Top of the list is Blarney Castle, in County Cork, for legend has it that whosoever kisses the Blaney Stone gets the gift of eloquence. Blarney in Irish "An Marna" the plain, is five miles from Cork City. It defended the wooded hills of Muskerry for Cormac MacDermot MacCarthy who kept promising Queen Elizabeth 1's deputy Carew, that he would bow the knee to the Queen, and bring in his clan and lands to her.
He kept up the soft woods and fair speech for so long that the Virgin Queen made Carew an object of her venom, and declared that a!! the fine talk was `blarney'. When you climb the 100 foot tower to kiss the stone, and look out over the magnificent surrounding countryside, you can understand why Cormac MaeDermot MacCarthy of the sweet tongue held on as long as he could.
After Blarney conies Bunratty Castle with its Folk Park and Street of Memories. It is the Disney Land of Ireland, without it's vulgarity. and with real history. The mediava! banquets are famous, the singers and harpists and violinists are among the best Irish traditional music makers in the world. Bunratty is the jewel of County Clare., Next in popularity comes the Irish Acropolis, the Rock of Cashel. in County Tipperary. Here was the seat of the kings of Munster, the O'Briens. from AD 350. St Patrick came there himself in AD 450, and baptised King Aengus and his brothers. Thereafter bishop warriors defended the Rock and today the historic remains include a 10th century round tower, the Hiberno-Romanesque Chapel of Cormac, together with St Patrick's Cross and the cathedral.
Craggaunowen. in County Clare, an ancient pre-Christian lake dwelling, which has been reconstructed, is we!! worth the trouble of locating and is high in the top ten.
One of the simplest places to locate is Glendalough, in County
Wicklow. the Glen of the Two Lakes, just thirty-two miles from Dublin. This is a sixth century monastic university settlement, complete with ninth century round tower, and high crosses and chapels.
It is forever associated with its founder, St Kevin, and the 11th century St Laurence O'Toole, Abbot of Glendalough, who became Archbishop of Dublin.
Still in the top ten is the John F Kennedy Park in County Wexford, the county from which his forefathers emigrated to America. The memorial takes the form of a forest for the people.
In the deep south of the island is another top attraction, Killarny and the Ring of Kerry, The incomparable beauty of the lakes. 'Heaven's Reflex' includes the highest mountain in Ireland, Carrantuohill, 3,414 feet high.
Poets such as Tennyson, writers such as Thackeray and many a famous painter have portrayed the ever changing beauty of sky, lake, mountain, field and forest in the rich lush !ands of the Macgillycuddy Reeks, and Purple Mountains, the Tore waterfall and the Gap of Dunloe, with its red deer, Japanese deer and wild goats of Puck.
The Ring of Kerry, probably the most beautiful coastal and mountain scenic drive in al! the 32 Counties, is 90 miles of outstanding and spectacular coastal road, starting and ending in Killarney.
Somewhat newer, but nevertheless of almost equal beauty, is the Lough Key Forest Park, a wonderland of forest nature trails in County Roscommon, and a river cruising lake.
Roscommon, the most attractive of inland counties, also boasts the largest dolmen, or tablestone tomb. 15 feet long and 11 feet wide, supported by five pillars of stone. near the town of Boyle. as well as the sculptured stones of the La lene period,
Included in the top ten also is New Grange, one of the earliest astronomical centres of Europe, where primative man charted the course of the sun, moon and stars in the heavens before Christ was born.
New Grange, in County Meath, dates from about 2500 BC, and is one of the finest passage-graves in Europe. It is 36 feet high, 300 feet in diameter, and can he entered through narrow passages to its central burial chamber. The stone markings, particularly the earliest known triple spirals, are the foundation note of Celtic art and design.