Emmey Harris visits several sweeping landscapes in Ireland and Northern Ireland and shows us the scenic visuals that take you to another world. Here's a list of the most accessible landmarks to stop by.
The island of Ireland is famed for its beautiful natural scenery, and the sweeping vistas and dramatic landscapes across the Emerald Isle have, for good reason, been featured in countless films and television shows, including Harry Potter, Game of Thrones, and Star Wars. As soon as I started exploring the natural wonders of Ireland, it was easy to see how these breathtaking landscapes can seem to transport you to another world. So far during my CEA CAPA study abroad program in Dublin, I’ve been able to visit several incredible locations throughout Ireland. In this blog post, I’ll be sharing a little bit about each of them, ranked by how easy it was to get there from Dublin. For such a small island, there are so many different unique landscapes across Ireland that are easily accessible to CEA CAPA Dublin students.
Caption: The view of the sunset from the Howth Cliff Walk.
Howth is a small fishing village less than an hour’s bus ride northeast of Dublin. A few friends and I took the bus up to Howth one evening to do a short hike along the Howth Cliff Walk, overlooking the ocean. The day was clear and cool, so it was perfect weather for a hike starting at Howth Summit that took us down into the village. As we wound our way around the hillside, we were able to see the sun as it set over the water and silhouetted the boats moored in the harbor.
Caption: Boats moored in Howth harbor at sunset.
The sun sets very late in Ireland during the summer, so by the time we made it to the village, it was around 10pm, and most of the shops and restaurants were closed. However, I would love to go back sometime and explore this seaside town; it seems like a great place to relax after a full day of hiking.
Caption: The Glendalough Valley in County Wicklow. In this photo, you can see some of the ruins of the 6th-century monastery.
In the sixth century, St. Kevin founded a monastery in the Glendalough Valley, which today lies in County Wicklow. Ruins of this monastery are still standing, and the surrounding area consists of several beautiful hiking trails at varying intensity levels.
Caption: The Upper Lake at Glendalough.
My roommates and I took St. Kevin’s Bus to Glendalough for the day, where we had a picnic by the lake, went on a short hike out to a waterfall, and relaxed in the sunshine. It was also very interesting to explore the ruins of the old monastery.
Caption: The iconic Cliffs of Moher. On the right-hand side of this image, you can see the rain coming in!
Cliffs of Moher
An excursion to the Cliffs of Moher and Galway was actually included as part of the CEA CAPA Dublin program, and I was very excited to visit one of Ireland’s most stunning and recognizable natural sites! We took a coach bus to the cliffs on the west coast of Ireland, traveling past several castles and through miles of idyllic countryside.
Caption: We saw many cows during our trip to the west of Ireland.
It was fairly cloudy when we got to the cliffs, but our tour guide said that the view is actually better when the sky is overcast because bright sunshine can obscure some of the details of the cliffs. Fortunately, it only rained briefly, but it was extremely windy during our visit! This definitely made our hiking along the cliffside feel like quite an adventure. The immensity of the cliffs was incredible to see, and I think the somewhat tempestuous weather added to the romance of our journey to the cliffs.
Caption: The Cliffs of Moher are adjacent to the Burren, a unique rocky terrain that we also visited as part of our coach tour.
After spending almost two hours at the Cliffs of Moher, the coach tour took us to the lovely city of Galway. My roommates and I actually decided to stay overnight in Galway, and we were able to spend the rest of the weekend exploring its shops, trying out the abundant varieties of seafood available, and taking a short cruise along the River Corrib.
Caption: The Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland.
Another weekend trip my roommates and I took was to Belfast in Northern Ireland. While we were there, we went on a coach tour that took us up to the north coast of the island of Ireland. We were extremely fortunate to have perfect weather that offered us amazing views of the ocean and coastline, and it was clear enough that at certain points, we could even see across the North Channel to parts of Scotland.
Caption: The North Channel of the Atlantic Ocean. On the right is Rathlin Island and in the distance on the left is the Scottish island of Islay.
The highlight of the tour was, without a doubt, the world-famous Giant’s Causeway. According to legend, the giant Finn McCool constructed the causeway so he could fight the Scottish giant Benandonner. However, when Benandonner crossed the causeway to Ireland, Finn was able to deceive him into thinking that Finn was much bigger and fiercer than he actually was. Thoroughly intimidated, Benandonner fled back to Scotland, destroying the causeway behind him. A more scientific explanation is that the Causeway’s interlocking basalt rock columns were formed when lava from a volcanic eruption cooled.
Caption: The basalt rock columns of the Giant’s Causeway could have either been formed by a volcanic eruption or built and destroyed during a feud between two giants—whichever story you choose to believe!
In my opinion, the Giant’s Causeway is an absolute must-see. The incredibly unique rock formation was unbelievably beautiful from every angle; my roommates and I agreed that we could have spent hours exploring it. I also think it was a good idea to book a coach tour in order to see the Causeway because we did not have to navigate public transportation to the somewhat remote location, and we got the opportunity to visit some sites we most likely would not have seen otherwise, such as the Dark Hedges, the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, and Dunluce Castle.
Caption: The Causeway was huge; it really felt like we had been transported to a fantasy world.
Nearly every corner of Ireland is abundant with natural beauty, and I know there is still so much left for me to explore. Ireland is a nature lover’s dream, and extensive public transportation across the country makes Dublin a great launching point for adventures across the island. You don’t have to go far to escape to nature in Glendalough or Howth, and it’s very simple to get to places farther afield like Galway or Belfast to experience a different part of Ireland for the day or the weekend. I’m so excited to see what other opportunities are in store for the rest of my time in Dublin, and I know the memories I’m making at these iconic sites throughout Ireland will last a lifetime.
Emmey Harris was an official CEA CAPA Dublin blogger for summer 2022, sharing her story in frequent posts on our blog. A History major at the University of Minnesota, she studied abroad in Dublin.