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Ireland Vacation Castles: Where to Stay and What to Tour
It’s estimated that there are over 30,000 castles in Ireland. Some are parts of ruins, some are homes, some are offices — and some castles in Ireland are available for people from all over the world to visit and stay in during their vacations.
Most of these castles were built before the United States were even colonies. These castles are isolated from cities, opening up the possibility for rest and relaxation. Many of the castles were built on the sides of mountains or in the middle of lakes. This makes your Irish vacation safer from invasions and the landscapes are pretty.
Some of these castles are excellent wedding venues, some are more suited for spa days and relaxation. Some of these Irish vacation castles are closer to different parts of the ocean, others have proximity to the city for day trips — there are a million reasons why staying at one of these vacation castles in Ireland are just so wonderful.
No matter how far into your COVID-19 vaccination process you are, you’ve probably been looking up flights and destinations since the second month of lockdown. While travel to Ireland is currently discouraged, daydreaming is an excellent coping mechanism for combating day-to-day stress and pandemic fatigue . The cost of these trips will vary as things continue to open up and develop, but prior to the pandemic, costs could range from two hundred pounds and up per night or a couple thousand pounds to secure the space for an event like a destination wedding.
With so many Ireland vacation castles to choose from, we compiled a list of some of the standout selections. Since 2020 has put us through enough, we chose not to use any of the castles known to be haunted.
Why Make Ireland Vacation Castles Your Destination?
What makes a castle in Ireland seem like such an amazing vacation home is that it’s both introvert and extrovert friendly. Splitting Ireland vacation castles among a large group of people could make the experience a more affordable one. Castles can go for 34,000 feet or larger, so there is plenty of room to distance oneself if need be. If 2020 has taught us anything, distance can save lives, but the castle’s potential to satisfy the extroverts of all sorts.
Many of the Ireland vacation castles have driver services. This makes the experience feel more authentic in terms of how someone that lives in a castle is treated. It also means you could get more of a down- “irl” feeling before retreating back to your literal fortress — an introvert’s dream come true and a more lowkey way to vacation. Plenty of us will be ready too fatigued for cruises, nightclubs, and other large gatherings.
After a year of isolation, rooms with large square footage surrounded by green hills and, maybe just a smidgeon of Irish cream, vacationing in an Irish castle sounds like just the right vibe. Throw in the opportunity to receive Irish breakfasts in the morning and not needing to clean the dishes and you may not want to return home.
The Top Irish Vacation Castle Hotels
The opportunity to stay in a castle in Ireland could be the perfect excuse to ring up the Ireland trip planner at your local travel agency. Neither the Irish economy nor your local travel agent will be upset about the business so long as you stay current with CDC guidelines.
-* Kilkea Castle was built in the 12th century. In the late 1100s, Hugh de Lucy had the castle constructed for a knight named Walter de Riddlesford. You can rent the entire castle, which sleeps fifty-five, or you can rent one room, perfect for two.. There is a restaurant on the estate in addition to the private dining room. The Ireland vacation castle also has archery, golf, and the opportunity to get fishing, horseback riding, and for falconry. It’s only an hour from Dublin, Ireland’s capital, so its location is more than ideal for maximum adventuring.
* Ballynahinch Castle is a four star resort near Ireland’s western shore. The castle’s name translates to “house on a lake” and was built on an island in a lake, giving “lakefront property” more opulence than one might expect from the term.Just five miles from the Atlantic Ocean, there is a large fishery attached to the property. They provide a full-on Irish bed and breakfast experience, a far tone from the battles once fought near the castle in the 1300s.
* Ashcroft Castle is one of the more popular of these types of hotels. With eighty-three rooms and a five-star experience, it’s easy to see why. The cheapest rooms start at €415 per night, so this is definitely more of a splurge location. In addition to the falconry and shooting that one might expect at an Ireland vacation castle, but there is also a movie theater and billiard room in the castle. It’s close to Galway airport and has a rich decor inside and out.
Ashford Castle Hotel and Country Estate was once home to the Guinness family. If that presence is not enough for you, the Ashford Castle’s self labeling of a “fairytale setting,” “gourmet breaks,” and “wellness escapes” could entice your inner skeptic. You know how castles in the UK are known for having dungeons? This castle turned their former dungeon into a basement restaurant. I wonder if they serve Guinness on tap?
Dream On: 4 More Ireland Vacation Castles
Do you have a favorite castle yet? Is your mind filled with pleasant images of falconry and horseback riding? While every Ireland vacation castle will have physical activities and relaxation, but these next castles will focus on the latter. You might want to put some cucumbers over your eyes after learning about these castles.
Dromoland Castle Hotel and Spa incorporates wellness and relaxation into their packages and hosts seasonal events for the whole family. With different programming for Halloween, Thanksgiving, and summer, you might want to go back to this castle multiple times to get the full experience. Dromoland is not far from Limerick, one of the most popular vacation destinations in Ireland. You can even book longer stays for an apartment experience.
Dunboyne Castle Hotel is a side-effect of Irish history. The original castle was destroyed during the Cromwellian Invasion of Ireland in the 1600s because the Butler family refused to convert to Protestantism. Another location near Dublin, the family packages and spa packages are worth looking into if you’re looking to live like aristocracy at a bourgeoisie rate.
Waterford Castle Hotel and Golf Resort , even the name sounds relaxing. Rooms start at low as €169 per night, but for less than an extra hundred pounds you can add little enhancements like afternoon tea or an evening meal to your stay. The customization options are fabulous and more hotels should follow suit. One side of the castle is covered in ivy, giving it an added Irish texture. Ten minutes from Waterford City, the castle sits at the southeastern shore of the country near St. George’s Channel. Depending on where your room is, you might just see Wales across the water from your window.
Ballygally Castle is up in the northeast corner of Ireland near the shore. It’s closer to Scotland as opposed to Wales. We may have lied to you earlier about not selecting any haunted castles, but with rooms starting as low as €70 for a night, we couldn’t say no. There is a small room in the hotel known as “The Ghost Room,” but the room is no longer in use. Reputed reports of ghost activity in the nights don’t scare you off, this Northern Ireland castle is the perfect hotel for you.
As you traverse the Emerald Isle in your mind, you may be looking for cheap flights or may be ready to daydream your way to another location. You may be ready to go back to work or get on with the next step of your day. Don’t daydream too hard too hard, but do dare to dream. It’s never been safer to live like Irish royalty: the churches are not in conflict, the British are doing their own thing, and this plague? It’s almost over.
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10 Reasons Why You Should Visit Ireland
The Isle of Ireland, made up of the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, is a popular destination with travellers. Full of iconic sights, such as the Cliffs of Moher, there are many reasons why it is an ideal holiday destination.
The Emerald Isle is fantastic for hiking, discovering castles, eating seafood and sipping on whiskey. On top of the many buzzing cities, you could also explore the natural wonders and quaint villages that make up the countryside.
As if you would need more reasons to visit Ireland , right? Well, we’ve compiled our top 10 reasons to visit Ireland and Northern Ireland:
1. Jaw-dropping natural landscapes
When you think of Ireland, it may conjure up images of green rolling hills, rugged seaside cliffs, and windswept rock formations. When you visit this Celtic country, you will be rewarded with all that and more!
You’ll be able to admire or hike the high mountains of Wicklow and McGillycuddy’s Reeks. Take in the views over the Atlantic Ocean from the west coast cliffs.
Sail or walk along the majestic lakes such as Lough Erne and Lough Leane. And explore the islands where you could learn more about the Gaelic culture and language.
In Northern Ireland, we recommend following the causeway coast. Along the way, you’ll pass the spectacular Glens of Antrim and the Giant’s Causeway . We also recommend a quick stop by the Carrick-A-Rede rope bridge.
- Explore the Emerald Isle on a self-drive Irish tour
2. Music and festivals
Ireland is a place to visit not only for its beauty and history, but because of its lively atmosphere. The Irish are known worldwide for their festive celebration and the country hosts many events and festivals along the year.
This includes the TradFest held in Dublin every January. It is the largest festival of traditional music in Ireland. Not to be missed if you’re a fan! The town of Dingle also hosts its own in September.
St Patrick’s Day is a five-day affair in Dublin. In September, Galway hosts the International Oyster and Seafood Festival, for lovers of this gastronomy. At the same time Dublin hosts the Fringe Festival, as well as a Bram Stoker Festival in October.
3. Regal castles
Irish history goes back centuries if not millennia, from the Vikings and Celts to warrior clans. Because of this, there is an estimated 30,000 castles and ruins dotted all over the country. During your journey, you could visit as many as you wish and time allows.
Here are some of the best castles in Ireland :
- Blarney Castle – where you can kiss the famous Blarney Stone
- Bunratty Castle – one of the most complete castles left today in Ireland
- Dunluce Castle – a cliffside fortress with majestic sea views
- Rock of Cashel – an ancient royal site
- Ross Castle – a 15th-century fortress set amidst a national park
You could also visit the famous Dublin Castle in the capital. It is a current seat of government where you can learn more about Irish history.
Scotland is another excellent destination to visit if you're interested in exploring royal castles and historic strongholds. For the ultimate Celtic castle trip why not embark on a combined tour of Scotland and Ireland ?
- Browse castle tours in Ireland
- Related: S cotland or Ireland – Where should you go?
4. Game of Thrones
Ireland, and especially Northern Ireland, has seen a boom since popular television series Game of Thrones was filmed here. The HBO show not only hired many locals as extras, but also showcased the country's fantastic and diverse natural landscapes!
Many fans of the show have started to come to Northern Ireland to see their favourite filming locations first-hand.
Discover the Mourne Mountains, which doubled as Winterfell territory. Then drive through the haunting Kingsroad – oops, we mean the Dark Hedges !
County Antrim is also full of amazing locations that keen fans may recognise. This includes the Cushendun Caves, where Melisandre births the shadow demon, and Ballintoy Harbour, standing in for the Iron Island port.
5. Scenic road trips
Ireland is an ideal location for a road trip!
Hire a car and hit the road to see the famous sights at your own pace. Stop when you want to at your favoured attractions. You can go hiking, or castle hunting, or even stop in as many quaint fishing villages as you wish.
- Drive around the island, discovering Northern Ireland as well
- Follow the Wild Atlantic Way down the west coast
- Explore the Ring of Kerry and Dingle Peninsula
- Go from capital to capital, driving north from Dublin to Belfast City
- Travel along the Causeway Coastal Route in Northern Ireland
- Related: Best road trips in Ireland
6. Guinness and whiskey
If you are a lover of beer and whiskey you will be in for a treat on your trip to Ireland!
There are multiple brewers around the country, but the most famous is, of course, Guinness. Come taste the ‘black stuff’ in its hometown at the Guinness Storehouse . You won’t be surprised to hear it’s Ireland’s number one attraction!
Whiskey distilleries are dotted around the country as well. If you want to visit one, you’ll have plenty of choice, from Jameson in Dublin to Kilbeggan in Westmeath.
You could also visit the isle’s oldest whiskey distillery at Bushmills or Micil in Galway. Good to know that Ireland small group tours with Nordic Visitor include a visit to a distillery so you get a local taste.
Or, you could forgo attractions and simply curl up in a pub and order a pint or a dram of whiskey.
7. Irish locals
The Irish people truly make Ireland special! As a visitor to their shores, you’ll experience their fun sense of humour and warm hospitality, especially by staying in B&Bs and smaller hotels.
You can also participate into the cheerful atmosphere by visiting pubs. Every city and town has at least one! Here you could have a drink with the locals, taste the Irish flavours and even listen to traditional music.
This may well be one of the best moments of your visit to Ireland!
- Related: 10 Cool facts about Ireland
8. Lively cities
Known for its stunning natural landscapes, Ireland is also ideal for city breaks!
Dublin will probably be the starting point of your trip to Ireland. The capital is a stunning mix of modern and historic architecture. It is full of fun attractions like the Guinness Storehouse and St Patrick’s Cathedral. We recommend adding extra days to your itinerary to make the most of it.
In the west, you’ll want to stop by Galway . This laid-back city has a thriving music and foody culture. In the south, Cork is Ireland’s second largest city and the area’s cultural hub.
When you visit Northern Ireland, make sure to stop by the 2 historic cities: Belfast and Derry.
Belfast is the capital where you can learn more about Northern Irish history. We recommend checking out the Peace Walls and the Titanic Belfast . Londonderry , or Derry, sits in the west of the country and is a fine example of a walled city.
9. Rich heritage
One of the biggest draws to Ireland is its rich heritage. The country has a strong historic background and a large diaspora worldwide that has kept this culture alive.
Today there is still a focus on highlighting the Irish and Gaelic living heritage, from language to music and dance.
If you or your travelling companions have any Irish heritage, you can discover your roots! In Dublin , you'll find EPIC The Irish Emigration Museum , which was declared 'Europe's Leading Tourist Attraction 2019' by the World Travel Awards.
Then there's Glencolmcille Folk Village, located in County Donegal, which is one of Ireland's best living-history museums.
Finally, on the Aran Islands , you can learn more about the Gaelic heritage. You could also stop in small villages like Adare, which was designated a heritage town by the Irish government.
Take advantage of small guided group tours or a private guide to learn first-hand about Ireland's history and culture.
- Explore these Irish heritage tour packages
10. Delicious food
During your time visiting Ireland, you’ll be able to taste the hearty local food. Among other things, dig your teeth into the famous Irish soda bread and the lesser-known boxty, an Irish potato pancake.
At B&Bs and other accommodation, you may be able to try the full Irish breakfast. It’s typically served with eggs, bacon, sausages, mushrooms, beans and toasts or boxty.
In small fishing villages along the west coast, we also recommend ordering some seafood. And you can’t leave Ireland without trying the famous Irish stew!
Don’t forget that the cities, like Dublin, Belfast, Galway and Cork, have plenty of fine dining restaurants. They focus on local and seasonal produce to give you a modern taste of Ireland.
- Check out these classic Ireland holiday packages for top trip ideas
These are only 10 of the many reasons why Ireland is a destination of choice. If you’re looking for more ideas or inspiration, look at our Ireland travel guide to explore and discover more Irish gems. Or take your pick from these top vacations in Ireland to find the perfect tour for you.
When you’re ready to start planning your adventure to Ireland, get in touch. Contact our Ireland travel consultants to discuss what you’d like to do and see. We can help you make the most of your time in the Emerald Isle.
Camila grew up between the French Canadian and Chilean cultures, before moving to Scotland in 2012. When she’s not travelling or writing about travels, Camila loves to read, run, and puzzle. Her favourite destinations have been Reykjavík, Copenhagen, Estonia and Cape Town.
Find Camila on LinkedIn .
We'd love to give you the same amazing travel experiences as you read about in our blog! To visit the destinations and attractions mentioned in this post - and to discover a few new highlights along the way - check out these recommended Nordic Visitor tours.
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Is Ireland worth visiting? Is Ireland expensive? And everything else you need to know before you go
Planning a trip and want to know is Ireland worth visiting? We go through absolutely everything that you need to know before travelling to the Emerald Isle. We also answer the important questions like ‘is Ireland expensive’ and ‘what is there to do in Ireland’ to help you plan your trip.
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Before we answer the question ‘Is Ireland worth visiting’ here is some background
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Before we get started on answering the question ‘is Ireland worth visiting’ here is a bit of background and some fun facts about the country.
To start with when we refer to Ireland in this post we are referring to the island of Ireland as a whole. There are actually 2 seperate countries on the island of Ireland. There is the Republic of Ireland which makes up the vast majority, and there is also Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom.
The capital of the Republic of Ireland is Dublin whilst Northern Ireland’s capital is Belfast. Both are incredibly beautiful cities to visit, and are great starting points if you are doing an Ireland road trip .
Ireland is famous for it’s green luscious landscapes, drinking culture, and much more. It’s generally a pretty friendly place to visit but we will go into that in a bit more depth shortly.
Admittedly Ireland can be a little bit pricey. Dublin especially in the Republic of Ireland is notorious for being expensive. Particularly accommodation. If you are planning to visit we highly recommend avoiding visiting on the weekend as hotel prices can be a little bit ridiculous. Car rental costs in the Republic of Ireland are also high due to demand which is something else you should keep in mind before visiting.
Here is some information to help you budget for your trip, particularly in the Republic of Ireland.
Car Rentals: €100 + per day on average (depending on car type, what insurance you want to purchase, and any extras). Keep and eye out for hidden costs such as surcharges for returning the car at a different location from where you rented it. Always check your fine print on any rental contract.
Petrol: €100 to fill the tank (this will vary depending on the type of car) – we do recommend a smaller car if you are planning a road trip around Ireland as the roads are small anyway. Plus it’s more economical with petrol.
Accommodation: A minimum of €100 per night for something mid-range (depending on location, time of year, and amenities). In Dublin you are probably looking at quite a bit more than that though.
Attractions: €20 per person per day although this is probably on the high side.
Food & Drink: €60 per person per day for standard pub style meals and a few drinks.
Overall we would recommend budgeting about €100-€150 per person per day. Costs can be brought down especially if you opt for cheaper accommodation and meals.
If you are visiting Northern Ireland keep in mind that they use pounds not euros. Northern Ireland or Belfast in particular is slightly cheaper than Dublin. Although accommodation is still quite pricey especially at a weekend. We ended up paying almost £200 for one night in a hotel in Belfast on a Saturday night. This was in the middle of school holidays in August though.
A lot of places in Ireland will accept debit and credit cards, particularly when it comes to big cities like Dublin or Cork. If you are visiting smaller towns and villages it might be worth having some cash on you especially if you are going to local stores.
If you are using Amex just double check if this is accepted before purchasing anything. It’s generally not widely accepted.
As mentioned above if you are carrying cash on you, the Republic of Ireland uses the Euro and Northern Ireland uses the Pound.
English and Irish are the official languages spoken in Ireland. You will probably notice when you arrive that many signs including road signs are written in both English and Irish. The vast majority of people do speak only English, although Irish is taught in some schools.
It’s worth noting that some parts of Ireland such as the Aran Islands, do predominately speak Irish. You should be fine getting by with just English in these parts though as they are very touristy.
There are quite a few airports in Ireland. Dublin is the largest and most popular with most European and International flights landing here. You also have Shannon and Cork although these are more popular with European destinations, although Shannon does have some US flights that land here.
Ireland West Knock is another good spot to fly into particularly if you are doing a trip around the Wild Atlantic Way or west coast of Ireland.
If you are visiting Northern Ireland Belfast is the largest airport. You also get a few international flights, although not as many as Dublin
For some inspiration for an Ireland weekend break here is a helpful guide.
Honestly the more time that you can spend in Ireland the better. We would say to see the more of the country, and not just Dublin you will need a minimum of 8 days in Ireland . Even then you might be rushing it.
The best thing to do is decide which areas you want to visit and make a plan from there. Here is a guide to some driving itineraries for spending 5 days in Ireland . Just be mindful you won’t get to see it all.
In our experience Ireland as a whole is pretty safe. Of course it does depend on where you are visiting. Like everywhere you get places that might be a bit rougher than others and where you may need to exercise a bit more caution.
Dublin in particular is notorious for petty theft and pickpocketing. This is especially prevalent during large festivals or events. St Patrick’s Day is a good example. I know this because I had my phone stolen straight out of my bag.
Apart from this though just take the same precautions you would at home. For instance don’t walk around dark or deserted places at night.
Both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland are very much worth visiting in comparison to other European countries, but it all depends on the kind of holiday you want.
Dublin and Belfast are great for city breaks, but you won’t have as much to do as say Paris or Rome. On the plus side they are great for short trips. For instance 2 days in Dublin is a good amount of time to explore the city and have a fun night out.
The answer to this is yes and no. Obviously in larger cities like Dublin, Belfast, and Cork you can use public transport to get around. The problem is when you want to use public transport to get around Ireland your choices are limited. For instance trains in the Republic of Ireland aren’t always direct. Most trains tend to leave from Dublin and then go to other destinations.
If you wanted to do a day trip using only public transport say from Dublin to the Cliffs of Moher you genuinely would struggle. It’s possible but it would involve a lot of changes.
Bus Éireann also have a few routes throughout the country, but these aren’t always frequent so check the route and times before you travel.
Basically if you are planning a trip in Ireland that doesn’t involve big cities then you really do need to rent a car or book organised tours.
What is there to do in Ireland?
If you are wondering is Ireland worth visiting for the attractions alone, here are some of the highlights to help you decide. We honestly couldn’t add everything here because there is a lot to see in Ireland, but hopefully this will act as a starting point.
As the capital of the Republic of Ireland, Dublin is a great city to visit. There is so much to do here including;
- Visit the Guinness Factory
- Explore the many museums in the city
- See the Book of Kells
- Walk around Trinity College
- Do the Old Jameson’s Distillery tour
- Drink at Temple Bar
- Checkout Dublin Castle
- Ha’penny Bridge
We would recommend at least 2 days in Dublin to really experience it.
If you are wanting to explore Northern Ireland, then Belfast is a good starting point. It’s the capital of Northern Ireland, and has some incredible restaurants, bars, and museums to visit. One of the best is of course the Titanic Museum.
Derry is another beautiful city in Northern Ireland, that you need to visit. It was once the centre for The Troubles, but these days it is a very up and coming city. It’s also the last remaining fully walled city in Ireland.
Cork is the second largest city in the Republic of Ireland, full of markets, quaint bars, churches, and museums. Highlights include the English Market which is a great place for buying locally produced food. You also have St Anne’s Church which is one of our favourites because you can climb it for some fantastic views over Cork.
Killarney is great if you want to experience that traditional Ireland with trad music, lively bars, and great food. It’s a popular stopover destination for those wishing to see the Ring of Kerry and Killarney National Park.
Galway is known for its beautiful beaches, and Latin Quarter where people busk in the streets. The food in Galway is great and it’s just a fun city to visit when you are on the west coast of Ireland.
The Aran Islands are a series of islands in the Atlantic. They are predominately Irish speaking, but these days a lot of people do speak English as it’s popular with tourists. The scerey on the islands is out of this world, and it is a great experience when visiting Ireland.
It’s definitely a must for your Irish bucket list .
The Ring of Kerry is one of those beautiful drives that Ireland is famous for . It’s a 111 mile coastal road that includes some of the most beautiful beaches and towns to stop in along the way.
For Ring of Kerry driving route tips you can checkout this post.
The Wild Atlantic Way is another gorgeous driving route. It covers the coast from Cork to Donegal, with several incredible sights along the way.
We explore the Wild Atlantic Way in 5 days , although you probably need a good week to make the most of your time there.
Probably the most recognised attraction in Ireland are the Cliffs of Moher. Located in County Clare they are sea cliffs approximately 203 metres high and 14km in length.
If you are driving from Dublin to the Cliffs of Moher here is a guide to help you plan your trip.
Blarney Castle is home to the world famous Blarney Stone. It’s basically a stone that you can kiss for the ‘gift of the gab’. The castle gardens are also pretty spectacular.
If you love visiting National Parks Killarney is probably one of the most popular as this is where a lot of people start on their Ring of Kerry adventure.
You can hike, explore waterfalls, and admire some of the incredible views that the park has to offer.
Located in Tipperary The Rock of Cashel is an ancient monument and historical site. Included in the monuments is a Gothic Cathedral, and abbey, a round tower, and a Romanesque chapel.
Another famous attraction is the Giant’s Causeway. Located in Northern Ireland this natural wonder is the product of a volcanic eruption over 60 million years ago.
It’s a hugely popular attraction so if you want to visit when it is a bit quieter get in early.
Another popular attraction is the Carrick-a-rede Rope Bridge. Located in Northern Ireland along the the Causeway Coast .
The bridge was built by fishermen in 1755 to link the mainland to the small island of Carrickarede. There is a timed ticketing system for crossing so get in early to avoid disappointment.
Ireland is a really good place to visit for solo travellers. Not only is it a relatively safe country, but it is also really welcoming. There is a lot to do as a solo traveller and so many different tours you can join if you are wanting to be around people.
We have travelled to Ireland many times as a couple, and would say that it is a great place for travelling together. The big cities like Dublin and Belfast have some great bars and restaurants making it perfect for date nights, but even the smaller towns have a lot to offer.
Let’s not forget that Ireland has inspired a lot of incredible literature and has been described as a place full of beauty and wonder in poetry. With this in mind it is certainly a romantic place to visit as a couple.
If you are wondering if Ireland is worth visiting for families then we say absolutely. It’s a relatively safe country, so you shouldn’t have any major issues travelling with little ones. There are also so many cool things for them to do. In big cities such as Dublin you have a number of museums to keep the kids entertained.
It also has a vast amount of natural beauty including beaches which is great for visiting with families. It’s also easy to get around, particularly if you rent a car – making it idea for a family road trip.
As mentioned in this article previously there are a lot of pubs in Ireland, but the good news is that most of them allow kids (usually before a certain time in the evening), so they can sip on lemonade and listen to trad music whilst parents try some world class Guinness or Whiskey (just not too much!).
The ideal holiday when visiting Ireland is a road trip. It’s very easy to get around on the roads and the signs are all in English. You just need to remember that they drive on the left in Ireland.
A road trip is the best way to see the main sights in Ireland, and it gives you the chance to not only explore the cities but also the countryside.
Here are some road trip itineraries we have put together for Ireland.
5 days in Ireland – a road trippers guide
8 day Irish road trip
Ireland might not be one of those places that foodies flock to but in reality it should be. Historically it has had a very comfort food sort of reputation. Think Irish stews and your classic meat and potato style dishes.
We personally think it has all the making for a foodies paradise. Particularly if you are visiting smaller towns with nearby farms and you can source local produce. Sligo is one of our favourites because there are so many places doing locally sourced foods. Plus due to its excellent location along the coast the seafood here is pretty incredible too.
Sligo isn’t the only place for foodies, with places like Galway and Kerry to name but a few are also great for this. Our recommendation is to always eat local, and avoid chains.
Ireland has some fantastic nightlife. If you are planning to visit for nightlife alone we would recommend you visit one of the bigger cities like Dublin or Belfast. The smaller towns still have some great nightlife but nothing as wild as what you might find in a big city.
Dublin has some really awesome bars particularly around Temple Bar whereas Belfast is all about the Cathedral quarter. In both cities you will find several cocktail bars, traditional pubs, and places to stay up late and dance. Basically a little something for everyone.
Honestly Ireland has some of the most stunning scenery and natural attractions in the world. You’ve got gorgeous coastal drives like the Wild Atlantic Way and the Ring of Kerry. As well as some pretty impressive cliffs on the Aran Islands, Donegal, and the famous Cliffs of Moher in County Clare.
Pretty much any county you visit has something beautiful to discover in terms of natural beauty. You just have to get out there and explore.
Wondering if Ireland is worth visiting if you are a history buff? You are in luck. Ireland is a really good place to visit if you are interested in your history. The island of Ireland has had a tumultuous history including The Troubles and the Irish War of Independence.
But it was also the place where the Titanic was built as well as being home to monolithic sites, castles, museums, and much more.
Some of the best places to visit for history lovers include but are not limited to, Belfast for the Titanic Museum, Dublin for it’s literature and Glendalough for it’s monastic site.
Culture lovers will absolutely love visiting Ireland. The country has a very rich and diverse culture which includes literature, music, mythology, food, and language. There have been a lot of cultural influences from the early Gaelic people, to the English, Scots, Normans, and even Vikings.
Ireland is a great place to visit in the summer. In fact if you want to make the most of your trip and the daylight hours you should plan to visit during the summer months.
The temperatures are pretty mild averaging between 15 – 25 degrees Celsius, although rain is still pretty common – I mean it’s Ireland!
The one thing to be aware of is that summer in Ireland is incredibly popular with tourists. So make sure you are booking your accommodation and tours well in advance.
If you are planning on visiting Ireland in the winter we would probably recommend sticking to a city break. This is because the weather in Ireland isn’t always great in winter, and it rains a lot. It can be tricky navigating some of the smaller country roads at this time of year. Ice and snow aren’t uncommon in places either.
Temperatures average at about 5-10 degrees Celsius in the day, with it getting a lot colder in the evenings.
Another thing to note in Ireland during winter is that it gets dark early. Depending on which part of the country you are in and the time of the year it can often be dark by 5pm. This can be difficult if you are planning a road trip as a lot of attractions will close before dark.
Are you planning on visiting Ireland in March ? Here is a helpful guide.
Here are some musts that we think you might need to pack when visiting Ireland.
- Waterproof coat – no matter what time of year it is it does rain a bit in Ireland. Be prepared.
- Hiking boots – there is so much natural beauty in Ireland that you will want to explore. Make sure you pack appropriate footwear.
- Layers – Again no matter what the season the weather in Ireland can be unpredictable. Make sure you layer up.
- Swimsuit – obviously this is more for summer.
For a more comprehensive list of what to pack for Ireland , here is a useful guide.
Here are some tips that you should consider before booking your trip to Ireland.
☘ Book your accommodation in advance – particularly in bigger cities like Dublin as it can be expensive.
☘ Try and leave Dublin if you can, whilst it is beautiful there is so much more to see
☘ Visit both Northern Ireland and the Republic if you can but be aware they have different currencies and different speed limits (i.e Miles and Kilometres)
☘ Be prepared for rain it’s green for a reason
☘Rent a car if you can because finding those hidden gems on an Irish road trip is out of this world.
So is Ireland worth visiting? Honestly we think it is. Ireland is such a beautiful place and whether you are in Northern Ireland or the Republic you will find so many amazing things to do. If you are looking for a holiday full of culture, great nights out, and a lot of nature Ireland is very much for you.
We hope that this article has helped you decide to visit Ireland. We have a number of posts on Ireland on the blog so feel free to explore for some more inspiration.
And if you found this useful don’t forget to pin it for later.
Wanderlust and Life is a blog for those that love to travel.
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20 of the most beautiful places to visit in Ireland
By Aoife O’Riordain
For a relatively small country, Ireland scores high in the sightseeing stakes from the elegant Georgian streets of its capital Dublin , to the more elemental and remote appeal of its further flung beauty spots and historic landmarks. The craic might be mighty and the welcome warm, but it’s not just a nostalgia-steeped vision of the past that is the draw, modern-day Ireland is a progressive, youthful and cosmopolitan society with a fast-moving contemporary scene when it comes to art, film, music, food, literature and tech with something new to discover all the time.
Best places to visit in Ireland
- Cliffs of Moher, Clare
The Atlantic Ocean churns relentlessly below the towering Cliffs of Moher. Buffeted by the ever-present wind, the full majesty of the world’s longest defined cliffs unfurl before you, towering 702ft above the water for almost nine miles along the County Clare coast. The views over Galway Bay towards the Aran Islands are staggering, as are the vistas from the five-mile coastal Doolin Cliff Walk. This is one of the country’s most visited natural wonders, so expect some crowds, but stop by in the evening when numbers begin to dwindle – you’ll be rewarded with a spectacular sunset.
North-west of Galway city lies one of Ireland’s most alluring wildernesses. The haunting beauty of the Connemara region stretches across County Galway: a landscape of slate-coloured lakes, bogland, sheep-dotted mountains, rugged coastline, hidden bays and small towns. Stop at Killary Harbour, Ireland’s only fjord; the scenically situated Kylemore Abbey; the Alcock and Brown monument near Clifden that commemorates the landing site of the first non-stop transatlantic flight in 1919; and take to the hiking trails of the 40,000-acre Connemara National Park.
- Voya Seaweed Baths, Sligo
The rejuvenating properties of seaweed should not be underestimated. In the early 20th century, there were more than 300 seaweed baths dotted around the coast of Ireland, but numbers dwindled in the ensuing decades and only a handful remain. Voya Seaweed Baths in Strandhill is just one of a number rediscovering this very ancient therapy for a whole new audience, hand-harvesting organic seaweed from the nearby beaches and combining it with mineral-rich seawater for the ultimate steamy soak.
- Ring of Kerry
The scenic photo opportunities just keep coming on the 112-mile Ring of Kerry, one of Ireland’s most celebrated touring routes. Roughly skirting the edges of the Iveragh Peninsula in the south-western corner of the country, it starts and ends in Killarney. Along the way it threads through a ravishing reveal of mountains and Atlantic-bashed coastal views that include the UNESCO World Heritage-listed monastic settlement on Skellig Michael and the glorious golden sands of Rossbeigh Beach.
- Dingle peninsula, Kerry
Dingle feels a long way from anywhere, but the charm of this west Kerry fishing town in the heart of the Gaelic-speaking region is worth the trip. The pubs lining Main Street double as grocery stores and its annual gatherings such as the Other Voices music festival and the Dingle Food Festival draw a crowd. It’s also the jumping-off point for the remote charms of its namesake peninsula: the vertiginous drive around Slea Head with its views of the Blasket Islands; Sybil Head, which was used as a filming location in in Star Wars: The Last Jedi ; and, in good weather, the Caribbean-like the water lapping Coumeenoole Strand (aka Ryan’s Daughter beach), where David Lean’s classic 1970 flick was shot.
- Waterford Greenway
In the 19th and 20th centuries, Ireland was criss-crossed with a much larger network of regional railways than it is today. Some of the now-disused lines are being imaginatively repurposed into off-road walking and cycling routes. As its name hints, the Waterford Greenway is a 28-mile trail between the southerly port city of Waterford and seaside town Dungarvan, passing through tranquil countryside over viaducts and through moss-strewn railway tunnels with flashes of sea views.
- Wild Atlantic Way
Ireland’s headlining scenic route, the Wild Atlantic Way , is an epic road trip that hugs the ragged, western coast of Ireland from the isolated, weather-beaten beauty of Malin Head in Donegal for more than 1,500 miles through Sligo, Mayo, Galway, Clare and Kerry to the picturesque fishing town of Kinsale in Cork. You can pick up the well-signposted route in either a northerly or southerly direction anywhere along the coastline, stopping off to explore its show-stopping landscapes, towns and villages.
- Giant’s Causeway, Antrim
Northern Ireland’s unmissable landmark is the otherworldly, UNESCO World Heritage-listed Giant’s Causeway. Tumbling into the sea, it’s an astonishing geological wonder; an expanse of more than 40,000 hexagonal columns resembling a super-sized pathway formed by volcanic activity between 50 and 60 million years ago. More fantastically, legend has it that the stones were laid by Irish warrior Fionn mac Cumaill to use as stepping stones across the water to fight the Scottish giant Benandonner.
Sliced in two by the River Liffey and hugging the gentle sweep of Dublin Bay, the Irish capital was first founded by the Vikings in the ninth century and has a rough-around-the-edges charm where Georgian grandeur rubs up against inner-city grit. A UNESCO City of Literature, Dublin 's streets are haunted by some of the literary greats of the English language. Dip into its thriving food scene, lose a few hours in one of its atmospheric pubs, seek out less well-known pockets of the capital such as The Liberties and delve into its multi-layered history spanning more than 1,000 years.
- The Burren, Clare
There is a lunar look to the extraordinary limestone landscape of The Burren and Cliffs of Moher Geopark in County Clare. This UNESCO World Heritage site is littered with archaeological and natural wonders, such as the lonely Poulnabrone Dolmen near Ballyvaughan dating from around 3,800 BC; the longest free-hanging stalactite in Europe in Doolin Cave; and the far-reaching views from the aptly named Corkscrew Hill. Its limestone nooks and crannies are a botanist’s fantasy rock garden, with more than 1,100 Mediterranean, alpine and Irish plant species. Don’t miss a pit-stop at the picturesque An Fear Gorta tearooms in Ballyvaughan – fans of its cheesecake include Hollywood director Steven Spielberg.
Often called the city of tribes, Galway has a relaxed, bohemian vibe. One of two European Capitals of Culture for 2020, this is a place that celebrates creativity and craft. A university town with a strong sense of its Irish heritage, the city is also a Gaelic-speaking stronghold and when summer rolls around the Galway International Arts Festival and Galway Film Fleadh attract culture lovers from all over the world. Visit the 16th-century Spanish Arch overlooking the Claddagh, where the River Corrib mingles with Galway Bay; dip into its thriving traditional music scene; stroll along Salthill pier and watch the hardy souls taking the plunge into the icy Atlantic waters; and visit one of its many standout restaurants such as Kai, Aniar and Ard Bia at Nimmos.
Spanning both sides of the River Lee is the self-styled People’s Republic of Cork , whose residents only half-jokingly refer to as the real capital of Ireland. A flourishing merchant city in the 18th and 19th centuries, its must-sees include the cherished English Market, where Corkonians have been shopping for some of the finest produce from the surrounding countryside since 1788; the Glucksman gallery within the grounds of the leafy University College Cork; and the Crawford Art Gallery set inside the repurposed 18th-century Customs House. Cork’s closest port, in Cobh, with its colourful houses creeping up the hill, was the last place the ill-fated Titanic docked in 1912.
- Newgrange, Meath
A marvel of early engineering, Newgrange is one of Europe’s most remarkable Neolithic archaeological sites. Older than the Great Pyramids of Giza and Stonehenge, this sprawling passage tomb dates from 3,200 BC and, through a feat of ingenious Stone Age design, its main chamber is illuminated once a year (clouds permitting), when a small slit over the entrance lines up with the rising sun of the winter solstice in late December. The site forms part of the larger Brú na Bóinne UNESCO World Heritage site, set within a bend of the River Boyne, one of the most important clusters of prehistoric sites in Europe.
- Glendalough, Wicklow
Set in a deep valley gashed through the hills during the Ice Age, the 100ft round tower of Glendalough pokes up through the trees bordered by steep forested slopes of the surrounding Wicklow Mountains National Park. This ancient monastic settlement and pilgrimage site, whose name means ‘glen of two lakes’ was founded in the sixth century by Saint Kevin and is one of Ireland’s loveliest beauty spots, with a network of walking trails nearby including the long-distance Wicklow Way.
- Kilkenny City
Medieval magic awaits in Kilkenny, which for a brief period in the Middle Ages served as the Irish capital, astride the banks of the River Nore in the bucolic heart of Ireland. A former stronghold of Anglo-Norman invaders, its architectural heritage is part of the draw, told in its Medieval Mile Museum and throughout its atmospheric cobblestone streets and laneways presided over by the 12th-century Kilkenny Castle.
- Birr Castle, Offaly
Celebrating its 400th anniversary this year, Birr Castle has been occupied by the Parsons family since 1620. The hoi polloi can get the opportunity to peek around the castle and its extensive gardens that are home to more than 2,000 plant species and a grove of towering redwood trees. Also on display is the great telescope, completed in 1845 by the 3rd Earl of Rosse, who was one of the first to discover the spiral nature of the galaxies. The exploration of the cosmos continues with the estate’s low-frequency radio telescope, the I-LOFAR, part of one of the most sophisticated astrophysics research projects in the world.
- Sliabh Liag, Donegal
The Cliffs of Moher might be the crowd puller, but Sliabh Liag in County Donegal has high-altitude thrills of its own. Rising almost 2,000ft above the Atlantic Ocean, the mountain has some of Europe’s tallest accessible sea cliffs, three times higher than their County Clare rivals. Those with a head for heights should tackle the One Man’s Pass trail, where you can see the surf swirling beneath and marvel at the vertiginous, if stomach-churning, views.
- Bundoran, Donegal
Ireland’s self-styled surf capital in Donegal , also known as Fundoran, is one of the best places in the country to catch a wave, both for beginners and the more experienced. Tullan Strand or Rossnowlagh further up the coast offer plenty of thrills and spills, while south of the town in Sligo, Mullaghmore Head is one of the world’s premier big-wave spots, attracting the most daredevil surfers. Bundoran’s Sea Sessions surf and music festival in June is an annual sell-out.
- Rock of Cashel, Tipperary
Sitting on top of a jagged outcrop with the velvety green landscape of County Tipperary unfolding beneath for more than a millennium, the Rock of Cashel has a touch of the film set about it. Also known as St Patrick’s Rock, this huddle of partly ruined ecclesiastical buildings that include a 13th-century cathedral was once the seat of the High Kings of Munster and is one of Ireland’s most imposing historic sites.
- Belfast, Antrim
The city is having a bit of a moment. With The Troubles far behind it, Belfast has found a new energy helped by a burgeoning film-production scene and the regeneration of its Titanic Quarter which sits in the shadow of legendary Samson and Goliath, the nicknames given to the giant yellow Harland and Wolff shipyard cranes. Belfast’s charms creep up on you, but are easy to unearth from the winding streets of the Cathedral Quarter to the wide-open skies over Belfast Lough. Discover its evolving foodie scene with a browse in the 19th-century St George’s Market or supper at hot tables such as The Muddlers Club and Ox.
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Best places to visit in ireland.
Ireland's rich culture, enchanting green landscapes and friendly locals are just a few reasons why so many travelers make the journey to this island country. But with so many cities, charming small towns and countryside wonders to choose from, it may be hard to decide exactly what should be on your Emerald Isle itinerary. U.S. News took into account sights, adventure, food and culture, plus expert opinions and traveler sentiment, to determine the best places to visit in Ireland. If you want to have a say in next year's list, be sure to vote below.
Cliffs of moher, iveragh peninsula, glenveagh national park, inishowen peninsula, connemara national park, aran islands.
With a stoic castle, wild coastline and great "craic" (fun, entertainment and good company), Donegal checks off many items on an Ireland vacation bucket list. Donegal visitors can see the 15th-century Donegal Castle, grab a pint of Guinness in a traditional Irish bar dating back to the 1700s or revel in one of the town's high-spirited festivals. Meanwhile, Donegal's northwest coast location makes it ideal for driving along the scenic Donegal Bay to the Slieve League cliffs – which are nearly three times as tall as the Cliffs of Moher – or hopping to islands known for their exceptional preservation of the Gaelic language and culture.
Though Dublin is Ireland's hub for politics, culture and music, its approachable and relaxed culture sets it apart from most European capitals. Before making a beeline for the Guinness Storehouse, consider a walking tour to take in popular attractions like Trinity College (and its swoon-worthy library), the 13th-century Dublin Castle and the always exuberant Temple Bar district. Save time to take in the arts, too: Dublin is home to the national theater of Ireland and plenty of festivals and museums dedicated to Irish literary greats. Plus, Dublin offers easy access to alluring destinations like the fishing village of Howth and Wicklow Mountains National Park.
Located along the country's famous Wild Atlantic Way, the Dingle Peninsula consistently stuns with its otherworldly scenery (think: evergreen cliffs, craggy coastlines and vibrant blue waters). Begin your journey by driving along Slea Head Drive, a scenic route known for its photo-worthy vistas. If you'd rather see the peninsula on foot, head down the Dingle Way, a network of trails that spans the entire peninsula. Or, take a ferry to the Blasket Islands to explore jaw-dropping cliffs, look for wildlife like sheep and dolphins, and visit pristine beaches without rubbing elbows with other tourists.
For the quintessential Irish countryside experience, travel to Killarney. The town is surrounded by evergreen hills and valley on all sides, affording plenty of opportunities to become one with nature. Visitors gravitate toward Killarney National Park, which features Ireland's highest mountain range, MacGillycuddy's Reeks. If you aren't much of a hiker, you can still enjoy the scenic lakes or visit one of Killarney's centuries-old churches or castles.
The Cliffs of Moher are Ireland's most popular tourist attraction, welcoming more than 1 million visitors each year. In fact, the cliffs are so popular that cities situated more than 100 miles away often offer full-day bus tours to the attraction. Once you lay eyes on this sight, you'll understand why so many people travel hours to gaze at it. Measuring more than 8 miles long and 700 feet tall, the cliffs provide breathtaking views of Galway Bay, parts of Connemara National Park and the Aran Islands on a clear day.
This peninsula in County Kerry is best known for featuring the world-famous Ring of Kerry, a 111-mile scenic drive that circles around the entire peninsula. Along the way, visitors will enjoy truly spectacular scenery both on the coast and inland. Can't-miss stops include Ladies View, Rossbeigh Strand, Derrynane beach and the Gap of Dunloe. Travelers should also save time for visiting some of the peninsula's picturesque small towns and castles, which are both developed and abandoned. Be sure to stay at least one night here for a glimpse of the stars in Ireland's first dark sky reserve.
Surrounded by a looming mountain, sandy beaches and charming countryside (dubbed "Yeats Country" after the county's famed poet), Sligo offers something for everyone. If you're up for an adventure, hike the loop around the iconic Benbulben mountain, take a surf lesson in Strandhill or watch the big-wave pros at Mullaghmore Head. Meanwhile, more leisurely travelers can visit Sligo town's popular sites like The Model art center and Sligo Abbey, or take a coastal drive to fine estates like the Lissadell House and Gardens (open seasonally). Just make time for a few stops along the Sligo Food Trail on your way.
After Dublin, Cork is Ireland's largest city. Located at the southern end of the country, this city of more than 200,000 residents is famous for being home to Blarney Castle and its Blarney Stone. According to local legend, the stone will grant you the gift of eloquence, if you dare kiss it. Cork is also where you'll find 18th- and 19th-century churches, the Cork City Gaol (a former prison converted into a museum) and lush Fitzgerald Park, among other noteworthy attractions. When hunger strikes, explore Cork's English Market, where you'll find everything from meat and fish counters to cafes and bakeries.
Located just 17 miles south of Cork, this enclave on Ireland's southern coast charms visitors with rainbow-hued buildings and a "riviera" vibe. Sailing is central to Kinsale, which hosts several regattas throughout the summer, but other water activities like kayaking and surfing hold equal appeal. Those who prefer to stay on land can visit nearby attractions like the scenic Nohoval Cove and historic Charles Fort. What's more, as one of Ireland's top culinary destinations, Kinsale entices foodies with more than 50 delectable eateries and food-centric celebrations like the Kinsale Gourmet Festival and Kinsale Street Feast.
Galway offers the best of both worlds for travelers. City slickers can revel in Galway's relatively light but palpable bustle, while outdoor lovers can venture outside the city to see many natural attractions, including the Salthill Promenade, Wild Atlantic Way and, farther afield, Burren National Park. If you prefer to stay local, stroll through the lively Latin Quarter, then check out historical attractions like the Spanish Arch and St. Nicholas' Collegiate Church.
Situated in the heart of County Donegal, Glenveagh National Park sets a picturesque scene, complete with a lakeside castle and lush mountains. Here, active sightseers can bask in the unspoiled natural beauty of the Emerald Isle, with nearly 40,000 acres that are completely free to access for hiking, biking, fishing and camping. Highlights include the Derryveagh Mountains, the sweeping valleys of the Poisoned Glen and the rugged shores of Lough Inshagh and Lough Veagh. For a small fee, visitors can also take a tour of the Glenveagh Castle, a stately granite structure representing the idyllic highland retreat, and explore its varied gardens and tearooms.
Situated just northwest of Ireland's border with Northern Ireland, the Inishowen Peninsula is the country's largest peninsula. Its remote location 170 miles northwest of Dublin plus its otherworldly scenery and thatched cottages create a peaceful setting you won't find in Ireland's more tourist-heavy peninsulas. Must-see natural wonders here include Malin Head, Trawbreaga Bay and the Gap of Mamore. If you've always dreamed of seeing the northern lights , be sure to visit in winter when the aurora borealis' beautiful hues are typically visible throughout the peninsula.
Expect awe-inspiring scenery everywhere you turn when you visit this 5,000-acre national park during the warmer months. Connemara National Park is home to the Twelve Bens mountain range, plus woodlands, grasslands, heaths (wild, undeveloped flatlands) and bogs (wetlands) that you can explore via one of several trails. To get a good overview of the park's diverse scenery, hike the Diamond Hill paths and walk the Green Road along Killary Harbour. The latter is where you'll find one of Ireland's few glacial fjords.
Travelers keen on getting a taste of what old Ireland looked and felt like should consider visiting the Aran Islands. Accessible by plane from Connemara or by ferry from Rossaveal, Galway and Doolin on Ireland's western coast, the Aran Islands feature important historical sites, Celtic churches and lots of untouched landscapes (think: the "Banshees of Inisherin," some of which was filmed here). Plus, Gaelic is widely spoken, providing an authentic cultural experience. Though all three islands offer noteworthy sights, plan on spending the bulk of your time on Inis Mór (or Inishmore), where the prehistoric fort of Dún Aonghasa is located.
Kilkenny offers a hearty amount of historical attractions for travelers to explore. This is largely thanks to the town's prior distinction of being the medieval capital of Ireland, a heritage that remains evident today in the Medieval Mile, Kilkenny's top attraction. Within the Medieval Mile you'll find several interesting sights, such as Kilkenny Castle, St. Canice's Cathedral and the Medieval Mile Museum. This historic part of town is also home to the Smithwick's Experience, where you can learn more about how one of Ireland's most popular ales is brewed.
Head to this small seaport on Ireland's southeastern coast to catch a glimpse of the country's oldest city. Waterford is full of history, and its attractions reflect that. History buffs can learn more about the city's Viking roots at Waterford Treasures' Medieval Museum, Reginald's Tower and Bishop's Palace facilities. Or, they can take a tour of the 18th-century House of Waterford factory to see how the city's world-renowned crystal is made. For travelers who need a break from Waterford's rich history, there's the Waterford Greenway, a nearly 30-mile-long walking and bike path.
Those who plan on visiting Cork should save time for a daytrip to Cobh. This charming small town, which sits on an island in Cork Harbor, is known for its past as both a major departure point for Irish emigrating to the U.S. and as the last port of call for the Titanic. Travelers who want to learn more about these key roles in Cobh's history can visit the Cobh Heritage Centre and Titanic Experience Cobh. Before leaving, take a stroll around town to admire Cobh's striking Victorian-era architecture and brightly colored storefronts and homes.
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16 Reasons Why You Should Visit Ireland at Least Once in Your Lifetime
With its scene-stealing natural beauty and multitude of things to see and do, Ireland is a dream tourist destination . But just in case you need some convincing, here are 16 reasons why everyone should explore the land of saints and scholars at least once.
View all trips, much-lauded landscapes.
Ireland’s stunning scenery and unspoiled areas are still its main attractions, leading it to be voted among the world’s 20 most beautiful countries by Rough Guide readers earlier this year. Scenic places such as the Ring of Kerry , the Cliffs of Moher , and Galway’s Connemara region continue to fill visitors with wonder, while unusual topographies like the Giant’s Causeway and County Clare’s The Burren karst landscape have a magic all their own.
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Widespread expert recommendations
The sources urging people to visit Ireland don’t just come from inside the country – global experts on culture and travel also recognise the many facets of its appeal. Donegal was officially named ‘the coolest place in the world’ for 2017 by the National Geographic, and Ireland was recently nominated as Europe’s Leading Destination for this year in the 2017 World Travel Awards .
World’s longest defined coastal driving route
Ireland knows how to play to its strength and has worked hard to bolster the profile of tourist trails like the Wild Atlantic Way , a 2,600-kilometre (1,600-mile) stretch along the west coast (plus parts of the north and south) that is the world’s longest defined coastal driving route. Both it and the Coastal Causeway Route between Belfast and Londonderry offer breathtaking views and numerous points of local interest along the way.
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There are some truly amazing places to stay in Ireland: from the Ballyfin Demesne Hotel in County Laoise, voted the best hotel in the world , to sprawling castle hotels, such as Ashford Castle , in County Mayo.
Abundant prehistoric and early medieval sites
Evidence of humans living in Ireland can be traced back as far as around 10,500 BC, and the country has some spectacular prehistoric sites to visit, the oldest being at Mount Sandel in Northern Ireland. Mayo’s Céide Fields is the largest neolithic site in the world, while the famous passage tomb of Newgrange (a UNESCO World Heritage Site ) in County Meath lines up with the winter solstice. Newgrange is neighboured by another tomb, named Knowth, said to contain more than a third of the total number of examples of megalithic art Western Europe. Ireland is also home to the oldest monasteries in the British Isles, such as the beautiful 6th-century monastic site at Glendalough in County Wicklow . And one of the most treasured medieval manuscripts in the world – the Book of Kells – is housed at Trinity College in Dublin.
Its more recent troubled history
Ireland’s long history is both fascinating and tragic, particularly in regards to the many rebellions against British rule, which ultimately resulted in independence for the south of Ireland through the formation of the Irish Republic but also led to huge loss of life. Places like Kilmainham Gaol (the prison that held many Irish revolutionaries and where many of them were executed) and Spike Island (known as Ireland’s Alcatraz) have become major historic attractions as a result. Spike Island was even recently shortlisted as Europe’s leading tourist attraction for 2017 in the highly respected World Travel Awards .
One of the world’s oldest languages
The Irish language is one of the ten oldest languages still spoken today, said to date back to before AD 3–4, when primitive Irish was first inscribed on ogham stones. Although you’ll probably have to seek out a Gaeltacht (Irish-speaking) community to hear it spoken fluently, it’s worth the effort to hear the ancient language still in day-to-day use. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hR5YS7k9eL8
As one of the best-selling beers in the world, Guinness is without a doubt Ireland’s most instantly recognisable export, and a huge amount of people want to see where it’s made – the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin was Ireland’s most visited paid tourist attraction in 2015, bringing in close to 1.5 million visitors. But no need to go to the brewery – the Guinness in Ireland is often said to taste significantly better than elsewhere (even Barack Obama says so).
Superb outdoor and adventure activities
Expert hikers adore Ireland, and outdoor adventure journalist Peter Potterfield even named the summit climb of Croagh Patrick as one of the 15 best hikes in the world . There’s also the Wicklow Mountains , Croaghaun Mountain on Achill Island – which at 688 metres (2,257 feet) is the site of the third highest sea cliffs in Europe – and Carrauntoohil, Ireland’s tallest peak. Another plus for adventure junkies – Ireland offers some of the best surfing in the entire planet: Bundoran was chosen as one of the world’s top 20 surf towns by National Geographic , and big wave surfing in County Sligo attracts pro from across the globe.
Rapidly evolving foodie scene
Ireland’s foodie scene has been going through an inspiring evolution in recent years. As chefs wholeheartedly embrace the quality of local Irish produce, it seems as if new restaurants and cafés appear almost daily, and major events like Ballymaloe House’s Litfest in Cork and the Food on the Edge symposium in Galway attract world renowned culinary minds. No doubt, it will only get better.
Sweeping generalisation or not, the people of Ireland have a reputation for being welcoming and friendly, and according to Fáilte Ireland’s most recent Visitor’s Attitudes Survey , 99% of respondents did indeed find the Irish people friendly and hospitable during their stay – something that, no doubt, makes a big impact on the overall experience.
Whether of traditional seanchaí (long-form oral lyric poems) or more modern authors of great literature , the Irish are known as a nation of storytellers. The oral storytelling tradition may not be what it used to be, but events like the Cape Clear Island International Storytelling Festival and the Evenings of Food, Folklore, and Fairies at The Brazen Head pub in Dublin keep it alive.
Whether it’s a session of pub ‘trad’ (traditional Irish music) in Galway or Dingle, a gig at the beloved Whelan’s venue in Dublin or a major festival like Electric Picnic in Stradbally, Ireland stages some of the best music events you’ll ever experience – just ask those who were lucky enough to get to one of Van Morrison’s epic concerts at Cyprus Avenue, Belfast, in 2015.
Cultural festivals all year long
Speaking of festivals, make sure to participate in one of the many cultural festivals that the country holds annually – we recommend Galway International Arts Festival in particular, but there are a host of others, big and small, that take place all across the nation. Galway alone has 15 great ones and will serve as Europe’s Capital of Culture in 2020 .
Lovers of botany will appreciate Ireland’s many cultivated green spaces, from the impeccable 19-hectare (47-acre) gardens at the Powerscourt Estate (frequently included in lists of the world’s most beautiful) to the Japanese gardens at the Irish National Stud (held up as the finest of their kind in Europe) to the Italian gardens blooming in the humid microclimate of Garnish Island in West Cork. On top of that, the National Botanic Gardens in Dublin has welcomed more than 300 endangered plant species from around the world as well as six species already extinct in the wild – a condition they say makes the gardens ‘like a Noah’s Ark for the future’.
Your (probable) Irish roots
The Irish have emigrated all over the globe – around 80 million people worldwide, many in Chicago, Illinois , claimed to have Irish roots by the 21st century (many ) – which is why so many people come to visit their ancestors’ home. This custom was formalised in 2013 with The Gathering , a major tourism initiative aimed at bringing members of the Irish diaspora back to the country for special events throughout the year.
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- 24 Fabulous Places To Visit In Ireland: The Ultimate Irish Bucket List For 2023
23 Mar 2023
Ireland is all about rich heritage, rugged terrain, exquisite landscapes, a source of artistic inspiration, and extremely warm and friendly people. Exuding oodles of the unique Irish charm, these fascinating Emerald Isles are a treasure chest of fun experiences and sights, giving rise to a number of places to visit in Ireland . From nature, history, to the best coffee in the world, also famous for its beers, this birthplace of the Game of Thrones has a lot to offer to all kinds of travelers. Have a memorable time on your European holiday with all these places to visit in Ireland.
24 Best Places To Visit In Ireland
Here we have highlighted a few of the best places to visit in Ireland of interest which is just the tip of the iceberg:
- Dublin City
- Cliffs Of Moher
- Killarney National Park
- The Rock Of Cashel
- Dingle Peninsula
- Galway City
- Downhill Beach
- Blarney Castle
- The Aran Islands
- Ring Of Kerry
- The Burren National Park
- Ireland Tourist Attractions Map
- The Old Jameson Distillery
- Iron Islands In Ballintoy Harbour
- Giant’s Causeway & Causeway Coast
1. Dublin City
Dublin city is an interesting fusion of old world charm and modern vibrancy. A city of literature, Guinness serving pubs, medieval churches, and Georgian walkways, Dublin is without a doubt among the best places to visit in Ireland. So, if you are a literature lover, then, you need to visit this place!
Best time to visit: May to August
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2. Cliffs Of Moher
Image Credit: Mobilus In Mobili by flickr
The magnificent Cliffs of Moher are one of the popular places to visit in Ireland featuring the most breathtaking views of the entire island. This beautiful natural phenomenon was carved out by a gigantic river Delta over 320 million years ago. The top is verdant lush green meadows with the bottom drenched in the musical sounds of the waters of Galway Bay crashing against the cliffs. You have got to include this in your list of Ireland sightseeing.
Best time to visit: April to September
Suggested Read: 15 Hotels In Ireland That Let You Experience Irish Hospitality
3. Killarney National Park
Image Credit: Tony Webster by flickr
The Killarney National Park is the oldest National Park and an incredible biosphere reserve. The park houses the country’s only population of red deer and other rare species. It also has many man-made structures such as the Castle of Ross. Killarney National Park definitely deserves a place in the list of best places to visit in Ireland. While visiting Ireland with your kids, make sure you add this place in your itinerary!
Best time to visit: March to November
4. The Rock Of Cashel
The dramatic Rock of Cashel is one of the best places to see in Ireland. This imposing structure with gothic tones was the seat of the ancient Irish kings for more than seven centuries. Amongst the finest of medieval architecture, it houses the High Cross, Romanesque Chapel, a castle, a round tower, and a gothic cathedral, a lot of sites that will give you a soul-stirring experience!
Best time to visit: May to October Timings: 9 AM – 7 PM
Suggested Read: 10 Fun & Exciting Things To Do In Ireland
5. Dingle Peninsula
Image Credit: Daniel Stockman by flickr Dingle Peninsula, unmatched in its dramatic beauty, is one of the essential places to visit in Ireland. Ringed by sandy beaches, rolling hills, lofty mountains, and craggy cliffs, Dingle Peninsula never fails to attract visitors with its charm and unique Irish culture. One must try the Dingle Dolphin Tour here which is one of the favourite Ireland points of interest.
Best time to visit: May to October
6. Galway City
The biggest city in the West, Galway is one of the good places to visit in Ireland. It is a vibrant university town with one of the youngest populations in all of Europe. Galway City should be in your list of places to visit in Ireland for its unique charm, lively atmosphere, history, and streets with colorful facades. The city comes alive during the Art Festival held here in July every year.
Best time to visit: April to August
Suggested Read: 15 Dublin Hotels That Offer The Best Of Hospitality And Comfort In Ireland
7. Downhill Beach
Situated in Northern Ireland, this seven-mile stretch of fine sand offers a wealth of activities including water sports, which is why it’s one of the best places to visit in Ireland. When here, one must also visit the prominent Mussenden Temple, which happens to be one of the most photographed buildings in Northern Ireland. Downhill Beach also fascinates Game of Thrones! It had appeared in season two when Stannis Baratheon allows Melisandre to burn their effigies as an offering to the Lord of Light.
Best time to visit: Year-round
Suggested Read: 10 Most Popular Resorts In Ireland: Epitomes Of Class, Elegance, And Stunning Views
With its rugged landscapes that are characteristic to Ireland, Sligo is a picturesque destination and one of the best places to visit in Ireland for adventure lovers. Sligo offers a great opportunity to go surfboarding on the crashing waves and explore the rolling hills via their picturesque hiking trails.
Best time to visit: June to August
Suggested Read: 10 Things To Do In Dublin For A Taste Of Fun And Frivolity In Ireland
9. Blarney Castle
Image Credit: Ddave45 by pixabay Blarney Castle has seen a fair share of violence and visitors flock here to see what is left of the castle. The most popular of Ireland tourist attractions on the ground, however, is the famous Blarney Stone which tourists can kiss while hanging upside down from a wall drop. The belief behind this weird custom is that successfully kissing the stone supposedly heightens the kissers eloquence. Irrespective of your intentions, Blarney Castle is one of the beautiful places to visit in Ireland and one that should not be missed.
Best time to visit: March to May and September to November Timings: 9 AM – 6 PM
Image Credit: RichardMC by Pixabay
Cork tops the list of best places to visit in Ireland for the locals, and for good reason. Cork has some of the best food scenes in the country with pubs, cafes, bars, and restaurants cramming its narrow streets. Vibrant art galleries and unusual museums define this laid-back, breezy cosmopolitan city in Ireland.
Best time to visit: March to May and September to November
Suggested Read: Ireland Honeymoon Guide: All You Need To Know For Celebrating Your Special Vacation The Irish Way
11. The Aran Islands
Image Credit: sktlloyd3 by Pixabay The Aran Islands located on the westernmost part of Ireland is a fascinating set of three islands. Inis Mor is the largest and houses the famous 2000 year old fortress, Dun Aonghasa. It is the most interesting and most visited of the three Aran Islands.
Kilronan, the only real town in the Aran Islands is actually just a village, and a fascinating one at that with a handful of pubs, restaurants, and B&Bs. On your visit to the islands, remember to bring cash as there are no ATMs here. So now you know where to go in Ireland if you really want to experience the true Gaelic charm unmarred by modern developments.
Image Credit: Andrew Hurley by flickr
Belfast is Ireland’s brand new city and its major draw is the shipyard where the ill-fated ship Titanic was built. One of the most interesting things to see in Ireland, Titanic Belfast has six floors imitating the height of the Titanic with 9 galleries, interactive exhibitions, underwater theatre, and rides.
Best time to visit: April to June Timings: 9 AM – 6 PM
Suggested Read: Dublin Nightlife Scenes: Top Pubs & Night Clubs To Party Hard Like An Irish
13. Ring Of Kerry
Image Credit: Tony Webster by flickr The Ring of Kerry’s untouched and rugged landscapes are what make it the best of Ireland vacation spots. One of the most fascinating places to see in Ireland, Ring of Kerry is a photographer’s delight with its stunning scenery that changes hues with the falling light. Facing the Atlantic Ocean, it has some of the most phenomenal beaches in Ireland.
14. The Burren National Park
Ireland’s smallest national park is one of the best places to visit in Ireland. The area found within is renowned for its karst landscape. The park is brimming with ancient history and archaeologists have found several megalithic tombs and many other medieval structures here. A walk in this park is compared to walking on the moon and this place should definitely be included in your Ireland travel itinerary.
Best time to visit: May Timings: 9:30 AM – 5:30 PM
Suggested Read: 12 Popular Places To Visit In Dublin For A Perfect Irish Vacation
One of the most fascinating Ireland places to visit, Glendalough is home to the most important monastic sites in Ireland. These extensive medieval ruins have an interesting story to tell about its rich history and unmatched beauty. The two dark and mysterious lakes are the most fascinating of Ireland tourist attraction in this place.
Best time to visit: April to October Timings: 9:30 AM – 6 PM
16. Powerscourt House And Gardens
This is a house owned by a rich family but what makes it one of the most beautiful places to visit in Ireland is the fact that it offers such views and a soul-soothing backdrop. Walk in the garden with an aura of a glorious past and enjoy the tranquil views like never before. It is an altogether different experience!
Best time to visit: September and early October Timings: 9:30 AM – 5 PM
This is a county in the country of Ireland that majorly has people who speak Irish and shares the borders with the Atlantic Ocean in the northwestern region of Ireland. The place is known for castles that are enveloped within rocky coastlines and breathtaking mountains like quartzite Mount Errigal. The county also has a national park, Glenveagh National Park. It once used to be a private property that featured lakes, bogland, and forests.
Best Time To Visit: September
18. The Old Jameson Distillery
Image Credit: Levoqd by Pixabay
This place is located in the capital city of Dublin. It is a prominent tourist attraction for the whiskey lovers who get a chance to taste the best Irish whiskeys. This distillery is popular because of its worldwide prominence. There are also a lot of events that are organized at this place – an opportunity where the tourists get to mingle with the locals! Enjoy a wide variety of whiskeys and make the most of your tour in the capital city.
This is a town located in the northern region of the country of Ireland. It is also a parish that is a part of County Antrim that lies in the northeastern region of North Ireland. The town has been established upon the banks of Six Mile Water found at a distance of only a half-mile from the northeastern region of Lough Neagh. When looking for places to visit in Ireland for families , then consider visiting this county town!
Best Time To Visit: Anytime during the year because of unpredictable weather
Suggested Read: 10 Magnificent Churches In Netherlands
It is one of the counties of Ireland located in the western region of the country. Clare is known for The Burren – a rugged wilderness area that features monuments that date back to the Stone Age as well as age-old churches. The county town of Clare is considered to be Ennis, which is also the largest settlement here. The county is historically as well as culturally rich and is one of the best historical places to visit in Ireland .
Best Time To Visit: November to April
21. Iron Islands In Ballintoy Harbour
The makers of the Game of Thrones love Ireland and Ballintoy is the home to the Iron Islands. Ballintoy Harbour is one of the best cities to visit in Ireland and features a relaxed and peaceful ambiance. It is a small harbor having space for a few boats. The place purveys a tranquil vista, where one can witness boats gently rocking in the billows amidst serene landscapes. The water here is quite clear and one can easily glance the fishes swimming around the boats. One can also hop into the nearby stone cottage that serves delicious local delicacies.
Suggested Read: 7 Best Winter Airbnbs In Europe
Derry is one of the most unique places to visit in Ireland as it is the only completely walled city in Ireland. One can take a walking tour to explore these stony ramparts and listen to the enticing stories of the brutal 17th century. This tour will complete at the Ebrington Square after you cross the Peace Bridge. You can visit the famous Walled City Brewery and toss the glass for this unique city of Ireland.
Best time to visit: April to December
Another amazing place in the map of Ireland is the vibrant Connemara. This mesmerizing place features numerous surprises from bogs to lakes and mountain vistas, that make the visitors fall in love with it. The serene villages of Connemara shower the colorful vistas where one can dive in, admiring the beauty and diversity of nature.
24. Giant’s Causeway & Causeway Coast
This magnificent place lies at the foot of the basalt cliffs in Northern Ireland. The Giant Causeway is made up of over 40,000 massive black basalt columns that stick out of the sea. The place is a unique experience that one must not miss out on while holidaying in Ireland!
Best time to visit: Throughout the year
Map Of Ireland
Further Read: This Bubble Hotel In Ireland Allows You The Dreamiest Glamping Experience Ever
From rugged mountains, underground caves, ancient cathedrals, to popular GoT locations, there’s a lot to explore in the Irish landscapes. If you are hungry for adventure and history, then do plan an excursion to the above-mentioned places to visit in Ireland! So, now, don’t think too much and book your trip to Ireland right away!
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Please Note: Any information published by TravelTriangle in any form of content is not intended to be a substitute for any kind of medical advice, and one must not take any action before consulting a professional medical expert of their own choice.
Frequently Asked Questions About Places To Visit In Ireland
What is the most beautiful part of Ireland?
There are numerous places to visit in Ireland where you can witness the best of these destinations. Some of the places you must add to your itinerary include: 1. The Old Library, Trinity College Library, Dublin 2. Kinsale, County Cork 3. Cliffs of Moher, County Clare 4. Galway, County Galway 5. Achill Island, County Mayo 6. Skellig Michael, County Kerry 7. Killarney National Park, County Kerry
What is the most beautiful place to live in Ireland?
Some of the best towns in Ireland where you can stay for a while include: 1. Kinsale, County Cork 2. Glengarriff, County Cork 3. Lismore, County Waterford 4. Valentia, County Kerry 5. Long Quay House
Is it safe to visit Ireland due to the current Covid situation?
Yes, Ireland is one of the safest places to visit during the current Covid situation. However, you need to follow all the covid protocols like wearing a mask when in public, maintaining required social distance, and sanitizing hands at certain intervals. Also, make sure to check the Covid update of the destination you’re planning to visit.
Is Ireland an expensive place to visit?
Yes, a few places in Ireland are no doubt expensive places to travel but you can opt for pocket-friendly alternatives like staying in one of the best hostels in Ireland, it will save your money and give you an entirely different chance to explore this beautiful place. There are numerous less-expensive places such as Dublin where one can get affordable stays and food options.
What should I pack for a trip to Ireland?
One must surely pack a few of the necessary items such as a balaclava, a travel adaptor, a swimsuit, waterproof rain boots, GoPro, multiple memory cards, and earplugs when heading for vacations to Ireland.
Which are the best things to do in Dublin?
Here are some best experiences you can enjoy in Dublin: 1. Tour the Guinness Storehouse Factory 2. Unwind amid nature at St. Stephen’s Green 3. Shop till you drop at Dublin Flea Market 4. Stroll amidst landscaped gardens of Phoenix Park 5. Little Museum of Dublin 6. Play Gaelic Games
Which are the best attractions in Dublin?
1. Irish Museum of Modern Art 2. Dublin Castle 3. St. Patrick’s Cathedral 4. Ha’penny Bridge 5. National Botanic Gardens 6. Kilmainham Gaol 7. Phoenix Park
Which are some must-try Irish foods?
Colcannon, Irish Stew, Seafood Chowder, Galway Oysters, Shellfish, Bacon and Cabbage, Smoked salmon, etc. are some of the most delicious Irish dishes that you must try.
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10 Epic Reasons to Visit Ireland
Ireland, the land of rolling green fields, ancient castle ruins, and friendly locals. If you are reading this post, odds are you are planning a trip to visit the Emerald Isle. Or, perhaps you are on the fence.
You’re not entirely sure if a trip to Ireland is truly worth it?
Well, good thing you have stumbled upon this article because today we are going to discuss 10 epic reasons to visit Ireland. And lucky for you, I’m a local, so I know a thing or two about the places I like to call home.
1. The Cliffs
Ireland is famous for being home to the iconic Cliffs of Moher. These particular cliffs are visited by over 5 million people each year, they soar 214 meters above sea level. They are also the backdrop for many famous movies such as Harry Potter and the Princess Bride.
And, while the Cliffs of Moher are a must on any Ireland itinerary, there are many other beautiful cliffs in Ireland that are worth visiting. Including Croaghaun, the highest sea cliffs in Ireland. These cliffs are three times the size of the Cliffs of Moher and offer outstanding views of Achill Island.
Another notable set of cliffs in Ireland is none other than Slieve League in County Donegal. Slieve League is 601 meters tall and features a landscape that you’d expect to see on a Macbook screensaver.
2. The People
One of the main reasons you should consider planning a trip to Ireland is to experience a warm welcome from the local people. We Irish are known for our kind hospitality, sarcastic yet fun sense of humor, and friendly ability to make visitors smile.
Throughout your visit, find some time to hang out with some locals, whether that is by popping down to a lively pub, watching a game of GAA in Croke Park, or learning about the country’s history from a local tour guide.
No matter how you plan to interact with the Irish, one thing is for certain, that moment will be the most memorable of the trip.
PS: Don’t be afraid to stop to ask for advice. The Irish are more than happy to help, just be prepared, as we sure love to talk.
3. The Wild Atlantic Way
While Ireland is a rather small country, it holds a world record for something rather unexpected. Ireland is home to the longest uninterrupted coastal route in the World, the Wild Atlantic Way. If that’s not a good enough reason to visit Ireland then I don’t know what is.
If you are planning a trip to Ireland, it is important to plan a few days out west to truly experience the island’s glory. The Wild Atlantic is home to towering cliffs, soaring waves, and dramatic landscapes.
There are so many amazing things to do and see along Ireland’s iconic Wild Atlantic Way. Consider checking out the breathtaking beauty of the Ring of Kerry. Or dive a little deeper to experience some of Ireland’s hidden gems like a road trip through County Mayo or a day trip to the Aran Islands . No matter how you decide to spend your time on the Wild Atlantic, one thing is for certain, you will leave feeling mesmerized by its beauty.
4. The Culture
One thing that remains evident throughout Ireland is the country’s culture. Due to a troubled past, there was a time when the Irish people were not allowed to practice their beliefs, language, and traditions. However, the country’s history is the very reason the Irish take great pride in their Culture.
As you pass through Irish towns and villages, you will see the county flags flying high. This symbolizes the local’s pride in their hometown, it also demonstrates support for those representing their county in GAA (Traditional Irish sporting events/games).
The Irish also take great pride in their music and dance, this is particularly evident out west, where tourists can enjoy a pint in a pub while listening to traditional Irish music. Or, take part in a Celi dance.
While the majority of Irish people use the English language in their daily lives, Gaeilge still plays a major role in Irish Slang and humor (more on this later on in the article).
5. The Magical Castles & Ruins
Ireland is known as a magical place to visit due to the country’s rich history. Every couple of miles there is a new landmark, castle, or ruin to admire. Almost all of these landmarks are subject to Irish Myths and Legends and with every ruin comes a story.
For example, the iconic Blarney Castle in County Cork, beneath the castle lies a cave system, however, that is not the reason for the attraction’s popularity. At the very top of the ruin lies the Blarney Stone, according to Irish legend, those who kiss the stone will receive the gift of the gab.
Another popular ruin tucked away in Ireland’s hidden heartlands is none other than the Rock of Cashel. This is a fantastic place to admire the building’s structure and catch a glimpse of the rolling green fields in the background.
If you are looking to dive a little further off the beaten path consider taking a trip to County Waterford. There you will come across a small town called Lismore. The town of Lismore is like something out of a real-life fairytale, it features a large bridge, an elegant castle, and a small village.
6. The National Parks
One of the main reasons to visit Ireland is due to the Country’s immense beauty and dramatic landscapes, upon that lies 6 beautiful national parks. The national parks feature unspoiled land protected by the government and are used for the purpose of education and controlled recreational use.
Surrounding the parks lies beautiful hiking trails, lakes, and scenic backdrops. There is so much to see and do in Ireland, however, I recommend making some time to visit at least one of the following parks on your trip to the Emerald Isle.
- Connemara National Park
- Glenveagh National Park
- Killarney National Park
- Wild Nephin National Park
- Wicklow National Park
- The Burren National Park
- Ireland top things to do
- Hiking for beginners
- Hiking guide to UK’s 15 National Parks
7. Hidden Gems
Ireland has its fair share of famous attractions such as the Cliffs of Moher, Newgrange, and the Ring of Kerry. However, while visiting Ireland it is important to dive a little further off the beaten path. There are so many wonderful attractions that are often missed by the guide books.
For example, a short drive from the iconic cliffs of Moher lies Kilkee Cliffs, and while these cliffs are nowhere near as popular, they are still equally as beautiful.
Another striking hidden gem is the Slea Head drive in County Kerry, this driving route is often overshadowed by the famous Ring of Kerry. Along this drive, you will be presented with jaw-dropping coastal views, dramatic piers, and Star Wars filming locations.
Taking some time to visit some of the country’s lesser-known attractions will give you a real feel for the Emerald Isle. You will have the opportunity to experience Ireland’s beauty with fewer crowds.
- Austria’s hidden gems
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8. The Vibrant Cities & Towns
Another great reason to plan an Ireland Vacation is for the country’s vibrant Cities and Towns. Start the trip off by visiting the capital, Dublin.
Here, you can walk the streets of Temple bar, have a taste of the ‘black stuff’ in the Guinness Storehouse and learn about the city’s iconic past.
While a trip to Dublin is a must, Ireland is home to many other notable cities including Galway, Cork, and Kilkenny.
However, if you are looking to experience some true Irish culture then I suggest visiting some of the country’s most beautiful towns such as Kinsale in County Cork, Dingle in County Kerry, Doolin in County Clare, Westport in County Mayo, or Enniskerry in County Wicklow.
Here, you can kick back with some locals and enjoy some traditional Irish music.
9. Scenic Driving Routes
So, we have already mentioned the iconic Wild Atlantic Way, however, that is not the only scenic driving route in Ireland.
In fact, there are many beautiful driving passes scattered across the Country.
Take Conor Pass in Kerry as an example, this is the highest mountain pass in Ireland, and driving it is not for the faint-hearted as it is rather narrow in places. However, if you are up for the challenge, you will be presented with some of the most beautiful views in the Country.
Another notable driving passage in Ireland is Doolough Valley in County Mayo. Doolough has a rich history dating back to the Irish famine and it is a place that is sure to take your breath away.
We could stay all day noting some of the most beautiful drives in Ireland, however, I do want to mention one more, Sky Road in County Galway. This scenic drive is a looped route that offers insane views of Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Coastline. It is also a fantastic spot to catch the sunset.
10. The Irish Slang
We previously talked about English being the main language used in the day-to-day lives of Irish people. However, that does not mean the Irish language did not have a massive impact on how the Irish speak.
In fact, oftentimes, the Irish have their own way of communicating through slang which is difficult to understand for those visiting. And while this may sound like a reason not to visit, it is actually a really interesting concept.
Generally, the Irish will talk at a slower pace and use more international terms when speaking to those visiting from overseas. They are usually, however, more than happy to explain Irish phrases to those who are looking to learn. Here are a few worth noting before your trip:
- Craic: The term ‘Craic’ comes from the Irish language and translates directly to ‘fun’. Therefore, the term ‘Good Craic’ means good fun. This is a common phrase used by most Irish people in their day-to-day lives.
- Another common word used in Ireland is ‘grand’. The Irish like to use this word for everything and anything. You will often hear them say ‘Yes, that’s grand’ or ‘It’s a grand day today’. Ultimately, grand translates to ‘great, good, or alright’ depending on how it is used in a sentence.
- Another notable term would be ‘Your One’ or ‘Your Man’. This is in reference to a female or male to whom you don’t know the name of. For example, ‘What did your one say?’ translate to ‘what did the woman say?’.
- Another term that commonly confuses visitors is the words ‘deadly’ and ‘class’. The Irish generally use these words to describe something that is good. For example, ‘I had a deadly time last night’ translates to ‘I had a great time last night’. I must admit this one is a little confusing.
- Fun things to do in Northern Ireland
- Brief guide to County Antrim, Northern Ireland
33 Best Places to Visit in Ireland (2023 Edition)
By Author Keith O'Hara
Posted on Last updated: September 12, 2023
This guide to the best places to visit in Ireland has a little twist to it.
It only focuses on hidden gems and unique places to go in Ireland (many of which you’ll hopefully have never heard of!).
So, if you’re looking for info on the likes of the Dingle Peninsula and the Ring of Kerry , hop into our guide to the best things to do in Ireland .
If you want to see some of the hidden gems in Ireland that many tend to miss, you should find the below enlightening.
The best places to visit in Ireland
Click to enlarge map
Although the Giant’s Causeway and the Cliffs of Moher tend to be regarded as the ‘must see places in Ireland’, this is far from a one-or-two-horse island.
Below, you’ll find everywhere from haunted castles and hidden caves to some unusual places to go in Ireland (the map above gives you a sense of where each location is).
1. Bull Rock (Cork)
Photos via Shutterstock
The chances are you’ll have heard of Dursey Island in Cork (yep, it’s the island that’s accessible via a little cable car).
Dursey Island is situated at the southwestern tip of the magnificent Beara Peninsula in the even-more-mighty region of West Cork .
Off the western point of the island stands three rocks: Cow Rock, Bull Rock and Calf Rock. Bull Rock, pictured above, looks like something whipped right from a Pirates of the Caribbean movie.
If you’re looking for top places to visit in Ireland that’ll make you feel like you’ve stepped into a different world, get Bull Rock in Cork to the top of your ‘to-conquer’ list.
2. The Serpents Lair (Galway)
Although it’s frequently referred to as ‘the Serpent’s Lair’ and ‘the Wormhole’ the real name of our next spot is ‘Poll na bPeist’.
It’s located on Inis Mor – the largest of the three Aran Islands off the coast of Galway.
Now, while the finely-cut edges in the photos above look like they were cut with some enormous tool, the Wormhole was actually formed naturally.
Mad stuff altogether. Find out more about this natural phenomenon in our guide to Inis Mor’s Wormhole .
3. McDermott’s Castle (Roscommon)
You’ll find one of the more unique castles in Ireland in Roscommon on the beautiful Lough Key, not far from the town of Boyle.
Stretching around 10km across and forming a rough circular shape, Lough Key boasts 30 plus islands scattered throughout its chilly waters.
One of these islands is aptly named ‘Castle Island’ and it’s here that you’ll find the ruins of McDermott’s Castle.
Find out more about how to reach the castle along with the tragic tale behind it in our guide to McDermott’s Castle on Lough Key .
4. Doon Fort (Donegal)
The wonderfully unique Doon Fort in Donegal is a Western Stone Fort at the centre of Loughadoon, near Narin and Portnoo.
The fort has been linked with two families: the Breslin’s and the O’Boyle’s. It’s said that the Breslin’s occupied it from the 5th century, while the O’Boyle’s held it until it fell into disrepair.
Although Doon Fort is situated on private land, during the peak summer season the family that owns the land rent out small boats to those that fancy visiting it.
5. The Caves of Keash (Sligo)
Many of the best places to visit in Ireland, in our opinion, can be found on Ireland’s west coast.
However, few boast a past like the Caves of Keash in County Sligo . The caves here form an ancient passage tomb cluster that are believed to predate the Pyramids of Egypt by a staggering 500-800 years!
Geological inspections took place during the 1900s that revealed how ‘early man’ used to use and live in the caves at Keash.
Evidence has also revealed that bears, wolves, arctic lemming, and other wildlife have lived here in the past. There are 17 caves in total. Learn more about them in our guide on what to do in Sligo .
6. The Croaghaun Cliffs (Mayo)
A lot of people mistake the Slieve League Cliffs in Donegal as the highest sea cliffs in Ireland. The cliffs at Slieve League are the highest cliffs on the island of Ireland.
The highest cliffs in Ireland are the ones at Croaghaun , and can be found on Achill Island in Mayo where they stand at an impressive 688 metres (2,257 ft).
Interestingly enough, they’re also the third highest in Europe. The cliffs here can be found at the northern slope of Croaghaun mountain and can be admired if you hike around to the summit.
7. Dunmore Cave (Kilkenny)
Photos with thanks to Olivier Bruchez (CC BY-SA 2.0)
Dunmore Cave is another of the more unique places to visit in Ireland and you’ll find it tucked away in Kilkenny.
Some of the earliest mentions of this place date back to the 9th-century, where it’s referred to as one of the ‘Darkest places in Ireland’. Dunmore Cave has a history darker than its deepest depths.
Records from the 17th-century Annals of the Four Masters – a series of chronicles of medieval Irish history – state that in 928AD, more than 1,000 people were slain here by Vikings ( more info ).
8. Largy Waterfall (Donegal)
Now, although you’ll see Largy Waterfall appear in many guides to the best places to visit in Ireland, few of them provide the necessary warnings.
While Donegal’s secret waterfall looks like a scene from a Jurassic Park movie, it’s vital that you understand how to read the tides, as if you get stuck here when the tide comes in there’s no way out .
You’ll find this hidden gem on the Slieve League peninsula in Donegal. The waterfall is located in Largy, a village nestled between the towns of Killybegs and Kilcar.
Warning: Please read this guide before visiting – care really is necessary if visiting this place.
9. Ballaghbeama Gap (Kerry)
People often make the mistake of believing that the best drive in Kerry is the Ring of Kerry driving route . It’s an fantastic drive, don’t get me wrong, but there are plenty more drives worth doing in Kerry.
One of my favourite drives in Kerry takes a road through the wonderful Ballaghbeama Pass . The road here cuts across the mountains in the centre of the beautiful Iveragh Peninsula.
The road takes you along a wild scenic route where you’ll meet little traffic and plenty of sheep. You’ll also have the chance to soak up an endless number of mountain views.
10. The Marble Arch Caves (Fermanagh)
You’ll find the Marble Arch Caves in Fermanagh, in a borderless Park (the Marble Arch Geopark) which is located within both counties Cavan and Fermanagh.
The Marble Arch Caves are a series of natural limestone caves found near the little village of Florencecourt.
At around 11.5 kilometres in length, the caves form the longest known cave system in Northern Ireland.
Visit our guide to the best places to visit in Northern Ireland for more things to do in this neck of the woods.
11. Marsh’s Library (Dublin)
Photos by James Fennell via Failte Ireland
Many people that visit Dublin tend to visit one library – the Long Room in Trinity College . However, there’s another constantly missed library that’s just as central and just as, if not more, historic.
You’ll find Marsh’s Library , the oldest library in Ireland, tucked away behind St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin, where it has been since 1707.
Marsh’s holds a staggering 25,000 books and over 300 manuscripts. If you visit, keep an eye out for bullet holes in the bookcases, which were made during the Easter Rising .
If you’re wondering where to visit in Ireland that most tourists tend to miss, carve out some time for Marsh’s.
12. The Swiss Cottage (Tipperary)
Photos via Failte Ireland
Built during the early 1800s by a chap called Richard Butler, the Swiss Cottage in Tipperary was originally part of Lord and Lady Cahir’s estate and was used to entertain guests.
The cottage was carefully restored in 1985, ensuring that its unusual and quirky features remained intact.
A visit to the Swiss Cottage is perfectly paired with a trip to the wonderful Cahir Castle.
You can stroll along the riverside to the Swiss Cottage from the castle in about 45 minutes.
13. Leap Castle (Offaly)
Photos by Gareth McCormack/garethmccormack.com via Failte Ireland
One of the must see places in Ireland for visiting ghost hunters is the haunted Leap Castle near Roscrea in Coolderry.
The castle here is said to be the most haunted in Ireland, with TV shows like Most Haunted filmed here over the years. According to legend, a lady in red prowls the castle with a silver blade after dark.
Another reason Leap Castle is said to be haunted is due to the discovery of a secret dungeon that contained hundreds of human skeletons.
It’s believed that the O’Carrolls would drop people through a trap door onto spikes laid out in the dungeon below.
14. Spike Island (Cobh)
Photos cCourtesy Spike Island Management via Tourism Ireland
The little town of Cobh is considered to be one of the best places to visit in Ireland by many of the tourists we chat to.
However, few make the short ferry ride to nearby Spike Island . Over the past 1,300 years, the Island has played host to a Monastery, a 24-acre Fortress and the largest convict depot in the world.
At one stage, the Island housed convicts prior to penal transportation. This is where the nickname ‘Ireland’s Alcatraz’ originated.
15. The Lost Valley (Mayo)
Although the Lost Valley in Mayo is still a hidden gem, of sorts, I can see it becoming one of the top places to visit in Ireland in the coming years.
If you haven’t come across it, the Lost Valley is a part of Mayo that has remained untouched since the villagers who lived there were evicted during the Great Famine.
The valley is now privately owned by the Bourke family. Before owning it, they were employed by a landlord to farm it and, interestingly enough, before that they were one of the families evicted.
Find out loads more about the lost valley in our guide to the best things to do in Mayo in 2023.
16. The Dark Sky Reserve (Kerry)
Photo left: Valerie O’Sullivan. Others: Tom Archer (Failte Ireland)
So, there’s a gorgeous little corner of Kerry that is a designated International Dark Sky Reserve and one of only 3 Gold Tier Reserves on the planet.
This means that on a clear night the sky in this part of Kerry (known as the Kerry Dark Sky Reserve ) is scattered with astronomical sights that you can admire with the naked eye.
Now, although this has been on a bucket list of best places to visit in Ireland that I’ve been attempting to tick off for a while, every time I’ve visited the sky has been packed with clouds.
Next time, definitely… OK hopefully …
17. Priest’s Leap (Cork)
The pictures above give you a little insight into what you can expect if you spin along the Priest’s Leap .
This drive (or cycle) takes you through one of the most beautiful places to visit in Ireland. Those that spin along this road will be taken on a spectacular trip over Ireland’s highest mountain pass.
You can kick-start the spin in Bonane in Kerry and you’ll be brought to your finish point in Coomhola in Cork.
Priest’s Leap is a steep, bendy and narrow mountain road that treats those that take it to magnificent mountain and wild landscape views.
Warning: If you’re driving in Ireland for the first time, avoid this place. The road is extremely narrow. Avoid altogether in poor weather.
18. The Cloughmore Stone (Down)
© Tourism Ireland photographed by Brian Morrison
You’ll find the Cloughmore Stone in Kilbroney Park near Rostrevor in County Down – a place that’s also home to a viewing point called ‘Kodak Corner’.
Referred to locally as the ‘big stone’, the Cloughmore Stone is a massive granite boulder weighing in at around 50 tonnes.
It’s finely perched atop the mountainside at a height of almost 1,000 feet and it offers mighty views out over Carlingford Lough and the Mourne Mountains .
Although you’ll rarely see this one in guides to the best places to visit in Ireland, it, and much of County Down, never fails to disappoint.
19. Gougane Barra (Cork)
There are certain places in Ireland that tend to rock you a little. You’ll have seen pictures or videos while you were planning your trip and you’ll have built an image of the place in your head.
But it just doesn’t prepare you for the real thing. The sights, smells and sounds that immerse you when you visit Gougane Barra in Cork have the ability to stop you in your tracks.
Places in Ireland like Gougane Barra imprint themselves upon your mind. The large valley and lake at Gougane Barra are enveloped by the rugged rock face of the mountains, which rise up to an impressive 370 metres.
20. The Shannon Pot (Cavan)
The Shannon Pot in Cavan is where the mighty Shannon River begins. There’s a lovely bit of Irish folklore behind how the Shannon Pot first started.
According to legend, it’s all linked to the legendary Finn MacCool. The story goes that Síonnan, the daughter of a chap called Lodan, came to the Shannon Pot to search for the Salmon of Wisdom.
When the great salmon noticed her, it was furious. It was so enraged, in fact, that it caused the pool to overflow. As the water surged dangerously, Síonnan became trapped and drowned.
The surge of water caused the River Shannon to form and the river still bears Síonnan’s name to this day.
21. Crag Cave (Kerry)
If you’re looking for things to do in Kerry when it’s pouring down, get yourself to Crag Cave. This cave here was discovered by divers in 1983 and it’s thought to be a whopping 1 million+ years old.
Crag Cave is an ancient fossil system that was once filled to the brim with water, which eroded the rock into a beautiful maze of tunnels and chambers.
It’s easy to visit Kerry and to stick to the old reliables – if you’re planning a visit, try and carve in some time for the less-visited (but no less impressive) attractions, like Crag.
22. The Knockmealdown Mountains (Tipperary)
The Knockmealdown Mountains border counties Tipperary and Waterford. While they’re a fine spot for a weekend adventure, what makes them unique?
Every year, between May and June, sections of the mountain are covered in a beautiful blanket of pink and purple rhododendrons
There are several trails, a couple of which are up there with the best hikes in Ireland , that you can head off on here, peaking at Knockmealdown itself and the famous Sugarloaf mountain.
23. Benwee Head (Mayo)
Photo left + bottom right: Gareth McCormack. Top right: Anne-Marie Flynn (via Failte Ireland)
If you’re wondering where to go in Ireland to escape the crowds, head for North Mayo along the Wild Atlantic Way .
Many people completely miss the North Mayo coastline when exploring Ireland. Which is a shame, as the coastline here is some of the most rugged that Ireland has to offer.
It’s also home to the magnificent Benwee Head . You can nearly hear the whistle of the wind and the crash of the waves from the photos above.
There’s a 5-hour loop walk that you can head off on here that follows a bog trail and takes in cliffs, ocean, and incredible coastal views.
24. The Kilbaha Cliffs (Clare)
The cliffs near Loop Head Lighthouse are, in my opinion, one of the best places to visit in Ireland.
Few visit the spectacular cliffs at Kilbha. And that’s what makes them that little bit more special. I’ve been 5 or 6 times and it’s rare that you’ll ever meet more than a handful of people.
Places like the cliffs at Kilbaha are up there with the best places to see in Ireland. Visitor numbers mean nothing in the grand scheme of things.
It’s all about the impact the scenery has on you. And the cliffs here pack a big aul punch.
25. Kinnagoe Bay (Donegal)
Kinnagoe Bay in Donegal is one of the most beautiful beaches in Ireland . Now, naturally enough it doesn’t always look like it does in the photos above.
However, I’ve been here on a dull winters day and it was still excellent. If you want to get the view seen above, you’ll find a spot to safely pull in on the road above.
If you’re debating visiting this part of Ireland (which you definitely should), dive into our guide to the best Donegal attractions to whack onto you ‘to-see-sharpish’ list.
26. Sruth in Aghaidh an Aird (Sligo)
Our next spot is one of the top places to visit in Ireland when it’s raining. Why? Well, you can only see this waterfall when it’s lashing rain, or right after heavy rainfall.
At a whopping 150m, Sruth in Aghaidh an Aird (also known to as ‘the Devil’s Chimney’ online) is Ireland’s highest waterfall.
There’s a 45-minute moderately strenuous walk that’ll take you up to see it in action. See more of this place in our guide to the best things to do in Sligo .
27. Coumshingaun Lough (Waterford)
We tend to get a lot of emails from tourists asking where to go in Ireland for the best views. One of the places that I tend to recommend first is Coumshingaun in County Waterford.
It’s on the Coumshingaun Lake Walk that you’ll see the view in the photo above all for yourself. There are a few different walks that you can do here.
The full walk takes between 4 and 6 hours to complete. You can find more info on the walk in our guide to things to do in Waterford .
28. Down Cathedral (Down)
You’ll find Down Cathedral standing proudly on the Hill of Down where it overlooks the historic town of Downpatrick.
Down Cathedral is easily one of the best places to see in Ireland for those of you looking to visit sites that are heavily linked with St. Patrick .
It’s here, in the Cathedral’s grounds, that St. Patrick, Ireland’s Patron Saint, is buried. Although the stone that marks his grave wasn’t erected until 1900, it’s thought that St. Patrick died in 461.
29. Islands galore (multiple)
Photos by Chris Hill via Tourism Ireland
There’s plenty of islands off the coast of Ireland and, aside from the likes of Skellig Michael and the Aran Islands, many tend to get overlooked.
Garnish Island in Cork and Arranmore Island in Donegal are two good options if you’re looking for a day trip.
However, the likes of Bere Island (Cork), Inishturk Island (Mayo) and the Saltee Islands (Wexford) are all places in Ireland worth adding to your to-visit list.
30. Kinbane Castle (Antrim)
You may have read about Kinbane Castle in our guide to the most unique castles in Northern Ireland .
Kinbane Castle was built on a small rock promontory known as Kinbane Head on the Antrim coast in 1547. The promontory extends out into the sea, making the location delightfully dramatic.
Those that visit can expect Isolated ruins, jagged cliffs and gorgeous coastal scenery. Make sure to visit if you’re driving the Causeway Coastal Route .
31. The Spire of Lloyd (Meath)
Randomly enough, the 30m (100ft) Spire of Lloyd is actually an inland lighthouse that can be found on the summit of the Commons of Lloyd in County Meath.
It’s said that the spire was used to view horse racing and hunting during the 19th century. Inside the Spire, you’ll find a 164-step spiral staircase that leads to the top.
On a clear day, you’ll be treated to spectacular views of the surrounding countryside out as far as the Mountains of Mourne in County Down.
32. Scrabo Tower (Down)
Scrabo Tower in Newtownards in Down was built in the 19th century and it’s what we call a ‘Folly’.
A ‘Folly’ is a structure that has been built mainly for decoration, but its design suggests that it has some other grand purpose.
You’ll find it in Scrabo Country Park and those that climb the hill will be treated to incredible views over Strangford Lough and the surrounding countryside.
33. The tourist favourites
I’m updating this guide after we’ve had about 20 moany emails saying something along the lines of, ‘You can’t have a guide to the best places to visit in Ireland and not mention X, Y, Z etc…’ .
If you were debating firing on one of those emails, too, pleeeease… don’t. The idea behind this articles was to give you a sense of where to go in Ireland to see some unique attractions.
However, I’ll list off some popular places to go in Ireland for those of you looking for tourist favourites:
- Valentia Island
- The Kerry Cliffs
- Croagh Patrick
- Killarney National Park
- Connemara National Park
What unique places to go in Ireland have we missed?
Although we’ve coined this as a guide to the best places to visit in Ireland, I have no doubt that we’ve missed some great ones.
If there are any unique places to go in Ireland that you’d like to recommend, shout in the comments section!
FAQs about where to go in Ireland
We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from ‘What are some funky places to see in Ireland during winter?’ to ‘Where to go in Ireland for dark history?’.
In the section below, we’ve popped in the most FAQs that we’ve received about the best places to visit in Ireland. If you have a question that we haven’t tackled, ask away in the comments section below.
Where should tourists go in Ireland?
This is an almost impossible one to answer as a heap of factors come into play. Take your arrival point, first, and then determine your ‘must-dos’. From there, plot a route that suits you!
What are the best places to visit in Ireland?
If you want the tourist favourites, the Cliffs of Moher and Killarney tend to top many lists. For unique escapes, aim for West Cork, the North Mayo Coast or one of Ireland’s islands.
Keith O’Hara has lived in Ireland for 34 years and has spent most of the last 10 years creating what is now The Irish Road Trip guide. Over the years, the website has published thousands of meticulously researched Ireland travel guides, welcoming 30 million+ visitors along the way. In 2022, the Irish Road Trip team published the world’s largest collection of Irish Road Trip itineraries. Keith lives in Dublin with his dog Toby and finds writing in the 3rd person minus craic altogether.
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Tuesday 3rd of May 2022
This is by far the best blog I've read of all the blogs about Ireland. Very informative and so many new hidden spots. Wow! I've never heard of most of these places (apart from the popular ones of course!). Reading this has made the urge in me to explore the country even more stronger. I'm very inspired. Thank you Keith. :)
Tuesday 26th of April 2022
Bective Abbey a great place to visit never to many people there
Saturday 12th of February 2022
Thanks Keith, I loved reading your guide and we will make sure to go to some of the places you recommended during our next staycation!!
Thursday 16th of December 2021
This has been my favorite post to read in my researching of Ireland. Thanks so much!
Wednesday 21st of April 2021
That's an incredible list! Bull Rock and the steps on Arranmore Island look insane :O
16 Things to Know Before Visiting Ireland
Are you planning your trip to Ireland? Read our travel guide to find everything you should know before visiting Ireland for the first time.
Ireland is a beautiful country and a perfect travel destination . It's a very safe and welcoming European island packed with incredible attractions.
Simply put, it's an amazing place for vacation and well worth taking the time to explore.
It has green postcard-like scenery, medieval castles, haunted abbeys, massive cliffs, coastal drives, tons of pubs, and friendly locals.
It's one of the easiest countries to visit (not just in Europe), a fact that every traveler appreciates regardless of their experience.
Still, there are a few key things you should know before going to Ireland.
So if you're planning a visit to Ireland, you've come to the right place. Let's dive into it.
Ireland and Northern Ireland
Even if geography wasn't your favorite subject in high school, we bet you heard there are two countries with remarkably similar names.
Ireland and Northern Ireland.
In a nutshell, they are separate countries with different governance (one of the differences is that Ireland has a president, while Northern Ireland's head of state is a king or queen) and currency on the same island.
So it's pretty obvious that there is a difference between Ireland and Northern Ireland.
The Republic of Ireland, or shortly Ireland, covers the majority of the island.
Ireland is a sovereign republic and a member of the European Union.
Its currency is Euro (€1 or EUR), its official languages are English and Irish, and Dublin is its capital city.
Northern Ireland sits in the northeast corner, is much smaller, and is part of the United Kingdom.
The currency in Northern Ireland is Pound Sterling (£1 or GPB), the official language is English, and the capital city is Belfast.
As this is a post about Ireland, we'll mostly talk about the Republic of Ireland unless mentioned otherwise.
From a tourist point of view, both countries offer a very similar travel experience.
In fact, even after Brexit, there is still no physical border between Ireland and Northern Ireland.
Therefore, traveling between both countries is still easy as ever.
Interestingly enough, the first major difference you will spot once you leave Ireland is that the road signs are no longer bilingual (Irish and English) and that Northern Ireland uses miles instead of kilometers per hour.
Due to their size difference, you will obviously need more days for Ireland, as there is simply so much more to see and do.
Don't take us wrong here. Northern Ireland has many amazing sites as well.
Lastly, while both countries use different currencies, you won't still need to withdraw any larger amounts of money as you can pay easily by credit card for pretty much anything.
Ireland is Expensive
Hands down, Ireland is one of the most expensive countries in Europe.
Truth be told, Europe is generally not the most budget-friendly destination you can find on the globe.
Still, the cost of travel in Ireland is among the highest. Interestingly enough, the economic rise of Ireland is quite recent, and the entire Celtic Tiger miracle happened between 1995 and 2000.
Unfortunately, one of the highest costs of traveling to Ireland is lodging. Even a single bed in a dormitory is not cheap, especially in major cities.
And if you don't want to share a room with 15 other random strangers, then you should be prepared that accommodation will take a big bite out of your vacation budget.
The good news is that there are always ways to cut down your expenses.
The amount of money you should save for travel will vary depending on your travel style , trip duration, and which sights you want to see.
Just be prepared that visiting Ireland on a budget might be more challenging than in other destinations.
The Republic of Ireland is a fairly young state, as it gained its independence from the U.K. on the 21st of January, 1919.
Even though it might seem not much happened in this short period, the opposite is true.
And the events that took place in this relatively short span of time were often very turbulent.
Furthermore, the history of Ireland goes way back beyond this date.
In fact, the first settlers inhabited Ireland around 10.000 BC, and there is even earlier evidence of human presence.
From early Stone Age farmers, the early Christian period, the Viking era, and the Norman era to the union with Great Britain to the Great Famine, War of Independence, and Civil War, Irish history is packed with challenging events and periods.
By the way, due to poor living conditions during the Great Famine caused by potato crop failure, Ireland was hit by a strong emigration wave.
It's estimated that about a million people died and another million emigrated in the mid-1800s.
Today, many Americans come to Ireland solely to look for their Irish ancestry.
Obviously, there is so much more to the history of Ireland, and it only makes sense to learn some of the most important events to better understand the country.
By the way, Ireland has some of the most impressive prehistoric attractions in the world.
In places such as Carrowmore , Bru na Boinne , Poulnabrone Dolmen , or Queen Maeve's Tomb , you can expect stone circles, passages, cemeteries, tombs, and much more.
Simply put, the Irish countryside is packed with megalithic sites and neolithic history that will leave you in awe.
Irish Castles and Abbeys
If Ireland has one thing in common with Czechia , it's that there are many castles scattered around the country.
And many of them are definitely worth visiting.
In fact, the list is pretty long, and we had a hard time deciding which ones to include in our Ireland itinerary and which ones we should skip.
The Irish castles are quite different from the ones we have in our home country, so we tried to explore as many of them as possible.
The castles vary from abandoned ruins to well-preserved medieval castles, city forts, or beautifully restored romantic residences.
You can often read that Ireland has thousands of castles, but truth be told, the Irish definition of the word castle is quite loose, and most of them are just smaller structures.
Anyway, what are some of the must-visit castles in Ireland ?
To name a few, Rock of Cashel , Cahir Castle , Kilkenny Castle , Bunratty Castle , and Donegal Castle are among the must-see places that should be on your list.
To make matters worse, Ireland also has many abbeys that will make the planning part even harder.
The difference might not be obvious at first sight, but abbeys are monasteries used for religious purposes, while castles were mostly built to defend a certain area.
Once again, you can visit places varying from a very basic-looking abbey in Glendalough (but historically very important) to Muckross Abbey , set in stunning gardens, or charming Kylemore Abbey .
For its rich and vibrant greenery that covers neverending rolling hills on the island in the Atlantic Ocean, Ireland was nicknamed Emerald Isle.
We believe the name is quite self-explanatory.
Emeralds are rare stones that have a vibrant green color making the comparison very accurate.
Furthermore, Ireland is the third largest island in Europe after Great Britain and Iceland. Voila! The nickname was born.
The story of the island's name origin goes beyond this easy explanation.
In 1895, a Belfast-born physician and writer William Drennan used this fitting term for the first time in his poem When Erin First Roset.
Mind you, the Irish scenery is much more diverse, and it's not just green.
You will find here also mountains, caves, or almost alien places such as Burren National Park .
While the majority of people in Ireland speak English, it's not the only language you will hear when visiting this beautiful country.
English, together with Irish Gaelic, are the official languages of Ireland.
However, only a few percent of the population actually speaks Irish Gaelic daily.
Therefore, you won't need to bring an Irish dictionary with you. Still, a far greater number of locals say that they speak and understand Irish.
And due to the heavy accents of locals in certain areas, as non-native speakers, we always had trouble identifying whether they still spoke English or had already changed to Irish.
As we've mentioned earlier, some road signs are bilingual in Ireland, making them a bit more difficult to read as there is simply more information on them.
Ireland is a perfect country for a road trip. It's relatively compact, so you can visit many places even if you don't have that much time.
Moreover, the scenery along the way is absolutely breathtaking.
When it comes to the best scenic drives in the world, Wild Atlantic Way has to be somewhere at the top of the list.
It really is a dream come true for every road-tripper.
Stretching for over 2500 kilometers along Ireland's west coast, it includes some of the most famous places in the country.
To name a few, the Ring of Kerry , Dingle Peninsula , and Beara Peninsula are some of the finest places you can explore on this scenic route.
Luckily, renting a car in Ireland is very easy.
And if you make a reservation in advance, it might not be as expensive as you would expect.
When going on a road trip, we always use Rentalcars.com , a reliable site for booking a rental car in advance.
Driving in Ireland
We've already mentioned above that having a car on your trip around Ireland will be a huge advantage.
There are a few things you should know about driving in Ireland before you go.
Still, driving on the left will be the biggest difference.
For people coming to Ireland from North America or Continental Europe, driving on the left side of the road might be a big factor in deciding whether to rent a car or not.
It might take some time to get used to it, especially if you'll be driving on the left for the first time in your life or if you're not a confident driver.
We can't fail to mention that the Irish rural roads are very narrow once you leave the national roads and highways, making the overall driving experience even more immersive.
The roads are also very narrow in certain town areas, especially in the small ones such as Cobh or Kinsale .
The rule of thumb is to drive defensively and pay attention to your surroundings.
Always remind yourself to keep left (especially after short breaks).
Renting a car with an automatic transmission will make driving easier and help you tackle every Irish road.
Ireland is one of the safest countries in the world to visit, even for solo (female) travelers or families with kids.
Nevertheless, there are still some risks and dangers to watch out for. Wherever tourists are, opportunist thefts exist.
For starters, make sure to read our tips on staying safe in Ireland .
Obviously, if you plan to drive around Ireland, don't leave your valuables in your car.
In big cities, secure your belongings and watch out for pickpockets in crowded tourist areas.
In fact, we always recommend leaving your jewelry (etc.) at home and bringing only necessary items for your vacation, regardless of the destination.
Another big topic is outdoor safety. Ireland is home to some of the most beautiful cliffs we've ever seen, such as Slieve League , Fogher Cliffs , Kerry Cliffs , or Old Head of Kinsale .
But many of these sites lack fences, making the cliff walks dangerous if you get too close to the edge.
There is one simple rule. Never go near the edge!
The cliffs can collapse anytime, and the strong winds can throw you off balance.
We don't have to mention that we should have adequate gear for hiking in the mountains.
If you go alone, always make sure that someone knows your plans.
We never leave home without travel insurance that was designed to cover our expenses if something goes wrong during the trip.
Travel insurance protects against theft, flight delays, injury, illness, cancellations, and much more.
World Nomads provides travel insurance for travelers to cover their trip essentials, including sports and adventure activities.
SafetyWing is affordable travel insurance for backpackers, long-term travelers, and digital nomads.
Travel smarter and safer!
One of the most common things you will learn from every travel guide about Irish weather is that it's unpredictable.
And that you should pack for any type of weather when visiting Ireland.
However, the most frequent information that will stick in your mind is that the Emerald Isle receives a lot of rain troughout the year.
After all, the ubiquitous green island theme needs a source of its power.
Once you acquire this knowledge, the only thing you need to do is prepare yourself mentally for the inevitable, as the chances for a rain-free vacation are slim.
While the information is not far from the truth, fortunately, it doesn't rain all the time. At least, that was our experience.
Moreover, we both agreed that some places, such as the Blarney Castle or Slea Head Drive , we visited during the rain still kept their magic.
Honestly, the combination of lush greenery all around us, combined with the dark clouds, definitely had its charm, at least if you don't mind the gloomy atmosphere.
Furthermore, Ireland has a mild climate making it an all year round destination.
Sure, summer is the best time to visit Ireland as it receives warm temperatures and sunny days. But even that's not guaranteed.
So that gives you plenty of flexibility to explore the Emerald Isle outside the peak season.
Just make sure to know what to pack for Ireland to have a more enjoyable vacation when visiting the island in the off-season.
The Story of Titanic
Did you know that the most iconic ship in the world had its origin in Ireland?
While everyone knows the tragic story of Titanic's maiden voyage from Europe to New York in the United States, your memory of the ship's origin might be a bit murky.
Built at the beginning of the 20th century (from 1909 to 1912), RMS Titanic was British, even though the owner was John Pierpont Morgan, an American financier and banker from Connecticut.
However, the ship itself was built at the Harland and Wolff shipyards in Belfast, Northern Ireland.
If you're visiting both countries on your trip, make sure to visit Titanic Belfast, one of the best museums we've ever visited.
And if not, go and visit the town of Cobh near Cork .
Originally named Queenstown in honor of the arrival of Queen Victoria, this harbor town in County Cork was the final port of call before sinking a few days later.
Today, it's home to another excellent museum that is currently located at the original White Star Line ticket office.
Guinness beer, together with Irish whiskey, very well may be among the top things Ireland is known for.
Coming from a beer country ourselves, we know that this is a very serious topic.
Guinness is the national beer of Ireland and probably one of the most iconic drinks in the world.
And during your journey across Ireland, you won't find many pubs without this dry stout on a tap.
Even if you don't drink alcohol, you should at least head to a local pub to find out what the fuss about Irish pubs is about.
t's one of the best places for socializing and learning the meaning of the Irish word 'craic.'
As there are only a few Irish pubs in Czechia , this was definitely a fun experience for us.
It might be a bit strange to have two alcohol-related topics in an article about things to know about Ireland.
It might be saying something about Ireland. Or it might be saying something about us.
As we want to keep our face straight, we'll just say it's definitely the first option.
Anyway. Ireland has a reputation for being one of the top producers of whiskey in the world, so it's a perfect place to learn the story of the water of life (Uisce Betha in Gaelic).
Even though now the Irish whiskey tours are one of the must-do activities, many distilleries were closed in the early 1900s.
Only recently, the entire industry has seen a massive resurgence in popularity.
Therefore, now is a great time to learn more about traditional Irish whiskey and its history.
We don't have to mention that a bit of modest whiskey tasting goes hand in hand with all that listening.
Many whiskey distilleries are scattered around the island, and some even offer tours.
So, what are some of the best distilleries in Ireland that you can visit on tour?
Bushmills, Tullamore, Jameson, Kilbeggan, or Dingle should definitely be on your list.
By the way, we visited Teeling Whiskey Distillery in Dublin, and it was a great experience.
Ireland's dramatic scenery offers a perfect setting for many movie scenes.
Recently, thanks to the Star Wars phenomenon, some of Ireland's locations have become more popular than ever.
If the Force is strong with you, then you should not skip places such as Malin Head , Loop Head, Mizen Head , Kilkee Cliffs, or Dunmore Head .
Still, the most famous filming location became the dramatic island of Skellig Michael on the Skellig Ring , introduced in Star Wars: The Force Awakens as Luke Skywalker's final sanctuary.
Still, Ireland offers much more in this department.
For instance, the famous D-Day landings in Steven Spielberg's award-winning movie Saving Private Ryan were filmed on Curracloe Beach near Wexford.
By the way, this is one of the most popular beaches in Ireland for bathing.
If you've paid attention during the Horcrux Cave scene in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, then you might have recognized the majestic Cliffs of Moher .
A romantic movie, P.S. I Love You, was filmed in County Wicklow and featured Glendalough , Wicklow Mountains , or the Sally Gap .
Even most scenes from Braveheart, a movie that loosely retells the story of William Wallace, the leader of the First War of Scottish Independence, were filmed in Ireland's County Meath near Dublin.
Game of Thrones fans should also visit Northern Ireland.
The island's northeast corner features some of this popular TV show's most famous filming locations.
Ballintoy Harbor, Castle Ward, The Dark Hedges, Tollymore Forest, Downhill Beach, or Larrybane are among the most favorite places that you should not skip.
If you're a movie fan who loves visiting iconic movie locations, then you won't get bored when road-tripping the entire island.
So, is it safe to drink tap water in Ireland? The short answer is yes unless stated otherwise.
Ireland has plenty of water, and there is no need to get it from the grocery store.
Cutting down on single-use plastic with a refillable water bottle is very easy in Ireland.
When road-tripping the countryside, make sure to bring enough water for the entire day, as being a responsible traveler is more fun if you're not dehydrated.
If you want to get the most out of your trip to Ireland, you need to spend at least a few days in the countryside. Don't get us wrong.
Do not skip the charming cities of Dublin, Galway, or Cork, as they're fun to explore and offer plenty of things to do and see.
But coming to Ireland without ever stepping into its countryside would be a completely missed opportunity to see the Emerald Isle in its full glory.
No matter if you visit County Wicklow , County Kerry , or County Galway , you will have a blast.
The Irish countryside is exactly as you know it from the postcards or movies.
Green, full of farms and grazing sheep, stunning scenic drives, friendly people, and a laidback atmosphere.
It's so different from the bustling cities that you might be wondering whether you're still in the same country or teleported somewhere else.
The Irish countryside is also full of off-the-beaten-path places that might not be as flashy as must-see sites, but they can be explored without crowds.
Clare , Sligo, and especially Donegal counties were among our favorite areas full of hidden gems.
Here you can find links to all the travel resources we use and which you might find helpful when planning your next holiday.
Accommodation : When looking for accommodation, we usually search hotels via Booking.com or Hostelworld .
Tours : Although we love to travel independently, some places are better to visit with a guided tour.
We prefer GetYourGuide for its easy-to-use interface and solid reputation. Another great alternative is Viator .
Rental Cars : When going on a road trip, we always use Rentalcars.com , a reliable site for booking a rental car in advance.
Flight Tickets : When looking for flight tickets, you can search Skyscanner to find the best price.
Travel Insurance : World Nomads and SafetyWing cover against risks of travel.