County Kilkenny's centrepiece is, of course, its namesake city. An enduring gift of the Normans, it seduces visitors with medieval alleys winding between imposing castle and historic cathedral, craft studios, traditional pubs and riverside walks. The county too is a delight, a place of rolling hills, where you'll soon run out of adjectives for shades of green.
Ring of Kerry
This 179km circuit of the Iveragh (pronounced eev-raa) peninsula pops up on every self-respecting tourist itinerary, and for good reason. The road winds past pristine beaches, medieval ruins, mountains and loughs (lakes), with ever-changing views of the island-dotted Atlantic.
Landlocked Tipperary boasts the sort of fertile soil that farmers dream of. The central area of the county is low-lying, but rolling hills spill over from adjoining counties and an upper-crust gloss still clings to traditions here, with fox hunts in full legal cry during the winter season.
The landscape of Northern Kerry is often dull compared with the glories of the Ring of Kerry and the Dingle Peninsula. But there are some interesting places that merit a pause along the way. Tralee has a great museum while Ballybunion and the blustery beaches south of the Shannon estuary are worth a look.
Meath's rich soil, laid down during the last ice age, drew settlers as early as 8000 BC. They worked their way up the banks of the River Boyne, transforming the landscape from forest to farmland. One of the five provinces of ancient Ireland, Meath was at the centre of Irish politics for centuries.
Southwestern & Western Clare
Beautiful and dramatic in equal measure, the soaring cliffs south of the beach resort of Kilkee to Loop Head are major milestones on the breathtaking Clare section of the Wild Atlantic Way. South of the Cliffs of Moher to Kilkee are the low-key beach towns of Lahinch, Miltown Malbay and Doonbeg. A stark windblown beauty stretches to the horizon.
The Burren region is rocky and windswept, an apt metaphor for the hardscrabble lives of those who've eked out an existence here. Stretching across northern Clare, from the Atlantic coast to Kinvara in County Galway, it's a unique striated limestone landscape that was shaped beneath ancient seas, then forced high and dry by a great geological cataclysm.