Mourne Mountains, County Down
1. Momentous landscapes
This was author CS Lewis’s playground as a child, and inspired the winter wonderland that is Narnia in The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. Easy to see why: In winter the mountains are coated in snow, and who knows what lies in its hidden ridges and folds? The Mourne Mountains, County Down:
A journey through an ever-changing vista of dark brown peat bogs, russet mountains, yellow gorse and golden moor grass. The Connemara Roundstone Bog Conservation Drive:
This rugged landscape turns even starker on a winter’s night. Howling wind and crashing waves of the Atlantic along the 30-mile coastline only embellish this knockout west coast peninsula. Beara Peninsula, County Cork: 2. Cosy pubs
Founded in 1779, the low ceiling, exposed brick walls and flagstone floor make this place special. Grab a fireside seat for The Cork Yarnspinner, a night of storytelling and song on the last Tuesday of each month. An Spailpín Fánach (the Migrant Worker), County Cork:
Nancy’s seafood is legendary for a reason: try a steaming bowl of chowder after a bracing walk and get toasty. Nancy’s Ardara, County Donegal:
Sitting on the shore of Saltwater Brig, County Down: Strangford Lough, this pub’s highlight is the snug room, with a roaring open fire and bare stone walls. If you’re lucky you might get some pancakes hot off the griddle…
Saltwater Brig, County Down
The Beara Peninsula
A lighthouse on Rathlin Island
A Cavan lake
Roundstone bog, County Galway
Slieve Gullion, County Armagh
3. City breaks
Dublin’s shopping boutiques on Grafton Street are packed with gift ideas. Visit also Dublin: Powerscourt Townhouse where you can find boutiques, restaurants and antiques. As an alternative, have a wander down Temple Bar, the cultural heart of Dublin City.
What to do in Belfast? Lots. Catch a show at the MAC, wander through St. George's Market and City Hall, or indulge in some afternoon tea at Belfast: Titanic Belfast.
With a youthful population and a bohemian spirit, Galway’s charms are best enjoyed by strolling the city lanes and soaking up the atmosphere.
Galway: There’s plenty to keep sightseers happy, too.
Dublin vintage shopping 4. Roar for the rugby
Ireland is rugby mad and once 2015 comes around, the excitement reach fever pitch.
The RBS Six Nations cup Dublin matches are on 14 February when Ireland takes on France and England on 1 March; matches will be hosted in the Aviva Stadium.
European Rugby Champions Cup matches will continue in January and hopefully an provincial team will make it to the knockout stages in 2015 – Leinster, Ulster and Munster are all in it to win it. Pretty much every pub Dublin will be crammed with rugby fans at match time cheering on their teams!
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5. The escape factor
Cliff stop stroll on Connected to the coast by a bridge, this desolate island has a spectacular walk at the western end: starting at a cliff-top at Achill Island: Keem Bay, take in the old basking shark watch house and a deserted village on your ramble.
Tall tales on Rathlin Island: Rathlin is easily accessible – but you might never want to leave. Explore the basalt cliffs, find lonely lighthouses and hear about the smuggler tales at a local pub.
Archaeology in Cavan: Nestled between six counties, the glassy lakes and forest parks of County Cavan make it a perfect winter setting. Explore the hidden mysteries at the foot of the Cuilcagh Mountains where ancient hut sites and a wedge tomb are just some surprises.
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