Dingle coast

14 Must-Have Experiences in Ireland

Julie Ireland 27 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 and Star Wars: The Last Jedi were 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 (3 – 6 months 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.


Read more: Driving the Ring of Kerry


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

Post updated May 2018.


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

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Best experiences in Ireland

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Comments 27

  1. Hi Julie, what an amazing itinerary you had. What time of the year did you travel Ireland? My partner and I are looking to do as much as we can January (10 days). We understand it’s going to be very cold but can’t wait to go. I was wondering if you (or anyone reading this) knows if any of these amazing places would be snowed under or unseeable? We would have to turn up to Giant’s Causeway for it to be covered in snow! Look forward to your response, thanks.

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      Hello Thomas. We visited Ireland at the beginning of August. From what I know about the weather in January, it can be chilly with a high chance of rain. I’m sorry to tell you that snow is unusual, it doesn’t quite get cold enough to snow, unless they get a freak cold weather snap. But you’re right…snow on the Giant’s Causeway would be an awesome sight to see! In January, the days will also be very short, so you will only have about 7 hours of daylight. I read that it can be quite rainy in January. However, during our 18 days in Scotland and Ireland in the summer, it rained 17 of the days. The good news is that it’s a lot cheaper to travel in January and you won’t have to deal with crowds. And if you get a rainy, dreary day, there’s no place better to be than inside of an Irish pub. Cheers, Julie

  2. We stumbled across Doolin Cave while driving along the coast of Co Clare. Amazing caves and home to the largest stalactite in northern hemisphere.

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  3. We adored Newgrange, an ancient (far older than Stonehenge) historic site about two hours outside of Dublin. I truly felt like I was stepping back in time as we walked down into the cave.

    My husband and I also took the bus and hitchhiked around extremely rural Western Ireland (County Mayo). While it was awesome, it’s not exactly something I would recommend to just anyone! The only reason we went out there was because I did the research for my master’s degree in the area as far west in Ireland as you can possibly go.

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