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"Just be who you are, calm and clear and bright." - Richard Bach, Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah

Ireland Top Ten


I keep meaning to announce that the revised Moon Ireland (along with its mini-me, Moon Dublin) is now on sale! This new edition is absolutely beautiful, and I hope you get the chance to use it sometime in the not-too-distant future.

To celebrate pub day (which was going on four months ago now, eep!), I’ve winnowed all my favorite places down to ten must-sees, in north-to-south order, with guidebook page numbers for easy reference.

County Donegal.
Literally anywhere in Donegal—because it takes more time and effort to get to, most visitors never even contemplate a visit. So much the better for you! Spend a night in Donegal Town before heading west to Kilcar, Killybegs, Glencolmcille, and/or Slieve League, or north to Glenveagh National Park, Gweedore, and/or Dunfanaghy. (Pages 369-388.)

The Mussenden Temple.

Downhill, County Derry.
Wandering the Downhill Estate gives me those delicious gothic shivers, not just for the ruins themselves but for the over-the-top character behind them: the infamous Bishop Hervey, whom George III referred to as “that wicked prelate.” Local legend says the bishop—an entrepreneur, playboy, and self-described agnostic—played a game of cards here with the devil himself. Perched on a cliff near the ruins of his mansion, the jewel-like Mussenden Temple was built to house Hervey’s library, mistress, or both. The rest of the estate is comprised of a forest park perfect for an easy ramble, and a gatehouse tea room was in the works when I visited in 2016. If you have time to spend the night here, the Downhill Beach House is highly recommended. (Page 425.)

Loughcrew Cairns, County Meath.
It took me years to make it up here, and when I finally did I could have kicked myself for taking so long. Newgrange may be the official “must-see,” but (partly because there’s very little tourist infrastructure, and they aren’t easy to get to) these “hills of the witch” are infinitely more atmospheric. After tracking down the key from the coffee shop at Loughcrew House, you’ll climb to the top of Carnbane East and unlock the door to Cairn T, venturing into the darkness to view spiral carvings made more than three thousand years ago. All told there are about thirty megalithic tombs scattered over these hills, and it’s said you can see seventeen counties from the peak of Sliabh na Caillighe. (Page 90.)

Galway City, County Galway.
I went to grad school here, learned and loved and wrote here; there’s no city on earth quite like it. Wander the charming old streets and lanes downtown, check out the many excellent pubs and restaurants, rent a bike and cycle through Salthill out to Barna Wood. (Pages 288-299.)

Killary Fjord, Leenane.

Inishbofin, County Galway.
The Aran Islands are glorious, don’t get me wrong, but Inishbofin is much less touristy—what it lacks in spectacular prehistoric and early-Christian ruins it makes up for in peace and quiet. (Page 316.)

Letterfrack, Leenane, and Connemara National Park.
Wild mountain, sea, and fjord views, not-too-strenuous hiking, quiet country pubs: this is my favorite little corner of County Galway. (I’ve read several recent decidedly-not-positive reviews of the Old Monastery hostel, but there are many more accommodation options in the area. I’ve also stayed at the Leenane Hotel and can recommend it, although you’ll want to go to the Blackberry Café for dinner. (Ring ahead if you’re vegan.) (Pages 317-321.)

St. Kevin’s Kitchen, Glendalough.

Glendalough, County Wicklow.
It’s super touristy, yes, so definitely spend the night—once the coach buses leave you’ll feel like you have the place almost all to yourself. The Wicklow Heather (1km down the road in Laragh) is an excellent (veg-accommodating) spot for dinner—and if you stay at Heather House, you’ll have breakfast here too. (Page 110.)

The Kerry Cliffs (and Skellig Michael), County Kerry.
This relatively new attraction rivals the Cliffs of Moher in breathtaking clifftop views, and while the owners of the land are unabashedly opportunistic, I still think it’s worth the entry price (€4 per person here versus €6 per person to park at the Cliffs of Moher). The Skellig Ring makes for gorgeous and relatively peaceful driving, since the coach buses are too big for these roads—take a day trip out of Killarney, and you will miss this. I haven’t been to the Skelligs since my first trip to Ireland back in 2000, and I’m holding off on a return visit out of concern for the fragility of the environment. (Pages 223 and 226.)

Ardmore, County Waterford.
St. Declan’s monastery and cliff walk is just about the most picturesque experience you can imagine. I’m amazed at how untouristy Ardmore still is! (Page 159.)

Union Hall and Glandore, County Cork.
I have a special place in my heart for these postcard-pretty twin villages in west Cork: it was at a tiny beach near Maria’s Schoolhouse Hostel that I wrote the first pages of my practice novel. While the hostel is long since closed, you can still go on kayaking trips with Maria and Jim. (Page 185.)


Glandore bridge, West Cork.


There are lots more places I’m terribly fond of, and I’m hoping to profile them in future posts. And if you’re wondering why I’ve listed only one place in Northern Ireland, I might as well tell you that the overall vibe up North creeps me out in a bad way. That said, on my next visit I’ll be checking out the Gobbins (closed, alas, when I was in the area in 2016) as well as Rathlin Island, and after that trip I’ll be sure to blog more about the Causeway Coast.

Glenveagh Castle, Donegal.

One more thing to note: due to space constraints we had to cut most of the Midlands coverage, which I very much regret. So I’ll be blogging about Athlone, Kinnitty, Birr, Emo Court, the Rock of Dunamase, Blacklion, and maybe Boyle in the near future, too (we did manage to fit Clonmacnoise and Leap Castle into sidebars in the Galway chapter). An ultimate vegan guide to Ireland is in the works as well (I’m SO bummed to hear my fave veg B&B is closed so they can focus on the farming side).

If you have any other places to recommend, I’d love to hear about them in the comments!


1 Comment to Ireland Top Ten

  1. Kate's Gravatar Kate
    August 23, 2017 at 12:07 am | Permalink

    Why am I not surprised to see Galway on the list 😉 I need to make it to more of these places!

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Hi! I'm Camille. I only write stories that could never ever happen in real life, though I do believe in real-life magic. If we were in the same room I'd fix you a cup of tea, but for now we'll have to settle for a virtual connection. I'm really glad you're here.