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    10 unmissable island experiences around Ireland

    Unique and thrilling experiences can be found on the islands surrounding Ireland, so what are you waiting for? Add these to your bucket list…

    • #Landscapes
    • #IrelandsIslands
    • #Adventure
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    • #Adventure
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    10-island-experiences-dun-aonghasa-county-galway 10-island-experiences-dun-aonghasa-county-galway

    Dún Aonghasa, County Galway

    1. Picnic at a clifftop fort

    Bring your coffee and sandwiches to the ancient fort of Dún Aonghasa, which clings tenaciously to the cliffs of Inis Mór, the largest of the three Aran Islands in County Galway. The fort is a 15-minute walk from the visitor centre located on the edge of the Kilmurvey Craft Village. The short hike across the rocky, moon-like terrain is a small price to pay for lunch with incredible views 87 metres above the Atlantic waves.

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    Viewing platform at the RSPB West Light Seabird Centre on Rathlin Island, County Antrim

    2. Visit a seabird sanctuary 

    The RSPB West Light Seabird Centre on Rathlin Island is home to Northern Ireland’s largest colony of seabirds. Species such as puffins, razorbills and guillemots come to nest in this area every year, attracted by the rocky cliffs, lakes, and grassy fields. One of the best ways to observe them is from the centre’s main viewing platform on the craggy cliffside. After your visit to the seabird centre, explore some of the island’s scenic walking routes and pay a visit to the famous upside down lighthouse. 

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    The gardens of Garnish Island, County Cork

    3. Explore a garden island

    The gardens of Garnish Island in Bantry Bay, County Cork are renowned in the horticultural world for their great beauty and the large collection of plants that thrive there. Brought to life by the island’s previous owners Annan and Violet Bryce and architect and garden designer Harold Ainsworth Peto, this 37-acre garden is a glorious collage of colour that changes with the seasons and perfectly balances formal and wild elements. Explore the sunken Italian Garden, the Grecian Temple with sea and mountain views and the Martello Tower, which dates from 1805.

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    The Janus figure on Boa Island, County Fermanagh © Shutterstock

    4. Discover a pagan statue

    On Boa Island – one of 154 islands in County Fermanagh’s Lough Erne there is an intriguing statue considered to be one of the most remarkable stone figures on the island of Ireland. Believed to represent a Celtic deity, the ancient two-headed statue has been named the Janus figure, due to its similarities with the Roman two-headed god, Janus. You’ll find this mysterious pagan statue in the Caldragh Cemetery, one of the stops on the island’s walking trail.

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    Bray Head on Valentia Island, County Kerry

    5. Follow in a tetrapod's footsteps

    Tetrapod tracks dating back to the Devonian period over 300 million years ago can be seen on Valentia Island in County Kerry, one of Ireland’s most westerly land masses. Around 20 trackways have been preserved on the rocky coastline of the island, and they’re possibly some of the oldest evidence of the evolution of creatures from the water. Add this stop to your adventure on the Ring of Kerry! 

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    The monastic settlement on Devenish Island, County Fermanagh

    6. Get spiritual at a ruined monastery

    Of the many lake islands in Lough Erne, County Fermanagh, Devenish stands out. It was here in the 6th-century that Saint Molaise founded his monastery and at one point almost 1,000 monks lived and worked here in splendid isolation. You can still see the ruins of its Augustinian Abbey, intricately carved stone crosses and perfectly intact round tower. Not bad, considering the site was raided by Vikings in 837AD and burned centuries later.

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    The deserted village on Achill Island, County Mayo

    7. Find a deserted village

    At the foot of Slievemore Mountain on County Mayo’s Achill Island lies an eerie village of between 80 and 100 tumbledown stone cottages, abandoned from the mid-1800s. As you walk among those long empty ruins, you might wonder, what happened here? Achill’s famous Deserted Village came about due to a few factors including evictions due to the inability to pay rent to greedy landlords, famine and emigration. Explore the site and imagine what life was once like here...

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    Grey seal colony on the Great Blasket Island, County Kerry © Shutterstock

    8. Go seal-spotting

     The Blasket Islands in County Kerry have been described as the grey seal capital of Ireland. During the winter, up to 1,000 seals can be seen lounging on the shore of Great Blasket Island’s White Strand, and late September-October is a great time to see fuzzy seal pups. Several tours can get you that little bit closer to seals in their natural habitat – while still maintaining a safe distance to avoid disturbing them. The Great Blasket Island Premium Tour includes a landing on the island, cave and cove explorations, marine and birdlife sightings and of course, a chance to see the thriving grey seal colony.

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    Stone steps on Skellig Michael, County Kerry

    9. Climb to the heavens 

    You may recognise these rocky steps from Star Wars: The Force Awakens… but Skellig Michael is much more than a dramatic film location. In the 6th century, monks settled on this island off the County Kerry coast, climbing to the top of its tallest summit and creating an extraordinary monastic village there, 218 metres (714 ft) above the churning ocean. Although some have deemed it vertigo-inducing, climbing the steps to the village is an incredible, spiritual experience.

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    Cable car to Dursey Island, County Cork

    10. Swing across the waves on a cable car

    Even the postman takes the cable car over to Dursey Island in County Cork to deliver to the five native island residents! This cable car has been in operation since 1969 and carries you 250 metres across the Atlantic Ocean to the tranquil island. Once there, you can follow the Dursey Island Loop which takes you past rugged cliffs and rustic stone walls, as you listen to a soundtrack of birdsong and the crashing waves of the Atlantic.