If you’re planning an Irish vacation anytime in the future, consider these top ten places to visit in Ireland. This well-compiled list of must-see destinations range from castles to sacred spaces to beer which certainly gives you a diverse selection of things to do on your Ireland vacation.
Ireland’s most visited attraction is the home of ‘the black stuff’. Guinness is more than just the world’s best stout, it is a worldwide symbol of Irish culture. It takes just under 2 minutes to pour the perfect pint– try it out yourself at the Guinness Academy located at the Guinness Storehouse St. James Gate in Dublin! Enjoy your masterpiece at the Gravity Bar which boasts a panoramic 360ᵒ view of the Dublin skyline. The self-guided storehouse tour covers 7 floors of interactive displays explaining the history and brewing process of the world famous Irish beverage.
Cliffs of Moher
Seeing the vast natural beauty of the cliffs, watching the waves crash against the rocks and feeling the salty mist of the sea make for an unforgettable experience at the Cliffs of Moher; it is no secret why this spot is Ireland’s most visited natural attraction. The Cliffs are located in County Clare on the west coast of Ireland and are part of the Wild Atlantic Way. Explore these dramatic cliffs by foot, by sea, or by air. It is the perfect place to capture a souvenir photograph with that special someone.. and it is the #1 favourite on our Best Places to Kiss in Ireland! For those feeling adventurous, a Cliffs of Moher cruise from Doolin Pier is a popular option, or from Connemara Airport scenic flights depart regularly over the Cliffs – not recommended for the faint of heart!
Blarney Castle & Stone
In County Cork stands the iconic Blarney Castle, famously known for its Blarney Stone that gives ‘the Gift of the Gab’ to those who plant a kiss upon it. One must climb up the narrow and winding stone staircases to the top of the castle – at the top, reap the rewards of magnificent views of the grounds below and a chance to kiss the Stone. Learn about the Castle’s history from the depths of the dungeon to the top of its keep, and explore the land’s ancient mystical past by visiting the Witch Stone, Witch’s Kitchen and the Wishing Steps in the Rock Close. Acres of parkland surround the castle grounds containing several unique gardens such as the Poison Garden, Bog Garden, Fern Garden and Irish Garden, as well as many peaceful woodland walking trails.
St. Patrick’s Festival
Dress yourself in all things green and head to O’Connell Street to catch a glimpse of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade! Ireland’s national day takes place on March 17th and celebrates those proud to be Irish, those who are ‘Irish for the day’ and all things Irish. The 4 day festival includes family friendly activities, walking tours, fun fairs, street performers, live music and more. Celebrate with the locals in the streets after the parade or after in Temple Bar – there will be plenty of Guinness flowing! Sláinte!
Ring of Kerry
Majestic mountain ranges, dramatic coastlines, sandy beaches and rolling green fields are the reason this scenic driving route is Ireland’s most famous highlight. Most visitors base themselves in Killarney, County Kerry at the start of the Ring and spend the day exploring one of the most picturesque counties in Ireland. Pack a picnic and spend the day beach-hopping or find a charming traditional café for a cup of Irish stew along the way in Killorglin or Kenmare. It is recommended to drive the Ring anti-clockwise, the same direction as most coaches, to avoid getting caught in a tight squeeze with oncoming traffic on the narrow country roads!
Constructed around 3200 BC, Newgrange is one of the best examples of a passenge-tomb monument in Western Europe – it is older than Stonehenge and the Egyptian pyramids! This ancient site is part of the Bru na Boinne Visitor Centre located in the historical Boyne Valley region and includes the Neolithic monuments of Newgrange and Knowth. The only tomb you can enter is Newgrange by guided tour only; this site is extremely popular during the summer months and tickets cannot be purchased in advance so we recommend arriving as early as possible. Every winter solstice at dawn for 5 consecutive days, a small sunbeam enters the Newgrange chamber and passage of Newgrange is illuminates the room; to witness this sacred event an annual lottery draw selects just 10 names for each morning and each winner is able to bring just one guest.
Right in the heart of Dublin’s city lies one of Ireland’s oldest and most prestigious education facilities – Trinity College. Trinity ranks within the top 100 universities in the world and the College is also home to the most important medieval manuscript and national gem, the Book of Kells. The Book is displayed in the Old Library building which is worth a visit itself. Wander through the cobblestone courtyards of Trinity College and take a moment to imagine what life would have been like here in the 18th century!
West of Galway City lies the wild Connemara region – the real authentic Ireland, untouched by development or industry. Rugged, remote and effortlessly stunning, Connemara contains the Twelve Bens mountain range, lakes, secluded beaches and bog lands. The diversity of Connemara does not stop at the landscape – a variety of activities are available to visitors including fishing, horseback riding, hiking, walking, cycling, swimming, surfing or, listening to live traditional music in an local pub. The Connemara Pony Festival takes place every August in Clifden and celebrates the region’s unique breed. Connemara is one of the a few remaining Gaeltacht (Irish-speaking) regions of Ireland, where Irish is spoken more frequently than English.
Traditional Irish folk music is an Irish staple! ‘Trad’ Irish music whether solely instrumental, lyrical songs or accompanied by Irish dancing, these are all an integral part of the Irish culture and are used as a form of storytelling. Every night of the week musicians gather in pubs of all sizes to have a session together and it really creates an atmosphere that cannot be experienced anywhere else. Popular trad music instruments include the tin whistle, fiddle, bodhran drum, banjo, harp, accordion and uilleann pipes to name a few. We dare you to step into an Irish pub in Kilkenny, Doolin or Galway to listen to some trad music with a pint of Guinness in your hand and try not to tap your feet or sing along!
Waterford Crystal is one of the finest crystal manufacturers in the world. Visit the House of Waterford Crystal in the heart of Waterford City and take the behind-the-scenes factory tour. Watch the craftsmen mould, blow and shape the crystal, cool it, cut it and sculpt and engrave the crystal to the finest quality. If at any stage a flaw is discovered, the piece is rejected, smashed and re-melted to become another piece. After the tour, purchase a souvenir piece of crystal from the retail store, the world’s largest collection of Waterford Crystal to commemorate your trip to Ireland!