Top 25 Attractions & Things To Do In Ireland

Ireland is by far one of the most remarkable examples of that bewildering Jekyll-and-Hyde-like schizophrenia which typically makes a place worthwhile. On the one hand, there's cosmopolitan Galway, lavishly artistic Cork, and bustling Dublin epitomizing all that's urban and loud, but steer off the beaten path to face the grandeur of completely vertical cliffs plummeting violently into the churning sea, stretches of solitary grassland dotted with stern glacial lakes, and the screeching of Puffins that pierces through the overwhelming silence. There's a weighty element of history, too, starting back at Newgrange and ending with the recent Troubles. All this makes the Republic of Ireland a little emerald world to be explored on and on, but if you have time constraints, make sure you see at least some of the unquestionable highlights.

Following some research into the preferences and opinions posted by users of various social media sites, such as Twitter and Facebook, as well as own resources and reviews by the most popular travel sites, Open Travel has compiled a list of top 25 things to see or do on your Ireland Vacations.

  1. 1

    Slieve League

    Location: Donegal, Ireland

    Slieve League

    Photo by globalreachent

    Strangely enough, reaching almost three times higher than the Cliffs of Moher, Slieve League is by far less popular than Clare's famous attraction. But you know what, gaping down Europe's sixth-highest sea cliff is a lot more thrilling without hordes of overenthusiastic tourists gasping in awe behind your back. Enjoy the tranquility, marvel at the dignity of the sheer rock faces, rhapsodize over the pounding of waves, and...watch your way above all!

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  2. 2

    Glendalough

    Location: Cill Mhantáin, Ireland

    Just a stone's throw from Dublin, the glacially sculpted valley of Glendalough is perhaps the most rewarding day trip you can make in the area. Once you get enveloped with the blissful silence of the place, it is easy to understand why a hermit priest St Kevin chose it as the perfect setting for his monastic settlement (which is now one of the most important early Christian sites in Ireland). Beside splendid ruins, endless opportunities for lakeside and woodland walks make for an exceptionally tranquil and spiritually cleansing stay in a charming place shrouded in history and legend.

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  3. 3

    Rock of Cashel

    Location: Cashel, Ireland

    Rock of Cashel

    Photo by RX-Guru

    Its origins shrouded in legend, the Rock of Cashel looms over the province of Munster like a fairytale castle of a wizard. Boasting one of the most exquisite collections of Celtic art and medieval architecture in Europe, the complex is unquestionably among the top five visitor attractions in Ireland. Sitting high on a hill, the Rock not only elevates the castle's already whopping structure, but also offers magnificent views of the surrounding area. By the way, have we mentioned it is said to have been spitted out by the devil?

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  4. 4

    Cliffs of Moher

    Location: An Clár, Ireland

    Cliffs of Moher

    Photo by Teosaurio

    At some points you can walk just centimeters from the edge that plunges abruptly into the raging Atlantic, and they say it takes around 7 seconds to fall down the 200-meter, entirely vertical wall. Beware. Such wild, overwhelming beauty can't go without claiming its toll, and as you saunter along the 8-kilometer stretch of the Moher Cliffs, every watchful step you take is accompanied with utmost awe over their treacherousness and majesty. Once you reach the O'Brien's Tower safe and sound (it marks the highest point along the coast), climb up, look around and later tell us what it felt like to see the infinity.

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  5. 5

    Skellig Michael

    Location: Ciarraí, Ireland

    Skellig Michael

    Photo by amerune

    Jutting out steeply from the Atlantic Ocean about 12 km off the Irish coast, Michael's Rock attracts with its remoteness and mystery. The island, often veiled with clouds, is a home to mysterious 7th century monastic remains. Little is known about the brotherhood and their practices but the Spartan conditions inside the monastery and the beehive stone huts do make you think of the ascetic and deeply-devoted life of the early Irish Christians. Due to the distance, the island is not very popular with visitors and hence extremely well-preserved. Do go to breathe in some elusiveness and enigma!

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  6. 6

    Ireland's School of Falconry at Ashford Castle

    Location: Cong, Ireland

    Ireland's School of Falconry at Ashford Castle

    Photo by beckmann

    You've seen it in plentiful movies. You've always envied the characters who hesitantly blew candles in their moonlit chambers just to get a wink of vigilant sleep tossing and turning in their huge four poster beds. Now you can try it yourself in the luxurious 5 star Ashford Castle dating back to 1228. The authentic decoration of adorable suites, the abundance of activities on the premises, and the vistas around just can't be given justice with mere words. OK, it's not a cheap thrill and you'll probably need to book much in advance, but, what the heck, isn't it what's been kindling your imagination since you were kids?

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  7. 7

    Killarney National Park

    Location: Cill Airne, Ireland

    Killarney National Park

    Photo by Jim Linwood

    The true nature enthusiasts shall find their piece of green heaven here! The 10,000-hectare park area soothes the senses of any townee with mountains, vast moorland, woods, rumbling waterways, parks and gardens. The glacial Lough Leane (the Lower Lake) baits not only fishermen with its trout, salmon and perch and where else but here can you see the wild herds of Red Deer grazing peacefully? And for even more of the spectacular natural beauty catch head for the Ring of Kerry (Iveragh Peninsula), the mystical and unspoilt landscape carved out of rock by the last Ice Age. Awesome!

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  8. 8

    Dublin Castle

    Location: Dublin, Ireland

    Dublin Castle

    Photo by Donaldytong

    Initially the fortified seat of the British rule in Ireland, today the Dublin Castle is the prime Irish government complex. The city of Dublin got its name from the Dubh Linn or, as the name translates, Black Pool on the site of the present Castle Gardens. Enjoy some guided tours of the State Apartments whose function is to host Presidential inaugurations, ceremonials and other official engagements. The Chapel Royal is also worth paying a visit for its vaulting, fine plaster decoration and carved oaks. For intact remains of medieval Dublin head for the castle’s 13th century tower.

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  9. 9

    Bend of the Boyne

    Location: An Mhí, Ireland

    Bend of the Boyne

    Photo by Waku

    Brú na Bóinne - a place where all modern architects should pay tribute to the prehistoric pioneers. Covering 780ha and containing around 40 passage graves, it's not only the largest megalithic sites in Europe but also one that predates even the Egyptian pyramids. Built with exceptional sophistication and a bewildering knowledge of science, the complex consists of Neolithic chamber tombs, henges, standing stones and myriad other prehistoric structures, the most remarkable of which is arguably the passage grave of Newgrange dating from as early as the period between circa 5500 and 2900 BC. A guided tour reveals details you'd never have though could be true of people at that time!

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  10. 10

    Inishbofin

    Location: County Galway, Ireland

    Inishbofin

    Photo by BK59

    ‘The island of the white cow' as the name explains, is an inspirational heaven for artists and photographers. Located about 8 kilometers (5 miles) off the coast of Connemara, the 5 by 3 km little island has been long favored by fishermen, exiled monks and fugitive pirates. Today it is the home of 200 inhabitants and an important center of traditional Irish music. If you are into anything like swimming, diving, bird watching, windsurfing, angling, not to mention Loop Walks and cycling, do come for the visit will be an unwinding experience! Switch your camera to ‘stand by' for the island breeds for rare bird species and seals. Pics essential!

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  11. 11

    Kilmainham Gaol

    Location: Dublin, Ireland

    Kilmainham Gaol

    Photo by Sean Munson

    What a morbid idea, you'd say, to visit a jail on you emerald holiday! The squeamish types may dock themselves in the National Irish Museum in Dublin, but those with a penchant for a real and at the same time thrilling lesson in Irish history, will you please follow the warder? One of the largest disused prisons in Europe, Killmainham has witness all stages of the country's turbulent passage from the late eighteenth century marked by the United Irish Rebellion of 1796 to the early twentieth century that saw infamous executions of Civil War prisoners. Creepy, but worth it.

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  12. 12

    Temple Bar Area

    Location: Dublin, Ireland

    Temple Bar Area

    Photo by wili_hybrid

    In for some big pubbing, clubbing and culture with the capital "C"? Spreading on the south bank of the River Liffey in central Dublin, the Temple Bar is where you sample Irishness at its most quintessential and intimate. The endearing blend of cultural riches will have you look musicians and actor right in the eye from just feet away, saunter along narrow cobbled streets till late night hours, and jump prolific, cozy pub houses to discover each is unique and adorable.

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  13. 13

    Guinness Storehouse

    Location: Dublin, Ireland

    Guinness Storehouse

    Photo by ctoverdrive

    All you wanted to know about stout but you were just too thirsty to ask can be learned at the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin. You will be instructed on topics from how the beer is made to the ancient craft of barrel-making, all conveyed to you in a massive seven-storey building of former Guinness fermentation plant remodeled into the shape of a giant pint. The presentation ends in the Gravity Bar, the ideal spot to enjoy a 360-degree view of Dublin and a complimentary glass of Guinness. Yummy!

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  14. 14

    Bunratty Castle and Folk Park

    Location: Bunratty, Ireland

    Bunratty Castle and Folk Park

    Photo by jmenard48

    Two things come courtesy of Ireland's premier visitor attraction - an inspiring visit to the acclaimed 15th century Bunratty Castle and heaps of fun at the 19th century Bunratty Folk Park. As the most complete medieval fortress in Ireland, the castle boasts some remarkable examples of tapestries, furnishings, and works of art which aptly capture the essence and mood of the 15th and 16th century. Spreading out at its foot, the beautifully recreated houses and amenities of the 19th century village folk add a bulk of authenticity and color to the gloomy greyness of the castle's massive walls. Not sure who's going to enjoy it more: kids or adults.

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  15. 15

    Aran Islands

    Location: Ireland

    Aran Islands

    Photo by Thapthim

    Embark on a ferry at Rossaveal and let yourself be taken to a place where even the wind speaks Gaelic. The three barren islands floating at the mouth of Galway Bay are a realm of stone forts and seaweed growing out of lifeless rock, as well as home to the smallest church in the world and a rusting shipwreck sitting on the shore of Inisheer. For those of the cultural bent, every nook and cranny oozes old Irish folklore, so there's plenty of dancing and singing with the native islanders. The abundance of accommodation options tempts to stay overnight, and if you do, you'll certainly not regret.

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  16. 16

    Blarney Castle & Rock

    Location: Blarney, Ireland

    Blarney Castle & Rock

    Photo by Heather Elias

    No visit to Ireland is complete without sightseeing the Blarney Castle. Set in idyllic Irish countryside and wrapped with acres of woodland, it makes an enjoyable trip. This medieval stronghold's major attraction is probably the Blarney Stone, an ancient Scottish piece of rock which, as the story goes, is supposed to grant the ‘gift of gab' to anyone who kisses it. Mind you, the kissing involves bending over backwards and you will certainly need some acrobatic flexibility or somebody's strong arms to support you. What a sight! Funny, hilarious, comical, humorous, amusing, entertaining, killing...guess who kissed it?

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  17. 17

    Connemara National Park

    Location: Connemara, Ireland

    Connemara National Park

    Photo by Joebater

    Connemara has always been considered the emerald gem stone of Ireland. This natural terrain with its, in the words of Oscar Wilde, savage beauty is a green wonderland of sights and adventure. Clothed in ever changing colors and the dominant feature of the Twelve Bens mountain range, the area is a perfect hiking destination. The peaks cut the sky at a really moderate height of about 700 m so you don't need to be an experienced climber to reach most of them in a single day. You will be rewarded with amazing views of heather and lichen-wrapped hills and vast barren passages of land. Unless you are a lone wolf, make sure there is somebody to keep you company!

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  18. 18

    Galway Cathedral

    Location: Galway, Ireland

    Galway Cathedral

    Photo by Kanchelskis

    The brainchild of Bishop Michael Browne, the Cathedral of Our Lady Assumed into Heaven and St. Nicholas was intended to be ‘solid, dignified and worthy of Galway'. And it surely is with its large octagonal copper dome rising high above the roofs of the medieval city. The interior filled with cut-stone and wood carvings along with wall paintings, mosaics and rose windows is a fine example of Irish workmanship. For more fun do explore the city for it brims with multicultural vibrancy, superb pedestrianized streets and squares like the Eyre Square that will keep you occupied throughout the day. Whenever you come, it's the festival time in Galway too! Gasping for some tranquility, have a stroll along the Ballyknow Quay.

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  19. 19

    Clonmacnoise

    Location: Uíbh Fhailí, Ireland

    When exploring Ireland have a peek at Clonmacnoise monastery. Although it is really not on the way, it's surely worth both the time and the gas. Situated on the ancient crossroads of the River Shannon and the Esker Way, the complex has survived numerous raids and invasions. Today remains present the most significant monastic foundation of the Celtic Church on Irish soil. Dating back to the mid-6th century, the notable ruins include a cathedral and several churches along with a castle, towers and some priceless examples of sculpted stonework. Enjoy the tranquility and inspiring surroundings!

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  20. 20

    Glór Irish Music Centre

    Location: Inis, Ireland

    Glór Irish Music Centre

    Photo by Cindy Funk

    You think a pint of Guinness in Dublin and a glimpse of cliffs in County Clare is enough to get the spirit of Ireland? Shame on you. To redeem your mistake pay at least a short visit to Ennis, which, in fact, can be walked all over in a hour or so. But it's not size that matters here. This bustling market town is a stronghold of traditional music, with a thriving Rock music scene, the annual Fleadh Nua festival, and many remarkable artists in residence. For your information, music is what lies at the core of the Irish identity and nowhere is this devotion to folklore more evident that at the Glór Irish Music Center which is one of Ireland's premier venue for drama, film, concerts, comedy, musicals, and exhibitions. What delightful repentance!

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  21. 21

    The Old Jameson Distillery

    Location: Dublin, Ireland

    The Old Jameson Distillery

    Photo by bjaglin

    For the ultimate whiskey tasting experience make for the Old Jameson Distillery. You will be entertained, enlightened on malting, fermenting as well as maturing and maybe even granted with a much envied personalized Whiskey Taster Certificate. Placed in the heart of Ireland's bustling capital city, Dublin, The Old Jameson Distillery captures the spirit of Ireland perfectly and the tour is like traveling in time to the days when one of Ireland's greatest entrepreneurs, John Jameson, made the first bottle of his smooth golden potion that has always been the world's most preferred whiskey.

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  22. 22

    Lough Tay (Guinness Lake)

    Location: Cill Mhantáin, Ireland

    Lough Tay (Guinness Lake)

    Photo by KaraNagai

    Driving south out of Dublin swing by and take a look at Lough Tay. The small but scenic lake in the Wicklow Mountains gets its name from the Guinness family whose estate borders with it. The northern coastline is edged with a strap of amazingly white sand imported by the landowners. Admired from the nearby mountains, the lake bears similarity to a huge glass of Guinness topped with a brim of foam. Have some trekking in the neighborhood for more spectacular views of rumbling waterfalls, vast bog lands, forests and places of historical interest like Glendalough.

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  23. 23

    National Shrine of Our Lady of Knock

    Location: Mayo, Ireland

    National Shrine of Our Lady of Knock

    Photo by EamonnPKeane

    On the 21st of August, 1879, altogether 15 people witness a miraculous apparition of the Virgin Mary, St Joseph, and St John the Evangelist at the south gable of Knock Parish Church. From then on, partly down to the visit of Pope John Paul II in 1979 and Mother Teresa of Calcutta in 1993, which inspired an even more passionate devotion, Knock has developed the status of a globally recognized Marian Shrine called on by one and a half million pilgrims annually. It's a place to find both peace in a tradition of solitary prayer before the Blessed Sacrament and the sense of reunion in faith during Mass, when the bread of life is shared and the spiritual bond between God's children rediscovered.

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  24. 24

    Muckross Head

    Location: County Donegal, Ireland

    Grab your ropes and off you go! The Muckross Head Peninsula presents one of the best rock-climbing spots in Ireland. Notable for the multi-layered horizontal structure of sand and mudstone, the crag offers endless breaks and overhangs to cling to. The climbs are usually 10 to 20m in height but quite strenuous due to the overhanging form. Enjoy! To cool down laze for a while on the surrounding beaches. You can choose between a more dangerous windy and tidal part, perfect for surfers by the way, or a calmer strap of sand and sea ideal for swimming. Mind the head, rockfall!

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  25. 25

    Holy Cross Abbey

    Location: Tipperary, Ireland

    Holy Cross Abbey

    Photo by JohnArmagh

    With a particle of the Holy Rood enshrined, the Holy Cross Abbey has always been one of the most frequented places of pilgrimage on the Emerald Island. The sanctuary is a restored Cistercian monastery dating back to the 12th century and situated near Thurles upon the River Suir. Thousands of visitors arrive every year to admire the wonderful structure and its mural paintings, fine carvings and scenic location. The Abbey is also a highly desired choice of couples to ask God's blessings on their wedding day so a handful of rice in your pocket might come in handy!

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