Things to Do in Ireland - page 2
St. Patrick's Cathedral, built to honor the patron saint of Ireland, is a must-see attraction in Dublin. It stands adjacent to the well that it is said St. Patrick himself used to baptize converts. The original wooden church was erected in this spot in the 5th century but was rebuilt at the end of the 13th century to reflect its boost to cathedral status. Some repairs were done in the 1800s but the original style was maintained well enough to make it unclear as to how much of the medieval structure remains.
Milestones in the cathedral's history include famous author Jonathan Swift serving as Dean and the first performance of Handel's Messiah by members of the cathedral's Choir School. The former Dean's grave and the original music composition are on display in the cathedral as evidence of these events. Besides these items, St. Patrick's is filled with rows of statues, beautiful stained glass, and elegant decorations for visitors to marvel at as they walk through.
Packed with Celtic crosses and one gigantic round tower, Dublin’s Glasnevin Cemetery was founded in 1832 as a resting place for people of all faiths—remarkable at a time when Catholics were banned from burial in Protestant graveyards.
Over 1.5 million people have been buried here, including Daniel O’Connell, the political leader who founded the cemetery, and Michael Collins—an Irish revolutionary who still gets flowers on his grave nearly 100 years after his death.
Next to the National Botanic Gardens and affectionately known as Croak Park to Dubliners, there are regular 90-minute tours of the graveyard, which is home to an award-winning museum that gives an insight into Ireland’s social and political history through the stories of the people who have been buried here. Explore the museum’s Milestone Gallery, an interactive, digital timeline that gives an account of some of Glasnevin Cemetery’s most famous residents.
Opened in 1880 as a grand Georgian park to be enjoyed by the people of Dublin, on sunny summer days St Stephen’s Green gets packed with families and groups of friends relaxing by the lake.
A walk around the 22-acre park is like a mini lesson on Irish history’s most celebrated figures. Fittingly for a park that was funded by the Guinness fortune, the grandest statue of all is that of Arthur Guinness. Look out for the bust of James Joyce by the bandstand, and in the northeast corner of the park, see Edward Delaney’s bronze memorial of the Great Famine of 1845-1850. By the central flower display, see the park bench where a modest plaque is dedicated to Dublin’s so-called ‘fallen women’ who were forced to work in the city’s Magdalene laundries.
Surrounded by elegant Georgian buildings, St Stephen’s Green wasn’t always so impressive—this was once a dangerous, marshy common that hosted public whippings, burnings and even hangings right up until the 18th century.
Muckross House is one of Ireland's most famous stately homes. A 65-room, lakeshore, Victorian mansion, it was built for Henry Arthur Herbert and his wife, a watercolour painter, Mary Balfour Herbert in 1843. The house is richly furnished in period-style giving an excellent insight into the lives of the landed gentry. The basement areas give a good understanding of the lives of those who worked keeping the rich happy and well-fed day to day. On site are also a number of local craftspeople giving demonstrations of weaving, bookbinding and pottery.
Beautiful Muckross Gardens are known worldwide, especially the rock garden and large water garden. In 1861, the gardens were extensively developed in preparation for Queen Victoria's visit. There are also several working farms which use methods from the 1930s and 1940s and can be toured. And being situated in the middle of the National Park, the house is a perfect place to explore the whole area from.
Spanning 1752 acres just north of the River Liffey, Dublin’s Phoenix Park is one of the largest walled city parks in Europe. Established as a royal deer park for King Charles II in 1662, a herd of wild fallow deer have lived in the park grounds ever since. Look out for them in the meadow area known as Fifteen Acres.
Phoenix Park is full of tree-lined avenues, woods, and open spaces dotted with wildflowers. The park’s Victorian People's Flower Gardens are a popular visit, and next to The Walled Garden and Ashtown Castle there’s a cafe that serves fresh, organic food. There’s also a Victorian tea room on Phoenix Park’s Chesterfield Avenue. In summer, the park hosts open-air concerts and the Phoenix Park Motor Races every August. A popular spot for a picnic, the park is home to Dublin Zoo which receives over a million visitors a year, and there are bikes available for hire.
Playing a large part in the establishment of Ireland as an independent nation, Dublin’s Kilmainham Gaol was built in 1787 and many prominent Irish independent fighters were incarcerated – and some executed – in this jailhouse during the lengthy political Troubles between Ireland and the UK. Irish Republican Robert Emmet was hung here in 1803 and later that century Irish Parliamentary Party leader Charles Stewart Parnell was imprisoned at Kilmainham in 1881, before his private life – scandalous by the standards of the time – led to his downfall in public life. The future Irish Prime Minister Eamon de Valera was also held at Kilmainham for his part in the Easter Rising of 1916, which failed in its attempt to establish an independent Ireland but saw increased public support for the radical republican group Sinn Féin. Founded in 1905, the party is still active in both parts of Ireland; today it has five Northern Irish MPs at Westminster under the leadership of Gerry Adams.
Known as one of Ireland's national treasures, the Book of Kells is a sacred and important historical text dating from around 800 A.D., making it one of the oldest books in the world. The book gets its name from the Abbey of Kells, which was its original home until the continuous plundering of the Vikings proved to be too great of a threat. Since the 15th century it has been at Trinity College for safekeeping.
The Book of Kells is an illuminated manuscript created by Celtic monks that depicts the 4 gospels of the New Testament as well as other texts. Written in Latin, the book has been translated and found to have a few mistakes. But these are overlooked as the manuscript was made to serve a more decorative and ceremonial purpose than one of utility. In fact, it is its illuminations (illustrations) that make the Book of Kells so remarkable.
Founded in 1440 as a Franciscan Friary, Muckross Abbey has an exciting and violent history typical of Ireland. In 1589 the monks were expelled by Elizabeth I, and in 1653 Oliver Cromwell's troops burnt it down when he reclaimed Ireland for the English bringing to an end the Irish Confederate Wars. Despite this setback, the friars continued to live here until 1698 when the new Penal Laws against Roman Catholics introduced by the English occupiers forced most in exile in France or Spain. These days it is a ruin but one of the most complete examples of Irish medieval church building you'll see.
Today, the Abbey still has its bell tower and church, and massive gothic arcades and arches. Four of Ireland's leading poets of the period were buried there, three in the church, one in the nearby cemetery. In the centre of the inner court is an old Yew tree. This grew from a sapling taken from the abbey on Innisfallen Island and planted in the new abbey at Muckross.
More Things to Do in Ireland
One of the most popular attractions in Dublin, the Jeanie Johnston Tall Ship and Famine Museum is dedicated to the Great Famine of 1845 to 1852, when over 1 million Irish people fled their devastated homeland in search of a new life in North America.
The Jeanie Johnston was one of the last “coffin ships” to sail the Irish across the Atlantic. Despite harsh storms and squalorous ship conditions, not one of the 2,500 passengers died aboard the boat in its 16 journeys to the New World, a rare run of good luck credited to the compassion of its captain and doctor.
On a one-hour guided tour of the replica ship, learn about the catastrophic potato blight and how the Great Famine affected Ireland and beyond. As you wander the dimly-lit cabins, get a sense of how hard ship life must have been at a time when four adults would have shared one six-foot square bare bunk. And on the lower deck, come up-close to the life-sized wax figures modeled on some of the passengers.
Dublin is known for its inclement weather, and if a chilly drizzle starts raining down from the city’s notoriously gray skies, one of the best places to escape the rain is at the National Gallery of Ireland. This renowned national gallery of art began in 1864 with only 112 pieces, and has grown over 150 years to feature over 15,000 different pieces of Irish and European art. All sorts of mediums from painting to sculpture are on permanent public display, and pieces from the 13th-20th century are exquisitely represented. In addition to the world’s most comprehensive collection of original Irish art, standout pieces include those of Caravaggio, Monet, Rembrandt, and Van Gogh. There is a rotating schedule of various tours through different sections of the museum, with one of the most popular being the tour that features the work of William Turner—the English Romanticist landscape painter—whose 31 watercolors are only displayed in January since the light’s at its lowest level.
Opened in 1831, Dublin Zoo is one of the oldest in the world, and it sees over a million visitors a year. On a visit to the 70-acre park you'll see over 400 animals split into various sections. Visit the African Savanna to check out the giraffes, rhinos, and zebras. Check out the Gorilla Rainforest, and the herd of Asian elephants along the Kaziranga Forest Trail. To see Sumatran tigers and macaques, check out the Asian Forests, and also keep a lookout for hippos, orangutans, chimps and red pandas, reptiles and tropical birds. A registered charity, Dublin Zoo also manages the EEP for the golden lion tamarin and the Moluccan cockatoo.
Based in Phoenix Park, facilities at Dublin Zoo include two gift stores, a restaurant, cafes, and kiosks. On any day at the zoo, you can also see animals being fed by the zoo keepers.
Gallarus Oratory is Ireland's best preserved early Christian church. The exact year of its construction is not known, but it is believed to be more than a thousand years old. The church is located five miles from Dingle Town on the Dingle Peninsula in southwestern Ireland. It was constructed entirely from dry stone masonry and resembles an overturned boat. This church is one of the highlights of the scenic Slea Head Drive. Along the scenic drive, visitors will also see views of Smerwick Harbor, the Three Sisters and Mount Brandon.
Visitors will be able to see a church that has not been restored because it hasn't needed to be. The stones were carefully fitted together without the use of mortar, and aside from a small sag in the roof, the construction has held up for centuries. You can enter the oratory through a 6.5 foot doorway, and there are two stones with holes that once held a door.
The Cobh Heritage Centre tells the stories of Irish heritage and emigration to the United States. Between 1848 and 1950 more than 6 million people emigrated from Ireland, and more than 2.5 million of them left from Cobh, making Cobh the most important port of emigration in the country. At the museum, visitors can view the Queenstown Story, which is an exhibition that tells about the origins, history, and legacy of Cobh. You can retrace the steps of the people who left from Cobh in coffin ships, early steamers, and eventually great ocean liners. Exhibits allow visitors to see the conditions on board the early emigrant ships and to experience what life was like on board convict ships leaving for Australia in 1801.
Housed in a Georgian townhouse on St. Stephen's Green, the quirky Little Museum of Dublin tells the story of the city through the years 1900 to 2000. Opening its doors in 2011, the museum was made possible by the Dubliners who donated thousands of artefacts to the nonprofit — 5,000 of which you can see in the vast display collection.
There are three museum floors to see, with exhibitions covering everything from the 1916 Easter Rising to JFK's visit to Dublin. There's even an exhibit dedicated solely to the success of the Irish rock band U2.
Nominated for the European Museum of the Year Award in 2012, a visit to the Little Museum of Dublin gives a feel for how it would have been to live on St Stephen's Green a century ago, and the museum's also home to the acclaimed cafe Hatch & Sons Irish Kitchen.
Just across from the main entrance to Dublin's Trinity College, the Irish Whiskey Museum offers fully-guided tours where you'll learn the history of the drink from its beginnings as an antidote to the woes of a poor and troubled nation through to the current revival in craft whiskies. Once you've had the full, interactive experience through the brand new museum, opened in 2014, it's tasting time.
With an expert to guide you through the differences in the top-rated whiskeys' flavors, you'll learn how to appreciate the subtle nuances of the drink. You get three whiskey tastings with a regular ticket, or if you upgrade to the VIP admission you'll get an extra tasting — of a matured whiskey no less — as well as a souvenir to take home with you. If whiskey's not for you, the Irish Whiskey Museum also has a cafe bar.
A spectacular feat of Hiberno-Romanesque architecture, Galway Cathedral, or the Cathedral of Our Lady Assumed into Heaven and St. Nicholas, has a regal presence, perched on the banks of the River Corrib. The masterful building - the largest in the city and the last stone church to be built in Ireland - was constructed in 1965, revivifying the plot where one of the county’s most notorious jails once stood. Designed by J.J. Robinson and overseen by Bishop Michael Browne, the cathedral was built with locally sourced materials and workers, as well as featuring native Irish decorations and carving designs, bringing a uniquely all-Irish quality to the finished product.
The cathedral’s copper domed roof, visible for miles around, has become one of Galway’s most beloved landmarks, but it’s the resplendent interiors that visitors find most impressive.
The Gaelic Games are integral to Irish culture, and at Dublin's Croke Park stadium, a visit to the popular GAA Museum will lead you through the history of the games right through to the present day. The museum focuses on the Gaelic Athletic Association's most popular sports — hurling and football — and you'll also find sections dedicated to camogie (female hurling), handball, and the Tailteann Games among others.
Attracting over a million visitors a year, exhibits and audiovisual displays provide the opportunity to learn about the Games: you'll see a grave slab depicting a hurley stick that dates back to medieval times, and you'll learn how hurleys are made too. Fun facts are interspersed among the trophies and memorabilia — did you know there was a GAA game that couldn't be finished because of the lack of a spare football? The upper floor takes you to the popular interactive games zone where you can practice your curling and football skills.
Things to do near Ireland
- Things to do in Dublin
- Things to do in Killarney
- Things to do in Galway
- Things to do in Athlone
- Things to do in Kenmare
- Things to do in Cork
- Things to do in Shannon
- Things to do in Ring of Kerry
- Things to do in Westport
- Things to do in Northern Ireland
- Things to do in England
- Things to do in South West Ireland
- Things to do in Western Ireland
- Things to do in West Midlands