Pimsleur Postcards: Idyllic Images of Ireland

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If we’re honest with ourselves, postcards aren’t just a way of saying “hi.” They’re also liable to make the recipients feel a tad jealous they’re not there with you. The more splendiferous the scenery, the more you crank up the envy factor. And when it comes to Ireland, it’s easy enough to make your friends turn veritably green. Here’s our pick of Ireland’s best picture postcard spots.

Cliffs of Moher - Ireland Postcards

Cliffs of Moher

The word “magical” is overused these days but the Cliffs of Moher are, if you like, officially magical; they appear in the movie Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. It is here, at this 390-feet sheer drop overhanging the Atlantic Ocean that the wizarding wonder and Dumbledore are seen standing and gazing, as they fathom how to find a horcrux (for those who don’t know Harry Potter, apparently horcruxes are important). If you can catch the cliffs when suspended in ethereal sea haze, all the better, but they look grand and imposing when the sea is still and blue as well. The Cliffs of Moher are really stars in their own right; the location has also been featured in the Paul Newman vehicle The Mackintosh Man, fantasy comedy The Princess Bride, Irish sitcom Father Ted, and a Westlife music video. Actually, it’s a wonder the cliffs don’t have their own agent. A prime postcard pinup.

Giants Causeway - Ireland Postcards

Giant’s Causeway

Sixty million years ago, things weren’t as cool in Country Antrim as they are today. Some serious volcanic disturbances were brewing just below the surface and this led to the formation of nearly 40,000 basalt columns, an alien, honeycombed sort of floor fanning out from the fringes of Northern Ireland into the Irish Sea. As you’d guess from the mystical name, legends about previous oversize inhabitants abound, still luring in visitors from all over. Whatever you believe, the strange beauty of the Giant’s Causeway must be seen firsthand to be fully comprehended. Though it is incredible at any time of the year or day, it’s best captured in a summer sunset, when the sky is fiery red, and recalls the heated moments when this landscape first came into being.

Killarney National Park - Ireland Postcards

Killarney National Park

Not so much one vista as an endless succession, Killarney National Park, located in County Kerry, showboats Ireland’s handsome, rugged beauty in a way Colin Farrell could only dream of doing. Nonchalantly ticking off every natural asset in the book, Killarney offers undulating mist-cloaked peaks, forestland bristling with native plant life (such as oakwoods, yews and lichens), rare animal species (including the country’s only native herd of red deer), and three glistening lakes, filled with brown trout and salmon. Even the man made elements of Killarney are idyllic; 15th century Ross Castle is reflected ghostlike in the waters of Lough Leane, while the Victorian Muckross House sits grandly overlooking the waters of Muckross Lake. In all honesty you could walk around Killarney National Park blindfolded, clicking away with your camera, and still come home with some of the best shots you’ve taken in your life.

Twelve Bens - Ireland Postcards

Twelve Bens

It may sound like an oversized boy band, but Twelve Bens is in fact one of Ireland’s most striking mountain ranges. Located in Connemara, in western Ireland, these jagged quartzite ranges form a star-shaped nucleus from which radiate a number of valleys. Twelve Bens is a magnet for extreme hikers, some of whom try to conquer all of the peaks within a day (it’s feasible but involves serious stamina). But for those chasing the perfect postcard picture, Twelve Bens is best admired from afar. Caught in the right light they look unreally purple, but however they look they’re guaranteed to leave you agape.

Rock of Cashel - Ireland Postcards

Rock of Cashel

Once described as a “castle on a limestone cloud,” as you see the Rock of Cashel coming into view, you invariably find yourself blinking: is this real, or a mirage? The cluster of medieval buildings positioned on an outcrop of the Golden Vale in South Tipperary is one of the most remarkable in all of Europe. Erstwhile home to the kings of Munster, the complex includes a 12th century rotund tower, 13th century gothic cathedral, 15th century castle and extensive graveyard with many Celtic crosses sprouting from the ground. Visitors are welcome at the Rock of Cashel, where there are exhibitions and an audiovisual show, but the thing you’ll remember for a long time after is that first moment when you saw this uncanny apparition looming across the skyline.

Powerscourt Gardens - Ireland Postcards

Powerscourt Gardens

The majority of Ireland’s scenic beauty may be crafted by Mother Nature, but every now and again Man makes a reasonable job of it too. Nicknamed the Versailles of Ireland, Powerscourt Gardens in Enniskerry, County Wicklow, is a spread of luscious lawns and delectable outdoor design, and the realized vision of the seventh Viscount Powerscourt, Mervyn Wingfield. Japanese gardens, winged equestrian statues and a pet cemetery lend the place a sense of the surreal, while the sloping Italian gardens are at once sharp, sleek and impossibly green. Powerscourt’s ingenuity in beauty is best demonstrated by the way in which the gardens seemingly blend into the far-off landscape of the Great Sugar Loaf Mountain and adjacent countryside. One way to describe the gardens is as a verdant version of an infinity pool; Man shakes hands with God.

Ben Bulben - Ireland Postcards

Ben Bulben

Aside from the Giant’s Causeway, Ben Bulben in Sligo is Ireland’s most unique rock phenomenon. Formed by glaciers in the last ice age, from certain angles in spring and summer, Ben Bulben recalls a verdant Ayres Rock. In the winter, when dusted with snow, it could be the world’s biggest Vienetta ice cream cake. Because of the way it is shaped, Ben Bulben caters to climbers of all ilks; its sheer north face should only be tackled by the most confident and well-equipped, whereas approaching it from the south allows a relatively easygoing incline, gradually allowing views of the rest of the Dartry Range, of which Ben Bulben is a part. It’s hard to make Ben Bulben look unimpressive from any stance, but for exceptional photos, travel 30 minutes northwest to Streedagh Beach, where you can capture the odd-shaped rock formation superficially rising up from the waters like a gargantuan whale.


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