Ireland: Jump into Ireland!

Ireland is an island in the Atlantic off the north-western coast of continental Europe. It is the third-largest island in Europe and the twentieth-largest island on Earth. To its east is the island of Great Britain, from which it is separated by the Irish Sea and North Channel. The island’s geography comprises relatively low-lying mountains surrounding a central plain, with several navigable rivers extending inland. Ireland is one of the richest, most developed and peaceful countries on earth. The island has lush vegetation, a product of its mild but changeable oceanic climate, which avoids extremes in temperature. There are a number of places of interest among all these three are World Heritage Sites on the island: the Brúna Boinne, Skellig Michael and the Giant’s Causeway. And other is Dublin Zoo, Guinness Storehouse, Cliffs of Moher etc. The wonders don’t stop there as the region has been made famous by the Causeway Coastal Route which is seen as‘One of the World’s Great Road Journeys’and one of the most outstanding scenic touring drives in the world.

Here are most popular attractions…

Glenariff Forest Park

The unique Waterfall Walkway, opened 80 years ago, has been significantly upgraded along its 3 mile length which passes through a National Nature Reserve. It is located in one of the most beautiful parts of Northern Ireland, in the glens of Antrim. It is nearly 3,000 acres in size and boasts some wonderful scenery. County Antrim has 9 glens, and Glenariff is perhaps the most beautiful. In case you are wondering what a“glen”is, here is the answer.“Glen”is a Gaelic or Celtic word meaning“valley”. Three waterfalls provide a rich backdrop for photographers, as do the other forest trails that offer panoramic landscapes and peaceful riverside walks. A visitor centre, exhibition, interactive display, shop, caravan/camping site (open Easter – October) Laragh Lodge Restaurant (open all year round) complement this”gateway to the Glens”. Glenariff Forest Park is a good place for camping, one of the many camping sites UK, caravanning and hiking, or even just for a day out and a picnic.

Roe Valley Country Park

This scenic and tranquil park on the outskirts of Limavady offers spectacular riverside views and woodland walks along with opportunities for salmon and trout fishing, canoeing, rock climbing and orienteering. The river plunges through spectacular gorges and its banks are clothed in mature woodland. The park is home to foxes, badgers and otters and over 60 species of birds have been seen there. In springtime, the woodland floor is covered with a carpet of wild flowers. There is a disabled angler’s jetty by the river and also for the disabled visitor there is a specially designed trail emphasising the wildlife of the park. This includes an audio guide for blind and partially sighted visitors. Also worth a visit is the newly refurbished‘Ritters Tea Room’which opens daily. Visitors can learn about the industrial and natural heritage of the area in the museum and countryside centre. The remains of buildings used in the linen industry and a restored water wheel can also be seen and much of the original equipment is preserved including ruined water mills used in linen production.

The Old Bushmills Distillery

Watch whiskey making take place and enjoy a wee taster too as to unlock the secrets of 400 years of distilling at the home of Irish whiskey. Bushmills Irish Whiskey is made at Ireland’s oldest working distillery in County Antrim, Northern Ireland. The brand portfolio includes five award-winning whiskeys: Bushmills, Black Bush, Bushmills 10 year Malt, 16 year Malt and 21 year Malt. Bushmills is the only distillery in Ireland to make triple-distilled malt whiskey. This is at the heart of all Bushmills whiskeys and creates a unique combination of smoothness and richness. In 2008 Bushmills celebrated the 400th anniversary of the original licence to distil whiskey granted to the Bushmills area in 1608. The distillery marked the occasion with the release of a limited edition Irish whiskey of exceptional smoothness, Bushmills 1608. Bushmills Irish Whiskey is owned by Diageo, the world’s leading premium drinks business. With its global vision, and local marketing focus, Diageo brings to consumers an outstanding collection of beverage alcohol brands across the spirits, wine and beer. There are no set tour times except for groups who book in advance. Groups booked in advance will have set tour times. Last bookable tour time for groups – 1pm.There are no Sunday group bookings taken.

Slemish Mountain

Slemish Mountain, The legendary first known Irish home of Saint Patrick, is located in Co. Antrim. The mountain rises about 1500 feet (437 metres) above the surrounding plain, and it is actually the central core of an extinct volcano.According to legend, following his capture and being brought as a slave to Ireland, Patrick worked as a shepherd at Slemish Mountain for about six years, from ages 16 through 22, for a man named Milchu (or Miluic).It was during this time that Patrick turned to frequent prayer as his only consolation in his loneliness. In a vision he was encouraged to escape and return home.He did, became a priest and returned to Ireland, allegedly to convert his old master. The legend goes that his own real conversion took place while on Slemish out in all weathers, communing with nature and praying continuously. As Patrick was not the first Christian Bishop to visit Ireland, his ministry was confined to the North.Here he established churches and an episcopal system. Slemish Mountain is open year-round, and on Saint Patrick’s Day (17th March) large crowds hike to the top of the mountain as a pilgrimage. The one and a half kilometre round walk to the summit and back takes approximately one hour in good weather. Excellent views can be had of the Antrim and Scottish coasts to the east. Ballymena town, Lough Neagh and the Sperrin Mountains are all normally visible to the west whilst the Bann Valley and the higher summits of the Antrim Hills can be seen to the North. The 180 metre climb is steep and rocky. The path can become very slippery in wet weather so care should be taken.

Dunluce Castle

Dunluce Castle is located dramatically close to a headland that plunges straight into the sea, along the North Antrim coast, and was the headquarters of the MacDonnell Clan. There is archaeological evidence of a village that surrounded the castle which was destroyed by fire in 1641. The site was also witness to the sinking of a colony ship that broke up on the rocks off Islay in 1857 with the loss of 240 lives.Constantly fought over, it eventually succumbed to the power of nature, when part of it fell into the sea one stormy night in 1639. It was abandoned shortly afterwards. While there is evidence that parts of the castle date back to the 14th century, the first record of it is from 1513 when it belonged to the MacQuillans. The 17th century mainland courtyard, containing domestic buildings, leads downhill to a narrow crossing to the rock, formerly protected by a drawbridge to the gatehouse. The buildings on the rock are 16th and 17th century. There is limited disabled access for wheelchair users as the site has a cobbled, uneven surface. Last admission is 30 minutes before closing. No admission to unaccompanied children under the age of 16.

The Giant’s Causeway

Northern Ireland’s only UNESCO World Heritage Site.The Giant’s Causeway, renowned for its polygonal columns of layered basalt, is the only World Heritage Site in Northern Ireland. Resulting from a volcanic eruption 60 million years ago, this is the focal point of a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and has attracted visitors for centuries. It harbours a wealth of local and natural history. The formation of the Giant’s Causeway was due to intense volcanic activity. Lava welling up through fissures in the chalk bed formed a”lava plateau”. Three periods of volcanic activity gave rise to the Lower, Middle and Upper Basalts, and it’s the Middle Basalt rock which forms the famous amphitheatres of hexagonal columns in the Causeway. The Giant’s Causeway is steeped in myth and legend. Some say it was carved from the coast by the mighty giant, Finn McCool who left behind an ancient home full of folklore. Look out for clues of the existence of the mighty giant, Finn McCool–including Giant’s Boot, The Wishing Chair, The Camel, Giant’s Granny and The Organ. On a clear day, you might even catch a glimpse of Finn’s Scottish opponent, Benandonner’s homeland of Scotland. Sea birds can be seen off the coast around the Causeway, with species such as fulmar, petrel, cormorant, shag, redshank guillemot and razorbill being frequently observed. Rare and unusual plant species including sea spleenwort, hare’s foot trefoil, vernal squill, sea fescue and frog orchid can be found on the cliffs and nearby rock formations. Conservation is at the heart of the project and the new visitor facilities complement the surrounding landscape, ensuring the sustainable management of this important heritage asset.

Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge

A short coastal footpath leads to Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge. On the way, there are wonderful vantage points to stop and take in the natural beauty. The geology, flora and fauna have won Carrick-a-Rede recognition as an area of special scientific interest. Fulmars, kittywakes, guillemots and razorbills breed on the islands close to the rope bridge. Of course, Carrick-a-Rede also boasts an exhilarating rope bridge experience. Traditionally fishermen erected the bridge to Carrick-a-Rede island over a 23m-deep and 20m-wide chasm to check their salmon nets. Today visitors are drawn here simply to take the rope bridge challenge. The rope bridge originally consisted of a single rope hand rail which has been replaced by a two hand railed bridge by the National Trust. Once you reach Carrick Island, the reward is seeing the diverse birdlife and an uninterrupted view across to Rathlin Island and Scotland. There is only one way off the island – back across the swinging bridge! Don’t look down. The area is exceptional in is natural beauty, to the left as you come down the steep hill is Larrybane headland which once stretched out towards Sheep Island and had a promontory fort on the top dating to 800AD, underneath large caves once served as home to boat builders and a safe resting place from winter storms. Despite having been quarried in the 1950’s this quarry is still worth a visit for its exceptional views.

National Museum of Ireland

Walk into the National Museum of Ireland on Kildare Street and you are magically transported back in time. A stroll through time will take you all the way back to 7,000BC. The Museum first opened its doors in 1890 and since then it has been filling in the blanks for us through its extensive archeological collections. Take time at The Treasury which features outstanding examples of Celtic and Medieval art, such as the famous Ardagh Chalice, the Tara Brooch and the Derrynaflan Hoard. Gaze in wonder at the finest collection of prehistoric gold artifacts in Europe, which is to be found in Or – Ireland’s Gold. Ramble through prehistoric Ireland and experience life at the same time of the Vikings in Viking Age Ireland. Medieval Ireland 1150 – 1550, documents life in Ireland in the age of cathedrals, monasteries and castles. The new and fascinating Kingship&Sacrifice exhibition centre’s on a number of recently found bog bodies dating back to the Iron Age. Displayed along with other bog finds from the Museum’s collections, it offers you an opportunity to come’face to face’with your ancient ancestors.

Joey and Robert Dunlop Memorial Gardens

Joey Dunlop, born in Ballymoney in 1952, was affectionately known to motorcycle racing fans and competitors alike as,’King of the Roads’and’Yer Maun.’Through his courage and ambition he became one of the most successful riders of all time. His incredible sporting career included five Formula One World Championships; 13 wins at the North West 200; 24 wins at the Ulster Grand Prix and a world record of 26 wins at the Isle of Man Tourist Trophy. His sporting achievements were recognised by Her Majesty the Queen when he was awarded an MBE in 1986. Ten years later he was presented with an OBE for his remarkable humanitarian work with children in Eastern Europe.Tragically Joey lost his life whilst racing in Estonia on 2nd July 2000. It is estimated that 60,000 people from across the world came to Ballymoney to attend his funeral. In May 2001 Ballymoney Borough Council officially opened the Joey Dunlop Memorial Garden and is adjoined to neighbouring garden which honours Robert. In this beautiful setting visitors have time to reflect on the unprecedented achievements of this much loved international motorcycling legend.

Drumaheglis Marina&Caravan Park

Award winning park situated on a beautiful stretch of the Lower River Bann. Off A26 between Ballymoney and Coleraine, turn left at Seacon crossroads and follow signs to Drumheglis Marina. Fully serviced sites, volleyball, table tennis, nature walks, barbeque and picnic areas, and children’s play park. The complex also incorporates a boat park, slipway and marina with overnight berthing facilities catering for up to 32 boats.The park comprises of 55 hard standing caravan and camping sites (with electrical supply and water points) and is fully equipped with toilet, shower and laundry facilities. Family washrooms are also available.

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