Ireland is an island to
the north-west of continental Europe. It is the third-largest island in Europe
and the twentieth-largest island on Earth. To its east is the larger island of
Great Britain, from which it is separated by the Irish Sea.
Relatively low-lying mountains surrounding a central plain epitomise Ireland's
geography with several navigable rivers extending inland. The island has lush
vegetation, a product of its mild but changeable oceanic climate, which avoids
extremes in temperature. Thick woodlands covered the island until the 17th
century. Today, it is one of the most deforested areas in Europe. There are
twenty-six extant mammal species native to Ireland.
Places of interest
There are three World Heritage Sites on the island: the Brú na Boinne, Skellig
Michael and the Giant's Causeway. A number of other places are on the tentative
list, for example the Burren, the Ceide Fields and Mount Stewart.
Some of the most visited sites in Ireland include Bunratty Castle, the Rock of
Cashel, the Cliffs of Moher, Holy Cross Abbey and Blarney Castle. Historically
important monastic sites include Glendalough and Clonmacnoise, which are
maintained as national monuments in the Republic of Ireland.
Dublin is the most
heavily touristed region] and home to several of the most popular attractions
such as the Guinness Storehouse and Book of Kells. The west and south west,
which includes the Lakes of Killarney and the Dingle peninsula in County Kerry
and Connemara and the Aran Islands in County Galway, are also popular tourist
destinations. Achill Island lies off the coast of County Mayo and is Ireland's
largest island. It is a popular tourist destination for surfing and contains 5
Blue Flag beaches and Croaghaun one of the worlds highest sea cliffs. Stately
homes, built during the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries in Palladian, Neoclassical
and neo-Gothic styles, such as, Castle Ward, Castletown House, Bantry House, are
also of interest to tourists. Some have been converted into hotels, such as
Ashford Castle, Castle Leslie and Dromoland Castle.