Ireland's Most Popular Regions
The most popular regions of the country are its hip cities, rugged outer edges, and inspirational isles. Since a greater part of the Republic's population is concentrated in and around Dublin, a lot of space remains to be explored. A drive one-hour south to Wicklow, west into Kildare, or north to the Mourne Mountains, for example, is a pastoral treat.
The South and Southwest
Everlasting is the popularity that Ireland's southern regions have earned with travelers. The medieval delight of Kilkenny and the quaintness of Kinsale and Kildare are the reveries of historic-city lovers. Unmatched ruggedness and natural wonders attract millions each year to the Ring of Kerry (Iveragh Peninsula) and Killarney National Park. Remote and awe-inspiring are the Beara and Dingle peninsulas, along with the Skellig and Blasket Islands.
Those looking to get off the beaten path certainly will be able to do so. However, careful research should be done beforehand. The middle regions of Ireland are composed mostly of heath and bog land. This mushy terrain with bog pits (akin to quicksand), accompanied by extreme temperature variations, can ruin any outing for the underprepared.
Easily entered via the Shannon Airport, this region of Ireland is as diverse and stunning as any other. The Gaelic tongue enchants while pure Irish hospitality delights. The most popular urban area is Galway City, filled with historical sites, as well as hip and young crowds. Not far away is the rolling, stark beauty of Connemara National Park and the peaceful stone walls lining the Aran Islands. Up the coast is County Mayo, where picturesque towns such as Cong and Clifden await discovery, while Achill Island's (accessible by car) rustic seascapes beckon exploration.
Counties Sligo and Roscommon inspire poetry and art; just ask the Yeats brothers. Indelible are the moments journeying through a land that shaped their livelihoods. Along the coast are beaches with top surf spots, followed by Ireland's most-removed county, Donegal. With the Slieve League cliffs, Glenveagh National Park, Mount Errigal, and the timeless Inishowen Peninsula, Donegal is worth days of peregrination.
Historical walled-in Derry (or Londonderry) opens up a doorway into Northern Ireland's tumultuous past. The city presents a firsthand view of how far the entire north has evolved in peace. Northern Ireland proffers the Fermanagh Lakelands, the Giant's Causeway, the Glens of Antrim, Belfast, and the spectacular Mourne Mountains. Towns such as Enniskillen, Ballycastle, Cushedum, and Newcastle make perfect bases with the friendliest of folks.