Trip idea: Wild Ireland

Discover natural treasures and thrilling wildlife experiences as you take a walk on the wild side

Dolphins, golden eagles, fallow and red deer… the island of Ireland’s indigenous wildlife is both fascinating and accessible… We’ve got a few ideas for a trip that will get you up close to our native species. Just make sure you have that camera ready!

Wild Ireland

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The Wild Atlantic Way

Between Cork and Donegal on the Wild Atlantic Way, make a date for dolphin and whale-watching boat trips, look to the skies for eagles and hawks, or take in a sheepdog demo on a working farm.

A driving 170 mins
Whale in West Cork

Whale watching in West Cork

Few things in life are as thrilling as coming face-to-face with the world’s largest creatures, which is why we kick-off our trip in the biologically diverse waters around West Cork. A summer and autumn feeding ground for whales right up to December, West Cork is also a year-round home for dolphins. You can also spot seals, harbour porpoises and basking sharks in these waters from spring. Take a tour on board the Holly Jo with Cork Whale Watch from Reen Pier just outside Union Hall village, or head to Baltimore for a sea adventure with Whale Watch West Cork.

If you have more time

Take a moonlight trip with Atlantic Sea Kayaking from Skibbereen, and witness the curious bioluminescent plankton glittering beneath the dark waters. Or embark on a Discover Wildlife tour exploring the wildlife and natural history of Ireland’s stunning south west.

B driving 190 mins
Fungie the dolphin

Dingle’s friendly resident dolphin

Since 1983, the seaside town of Dingle in County Kerry has been home to a bona fide Irish celebrity: Fungie, a wild – but adorably friendly – bottlenose dolphin. Dingle Dolphin Boat Tours provides trips to witness this entertaining local character frolicking in his natural habitat. Dingle is also a foodie paradise, so check out Doyle's Seafood Restaurant for tasty local produce, or indulge in a scoop of caramelised brown bread ice cream and raspberry sorbet from Murphy’s – Handmade in Dingle. Yum.

If you have more time

The Burren in County Clare boasts a fascinating ecosystem – 23 of Ireland’s orchid species flourish in this rocky limestone landscape – and it is home to hares, foxes and pigmy shews, as well as the elusive pine marten. Come at festival time (May/June) and enjoy the Burren in Bloom event!

C driving 60 mins
A hawk at Ashford Castle

Spread your wings in Ashford Castle

We’ve seen some of the world’s largest creatures in West Cork, now it's time to see one of nature’s top predators in action. At the Aillwee Caves in County Clare, book in advance to arrange a Hawk Walk with Harris hawks around the Burren. After a brief introduction by your instructor, you'll get the chance to release your hawk, watch it swoop and soar through the air and then call it back to you. A visit to Ireland’s School of Falconry in Ashford Castle, County Mayo, meanwhile, offers a private Hawk Walk, where you get to fly Harris hawks around the gardens and woodlands of the magnificent 26,000-acre, 11th century estate in County Mayo.

Sheep herding

The art of rural life Connemara

Connemara in County Galway is not just striking in its wild beauty. It's also a place of tradition, where people hold fast to the old ways and sheep farmers still walk the hills and valleys to tend to their flocks. You can do more than just imagine the work of a rural farmer, at Killary Sheep Farm, where you can watch sheep being sheared, enjoy sheepdog training and even try a bit of turf cutting, if you want to get your hands dirty! While at Glen Keen Farm in County Mayo, you can indulge in the full farm experience, go hillwalking or see a demonstration of wool-spinning.

If you have more time

If you’ve worked up an appetite, you’re in luck because good food is something they do well around here. Check out The Connemara Smokehouse in Ballyconneely (part of the Taste the Atlantic Trail), or enjoy a seafood chowder in O’Dowd’s in Roundstone.

Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland

Skies filled with wheeling seabirds, mysterious and ancient underground caves and an angler’s dream location.

E driving 30 mins
Marble Arch Caves Geopark

What lies beneath

Stretching from the northern shores of Lower Lough Erne in County Fermanagh to the southern shores of Lough Oughter in County Cavan, the Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark is one of the most spectacular in Europe. The rich limestone of the area has created a unique underground world – a subterranean warren of waterfalls, rivers and airy chambers. Don’t forget the parts above ground, too, as the Geopark offers a safe haven to groups of endangered red squirrels and pine martens.

If you have more time

If you’re a fan of HBO’s Game of Thrones®, make sure not to leave without finding the Brotherhood without Banners hideout – otherwise known as the Geopark’s Pollnagollum Cave!

F driving 220 mins
Lough Erne

Fishing for fun and adventure

As angling journalist Henry Gilbey once said, “Alone in the world and catching the perfect fish? Ireland could be heaven with a rod in hand.” The folks around Fermanagh’s lakelands know what he’s talking about; Lough Erne offers some of the finest coarse fishing waters in Europe. Brimming with bream, pike and perch, these banks are the perfect habitat for both leisure and competitive anglers. The most popular areas are around the island town of Enniskillen. Just make sure you have your permit, and relax!

If you have more time

Not content with just sticking around one place? Let someone else guide you around these waters with a relaxing cruise! Or explore the islands of Boa and Devenish with their curious stone statues.

Puffin on Rathlin Island

When the skies seem alive

Hopping on the ferry to the little island of Rathlin just six miles from the Antrim shoreline is always a joy, but even more wonderful is the sight of hundreds of guillemots, kittiwakes, razorbills and fulmars that greet you almost on arrival, not to mention the resident puffins. Arrive in spring, and you may see chicks hatching – especially if you head for the Rathlin West Light Seabird Centre. All the action isn’t in the air, though. Deep in that crystal blue sea are reefs and sea caves that make the perfect habitat for sponges, soft corals, anemones and hydroids, many of which can be found nowhere else in the world.

If you have more time

Explore the jewel in the crown of the Causeway Coastal Route – the Giant’s Causeway. Shrouded in legend, these 40,000 basalt columns were formed 60 million years ago and they're a pretty phenomenal sight.

Ireland’s Ancient East and Dublin

Ireland's Ancient East and Dublin

Get close to nature in the rural idylls of Ireland’s Ancient East and Dublin's urban spaces

H driving 120 mins
Dun na Rí Forest Park

Creature comforts in County Cavan

County Cavan's Dun na Rí Forest Park holds a special place in the hearts of visitors to this national treasure in Ireland’s Ancient East. Wandering amongst the towering spruce and oak trees of the park, you'll chance upon a plethora of native creatures – stoats, hares, pigmy shrew, otters and red squirrels flourish along the river Cabra, which is lined with snowdrops, bluebells, foxgloves and ferns. Bliss.

If you have more time

Book into renowned chef, Neven Maguire’s MacNean House and Restaurant in Blacklion, and treat yourself to simply delicious food.

I driving 140 mins
Butterfly at Lough Boora

Untamed scenery at Lough Boora

Walk the grasslands, lakes and wetlands of Ireland’s largest sculpture park, Lough Boora Discovery Park in County Offaly, and the abundance of flora and wildlife will simply make you smile. Take a guided tour, rent a bike, bring your fishing gear or perhaps make haste to the Fairy Trail?

If you have more time

If hunger strikes, make sure to stop in at the café onsite overlooking Loch an Dochais – tranquillity has never seemed so easy.

J driving 150 mins
Copper Coast

A glorious coastline with ice age remains

Stretching across the southern coast of Waterford along Ireland’s Ancient East, Waterford’s Copper Coast UNESCO Geopark is a beautifully diverse area containing remains from the last ice age. Taking its name from its 18th century lead, silver and copper mining heritage, it’s certainly glorious to explore the nooks and crannies from the shore. But to really enjoy this natural wonder, a sea-kayak tour with Pure Adventure will help you get even closer to the native dolphins, waterbirds and seals.

K driving 135 mins
Saltee Islands

Nature causes a stir around Wexford

Fancy picking up your rod again? Kilmore Quay Angling specialises in bass, tope and species hunts, as well as whale and dolphin-watching! Take a tour around the Saltee Islands – a haven for wildlife with a colourful history! In 1956, aviator, nature enthusiast and Wexford native Michael Neale crowned himself Prince Michael the First... 13 years after buying the islands for himself and his family.

If you have more time

Back on the mainland, scale the observation tower at the Wexford Wildfowl Reserve to enjoy the interactive exhibition centre, which explains how this site is dedicated in part to the 10,000 white-fronted geese from Greenland that traverse the Atlantic to settle here each winter.

Phoenix Park

Gaze at fallow deer in an urban oasis

Just a hop, skip and a jump away from Dublin's thriving metropolis lies a welcome escape from the urban thrum: the tranquil Phoenix Park. The cycling and walking routes that criss-cross the park offer the perfect vantage point to see the park's sizeable herd of fallow deer. Directly descended from a herd first brought to the park in the 17th century, some 200 fawns are born here every year.

If you have more time

You’re in a city framed by mountains and the UNESCO Dublin Bay Biosphere, so let Dublin Bay Cruises bring you on a guided boat tour, starting out from either Howth or Dún Laoghaire.

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