Skellig Michael View
Skellig Michael View

Lonely Planet Gives Nod to Irish Attractions

Lonely Planet, the publisher of the popular worldwide travel guides, has added 8 Irish destinations to its popular Ultimate Travel List, highlighting the “500 best places on the planet.”

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The familiar brown signs direct visitors to various points along the Wild Atlantic Way. Photo: Chris Hill for Tourism Ireland.

The attractions in Ireland that have been added to the list include the Wild Atlantic Way, which is listed at the number 21 spot, in addition to the Giant’s Causeway, the Ring of Kerry, Connemara, Brú na Bóinne, the Sliabh League Cliffs, Titanic Belfast, and Trinity College.

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Separate from the popular Lonely Planet travel books that you can take with you on vacation, the Ultimate Travel List is a beautiful coffee table book that is meant to be enjoyed at home.

a rock in the ocean County Clare
The beautiful Cliffs of Moher off the coast of Co. Clare, one of the attractions on the Lonely Planet travel list. Photo: Mustang_79

This is the second edition of the book, which features more than 200 new destinations across the world.

Part of the selection process involved looking at destinations and attractions that are managing tourism sustainably in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

Here's what you need to know about Lonely Planet's Irish picks:

The Wild Atlantic Way

This 2,500-km (1,553-mile) stretch of road, beginning at Malin Head in County Donegal and ending at the Old Head of Kinsale in County Cork includes some of the most beautiful scenery in all of Ireland.

The tourist trail was launched in 2014 in an effort to boost tourism along Ireland’s western seaboard.
An aerial view of Mullaghmore in Co. Sligo along the Wild Atlantic Way, on the Lonely Planet travel list. Photo: MNStudio.

While it’s possible to drive the entire route on one vacation, tourists are encouraged to break it up into chunks to truly get the essence of the Wild Atlantic Way in the various counties that it covers.

The Wild Atlantic Way includes Counties Donegal, Sligo, Leitrim, Mayo, Galway, Clare, Limerick, Kerry, and Cork.
The golf course at the Old Head of Kinsale. Photo: LC Lambrecht for Failte Ireland.

Some of its popular discovery points include Fanad Head, Co. Donegal; Mullaghmore Head, Co. Sligo; Downpatrick Head, Co. Mayo; Killary Harbour, Co. Galway; the Cliffs of Moher, Co. Clare; the Skelligs View, Co. Kerry, and the Old Head of Kinsale, Co. Cork.

The Giant’s Causeway

This incredible UNESCO World Heritage Site is an area of about 40,000 interlocking basalt columns shaped millions of years ago by volcanic activity.

The tops of the columns, many of them hexagonal in shape, form stepping-stones that are 12 meters (39 feet) at their tallest.

While the most plausible explanation of this unusual landscape is a natural one, legend, however, tells another story.
The Giant's Causeway in Co. Antrim, which is on the Lonely Planet travel list. Photo: Northern Ireland Tourism.

The story goes that the mythical hero Fionn McCool was challenged to a fight by the Scottish giant Benandonner. Fionn accepted the challenge and in the process built the causeway across the North Channel so that the two could meet.

One version of the story tells us that Fionn defeats the giant. In another, Fionn hides from Benandonner, disguising himself as a baby.

When the giant sees the large baby, he flees back to Scotland destroying the causeway in his wake.

At the Giant’s Causeway Visitor Experience, you’ll learn more about the causeway and its unusual structure, as well as other attractions in the area. Reservations must be made in advance.

The Ring of Kerry

This 179-km (111-mile) circular tourist route in Co. Kerry has long been a favorite of international tourists to Ireland.

The route begins in Killarney and winds its way through Kenmare, the Iveragh Peninsula to Killorglin, continuing through Sneem, Waterville, Cahersiveen, and Glenbeigh.
An aerial view of Killarney National Park, part of the Ring of Kerry. Photo: Upthebanner for Getty Images Pro.

Some of the popular tourist attractions on the route include the Gap of Dunloe, Rossbeigh Beach, Muckross House, Derrynane House, the ancestral home of Daniel O’Connell, Ross Castle, and much more.
The remote landscape of The Kerry Way. Photo: Rod Clemen, Getty Images.

For walkers and cyclists interested in seeing the same scenery and attractions, The Kerry Way is a popular choice.

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At the heart of Connemara is the Connemara National Park, which covers an area of about 2,000 hectares.

That includes the Twelve Bens mountain range, as well as large tracts of bog, heath, grasslands, and woodlands.
On top of Diamond Hill in the Connemara National Park. Photo courtesy of Gareth McCormack for Tourism Ireland.

The park is a popular destination for walkers and hikers.

If you stop here, be sure to take the Diamond Hill Loop, a 4.5-mile (7.24-km) hike that is considered a moderate walk.

The climb is a bit steep in places but totally doable for most people in good health.

a beautiful castle overlooking a lake Kylemore Abbey
Kylemore Abbey in Co. Galway. Photo: George Munday for Tourism Ireland.

Other areas of Connemara to put on your itinerary include Kylemore Abbey & Victorian Walled Gardens, the town of Clifden and the surrounding region, as well as the seaside village of Spiddal.

Brú na Bóinne

The Brú na Bóinne complex in Co. Meath, about 34 miles (55 km) from Dublin, includes the well-known passage tomb known as Newgrange, as well as two other passage tombs called Knowth and Dowth.

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Experts believe that the Newgrange tomb was constructed about 5,000 ago, predating the Egyptian pyramids.

Its inner chamber, where human bones and objects of religious significance have been found, is a small room with a vaulted ceiling. It has remained intact since its completion in 3,200 B.C.

an ancient stone building Lonely Planet
The Newgrange monument in Co. Meath. Photo: Publicis.

Outside the chamber are 4-foot-high kerbstones covered with beautiful spiral designs called triskeles, which were also common in Greek culture.

Researchers believe the stones used to build this magnificent monument came from as far away as the Mourne Mountains in Northern Ireland and Wicklow to the south.


This passage tomb is believed to have been built shortly after the construction of Newgrange. It is a similar size with two long internal passages surrounded by 18 smaller structures.

people walking by a large green mound Lonely Planet
Knowth in Co. Meath. Photo: Namos Productions for Failte Ireland.

The chamber’s eastern passage contains drawings of lunar maps as well as a calendar stone used to calculate the lengths of the months and years.

An aerial view of Dowth in Co. Meath. Photo: Raemond Carolan – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

While the outside of the Dowth passage tomb is not as well preserved as the other two, its tomb remains undisturbed.

Like Newgrange, the winter solstice beams a ray of light into Dowth’s chamber around Dec. 21st.

Sliabh League Cliffs

While the Cliffs of Moher in County Clare are better known among tourists, the Sliabh League Cliffs (pronounced “Schlieve”) are in fact three times higher.

This Donegal landmark stands close to 2,000 feet above the ocean, making it the highest cliff in Europe.

sea cliffs Lonely Planet
The Sliabh League cliffs in Co. Donegal, Ireland's highest cliffs. Photo: Chris Hill for Tourism Ireland.

From the top, you’ll get magnificent views of the surrounding area, including Donegal Bay and neighboring County Sligo in the distance.

The safest place to take in the magnificent view is from the Bunglass Viewing Platform (close to the Slieve League Visitor Center).

There are two paths that will take you to the summit of the cliffs. They include the One Man’s Pass and the Pilgrim’s Path.

Titanic Belfast

While Titanic Belfast focuses largely on the building and subsequent demise of the ill-fated ocean liner, Titanic Belfast is also a story of Belfast’s industrial growth.

displays in a museum Lonely Planet
One of the exhibition areas in Titanic Belfast. Photo: Chris Hill for Tourism Ireland.

There are many interesting exhibits to see at the popular tourist attraction, including those that explain Belfast’s linen, shipbuilding, and engineering industries.

Some of the more interesting artifacts on display include the different types of bone china used on the Titanic; the original 33-foot Titanic plan created by The White Star’s architect, Cecil Arthur Allen; a launch day ticket, which still bears the original perforated stub, and the original promotional brochure advertising the liner’s ability to cross the North Atlantic in style.

Trinity College

Dublin’s Trinity College is not just a center of learning for thousands of Irish students.

It also houses one of Ireland’s greatest cultural treasures, the Book of Kells.

The ancient manuscript can be found in the college’s Old Library, a working library since 1732.

an ancient drawing of a mother and child Lonely Planet
The image of the Virgin and Child in the Book of Kells manuscript is now on display. Photo: Failte Ireland.

It is home to 250,000 of the country’s most ancient texts.

The 9th-century manuscript contains the four Gospels of the New Testament, all in Latin and created by hand.

You can view the manuscript in a beautiful new case, which was unveiled in September 2020.

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