21 of The Very Best Things to do in Ireland
Did we mention we love Ireland? We’ve had the good fortune of traveling from South to North, East to West and all the way back down again. I can safely say that we’ve done a lot in Ireland. Our first trip took us all the way up the Wild Atlantic Way, and after witnessing the stunning Irish coast, we couldn’t wait to go back again. We’ve been to Ireland a total of four times and while we could never replace a local experts list of the best things to do in Ireland, I think we’ve discovered a lot of the great things that tourists like us can enjoy when they visit Ireland too.
Great Things to do in Ireland
We wanted to round up our favourite things we’ve done on the Emerald Isle to give you some choices of things you might want to do in Ireland that you may not have thought of! If you are looking for things to do in Dublin check out our post here. We’re leaving out the capital city because there is so much to do there, you could spend your entire vacation in town. This is the best of Ireland outside of Dublin. Some of the popular stops and some unique ideas. Enjoy!
I could suggest driving the entire route of the Wild Atlantic Way. If you do this, you will see a lot of the landmarks and stops mentioned on our list. But there are so many other places to see in Ireland that are not a part of the Wild Atlantic way. I suggest doing both! If you have the time, drive the Wild Atlantic Way and explore the west coast of Ireland at your leisure and then go about and see the rest of beautiful Ireland. A month should do it!
I think Skellig Michael is the most magical place we visited in all of Ireland. Located 12 km off the coast, Skellig Michael is home to a 6th century monastery standing 200 metres above sea level. The beehive huts are left in extraordinary condition overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. It is such a mysterious and beautiful scene, Star Wars chose to shoot the final scene of The Force Awakens at this site. If it was good enough for Luke Skywalker to go into seclusion for years on end, it’s good enough for me!
Slea Head Drive has often been considered one of the most beautiful drives on earth. Starting in the town of Dingle, there are many things to see along this coastal drive. Here you’ll find more old monastery beehive huts, ancient ruins, churches, and a stone monastery. It’s the cliffs and coast that takes your breath away as you overlook the Blasket Islands and the Three Sisters Islands.
Ride a Horse – Dingle and Wicklow Counties
Taks a horseback ride up into the hills to truly take in the beauty of the Dingle Peninsula. It’s amazing landscape littered with ancient ruins. Horses are an integral part of Irish history and in nearly every county you’ll find a stable where you can join a trail ride. Another one of our favourite spots to ride in Ireland was in County Wicklow. For you western riders out there, be aware, it’s English style on these Irish beauties.
Kylemore Abbey – County Galway
Kylemore Abbey a mere hundred and fifty years old (young by Irish standards), but it’s a beautiful stop in Connemara of County Galway. It was originally built as a private residence for a wealthy doctor from England and then as an estate for the Duke and Duchess of Manchester in 1909. In 1920, the Irish Benedictine Nuns purchased the castle after fleeing Belgiusm in WWI. You can tour the grounds and gardens, plus there is a nice bakery for a slice of pie.
The Kilkenny Way – County Kilkenny
The medieval city of Kilkenny is an excellent stop to explore the Kilkenny Castle and many churches and monasteries. But if you really want to get a taste of Irish culture, do the Kilkenny Way where you learn the art of hurling. This tour starts at the Legends Bar where you discuss the Celtic sport of hurling and learn about previous legends and champions. It’s then off to Nowlan Park, home of the Kilkenny Cats where you’ll hit the pitch and learn to hit the sliotar with your hurling stick as you practice blocking, hooking, lifting and striking on the legendary field.
Cliffs of Moher – County Clare
It’s one of the most photographed sights in all of Ireland and rightfully so. Standing at 214 metres above sea level, these magnificent cliffs plunge into the sea offering spectacular views of the Irish Coast. Take a coastal walk from Doolin with Pat Sweeney as you walk through the local farmlands along the coast while listening to history and stories about the area.
Mizen Head – County Cork
Mizen Head is another spectacular cliff destination offering stunning views. It’s less crowded than Cliffs of Moher, but just as impressive. There’s a series of walkways taking you around the cliffs and the Mizen Head Fog Signal Station. It’s a trip through time as you learn about the fishing and shipping history of these treacherous waters. The signal station was made to combat the loss of life off the coast and there are tales of great rescues happening from the shore.
Play at the Beach – Sligo County
The beaches of Ireland are impressive. Long sandy beaches filled with activities from Stand up Paddle Boarding, Sailing and surfing. Surfing is all the rage in Ireland and there are plenty of beaches to give it a shot. There are surf schools all along the coast filled with long sandy beaches.
Go Off Road Driving – County Kildare
One of the best adventures we had in Ireland was off road driving with OffRoadDriving IE. This course takes you through rivers, mud holes, up steep hills and over obstacles with an expert instructor showing you the ropes. Located just about 45 minutes outside of Dublin it makes for a great day trip.
Aran Islands – County Galway
Anyone you talk to in Ireland will tell you that you must get off the mainland and visit the Araan Islands. Inishmore is the largest of the three islands and houses Dún Aengus, an incredible prehistoric fort standing atop a 100 meter high sea cliff. The island has strong traditional roots and it feels as if you have stepped back in time as horse carts bring tourists out to the fort from the village. You can rent a bicycle to explore the island and it’s a beautiful spot to delve into Irish culture listening to traditional music as you enjoy a pint a the pub.
Malin Head – County Donegal
Go to the most Northernly point of Ireland on the Inishowen Peninsula. If you are driving the Wild Atlantic Way you must drive as far as you can to overlook the Northern Atlantic. The winds swirl as the waves crash and you feel as if you have reached the end of the world!
Saltee Islands – County Wexford
Catch a boat from Kilmore Quay to tour the Saltee Islands, one of the largest sea bird sanctuaries in the world. Here you’ll spot Gannets and Gulls to Puffins and Manx migrating through the area at different times of the year. It is also home to a large grey seal population. Boats can drop you off for day trips letting you hike and explore this ancient island.
Poulandrone Portal Tomb – County Clare
Speaking of ancient, the Poulandrone Portal Tomb located in the Burren dates back to 4200 BC and 2900 BC. Up to 22 adults and 6 children were placed in this ancient tomb. Tall stone slabs guard the portal supporting a giant capstone. The limestone landscape of crosscrossing cracks is a magnificent site creating one of the most unique terrains we’ve ever seen.
Kiss the Blarney Stone – County Cork
It’s something we’ve always wanted to do. Kissing the Blarney Stone gives you the gift of the gab and a visit to the Blarney Castle is a must. Even if you don’t kiss the stone, the castle grounds are a beautiful day trip visiting the fairy gardens, the witches kitchen, the poison garden and the wishing steps. The castle is something made of fairy tales. Book your own trip to Blarney Castle with Get Your Guide’s full day tours.
Ring the Bells of Shandon – County Cork
Cork is Ireland’s second largest city and it’s worth spending a few days to explore. One of the things you must do when visiting Cork is pop over to the Church of St. Anne and ring the bells of Shandon. Visitors are given headphones to climb into the bell tower as people ring the bells following along with sheet music telling them what strings to pull to play musical bells like Raindrops Keep Falling on my Head and Mama Mia. From the top of the church you are offered panoramic views of the city.
Bru Na Boinne – County Meath
Bru Na Boinne is a world heritage site dating back 5000 years! Three large tombs dominate the landscape. A visit to Newgrange gives visitors the chance to go inside the narrow passageways. Venturing into the centre of the tomb takes you to an alter where you can see the intricate stacks of stone reaching a height of 19 metres. Newgrange is older than the Pyramids of Giza, and is a fascinating stop for anyone visiting Ireland.
Coasteering – County Mayo
You can’t go to a rugged coastal country without giving coasteering a shot. Coasteering is traversing and exploring coastlines in wet suits, helmets and pfds as you swim, jump from rock to rock and crash in swirling waters. If you want a real thrill, you can leap off of high cliffs into the Atlantic Ocean.
Rock of Cashel – County Tipperary
The Rock of Cashel offers great photo opportunities of one of a 12th century tower sitting atop high limestone rock. The Rock of Cashel has historic significance dating back to the 4th century where conquerers and kings used it as the centre of power for Ireland. St. Patrick baptized Ireland’s first ruler King Aengus here in 427 AD.
Ringfort at the Irish National Heritage Park – County Wexford
For something different spend a night in the Ringfort and live like they did in medieval times. You’ll be given a pot of stew to cook over an open flame as you are surrounded by high wooden fences while staying in tented houses. The Heritage Park takes you through Irish history with huts and villages recreated to display time through the ages.
Seaweed Bath – Sligo County
If you want to try something very unique, slip into a Voya Seaweed Bath in Sligo County. At the beginning of the 20th century, seaweed baths were plentiful and popular. As population moved out of the west coast, seaweed bath houses started to fade and in the 60’s they all but disappeared. Voya rejuvinated the Seaweed bath experience in 1996 and since then they attract 40,000 visitors a year.
Kayaking at Night – County Cork
When in Ireland you really need to get out on a kayak anywhere you can on the coast. But in Cork, there is an interesting night excursion on Lough Hyne with Atlantic Sea Kayaking that takes kayaking to another level. You’ll meet Jim Kennedy at 7;00 pm to launch your vessels into the beautiful lough while you paddle around waiting for the sun to go down. Once it’s pitch dark, you’ll have an extraordinary view of the stars and nighttime sounds as you paddle through the dark. Don’t let your imagination run wild, you may start to see sea monsters in the shadows ahead.
Need to see where all the counties of Ireland are: Here’s a map