Exceptional, breathtaking, and so absolutely alluring; there is an unspoken magic that comes with a visit to the enchanting rocky shores of Ireland. Although it is a relatively small country, Ireland’s reputation far exceeds its size. The country is filled with magnificent ancient landscapes that are fascinating and almost otherworldly, while the warmth of the people is enough to make you feel like a long-lost relative who has finally come home. Here are the best cities in Ireland. Certain attractions may be temporarily closed or require advance reservations. Some restaurants are currently offering pickup only. Hours/availability may have changed.
1.Westport, County Mayo
2.Blackrock, County Louth
3.Carrick-on-Shannon, County Leitrim
4.Cities in Ireland: Cobh, County Cork
5.Ireland Cities: Doolin, County Clare
6. Cities in Ireland: Dublin
7.Ennis, County Clare
8.Cities in Ireland: Galway
9.Glengarriff, County Cork
10.Kilkenny, County Kilkenny
11.Killarney, County Kerry
12.Ireland Cities: Lismore, County Waterford
13.Rosscarbery, County Cork
14.Beal an Mhuirthead, County Mayo
15 Best Places to Visit in Ireland (Cities & Natural Wonders)
- Westport, County Mayo, Photo: Courtesy of luca fabbian - Fotolia.com
- Blackrock, County Louth, Photo: Courtesy of spectrum blue - Fotolia.com
- Carrick-on-Shannon, County Leitrim, Photo: Carrick-on-Shannon, County Leitrim
- Cities in Ireland: Cobh, County Cork, Photo: Courtesy of M.V. Photography - Fotolia.com
- Ireland Cities: Doolin, County Clare, Photo: Courtesy of Lukasz Pajor - Fotolia.com
- Cities in Ireland: Dublin, Photo: Courtesy of David Soanes - Fotolia.com
- Ennis, County Clare, Photo: Courtesy of UTBP- Fotolia.com
- Cities in Ireland: Galway, Photo: Courtesy of Gabriela - Fotolia.com
- Glengarriff, County Cork, Photo: Courtesy of Simon - Fotolia.com
- Kilkenny, County Kilkenny, Photo: Courtesy of Rolf G. Wackenberg - Fotolia.com
- Killarney, County Kerry, Photo: Courtesy of senicer - Fotolia.com
- Ireland Cities: Lismore, County Waterford, Photo: Courtesy of Ricardas Jasakas - Fotolia.com
- Rosscarbery, County Cork, Photo: Courtesy of tams in dove - Fotolia.com
- Beal an Mhuirthead, County Mayo, Photo: Courtesy of PHB.cz - Fotolia.com
- Cover Photo: Courtesy of M.V. Photography - Fotolia.com
Attraction Spotlight: Killarney National Park
Killarney National Park, located in Kerry, Ireland, is an impressive national park with many different attractions, seasonal offerings, and educational opportunities. Perfect for guests of all ages and their families, the park is the perfect way to spend time in the great outdoors.
The grounds that currently make up Killarney National Park can be traced all the way back to 4000 years ago and a prehistoric settlement. The oldest mines located in western Europe can now be found on the grounds as well, tracing their roots to the Bronze Age. The park lands were donated in the 1930s by the Irish Free State and turned into the national park it is today. It is a designated Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO as of 1981 and a substantial portion is dedicated to conservation (the most important objective of the national park is nature conservation as there are many rare habitats and animals found there).
The best way to start out at Killarney is to take one of the either guided or self-guided walks around the premises. Guided walks, led by one of the knowledgeable on staff park rangers, can be booked by calling the Education Centre directly, as well as emailing the park staff. For visitors who prefer to take walks on their own, the website contains a wealth of information on both the suggested “loops” through the national park - Muckross Lake and Torc Waterfall - including maps and things to keep an eye out for (natural features, birds, wildlife, etc). Each of these loops takes at least three hours and the terrain can be difficult.
Guests visiting the national park should make sure to check out the Muckross House and Gardens. Admission is allowed only with a guided tour of the grounds, and the house is open from 9:00 am to 5:30 pm daily (with the exception of July and August, when their closing hours extend out to 7:00 pm). Located close to Muckross lake (on its eastern shore), the house has been preserved as a piece of 19th history complete with original artifacts and furniture. The gardens function as an arboretum and have been recognized for their plant collections on an international scale. Check the website for additional admission information, including cost and how to book a tour.
Located approximately 7 km from Killarney Town is the Torc Waterfall, a necessary feature to visit for any guests visiting the park. A short walk from the Muckross House will bring guests to this natural wonder, and an additional small hike will take them to an even more spectacular vantage point. The waterfall is best viewed after a heavy rainfall, and it stands 20 meters tall.
Another must see is the Ross Castle, which sits on the lower lake side of Killarney. The castle was built in in the 15th century and is open to viewing during the summer months. There are also two water buses that depart from the Ross pier for guided tours of the Lower Lake as well.
Ladies View is located about twelve miles away from Killarney but is well known for being possible the best view located in the entire park. In the mid-1800s, ladies in waiting came here when royalty visited, which is how the view got its name. There is parking close to the view, as well as a path leading to a view slightly further up.
While visiting the national park, make sure to keep an eye out for the vast and diverse selection of wildlife that calls Killarney home. From invertebrates like the Kerry slug and various species of dragonflies to mammals (including the last surviving red deer herd indigenous to Ireland), trying to spot them all is fun and exciting. Bird watchers will also enjoy the park, as there are hundreds of 34 varied species of waterfowl and one pair (at least) of peregrine falcons that return to the park most years. One of the rarest birds of prey in Ireland that visits the park has been nicknamed Merlin, and he has up to 5 different breeding nests yearly.
There are many different educational activities and opportunities available at the national park, centering around activities for primary school students, those for post-primary school students, and “third level” groups. There are also specific programs and resources for teachers and other educators.
? Primary school opportunities - Due to its convenient location near Killarney and the many easily accessible animal habitat areas located at the national park, the primary school educational opportunities are the perfect way to introduce younger students to the wonder of nature. Complete with teaching laboratories, the national parks education program has been designated a “Discover Primary Center” and seeks to provide the best out of school education possible to primary school students. There are a variety of programs and activities offered as part of their education program - like Nature Days and field trips - as well as having programs that the program staff will bring directly to the schools.
? Post-primary school opportunities - Designed for the slightly older student and meant to fulfill all curriculum requirements for science (with an emphasis on geology and ecology), the programs offered for post-primary school students include field studies that are offered from 10:30 am to 2:30 pm. There are also longer and more in-depth habitat studies, and local hostels to accommodate classrooms that would prefer a multi-day experience. Many of the programs provided certifications to students in subjects like Glaciation, Geography, River Study, and Ecology Orienteering.
? Third level group opportunities - Meant for students who have advanced out of primary and post-primary school into a college or university setting, these educational opportunities teach older students about conservation management and the natural sciences through interactive, hands on programs and activities.
The national park offers a variety of mostly holiday themed special events on the grounds, many of them designed specifically to attract and education children.
For instance, Christmas time at Killarney National Park brings a whole month of holiday themed activities with Santa and his reindeer. Reservations will be required for most events ahead of time. Bring the whole family and go on a winter scavenger hunt, interactive lessons and presentations, as well as some holiday themed snacks and beverages.
Halloween is another fun time at the national park with an Environmental Halloween Camp designed for children from age 7 to 12. Dress in costume, eat some spooky treats, and spend time after dark in the park while also learning about the local ecology.
And finally, guests who visit around Easter will be able to take part in one of the offered Easter camps. Designed mostly for children from age 7 to 12, the park staff will match up seasonal themes with scavenger hunts around the groups, snacks, lessons, and other holiday themed fun.
Killarney National Park, Muckross, Killarney, Co. Kerry, Phone: +35-36-46-63-14-40
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Attraction Spotlight: Ashford Castle in Cong
Located in Cong, Ireland, the Ashford Castle is a hotel full of history. The original Ashford Castle was established in the 13th century by an Anglo Norman family, called the de Burgos, and was at one-time home to the famous Guinness family. In 2015, the Ashford Castle reopened after a two-year renovation and restoration that reaffirmed the castle’s status as one of the most prestigious hotels in Europe.
The Ashford Castle has 82 rooms which include typical one bedrooms, the staterooms, suites, and the hideaway cottage, which are all uniquely designed to offer a little something different. The renovations incorporate both original and modern luxuries and impressive pieces of art, antique furniture, and custom designed carpets, towels, bed linens, and other décor. Guests can reserve the Corrib room, with or without the lake view, the Deluxe room with or without the lake view, one of the state rooms, which include the Junior stateroom or stateroom, or one of the three different suites. For the most lavish stay, the Deluxe Queen Family rooms and Hideaway Cottage are also available.
The Corrib rooms feature a large king-size bed, made with posh Egyptian cotton bed linens, a plasma screen TV that has both movies and music on demand, and many other amenities. Some amenities include beautiful fresh flowers, cozy bathrobes and slippers, an in-room bar, and outlets that accommodate 110 volt sockets for those traveling from other countries. Also, the Ashford Castle offers a complimentary international direct dial telephone for guests who would like to call a loved one or business partner outside of Ireland, as well as a Bluetooth speaker, and turn down services each evening.
The Corrib Lake view room offers spectacular views of the lake and includes a king sized bed and the same amenities as the Corrib room, but also features chandeliers to enhance the elegant look and feel of the room. The Deluxe room comes with a king sized bed or two queen sized beds, a separate seating area, a desk, antique furniture that has been preserved since the 17th century, and interconnecting rooms are also available upon request. The Deluxe room with the lake view offers a similar amount of space plus stunning views of Lough Corrib and the surrounding landscape.
The Stateroom is another accommodation option for guests of the Ashford Castle. The staterooms date back to the 13th and 17th centuries and are located in the oldest part of the castle. These rooms feature high ceilings, four-poster beds, and in some cases a split level sitting area. Each stateroom is individually designed, so no two rooms offer the same look and feel, and they overlook the lake and surrounding landscape.
For one of the most luxurious experiences, guests have the opportunity to stay in one of the suites. Each suite offers a king sized bed and sofa bed, as well as a large private dining space. Guests of the suites are able to enjoy views of the River Cong or Lough Corrib. The Kennedy and Presidential suites are two of the suites guests can choose from. The Kennedy Suite was named after Ted Kennedy, the US Senator, who stayed at the Ashford Castle in the 1980’s. This suite is located in the oldest section of the castle and is home to a walnut bed from the 19th century, an early Victorian center table, and an armoire that dates back to the 1700’s. For guests traveling as a family or in a group, the Kennedy Suite can be combined with the Reagan Presidential Suite which will create a private three-bedroom suite for guests to enjoy.
Guests staying in the Kennedy suite will receive complimentary champagne and chocolate upon arrival, an in-room Sherry wine night cap, which can be enjoyed in front of the in suite fireplace, turn down services every night, and access to 24-hour housekeeping and in-room dining. Also available is the Reagan Presidential Suite, which was named after President Reagan, a personal friend of a former Ashford Castle owner, who also stayed at the castle in the 1980’s. The Reagan Presidential suite features its own set of impressive antique furniture like an original fireplace, antique four poster bed, and artwork that dates back a few centuries. Guests staying in the Reagan Presidential Suite will feel like royalty in this split level suite that offers two bathrooms, and the option to be connected with the Kennedy suite for even more space. This suite also includes champagne and chocolate upon arrival, twenty-four-hour housekeeping, and in-room dining, as well as many special amenities. These additional amenities include a complimentary bar, complimentary appetizers every evening, and a daily gift to the room to make guests feel extra special while staying in the Reagan Presidential Suite at the Ashford Castle.
The last accommodation guests can choose from are the Deluxe Queen Family Rooms, which are perfect for couples or families, or the hideaway cottage for the ultimate remote yet luxurious stay. The Deluxe Queen Family Rooms have two queen sized beds, a large sitting area, a desk, and a large bathroom with separate shower. These rooms can be connected with another room for more space as well. With views of Lough Corrib and the Parterre Gardens, and games like LEGOs and PlayStation, personalized storybooks for bedtime, and homemade cookies for children, families will feel right at home at the Ashford Castle.
The Hideaway Cottage is another great accommodation at the Ashford Castle. The Hideway Cottage is situated away from the hustle and bustle and is gated for ultimate privacy. The cottage is surrounded by forest and provides a 180-degree view of the lake. The cottage features the most elegant rooms, décor, and fantastic private dining services. Guests of the Hideaway Cottage will feel like royalty with a dedicated housekeeper and service attendant just a phone call away.
There are so many options for food and drink while staying at Ashford Castle. Guests can choose to enjoy a meal at one of the castle’s four main dining rooms. These dining rooms include fine dining in the George V Dining room, casual dining at the Dungeon or Cullen’s at the Cottage, and afternoon tea which takes place in the Connaught Room every day. The George V Dining Room offers the ultimate fine dining experience with bright chandeliers hanging from the ceilings, white tablecloths, and exquisite décor surrounding the enchanting space. Guests can enjoy the resident pianist’s relaxing background music, as they enjoy a home cured duck or glazed pork cheek dish served with a glass of wine from Australia, South Africa, Portugal or Slovenia.
Open for dinner, the Dungeon offers a different kind of experience on the lower ground floor of the castle. The Dungeon is casual and has an extensive menu of Irish cuisine and comfort food like Irish stew and salmon fillet, served with mash potato and garlic or cheesy chips. For dessert, the Dungeon has strawberries and cream and white chocolate and raspberry truffle pastries. Cullen’s at the Cottage is another excellent food option for guests of the Castle. Open seasonally for lunch and dinner, the cottage has both indoor and outdoor seating, and offers both international and locally inspired dishes. Some recommended menu items include the signature Chicken Peri Peri dish which is slow cooked in the restaurants rotisserie oven, the short rib of beef, and rib eye steak, which is cooked to perfection in the charcoal oven.
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For alcoholic beverages and a nice social setting, guests can head to the wine cellar or the Prince of Wales Bar. The wine cellars offer private wine tastings of vintage, new, and old world wines, as well as dinner by candlelight in the most secretive yet cozy corners of the castle. The Prince of Wales bar is another great spot for a drink at the Ashford Castle. Built in the late 1800’s and serving up the perfect pint of Guinness and a full selection of cocktails, brandies, and liqueurs; guests will love this establishment.
For afternoon tea, guests can head to the Connaught Room. Afternoon tea has been a tradition at the Ashford Castle since 1868, and the Connaught Room’s large windows allow views of the Castle’s picturesque gardens and the Lough Corrib, while guests sip on specialty teas and nibble on hand-made pastries and finger sandwiches.
The Ashford Castle is an enchanting place to have weddings and events. The castle can accommodate up to 164 guests but offers the perfect venue for both small and large weddings. The Connaught room is available for vow renewals and blessing ceremonies of up to 40 guests, and offers stunning views of Lough Corrib while “I do’s” are exchanged. The Ashford Castle team is happy to help make the bride and grooms special day as perfect as can be.
As for meetings and corporate events, the Ashford Castle offers a variety of rooms and event space like the billiards room, where attendees can play a game of pool, the board room, or the cinema for small and large gatherings Delicious catering services, state-of-the-art technology, and spectacular customer service are included and every event is customizable. Whether it’s a small birthday party, anniversary, a company board meeting, or an extravagant wedding, the Ashford Castle is happy to play host.
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Cong, Co., Mayo, Ireland, Phone: +35-39-49-54-60-03
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