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Where are the most beautiful places in Ireland? There are so many! The Emerald Isle is studded with romantic castle ruins, mysterious stone circles, and megaliths galore. The countryside in Ireland is unique and unparalleled.
With more sheep than people and one thousand shades of vivid green, Ireland is a feast for the senses. Squint and it’s not hard to imagine a fairy or leprechaun flitting among the yellow lichen and pink clover on windswept cliffs that tower above the Atlantic Ocean.
European road trips are one of my favorite ways to travel, but even if you don’t want to rent a car, many of these spots are easy to see as inexpensive guided day trips from Dublin or Galway. So don’t let that stop you!
Here are 29 favorite haunts and secret spots in Ireland to inspire your wanderlust, courtesy of top travel writers…
- Places to Visit in Ireland
- How to Plan A Trip to Ireland
- Prettiest Places in Ireland (continued)
- 4. Adare
- 5. The Wild Atlantic Way
- 6. Ireland’s Eye
- 7. Glendalough
- 8. Cobh
- 9. Connemara National Park
- 10. Kylemore Abbey
- 11. Glen of Aherlow Tipperary
- 12. Kilkee, County Clare
- 13. Killarney
- 14. Dingle
- 15. Powerscourt Gardens
- 16. Inishbofin Island
- 17. Dunquin Pier, Co, Kerry
- 18. Burren National Park
- 19. The Aran Islands
- 20. Skelling Michael
- 21. Mizen Head
- 22. Malahide Castle
- 23. Wicklow Mountains National Park
- 24. Kinsale
- 25. The Hill of Tara
- 26. Waterford, Ireland
- 27. Blarney Castle
- 28. National Botanic Gardens
- 29. Arranmore Island
Places to Visit in Ireland
1. Cliffs of Moher
If you’re wondering where to visit in Ireland, the Cliffs of Moher, in southwestern Ireland’s County Clare, are one of this country’s most stunning sights. In fact, they are recognized as a UNESCO Global Geopark due to their geological importance and significance as a living landscape.
These jaw-dropping cliffs reach up more than 700 feet high (2124 meters) and stretch over eight miles (14 kilometers) along this scenic coast. It’s a little challenging to articulate the sense of awe they inspire in person.
The cliffs—a favorite stop for travelers road tripping Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way—are named after an old fort, “Mothar” or “Moher”, which once stood sentry on Hag’s Head to the south. They’re also home to Ireland’s largest colony of sea birds.
More than 20 species and 30,000 pairs of birds, including adorable Atlantic Puffins and razorbills, live here. Watching them draft the up and down currents as they soar and dip to the sea is simply mesmerizing.
You may feel humbled as you walk these staggering cliffs while the wind whips in from the Atlantic and the waves roll in so far below. Nature’s timeless dance has been happening in just this way here for hundreds upon hundreds of years.
For the full experience, try the two to three hour Doolin Cliff Walk, as we did. To miss the crowds, consider setting out in the evening. Start near Liscannor to the south, ambling through pastures of sheep and cows and heading north along the cliffs to the visitor center or beyond.
Or to see the Cliffs of Moher on a day trip from Dublin, book a tour. Check prices and availability for a Cliffs of Moher day trip here.
Chris | Explore Now or Never
2. Rock of Cashel
The Rock of Cashel (also known as “Cashel of the Kings and St. Patrick’s Rock”), located in the county of Tipperary, is a must-see historic site if you find yourself traveling through the southern section of Ireland’s Ancient East. It’s one of the best places to go in Ireland, in fact.
One of Ireland’s most popular national monuments, Cashel’s oldest building dates back over 1,000 years, making it even older than the country itself! Back then, this part of Ireland was still known as Munster. This historic site was the traditional seat of its kings for hundreds of years before the Normans invaded in the 12th century.
The fortress was donated to the Church by Munster King Muirchertach Ua Briain in 1101, but the massive round tower is the only structure from the era of his reign that you can still see there today. (Most of the other parts were built in the 12th and 13 centuries).
Still, the exceptional ruins easily rank high among Europe’s most impressive examples of medieval architecture. Get there early to avoid tour bus crowds and you’ll have the opportunity to spend hours marveling at the arches and ceilings of Cormac’s Chapel and the cross-shaped Cathedral.
Leave time to roam the ancient graveyard outside the church, where you’ll find a great collection of Celtic art headstones (including elaborately carved high crosses). And don’t forget to pull off to the side of the road on your way in or out for snapshots of the stunning scenic views from afar.
No car? See Rock of Cashel as a day trip from Dublin. Check prices and availability here.
Bret & Mary | Blue Ridge Mountains Travel Guide
3. Slieve League
When standing on the cliffs of Slieve League, it’s easy to believe that you’re standing on the edge of Europe; nothing ahead of you in the Atlantic Ocean until you reach the wilds of Canada. Standing on the top of the cliffs, some of which reach nearly 600m, nothing can be seen off in the distance.
There’s only the wild ocean crashing into the base of the cliffs, occasionally revealing narrow stretches of sand. Although even that vantage fades from view when the cloud and mist periodically rolls in…a spray of rain coming in sideways as the wind howls.
Despite being nearly three times higher than the famous Cliffs of Moher, the cliffs here in the western reaches of County Donegal remain far less known and visited. There’s no entrance fee or busloads of visitors although when I visited in the height of summer, there was a steady enough stream of visitors for a cart selling lobster rolls and drinks to have set up in the carpark. (Make sure you pack a good jacket even in summer!)
If you wish to take in more views of the surrounding dramatic countryside, it’s also possible to park and walk from an earlier carpark; it’s just under 2 kilometers back down the road, and it avoids the narrow final stretch of road.
Shandos | Travelnuity
How to Plan A Trip to Ireland
My best trips typically combine a visit to a bucket list sight or city with mostly off-the-beaten-path locations to enjoy fewer crowds. (But don’t miss the Cliffs of Moher here!) Here are a few of my favorite travel planning resources for the Emerald Isle:
1. Little Roads Europe custom itineraries.
Zeneba and Matt are Nashville musicians who travel to Europe five or six times annually seeking out the best values in hotels, experiences, and gourmet meals that don’t break the bank. For an obscenely reasonable fee, they’ll spend an hour on the phone with you to understand your vacation goals and then design your dream itinerary.
They reserve all the hotels, make your lunch and dinner reservations at little known destination restaurants, and are even available by text during your trip if you need them! You can get complete details and prices on a custom itinerary here. Mention Explore Now or Never when you book and save 10 percent!
2. Little Roads Europe Ireland guidebook.
If you don’t want to spring for an itinerary (and you should), get their award-winning Ireland guidebook. It was indispensable on our trip to Ireland. Available as a book or Kindle. You can grab it on Amazon here.
3. Rick Steves’ Ireland guidebook.
Great itinerary inspiration! Also available in Kindle or book. You can get Rick Steve’s Ireland guidebook on Amazon here.
Prettiest Places in Ireland (continued)
In County Limerick, on the west coast of Ireland, Adare bills itself as the “prettiest village in Ireland.” And with good reason! Its beautiful thatched cottages line scenic streets that bustle with quaint cafes serving local Irish cheeses, cream, and specialty dishes. Cozy pubs for a pint inevitably linger just around the next corner.
Adare is also home to monuments that hint at its rich 13th-century history. Visit the lovely Desmond Castle—erected with an ancient ring fort—here. Owned by the Earl of Kildare for nearly 300 years, it was forfeited during a rebellion in 1536 to the Earl of Desmond, who gave it its current name.
Or visit the Adare friary, conveniently located right on the main street through town. Known as the “Black Abbey”, the friary was also founded by the Earl of Kildare in 1316. Today, it’s known as St. Nicholas Church of Ireland.
A popular spot for weddings, golf, and even spring break, Adare offers visitors plenty of opportunities to hear traditional Irish music. Don’t miss Adare’s weekend market—featuring everything from homemade cakes and breads to artisan soaps—located in the heart of the village.
Chris | Explore Now or Never
5. The Wild Atlantic Way
The Wild Atlantic Way is a 1,553-mile road trip, meaning it’s not the easiest of attractions to cover on a quick visit to Ireland, and it would normally be covered in around a week.
And while the focus is mostly on the beautiful west coast of Ireland, it also includes many of Ireland’s better known attractions along the same coast, such as the Ring of Kerry, the Cliffs of Moher, and the wild sheep of Achill Island.
Galway City is also along the route, around the halfway mark as well, so it is definitely worth considering for a short break in between. Fortunately, the route is also simple to follow, either north to south or south to north, with regular signposts of ‘ww’ shaped waves on a visit blue background to identify the route.
It’s also easy to travel inland before starting back again on the coast. To make the most of the route, it is best to begin at the most northern destination at Malin Head (County Donegal) before traveling to the far south at Mizen Head (County Cork) or vice versa.
Dublin would be the start for many tourists on the Wild Atlantic Way, but there is also a small airport in Donegal. Or, the nearby airports of Northern Ireland are also very convenient for crossing into Donegal.
Allan | Bangorni.com
6. Ireland’s Eye
Ireland’s Eye is located just 15 minutes away from Howth, a seaside village north of Dublin, by ferry. It’s one of the most beautiful places in Ireland and is literally within commuting distance of Dublin. So head to Ireland’s Eye for a day out of hiking and birdwatching.
The ferry ride will take you past The Stack, an impressive rock face where thousands of seabirds come to nest. You might be lucky enough to spot gannets, guillemots, and puffins. A historic Martello tower (a defensive fort built by the British in the 19th century) is there to greet you when you arrive at the dock on Ireland’s Eye.
If you visit in the Spring, the island is even more beautiful and photogenic thanks to the blooms of stunning pink wildflowers and bright yellow lichen. There are no signposted trails on Ireland’s Eye; plus, be aware that there are no amenities (e.g., toilets) so be prepared to carry everything you need in your pack.
Climb up and around the edge of the cliff near the Martello Tower and you’ll find an excellent vantage point for birdwatching. Explore Ireland’s Eye on foot, keeping a careful eye out for nesting seagulls and other seabirds. (The seagulls nest pretty much everywhere on the island and in the Spring can be quite aggressive.)
Other birds nest mostly along the cliff faces. Head down to the shore near the Martello Tower and you’ll find a path to a quiet beach looking back toward Howth. I’m still impressed at how simple it is to get to Ireland’s Eye Island for a day trip…a totally different world, just on the doorstep of Dublin.
Jennifer | Sidewalk Safari
Conveniently located just an hour from Dublin, Glendalough combines Ireland’s stunning natural beauty, fascinating history and charming local culture in one simply gorgeous glacial valley. It’s one of the most amazing sites in Ireland. Glendalough first rose to fame over 500 years ago, when Saint Kevin chose its rolling green hills as his hideaway, to seek solace amongst the Wicklow Mountains.
Soon after, other monks followed in his footsteps, and Glendalough eventually became one of Europe’s most important monasteries, offering a peaceful sanctuary to the monks from the invading Vikings.
To this day, you can still wander through the extensive ruins of the monastery, dating back to the 10th through 12th centuries. A stunning tower and a picturesque church, built of mossy stone, are amongst a dozen sites you can explore in this valley. And while the ruins themselves are gorgeous, it is truly the surrounding Ireland landscapes that makes this spot so breathtaking.
Glendalough literally means “two lakes” in Gaelic, so it should come as no surprise that two glacial lakes are nestled amongst the emerald mountains. No stop to Glendalough is complete without a trek to gawk at the beauty of the Upper and Lower Lakes, which offer perfect reflections of the towering green Wicklow Mountains.
From the monastery ruins, it is a quick fifteen-minute hike to the banks of the Upper Lake. Once you reach your destination, pause for a moment and drink in the absolute tranquility and natural splendor that Saint Kevin found in these gorgeous hills so many years ago.
Jessica | Uprooted Traveler
One of the most beautiful cities in Ireland is found in the south near Cork. Cobh is a quaint little town and is most famously known as the Titanic’s last port of call. This colorful, seafront town is the perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of the more touristy cities. Not only is it picturesque, but you’ll find cute shops, bakeries, and Titanic-themed attractions to keep you busy for a full day.
Your first stop in this beautiful Irish town should be the Deck of Cards. A brightly colored row of cookie-cutter houses sits on a hill and attracts photographers from around the world. Be sure to check them out and bring your camera because it truly is a stunning view.
In the background you’ll find a gorgeous cathedral towering over the sea: a sight not to be missed! The neighborhoods throughout Cobh are full of colored houses, making them some of the most beautiful in Ireland.
Spend the rest of your time strolling around and enjoying the charm of this quaint town. Half a day is plenty to see what Cobh has to offer and you can easily hop over to it from Cork.
If you’re staying in Cork, you can make a quick drive over on your own, or join a day tour including a trip to Blarney Castle. If you’re on a mission to see the most beautiful places in Ireland, or just want to enhance your Instagram feed, Cobh is a must.
Julia | The Freckled Tourist
9. Connemara National Park
Connemara National Park is located on the west coast of County Galway in Ireland. Known for its natural beauty, it’s part of the Wild Atlantic Way (which runs all the way up the west coast of the country) and is also one of the most beautiful places in Europe to plan a road trip. This is beautiful Ireland, indeed.
With a mix of raw coastline, mountains, fairytale villages, and castles, the Connemara Loop is the one place you should add to your bucket list for your next trip to Ireland.
The road trip from Dublin will take more or less three hours: Connemara National Park is, in fact, best experienced by renting a car. The drive itself is absolutely spectacular. Many travelers claim it feels like driving in Iceland, with herds of ponies roaming around cliffs perched over the sea and lovely green valleys.
Renting a car will also allow you to see the best parts of Connemara National Park in just one day. You’ll drive the Sky Road, a narrow road with a breathtaking view on Clifden Bay and its offshore islands and see Kylemore Abbey, a beautiful Neo-Gothic castle that is the perfect background for some killer shots for Instagram.
The movie lovers out there will also enjoy visiting iconic spots like the Quiet Man Bridge, featured in a John Wayne movie, or Leenaun Village, where the movie The Field, featuring Sean Bean, was filmed a few years ago.
The so-called “Connemara loop” is probably one of the most beautiful places in Ireland if you enjoy driving in the quiet Irish countryside and spending time at tiny, fairytale villages that not many people know about.
Danila |Travelling Dani
10. Kylemore Abbey
While Kylemore Abbey is far from any major city, it’s worth the effort to see…even if just to spend a few minutes wandering through the “Narnia-esque” Victorian walled garden on the property. However, the abbey—home to the Benedictine nuns since the 1920s—and nearby neo-gothic church are also very photo worthy with their beautiful architecture.
And driving along the stunning Wild Atlantic Way en route to this postcard-perfect place is a wonderful bonus. Make sure to check the hours for the abbey hours before going and give yourself plenty of extra time since the winding one-lane road there can slow you down. Also note that there is a €14 entry fee per adult.
While Kylemore Abbey is the main attraction for many, the church and garden are equally—if not more—impressive. After touring the abbey and learning the history of this unique place, don’t miss out on a chance to wander around the rest of the property.
The church is a short walk along the lake, while the Victorian walled garden will take a bit longer to get to. However, there is a shuttle that runs every 15 minutes or so. If you are lucky, you’ll pick a slow time and have the gardens all to yourself!
Brooke and Buddy | Trailing Away
11. Glen of Aherlow Tipperary
Tipperary’s Glen of Aherlow sweeping vistas are absolutely breathtaking! There are views of the Galtee mountains from whichever viewpoint you choose. The Glen is the perfect place for hikers and walkers as there are many named and looped walks with maps that you can undertake. This is a very rural area with tiny villages and towns to stop at for a pint and a pie.
There’s also a fantastic 25km drive through the Glen that you will find is signposted from Tipperary town. Or you can take a bike ride from Bansha, a 20 km ride to Ballgally, which takes in some of the most scenic Ireland countryside you can imagine.
In Newtown, make time for a pint at the Coach Road Inn. Then drop into the tourist office hidden behind the pub to learn more about the area. The office offers many walking maps and information on all the hikes, festivals, and events that are hosted in the Glen.
You will find great campsites, lots of fishing for perch and brown trout in the River Aherlow, guided walks, fishing tours and dozens of outdoor activities for children. There are holy wells, derelict churches and abbeys and so many off the beaten path places to explore that you could spend your entire trip here!
Faith | XYUandBEYOND
12. Kilkee, County Clare
Staring west onto the rugged Atlantic Ocean sits Kilkee, Ireland. An hour’s drive from Limerick and two hours from Galway, Kilkee is a hidden gem along Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way.
Offering travelers some of the most beautiful sunsets in all of Ireland, Kilkee is a popular summer destination for many residents of Limerick. With just 1,0000 year-round inhabitants, Kilkee is as quaint an Irish village as can be. Protecting Kilkee from the strong Atlantic surf is Kilkee’s most notable feature, its horseshoe-shaped bay.
Once considered the premier swimming spot in the UK and Ireland, Kilkee has been a popular seaside destination since the 1820s. One of Kilkee’s most beautiful features are the miles of cliffs traveling along the Irish coast. While shorter than its more famous cousin, the Cliffs of Moher, the cliffs in Kilkee are far less crowded.
Stretching for nearly five miles, the Loop Head Way is a trail along the cliffs that begins and ends in Kilkee. The trail allows unobstructed and breathtaking views of the Atlantic Ocean and the Irish coastline. While Kilkee is blessed with stunning natural beauty both on land and sea, it’s the people of Kilkee that make it one of the most beautiful places in Ireland.
With a handful of pubs in town, drinking a Guinness at a typical Irish pub is a must in Kilkee. Almost entirely visited by locals, the pubs offer an opportunity to talk about Kilkee and the surrounding area. It’s a welcome change from the touristy pubs found in Dublin and other major tourist destinations in Ireland.
Amber | Food and Drink Destinations
When people think of Ireland, they usually think of rolling emerald hills, sparkling lakes, wildlife, and friendly locals. Killarney ticks all those boxes and then some!
As Ireland’s oldest national park, and one of the largest natural areas in the country, Killarney not only has natural beauty where you can hike, kayak, and sightsee, but also a quaint traditional Irish town where you can find amazing restaurants, pubs, and the best ice cream shop in the world, Murphy’s.
Killarney is also home to Ross Castle and Muckross Abbey, where you can explore the ancient ruins of the past. Spend a day discovering what life was like for Irish farmers in the 1800s at Muckross Traditional Farms where you can milk a cow, learn to make your own butter, and taste homemade bread! Book a tour of Muckross House next door to see how the other half lived.
Killarney is an incredible place located in the heart of County Kerry and close to some of Ireland’s other most beautiful places. Enjoy a mix of active and cultural activities here for the whole family. It also makes a great base for a trip to Dingle or for driving the famous Ring of Kerry.
Vanessa |Wanderlust Crew
Dingle is a small town in southwest Ireland. Not everyone one gets all the way to Dingle. For a small town it has a lot to offer. We stayed in an amazing bed and breakfast with gourmet breakfast (and meals if planned ahead). The small downtown in Dingle has awesome restaurants and a truly Irish feel to it with many pubs and restaurants with live Irish music. The lifestyle is laid back where everyone seems to have the time to greet and talk to each other.
While there is so much to choose from, I would highly recommend a few activities in and around Dingle. A scenic drives of Slea Head showcases a living history museum along with breathtaking views of lush green hills and crystal blue water. While it’s only 26 miles, plan to take half a day. Along the drive, enjoy delicious apple pie at Stonehouse Restaurant.
There are also many hikes in the Dingle peninsula with views of the water and remains of ancient stone structures. Be sure to enjoy live Irish music in Dingle and get ice cream by the harbor. A delicious meal can be had at the Goat Street Bistro. We stopped at the Dingle Pub and the music is something we’ll never forget.
The harbor walk is the perfect spot for amazing photography against brightly colored buildings, perfect for your Instagram account. And our horseback ride along the Dingle beach was thrilling, being somewhat in the water, on the pristine empty beach.
Dingle also offers many water activities like sailing, surfing, and swimming that would be wonderful on warm summer days. There’s so much to do, I’d stay there for at least several days.
You can also see Dingle on a two day guided tour of the Wild Atlantic Way. Check prices here.
Jyoti and Nirmal | Story at Every Corner
15. Powerscourt Gardens
Powerscourt house and gardens are in County Wicklow, just a 20 minutes drive south of Dublin. The house has one of the most beautiful gardens and for that reason its a landmark in Ireland not to miss.
In fact, it was recently voted third in the National Geographic list of the 10 most beautiful gardens in the world. There are 47 acres to explore and several themed gardens which are a must to see when you visit. The central Italian garden that leads from the house is framed by the view of sugar loaf mountain.
Everything is symmetrical here, and the boxed hedging and statues are stunning. At the end of the path, two large stone horses lead to the pond, which has a spectacular fountain. From there, there are several paths that you can take. If you’re here in the spring, the woodland path through the rhododendron garden is spectacular, and the aroma in the air is full of perfume.
My favorite garden is the Japanese garden. No matter what time of year you visit, it always looks magnificent. The maple trees are at their most colorful in autumn, but the azaleas bring lots of color in the spring. The pagodas and little wooden bridges over streams are lovely, and the water features are stunning. On a sunny day, it’s a fantastic place to find a quiet spot and to relax.
The design of the garden began in 1731, and it took 150 years to complete the 47 acres. At the top is the Powerscourt Cafe and if the weather’s okay, it’s a beautiful place to sit outside to enjoy an afternoon tea while soaking in the stunning vistas.
Before leaving the house and gardens, make sure you have a look around the boutique shops in the house. You’ll find some delightful gifts such as jewelry, woodwork, and ceramics…all of which are produced locally in Wicklow.
You can see Powerscourt Gardens and Glendalough as a guided Dublin Day trip. Check tour prices here.
Fiona | Passport and Piano
16. Inishbofin Island
Before arriving in Dublin for a bikepacking trip across Europe, we had never heard of Inishbofin, the tiny island off of Ireland’s west coast. But after chatting in a pub with a couple who had just returned, giving their week-long stay glowing reviews, we knew we had to add it to our list.
We soon found ourselves pointing our bikes to Cleggan on the Connemara coast for the 30-minute ferry ride to Inishbofin. What was planned as a two-day trip turned into two weeks, as we were quickly drawn to the magic of this unique place.
So what gives Inishbofin its magic? Part of the island’s charm is its quaintness. Smaller and less visited than better-known island’s like Inishmor, tiny Inishbofin exceeds expectations. With a surprisingly good network of quiet country lanes, bog roads, and sheep trails, it’s proven a great place to explore on bikes and on foot.
Plus, with lively little pubs, an excellent music scene—with live traditional music from local musicians most nights—delicious food, and friendly people, it’s the type of place where it’s easy to get lost, hiking and biking, hanging with new friends, and soaking up a bit of Irish culture. (Don’t miss the surprisingly delicious food from the food truck “Inishwallah.”)
Be sure to explore the 362-year-old Cromwell Barracks, reached by taking a beautiful walk that climbs lush green hills dotted with sheep and crosses white sand beaches. It’s an impressive fort, whose ghostly remains still stand watch over Inishbofin Harbor.
Sheri | Wander Libre
17. Dunquin Pier, Co, Kerry
An iconic Irish postcard image, Dunquin Pier is one of the most beautiful places in Ireland. Located in County Kerry along the coastal roads of the Wild Atlantic Way, Dunquin Pier is famous for its narrow winding pathway which twists down to the Atlantic Ocean.
Often called Dun Chaoin Pier, the name it is known by in Irish, the beauty of the pier is enhanced by its dramatic setting against the thrashing coastline and jutting rocks.
The pier is still operational and is used for ferries to the nearby Blasket Islands, an uninhabited group of Islands off the coast of Kerry. Passengers walk down the steep pier to board the ferry. Sometimes sheep are transported between the Blasket Islands and the Kerry mainland.
It is a real treat to see the sheep file up and down the pier, an image which is often presented on postcards of Ireland. Dunquin Pier is often referred to as the Sheep’s Highway as a result!
Dunquin Pier is at its most beautiful in the soft evening light as the sun sets over the Kerry coastline. It is a popular spot with photographers who are keen to capture its unique beauty. If you are planning on visiting Dingle or exploring Kerry, we highly recommend including Dunquin Pier in your itinerary!
Elaine and David | Show Them the Globe
18. Burren National Park
Located in the County Clare at the northwest of Ireland, Burren National park could be easily visited on a day trip from Dublin or Galway. It’s very close to Cliff of Moher, so you can combine a visit to these two together.
The best time of the year to visit it is in late May. Weather is the best during that time and most of the unique and special flowers growing there are in bloom in the late spring.
Burren National Park is probably the most famous for its amazing Ireland scenery. Because of the lack of the soil, you can see exposed limestone which is forming an amazing rocky moon-like scenery. Although being mostly composed of rocks, surprisingly, it’s home to many wildflowers.
Because of that unusual environment, you can find flowers from Arctic, Mediterranean and Alpines regions next to each other. There are 22 different types of orchids there, for example. Many animals are living in the Burren area, as well, including 30 species of butterflies. You’ll find all kinds of sea animals, like grey seals, dolphins and basking sharks there as well.
However, Burren is not only a must-see place in Ireland because of its nature. It was inhabited since the Prehistory, and many prehistoric sights can be visited, there too. Besides some of the caves, Poulnabrone dolmen is probably the most famous sight in the region.
For a full day tour of the Cliffs of Mohr, Calway, and the Burren, check prices here.
Tea | The Culture Tourist
19. The Aran Islands
The Aran Islands consist of three separate islands, Inishmore, Inishmaan, and Inisheer, from largest to smallest. It’s very easy to visit the Aran Islands on a day trip from Galway. A 45-minute ferry ride from Galway transports you seemingly back in time to rural Ireland.
Here, you can still hear the Irish language spoken as the predominant language, but don’t worry, English is spoken as well. The islands are the lush green you’ve come to expect from Ireland lined with stone walls that seem to sweep right into the Atlantic.
But, which island should you visit? I highly recommend visiting either Inishmore or Inisheer as there’s more to see. The best way to see the islands is by renting a bike from one of the bike rental shops near the ferry for the day. This way you can take your time exploring the sites and pull over to take in the stunning views at your own pace.
If you’re not up for a bike ride, there are also horse-drawn carriage rides available. On Inishmore, pay a visit to Dun Aonghasa, a stone fort overlooking the bay. On Inisheer, visit the Plassey Shipwreck, a large ship that crashed on the island years ago with no casualties due to the efforts of islanders.
When you’re done with sightseeing on the islands, enjoy a pint at the pub before heading back to the mainland. John Watty is the place to go on Inishmore and Tigh Ned on Inisheer. Here you can hear stories from the locals about the island and also meet other visitors.
It’s a small, but welcoming community. I hope you get the opportunity to enjoy the charms of the Aran Islands!
It’s an easy day trip from Galway to see Inisheer and the dramatic Cliffs of Moher from below on an ocean cruise. Check prices here.
Katie | Just Chasing Sunsets
20. Skelling Michael
One of the most ruggedly beautiful places to go in Ireland is Skellig Michael. A pyramid-shaped, craggy island about 8 kilometers from the southwestern town of Port Magee, the island is a huge tourist attraction. However, since it’s part of the nesting grounds for a number of birds, access to the island is monitored and there are strict rules on how many people can step foot on it each day.
There are a few reasons to visit this stunning landscape, one being the views and secondly, the abundant wildlife. On the boat ride and on the island itself, there are a number of important sea birds that use the islands for nesting.
You can see puffins nesting all around Skellig Michael with their colorful beaks and comical walk. They are easily within a few feet of the paths, if not on them, and you can get some stunning photographs.
There is also a lot of Catholic history associated with the island. Pictured is a beehive hut where monks from the St. Fionan’s Monastery used to live. They also would climb the more than 600 steps to the small boat dock to retrieve their food rations each day. Guides within the monastery walls will tell you all about their history and monastic lives while you are there.
If you want to visit Skellig Michael, you can either take a boat trip around the island or take an excursion to the island, but both of these fill up quickly due to its conservation quotas. Plan way ahead, but by no means miss it.
You can also see Skellig Michael on a five-day guided tour of the southwest of Ireland. Check prices here.
Corinne Vaile | Reflections Enroute
21. Mizen Head
With dramatic Irish scenery, ample wildlife and well preserved historical treasures, Mizen Head is without a doubt one of the most beautiful places to visit in Ireland. Located on the Haven Coast leg on the Wild Atlantic Way, it marks the most southwesterly point in Ireland. And once you visit, you’ll certainly feel like you’ve reached the end of the earth!
A series of pathways allow you to discover the site at your own pace. Wander over the bridge to the craggy headlands, but be sure to look down at the waters below as you do; I spotted seals in the choppy cove, and their playful antics could have kept me amused for hours.
Visit the quirky and rustic signal station that is over 100 years old and now houses a small museum. Walk out to the lookout points to marvel at the climatic cliffs and rocky promontories.
Keep an eye on the skies to spot migrating birds, and those waves off-shore…They might just be caused by the slapping tail of a passing whale. Allow plenty of time to discover the area, as although it’s not overly large, there is a lot to take in.
And when you’re done, pop into the Mizen Head Cafe for some hot salty chips and a well-deserved drink.
Nadine | Le Long Weekend
22. Malahide Castle
Malahide Castle sits north of Dublin, Ireland and is just a short walk from the Malahide Village and the local train station. In addition to the castle, the property includes 260 acres of land.
Surrounding the castle are breathtaking gardens, making this oasis one of the most beautiful places to visit in Europe! It is said that there are over 5,000 species of plants on the grounds which originated from Lord Milo Talbot’s, one of the former castle owners, love for botany.
The Malahide grounds are perfect for all ages as the gardens on the West lawn have a fairy trail so your little ones can enjoy their time in Malahide too! This trail, in essence, is a treasure hunt that will keep the children preoccupied and advancing through the gardens while you take in all the beauty that surrounds you.
Entry to the grounds, including a guided castle tour, costs 12 EUR for adults and half that for children. There are also discounts available for students and seniors. Visiting Malahide Castle is an excellent way to escape for some peace and quiet if you are staying in the bustling city of Dublin and want to enjoy nature in Ireland.
Kate | Stop, Drop, and Trek
23. Wicklow Mountains National Park
One of the most beautiful places in Ireland and certainly an area that you should not miss during your trip to the Emerald Isle is The Wicklow Mountains National Park.
County Wicklow, also known as the garden of Ireland, has so many beautiful scenic views that you will not regret visiting. In addition, it is only an hour away drive from the capital so you can easily visit on a day trip from Dublin by either car, public transport or by booking one of the many private tours that offer daily trips to this area.
The Wicklow Mountains National Park is a dream to any outdoorsy and nature lover. The scenery is most definitely worth admiring with some the best lake views you will find in the whole of Ireland. There is plenty of hiking trails too for different difficulty levels.
The landscape around the Wicklow Mountains is beautiful and diverse. Here, you will find some amazing Irish scenic drives, wonderful nature and peaceful woodland areas. But that is not all.
The Glendalough Valley, located in the Wicklow Mountain National Park, is home to the Glendalough Monastic City which has the remaining ruins of an early Christian settlement founded by St. Kevin in the sixth century. The monastic site has several impressive monuments including a traditional 30 meters high Irish round tower, church ruins and Celtic high crosses.
Check prices here on a half-day tour to Wicklow National Park from Dublin.
Thassia | Family Off Duty
Kinsale is a chocolate-boxy harbor town on the south coast of Ireland, not far from Cork. Situated on the mouth of the River Bandon, it’s as charmingly picturesque as you’d expect an Irish port town to be: bright white yachts bob up and down on the water, seagulls wheel overhead, and the narrow winding streets are packed with cute colorfully-painted shops, galleries, and restaurants.
For a small town, there’s a surprising amount to do in Kinsale. Because it’s on the waterfront, there’s plenty of water activities on offer: there are three marinas, a yacht club, boat hire, harbor cruises, sailing, kayaking, fishing, and even scuba diving…if you don’t mind the cold!
If you prefer your activities land-based, you can also try golf, abseiling, or check out one of the beaches (although it may not be hot enough to sunbathe).
Kinsale has earned a reputation for being a foodie heaven. For a small town, it’s surprisingly crammed with excellent restaurants and lively bars… o much so that it’s become known as the ‘gourmet capital of Ireland’. You’ll have no trouble finding somewhere to suit your tastes and budget.
If you’re a history buff, Kinsale also has not one but two 17th century bastion forts, situated opposite one another on either side of the river. As you’d expect, they’re both a bit crumbly now, but the walk along the waterfront from the town to the fort is very scenic and well worth doing, and the forts themselves are great for keeping the kids entertained.
You can also see Kinsale as part of a guided day tour from Cork. Check prices here.
Bella | Passport and Pixels
25. The Hill of Tara
More than 2,000 years ago, the Irish kings ruled from the sacred Hill of Tara, a 100-acre monumental sight in the County of Meath in the province of Leinster. It’s here that the mighty high kings of the Celtic world were crowned and their ironclad laws were read.
An important part of any coronation ceremony was the Lia Fáil, the famed Stone of Destiny. Also known as the Speaking Stone, it’s said to have been brought to Ireland by the Tuatha Dé Danann people, a mystical race with divine powers.
The stone is associated with many myths and tales, and legend has it that the Stone of Destiny can recognize a true high king of Ireland, and that if a king places his feet on it, it roars.
According to believers, the Stone of Destiny still stands on the Inauguration Mound at the Hill of Tara…and the huge standing stone could well be the real thing. Others say the stone was brought to Scotland in 500 AD. No one knows for sure, but visiting the ancient stone at the Hill of Tara is an awe-inspiring sight and helps visitors connect with the past and the estimated 142 kings who ruled here.
Another sight to see at the Hill of Tara is the eerie Mound of Hostages. This Neolithic passage tomb was created around 2,500 B.C. during the late Stone Age. It was an extremely sacred site, and the remains of some 200 cremated bodies were found inside.
A good place to start any exploration of Tara is at the visitor center, where a 20-minute audio-visual presentation is available.
History lovers can combine a visit to Hill of Tara with a visit to Newgrange (an impressive prehistoric monument) and Monasterboice (an early Christina monastic settlement) in a full day tour from Dublin. Check prices here.
Carol | Wandering Carol
26. Waterford, Ireland
Waterford, located along Ireland’s sunny southern coast, is also known as the Viking Town. While Ireland was populated before, this is the oldest permanent settlement in the country. Founded in 914 A.D. by the Vikings themselves, you can see their influence on this city even today.
Next to the large Reginald’s Tower, you will find a replica Viking ship and the Waterford Museum will give you a great overview of the history of the oldest town in Ireland. If you really want to see what Viking life was like, I highly recommend the King of the Vikings Experience.
It is a virtual reality experience that allows you to explore a Viking camp and dive deep into the daily lives of the Vikings over 1000 years ago. For more hands-on and real-life Viking history, I recommend you take the short drive to the Irish National Heritage Park in Wexford, an open-air park, where you can book Viking feasts and even spend the night in replicas of the earlier settlement houses in the park.
Another highlight of Waterford is the Waterford Crystal Factory. Of course, you can only visit the gift shop and shop for some unique and high-quality souvenirs, but I recommend you take the factory tour.
You will learn about the process of making crystal glass, from sourcing the raw materials to blowing to carving the intricate designs into the glass. I enjoyed watching the carvers, each cut precise and meticulous, or they might risk ruining dozens of hours of hard work with one little mistake.
I highly recommend adding Waterford to your Ireland itinerary. It has a lot to offer and is the ideal home base to explore Ireland’s southern coast. To book a one hour tour of the famous House of Waterford Crystal factory, check prices here.
Maria | Europe Up Close
27. Blarney Castle
While the main attraction of climbing castles is frequently the view from the top, at the Blarney Castle, it’s lying face up while you’re dragged to its edge to kiss the stone columns. Yes, this is a castle where you are a part of the demonstration, not some history that happened hundreds of years ago.
Now, it might be fair to ask why anyone would submit themselves to be part of such a demonstration. The answer is: the gift of the gab. That’s right, kissing the Blarney stone is supposed to confer the skill of sweet talking, just as Irish folk do…which might be reason enough to consider climbing up the castle and kissing the cold, wet stone on its ramparts.
But, no reason to worry if that doesn’t catch your fancy. You can still tiptoe your way around Poison Garden to see trees like nightshade, rue and poison hemlock peacefully coexisting.. From a safe distance, they actually look quite alluring but thankfully the plentiful signs around them warn you from getting too close.
Relax in the green environs of the castle as long as you wish…as you ponder all those who’ve just kissed the stone returning with the Irish gift of gab.
You can see Blarney Castle in a full day tour from Dublin. Check prices here.
Priyanko Sarkar | Constant Traveller
28. National Botanic Gardens
The National Botanic Gardens are located in the Dublin neighborhood of Glasnevin, three kilometers north of the center. Entry to an oasis of colorful flowers and plants is free.
The gardens are also famous for their restored and historic glasshouses. The history of the gardens dates 1795, well over a century before the Republic of Ireland gained independence from British rule.
The National Botanic Gardens may not be on most people’s radar during a short stay, but we enjoyed visiting during the two and one-half years we resided in Dublin. Dublin is not considered a European beauty queen, but the gardens are one of the most beautiful places in Ireland.Tours are offered Monday to Saturday at 11.30pm and 3.00pm, and on Sunday at 12.00pm and 2.30pm.
While in Glasnevin, also consider a visit to the Glasnevin Cemetery, burial place of many prominent Irish figures including Michael Collins, Eamon de Valera, and Cristy Brown. Nearby, John Kavanaugh (AKA the “Grave Digger’s Pub”) is an iconic local pub dating to 1833. It’s an excellent place to enjoy a pint of Guinness and some local grub.
Take a guided historical tour of the iconic Glasnevin Cemetary as a day trip from Dublin. Check prices here.
Alex | Wanderlust Marriage
29. Arranmore Island
County Donegal is Ireland’s fourth largest, least populated, and northernmost county: It’s large, wild, and remote. Locals like to say, “Up here, it’s different.” And it is.
One of Donegal’s curiosities is Arranmore Island, settled since prehistoric times. Many of the island’s former residents left during the famine years of the 19th-century and emigrated to the US, where they settled on Beaver Island in the middle of Lake Michigan.
To this day, long-time residents of Beaver Island trace their ancestry to Arranmore, and the two islands are now “twinned” with one another. A monument to this connection stands in a little lake on the island, flying the two countries’ flags over statues of an otter, a beaver, and a fish symbolizing the link between the two.
The little fishing village of Burtonport is the boarding point for the ferry to Arranmore. The cost of the round-trip ferry ride with a car is €45, much cheaper for walkers or cyclists. The 15-minute ferry ride itself is fascinating; the boat threads its way amongst a handful of tiny, rocky islands, so narrow that from a distance the naked eye can’t make out a passage at all.
Arranmore is a mystical and beautiful island largely untouched by tourists – a lovely place for hiking, biking, or a leisurely and fascinating drive, as long as you don’t mind sharing the road with the occasional sheep.
Matt and Zeneba | Little Roads Europe
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