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5 unusual ways to reach very special Irish places

There are some places where getting from A to B takes a little effort – but it’s so worth it.

ONE GOOD THING we got from the boom was the roads – isn’t that what we always hear?

There are, however, some more unorthodox methods of getting to specific places in Ireland that have stood the test of time (in one instance, since the 6th century).

Have you visited any of these? If you know of other interesting hard-to-get-to places, let us know in the comments.

By cable car:

Ireland’s only operating cable car system has been bringing visitors and residents (and sheep) across to the sparsely populated island since 1969. It crosses the treacherous Dursey Sound just at the tip of the Beara Peninsula, near Allihies village. The island itself has a long and colourful history – a great primer is Penelope Durrell’s Discover Dursey which is often found for sale in local shops in the area.

(Image: globalreachent/Flickr/Creative Commons)

By Napoleonic-era causeway:

Aughinish Island is an interesting geographical anomaly. While it is officially in Co Clare, the only way to reach it is by a causeway road from Co Galway. Pre-1755, it was joined to Co Clare at New Quay but a tsunami which hit the south of Ireland following the great earthquake off Lisbon in that year, drowned that land link. According to oileain.org and David Walsh:

For a time Aughinish remained an unattached island. But then the military constructed the Martello Tower (1804-1810) in fear of Napoleonic invasion. For access, they built a road across a causeway at M295-133 from the E, in County Galway.

By 120 steep steps:

You have to don a hard hat and descend 120 steps to see the longest free-hanging stalactite in the northern hemisphere but it’s worth the stress on the knees. The stalactite is in Doolin Cave in Clare – it is 23 feet long:

(Image: Simon Frost/Flickr/Creative Commons)

By sandbar:

If you want to walk to Inishkeel island off the coast of Tramore Strand, at Narin, near Portnoo, Co Donegal, you can do so – but you have to wait for the tide to go out, and this only applies in spring tides. When it does, it exposes a sandbar linking the strand to the island.

Be careful – it’s easy to get cut off – but there are some 12th century monastic ruins on Inishkeel to look at if you have time to kill. St Conal founded a monastery there in the 6th century, say the good folks at Megalithic Ireland, and the sandbar route has traditionally been a pilgrimage passage since that time.

This Google Maps satellite image of the coastline off Portnoo and Narin shows Inishkeel marked with a blue balloon – and the sandbar clearly visible.

By rope bridge:

The tiny island of Carrick-a-rede outside Ballintoy, Co Antrim is reached by a very famous rope bridge. Why would you want to cross an 80-foot deep chasm with nothing but a few slats and ropes between you and gravity? Well spare a thought for the fishermen who used to cross to the salmon-fishing grounds off the island on a much less secure structure than the one used by visitors today – it used to be a single handrail bridge with very widely-spaced slats.

According to the Causeway coastal route tourist website, “although no-one has ever been injured falling off the old bridge, there have been many instances of visitors being unable to face the return walk back across the bridge, resulting in them being taken off the island by boat”. For shame.

(This image is by Julien Behal/PA Wire – it shows the Olympic flame being carried across the rope bridge earlier this year. Cover article image was by Alan Bruce/Flickr)

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