Ireland is a small country, and yet it’s known for being both culturally rich and naturally gorgeous. While sitting elbow-to-elbow with the locals in a tiny pub is an essential part of the Irish experience, so is getting out into the countryside to take in landscapes that feel almost impossibly massive. This is a country that has been visibly shaped by elemental powers — glaciers, winds, the ocean — which have created indelible scenes that have inspired countless myths and legends.
Ireland is known for producing great and inventive writers, from Samuel Beckett to Oscar Wilde, and we’d like to think that the terrain itself has influenced the unique voices that emerge from the region. After all, this land is full of history, wonder, and unexpected twists and turns — that is, all the makings of a good story.
Ireland’s landscape has been carved out by glaciers, resulting in dramatic peaks and valleys, which are now growing over with vegetation. Stunning views like this one have been millions of years in the making.
The Irish countryside is littered with old stone buildings, lighthouses, and even castles. North Americans may have trouble comprehending the idea of buildings that are several centuries old, but there are thousands of them dotted around the Irish countryside, and many have descended into ivy-covered ruin, returning once more to the land from which their stones were taken.
Ireland’s rugged west coast is full of striking ocean views. The power of the sea is on full display as the waves consume and release the lower rocks, which, over the millennia, will eventually be worn down to nothing.
The Cliffs of Moher on Ireland’s west coast drop down starkly to the water blow. They’ve been here in some form or another for 300 million years, and over time, the waves have eaten into the rock, exposing layers of the earth’s crust, creating these incredible stratified cliffs.
This is the classic vista most of us imagine when we think of Ireland: rolling green hills, evergreen trees, and fields where herds of sheep might graze. These bucolic country scenes are a comforting place to return to after a day by the sea.
The Irish countryside is scattered with lakes, or loughs, which convey both a cool serenity and a sense of the romance of the land. Many of the loughs are associated with folk tales and legends, which often tell of the ancient kings or gods for whom these bodies of water have been named.
We tend to think of Ireland as green (it’s called the Emerald Isle, after all), but the countryside is actually contains broad palette of colours, from orangey lichens to purple wildflowers.
The basalt columns of the Giant’s Columns on Ireland’s Antrim Coast look so geometrically precise, it’s difficult to believe they were formed by ancient volcanic eruptions. Which may be the reason legends have risen up around this World Heritage Site, tales of the giant Finn McCool, who locals say was trying to build a bridge, the remains of which became this striking landscape of rock columns.