Explore the island’s most beautiful locations

If you’re looking to reconnect with nature, look no further. The island of Ireland is home to 14 national parks, eight of which can be found in Northern Ireland where they are known as Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. These stunning regions cover mountains, woodlands, coastline, rivers, loughs and bogs, and include two of the island’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

As you explore these unique landscapes, consider how you’re impacting the environment. Take it slow, choose to cycle or walk where you can, and always remember to leave no trace. With that in mind, here are a few parks across the island to check out:

Ireland’s first national park to be established is on the Wild Atlantic WayKillarney National Park in County Kerry is home to the island’s last surviving indigenous herd of red deer. Look out for these rare creatures as you hike through the rugged landscape or stroll alongside the glistening Lakes of Killarney.

Following the coast further north, you’ll encounter the Burren National Park in County Clare. This intriguing 1,800 acres of limestone karst landscape has inspired poets, painters and writers alike, including Lord of the Rings author, JRR Tolkien. Discover the fauna and flora of the Burren on the nature trail.

The Burren in County Clare. © Tourism Ireland
The Burren in County Clare, © Tourism Ireland

For the tallest mountain range in Northern Ireland, head to the Mourne Mountains Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in County Down. Part of the Mourne Gullion Strangford UNESCO Global Geopark, this region has a lot to offer: conquer Slieve Donard, pedal along the Mourne Mountains Cycle Loop and stroll peacefully through the Silent Valley.

To explore one of the largest upland areas on the island, visit the Sperrins Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in County Tyrone. This rambler’s paradise stretches across 60km of rugged terrain. The Sperrins are also an official Dark Sky Park, making this region one of the best on the island of Ireland for stargazing. Check out the guided tours at the OM Dark Sky Park and Observatory.

In Ireland’s Ancient East, you’ll find the Wicklow Mountains National Park. A highlight here is the 6th-century monastic settlement of Glendalough. Follow the path alongside the Upper Lake and you’ll also encounter the ruins of an old mining village, which marks the beginning of the spectacular Spinc and Glenealo Valley hill walk.

If that weren’t enough, we have a new national park being established in Ireland’s Ancient East. The Boyne Valley National Park is set to cover 500 acres of County Meath including the Neolithic passage tombs of Brú na Bóinne, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Northern Ireland’s Causeway Coast is one of the island’s most epic landscapes, and takes in the Causeway Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. This 30km coastal stretch features towering sea cliffs, quaint harbors and sandy beaches. The Giant’s Causeway UNESCO World Heritage Site also lies within this park. Made up of over 40,000 basalt columns, it was created by volcanic activity and has been shrouded in myth ever since.

Giant's Causeway, County Antrim, Ireland.
Giant’s Causeway, County Antrim, Ireland.

Things to consider before traveling

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Some tips to consider while traveling

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