From abandoned villages and lost valleys to old whaling stations, secret mountain lakes and forgotten islands, immensely rewarding journeys into the rugged and least densely populated country in Western Europe are possible – here are just a few to get you started.
County Mayo on the Wild Atlantic Way, one of the most scenic and atmospheric landscapes in the country, is home to its fair share of forgotten places and spaces, including the unique Lost Valley near the town of Louisburg.
This amazing landscape has remained largely untouched since its population was evicted during The Great Famine of the mid 1800s. On an incredible three-hour walk guided hosted by gifted storyteller Gerard Bourke, its stories, the spectacular scenery, fresh air, Irish history and the cultural heritage of the west coast of Ireland will come alive.
On Mayo’s Achill Island the Deserted Village provides another haunting reminder of times past. An hour spent meandering from ruined cottage to neighbouring cottage, along the ancient track and through adjacent fields is a journey back in time. Sheltered under the slopes of Slievemore and hidden from the twenty-first century, this tranquil corner of a remote island is a perfect place for seekers of peace and quiet reflection.
Also on Achill Island the Colony Tour offers a two-hour walk around the ruins of Achill Mission, revealing a superb and largely overlooked story of a local 50-year-long religious war as told by Kevin Toolis, BAFTA winning writer, bardic poet and Achill Islander.
Despite being one of Ireland’s largest upland areas, spanning into the counties Tyrone and Londonderry, the Sperrins mountain range is an undiscovered gem – wild, untouched, full of lakes and hidden valleys and rich in relics from prehistoric times. So beautiful it has been designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, head here for quietness and views that encourage the human spirit.
Another gorgeous landscape unspoilt by civilisation is Black Valley in County Kerry, lying just south of the Gap of Dunloe. Remote and sprawling with natural vistas, the valley is famous for being the very last place in Ireland to be connected to electricity and telephone lines. In this valley, you can drive for miles and hike for hours without seeing a soul.
Lough Erne in County Fermanagh is a world away from the rest of the island, but with some 150 islands of its own to share, some inhabited, some not, its lakelands are full of remnants left behind by marauding Vikings, ancient Celts and Christian monks.
They can be found on the likes of Devenish Island, Lusty Beg and White Island, but the strangest remnants left behind are the carved stone figures on Boa Island. The two-sided Janus Stone here, which represents the male and female form, is a sight to behold. As it to its purpose, nobody really knows.