Dating back to the Stone Age, Ballina is a very interesting place to visit because of the numerous tombs (megaliths) found here. The town is home of the famous River Moy, an exceptional source of salmon. The town centre has retained its historic appearance with some notable architecture, including the 15th-century Moyne Abbey, and St Muredach's Cathedral, which is the Cathedral Church of the Diocese of Killala. Outside Ballina, on a small hill to the west, stands a dolmen, 4000 years old.
The Irish place name Ballinasloe (meaning the mouth of the ford of the crowds) reflects that the town developed as a crossing point on the River Suck. Nowadays it is a typical English type market town. The Ballinasloe Fair is one of the oldest horse fairs in Europe, bathed in history it dates back to the 700s. Clonfert cathedral is one of the jewels of Irish-Romanesque architecture occuping the site of a monastery which was founded by St. Brendan in 563 AD. Ballinasloe makes a good base for exploring East Galway.
Dating back to the Middle Ages, the second-largest city of Ireland, Belfast has a rich history. Nestled beside the River Lagan and Belfast Lough, it has a lovely setting, often called "the Hibernian Rio,"a long natural inlet ideal for the shipping trade. One of the last great oceangoing liners, the famous Titanic, was built here in the world famous Belfast Shipyard. Take a stroll and admire the Georgian, Victorian, and Edwardian architecture, dominated by the magnificently domed City Hall.
Located 8 km northwest of Cork, Blarney is the "biggest little village in Ireland". The main attraction is the Blarney Castle, famous for its Stone. By kissing the Blarney Stone, it is claimed that one can receive the "Gift of the Gab" (eloquence, or skill at flattery or persuasion). In the grounds of the castle, the Rock Close is a curious place of ancient stones, by legend a garden of druidic origin. The place has an aura of magic and mystique telling a story of centuries past.
Originally a market town, Castlebar is one of the fastest growing towns in Ireland. The city has a lively nightlife with pubs providing traditional Irish music and a number of quality restaurants. Castlebar offers a number of planned walking routes and plenty of good fishing available in the nearby rivers and lakes to those who like the outdoors. The Country Life section of the National Museum of Ireland is an interesting place worth visiting.
Founded in the late 6th century by Saint Finbarr, Cork is Ireland's second largest city. A famous landmark is the Shandon Steeple of St. Ann's Church, which contains the Bells of Shandon. Other interesting places to visit are the English market in the centre of the city, the University founded in 1845 and the very steep St Patrick's Hill, from the top of which are magnificent views over the entire metropolis. The River Lee flows through the city forming one of the world's largest natural harbours.
Clare is the County of seascapes and landscapes, offering two of Ireland`s natural attractions: The Burren, with its great mystery and beauty due to its geology, flora, caves, archaeology and history and the dramatic stretch of coastline, including the spectacular Cliffs of Moher and quaint seaside towns such as Lahinch and Kilkee. Also worth visiting are charming villages like Killaloe, a lovely village at the foot of the Slieve Bernagh Hills, and home to a picturesque inland marina. Killaloe Cathedral dates from the 13th century. And for Irish music, be sure to visit town of Doolin - famed for its tradition of Irish music: It features pubs where they host musicians of high standard playing frequently both during the day and the evening. This is also an excellent place for those fascinated by the country`s ancient history, as it`s littered with historic and prehistoric sites, from the Poulnabrone Dolmen to Bunratty Castle.
MUST SEE`S IN COUNTY CLARE: Cliffs of Moher, the Aillwee Cave, Bunratty Castle and Folk Park, Craggaunowen, Clare Archaeology Centre - Dysert O'Dea Castle, and Clare Heritage and Genealogical Centre.
County Cork is Ireland`s largest county in terms of area and contains the island`s third largest city, Cork City. Much of County Cork is dominated by the Atlantic Ocean, its magnificent coastline scooped and fretted into great bays and secret coves, strewn with rocky headlands and long soft golden sands. It has lively small cities, quiet country villages, rocky hills, picturesque beaches, and long stretches of flat, green farmland. Not to be missed is Blarney Castle with its famous Blarney Stone which is kissed by many visitors each year, and tradition says that those who kiss the stone will receive the gift eloquence. Also of interest is Cobh, the port from which many Irish emigrants set sail for Australia, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa or the USA.
MUST SEE`S IN COUNTY CORK: The Old Midleton Distillery, Blarney Castle, Cobh, the Beamish and Crawford Brewery, Fota Wildlife Park, and Bantry House and Gardens.
Donegal offers some of the most spectacular scenery and stark beauty in Ireland, it offers tortuous country roads skirt stark mountains, rugged sea cliffs, craggy peninsulas, remote Gaeltacht communities, sheep-studded pastures, pristine strands, icy streams and horizons carpeted with bog and heather. Ireland`s most northerly point, Malin Head, extends into the Atlantic Ocean on the Inishowen peninsula. Donegal County has little in common with its neighbors in the Republic, either geographically or historically, it`s supreme appeal lies in the natural beauty of its coast, with windswept peninsulas, precipitous cliffs and a host of golden beaches that rival any in Europe.
MUST SEE`S IN COUNTY DONEGAL: Glenveagh National Park and Castle, Donegal Castle, Grianan Aileach, Donegal County Museum, Tory Island, and the Donegal Gaeltacht (Irish speaking area).
Offering softly rolling green fields, long, sweeping seascapes, and vibrant little towns, the `Kingdom` has a maze of blissfully quiet country lanes each of which has a story to tell - Around every corner, a piece of history unfolds amidst the most beautiful of scenery. There are tiny fishing villages, early Christian ruins, and Ireland`s highest mountain. Located in the extreme southwest of Ireland, offers outstanding and magnificent sceneries such as the Ring of Kerry and a very well-preserved eighteenth-century century port in Tralee, its capital town.
MUST SEE`S IN COUNTY KERRY: Ring of Kerry, Muckross House and Gardens, the Blasket Centre, Kerry Bog Village Museum, Killarney National Park, the Skellig Islands, and Ardfert Cathedral.
This is serene, lovely Ireland, with arresting seascapes and inland scenery that ranges from lush and green to barren and mountainous. Americans still identify it with the 1951 John Ford film The Quiet Man, starring John Wayne and Maureen O`Hara. The setting for the film was the town of Cong. The northern part of Mayo has the greatest concentrations of Stone Age tombs, also known as the megaliths, all over Europe. A trail of permanent sculpture from the Moy Estuary to the Mullet Peninsula has been created to preserve the ancient landscape. Among them is the mysterious 5,000-year-old settlement at Ceide Fields. Also worth a visit are the religious shrine at Knock, and some of Europe`s best fishing waters at Lough Conn, Lough Mask, and the River Moy. Ballina, Mayo`s largest town, calls itself the home of the Irish salmon. And Westport is a little resort town guaranteed to steal your heart.
MUST SEE`S IN COUNTY MAYO: Cong, Ceide Fields, Knock, Ballintubber Abbey, National Museum of Country Life, Knock Folk Museum, Croagh Patrick, and the Davitt Museum.
Some of the most important historic sites and monuments are located within County Meath and virtually every important aspect of Irish history from prehistoric times is associated with the county. Less than 30 miles north of Dublin along Ireland`s east coast runs the River Boyne, surrounded by the rich, fertile countryside of counties Meath and Louth. The banks of the Boyne hold reminders of Ireland`s ancient past in the extraordinary and mysterious prehistoric passage tombs of Newgrange and the storied Hill of Tara, once the seat of the High Kings. This was the setting for the infamous Battle of the Boyne. Today its historic treasures are tucked away among miles of farmland, smooth, rolling hills, and modern Dublin suburbs.
MUST SEE`S IN COUNTY MEATH: Hill of Tara, Newgrange, Trim Castle, Kells Heritage Town, and the Battle of the Boyne Site.
Known as the Garden of Ireland, it boasts some of the best landscapes. The Wicklow Mountains are the largest upland area in Ireland and are a refuge for plant and animal life. Here, history and geology work together to great effect and preserve one of Ireland`s most stunning landscapes, replete with dramatic glacial valleys, soaring mountain passes and some of the country`s most important archaeological treasures: from breathtaking early-Christian sites to the elegant country homes of the wealthiest of Ireland`s 18th-century nobility.
MUST SEE`S IN COUNTY WICKLOW: Glendalough, Russborough House, Avoca Handweavers, the Wicklow Mountains National Park, Avondale House and Forest Park, Wicklow Historic Gaol, Powerscourt Gardens and House, and Mount Usher Gardens.
Dingle, the southwest point of Ireland, is a fishing port. The whole coast line has a mythical story attached to it. Each island is a symbol of a Giant's love for a normal woman - the story of Oish and Neve. It is home to Ireland's most famous bottlenose dolphin "Fungie". He has been swimming with the boats and tourists in Dingle harbor since 1984. Fungie is absolutely wild and free, yet remains here in Dingle. An important site is the Dingle's St. Mary's, a fine neogothic church.
Situated at the mouth of Donegal Bay and overshadowed by the Bluestack Mountains, Donegal has a unique beauty. From Slieve League, the highest sea cliffs in Europe, to the miles of golden sandy beaches, the region provides activities ranging from high octane water sports to unforgettable country strolls. It is home to the O'Donnel Clan, known for its castle built in 1474. Some say that some of the most important decisions concerning Ireland's freedom were taken within the walls of this castle.
With over 1000 years of history Dublin has experienced many changes, particularly in the last decade. European Union membership and increased prosperity have transformed Dublin into a multicultural city with a thriving economy, ranking it among the top tourist destinations in Europe. An hour walk from the top of Grafton Street, across the Liffey, up O'Connell Street, and farther into north Dublin is a walk through time and, also a glimpse of some of the pieces that must eventually fit together.
Dating back from the 11th century, Ennis is a town with beautiful cathedrals and architecture. Ennis has become an important centre of Irish traditional music, and late in May each year, hosts the Fleadh Nua, the second largest traditional music festival in Ireland. The festival features live entertainment including Step Dancing contests, booths sporting their fair share of touristy and authentic Irish goods and wonderful food. Don't miss The Pro-Cathedral of Saint Peter and Saint Paul.
Galway is the most prosperous city in Ireland. It has everything a major cosmopolitan city has to offer, in a more relaxed atmosphere than other big cities like Dublin or Belfast. The city is renowned for its thriving Irish Theatre, arts, music and culture scene and Galway plays host to a number of Internationally renowned festivals throughout the year. Eyre Square is Galway's best known sight. From Galway you can arrange a trip to the Aran islands, three small islands just off the coast.
Kenmare lies on two of the more famous Irish tourist attractions, the Ring of Kerry and the Ring of Beara. It is one of Ireland's designated Heritage Towns. Kenmare's location nestled between the high mountains and the sea make it the most charming base camp you could wish for. It Kenmare has many fine restaurants, hotels and interesting craft shops, retains its links to a more ancient past. Not far from Market Street is the Bronze Age Druid's Circle, consisting of 15 standing stones.
Situated on the West coast of Clare overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, Kilkee is a little holiday town that has played host to tourists for the past 200 years. The town retains some of its 19th century Victorian feel, and also features many modern amenities. It boasts a beautiful golden sandy beach, set below a dramatic cliff. There are some breathtaking walks both to the north of the beach where you can explore George's Head, and to the south where you can see the Loop Head.
Ireland's smallest city both by area and population, Kilkenny is a beautiful medieval city with narrow streets, well-preserved churches a great castle on a hilltop and many old buildings. Kilkenny is a shopper's delight, being the national center for crafts and design, with perhaps the country's best selection of pottery, woodwork, jewelry, and other handmade items. It has also a lively nightlife and a real entertainment circuit (including several comedy festivals throughout the year).
Killarney is one of the best places in Ireland to explore the outdoors. The town is nestled in a valley with a magnificent landscape of lakes and mountains. Don't miss the park's three lakes: the Lower Lake surnamed "the lake of learning", the "Middle Lake" or "Muckross Lake", and the "Upper Lake". Another landmark is the Ross Castle, a square medieval tower which was built by the O'Donoghues in the 15th century, situated on the shores of Lough Lein. Muckross House and Gardens are also worth a visit.
Kinsale is one of the most picturesque, popular and fashionable resorts of the south-west coast of Ireland. Visitors are captivated by the town's setting, its beautiful natural harbor, narrow streets and slate-clad houses. It is famous for its beautiful yachting, sea angling, Dolphin & Whale Watching Trips, fine restaurants and golf. Don't miss the old Courthouse, now a museum; St Multose Church, built in the 13th century and still in use, and 'French Prison', the 16th century Desmond Castle.
Knock ("Hill of the Virgin Mary") is a small town in County Mayo famous throughout the Catholic world. Alongside Lourdes and Fatima it became one of Europe's major Roman Catholic Marian shrines in the 20th century. Catholics believe that on 21 August 1879 the Virgin Mary, together with St Joseph and St John the Evangelist, appeared to local people. One and a half million pilgrims visit Knock Shrine annually. It was visited by Pope John Paul II in 1979 to commemorate the centenary of the apparition.
Limerick City is a city of contrasts having a Medieval core and an intriguing history and yet is also a thriving commercial and tourist centre. The river Shannon flows majestically beneath the city's three bridges. The main sights are the King John's castle, built between the 12th and 16th century and St Mary's cathedral. Other highlights include the Old Exchange facade and Almshouses, located on King's island. Close by are Bunratty castle and Folk Park, one of Ireland's leading tourist attractions.
The old 6th century walled city of Londonderry, is a centre of culture and creativity. The walls dating from the 17th century are still complete and measure 1 mile in circumference, and stand six meters thick. There are several interesting museums like the Tower Museum which tells the history of the city from prehistoric times until these days. From here you can a day trip to the Giants Causeway, a volcanic formation of thousands of hexagon rocks, situated about an hour away on the North Coast.
Shannon Town is unique in Ireland, being founded the 20th century. It was intended as a home for the thousands of workers at the airport. Just three miles to the east, lays the famous village Bunratty with its castle, medieval banquets and Folk Park. The Town Centre offers great shopping, and a variety of pubs and restaurants. To the south footpaths lead along the shores of the estuary, rich in bird life - from autumn to spring it is one of the most important wild bird sites in Ireland.
Established by the Vikings in the Middle Ages, Sligo is a typical Irish market town. Within the attractive surrounding countryside of County Sligo are the extensive Neolithic burial sites at Knocknarea, Carrowmore and Carrowkeel. The town is famed for its connections with the poet W.B. Yeats. Don't miss the ruins of the Dominican Friary, known as Sligo Abbey founded in 1252. Sligo offers to its visitors a diverse array of shops and pubs, while bridges and benches are welcome points for quiet reflection.
Founded by the Vikings in 914 AD, Waterford was Ireland first city, older than any of the major Nordic capitals of modern Europe, including Oslo, Stockholm, and Copenhagen. It has a distinct medieval atmosphere with narrow alleyways, splendid Victorian and Georgian buildings, ancient Norman walls and look out towers. Today, Waterford is one of the most interesting cities in Ireland and is best known for its World famous Waterford Crystal Factory, producing the finest of handmade crystal.
Located in one of Ireland's most scenic areas, Westport is an attractive town with something to offer for every taste. It has a gracious town centre in the Georgian architectural style. The most picturesque features of the town are the flower decorated, promenade (The Mall) and little stone bridges along the river Carrow Beg. Westport has beautiful sandy beaches, ideal for swimming. There are sailing and yachting facilities as well as a water leisure complex. Fishing is very popular in the area.
Wexford is a former Viking town that reminds the visitors of its significant place in Irish history. County Wexford is most remarkable for the long stretches of pristine beach that line its coast, and for the evocative historic monuments in Wexford Town and on the Hook Peninsula. The Blackstairs Mountains are excellent for hiking. The Wexford Wildfowl Reserve and Great Saltee Island are the ideal places for bird-watchers. Wexford town hosts a well known Opera Festival every autumn.
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