Ireland is often called the Emerald Isle with good reason: we’ve got stunning nature galore on our island and plenty of opportunities to learn all about it, as many of our landmarks and parks popular with tourists come with education centres and learning programmes. Here are Celtic Group Hostels’ recommendations on great places to bring your group if you’re interested in learning more about our nature and geography.
1 - Cliffs of Moher Cruise
What better place to learn about Ireland’s nature than its most famous natural landmark, the Cliffs of Moher? They are best observed from below, so unless you’ve got some world-class swimmers in your group, we recommend you join the Doolin Ferry Company’s Cliffs of Moher Cruise, which will also allow you to see a variety of birds and sea life - even dolphins, if you’re lucky. The cruise also includes access to the visitor centre, where you can enjoy an in-depth exhibition on the geology, history, flora and fauna of the cliffs.
2 - Causey Farm
For a real hands-on experience with nature and farm animals here in Ireland, bring your group to Causey Farm. Their educational programmes will give you a fantastic insight into the workings of an Irish farm, including a sheepdog demonstration, turf cutting and an Irish soda bread baking workshop. Your group can also visit the farm animals and milk a cow if you want to. Causey Farm also offers a geography focussed educational programme for secondary schools, explaining the inputs and outputs of a farm’s production cycle and the differences between the seasons.
3 - Aillwee Cave
One of Ireland’s oldest caves, Aillwee is located in the heart of the Burren’s rough landscape on the Wild Atlantic Way. The guided tour will introduce your group to its winding caverns and deep chasms, explaining weird stone formations such as stalactites and stalagmites seen throughout the cave. Special highlights are the 30ft underground waterfall and the bone collection of a now extinct brown bear. Much more lively animals can be observed at the birds of prey centre, which is part of Aillwee since 2008. This initiative offers a home to eagles, falcons, hawks and owls from all over the world, furthering conservation efforts in the process.
4 - Burren Experience Guided Walks
If you are planning to stay in one of our hostels along the Wild Atlantic Way, a walking tour through the Burren’s harsh, yet enchanting landscape should be on your bucket list if your group wants to explore Ireland’s nature to its full extent. Your guide will allow you to see the area’s flora and fauna with new eyes and appreciate its natural beauty. They will also explain how the Burren was shaped over millions of years by geological evolution. Whether it’s geology, botany, farming in the area or all of these topics that is of interest to your group – your tour guide will be well prepared to introduce you to this unique landscape.
5 - Fota Wildlife Park
Unlike a typical city centre zoo, Fota Wildlife Park is a non-profit charity – while it is financed by visitors, many of which are tourist groups, its main concern is wildlife conservation, and all excess funds are re-invested to that effort. Located on Fota Island, it is home to over 100 species of birds and mammals, some of which roam the park freely. Larger carnivorous species, such as tigers, are kept in their own habitats. The animals are grouped by geographical origin: the park is divided in areas such as the Asian Sanctuary, the African Savannah, Monkey Island or the Tropical House.
6 - Powerscourt Estate & Cool Planet Experience Climate Change Centre
This estate in the Wicklow Mountains just south of Dublin offers some of the most beautiful and well-kept gardens in the country for tourists to explore. Powerscourt Estate also includes a Japanese and an Italian garden with flora not usually found in Ireland. However, this is not the only reason we recommend Powerscourt if your group is interested in learning more about nature: newly opened in March 2018, Powerscourt now houses the Cool Planet Experience, a climate change information centre and interactive exhibition. Its aim is to teach about the dangers of climate change, the new solutions to this problem, which are constantly being developed and how you can help to create a healthy future for the planet.
7 - Irish Seed Savers
Irish Seed Savers is a non-governmental organisation that strives to educate visitors to its gardens on the issues of agricultural biodiversity in Ireland. They aim to preserve the island’s unique crops by running a large public seed bank with over 600 non-commercially available varieties of seed and conserving plantations of threatened plants. These efforts are important because the loss of heritage crops is a major threat to food security – the more genetically diverse a region’s crops are, the better they are protected against agricultural diseases, which in turn protects the local food supply.
8 – Brigit’s Garden
Themed on the Celtic festivals which still influence Ireland’s culture to this day, this stunning garden near Galway is the perfect place for your group to find inspiration and delight among nature. As a charity, all earnings are re-invested to maintain and develop the garden. Brigit’s Garden offers educational tours for groups which are themed according to the season – while spring groups will learn about seed sowing, those coming here during autumn might catch the Samhain masked parade, part of the origin for the modern Halloween.
9 – Blackrock Castle & Observatory
While space and exploration of the night sky is of course not a topic exclusive to Ireland, it’s still a part of nature. After all, what would a warm summer night be without a starry night sky? Add a tour of Blackrock Castle and Observatory when planning your group trip to Ireland and visit this castle, which used to protect Cork harbour from invaders. Here, the Cork Institute of Technology has installed an observatory featuring an award-winning exhibition open to the public: Cosmos at the Castle. At Blackrock, your group has the chance to explore the formation of the universe and the development of early life on Earth on cinema sized screens. Furthermore, the night sky is ready to be explored at the planetarium and children can meet Cosmo, the virtual astronaut, and explore the basic concepts of physics at the SFI Discovery Zone.
We’re sure Ireland’s nature has grown on you by now and you can’t wait to start planning your group trip. Contact Celtic Group Hostels now and let us help you sort out your trip from start to finish: from accommodation to activities, we’ve got your whole itinerary covered!
26 July 2016
18 February 2016
09 February 2016