Off the beaten track: Part II

Avoid the queues and crowds: another 7 ways to get off the beaten track and explore the island of Ireland

Dursey Island cable car
Dursey Island cable car

1. The Northern Lights, Inishowen, County Donegal

Inishowen is remote, dramatic and beautiful and THE place to witness the Northern Lights in Ireland. Snuggle under a blanket and watch this phenomenon at Grianan of Aileach, a huge 2,000-year-old ring fort sitting 250 metres above sea level. Lie back and watch the sky dance.

Location: The Inishowen Peninsula is located at the extreme north of the island of Ireland in County Donegal. Its east coast borders Lough Foyle, a lake shared with County Londonderry.

2. Dursey Island Cable Car, Beara Peninsula, County Cork

Want somewhere off the grid? Head to Dursey Island (on the Wild Atlantic Way), accessible by Ireland’s only cable car – and one of the few cable cars in Europe that traverses open sea. The car is a lifeline for the Dursey's handful of inhabitants who use the conveyance to carry their precious livestock. Keep a lookout for dolphins or whales in the waters 250ft below – if you dare to look down!

Location: The cable car departs from Ballaghboy in County Cork

3. Cnoc Suain’s bog bodies, Spiddal, County Galway

Cnoc Suain (meaning ‘quiet hill’) is a restored 17th-century village in Spiddal set in 200 acres of Connemara’s rolling bogland. In Cnoc Suain’s backyard? An ancient playground. Discover the secrets of perfectly preserved bog bodies and the wonder plant, sphagnum moss.

Location: Follow the R336 from Galway city for 17km, heading towards Carraroe.

4 Brontë Homeland, County Down

On 17 March 1777, Patrick Brunty was born in the tiny explosion of green fields that is Drumballyroney parish in County Down. He would one day become father to the most revered sisters in literary history: Charlotte, Emily, and Anne Brontë. Visit the tiny church where Patrick preached and prayed, the tiny cottage next door where he laid his head and even the school where he began his teaching career. This is where the Brontë story begins.

Location: Southeast from Downpatrick; follow the A25.

5 Hidden treasure on Divis and the Black Mountain, Belfast

Looking for a wild countryside experience? This is it: think free grazing cattle, wild horses and badger setts. Pick a clear day for your stroll and your view will include Strangford Lough, the Mourne Mountains, the Sperrins and even Scotland. 

Location: East from Belfast City: follow the A1, onto the B38 and make for Springmartin Road.

You’ve heard of Noah’s Ark, but do you know the story of the Little Ark?

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6. The Little Ark Church, County Clare

The Little Ark courtesy of Carsten Krieger Photography/Loop Head Tourism

When parish priest Father Meehan was denied permission to build a church, he decided to celebrate mass on ‘no man’s land’. So, the ‘Little Ark’ was built – a wooden altar on wheels, which was rolled onto the beach at low tide. Eventually, a church was built, known as the Church of the Little Ark. But you can still visit the original Little Ark in its new home within the church.

Location: Head southwest from Ennis onto the R458, then the R487

7. Ancient skulls at Navan Fort, County Armagh

Named after the pagan goddess Queen Macha, Navan Fort (Emhain Mhacha) was once the high seat of the Kings and Queens of Ulster. Archaeologists love this place, thanks to finds like the 2,500-year-old skull of a Barbary Macaque, which found its way there from North Africa.

Location: Head north from Armagh city and follow the A29. Turn right onto Killylea Road.

If you liked this little lot, you’ll want to check out our first instalment of Off The Beaten Track, too.

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