AS FAR as islands go, Ireland is quite impressive in its own right.
But venturing out from the Irish coast, you will find some wonderful hidden and not-so-hidden gems.
Some of the Irish islands, like the Aran Islands, are already popular tourist traps but smaller islands, like Inishturk, are less visited and perhaps even more beautiful.
Here are our picks of Ireland’s best islands
1. Valentia Island
Valentia Island lighthouse off of the coast of Co. Kerry. Picture via Tourism Ireland
Valentia was the site of the first transatlantic telegraph cable – allowing America and Ireland to communicate without writing a letter for the first time.
2. Rathlin Island
Rathlin Island's shipwrecks are well-known. Picture: Hagansleisure.co.uk
Rathlin Island is home to many shipwrecks – most famously the British Navy ship HMS Drake which was sank by torpedoes in 1901.
3. Fota Island
Some of the animals that now call Fota Island home. Picture via Tourism Ireland
This island off of the coast of Cork has a colourful history and is perhaps best known today for being home to Ireland’s only open wildlife park – home to many exotic animals. Before giraffes, monkeys and cheetahs made Fota their home, the island was the estate of the Earl of Barrymore.
4. Skellig Michael
Skellig Michael has been used as a shooting location for the latest Star wars instalment.
This island has hit headlines for Star Wars in recent times, but long before the Stormtroopers landed on Skellig Michael, the remote island was home to a group of monks – whose 6th century monastery remains are still on the island today.
Inishturk GAA pitch. Picture via Balls.ie
Inishturk is home to just over 50 people – and also what could well be the most breathtaking GAA pitch in the world. The island and its impressive pitch is open to GAA clubs around Ireland for team bonding weekends.
6. Tory Island
Donegal's Tory Island has an Irish-speaking community. Picture via Highlands Radio
This Donegal island is one of the few in Ireland whose population is growing – with an 8.2 per cent increase between 2002 and 2011. It is also a haven for Gaeilgóirs, with Irish the primary language spoken – and artists, who come to paint the amazing views.
7. Little Island
Waterford's Little Island is just outside the city. Picture: Waterfordcastleresort.com
Unusually, this island is in a quite central location. Sitting on the River Suir on the outskirts of Waterford City, the island is home to Waterford Castle – a luxury hotel and golf course.