The green island is one of the most popular destinations for a road trip in Europe and convinces with numerous sights that you should definitely write on your bucket list. Besides breathtaking landscapes, you can expect mystical places and ruins that tell the history of the country. But also the cities, especially Ireland’s capital Dublin, with quaint pubs and exciting museums, are not to be underestimated. Today we present you the 24 best places to visit in Ireland.
The small Irish port town of Cobh is located directly on Ireland’s south coast. In the sheltered natural harbor at the mouth of the River Lee; only about 30 minutes drive southeast of Cork City. The town was once called Queenstown, in honor of a visit by the Queen of England. After Ireland gained its independence, the town recalled its former Gaelic name. If you stroll along the promenade with its palm trees and admire the stately houses all around, you will certainly not be surprised that Cobh is called the “Riviera of Ireland”. In addition to its mild climate and its pleasant tranquility, the small town offers its visitors many sights worth seeing.
23. Cliffs of Moher
Among the most famous cliffs in Ireland are the Cliffs of Moher. They are located in the southwest of the island and belong to County Clare. Tourists find them between the two towns of Liscannor and Doolin. The Irish name is Aillte an Mhothair and the name comes from the word Mothar, which is pronounced moher. It refers to a ruin overgrown with plants that was once the residence of a chieftain in the province of Munster. Near the cliffs is an ancient stone fort near Hag’s Head called Moher O’Ruan, which eventually gave the cliffs their name. The Cliffs of Moher rise almost vertically from the Atlantic Ocean to a height of 120 meters and at the highest point even 214 meters.
The Cliffs of Moher is over eight kilometers long and with good visibility, Aran Islands and Galway Bay can be observed from there. The cliffs were formed about 320 million years ago, during the Carboniferous period. At that time there was a large delta at the site.
Since 1979, the Cliffs of Moher have been an extensive seabird sanctuary. In the cliffs of the Cliffs of Moher nests the largest colony of seabirds on the entire island of Ireland. Twenty different species of seabirds nest in the bizarre cliffs of the Cliffs of Moher. Nine of these seabird species even breed on site in the Cliffs of Moher and it is estimated that around 30,000 breeding pairs live there. From the edge of the Cliffs of Moher, the various seabird species can be excellently observed.
The coastal town of Sligo is located on the Garavogue River and is known for its shopping centers. In the evening you can find nice restaurants and pubs in the center. By the way, translated the Irish name Sligeach means “the place of shells.”
The characteristic table mountain Mount Ben Bulben (525 m) is located about 10 kilometers north of Sligo city and is visible from far away. Its shape is very regular, glaciers formed it from a plateau during the Ice Age.
The second characteristic mountain is Mount Knocknarea. It is said to be the last resting place of Queen Maeve of Connacht. The 300 m high mountain can be climbed in about 30 min.
Two beaches are particularly popular in Sligo: Rosses Point in the northwest, here you can swim well. And Strandhill in the southwest of the town, which is popular with surfers but not suitable for swimming because of the currents.
The town of Sligo was founded in its time by the Vikings. In the 13th century the Abbey and Castle were built, which are absolutely worth a visit today.
In many places you can find megalithic remains: ancient tombs or gathering places by the sea where people used to meet to eat shellfish. Between Sligo town and Knocknarea is the Carrowmore megalithic cemetery.
21. Killarney National Park
At the foot of Ireland’s highest mountain range, the McGillycuddy Reeks, is the magnificent combination of mountains, lakes and forests that make up Killarney National Park. The three large lakes, Lough Leane, Muckross Lake and Upper Lake, cover nearly a quarter of the protected area and invite extensive exploration by paddle.
On the surface of Lough Leane alone, more than 30 islands and islets can be explored. But the UNESCO biosphere reserve is also impressive on land. Mighty ancient oaks form the oldest oak forest in Ireland. Other parts are characterized by lush yews, mosses, lichens and ferns. Due to the Gulf Stream influence, which characterizes the southwest of the country, numerous flowering plants, which are otherwise more likely to be found in the Mediterranean region, also thrive in Killarney National Park.
The scenic diversity can be actively explored on various hiking and biking trails. A popular destination for hikers are the Torc Waterfalls. The centerpiece of the park, however, was man-made: The vine-covered Muckross House mansion. The distinguished family estate on the shores of Muckross Lake can be visited, as can the surrounding flower garden and a rock garden.
20. Boyne Valley
Together, Newgrange & Knowth in the Boyne Valley make one of the most imposing finds in Ireland’s Ancient East. Newgrange, often called the Jewel of Ireland’s East, is a passage tomb 85 meters in diameter, built 5200 years ago in the Stone Age – making the monument older than the pyramids and Stonehenge.
Surrounding the mound are 97 rim stones, some decorated with “megalithic art”. However, to call the site just a passage tomb does not do justice to the significance of this place according to today’s knowledge – archaeologists rather call it an ancient temple with spiritual, religious, astrological and ceremonial significance. The orientation of the temple and the precision of its construction are equally spectacular – the “roof box” allows winter solstice sunlight to shine into the passage tomb, dramatically illuminating the entire chamber.
Access to the passage tomb is through the Bru na Boinne Visitor Center, where you can also learn more about this stunning monument right away. In addition to Newgrange, the Boyne Valley is also home to the Knowth and Dowth monuments, as well as another 35 smaller mounds. Knowth, at 5000 years old, is only slightly younger than Newgrange and, in addition to the large passage tomb, has another 18 small mounds and an impressive 127 rimstones, many ornately decorated – a third of the total finds in Western Europe.
The sounds of traditional Irish music waft through Doolin almost every evening. The small fishing village is known throughout Ireland for its close connection to music. And so you too can get to know this important part of Irish culture better every day in one of the three pubs. The three brothers Micko, Packie and Gussie Russel, who invited musicians from all over Ireland to their tranquil village as early as the 1960s, are primarily responsible for this. The music mecca of Doolin is definitely worth a stop on your tour of the Emerald Isle.
Along the Cliffs of Moher, you can enjoy wonderful walks and hikes with breathtaking views of the Atlantic Ocean. And nature leaves nothing to be desired: between May and June, with a little luck, you will spot the pretty puffins or whole schools of dolphins. The popular Aran Islands can be reached by ferry from Doolin and are well worth a day trip.
18. The Rock of Cashel
In the south of Ireland, in the heart of the small town of Cashel, the Rock of Cashel is enthroned on a hill. The silhouette of the impressive ruin is the centerpiece of the community of 2,800 people, whose nickname “Irish Acropolis” is no coincidence. The Rock of Cashel is a true architectural work of art, lined with battlements, pointed gables and towers. At this point, one can only guess that the rock rising from the flat natural landscape of County Tipperary was once a seat of aristocrats. Today, the Rock of Cashel has become one of the most popular tourist magnets from all over the country.
The culture of the hometown of Joyce, Beckett, O’Casey and Shaw and U2 is characterized above all by a lively literary and music scene, which in the countless pubs and clubs of Dublin always likes to emphasize the connection between creativity and the enjoyment of beer and whiskey.
Strolling through Dublin’s streets, which are partly characterized by Gregorian splendor and partly by more than plain social housing architecture, one often encounters monuments to history. Among them is the General Post Office (GPO) on O’Connell Street, built in 1818. The GPO was a contested rebel base for six days during the 1916 Easter Rising. In the post office building, which was renovated in 1929, several pictures remind us of this central event in Irish history. In front of the GPO, “The Spire” rises 123 meters into the sky.
Since 2003, the pointed stainless steel construction has replaced a statue of Nelson that was blown up by IRA activists at this site in 1966. A visit to Dublin must include a tour of Ireland’s largest church, the Roman Catholic St. Patrick’s Cathedral on Patricks Street, the historic Guiness Storehouse brewery (St. James Gate) with beer tasting, and the gentrified entertainment district of Temple Bar on the south bank of the Liffey, which is connected to the Northside by the Half Penny Bridge.
This gracefully curved, narrow pedestrian bridge, built in 1816, is considered a Dublin landmark. So is the statue of Molly Malone erected at the intersection of Suffolk Street and the main shopping street, Grafton Street. The fictional fishmonger is the title character of Dublin’s unofficial city anthem, the sadly romantic folk song “Molly Malone – Cockles and Mussels.”
16. Slieve League
During a round trip through Ireland you will get to know many natural wonders. If you come to County Donegal, which lies on the Atlantic Ocean, the cliffs of Slieve League (Irish: Sliab Liag) will take your breath away because of their impressive dimensions. With a height of 601 meters they belong to the highest cliffs in Europe. If you like, you can hike over Pilgrim’s Pass to the chapel at the top of the cliffs and enjoy a phenomenal view of the wild Atlantic Ocean and over Donegal Bay to the mountains of Sligo and Mayo. Those with a head for heights use the One Man’s Pass. However, the cliffs are also relatively easy to reach by car via a two-lane road, and parking is available at the 300-meter-high Bunglass Point. Weather permitting, boat trips are also offered, during which you can sail along the cliffs and get to know this impressive area from a different perspective.
The town of Dingle on the Dingle Peninsula in County Kerry is considered by many people to be the most beautiful town in Ireland. This may not necessarily be true, but Dingle has an extraordinary flair and shows visitors the old Irish traditions. If you are interested in the original Ireland, Dingle is the right place for you. However, until today it is not known how old Dingle is, because it is only in the 16th century by Elizabeth I. city rights contained. However, it is considered certain that the town is much older than 400 years.
In Dingle the customs and traditions of Ireland are kept alive. This is especially noticeable in the fact that Gaelic is predominantly spoken here. While English is predominant in other parts of the country, you will not be able to understand the people of Dingle most of the time. In the city you will also find the many typical Irish houses. The colorful house fronts belong to Ireland like Guinness and Irish Breakfast.
The proximity to the sea and the lived traditions make Dingle a popular destination for tourists, especially since it is easily accessible from cities like Tralee. The town lives mainly from tourist activities, such as deep-sea fishing, and from the sale of traditional handicrafts. The small streets and the harbor invite to a long walk around the town, a visit to the pub and a delicious fish dinner.
14. Galway City
Galway is the third largest city in Ireland and is behind the capital Dublin and the city of Cork in terms of area. In terms of art, music and pub culture, however, Galway surpasses both places by a long way: not only because of the many famous festivals that take place here every year, but also because of the cultural mix of past and present. In Galway, remnants of the medieval city walls lie among brightly painted stores and cafes.
A little further on, bridges cross the Corrib River, home to numerous salmon. A long promenade leading to the neighboring seaside town of Salthill and the beach invites visitors to stroll and daydream. What can’t be ignored during a walk through the city: Many different cultures meet in Galway. This is not least due to the fact that one third of the inhabitants are students. Yet everyone adheres to the locals’ principle of treating each other with respect and understanding. It’s not for nothing that the city on Ireland’s west coast is called the “City of Equals.
In Connemara, Ireland shows itself from its most beautiful side. The romantic region with the green meadows, the wide fields and small farmsteads, which seem to be lost between the typical Irish stone walls, reflects the essence of Ireland.
The coastline is dotted with small islands, peninsulas, pretty fishing ports and, further south, beautiful beaches. The largest island on the Connemara coast, Inishbofin, is a popular destination. If you have a little more time, you should plan a day trip to the island. Ferries cross from Cleggan to Inishbofin Island several times a day.
The picturesque coastal town of Clifden, the unofficial capital of the region, is also worth a visit. Numerous craft stores have set up store here, and every Friday there is a farmers’ market selling local produce, homemade bread and plants. Also worth a visit are the ruins of Clifden Castle, an early 19th century castle.
If you drive from Galway City towards Clifden, you will also pass the small village of Oughterard, which is considered the “Gateway to Connemara” and is about half an hour’s drive from Galway City.
Oughterard is a good starting point for hiking tours through the Connemara countryside. Major hiking trails such as the “Western Way Hiking Trail” and the “New Village Walk” start in the small town.
The small fishing village Roundstone with its harbor is also one of the sights. Here is a small settlement of artisans, gold and silversmiths and doll makers.
12. Blarney Castle
The ruined castle from the 15th century with its 26-meter-high tower house undoubtedly has its charms. But it is not the castle itself that has made Blarney Castle one of the main tourist destinations of the southwest. According to tradition, anyone who kisses the famous Blarney Stone at a lofty height – there are over 120 steps to climb – is given the gift of eloquence. In the summer it can happen that snakes form at the said place. Lying on one’s back, head down, these contortions are not everyone’s cup of tea – but the prophecy shrouded in mystery has an attractive effect.
The word Blarney has entered the English language and means as much as to flatter, to talk around. The former Lord of Blarney, Cormac McCarthy, tried for a long time to avoid submission to the feudal sovereignty of Queen Elizabeth I by putting her off with flattering explanations. According to legend, the queen finally exclaimed angrily, “This is all Blarney, what he says he never means!” (This is all Blarney, he never means what he says).
In the extensive park area you can also visit Blarney House with its worth seeing interior. In one part of the park the garden area called Rock Close, which reminds with its stone blocks of early historical cultures.
In addition to numerous smaller souvenir stores, Blarney Woolen Mills, a restored mill complex in the village of Blarney, offers a wide range of Irish handicrafts, including beautiful woolen sweaters. The village itself was built in the late 18th century by an enlightened entrepreneur for his mill workers.
Limerick has 52,539 inhabitants and is also the capital of the county of Country Limerick. The city also impresses with many handsome sights. One of the most famous attractions is the Catholic Episcopal Church, which always attracts numerous tourists. The rather small town impresses with its 18th century houses, which are also an important trademark. The partly very unusual architecture makes many a tourist marvel. Also the historical background of this city is very interesting. Limerick is today not for nothing a historic center, which is also with many tourists in all mouth.
If the inhabitants have their way, Cork is actually “the true capital of Ireland”. And indeed, Cork has a lot to offer in terms of flair, culture and atmosphere. With 120,000 inhabitants, Ireland’s second-largest city was not the European Capital of Culture in 2005 for nothing. Lovers of art, opera, jazz or festivals will definitely get their money’s worth in Cork. By the way, Cork is not only a cultural metropolis. The cozy city in the south of Ireland is considered a gourmet’s paradise and is known for its excellent restaurants.
If you visit Cork, you have to cross many bridges. There are 25 in total. This is due to the River Lee, which flows through Cork and divides into two channels at the west end of the city. In between lies the city center. Here you wind through small alleys and can marvel at Cork’s historic architecture.
The city center of Cork is of manageable size and the most important sights are located together in a small area. You should plan two to three hours for a tour of Cork. By the way, the lively yet cozy pubs are highly recommended. Here, while enjoying an Irish beer, you will quickly get involved in an amusing chat with an inhabitant, who will tell you about the advantages of Cork compared to other Irish cities. If you can’t (or don’t like to) follow the peculiar dialect of the Cork people, you can easily find a pub with live music in Olive Plunket Street, for example. Cork is known for its eclectic music scene, which has more to offer than Irish folk.
Glendalough is a very small and peaceful village in the Wicklow region, which probably does not have much to offer at first sight. Nevertheless, the village is one of the most popular tourist attractions in this region. Glendalough is a monastic town and means something like “The Glen of the Two Lakes”.
The main sights here are the monasteries, cemeteries, round towers and the High Cross. But this could explain the annual tourist rush. In the 6th century, the small village was founded, according to the old stories, it is said that Saint Kevin retreated here to come into harmony with himself and nature.
8. The Aran Islands
The Aran Islands are a group of islands off the west coast of Ireland in Galway Bay. The Aran Islands are characterized by small-scale gardens surrounded by stone walls. These gardens were painstakingly planted on the formerly bare rocky islands. For this purpose, washed up seaweed and sand was spread on the ground. The walls prevented the soil from being washed away or blown away by the next rain or storm.
Inis Mór is the largest island of this archipelago. The main village is Kilronan, where there is a large harbor. On the island you will find the excellent visitor center; Ionad Arainn, which gives a solid introduction to the history and culture of the island. Without a doubt the most famous and arguably the most impressive site on Inis Mór is the large stone fort of Dun Aonghus, dramatically perched high on the edge of a cliff disappearing into the Atlantic Ocean.
Inis Meáin is the middle of the three islands, where you will find many ancient monuments. Prehistoric times are represented here by the beautiful oval fort of Dun Chonchubair. On the island of Inis Meáin you will experience language and traditions at the same time.
Inis Oírr with its dry and rough landscape is the smallest of the Aran Islands. Here you will find one of the most beautiful beaches of the whole west coast. Restaurants, B&B’s and pubs can be found on all three islands.
7. Malin Head
Malin Head is a headland on the unspoiled Inishowen Peninsula. Here the North Atlantic meets the northernmost point of the Irish mainland and beats its waves against the rock. Drawn by wind and tide, a coast has been created that could hardly be wilder and rougher. Even the drive up to Malin Head is a special experience, because the Inishowen Peninsula is a true natural beauty. Over picturesque mountain passes, past glittering lakes and untamed moorland plains, the road reveals again and again a fantastic view over the peninsula. Before you finally arrive at Malin Head, you’ll pass Ireland’s northernmost pub.
6. County Kerry
County Kerry is located in the southwest of the Irish island. Its name, which is Ciarrai in Irish, comes from Ciar, a son of King Fergus of Ulster. The Atlantic coast with its many bays, peninsulas and offshore island groups characterizes the landscape. Numerous mountains rise in County Kerry, including Ireland’s highest mountain, Carrantuohill, at 1041 meters. From its summit you can enjoy an impressive view of the entire county. Many prehistoric monuments and historic buildings attract many tourists to this charming region year after year. Particularly impressive is Crag Cave near Castleisland, the largest accessible stalactite cave in Ireland.
5. Burren National Park
The Burren plateau is famous for its unique karst landscape. For kilometers, the gray limestone slabs, crisscrossed by gorges and crevices, line up to form a huge mosaic of rocks.
The area of the Burren was formed about 300 million years ago, when the former ocean floor was pressed upwards by tectonic forces. Ice, wind and rain gave the landscape its extraordinary shape as we see it today.
At first glance, there seems to be little life in the silent and barren plain, which is more than 70 percent bare rock and resembles a moon-like landscape. But as barren as the rocks may seem, the first impression is deceptive.
In fact, the area is home to more than 1,000 plant species, including rare species from the Arctic and Mediterranean regions. In addition, there are many animal species, including birds and butterflies, as well as badgers, hares, wild goats and foxes that call the Burren home.
In addition, agriculture has a tradition here that goes back thousands of years – in winter, cattle graze on the hills. The animals pluck out the tough grass from between the crevices, preparing the ground for spring so that wildflowers can transform the area into a colorful ecosystem.
In addition to the scenic diversity, the Burren is home to numerous archaeological sites dating from the Mesolithic to the Iron Age. Ancient wedge tombs, village fortifications and caves lie across the terrain as if in a vast open-air museum.
The most famous is the dolmen Poulnabrone, which is about 5000 years old. The imposing mound grave makes clear with what reverence the prehistoric settlers of the Burren buried their leaders. All around are other tombs that were built there over the course of six centuries.
County Wicklow, in the east of the Emerald Isle, is best known for the magnificent natural beauty of the Wicklow Mountains. However, the county also has an attractive coastline. It stretches from the southernmost suburbs of Dublin to the northern tip of County Wexford. Along the coast there are small villages as well as larger towns. Among them, Wicklow Town is the county’s namesake and administrative center. As such, Wicklow Town has several sights to offer that are well worth a visit.
Like many towns along the Irish east coast, Wicklow Town was founded by the Vikings. In the 9th century, the Norsemen fortified the entrance to the Vartry River, which still serves as a harbor today. Accordingly, the common English place name dates back to the Vikings. Wykinglo translates as “The Willow of the Vikings.”
Today Wicklow Town is a medium-sized port town. It is a forty-minute train ride from the Irish capital by the Dublin to Wexford rail line. The same time is needed for travelers by rental car to reach the town. The port forms the economic center. The lively town center fits around it in a crescent shape. Cafés, restaurants, pubs and stores contribute to the city life. Freshly caught sea products are recommended.
An absolute must in County Wicklow are the Powerscourt Gardens. The most beautiful garden in Ireland is located in the Wicklow Mountains, just 20 kilometers south of Dublin. The lush grounds of Powerscourt Gardens blend seamlessly into the landscape at the foot of the Sugarloaf Mountains.
The park consists of differently landscaped sections. The contrast between the Italian Garden and the rest is particularly beautiful: for in the Italian Garden, everything is perfectly designed and organized with clean shapes and straight lines. Skilfully, the terraces connect the Powerscourt Estate house with the lake.
Besides the capital Dublin, especially the smaller cities in Ireland are very popular, which all have their individual charm and make the trip to Ireland a varied as well as great experience. One of these cities is Kilkenny in the southeast of Ireland with about 26 000 inhabitants and over 60 pubs. It is located about
1.5 hours from Dublin in County Kilkenny. Kilkenny is famous for the beer of the same name, the many medieval buildings and the lively nightlife.
Kilkenny is especially popular with young travelers. This is no wonder, because the medieval city has so much to offer and a visit to Kilkenny should not be missing on your trip to Ireland. Although the city is not very big, there is a lot to experience.
The most famous sight in Kilkenny is Kilkenny Castle. The castle was built from 1195 to 1213 and served until 1967 as the family seat of the influential Butler family.
Butler family as a family residence. Arthur Butler handed over the castle in very poor condition to the Irish state in 1967 for a symbolic 50 pounds. It was lavishly and lovingly restored and can be admired today.
You can visit the gallery, the library, a bedroom and a salon in the style of the 18th century. In addition, you can learn a lot about the history of Kilkenny Castle during your visit to the castle. The castle is open daily. The highlight for most visitors is probably the Kilkenny Castle garden and the huge castle park, which is directly adjacent to the castle and can be visited for free.
With colorful houses, lovingly decorated alleys and good food, Kinsale defies Ireland’s often dull first impression. Nestled among the lush green hills, the village is well protected on the banks of the Bandon River and is mostly spared the harsh winds of the Celtic Sea. Along the harbor and the narrow streets of the town center, quaint pubs line the streets, as well as pretty cafes and restaurants serving freshly caught fish and sweet scones. The first-class restaurants have succeeded in making Kinsale famous beyond the country’s borders with their regional dishes. The town is now celebrated as the “Gourmet Capital of Ireland” and hosts gourmets from all over the world every year. During the Kinsale Gourmet Festival in October, the country’s best chefs come together to wow visitors as part of a culinary tour of the town.
Despite Kinsale’s sheltered location from the wind, Irish weather remains mostly unsettled. Visitors have the best chance of blue skies with sunshine between May and September. In July, people gather annually to enjoy the International Arts Festival with its rich cultural and musical program. The autumn months, on the other hand, mark the start of the peak culinary season in Kinsale.
1. Murder Hole Beach
The Murder Hole Beach or Boyeegther Beach, as it is actually called, is quite remote and still a real insider tip. Hardly any tourists stray here and therefore it is possible that you have the whole beach to yourself. This is mainly due to the fact that the beach is not so easy to reach, because there are no parking spaces nearby. To get to the beach, you have to park your car in the village of Melmore and then walk across the fields for about 30 minutes. By the way, it can happen that a buffalo crosses your way.
Especially in the mating season you should avoid close contact, because then the animals can become quite aggressive. Appropriate warning signs point out when you should better take a detour. Once you arrive at the beach, you’ll be in for a real goosebump moment, that’s how beautiful this natural spectacle is.
At high tide, the beach divides into two sections, which join again at low tide. However, you should avoid visiting at high tide for your own safety. The roaring Atlantic Ocean has proven its power many times in the past, creating a fascinating rock formation with a mysterious cave. When you stand in the cave, you will get an impressive view of the sea and the beach. The cave is therefore a popular subject for all photographers and bloggers. By the way, the nickname “Murder Hole” is surrounded by numerous myths and it is not clear where its roots are anchored.