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Things to Do in Ireland - page 4

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Number Twenty Nine (Georgian House Museum)
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The Georgian Period was a regal time, when many of Dublin’s most well to do residents resided in lavish homes. One of those stunning historical abodes is Number Twenty Nine, a Georgian townhome from the late 18th century that’s now a public museum. Tour every corner of this extravagant home, from a basement that holds an authentic collection of Georgian era furniture, to an attic that has carpets, curtains, and artifacts that have been preserved for hundreds of years. In addition to the intriguing period pieces, informative storyboards help to educate visitors on the life of a wealthy homeowner. Similarly, there’s also info on the daily lives of residents who weren’t so well off—particularly the servants who kept the home in such a reputable and high-class state. Wandering through Number Twenty Nine takes the better part of an hour, and seeing as it’s only a short walk from Grafton Street and the city center, it’s an educational and insightful stop on a walking tour of Dublin.

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Galway Atlantaquaria

Designated as the National Aquarium of Ireland and the largest aquarium in the country, Galway Atlantaquaria is one of western Ireland’s most popular attractions. An incredible 170 saltwater and freshwater species inhabit the aquarium’s tanks, imaginatively designed to mimic their natural environments and showcasing Ireland’s incredible diversity of marine ecosystems. Seahorses, stingrays, eels, lobster and even sharks are among the highlights, as well as the world’s only White Skate on public display, lovingly nicknamed ‘Valentine’.

It’s not only the colorful sea creatures that draw in the crowds - the aquarium’s unique displays and hands-on approach has proven a hit with all ages. Visitors can help out at feeding time, delve into the waters inside a model submarine and visit the aquarium’s popular ‘touch tanks’ for the chance to hold starfish and spider crabs.

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Galway Arts Centre
A long-standing cultural institution, the Galway Arts Centre is one of the city’s principal art establishments, dedicated to nurturing and furthering local talent, and encouraging awareness and support of the arts in Galway. Housed in an 1840’s stone-brick townhouse on Dominick Street – built for the Pearse family and famously home to WB Yeat's patron Lady Augusta Gregory – the Arts Centre first opened its doors in 1988 and has since showcased a range of national and international contemporary artworks throughout its 3,000 sq ft exhibition area.
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Aghadoe Cathedral (Aghadoe Church and Round Tower)

Here on Aghadoe Hill stand the ruins of the 12th century Aghadoe Church and Round Tower. There was a monastery on the site since the 7th century, however, founded by St Finian Lobhar, and no wonder as the views are sublime and perfect for a life of contemplation. There are lakes and at night the town lights of Killarney twinkle, alongside the flood lights of Ross Castle in the distance, although that is a bit more recent dating from the 15th century! To appreciate the landscape, you'll find a few benches nearby so bring a picnic.

Although ruined, there is still plenty to see of interest at Aghadoe Church. The Romanesque door is well-preserved, there is a carved crucifixion scene on another sandstone block, two ca rved faces on the eastern window, and an Ogham Stone - carved writings in the ancient Celtic language. Not much is left of the Round Tower. It is really just a small stump of the sandstone building standing in an old cemetery.

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Giant's Causeway
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Giant's Causeway is a cluster of approximately 40,000 basalt columns rising out of the sea on the Antrim Coast of Northern Ireland. These rock formations get their name from an old legend stating that Irish warrior Finn McCool built the path across the sea to face his Scottish rival, Benandonner.

On his way back to Scotland, Benandonner tears up the path behind him, leaving just what exists today on the Northern Irish coast and the Scottish island of Staffa, which has similar rock formations.

While the legend makes for an interesting story, geologists have a different explanation for the creation of the Giant's Causeway: volcanic activity. Now declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, thousands of tourists visit Giant's Causeway each year to marvel at and photograph this natural wonder.

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Cliffs of Moher
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The Irish landscape, normally so gentle and well-behaved, reaches for a dramatic flourish as it meets the Atlantic coast. The seaboard offers no greater sight than County Clare’s mighty Cliffs of Moher, which tower above the raging ocean below along a 5-mile (8-kilometer) stretch.

The viewing platform on top of crenellated O’Brien’s Tower provides the best vistas, stretching west to the Aran Islands and north to Galway Bay. To find out more about the natural and historical significance of the cliffs, explore the visitors’ center which is discreetly embedded in a hillside.

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Bunratty Castle and Folk Park
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While many of Ireland’s Medieval castles have been reduced to crumbling ruins, Bunratty Castle is a rare exception—having been masterfully restored in 1954 to its original, powerful beauty. The castle was built in 1425, with the area’s first settlers being Viking traders in the mid-late 10th century. Today, Bunratty Castle is considered as Ireland’s most complete and authentic castle, where the tapestries, furniture, and regal surroundings create a mood that can instantly transport visitors back to the 16th century. At night, the Bunratty Castle Medieval banquet offers an historic reenactment of what it would be like to dine in the towering stone castle—and feel like a member of Irish nobility enjoying an evening meal. At the neighboring Bunratty Folk Village, skip ahead to the 18th century and experience what life must have been like in the rural Shannon countryside.

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Aran Islands
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Renowned for their stark beauty and enduring Irish traditions, the enigmatic Aran Islands have long drawn fascination from their mainland neighbors, inspiring generations of Irish artists and writers with their idealistic way of life. A visit to the Aran Islands - three small, sparsely populated isles, overlooked by the immense Cliffs of Moher - is like stepping back in time. Here, Gaelic-speaking communities populate traditional farmhouses, local ladies make a living knitting traditional Aran sweaters, sold throughout Ireland, and cars are overlooked in favor of rickety pony traps and trusty bicycles.

Reachable by ferry or plane from Rosaveel, Galway or Doolin, and easily navigated on foot or bike, the islands harbor a number of attractions, including the remains of one of the world’s smallest churches and a 16th-century castle once used by Oliver Cromwell’s troops.

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Blarney Castle & Gardens
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Visitors to Blarney Castle most often are actually visitors to the Stone of Eloquence, better known as the Blarney Stone. As its name implies, the legend states that if you kiss the stone, you will never be at a loss for words. People come year after year to kiss this mystical stone, which can only be done by hanging upside down over a sheer drop from the castle's tower. Leaders and entertainers from all over the world have journeyed here to partake in this ritual and capture the power of the stone and travelers from near and far continue to do the same.

Besides the draw of the Stone, the Blarney Castle also boasts handsome gardens and several interesting rock formations. Known collectively as Rock Close, the formations have been given such whimsical names as Wishing Steps and Witch's Cave, adding a certain sense of enchantment to this 600 year old fortress. So by all means, take your turn to kiss the Stone.

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More Things to Do in Ireland

Jameson Distillery Midleton

Jameson Distillery Midleton

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Wild Atlantic Way

Wild Atlantic Way

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Glendalough

Glendalough

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Home to one of the country’s most popular historic sites, a 6th-century monastic complex, Glendalough, or ‘the valley of the lakes’, is set in an idyllic location between two lakes. An hour south of Dublin, Glendalough makes a popular day trip, as well as a common stop-off for hikers attempting the famous Wicklow Way, which runs through the valley.

The monastery was founded by the hermit monk St Kevin around 618AD and by the 9th century was among the leading monastic cities of Ireland, up until its destruction by the English in 1398. The ruins remain impressive today, with a collection of ancient churches, burial sites and monastic buildings sprawled around the Upper and Lower lakes.

A huge part of Glendalough’s appeal lies in its spectacular surroundings, with the two lakes encircled with woodlands, verdant pastures and the hilltops of the nearby Wicklow Mountains National Park.

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Wicklow Mountains

Wicklow Mountains

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The Wicklow Mountains, called the "Garden of Ireland", are a range of mountains running southeast from Dublin through County Wicklow. The mountains are a popular weekend and holiday retreat for Dubliners looking to get out of the city for fresh air and various recreational activities.While the Wicklow Mountains themselves are not all that tall (the highest peak is 925 m/3,035 ft), the landscape is stunningly wild and markedly different from the typical green grassy plains of the Emerald Isle.
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Rock of Cashel

Rock of Cashel

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Blarney Stone (Stone of Eloquence)

Blarney Stone (Stone of Eloquence)

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Everyone wants the gift of eloquence, and some say the Irish have it, well, the gift of the gab anyway. So, how are they so blessed? It's all down to the Blarney Stone. For over two centuries people have been coming to Blarney Castle in the south of Ireland to kiss this stone set into the battlements in the hope of gaining a silver tongue. It used to be that you were hung over the battlements from above by your ankles, these days there's less risk involved in leaning backwards from the parapet walkway while holding securely to a metal railing.

The origins of this magic stone are still debated. Was it Jacob's pillow, St Columba's deathbed pillow, or the stone that gushed water for Moses? Was it brought to Ireland after the Crusades or given to the Irish by Scot Robert the Bruce in gratitude for helping him defeat the English in 1314? We'll probably never know. But after you kiss it, tour the ruined castle, visit elegant 19th century Blarney House, wander around the lake.

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Kylemore Abbey and Victorian Walled Garden

Kylemore Abbey and Victorian Walled Garden

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Tucked in the shadows of the mighty Seven Pins Mountain range, Kylemore Abbey cuts a striking figure against its majestic backdrop. A Benedictine monastery founded in 1853, the Abbey took seven years to build and remains in use today as an all girls’ school governed by Benedictine Nuns - the only Benedictine Community in Ireland - as well as opening its grounds to tourists. With its idyllic surroundings encircled by woodlands and postcard-worthy façade fronted by a glistening lake that perfectly reflects the grand building, Kylemore Abbey has fast become one of County Galway’s most popular iconic sights.

While parts of the 1000-acre estate remain closed to the public, visitors can tour many of the most impressive sights, including the magnificent Gothic Chapel and the Abbey’s beautifully restored main hall. The 6-acre walled Victorian Gardens are another highlight, where pretty walkways, 19th-century flowerbeds and a series of greenhouses.

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Ross Errilly Friary (Ross Abbey)

Ross Errilly Friary (Ross Abbey)

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Dunmore Cave

Dunmore Cave

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Lough Corrib

Lough Corrib

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Covering 69 square miles, Lough Corrib is the biggest lake in Ireland and a famous fishing spot that’s well-known for its wild brown trout and salmon. Practically cutting off western Galway from the rest of the country, the lake has inspired artists and writers for centuries, and in 1867, Oscar Wilde’s father, the historian William Wilde, wrote a book about Lough Corrib. Straddling counties Galway and Mayo, Lough Corrib is a Special Area of Conservation. Since surveys began in 2007, objects that have been discovered in its waters include dugout canoes from the Bronze and Iron Age, a 40th-foot longboat that’s 4,500 years old, and a 10th century ship that was found carrying 3 Viking battleaxes. 365 islands dot the lake, the most famous of which is Inchagoill Island. Known for its secluded beaches and woodland, from Inchagoill you can look out to the Connemara mountains and visit the island’s ancient remains, which include the ruins of a 5th century monastery.

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The Burren

The Burren

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One of Ireland’s most unique and photogenic landscapes, stretching over 160 square km, the Burren, derived from the Gaelic word Boireann meaning ‘rocky place’, is one of the most visited attractions in the Shannon region. Aptly named, the karst topography is characterized by its unusual limestone formations, naturally sculpted through acidic erosion over thousands of years. The natural landscape is an otherworldly terrain - a giant jigsaw of rocks, made up of grikes (fissures) and clints (isolated rocks jutting from the surface), with pockets of lush greenery poking between the expanses of bare rock.

Located at 300 meters above sea level, the Burren lies close to the Atlantic Coastline and the towering Cliffs of Moher, offering incredible views both underfoot and out to sea. It’s not only the rocks that draw thousands of hikers and naturalists to the area, either – the contrasting green spaces are inhabited by around 700 different species of plants and ferns.

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Howth

Howth

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Connemara

Connemara

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One may not truly understand the awesome power of Mother Nature’s beauty until you have visited Connemara. With a countryside that will knock your socks off with the sheer beauty of the peninsula, a plethora of gorgeous flora, and remarkable landscape and coastal view, Connemara is a hiker's dream.

Immerse yourself in the land by taking up on of the area's offered activities, including kayaking, gorge walking or even rock climbing. Getting outdoors is the perfect way to explore this paradise.

While there, make sure to visit Kylemore Abbey and its Victorian Walled Garden, man's answer and contribution to this the area's sheer beauty. Situated waterside and along a hill, the Abbey's garden is the gem, with more than 6 acres of manicured terrain that includes banana trees, vines, and various herbs and flowers, all displayed with a thoughtful and wonderful symmetry.

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Roundstone Harbor

Roundstone Harbor

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