Ireland – also known as the emerald isle – is one of the most beautiful countries on Earth. But you wouldn’t know it. Hardly anyone has discovered it yet, making it somewhat of a hidden gem.
In this post, we run through some of the most beautiful places in Ireland for nature lovers. We explore some genuine wildernesses, plus castles and stone circles you’ll want to visit along the way.
Wicklow Mountains National Park
The Wicklow Mountains are a giant magnet for people who love to hike and explore. The region – also known as the Garden of Ireland – provides ample scenic views and plenty of trails. It’s also a great photograph location, providing multiple viewpoints from which to survey the surrounding land.
If you travel to the Glendalough Valley, you’ll find the Monastic City. These stunning ruins are from an early Christian settlement in the area built in the sixth century.
Mizen Head is an outcrop of land located on the Haven Coast part of the Wild Atlantic Way. It is one of the most southwesterly points in Ireland and feels like the end of the Earth. All there is beyond the rocks and Irish flowers is the massive expanse of the ocean stretching all the way to the Americas.
Mizen head has several pathways that allow you to explore it in your own time. Be sure to take your camera as you’ll be able to capture images of the surf as it sprays from the rocks as well as seal colonies.
Skellig Michael is a relaxing and beautiful place to go in Ireland. It’s an island about six miles off the coast of Port Magee and is a bit of a tourist magnet.
However, getting onto the island is difficult. The authorities limit the number of people who can visit to protect migrating bird colonies.
There are many reasons why you might want to take the trip. The island, for instance, has beautiful landscapes and plenty of wildlife. It’s also a home to some ancient Catholic history, including St. Fionan’s Monastery.
The Aran Islands
If you are in the Galway area, you’ll want to take a trip over to the three Aran Islands of Inisheer, Inishmaan and Inishmore. It’s a great place to hear real people using the original Irish language (not English).
The islands are beautiful and green and have paths running around them. Inishmore and Inisheer have plenty to see and are fabulous for tourists looking to get away from it all. The best way to see the countryside is to rent a bike when you arrive and cycle around. If you can’t cycle, you can also take horse-drawn carriages.
Burren National Park
Burren National Park is a beautiful area located in County Clare in Ireland’s northwest. The best time to visit is at the end of spring. All the new plant life is in bloom and the weather tends to be mild and fair. (It can rain a lot during other parts of the year, so remember to take your waterproofs with you).
Burren National Park’s spectacular scenery is a result of a lack of soil. Much of the area is bare rock. However, you will also discover many wild flowers growing up the gaps in between.
The unique area combines elements of arctic, Mediterranean and alpine environments. There are many different types of orchids and butterflies that live here, as well as larger animals, such as grey seals, basking sharks and dolphins.
If you are in the County Kerry area, you’ll want to pay a visit to the iconic Dunquin Pier. This striking stretch of land is famous for its winding stone path that leads down the rock face. You’ll find it along the Wild Atlantic Way.
Interestingly, despite its age, the pier is still operational. Ferries dock here to take people to nearby uninhabited islands on day trips.
Sometimes local farmers will file sheep down the pier. This is a great photo opportunity and a real treat to behold. Make sure that you stick around to see it if you can.
The Powerscourt Gardens are among the most impressive in the whole of Ireland, with the full vision of the original landscape artists taking more than 150 years to complete. Work began all the way back in 1731, eventually covering more than 47 acres.
Each of the gardens is themed. One of the best is the Japanese garden. This has maple trees and azaleas and always looks great, no matter what time of year you go. It also features small bridges and pagodas you can walk over.
In classical eighteenth-century style, all of the gardens are symmetrical. As you walk through rose and rhododendron bushes, you’ll smell their wonderful perfumes. Marked paths make it relatively easy for you to figure out where you are and where you want to go.
The Giant’s Causeway
The Giant’s Causeway is a spectacular rock formation along Ireland’s coastline made of three large rock sections that protrude into the ocean. What’s interesting about these rocks is how similar they are. Their vegetation is different, but the rocks themselves are the same in terms of their size and shape.
People who visit the area usually stick to the marked trails that run along the coast. However, you can also climb over the rocks themselves, though this is a little dangerous.
If you can, get to the Causeway early or late in the day. Things tend to get busy between mid-morning and mid-afternoon.
Killarney is Ireland’s first national park and is exactly what you might expect if you pay a visit to the Emerald Isle. It is home to beautiful green rolling hills, wildlife and inviting locals. There are also plenty of opportunities for outdoor sports, such as kayaking and hiking. Plus, because the area is set up for tourists, you’ll also find a smattering of pubs and restaurants.
If you get a chance, be sure to visit Muckross Abbey and Ross Castle. Here you can explore the ancient ruins of the past and see what life used to be like for people living in the area.