Essential Ireland: Counties Cork, Clare, and Galway

If there was ever a country touched by magic, Ireland must be that country. A particular fog of uncertainty and excitement hangs over the green hills and the wide, picturesque valleys, as if druid priests are still imprinting their spirits across the land. One constantly receives the impression that there’s something missing, that there is very little about this ancient and beautiful land that can truly be understood.

Ireland is famous for its verdant valleys, its striking ancient castles, and its beauty and mysticism. Of course there aren’t very many people, even world travelers, who have time to see every single city in the country they are visiting. This is why it’s important to make a list of what you would really feel terrible if you came back from Ireland without having seen. What is essential to see in Ireland? There are many things, but some are a more integral part of your Irish experience than others.

County Cork

The winner of the most visited Irish place is more than likely Blarney Castle. Everyone has heard the story of the Blarney Stone and its claim to give you a silken tongue, but what few people know is that actually bending backwards to kiss the stone requires a bit of effort. However, I would never recommend going to Ireland without kissing the Blarney Stone, even if you’re a bit squeamish of heights; it is like going to Paris and failing to see the Eiffel Tower! As is the story with many other castles, the current Blarney Castle is only one of three to occupy this same site. It is an imposing place by exterior view, but the coming and going of tourists serve to make it more cheerful. Don’t miss Blarney Castle as you traverse through the land of the leprechauns.

County Clare

Poulnabrone Dolmen is a huge prehistoric rock formation that many believe was made by hand, setting two 10-ton rock slabs on top of some smaller slabs. These odd druid formations are one of the most prevalent pictures that come to mind when thinking about the Emerald Isle. Once an ancient tomb, the Poulnabrone Dolmen now sits peacefully in County Clare, while the rocky plain known as the Burren stretches out around it. A field of cracked limestone covers the plain as far as the eye can see, giving it a barren and deserted look.

If you’re traveling to County Clare you absolutely have to check out the Cliffs of Moher. The sheer size of these huge rock cliffs and the crashing waves below will inspire you. An aerial view would provide the best view, but since many people don’t want to come off an airplane in Ireland and go up into another plane immediately, you might want to content yourself with the amazing view from the top. Be assured this view is just as amazing as the aerial would be!

County Galway

The Connemara Valley is famous for Connemara marble. Purchasing an Irish cross made of Connemara marble spurred me to research this historic region, and I wasn’t disappointed at the number of things to see. First, the Connemara Valley itself is worth stopping to visit. After you’ve taken in the beauty of the natural scenery, stop by the 19th century Clifden Castle. Although not a medieval home, the name “castle” suits Clifden’s appearance very well, even though most of it is now in ruins. The ruins seem to help further the mysterious quality of the valley in an eye-pleasing way.

Also in Connemara you’ll find Roundstone Bay, where many fishing and ocean-going activities are possible. Take time to stop and view the beautiful valley reflected in the bay and you’ll see why Ireland is one of the most beautiful countries in the world. If you decided not to visit Clifden Castle, you might want to see Connemara’s Ross Castle. If you want to spend a considerable amount of money and wish to stay here or have dinner reservations here, Ross Castle – more of a manor house than a castle – is your first stop. For the right price, you can be a guest at this fantastic place that is beautifully furnished and commands a fantastic view.

No matter what you decide to do while visiting the Emerald Isle, you will have great memories (and incredible pictures!) for years to come.

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