The Emerald Isle is a magical and mystical place that will capture your heart and soul. It is perhaps one of the friendliest places to travel, with locals literally going out of their way to offer assistance while providing you with a warm cup of tea. One of the best ways to experience Ireland is to combine a little culture, history and the outdoors. Be sure to equip yourself with a good rain jacket and, as the locals say, remember that ' it never rains inside a pub!'
Visit the Skellig Islands
Visit the remote Skellig Islands off the coast of County Kerry for a journey back in time and some fabulous bird-watching. Skellig Michael, the larger of the two islands, rises 217 meters and looks like the last place on earth that anyone would try to inhabit. Yet from the sixth to the 13th century, early Christian monks called this island home. The ruined monastic buildings are perched on the top of the island and are well worth the 600 steps. If you're lucky to be here in the spring, you may catch sight of thousands of puffins that return from the sea to nest on the island. It typically takes about an hour and a half by boat from Portmagee, Ballinskelligs or Derrynane (small villages on the Ring of Kerry) to Skellig Michael. A trip usually returns via Small Skellig, so visitors can see the large gannet colony. Book ahead in peak season as visitors to the island are limited. Local B&B's and pubs in those villages will point you to local operators.
Learn the art of falconry at Ashford Castle
Ireland's first falconry school was established at Ashford Castle in Connemara. This famous castle was built in 1228 and is now one of Ireland's premier hotels. Set on 350 acres along the Cong River, this is one of the most magnificent places to learn the art of falconry. The school will teach anyone from the age of 7 how to handle and fly Harris hawks. Although this might not be the first thing that comes to mind when planning a trip to Ireland, the feeling of walking through a forest with a hawk taking off from and landing on your protected arm is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. And if you feel like splurging, consider spending a night at the castle.
For more information, visit http://www.ashford.ie/
Hike on the Beara Peninsula
Instead of heading to the Ring of Kerry, spend some time on the rugged Beara Peninsula, also in County Kerry. Gleninchaquin is a family-owned park and farm that offers some spectacular hiking in a remote location. Stroll through fields dotted with sheep, hike by a 140-meter waterfall, and marvel at the view over Kenmare bay from a high mountain glen. Trails are all well-marked and range from a one-hour stroll to a full day out on the hills. This is an undiscovered gem. The colorful village of Kenmare is about 45 minutes away and serves as a good base.
For more information, visit http://www.gleninchaquin.com/