Greetings from Ireland all! So last week we looked at our top 10 places to stay in Ireland. This week I’m turning my attention to Ireland’s top 10 natural wonders. The following list is my personal must-see list on any Irish trip. As always it is by no means definitive. Let’s face it we have a lot to choose from!
Lulu’s Top 10 Natural Wonders
1. The Burren
So our first stop is the awesome and spectacular Burren in county Clare and south county Galway. Taking it’s name from the Irish word “Boireann” which means “great rock”, this stunning Karst terrain consists of rolling hills of limestone pavements with criss-crossing cracks. The Burren covers 250 square kilometers and is one of Ireland’s 6 national parks.
View from afar and get the full effect of this other worldly lunar-like landscape or get up close and feast your eyes on the wealth of arctic, Mediterranean and alpine plants that live side by side due to the unique conditions and formation of this rare and magical landscape.
2. Gap of Dunloe
The Gap of Dunloe is a narrow mountain pass between the Macgillycuddy’s Reeks and Purple Mountain in Kerry. Within it are 5 spectacular lakes which are connected by the River Loe. The road through is narrow and difficult with large vehicles. The most popular form of transport remains a horse and cart.
3. Torc Waterfall
Let’s stay in the Kingdom of Kerry for the next offering on our list of Ireland’s top 10 natural wonders. Torc Mountain forms a majestic backdrop to Killarney town sweeping down to Muckross Lake. At the base of the mountain you will find Torc waterfall standing at 80 feet high. It is fed by the Owengarriff River, the source of which is the Devils Punchbowl- a glacial lake on nearby Mangerton mountain.
The name “torc” means “wild boar” in Irish. Legend has it that the waterfall came into existence because of a man who had been cursed by the Devil to spend his nights as a wild boar. He lived in a cavern on the side of the mountain. One night, a local farmer was out looking for his animals and discovered the wild boar. The boar offered him riches beyond his wildest dreams to keep his secret. When the farmer betrayed him and revealed his secret, the wild boar burst into a ball of fire and flung himself into the Devils Punchbowl lake . The lake burst it’s banks to create the waterfall and so conceal the boar’s hiding place beneath.
4. The Cliffs of Moher
The words “spectacular”, “awesome” and “majestic” often get used when describing Ireland’s land and seascapes and for good reason. But I can think of no place more deserving of those three words than the mighty Cliffs of Moher. They rise from the south western edge of the Burren and rise over 8 km along the edge of the Atlantic to their highest point at 214 meters at their midpoint at O’Briens’s tower.
5. Giant’s Causeway
Are you ready for more “awesome” and “spectacular”? Well let’s head to the north of the country to county Antrim and the Giant’s Causeway. This geological wonder consists of 40,000 basalt columns, the result of an ancient volcanic eruption.
Irish legend has it that the causeway is the remains of a path made by Irish mythological giant Finn Mac Cool when he was challenged to go into combat with his Scottish rival giant, Benandonner. The only UNESCO World Heritage Site in the north of Ireland, there’s a definite edge of the world feeling in this stunning location.
6. Clew Bay
The stunning Clew Bay in Co Mayo contains 365 sunken drumlins – an island for every day of the year! Clare Island is the biggest of the islands. Most of the other smaller islands are uninhabited. Surrounding Clew Bay is Croagh Patrick and miles of sandy beaches. A truly picturesque place to visit.
7. Cathedral Rocks
Yes-it’s Kerry yet again! The Cathedral Rocks are on northern end of Inis Na Bro. These spectacular rock formations resemble a Gothic cathedral. Tearaght Island can be seen in the distance behind the rocks.
8. The Coumshingaun Corrie Lake
The Coumshingaun Corrie Lake and the surrounding Comeragh mountains are situated in Co Waterford. Coumshingaun is one of the finest examples of a corrie in Europe. Corries were formed by glacier movement during the ice age. A place of real peace and tranquility
9. Macgillycuddy Reeks
Our penultimate pick in out top 10 natural wonders is in-yes you’ve guessed it-county Kerry! This iconic Irish mountain range on the Iveragh peninsula in county Kerry boasts no less than 27 peaks including Ireland’s highest, Carantoohil standing majestically at 3400 feet. So where did the name MacGillycuddy’s Reeks come from? Well, it originates from the 18th century when this part of Ireland was controlled by the Mac Giolla Mochuda clan. Macgillycuddy is the anglicized version of the name and the word reek is derived from the old English word rick meaning stack.
10. The Skelligs
Our last stop on our 10 wonders of Ireland journey is the truly awesome Skellig Islands. The smallest of the islands is not accessible to the public but a boat ride to the magnificent Skellig Michael should be on everyone’s bucket list. The ancient monastic settlement here is incredibly well preserved. No humans have lived here since the monks left in 1100 who even escaped the ravages of the Vikings. Maybe someone was looking down on them! Now the birds have taken over, especially the puffins in Spring. It is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A truly special part of the world.
Happy travels everyone. See you next week!
Slán go fóill!