One of the strangest landscapes of this beautiful island lies deep underground. At the Marble Arch Global Geopark in County Fermanagh, the peaceful waters have spent the last few million years carving a mysterious underworld in this limestone labyrinth. Marble Arch is one of the finest show caves in Europe and a guided boat ride along the underground river will bring you past cave formations, through huge chambers and by waterfalls.
Fans of the hit HBO series can go behind the scenes with the very company that worked on the production. Sail to Lordsport (or Ballintoy Harbour, as it’s known around here), and check out the beaches, coast and headlands where much of the action took place. In fact, you don’t have to be a diehard fan of the series – this is a brilliant introduction to the Causeway Coastal Route! Here, you can cross the swaying the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge and explore the mystical Giant's Causeway nearby.
Lough Erne is in two parts – Upper and Lower – but the whole lough is sprinkled with islands – 154 to be precise. This place was an important highway when land travel was tricky, and is also a medieval pilgrimage route. These serene waters are studded with ancient religious sites, including the fascinating remains of a 6th century monastic site on Devenish, the mysterious stone figures on White Island and the curious Janus figures on Boa. Take to the waters and catch a ferry to Devenish Island or White Island, or take control and hire a boat to explore wherever the gentle waves take you.
Take to the water for a fresh look at the birthplace of the most famous luxury liner in the world. Titanic Boat Tours sail around Belfast Harbour and the old Harland & Wolff shipyards, which have been transformed into the Titanic Quarter. You’ll hear the story of the city that built this tragic vessel, and how the busy working docks were once the very heart of Belfast. The area is still a vibrant hub of activity, but now it buzzes with culture, as well as lots of bars and restaurants.
Get in touch with your inner Norseman and cruise from Athlone to the 6th century monastic site of Clonmacnoise. The River Shannon was a major highway in days gone by, and Clonmacnoise was a wealthy and sophisticated monastery – too tempting a target to evade Viking attention. These seafaring folk invented shallow-draught ships that could sail far inland, allowing them to invade the helpless monks’ hallowed home.
The southwest coast of Ireland is home to many amazing creatures. You can get close to the gentle giants of the sea on a whale-watching trip with Cork Whale Watch. Catch the boat from Reen Pier, where a four-hour trip on the mighty Atlantic ocean holds sightings of dolphins, porpoise, humpback whales, basking sharks and seals.
Designed to withstand the heavy weather of the north Atlantic, the Galway hookerboat is a hefty piece of history, and sailing in one is a unique experience. Cast away from the village of Carna on board the 120-year-old “Bláth na hÓige” (Flower of Youth) for a two-hour trip. You’ll learn about the history of the area, visit some of the deserted islands off the coast and maybe even hear some tall tales from the sea.
Once you’ve strolled the streets of Dublin, take to the river. Paddling the Liffey’s calm water offers a startling new vantage point, which most people have never experienced. With City Kayaking you can even paddle under the famous Ha’penny Bridge! Trips are timed with the tides – high tide for the best view of the city; low tide for a tour of the docklands and a glimpse of Dublin Bay – and each suit all fitness levels.
Even in photos, the Cliffs of Moher are extraordinary. From the top, they’re dizzying – but what about from the bottom? A boat trip will get you close to the base of these iconic giants, where the pounding sea has carved out caves where seabirds nest on precarious perches. Tours start from Galway and Doolin and pay a visit to Ireland’s largest seabird colony on the Great Sea Stack.
Far from the stormy seas, the tranquillity of a canal cruise is a world apart. Take it easy and feel your shoulders relax on a gentle trip from Sallins in County Kildare. Skipper Ger Loughlin is a fountain of knowledge, with stories about the people who built these liquid highways, and traditional life on canal barges, towed by horses, donkeys – and sometimes even people. Take a family trip during the day or an evening outing, where you can enjoy a drink while admiring the beautiful views.