Julie Ireland 39 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.

Best Things to Do in Ireland

1. 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.

Cliffs of Moher

2. 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.

3. 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.

Slea Head

4. 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

5. 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.

Hore Abbey

6. 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.

Wild Atlantic Way Ireland

7. 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

8. 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.






9. 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.

Skellig Michael

10. 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.


11. 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

12. 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.


13. 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

14. 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.

Giants Causeway

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

Going to Ireland? Buy the Guide

Planning a trip to Ireland? Read all of our articles in our Ireland Travel Guide.

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Comments 39

  1. Hello,
    We are planning a trip to Ireland next March, love your 10 days itinerary, but wanted to include seeing the Northern Lights. I read they can be seen from county Donegal.
    Any thoughts on that?
    We can extend the trip to 12 days, both to see that and to make sure we get a better chance to walk the cliffs of Moher.

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      I didn’t know that you could see the Northern Lights from Ireland. That’s cool. So, I don’t know much about it, but I did find this. From what I know about the Northern Lights, they don’t appear every night. It does depend on weather conditions, and in Ireland, you will also need a cloud-free night. It’s worthing trying, if it is something you want to see. The extra time would also allow you to see Slieve League, which are cliffs like the Cliffs of Moher, near Donegal. Cheers, Julie

  2. Hi! We going to Ireland for 2 weeks in July. My husband wants to start in Belfast after we land in Dublin and make our way along the Antrim coat to Londonderry. Here’s where we are stuck. From there he wants to drive to Slieve League and spend a night before ending up in Galway. But it’s such a long ride. So I have us driving to Sligo the next day for a night to break up the driving. But it’s rather head to Galway because after that we going to Killarney, Dingle and Cork. I’d appreciate any advice on if this is worth it it should we change our itinerary.

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      Hello Jackie. I guess everyone has a different take on what a big driving day is. When we visited Ireland, we had a day where we started off in Portrush, drove through Sligo, all of the way to Doolin. It was a big day but a beautiful driving day. So, in my opinion, and if I understand you correctly, I don’t think that driving from Londonderry to Slieve League is too far to go. And the next day, you can go right to Galway. It’s about a 4 hour drive but it is very pretty so you probably won’t mind it. Then the next day you can head to Killarney. In Ireland, part of the experience is the drive, especially in this part of the country. Cheers, Julie

  3. Hi,
    My husband and I are planning a trip to Ireland in June, but are worried about driving on the left. Do you know of a good tour group, or is it possible to take buses from one town to the next?
    Thank you!

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      Since we rented a car, I don’t know much about tours or buses. I know it’s possible to hire a driver to take you around Ireland since I had a friend do this, and he set this up through a travel agent. If you have any hotels booked, you can contact your hotel for advice on how to book a driver/use the buses. Cheers, Julie

    2. O’Darby tours are amazing, especially if you are lucky enough to get WES as a driver. Funny, educational and very comfortable!

  4. 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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      From what I know, it’s rare to have snow at Giant’s Causeway but maybe you’ll get lucky. That would be a sight to see! Cheers, Julie

    2. Snow is rare in Ireland. We arrived in Dublin two years ago as expats expecting to freeze to death. The climate is actually pretty temperate. To be sure, there are Baltic days with the wind and rain- but rarely does the weather stop you from bundling up and getting on with it. Wear layers. Warm gloves, hat, and scarves are a must. Tall boots help keep the legs warm on windy days. Family and friends have come to visit and the weather has never stopped us going out. Hope that puts your mind at rest!

  5. One of the most enjoyable things we did was visit the Slieve League sea cliffs in Donegal. They are stunning and we hiked along them amongst grazing sheep and sea birds. The views from the top are breathtaking.

  6. 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

  7. 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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  8. 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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  9. 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

  10. 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

  11. 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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  12. 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

  13. 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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  14. 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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  15. 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

  16. 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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