If you’re travelling to Ireland, you must add these incredible six places to visit to your itinerary.
Three years ago I spent the most amazing time travelling through England, Ireland and Scotland at Christmas. Along the way, my partner and I came across some awe inspiring locations which would have most definitely been missed if we had hooked up with a tour group.
Thankfully we opted to rent a car; which we normally do when exploring new countries. Simply out, you just get to see more and have better flexibility when travelling.
I wanted to share with you, six of my favourite places which you must add to your itinerary if you’re planning a trip to Ireland. Especially at Christmas time.
Why? Because everyone there is just so darn festive. Dpn’t get me wrong, Aussies do Christmas well also, but being in the UK, Ireland and Scotland for Christmas was a magical time and I can’t wait to get back there again one day soon, to do it all over again.
We completely fluked coming across this castle whilst driving to Blarney Castle; which is a famous Irish castle. We had plenty of hours left in the day, especially as we were spending the night in a small village not far from Blarney, so we decided to stop and explore this castle. It was in absolute amazing condition; and is one of the only perfectly preserved castles left in Ireland.
Of course, it did undergo a lot of renovation to restore it back to its former glory, but very little was made to fix stairs and walls and the castle sits as it did so very long ago. All floors are intact and most of the items within the castle; like beds and chairs, are original and from the era. The castle is also surrounded by a cute re-invented medieval village which you can explore.
Built in the neolithic period, at certain times of the year in the winter solstice, hundreds of people from around the world and Ireland, flock to Newgrange to witness a spectacular event. The sun’s rays perfectly align through the entrance of the main Newgrange mound, lighting up the darkness within.
The stones are perfectly placed together within the monument and begs the question; why it was built to begin with. Many believe it was built as an entrance to the another world. Other’s believe it was simply a living space from the harsh environment of Ireland in the Winter.
Wicklow National Park:
Ireland’s most well-known national park. Because we were travelling through Ireland in the winter, I actually didn’t realise we wre driving through Wicklow National Park, until we came across an information board telling us to. Most photos I have seen in books and online show the park to be covered in flowers and green pastures.
However, this time it was brown and wispy against the dark sky – but still absolutely beautiful. There are many ruins of old villages left over all over Wicklow National Park; where people once lived before the great famine hit and forced families to leave.
We travelled through Trim on the way to Newgrange and found out this was where they filmed most of the movie Braveheart with Mel Gibson; which is a little unusual considering the movie is about Scotland. But, we were told the landscape of Ireland; in particular Wicklow National Park and the castles of the area, are far better locations for filming and with castles which are in far better condition to film in.
So, Trim was chosen for a lot of the sequences shot for the movie. Unfortunately the castle was closed for the season, but we at least got to wonder the grounds and enjoy a quick coffee break before heading off to Newgrange.
Ireland is filled with old mansions, and they are more often than not, open to the public at a very small price, so you can walk through the halls of some great twenty to fifty bedroom homes, big enough to fit your entire family in.
And, if you didn’t already now, Ireland is also filled with abandoned homesteads left by families during the great famine and the great depression – where families left boarded up their homes and moved elsewhere for work and money. Most of those houses are on farms and farmers are generally okay for you to pull up your car and take a wonder through their land to get to the old homes to explore. Provided you don’t disturb their livestock. You can also do this for many castles as well.
Russborough House is owned and in amazing condition. Unfortunately as it was nearing Christmas, it was closed and were unable to enter the house. But, we were advised we were welcome to explore the grounds and peek through the window – so we did.
Where the Celts and Druid go to enter another world. Poulnabrone Dolmen is the world’s most photographed stone in the world and when you reach this incredible place, it comes to no surprise why that it is. The long winding drive to the top of a mountain; almost above tree line is where this mysterious stone sits.
And, legend has it, the stone was once a portal for the Celts and the Druids to enter into other worlds and allow Gods to enter ours. This was an amazing experience to finally see the stone with my own eyes, as it was something I had wanted to do since I saw a picture of it in a ‘Things to See in Ireland’ book my mother had, whilst I was growing up.