Ireland has countless wonderful attractions for visitors to see and soak up the culture during their stay. Many people like to seek out some of the lesser known spots around the country. Secret wonders abound in the north of Ireland.
Meander from Donegal to Down and discover all that this place has to offer – castles in Antrim, the Aurora Borealis in Donegal, ancient burial grounds in Armagh: oh, and the origins of some very famous writers…
Dancing with the Northern Lights Inishowen on the Wild Atlantic Way is remote, beautiful – and THE place to witness the Northern Lights in Ireland. Bring along a flask of hot chocolate, snuggle under a blanket and watch this phenomenon at Grianán of Aileach, a huge 2,000-year-old ring fort sitting 250 metres/820ft above sea level. It’s a spectacular sight for sure! When you’ve had your fill of wonder, pop over to Buncrana to the delicious Beach House restaurant, which serves award-winning food in an incredible location.
IF YOU HAVE MORE TIME Drop into the Inishowen Maritime Museum & Planetarium for a fascinating history of sea and sky.
Dunseverick Castle: ancient splendour atop a cliff The Causeway Coast boasts epic sights that are famous the world over, including the Giant’s Causeway and the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge. One of the unsung heroes, though, has to be Dunseverick Castle. A dramatic and crumbling ruin, Dunseverick’s location on top of a cliff adds a gravitas worthy of its eventful past. St Patrick is thought to have visited in the 5th century, a Viking invasion came to its door in 870 AD; and the castle was captured and destroyed in the 1600s. The fact that any of it has survived is something of a miracle. IF YOU HAVE MORE TIME Head to the nearby Bushmills Inn restaurant for traditional fare with a twist.
Hidden treasure on Divis and the Black Mountain Looking for a wild countryside experience? The gorgeous National Trust site of Divis and the Black Mountain is it. Think free-roaming cattle in green fields, wild horses and badger setts. Keep an eye out for rare birds, too – peregrine falcons are known to frequent this spot. Pick a clear day, and your view will include Strangford Lough, the Mourne Mountains, the Sperrin Mountains and even Scotland. Bliss.
DON’T MISS It’s not quite off the beaten track, but if you’re anywhere near Belfast city, Titanic Belfast is an essential experience.
Ancient skulls at a pagan fort Named after the pagan goddess Queen Macha, who, according to legend, ruled for over a decade in this part of the world, Navan Fort (Emain Macha in Irish) was once the high seat of the kings and queens of Ulster. Archaeologists love this place, thanks to finds such as the 2,500-year-old skull of a Barbary macaque monkey, which found its way there from North Africa.
IF YOU HAVE MORE TIME Reserve a table at The Moody Boar, secreted away in the beautiful Armagh Palace Demesne. Enjoy chicken, haddock or steak with a hearty local cider. Enjoy the sound of silence The shimmering heart of the Mourne Mountains, the Silent Valley reservoir is a magnet for busy minds yearning for solitude. If you want to get away from it all, this is the place to go. Ringed by mountains, the man-made lake isn’t called “silent” for nothing. The tranquillity here makes it a perfect spot for chilling out and reflecting on your journey.
IF YOU HAVE MORE TIME The Brontë Homeland Drive brings you to the tiny church where Patrick Brontë – father to Charlotte, Anne and Emily – was born and raised.