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Things to Do in South West Ireland - page 2

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Elizabeth Fort
2 Tours and Activities

Elizabeth Fort has played a part in Ireland’s tumultuous history since 1601; it was constructed in timber on the orders of British politician Sir George Carew to defend British military interests in Ireland and named after Queen Elizabeth I. Built on a limestone outcrop just south of Cork’s walls, it was expanded into its present stone star-shape in 1624–26 under the leadership of Oliver Cromwell and saw much action for the next two centuries withstanding sieges between Britain and Ireland.

By 1719 the fort was a military barracks for 700 British soldiers but after they moved to a larger base in 1806 it served many functions, including a deportation center for criminals being sent to Australia; a food depot during the Great Famine of 1845-52, when the potato crop failed; and an air raid shelter in World War II. Latterly it became a Garda (Irish police) station before being opened to the public in 2013.

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Derrynane Beach
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Derrynane Beach looks out of place when compared to the rest of Ireland—almost like a tropical sliver of the Caribbean that’s drifted across the Atlantic. Here at this long, white sand cove on the famous Ring of Kerry, lush green mountains serve as the backdrop to a clear, turquoise bay. The natural harbor is popular for swimming, and a flotilla of sailboats and pleasure craft are often found offshore. At low tide, stroll across to Abbey Island and scramble around on the rocks, and visit the remains of St. Finian’s Abbey on the leeward side of the island. From the vantage point on Abbey Island you can view the surrounding beaches, some of which have towering sand dunes that have been formed by fierce winter storms. Not far from Derrynane Beach is O’Carroll’s Cove Beach Bar and Restaurant—the only beachfront bar you’ll find on the entire Irish coast.

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Skellig Michael
4 Tours and Activities

A rocky peak rising 230 meters from the ocean off the coast of Portmagee, Skellig Michael is one of the most striking landmarks of Ireland’s southwestern coast and famous for its vast population of seabirds. One of two UNESCO-listed Skellig Islands, Skellig Michael is the one and the only island where it’s permitted to land, with access only possible by boat.

Despite its isolated surroundings and near-vertical sea cliffs, the now-uninhabited island was once used as a retreat for hermit monks, and their stone beehive huts, crosses and a cemetery can still be seen perched atop the rocks. The fascinating remains of the sixth-century monastic complex are among the world’s earliest examples of Christian life and can be reached via a steep 600-step climb from the dock.

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More Things to Do in South West Ireland

Derrynane House

Derrynane House

2 Tours and Activities

Derrynane House is the ancestral home of Daniel O’Connell, a politician and statesman from the 19th century who promoted the Irish cause in British Parliament. The house is now an Irish National Monument and sits within 1.2 square-kilometers of National Park. It’s also a museum dedicated to commemorating O’Connell, who was known by the nation as the Great Liberator. O'Connell built the two-story south wing of the house facing the sea plus the library wing to the east in 1825, and these are the oldest surviving parts of the property. It was renovated in 1967, when it was opened to the public as a museum displaying a number of artifacts from O’Connell’s life and career. Visitors can wander around the politician’s dining room, lounge, study, and chapel, and marvel at the impressive chariot that was used to carry him through the streets of Dublin upon his release from prison in the 1840s. He was imprisoned over his efforts to repeal the union with England.

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Skellig Experience

Skellig Experience

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Aghadoe Cathedral (Aghadoe Church and Round Tower)

Aghadoe Cathedral (Aghadoe Church and Round Tower)

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Here on Aghadoe Hill stand the ruins of the 12th century Aghadoe Church and Round Tower. There was a monastery on the site since the 7th century, however, founded by St Finian Lobhar, and no wonder as the views are sublime and perfect for a life of contemplation. There are lakes and at night the town lights of Killarney twinkle, alongside the flood lights of Ross Castle in the distance, although that is a bit more recent dating from the 15th century! To appreciate the landscape, you'll find a few benches nearby so bring a picnic.

Although ruined, there is still plenty to see of interest at Aghadoe Church. The Romanesque door is well-preserved, there is a carved crucifixion scene on another sandstone block, two ca rved faces on the eastern window, and an Ogham Stone - carved writings in the ancient Celtic language. Not much is left of the Round Tower. It is really just a small stump of the sandstone building standing in an old cemetery.

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Gougane Barra

Gougane Barra

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When strolling through the trees of the Gougana Barra National Forest Park, and gazing out at the placid waters of Gougana Barra’s lake, you can see why this corner of southwestern Ireland was a place of historical solace. It was here on the island in the middle of the lake, that St. Finnbar—patron saint of Cork—founded a monastery in the 6th century before eventually moving to Cork.
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