There are plenty of things we can thank Ireland for. There’s music and dance, legends and traditions, food, and many more. But the best of Ireland is the nation itself—rich in verdant landscapes, cliffs, mountainsides, castles, and so forth. To fully grasp the abundance of the Irish culture, a visit is absolutely necessary. Ireland has so many amazing sights and experiences to offer, and it doesn’t really matter what you’re there to look for. Ireland has something for everyone to enjoy. If you’re planning to visit Ireland or if you’ve ever dreamed of going there, here are 20 places that you absolutely must see.
1. Cliffs of Moher
This idyllic location is probably the visual many of us think of when someone says Ireland. The Cliffs of Moher is one of Ireland’s most popular destinations. The sights of the cliffs will definitely take your breath away, but just imagine what it’s like to stand atop the cliffs and face the Atlantic. According to the official tourist attraction website, the Cliffs of Moher have been around and undergoing formation for over 350 million year. That kind of history is difficult to even grasp. It’s just astounding.
2. Killarney National Park
In County Kerry, you can spend days upon days of just soaking in the beautiful simplicity of nature. Breathe in some fresh air at the Killarney National Park, over 10,000 hectares worth of greenery and stunning views. At Killarney, you can explore the age-old Ross Castle and get lost in the scenic landscapes. Visit the Muckross House and Muckross Abbey and admire all the Victorian wonders you can find inside. There’s also a recreation of a 1930s farm at the Muckross Traditional Farms. No matter what you do, just make sure you allot enough time to see everything at Killarney.
3. Blarney Stone at Blarney Castle
The Irish love their legends, and according to History.com, kissing the Blarney Stone is a particularly favorite one. If you were looking for eloquence and influence, you’d have to give the Blarney Stone a quick peck. However, you’d have to do it leaning backwards, while you hold on to the railings by the Stone. It isn’t easy to do; but if Winston Churchill could do, then so can you. He’s one of the most eloquent men that ever lived, after all. If you’re going to kiss anything while you’re in Ireland, the Blarney Stone might be your best and most adventuresome bet.
4. Guinness Storehouse
You don’t have to be a beer fan to appreciate this tourist attraction in Dublin. There’s always something new to learn at the St. James brewery; and if you’re not there for the beer, you can definitely simply admire the views. The brewery itself is steeped in Irish culture, and it’s hard to deny the charm of it all. There are tons to eat and drink and explore at the Guinness Storehouse, and a tour is an absolute must.
5. The Rock of Cashel
Ireland has no shortage of dreamy castles to visit. But one tourist favorite is the Rock of Cashel. The castle sits on a hill, which totally adds to its fairytale-like quality. According to Heritage Island, the castle is a wondrous combined works of Medieval, Romanesque, and Gothic architectures. You can take a guided tour of the entire place, or spend the day exploring on your own. You can get audio and visual aides in either case. Feel free to take photos as well. The sights will definitely be something you’ll want to remember.
6. The Giant’s Causeway
Only in Ireland will you find a destination named after giants. The Giant’s Causeway is exactly the kind of thing that only Mother Nature can design. The unique rock formations in this part of Antrim are something you just can’t duplicate or manipulate. It’s as mysterious as it is romantic. Many people have visited The Giant’s Causeway with certain expectations only to have those expectations get blown away by the reality of its natural beauty. You can also spend some time at the visitor center to learn more about this World Heritage Site.
We know that Sligo is such a large area to include into one place, but there’s just not one destination you can pick to concentrate on at Sligo. Every single attraction here warrants a visit, and you definitely should try. Tripadvisor lists Knocknarea and Benbulben as top places to visit while in Sligo, but this town has so much more to offer. There are Neolithic rock formations, prehistoric passage tombs, a fishing bay, and a beach to top it all.
8. Skellig Michael
You might say that they’re just splinters of stone; that’s what “skellig” means, after all. Just remember that these natural rock formations probably formed roughly 370 million years ago. Skellig Michael is a decent hike. You can enjoy some solitude here. You can visit an ancient Irish monastery as well. You can admire the many types of birds that call Skellig Michael home. It’s truly as serene as it sounds on here. When you get a chance, make sure you locate Skellig Michael’s sister island, Little Skellig. It’s inaccessible, so don’t you even try.
9. Kylemore Abbey
If stunning Victorian is what you’re looking for, look no further than Kylemore Abbey. Originally built as a castle, Kylemore Abbey is the epitome of grandeur. Connemara states that the history alone is worth gushing over. The Victorian Walled Garden is 6-acres worth of extravagance and lavishness. You can also enjoy the pottery room and the Gothic church. You can also get refreshments from the restaurant or the tearoom. The estate is open all year to visitors, so this is a definite must-see any time of the year.
10. Dingle Peninsula
This part of Ireland will definitely take you back in time. Sweeping views of prehistoric land formations and ancient landscapes will give you an otherworldly feeling. The westernmost point of Ireland, the Dingle Peninsula is far away from the hustle and bustle of everything else. You can discover villages that have long been abandoned and a fort that has a beehive hut remaining inside. It’s probably one of the most serene places in all of Ireland. The Dingle Peninsula may be a little out of the way, but it’s well worth the side trip if you’ve got the extra time.
11. Bunratty Castle
You may think you’ve had enough of Irish castles at this point, but wait just a second. Bunratty Castle is different. It looks different and offers something unique as well. The tower castle is as simple as castles could be on the outside, but it stands as a special part of Ireland’s history. This particular castle has been around for 1,000 years. The castle’s website offers various interactive events visitors can take part in and enjoy. We particularly recommend experiencing the Bunratty Medieval Banquet, where you can see firsthand what it’s like to dine medieval-style.
12. The Burren
While most of us picture Ireland as all grassy and green, it actually has many different kinds of landscapes. Rock formations can be found all over the country, but one place is definitely worth seeing because of its uniqueness. The Burren is a vast landscape of limestone. You’d really think you’ve landed on the moon somehow. But upon closer inspection, you’ll find tiny orchid leaves peeking through the rocks. There are also hundreds of other native plants that thrive here. There are plenty of other magical things to discover at The Burren, but you’d just have to go there to see for yourself.
Glendalough is a monastic settlement in an Irish glacial valley. If that doesn’t sound enticing enough for a visit, just read on to see what else you can find in this place. You can enjoy a lovely hike around two quiet lakes, aptly named the Upper and Lower Lakes. There’s a stream that provides excellent background noise for the monastery and the cathedral. You’ll definitely want a peek into the round tower, if not just a picture. Glendalough is a great place to collect yourself and find some inner peace. Sacred Destinations says you can visit the entire place in an afternoon, but we think you should allot at least half a day instead.
Ireland is more than just its past. There are plenty of modern sites to see here as well, and a good place to start is Dublin. Dublin is Ireland’s largest city, and it also serves as the nation’s capital. Dublin is just like any other city. It’s got its own mind—its own voice. Dublin is teeming with activities, sights, experiences, and culture. Make sure to see as much as Dublin has to offer—museums, nightlife, art, music, food, and more.
15. Connemara National Park
Rolling hills and mountain ranges—Connemara National Park takes us back to Ireland’s natural wonders once again. Discover Ireland suggests that you explore the Visitor Center first before you take off on foot to explore on your own. You’ll find plenty of forgotten things to discover along your way including ancient walls, ruined houses, and even old sheep pens. The Visitor Center provides guided tours during the summer, so make sure to keep that in mind if you’re visiting during that season.
16. Titanic Belfast
The Titanic is not just a big part of Ireland’s history; it has become part of our world’s history. And Ireland offers one of the largest Titanic-dedicated attractions in the entire world. Titanic Belfast offers a glimpse into the ill-fated ship’s story, but it also offers more than that. Visitors will get a chance to learn about Ireland’s maritime history, both modern and past, at the Titanic Belfast. The Titanic experience can be a little chilling, but there’s nothing else like it in the world.
17. Slieve League
If you’re looking for more cliff options, Donegal offers an amazing experience. According to Wilderness Ireland, Slieve League actually offers higher vantage points that the Cliffs of Moher does. The area is known locally as Ireland’s Forgotten County. It’s largely rural, full of farms and coastlines. It’s a remarkable hike and a great place to view some of Ireland’s other tourist attractions such as Sligo and Benbulben. The Slieve League may seem to have been forgotten, but it’s nowhere near forgettable.
Galway is a city much smaller than Dublin, but it’s got its own character and flair. It’s known for its architecture and is the closest city to some of Ireland’s best attraction such as the Cliffs of Moher and the Aran Islands. Galway is full of interesting pubs and shops, and you can walk to them all on cobblestone streets. There’s a lot of youthful vibe going on there, and the vibe is certainly contagious. You can easily spend a couple of day here just getting to know the culture and listening to some good music.
19. The Aran Island
Speaking of Galway, as soon as you’ve done your visit there, head straight to the Aran Islands for another one of Ireland’s best destinations. The islands’ official site puts the Aran Islands just miles outside of the Galway Bay. It could easily be a day trip if you plan it properly. You can get to the islands by ferry or by air, and we highly recommend doing one each way. There are three total islands to visit, and each one has its own sights to see. There are also plenty of accommodation options on the islands if you ever decide to stay the night.
We’ve mentioned time and again just how green Ireland is. If you wanted to see color there, the first place you’d need to see should be Kinsale. This small fishing town is full of vibrant buildings. The historic port also happens to have a strong military history important in all of Ireland. The entire place is Instagram-worthy, but you’d want to put your camera down for a little while just to soak up all the wonderful sights. Step away from the port a bit to see the fort, and then go back to town to enjoy the rest of your night.
Written by Garrett Parker
Read more posts by Garrett Parker