There is so much to do on this small island, it could take you months to see all that beautiful Ireland has to offer. If you don’t have that kind of time, here’s a list of our favorites.
These three islands in the Galway Bay are popular among visitors, especially for their Bronze Age and Iron Age forts and attractions. With a tiny population of only 1,200 residents and their isolation from mainland Ireland, the Aran Islands’ features such as the Black Fort, O’Brien’s Castle and Teampull Bheanain remained largely untouched.
Castle of Kilkenny
Built in 1195 alongside the River Nore, this medieval castle is in the center of Kilkenny town and a 15 minute walk from McDonagh Railway Station. Visitors can enjoy the castle and grounds only by guided tour in the winter months, so be sure to book ahead of time. Summer access is better. The gardens out front are spectacular. And the park green extends far beyond the castle. After your tour, visit the design center in the former stables across the street and then stroll into the quaint town center.
Cliffs of Moher
Rated as one of the top places to see in Ireland by almost every travel guide, the Cliffs of Moher receive nearly one million visitors every year. Within the last ten years the local county has built a visitor center offering the ‘Cliffs of Moher Visitor Experience’ to welcome its guests. The facility was built to be environmentally sensitive with geothermal heating/cooling, gray water recycling, and solar panels. This is a touristy one, but for good reason.
Cork is Ireland’s second city, smaller and a little grittier than Dublin. It boasts the second largest harbour in the world. And it has become the center of the new food trends for Ireland, with some of the country’s best restaurants. The farm-to-table food movement is alive and well in Ireland, and Cork it its center. Nearby, you will find Blarney Castle, where visitors can kiss the Blarney Stone in hopes of getting the gift of gab.
This tiny, picturesque fishing town in the southwest of Ireland is charming and attracts visitors largely because of its cuteness, with a lovely town center full of colorfully painted facades, friendly pubs, cute boutiques, and possibly Ireland’s only combination pub/hardware store. Take a cruise on the bay in search of its resident dolphin, Fungie.
As Ireland’s capital, Dublin is a young, lively city rich with things to do and see. The Guinness Storehouse tour is a pilgrimage for any beer lover, and the Gravity Bar tasting could be a literal high point of your visit. Explore the National Gallery, the Archeology Museum, Dublin Castle, St. Patrick’s Cathedral and Christ Church. Or just hang out on St. Stephen’s Green, pub hop in the Temple Bar area or shop on Grafton Street. Bibliophiles will find paradise here, viewing the Book of Kells, visiting the Chester Beatty Library, hunting literary landmarks, or just browsing the city’s many bookstores.
Killarney National Park
Covered with rugged mountains, including McGillycuddy’s Reeks, the highest mountain range in Ireland, Killarney National Park is ideal for cyclists and walkers alike. Visitors can rent bikes in the local town of Killarney or, better yet, horse-drawn jaunting cars can be rented for a more traditional experience through the park. There are countless vistas, trails and waterfalls to be enjoyed. And Muckross House and gardens is a must see.
A popular vacation spot for the Irish, Kinsale Harbour is known for its yachting, sea angling and golf. Each October this town holds a Gourmet Food Festival, and this lovely town by the sea offers a surprising good selection of restaurants. Shopping is good her as well, as Kinsale is Ireland’s second Fair Trade town.
Ring of Kerry
One of the most scenic and gorgeous drives, the Ring of Kerry lives up to its hype. The dramatic coastline, mountains and cliffs of the Iveragh Peninsula are simply like nothing you’ve seen. Fields of green pastures and deep blue water will fill every photo snapped, but we promise none of them will do it justice!Explore the more remote Skellig Ring and the sweet villages along the way. There are ruins of castles and abbeys along the way and impressive prehistoric ring forts to discover.
The Burren (or Great Rock) is a hard landscape located in Clare County. The national park here is known for its extremely diverse plant life. When you visit this region, don’t miss the Poulnabrone Portal Tomb and the Stone Monument.
For your perfect vacation in Ireland, check out the Ireland Untour, centered in Kenmare, County Kerry.