Great Places to Visit in Ireland
Living in Ireland presents the great opportunity to constantly explore attractions on an Island where within a few hours driving you can run out of land. Day and weekend trips can bring you to most corners of an amazingly beautiful landscape. No matter how many times I visit some places they always amaze me like I've seen them for the first time.
When friends and family come to visit they often ask for recommendations on places to go and see. Like with most countries, there are always more attractions than the average tourist can visit on one trip, so the task of prioritisation presents itself.
In this short article I want to briefly talk about some of my favourite places to visit and places I would go back to many more times.
My Personal Favourite Attractions
1) Cliffs of Moher
Pushing right onto the Atlantic, with the next stop being the USA, this is truly one of the natural wonders of the world. At 700 foot high (214m) they truly make you feel insignificant. An important thing to keep in mind is that even on a sunny day there will be quite strong and cold sea wind, so pack a warm jacket.
While the tourist centre is very informative you really want to be outdoors to enjoy this place. You can also do a boat tour to the bottom of the cliffs, which I haven't done, but it would certainly give another perspective of their sheer size.
2) Connemara/The Burren
Situated in the very West of Ireland this is one of my personal favourites. The landscape is incredibly barren but yet visually stunning at the same time. Driving around this area, and ideally getting lost is probably the best way to explore it.
Apart from regular stops to stand in awe of the seemingly endless dry stone walls I would highly recommend going to Caherconnell Stone Fort, about 300 years old, and Poulnabrone dolmen, which is five to six thousand years old. Even on a sunny day this part of the country can be very wind swept so back a warm jacket.
A great spot to use as a base for the region is a small village called Doolin, which is located right on the coast and close to coastal drives, the Cliffs of Moher and The Burren itself.
3) English Market
The English Market is an indoor market in the centre of Cork City. No matter what time of day you visit, the place is always bustling with activity. It has been trading as a market since the late 18th century with some of the freshest produce you could possibly get. On display you will find fresh fish, vegetables, bread and cakes, fruit from all over the world, a vast choice of butchers with a large selection of more exotic meats, poultry, cheeses and many many more things.
Do not miss the opportunity to refuel and make sure you look for O'Flynn's Gourmet Sausages. They have a stall pretty much in the centre of the market which sells the most delicious sausages freshly prepared, with a selection of different flavours.
If your apatite is dictating something more substantial you should definitely check out the Farm Gate restaurant on the upper level, which is also a great spot to just watch the world go by.
4) Ring of Kerry
The Ring of Kerry is probably one of the most popular tourist attractions because of its sheer beauty. This does come at a price though, as it does attract an awful lot of tourists, especially on sunny days. The ring is just over 100 miles (180km) and there is so much to see that it will take you at least a day, but I would suggest spending a couple of days in the area to not have to rush.
The panorama that presents itself at Ladies View is unforgettable and a must see; it is simply impossible to take a bad photo, even on a crowded day. Waterville and Sneem are two lovely villages to stop off, refuel and stretch the legs. Also a must see, and near Sneem is Staigue Stone Fort, an Iron Age ringfort.
If you are planning several days for the Ring of Kerry I would suggest using Kenmare or Killarney as your base. Personally I prefer Kenmare, as it isn't as big as Killarney.
5) Ring of Beara
Like the better know, and probably more popular, Ring of Kerry, this coastal drive goes from Glengarriff in County Cork to Kenmare in County Kerry. Passing through the fishing village of Castletownbere, Allihies and Ardgroom, it presents equally stunning views of land and seascapes as the Ring of Kerry does.
Probably the greatest advantage, and for me personally the greatest attraction, is the fact that it is not as popular with tourists and therefore a lot quieter. Especially during the busy summer months and on sunny days, floods of foreign and domestic tourists descend on such attractions.
There are many places to stop along the way, I would recommend stopping as much as possible to soak in the sheer beauty of the place. One place to definitely stop is Allihies, for a walk along a lovely sandy beach, as well as a pint in The Lighthouse bar.
6) Copper Coast
The Copper Coast is a European Geopark in the south east of the island in County Waterford. There is an absolutely sensational coastal drive from Tramore to Dungarvan which, on a sunny day, is absolutely amazing.
The steep cliffs and rugged terrain make for many photo opportunities and I strongly suggest you get out of your car at every opportunity. There are many car parks along this stretch of winding country road, so there really is no excuse to not stop.
One great stop along the way is the recently restored Tankardstown Engine House which dates back to the mid 19th century. It is a great place to stretch out the legs and go for a walk with breathtaking views.
7) Trinity College Dublin
Dating to the 16th century this is one of the big attractions in Dublin City Center. It is a beautiful place to just walk around and enjoy the architecture and landscaping, and on a sunny just to sit down and watch young students going about heir lives.
Make sure you don't miss a visit to the Old Library which also houses the Book of Kells, a Latin transcript of the New Testament written by monks around 800 AD
8) National Museum of Ireland
Essentially there are four parts to this museum, one covers the National History, another Decorative Arts , a third Country Life and a last one for Natural History; all are located in different buildings. I have only visited the national and natural history ones and these are located close to each other.
Keep in mind that these museums are not open on Mondays for some strange reason so take this into account when planning a visit.
9) Giant's Causeway
Located in the very north east, this is another one of Ireland's natural attractions, which consists of 40,000 interlocking, hexagonal basalt columns. It is a truly unique feature in the land and seascape, but it is quite a bit out of the way. If you do decide to go this far to the top of the island I would also suggest the next point on my list.
Bushmills is a very pretty little village in Northern Ireland's County Antrim. It is quite a bit of drive to get here, but well worth it once you arrive. A tour of the Old Bushmills Distillery which offers a great tour of the facilities with the obligatory tasting involved as well.