Ireland has so many amazing places to see and things to do. That can make planning a trip to this country difficult. From castles to cliffs and a lot of beer in between, Ireland is an amazing country that you will want to visit. While planning your trip, you will want to make sure that you hit a lot of the highlights while you are there. This guide to Ireland includes my list of must-see places to make your planning process easier!
First Stop in Your Guide to Ireland: Dublin
Dublin is known for it’s drinking. However, it is also an incredibly beautiful city. The city has a river that runs through it that adds an element of life to the city as there are many bars and restaurants along the river. Some of the cool things to check out in Dublin are the Guinness Factory (Which actually has a tour that includes drinking!) and a castle that is literally right in the middle of the city life. This castle actually holds the name of the city and is called “Castle Dublin.” Now the castle itself is an interesting feature because it is as if the city of Dublin was built around it. However, the most interesting aspect of the castle, for me, what not the building itself, but what was inside.
Inside one of the sections of the castle is a library, specifically, the Chester Beatty Library. This library contains a collection of ancient works from around the world. As someone who loves old books, I could spend hours just in his collection. Not only were there books, there were also ancient manuscripts, Egyptian hieroglyphics, and beautiful asian pottery. The collection was fascinating and the amount of history in one room was astounding. This library was definitely the highlight of my time in Dublin. I would consider it a must see. You can find out more about it here.
If you plan on spending a few days in Dublin, make sure that you check out this post on how to spend 2 Days in Dublin. It gives you awesome details on exactly what to do around Dublin!
Cliffs of Moher
No guide to Ireland would be complete without mentioning the famous Cliffs of Moher. A list about the best things in Ireland would be incomplete without adding these beauties to the list. The Cliffs of Moher are the most famous spot in Ireland for a reason. They are breathtaking. There is a trail that you can take both directions from the visitor center. If you go left, you’ll find an even greater view of the cliffs and the opportunity to get up closer to the edge. My husband wouldn’t let me cross over the barrier as I am always tempted to do. I would also advise that you take his advice as the drop to the rocky ocean is INSANE. However, if you go right, which is the less popular route, you will find that the cliffs drop into a cove! I probably enjoyed the cove much more than the normal walk that most people take.
Read More: The Perfect Ireland Itinerary
Some things to keep in mind while going to the cliffs:
- It is MUDDY. Very, very muddy.
- They are pretty much in the middle of nowhere. There is very little around the Cliffs of Moher, especially during the off-season, so make sure that you eat before going!
- You’re chances of seeing the cliffs well are few and far between. The Cliffs of Moher are notoriously cloudy and stormy. Take advantage of the sunny days!
- Buy a rain cover for your camera in case of rain. You can find the one that I have (and forgot sadly) here.
Down Patrick Head
This was my favorite place in Ireland, hands down. I thought that I would be absolutely blown away by the Cliffs of Moher, but in reality, I wasn’t. Don’t get me wrong, they are beautiful and a must-see, but I didn’t have a strong desire to go back to them someday. Down Patrick Head, however, was a different story. Down Patrick Head is a stone beach and smaller cliffside on the Northern side of Ireland right to the west of Northern Ireland. We stopped on our way to Giant’s Causeway because someone recommended it to me. We went at low tide which was THE PERFECT time to go.
The receding water left tide pools behind that were crystal clear. The rock formations held the water, and the sea foam, in making it look like a water playground. There were clams and all kinds of things in the pools themselves, but the view was like a photographers dream. I could have spent all day looking at the pools and climbing on the rocks.
Fun fact: The Giant’s Causeway is actually in Northern Ireland which is a completely separate country from the Republic of Ireland! Be aware that the Euro actually isn’t used in Northern Ireland. Because it is actually a part of the United Kingdom, they use the pound. Anyway, the Giant’s Causeway is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The myth is that a Gaelic giant got challenged to a fight by a Scottish giant, so he built the causeway out of stone in order to meet the other giant for a fight. The causeway itself is a marvel because of its strange hexagonal stones and columns that connect together to form this wonder. They have ways of explaining how the hexagons could have perfectly formed, but I’m not sure that scientists have confirmed anything.
The Giant’s Causeway is a must see because it includes these strange perfectly hexagonal stones, cliffs, and a beautiful ocean view to top it off. A trip around Ireland (and Northern Ireland wouldn’t be complete without seeing this amazing and inexplicable scene. It was, however, very overcast, cold, and rainy when I went. Please ignore the quality of the pictures as I had to continually wipe rain drops off of my lenses.
Any Game of Thrones fans out there? The Dark Hedges, actually located in Northern Ireland, were a major filming spot for the show. The Dark Hedges is comprised of two rows of trees that hang over the road itself and at some points intertwine. The scene makes for a fairly creepy walk/drive and a perfect photo opportunity. I found that getting that perfect photo though was inhibited by tourists. I think that the popularity of Game of Thrones brought more visitors to the location that, really, seems like a fairly random place to put on your itinerary. We stopped here on our way back to Dublin from the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland.
Interested in watching Game of Thrones? You can on amazon!
Sleeping in a Castle
On our last night in Ireland, we booked a special adventure: sleeping in Cabra Castle. One of my biggest mistakes in Ireland was not spending MORE time here. The last night of the trip, I splurged, because I always allow myself one splurge, and I chose to spend the night in this amazing castle. And what an experience it was. It still had much of the original decor and included tours of the main rooms. The grounds were huge and the food was fantastic. It was an absolutely incredible experience!
When we arrived at the castle, we had to drive around the grounds which were well kept to the back area and enter in through an incredible old gate in the wall around the castle. We made our way to an almost barrack style housing surrounding the castle, but within the walls, that was made out of the same medieval stone as the castle itself. The area that we stayed in seemed to have been created for knights to stay in during the time that they spent in the castle. The inside of the castle itself was overwhelming royal in appearance. It had rich red carpets and HUGE paintings. As I walked into the grand hall to check in, I was blown away by the regality and beauty of it all. I had truly arrived at my goal in life: Being queen.
My biggest regret in Ireland was not spending more time in the castle. I wish I had treated it like a stop in my itinerary and not just a night’s sleep. I could have spent so many hours exploring the castle and its grounds and taking those insta-worthy pictures. Best of all, the room was under 200 euros a night! That seemed like a completely reasonably priced splurge to me.
I HIGHLY recommend staying at this castle and experiencing this. It was a dream and a true bucket list activity. If you like castles, be sure to read about The Neuschwanstein Castle which was Built by a Crazy King, Copied by Disney, and is Still Standing Today!
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