Nicknamed the Emerald Isle, there is something undeniably magical about taking a trip to Ireland where an ancient history seems to exude from every attraction both natural and man-made. From Christchurch Cathedral and the medieval city of Dublin to the rolling landscapes in Wicklow and the infamous Cliffs of Moher; Ireland is overflowing with incredible places to visit.
However, it must also be said that the locals in Ireland have garnered a reputation for being extremely hospitable and this is often what most visitors will remember about the island. Traveling down country roads, you should find helpful directions from friendly locals and in the comfort of a Bed & Breakfast, a warm welcome for which the locals are best known.
Yes, this romantic landmass next to the Atlantic Ocean is a charming place to be, and wherever you end up, the Irish themselves are likely to live up to their friendly reputation. Here are some of the incredible experiences and places to visit in Ireland:
Local experiences and places to visit in Ireland
West for fishing villages and the Cliffs of Moher
Arguably the most iconic sights and experiences in Ireland are found along the western shoreline. For this reason, you will notice the government has made an enormous push to market the “longest continuous coastal route in the world”, the Wild Atlantic Way. However, depending on time available, it is often the case that visitors do not have enough time to explore the entire length of this route. In such circumstances, you should visit the fishing villages and majestic Cliffs of Moher.
Standing more than six hundred meters above the ocean, a mere glimpse of these incredible cliffs is enough to understand why this is the most popular attraction in Ireland. Running alongside the ocean, there is a beautifully scenic walk along the cliffs and a fascinating visitor center which explains their dramatic formation over time.
Quiet and unassuming, the small collection of buildings in Doolin is symbolic of the many more fishing villages you can find dotted throughout the west of Ireland. Featuring two pubs, guesthouses and a hostel, this village may be tailored toward tourism in the modern day but make no mistake, it offers an authentic and very memorable insight into rural life.
As mentioned, this is arguably the one part of Ireland that visitors need to experience before leaving and if time allows, there are much more similar destinations all along the coast including the enchanting cluster of islands just off the western shores.
Dublin for the character and vibrant energy
James Joyce, William Butler Yeats, and Patrick Kavanagh; Dublin was once home for some of the most famous writers of all time. Similarly, it is the birthplace of rock super group U2 and even rising superstars such as Conor McGregor in the UFC. Yes, you will find celebrities on every corner of the earth, but there seems to be a certain aura surrounding these Irish stars which resemble the experience you can find here in Dublin, the capital of Ireland.
Dating back to medieval times, Dublin was first established by the fearsome Vikings and remnants remain of this era aswell as others in the ancient walls and buildings across the city. From Christchurch Cathedral and Dublin Castle to Merrion Square and the old Guinness factory. When it comes to sightseeing or walking tours, in particular, the capital is a feast for the eyes with something captivating on every corner.
Another highlight of staying in Dublin is the vast number of bars and eateries. While the Irish are not known for any specific cuisine, there is no denying the sublime food experience you will find as many world class restaurants are within easy reach of the city center. And then there are the bars, Dublin is quite simply the most vibrant and exciting city in Europe after dark. As tourists revel in the live music in Temple Bar, across the road, you can find many antique pubs next to trendy South William Street and glamorous nightclubs. Simply put, there is something for everyone, and it never disappoints.
North for a road trip to the Giants Causeway
While the North of Ireland is a very different experience, this is largely due to the change of accent, and this part of the country is every bit as stunning as down south. Belfast does have some highly interesting things to do such as the Titanic Museum, but then the real attraction in these parts is the coastal drive which travels through the County of Antrim.
Starting in Belfast, this coastal drive takes in many of the most appealing natural attractions including the luscious “Glens of Antrim” where rolling green landscapes are often the picture which many visitors have in their mind before arriving. Further along, you will encounter the awe inspiring castles of Carrickfergus and Glenarms, while Macgilligan Point feels like the end of the world and a tour of the Old Bushmills Distillery offers the perfect pit stop in between.
At one of the northern points of the route, you will then come to a genuine highlight of any trip to Ireland, the Giants Causeway. Sitting next to the ocean, this incredible rock formation is millions of years old and the remnant of ancient volcanic activity. Today it is one of the most iconic sights on the planet, and for many visitors, this natural attraction is worth the trip alone.
South into the Wicklow Mountains
Hollywood movies have a penchant for the wilds of Wicklow. Located a short distance from the capital, this is truly one of the most iconic and scenic parts of rural Ireland where sheep can be found next to idle cottages, green fields, and ancient stone walls. In fact, if you wanted to find the picture-perfect postcard of the Emerald Isle, this is where you can find one.
Wicklow has many impressive locations in itself including Lough Tay, Sally Gap, and Glenmalure but the undoubted highlight is Glendalough. Translating into English as “the glen of two lakes’, aside from the actual lakes, this region is best known for St Kevin’s Monastery. Dating back to the 12th Century, the monastery has many classic features which make visitors feel as though they are stepping back in time and this includes an iconic Round Tower right next to the lake. Furthermore, the story of St Kevin is hugely interesting as it follows this hermit travels into the wilderness in search of a haven to study his faith.
While Ireland is a relatively small country, a trip into the Wicklow Mountains is often the best or easiest option for anyone on a whistle-stop tour of the country. At the same time, you should expect a friendly and unforgettable experience regardless of which direction you take.