“I want to take a drive in Ireland.”
With its undulating green countryside studded with historic sites and quaint, storied villages, Ireland is full of picture-perfect moments connected by the road. Luckily, most are right on Dublin’s doorstep.
When you’re due for a sea change, take a trip to Howth (rhymes with both) a lively fishing village set on a hilly headland of Dublin Bay. Howth Market, conveniently located next to the DART station, sells a range of fresh produce, Irish treats and handmade crafts, and it’s a short stroll from the manicured grounds of Howth Castle. Here you can explore the ruins of St Mary’s Abbey or join a cooking class in the restored Georgian kitchens. The culinary theme continues along the bustling waterfront where seafood restaurants vie for your attention with their own catch of the day specials.
Ireland’s newest touring trail, the Ancient East, is a grand journey of scenic grandeur, prehistoric monuments and insights into the people that have inhabited a beautiful landscape for over 5,000 years. One of its most stirring highlights is Brú na Bóinne, a Neolithic necropolis, which is a mind-boggling 1,000 years older than Stonehenge. Knowth, Newgrange, and Dowth are the three large passage tombs that make up the site, with Knowth the home of the largest collection of megalithic art in Western Europe. Tours of the site run most days.
South of Dublin lies a 20,000ha expanse of heather-clad moors, wooded mountains, and small lakes dominated by the granite peaks of the Wicklow Mountains. This national park has all the makings of a stirring day out in the wilderness, with most of the facilities concentrated around Glendalough valley. Day trippers will find historic sites, including the monastic ruins of the former Christian settlement, and nine walking trails that vary from an easy half an hour to a four-hour hill walk.
With its brightly painted Georgian facades lining a wide main street, the old garrison town of Carrickmacross is as quaint as Irish destinations get. One of the most iconic buildings in town is St Joseph’s, a Roman Catholic church with beautiful stained-glass windows designed by master of the art, Harry Clark. Also, don’t miss a visit to the Carrickmacross Lace Gallery to explore the roots of the intricate needlecraft that became an important rural industry for local families – it was famously featured in Princess Diana’s wedding dress, too. Two heritage walking routes wind their way around the town’s highlights. Why not rest your legs with a pint and steak stop at local favourite, The Fiddlers Elbow?
Another highlight of the Ancient East tourist trail is the Rock of Cashel. Rising up from emerald green plains and limestone outcrops in County Tipperary, few scenes are as quintessentially Irish as this looming assembly. Also known as St Patrick’s Rock or the Cashel of the Kings, the medieval structures date back to the 12th and 13th centuries. As you tour the grounds, you’ll discover a mix of Hiberno-Romanesque and Germanic architectural influences across a range of magnificent buildings, including the round tower, Cormac’s Chapel, and The Cathedral. Over in town, you might like to also pay a visit to the Cashel Folk Village, which features replica displays of an old butcher’s shop, farmhouse, and traveller’s caravan from early country life in Ireland.
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