There are plenty of reasons that Ireland attracts millions of visitors each year, but there are still some "off the beaten path," largely unknown places that will give the ultimate picture and taste of traditional Gaelic life. These five islands off the coast of Ireland are amazing places to vacation.

Most of the ancient Irish culture exists now in the west of this European island, and the Irish islands are the best representation of the life that is now rarely seen on the mainland. Some small Irish speaking regions, or “Gaeltacht” regions, are still scattered throughtout Connacht, Ireland’s western province (also present in other parts of Ireland) but they grow smaller each year and the Irish language is slowly fading away. These five islands off of Ireland give a taste of what the country used to be like and places where the traditions and culture still shines brightly.

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1. Blasket Islands (Na Blascaodaí)

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The Blasket Islands lie about 6km beyond the Dingle Peninsula, in County Kerry (south-west tip of Ireland). The largest of the islands, the Great Blasket (An Blascaod Mór) saw its last two inhabitants leave the island and head for life on the mainland in 1953. The islands are famous as they have produced world renowned writers such as Peig Sayers who documented island life in her beloved Irish language – Gaeilge. The book has now been translated into many different languages and has seen great success. The island remains uninhabited today, but attracts visitors from all parts of the world.

2. Aran Islands off Ireland

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The rocky Aran islands stand off the coast of Galway Bay in the west of Ireland. Each of the three islands, Inishmore (Árainn), Inishmaan (Inis Meáin) and Inisheer (Inis Oírr) are rich in their traditional Irish culture, language and music. The character and beauty of these islands has lured many writers, artists and visitors over the years, and much of this attraction is attributed to the ancient monuments scattered throughout the islands and ultimately adds to their timelessness.

3. Sherkin Island

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Sherkin island sits accross from the fishing village of Baltimore in West Cork in the south of Ireland. Sherkin is known as being the ancestral home of the O’Driscoll clan and their castle still lies just above the pier. Sherkin comes alive with activity during the summer months, and there exists a lighthouse which marks the southern entrance to Baltimore Harbour and the Baltimore Beacon. The island also hosts the Sherkin Family Regatta which is one of the islands most renownd events. The scenery on the island is nothing short of magnificent, with flowers of all colours and many sea creatures visible from the golden sandy beaches. Attributed to this is a Fine Arts Degree Course which is run by the island.

4. The Skellig Islands (Na Scealga)

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Visible from any vantage point on the famous Ring Of Kerry, are the Skellig islands (Na Scealga), which consists of two islands off of Ireland, Skellig Michael and Small Skellig, and are located 13 km south-west of Valentia Island, County Kerry. Skellig Michael is know throughout the world for its famous archaeology and Small Skellig is home to the second largest colony of sea birds in the world. Boat trips to the island allow visitors to experience the natural monuments and heritage first-hand and there also exists a Skellig Experience Centre, a visitors centre, on the waterfront beside the Valentia Island bridge.

5. Tory Island (Toraigh)

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Tory island, off the northern tip of County Donegal is one of the most remote Irish islands. This remoteness led to the preservation of the traditions and way of life of its inhabitants and their various customs are expressions of ancient Gaelic culture, some of which still exist today, such as the appointment of an island King or “Rí Thoraí”. On the island there is a school for painters, inspired by a famous Irish painter named Derek Hill. Also there can be found rare species of wildflower and bird life. The island has to be visted in order to understand why the inhabitants endure the fierce North Atlantic winter to appreciate the beauty and serenity of the summer months.

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