Culture, landscapes, people, and experience. These four elements together are what make travel so incredible to me. Ireland delivered these in abundance and left us wishing for more time on the Emerald Isle.
Having travelled to Ireland to attend an international wedding, we were well immersed after the first couple of days and learned that Guinness really is the ultimate cure for jet leg. My girlfriend and I took this awesome opportunity to do as much sight seeing and adventuring as we could fit in while in Ireland. With a rental car and a rough itinerary, we set off writing our own Irish adventure as we went. So here are the best places to visit in Ireland:
Best cities to visit in Ireland
A classic bucket list city, Dublin is a must hit for any Irish adventure. You’ve got the original Guinness brewery, Trinity College, The Spire of Dublin, and the Dublin castle, just to name a few points of interest, not to mention that the whole city is overflowing with history and character. If you really want to get a feel for this lively city, take a stroll in the evenings; the streets come alive at sundown. Visit the Temple Bar area (Temple Bar is more than just one bar) for a few good pints, an international crowd, and barhopping like you’ve never seen before.
A very lively harbour city, Galway is found where the Corrib river meets the Atlantic Ocean. Here you’ll be walking long cobblestone pedestrian streets, home to hundreds of pubs full of local food and bursting with traditional Irish tunes. Stroll from 18th century Eyre Square down to the Spanish Arches and across the Salmon Weir. Don’t miss out on the sneaky street art and talented street buskers performing anything from music to stunts.
The capital city of Northern Ireland, this is another city that played a crucial role in Ireland’s history. The port is where the Titanic was built and embarked on its first voyage. You can now visit the Titanic Museum to see the shipyards where she was built and learn more about the tragedy that ensued. City Hall is an iconic building and a great spot to start a walking tour of the city centre to see some of the other attractions spread around this alluring metropolis.
Take a walk along the top of the 17th Century city walls and see why Derry has become well known as the Walled City. With an incredible number of historical sites, don’t miss out on your chance to relive stories of the city’s tense past. Once you’ve had your history lesson, enjoy a bit of modern art by using the Peace Bridge to cross over the River Foyle.
Best places to visit in the Irish countryside
5. Slieve League (Irish: Sliabh Liag)
Ireland is home to Europe’s largest sea cliffs, and they aren’t the Cliffs of Moher. Located in County Donegal, Slieve League is magnificent. This mountain, sitting along the Atlantic coast, climbs 600 metres above the ocean. The altitude provides endless views out over the water and back across the Irish countryside. A small network of trails allows you to hike and find your own spot to breath in the massive scale of the landscape.
6. Malin Beg
A small village situated a stone throw from the ocean, Malin Beg is home to Silver Strand beach. A horse shoe shaped bay protects the white sand beach and is filled with stifling blue water. At first glimpse we could barely believe we were still in Ireland, and a show from the local dolphins only added to the epic beach vibes.
7. Cliffs of Moher
One of Ireland’s most iconic spots, and for good reason. The 200 metre cliffs fall directly down to the Atlantic far below and span a distance of 8km from north to south. Walk from one end to another for different perspectives of the famous cliff faces. Keep an eye out for puffins, peregrine falcons, and whales or dolphins that frequently visit the area. This is one of those awe-inspiring locations that you’ll be thinking back to for a lifetime.
8. Mt Errigal
Although I had done my research, I was still not expecting to see a beautiful peak like this in my Irish travels. Mt.Errigal is the second highest peak in the country and stands very prominently above the surrounding landscape. Whether you’re looking for an elevated view of the area by hiking to the summit or just want to change up the scenery and enjoy a cup of coffee with a view, head North.
9. Glenveagh National Park
A park straight out of a fairy tale, with a long history to match. Glenveagh National Park is an old private estate, recently turned national park to preserve its unique story. The picturesque landscape is home to the Glenveagh Castle, which is built on the edge of Lough Veagh. Surrounding the castle are botanical gardens with hundreds of species of flora from around the world. From the waters edge take a walk through the gardens and a short hike for views of the beautiful estate.
10. Tranarossan Bay
Follow along the Wild Atlantic Way and you’ll be met by gorgeous views of a long sandy stretch of beach. Discretely hidden near the northern tip of the Rosguill Peninsula, you don’t need to worry about struggling to find a spot to lay down your towel as you’re more than likely to find yourself with only a few others.
11. Fanad Head Lighthouse
Voted one of the most beautiful lighthouses in the world, it is well worth the trip out to Fanad Peninsula to see this beauty.
12. Dunluce castle
Built directly on the rocky outcrop of a cliff edge, Dunluce castle is a sight to behold. Nowadays, most of the castle has turned to ruins but the rough structure of a castle still stands. This spot is also well known as Castle Greyjoy from the HBO series Game of Thrones.
13. Giants causeway
A UNESCO World Heritage site, the Giants Causeway is an incredible spectacle of nature. Thousands of stone pillars were formed when lava met the sea about 60 million years ago, leaving the causeway we marvel at today. Upon arrival you might not believe your eyes as the odd column formation seems too perfect to be naturally created. Although the causeway draws most of the attention to the site, the cliffs and coastline here are worth some extra time to enjoy as well.
Mullagaghmore is a gorgeous peninsula with crashing waves on the Western side and protected beach on the East. You can’t miss the epic views of the seaside, Classiebawn Castle and Ben Bulben Mountain that you get from all angles on the peninsula. Make sure to take your time and enjoy the loop road around the point, it’s a great spot to take a break from a drive or spend the day with sand between your toes.
15. The Dark Hedges
This spot stirs up your imagination as soon as you let your gaze fall down the tree lined road. Mature trees create a long tunnel that continues nearly a kilometre atop Bregagh Road. The best part is arriving in the middle of the Irish countryside and immediately knowing that you have found what you have been looking for.
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About the Author:
Dustin is inspired by the outdoors, adventure, and the wild places in our world. He’s passionate about using photography to share his perspective on life. Check out more of his work on Instagram and Youtube.