Ireland’s Top 15+ Attractions
Rich in culture, history and tradition, Ireland is also known for its breathtaking scenery, magnificent gardens, world-class golf courses, and ancient castles. The Irish word for fun is “Craic” (pronounced crack) – and there’s certainly no shortage of Fun Things To Do in the Emerald Isle. Here are some of the most popular “must-see” tourist attractions:
Blarney Castle & Blarney Stone
Built nearly 600 years ago, millions of people from around the world come to tour the castle (located just northwest of the city of Cork) and kiss its famous “Blarney Stone.” According to legend, kissing the Blarney Stone gives one the ability to gain more eloquent speech. So, if you never want to be at a loss for “uttering the right words” (and as they say across the pond, obtain the “gift of the gab”)… the Blarney Stone awaits!
Guinness Storehouse is an absolute “must-do” when visiting Dublin, especially if you’re a beer lover – it’s Ireland’s Top Tourist Attraction. Over one million visitors from around the world come to the Guinness Storehouse Brewery every year to learn all about its world-famous stout – including the Four Ingredients that go into making a perfect pint of beer, the Brewing Process and the Tasting Laboratory. Learn how to pour your own pint of Guinness and savor a complimentary pint of the good stuff at Guinness’s Gravity Bar, offering visitors breathtaking 360-degree views across Dublin.
Steeped in history, Dublin Castle dates back thousands of years. No one actually lives in Dublin Castle, however, it plays host to foreign dignitaries and other important leaders in business and government. History buffs won’t want to miss taking a Guided Tour through Dublin Castle and its grounds. Visit the State Apartments, Chester Beatty Library – and Dubhlinn Gardens, the castle’s gardens, which now grow over the spot where there was once a Black Pool (“Dubh Linn”) from which the city of Dublin gets its name.
St. Patrick’s Cathedral
The historic cathedral stands adjacent to the famous well, reputed to be the site where St Patrick himself baptized converts. Author Jonathan Swift served as Dean and the first performance of Handel’s Messiah by members of the Cathedral’s Choir School took place here. The former Dean’s grave and the original music composition are on display inside the cathedral, in addition to rows of statues, beautiful stained glass and elegant decorations.
Trinity College & The Book of Kells
Founded by Queen Elizabeth 1, Trinity College is Ireland’s oldest and most famous college, dating back to 1592. Over 400 years old, Trinity College was one of the first to admit women. Famous male graduates have included Oscar Wilde, Jonathon Swift, Samuel Beckett, and Bram Stoker (he penned the novel “Dracula”). The Book of Kells is one of Ireland’s finest treasures, Well over 1,000 years old, the book is a record of the four Gospels in Latin – it’s the most recognized artifact of medieval Celtic art, ornately documented by Irish monks on 680 calfskin pages. Don’t miss this amazing display that draws over 500,000 visitors a year.
Giant’s Causeway, a rare and magnificent rock formation, is made up of more than 40,000 volcanic basalt columns (each a foot or two across). The natural wonder is located on
Ireland’s Northern Coast, about 75 miles northwest of Belfast, near the town of Bushmills in County Antrim. Since the 1800s, these unique rock formations and its nearby coast
have been major “must-see” attractions – over half a million tourists visit the historic site each year. Some have called the famous giant hexagonal-shaped stone columns the
“Eighth Natural Wonder of the World” – rating right up there with Mount Everest and the Giant Redwoods of California.
Ring of Kerry
Nature lovers from around the world are drawn to Ireland’s famous Ring of Kerry – it’s one of the most beautiful scenic drives in all of Ireland. Renowned for its spectacular natural beauty, mystical stones, ancient castles and ruins, the Ring of Kerry is one of Ireland’s most visited attractions. View spectacular landscapes and stunning coastline along Ireland’s Southwest coast.
Dingle Peninsula & Dingle Bay
Dingle Peninsula, once cited as “the most beautiful place on earth” by National Geographic, is located north of Dingle Bay, on the rugged southwest coast of County Kerry. At 30 miles long and up to 12 miles across, the spectacular peninsula sits on the westernmost point in Europe. Home to over 2,000 archaeological sites, the picturesque area is scattered with forts, Bronze Age standing stones and pre-historic huts.
Cliffs of Moher
This not-to-be-missed natural wonder (often described as a cross between the Grand Canyon and California’s Big Sur) is located along Ireland’s rugged west coastline, just south from the village of Doolin and just north of Lahinch in County Clare. Stretching for almost five miles, the massive Cliffs of Moher tower over 700 feet above the raging waters of the Atlantic ocean.
The Gap of Dunloe
The Gap of Dunloe (a spectacular glacial valley) is located across the water from Killarney. The narrow mountain pass winds its way for six miles between Macgillycuddy’s Reeks and the Purple Mountains. Cross the “Wishing Bridge” – legend has it that if you make a wish while crossing the bridge, it’ll come true! The best ways to explore the Gap of Dunloe is by biking, hiking or local “jaunting car” (light, horse-drawn passenger wagons) – no cars are allowed.
Killarney & Killarney National Park
Rich in history, culture and traditions, Killarney and its beautiful surrounding countryside, magnificent national park, ancient castles and famous Lakes of Killarney, makes it an ideal base for travelers who are touring Ireland’s spectacular Southwest. Visit Killarney’s magnificent National Park – 25,000 acres of woodlands, islands, waterfalls, historic houses and beautiful gardens. It’s a great place for walking, hiking, cycling, boating, fishing… and more!
The Burren, one of Ireland’s most magnificent and unique natural wonders (located close to the Cliffs of Moher), lies south of Galway, in the northwest corner of County Clare. The Irish for Burren is Bhoireann, loosely translated as “a bleak stony place” – its vast barren limestone landscape has remained unspoiled since the Ice Age. The Burren features some of the finest archeological megalithic tombs in Ireland.
Ross Castle is located on Ross Island (on the Bay of Ross), just over a mile from Killarney on the shores of Lough Leane – about 60 miles west of Dublin. One of the most popular sites in Ireland’s Southwest region, the historic 15th century castle overlooks the Lower Lake of Killarney and offers fabulous views of Innisfallen Island, Purple Mountain and Ross Island.
The Wicklow Mountains (the “Garden of Ireland”) are a range of mountains running southeast from Dublin through County Wicklow. Wicklow Mountains National Park is located about an hour south of Dublin. Open year-round, the spectacular park (a popular weekend retreat for Dubliners) draws over one million visitors every year.
Built in the 1860s, Belfast Castle (located in the Cave Hill area of north Belfast), is one of the city’s most famous landmarks. Sitting 400 foot above sea level, the historic castle offer visitors breathtaking views over Belfast.
National Museum of Ireland
Fun for families! Don’t miss visiting the National Museum of Ireland – home to the greatest collections of Irish heritage, culture and natural history in the world. The National Museum of Ireland’s collections are displayed in four museums: Irish Archeology, Decorative Arts & History, Natural History, and Country Life. Admission is FREE to all four museums.
Boyne Valley (Brú na Bóinne), located in the North-East of Ireland, encompasses the counties of Louth and Meath. A designated World Heritage site, Boyne Valley contains some of the most important historic sites and monuments in Ireland. The most popular of the megalithic passage tomb sites include: Newgrange, Knowth, Dowth, and Fourknocks — all built over 5,000 years ago.
Connemara & Kylemore Abbey
Connemara, located in the northwest of County Galway on Ireland’s beautiful West Coast, is known for its breathtaking scenery and romantic landscape – sandy beaches, picturesque countryside and craggy mountain peaks. Connemara is also home to Kylemore Abbey – the top tourist attraction in the West of Ireland.
If you want to see where President Obama has ancestral roots (he’s 3% Irish), visit the tiny village of Moneygall, located in County Offaly, in the Irish Midlands (he just visited there on May 23, 2011). Obama’s great-great-great-grandfather (Falmouth Kearney) was born and raised in Moneygall. Stop by Ollie Hayes pub for a pint of Guinness. Cheers!
Have FUN during your vacation on the Emerald Isle!
Tell us about some of your Favorite Things To Do in Ireland.