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While many are satisfied with a visit to the capital and surrounding areas, finding your favourite hidden places in Ireland can be as simple as stepping off the beaten track. Here we look at just a few of these hidden gems. Ireland is famous for its friendly locals and the colour green. These might be true but Ireland has so much to offer in any county. Explorers can spend years exploring the island’s diverse landscapes and will still find another breathtaking view they never knew was there.
Conor Pass, Kerry
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Conor Pass is located near the Ring of Kerry, a must-see for any that enjoy hiking and the outdoors. It’s full of attractions and it can be easy to miss out on some of the lesser-known natural wonders. Conor Pass offers two experiences to the visitor. The first being the winding, sometimes scary, single-lane road which offers access to Dingle and the Ring of Kerry. The second being the beautiful Pedlar’s Lake. A natural lake formed in the bowl of the mountains. While the road itself can be a little daunting, the views from high on the road alone can be breathtaking and if you are lucky enough you may encounter some of the mountain goats of the area.
Loughnakeerog, Achill Island
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Lough Nakeerog can be found on Achill Island and is Ireland’s lowest corrie lake. The lake has a dynamic view with towering hills behind the lake and views of the Atlantic Ocean. It also has a deep cliff face with a beach and offers explorers a variety of views to take in. Access to the island is provided by a ferry service but offers a glorious and remote location to experience, as well as a true sense of rural Ireland.
Lough Muskry, Tipperary
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Lough Muskry can be a strenuous walk to the unprepared but offers an ideal challenge to both new and experienced hikers. The trail should take about 2 to 2.5 hours to complete a round trip, with a longer trail available for the brave and experienced hiker. Finding the lake is easy thanks to arrows and signs dotted along the path to the lake. The Galtee Mountains in Tipperary should be on the checklist of any outdoor types visiting or living in Ireland. The walks are of varying difficulty to suit any level of experience but you are guaranteed beauty as a reward. Along the trail, you should also see the views of the cliffs and other woodlands of the Galtee Mountains.
Derryvilla Bog, Littleton
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While boglands may not sound like the most appealing places, they are a haven for the native flora and fauna of Ireland and have a landscape of contrasting colours that has a serenity that can be hard to match. Since the peat is no longer harvested from the bog, it has become a sanctuary to peace seekers and animals alike. Derryvilla Bog is a short walking route around the beautiful lake Glengoole and gives a panoramic view of the flat peatlands. The lake itself is still, deep and can resemble an infinity pool with the right weather.
Dún Aonghusa, Inis Mór, Galway
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Dún Aonghusa, meaning fort of Angus in Gaelic Irish, offers travellers both natural and human history and is located on Inis Mór, the largest of the Aran Islands. While it may be best to book an overnight trip to the island in order to explore fully. It is an Iron Age fort located on a cliffside surrounded by karst pillars, much like The Burren in County Clare. The ruins themselves are made of the same stone found in the area and are situated close to the edge of the cliffs. The fort and cliffs are high above sea level and offer an incredible vista of the Atlantic.
Fairy Woods, Limerick
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A fun outing for families with small children as it is a light, short walk and features a child-friendly treasure hunt. Fairies have long since been a part of Irish myth and superstitions and preferred to make their homes in hidden places in Ireland like forests, tree hollows and caves. The Fairy Woods takes visitors on a trail along the forested area of Castleconnell and follows the river Shannon. The path begins with an open picnic area overlooking the lake before you enter the forest. It’s located about 15km away from the Limerick City Centre and can be a nice, free stroll through a quiet and natural area. Along the way, try to spot the colourful and whimsical fairy houses hidden along the trail that give the woods its name.
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Tountinna is the highest of the Arra mountains and begins with the Graves of the Leinster Men, a historical site from the time of Vikings in Ireland. As the tallest peak, it offers a 360-degree view of the Lough Derg Valley, as well as the surrounding counties. The trail can be difficult at times but rewards hikers with an awe-inspiring view.
Beara Breifne Way
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While this is the longest trail on the list, it offers multiple opportunities to visit the lesser-known areas along the west of Ireland. The trail itself has a rich historical context reaching back to 1603 and stretches from Cork to Leitrim, some 500km long. For a casual visitor, there are dozens of local communities and natural amenities along the way to help you find you favourite hidden places in Ireland. It’s best to plan your route and pick your preferred spots to visit along the way or take the trail in multiple visits to get the best out of this historic trail.
The Glen, Sligo
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The Glen is situated within two towering cliff faces and features a lush, green garden within. It also has a very underwhelming name for what it actually is when you walk through. The Glen is often like stepping into a private, magical world, as the cliffs and canopy remove sensations from the outside world. The surrounding area of Knocknarea is rich with Irish mythology and it’s easy to understand why when you see the contrasting greys of the slate cliffs and the vibrant green of the ivy that climbs them.
Dún A Rí Forest Park, Cavan
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Dún a Rí offers four walking trails of various, short lengths for you to take and would be suitable for casual visitors and young children. Each trail is between 1.5 to 2km and will bring you through a different section of the forest park that guides you to the natural and man-made attractions within. This area and woodland is a haven for native wildlife so you may spot some grey and red squirrels in the area among other animals. Dún a Rí has a variety of places of interest to find within the trails like intricate sculptures, castle ruins and a historic cottage to fill out your itinerary.
While this list only scratches the surface of what Ireland has to offer, each visit and excursion should reveal some new sights, sounds and other sensations. Whether you are new to Ireland or just need a break from cities and city life, these hidden places in Ireland act as an unforgettable family day out, offer fitness challenges, rich factual and mythological history and incredible landscapes that are certain to appeal to every taste. The beauty of Ireland’s size also means that you are never far from another hidden gem waiting to be discovered.