Ireland is crammed with dramatic scenery and a multitude of ways to encounter its magical wildlife. Here are 10 of the best places to explore, love and appreciate the wonders nature.
Ireland’s mighty River Shannon opens into the Atlantic Ocean at the Loop Head Peninsula, County Clare, and this spot is home to the largest group of bottlenose dolphins in Europe. Head out on a boat tour into the mouth of the Shannon and learn all about the dolphins in their natural world from the experts. Hopefully you’ll catch sight of them frolicking in the water.
The Giant’s Causeway
Natural wonders don’t get more naturally wonderful than the thousands of symmetrical stones at the Giant’s Causeway in County Antrim, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The columns of rock reaching out into the wild Irish Sea are so truly one-of-a-kind, it’s hard to believe they are totally natural formations. Millions have flocked to gaze on their beauty and marvel at the mystical atmosphere of the Causeway.
You can get up close and personal with birds of prey at Ireland’s largest raptor and owl sanctuary in County Sligo. You’ll find more than 450 animals in this centre, with more than 100 eagles, hawks, owls, falcons and vultures on site. See nature in action at the twice-daily interactive bird shows, which feature different types of raptors flying right over your head or landing next to you.
The wonder of this island lying off the coast of County Antrim lies in its untouched beauty and amazing wildlife. Head here for stunning views, sheer cliff drops, the comical antics of puffins and seals, and the variety of birdlife that graces the island’s shores and cliffs. With a world-renowned RSPB centre on the island, this is nature at its finest.
Fota Wildlife Park
Take a walk amid the animals from all over the world at a 100-acre wildlife park on the scenic Fota Island in the heart of Cork Harbour. Not an ordinary zoo, not like a safari, most of the animals roam free and the habitats are carefully designed to promote biodiversity and encourage natural behaviour. Boasting 135 different animal species, you can see everything from a pride of Asian lions, tigers, giraffe, bison, ring-tailed lemurs, wallabies and even and Indian Rhino.
Glenveagh National Park
The magnificent Glenveagh National Park is in County Donegal in the northernmost section of the Wild Atlantic Way. At its heart is tranquil Lough Veagh and the gorgeous Glenveagh Castle and gardens, which dotted with exotic and delicate plants from as far afield as Chile and Tasmania. A herd of red deer live in this natural oasis and patient birdwatchers might catch a glimpse of the pair of golden eagles who reside in the park.
Home to the majestic Cliffs of Moher, a natural wonder itself, The Burren region has been shaped by geological forces over hundreds of millions of years. The resulting lunar-like landscape has been designated a UNESCO Global Geopark. The craggy limestone terrain is a haven for 70% of Ireland’s native plant species that are a wonder to behold.
Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark
Regarded as one of the finest show caves in Europe, the miracle of nature is obvious at Marble Arch Caves in County Fermanagh. This incredible subterranean world, capped by the beauty of Cuilcagh Mountain Park, presents a truly spectacular natural wonder. The two combine to form Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark, where underground rivers, waterfalls, winding passages and lofty chambers, and an above-ground realm of flora and fauna amaze and fascinate.
Malahide Butterfly House
In the walled gardens of Dublin’s stunning Malahide Castle, there’s a greenhouse filled with over 20 species of butterflies, which happily flit between the brightly coloured flowers and over the head of visitors. If you pick up a leaflet at the front desk, you can try to spot all of the different species in residence, which is a fun activity to keep everyone occupied.
The Mountains of Mourne
When natural wonder was being given out, the lion’s share in Northern Ireland was reserved for the iconic Mountains of Mourne. These 12 shapely summits are peppered with lakes, granite tors, forest and incredible views. Sweeping and silent, beauty drips effortlessly from every nook and cranny in this dramatic mountain range. The limitless variety of landscapes that can be encountered within such a confined geographical area is a wonder in itself.