St Patrick's Day prompts many of us to take break across the Irish Sea.  However, engagingly noisy and colourful they are, the celebrations in cities, towns and villages play second fiddle to Ireland's natural landscapes.  Here's a selection of what endures after the party's over.

Antrim Coast and Glens:  Officially designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, this wild coast stretches from Ballycastle in the north to the port town of Larne in the south.  Highlights include views over Sheep and Rathlin Islands, and saying your prayers in Ireland's smallest church before tackling the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge.

Ben Bulben:  Carved by glaciers, later honed by rain and Atlantic winds, the emphatic limestone cliffs County Sligo's unmistakable 'Table Mountain' are a recurrent theme in the poetry of W.B. Yeats whose 150th birthday falls this year.  Walkers may ascend steadily via a southerly path - views are magnificent.

Cliffs of Moher:  At their highest point at Knockardakin the cliffs tower 214 metres above the breaking waves on the coast of County Clare.  A 29km Cliffs Coastal Trail will challenge walkers but for an immediate appreciation O'Brien's Tower, a 19th century viewing platform, allows stunning panoramas over Galway Bay, the northern Maum Turk Mountains and the Twelve Pins range.

Cooley Peninsula:  At the remote north east tip of Ireland in County Louth the undulating peninsula of the Cooley Mountains stretches out into the Irish Sea.  For walkers, windswept  coastal paths from Mediaeval Carlingford are a chance to encounter true tranquillity, whilst the village's pubs offer a certainty of warm hospitality.

Country Covan Lake Country:  Most southerly of the Ulster counties it's said that Covan has a lake for every day of the year, and there are indeed at least 365.  Linked by the Lough Oughter and the Ernie river system there's plenty of scenery to enjoy, or if you're more energetic, 1,500km or water to kayak…

Glendalough:  The Wicklow Mountains National Park contains the 6th century Christian monastic settlement of St Kevin - 'the city of seven churches.'  A profusion of ecclesiastical structures reveals the importance of St Kevin extended for centuries after his death.  Most notable are the restored 11th century Round Tower, the ruined 12th and 13th century cathedral and the unique 11th century Monastic Gateway.

Glenveagh National Park:  Ireland's second largest National Park, 16,000 hectares amidst the Derryveagh Mountains of County Donegal offer extensive rugged hiking trails.  However, Glenveagh Castle and gardens themselves, a 19th century Irish American fantasy set by the shores of Loch Veagh, is an intriguing echo of colourful former times when famous musicians and movie greats all stayed as guests.

The Blueway:  Perhaps one to save for warmer Spring days, this marine trail links five kayaking, snorkelling, coastal walking and cycling sites in County Mayo and Galway.  At Keem Beach, Old Head, Inishbofin, Killary Fjord and Mannin Bay there are details of what to see, where to hire equipment and how to find guides and tuition.

The Giant's Causeway:  Northern Ireland's only UNESCO World Heritage site, 40,000 polygonal basalt rock columns up to 12-metres high on the County Antrim coast have long been associated with epic battles of Irish giants.  However, at over 60 million years old the causeway pre-dates mythical giants, owing its origins to no less tumultuous volcanic activity.

The Ring of Kerry/The Kerry Way:  This circular 179km scenic drive in County Kerry starts in Killarney and for the most part follows the N70, taking in the lakes, mountains and villages of the Iveragh Peninsula. A cycling route follows a similar course, as does Ireland's oldest walking route, The Kerry Way, though exploring valleys not accessible to vehicles.

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