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What are the Most Interesting Places to Visit in Ireland?

Ireland may be a relatively small island, but it has a long, rich history and a modern, vibrant, English-speaking Eurozone economy, with particularly close social and economic ties to both the US and the UK. This unique combination gives it no shortage of interesting places to visit. 

What Are You Looking For?

As with any tourist destination, what you will find interesting will depend on what kind of experience you enjoy.

Shopping, Nightlife and General Sightseeing? Try Ireland's Towns and Cities

  • Dublin city is the arrival point for most visitors to Ireland, and is where one quarter of the country's population live, eat, shop, work and play
  • Cork is Ireland's second largest city and is sometimes called the Rebel City
  • Galway is the country's bohemian city, a vibrant centre of arts, music and culture, popular with those seeking a laid-back slice of Irish life
  • Belfast, once associated with political violence, is now a popular city break location, with its Wall murals, Titanic Quarter and growing gastro reputation
  • Derry/Londonderry is Northern Ireland's second city, famous for its old wall and attractions such as the Guildhall
  • Killarney --- while a relatively small town, Killarney is the gateway to the insanely popular, and spectacularly beautiful, Ring of Kerry region

Less Well Known Cities and Towns

Somewhat less well-known but highly recommended cities and towns include

  • Kilkenny --- with its many medieval streets, buildings and castle, this town has an olde-worlde feel
  • Sligo --- an often overlooked town, but pretty and vibrant town in a truly beautiful location on Ireland's northwest coast
  • Kinsale --- Ireland's gourmet capital, this pretty Cork harbour has many excellent restaurants and pubs
  • Armagh --- once the seat of much of the power in a medieval Ireland, this Northern Ireland town is still dominated by its twin cathedrals
  • Westport --- a popular retreat for the Irish natives, Westport's countless charming little pubs and shops seem to have frozen in time
  • Waterford --- once an ancient Viking city, now a busy town with a huge nearby beach
  • Limerick --- Ireland's third largest city, with many fine attractions, notably King John's Castle and the Hunt Museum

Landscapes / Scenic Routes

  • The Burren --- the combination of this unusual, undulating karst landscape with its rural, isolated coastal location give the Burren region in County Clare an extra-terrestrial feel
  • Cliffs of Moher --- these spectacular sea-cliffs in southeastern Ireland draw hundreds of thousands of visitors each year, and a single visit to the the dramatic scenery will explain why
  • Giant's Causeway --- this bizarre coastal rock formation in County Antrim, Northern Ireland, contains a huge cluster of octagonal-shaped columns, and visitors typically step from one flat octagon to the next
  • Connemara --- Ireland's wild west, Connemara is an unspoiled region of raw natural beauty in County Galway, where the Irish language (Gaelic) is still spoken
  • The Ring of Kerry --- one of the most popular treks in Ireland, but for good reason, this coastal route is littered with stunning scenery and ancient heritage sites
  • The Dingle Peninsula --- similar to the Ring of Kerry but slightly wilder in its raw beauty, this is another famous road loop situated in beautiful County Kerry
  • Donegal --- "neither north nor south" as its inhabitants say, County Donegal is wedged between Ireland and Northern Ireland, with a wild rural landscape all of its own

Castles

Ireland is famous for its castles. While there are hundreds of them throughout the country, the most well known are:

  • Cashel Castle --- also known as the Rock of Cashel since it is built on a giant rock, this impressive castle was once the seat of the High King of Ireland
  • Bunratty Castle --- if you're flying into Shannon Airport, chances are you're first port of call will be nearby Bunratty Castle, which has been fantastically preserved in a medieval state, and offers regular banquets
  • Blarney Castle --- not to be missed, here's where you get to kiss the Blarney Stone
  • Malahide Castle --- a must-see if you are staying more than a day in Dublin, this charming castle only 30 mins train journey from the city centre has been beautifully maintained and restored
  • Ross Castle --- a beautiful, slightly crumbling castle on the shore of the lakes of Killarney,  Ross is a picture-postcard Irish castle
  • For more ideas, see our page on the top 15 castles to visit in Ireland or browse all castles featured on ChooseIreland

History

Ancient History

You'll find many great specimens of ancient history, with many megalithic sites throughout the country

  • The Hill of Tara has for thousands of years been a revered place in ancient Irish culture and, while its original purpose is unclear, it was used in medieval times to crown the high king of Ireland
  • Newgrange is an ancient burial chamber that is as old as the pyramid, which was constructed precisely to capture the sunlight during the winter solstice
  • The burial monuments at Carrowmore, County Sligo are also at least 5000 years old
  • Grianan Fort in County Donegal was mentioned in Ptolemy's 2nd Century map of the world

Celtic History

  • The National Museum in Dublin contains wonderful bronze age treasures such as the Ardagh chalice and the Tara Brooch, relics from a rich period in Irish history when the Celts dominated the land
  • The Book of Kells, on display at Trinity College Dublin, is a beautifully hand-decorated manuscript of the four Gospels in Latin, dating from the sixth century - when Ireland was known as "the land of saints and scholars"
  • The Cragaunowen Project in Co. Clare reconstructs the Celtic way of life in an open-air museum, with examples of once common ancient structures such as ring forts and crannogs (wooden houses built on islands)

Image

Cobh, County Cork. Image by Alicia Soltani

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