We’re blessed here in Ireland to have so many great places to visit and things to see on our doorstep. From UNESCO World Heritage Sites to national parks and some of the world’s best golf courses, it’s easy to see why over eight million international tourists visited Ireland in 2016. While the focus for many turns to holidays over the coming months, there’s so much to see and do on your doorstep that a staycation could be just what you need for your next weekend break.
Below we look at the top things to do in the 32 counties on the island of Ireland, giving you 96 reasons to book a trip closer to home.
96 Reasons to Holiday In Ireland – The Ultimate Irish Travel Bucket List
Top 3 Things to Do in Antrim
Causeway Coastal Route
At the top of the list for your trip to Antrim is the very north coast of the county, and indeed the island of Ireland, with the world-famous Causeway Coastal Route. One of the best drives anywhere in Ireland, a day of exploration along the Causeway Coastal Route will see you take in the sites of Giants Causeway, Carrick-a-Ride Rope Bridge, Ballintoy Harbour, Dunluce Castle, Old Bushmills Distillery, Mussenden Temple and Whiterocks Beach, amongst others.
The 60km drive from Ballycastle to Castlerock will see you take in many of these great sites as you cross the Antrim/Derry border. At Ballycastle, you can also make the trip to Northern Ireland’s largest island, Rathlin Island.
Built in 1177, Carrickfergus Castle is one of the best preserved Medieval Castles in Ireland and has had a strong military history, mainly due to its location to the north of Belfast Lough. Today the castle is home to a number of historical displays from the 17th to 19th Century and is open all year (except for Christmas and New Years Day).
Voted the world’s leading tourist attraction in December 2016, the Titanic Visitor Experience in Belfast has become one of the most popular visitor attractions anywhere in Ireland. Discover the story of Titanic from the docks at which she set sail by adding Titanic Belfast to your bucket list when visiting Antrim, or indeed Northern Ireland.
Top 3 Things to Do in Armagh
St Patrick’s Cathedrals
Armagh City is known for its ties to St Patrick, with a number of attractions in the city forming part of the popular St Patrick’s Trail. Both St Patrick’s cathedrals are located on hills overlooking the city, with the Church of Ireland cathedral said to be the burial ground of one of Ireland’s most famous high kings, Brian Boru.
One of Ireland’s most important archaeological sites, Navan Fort is an ancient ceremonial monument located in Navan Centre. The historical site was the ancient capital and seat of the High King of Ulster, and today you can enjoy a tour of the area to get a real feel for its role in ancient Irish history.
Oxford Island Nature Reserve
Located on the picturesque shores of Lough Neagh, Oxford Island Nature Reserve is a dedicated National Nature Reserve thanks to its variety of natural habitats. The reserve is free to enter and has a number of walking trails and birdwatching hides. The discovery centre is worth visiting with kids to find out more about the animals and vegetation around Lough Neagh.
Top 3 Things to Do in Carlow
An unmistakable monument, Brownshill Dolmen is a granite capstone dating back over 4,000 years. Weighing over 100 tonnes, it’s the largest of its kind in Europe and is thought to have been the location for many religious rites over the years, with some stories even suggesting human sacrifice took place here thousands of years ago. Located a short drive from Carlow Town, a trip to Brownshill Dolmen should be on any ‘to do’ list when visiting Carlow.
With over 40 acres of stunning gardens and riverside walks to be explored, Altamont Gardens are the jewel in Carlow’s gardening crown, and one of the finest gardens to visit anywhere in Ireland.
The stunning Huntington Castle was built in 1625 and you can explore the castle in all its glory with a tour of the house (tours run from May to September). The tour of the house will take you to the famous Temple of Isis (or Temple of the Goddess), which is located in the dungeon and is a shrine to all things feminine.
With 160 acres of spectacular gardens to be enjoyed and a playground, farm and tearoom within the grounds, a trip to Huntington Castle & Gardens will give you lots to see and do, especially if travelling to Carlow with kids.
Top 3 Things to Do in Cavan
Part of the River Erne, the picturesque Lough Oughter has a diverse wildlife and is one of Cavan’s most famous attractions. Part of the Marble Arch Global Geopark, Lough Oughter is also home to Clough Oughter Castle, which is set on a small island on the lough, and only accessible via boat. The area is popular for canoeing, kayaking and fishing, and during the winter months becomes home to one of the largest collections of Whopper Swans in Europe.
Cavan County Museum
Cavan County Museum takes you on a journey of Irish history, and houses ancient artefacts dating back almost 5,000 years. The museum has a number of regular popular exhibitions including Ireland in the Iron Age, World War 1 and the 1916 Easter Rising. The museum provides great insight into the deep history of Cavan and also boasts a playground to keep the kids entertained.
Cavan Burren Park
The spectacular Cavan Burren Park forms part of the Marble Arch Geopark and is one of the finest prehistoric relict landscapes in Ireland. Set on the Cavan/Fermanagh border, Cavan Burren Park is a unique and prehistoric landscape of monuments, megalithic tombs and spectacular geology, with a variety of walking trails to explore, and great views of the nearby Cuilcagh Mountain.
The visitor centre is open to the public throughout the year, so if you’re looking to discover a bit more about Ireland’s ancient history as you embark on a trip along Ireland’s Ancient East, be sure to allow time to enjoy the natural beauty of Cavan Buren Park.
Top 3 Things to Do in Clare
Cliffs of Moher
At the top of many a tourist’s Irish bucket list when it comes to visiting Clare, the spectacular Cliffs of Moher should be anyone’s highest priority. Ireland’s most iconic cliffs and one of the most famous points along the Wild Atlantic Way driving route, the Cliffs of Moher will simply take your breath away. Discover the history and heritage of the cliffs by visiting the Cliffs of Moher Visitor Centre, and if you’re planning a trip during the summer months, be sure to give yourself plenty of time, as the cliffs can become very busy in no time at all.
The limestone landscape of the Burren has made it one of the most iconic areas in Ireland, and along with the Cliffs of Moher, it is a UNESCO Global Geopark. Explore this beautiful landscape by car or on foot, and discover 6,000 years of history along the way. This amazing place is the only area on the planet that Arctic, Mediterranean and Alpine plants grow side-by-side. Be sure to head into the village of Doolin and check out the majestic Doolin Caves.
Surfing in Lahinch
With so much amazing natural scenery to explore in County Clare, it can be easy to take yourself away from the great beaches and activities on offer in the county. Top of the list for activities in Clare is the coastal town of Lahinch, where you can try your hand at watersports including surfing and kayaking. If water-based activities aren’t for you, relax along the shores of Lahinch’s stunning beaches, or visit one of the town’s many popular pubs.
Top 3 Things to Do in Cork
Ireland’s most southern tip, Mizen Head is a must for anyone planning a trip to Cork. The famous Mizen Head Signal Station and Visitor Centre help to tell the story of this iconic part of Ireland, while a walk across the bridge takes you as far south as you can go on mainland Ireland, with views to Fastnet Rock (or ‘Ireland’s Teardrop’ as it’s known to many).
Another of Cork’s many iconic landmarks is Blarney Castle, a stunning castle that is over 600 years old. The castle has amazing grounds and gardens to explore, but it’s the world-famous Blarney Stone that has many people visiting the castle every year. Kissing the Blarney Stone is said to pass on the gift of eloquence, meaning you’ll never be lost for words.
Old Head Kinsale
Another signature point along the Wild Atlantic Way, the Old Head of Kinsale is a stunning coastal area of the town of Kinsale. One of Ireland’s most spectacular coastal areas, the Old Head is also home to one of Ireland’s most iconic lighthouses, while the Old Head Golf Course is regularly voted among the best in the land. When you’ve finished exploring the Old Head, make your way inland towards the town of Kinsale, and dine in one of the many award-winning eateries in Ireland’s gourmet food capital.
Top 3 Things to Do in Derry
Derry City Walls
Derry City is the only remaining completely walled city in Ireland with the 17th-Century walls marking out a 1.5km area around the city. The walls house many of Derry’s famous sites and are easy to explore on foot. The cannons overlooking the Guildhall make for a great photo opportunity, while the Tower Museum provides great insight into the history of this magnificent city.
One of the most iconic landmarks along the popular Causeway Coastal Route, Mussenden Temple is located on the grounds of the ruins of another famous Derry attraction, Downhill Demesne. This cliff-edge temple provides the perfect backdrop for a photo, and with great views out to the Atlantic Ocean and Downhill Beach, Mussenden Temple should be on any visitor’s list of places to go when visiting Derry.
Golf at Portstewart
Home of the 2017 Irish Open, Portstewart Golf Course was founded in 1894 and is one of the finest golf courses in Ireland. One of only a small selection of golf courses in Ireland to boast three courses, Portstewart Golf Course is a must visit for golfing enthusiasts. If you’re not a fan of golf, there’s still plenty to see and do in the town of Portstewart, and indeed the nearby town of Portrush in Antrim.
Top 3 Things to Do in Donegal
Malin Head is Ireland’s most northern point and was recently a location for Star Wars Episode VIII. A signature point along the Wild Atlantic Way, Malin Head is one of the best places in Ireland to catch the Northern Lights. A great area to explore on foot, the rugged landscape of Malin Head has some of the most epic coastal views anywhere in Ireland.
Grianan of Aileach
An ancient stone fort, Grianan of Aileach is an iconic fort that sits 250m above the sea in the popular Inishowen area of Donegal. The fort has been restored in recent times, and a trip to Grianan of Aileach will reward you with some of the best views in the whole of Donegal, with wonderful panoramic views of Lough Swilly, Lough Foyle and the Inishowen countryside all in the distance.
Glenveagh National Park
One of only six national parks in Ireland, and the second largest in the country, Glenveagh National Park is one of the most charming and scenic areas in Donegal, with wonderful views of Derryveagh Mountains and Mount Errigal.
The park has a number of short and long walking trails to suit all fitness levels and is also home to the beautiful 19th-Century Glenveagh Castle, which lies on the shores of Lough Beagh. If you enjoy the outdoors and like being active when on holiday, then Glenveagh National Park is well worth exploring when visiting Donegal.
Top 3 Things to Do in Down
The Mourne Mountains is home to Northern Ireland’s largest mountain, Slieve Donard, and has a selection of great walking routes to explore, as well as the popular Mourne Coastal Route drive, which takes you from the border city of Newry to the picturesque town of Strangford.
A designated area of outstanding natural beauty, the Mourne region has a number of popular parks, including Tollymore, Castlewellan and Donard, all just waiting to be explored. The area is also home to the spectacular Spelga Dam and Silent Valle Reservoir.
Strangford Lough and Ards Peninsula
A diverse landscape, the area of Strangford Lough and Ards Peninsula is among the most stunning in Northern Ireland and is a great place to explore with the family. The National Trust property of Castle Ward has become famous in recent times as the home of Winterfell in hit TV show Game of Thrones, while across Strangford Lough, the small town of Portaferry is home to Northern Ireland’s only aquarium, Exploris.
The stunning grounds of Mount Stewart in Newtownards and Rowallene Gardens in Saintfield are also worth exploring when you’re travelling around this part of Down.
Mountain Biking at Kilbroney Park
County Down is one of the most popular mountain bike destinations on the island of Ireland, with the county home to two national centres in Castlewellan and Rostrevor, and regional tracks at Castle Ward and Tollymore. The trails at Kilbroney Park in Rostrevor are perhaps the most famous and indeed challenging, with a 27km red trail and 19km black trail proving a stern challenge for many bikers.
Kilbroney plays host to the annual Red Bull Fox Hunt, while the trails offer wonderful views of nearby Carlingford Lough. Mountain bike trails don’t come much better than this. You can hire mountain bikes at the park.
Top 3 Things to Do in Dublin
Set in the world’s biggest pint glass, the Guinness Storehouse is one of the most-visited tourist attractions in Ireland, often topping the list for the most-visited paid attractions in the country. You’ll not get a fresher pint of Guinness anywhere in Ireland than St James’s Gate, and whether you’re a fan of the black stuff or not, this is one tour you simply must check out.
Did you know that Phoenix Park is twice the size of New York’s Central Park? At 1,752 acres, there’s plenty to explore. Phoenix Park is home to many famous Dublin landmarks including Áras an Uachtaráin, Dublin Zoo, Wellington Monument and Ashdown Castle. Thirty-percent of the park is covered by trees, but this still leaves plenty to explore by foot or bike. Phoenix Park is thought to be the location for the largest gathering of Irish people in history, with over one million gathering in the park on 29th September 1979 to hear Pope John Paul say mass.
Visit Croke Park
While very few places can match the atmosphere of Croke Park on the first or third Sunday in September unless your county has made it to the business end of the Championship, chances are your trips to Croke Park are few and far between. One of the largest stadiums in Europe, if you’re not getting along to catch a game or concert in Croker, be sure to visit the GAA Museum when exploring Dublin.
Top 3 Things to Do in Fermanagh
Explore the Lakes
Top of the list for any trip to Fermanagh should be a tour of the lakes. The Fermanagh Lakelands is one of the most popular Lakeland areas on the island of Ireland and home to many small islands. Hire a boat and set off to explore the 100+ islands on Fermanagh’s Lakelands, or hop onboard the popular Erne Water Taxi, where you can explore Lough Erne, and get to know a little bit more about the history of the area.
Marble Arch Caves
Take a tour on the water with a difference by exploring one of only two UNESCO sites in Northern Ireland at the Marble Arch Geopark. The beautiful underwater caves at the Marble Arch Geopark are among the finest in Europe and date back over 300 million years. Enjoy a tour of the caves as you get to know a little more about this miracle of nature.
The 18th-Century Georgian estate of Florence Court is one of Fermanagh’s most iconic landmarks. With guided tours of the mansion and trails of the stunning estate and gardens awaiting you, a trip to Florence Court will prove to be suitably rewarding. Be sure to check out the walled garden, and keep an eye out for the famous Florence Court yew, reputed to be the ‘parent’ tree to all Irish yew trees.
Top 3 Things to Do in Galway
Connemara National Park
One of six national parks in Ireland, the Connemara National Park is a truly spectacular landscape dominated by over 50 mountains from four mountain ranges, including the popular Twelve Bens mountain range. At almost 3,000 hectares, Connemara National Park is a vast area that is popular with families and walkers across the year.
Connemara is also home to Ireland’s finest fjord at Killary Harbour at the border with Mayo, while the popular village of Leenane boasts come of the finest scenery in Galway, and hosts a walking festival every May. With some of Ireland’s best beaches located along the Connemara coastline and many small towns and islands to explore, you’ll have plenty to keep you occupied as you explore Connemara National Park.
The Aran Islands can be accessed via Rossaveal in Galway or Doolin in Clare and is a trio of stunning islands (Inishmore, Inishmaan and Inisheer) that offer plenty of variety, including many popular walking tours, the famous Worm Hole cliff dive and numerous historic forts and monuments. The impressive fort of Dún Aonghasa on the largest island, Inishmore, is a world heritage site situated on the edge of a 300-foot cliff edge and is one of the most-visited attractions in Galway.
Galway City Museum
Located in the city’s docks near the popular Spanish Arch, the Galway City Museum opened in 2006 and tells the historic story of this great city. From prehistoric and medieval Galway to more recent times and sporting triumphs of the county, the Galway City Museum is a must see for anyone visiting the city. From here you’re well placed to explore the city by foot, with Eyre Square and Spanish Arch a short walk away.
Top 3 Things to Do in Kerry
Killarney National Park
Ireland’s oldest national park, Killarney National Park was established in 1932 and is a designated UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. One of the many jewels in the kingdom’s crown, Killarney National Park has over 25,000 acres to explore and is home to some of the most picturesque lakes anywhere in Ireland.
The park is home to the famous landmarks of Muckross House and Muckross Abbey, while another impressive Kerry landmark, Ross Castle is on the banks of Lough Leane. Ireland’s highest mountain range Macgillycuddy Reeks and the highest mountain in Ireland, Carrauntoohil, provide the perfect backdrop to this amazing area.
Another famous destination in Kerry is the Dingle Peninsula, a 50km stretch of Ireland’s south-west coast. The area is dominated by mountains, stunning cliffs and wonderful golden beaches, and the Dingle Peninsula is widely considered as one of the best driving holidays in Ireland, while you can also tour the region by joining one of the many popular walking or bike tours.
No trip to Dingle would be complete without taking a boat trip to get up close and personal with one of Dingle’s most famous faces, Fungie the dolphin.
The most western point in Ireland, nothing but water lies between the Blasket Islands and America. Dominated by the Great Blasket, the islands are uninhabited, but their rugged landscape and sheer beauty attract visitors throughout the year. Boat tours leave from nearby Dingle, allowing visitors to spend time exploring the impressive island and get a taste of island life in Ireland some 100 years ago.
Top 3 Things to Do in Kildare
Irish National Stud & Gardens
The equestrian heartland of Ireland, the Irish National Stud & Gardens provides the perfect introduction to the nation’s love affair with horses. Stroll through the stud and watch the stars of tomorrow put through their paces, and be sure to check out the racing legends now residing at the stud.
The horse museum shares the story of some of the most famous Irish horses in history, while no trip to the Irish National Stud would be complete without exploring the marvellous Japanese Gardens and St Fiachra’s Garden.
Built in the 18th Century, Castletown House is Ireland’s oldest Palladian-style house located in the town of Celbridge. With over 100 acres of stunning woodlands and gardens to enjoy, as well as daily tours of the spectacular building, Castletown House is one of the finest public houses in Ireland, and is a must see when visiting Kildare.
One of the most popular shopping centres in Ireland, Kildare Village is a chic outlet shopping centre with great deals on many familiar fashion brands across the year. Just a short drive from Kildare Town and less than an hour from Dublin, Kildare Village attract thousands of eager shoppers every week.
Top 3 Things to Do in Kilkenny
Top of the list of things to do in Kilkenny is to explore the city’s famous Medieval Mile. This walk will help you discover many of the city’s most famous landmarks including the 12th-Century Kilkenny Castle, the Butler Gallery, Rothe House and the Kilkenny Medieval Mile Museum.
A popular stop along Kilkenny’s Medieval Mile, the Smithwick’s Experience offers the opportunity to tour this famous brewery where Smithwick’s ale was brewed from the 1700s until 2014. Discover the 300-year-old story of this award-winning beer, and learn more about the tastes and flavours that have made this Ireland’s favourite ale.
History and geology combine at the spectacular Dunmore Cave to provide a unique insight into this impressive Kilkenny landmark. Formed over millions of years, Dunmore Cave consists of a series of chambers and has some of the finest calcite formations in Ireland. The visitor centre at Dunmore Cave tells the 350-million-year-old story, while you can also find out about the great Viking artefacts uncovered in the cave.
Top 3 Things to Do in Laois
The Rock of Dunamase
The ultimate wedding gift, the Rock of Dunamase is a prominent rocky outcrop that was formally a Norman Castle. Founded in the 12th Century, the rock of Dunamase was handed over to Norman invader Strongbow as a wedding present from the King of Leinster, his father-in-law. The castle structure has declined in recent times, but its heritage and impressive views still make it one of Ireland’s most impressive and significant castles, and one worth checking out when you visit Laois.
Discover the beautiful gardens and 18th-Century stately home of Emo Court. With formal lawns, woodland areas and a stunning lake, Emo Court has 250 acres with 100 acres of parkland to be enjoyed. The grounds of Emo Court also have a popular tea rooms area called CaToCa, allowing you to enjoy a relaxing day around the estate.
Another stunning garden area in Laois is Heywood Gardens, a 50-acre plot that is over 100 years old. With beautiful gardens, charming lakes and woodland areas and splendid architectural features, Heywood Gardens also provide amazing views over the Laois countryside, and views that span seven counties.
Top 3 Things to Do in Leitrim
The stunning Glencar Waterfall on the Sligo/Leitrim border is top of the list for many visitors to Leitrim. Enjoy a walk around Glencar Lough before stopping at the impressive Glencar Waterfall. There are a number of waterfalls in Glencar, while the area has a number of picturesque walks to enjoy.
Sliabh an Iarainn
Leitrim is a great place to enjoy an outdoors holiday and the Sliabh an Iarainn mountain range has a number of looped walks to be enjoyed. With great panoramic views over the impressive Lough Allen, and indeed over the west and midlands of Ireland, a trip to Sliabh an Iarainn needs to be high on your list of things to do when visiting Leitrim. Be sure to visit the Sliabh an Iarainn visitor centre where you can discover the history of this area, with a particular emphasis on the railway, canal, lakes, iron and coal mining.
The largest town in Leitrim, Carrick-on-Shannon has plenty to offer, especially for water sports enthusiasts. With over 40 lakes within 10km of the town, Carrick-on-Shannon is widely acknowledged as a water sports paradise, although there is plenty more to do in the town besides hitting the water. With a wide range of activities on offer and a great selection of pubs, Carrick-on-Shannon has plenty of variety for visitors to Leitrim.
Top 3 Things to Do in Limerick
King John’s Castle
Limerick’s most iconic landmark, King John’s Castle is located on King Island in the heart of Limerick City’s Medieval Quarter. The 13th-Century castle has undergone some redevelopment work in recent years, and the great exhibition tells the story of 800 years of history in one of Ireland’s oldest cities. The King John’s Visitor Experience will tell the story of the castle, including some of the secrets and scandals that have taken place throughout its long history.
The Neolithic site of Lough Gur is one of the most significant in Ireland, telling the story of Pre-Celtic Ireland, dating back some 6,000 years. The picturesque lough is sheltered by limestone hills, and Lough Gur Heritage Centre tells the deep story of this part of Ireland. Lough Gur is a great place to enjoy a tranquil walk, while the famous Stone Circle is one of the highlights of the guided tours that run throughout the summer, although you can explore the walking trail all year at no cost.
The Hunt Museum houses on of the best private collections of art and antiques in Ireland, with exhibits ranging from the Neolithic period, right up to modern times, dispaying works by Renoir, Picasso and Yeats. The museum also houses ancient Greek, Roman and Egyptian artefacts, while you can also marvel at the exhibition of Irish archaeological goods including materials from the Bronze Age, and the 9th-Century Antrim Cross. It’s a must see when visiting Limerick.
Top 3 Things to Do in Longford
Ardagh Heritage Village
Ardagh is a recognised heritage village that holds significant religious importance here in Ireland as it was here that St Patrick appointed his nephew Mel as one of Ireland’s earliest bishops, looking after the Diocese of Ardagh. The town also holds strong ties to St Brigid who spent some time in Ardagh before heading south and founding Kildare Monastery. Discover the full story of Ardagh by visiting the Ardagh Heritage Centre.
Dating back to the Iron Age, the Corea Trackway is built from oak beams and dates back to 148BC. Hidden in the bogland of the River Shannon, this stunning track went unnoticed for hundreds of years and was only recently rediscovered in 1984. The bog at Corlea perfectly preserved the tracks for 2,000 years and it is one of the biggest prehistoric roads existing in Europe. The exhibition centre takes you back in time to explore the history of Ireland during the Iron Age.
Glen Lough Nature Reserve
Glen Lough is designated by the National Parks and Wildlife Service as an area of special protection. A biodiverse habitat, Glen Lough is home to many rare plants and animals and is a great vantage point for birdwatching. The reserve has a number of great walks to explore and is great for escaping from it all and falling in love with the great outdoors.
Top 3 Things to Do in Louth
Carlingford and Cooley Peninsula
Top of the list of places to visit when it comes to Louth is the coastal town of Carlingford. The Cooley Peninsula is one of the most picturesque regions in Ireland, offering a scenic drive that rivals many on the island. The area is popular with walkers and is a great place to get out and explore the great outdoors.
Relax in one of Carlingford’s many popular bars after a long day exploring the Cooley Peninsula, or make your way to the stunning Carlingford Marina, overlooking the lough and the majestic Mourne Mountains in County Down.
St Peter’s Church, Drogheda
Make your way to St Peter’s Church in Drogheda and discover the shrine to St Oliver Plunkett. The centrepiece of the shrine is the actual head of St Oliver Plunkett, which is well preserved today and makes for a fascinating visitor attraction, bringing many visitors to the church throughout the year.
Carlingford Adventure Centre
One of the most popular adventure holiday destinations in Ireland, Carlingford has much more than scenic walks and rugged coastline to offer visitors. Carlingford Adventure Centre has a range of land-, sea- and sky-based activities, including rock climbing, zip lines, kayaking and canoeing just waiting to be enjoyed. Perfect if travelling with your family or a large group, providing an active stay with something for everyone to enjoy.
Top 3 Things to Do in Mayo
Ireland’s largest island, Achill Island is one of 15 signature points along the Wild Atlantic Way, and an island that is well worth exploring when travelling along the west of Ireland. Access the island from the mainland via the Michael Davitt Bridge, be sure to spend time strolling along the stunning Blue Flag beach of Keem Bay. Another popular attraction on Achill Island is The Deserted Village at Slievemore, an area where everyone fled during the Great Famine of 1845.
Ballycroy National Park
Ballycroy National Park is the newest National Park in Ireland and lies in the Nephin Beg mountain range. Indeed, the Wild Nephin wilderness experience is Ireland’s first designated wilderness area, all 11,000 hectares of it. The mountainous terrain, lakes and rivers make this a perfect area for hiking, running, cycling and other activities like fishing.
Knock and Croagh Patrick
Ireland’s most famous pilgrimage, the small town of Knock is a must visit when holidaying in Mayo. The famous Knock Shrine attracts thousands of visitors across the year, and the pilgrimage should be completed by scaling Croagh Patrick. With unrivalled views out to Clew Bay and the Mayo countryside, a trek along the ‘Holy Mountain’ of Croagh Patrick should be on any Irish travel bucket list.
Top 3 Things to Do in Meath
Brú na Bóinne and Newgrange
One of the undoubted highlights of Ireland’s Ancient East, Newgrange is an area of important prehistoric standing, not just in Ireland but in the world. Newgrange (or Brú na Bóinne as it can also be known) is a UNESCO Heritage Site that is older than both the Pyramids of Giza and Stonehenge.
The tombs of Knowth, Dowth and Newgrange dominate this landscape and are accessed via tours from the Brú na Bóinne Visitor Centre. The tombs contain the largest collection of megalithic art in Western Europe and represent a significant part of Irish history.
Hill of Tara
Like Newgrange, the historic site at Hill of Tara holds huge significance to Ireland’s ancient past and was previously the seat of the High King of Ireland. This was the location of the coronation of many ancient high kings and has been a sacred site dating back to the Stone Age era.
Opened in 2010, Tayto Park has become a popular destination for many families, with the theme park and zoo attracting visitors throughout the year. With a rollercoaster, 5D Cinema, Ferris Wheel and zip line as just some of the rides you can look forward to, along with a tour of the famous Tayto factory, if you’re visiting Meath with kids, Tayto Park needs to be at the top of your list.
Top 3 Things to Do in Monaghan
© Carrickmacross Workhouse
Carrickmacross Workhouse, one of the few remaining restored workhouses in Ireland, tells the story of the struggles of Irish people and the people of South Monaghan during both the famines and British rule. A tour of the workhouse will take you back to the 1800s where workhouses were common place around Ireland.
The workhouse also has a museum dedicated to the Great Irish Famine and over 6,000 years of ancient Irish history.
Monaghan County Museum
Explore the history of Monaghan at the Monaghan County Museum, with exhibitions ranging from stone-age artefacts to the untold story of the 1916 Easter Rising, and the impact it had on this border county.
Rossmore Forest Park
Rossmore Forest Park has a range of walking and nature trails just waiting to be explored, while the picturesque Walled Garden is one of the main attractions in the forest. The park is also home to a wide variety of plants and wildlife and is a great space to enjoy a leisurely stroll.
Top 3 Things to Do in Offaly
One of the most famous monastic sites in Ireland, the early Christian 6th-Century site of Clonmacnoise was founded by St Ciaran, and became a centre for religion and learning on the island, attracting scholars from all over the world over 1,000 years ago.
While Clonmacnoise is mainly ruins today, visitors can look forward to discovering three high crosses, a cathedral, seven churches and two round towers. Clonmacnoise is also the burial place for many High Kings of Connacht.
Home of the Great Telescope, Birr Castle is an area of significant scientific importance in Ireland. Take time to explore the castle and the beautiful grounds that surround it, before taking the time to marvel at the famous Great Telescope which was built in the 1840s and at this time was the largest telescope in the world.
Tullamore Dew Distillery
For the whiskey lovers among you, a tour of the famous Tullamore Dew Distillery is a must when visiting Offaly, while Kilbeggan Distillery is a short 15 minute trip away in Co Westmeath, should you want to find out more about some of Ireland’s finest whiskey distillers.
Top 3 Things to Do in Roscommon
Lough Key Forest Park
Lough Key Forest and Activity Park is perhaps the most popular visitor attraction in Roscommon, offering a great variety of activities, and spectacular views to be enjoyed throughout. With the stunning Rockingham estate in the backdrop, Lough Key has become a real destination for activity breaks in the midlands, with the 300m-long Tree Canopy Walk one of the highlights of the park. The 350-hectare estate is open to the public all year and well worth exploring when visiting Roscommon.
This 300-acre Palladian estate is home to the Irish National Famine Museum, while the stunning Georgian house and gardens are open to the public across the year. Enjoy a leisurely woodland walk through the grounds of Strokestown as you get familiar with one of Roscommon’s most famous landmarks.
Black Abbey is an impressive 12th-Century Cistercian Monastery and the first successful foundation of the Cistercian order in Connacht. While only small parts of the cloister remain today, the abbey provides a great example of Ireland’s early Cistercian foundations, and guided tours are available at certain times of the year.
Top 3 Things to Do in Sligo
The iconic Benbulben mountain is one of the most recognisable peaks in Ireland, so explore this beautiful landscape on foot along the 4km looped walk, which provides wonderful views over Donegal Bay and the Sligo countryside. This scenic walk will take about two hours to complete.
One of the most popular surfing spots in Ireland, Strandhill Beach provides a great location to get introduced to the sport, with Strandhill Surf School providing lessons for all surfing abilities. The area of Strandhill is an area of outstanding natural beauty, located a short drive from Sligo Town with stunning panoramic views of the majestic Benbulben and Knocknarea.
As well as being a popular spot for surfing and other watersports, Strandhill is a great area for enjoying a relaxing coastal walk, and the area has a number of eateries that make up the popular Sligo Food Trail.
Carrowmore Megalithic Cemetery
Carrowmore is the largest cemetery of megalithic tombs in Ireland, with some monuments thought to be between 5,000 and 6,000 years old. A restored cottage houses an exhibition relating to the site, while over 60 tombs have been recorded in the area, 30 of which are visible to visitors.
Top 3 Things to Do in Tipperary
Rock of Cashel
Top of the list for anyone planning a trip to Tipperary is the iconic Rock of Cashel, a hugely impressive collection of buildings that dominate the Cashel skyline. One of the most remarkable collections of Celtic art anywhere in Europe, the current structure dates back to the 12th and 13th Century with buildings including a round tower, High Cross and Romanesque Chapel, 13th-Century Gothic Cathedral and 15th-Century Castle.
While the Rock of Cashel can often grab the tourist attention when it comes to popular sites in Tipperary, Cahir Castle is a must see when exploring this part of Ireland. Located on a rocky island on River Suir, the castle is steeped in history dating back to the 12th Century.
Holy Cross Abbey
A Cistercian monastery, Holy Cross Abbey is situated on the River Suir near the town of Thurles. A peaceful landmark, Holy Cross Abbey provides a great spot for quiet contemplation while you admire the beautifully restored building that has become one of Tipperary’s most popular visitor attractions.
Top 3 Things to Do in Tyrone
Ulster American Folk Park
Discover the story of Irish emigration at the popular Ulster American Folk Park in Tyrone. This museum takes you on an adventure from old thatched Ulster cottages to American log cabins, with costumed characters on hand to bring the story to life. With craft shows and exhibitions across the year, the Ulster American Folk Park will prove to be a hit with the family throughout the year.
Beaghmore Stone Circles
The Neolithic site at Beaghmore consists of seven stone circles and was discovered in the 1940s. The circles are between 10 and 20 metres in diameter and are associated with earlier burial cairns. One of the finest collection of stone circles anywhere in Ireland, you’ll feel a real connection to our ancient ancestors when exploring Beaghmore.
An area of outstanding natural beauty, The Sperrins is one of the most scenic drives to be enjoyed in Northern Ireland, and with over 40 miles of wild and untouched landscape to explore, the Sperrins has everything from quiet valleys and bogland areas to keep you occupied.
Top 3 Things to Do in Waterford
Waterford City is Ireland’s oldest city, and nowhere tells the story of this historic city like the Viking Triangle. The Viking Triangle is made up of The Bishop’s Palace, the Medieval Museum and Reginald’s Tower, with each of these buildings telling their own tale of Waterford’s history, one that has strong ties to the Viking population that invaded Ireland over 1,000 years ago.
House of Waterford Crystal
Waterford Crystal is famous throughout the world, and the house of Waterford Crystal will take you up close and personal with the master craftsmen as you travel through the factory to see how these amazing crystal pieces are created. A must see when visiting Waterford City.
Copper Coast Geopark
Copper Coast Geopark is a UNESCO Global Geopark that took some 460 million years to create, so it’s fair to say the area has a story or two to tell and lots to be discovered. The Geopark spans some 25 kilometres of spectacular coastline with picturesque beaches and rocky inlands making Copper Coast one of the most spectacular coastal stretches in Ireland, and one worth exploring in great detail. Visit the Copper Coast Geopark Centre to find out more about the history of this amazing land.
Top 3 Things to Do in Westmeath
Hill of Uisneach
The ancient centre of Ireland, the Hill of Uisneach carries huge significance with Ireland’s past, and is said to be a place of inauguration for ancient high kings and myth has it that the ancient goddess Ériu (whom Ireland is named after), was laid to rest here under Aill na Mireann. The summit of the Hill of Uisneach is some 600 feet above sea level, and on a good day, it is said that you can see every province in Ireland from the hill.
Guided tours run every Saturday and the Aill na Mireann (or Catstone) is one of the many highlights of the land, as it is here where the ancient five Irish provinces are said to have met. If you are keen to explore more of Ireland’s ancient history, then Hill of Uisneach needs to be on your Irish bucket list.
The town of Athlone is one of the most popular towns in Ireland, and home to Ireland’s oldest pub, Sean’s Pub. The jewel in Athlone’s crown is the spectacular Athlone Castle, a 12th-Century castle that has been beautifully restored in recent years to tell the story of Athlone, and in particular the 1691 Siege of Athlone. Athlone Castle is a popular visitor destination along Ireland’s Ancient East, and a must see when visiting Westmeath.
Located in the popular town of Mullingar, Belvedere House and Gardens is a popular 160-acre estate with a 2-acre walled garden just waiting to be explored. The grounds of the estate are home to the ruins of a number of significant buildings to this part of Ireland, while the woodland and lake walks are enjoyed by visitors throughout the year. There’s plenty for visitors to Belvedere House to see and do.
Top 3 Things to Do in Wexford
Hook Peninsula is one of the most popular areas of Wexford and offers plenty of variety for visitors to the area. Top of the list for many is a trip to the very tip of the peninsula and Hook Lighthouse, one of the oldest working lighthouses in the world.
Lonely Planet described Hook Lighthouse as the “granddaddy of all lighthouses”, and with the existing lighthouse guiding people into Wexford for over 800 years, this is a must-see for anyone planning a trip to the area. Climb the 115 steps to the top of the tower for an amazing panoramic view of Wexford.
Rosslare Beach & Harbour
One of the undoubted highlights of Wexford is the town of Rosslare, home to the Blue Flag Rosslare Beach. Rosslare is said to be the sunniest place in Ireland (when the sun decides to come out), so relax on the beach or try your hand at windsurfing, which is popular in this part of Ireland. From the town of Rosslare, make the short trip to Ballygeary, to visit the impressive Rosslare Harbour.
Irish National Heritage Park
Located in Ferrycarrig, the Irish National Heritage Park is one of Wexford’s most popular visitor attractions, with the outdoor museum taking you on a journey of 9,000 years through ancient Irish history. Located along the banks of the stunning River Slaney, the Heritage Park takes you back to 7,000 BC and prehistoric Ireland, as you get a sense of our homeland in Stone Age times.
The park also depicts how Ireland would have looked during the Bronze and Iron Age times, while also sharing some great insights into early Christian life on the island.
Top 3 Things to Do in Wicklow
Wicklow Mountains National Park
Wicklow Mountains National Park lies in the heart of the county and is an area you simply must explore, although with over 20,000 hectares, don’t be expecting to see it all in one day. The largest of Ireland’s six national parks, Wicklow Mountains has several popular walking trails to enjoy, with the trails of the popular monastic city of Glendalough attracting visitors throughout the year thanks to its historic importance to Ireland.
As well as walking and hiking in the Wicklow Mountains, there is an abundance of activities to keep you occupied in Wicklow, with canoeing, kayaking, scuba diving, bouldering and fishing all popular at various times across the year.
Voted by National Geographic as the third-best garden in the world, the Powerscourt Estate and Gardens is 19 hectares of sheer beauty and the undoubted jewel in Wicklow’s garden crown. With stunning views of the Wicklow Mountains in the distance and some 47 acres of gardens to explore, Powerscourt House stands unchallenged when it comes to Ireland’s best stately homes.
The Triton Lake and Italian Gardens are just one of the many highlights in the estate, while the wooded valley and Pepperpot Tower are another must see at Powerscourt. Powerscourt is also home to Ireland’s highest waterfall, the Powerscourt Waterfall, which stands at 121m tall.
Dating back to 1702, Wicklow Gaol is a historic landmark in Wicklow Town that gives you an insight into the life of Irish prisoners from the 1700s, right through until 1924, when the jail was closed down. The tour takes you through important dates in recent Irish history and tells the story from the viewpoint of prisoners. This includes the 1798 Rebellion, the Great Famine and the 1916 Easter Rising.
The gaol’s dungeons have also recently opened after over 100 years of closure, giving you an eerie look at the lives of those prisoners who were unfortunate enough to have to spend time in the dungeons.
What’s on Your Irish Travel Bucket List?
Images courtesy of Faílte Ireland and Tourism Ireland.