As we all know, Ireland is home to some of the most breath-taking natural landscapes in the world. But did you know it is also home to a range of diverse wildlife?
From furry friends to beautiful birds, Ireland hosts a plethora of animal neighbours that can be seen without the need for zoos.
More than 50 types of land and sea animals reside on the island, as well as more than 400 different bird species—not to mention 12,000 types of insects and 4,000 plant species. The island is indeed a haven for nature and native animals.
If you want to catch our animal friends in their natural habitats, check out these five natural wildlife hotspots you must visit in Ireland.
5. Phoenix Park – for the iconic wild deer
The initial stop on this list—a park in Dublin city—may seem like an odd choice at first, but trust us. Many people don’t realise how close Dubliners are to dozens of species in the animal kingdom.
A landmass of seven square kilometres, the lovely Phoenix Park is known for its zoo, but there’s no need to pay admission to see native animals.
Roaming about the grass and forestry, you’ll find the beautiful fallow deer grazing and relaxing. While it can be tricky to find the deer at first, you usually can get lucky and catch sight of them from the Ordnance Survey section of the park.
Rent a bike or drive your car through the park, and hopefully you’ll stumble upon a herd passing by.
Address: Dublin 8, Co. Dublin
4. Dingle – for Fungie the dolphin
Dingle, in County Kerry, may be known for its aquarium and proximity to the ocean, but the real gem of aquatic life in Dingle is Fungie. Fungie is a bottlenose dolphin who has made the bay of Dingle his home.
He loves nothing more than greeting those on boat tours or those swimming and surfing and loves interacting with humans. Dolphins are known to be social creatures, so it’s no surprise he lives in the bay.
Whether you take a boat trip or try to spot Fungie from the top of the Ballymacadoyle Hill trek, you’ll be guaranteed a warm welcome from this native of the Atlantic Ocean.
Address: Unit 2, The Pier, The Tourist Office, Dingle, Co. Kerry
3. Rathlin Island – for the puffins (and other birds)
Rathlin Island is a small but beautiful landmass off the coast of County Antrim. You’ll spot not just picturesque landscapes and remarkable sights but, if you’re lucky, many species of bird, as well as the cute and friendly puffins that frequent the shores.
In fact, the island is home to one of the UK and Ireland’s largest puffin colonies. These adorable birds, with the colours of a penguin plus distinctive yellow and red beaks, can be spotted during the summer months perching on the western shore of the island, near a cliffside lighthouse.
A short ferry ride from Ballycastle, Rathlin Island is well worth a visit for anyone, regardless of whether you’re a birdwatching fanatic or not. Aside from the puffins, keep an eye out for kittiwakes, guillemots, and razorbills. You need to experience the sounds and sights of these birds for yourself.
Address: Rathlin Island Ferry, Ballycastle, Co. Antrim
2. The Wild Atlantic Way – for the sea life
The Wild Atlantic Way is not just one of the top five natural wildlife hotspots you must visit in Ireland. It’s also one of the most incredible driving routes you’ll ever take in your life.
While you pass breath-taking coastal vistas, keep an eye out for the plethora of wild sea life that graces the shorelines. Some of the best places to look would be Donegal (especially Malin Head and St. John’s Point), where you can see everything from basking sharks (the planet’s second-largest fish) to porpoises.
And if you’re looking for a chance to see a rare animal, namely the world’s second-largest animal, the giant fin whale can be spotted off the Cork and Kerry coastline. So get those binoculars out and scan the waves!
Address (one possible starting point): Malin Head Car Park, Ardmalin, Co. Donegal
1. Glenveagh National Park – for the red deer and eagles
The top spot to catch animal wildlife at its best is the Glenveagh National Park in Donegal. Here you can spot all different types of animals, from the frequently sighted red deer and badgers to the rarer and spectacular golden eagles, which have conquered extinction itself and found a second life in the national park.
Golden eagles are one of those animals you must see in your lifetime, and there’s no better place for that opportunity than at Glenveagh.
There you have it—the top 5 natural wildlife hotspots you must visit in Ireland. There’s nothing like catching sight of the creatures with whom we share this island, so we highly recommend taking in all the wildlife that Ireland’s natural landscape has to offer.
Address: Church Hill, Letterkenny, Co. Donegal