1. Gougane Barra, County Cork
Looking for the most romantic spot on the island of Ireland? Gougane Barra in the glorious wilds of West Cork is a firm contender for first place. It’s a popular spot for marriage proposals and you can even tie the knot in this charming little 19th century chapel, St Finbarr’s Oratory. Sharing this picturesque island are the ruins of a 18th century monastery, reportedly built by the patron saint of County Cork, St Finbarr. After visiting the chapel, take some time to head into the surrounding Gougane Barra Forest Park. Sitting in a tranquil valley by the Sheehy mountains, the park boasts six walking trails through gorgeous scenery.
2. Ballynahinch Castle, County Galway
Surrounded by the Twelve Bens mountain range, and built on the site of a former castle, this 18th century country house has seen its fair share of history. Many famous faces and figures have walked within these walls, including 16th century pirate queen Grace O’Malley. Now a luxury hotel, Ballynahinch Castle's owners over the centuries include Robert Martin, a member of one of the 14 original tribes of Galway. Then in 1924, the castle was privately owned by world-class cricketer, His Highness the Maharaja Jam Sahib of Nawanajar, better known as Ranji, who was responsible for many of the features that you can still find today at this four star luxury hotel. So, relax by a roaring fire, or pull on your Wellington boots and go for a walk in its lush, green grounds.
3. The Sperrins, County Tyrone
Spanning 64 km (40 miles), these wild heather-clad hills have been classed as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and it’s easy to see why. National Geographic even included the Sperrins in its 101 Most Scenic Drives in the World, so whether you walk or drive, it'll be easy to capture that perfect Instagram shot! The Ice Age left an indelible mark on the region, with many of the valleys, including Barnes Gap, carved by ice. And you’ll find a host of ancient treasures in this ramblers’ paradise, including the Beaghmore Stone Circles. The true purpose of the stones still remains a mystery, but some of the circles align with the sun and the moon!
4. Laragh, County Wicklow
Situated just 2km (1 mile) from Glendalough and Wicklow National Park, Laragh in County Wicklow is a great base for your adventures. Take your time here, and wander through this lovely village, or explore the nearby National Park on foot – there are lots of trails to choose from, for both novices and experienced hikers. If you’re looking for a great day out from Dublin, it's about 90 mins drive from the city centre, but it'll be worth it to see this pretty spot.
5. St Stephen's Green, Dublin City
One of Dublin’s most beloved parks, St Stephen’s Green was a private park from 1814, until Arthur Guinness (yes, that Arthur Guinness!), redeveloped it and returned it to the public in 1880. Guinness’s vision was to create an oasis of tranquility in the city and, even today, Stephen’s Green feel miles away from the bustle of Dublin, with its lake, flowers, sycamore and holly trees. Visiting the park is a treat whatever the season, but it’s in autumn when you’ll really be struggling to put the camera down. Grab a hot drink from Bewley’s on Grafton Street, and spend an afternoon exploring amid golden leaves.
6. Banagher Forest, County Londonderry
This scenic spot is perfect for nature lovers, and you’ll be constantly swapping between your camera and your binoculars to see some spectacular sights. It’s here you’ll find swooping peregrine falcons, buzzards, and even redstarts. One of the oldest woodlands on the island of Ireland, it's worth walking the circular 9km (5.5 miles) trail. Or, if you’re feeling up for a challenge, you can climb Altnaheglish Hill, a 360m (1181 ft) summit. At the top, reward yourself with views of Sawel and Mullaghclogha. And on a clear day, County Donegal!
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