Ireland is a place of enchanting beauty and wonder that people all over the world view as a bucket list place to visit. If you are lucky enough to have the opportunity to visit this land of green glades and rocky cliffs, then be prepared for some of the most breathtaking scenery and interesting pieces of world history.
It’s not enough to just know that Ireland is a captivating sight to see. You need to plan and make a detailed schedule your day to day activities while you are visiting this fun and unique country. This guide will help you no matter what time of year you plan on visiting Ireland.
Places to Visit
Killarney National Park
Ireland with its luscious sprawling woodlands and incredible rugged mountain ranges is truly a sight to see. Many people travel to Ireland for the scenery and one of the top places we recommend to those people is Killarkey National Park.
Irish State officials received official paperwork on the, then, 4,300-hectare park in 1932. Since then, it has flourished and grown to a wide expanse of 10,236-hectare. What started off as a memorial park is now an internationally known park.
Killarney National Park is every nature lover’s dream with glistening lakes, mountains, ever changing skies, fairytale woods, and breathtaking waterfalls. The tallest mountain range in Ireland resides here which rises to a staggering height of over 1000-meters. Vast woodlands feature native oak woods and yew woods that grow large and proud. Lovely evergreen trees and shrubs with waxy leaves stay green year-round.
Step quietly and thoughtfully as the park is full of life – flora and fauna alike. From quick reptiles to graceful mammals and flowing wild grasses to ancient trees, there is something here to inspire awe in every nature lover. Red deer surviving the last ice age call Killarney National Park home, and they are the last surviving indigenous herd in Ireland.
Killarney House and Gardens Visitor Centre offer touring of the Muckaross estate. Exquisitely preserved 19th mansion with period houseware and furniture to appreciate as well. Check out the guided tour hours and sign up before spots fill up.
Cliffs of Moher
The Cliffs of Moher are one of Ireland’s most popular places to visit as far as natural attractions go. If you are headed to the west coast near County Clare, then you have to got to make a stop by these stunning limestone sea cliffs.
Along the Atlantic Ocean, these cliffs stand 214-meters and stretch for a lengthy 8-kilometers. Breathtaking views and world altering perceptions abound with nothing but peaceful coastal waters and clouds in the sky to see.
On clear days, you can even see the Aran Islands from these Cliffs. However, this is Ireland, so be prepared for chilly temperatures with wind and rain. Many people make a day trip out of this by driving along the coast through traditional Irish villages on their way up to the cliffs.
Isolated and scenically dramatic, the Aran Islands are another must see location in Ireland. History and culture buffs will get a thrill from the memorable feel of this location. There are three islands in total to explore, and each has an abundance of things to discover.
First, you have to get to the islands. This can be accomplished by means of passenger ferry from either County Clare, County Galway, or Rossaveal. Air travel is also available if you want to get there quickly – in just 8-minutes – and use your time to traverse the islands. Who knows – you may end up wanting to spend more time at ancient sites immersing yourself in traditions or you may want to rent bicycles and see everything all the islands offer.
Inis Mór is the largest island of the island and has the showstopper Dun Aonghasa. This ancient stone fort was formed with triple walls for defense around a sheer cliff edge. Its age dates back to over 3,000 years ago. The Black Fort with ominous dark limestone coloring also calls this island home. When you are done stepping through time, Teach Nan Phaidi is a charming thatched-cottage café to boost your energy back up.
Inis Meáin is the middle island that is known for its dotted flowered landscape and luscious green fields. The wild Atlantic crashes in the distance on dramatic cliff edges and deserted beaches. Local pubs and friendly islanders abound to greet you more so than tourists. Small churches and local eateries make this island the ideal place to come for a relaxing low-key feel.
Inis Oírr is a lovely island to rent a bicycle on and casually ride through looking at wildflower lined roads and white sandy beaches. This small island has a large personality from its craggy cliffs to its warm islanders. Foodies will delight in the culinary options available to them here, while history buffs will revel in the ruins of O’Brien’s Castle.
Another stunning piece of scenery in Ireland is the Dingle Peninsula, located to the west of Tralee. If you are completing this tour via vehicle, it is a wonderful addition to add onto after the Ring of Kerry drive. Cyclists should plan to start this scenic tour early in the day since it is a four-hour ride and you will want to allow yourself time to enjoy the sightseeing and lunch.
Along this tour, you will see so much variety of what Ireland has to offer. Views of magnificent blue waves crashing onto sandy beaches lead you up towards a small fishing town and flirting with the clouds at 456-meters elevation.
Photographers of every skill level will not want to pass up the many opportunities to be had along the Dingle Peninsula. Sleahead Drive and Road Side Stop are marvelously green and offer variety along the many beaches; including, Inch Beach with its rocky hill and romantic slopes in the background.
Further up the peninsula, history lovers will find a thrill in Gallarus Oratory. Historic ruins aged 1,300 years old. This small oratory was originally a small chapel built for private worship.
Still, further up, is the charming town of Dingle built around a busy fishing port and marina. Stay a while and have some lunch while delving into the culture and happy vibes of the local population.
To top of the end of this trip, you should circle through to Connor Pass. What a story you can tell after winding through the narrow roads and blind corners. Pull over and snap some up close and personal pictures of nature if anyone ends up following too closely behind you so they can pass. The views from up here are breathtaking and life alternating. Take a deep breath and enjoy the moment and scenery.
All right, those who fancy one of Ireland’s finest and most famous pints will absolutely have to make travel to the Guinness Storehouse. This loved location is placed in the heart of Dublin and offers up more than just delicious brews.
You will begin the tour on the bottom floor with the world’s largest pint glass. Complete that task and you can start to work your way through seven additional floors with interactive experiences that blend together Guinness’s history and Ireland’s history. The top floor features their famed Gravity Bar where you can experience new highs to celebrate your new knowledge.
Skellig Michael is a remote island on the western coast of Ireland that is well-known for reasons you may not guess.
Star Wars movies were filmed here.
That’s right. People travel here in droves to see this famous location – either to recreate a magical film moment or to experience the majestic scenery that ancient builders and mother nature have created.
Stone pathways lead up to a rocky monastery that extends above the rock island and overlooks the crashing waves of the ocean below. Ascetic monks withdrew from civilization to these rocky crags in pursuit of closeness with God. Many species of seabirds breed in this area, adding a cacophony to the atmosphere. Both eerie and majestic, it is easy to see why this was chosen for a film location.
As a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Skellig Michael is limited to only 180 visitors a day. Before being featured in such a world-famous film, this was not such a problem. Now, however, it can be difficult to get a ticket on this island. If this cool location is on your bucket list, you will need to ensure that you book your tickets well in advance.
Princes do not come easily unless you live in a fairytale world and have close access to a magical frog that you can kiss. The real-world equivalent to this kiss and receive story is in magical Ireland.
A medieval stronghold located outside of Cork, Ireland is called Blarney Castle and is home to a unique stone known as Blarney Stone. Tales tell that you can gain the gift of eloquence if you kiss this stone. Now, believing in these tales of magic and grandeur are up to the kisser, but tourists from all over come here to test their fate every year.
A narrow staircase winds to the tip top of the castle where you will have to lean backwards with the aid of an iron railing and hired assistance. Your confidence will soar as you lift your head back through the clouds and you just may feel as if you have gained skill points in speech and flattery.
Aside from the whimsical tour through real world fairy tales, you can also traverse through the castle and its gardens.
Ring of Kerry
View much of southwest Ireland by foot, car, or bicycle by traversing the ever-popular Ring of Kerry. Hike it. Ride it. Drive it. Either way, experience 10,000 years of Irish history through this deep road of glorious visual treasure.
Luscious forests steam with crashing waters from hidden waterfalls within. Wild stag roam freely through the wilds, gracefully trotting through crystal clear streams and over babbling brooks. The entire circuit measures about 179-kilometers and would take you about 3.5-hours to drive if you do not make any stops. You miss a lot doing it this way, however, and we suggest making a day (or more) trip out of this so you can explore nature, experience culture, and participate in activities around Kerry.
You can include other activities on this list in this adventure; including, Skellig Michael, Killarney National Park, and Dingle Peninsula. Many other highlights are featured along this path, including Ireland’s highest mountain, Carrauntoohil. You will need to be an experienced hiker to traverse these mountains along with MacGillycuddy’s Reeks and the Gap of Dunloe. Mountain guides are also available.
Those seeking striking views that leave you breathless and staring in awe will want to visit Ladies View. Lakes are sporadically placed in a great green valley between rolling mountains that reach out and touch the clouds. It’s like stepping into a painting and leaves you wondering just how nature can be so perfectly lovely.
Sports fans will get a kick out of visiting Ireland’s largest sporting and cultural organization, Croke Park. Events like the annual marquee, Ireland Football, Hurling Championship Finals, and much more are held in this world-renowned cathedral of sport.
Large and in charge, this stadium can hold a whopping 82,000 spectators. The Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) is the largest sporting organization in Ireland and they run this stadium. Clubs, local life, concerts, and sport are held here all throughout the year with volunteerism being a strong point of GAA ethics.
You support community building and the park’s sustainability achievements by attending events held at Croke Park. If you are not planning your trip around a major sporting event, check their events page to see what fun things they have going on around the time of your trip.
History enthusiasts will revel at the chance to tour Kilmainham Gaol with its deeply entrenched political history featuring military leaders such as Charles Stewart Parnell, Robert Emmet, Eamon de Valera, and the 1916 Rising leaders.
Used for punishment and correction since 1796, the facility stopped holding prisoners in 1924 and is now used as an educational touring facility. It even offers discounts to students.
While Irish landscape is nothing short of beautiful, Irish history has some disturbing and foreboding themes. Step back in time and see that side of Ireland through this unoccupied gaol in Dublin. Immerse yourself into the life that prisoners led in confined in those dark bastions of retribution.
Along this tour, you will learn facts about real prisoners that were detained within the damp cold walls. Executions and legends of leaders of Easter Rising 1916 will keep you on your toes as you move about this massive gaol that is one of the best places to visit in Ireland.
Tours start every 20-minutes and are guided.
Northern Ireland has some of the most unique rock formations in the world, and they are formally dubbed The Giant’s Causeway. Traverse moderate hiking trails across bracing clifftops and see adorable wildlife along the way.
The Blue Trail leads to the world-famous stones along an easy to hike path that takes just under a half hour. Honeycomb shaped stones scattered about and covered with splashes of water will leave you wanting to step on each one as you wonder how these unique stones were formed.
Three large rock outcrops make up the Grand Causeway of the Giant’s Causeway. This is one of six popular must-see locations when you are stopping by this grand scaled location, aside from the Blue Trail. The Giant’s Causeway Visitor Centre will get you started and employees will help answer any questions that you may have about the area.
If you are up for a hike, the Clifftop Experience is a 5-mile hike that is fully guided and gives you an opportunity to see northern Ireland’s coastlines like never before.
Now, what gives the Giant’s Causeway its name? The fact that some rock formations look like objects used by a giant. The Giant’s Boot and Wishing Chair are large formations shaped like their namesakes. The chair has been sat in so often that the stone is worn down to a smooth and shiny surface.
The Camel is the last to see in our top recommendations for sight-seeing in Giant’s Causeway. It is a basaltic dyke formation from cooled lava.
Rock of Cashel
Medieval fortresses atop craggy hills with kilometers of rolling green scenery to gaze at from the castle’s walls. The Rock of Cashel is a spectacular tourist attraction for those history buffs and scenery lovers alike. Tours are available throughout the day, so be sure to do you research and plan accordingly.
Rock of Cashel was formerly known as St. Patrick’s Rock and also known as Cashel of the Kings. You will find art, lore, and history in abundance here along with views lovely enough to fill your camera’s entire available space with panoramic photos.
Cormac’ Chapel fills you with a sense of quiet as you take in the religious splendor of olden times. You do have to pay an extra fee to visit this area, but it is worth it if you enjoy religious history.
Cashel folk village is down the way a bit with a 1916 Easter Rising and Irish War of Independence Museum. Local pubs and other eateries are also available for those wanting to make this quaint little area a whole day event.
Trinity College is known internationally for its academic excellence and high levels of academic standards. Founded in 1592, Trinity is ranked number one in Ireland and 104th in the world. Historic traditions and academic excellence are maintained within the walls of this stunning college that is located in the capital city of Dublin.
Walk the historic college campus and the halls that teach a world-class education to student class after student class. Mathematics, nanotechnology politics, English, immunology, and so many other programs are taught here.
If you have college bound teens with you, grab some brochures and see about looking into tuition costs, scholarships, visas, and other admissions requirements.
Immerse yourself into tales of tragic romance at Kylemore Abbey and Victorian Walled Garden. This magnificent castle was built in 1867 as a romantic gift that continued creating a colorful history for itself through the present time.
Built between steep mountains and mirrored lakes, the castle and gardens take you back into a time period that is known for romance, extravagance, royalty, and troubled history. This place has it all, and you can learn about its gambling debts and engineering initiatives right alongside its lovely array of flowers and shrubs.
Whimsy woodlands and lovely lakeshores are the heart of this Heritage Garden with a variety of flowers and other plants growing.
On-Site café and tea house serve scrumptious baked goods and hand-crafted beverages. Dabble in arts and crafts at the pottery studio and craft and design shop.
Throughout the year, there will be musical performances in a splendid gothic church. Over 6-acres, there is something for everyone to enjoy at this step back into Victorian history.
Wicklow Islands and Wicklow County have much to offer year-round. Events and food are renowned around these parts and there is always something going on for everyone to get into.
Wicklow Lavender Farm is the ideal place for someone needing to soak in the delicate sights and smells of the pretty lavender plant. Two acres of lavender to ogle at while enjoying a beverage from the quaint little café called The Purple Haze Café.
For those looking for activities, Wicklow has much to offer. Indoor and outdoor entertainment are available with much variety so even picky ones will find something they enjoy. Swimming, bowling, horseback riding, walks/hiking, sailing, and even bird watching.
Wicklow Mountains National Park is open all day, every day. Ragged mountains are home to an abundant amount of plant and animal life along with trails for hiking. Perfect for those who want to take it slow and admire nature and those who want to breeze through and get their heart pumping.
Little Museum of Dublin
If you want to know the story of Dublin told by the people of Dublin, then you absolutely must stop by the Little Museum of Dublin. This award-winning museum tells its story through the artifacts donated by the people. Items like photographs, art, knick-knacks, memorabilia, and so much more.
Pieces of history are housed here; including the lectern used by JFK when he visited Ireland in 1963. Civil War history and even a whole floor dedicated to the history of U2. Along with pieces that will make you laugh, a lot, are sets that tell a story of a past that can only be told through history books, stories, and artifacts.
Everyone loves a good story and friendly people, so this Little Museum of Dublin is a perfect little nook of Ireland to include in your tour.
Getting to Know Seasons in Ireland
All four seasons occur in Ireland, but not in an exaggerated way like in some parts of the world. The summers are cool, and the winters are not overly cold. Ireland sees a lot of rain throughout the year, so it is smart to always have an umbrella, a sweater, and other rain gear no matter what season you are traveling.
Winters in Ireland are not very harsh and the temperatures only occasionally dip below freezing point. Snow is rare, but the rain sure does feel cold. You will need a warm waterproof coat in the winter to keep you warm and cozy. If you plan on traveling in the winter, driving tours around Ireland are always a good time, especially when it is too chilly outside to truly enjoy a good hike. Galleries and museums are open year-round and are a wonderful way to soak up Irish history.
Spring time in Ireland is often pleasantly cool, perfect weather for long sleeves and maybe a light jacket. For those who enjoy working up a sweat hiking or cycling, this weather will be right up your alley. As flowers begin to bloom and the world explodes with color, Irish gardens are the place to be this time of year.
Summers in Ireland average around 16-20 degrees Celsius (60-68 degrees Fahrenheit). It does not get swelteringly hot in Ireland, which is a plus since there are so many wonderful outdoor activities. Summers are Ireland’s driest season, but you will still require a light raincoat. In the summer, there are many festivals and other unique events going on. Basically, the whole of Ireland is open to you in Ireland so make the most of it.
Fall in Ireland is a mild time of year with deeply saturated autumn colors on the trees and seeing an increased amount of rainfall. Sightseeing for the autumn colors is a must for nature lovers, and this can be done at national parks or even at castles. Autumn festivals are common and a fun way to delve into Irish culture and get to know people and have a drink or two.
Tips to Remember for First Time Visitors in Ireland
When traveling to any place for the first time, it is always beneficial to seek out tips from those who have been to that location before and can offer firsthand advice on their experiences. Based on this guide so far, you can expect a lot of outdoors, nice locals, and probably rain. But, other than that, what are some things that you should anticipate before you travel to a new place?
Northern Ireland and Southern Ireland do not use the same currency, so you will need both Euro and the British pound if you are traveling between the two. Northern Ireland is still part of the UK, so they still use the British pound.
Most people in Ireland speak English, so language barriers are likely not going to be a problem. There are some areas that only speak Gaelic, but these parts make up a very small portion of Ireland and are typically marked by road signs that say “An Ghaeltacht.”
People in Ireland are also friendly and approachable. Small talk and general friendliness are often accepted and encouraged, so have fun getting out there and making new friends.
Rental cars are affordable in Ireland compared to other countries for a manual transmission car. Automatic transmission cars are about double the price. You will have the choice to pick insurance for the car, but if you decline the insurance, there are extra steps involved for you.
The roads in Ireland are quite narrow and you will have to drive on the left side. If you are not from a place with roundabouts, then you may want to study up on how they work because Ireland has a lot of them.
Go not splurge on expensive GPS systems for the trip. Google Maps works splendidly throughout Ireland.
You will likely get stuck behind sheep and tractors. Be prepared to get to places later than planned, and always plan for those extra stops to take photos. Ireland is so beautiful and there are always places to stop to snap some pictures.
Buses and Trains
Public transport will save you money on gas and let you experience Ireland right smack in the middle of everything. One piece of advice: When you want to stop on the bus, press the button to alert the driver and head towards the door at the same time.
Now that you have learned about some of the most popular and breathtaking places to visit in Ireland, you can get around to making your own schedule to visit. If you have a nature lover and a history buff in your family, then you may want to visit in summer and take advantage of nice weather along the Dingle Peninsula. Either way, all seasons in this country are stunning and worthy of experiencing.