‘Irish Times’ names shortlist in Best Place to Go Wild in Ireland

Locations in Mayo, Cork, Kerry and Donegal now being visited by judges

Wed, May 28, 2014, 01:00

To view more content including videos of locations in the longlist, visit www.irishtimes.com/gowild

The Irish Times has chosen five finalists in the Best Place to Go Wild in Ireland contest. They are: Clare Island, Co Mayo; the Erris region, Co Mayo; the Beara peninsula, Cos Cork and Kerry; the Donegal coast from Killybegs to Ardara; and the Fermanagh lakelands.

The competition is a hunt for the best spots in the 32 counties to experience nature, from quiet paradises that offer escapes from the bustle of daily life, to dramatic locations that offer intense sports such as surfing and coasteering.

We asked readers to suggest their personal favourites, and last month more than 3,800 people told us about locations around the country. These nominations were then put before a panel of judges, who chose this list.

The judges’ criteria include natural beauty, variety (places that offer a range of ways to experience nature) and novelty (places that were not well known). The list also reflects the clear public preference for places on the western seaboard: almost three-quarters of the pitches we received were for Cos Donegal, Leitrim, Sligo, Mayo, Galway, Clare, Cork and Kerry.

The judges are: Roisin Finlay, editor of Outsider magazine; Fionn Davenport, Irish Times columnist and author of the Lonely Planet Guide to Ireland; Dawson Stelfox, mountaineer and the first Irishman to climb Everest; Arminta Wallace, Irish Times journalist and walker.

They are now visiting these locations, before naming one destination as the Best Place to Go Wild in Ireland, on Saturday, June 7th.

The Fermanagh lakelands
What the pitch said: submitted by Matt Maguire: “A fabulous river system spanning the length of the county. From water sports to great hotels and bars to enjoy on the riverside, along with amazing walks that take in the breathtaking scenery.”
What The Irish Times says: “Nature has been allowed to flourish, and conservation work is focused on restoring the geopark back to its natural state. This area is not only protected but provides a diverse landscape for people to climb mountains, explore bogs or take to the water.”

The Donegal coast, Killybegs to Ardara
What the pitch said: Several readers nominated this stretch of Donegal coast, or parts of it. Climber Iain Miller wrote about the view from the 100m-high sea stack, Cnoc na Mara: “It sits in one of the most remote and inaccessible locations in Ireland. Gaining the summit is like being reborn into a world where anything is possible.”
What The Irish Times says: “Its remote nature is what makes it special. Slieve League [mountain and cliffs] itself is spectacular. It’s amazing that it hasn’t received more attention. If you like the outdoors and get the weather – bliss.”

Clare Island, Co Mayo
What the pitch said: submitted by Tracie O’Leary: “You won’t find a better location to be in tune with mother nature and her elements. The island has the perfect natural features for almost every outdoor activity.”
What The Irish Times says: “Barring the presence of electricity and motors, Clare Island has changed little in 100 years. Activity- oriented (from guided walks, to horse whispering, to snorkelling) and nature-friendly, it has all the qualities of a ‘wild’ destination but with amenities to suit all travellers.”

Erris, Co Mayo
What the pitch said: the Erris region in northwest Mayo was the most nominated place in the competition. Deborah Reilly described Belmullet as “the west’s hidden gem, with a multitude of activities and adventures. With plummeting sea cliffs and imposing headlands sitting elegantly beside our white sandy beaches, it certainly is a little piece of heaven”.
What The Irish Times says: “Erris is a glorious, wild, unspoilt and stunning little-known area. It’s almost totally undeveloped. We lost count of the gorgeous, isolated, dramatic beaches: beaches for families, for surfers; beaches where you can snorkel; and some where you could walk for miles.”

Beara Peninsula, Cork and Kerry
What the pitch said: Marie Goggin wrote: “With magnificent mountains on one side and Bantry Bay on the other, the scenery is stunning. Whether you enjoy a peaceful kayak, a gentle hillwalk, a testing mountain climb, a fishing trip or a swim, the best things in life – and in Beara – are free.”
What The Irish Times says: “The easy but significant transition from coastal amenities to complete wilderness is a great combination. The views from the mountains are some of the best in Ireland.”