The people of Ireland have named the top five heritage sites where they like to take visitors and guests.
The importance of Ireland’s heritage sites has been highlighted in the last couple of decades. Bord Fáilte, the Irish tourism board, have ran campaigns inviting people of Irish descent to return to the land of their ancestors.
The Irish public also realise that heritage sites are a major part of the country’s tourism industry. Nearly half believe that the government should be doing more to protect the ancient sites, with 99% believing they are key pieces of Irish history and tradition.
Here is the list of the first five heritage sites Irish people take their guests from overseas. The results are from the annual National Heritage survey carried out in Ireland.
1. Cliffs of Moher
The spectacular Cliffs of Moher in County Clare was voted number one, despite 79% of Irish people admitting that the 700ft high drop scares them just a bit.
The cliffs offer spectacular views out on to the Aran Islands, one of the few parts of the country where the natives still speak Irish. A boat trip into the Atlantic Ocean is also a must to get a view of the cliffs from the sea and get another perspective of their sheer size and beauty. The cliffs are one of Ireland’s real jewels, attracting more than one million visitors each year.
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Newgrange, in County Meath, also kept its place as the favourite heritage site for Irish people to visit themselves. It has been voted the number one for Irish people every year since the survey started five years ago.
For five days during the Winter Solstice each year (18th-23rd December), as the sun rises it shines a ray of light through a narrow opening in the roof. This ray of light grows as the sun rises until the entire tomb is lit up. It is a breath-taking event to witness.
For safety reasons, only 20 visitors are permitted to enter the tomb at any given time. The demand is so high during the Winter Solstice that a daily lottery has to be drawn to select the lucky winners from thousands of entrants.
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3. Giant’s Causeway
The Giant’s Causeway is an incredible coastal rock formation in County Antrim, with 40,000 hexagonal columns forming a path out into the sea. Scientists have debated how the Causeway was formed for centuries, while Irish tradition claims it was built by the giant Finn MacCool.
The Causeway has been called the ‘eighth wonder of the world’. It has several fascinating rock formations such as the Chimney Stacks, the Wishing Chair and the Giant’s Boot. It is free for visitors to visit the Causeway, and attracts hundreds of thousands of tourists each year. It is also the most popular heritage site for Irish people to go on a date.
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4. Rock of Cashel
The Rock of Cashel is a group of ancient structures in Tipperary. It is historically thought to have been created when St Patrick banished the devil from a cave in the surrounding mountain range. The site is also known as St Patrick’s Rock and the Castle of Kings.
According to the legend, Aenghus, the King of Munster was converted to the Catholic Church by St. Patrick in the 5th century at the Rock of Cashel. It was the traditional seat of the Kings of Munster before the Normans invaded Ireland in the 12th century.
5. Bunratty Castle
Bunratty Castle is steeped in history. The Normans built it in the 13th century as a fortress to defend their territory in County Clare. Since then, it has been damaged and rebuilt numerous times as the English and various Irish clans such as the O’Briens and the MacNamaras laid claim to it over the centuries.
It has now been restored and converted into a step back in time into 19th century Ireland. Visitors can see first-hand what life was like for the lords and the peasants during the 1800s.
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