Quirky, unexpected and secret island

Quirky, unexpected and secret island

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Posted Thu 4 Apr 2024 8:05 PM
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Beyond the well-trodden paths of the island’s famous landmarks, there lies a world full of peculiar museums, mysterious locations and unexpected activities. For those curious travellers looking for quirky experiences to add to their Ireland itinerary, we’ve got you covered with sights and ideas that aren’t to be found in your average travel guide. 

Enchanting museums to discover:

To begin, a visit to the Little Museum of Dublin will surprise you with its great collection of treasures that trace Dublin’s 20th century life. A guided tour is sure to make you giggle more than once too! Next, head over to the National Leprechaun Museum of Ireland to get your fill of the folklore the island is so deeply associated with. And, just across the River Liffey, lies an artifact of peculiar intrigue: Napoleon’s toothbrush, a testament to the personal habits of one of history’s most iconic figures - to be found in the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland. 

With Dublin now in the rearview mirror, discover the Museum of Time in wonderful Waterford for an journey through the science of timekeeping. Meanwhile, Foynes’ Flying Boat and Maritime Museum is absolutely worth your time: who knew that pioneering aviators, Hollywood icons and the birthplace of Irish Coffee could make for such a perfect blend! If all of that has made you a bit peckish, then Cork has you covered with the Butter Museum - where interesting tales and facts are definitely spread thick! 

Mysterious locations:

When thinking of mysteries and Ireland, our minds are drawn to the ancient archaeological wonders dotted across the island. With monuments older than the pyramids, you’ll be spoiled for choice

There are however, many other intriguing spots to discover, including the crypts of St Michan’s, where mummified remains may just well send a shiver down your spine. You can also marvel at nature’s slow conquest at King’s Inn, where a voracious tree has enveloped a park bench. 

The Hill of Uisneach in Westmeath is the perfect place to experience the spiritual heartland of Ireland. It’s a sight rich in lore, panoramic views and quirky sculptures. For more art and nature, don’t miss the Sperrin Sculpture Trail - where giants await! And finally, if you haven’t heard the story of the vanishing lake, then make sure to head to Loughareema in Ballycastle for an enigmatic geological experience. 

One of the island’s unexpected sights is to be found in Howth when a royal visit in 1821 left more than just memories - meaning you can now literally stand in the footprints of King George IV. If you haven’t had your fill of footprints, you can step further back in time and walk alongside the 385 million year old ancient Tetrapod footprints on Valentia Island. And on the theme of memorable gaits, don’t forget to pay homage to the silent film legend that is Charlie Chaplin, whose statue resides in Waterville, a once favourite holiday destination of his. 

Did you say more?

For one of the most unique journeys you’ll take on your trip to the island of Ireland, hop onto the only cable car here to reach the quirky but idyllic Dursey island. If mysterious islands are your thing, a visit to Spike Island is a must. Located off Cobh, it has been used as a prison four times over the course of 400 years, only closing down in 2004. 

A visit to Castletown Estate, in Ireland’s Ancient East, wouldn’t be complete (or as unconventional) without exploring the whimsical structures of Connolly’s Folly and the Wonderful Barn. 

If C.S. Lewis's enchanting worlds captivate your imagination, be sure to explore the very landscapes that sparked his creativity, including the magical Narnia Trail. On the flip side, if your allegiances lie with J.R.R. Tolkien, then head to the lunar-like terrains of the Burren!

Looking for a quirky and fun activity to experience with your loved ones? How about getting to know some fluffy alpacas? There are several wonderful locations to learn all about these fuzzy camelids and their prized wool - and perhaps to even take one for a walk!. And if you’d like to experience something a bit more relaxing but just as unexpected, why not try out a seaweed bath in Co. Sligo?

But that’s not all, check out these 10 secret spots across the island, as well as these 9 secret sights that boast some stunning landscapes. 

Spooky Island:

The island of Ireland is also well known for its many haunted spots, from castles and hotels to pubs! Start your spooky trail by visiting the Blarney Castle’s Poison Garden, where each plant has a dark story to tell. Next, have a drink at the most haunted pub in Ireland: Grace Neill’s, where over 400 years of history lurk. Many more haunted sights and creepy delights await those brave enough to seek them out! 

What are some of your favourite quirky discoveries and recommendations here on the island?
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Posted Thu 30 May 2024 8:43 PM
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While Dursey Island and Spike Island have been mentioned, Ireland is home to even more fascinating 'mini' islands to explore. One of the quirkiest is perhaps Lambay Island off the east coast, just north of Dublin. What makes this little island so special is the amazing variety of fauna it packs. It welcomes the largest breeding colony of North Atlantic Grey Seals on the east coast and impressive flocks of seabirds and fallow deer. It is also ideally situated to see some local porpoises. And on top of being home to its own endemic species (researchers have found specific earthworms, a bristletail and a mite) and a fascinating history, it happens to be home to hundreds of wallabies! These were introduced to the island in the 1950s, and have since perfectly adapted to island living. Lambay Island is privately owned and runs its own tours for part of the year, for which you can find more details here
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There are also some fantastic - and quirky - architectural discoveries to be made on the island of Ireland.

While the 'follies' of Castletown Estate have already been mentioned, you'll also find some unusual architecture at the Belvedere House near Mullingar in Westmeath. The estate is best known for the Jealous Wall, an impressive wall, designed by one brother to block the view of his brother’s more grandiose house. A folly - with a purpose!

In Co. Waterford, you there's an even more unusual architectural surprise in the form of the Dromana Gate. Dating from around 1830, it is a one of a kind Irish Hindu-Gothic construction, built in celebration of the marriage of the local landlord. The Dromana Estate and its gardens are well worth a visit too! 

For a final piece of unusual architecture, head to Cahir in County Tipperary for the elegant and very cute Swiss Cottage. Built in the 1800s, this is a stunning example of the ''Cottage orné'' style that is sure to delight. 

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