Wondering where the best places to visit in Ireland are? If you’re looking for one of the friendliest countries on earth, then look no further than Ireland.
There must be something to the rolling green hills, castles, whiskey, rain, Guinness beer, and rugged coastline as it draws millions of visitors each year. The country’s small size and accessibility make it easy for travelers to see many Ireland landmarks on just one trip. If you’re wondering where to go in Ireland, look no further we have you covered with these Ireland points of interest!
The Best Places to Visit in Ireland
Connemara is arguably one of the most breathtaking regions of Ireland and draws a comparison to the Scottish highlands. It’s a coastline of small villages, rolling hills, lakes, and mountains.
The Twelve Bens are the monuments of the region. It has a wild expanse of bogs and lakes along with wildlife. That extends to a wild herd of Connemara ponies who live in the Connemara National Park.
With a few spare days in Galway, we spent some time exploring the region. The natural beauty took us by total surprise and on our drive in, and we found ourselves pulling off to the side of the road to take a walk or photo multiples times. We hadn’t had that feeling since we drove around the Scottish Coastline on the North Coast 500.
Clifden is the beating heart of the Galway region and the best place to visit in Ireland to explore Connemara National Park. It’s a Victorian-era town set along the famed Wild Atlantic Way. That means it’s a coastal town set along the mouth of the River Owenglin with access to the sea via a long narrow bay.
It’s well known for its music scene with several pubs offering live music almost every night of the week. We had just come off an 18-hour flight and drove three hours from Dublin, but still managed to poke our heads into Lowry’s tavern for a “welcome to Ireland pint.” As with almost every night in Clifden, we were greeted by live music and a spirited crowd.
There are also several lovely cafes and tasty restaurants in the town. We enjoyed Guy’s Bar, Twelve Darcy, and the Steam Cafe.
Hill of Tara
The Hill of Tara in the Country Meath was once an ancient seat of power in Ireland. It’s here that 142 kings reigned in ancient times.
It’s now a huge walking site with ancient stones and interesting ground formations. It’s lovely to walk around at either sunrise or sunset. We came here not knowing what to expect and it ended up being one of the best places to visit in Ireland.
Cnoc Suain may be the best cultural experience you can have in the Galway region. And that’s in an area that is brimming with cultural experiences! Cnoc Suain is a collection of small cottages set on on top of a hill. It all plays well to the name since Cnoc Suain means “restful hill” in Irish, although we still can’t pronounce it!
Not many people have heard about this place, so we were happy visit this amazing place in Ireland.
Hosts Dearbhaill and Charlie could not be more welcoming and eager to teach more about the history of the property and Irish culture. The two teach you about Irish food, history, music, and the surrounding landscape.
Their passion for their culture is evident, and they reel you in getting excited when you drive a pole deep into the surrounding bog or taste a traditional dessert made from algae.
We can’t recommend visiting them enough. If you want to do so visit Cnoc Suain website and fill out the contact form. They also run a lovely Airbnb we wish we’d known about in advance, but hope to stay there next time. (Oh, Ed Sheeran may or may not have visited if there are any fans out there).
Killarney, in County Claire is a very popular place to see in Ireland. It’s a small little town with plenty of shops, pubs, and things to do. It’s also a jumping off point for a trip around the Ring of Kerry.
Some of the notable things to do in Killarney are St. Mary’s Cathedral, Muckruss Abbey, and the Lakes of Killarney.
This town is in the interior of Connemara and is one of the top places to see in Ireland. After spending some time at Cnoc Suain, we went to this little Irish town to spend the afternoon relaxing on the banks of Lough Corrib before the water starts its journey to the Atlantic Ocean.
It’s a great town outside of Galway to relax by the calm Irish water. We had some of the best mussels we’ve ever had at Powers Thatch Bar and Restaurant! Of course, a Guinness and Irish Coffee were enjoyed too, perfect end to a day.
The capital of Ireland needs no introduction. Dublin is known around the world for its vibrancy, nightlife and tourist attractions. The pubs in Dublin are well worth a visit and is exactly what you think of when you picture Ireland.
Over two thirds of the Republic of Ireland’s population resides in the Greater Dublin area meaning there are tons of things to do here.
It’s also the main entry point into Ireland so you likely are going to be passing through Dublin on your way in or out of the country. While I don’t recommend spending a ton of time here, it’s very much worth a few days of exploration. It’s one of the best places to visit in Ireland for first time visitors.
This Irish city is the fifth largest in the country and a major vacation destination for those visiting Ireland. It’s drawn us back three times, and we know we will be back again in the future.
While many visitors flock to Dublin, I much prefer the vibe of Galway. It’s known as “The City of the Tribes” and feels much more Irish to me than the capital. There are so many things to do in Galway City center, fun pubs to drink at, and even some epic day trips from the city. A visit to Galway should be on every Ireland itinerary.
Cliffs of Moher
The Cliffs of Moher is on the western coast of the Republic of Ireland, about an hour and a half west of Limerick and only moments from the town of Doolin. If you are coming from Galway City, the Cliffs lie 90 minutes south.
The land stretches for five miles of rugged coastline, featuring steep drops and crashing waves, with beautiful unobstructed views of the skyline. The highest point of the cliffs – over 700 feet tall – proudly houses an observatory tower first constructed in 1835.
Due to the rugged and largely unspoiled natural beauty in the region, for which Ireland is famous, this is the country’s most visited attraction, seeing nearly one and a half million travelers every year. Because of this, capacity is sometimes an issue, and visitors are encouraged to avoid the peak visiting times – read all about the Cliffs of Moher here.
Ring of Kerry
This is one of the largest tourist attractions in Ireland and for good reason. The Ring of Kerry is a series of coastal roads that wind around lakes, mountains, and castles. It’s one of the most beautiful regions in Ireland and well worth a visit.
One of the best ways to see the Ring of Kerry is on a day trip!
Still wondering what to see in Ireland? Cori is a great option! Cork is a well known Irish city in Munster province. Locals even refer to it as The Real Capital of Ireland It’s got an Irish city feel with pubs and ancient sites, but without all the crowds. There’s also a. wonderful waterfront to stroll along, restaurants with live music, and St. Fin Barre’s Cathedral.
The Aran Islands are an hour long ferry ride from Galway to these islands off the coast of Ireland. They’re a lovely slice of the Irish countryside that remains simple, with visitors traveling via bikes and hiking.
The rocky islands still have a strong Irish spirit and remain raw and wild. A true gem of Ireland for those looking to get off the beaten path.
Best Places to Visit in Ireland – Castles
Malahide Castle & Gardens
Malahide Castle dates back to the year 1885 and was owned by the Talbot family for nearly 800 years, save for the period where, after Ireland’s conquest, Oliver Cromwell gave it to Miles Corbet, an English politician. When he was hanged after Cromwell’s downfall, the castle once again fell under Talbot ownership. The castle interiors are home to an array of artifacts from the castle’s tumultuous past, ranging from beautifully-made furniture to Victorian children’s toys.
If you’re into ghost stories, this could be your new favorite place. Malahide Castle is rumored to be the most haunted castle in the country, and given its bloody history, this is really no surprise. Many visitors have reported seeing various apparitions throughout the castle, and you could be next; if you’re looking for a bit of extra excitement during your wander through history, this is a great choice.
Named for the Raite River which flows alongside the castle and into the nearby city of Shannon, the castle’s location has been occupied for over a millennium by Normans, Vikings, and later, Irish nobility. The first official structure was a defensive fortress built in 1250, and the lands were later granted to a lord who created the first stone structure. The current castle as it stands today was built by the MacNamara family in 1425.
The castle itself, along with Bunratty house, are both open to the public. It is also famous for its regular banquet meals, where you can book in for a traditional medieval four-course dinner, along with entertainment provided by the Bunratty Castle Singers – just so you can get the full experience of living in medieval luxury!
Located on the shores of Galway Bay, Dunguaire Castle is as picturesque as they come (not to mention there are some seriously beautiful views from the castle towers of the lush green countryside below). The castle was constructed in 1520 and has been the site of many battles and sieges during that time. It was passed to a well-known local surgeon and author in 1924, who, being friends with poets & writers such as Yeats, is credited with a literary revival in the region.
The interior of the castle retains all the charm of medieval decor, with a banquet hall that hosts regular summer feasts for visitors. Its tower stands at 75 feet and looks out over the nearby town of Kinvarra.
No list of the best castles to visit in Ireland would be complete without a mention of Blarney Castle. Probably the most famous castle in the country, Blarney Castle was originally a medieval stronghold built in 1446. Since it passed hands many different times throughout its history, the castle as it stands today is in partial ruins, but its charming wear and tear does not take away from its mythical quality.
But what Blarney Castle is perhaps best known for is the Blarney Stone – also known as the Stone of Eloquence. Visitors can (with assistance!) be hung upside down to kiss the stone, which is said to give the powers of eloquence and persuasiveness. The origin of the stone is unclear, but local legend dictates that it was a stone on which many ancient Irish kings were crowned.
Rock of Cashel Castle
The Rock of Cashel is more than just a castle; it is a collection of structures sitting atop a hill in Cashel, County Tipperary. On the walled plateau is the Round Tower (the oldest structure in the complex, dating from 1100), Cormac’s Chapel, and the Cashel Cathedral. There is also a nearby graveyard with burials of bishops and other notable figures throughout the region’s history. The Rock is also supposedly the site where St. Patrick converted a Munster King to Christianity, earning the castle another nickname of St. Patrick’s Rock.
The views from the top alone are well worth a visit, but add to that a beautiful and grandiose castle, cathedral, and chapel, and you’re left with an awe-inspiring site steeped in Irish lore and legend.
If you’ve ever wanted to live in a castle, this is probably your best shot. Ross Castle, while open to the public for regular touring, is also a well-liked B&B in the area, with room decor attempting to mirror the styles & design of the time (but still with modern conveniences). You can even opt for a room in the tower, for the most authentic castle experience.
Situated on the edge of Lough Leane, legend states that the original owner of the castle still rests in a deep sleep beneath the lough, rising only once every seven years to circle the castle astride a white horse. If you see him, don’t be afraid; the legend also states that witnesses to this miracle will be blessed with good fortune for the rest of their lives.
Originally built as a defensive structure, several interesting structures throughout the castle are the machicolations Machicolation are the stone structures holes placed over points of entry, for the sole defensive purpose of pouring hot oil over attempted invaders. Another interesting feature is the spiral staircase of uneven height built in a clockwise formation to be a disadvantage to right-handed sword wielders who attempt to climb the stairs. Then its slit-like windows to prevent entry, and provide a space for firing arrows. This Irish castle was built for war.