse palette of cultural and historical symbolism, but their message was no less clear and no less divisive.
Lording it over an open expanse of fountains and marbled stone, Guildhall rises to majestic heights to take its place on the Derry skyline. A £10m renovation in 2013 has brought the very best out of what was already a magnificent structure of stone and stained glass. As well serving an important civic function for the city (it was the seat of the historic Bloody Sunday Inquiry headed by Lord Saville from 2000 to 2005), Guildhall has become a nexus for Derry tourism and a focal point for most visits here. View the Visit Derry website for more information.
Ireland's first attempt at town planning, modelled in 1545 on the French town of Vitry-le-François. Visit www.derrywalls.com for further information. Those interested in architecture should allow time to visit St Columb's Cathedral, situated within the city walls.
Home to many thousands of predominantly working-class catholics, The Bogside deserves to be much more than a waypoint for those charting the history of Northern Irish conflict. But those who come to Ulster to gain a greater appreciation of its troubled past will almost certainly make their way here, where The Troubles of the late Twentieth Century first began; where residents declared an independent state of their own, "Free Derry", and where 26 civil rights protesters and bystanders were shot by soldiers of the British Army in the notorious Bloody Sunday massacre.
A handy stop-off point between The Giant's Causeway and Ballycastle, the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge is a dizzying experience to be enjoyed or studiously avoided, depending on your head for heights. Looking like something from an Indiana Jones movie, the rope bridge conveys locals and tourists alike across the 20-metre chasm between the sea cliffs and the island of Carrick-a-Rede.
The bridge which draws visitors today is actually a stronger and safer version of the original which was put up every spring by fishermen whose nets, cast from the island's northern cliffs, would intercept migrating salmon. Today, there is a small visitor centre, a cafe and a car park.
Glenariff Waterfall Walk is one of a series of walks in the Glenariff Forest Park, County Antrim. The forest is laid out with pathways and steps for people to explore. It might take up to 2 hours walking to reach the payoff, the waterfall, but it is well worth the wait. The walk which leads to the waterfall is a little strenuous and is not advisable for everyone. The steps are steeper and can become slippery on approach.
Ballymacdermott Court Tomb, located on Ballymacdermott Mountain in County Armagh, is a megalith portal tomb. It dates from between 4000 and 2500 B.C. The tomb was excavated twice, in 1816 and 1962. The first excavation unearthed pulverised human bones in an urn while the second discovered human cremations. During the second excavation archaeologists found that some of the stones in the tomb had been recently disturbed, locals informed them that this was caused by an American tank during World War II.
The Stairway to Heaven, officially known as the Cuilcagh Mountain Trail, is a 4 and a half mile walkway through bog land in County Fermanagh. The walkway was constructed to protect the rare blanket bog that was being eroded by walkers in the area. The walkway ascends to over 550 metres to the Cuilcagh Mountain face.
The North West is, in itself, a hidden gem of Ireland. So you could argue that its hidden gems are doubly hidden, which makes finding them an all the more satisfying experience.
This part of Ireland has some fantastic country routes, and self-drive visitors to Sligo and Donegal will not be short of photo opportunities along the way. One which is sure to please is The Glengesh Pass which runs from Ardara to Glencolumbcille. Passengers with a delicate stomach might want to take their travel sickness tablets before they embark on this narrow and tumbling sequence of tight hairpins, but if you keep you camera at hand you will have every excuse.
This ascent will require more than just your walking boots: a knowledge of mountain safety and possibly a local guide might be called for, especially on days where the weather is anything less than bright and dry. At a fairly towering 752 metres, Errigal Mountain is a pleasant but challenging climb for any hobbyist hillwalker, and the main paths are not of the best quality. A hike on Errigal Mountain can really set your tour of Ireland apart.
However, the rosé quartzite haze of the summit almost invites you to make you way up and drink in the intoxicating views that await you there. This is the wild country at its best.
With less mileage on the Wild Atlantic Way, and a more inland location, County Leitrim is perhaps overshadowed by the neighbouring counties of Sligo and Donegal. But visitors who pass by without exploring the glens, lakes and loughs for which Leitrim is famed will most certainly be missing out. Find out more about Leitrim tourist attractions by visiting www.leitrimtourism.com.
If you have enjoyed the Glengesh Pass, then rest up and take the family on the kind of adventure that demands a barbecue and a bucket and spade. Although weather-dependent, this is an old-school family day out which won't cost much but is sure to please. (Drivers will have to pay €3 for parking. Don't go home without eating an ice-cream!)
The beach itself looks like it belongs in a different hemisphere: stretches soft white sand are gently ironed flat by an enticing turquoise sea. Fair warning: only the stout of heart should head for the sea until the latter stages of the summer season: Ireland is not famed for its warm sea water. Those who do venture out will find a gentle gradient underfoot, making the water ideal for swimmers and paddlers alike.
The caves are no less beautiful than the beach itself, with multicoloured rock formations forming an artistic array of dizzying shapes. A very atmospheric space away from the more established tourist destinations.
Situated 50 minutes' drive from Donegal Town or 25 minutes from the fishing port of Killybegs, the Glencolmcille Folk Village (also known as Father McDyer's Folk Village Museum) is a thatched-roof replica of a traditional Irish rural village. Comprising a number of small cottages, called a "clachan", the village atop a hillside with a commanding sea view over Glen Bay Beach in the Gaeltacht (Irish-speaking area) of South West Donegal. A popular living-history museum, Glencolmcille was built and is maintained by the people of the local area.
The Glenevin Waterfall can be found as part of the Glenevein Valley walk in County Donegal. There are newly refurbished picnic areas dotted throughout the walk and there are footbridges and stepping stones in place to navigate the various streams running along the walk.
Find the attractions and destinations of the other regions of Ireland here.
As a local Irish company, we at My Ireland Tour are passionate about our country and our local community. That's why we put together this definitive travel guide for anyone who wants to come to Ireland and discover this amazing place for themselves.
This is a completely free resource covering everything from top tourist attractions to the nearest yoga centre. We hope it helps!