There are so many reasons to enjoy a staycation in 2018, and getting to know more about the history of Ireland and the country’s many historic sites is just one. The launch of Ireland’s Ancient East back in 2016 put a real focus on ancient tourist attractions along the east coast of Ireland, but truth be told, the country has so many wonderful historic attractions, and indeed hidden gems, just waiting to be explored. Below, we look at 12 to add to your travel plans for 2018.
12 Historic Irish Attractions to Visit This Year
1 Rock of Cashel, Tipperary
One of Ireland’s most iconic tourist attractions, the famous Rock of Cashel dominates the skyline of the heritage town of Cashel and is a must-see when visiting Tipperary. With several buildings dating back to the 12th and 13th Century, the Rock of Cashel is also said to be home to one of the most remarkable collections of Celtic art and medieval architecture to be found anywhere in Europe.
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2 Birr Castle, Offaly
The 12th-Century Birr Castle was once an area of significant astrological importance with scientists from all over Europe visiting to check out the Great Telescope, the largest in the world at one point (which is still in place today). Discover more about the role of Birr Castle in Irish science by visiting the science centre on the castle grounds. The castle gardens and impressive tree house are also worth exploring when visiting Birr.
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3 Dunluce Castle, Antrim
Located along Northern Ireland’s popular Causeway Coastal Route, Dunluce Castle is an impressive medieval castle that dates back to the 1500s. While the castle lies mainly in ruins today, Dunluce Castle offers a great tour, while the views out to the north coast are among the finest anywhere in Ireland. From here you’re well placed to explore some of Northern Ireland’s most iconic attractions including the Giant’s Causeway, Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge and Mussenden Temple.
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4 Reginald’s Tower, Waterford
Located in Ireland’s oldest city, Reginald’s Tower is the only building in Ireland named after a Viking, a nod to the Vikings that founded the city back in 914AD. Reginald’s Tower is part of the Viking Triangle, a trio of museums that tell the story of the Viking invasion in Waterford, and indeed Ireland. The other museums are Bishop’s Palace and the Medieval Museum.
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5 Hook Head Lighthouse, Wexford
The “granddaddy of lighthouses” according to Lonely Planet, Hook Head Lighthouse in the Hook Head Peninsula in Wexford is one of the oldest lighthouses in Europe dating back some 800 years. Indeed, it’s believed that early Christian monks had a structure before this time to help warn sailors of the dangerous rocks along the cliff-edge. One of Wexford’s most-visited tourist attractions, a visit to Hook Head is a must for any historic Ireland travel itinerary.
6 Skellig Michael, Kerry
One of only two UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Ireland, Skellig Michael has earned rave reviews in recent times, thanks to featuring in the latest Star Wars movie. Take a tour out to this remote island and marvel at the old monastic site and beehive huts that were occupied by monks centuries ago. Discover more about the history of this land at the Skellig Islands Visitor Centre.
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7 Fore Abbey, Westmeath
Plan a trip to the centre of Ireland and Westmeath, once part of Ireland’s ancient fifth county, Mide. As well as being home to the Hill of Uisneach (the point at which the five ancient provinces met), Westmeath is the location of several interesting historic attractions including Fore Abbey in the village of Fore. This abbey is believed to have once been home to over 300 monks, although it has seen its fair share of incident over the years, with the monastery set on fire 12 times between 771 and 1169.
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8 Clonmacnoise, Offaly
An area of huge religious importance, Clonmacnoise Monastery attracted visitors from all over Europe over a thousand years ago, as it became a hub for religion, craftsmanship and Celtic art. While much of the original buildings are in ruins today, Clonmacnoise is a hugely impressive site and one that has played an important role in Irish history over the years. It is believed to be the burial ground of many ancient Irish high kings, with Ireland’s last high king, Rory O’Connor, believed to be buried near the altar at Clonmacnoise.
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9 Poulnabrone Dolmen, Clare
Located in the stunning limestone dominated landscape of The Burren, Poulnabrone Dolmen, a megalithic tomb believed to be one of Ireland’s oldest, dating back some 6,000 years. Poulnabrone Dolmen is one of several popular attractions in The Burren and Cliffs of Moher UNESCO Geopark and is a site that is believed to be a burial site for some of the earliest farmers that would have settled in County Clare.
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10 Hill of Tara, Meath
Meath is a land that is home to some of Ireland’s most popular historic attractions, and one such attraction to be sure you visit in 2018 is the Hill of Tara. The Hill of Tara is believed to be the site of over 100 ancient high kings of Ireland, while it is also a site associated with one of the country’s most famous high kings, Niall of the Nine Hostages.
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11 Dun Aonghasa, Galway
Located on a 300-foot cliff edge, Dún Aonghasa is an impressive ancient stone fort on the island of Inishmore, the largest of the trio of islands that make of the Aran Islands of the coast of Galway. This semi-circular fort overlooks the Atlantic Ocean and is believed to date back over 3,000 years. The fort consists of three large drystone walls, with a defensive jagged wall along the cliff designed to put off any attackers in days gone by. This amazing structure will certainly take your breath away and is just one of a number of reasons to go island hopping along the Aran Islands in 2018.
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12 Brownshill Dolmen, Carlow
The impressive Brownshill Dolmen capstone tomb is the largest of its kind in Europe and is believed to date back to around 2500BC – 3000BC. Brownshill Dolmen is believed to be a location for ancient religious rituals thousands of years ago, with some reports even suggesting human sacrifice was performed here.
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What Are Your Irish Historic Favourites?
Have you got any favourite historic sites around Ireland? Share your favourite with us by commenting below.
Images via Fáilte Ireland