8 Hidden Gems in Ireland To Visit

8 Hidden Gems in Ireland To Visit

Tales of giants' graves and altars surround the otherworldly Cavan Burren Park, near Blacklion. Its sparse landscape, dotted with giant boulders and ancient megaliths, makes you feel like you're walking through the pages of a fantasy novel.

Though the unobtrusive signage tells you matter-of-factly that the boulders were deposited here thousands of years ago by giant sheets of ice, as tall as two double-decker buses, somehow the truth seems more fantastic than legend. Running my fingers along ancient carvings, I feel an intimate connection with the past that is both unsettling and reassuring.

- Conor Harrington

Salterstown, Co. Louth

I like to take the bike to Salterstown, it's about two miles south of the village of Annagassan.

I cycle over the five-arched bridge across the river Glyde. The estuary is a feeding ground for brent geese, mallard, herons and little egret. Pedaling by the coast is easy. Slieve Gullion is across the bay. It is 20 or 30 miles from the Coolies. I scaled it two years ago.

This is the land of Fionn Mac Cumhaill and Setanta. Nearby is the Gap of the North, where Cu Chulainn single-handedly fended off the army of Queen Meabh.

- Mimi Goodman

Holy Island, Lough Derg


Cruising Lough Derg we made a stop at Holy Island near Mountshannon, a place of pilgrimage and breath-­taking natural beauty.

We pondered on the stone slabs in the Saint's Graveyards, the bullaun stones of the Celts, the Abbey built by St Caimin and the High Crosses. Then we saw it soaring overhead - a white-tailed sea eagle.

- Julie Shanley

Lough Dan, CO. Wicklow

My paradise is a remote white sanded, tree-lined beach located on the northwest shore of Lough Dan in Co Wicklow.

The idyllic setting where the Inchavore River flows into the lough and is overlooked by the Cloghoge, Kanturk and Scarr mountains. The beach is a peaceful and tranquil place to relax for hours with a good book and a picnic. Heavenly.

- John Clowry

Strawberry Beds, Dublin

Holding Grandad's hand as we walked down the wooded glen to the fairy tree near the Strawberry Beds, Dublin. Dappled patches of sunlight beamed through the Scots pines, birdsong in the air and the sound of a trickling stream.

Wanting to reach it but half afraid, I gripped Grandad's hand tighter. Getting nearer. There it is. Huge, aged bark and tentacle roots above the earth, even stretching across the stream to the opposite bank. It's scored with carved initials, hearts shot through with arrows. Grandad brings me to the other side, where there's a door carved at the bottom and a window above. As he starts to tell me the story again, the fairies come alive. Just like magic.

- Mary Reynolds

Dursey Island, Co. Cork


The excitement starts when you board the cable car, and a sense of adventure befalls you as you look down nervously at the sea with its dangerous currents.
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You let out a sigh of relief when you land on the island, a world where time has stood still - no hotels or pubs, only breathtaking scenery on either side of the island as far away as Kerry. All your worries evaporate, you're in God's country - Dursey Island, Co Cork.

- Liz Dennehy

Flaggy Shore in North Clare

The Flaggy Shore in North Clare. It's at New Quay between Ballyvaughan and Kinvara - half a mile of spectacular coastline that stretches down to Finavarra Point.

Whenever I walk it I think of Seamus Heaney and his poem Postscript - "And some time make the time to drive out west / Into County Clare, along the Flaggy Shore / In September or October, when the wind / And the light are working off each other".

You'll see Mount Vernon which was Lady Gregory's summer house. It faces the waters and the wild, with its clean white walls and red-framed windows. George Bernard Shaw stayed here.

You'll pass Loch Murree, which is bedecked by swans "the surface of a slate-grey lake is lit / by the earthed lightening of a flock of swans".

The walk finishes at Finavarra Point at the 19th-century Martello Tower. From here you can see across to Black Head in Fanore.

- Bernadette Kennedy

The Cavan Burren

Imagine letting the kids go free to search for fossils, rock art and subtly sculpted stones.

Or to explore the beds of long lost pre-glacial rivers. Imagine ancient giants challenging each other to jump over an impossible gorge as you listen to the echoes of your own voice coming back from the depths of subterranean streams.

Imagine listening to the song of the cuckoo as you marvel at landscapes stretching from Cuilcagh Mountain to Ben Bulben, and Errigal to Slieve Gullion.

There is no need for you to imagine. Instead, just go to Cavan Burren Park.

- Seamus O hUltachain


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