Ireland has resources to sell. We all imagine it as the green island where many successful musicians were born or where we can find one of the best and best known beers in the world (Guinness). Ireland also means spectacular landscapes or famous cities such as Dublin, Galway, Belfast, Cork, just to name a few.
But Ireland is also quiet and relaxing places to get away from it all and forget about stress and little problems. What are these places? Here are some of them:
County Fermanagh is teeming with rivers, lakes and lake islands. In Lough Erne is Devenish Island which is home to one of the most important monastic sites in Northern Ireland. Founded by San Molaise in the sixth century, it includes the ruins of the abbey, a circular tower and the walls of the oratory. The island can be reached by boat from Enniskillen: with a short trip you will find the tranquility and pristine beauty of an idyllic timeless place.
2. Rathlin Island
It is located off the Causeway Coastal Route and is the northernmost point in Northern Ireland. This remote island is dotted with intriguing shipwrecks and is also a haven for seabirds. In spring and summer, this island is populated by thousands of birds, including the very nice puffins that come here to lay their eggs. Ferry companies offer regular service to the island from Ballycastle.
3. Strangford Lough, Antrim
South of Belfast is one of the most beautiful places in Ireland. Surrounded by gentle hills, this area, recognized as an “Area of extraordinary natural beauty” is one of the richest in biodiversity in Europe with over 2,000 marine species spread over more than 150 km². Despite the presence of birds, badgers, seals and starlings, this is a place of incredible calm.
4.Garnish Island, Co.Cork
Tucked away in Glengariff harbor, the island is home to a series of ornamental gardens originally the work of former owner John Annan Bryce and Edwardian garden designer Howard Peto. Thanks to its sheltered position and almost subtropical climate, a rich variety of plants can still be seen today along with a colony of gray seals on the southern rocks.
5. Burren, Co, Clare
This vast limestone plateau with a lunar aspect extends to the ocean and is home to delicate alpine plants, orchids and vast expanses of grass. Under the surface of the lunar-like stone there is a rich underground world: the Ailwee Caves create a labyrinthine system with lakes, underground waterfalls and karst depths. They are also one of the few cave systems on the island that can be explored without special equipment.
6. Copper Coast, Co. Waterford
Waterford’s Copper Coast European Geopark is a beautiful stretch of coastline. With an extension of 25 km from Tramore, a Victorian-era resort, this short stretch holds treasures such as spectacular cliffs, inlets, stacks and splendid views. It takes its name from the copper mines that once dotted the area.
7. Keem Strand, Achill Island, Co. Mayo
Achill island alone can boast five Blue Flag beaches and one of them is Keem Strand, cited among the best beaches in the world by Condé Nast. The beach is located in Keem Bay, a horse-shaped bay, surrounded by the cliffs of Benmore: along their top, you can take breathtaking walks of 1.5 km towards Achill Head, the westernmost tip of Achill Island.
The image of Menorca is that of a green island with many pristine coves and beaches. In short: tranquility, nature and living at a slow pace. But if we go and see what beautiful “hides” this island, in reality, there is much, much more: the countryside activities, outdoor sports, local culinary delights, crafts and products.
In truth, Menorca is an island that shows its treasures to those who truly seek them. The highest point on the island is Mount Toro which measures 358 meters above sea level. The north coast is rugged and wild with sparse vegetation and dark reddish sand. The southern coast, on the other hand, is made up of wooded ravines that descend towards coves and beaches with white sand and turquoise sea.
The climate is particularly mild and temperate, although a feature of the island is strength of the north wind. It’s such a strong wind has shaped the landscape. The island is divided in eight administrative councils: Maó, Ciutadella, Alaior, Es Castell, Sant Lluís, Es Mercadal, Ferreries and Es Mig jorn Gran.
The biosphere reserve
Menorca has been declared a biosphere reserve since October 1993 by virtue of the close link between man and territory. Here the economic growth tries to be compatible with the conservation of the island and, with it, agriculture is also done in a sustainable way. In the landscape it is clearly perceptible how agriculture still makes use of ancient customs, such as the use of dry stones used to delimit agricultural land for example.
The Albufera des Grau Natural Park, with its 5000 hectares of surface, represents the fulcrum of the biosphere and has a salt pan, a stretch of coast, several islets and wetlands where birds of prey and seabirds can find a home. The ravines offer shelter to wealth of fauna and flora, including a number of endemic species and endangered aspecies like red kites and Lilford’s wall lizards. The dunes, streams, ravines, holm oak groves, wild olive trees and pines, all contribute to the uniqueness of Menorca as a Biosphere Reserve.
Archeology in Menorca
The archaeological heritage of Menorca is almost as rich as the natural and marine one if you consider that on the island there are on average two monuments every square kilometer! One of the most emblematic of Menorca is undoubtedly the Navetades Tudons, buildings used as collective ossuaries built in stone between 700 and 1000 BC. Trepucó, Talatí de Dalt, Torre d’en Galmés, Torralba d’en Salort, Cornia Nou are other sites that can give an excellent idea of the prehistoric past of the island. They are monuments built using large stones without mortar that bring with them a sense of mystery and give an idea of the rituals performed by the first inhabitants who inhabited the island in the past.
The Menorcan countryside is unspoiled while 70% of the territory is protected. A long stretch of the northern coast is considered a Marine Reserve and many islets belonging to Menorca are unspoiled and have great ecological value. These small islands are inhabited from endemic animals, including eight subspecies of the Lilford wall lizard, each subspecies unique and different. There are a number of good ecosystems to explore: woods, cliffs, wetlands, streams, spring pools, as well as ravines dug by the erosion of the limestone rock.
Along the 216 km of coast of Menorca there are about eighty sandy bays, as well as numerous coves and hidden coves in the shore. Son Bou, with over 2.5km of sand, is the longest beach. The smallest beaches are barely 100 meters long, although size is beside the point when you are talking about genuine natural paradise placed in what is one of the best preserved holiday destinations in the Mediterranean.
Along the northern coast the landscape is wild and untamed, with predominantly earthy, ocher and golden tones. There are amazing beaches and coves, as well as fantastic snorkelling and scuba diving locations. Cala Pregonda might well be the best known natural beach, but Cavalleria and Cala Pilar are equally stunning. The beautiful landscape of La Vall is where Es Bot and Es Tancat are located, the twin beaches of Algaiarens. Cala Presili and Cala Tortuga are neighbouring beaches located in the nature reserve Parque Natural la Albufera des Grau. Those who prefer beaches with some facilities but still want a stunning setting will love the beaches at Cala Morell, Arenal de Son Saura (Son Parc), the wide sandy beach at Es Grau, or Cala Mesquida.
The southern coastline is irresistibly appealing, with turquoise blue sea, fine white sand and leafy woods providing shade almost down to the water’s edge. The best known natural beaches are: the twin beaches of Son Saura, the famous beaches of Cala en Turqueta, Cala Macarella y Macarelleta, as well as Cala Mitjana and Mitjaneta. Trebalúger and Cala Escorxada beaches are two jewels which are somewhat quieter as it is quite a long walk to reach them. Binigaus is another delightful option: it is the widest unspoilt beach of the south coast and is easily accessible for a day at the beach, as is tiny Atalis beach, at the end of Son Bou beach. The most beautiful beaches next to resorts are: Son Xoriguer; majestic Cala Galdana, which is almost always calm, sheltered as it is by the cliffs; the long stretch of sand at Sant Tomàs and Cala en Porter. The beaches at Binibèquer,Punta Prima and Binissafúller stand out among the beaches in the Sant Lluís area.
Camí de Cavalls
The Camí de Cavalls is a great way to discover The magnificent landscape of Menorca. It is a 185 km route around the coast of the island which includes a variety of different scenarios Its exact origin is unknown; what is known is that the Camí de Cavalls has been used for many centuries as a link between the defense towers that had been built to watch over and safeguard the island from any possible attack or invasion. The path has had various uses over the centuries and has been possibly restored and open to the public in 2010. Today it is part of the long European remote trail network, numbered GR-223.
Gastronomy and local products
Simplicity is the essence of Menorcan cuisine; its foundation lies in people who are down-to-earth, but who know how to enjoy life and how to make the most of what they have. Within every apparently humble dish there lies a touch of refinement, a delightful hint of foreign cultures. Traditional cookery books all contain recipes for oliaigua and other vegetable dishes, seafaring delicacies such as caldereta de langosta, meat and game recipes, stuffed aubergines and other oven baked dishes like perol. There are lots of recipes for pastries as Menorcans have a very sweet tooth. Carquinyols, flaons, pastissets and amargos are some of the sweet and savoury pastries that are made here. The one Menorcan product known worldwide is surely mayonnaise. Experts agree that it was originally a local sauce made here on the island and that it spread to the rest of the world after the French invaded Menorca in the 18th century. The theory is that the Duke of Richelieu tasted the sauce while he was on the island, and then took the recipe back to the French court where it became known as mahonnaise, in reference to the town Maó
The local food industry has created a hallmark of guarantee Made in Menorca. A prime example is the cheese which has obtained the protected designation of origin (PDO) Mahón-Menorca and has recently been classified among the best in the world. Menorcan cheese is square in shape, with a darkish reddish brown rind and a slightly salty flavour. The Gin from Maó has been attributed a protected geographical indication (PGI) and is very well known both in Menorca and abroad. The Menorcan gin is the oldest gin in Spain. It is distilled from wine alcohol with juniper berries and a selection of herbs in old copper stills heated by wood fires and is one of the most aromatic gins on the market. There are some traditional liquors and spirits as well as the Menorcan gin that are produced on the island, such as herb liquors, the native camomile liquor and citric fruit liquors which are drunk after a meal as a digestif. In recent years some artisan breweries have started up. The beer they brew is made from natural unpasteurised ingredients. The result is a range of signature brews of different flavours and characteristics.
‘Vi de la Terra Illa de Menorca’ is a geographical indication of quality of wine. There are several wineries that have brought back traditional wine making methods to the island, producing wines of a distinctive island character. A couple of wineries offer tours and wine tastings. Olive oil is another quality food product. There are a few extra virgin olive oils produced in Menorca, thanks to enterprising local producers, although only very small amounts are made at the moment. The hallmark ‘Made in Menorca’ recognises some of the local meat products, particularly cured pork. Carn-i-xulla is the most characteristic product, dating back to ancient roman curing methods. Other types of cured pork products are ‘sobrasadas’ (both mild and mature), ‘botifarrons’ and ‘cuixots’. There is a small amount of honey made on the island. Prized for many centuries, the Roman author Pliny claimed the island’s honey was the best in the world next to Greek honey.
Menorca: perfect place to admire the stars
Preserve an island with respect for the environment and nature not only mean having a wonderful sea, lots of greenery and many animals but also being able to enjoy the sky without too much artificial light disturbing the vision of the night show. Since 2019 Menorca also has the “Starlight” tourist destination certification, which means that this island has been selected among the ideal destinations to enjoy the wonders of the constellations and galaxies and meteor showers for example. In Menorca there are some points suggested by Starlight where you can find the ideal conditions to observe the night sky. Cala Macarella is a quiet and isolated beach where you can see the stars without being disturbed by too many artificial lights. The lighthouses are instead spectacular places from which to observe the sea, the stars and, why not, from which to take fantastic photos to share or to take home and keep as a souvenir. The Faro de Cavalleria or the Favaritx (cover photo) will leave you breathless.
Also worth considering Pont den Gil (pictured above) both for evening observations and for taking great pictures
Coming on holiday to Menorca does not only mean thinking about enjoying nature and a sea that is unique in the world but also about entering a protected area for a few days which, as such, must be preserved and respected. The rule of the good tourist and the good traveler implies that in Menorca you have to respect some rules, such as the simpler ones of not dirtying the environment by leaving waste around or perhaps ruining the beaches and the sea. The butts are put in the ashtrays and everything must stay in its place. The animals and plants that live here must continue to live in total tranquility, as well as the people who have always worked and lived here. The earth and nature belong to everyone. When we visit this and other paradises we try to take care of them!
Source: Menorca.es Photos: Adobe stock, Pixabay and Unspash.