The land that is at the same mysterious and welcoming, Ireland’s a place many falls in love with. Once visited, it stays in the heart forever. Those who’ve been there often say as soon as they arrived, it simply felt like home. Something is alluring about Ireland, something that feels magical. Perhaps it’s about the easy-going, talkative locals. Or the enigmatic landscapes composed of misty hills, dramatic cliffs, and endless greenery. Or the bright towns that make you feel nice and warm even when the weather’s terrible. Probably it’s about the mixture of it all. For those who’re lucky enough to be planning their trip to Ireland, or for those who still wonder whether it should be their next destination, here’s a list of the best things to do in Ireland.
Explore Ireland’s beautiful national parks
For nature-lovers, Ireland is a marvelous place. The abundance of stunning views and natural wonders is just incredible. There are six national parks: Ballycroy (in the county Mayo), Connemara (County Galway), Killarney (County Kerry), Glenveagh (County Donegal), The Burren (County Clare) and Wicklow Mountains (County Wicklow). They are all stunning, but if you have to choose one or two, let it be Connemara or Killarney. Killarney is basically like a green fairytale land: picturesque lakes surrounded by forests, old, mysterious oak trees, the lovely Torc Waterfall, mountains covered with greenery plus the Ross Castle sitting by the lake and completing the whole scenery.
Cycling is fabulous, driving as well. Connemara isn’t less enchanting than Killarney. One more setting taken straight out of a fantastic story, Connemara is full of lonely valleys, glittering lakes and green peaks almost reaching soft, rolling clouds of the Irish skies. Then there’s also the coast with tiny bays, coves, secluded beaches, and islands. Don’t forget to visit the romantic Kylemore Abbey and, if you have some extra time, take a ferry to the Aran Islands.
Drive the scenic routes
Starting and ending in Killarney, the Ring of Kerry is all located within the Killarney National Park, but it deserves to be mentioned separately. It’s a famous and spectacular, 179 kilometers long circle drive. Awe-inspiring landscapes are to be witnessed all along the trail, from views of the beautiful coast and pleasant pastures to sleepy villages and picturesque towns. Main attractions located on the way include the Gap of Dunloe (a picturesque narrow mountain pass), Rossbeigh Beach, Ladies View, St Mary’s Cathedral, Muckross Abbey and the island of Skellig Michael. As you can see, the sights are plentiful.
The Ring of Kerry can be a day-trip destination, but it’s worth stretching out. You’ll find places to stay along the route, as well as occasional pubs and restaurants. One more not-to-be-missed road, the Wild Atlantic Way, is 2400 kilometers long and winds its way along the western coast of Ireland. Whenever you turn, you’ll be faced with something new and exciting, be it an ancient monument, an unspoiled village or a view of a mystical island offshore. 156 discovery points are scattered on the route. What makes the Wild Atlantic Way even more unique is the fact it gives a traveler a fantastic opportunity to come across the remote parts of Ireland, the local charms and authentic gems of Irish culture.
Drink beer and listen to live music in traditional Irish pubs
Among all the things to do in Ireland, a visit to a traditional pub can be considered the most significant cultural experience. Seriously, there is no other place on Earth where beer tastes like in Ireland, and it’s not only about its flavor. Yes, Irish beers are fantastic, but the atmosphere surrounding the ritual of drinking them is even better. People of Ireland are great beer drinkers, and they’re also excellent companions for long conversations, both philosophical and laughable.
Pubs are not just places to get drunk or an excuse to run away from home for a few hours. They’re the extension of Irish homes. They’re like a cozy living room, but better. People spend so much time in there they start treating each other like family members (with both love and occasional anger leading to interesting arguments and spicy disputes). In each town or a village, no matter its size, you’ll find a pub. In many of them, besides of the happy voices of tipsy guests, you can also hear live music. Examples: The Cobblestone in Dublin, the Roisin Dubh in Galway, the Curragower in Limerick or Tynan’s Bridge House Bar in Kilkenny. There are plenty of them, and most play traditional Irish melodies.
Enjoy the lovely colors of Irish towns
Not only the nature but also towns in Ireland are the kind of places where fantasy films could easily be shot. Nature though is rather enigmatic and mysterious, while the cities are cozy and joyfully colorful. Kinsale in county Cork is one of such spots: because of its artsy shops, narrow streets and the harbor full of beautiful yachts, it’s a lovely town. The little village called Portmagee is no less enchanting. Scenically located on the Valentia Island in county Kerry, it’s famous for the spectacular cliffs. Even though Portmagee is a tiny fishing village, there are a few lively pubs, as it usually happens in Ireland. Bigger towns are delightful too, like Killarney for example.
The town’s often a base for discovering the Killarney National Park, but before moving on to the wilderness, Killarney itself is worth exploring too. As an important tourist point, Killarney houses a variety of hotels, restaurants, and pubs, suitable for both budget travelers and those with heavier wallets. And then there’s Galway, the town bustling with Irish spirit and culture, by many considered the most Irish and the most charming city in the whole country. Brightly painted houses and countless pubs, cozy cafés, historic sites and artistic vibe attract numerous tourists.
There are just examples, but Ireland is filled with gorgeous villages, towns, and cities. Wherever you go, you’ll find some lovely houses, comfy pubs, and welcoming locals. Stopping by a roadside town is one of the most fun things to do in Ireland, even if it’s a place off the beaten track. Be an explorer, talk with the locals, get to know how their daily life is and enjoy the magical vistas.