25 Best Places to Visit in Ireland
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Coming up with a shortlist of the best places to visit in Ireland isn’t as easy as you might think. It may surprise you to learn that the list will be anything but short!
The Emerald Isle is a fascinating country with roots of Celtic, Viking and Anglo-Norman cultures deeply embedded and intertwined throughout its incredible history. With beautiful landscapes, charming locals and a furious passion for music and partying, the international love affair with Ireland is easy to understand.
In an island so small, some may think there is little to see or do. However, those who do venture here will discover there are plenty of hidden gems. Whether you’re a nature lover or an adrenaline junkie, a history buff or an Irish music fan, there’s something here for everyone.
The following locations have been laid out in four categories to show what Ireland really has to offer. Sure, there is some overlap in the categories, but that’s to be expected! Who can deny that Killarney is a great night out and has jaw-dropping scenery?
You can be sure that these are the best places to see in Ireland no matter what you’re after. If all you want is a good time, then you can’t go wrong with any one of them! Let’s check them out!
Best Places to Visit in Ireland for Amazing Scenery
It’s quite a picture. Come smell lush green grass, walk through meandering country lanes, sit on old brick walls and gape at craggy mountainsides. Ponder at curious sheep and flocks of wild birds. Listen to the thrashing waves of the Atlantic Ocean. Ireland is not so much an assault on the senses, but a subtle form of mind abduction. It simply exudes its rugged natural beauty to infiltrate your soul and take you captive. From top to bottom, the island is jam-packed with places that will make you constantly want to stop your car for a photograph. Here are the ones you can’t miss.
1. Causeway Coast
The Giant’s Causeway has long been a top attraction on the tourist trail of Ireland. Nestled on the Antrim Coast, the one and only UNESCO Heritage site in Northern Ireland continues to lure visitors from around the globe who come to marvel at the incredible puzzle-like formation of interlocking rocks.
Many people subscribe to the scientific theory that the Giant’s Causeway is the result of millions of years of volcanic activity. Others, with an imaginative spirit, prefer the legend of the Irish giant, Finn McCool, who allegedly built it so he could reach his Scottish rival Benandonner.
While the striking Causeway Coastal Route was already a site to behold, the region has seen a boom in tourism in recent years thanks to more fantasy. The TV series behemoth Game of Thrones is filmed around these parts, so now many fans make the journey from far and wide to get perfect Instagram images in iconic locations from the show. The Dark Hedges area along the Bregagh Road is one of the most admired sites. When you see its haunting atmospheric beauty in person, you’ll understand why.
The popular Carrick-a-rede Rope Bridge is a great place to visit in Ireland to capture the beauty of the Irish coastline. Along the Causeway Coast you can visit historic sites such as Dunluce Castle and enjoy wonderful scenery along Ballintoy and Murlough Bay. Indeed there are many highlights in an area that Lonely Planet has named the best region in the world to travel in 2018.
2. Cliffs of Moher
Silver-screen stardust and the magic of Ireland meet once again at the magnificent Cliffs of Moher. These extraordinary sheers are featured in some spectacular scenes in the 2009 movie adaptation of J.K. Rowling’s ‘Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince’.
The Cliffs of Moher drop into the ocean at the edge of The Burren region – another impressive feat of nature, which is a large stretch of rocky, karst land whose barren landscape is unlike any other area in Ireland.
Indeed, the combination of The Burren and The Cliffs may well make the area a good place to visit in Ireland to appreciate nature’s rugged beauty.
The Cliffs stretch eight kilometers along the western coast of County Clare. Rising to over 700 feet, they provide a vantage point from which visitors can see the Aran Islands in Galway Bay.
Harry Potter was not the first movie to be shot here, nor will it be the last, as seeing this incredible location up close will let you see why it is one of the best places to go in Ireland for photographers and filmmakers alike.
Escape the chaos of city life here in one of the most charming places in Ireland. Irish traditions remain strong here with many of the residents of Connemara using Irish as their first language rather than English.
Connemara has captured international attention for many years with its open, lush landscape encapsulating Ireland like no other place can. Remote and rural, the area offers outdoor adventures in a serene setting, giving visitors the chance to indulge in hiking, fishing and horse riding among other activities around the Twelve Bens mountain range.
The crown jewel for tourists to the region is undoubtedly the fabulous Kylemore Abbey, well-known for its heartbreaking tale. A renowned English surgeon from a wealthy Manchester family bought the site of a lodge in the area and constructed a glorious castle for his wife Margaret. It was to be their family nest, but shortly after its completion Margaret fell ill and died. Crushed, Mitchell continued to live at the Abbey with his young family until he too passed and could be buried on the grounds of Abbey next to his wife.
In later years, the Abbey was run by Benedictine nuns and used as a girls’ boarding school until its closure in 2010. Making a trip here when in Connemara is essential!
National Geographic once described the Dingle Peninsula as “the most beautiful place on Earth”; high praise indeed for such a humble little place on the far southwest corner of the Emerald Isle. Visitors to Dingle surely won’t be disappointed by the spectacular views and a scenic drive around the coast of Kerry. Should you feel a little more daring, a venture onto the water may well be rewarded with a glimpse of the famous dolphin, Fungi, the darling of Dingle.
Like many little villages in Ireland, the quaint pubs are a vibrant cauldron of friendly locals, great ale and foot-tapping fiddle music. What is extra special about Dingle is the sumptuous fresh catch served up by many chefs. You might not get better fish anywhere else in Ireland!
5. Malin Head
At the most northern tip of the Emerald Isle is Malin Head. Surrounded by the wild waters of the Atlantic, this rugged landscape on the Inishowen peninsula is best known for its fantastic coastal scenery and birdlife.
The turbulent waves of the North Atlantic have a fearsome reputation, so it should come as little surprise to learn that the waters around Malin Head have been the site of quite a few shipwrecks.
Undoubtedly, Malin Head is one of the best places in Ireland to see the Atlantic Ocean in all its mesmerising, untamed splendour. If you’re really lucky, you might also see the Northern Lights appear, as it’s one of the few places in Ireland that offers a glimpse of the Aurora Borealis.
6. Slieve League
While the Cliffs of Moher get all the attention, there is another incredible precipice in Ireland. In fact, this is the true king.
Slieve League in Donegal is not as easy to get to, but because of that, those who are daring enough will get to enjoy the highest sea cliffs in Europe in relative solitude. You should be aware it may prove a little challenging to get to without the sign posts and car parks of its rival. However, Slieve League is every bit as jaw-dropping and boasts more unhampered natural beauty, unlike the tourist trap of Moher. This truly is one of the best places to go to in Ireland for any traveler, as well as a major highlight of The Wild Atlantic Way.
English writer Edward Dubois first referred to Ireland as “God’s Country” in 1807. Specifically, he was referring to the Wicklow Mountains. Oddly though, Wicklow is often overlooked on a visit to the Emerald Isle, which is a shame because many people will miss out on one of the most beautiful places in Ireland. If you want to see the rugged beauty the country is famed for, Wicklow is a must-see on your itinerary.
Glendalough is an unmissable stop in Wicklow. The name means ‘Valley of the Two Lakes’, and it is the site of a 6th century monastery, a famous round tower and an unusually high cross.
Named after the saint who founded the monastery, St. Kevin’s Cross is carved from granite and bears arms that are over a metre in length. The cross allegedly has the power to grant anyone’s wishes… if they can wrap their arms around the entire width of its body.
Magical crosses aside, Glendalough is an outdoor lover’s paradise, offering some brilliant hiking trails, rock climbing and captivating scenic drives through the wild landscape that dominates much of Wicklow’s countryside.
If amazing mountains are too much for you to tackle, perhaps you’ll enjoy a stroll around Powerscourt House & Gardens. This heritage site makes for a delightful afternoon at almost any time of the year, but is especially beautiful in springtime. Also, just down the road is Powerscourt Waterfall, the largest waterfall in Ireland.
Best Places to Visit in Ireland for Entertainment
The traveling Green and White Army has lit up football and rugby stadiums around the globe at international tournaments. They’ve taken over Vegas in the name of UFC superstar Conor McGregor, endearing themselves to both the media and host nations wherever they go.
This festive camaraderie is not just an export either, as visitors to Ireland can testify. Traditional music, cultural festivals and jubilant celebrations are deeply embedded in Irish culture, shaping the global perspective of the country as an overtly happy and welcoming nation.
While you can have a wonderful time in just about any little corner of the country, these places are notoriously ‘great craic’. If you want some cool places in Ireland for a party, your search is over.
Northern Ireland’s second-largest city was a much-divided one for many years. However, the improving political landscape in the past generation has led to a change in fortunes for the city with two names. While the unionist-enforced moniker of Londonderry is legally correct, the original name of Derry is widely-used.
In any case, frosty relations between the two communities have thawed, and a boom in development led to Derry being named as the UK City of Culture in 2013. Showing no signs of stopping there, the city has teamed up with Belfast to target the title of European Capital of Culture in 2023.
The city that straddles the River Foyle is already packed with museums, murals and sites that chart its history and with new hotels, restaurants and bars continuing to pop up alongside the excellent shopping and parks, there is a strong chance that Derry will indeed rise to the top of many lists when people consider places to go to in Ireland to take a city break.
Halloween is one of the world’s most loved holidays, perhaps no more so than in the USA. However, it all began in Ireland, going back to the roots of the Celtic festival Samhain. Every year, Derry City has a legendary Halloween celebration that sees the streets taken over by all manners of ghouls. Without a doubt, it’s the best place in Ireland to celebrate Halloween.
The unofficial capital of Irish traditional music is little more than a small, single street and a couple of little pubs and yet, more often than not visitors find themselves captivated, ensnared by its charm and reluctant to leave too quickly. The village is the postcard-perfect ideal of Irish countryside with narrow rural roads twisting and turning through rolling green meadows and stone walls, passing stunning views of the Atlantic Ocean crashing against the west coast.
The area is the perfect base for a few days for visitors to check out the Cliffs of Moher or take a jaunt to the Aran Islands. In the evenings, you can escape the blustery winds by retiring to O’Connor’s Pub in the village. Here, there is rarely a dull moment and the fabulous food, drink and music are sure to warm your body and soul, convincing you to stay for just another day!
10. Dublin City
The capital city of Ireland is home to some 2 million people, most of which live in the suburbs outside the thriving, but compact centre. Visitors to Dublin will find a cosmopolitan city flushed with international residents, university students and high-flying business types alike.
While the tiger economy slumped in the past decade, Dublin is still very much a modern and progressive city, full of life, laughter and opportunity.
Wonderful modern architecture and glossy new business premises straddle the River Liffey that splits Ireland’s capital city, reminding tourists that the country is far from a sinking ship.
Dublin boasts fantastic open recreational spaces and botanic gardens, including Stephen’s Green and Phoenix Park – the largest urban park in Europe. For the history buffs, there is no shortage of museums and a trip would not be complete without visits to Trinity College and the notorious Kilmainham Gaol, the prison where many of the republican rebels met their death.
Sports are huge in Ireland, nowhere more so than in Dublin. If you want to experience the pride and passion that Irish people have for the national sports of Gaelic football or hurling, there is no better place than Croke Park. The third-largest stadium in Europe is home to the Dublin GAA teams, as well as being the stomping ground of the Irish soccer and rugby teams. A tour of the grounds and museum is an absorbing experience in itself, both historically and from a sporting perspective. If you’re lucky enough to get a ticket for a big game here, prepare for an electric atmosphere!
Fantastic shopping and fine dining are easy to find here and of course, stereotypical as it may seem, the drinking culture is alive and well in Dublin. Whiskey fans will no doubt enjoy the brewery tour at the Old Jameson Distillery, and the famous Guinness Storehouse tour at St. James Gate is an experience that you definitely shouldn’t skip on your trip to Dublin. While the black stuff is an acquired taste for many, there is no better place to get a pint than right here.
While the effervescent Temple Bar area is flooded with tourists, the craic is mighty and leaves no wonder as to why Dublin is cited as one of the best cities to visit in Ireland for stag parties, cultural experiences and top-class city breaks alike.
Outside of Ireland, the big cities of Dublin, Cork and Belfast are the most well-known. Those from foreign shores may struggle to name any other places of note on the island, but if there is one that pops up more than most, it’s Galway. The truth is, everyone should know about this city.
While a city with the youngest population in Ireland may sound hellish to some, the fact is that the youthful exuberance of this student haven is all part of the greater charm that breathes life into a city renowned for its arts, music and crafts, unlike any other place in the country.
Ireland’s festival capital has unrivalled nightlife and a music and literary scene that guarantees non-stop entertainment for all who visit here. Be warned, you might never leave.
Kilkenny is a large town on the River Nore that was an abundant source of black, polished marble in years gone by. In recent years, it has earned a big reputation for weekend getaways and stag parties due to its lively nightlife scene under the shadow of an impressive 12th century castle perched high in the city. But there is more than a castle and some beer in ‘The Marble City’.
The annual Cats Laughs Comedy Festival is a staple on the calendar here with many famous comedians making a stop here since it began in 1995. Kilkenny also hosts an arts festival in August, which sees the city transform into a huge street party.
Sports fans will also find a home here as Kilkenny houses not only some top-class golf courses, but also is the proud home of the ‘Kilkenny Cats’; one of Ireland’s greatest hurling teams. If you’ve never seen a hurling match before, then this is the place to do it. The national sport of Ireland hasn’t grown much outside the Irish diaspora around the world, but it is an impressive and incredibly-skilled game nonetheless. Take the chance to witness the world’s fastest grass sport in all its glory as played by some of the best hurlers on the planet.
Hiding in an estuary of the River Bandon, Kinsale is a picturesque port village that has been enticing tourists to venture to the bottom of the island for many years. Its scenic harbour is guarded from the open sea by a pair of forts that were once the scene of a monumental battle for the Irish army in 1601. Their surprise defeat of the English siege brought an end to the ancient Gaelic aristocracy of Ireland.
In more recent times, Kinsale has become a foodies’ heaven with the annual Kinsale Gourmet Festival in October bringing thousands flocking to the tiny village to enjoy the incredible seafood, cheeses and organic goods it has become celebrated for.
The historic fjord is not going to waste either, as Kinsale has developed a reputation as a popular location for sailors and anglers. Boasting two yacht marinas, the Kinsale Yacht Club hosts several events on the racing and cruising calendar. For those with less experience who are keen to hit the open seas, there are plenty of anglers offering short trips within a day or less for sailing or whale watching.
Visitors to Kinsale can simply delight in whatever they do, on the water or in one of the many fine restaurants and little bars. It’s hard not to love this little jewel.
Best Places to Visit in Ireland for History & Culture
The tumultuous past of this small nation is no secret. Raiders from Scandinavia left their mark for centuries to follow. Even to this day, there are unmistakable traces of Viking architecture and enduring lines of Nordic family heritage throughout Ireland.
After the Vikings came centuries of conflict with invading forces from Britain, which continued until the end of the last century, shaping much of modern Ireland. Northern Ireland was once a violent warzone that had the undesirable status as one of the most dangerous places in the world for a British soldier to be during the 1970s and 1980s.
However, throughout it all, the strong will of the Irish people and the enthralling Gaelic culture has endured. Music, art, literature and Celtic mythology all retained their place, inextricably tied to the roots of the Emerald Isle.
To explore all of the sites in Ireland and understand the full history would take a lifetime. Hit up each of these spots and you can be guaranteed to grasp the unique combination of magic and mayhem that makes Ireland so special.
14. Ashford Castle
This medieval castle is by far one of the most beautiful castles in Ireland. It has been standing for over 800 years and once belonged to the Guinness family. Over the centuries it has sprawled with its extensive grounds, now including gorgeous gardens, ponds and lakes. The massive castle property provides guests the opportunity to enjoy many sports and leisure activities including tennis, clay pigeon shooting, archery and golf. There’s no danger of getting bored here!
Since major refurbishments a few years ago, Ashford Castle has transformed into one of the most luxurious five-star hotels in the world. With its majestic buildings housing several top-class restaurants, a cinema, spa, wine cellar and over 80 luxury rooms and suites, it’s easy to see why many international celebrities consider it one of the most beautiful spots in Ireland to tie the knot.
The capital city of Northern Ireland earned a notorious reputation in the later part of the 20th century as a hotbed of violence and hostility for the unwelcome British military presence in the country. Having spent the past 20 years trying to shake its fearsome reputation for bombs and bullets, Belfast is a city somewhat undiscovered by the larger tourist population.
For those who do venture here, they’ll find a vibrant city full of character and welcoming locals. The city is rich with culture and history, offering visitors the opportunity to really understand the troubled past and learn from the many museums, open-top bus tours and fascinating murals painted around the city that depict the political landscape and conflicting ideals of the two sides of the community.
When you travel to Belfast, make sure to visit the Titanic Museum to get a real feel for the harrowing history that befell the grand ship that was made right here in the city over 100 years ago.
16. Blarney Castle
The small town of Blarney is best known as the home of this castle, which was occupied around 1446 by Cormac MacCarthy, the King of Munster. While the castle ruins are little to behold, inside is the legendary Blarney Stone, which has drawn people from all over the planet for over 200 years. By kissing the stone, you can gain the gift of eloquence, or as the Irish say, ‘the gift of the gab’.
History maintains that in return for his support of Robert the Bruce, the latter bestowed half of the famous stone upon MacCarthy, and it was then built into the wall of the castle. While its exact origins are a hot topic of debate, many believe that a witch revealed the power of the stone to the MacCarthy family, and so its legend has spread ever since.
17. Croagh Patrick
You don’t have to be Irish to have heard of St. Patrick. The former shepherd and renowned snake-hater went on to become the patron saint of Ireland, and is now a major influence for global binge drinking on March 17th every year. Back in his heyday, St. Patrick climbed the 2,500 feet to the summit of this mountain and spent 40 days there, fasting and praying.
Every July, thousands of pilgrims honour the famous saint by following his footsteps to the top where a mass is held in the little church that was erected in the 5th century.
Many do this barefoot, but if that’s too hardcore for you, worry not as you can climb the mountain on just about any day of the year, so long as the harsh weather of western Ireland permits you to do so. But be careful, as centuries of climbers and erosion have made the ascent tougher than the three-hour round trip suggests.
The town of Westport that lies near the foot of the mountain is the perfect place to retire after the climb. It might be small, but its reputation for lively pubs and friendly locals is legendary in Ireland. Pop in to Matt Molloy’s for some of the best traditional music nights in the country.
18. Aran Islands
While some little villages, such as Connemara and Doolin, will have you thinking you’ve found the most clichéd place in Ireland, there is a way you can outdo them all. A short ferry ride from the mainland, you can find the small and rocky islets known as the Aran Islands, and a visit there is like getting in a time machine and going back to Ireland in the 1800s.
While Inishmaan and Inisheer are less touristy than Inishmore, all three are inhabited by the grand population of just over 1,200 residents.
The islands are untamed by tourism, boasting all shades of green in the wild hills that tumble towards unguarded cliff edges. There are no signs of tourism here, and even less evidence of the British intrusion from years gone by. In fact, the Aran Islands are one of Ireland’s few remaining Gaeltacht areas. That means the residents all speak Gaelic Irish and almost all the signs and newspapers here are in a language that may look somewhat elfin to foreigners. Fear not though, the people here are a warm and welcoming lot and can speak English too, when they need to!
The Aran Islands provide many opportunities for hiking, cycling and fishing. There are also quite a few early Christian churches and Bronze Age forts to have a peek at.
A real cracker on Inishmore is the annual TedFest that lights up the local pubs in honor of Ireland’s favourite sitcom – Father Ted. The show’s three bumbling priests were banished to the fictional ‘Craggy Island’ for their sins; a place inspired by the Aran Islands.
Every year, Inishmore residents celebrate the successful show by having a huge party where everyone shows up dressed like characters from the show, spewing iconic quotes and golden one-liners late into the night.
A lesser-known area of Ireland that many visitors skip on their travels here is the medieval city of Waterford. If only they knew what they were missing out on. While a lot of people may have heard of the brand name Waterford Crystal, surprisingly not so many seem to have made the connection to realize it originated in Ireland. A tour of the factory to see the master craftsmen at work is worth the trip, but there is much more to do here than that.
Waterford just so happens to be Ireland’s oldest city, and is rich with history and culture inside its old walls and in the surrounding areas. Although it was once a very important European port, ‘The Viking City’ retains a relaxed, laid-back vibe, and as it is in Ireland’s ‘Sunny South-East’, Waterford enjoys some of Ireland’s best weather.
This is a big plus as Waterford is also home to some of the best beaches Ireland has to offer. Visitors to Dungarvan and Tramore can find unspoiled stretches of sand and sea caves, as well as some tasty seafood restaurants in the area known as the Copper Coast. Indeed, Waterford’s many unique assets have made it a great spot to visit in Ireland for a cultural trip or camping holiday.
Best Places to Visit in Ireland for Outdoor Adventure
It may be wet and windy, but that doesn’t stop the fun in Ireland. Those mountains and lakes are not only good for photos, but also a whole lot of fun for those who seek adventure. The rugged landscape has endless possibilities for trekkers and hikers, and more than a few challenges for keen climbers. If you aren’t afraid of cold water then you’ll find Ireland has surprisingly good options for watersports.
There’s a whole lot of fun to be had outside of the bars, and your Guinness will taste even better in front of the fire after tackling any of these!
Bundoran is somewhat like an English seaside town in many ways, from its architecture to the prevalent amusement arcades and touristy seaside resorts and eateries. This is a great starting point for people who wish to travel the Wild Atlantic Way down the western shores, and it has long been popular for beach holidays.
What really sets it apart from anywhere else in the country is the nature of the Atlantic itself. Bundoran has forged a reputation as the country’s surf capital, with its waves considered among the best in the world by many star surfers far and wide. You don’t need to be a pro to have a turn. Just watch out for those crosswinds!
The Ancient East Coast of Ireland is abundant with attractive scenery, but there are very few areas as picturesque as Carlingford. This former Viking fjord is nestled on the coast just across the Irish border, with the Mourne Mountains on one side and the looming peaks of Slieve Foy on the other.
The town’s roots remain for visitors to see in the impressive centennial architecture and charming cobbled streets, as well as ‘The Tholsel’ – the ancient medieval town gate, which is one of the last remaining of its kind in Ireland.
The Cooley Peninsula has a plethora of trails for hikers and cyclists, and more adventure awaits upon the water. Jet skiing and kayaking are growing in popularity, and there is rarely a day when you can’t spot a sailing boat or a few windsurfers out on the lough.
When night falls, Viking heritage and Gaelic culture combine to bring Carlingford to life, with mighty craic to be had throughout the many traditional pubs and fantastic restaurants. Don’t miss out on the incredible oysters!
22. Cuilcagh Mountain Park
Ireland has sometimes been referred to as a bog land; a term we care little for though it must be admitted, there are some pretty big bogs on the island. One of the biggest areas of blanket bog in the north is found at the border, where counties Cavan and Fermanagh meet at the Cuilcagh Mountain.
The area is also home to the popular Marble Arch Caves, and developments by the Northern Irish Tourism Board in recent years included the construction of an excellent boardwalk. The Legnabrocky Trail enables visitors the chance to visit the caves, explore the lush expanses of the park and conquer the summit of the mountain all in one go. Best of all, the boardwalk means your grandmother can have a go and your child won’t sink in the bog. Everyone’s a winner.
23. Glenveagh National Park
Home to yet another castle, Glenveagh is one of the most visited places in Donegal. The castle grounds boast brilliant gardens and tours of the Scottish-style castle are available, although you’re not allowed to use your camera in the building. Worry not though, as the real photo opportunities are waiting outside.
Glenveagh National Park is famed for its rambling grounds, with over 40,000 acres of mountains, glens, lakes and woods attracting people from afar to enjoy the incredible natural beauty. The park is also home to Ireland’s largest population of red deer, and more recently it welcomed the reintroduction of the golden eagle.
This may be one of the most popular places to visit in Ireland to go on a camping trip. Fishing is also permitted in the lakes, so perhaps you truly go into the wild and catch your own dinner!
If you were short on time and could only visit one area of Ireland, then this should be it. Killarney has so much on its doorstep that it is the perfect base for visitors who want to experience everything that Ireland is famed for. You’ll find mountains, lakes, castles, rolling green hills, incredible ocean scenery, excellent food, lively bars and much, much more here.
Killarney National Park includes the beautiful Torc Waterfall and many hiking trails, but if you’re feeling more adventurous you should take a drive a few miles west to the Gap of Dunloe. This spectacular gorge is nestled between some huge mountains, include Carrantuohill, Ireland’s highest peak at 3,500 feet.
Killarney is the starting point for many people who come to tackle the famous Ring of Kerry. This meandering circuit of the peninsula boasts many historical sites and awe-inspiring views along a drive of some 180 km. One of the most popular stops on the route is the Skellig Islands.
Skellig Michael and Little Skellig have become internationally known since the release of the Star Wars movie in 2015. Skellig Michael was once home to one of the earliest settlements of monks in Ireland. While there haven’t been monks there since the 13th century, the impressive population of wild birds, including puffins and gannets, have turned this into quite a sight on a trip to the bottom of the country. If the birds aren’t enough, perhaps the opportunity to explore Luke Skywalker’s hideaway could tempt you here.
25. The Mourne Mountains
Packing in 28 peaks into a relatively small area along the southern coast of County Down, The Mournes are one of Northern Ireland’s favorite tourist attractions. The Mourne Wall, a landmark in its own right, runs through the mountain range for over 35 km, connecting 15 summits, including the highest peak in Northern Ireland, Slieve Donard.
Despite the temperamental weather, The Mournes is rarely bereft of attention as climbers, hikers and campers are usually not hard to spot on a day out here.
Placid lakes and fabulous woodland areas, such as Tollymore Forest Park, have been made even more famous from scenes in Game of Thrones, and the area continues to be one of the big draws for visitors to Ireland.
I enjoyed reading the 25 best places to visit in Ireland . I’ve been to mostly all of them. I already went on an organized tour with Globus Tours. Plus the following year a friend & I spent 18 days traveling all over Ireland, noth to south & east to west. I want to go back to Ireland so bad but I don’t like to drive on the left. Maybe I can hire a private driver. I don’t know how much that will cost but that’s the only way I can think of. I have relatives in Co Sligo. My cousin doesn’t drive & I don’t want to depend on her children taking me places. Does anyone have any suggestions? Please help.
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15 Best Places to Visit in Ireland
Welcome to the Emerald Isle! A land of rolling greenery, craggy mountains, mysterious Celtic ruins, crumbling castles, leprechaun-dotted forests, shanty pubs set to the ditties of Gaelic folk, rowdy beer bars and salt-sprayed coastlines, Ireland really is a wonder to behold.
Here, we take a look at 15 of the top spots that every traveler heading to this hearty corner of Western Europe should have on the menu.
Lets explore our list of the best places to visit in Ireland:
1. Cliffs of Moher
Source: flickr Cliffs of Moher
One of the most visited natural attractions in all of Ireland, the Cliffs of Moher rise up from the swells of the great Atlantic Ocean like petrified bulwarks of stone.
On top, they are covered with the island’s trademark meadows of verdant green grass, while the waters of Galway Bay crash and froth against the stone below.
At a whopping 120 meters in height, these great cliffs offer dramatic views of the coastline and the Aran Islands out at sea, while an all-new visitors’ center makes it easy for travelers to uncover the hundreds of millions of years of geological history that helped form the stratas of sandstone and shale.
Source: flickr Sligo
While the small and welcoming town of Sligo packs a punch with its charming medieval core, arched stone bridges, lichen-spotted abbey and wealth of pretty 19th-century townhouses, it’s the backcountry of this one that really hits the mark.
Imbued with all the romance you’d expect of the place that helped form the legendary W B Yeats, this area of outstanding natural beauty rises to peaks with the mighty monolith of Knocknarea Mountain (the mythic resting place of Queen Maedbh), comes peppered with moss-clad, centuries-old cairn stones and makes for some truly breathtaking views over the pebble beaches and salt-sprayed towns of Sligo Bay.
3. Killarney National Park
Source: flickr Killarney National Park
Nestled amidst the other much-vaunted natural treasures of County Kerry, the indelibly wild and untouched reaches of the Killarney National Park are surely worth a mention in their own right.
Attested by UNESCO and trodden by herds of majestic red deer, the area hosts great swathes of primeval oak, yew and ash forest.
These come interspersed with the beautiful Lakes of Killarney, which sit mirror-like under the curiously-hued tops of the Purple Mountains.
The whole place is a veritable mecca for walkers and wildlife lovers, who can weave between peat bogs, moss-caked forests and more, all in the company of swifts, kingfishers and ospreys.
4. Boyne Valley
Source: flickr Boyne Valley
Stretching for around 110 miles from the verdant heartlands of County Kildare to the Irish Sea, the Boyne Valley is Ireland’s answer to the Loire of France or Meuse of Belgium.
Strikingly beautiful and green to the hilt, this land really lives up to the moniker of the Emerald Isle.
Between its borders, travelers can see wonders like the Newgrange monument (which is thought to date back more than five millennia) and the crumbling walls and gatehouses of Trim Castle – once the stronghold of Norman rule in Meath.
Easily accessible from the capital at Dublin, the valley also makes for a fine natural escape from city life, with oodles of marked trails weaving around its riparian banks.
5. The Rock of Cashel
Source: flickr The Rock of Cashel
Oozing a certain gothic mystery and eerie charm from every one of its Game of Thrones-style turrets and keeps, crumbling walls and crenulated gatehouses, the so-called Rock of Cashel clings like an ancient limpet to the green hills of County Tipperary in the south.
The site was the fortress of the Munster kings way back in the Early Middle Ages, and still hosts builds like the Round Tower and Cormac’s Chapel from that period – many of which stood up to English invaders in later years.
There are also beautifully haunting graveyards of Celtic stones to see, not to mention sweeping views of the beautiful Munster backcountry.
Source: flickr Dublin
Rowdy, raucous Dublin surely needs no introduction! A town of folksy, Guinness-fuelled pubs and elegant Georgian architecture, this capital city continues to draw travelers from far and wide with its cocktail of culture and heritage, class and hedonism.
Set midway down the beautiful coast of the Irish Sea, the town boasts the colossal St Patrick’s Cathedral (the largest of its kind in Ireland) and the acclaimed Dublin Writers Museum, where travelers can unravel the lives of Joyce, Yeats et al.
The Guinness Storehouse also draws tasters with its brooding ales, while whiskey distilleries are never too far away and Temple Bar Square is famed for its foodie delights, killer restaurants and drinking joints.
Source: philhaberphotography Dingle
The capital of its own eponymous peninsula, found jutting out into the Atlantic swells, Dingle sits sandwiched between the beaches and cliffs of County Kerry and the ridges of the revered pilgrimage spot of Mount Brandon.
Steeped in Irish charm, the town is beset by bobbing fishing boats and comes with a distinct, salt-washed seafaring character.
Irish is the language of operation here too, while whiskey from the local distillery seems to be the tipple of choice.
Aside from wallowing in the backwater vibe here, travelers can opt to explore the beautiful panoramas offered by the Conor Pass, go dolphin spotting, and weave between the boutiques and pubs on central Quay Street.
8. Galway City
Source: cityofgalway Galway City
Crowned by the colossal Gothicism of St Nicholas’ Church, Galway City once boomed as Ireland’s foremost medieval trading port with connections to the Med.
Sights like Lynch’s Castle belie the rich history of the city’s merchant mayors from this period, while the real character of Galway lies in its boho, quirky side, which bubbles up along the old town’s streets with performers and magicians on the weekend, bursts out of the cafes on the Promenade of Salthill, becomes palpable during the city’s art festival in July, and is never far away between the pubs of Cross Street and the center.
9. Blarney Castle
Source: flickr Blarney Castle
Forever drawing day trippers out of the center of Cork, this partly ruined set of keeps and battlements dating from as far back as the 1200s is high on the list of Ireland’s bucket-list sights.
Today, some areas of the site have been reconstructed, while the neo-gothic Blarney House stands tall on the side of the castle, and various nature walks showcase the rugged rock formations that pepper the grounds.
The real piece de resistance though? Well, that has to be the mythic Blarney Stone, which is said to imbue any that kiss it (easier said than done!) with the gift of the Irish gab!
Source: flickr Limerick
Spread over the banks of the River Shannon as it widens to meet the Atlantic on Ireland’s western haunch, the city of Limerick is often overlooked by travellers in favour of the natural draws that have made the region of Munster so famous.
However, those who linger here a while will discover a town that’s firmly on the up, reinvigorated after near bankruptcy and ready to showcase its rowdy Guinness pubs and fervent love for the game of rugby.
What’s more, the place is still wallowing in the prestige of having been Ireland’s National City of Culture, with spots like the Belltable Arts Centre bursting with new productions and plays, the University of Limerick echoing with plain chant and the city gallery of art hosting events like the EVA International festival.
Source: flickr Cork
120,000-strong Cork remains Ireland’s second largest city.
It can be found perched out on the coastlines of its eponymous county, cut through by the winding River Lee as it makes its way towards the rollers of the Celtic Sea.
Lively, fun-loving, a tad laid-back and proudly divergent to Dublin, the locals here enjoy flitting between their town’s curious coffee shops and traditional pubs, all of which hide in tight-knit streets spouting off the central vein of St Patrick’s.
The spires of St Fin Barre’s Cathedral overlook the town in glorious Gothicism, while the Cork City Gaol is a prime attraction on the outskirts – if a little gruesome to boot!
Source: flickr Glendalough
Nestled between the undulating hills of County Wicklow on the east side of Ireland, the beautiful valley of Glendalough draws visitors with its mix of history and natural wonders.
The ancient abbey in the very heart of the site dates from sometime in the early 6th century, was founded by the revered Saint Kevin of Glendalough, and showcases some of the best-preserved early medieval religious architecture in the country.
All around this crumbling cloister, travelers can delve into a woodland of oak and fern, hazel and mountain ash, where warblers flit between the canopies and the marked trails pierce into the Wicklow Mountains National Park.
13. The Aran Islands
Source: flickr The Aran Islands
Found lingering out in the Bay of Galway, where the icy rollers of the Atlantic Ocean buffet the seaweed-covered coastal rocks, the Aran Island are a remote and off-the-beaten-track option for anyone interested in seeking out some of Ireland’s more wild and untouched areas.
Spread over three islands – Inishmore, Inisheer and the large Inishmaan – the archipelago offers up beautiful karst plains cut through by creeks and canyons, all peppered with blooms of red clover and Arctic flowers emerging from the grykes (fissures in the rocky ground). However, natural beauties aside, the Arans are also famed for their deep and traditional heritage.
Most of the locals speak Irish day-to-day, the towns come complete with hearty pubs and islander famers’ markets and the clochans (stone houses) and ruins of spots like Dun Aengus belie a past going back all the way to the Bronze Age!
14. County Kerry
Source: flickr County Kerry
Famed as the home of the so-called Ring of Kerry scenic drive, this southern county of the Republic really is one to write home about.
Between its borders, this land in the very heart of Munster hosts the likes of the soaring, 1,000-meter-high Macgillycuddy’s Reeks (home to Ireland’s highest peak, Carrauntoohil) and the church-dotted, cairn-peppered mystery of the Slieve Mish, while out at sea rise the formidable daggers of the Skelligs – Michael with its UNESCO monasteries and Little Skellig with its craggy outcrops.
The various mountain lakes are another highlight – sparkling valley-bottomed waters that come surrounded by grassy farmlands at Muckross and shrouded by peaks in Mangerton and Torc.
15. Burren National Park
Source: flickr Burren National Park
Sweeping for a whopping 15 square kilometers through County Clare, the Burren National Park (or just The Burren for short) represents surely one of Ireland’s most striking and unforgettable landscapes.
Chiselled and chipped from the karst rocks that form the beds of the hills north of Limerick, the area is awash with crevices and grykes that burst with rare flowers and plants.
Add to that the monolith tombs of ancient Gaelic tribes, and it’s easy to see why hikers, history buffs, botanists and bird watchers alike all flock to The Burren each year!
The Top 22 Things to Do in Ireland
Natalie Kennedy has been a travel writer and editor for more than 10 years. She covers Ireland for TripSavvy and currently lives in Rome.
With everything from legendary castles to month-long music festivals, plus incredible landscapes at every turn, it can be hard to know where to start when planning your Ireland bucket list. There is so much to do on the Emerald Isle that writer Lady Gregory once said: “I feel more and more the time wasted that is not spent in Ireland.”
On a clear day, you can hike in the Wicklow mountains or tackle the big surf in County Mayo. You might even find time for a matchmaking festival or drink a pint at the oldest pub in the world. This list of 22 things to do in Ireland will inspire book lovers, film buffs, foodies, and anyone in search of a bit of “craic” (fun) to book their next trip immediately.
Kiss the Blarney Stone
Legend has it that you can be blessed with the Irish gift of the gab if you simply lean over and kiss the Blarney Stone. The stone in question sits atop Blarney Castle in County Cork. Kissing it is not as simple as walking up to any old rock. Instead, you must lie down and lower your upper body over the edge of the castle’s main tower battlements. The adrenaline rush and the story that go along with it are more than worth the small risk.
Learn to Pour the Perfect Pint of Guinness
Guinness may be Ireland’s most famous export, but the Dublin-brewed beer is also the most popular pint on the Emerald Isle. Many a barkeep knows that there is a real art to pulling the perfect pint of Guinness and ensuring that the head stays creamy while the stout settles. Learn how to pour the perfect glass with a trip to the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin where beer experts will walk you through the tricks (and then let you drink the beer yourself in the Gravity Bar).
Drive the Wild Atlantic Way
May Days / Getty Images
It may take some practice to drive on the left, but perfecting your Irish driving skills is the best way to explore the far corners of Ireland. The ultimate road trip starts in Kinsale, County Cork, and stretches up to the tip of the Inishowen Peninsula in County Donegal. The 1,550-mile long journey passes by some of the most incredible scenery that Ireland has to offer and there are plenty of characteristic tiny villages to stay in along the way.
Eat Like a King in a Castle
The 15th-century Bunratty Castle becomes an unforgettable dinner venue by night when the stately halls become the dramatic setting for a medieval banquet. The four-course meal is always paired with entertainment by way of an outgoing Earl who shares jokes as well as the history of the castle throughout the night. If one dinner doesn’t sound like enough time to live out your royal dreams, you can also sleep like a king or queen at some amazing castle hotels across the country.