Things to do in Ireland

Ireland is truly one of the great sightseeing destinations. The local people are wholeheartedly welcoming and entertaining socially. Travellers can expect an abundance of beautiful natural landscapes and there are cultural and historical attractions aplenty. Also, the Guinness really tastes better here at the source. The country has a wider significance for many American visitors, whose ancestors came from these shores in great numbers.

Although there are must-see attractions like Blarney Castle, Trinity College and the soaring Cliffs of Moher, the real magic of Ireland lies in the unexpected encounters with the local people and unplanned evenings in country pubs, where impromptu gigs can set the soul alight. Ireland is full of music and good cheer and no amount of rain can dampen local spirits.

Winter is not the best time to visit, as it is cold and rainy. Travellers should plan trips for the summer months between April and September. The ideal ways to get around are by rented car or bicycle, which visitors can use to explore the photogenic country lanes. The roads are good in Ireland and driving around is not unduly stressful.

Kinsale photo

Kinsale

Kinsale is an old fishing village just 18 miles (29km) south of Cork. It's best known for the world renowned Old Head Golf Links, set on a narrow head jutting out into the Celtic S…

Kinsale

Kinsale is an old fishing village just 18 miles (29km) south of Cork. It's best known for the world renowned Old Head Golf Links, set on a narrow head jutting out into the Celtic Sea. Kinsale has a number of interesting sights, including The Courthouse and Desmond Castle.

Desmond Castle was built as a custom house by the Earl of Desmond in the 16th century. It has a colourful history, ranging from Spanish occupation during the Battle of Kinsalein in 1601, to its use as a prison for captured American sailors during the American War of Independence. It is known locally as 'The French Prison' after a tragic fire in which 54 prisoners, mainly French seamen, died in 1747. The castle was also used as a borough jail from 1791 to the beginning of the Great Famine, when it became an auxiliary workhouse tending to the starving populace.

Charles Fort is two miles (3km) outside Kinsale. Constructed in the late 17th century on the site of an earlier coastal fortification, it is a classic example of a star-shaped fort. William Robinson, architect of the Royal Hospital in Kilmainham, Dublin, and Superintendent of Fortifications, is credited with its design. As one of the largest military forts in the country, Charles Fort has been associated with some of the most momentous events in Irish history, the most significant of which include the Williamite War in 1690 and the Irish Civil War in 1922-1923. James Fort sits across the estuary. It is an earlier structure that was designed by Paul Ive in 1602.

Kinsale has also earned itself a reputation as Ireland's gourmet centre, with numerous award-winning pubs and restaurants, and the annual Gourmet Festival in October.

Website www.kinsale.ie

Transport

Bus Éireann number 226 from Cork City. It's a 45 minute trip, but the bus offers free wifi.

Trinity College Dublin photo

Trinity College Dublin

Trinity College is Ireland's oldest university and counts Jonathan Swift, Samuel Beckett and Oscar Wilde, along with many other great thinkers and writers, among its past students.…

Trinity College Dublin

Trinity College is Ireland's oldest university and counts Jonathan Swift, Samuel Beckett and Oscar Wilde, along with many other great thinkers and writers, among its past students. It was founded in 1592 by Queen Elizabeth I. The complex is home to many glorious buildings, beautifully manicured lawns, cobbled squares and the campus of the University of Ireland.

The main attraction for many is the Trinity Library. It houses the celebrated Book of Kells, which dates from the 8th century and is considered to be one of the oldest books in the world. Other manuscripts taken from ancient monasteries are also on display. Note that photography in this gallery is strictly forbidden.

The library is also home to the remarkable Long Room, which will delight the scholarly. The chapel on the grounds is absolutely beautiful and a must-see for anybody interested in ecclesiastical architecture. There are lots of sculptures, statues and monuments dotted around the grounds to investigate. One of the best things to do at Trinity, however, is to simply make like a student and lounge on the lovely green lawns!

Address College Green Dublin 2, Ireland

Website www.tcd.ie

Transport

The easiest way to access Trinity College is by bus. There are a number of stops around the campus.

Opens The Book of Kells is open Monday to Saturday 8.30am-5pm from May to September, and Sundays 9.30am-5pm. From October to April, it's open Monday to Saturday 9.30am-5p, and Sundays 12pm-4.30pm.

Admission

€11 Adults, concessions available.

Temple Bar District photo

Temple Bar District

The Irish capital is known for its nightlife and many visitors come to Dublin primarily to enjoy the great beer, food, traditional music, and friendly locals that make the pub scen

Temple Bar District

The Irish capital is known for its nightlife and many visitors come to Dublin primarily to enjoy the great beer, food, traditional music, and friendly locals that make the pub scene so famous.

This quaint, cobbled district is the hub Dublin's toursit nightlight. There are shops, traditional pubs, theatres, cinemas and trendy clubs laid out on pedestrianised streets. Busking fiddlers, an overwhelming choice of restaurants, and beautifully restored buildings add to the feel of the place and make it worth a visit. The streets and drinking holes are always bustling in Temple Bar and the area has been immortalised by many photographers.

The area is bordered by the Liffey River on one side and Dame Street on the other. The main street running through the area is also called Temple Bar. The weekly Temple Bar Food Market takes place between 10am and 4.30pm on Saturdays at Meeting House Square and this is a must for foodies. There are also several regular book markets in the area, and lots of little gems for clothes shoppers. The area has become rather expensive and some find it too touristy. That said, it's the place to be for the young and fashionable.

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Guinness Storehouse photo

Guinness Storehouse

Although Guinness is now brewed all over the world, St James's Gate, in the heart of Dublin, was where Arthur Guinness set up the business in 1759. The Guinness Storehouse celebrat…

Guinness Storehouse

Although Guinness is now brewed all over the world, St James's Gate, in the heart of Dublin, was where Arthur Guinness set up the business in 1759. The Guinness Storehouse celebrates Ireland's favourite brew by taking visitors on a journey, floor by floor, through the past, present and future of the world-famous beer. The glass atrium is shaped like a pint glass and each floor explores a different aspect of 'everything anyone ever wanted to know about Guinness', from the brewing process to who drank the first pint.

Visitors can't view the actual brewing process but will be introduced to the machinery used through the ages, and watch videos explaining how it all works. The tour finishes with a complementary pint of the famous stout in the top-floor Gravity Bar, which is also the ideal place to watch the sun set over Dublin and admire the 360° views.

Visitors can enjoy tasting sessions during the July and August summer program, as well as exhibitions and delicious Irish meals from a table d'hôte menu in the Brewery Bar or Source Bar. The onsite shop sells some excellent merchandise for Guinness lovers. There is very good wheelchair access to the whole facility.

Address St James's Gate

Website www.guinness-storehouse.com

Transport

Bus 51B and 78A from Aston Quay, bus 123 from O'Connell Street or Dame Street.

Opens September to June: 9.30am-7pm July and August: 9am-8pm

Admission

Adults €18.50 adults. Concessions and discounts for online bookings available.

St. Patrick's Cathedral photo

St. Patrick's Cathedral

St Patrick's Cathedral is Ireland's largest church. It's erected on the site where St. Patrick is believed to have baptized his converts to the Christian faith when he visited Dubl…

St. Patrick's Cathedral

St Patrick's Cathedral is Ireland's largest church. It's erected on the site where St. Patrick is believed to have baptized his converts to the Christian faith when he visited Dublin. The current building dates back to the 12th century, although it has been restored and altered over the years.

Jonathan Swift was dean of St. Patrick's from 1713 to 1745, during which time he penned Gulliver's Travels. Visitors can still see his tomb and pulpit. There are many tombs and memorials in the cathedral and it is interesting to get a guided tour to learn more about all the history on show. The cathedral has a nice little gift shop and really lovely grounds to enjoy. Marsh's Library is right next to the church. It is worth a visit for anybody interested in old, rare and unusual books. The cathedral still has daily services, which are open to the public.

The church has a particularly impressive Boys Choir. Tourists have to pay a small fee for entry, with all proceeds going towards maintenance of the magnificent building. If, however, visitors want to attend a service to worship, there is no admission fee. The cathedral is sometimes closed for special services.

Address St Patrick's Close

Website www.stpatrickscathedral.ie

Opens March to October: Monday to Friday 9am-5pm; Saturday 9am-6pm; Sunday 9am-10.30am, 12.30pm-2.30pm, 4.30pm-6pm. November to February: Monday to Saturday 9am-5pm; Sunday 9am-3pm

Admission

Adults €6.50. Concessions available.

James Joyce Museum photo

James Joyce Museum

Located nine miles (14km) south of Dublin, the Martello Tower is one of 34 towers built in 1804 to protect Ireland against a possible Napoleonic naval invasion. The tower was demil…

James Joyce Museum

Located nine miles (14km) south of Dublin, the Martello Tower is one of 34 towers built in 1804 to protect Ireland against a possible Napoleonic naval invasion. The tower was demilitarised in the 1860s and is now home to the James Joyce Museum. Sylvia Beach, the Paris-based publisher of , founded the museum in 1962. It was the place where Joyce stayed in 1904 and where he was inspired to set the opening chapter of his famous book.

The exhibition hall contains first editions of most of Joyce's works as well as other interesting memorabilia, including one of the two official death masks made of Joyce, and reproductions of how the rooms would have looked when Joyce wrote the book. This is essentially a museum for Joyce fans, and it will delight lovers of Ulysses in particular. Those who are not in the know may not be overly captivated. Having said that, everybody who visits will be astounded by the lovely views and picturesque setting of the tower, and many find the historical structure interesting in its own right.

The museum is now run by volunteers who are wonderfully friendly and enthusiastic. There is no charge for admission but donations are welcome.

Address Sandycove Point, Dun Laoghaire, Dublin

Website http://www.joycetower.ie/

Transport

DART to Sandycove, or bus 59 from Dun Laoghaire

Opens Summer: 10am-6pm Winter: 10am-4pm

Admission

Free

Blarney Castle photo

Blarney Castle

Built around 1446, Blarney Castle is one of Ireland's oldest and most historic castles. An ancient stronghold of the MacCarthys, Lords of Muskerry, and one of the strongest fortres…

Blarney Castle

Built around 1446, Blarney Castle is one of Ireland's oldest and most historic castles. An ancient stronghold of the MacCarthys, Lords of Muskerry, and one of the strongest fortresses in Munster, its walls are 18ft (5m) thick in places. Located on the parapet of the castle is the famous 'Blarney Stone'. According to local legend, after kissing this stone, one will have the gift of eternal eloquence, or 'the gift of the gab'. To do this, visitors must first position themselves on their back, then lean their head back and downwards over the edge of the battlements, with the help of an attendant, in order to kiss the underside of the stone. This is a rather scary process but the fear is part of the thrill.

The grounds of this magnificent ruin are an attraction in themselves, with well-maintained pathways and great natural features that are worth exploring for several hours. There is a Poison Garden full of dangerous and deadly plants, and a magical rock passageway. Visitors should walk down the Witch's Steps backwards for good luck!

Blarney Castle is one of Ireland's most famous attractions and it can get very crowded in the summer season. Guests should visit early to avoid queuing for entry and to kiss the stone. The last admission to the castle and grounds is 30 minutes before closing.

Address Five miles (8km) from Cork

Website www.blarneycastle.ie

Opens Monday to Saturday 9am-7pm (June to August), 9am-6.30pm (May and September), 9am-6pm (March, April and October) 9am to 5pm(November to February). Sundays 9.30am-5.30pm (until sunset in winter).

Admission

€18 for adults, €8 for children (8-16 years, under 8s free). Concessions available.

Adare photo

Adare

Nestled in a wooded landscape among the picturesque farmlands of the Golden Vale, Adare is known as one of the prettiest villages in Ireland. It is conveniently located just ten mi…

Adare

Nestled in a wooded landscape among the picturesque farmlands of the Golden Vale, Adare is known as one of the prettiest villages in Ireland. It is conveniently located just ten miles (16km) from Limerick City, and connected to many other Irish towns by bus. The small village is centred on a street of thatched Tudor-style cottages and hedges, surrounded by intriguing medieval churches and castle ruins.

Attractions include Desmond Castle, the Trinitarian Abbey, the Augustinian Priory, and the Franciscan Friary. A visit to the Adare Heritage Centre is a must for anyone interested in the rich history of this town, which dates back to the Norman conquest of Ireland. The exhibitions offer some good contextual information on the churches and abbeys to be visited in the area, and the information is available in five different languages. Adare is within easy distance of three golf courses, and the town has a good selection of restaurants, pubs and craft shops. Adare's Old Creamery is a hit with visitors searching out quality tea and treats, and the shop's Christmas and Halloween-themed merchandise is pretty entertaining. For a bit of fresh air and some insight into Celtic worship, visitors can stroll around the lovely Celtic Park gardens.

County Kerry photo

County Kerry

Kerry County is widely regarded as the most beautiful region in Ireland. It's the country's most popular tourist destination with its rugged scenery, picturesque villages, coastal …

County Kerry

Kerry County is widely regarded as the most beautiful region in Ireland. It's the country's most popular tourist destination with its rugged scenery, picturesque villages, coastal resorts and wealth of attractions. The panoramic Ring of Kerry drive on the Iveragh Peninsula affords spectacular views of Ireland's highest mountain, the Lakes of Killarney, and the stunning coastal scenery. There are also many ancient and historic sites along the way, including the incredible ruins on the Skellig islands. The Killarney National Park is also renowned for its beauty and variety of outdoor activities. The Dingle Peninsula has magnificent coastal scenery and is the westernmost point of Europe. Villages like Kenmare and Dingle offer a wonderful glimpse of traditional Irish life. Fresh seafood and authentic music make any visit a delight.

County Kerry is a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts, ideal for boating, fishing, walking, golfing and cycling. The Ring of Kerry is best enjoyed during the summer months as bad weather reduces visibility. Even in thick fog, it is an enchanting region which makes its way onto most Irish travel itineraries and seldom disappoints.

Website www.ringofkerrytourism.com

Cliffs of Moher photo

Cliffs of Moher

The steep and wondrous Cliffs of Moher overlook the Atlantic Ocean in County Clare, and are one of Ireland's top visitor sights. The majestic cliffs rise from the ocean to a height…

Cliffs of Moher

The steep and wondrous Cliffs of Moher overlook the Atlantic Ocean in County Clare, and are one of Ireland's top visitor sights. The majestic cliffs rise from the ocean to a height of 702ft (214m) and extend for a distance of five miles (8km). Formed by layers of sandstone, shale and siltstone, the cliffs have stood unchanged for millions of years. Visitors come to marvel at their splendour, and to enjoy views towards the Aran Islands in Galway Bay, as well as the valleys and hills of Connemara. If at all possible, travellers should visit the cliffs on a clear day to fully appreciate the views and natural beauty. On misty or rainy days, it's impossible see the ocean far below, and the wind on the cliff-tops can be terrifyingly strong.

The award-winning visitor centre offers an ultra-modern interpretive centre, Atlantic Edge, which includes interactive exhibits and displays, images, an audio visual show, and a virtual reality cliff-face adventure. Travellers can quite easily approach the cliffs without visiting the centre, but learning a bit about the place enriches the experience.

Website www.cliffsofmoher.ie

Transport

Direct buses are available from Galway Bus station to the Cliffs of Moher between three and five times a day.

Opens Open 9am year-round. Closing times are as follows: November to February 5pm; March and October 6pm (6.30pm on weekends and bank holidays); April 6.30pm (7pm Weekends & Bank Holidays); May and September 7pm (7.30pm on weekends and bank holidays); June 7.30pm (8pm on weekends and bank holidays); July to August 9pm.

Admission

Off peak: €4 adults, €3.50 students/seniors/disabled. Peak: €8 adults, €5 students/seniors/disabled. Children under 16 free.

The Old Jameson Distillery photo

The Old Jameson Distillery

Jameson, who was actually a Scotsman, moved to Dublin to start a whiskey distillery in the 1770s and clearly made a lasting impression on the industry, despite the many distillerie

The Old Jameson Distillery

Jameson, who was actually a Scotsman, moved to Dublin to start a whiskey distillery in the 1770s and clearly made a lasting impression on the industry, despite the many distilleries making fine Irish whiskey in Dublin at the time.

The Old Jameson Distillery is located in the heart of Dublin. Visiting is a treat for whiskey lovers, and there's a taste of Irish culture and history thrown into the bargain. This museum illustrates the history of Irish whiskey, known in Irish as (the water of life). The expert guides will answer any questions whiskey lovers might have. The tour takes visitors through the triple distillation process that sets Jameson apart. In the beginning there is a film explaining the 'Angel's Share', which is very interesting. A free glass of Jameson Whiskey is included in the tour and visitors can choose to partake in a whiskey tasting in the bar after their tour and sample different Irish, Scotch and American whiskeys.

The tour lasts just over an hour, but guests can stay afterwards to enjoy the bars, restaurant and gift shop. A popular souvenir from the gift shop is a personalised bottle of whiskey, which will delight any whiskey drinkers back home.

Address Bow St, Smithfield Village

Website www.tours.jamesonwhiskey.com

Transport

Both the Dublin Bus and the Sightseeing Hop On Hop Off bus stop at Smithfield (Stop 20). From there, it's a short walk up Church Street and left on to May Lane/Bow Street.

Opens Open daily: Monday to Saturday 9am-7pm, Sunday 10am-6pm (last tour at 5:15pm). Closed Good Friday and Christmas holidays.

Admission

Adults €14, Children under 18 €7.70. Concessions available.