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Things to Do in Ireland - page 5

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Cong
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3 Tours and Activities

Set between the lakes of Lough Corrib and Lough Mask, the idyllic village of Cong is known for its pretty, thatched-roof cottages and its starring role in the Oscar-winning movie, The Quiet Man, where it was upstaged only by the lead actor — John Wayne.

Covering 350 acres, Ashford Castle and its grounds are also a popular visit while in Cong. The old country estate of the Guinness family, today it’s one of Ireland’s finest 5-star hotels that’s hosted everyone from Brad Pitt to Princess Grace of Monaco. Surrounded by forests, streams, and lakes, Cong sits on the border of County Galway and County Mayo. While in the village, a popular attraction is the ruins of Cong Abbey. Dating back to the 13th century, the abbey is the burial site of the last High King of Ireland, Rory O’Connor, and a National Monument of Ireland that’s said to feature some of the country’s finest medieval ecclesiastic architecture.

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Dunguaire Castle
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6 Tours and Activities

Celebrated as one of the most picturesque of Ireland’s many castles, the majestic Dunguaire Castle is perched atop a grassy promontory off the coast off Kinvarra in Western Ireland. A four-story medieval fortress, built by the O’Hynes clan back in 1520, the castle’s spectacular setting – jutting out from the bay and encircled with water – has made it one of Ireland’s most photographed castles, despite having little history to boast of. In fact, the castle never saw battle and had a somewhat meager legacy until it was bought by 20th century writer, Oliver St. John Gogarty, and became an important meeting spot for Irish literati like W. B. Yates, George Bernard Shaw and Sean O’Casey. A popular day trip from Galway or Ballyvaughan (around a 30 minute drive away each), Dunguaire Castle is most famous for its atmospheric medieval banquets, organized by the same team behind those held at the equally popular Bunratty Castle.

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Dún Aonghasa (Dun Aengus)
18 Tours and Activities

Of the scenic Aran Islands off the west coast of Ireland, Dún Aonghasa is the most visited prehistoric fort of the area. Perched on the cliffs overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, it has become a notable place for visitors from all over the country and the world. The semi-circular stone fort dates back to the Late Bronze Age and Iron Age, offering a glimpse into a rarely seen part of history. It is named for “Aonghus mac Úmhóra,” a mythical Irish king and pre-Christian god. Its multiple ancient stone walls, stairwells, and chambers create enclosure and different layers to explore.

It is still unknown exactly when and for what purpose Dún Aonghasa was originally constructed. Part of the structure has collapsed into the sea, adding to the site’s mystery and intrigue. Aside from its archaeological and historic importance the fort offers some of the most beautiful panoramic views in all of Ireland, with spectacular sights of the coastline and surrounding sea.

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Cahergall Stone Fort
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Cahergall Fort is one of two stone forts outside the town of Caherciveen that together are known as the Ring Forts. Cahergall Fort is the larger of the two, built from as early as the eighth century. Much of the stone ring fort’s walls have been reconstructed, making it one of the best architectural examples of an early medieval stone fort in the region. These walls, up to 7 feet (2 meters) high and 16 feet (5 meters) thick at the base. The fort overlooks Valentia Harbor and affords amazing views of Ballycarbery Castle, Carherciveen, Valentina Island and the Kerry mountains from atop its ramparts.

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Malahide Castle and Gardens
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9 Tours and Activities

Malahide Castle is one of Ireland's oldest castles, built on land given to Richard Talbot, a knight who accompanied King Henry II of England to Ireland in 1174. The Talbot family resided in the castle for nearly 800 years, up until 1975 when one of the last heiresses turned it over to the Irish State.

Now visitors may take guided tours of the castle and grounds, tracing the Talbot family's history back through portraits, artifacts, and stories. The most interesting rooms of the castle include the Oak Room, filled with decorative carvings, and the Great Hall, which is lined with paintings of the family. Keep your eyes and ears open as you wander through the rooms - you may just spot one of the castle's five ghosts!

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The Hill of Tara (Teamhair)
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9 Tours and Activities

Despite being one of Ireland’s most important historical sites, it’s Tara’s otherworldly views and fascinating archaeological finds that make it such a popular day trip from Dublin. The Hill of Tara, known as Temair in Gaelic, is located in County Meath and was once the ancient seat of the High Kings of Ireland – a series of grassy landscaped mounds presiding over the surrounding land. Ancient Irish mythology tells that 142 kings reigned from this mount in prehistoric times and Temair was renowned as the ‘sacred place of dwelling for the gods’. Legend dictates that Saint Patrick, patron Saint of Ireland, also visited the Hill, and a statue of him still reigns proud at the top.

Entry to the site is free but the rough terrain means you’ll need to scramble over ditches and up slippery grass mounds, so don’t forget your hiking boots!

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More Things to Do in Ireland

Powerscourt Waterfall

Powerscourt Waterfall

6 Tours and Activities
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Ballycarbery Castle

Ballycarbery Castle

6 Tours and Activities

Towering atop a grassy hill just outside of Cahersiveen along the scenic Ring of Kerry, the ivy-covered remains of Ballycarbery Castle overlook the sea. While historians believe a castle was built on the site as early as 1398, the present-day ruins date back to the fifteenth century, when the castle was occupied by either the McCarthy Clan or their wardens, the O’Connells.

A registered historical building in County Kerry, visitors will nonetheless find no entrance gate, signs or placards in the remains of the castle. It’s been left largely forgotten, and while the structure itself has fallen into ruin, the views of Cahersiveen from around the grounds are well worth the trip.

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Derrynane House

Derrynane House

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Derrynane House is the ancestral home of Daniel O’Connell, a politician and statesman from the 19th century who promoted the Irish cause in British Parliament. The house is now an Irish National Monument and sits within 1.2 square-kilometers of National Park. It’s also a museum dedicated to commemorating O’Connell, who was known by the nation as the Great Liberator. O'Connell built the two-story south wing of the house facing the sea plus the library wing to the east in 1825, and these are the oldest surviving parts of the property. It was renovated in 1967, when it was opened to the public as a museum displaying a number of artifacts from O’Connell’s life and career. Visitors can wander around the politician’s dining room, lounge, study, and chapel, and marvel at the impressive chariot that was used to carry him through the streets of Dublin upon his release from prison in the 1840s. He was imprisoned over his efforts to repeal the union with England.

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Skellig Michael

Skellig Michael

5 Tours and Activities

A rocky peak rising 230 meters from the ocean off the coast of Portmagee, Skellig Michael is one of the most striking landmarks of Ireland’s southwestern coast and famous for its vast population of seabirds. One of two UNESCO-listed Skellig Islands, Skellig Michael is the one and the only island where it’s permitted to land, with access only possible by boat.

Despite its isolated surroundings and near-vertical sea cliffs, the now-uninhabited island was once used as a retreat for hermit monks, and their stone beehive huts, crosses and a cemetery can still be seen perched atop the rocks. The fascinating remains of the sixth-century monastic complex are among the world’s earliest examples of Christian life and can be reached via a steep 600-step climb from the dock.

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Clonmacnoise

Clonmacnoise

9 Tours and Activities

While Ireland’s weather is famously cool, it isn’t the temperature that will give you chills when visiting Clonmacnoise. Rather, it’s the 1,500 years of monastic history that’s powerfully felt in these ruins—where temples, cathedrals, home sites, and graveyards have withstood the elements for centuries. Originally founded in the 6th century, this stone village along the River Shannon prospered for a time as Christian monastery in Ireland’s central plains. Years of outside siege, however, would leave the settlement in ruins, and even though it now sits empty and is a shell of its former self, the stone towers and towering crosses can still move people today. When visiting the ruins at Clonmacnoise, silently stroll past one of the largest collection of Christian gravestones in Europe. Gaze upwards at the brown sandstone that forms the Cathedral’s north wall—a piece of architecture that astoundingly dates to the early part of the 8th century.

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Derrynane Beach

Derrynane Beach

5 Tours and Activities

Derrynane Beach looks out of place when compared to the rest of Ireland—almost like a tropical sliver of the Caribbean that’s drifted across the Atlantic. Here at this long, white sand cove on the famous Ring of Kerry, lush green mountains serve as the backdrop to a clear, turquoise bay. The natural harbor is popular for swimming, and a flotilla of sailboats and pleasure craft are often found offshore. At low tide, stroll across to Abbey Island and scramble around on the rocks, and visit the remains of St. Finian’s Abbey on the leeward side of the island. From the vantage point on Abbey Island you can view the surrounding beaches, some of which have towering sand dunes that have been formed by fierce winter storms. Not far from Derrynane Beach is O’Carroll’s Cove Beach Bar and Restaurant—the only beachfront bar you’ll find on the entire Irish coast.

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Stone Circle

Stone Circle

6 Tours and Activities
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Cromwell's Bridge

Cromwell's Bridge

6 Tours and Activities

No one knows quite how Cromwell’s Bridge in Kenmare got its name, but it likely wasn’t named after Oliver Cromwell. One popular theory about the stone bridge is that it was named ‘croimeal,’ the Gaelic word for ‘mustache,’ but when English-speakers overheard locals talking about the bridge, they assumed they were saying ‘Cromwell.” However it got its name, Cromwell’s Bridge is one of several beautiful and ancient sites along the scenic Ring of Kerry. It’s located just outside the village of Kenmare near the Stone Circle, making it a convenient stop for visitors passing through the area.

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Skellig Experience

Skellig Experience

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1 Tour and Activity
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Valentia Slate Quarry

Valentia Slate Quarry

2 Tours and Activities
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Charles Fort

Charles Fort

5 Tours and Activities
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Leacanabuaile Fort

Leacanabuaile Fort

5 Tours and Activities
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Bishop's Palace

Bishop's Palace

4 Tours and Activities

The Bishop’s Palace is one of the three museums known as the Waterford Treasures located in the Viking Triangle in Waterford, Ireland. It was designed in 1741 by architect Richard Castles, one of Ireland’s greatest architects. The front of the palace overlooks the town wall, which forms part of the palace’s terraced garden. The ground floor and first floors of the palace are furnished as an elegant 18th century townhouse and feature period furniture, beautiful fireplaces and rare paintings.

The museum tells the history of Waterford from 1700 to the mid-20th century, with an entire floor dedicated to stories about Waterford’s Home Rule story, World War I in Waterford and the War of Independence in Waterford. It also displays unique pieces such as the Penrose Decanter, the oldest surviving piece of Waterford Crystal, dating to 1789, and the only surviving Bonaparte “mourning cross,” one of just 12 crosses produced upon Napoleon’s death in 1821.

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