A small island nation in northwestern Europe, Ireland is packed with amazing attractions. The famously beautiful scenery brings visitors from all over the world, who come to experience the impressive mountains, looming cliffs, rolling farmland, and fascinating peat bogs. The landscape is dotted with ancient castles that offer a glimpse into life in medieval times.
1. Blarney Castle
© Courtesy of skpgarts - Fotolia.com
Blarney Castle is a medieval fortress in the town of Blarney. Several other castles and strongholds were built on the site, but the current castle was constructed in 1446 by the MacCarthy dynasty of Muskerry, which was a branch of the Kings of Desmond. The world-famous Blarney Stone is a part of the castle. Local legend holds that those who kiss the stone will receive the “gift of the gab” or great skill in speaking eloquently and flatteringly. The castle and the stone attract visitors from around the globe, who come to explore the castle and surrounding gardens and, of course, kiss the Blarney Stone.
Monacnapa, Blarney, Co. Cork, Ireland, Phone: 35-32-14-38-52-52
2.Bru na Buinne
© Courtesy of PHB.cz - Fotolia.com
Brú na Bóinne is an area located on the bend of the River Boyne, which contains one of the most significant prehistoric landscapes in the world. The name of the area means palace or mansion of the Boyne. The area’s largest structures include three iconic passage tombs named Dowth, Newgrange, and Knowth. The tombs were constructed approximately 5,000 years ago in the late Stone Age or Neolithic Period. Nearly 100 other monuments have been found in the area. The tombs contain the largest collection of megalithic art in this part of the world. The area is preserved as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is a stunning example of history, cultural tradition, and the creativity and ingenuity of prehistoric humans.
Glebe, Co. Meath, Ireland
© Courtesy of Fulcanelli - Fotolia.com
Bunratty Castle is a large, 15th-century castle in County Clare, and is the most intact and authentic castle in the country. It was carefully and beautifully restored in 1954 with historically accurate furnishings from the 15th and 16th centuries. In fact, the castle has the country’s best collection of medieval furniture, which can be explored solo at your leisure or by joining a docent-guided tour. There are nightly banquets where visitors to the castle can participate in a medieval feast and imagine what it might have been like to live in this magnificent castle during medieval times.
Bunratty West, Bunratty, Co. Clare, Ireland, Phone: 3-53-61-36-07-88
4. Chester Beatty Library
© Chester Beatty Library
The Chester Beatty Library is a library and museum located at Dublin Castle. The library was organized in 1950 to preserve and display the private collections of well-known mining tycoon, Chester Beatty. The museum has won several awards and was given the honor of being named European Museum of the Year in 2002. There are two main collections in the museum, titled “Artistic Traditions” and “Sacred Traditions.” Both of the collections contain a variety of priceless items, including rare manuscripts, rare books, artwork from around the world, miniature paintings, prints, and more. Scholars from across the globe come to study rare manuscripts related to the Old and New Testaments as well as Islamic and Far Eastern artifacts.
Clock Tower Building, Dublin Castle, Dublin, Ireland, Phone: 3-53-14-07-07-50
5. Croke Park
© Courtesy of patrick o leary - Fotolia.com
Croke Park is a large GAA stadium in Dublin. The Gaelic Athletic Association is headquartered at the stadium, which is named after Archbishop Thomas Croke, although fans and locals often refer to it affectionately as “Croker.” The stadium is the third largest in Europe, with a capacity of more than 82,000 people. Visitors can catch a match or can book a stadium tour for a behind-the-scenes experience of the stadium. Some of the highlights include visiting the VIP area, the media center, dressing rooms, and the players’ tunnel as well as learning interesting facts about the stadium and GAA history.
Jones' Rd, Drumcondra, Dublin 3, Ireland, Phone: 3-53-18-19-23-00
6. Dublin Castle
© Courtesy of Ungor - Fotolia.com
Dublin Castle is a major government complex and historical site in Dublin, which was constructed near the beginning of the 13th century. For a number of centuries, the castle was the headquarters of English, and later on the British, government. In 1922, Ireland became an independent state and the castle was relinquished to the newly formed Irish government. Today, the castle remains an active government complex and is a popular tourist attraction. Visitors can download a free app to take a self-guided tour of the castle. There are also docent-guided tours available as well as children’s tours and workshops.
Dame St, Dublin 2, Ireland
7.Dublin Writers Museum
© Courtesy of photo 5000 - Fotolia.com
The Dublin Writers Museum is a museum dedicated to the rich Irish literary tradition, especially the literary history of Dublin. The museum occupies the space of a 18th-century house with a coffee shop and bookshop located in an annex next door. The upper floors have exhibition space and lecture rooms. The exhibits are dedicated to the heritage of Irish literature as a whole as well as to the works and lives of individual authors. Some of the famous writers featured in the museum include James Joyce, William Butler Yeats, Patrick Pearse, and George Bernard Shaw. There are also some fine portraits of famous Irish writers on display.
18 Parnell Square N, Rotunda, Dublin 1, D01 T3V8, Ireland, Phone: 3-53-18-72-20-77
© Courtesy of steheap - Fotolia.com
Several prehistoric hill forts stand on the Aran Islands in County Galway, and Dún Aonghasa is the most famous of these archeological treasures. It is located on the island of Inishmore and stands on the edge of a tall cliff. The exact date the fort was built is unknown, however it is thought that the first structures on the site were constructed around 1100 BC. The walls of the fort have been restored up to 6 meters high and feature stairways, wall walks, and chambers. The site has a small museum, which tells the story of the fort’s history and possible uses.
Kilmurvy, Co. Galway, Ireland, Phone: 35-39-96-10-08
9. Fota Wildlife Park
© Courtesy of dahi - Fotolia.com
Fota Wildlife Park is one of the most prominent wildlife and conservation attractions in the country. It is an independently owned nonprofit park located on about 100 acres on Fota Island. The park is home to approximately 50 species of birds and almost 30 mammal species. Visiting the park is a unique experience of being up close and personal with many of the animals. Visitors can interact with wallabies and ring-tailed lemurs, who roam freely. Other larger species have specially designed enclosures that offer an unobstructed view of the impressive animals in naturalistic habitats. Some of the animals you can see in the park are cheetahs, zebras, giraffes, ostriches, gibbons, flamingos, penguins, and seals.
Foaty, Carrigtwohill, Co. Cork, Ireland, Phone: 35-32-14-81-26-78
© Courtesy of Sammy - Fotolia.com
Guinness is one of the Ireland’s most famous brews. The St. James Gate Brewery in Dublin is the home of the Guinness Storehouse, where the famous beer is brewed. Visitors start their tour at the bottom of the seven-story building with a “pint glass atrium,” billed as the world’s largest pint glass. From there, the tour travels up through the seven upper floors, each of which has unique, interactive exhibits and experiences that tell the story of the company’s long history in the brewing business. The seventh floor houses the iconic, rooftop Gravity Bar, where you can finish your tour with a pint of the Black Stuff.
St James's Gate, Ushers, Dublin 8, Ireland, Phone: 3-53-14-08-48-00
11.Hill of Tara
© Courtesy of ssviluppo - Fotolia.com
The Hill of Tara is an archeological complex located near the famous River Boyne. The large complex runs between Dunshaughlin and Navan. Throughout the site, more than 30 prehistoric monuments are visible today. According to local legend, the site was the seat of the High King of Ireland and the ancient home of the gods. There are a number of interesting ancient monuments and earthworks at the site, many of which are quite old, with the Mound of the Hostages having been constructed around the year 2500 BC. It is one of only two monuments to have been excavated, however it is believed that a huge temple once stood on the site.
Castleboy, Co. Meath, Ireland, Phone: 35-34-69-02-59-03
12. Killarney National Park
© Courtesy of Patryk Kosmider - Fotolia.com
Killarney National Park was the first national park in the country. It preserves and protects more than 25,000 acres of diverse ecosystems, including the Lakes of Killarney, mountain peaks, and woodlands. The park is home to the only native herd of red deer in the country and the largest remaining native forest tract. The park is open for year-round tourism, and visitors should start at the visitor center at Muckross House. Other attractions in the park include Dinis Cottage, Inisfallen Island, the Meeting of the Waters, Ross Castle, the Muckross Peninsula, the Torc Waterfall, and many more. There are several paved multi-use paths available for hiking and biking, several of which offer stunning views of the area. Boat trips are also available on the lakes. Read more
Co. Kerry, Ireland
13. Kilmainham Gaol
© Courtesy of gaborphotos - Fotolia.com
Kilmainham Gaol Museum is a former prison in the Kilmainham area of Dublin, which is now open to the public as a museum. A number of famous Irish revolutionaries, including many leaders of the 1916 Easter Rising, were imprisoned and put to death in the prison. Once Ireland gained independence, the prison was quickly decommissioned, however not before the first prisoners of the new state could be executed in the prison yard. The prison was restored and today stands as a monument to the struggle for Irish independence. Visitors can enter the prison only as a part of a guided tour, which takes approximately 90 minutes when combined with a visit to the museum.
Inchicore Rd, Kilmainham, Dublin 8, D08 RK28, Ireland, Phone: 3-53-14-53-59-84
14. Kylemore Abbey
© Courtesy of Babett - Fotolia.com
Kylemore Abbey is a Benedictine monastery that was established in 1920 at Kylemore Castle. The abbey was built for nuns who fled war-torn Belgium during World War I. Visitors can visit restored rooms in the abbey and learn about the site’s history. The grounds also include beautiful Victorian walled gardens that are spread over 6 acres. The gardens feature a range of beautiful plants and nicely restored garden buildings, and there are paths for walking through the woods or along the lakeshore, offering a pleasant way to experience the grounds. Near the abbey is a beautiful Gothic church and the Mausoleum of Mitchell and Margaret Henry.
Kylemore Abbey, Pollacappul, Connemara, Co. Galway, Ireland, Phone: 35-39-54-11-46
© Courtesy of Uwe - Fotolia.com
Muckross House is a 19th-century mansion tucked away in the mountains and woods of Killarney National Park. The highlight of the site is the beautiful house itself, which can only be seen on a guided tour. The surrounding grounds offer a variety of attractions and amenities, including working farms, traditional shops, and a garden restaurant. Visitors can visit three different working farms, each of which have animals, machinery, traditional homes, and more. Additionally, you can watch crafters performing traditional trades such as weaving, making pottery, and binding books. The restaurant is a modern, buffet-style venue and is quite popular among both tourists and locals.
The National Park, Dromyrourk, Killarney, Co. Kerry, Ireland, Phone: 35-36-46-67-01-44
16. National Botanic Gardens
© Courtesy of Bartkowski - Fotolia.com
The National Botanic Gardens of Ireland is a 19.5-hectare botanical garden in Glasnevin near Dublin. The gardens were established in 1795 and over the years have expanded several times. They now contain more than 20,000 living plants and innumerable specimens of dried plants. Throughout the gardens there are a number of architecturally interesting greenhouses, including glasshouses such as the Curvilinear Range and the Palm House. Both of these houses have been restored with modern materials to enhance their structural integrity. Other interesting houses containing specialized plants are currently being restored, including the Cactus House, the Aquatic House, and the Fern House.
Glasnevin, Dublin 9, Ireland, Phone: 3-53-18-04-03-00
© Courtesy of Christian - Fotolia.com
Newgrange is a prehistoric monument in County Meath near Drogheda. The monument was built around the year 3200 BC during the Neolithic, meaning it is older than Stonehenge and even the Egyptian pyramids. The monument comprises a large mound that is circular in shape and contains chambers that are connected by an inner stone passageway. It seems that the chambers were used as a burial site, as human bones and other artifacts have been found there. Many of the stones at the site are covered in megalithic art, and it is believed that the site had a religious significance to those who built it. Today it is a popular tourist attraction and one of the most significant prehistoric monuments in Europe.
Newgrange, Donore, Co. Meath, Ireland, Phone: 35-34-19-88-03-00
18.Old Jameson Distillery
© Courtesy of carso80 - Fotolia.com
Drinking alcohol is famously a popular pastime in Ireland. The Old Jameson Distillery is a tourist attraction centered around the Jameson brand of Irish whiskey. The Bow Street location is the original site of the distillery, where Jameson Irish Whiskey was distilled from 1780 until 1971. At its peak, the property consisted of a 5-acre tract that also included saw mills, a smithy, a cooperage, painters, engineers, a coppersmith’s shop, and more. Today, there is a visitors center at the site and guided tours of the old distillery are offered along with whiskey tastings led by experts. There is also a gift shop that sells Jameson branded items and other whiskey-related gifts, books, clothing, and more.
Bow St, Smithfield Village, Dublin 7, Ireland, Phone: 3-53-18-07-23-55
19. Powerscourt Estate
© Courtesy of spectrumblue - Fotolia.com
Powerscourt Estate in Enniskerry is a large country estate especially notable for its beautiful house and surrounding landscaped gardens. The castle home was built in the 13th century but was remodeled extensively during the 1700s and again in 1996. The gardens are among the most beautiful in the country, spanning 47 acres and including formal gardens, ornamental lakes, statues, small buildings, and pathways that are perfect for strolling. Powerscourt Waterfall is the country’s highest waterfall at nearly 400 feet high. It is located approximately 6 km from the estate and is a popular family attraction due to its playgrounds and ample picnic space.
Powerscourt Demesne, Enniskerry, Co. Wicklow, Ireland, Phone: 3-53-12-04-60-00
20.Rock of Cashel
© Courtesy of paulbriden - Fotolia.com
The Rock of Cashel, also called St. Patrick’s Rock and Cashel of the Kings, is a historic attraction in Cashel. It was supposedly the site of the conversion of the King of Munster to the Christian faith by St. Patrick in the 5th century, and for several centuries, the Rock was the seat of the kings of Munster. The complex comprises one of the most significant collections of medieval architecture and Celtic art anywhere in Europe. A number of buildings make up the complex, including the oldest and tallest, the round tower, Cormack’s Chapel, the cathedral, and more. There is a large graveyard on the grounds surrounding the buildings as well as many high crosses.
Moor, Cashel, Co. Tipperary, Ireland, Phone: 35-36-26-14-37
© Courtesy of e55evu - Fotolia.com
Ross Castle is a tower house dating from the 15th century. The castle was the home of the O’Donoghue clan but its later owners, the Browns of Killarney, are much more famous. The castle is a stunning example of a typical Irish castle from the Middle Ages, and the interior is furnished with oak furniture from the 16th and 17th centuries. The castle is open seasonally and the public can tour it only on a docent-guided tour, which is about 40 minutes in duration. The castle is a very popular attraction and becomes quite busy in the summer, so visitors should expect to wait a bit for a tour if they visit during high season.
Ross Island, Killarney, Co. Kerry, Ireland, Phone: 35-36-46-63-58-51
© Courtesy of MichaelPeter - Fotolia.com
Skellig Michael, also known as Great Skellig, is the larger of the two Skellig Islands, which sit in the Atlantic Ocean approximately 12 km from Valentia Island. Regardless of the angle or vantage point from which you view the islands, they both appear as spectacular pinnacles rising out of the water. Skellig Michael is well known all over the world as the famous site of an early Christian monastic outpost. A Gaelic Christian monastery stood on the island for several centuries until it was abandoned toward the end of the 12th century. The former monastery site and much of the surrounding island are listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
23. St. Patrick's Cathedral
© Courtesy of SeanPavonePhoto - Fotolia.com
St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin is the Church of Ireland’s National Cathedral. The church was built in 1191 and is the tallest and largest church in the country. Oddly enough, the church is not the seat of a bishop; rather, the Bishop of Dublin is seated at Christ Church Cathedral. Many people believe that St. Patrick’s was originally meant to replace Christ Church as it is quite unusual for there to be two cathedrals in one city. Many national ceremonies take place at the cathedral each year, including Ireland’s Remembrance Day ceremonies. A number of graduation ceremonies are also held here. There are guided tours available 6 days a week free of charge.
St Patrick's Close, Wood Quay, Dublin 8, DZ08 H6X3, Ireland
24.St. Stephen's Green
© Courtesy of Marco Saracco - Fotolia.com
St. Stephen’s Green is a public park in the city center of Dublin. The park opened in 1880 and is flanked by one of the main shopping streets in the city. The park is 22 acres in area, which makes it the largest of the parks in the city’s primary Georgian garden squares. The park is basically rectangular in shape and at its center lies a formal garden. A unique garden for the blind is also located at the park, with sturdy scented plants that are okay for handling as well as labels in Braille. The park also has a large lake with an artificial waterfall, which is frequented by ducks and other water birds.
St Stephen's Green, Dublin 2, Ireland, Phone: 3-53-14-75-78-16
25. The Little Museum of Dublin
© The Little Museum of Dublin
The Little Museum of Dublin is centered around the history and cultural heritage of the city. The small museum chronicles the history of Dublin in the 20th century and offers an in-depth look at life in Ireland’s capital at that time. There are more than 5,000 artifacts in the collection, displayed over three floors of exhibits. The museum offers guided tours, which is the only way to see the collection. The tours are very popular and fill up quickly, so visitors are advised to book tickets in advance if they would like to attend a tour. The museum also offers a unique program for tourists, where it matches them with a local to act as their tour guide, who welcomes them to Dublin by taking them out for a cup of tea or a drink.
15 St Stephen's Green, Dublin, Ireland, Phone: 3-53-16-61-10-00
25 Best Things to Do in Ireland
- Blarney Castle, Photo: Courtesy of skpgarts - Fotolia.com
- Bru na Buinne, Photo: Courtesy of PHB.cz - Fotolia.com
- Bunratty Castle, Photo: Courtesy of Fulcanelli - Fotolia.com
- Chester Beatty Library, Photo: Chester Beatty Library
- Croke Park, Photo: Courtesy of patrick o leary - Fotolia.com
- Dublin Castle, Photo: Courtesy of Ungor - Fotolia.com
- Dublin Writers Museum, Photo: Courtesy of photo 5000 - Fotolia.com
- Dun Aonghasa, Photo: Courtesy of steheap - Fotolia.com
- Fota Wildlife Park, Photo: Courtesy of dahi - Fotolia.com
- Guinness Storehouse, Photo: Courtesy of Sammy - Fotolia.com
- Hill of Tara, Photo: Courtesy of ssviluppo - Fotolia.com
- Killarney National Park, Photo: Courtesy of Patryk Kosmider - Fotolia.com
- Kilmainham Gaol, Photo: Courtesy of gaborphotos - Fotolia.com
- Kylemore Abbey, Photo: Courtesy of Babett - Fotolia.com
- Muckross House, Photo: Courtesy of Uwe - Fotolia.com
- National Botanic Gardens, Photo: Courtesy of Bartkowski - Fotolia.com
- Newgrange, Photo: Courtesy of Christian - Fotolia.com
- Old Jameson Distillery, Photo: Courtesy of carso80 - Fotolia.com
- Powerscourt Estate, Photo: Courtesy of spectrumblue - Fotolia.com
- Rock of Cashel, Photo: Courtesy of paulbriden - Fotolia.com
- Ross Castle, Photo: Courtesy of e55evu - Fotolia.com
- Skellig Michael, Photo: Courtesy of MichaelPeter - Fotolia.com
- St. Patrick's Cathedral, Photo: Courtesy of SeanPavonePhoto - Fotolia.com
- St. Stephen's Green, Photo: Courtesy of Marco Saracco - Fotolia.com
- The Little Museum of Dublin, Photo: The Little Museum of Dublin
- Cover Photo: Courtesy of puckillustrations - Fotolia.com