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Republic of Ireland: The Best Natural Attractions

  • The Slieve Bloom Way (County Laois): Slieve Bloom, Ireland's largest and most unspoiled blanket bog, rises gently above the peat fields. Its beauty -- gentle slopes, glens, rivers, waterfalls, and bog lands -- is subtle but persistent, and it is comparatively untouched. You can have it more or less to yourself, apart from its deer and foxes, and an occasional frolicking otter.

  • MacGillycuddy's Reeks (County Kerry): A mountain range on the Iveragh Peninsula, MacGillycuddy's Reeks not only has the best name of any mountain range in Ireland, but also the highest mountain on the island, Carrantuohill (1,041m/3,414 ft.). The Reeks are among Ireland's greatest spectacles.

  • The Burren (County Clare): We can guarantee this: The Burren is one of the strangest landscapes you're likely to see. Its vast limestone grassland is spread with a quilt of wildflowers from as far afield as the Alps, all softening the stark stones jutting out of the ground. Its inhabitants include nearly every species of butterfly found in Ireland.

  • Cliffs of Moher (County Clare): Rising from Hag's Head to the south, these magnificent sea cliffs reach their full height of 214m (702 ft.) just north of O'Brien's Tower. The views of the open sea, of the Aran Islands, and of the Twelve Bens mountains of Connemara are spectacular. A walk south along the cliff edge at sunset makes a perfect end to any day.

  • Croagh Patrick (County Mayo): Rising steeply 750m (2,460 ft.) above the coast, Croagh Patrick is seen as a holy mountain, where the saint is said to have retreated in penance. Traditionally, barefoot pilgrims climb it the last Sunday of July, but in recent years, hundreds of Nike-shod tourists have been making the ascent daily. The view from above can be breathtaking or nonexistent -- the summit is often wrapped in clouds.

  • The Twelve Bens (County Galway): Amid Connemara's central mountains, bogs, and lakes, the rugged Twelve Bens range crowns a spectacular landscape. Some of the peaks are bare and rocky, others clothed in peat. The loftiest, Benbaun, in Connemara National Park, reaches a height of 719m (2,395 ft.).

  • Slieve League (County Donegal): The Slieve League peninsula stretches for 48km (30 miles) into the Atlantic. Its wonderfully pigmented bluffs rise to startlingly high sea cliffs. They can also be walked along, if you dare.

  • Giant's Causeway (County Antrim): At the foot of a cliff by the sea, this mysterious mass of dark tightly packed, naturally occurring, hexagonal basalt columns are nothing short of astonishing. This volcanic wonder, formed 60 million years ago, looks marvelous from above, even better when negotiated (cautiously) on foot.

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