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Attractions

Ireland Attractions

Exploring Vacations visits 100 different attractions throughout Ireland on our tours. For more information about what there is to do in each location, sign up for our free guidebook.

Dublin

Dublin-Castle-300x300Trinity College Dublin: Founded in 1592, Trinity College is the oldest university in Ireland and has seen many great minds pass through its gates including Jonathan Swift, Oscar Wilde, Bram Stoker and three of Ireland’s Presidents. The college is a peaceful place to walk around, to enjoy the classic architecture or just to escape the crowds and traffic of Dublin. It is situated right in the heart of the city.

The Book of Kells: Held in Trinity College, the Book of Kells is an illuminated manuscript dating from 800AD. Each page was hand crafted by monks and contains the four Gospels of the New Testament. The artwork is typically Celtic and the detail is amazingly intricate. This is a must see for any visitor to Dublin.

Chester Beatty Library: Chester Beatty was an Irish-American mining magnate and millionare who spent his life collecting antique manuscripts, artwork, rare books and decorative objects from all over the world. In Dublin Castle, his ‘library’ has now been opened up to the public and has an incredible range of ancient and historical artefacts.

Temple Bar: Alongisde the River Liffey with the beautiful Ha’Penny Bridge leading right to it, Temple Bar is a unique part of Dublin where the best of Irish culture, arts and nightlife can be found. It’s narrow cobbled streets and traditional pubs and restaurants give a real sense of times past. It’s not to be missed.

Guinness Storehouse: The Guinness Storehouse is the most popular attraction in Dublin, welcoming thousands of visitors every year. Learn how ‘The Black Stuff’ is made and discover its interesting history, and finish off your tour with a free pint at the Gravity Bar where you can enjoy panoramic views of Dublin city.

Old Jameson Distillery: The Old Jameson Distillery in Smithfield Square is a unique place to visit to learn about the history of the world’s most famous whiskey and how it came to be so popular. The tour includes a free glass of Jameson whiskey or a Jameson cocktail.

National Museum of Ireland: This beautiful building holds all of Ireland’s most prized treasures including ancient Celtic jewellery and objects, prehistoric Ireland exhibits and the story of Ireland in more modern times too. It’s situated right in the heart of Georgian Dublin and also incorporates the National History Museum.

Christchurch Cathedral: In the centre of medieval Dublin, Christchurch Cathedral is a Victorian Gothic Cathedral that takes pride of place at the top of Dame Street. A visit here can also be incorporated with Dublinia, the historical centre of Viking Dublin, just across the street.

Kilmainham Jail: This former prison turned museum is hugely important in Irish history. It was the site of imprisonment and execution for several leaders of the 1916 Easter Rising. Some of the prisoners included Eamonn De Valera, who later became President, and James Connolly, another important Irish political figure.

Galway

GALWAYGalway City: Galway is the fourth largest city in Ireland and has an atmosphere like no other. The pedestrianised streets, traditional music and customs, and beautiful setting next to the rushing River Corrib and Atlanic ocean is something no visitor should miss.

Galway Crystal: Galway Crystal is one of the world’s best known brands of Irish crystal. A visit to the workshop allows you to see how the crystal is made and a chance to find your own one of a kind hand made piece from the home of crystal.

Kylemore Abbey: Founded in 1920, Kylemore Abbey was originally built as a private home but now houses a Benedictine monastery. This stately castle sits beside a glassy lake surrounded by forest, with some pristine gardens and walking trails in the grounds.

Galway Music & Theatre Venues: If there’s one thing Galway is famous for, it’s music and theatre. Every summer the Galway Arts Festival brings world class entertainers from around the globe to entertain the masses, but traditional music sessions can be found all over the city all year round.

Clare

ClareBunratty Castle & Folk Park: The 15th century Bunratty Castle, the fourth castle to stand in the current spot, is a major attraction in Clare. Along with Bunratty Folk Park, it comprises a huge open-air museum and is where to go to see how the people of medieval Ireland lived.

Aran Islands: In the mouth of Galway Bay, the three islands that make up the Aran Islands (Inis Mor, Inis Mean and Inis Thiar) are one of the few places in Ireland where Gaelic is spoken as the first language. Just 1,200 people live on the islands and keep tradition Irish culture alive. Don’t forget to buy an Aran sweater.

Ailwee Caves: Discover the karst landscape of the Burren by exploring the Ailwee cave system. This undeground network contains an underground river, huge stalactites and stalagmites, and even has the remains of ancient Irish bears.

Cliffs of Moher: Where the Burren meats the sea, the Cliffs of Moher stand proud at between 120 and 214 metres above sea level and stretch as far as the horizon in both directions. On a clear day, the Aran Islands, Twelve Pins mountain range and Loop Head can all be seen from the cliffs.

The Poulnabrone Dolmen: A dolmen is a portal tomb contructed by early neolithic civilisation. They can be found all over Ireland, and this one dates from between 4200 and 2900 BC. Marvel at how those massive stones were moved and placed by hand and elbow grease alone.

The Burren: The Burren is a karst lanscape that spans 250 square kilometres and is one of the largest in Europe. Although it has virtually no soil, this area is home to a vast array of wildlife and vegetation and has a really mystical feel to it.

Doolin Village: The village of Doolin on the coast of county Clare is widely regarded as the home of Irish traditional music. Spend the night enjoying old Irish songs and storytelling, and visit the many archaeological sites nearby during the day.

The Burren Smokehouse: The Burren Smokehouse is famous throughout the world for its smoked salmon, and supplies it to every corner of the planet. It also served smoked trout and mackerel, and is something you have to try during your visit to Ireland.

Jane O’Brien’s Ennis Walking Tours: Jane O’Brien offers a warm Irish welcome and takes visitors on walking tours through the town of Ennis, bringing the town and its history to life. Tours take an hour and fifteen minutes.

Westmeath

WestmeathBelvedere House: On the shore of Lough Ennell, Belvedere House and Gardens date from 1470 and was built as a hunting lodge for Robert Rochfort, the First Earl of Belvedere. It’s architecturally significant due to its diocletian windows and nineteenth century terracing.

Kilbeggan Distillery: This small pot still distillery has had a licence to produce whiskey since 1757 and is most famous for producing Locke’s whiskey. Although the distillery was closed for much of the 20th century, since 2010 they have been fully operational once again, so this is a rare chance to visit a fully working distillery.

Loughcrew Passage Tomb: The Loughcrew passage tomb is a complex of over 30 mounds and cairns on two main hills where the most important people of ancient Irish society are buried. They date from 3200 BC and are the best example of ancient tombs outside of Newgrange and the Boyne Valley.

Hill of Uisneach: In Irish mythology, the Hill of Uisneach is seen as the centre of Ireland and has strong associations with the festival of Bealtaine, as well as some ancient cairns and circular enclosures. The ‘stone of divisions’, where the borders of all the provinces of the country meet, is also here.

Cork

CORKBlarney Castle: This majestic 15th century castle is famous for one thing; the Blarney Stone. If you’re brave enough to hang upside-down over a sheer drop to give the stone a kiss, you will be rewarded with ‘the gift of the gab’. In ancient times, this was the stone on which Irish kings were crowned.

Cobh Heritage Centre: Cobh has a very special role in world history; this was the Titanic’s last port of call before her maiden voyage. A trip to the Heritage centre explains these links as well as the rest of the town’s interesting history.

Cork City: Known as ‘the real capital’ by the locals, Cork has long been a rival of Dublin as the second biggest city in Ireland. Situated on one of the world’s biggest harbours, the city has a strong history as a place of rebellion against British rule and has a number of attractions such as the Enlgish Market, St. Finbarre’s Cathedral, St. Patrick’s Street and the Cork Opera House.

Old Midleton Whiskey Distillery: For 150 years, this was the only site that produced the world famous Jameson whiskey. Although production was moved to nearby new distillery, the old buildings were kept completely intact for future generations to learn the craft of distilling.

Dermot Ryan’s Kinsale Heritage Town Walk: Dermot Ryan has been giving guided tours of this beautiful little fishing village for over 40 years. A local man, he knows all of the stories and history that make this town so great.

Drombeg Stone Circle: Drombeg Stone Circle is one of the most visited megalithic sites in Ireland, consisting of a circle of seventeen closely spaced standing stones 9.3 metres in diameter. Evidence suggests that it dates from the 5th century AD, making it one of the oldest examples.

Charles Fort: Just outside of Kinsale, Charles Fort is a star fort, a type of fortress rarely seen in Ireland. Specifically designed to withstand a cannon attack, the fort dates from the late 1600s and featured prominently in the Siege of Kinsale in 1690.

Kerry

CORKThe Ring of Kerry: The Ring of Kerry takes in the most breathtaking sites in all of Ireland, with rugged cliffs, rolling hills and crashing waves at every turn. During the summer months this is arguably some of the best scenery in the world.

Staigue Fort: Acting as a place of worship, an observatory and a place of defence, the Iron Age Staigue Fort has the wonderful surroundings of the Iveragh peninsula. It was most likely built for a local lord or King, strategically placed at the head of a valley opening south into the sea.

Killarney National Park: The oldest in Ireland, Killarney National Park spans 103 square kilometres and includes the stunning lakes of Killarney, the highest mountains in Ireland, the country’s only herd of Red Deer and many rare endangered species of trees. It is heaven for outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers, with several walking trails all with spectacular scenery.

Muckross House & Gardens: Muckross House is a stately mansion straight out of any classic novel. Designed by the Scottish architect William Burn and built in 1843 for Henry Arthur Herbert and his wife, the tudor style palace has 65 rooms. Queen Victoria stayed here in 1861.

Killarney’s Traditional Music Pubs: With the most quintessentially Irish backdrop, there is no better way to enjoy Killarney than indulging in some traditional music with the locals in one of the many pubs in the town.

Torc Waterfall: Torc Waterfall, at the base of Torc Mountain in Killarney National Park, is a regular haunt of the rare red deer and a popular stop off on walking tours of the park and public hiking trails.

Dingle Peninsula: Dingle is a lively seaside village at the edge of the northern most peninsula of Kerry. A lovely town to wile away an afternoon, you can people watch in a quaint cafe, try some fresh off the boat seafood, or take a boat trip to enjoy the fantastic coastline and maybe even see Dingle’s resident Dolphin, Funghi.

Blasket Centre: The Blasket Islands is a group of six small islands of the Kerry coast that were actually inhabited up until 1953. Part of the Gaeltacht, this make a popular boat trip from the coast.

Slea Head Drive: The Slea Head drive is the most popular in Kerry, taking in a number of panoramic views of the Irish countryside and passing through several attractions such as Reasc monastic site, the Gallarus Oratory and Dunbeg Fort.

Inch Strand: Such is the beauty of this long stretch of sandy beach that is has been used in several films about Ireland such as ‘Playboy of the Western World’ and ‘Ryan’s Daughter’. It’s the perfect spot for surfing, fishing, or just walking along the sand enjoying the scenery.

Wicklow

WicklowWicklow driving tour (Wicklow Way): The Wicklow winds through 129km of Irish countryside, starting in Marlay Park in south Dublin, through ‘the Garden of Ireland’, county Wicklow, and ending in the village of Clonegal in county Carlow. It sees 24,000 walkers a year and goes through forests, mountains, boreens, lakes and glacial valleys.

Glenmacnass Waterfall: At the edge of the Glanmacnass Valley, this waterfall starts high up in mountains at 849 metres and flows down to meet the river Avonmore at Laragh. It makes a great sto off on a drive through the amazing Sally Gap.

Wicklow Gaol: Wicklow Historic Gaol dates from 1702 and conditions were notoriously appalling for the first sixty years of its existence, with no governing body and rife corruption form both gaolers and prisoners. Some of the 1798 rebels were held here and it was an important player in the Great Irish Famine.

Vale of Avoca: The scenic Vale of Avoca is where two of Wicklow’s rivers, the Avonmore and Avonbeg (meaning ‘big river’ and ‘small river’ form the rushing river Avoca. The river is lined with copper rich red stones and runs through a picturesque little village.

Glendalough Monastic Settlement: Known as the ‘Valley of Two Lakes’, Glendalough boasts the best scenery on the eastern side of Ireland. With spectacular scenery, rich history and abundant wildlife, Glendalough has a variety of walking trails for all fitness levels.

Avoca Handweavers: Although it now has branches in several locations around Ireland, the original Avoca Handweavers craft shop is located in the village of the same name, and has a variety or Irish made, hand crafted jewellery, clothing, food, home decorations and more.

Powerscourt House & Gardens: A magnificent 120 metre waterfall, perfectly manicured gardens, and a palatial mansion are in store for visitors to Powerscourt House and Gardens. A popular spot for Irish weddings because of the attractive scenery.

Avondale House: Avondale House was the birthplace and home of Charles Stewart Parnell, one of the most important political figures in Irish history. With over 500 acres of forest, this Georgian house was constructed in 1777 and still has much of its original furnishings.

Kilkenny

WicklowKilkenny Castle: Kilkenny Castle was built in 1195 by the first Earl of Pembroke, William Marshal. The castle and grounds are both open to the public and a tour of the castle is a must do for all visitors to the city.

Medieval Kilkenny City: Walking the streets of Kilkenny is like stepping back in time to medieval Ireland. Stone buildings and narrow alleyways line the streets, topped off by the foreboding Kilkenny Castle. This is a great spot for nightlife and some tasty restaurants too.

Kilkenny’s Traditional Irish Music Pubs: Kilkenny is a prime nightlife spot in Ireland and is very popular among tourists and Irish natives alike for weekend breaks. The main street is lined with pubs offering a wealth of traditional live music every night of the week.

Midlands

WicklowMullingar Market Town: The biggest town in county Westmeath, Mullingar is surrounded by several lakes and is best known as the setting for the famous Irish story the Children of Lir. The town holds a huge farmer’s market every weekend.

Newgrange: Newgrange is the most important prehistoric monument in all of Ireland and is famous all over the world. Dating from 3200 BC, it is a mound with a stone passageway and various chambers inside, still perfectly intact. A visit to this site is a visit to the heart of mystical Ireland.

Tullamore Dew: Tullamore Dew is a well known brand of whiskey distilled in the town of Tullamore, Co. Offaly since 1829. It is a blended whisey orginally pot still. Nowadays it is produced in the New Midleton Distillery in Co. Cork.

Fore Monastic Sight: The Fore monastic site is a Benedictine abbey situated in county westmeath. In the middle of two hills, it has the remains of a Christian monastery founded by St. Feichin around 630 AD.

Belvedere House & Gardens: Belvedere House and Gardens is a beautiful Georgian estate once the home of Earl Robert Rochfort, known for imprisoning his own wife for alleged infidelity. The manor has some impressive gardens too.

Hill of Tara: Flanked by the River Boyne, the Hill of Tara was considered to be the political and religious centre of Celtic Ireland and contains a number of ancient monuments. It was the seat of the High King of Ireland and would once have held a wooden palace for the most noble of society.

Hill of Slane: Slane is another important historic site standing proud 158 metres above the fields and hills below. It is purported to be the burial site of the important king Slaine mac Dela, and there is also a legend that St. Patrick once visited the site.

Clonmacnoise Monastic Sights: Founded in 546 AD, Clonmacnoise was an important religious centre in historical Ireland, closely linked to the Kings of Connacht. It was visited by scholars from all over Europe and is the burial place of many high kings of Tara.

Rock of Cashel: The Rock of Cashel has a very dramatic setting, high atop a hill with the town of Cashel at its feet. Now a shell of its former self, the castle is still a very worthy place to visit for the grand views across the Tipperary countryside.

St. Patrick’s Centre: The St. Patrick’s Centre tells the story of Ireland’s Patron Saint, responsible for bringing Christianity to Ireland and giving the country its national symbol, the shamrock.

Mayo

MayoClew Bay: Overlooked by Croagh Patrick, Clew Bay is one of the prettiest places on the western coast of Ireland, with one island for every day of the year in the bay. It’s a lovely stop off on a drive down the west coast or on a visit to Mayo.

Croagh Patrick: At 746 metres, Croagh Patrick watches over Clew Bay and county Mayo and is a very important pilgrimage site. Legend has it that Saint Patrick fasted on its summit for forty days in the fifth century AD and every year devotees climb the mountain barefoot.

Westport Heritage Town: Westport is not only one of the most lively and friendly towns in Ireland, but it has a magnificent setting on the coast of Mayo and has some of the best seafood on offer. Westport House is a popular attraction in the town.

Knock Shrine: A significant pilgrimage site, the Shrine in the village of Knock was the site of an alleged apparition of the Virgin Mary, Saint Joseph, John the Evangeslist and Jesus Christ in 1879 on the site of the Cathedral.

Ceide Fields: The Ceide Fields is the most extensive Neolithic site in the world and contains the oldest known field system in the world. It dates back 5,500 years and is a must visit for history buffs and archaeology fans.

Doolough Valley: The Doolough Valley is a peaceful setting with a sad history. An inspection of residents by government officials was due to take place for famine relief there, but the locals were so starved that many died during the exhausting journey to the site. A memorial stands there today.

Killary Harbour: In the heart of Connemara on the border between Galway and Mayo, Killary Harbour is a stunningly picturesque location. 16 kilometres long, this sleepy corner of Ireland is the perfect spot to spend a quiet afternoon of relaxation.

Connemara National Park: Connemara National Park boasts 2,957 hecatres of mountains, bogs, heaths, and forests. The quaint town of Clifden borders it on one side. Within the park, there are various remnants of ancient civilisation such as a 4,000 year old megalithic court tomb.

Donegal

DonegalBallyshannon Town: Ballyshannon claims to be the oldest town in Ireland, located at the most southern border of county Donegal. At the edge of Lough Erne and with the Atlantic Ocean on the other side, this town has some wild surroundings and a history going back thousands of years.

Glenveagh National Park: The second largest national park in Ireland, Glenveagh covers 170 square kilometres from Glenveagh Castle to the shore of Lough Veagh. It features exotic plants from South America, Australia and the Meditteranean as well as native pine trees and rhodedendrons.

Belleek Pottery: A porcleain pottery firm native to Fermnanagh and in production since 1884, Belleek Pottery is famous for being extremely delicate and is known for its iridescent surfaces. Pick up a piece of unique Belleek art in the working factory.

Rossnowlagh Strand: Meaning ‘heavenly headland’, Rossnowlagh strand is an especially attractive stretch of sand popular with surfers, wind-surfers, kite-surfers, swimmers and general beach lovers. It’s particularly nice during fine weather.

Slieve League Cliffs: The Slieve League Cliffs are the sixth highest in all of Europe and probably the most majestic looking cliffs in Ireland apart from the Cliffs of Moher.

Belfast

AntrimGiant’s Causeway: The Giant’s Causeway is a fascinating geological site formed from an ancient volcanic eruption that has resulted in over 40,000 interlocking basalt columns that you’ll find difficult to believe are naturally formed. Natural stepping stones leaves from the cliff top all the way down beneath sea level.

Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge: Visit this spot if you dare.The Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge is the only links between the mainland and Carrickarede island, spanning a thirty metre drop. 247,000 brave people cross it every year.

North Antrim Coast: The North Antrim coast is a wonderful drive past dramatic scenery, peaceful beaches and bustling seaside towns. Take in such wonders as the Giant’s Causeway, the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge and lively town such as Portadown.

Bushmills Distillery: Bushmills whiskey is the most popular Northern-Irish brand, set up in the Old Bushmills Distillery in 1743, although seemingly it was still in the hands of smugglers then. All of the whiskey bottled under the Bushmills name is still made here today.

Meath

MeathBru na Boinne Visitor Centre: Bru na Boinne, or ‘the Palace of Boyne’, is a complex of Megalithic sites set along a wide bend of the River Boyne. The sites date from 3500 to 3200 BC, making them older than the Pyramids. Among the sites is Newgrange, Knowth and Dowth.

Boyne Valley: The Boyne Valley was a popular site for Neolithic people, and there are a number of tombs, cairns, and other ancient sites in the Valley. It is also known for local honey, so a visit here must include a sample or two.

Trim Castle: A Norman castle on the bank of the River Boyne, Trim Caslte is the largest Norman castle in Ireland. It took 30 years to construct and was home to the Lords of Meath for several generations and was also a centre of administration and marked the northern boundary of the Pale.

Louth

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAMonasterboice Monastic Site: Before the nearby Mellifont Abbey was built, Monasterboice was the most important monastic centre in the area. It houses two churches, a round tower, and some very impressive high crosses carved from stone.

Carlingford: Calringford, on the east coast not far from Dublin, is a great place for adventure activities such as kayaking, zorbing or hiking. The quiet fishing village is also a good spot for some traditional music after dark and is a popular day trip from Dublin.

Cooley Peninsula: The Colley Peninsula includes the pretty towns of Carlingford, Omeath and Greenore against a backdrop of the Cooley Mountains. Carlingford Lough, very popular for water sports and other adventure activities, is just to the north.

Waterford

WaterfordWaterford Crystal: Waterford Crystal has been making exquisite crystal ornaments such as vases, glasses and chandeliers for generations and is the place to visit too see master glass blowing craftsmen at work.

Waterford City: Waterford is known as the ‘sunny south east’ by Irish natives, and Waterford City is its capital. Founded by Vikings, it has a rich history and is seated at the mouth of a harbour. Waterford is best known for its Crystal.

Lismore Castle: The stately home of the Duke of Devonshire, Lismore Castle was built in Gothic Style and has magnificent gardens and grounds surrounding it.

Dunbrody Famine Ship: The Dunbrody Famine Ship is an authentic reproduction of an 1840s ship used to carry emigrants escaping famine across the Atlantic to the United States and Canada. Showing the conditions and lifestyle of emigrants, this is an experience not to be missed.

Derry

DERRYGlen Gesh Pass: The Glengesh pass is one of the most scenic driving routes in Donegal, with a series of hairpin bends winding through tall pine trees and forest. Nearby is where 100 villagers hid from Oliver Cromwell during his tour of Ireland, although all but one were killed.

Blue Stack Mountains: On the southern border of Donegal, the Bluestack Mountains form some of the most majestic scenery in Ulster, with high steep hills and flat forests below.

Derry City, Wall and Murals: The city of Derry is steeped in modern history, being one of the main sites of the Troubles in the latter half of the twentieth century. Here is where the conflict between the North and the Republic is still prevalent with loyalist murals on the sides of houses. It is also a medieval city and a must do is to walk the walls of the old city.

 

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