ireland

Ireland is apparently one of the more popular destinations in Europe. It’s both a historic and contemporary country.  With all the options available there, you could probably use some help with your travel agenda.  Here then, for your perusal, are the 25 best things to do and see in Ireland.

The Best Things To Do In Ireland

1. Enjoy A Cruise On The River Shannon

First up is this relaxing boat cruise on the River Shannon from Cuilcagh Mountain to Limerick City.  Take in the scenery along the 500-kilometer long waterway.  From Limerick to the Lower Lough Erne in Northern Ireland is especially noteworthy.  You can rent boats of all sizes and take the most popular route from Portumna to Carrick.  If you’re a nautical nut, extend your adventure by visiting the lesser-known gems further north.

2. Explore The Irish Castles

Start with Dublin Castle in the capital.  The guided tour also includes the exotic Chapel Royal and the historic State Apartments.  If you want to stay in a castle, register at popular Ashford Castle in County Cong.

There’s also legendary Blarney Castle.  Here you will see the famous Blarney Stone too.  Legend has it that if you bend over to kiss this ancient chunk of rock and you’ll be blessed with the “gift of gab.”

3.  Visit The Cliffs of Moher, County Clare

Take the eight-kilometer hike to the top of the majestic Moher Cliffs.  Experience the adrenal thrill of standing mere centimeters from the edges where you could slip and fall to your death in the ocean.  The highest point here is awesome O’Brien’s Tower, located not far from the quaint Doolin village.  On a clear day when you can see the impressive Twelve Pins mountain ranges of County Galway in the distance. 

4. Catch Kilmainham Gaol, Dublin

Visiting a prison can be an exciting history lesson.  The former prison, Kilmainham Gaol is now a museum.  Thousands of travelers come here annually to learn about the men responsible for the Easter Rising of 1916.  Here you can even stand inside the actual cells where real civil war prisoners spent their final moments prior to their execution.  You can also visit the art gallery where you can see the sculptures and paintings of once-incarcerated prisoners.  

5. See The Slieve League Cliffs, Donegal

The Slieve League Cliffs are not as well-known as the Cliffs of Moheroften ignored by the tourist crowds.  Thus, you can enjoy the natural beauty without having your view obscured by tons of tourists.  Additionally, they are, at some points, three times as high as their more popular competition.  It’s Europe’s sixth-highest sea cliff.  Take in the awesome sight of the mighty waves crashing against the huge rocks 2000 feet below you.

6. Visit The Bend Of The Boyne, County Meath

The megalithic Bend of the Boyne is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  It actually predates the Egyptian pyramids.  It harkens back to the famous Neolithic period in the 32nd century B.C.

It’s highlighted by numerous chamber tombs, grave passes, henges, and standing stones.  The sophistication of the construction here is amazing since it seems impossible for people back then to have had the knowledge to build this place.  Tours are available.

7. Enjoy Killarney National Park

Killarney National Park is reportedly the only park where you will spot red deer in the wild.  As you hike through the park, past gardens, moorlands, and waterways, you will also see up to 141 bird species.  If you are into fishing, Lough Leane, the glacial Lower Lake, is home to perch, salmon, and trout.  See Torc Waterfall and the Ring of Kerry, too.  Veteran visitors say it includes the best scenery in the country.

8. Shop ‘Til You Drop In Ireland

Ireland may be beautiful but there are plenty of gift shops, local markets, and modern malls for shopaholics too.  If you’re a clotheshorse shop the boutiques of Limerick, Kilkenny, Galway and Cork City.  DO you enjoy antiques? 

Visit Dublin’s Francis Street.  Visit during April and you can catch Dublin’s annual Antiques and Collectables Fair where you can pick up genuine Irish-made goods.  You’ll find something for everyone in Ireland.

9. Drink Up At The Guinness Storehouse, Dublin

This popular remodeled fermentation plant features seven stories that surround a gleaming glass atrium in the form of a pint of Guinness beer.  Beyond its unique architecture, you will also learn everything about brewing beer including malting, fermenting, and even barrel making.  Tours here end on the top floor at the great Gravity Bar.  Here you can not only enjoy the panoramic view but suck down some cold, original Guinness.

10. Explore Inishbofin, County Galway

You’ll find the isle of Inishbofin only five miles off the rugged coast of Connemara.  There’s a lot to do here on this lovely island.  This is a great place for hearing traditional Irish music.  Both tourists and locals alike also enjoy birdwatching, fishing, swimming, and even windsurfing here too.  If you’re feeling energetic, hike the rocky coastline.  If you like photographing wildlife there are rare birds and seals that live here as well.

11. Attend A Gaelic Football Or Hurling Game

Gaelic Football and Hurling are Ireland’s most unique sports.   Gaelic Football is a hybrid between rugby and soccer.  Hurling is like fast field hockey with a twist.  Visit in the summer and you can see live matches of both these outdoor sports.  The best time to visit is in the month of September.  The All-Hurling Final is held on the first Sunday of that month and the third Sunday is the All-Ireland Football Final.

12. See The Mourne Mountains, County Down

This resplendent granite mountain range is one of the best places to go hiking in the country.  If you’d rather not explore on foot, you can rent a bicycle.  It will certainly provide you with a unique perspective of the stunning mountain countryside.  If the granite outcrops attract you, by all means, answer the call as the cliffs here are said to be great for rock-climbing as well.    

13. Explore The Dublin Zoo, Dublin

Image courtesy of vanwageningen.net

The Dublin Zoo is fun, educational, and family-friendly.  You can get up close and personal with numerous animals as this zoo is home to a variety of birds, mammals, and reptiles from around the world.  Not only will you see the exotic breeds typical of exceptional zoos but you will also see animals that call Ireland their native home such as the great Galway sheep that have no horns.

14. Visit The Wild Atlantic Way

The well-known Wild Atlantic Way is situated along Ireland’s west coast and is bordered by quaint villages.   Drive along this picturesque panoramic coastline.  You will discover a total of 156 different specially-selected viewpoints where you can stop and see the local sights and culture.  The route is 2400 kilometers in length.  It runs from Kinsale in County Cork to Malin Head in County Donegal.

15. Experience Holy Cross Abbey, Tipperary

Holy Cross Abbey is famous for being a prime wedding destination.  It is found in a classic Cistercian monastery.  Travel experts report it is the ideal location to get married and to seek God’s blessings in general.  Backed by an abundance of greenery, this ancient structure is also full of history.  It harkens back to the 1100s.  If you wish to learn of its spiritual heritage you can tour this monastery.

16. Take In Lough Tay Lake, County Wicklow

Also known as Guinness Lake, you’ll find this scenic body of water south of Dublin between Luggala and the Djouce mountains.  The turquoise water presents a stark contrast to the surrounding green and brown vegetation.  Frequent flyers say this lovely lake is best viewed from one of the nearby mountains.  The surrounding area is actually edged by a span of imported white sand and is owned by the famous Guinness family.

17. Visit The National Shrine of Our Lady of Knock, County Mayo

This shrine is perfect for those seeking a spiritual experience.  It was here that 15 individuals reportedly saw apparitions of St. Joseph, St. John the Evangelist, and the Virgin Mary at the south gable of the famous Knock Parish Church back in 1879.  Since that day in August, this place has been a famous holy pilgrimage destination.  As many as half a million spiritual people come here annually.

18. See The Burren, County Clare

The Burren is unique.  It actually includes a portion of south Galway.  A true Mecca for hardcore hikers, its name was derived from the Gaelic term “Boireann”, which means “rocky place.”  There are roughly 45 kilometers of hiking trails here.  Veteran visitors say the best time to visit is from April to October when you can take in the strange sight of colorful flowers and plants growing straight out of lifeless rocks.

19. Stop By The Dingle Peninsula

Situated at the base of stunning Slievanea Mountain on a harbor, the Dingle Peninsula is not only beautiful but it is also officially the most Western point on the island.  Here you can take dolphin tours or even take a sailboat to see the neighboring  Blasket Islands.  Other attractions include Conor Pass, the Eask Tower, Oceanworld, and Rahinnane Castle.  Be sure to go into town and see the pubs, shops, and restaurants too. 

20. Visit Galway Cathedral, Galway

The Galway Cathedral is one of the most impressive landmarks in the city.  Its architectural designs were influenced by several different sources  It features impressive pillars and a huge octagonal copper dome indicative of its Renaissance style.  The interior is highlighted by fine Irish workmanship such as the wall murals and the cut stone carvings.  You will also be impressed by the mosaics and rose windows that are indicative of traditional Christian art.

21. Escape To Glendalough, County Wicklow

Glendalough is roughly an hour and a half drive from the heart of Dublin.  If you need a brief break from the hub-bub of the city, this glacial valley is quiet and peaceful.  Hermit priest St. Kevin thought this place was perfect for his medieval monastic settlement.  Stroll the tranquil countryside at your own speed and rediscover your inner-self as you explore the local lakes and the interesting ruins too. 

22.  Climb Muckross Head, County Donegal

If you love rock-climbing this is the place to be in Ireland!  You can climb as high as 20 meters here.  Ah, but be aware that the overhanging mudstone and sand crags here can make the climb more strenuous than one would imagine.  If you’re not into scaling the cliffs, head for the nearby beaches.  The tidal and wind conditions here make this a great place for surfing as well.  

23.  See Clonmacnoise, County Offaly

This Instagrammable historic monastery can be found south of Athlone off the beaten track at the crossroads of River Shannon and Esker Way.  Founded by the Celtic Church, it is their most prominent monastery in Ireland.  The ancient ruins here harken back to the 500s.  You will see remnants of not only multiple churches but also a castle.  The highlight here though is the numerous priceless, striking stonework sculptures.

24.  Savor Authentic Irish Cuisine

Dine on hearty Irish food.  Most dishes include cabbage, potatoes, and meat–such as pork and lamb–with fresh local ingredients to boot.  Try  boxty (potato pancakes), colcannon (cabbage and mashed potatoes), seafood pie (fish chunks with mashed potatoes and melted cheese), and, of course, Irish stew (al lamb stew that includes carrots, celery, onions, and potatoes.  Don’t forget to wash the whole thing down with a cold glass of Guinness too.

25. Attend An Real Irish Festival

The best time to catch a festival in Ireland is . . . any time!  Some of the highlights of their social calendar include The Galway Arts Festival.  This annual occurrence occurs every July.  More than 400 different international artists attend this big event.  If you arrive sometime in September or October you enjoy the Dublin Theater Festival.  In June there’s the Kilkenny Cat Laughs comedy festival held during the well-known June Bank Holiday Weekend.


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