- Cliffs of Moher – This is an absolute must-do! Located in County Clare, these stunning cliffs attract millions of visitors from all over the globe and it’s easy to see why. Make sure to check out all three viewing platforms as each of them provides a unique and breathtaking view of the Atlantic. O’Brien’s Tower is the highest viewpoint at 214 meters from sea level. I did a day tour with Extreme Ireland which was excellent. In addition to seeing the cliffs, we stopped in Doolin; a lovely little village popular for its traditional Irish music, Corcomroe Abbey; a 13th Century monastery, Burren National Park & Dunguaire Castle. Doing a tour is a great way to learn about the area and stop at places you may otherwise miss. I will definitely be back this summer when a girlfriend of mine visits from Australia – can’t wait to see it in another season!
2. Northern Ireland & Giant’s Causeway – I went on another wonderful day trip that included Giant’s Causeway; the only World Heritage Site in Northern Ireland. We began the tour in Belfast where I chose to do the Black Taxi Tour; a political tour of the area which was as fascinating as it was unsettling. I would highly recommend doing this tour if you even have the slightest interest in learning about Northern Ireland’s conflict that took place from 1968 – 1998 known as The Troubles. The tour guides were excellent as they lived through this dark time, providing you with a vivid picture of what life was like during this difficult period.
Giant’s Causeway is a natural rock formation consisting of approximately 40,000 basalt columns. The many legends surrounding its formation make it even more magical – it really is something to see. After you’re finished exploring, make sure to grab a bite at The Nook; a cozy little Gastropub and previous school house.
We also stopped at Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge in County Antrim. Unfortunately the winds were so strong that the bridge was closed for the day but we were still able to take in the breathtaking views of our surroundings. Fans of Games of Thrones will recognize the medieval Dunluce Castle as Castle Greyjoy; we were lucky enough to catch a glimpse of it at sunset – stunning!
3. Howth – This bustling fishing village is a fabulous way to spend a day. I did the Howth Head Walk with a girlfriend which was absolutely stunning! Check out the Howth Market, Howth Castle & Grounds or grab at a bite at one of the many great restaurants lining the village. We were there on a Sunday and enjoyed listening to the beautiful trad music playing while we dined. Howth is easily accessible from Dublin, just a quick ride on the light rail (DART) and you’re there and ready to explore.
4. Bray Head Cliff Walk – I absolutely love this walk. You can take the DART from Dublin to Bray and walk along the cliff to Greystones. It takes a couple of hours and the views are stunning – it’s a perfect way to spend a day. Once you reach Greystones, you can grab some food & a cheeky pint (or two) before making your way back to Dublin. The DART is available from Greystones or if you’re feeling adventurous, you can make the trek back to where you started in Bray. Nothing beats fresh air and exercise while taking in the beauty that is Ireland.
5. Killarney National Park – Located in County Kerry, Killarney National Park is Ireland’s first national park which was donated to the Irish Free State in 1932. It has expanded significantly since and has a diverse range of flora and fauna. It is also home to Ireland’s only herd of red deer, so make sure to keep your eyes peeled! There are several walking options ranging in length and difficulty. Killarney National Park seems to have everything; breathtaking views of mountains and lakes, creeks and even a castle from the 15th Century (Ross Castle). For the nature lovers out there like myself (or someone who just wants to see the beauty that is Ireland) – this is the place for you.
6. Wicklow Mountains National Park – Another unbelievably beautiful spot in Ireland. If you happen to visit when the sun is shining (a somewhat rare occurrence here), you will be blown away by your surroundings. There are plenty of activities for all ages and interests. Go hiking, try your luck at catching a fish, sharpen your rock climbing skills or simply take a relaxing stroll out in the wilderness. A visit to County Wicklow is not complete without visiting Glendalough and it’s “Monastic City.” This important site is home to buildings from as early as the 10th Century. County Wicklow is only 80 km from Dublin and is one of the most picturesque spots in Ireland’s Ancient East.
7. Kildare – A girlfriend of mine from Italy lives here with her husband so I decided to visit her so I could see another part of the country. I may not have otherwise thought to stop here but I’m so glad that I did. We hung out with sheep and had a fantastic lunch at the Green Barn Cafe located within Burtown House & Gardens. The food is phenomenal; it’s incredibly fresh as almost all of their ingredients come from their organic garden on site. I’ve been back since and I would make a special trip to Kildare just to eat at the Green Barn. The Irish National Stud & Gardens is also well worth a visit. You can spend the day with beautiful thoroughbred horses; most are worth more money than you or I will ever see 🙂 Afterwards, stroll over to the Japanese Gardens and get in touch with your inner zen. There is so much to see and do in this country, my bucket list seems to be growing everyday – not that I’m complaining!
8. Blarney Castle & Cork City – One of Ireland’s most well known attractions, Blarney Castle is home to the famous Blarney Stone…kiss it and get the “gift of the gab” – not necessarily a good thing for some of us 😉 The gardens were my favourite part – especially the Poison Garden.
While you’re in County Cork, make some time to see Cork city. Grab something tasty at the English Market or find a bargain at Mother Jones Vintage Heaven while you’re out and about. There are several tours that you can take from Dublin if you’d rather leave the driving to someone else. I highly recommend booking a tour with Viator – I’ve used them several times in both Iceland and Ireland and have had nothing but great experiences. Browse their wide selection of tours and find one that’s perfect for you – https://www.viator.com/.
9. Rock of Cashel – The Rock of Cashel is one of Ireland’s most impressive historical sites, dating back to the 12th century. Is it also known as St. Patrick’s Rock and Cashel of the Kings as it was the traditional seat of the kings of Munster prior to the Norman invasion. Get inspired, enjoy the breathtaking views and take in another piece of Ireland’s fascinating history.
10. Hell Fire Club – Montpelier Hill aka “Hell Fire Club” as it’s commonly known by Dubliners; is located in the Dublin mountains, South of the city centre. The Hell Fire Club was built around 1725 and was used as a hunting lodge. As its name suggests, there are several legends surrounding these ruins; the most common being that it has been visited by the Devil himself. Legends aside, this is a perfect spot to get your heart rate pumping (the hill was a little steeper than we anticipated) while taking in the fresh mountain air. The panoramic views of Dublin are well worth the climb!