Magical, mythical Ireland never ceases to amaze with its rugged beauty, ancient ruins and welcoming locals. Explore some of the island's most captivating attractions.
Book of Kells, Trinity College, Dublin
The exquisitely illustrated and brightly-coloured Book of Kells has many monikers, including "the oldest book in the world" and "the most precious object of the Western world".
Named after the Abbey of Kells, where it once resided, this manuscript of the New Testament's four gospels likely dates from the end of the seventh century. On display in Trinity College, Dublin, only two of the four volumes are displayed at any one time, one showing a major illustration and the other a typical page of text. The college library's Long Room is also a must-see for booklovers, as is the less touristy – and free – Chester Beatty Library across town.
Enchanting Enniskerry, County Wicklow
A short drive from Dublin is the picturesque village of Enniskerry, its cafes, shops and bars gathered around a central clock tower. The Enniskerry Inn is more upmarket than many Irish hostelries, while there are plenty of traditional Irish pubs for those with simpler tastes.
The main attraction here is the Powerscourt gardens, ranked in the world's top three by National Geographic. First established in the 1740s, they are a blend of formal layouts, sweeping terraces and ornamental lakes. Five kilometres away is Ireland's highest waterfall, which thunders 135m into a valley below.
A pint of Guinness in Kehoe's, Dublin
Don't be confused by the grocer's shop facade outside legendary Dublin pub Kehoe's on South Anne Street, it's just a hangover from the days when this quirky establishment sold more substantial fare than a perfectly drawn pint of Guinness.
It would be hard to find a more classically Dublin pub than Kehoe's, what with its sloping floors, mahogany doors and carved wooden partitions. Not to mention a cosy "snug" that epitomises its friendly, welcoming atmosphere. And there's an even a smaller room than the snug, a little hideaway with space for six around a pint-sized table.
Titanic Quarter, Belfast
The glittering success of Titanic Belfast, named Europe's leading visitor attraction in the World Travel Awards, is symbolised by its four aluminium-clad angular structures, each resembling a ship's hull.
Erected on the site where the White Star Line's Titanic was constructed, the exhibits evoke a powerful connection with this majestic ship.
Strolling along the dry dock where the Titanic received its finishing touches, visitors can get a Lilliputian impression of the ship's scale – and even stand on the keel blocks on which it rested before setting sail on its maiden voyage.
Equally as impressive is the sole surviving White Star Line vessel, the SS Nomadic, that ferried passengers out to the doomed liner. At 70m long and 11m wide, this steam-powered tender carried 1000 first and second class travellers.
Castle Ward Estate, near Belfast
While architecture nerds may be enthralled by the unusual juxtaposition of classical Palladian style with Georgian Gothic, Game of Thrones fans will be thrilled to visit the film location for Winterfell, ancestral home of the much-loved Stark family.
A replica of the Winterfell archery range has been created in the courtyard, where visitors can dress up in Stark family costumes and fire "medieval arrows" from "ancient bows".
Slieve League, Donegal
Upon arriving at your destination, you will discover the Pilgrims Path, the gateway to several viewing points. At the very top is where your jaw will drop as your breath is taken away by the astounding geographical beauty of this gift from Mother Nature.
At the top, and along the way, there are several benches and viewing points. Look to the sea and you will see two rock formations known as the Giant's Desk and Chair. You may also spot cascading waterfalls and sea-level caves where seals often dwell.
The Rock of Cashel, County Tipperary
Perched on top of the Rock of Cashel is the Romanesque Cormac's Chapel, where ancient frescoes vie for attention with an ancient royal sarcophagus.
The chapel's 800-year-old partially restored religious images evoke the faded splendour of Da Vinci's Last Supper before its controversial restoration.
The Viking-style sarcophagus is reputed to have once housed the body of the chapel's founder, the King of South Munster, Cormac Mac Carthaigh. Heavily influenced by Hiberno-Norse design, it depicts intertwined beasts, their form representing the concept of eternal life.
Hore Abbey, County Tipperary
Just one kilometre west of the Rock of Cashel stand the majestic ruins of a 13th century monastery, Hore Abbey, a subtle yet compelling image, its colour palette made up of the many shades of grey and green associated with Ireland.
A former Benedictine abbey, it was donated to the Cistercians by Archbishop David MacCearbhaill in 1270, who subsequently entered the monastery. Tour guides like to retell the tall tale that he turfed out the Benedictines after dreaming they were going to kill him.
The Walled City of Derry~Londonderry
Dating back to the 17th Century, the walls of Derry~Londonderry were built to ward off unwelcome settlers from England and Scotland.
The four original gates are named Bishop's Gate, Ferryquay Gate, Butcher Gate and Shipquay Gate and allow access into what is one of Europe's finest examples of a walled city.
Today this buzzing township offers a rich history and vibrant culture combined with an exciting nightlife, an emerging foodie scene and a warm welcome.
Cross the Peace Bridge to visit the Walled City Brewery and don't miss Guildhall, just outside the walls, it's a unique building with striking stain glass windows and a lovely hall organ.
Night Kayaking on Lough Hyne, County Cork
An inland saltwater lake is amazing in itself; one that comes alive after dark even more so. Lough Hyne, west of Cork, is one of the most magical places in Ireland and a kayaking session that begins an hour before darkness falls is the perfect way to experience it.
Suitable for beginners, paddling around in a one or two-man kayak is the best way to see the sunset, the silhouettes of seabirds on the lakeside, the stars above and moonlight reflected on the rippling waters.
And in July and August, a swirl of your hand through the inky depths will see your fingertips explode in a swirl of miniature pinpoints of light as microscopic organisms (phytoplankton) release the energy they've stored up during the sunlight hours.
For foodies, there's even a seaweed foraging trip that lets you sample the edible species that grow in this tidal lake.
See also: A taste of Belfast
See also: Hit the road in Ireland
This article has been produced in association with Cathay Pacific and ireland.com
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