39 Awesome things to do in Ireland
My Irish bucket list is a comprehensive list of the best sights to see in Ireland. It includes all the best things to do in Ireland that I love – including tourist attractions, landmarks, mountains, beaches, and much more. So when planning your dream trip to Ireland you can keep this Irish bucket list in mind.
Truth be told there are many things in Ireland to see when you visit but these are my favourite. I know it’s a little long-winded but every time I put one of the best places to visit in Ireland list together I have to add another cool thing I love in Ireland
I’m lucky I get to live in Donegal so many of these best sights to see in Ireland are close by. Having said that I can drive across the island in around 3 hours and that’s less driving than I had to do in Canada to get to cottage country.
Keep in mind this Irish bucket list is in no particular order and encompasses both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. If you rent a car in Ireland to see these sites you can drive into either country just make sure you tell your rental company. There are no border checks but do remember to change your euro in sterling.
So here’s my Irish Bucket List
39 of the coolest things to do in Ireland before you die!
- Mussenden Temple
- Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge
- Stairway to Heaven – Cuilcagh Legnabrocky Trail
- Rathlin Island
- Giant’s Causeway
- Causeway Coastal Tour
- Black Cab Tour Belfast
- Crumlin Road Gaol
- Londonderry – Derry
- Fanad Head Donegal
- An Grianan Donegal
- Slieve League Cliffs
- Secret Waterfall Donegal
- Rossnowlagh beach
- Donegal town
- Drumcliffe Yeat’s Country Sligo
- Sean’s Bar Athlone
- Ceide Fields
- Cliffs of Moher
- Croagh Patrick
- Galway City
- Ring of Kerry
- Skellig Michael
- Leap Castle – Ireland’s most haunted
- Best pub in Ireland Jim O’ the Mill
- New Ross
- Kilkenny Castle
- Kilkenny’s Medieval Mile
- Rock of Dunamase
- Temple Bar Dublin
- Glasnevin Cemetery Dublin
- Hill of Tara
- Glendalough National park
- Wicklow Mountains
On the north coast of County Londonderry stands Mussenden Temple sitting guard on the edge of the cliff. You can wander the ruined Downhill Demesne and stand at the edge of the cliff with spectacular views westwards over Downhill Strand towards Magilligan Point and County Donegal and to the east Castlerock beach towards Portstewart, Portrush and Fair Head.
Take advantage of Al’s superb coffee when you visit – you won’t even need sugar.
Heart in mouth you can take the walk across a rope and plank Carrick-a-Rede bridge to the Island of Carrick. This used to be the home of the Irish salmon fishers years ago but now is one of the most visited of Northern Ireland’s attractions.
Stairway to Heaven
The Stairway to Heaven is located in Fermanagh N. Ireland – The Cuilcagh Legnabrocky Trail – is its official name and it is from the Gaelic than means “chalky peak and it is Fermanagh’s highest mountain.
The non-hiker in you might cringe at the thought of hiking up a mountain but you really don’t have to hike the whole 33km Cuilcagh Way.
An island whose ancient history stretches back in time hundreds of years Rathlin Island has played its part in the legends of Robert the Bruce of Scotland, the massacre of Sorley Boy’s family and Viking raids. Its waters harbour shipwrecks from World War II and WWI and over 40 wrecks were lost to the cold deeps of the Sea of Moyle.
This part of the Causeway Coast is often missed by visitors in a hurry to see all the Game of Thrones sites along the Northern Irish coast. Rathlin is a mere 25-minute journey from Ballycastle, and you can take a ferry quite easily across the waters.
The Giant’s Causeway
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Giant’s Causeway is regarded as “a spectacular area of global geological importance”. Over a million visitors a year arrive on a Giant’s Causeway Tour to come and marvel at this natural phenomenon.
The Giant’s Causeway is 18 miles of coastline made up of perfectly interconnected polygonal basalt columns. There are over 40,000 of them on this part of the Antrim Coast.
Causeway Coastal Tour
There are over 50 stops along the Causeway Coastal route and that isn’t the least of the scenic views and points of interest.
The Causeway Coastal route begins in Belfast and ends in Derry (London/Derry) and covers over 120 miles or 190 km of the North Coast of Ireland.
Driving the Causeway Coastal Route is an Irish bucket list dream come true. This Causeway Coast Itinerary will make a poet out of almost everyone, the scenery is jaw-droppingly beautiful and it will imprint this part of Ireland on your heart forever.
Black Cab Tour Belfast
Personally for me, one of the best things to do in Belfast is to take a Black Taxi Tour. Usually, the tours take in both the Shankill Estate with its Protestant orientation and murals of King William (of Orange) who was the victor in the Battle of the Boyne against King James the Catholic king of England. From there you head towards the Peace Wall where the troubles began and across the peace line to the Falls Road which is considered the Catholic area.
Crumlin Road Gaol
In 1996 the Crumlin Road Gaol finally closed its infamous doors. You can take a guided tour and hear the entire miserable history of the site. Dating to its early days in the 1800’s up to the days in the 90s when the prison contained both Republican and Loyalists prisoners.
Derry is the second biggest city in Northern Ireland borders Donegal and has close ties to the County. Derry is the only remaining intact walled city in Ireland. The old City which is walled is on the west bank of the Foyle River and is spanned by two bridges for vehicles and the pedestrian bridge named the Peace Bridge.
I should say a word or two here about the Derry Londonderry naming issue. Nationalists favour Derry and Unionists use Londonderry. The name of the city didn’t used to be contentious but in the ’60s at the start of the Troubles, it was politicized by the Republicans to drive home the fact that Ireland should be united and not under the control of London.
Fanad Head – Donegal
Fanad Head and the lighthouse that marks the head is a photographers dream. If you want to you can also stay in one of the 3 lightkeepers cottages beside the Lighthouse. One of the best sites to see in Ireland to appreciate the Northwest it’s a climb to the top of 76 stairs but provides stunning views. These tours are all conducted by locals who will give you insight into the people of Donegal and the culture.
An Grianan Celtic Fort
Located in Donegal the origins of the Fort date back to around 1700 BC. It has always been connected to the Tuatha de Danann who invaded Ireland before the Celts and built stone forts on top of strategic hills. They worshipped Dagda (the Good God) and he too is associated with the origins of Aileach.
Slieve League is located on the Wild Atlantic Way route in the Gaeltacht region of County Donegal. The Slieve League cliffs are the highest accessible sea cliffs in Europe. The panoramic views across the water over Donegal Bay, into Leitrim, Sligo and Mayo are breathtaking.
Secret Waterfall Donegal
Many have tried to find Donegal’s secret waterfall and I’m here to say it’s not that secret. You’ll find the hidden waterfall on the Slieve League peninsula in County Donegal. The waterfall is in Largy, a village between the towns of Killybegs and Kilcar. Be careful though it’s not an easy walk and you need to be aware of the tides as you could get trapped.
Rossnowlagh Ireland’s surfing beach
There are literally hundreds of hidden beaches and coves along the Donegal shoreline. One of the best sights in Ireland Rossnowlagh is a surfing beach that stretches from the cliffs at Coolmore in the south, to the rock outcrop at Carrickfad. You can learn to surf here from a range of teachers along the soft yellow sands of the beach.
Donegal County is located in northwest Ireland on the Wild Atlantic Way. In Gaelic, Dun na nGall means Fort of the Foreigner. Donegal Town sits to the south end of Donegal at the mouth of the River Eske, with views of the Bluestack Mountains on one side and Donegal Bay on the other.
Drumcliffe Sligo Yeat’s Country
Yeats was laid to rest in 1948 under the shadow of Ben Bulben Mountain in Drumcliffe, Cemetery County Sligo. An unassuming grave holds his remains in St. Columba’s Church.
Sean’s Bar Athlone
Said to be the oldest bar in Ireland and possibly the world. In Athlone lived a man called Luain Mac Luighdeach – Luain son of Lewy. It is known that he established an Inn close to “Ath Mor – The Great Ford”. This Inn is today known as Sean’s Bar!..Luain acted as a guide to travellers who had to venture across the rapid torrent of the Shannon.
Céide Fields Mayo
The Céide Fields in North Mayo will certainly give you a unique experience. The Céide Fields are the oldest known field systems in the world, over five and a half millennia old. It is a unique Neolithic landscape of world importance. The remains of stone field walls, houses and megalithic tombs are preserved beneath a blanket of peat over several square miles.
Remember all those pretty photos of Irish villages? Well, Doolin is the prettiest village in Ireland. It’s a coastal village in County Clare, bordering on Lisdoonvarna (the matchmaker’s village). If you are visiting the Cliffs of Moher make sure you stay in Doolin for at least a night for great craic and fabulous traditional music venues.
Cliffs of Moher
The Cliffs of Moher are one of the most outstanding spots of natural beauty in Ireland. Beautiful hilltop walks, wheeling birds, cows in the field next to the walkways, nature at its most temperamental. On some days you may not be able to see too much with the fogs that roll in quickly of the Atlantic coasts and beware the winds can whip up suddenly leaving you breathless and wet with the mist and rain.
Every year on the last Sunday of June, thousands of pilgrims take to the slopes of Croagh Patrick. Walking, crawling or going barefoot to honour their patron Saint Patrick.
The hike to the top is quite steep and even though the peak is (only) at a height of 764 meters (2.507 feet), the path goes pretty much straight up. The rocky hiking path cuts across several fields and it gets a lot trickier towards the top as the ground becomes more unstable and “pebbly” like walking on slippery gravel.
Galway City itself can be explored in 2 days. It’s a charming place with plenty of free attractions and sites. Plus, Galway is easily walkable and best explored on foot. Make sure to check out the Galway Cathedral, Eyre Square, and the Latin Quarter.
Ring of Kerry
The Ring of Kerry is a scenic drive around the Iveragh Peninsula in southwest Ireland’s County Kerry. Taking you through some of the most breathtaking vistas in Ireland the route is a circular 179 km.
Beginning in the Killarney National Park staying in Killarney makes it a grand jumping-off point for the Ring of Kerry and you can easily book a jaunting cart to tour the Ring.
Killarney is a small town in southwest Ireland on the Ring of Kerry, but what it lacks in size it makes up for in spirit, history, and culture. The city has everything from a castle, to great pubs to drink in, fun outdoor activities, and some of the friendliest people you will ever meet.
Star Wars movies have made this place famous for being Luke Skywalker’s home. Skellig Michael is an island off the coast of Portmagee in South West Kerry. Rising majestically from the sea, Skellig Michael towers 714ft. (218 metres) above sea level.
On the summit of this awe-inspiring rock, you will find a remarkably well preserved sixth-century monastic settlement. On Skellig Michael, you will also spot puffins depending on the season.
Leap Castle Offaly
For those of you with strong hearts, a visit to the most haunted castle in Ireland is demanded. Leap Castle is world-renowned as the most haunted castle in Ireland if not the world. Its dark halls and history contain many secrets and tragedies.
Within the “Bloody Chapel” there’s an oubliette in a secret dungeon hidden behind a wall that hid nearly 3 cartloads of skeletons. There are hundreds of castles in Ireland some you can even stay at that are haunted.
Tipperary Jim O’ the mill Ireland’s best pub
According to the Irish, the best pub in Ireland is Jim O’ The Mills found in Tipperary. Only open on Thursdays with one tap and bottled beer. This pub is where you go to hear the best of Irish traditional music.
Waterford the Viking Triangle
Waterford was founded by the Vikings around 1000 years ago and today it boasts the largest collection of medieval walls and defensive towers.
Reginald’s Tower is found at the highest point of the Viking Triangle inside you will find Ireland’s most comprehensive Viking exhibition that includes grave finds from a Warrior’s tomb. You can see the Waterford Kite Brooch, weapons and much more.
Dunbrody Famine Ship New Ross
The Dunbrody Famine Ship Experience is an authentic reproduction of an 1840s emigrant vessel located in the town of New Ross. Onboard you will be shown what the folks fleeing the famine had to endure to cross the Atlantic for the new world.
Kilkenny Castle is originally a 12th-century castle that was extensively remodelled in the Victoria era. It was founded just after the Norman conquest of Ireland and has been in use for over 800 years. Today the Castle is open to visitors who can wander the Castle and learn the history of the building and Kilkenny from guides who are stationed throughout the Castle.
Kilkenny Medieval Mile
The City is known for its Medieval Mile and also as the Marble City because of its distinctive black marble. When walking the Mile you will see medieval slipways or alleys, a Tudor Inn, a Dominican Abbey and a fine example of a 17th-century merchant’s house and the only example of its kind in Ireland. And don’t forget to visit the Kyteler Inn home of one of Ireland’s famous witches.
Rock of Dunamase
Dunamase Castle is the seat of the ancient Kings of Laois. The Rock of Dunamase is the spectacular hill that the Castle of Dunamase sits atop and overlooks the Valley of the O’Moores just outside Portlaoise in County Laois. The Rock of Dunamase Laois stands over 45 metres high and the castle ruins are silhouetted against the sky.
Temple Bar Dublin
An immensely popular spot with tourists Temple Bar Dublin is one of the coolest sites in Ireland. Feel free to wander the streets and soak up the vibe of the area but remember it can be extraordinarily expensive here for a drink or a meal.
There are some fabulous places to eat in Dublin but try to avoid Temple Bar as it can be very overpriced and not great food. Don’t be worried about food allergies or food sensitivities Ireland’s laws ensure that all ingredients must be clearly accessible.
Glasnevin Cemetery is the final resting place of many famous Irish people. Opened in the 1830s with high stonewalls and seven watchtowers that were manned by armed guards to deter body snatchers, the cemetery is a ‘Who’s Who’ of key historical figures in Ireland. You can trace your Irish ancestors here or take a walking tour of Ireland’s leaders and rebels.
Newgrange is a Neolithic monument that was constructed about 5,200 years ago (3,200 B.C.) which makes it older than Stonehenge and the Great Pyramids of Giza. Newgrange is a large circular mound 85 meters (93 yards) in diameter and 13.5 meters (15 yards) high with a 19 meter (21 yards) stone passageway and chambers inside. The mound is ringed by 97 large curbstones, some of which are engraved with symbols of megalithic art. The tour guides are amazing and will demonstrate how the tomb was a central part of solstice celebrations.
The Hill of Tara
One of the most revered and ancient historical sites in Ireland is Tara the ancient Irish seat of the High Kings. It is a huge site that is continually being investigated archaeologically. Tara encompassed the Rath of the Synods, The Mound of the Hostages and the Stone of Destiny or the Lia Fáil.
Glendalough National Park
Glendalough National Park is an area of outstanding natural beauty and is home to one of the most important historic sites in Ireland. Lonely Planet Ireland calls Glendalough “truly one of the most beautiful places in Ireland and a highlight of any trip to the island.” Within the Glendalough National Park are the remains of an early Christian monastic settlement founded in the 6th century by St. Kevin. You can hike several trails and enjoy the lakes of the Park.
The Wicklow Mountains form the largest continuous mountainous area in Ireland. They occupy the whole centre of County Wicklow and stretch outside its borders into Counties Dublin, Wexford and Carlow. Wicklow Mountains National Park is situated just south of Dublin. The Park covers 20,000 hectares of mountain scenery that provide some awe-inspiring views. If you love hill-walking you must visit the Wicklow Mountains there is no entry fee except for parking at Glendalough where you can follow the walks.
Whiskey Tours of Ireland
Irish whiskey is made differently from Scottish Whiskey as it is a blend of malted and unmalted barley Scotch uses only malted barley.
Irish whiskey is triple-distilled, which results in a smoother, higher-alcohol spirit it was Irish whiskey producer John Jameson who developed this practice and established one of Ireland’s best-known whiskey distilleries, in 1780. There are so many Whiskey distilleries in Ireland to see and you can tour and sample your way through most of them.
So there you have it my Irish Bucket List. Now I do have to say I’ve missed things that others will point out like kissing the Blarney Stone, Guinness Tour, and the Titanic Museum but to me, there are so many other cool things to see in Ireland that you should avoid some Irish tourist sites just because they are not really worth the money.
Still want to learn more about Ireland? Here’s some great articles for you.
What’s on your Irish bucket list? What things to do in Ireland rate on your list?
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