Ahhh… The Emerald Isle, is there anything like it? The lush, breathtaking beauty of Ireland with its rolling green hills and picturesque wilderness makes it a dream tourist destination for many. Beyond exploring historic castles and iconic sites like Cliffs of Moher, Ring of Gullion, and Giant's Causeway, there are spectacular hikes to embark upon, buzzing cities to lose yourself in and some of the world’s best whiskey (and of course, Guinness) to be sampled. A destination that should be experienced at least once in your life, travel to some of Ireland’s most famous wonders with these virtual tours.
There’s no shortage of historic castles in Ireland but the medieval stronghold in Blarney near Cork is one to mark on your must-see list. Dating back to before AD 1200, it was famously destroyed in 1446 but subsequently rebuilt and today remains in partial ruin with some accessible rooms and approximately 60 acres of gardens with arboretums and waterways. The real reason to visit though is to kiss the Blarney Stone, which if the legend has it right, you’ll emerge post-kiss with the gift of the gab. Tour Blarney Castle and other famous Irish Castle with this virtual tour hosted by Ireland Virtual Tours.
Cliffs of Moher
Stretching for 8 kilometers along Ireland’s famed Wild Atlantic Way, the breathtaking Cliffs of Moher will leave you awestruck with its towering beauty. On a clear day, these cliffs rich with fossil formations reach as high as 214 meters, offering vantage views of the Aran Islands, Galway Bay, and the Maum Turk mountains. A historic spot formed some 320 million years ago, it has inspired numerous Irish folktales and featured in several movies like The Princess Bride, Far and Away and Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince. Find out more about it on this virtual tour that’ll cover other scenic sites like Sheeps Head, Rings of Kerry and the Caha Peninsula.
Ring of Gullion
Designated in 1991 as the finest expression of a ring dyke in the British Isles, this unique geological landform comprises a great circle of hills — Crosslieve, Mullaghbane Mountain, Slievenacappel, Anglesey Mountain, Flagstaff, Sugar-loaf Mountain — with Slieve Gullion Mountain, at its center. A landscape rich with archaeology and mythology, ancient churches and castles, The Ring of Gullion contains the remains of some 20 large stone tombs, the South Cairn found on Slieve Gullion is the highest surviving passage tomb (a megalithic tomb of the Neolithic and Copper or early Bronze ages) in the British Isles. Learn more about it and other historic sites like Newgrange, The Hill Of Tara, and Loughcrew Cairns on this virtual tour.
Lying at the foot of the basalt cliffs along Northern Ireland’s picturesque sea coast is one of Ireland’s seven wonders, the Giant’s Causeway. A World Heritage Site, over 40,000 basalt stone columns make up this awe-inspiring, and oddly symmetrical geological wonder formed from cooled lava some 65 million years ago. This unusual staircase-shaped site has inspired many Irish folktales, and locals will happily share that its mysterious hexagonal columns were formed after a stone-throwing fight between an Irish giant Finn McCool and a Scottish giant Benandonner. Learn more about Ireland’s historic sites on this virtual tour.
If this abandoned medieval castle looks familiar, it’s because you’ve seen it featured in HBO’s Game of Thrones as the House of Greyjoy. Sitting on the top of a cliff overlooking the sea in County Antrim, its dramatic setting was built in the early 1500s by the McQuillan clan and held for 55 years before it fell to the warrior MacDonnells who still own it till today. Fun fact, it was once owned by Winston Churchill who is related to the Earl of Antrim. In 1928, he signed the deed transferring his share to the Northern Ireland government. Learn more about Ireland’s ancient castles with this virtual tour hosted by Ireland Virtual Tours.
There are many things we do to ensure our health. We eat right, we exercise regularly, we schedule regular check-ups, but how many of us are making a conscious effort to keep our mental well-being in check.
Research has shown that meditation is one of the best ways to manage stress and the onset of negative emotions. When used properly, it holds the power to enhance the flow of constructive thoughts and positive emotions, leading one to live more peacefully in the present. A simple and inexpensive practice, it can be performed as an individual (or in a group, or virtual setting), and can be done anywhere, even if you’re cooking, hiking, or on your daily commute.
The beauty of meditation is there’s no right or wrong way to practice. Instead, the focus is on finding a style that motivates you to build a consistent practice (even 5-10 minutes daily helps) and by doing so helps relieve tension, quiet the mind and foster a deeper mind-body connection. Here are five popular meditation styles to try.
This is a form of meditation that many perform but aren’t aware they’re doing so. If you’ve ever gone on a slow walk and emerged feeling renewed, there’s a good chance you’ve just completed a session of walking meditation. Elevate your practice with a virtual meditation experience conducted in a local temple in Chiang Mai. Led by local host and former Buddhist monk Kit, he’ll give a mini-tour of the temple and lead a session teaching the six practices of walking meditation before introducing a monk to give a virtual blessing. Find out more about this experience here.
Sound Healing Meditation
There are many ways to use sound - through crystal bowls, gongs, Himalayan singing bowls - to facilitate a meditative state. Gong therapy, in particular, has been growing in popularity and while skeptics might scoff at using a gong to improve one’s well-being, there’s proof that the therapeutic sounds and vibrations are highly rejuvenating and can help to steady one’s nerves. Sessions usually start with pranayama (breathing exercises) before the gong meditation portion kicks in where one sits in a meditative state as a gong is played softly. While reactions vary from emerging relaxed to being more emotional, the common denominator seems to be a deeper sleep experienced for the following 48 hours.
In the 1980s, the Japanese invented a form of mobile meditation called forest bathing (shinrin-yoku) as part of a national health program. Far from it being a simple walk in the woods, the art of “taking in the forest through our senses” consciously calls upon one’s presence in nature to connect with it all: the sights, smells, and textures, to bring about feelings of positive wellbeing and relaxation. To experience a session of forest bathing, try this virtual experience hosted at Kyoto’s Fushimi Inari Shrine and its lush green surroundings. There, a guide will lead you in a compassion meditation in front of the gratitude god and guide you on a “forest bath” to the soundscape of a flowing waterfall. Find out more about this experience here.
If you’ve ever observed monks deep in meditation, they were likely practicing the ancient tradition of Zen meditation. A practice that started 1,500 years ago, it involves sitting upright (crossed legs is optional) and following the breath’s movement in and out of the belly. Where the challenge lies is in blocking out any distractions and focusing solely on letting the mind still and “just be.” The aim of Zen meditation may not seem apparent at first but it brings real mental and physical well-being benefits, and by fostering a sense of presence and alertness, bodes well for anyone looking to live life more “in the present”.
A form of meditation, where your attention is trained on a single object for some time, this style can take many forms, from Loving Kindness meditation, Chakra meditation to the creation of a mandala. Regarded as a sacred symbol for healing and prayer, the practice of drawing a mandala helps to clear the mind, build patience, and give one a sense of peace and positive energy. Our guide will lead you on a virtual mandala art practice and meditation experience where you’ll learn to draw a mandala (the patterns, relevance of different shapes, using the grid for symmetry) and use your breath meditatively while creating patterns. Find out more about this experience here.
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