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1. Admire the Beauty of Killarney National Park

Views of lake and peaks visible from Killarney National Park, one of the top 10 things to do in Ireland.
The national parks in Ireland not only boast great scenery and natural beauty but they also house many historic sites within the parks.

One of the best ways to witness Ireland’s splendid natural beauty is touring its national parks. Besides preserving the country’s natural wilderness, these parks also house many historic sites giving you a taste of the nation’s rich heritage along the way. Ireland’s most-visited and the first National Park is the Killarney National Park. Spreading over 102 square kilometers, it is replete with beautiful woodlands, lakes, flora, fauna, and scenic sites like the Ring of Kerry, Muckross House, and Torc Waterfall.

Alternative destinations:

  • Connemara National Park: Located in the charming town of Galway, Connemara National Park covers 2000 hectares of area and is renowned for its incredible mountain landscapes. Easy hiking trails take you to the top of the Twelve Bens mountain range where you can enjoy breathtaking 360-degree views of the area.
  • Glenveagh National Park: Those who enjoy wild and rugged landscapes will enjoy touring Glenveagh National Park. Major attractions include Glenveagh Castle grounds, Doe Castle, Lough Veagh Lake, and hiking trails of the Derryveagh Mountains.

Best time to visit: Plan your visit between May and September. The weather is favorable and the crowd is less.

Good to know: Check weather forecasts before planning a trip to any of the national parks. Wet weather with storm forecasts should be particularly avoided.

Tours in Killarney

2. Go on a Sunset Cruise in Shannon River

Panoramic view of Athlone city and Shannon river in Ireland.
Taking a sunset cruise with your loved one in the Shannon River is surely one of the top 10 things to do in Ireland.

A relaxing sunset cruise with stops at scenic locations, heritage buildings, and age-old wineries is one of the popular activities in Ireland. With plenty of water bodies, a sunset cruise can be booked in any part of the country. However, the largest river of the British Isle, Shannon River, is a hotspot as it covers many popular attractions like Sean’s Bar, Ireland’s oldest pub dating back to 900 AD, and Kerry Cliffs.

Alternative destinations:

  • Howth Cliff: Starting from Dublin, a Howth Cliff cruise allows you to soak in gorgeous views of Dublin Bay, Bailey Lighthouse, and the majestic Howth Cliffs. Elevated experiences include stops for fishing and a 5-course meal on the deck itself.
  • Cliffs of Moher: Spanning over 14 kilometers, a cruise to Cliffs of Moher lets you admire this nature’s masterpiece from different angles. Some cruises combine this trip with a visit to the Aran Islands where you can experience traditional Irish culture from up close.

Best time to visit: A good time to take a cruise here are in May through early June. You can enjoy cheaper rentals and less crowded waterways.

3. Taste Irish Whiskey on a Jameson Distillery Tour

Old big copper whiskey distillery on stone foundation in Ireland.
Head to famous whiskey distilleries like Jameson Distillery in Ireland for cocktail-making sessions and Irish coffee.

Irish whiskey is renowned all over the world, and what better place to enjoy this drink than where it is invented, produced, and exported? One of the best things to do in Ireland is a distillery tour at a notable establishment like Jameson Distillery. The tour comprises cocktail-making sessions, expert guides, Irish coffee, and more for an immersive experience.

Alternative destinations:

  • Pearse Lyons Whiskey Distillery: Located in Dublin’s historic Liberties neighborhood, Pearse Lyons is an award-winning boutique distillery (meaning whiskeys are produced in small batches). They conduct small-group tours for those who want a more personal experience.
  • Teeling Whiskey Distillery: The first distillery to open in Dublin after 125 years, the Teeling Whiskey Distillery produces a range of whiskey. Their location in the heart of the capital also gives you a chance to explore the bustling city with major tourist attractions within walking distance.

Good to know: Irish whiskey is strong. To prevent after-burns, gently exhale to let the vapors out. Drink in sips and have a smell of it first and drink afterward.

4. Take a Scenic Road Trip Along the Wild Atlantic Way

Aerial view of Cliffs of Moher on Wild Atlantic Way in Ireland.
One of the longest coastal routes in the world, the Wild Atlantic Way is 2600 kilometers long and covers the Irish West coast.

One of the longest coastal routes in the world, the Wild Atlantic Way is 2600 kilometers (1600 miles) long and covers the Irish West coast. Smartly segregated into 14 stages, efficiently maintained, and strategically built to cover Ireland’s enchanting villages, ancient monuments, and scenic attractions, a road trip along any part of the Wild Atlantic Way is one of the best things to do in Ireland.

Recommended spots:

  • Fanad Lighthouse: A popular stop on your road trip is the Fanad Lighthouse. Constructed in 1817, it is known for its idyllic views and a friendly visitor center with a cafe serving Irish coffee and freshly made snacks—the perfect refreshments for your tour.
  • Slieve League: Slieve League cliffs are among the highest sea cliffs in all of Europe. Take some time to soak the views, kayak along the bottom of the cliffs, or head to the secluded Silver Strand Beach at the end of the Slieve League peninsula to relax during your road trip!

Best time to visit: For longer day hours, plan your visit during the summer months (June – August). For a quieter experience, April – May or September – October are better options.

5. Discover Slow Island Life on Valentia Island

View of Valentia Island Lighthouse at Cromwell Point in Ireland.
Exploring Valentia Island is one of the top 10 things to do in Ireland.

Ireland is home to over 80 islands off its coast, all offering their own insight into Irish heritage. The largest among them is Valentia Island, accessible via a bridge and boasting tremendous natural beauty. It is also home to one of the most unique places in the world, which is Tetrapod’s footprints, believed to be over 385 million years old. When sea creatures were evolving into vertebrates on land, they left footprints on this island which are well-preserved till this date.

Alternative destinations:

  • Saltee Islands: An amazing island to explore for bird lovers. With over 200 bird species including puffins, gannets, and razorbill, visit the island from June to August when the weather is pleasant, and many of them land on these quiet islands to nest and feed.
  • Aran Islands: Located in the county of Galway, Aran Islands has a lively tourist scene and some of the oldest archaeological remains in Ireland like the Dun Aengus fort, Plassey Shipwreck, O’Brien’s Castle, and more.

Best time to visit: Sunseekers will love Valentia Island between June and August. However, it is also the peak season.

6. Hike the Trails of Dingle Peninsula

Houses with hills in the distance on the Coast of Dingle in Ireland.
Soak up the charming natural surroundings of Ireland on a hiking trip in Dingle Peninsula.

One of the best ways to soak the charming natural surroundings of Ireland is to plan a hike. With multiple hiking trails, hardware pubs, striking Kerry coastline, and historic attractions encompassing 3000 years of history, Dingle Peninsula is the best place for hikers and nature lovers alike. Plan the hike from June to September for comforting weather and clear skies.

Alternative destination:

  • Wicklow Way: Hike along the gorgeous lakes, valleys, and mountains of Wicklow on the oldest linear hike in Ireland, Wicklow Way. An end-to-end walk (132 kilometers) takes 3 to 5 days, but you can choose just a certain stretch of the trail for an easier and time-efficient route.

Best time to visit: While this destination is a year-round attraction, peak season slows down after summer (June – August).

Ireland Trekking and Hiking Tours

7. Tour the Museums of Dublin

A wide view of the Irish National Museum in Dublin, Ireland.
One of the top 10 things to do in Ireland is to immerse in the fascinating heritage and historical attractions.

With approximately 47 museums in Dublin, the capital city of Ireland allows visitors to closely study Irish heritage, history, and culture, making it an indispensable thing to do for travelers. Many of the popular museums are also free, so it is a perfect activity for budget travelers.

Recommended destinations:

  • The National Museum of Ireland: This is the largest museum in Ireland and has been open to visitors since 1857. It has 10,000 exhibits of zoological creatures, often giving it the nickname ‘Dead Zoo.’
  • EPIC The Irish Emigration Museum: This museum provides an immersive experience to its visitors and details the story of 70 million Irish emigrants who established the name of the country in the entire world.
Ireland Museum and gallery visits Tours

8. Shop Local Produce at the Historic English Market

People shopping at the English Market, one of the top 10 things to do in Ireland.
Go on a shopping spree and explore local produce at the historic English Market.

With fertile soil, favorable weather, and plenty of rain, Ireland has natural advantages for farming and has some of the freshest vegetable produce, meats, and fish. While the produce markets can be found in many parts of the country, the Historic English Market in Cork is one of the best and oldest covered markets in all of Europe. Built in the 18th century, the bustling market has reasonably priced farm-to-market items and some must-try specialties include spiced beef, buttered eggs, and Drisheen (a type of blood pudding).

Alternative destinations:

  • Howth Market: An outdoor weekend market in the charming Howth Peninsula of Dublin, Howth Market gives you a chance to not just shop for local produce, but also souvenirs by local artisans and craftsmen.
  • The Milk Market: Operating since 1852, the Milk Market in Limerick city is Ireland’s largest covered outdoor market and is popular for its fresh produce, craft items, and local goods. Daily events like live music, occasional workshops, and monthly fairs further enhance the experience.

Good to know: Fresh produce markets are often closed on certain days in a week so plan your visit accordingly.

9. Explore the Historic Sites of Galway

Beautiful sunset view over The Claddagh Galway in Galway city, Ireland.
Galway offers some of the most historic attractions in all of Ireland.

Termed the ‘Cultural Capital’ of Ireland, Galway is brimming with everything that makes Ireland, Ireland. Whether it is the historic attractions (Galway Cathedral, Menlo Castle, etc.), cultural hubs (Eyre Square, Salthill Promenade, etc.), or scenic spots (Wild Atlantic Way, Connemara National Park, etc.)—there’s no dearth of activities in Galway.

Recommended spots:

  • Galway Cathedral: This is the last stone cathedral built in Europe and has impressive Roman architecture and art like statues, mosaics, and stained glass.
  • Spanish Arch: This structure dates back to pre-medieval times and is one of Ireland’s historical gems. It was built to prevent merchant ships from looting and now stands as an archaic structure on the banks of the Corrib River with a lively atmosphere and great restaurants.

Best time to visit: February, May and November are ideal months to travel to Galway. For festivals, the best months are July and September.

Tours in Galway

10. See the Pristine Beauty of Cliffs of Moher

Group of people or tourists hiking the iconic Cliffs of Moher.
Travelers will love visiting Cliffs of Moher for its great scenic views and puffin sightings.

Ireland’s second most-visited attraction, Cliffs of Moher runs for 14 kilometers along the emerald West Clare coast. Formed over 300 million years ago, they offer remarkable views but also give an insight into the country’s history and mythology, having inspired many Irish folktales. If you are a bird-lover, plan your visit in May or June when thousands of puffins flock here and nest on the cliff.

Alternative destination:

  • Kerry Cliffs: For a less-touristy cliff setting, visit the Kerry Cliffs, formed in a desert environment 400 million years ago. When you have had your fill of views, head to the Skellig Islands, a Unesco World Heritage Site where Star Wars: The Force Awakens was filmed.

Best time to visit: Spring (April – June) offers the best weather with mild temperatures, seabird sightings and longer days. Compared to summer months (July – August), the cliffs are also less crowded.

No matter where you plan to vacation in Ireland, you are bound to be blessed with endless natural beauty, rich history, and versatile cultural experiences. For more inspiration, check out our Ireland travel guide or reach out to our local travel experts to plan a private trip to Ireland.

Ireland Tours
Published by Swechhya S, updated on June 4, 2024
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