Guest post by Ellie of Ticking the List
Ireland may be a small island of a country, but there is so much natural beauty to be seen in Ireland and mini adventures to be had in every one of the 32 counties that you could spend months there and still not get to see it all.
While it may be near impossible to create a list of all the great places to visit in Ireland (especially when you’re planning an Ireland road trip), I will share the top 10 places you must visit in Ireland.
The Giant’s Causeway is an incredible site to see on the edge of the Antrim plateau in Northern Ireland. So much so that it has won the title of the only UNESCO World Heritage Site in Northern Ireland.
These perfectly formed hexagonal basalt columns are the result of an ancient volcanic fissure eruption around 50-60 million years ago. As the lava flowed towards the sea it began to cool, resulting in 40,000 majestic stone columns. At least, this is the scientific explanation for the Giant’s Causeway…
However, legend has it that Irish giant, Fionn Mac Cumhaill (Finn McCool) built the Causeway after rival Scottish giant, Benandonner, challenged him to a fight!
Dublin’s Temple Bar
Dublin is the capital city of Ireland and no trip to Ireland would be complete without visiting Temple Bar, on the banks of the River Liffey. Here, in the heart of Dublin city, you’ll find cobblestone streets, live traditional folk music, quirky shops and street buskers.
The nightlife in Temple Bar is buzzing and the craic is mighty. Be sure to stop off in the Temple Bar pub for a pint of Guinness or a whiskey, as they have the largest whiskey collection in Ireland!
Wild Atlantic Way
The Wild Atlantic Way is a 2500km driving route said to have the ‘longest defied coastal driving route in the world’ on the west coast of Ireland. It stretches all the way from the most northern county, Donegal, to the most southern county in Ireland, Cork.
While it would take weeks to drive the full route and see everything, you can always choose a small portion and visit some of the highlights, such as the Cliffs of Moher, Achill Island or the Ring of Kerry.
The Blarney Stone, Cork
The Blarney Stone is a limestone slab built into Blarney Castle, just outside of Cork. Legend has it that kissing the Blarney Stone will give you the ‘gift of the gab’ and you will leave being able to talk your way out of or into anything.
But it’s not that easy to get a smooch with the stone. You must first lay on your back and bend backwards over the edge of the castle. Back when I was a child, health and safety wasn’t considered and there were no railings to stop you from falling!
While there, take a stroll around the castle grounds and enjoy the views from the top of the castle. Be warned that the winding staircases up to the top are not for everyone.
If castles are your thing, you’ll be interested to know that Ireland has over 30,000 castles and ruins dotted all over the country. You could, in fact, spend your entire vacation just doing castle tours in Ireland.
Older than the pyramids of Egypt and Stonehenge, Newgrange is a Stone Age monument located in Co. Meath’s Boyne Valley. While it was originally said to be just a passage tomb, it is now considered more of an ancient temple.
Definitely one for history buffs to visit while in Ireland.
Cliffs of Moher
Rising high above the crashing waves of the Atlantic Ocean are the Cliffs of Moher, Irelands most visited tourist attraction. On a clear day, you can see Galway Bay, Achill Island and even the Dingle Peninsula.
It’s easy to spend a whole day walking around the Cliffs of Moher, but if you don’t have the time, it can just be a pit stop on your journey through Clare. The visitor centre at the Cliffs of Moher has been built into the natural surroundings, so it doesn’t stick out like a sore thumb.
In the past, safety has been an issue on the cliff edge. Strong gusts of wind have been known to knock people over the edge. Nowadays, there is a barrier stopping people from getting too close to the edge of the cliffs.
Cuilcagh Boardwalk Trail / Stairway to Heaven
For the outdoorsy types, the Cuilcagh Boardwalk Trail, otherwise known as the Stairway to Heaven, makes for a great stop along your Ireland tour. Situated on the border of Co. Cavan in the republic of Ireland and Co. Fermanagh in Northern Ireland (part of the UK), you can effectively be in two countries at once when you visit here.
While it’s not even close to being the highest peak in Ireland, it is one of the most scenic. The wooden boardwalk was built to preserve the bog lands underneath. You will have to conquer 450 steps to get to the top, but the views are worth it all.
The Burren, which derives from the Irish word boireann, meaning ‘place of stones’, is a unique cultural landscape covering the north of Co. Clare on the west of Ireland. It is mostly made up of Limestone and has over 1100 different types of plants, 95 different species of birds and over 700 types of insects, among other inhabitants.
Some of the most interesting sights in the Burren are:
- Poulnabrone Dolmen – this is an old Irish tomb dating back to the Neolithic period. A dolmen is made up of three standing portal stones supporting a heavy horizontal capstone.
- Ailwee Caves – explore the underground cave system and discover hidden caverns, frozen waterfalls, stalagmites and stalactites.
- The Birds of Prey Centre – both entertaining and educational, the centre’s mission is to help the conservation of birds of prey, such as raptors, falcons, eagles, owls and hawks.
- The Farm Shop has wonderful homemade delights to take back with you (you can’t leave without some fudge), as well as a tour of the cheese factory where Burren Gold Cheese is made.
One of Ireland’s most naturally beautiful places to see, Glendalough, is located in the Wicklow Mountains National Park. Carved by glaciers during the ice age, Glendalough Valley, ‘the valley of the two lakes’ was formed once the ice thawed.
Other than the stunning scenery the national park has to offer, Glendalough is also famous for its historical monuments, flora and fauna, monastic city, architecture, and mining past.
Take a day trip out to the Aran Islands, located just off the west coast of Ireland. The islands, Inis Meáin (Inishmaan), Inis Mór (Inishmore), and Inis Oirr (Inisheer), are accessible by ferry from either Galway Bay (all year round) or Doolin (during the summer months) or by air.
Inis Mór is the largest of the three islands. This is where you’ll find the historical cliff-top fort of Dún Aonghasa. Inis Meáin is best known for its world-famous Aran jumpers and other knitwear. Inis Oirr is the smallest of the three islands and has a similar landscape to that of the Burren.
The best way to get around the islands is to rent a bike for the day. Or if you have time to spend the night, there are plenty of bed & breakfasts, camping or glamping grounds to take rest.
Ellie is a travel blogger over at www.tickingthelist.com. She focuses on creating a dream bucket list and showing people how to accomplish everything on their bucket lists. Her own bucket list has almost 200 items on it and you can follow her progress here. Ellie has lived in the UAE for almost 5 years, and it serves as an excellent hub for her many international adventures.