Dingle coast

14 Must-Have Experiences in Ireland

Julie Ireland 20 Comments

Ireland is hot right now! This is a country that seems to be on most people’s travel wish list. If you are one of these many people, congrats, you picked an awesome country to visit. With stunning scenery, quaint towns, friendly people, and more green than you could ever imagine seeing, Ireland makes an epic destination.

Ireland may look like a small country but the list of sights to visit is long. So long, in fact, that it would take weeks to see all of them. Here is our list of our favorite experiences in Ireland, a good starting point for having the best holiday here.

Walk Along the Cliffs of Moher

The Cliffs of Moher are one of Ireland’s most iconic sights. This dramatic stretch of coastline draws thousands of visitors every year, making it one of Ireland’s most visited destinations. On a quick visit, you can view the cliffs from the visitors center. For a more memorable experience, considering walk part (or all) of the 14 km of the Cliff Trail.

Read more: Walking the Cliffs of Moher: Doolin to Hags Head

Cliffs of Moher

Live Irish Music in a Pub

This is absolutely something you should do while in Ireland. Many pubs have live Irish music at night. There is no better Irish experience than joining the locals in a small pub and listening to live music while drinking a pint of beer or a dram of Irish whiskey.

Drive the Dingle Peninsula

Ireland is awesome to explore by car. One of our favorite spots is the Dingle Peninsula. It’s not quite as famous as the Ring of Kerry, but the sights are just as good…maybe even better. Plus, with less visitors, it makes for a better experience.

Explore the cute town of Dingle, drive the scenic Slea Head loop, visit Inch Beach (you can even go surfing here!), learn some Irish history, and view the gorgeous sights and scenery on the way.

Read more: Driving the Dingle Peninsula

Slea Head

Historic Ireland: Visit the Rock of Cashel

Overlooking the Plains of Tipperary, the Rock of Cashel is one of Ireland’s most historic sights. This was the seat of the ancient kings of Ireland. St. Patrick baptized King Aengus here in 450 AD. Now visitors arrive every day to tour this historic complex of buildings.

Rock of Cashel

Explore Hore Abbey

Just down the hill from the Rock of Cashel is Hore Abbey, an ancient monastery dating back to the 13th century. While the Rock of Cashel sees thousands of visitors per day in peak season, very few people know about Hore Abbey. Exploring these ancient ruins, maybe even by yourself, makes for an awesome experience. We actually found it to be much more interesting than the Rock of Cashel.

For kids, exploring Hore Abbey could be one of the highlights of your trip to Ireland. Without crowds of people around and without getting stuck in a tour group, kids can feel like real explorers here.

Read more: Why Hore Abbey is Worth a Visit

Hore Abbey

Drive the Wild Atlantic Way

The Wild Atlantic Way is 1600 miles of road snaking along the western coast of Ireland. Driving the Wild Atlantic Way is an ambitious road trip. If you stopped at each viewpoint and explored every nook and cranny of the Wild Atlantic Way, it would take over one month. With less time, you can focus on a small portion of the drive or just hit the main highlights.

The Ring of Kerry, Dingle Peninsula, and Cliffs of Moher all are some of the sights on the Wild Atlantic Way. But there are also plenty of lesser known but just as dramatic viewpoints to visit. In fact, there are 157 Discovery Points to visit on the drive.

Read more: Wild Atlantic Way: Don’t Miss Spectacular Mullaghmore Head!

Wild Atlantic Way Ireland

Fish ‘N Chips with a pint of Guinness

You can’t come to Ireland without, at least one time, ordering fish ‘n chips with a pint of Guinness.

Fish and chips

Fall in Love with the Irish towns

No one does a small town better than Ireland. With rows of colorful buildings, pubs with live music spilling out onto the streets, and names like Limerick, Cork, and Kilkenny, what’s not to love?

We loved Galway with its great pedestrian zone, Limerick with its castle in the center of town, and Kilkenny with its medieval architecture. But our favorite was cute, quaint, colorful Dingle.

Dingle

Dingle

Galway

Galway

Skellig Michael…add some Adventure to your Vacation

In our opinion, this is the best way to spend a day in Ireland.

Skellig Michael is a rocky island located off of the coast of the Ring of Kerry. Visit an ancient monastery, see the nesting spot of Puffins, and see where “Star Wars: A Force Awakens” was filmed.

To get here, it is a one hour trip by boat over the somewhat rough Atlantic Ocean. Only a handful of boats are permitted to make the trip everyday, so your tickets must be booked well in advance. If you are lucky enough to get a spot, a trip to Skellig Michael just may be the highlight of your time in Ireland.

Read more: Skellig Michael

Skellig Michael

Dublin

Dublin is Ireland’s capital city. Most people visiting Ireland will arrive and/or depart from here. There is a lot of history here as well as a great nightlife scene, making Dublin worth at least 24 hours of your time.

Read more: How We Spent 24 Hours in Dublin

Dublin

The Book of Kells

While you are in Dublin, do not miss the Book of Kells. The Book of Kells is a work of art from the Dark Ages, written in the year 800 AD. It contains the four gospels of the New Testament, complete with illustrations. Two of the books are open, protected behind a thick sheet of glass. The level of detail that went into creating these four books really is amazing.

The tour ends with a walk through the Long Room, which is the main chamber of the Old Library of Trinity College.

Long room Dublin

Kinsale

Kinsale is one of Ireland’s most picturesque towns. With colorful, winding lanes, fabulous restaurants, and a nearby golf course, Kinsale attracts a lot of visitors during the summer months. It’s also the starting point (or ending point, depending on which way you are traveling) of the Wild Atlantic Way.

Kinsale

The Ring of Kerry

The Ring of Kerry is the most popular scenic drive in Ireland. This drive takes a full day. On the loop you get to see dramatic coastline, Killarney National Park, views out to Skellig Michael, and of course, more cute Irish towns. Because of its popularity, it is very crowded during peak season.

If you have limited time, skip the Ring of Kerry. The Dingle Peninsula is just as dramatic with much fewer people.

Ring of Kerry

The Amazing Giant’s Causeway

The Giant’s Causeway is located in Northern Ireland, technically a different country than Ireland. We are including it since many people now include Northern Ireland in their itinerary when touring Ireland.

The Giant’s Causeway is spectacular. It is so unique in its appearance that it is hard to believe it is real. A stretch of coastline with perfectly formed hexagonal columns, all massed together at the water’s edge…it’s an amazing sight to see.

It is worth coming to Northern Ireland just to visit Giant’s Causeway. It’s that impressive.

Read more: The Jaw-Dropping Giant’s Causeway

Giants Causeway

Have you been to Ireland? What must-have experiences do you think need to be on this list?

Post updated July 2017.

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Comments 20

  1. I really enjoyed reading about your family’s adventure. We will be going in September for 23 days and have so much on our schedule, including the Skellig Michael landing. We’re in our 50’s and these 3+ weeks will allow us to check off many of the items on our bucket list. I’m glad you included those places which are not absolutely necessary to see. Even with the time we will have for Ireland and Northern Ireland, we find we are eliminating many of the places we want to see simply due to time constraints. I suppose it also gives us a reason to return, as if we really need and excuse.

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      I am so glad you are going to Skellig Michael. It’s such a unique experience to have in Ireland and such a fun adventure. It can be hard to eliminate some sights, but you can always go back. It’s only been one year since we were in Ireland and already talk about going back to see the things we missed. Have a wonderful time. Cheers, Julie

  2. My 19-year old daughter and I will be in Ireland in early September. We’ll be fluing into Shannon on the west coast from London. We have a week to travel back to Dublin from which we fly back home. Any thoughts on the best most-interesting route to take from southwestern Ireland to Northern Ireland? I’ll be driving (yikes!). Thanks very much for your blog. Very helpful indeed.

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      Hello Helene. From Shannon, I would drive south to Killarney/Dingle to drive the Dingle Peninsula or the Ring of Kerry. If you can, the boat trip out to Skellig Michael is a fantastic adventure!! Then drive north along the west coast. You could see the Cliffs of Moher, the Burren (we missed this) and Galway. North of Galway, near the west coast, is Connemara National Park and Kylemore Abbey, two places we missed but they look awesome. Continue to drive north to Sligo and Donegal. Slieve League, west of Donegal, is off-the-beaten-path coastal cliffs, similar to the Cliffs of Moher (we missed this too). Then drive northeast to Londonderry and into Northern Ireland. Spend one or two days in Northern Ireland before driving back to Dublin. I may have given you too many places to visit with just one week, but take a look at them and pick out what looks like the most interesting to you. You really can’t go wrong in Ireland…it is gorgeous, the people are so friendly, and you will have an awesome time. Happy planning and please let us know if you have more questions. Cheers, Julie

  3. The Brazen Head, Ireland’s oldest pub. Located at Merchant’s Quay in Dublin, it dates back to 1198. It started out as a coach house but has been serving alcohol down the centuries, since before there were even liquor licensing laws. I visited in 2009, and can vouch for the fact that it’s full of character. I also had a drink at The Clarence, owned by those famous Irish sons, Bono and The Edge of U2. It’s in the Temple Bar district, down by the River Liffey. Oh, and I did indulge in some fish and chips – Leo Burdock’s, of course.

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  4. Enjoyed seeing your photos as we had a recent driving holiday in Ireland. A must see is Slieve League, which is on the Atlantic Coast in County Donegal. These cliffs are higher than the Cliffs of Moher and less busy. We were fortunate to see a beautiful rainbow there and watched from the cliff as the rain come toward us from the ocean. It was breathtaking! Also, another must see is The Dark Hedges road in Northern Ireland.

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      Hello Diane, thanks for sharing! We missed Slieve League, unfortunately. I have heard wonderful things about it (less crowded that the Cliffs of Moher and more spectacular), we just ran out of time. It’s on our list for a return visit to Ireland…someday. However, we did make it to the Dark Hedges but did not have a positive experience. It was insane how many tour buses parked right on the side of the road, spoiling the experience for everyone. Cheers, Julie

  5. While you are there don’t forget to go to Kilkenny and go through Kilkenny Castle! You can catch the Horseraces just outside of town. Our Taxi driver dropped us off for the races and was waiting for us at the gate when we came out! We stayed at Kilkenny Inn, which I would highly recommend!! Don’t forget Waterford and the Chrystal factory. It is well worth the visit! One of the glass cutters signed (etched)the Swan that I bought there. Part of my family originated in Tipperary. Wish I had spent more time there!! I would like to go back to Ireland!! It is my home!!

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      Thanks for all of this information! We only had time to drive through Kilkenny, have lunch, and make a quick visit to a pub. But we really loved this city. Someday we will return to Ireland and give ourselves a lot more time to explore Kilkenny and the surrounding area. Thanks again, Julie

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  6. I would definitely add the murals and the peace walls in Belfast. Of course it takes a bit of historical knowledge to understand why they were painted/erected and all the symbols that are used, but a mural tour is a must. And not by bus, which is too quick and superficial, because you don’t get to see 1/10 of what you could. Some others might add the Titanic Belfast (museum) but if I had to choose I would definitely go for the murals.

    Anyway thanks for sharing your magnificent photos!

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  7. Where abouts is the photo under Ring of Kerry taken? I have been to Kerry but I have not been here. The landscape looks amazing!! I am going back in the summer, so would love to go there! I am also hoping to see the Cliffs of Moher, it was too foggy to see them when I went. Killarney is also a nice town to visit!

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      Hello Kate. The Ring of Kerry photo is taken at the “Kerry Cliffs,” located on the Skellig Ring Road not far from Portmagee. If you put “Kerry Cliffs” into Google maps, it will give you the exact location. Good luck this summer…the weather can be crazy, as you know, so hopefully you’ll get to see the Cliffs of Moher and the Kerry Cliffs with some sunshine. Cheers, Julie

  8. One of our favorite places in Ireland was the Burren in Co. Clare. What a rare and interesting landscape. There are tours that leave from the visitor’s Center and I highly recommend them.

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      Hello Jennifer. The Burren was on our list to see but we missed it. When we were in the area it was raining and very foggy so we skipped it. Just another reason to go back to Ireland!! Thanks for commenting! – Julie

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