Top underrated Irish visitors’ attractions

by Jules on July 25, 2012

If you’re searching for holiday deals in Ireland for a short break, you’re sure to want to cram as much into your time on the Emerald Isle as possible. However, this doesn’t mean only visiting the famous tourist attractions, as there are plenty of hidden gems to discover.

From ancient island settlements to a dollhouse as ornate as a real palace, there are plenty of quirky attractions to check out. Here are some of my favourites.

Tara’s Palace

Our love of toys doesn’t come to an abrupt end the moment we turn 18, so whether or not you’re travelling with kids it’s worth indulging your passion for playthings by paying a visit to the Museum of Childhood in Wicklow. Inside is a very special toy indeed.

Tara’s Palace is just as luxurious as Versailles or Blenheim Palace – but you’ll struggle to walk through its ornate hallways. That’s because it has been built especially for dolls – and you’ll be jealous of all the finery they are surrounded by when you peek through the windows.

Each one of the 22 rooms is fit for royalty and decked out with miniature furniture that wouldn’t look out of place in Buckingham Palace. There are even some real antiques here, like the tiny wooden carvings that were whittled by the prisoners of the Napoleonic war using bones they saved from their rations.

This dollhouse has a fascinating history of its own, beginning in the early 1900s when a similar miniature house was commissioned that would take several years to build and was called Titania’s Palace. For years it was put on tour to raise money for children’s charities, but in 1967 it was auctioned at Christies and moved to England, before later being bought by Legoland and travelling to Denmark.

As a result, a new palace was commissioned, built using the same traditional craftsmanship and based on three real stately homes in Ireland. The result is simply breathtaking, so if you’re staying in Wicklow be sure to make time to see it.

Forty Foot Pool

Who doesn’t like taking a dip in the sea when they go on holiday? The waters around Ireland may be a little brisk but there are parts of the country where splashing in the waves is a tradition that has been going on for generations.

Just outside Dublin is Sandy Cove, home of the Forty Foot Pool. This former gentlemen’s swimming club is actually little more than a set of stone steps down to the sea but for decades men have come here to dive into the refreshing waves. Today it is open to everyone and is a great way to experience a slice of Irish history while taking a dip as well. However, keep in mind that during the mornings it is male-only swimming and also open to nudists.

Skellig Michael

Stand on the Iveragh Peninsula – or Ring of Kerry – in the county of Kerry and look out over the Atlantic, you will see Skellig Michael. This island could not look more remote, appearing as little more that a lump of rock peeking out of the waves.

Yet, centuries ago people lived here, earning it the status of a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The rugged isle is home to one of the best-preserved monastic Christian outposts in the world, meaning it has played an important role in the religion’s history. Nearby is Small Skellig, where 27,000 pairs of gannets live.

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