Last September thru October we spent 4 weeks traveling Ireland and we loved it! I wanted to share some of the top sites that can’t be missed if you get a chance to visit. Even though we were there for a whole month we still didn’t get to see everything…there is so much to experience and do in Ireland! Also, since we were there for an extended time we had to be very mindful of our budget and selective in what we did. We wanted to experience living there like a local and not just be tourists on vacation so we couldn’t get wrapped up in every pricey tourist attraction. That being said, these are the places we visited and enjoyed!
1. Kilmainham Gaol – In Dublin, this should be your first stop and if you only have one day in Dublin and time to do one thing this would still be the place I would recommend to see! The tour is fantastic and you will learn all about the history of Ireland, the Easter Rising, and the leaders that were responsible for making it the Republic of Ireland. It is very emotional and will give you a greater appreciation and perspective for the rest of the sites you are visiting in Ireland. The museum is also excellent so plan on spending at least 3 hours here…definitely do not miss!
2. Galway – We stayed near Galway for 3 weeks and absolutely loved this city and area. There are lots of shops, pubs, food and people watching to do here! There are also lots of free things to do like the Galway City Museum, which you should visit first to learn the history of the city before you go exploring around. Right near the museum is the famous Spanish Arch to take a look at and if you walk along the river past the Salmon Weir Bridge you will run into the beautiful Galway Cathedral that is a must see! Just walking the city you will get to see lots of great streets, buildings and old castles. In the middle of the city also check out the Hall of the Red Earl (free) which is a site of medieval ruins and if you go inside the mall you can see the old medieval city wall in the middle of it!
3. Cliffs of Moher – Yes it’s touristy but the “Cliffs of Insanity” are still not to be missed! They are absolutely breathtaking and are definitely something everyone should experience in their lifetime. Even the drive up to the cliffs is magical and serene. Make sure you walk the pathways along the cliff edge to take in all the views and stop in at the visitor centre. And afterwards make sure you stop into the cute town of Doolin and Gus O’Connor’s Pub for the most amazing food and live music!
4. Blarney Castle – Another touristy site but it is an incredible castle with lots of beautiful gardens to see. There are thousands of castles in Ireland and this one should not be missed. It was very romantic just walking around the grounds. I mean how can you not want to kiss the blarney stone when in Ireland?!
5. Dingle Peninsula – Do yourself a favor and take this amazing drive out to Slea Head for the most incredible views! There are lots of beaches and areas to stop at along the way where you can take in all the scenery. Take a picnic lunch and just enjoy! The town of Dingle is also super cute with shops and restaurants and you can even take a boat ride out to see Fungie the Dolphin that has lived in the Dingle Harbour for 32 years!
6. Connemara National Park – This is another area you will want to spend the whole day just driving in with all its spectacular views and definitely shouldn’t be missed! This part of Ireland is a little different from the rest of the island because of all the woody areas, mountains and lakes…it reminded me of being home in Colorado. You also have a very high chance of sharing the road with flocks of sheep here! It is also home to the beautiful Kylemore Abbey Estate which does have tours you can purchase but we just viewed its grandeur passing by on the road.
7. Glasnevin Cemetery & Gravediggers Pub – If the Kilmainham Gaol had any affect on you then you will want to visit the Glasnevin Cemetery in Dublin to view the resting places of the Easter Rising leaders and other very important officials in Ireland you learned about. They even have an interesting museum here. If you are too creeped out about a cemetery tour you should still stop in for a pint at John Kavanagh’s aka the “Gravediggers Pub” right next to the cemetery and maybe gain some liquid courage first! This cool family pub opened in 1833, a year after the cemetery, for all the funeral patrons passing by and of course was the place for the gravediggers to relax after a long shift. The same family still owns it today and the pub looks exactly like it did in 1833. Lots of movies have been filmed there and lots of celebrities have been there. Everyone is super friendly and will tell you some very intriguing stories. Don’t forget to sign their guest book….they have guest books going way back and they can even show you some famous entries. If you do go, look for ours!
Whether you have 4 or 17 days in Ireland, these are the 7 places you can’t miss! When I think back about our trip, these are the sites with some of the greatest experiences and memories for us and our love for Ireland wouldn’t be the same without them. Thanks a million… I really hope you get a chance to visit one day!