If you are planning an Ireland vacation and want to visit some of the many must-see attractions, consider this list of the top 7 Irish landmarks.
They're all hand-picked by our travel experts!
Be sure to pick up a copy of Rick Steves Ireland 2016, which is a must-have for your trip abroad.
1. Dublin’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral
St. Patrick's Cathedral is an historic Irish institution. This famous church sees more than 300,000 visitors a year, and their offerings help their church maintain itself after more than 800 years of servings its patrons. Jonathan Swift was the dean of this church from 1713 to 1745. Those with literary leanings enjoy visiting this Irish landmark in October for the annual Symposium on Jonathan Swift. Those with devout leanings might enjoy staying for one of the daily services.
2. The Blarney Stone & Blarney Castle
Many visitors to Ireland make sure they kiss the Blarney Stone, which is located at Blarney Castle near Cork. Here, you can learn about the castle’s history. It was originally a timber lodge built in the 10th Century, but was replaced by the stone castle in 1210. Many believe that kissing the Blarney Stone brings good luck, so take your chances. Be sure to get a picture while you’re there!
3. The Cliffs of Moher
The Cliffs of Moher are another top Irish landmark destination. Travelers brave the cold and fog all for the sake of seeing these famous cliffs overlooking the wild Atlantic Ocean. The cliffs are located in County Clare. These cliffs rise more than 214 meters (or about 700 feet) at their highest point, and visitors are well advised to be careful. There are no barriers provided, which means two things: the area has not been altered to appeal to tourists, which is a welcome departure from the norm, but it can be dangerous.
4. The Ring of Kerry
The Ring of Kerry is one of Ireland’s most scenic touring routes. At 110 miles long, it circles the awe-inspiring Iveragh Peninsula. You’ll feel as if you have moved into nature’s mystic arena, and truly you have, as you pass between soft mountains, through forest glades, around bogs, rivers, lakes and pristine beaches. The road between the magnificent MacGillycuddy Reeks Mountains presents secret passes and valleys dotted along the fabled shores of Dingle and Kenmare Bays. Ireland’s natural beauty sings throughout the Ring of Kerry. You may wish to explore several charming villages along the route, including Glenbeigh, Waterville, and Sneem. Stroll and talk to people—this is what makes your travel experience unique. The Ring attracted Ireland’s first settlers, and has a wealth of ancient sites. A 6th century monastery, clinging to the windswept cliffs of the Skellig Islands, is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Staigue Stone Fort is an Iron Age stronghold dating from 300BC. This is also an area of Ogham Stones, the first mysterious forms of writing and art, nestled along the Ring. Follow the drive to Killarney by way of the Ladies View and the legendary Lakes of Killarney and the National Park. The Ring of Kerry is the stuff of dreams and lifelong memories.
5. Newgrange: 5,000 Year Old Tomb of Irish Kings
Newgrange, in County Meath, crouches on a rise just north of the River Boyne. It is the focal point for a ceremonial area and megalithic cemetery that is 5,000 years old. The tombs' passage is perfectly aligned to mark the Winter Solstice. Newgrange is one of the best examples in Western Europe of the type of monument known as a passage-grave or passage-tomb. According to the most reliable Carbon 14 dating techniques, Newgrange was constructed around 3200BC. This means it is at least 600 years older than the Giza Pyramids in Egypt, and 1,000 years older than its British counterpart, Stonehenge. If you are interested in visiting Newgrange during summer months, we highly recommend planning to arrive early in the morning to guarantee entrance to this extremely popular site. Read 20 intriguing facts about Newgrange.
6. The Giant's Causeway
A UNESCO Heritage Site (pictured above) located in Northern Ireland in County Antrim. Legend has it that the Irish giant Fionn mac Cumhaill (Fionn McCool) built the causeway to walk to Scotland to fight his Scottish counterpart Benandonner. One version of the legend tells that Fionn fell asleep before he got to Scotland. When he did not arrive, the much larger Benandonner crossed the bridge looking for him. To protect Fionn, his wife Oonagh laid a blanket over him so he could pretend that he was actually their baby son. In a variation, Fionn fled after seeing Benandonner's great bulk, and asked his wife to disguise him as the baby. In both versions, when Benandonner saw the size of the 'infant', he assumed the alleged father, Fionn, must be gigantic indeed. Therefore, Benandonner fled home in terror, ripping up the Causeway in case he was followed by Fionn.
7. Castles of Ireland
Any visitor to Ireland must visit at least one castle. There are hundreds to choose from. Our favorite must-see castle is Bunratty Castle. This castle is the most complete and authentic medieval fortress in Ireland. Built in 1425 it was restored in 1954 to its former medieval splendor and now contains mainly 15th and 16th century furnishings, tapestries, and works of art which capture the mood of those times. The residents of Belfast enjoy Belfast Castle. This castle sits more than 400 feet above sea level on Cave Hill, and offers visitors one of the most panoramic and exciting views of Belfast itself. Other castles of note are Glenveagh Castle in Donegal, Blarney Castle, Ashford & Dronoland Castles (both 5-star hotels).