Ireland hasn’t exactly been on the popular ‘top countries to visit lists’- yet unbeknownst to some people, Ireland has been the backdrop and inspiration to some of our most favorite movies and TV shows. Large franchises such as Game of Thrones and Star Wars, have dominated some of the countries most spectacular natural gifts. J.R.R Tolkien found inspiration in The Burren, Harry Potter shot at The Cliffs of Moher, and hundreds of movies that left their mark in popular culture were shot in you guessed it- Ireland.
According to Hotels Combined, Ireland is ranked as the Top 8th country where movies are made. So the question remains, why aren’t more people flocking over to Ireland versus the typical tourist destinations such as New York, Hawaii, or Paris?
Don’t get me wrong, when I was in Ireland I met and saw hundreds of tourists. But yet I still feel Ireland is underrated. At home, no one ever lists Ireland as their dream destination and not many people are familiar with it’s landmarks or reasons to visit Ireland-besides the typical ‘Ireland would be cool for a St. Patrick’s Day vacation.’
My assumption to this is probably because not enough people are talking about the extraordinary sights and treasures that can be found and seen all over Ireland and Northern Ireland.
So, in order to help persuade you to add Ireland to your bucket list of places to visit, here are some of the top highlights of Ireland and Northern Ireland and why I have added Ireland as one of the top places I need to return to.
1. Cliffs of Moher
One of the main reasons I decided to go to Ireland was after seeing a photo of the Cliffs of Moher. Once I booked my flight and chose my hotel the next thing I did was book a tour to the cliffs, and let me tell you that it was one of the best decisions I made.
Once you get dropped off you can choose to go left or right atop the cliffs, to the right you’ll find O’Brien’s Tower and great panoramic view of the cliffs. This is also where you’ll find Irish artists playing the harp or accordion.
However, for the daring people I suggest you go left. This is the area where you’ll find no barriers between you and the ocean. And it’s where you’ll capture the most beautiful and breath-taking photos. This is where I fell in love with the cliffs.
Also, I suggest not getting too wrapped up in picture taking instead take a moment to yourself and just feel the wind as you stare out into the endless midnight blue waters.
Estimated time to spend here: 2-3 hrs approx.
2. The Giant’s Causeway
I generally don’t believe in things like deja-vu, but when I arrived at the Giant’s Causeway I found myself experiencing this phenomenon. I don’t really know if it was the mountains or the rocks scattered in the water but something about this place made me feel like I had been here before. So many thoughts ran through my mind as I stood there staring at the tips of the mountains, the gaps in between the rocks and the creases interlocking the basalt columns. And part of my heart ripped as I walked away, almost as if my whole Irish adventure was defined by this one moment.
The myths say that there’s a ‘real magic’ when you come to the causeway. They say it’s not something you see right away but once you stand on the stones, your imagination will uncover the legend and it won’t be long until you feel it.
Estimated time to spend here: 2-3 hrs approx.
As you scour the internet, you’ll come across ads and photographs of locations you should go on vacation to. Some of these places look to good to be true. Almost as if there worlds away or as if they don’t really exist. Well turns out not every place needs a filter to look more impressive to us internet folks. Sometimes our eyes are enough; no fancy cameras are needed. This is exactly what was running through my head as I hiked the 1 kilometers from the bus drop off to the rope bridge, on the right I had a bright green mountain looking down at me, and to my left I had a bright blue ocean showing off it’s ravishing colors. It sounds simple enough, a bright green mountain and bright blue waters but truth is words do it no justice.
I never saw the sun shine so brightly on something so beautiful. I was jealous that I couldn’t see this everyday for the rest of my life. I wanted it.
Once I got to the rope bridge, there was a line of a dozen people waiting for their turn. From high up, it looked like the bridge from the Shrek movie; where Shrek and Donkey have to cross over the lava to save Princess Fiona. Yep, that bridge.
After walking the steep stairs to the bridge, I felt the wind hard and fast as it hit my hair and I made my way to the other side.
The other side of the bridge is Carrick Island, this was like standing on a 360 degree rotating platform where you can see everything. It didn’t seem that high and truly it didn’t need to be. The wind sang as I gazed across the waters and tried my hardest to visualize myself staring down at myself. I wanted to see myself with the whole magnificent piece of land. From Carrick Island I could see a giant piece of land , I later found out that what I was looking at was Sheep Island.
Afterwards, I headed back to the bridge to get back to the other side where I came from and this time I was braver. And by braver I mean I actually took out my phone for a quick selfie. Granted all my hair was in my mouth due to the wind. Regardless, I got my photo and got to the other side.
This is when the reality of the warning signs you see by the bridge and the dangers of the bridge actually hit me. I saw an older man aching on the floor, he was completely laid out and surrounded by personal and family members as he threw up, breathless and dizzy on the ground.
The tour guide said that crossing the rope bridge was on the bucket list of many and I didn’t realize that it wasn’t meant for everybody until I saw that man’s reaction.
Nevertheless, this was one of the extraordinary highlights of Ireland that made me think it was nothing less than the country’s treasure.
Estimated time to spend here: 1-2 hrs approx.
4. The Burren
In comparison to the places listed above, I am placing the Burren on a separate list. Still extraordinary but rather more ‘cool extraordinary’ if that makes any sense at all. This was one of the spots that was said to inspire the writer of the Chronicles of Narnia, and one of the places where J.R.R Tolkien wrote. So as a pop culture junkie this place was extraordinary cool, except for the part where my shoe got stuck in between the cracks.
Estimated time to spend here: 15-20 minutes
5. Killarney, Killarney National Park & Torc Waterfall
I wasn’t able to visit Kerry while on my stay in Ireland but nonetheless I still need to add it to this list. The town is surrounded by mountains and lakes and is one of the favorite places to visit in Ireland. The national park is one of the most admired parks in the world and is home to the 18 meter high waterfall, that is said to be a “lover’s dream”.
6. Wicklow Mountains
If you’ve seen the ultra-romantic-tear jerking film P.S I Love You, then you probably already have an idea of Wicklow Mountains. This area is known as the ‘Garden of Ireland’. It’s pretty much everything you could dream of except there’s no Gerard Butler walking down the road, waiting to sweep you off your feet.
Lastly, I really hope you enjoyed this post. I will be posting more on Ireland soon! So make sure to keep checking back!