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Things to Do in Ireland

On the Emerald Isle, coastlines, castles, and hospitality abound. Pucker up at the Blarney Stone, sip a stout in a thatched-roof pub or after a tour of the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin, or feel the icy blast of the Atlantic at the Cliffs of Moher. Indisputable highlights include the UNESCO-listed Giant’s Causeway, with its mysterious rows of hexagonal columns; the culture-rich cities of Galway and Cork; and the natural wonders contained by the Ring of Kerry. Roughly 300 miles long, the island can easily be explored end to end, with live music, ancient ruins, and traditional watering holes never too far away from any stop.
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Killarney National Park
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Killarney National Park is 25,000 acres (10,000 hectares) of mountain and lakeside beauty. It has woodlands, islands, waterfalls, historic houses and working farms. There are deer and cattle, eagles and world famous gardens. It's the perfect place for hiking, cycling, boating, pony trekking, fishing, landscape-gazing, or riding in a jaunting car - a light, two-wheeled horse drawn vehicle. One of the most popular panoramic viewing points is Ladies View.

Within the park, Muckross House is one of Ireland's foremost stately homes which is open to the public along with its famous gardens. Here you can pick up a guide to the park from the National Park Information Centre. There is also Knockreer which has an eduction center, and Killarney House and Gardens (the gate lodge here also has information booklets on the park) and Muckross Abbey and y can catch a boat across to Innisfallen Island on the Lower Lake.

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Cobh Heritage Centre (The Queenstown Story)
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The Cobh Heritage Centre tells the stories of Irish heritage and emigration to the United States. Between 1848 and 1950 more than 6 million people emigrated from Ireland, and more than 2.5 million of them left from Cobh, making Cobh the most important port of emigration in the country. At the museum, visitors can view the Queenstown Story, which is an exhibition that tells about the origins, history, and legacy of Cobh. You can retrace the steps of the people who left from Cobh in coffin ships, early steamers, and eventually great ocean liners. Exhibits allow visitors to see the conditions on board the early emigrant ships and to experience what life was like on board convict ships leaving for Australia in 1801.

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Gallarus Oratory
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Gallarus Oratory is Ireland's best preserved early Christian church. The exact year of its construction is not known, but it is believed to be more than a thousand years old. The church is located five miles from Dingle Town on the Dingle Peninsula in southwestern Ireland. It was constructed entirely from dry stone masonry and resembles an overturned boat. This church is one of the highlights of the scenic Slea Head Drive. Along the scenic drive, visitors will also see views of Smerwick Harbor, the Three Sisters and Mount Brandon.

Visitors will be able to see a church that has not been restored because it hasn't needed to be. The stones were carefully fitted together without the use of mortar, and aside from a small sag in the roof, the construction has held up for centuries. You can enter the oratory through a 6.5 foot doorway, and there are two stones with holes that once held a door.

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Cromwell's Bridge
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No one knows quite how Cromwell’s Bridge in Kenmare got its name, but it likely wasn’t named after Oliver Cromwell. One popular theory about the stone bridge is that it was named ‘croimeal,’ the Gaelic word for ‘mustache,’ but when English-speakers overheard locals talking about the bridge, they assumed they were saying ‘Cromwell.” However it got its name, Cromwell’s Bridge is one of several beautiful and ancient sites along the scenic Ring of Kerry. It’s located just outside the village of Kenmare near the Stone Circle, making it a convenient stop for visitors passing through the area.

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Ross Castle
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A vision on the shores of Lough Leane, the 15th-century Ross Castle was built as a medieval fortress for an Irish chieftain named O’Donoghue, and was said to be one of the last strongholds to fall to the brutal English Cromwellian forces in the mid-16th century. The ruin has been restored, and features lovely 16th- and 17th-century furniture.
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More Things to Do in Ireland

Wild Atlantic Way

Wild Atlantic Way

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Giant's Causeway

Giant's Causeway

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Giant's Causeway is a cluster of approximately 40,000 basalt columns rising out of the sea on the Antrim Coast of Northern Ireland. These rock formations get their name from an old legend stating that Irish warrior Finn McCool built the path across the sea to face his Scottish rival, Benandonner.

On his way back to Scotland, Benandonner tears up the path behind him, leaving just what exists today on the Northern Irish coast and the Scottish island of Staffa, which has similar rock formations.

While the legend makes for an interesting story, geologists have a different explanation for the creation of the Giant's Causeway: volcanic activity. Now declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, thousands of tourists visit Giant's Causeway each year to marvel at and photograph this natural wonder.

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Stone Circle

Stone Circle

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Waterford Treasures Medieval Museum

Waterford Treasures Medieval Museum

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Bishop's Palace

Bishop's Palace

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The Bishop’s Palace is one of the three museums known as the Waterford Treasures located in the Viking Triangle in Waterford, Ireland. It was designed in 1741 by architect Richard Castles, one of Ireland’s greatest architects. The front of the palace overlooks the town wall, which forms part of the palace’s terraced garden. The ground floor and first floors of the palace are furnished as an elegant 18th century townhouse and feature period furniture, beautiful fireplaces and rare paintings.

The museum tells the history of Waterford from 1700 to the mid-20th century, with an entire floor dedicated to stories about Waterford’s Home Rule story, World War I in Waterford and the War of Independence in Waterford. It also displays unique pieces such as the Penrose Decanter, the oldest surviving piece of Waterford Crystal, dating to 1789, and the only surviving Bonaparte “mourning cross,” one of just 12 crosses produced upon Napoleon’s death in 1821.

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Bunratty Castle and Folk Park

Bunratty Castle and Folk Park

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While many of Ireland’s Medieval castles have been reduced to crumbling ruins, Bunratty Castle is a rare exception—having been masterfully restored in 1954 to its original, powerful beauty. The castle was built in 1425, with the area’s first settlers being Viking traders in the mid-late 10th century. Today, Bunratty Castle is considered as Ireland’s most complete and authentic castle, where the tapestries, furniture, and regal surroundings create a mood that can instantly transport visitors back to the 16th century. At night, the Bunratty Castle Medieval banquet offers an historic reenactment of what it would be like to dine in the towering stone castle—and feel like a member of Irish nobility enjoying an evening meal. At the neighboring Bunratty Folk Village, skip ahead to the 18th century and experience what life must have been like in the rural Shannon countryside.

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Powerscourt Estate

Powerscourt Estate

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Blasket Islands

Blasket Islands

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Dingle Peninsula lie a group of abandoned sandstone islands rise out of the Atlantic Ocean. The Blasket Islands (Na Blascaodaí in Irish) have all been occupied at one point or another, but it was the tiny community on the largest island, The Great Blasket, that gained fame for its tradition of folklore and storytelling.

At its peak, the island boasted 175 residents; by the time the Irish government decided the islands were too dangerous for habitation and ordered a mandatory evacuation, there were only 22 people remaining.

Visitors to The Great Blasket find the ruined remains left behind by the island’s former inhabitants. An 8-mile (13-kilometer) walking path takes visitors past some of the island’s most spectacular scenery — sea cliffs and white sand beaches — with the opportunity to spot shorebirds and a colony of seals who now call the islands home.

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Cliffs of Moher

Cliffs of Moher

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The Irish landscape, normally so gentle and well-behaved, reaches for a dramatic flourish as it meets the Atlantic coast. The seaboard offers no greater sight than County Clare’s mighty Cliffs of Moher, which tower above the raging ocean below along a 5-mile (8-kilometer) stretch.

The viewing platform on top of crenellated O’Brien’s Tower provides the best vistas, stretching west to the Aran Islands and north to Galway Bay. To find out more about the natural and historical significance of the cliffs, explore the visitors’ center which is discreetly embedded in a hillside.

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Cork English Market

Cork English Market

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In 1610, during the reign of King James I, the first charter was granted for what has become Ireland’s most famous covered food market; it has been officially in business since 1788. Housed within a Victorian facade with vaulted ceilings and grand columns, the market is packed with vendors — many family-run for generations — selling regional delicacies alongside fresh produce and imported goods. Market visitors hoping to sample some local flavors will find, among other things, blood sausage, tripe, pig trotters, buttered eggs and spiced beef. Those with a less adventurous palate will also find deli meats, cheeses, fruits and baked goods on offer.

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Clonmacnoise

Clonmacnoise

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While Ireland’s weather is famously cool, it isn’t the temperature that will give you chills when visiting Clonmacnoise. Rather, it’s the 1,500 years of monastic history that’s powerfully felt in these ruins—where temples, cathedrals, home sites, and graveyards have withstood the elements for centuries. Originally founded in the 6th century, this stone village along the River Shannon prospered for a time as Christian monastery in Ireland’s central plains. Years of outside siege, however, would leave the settlement in ruins, and even though it now sits empty and is a shell of its former self, the stone towers and towering crosses can still move people today. When visiting the ruins at Clonmacnoise, silently stroll past one of the largest collection of Christian gravestones in Europe. Gaze upwards at the brown sandstone that forms the Cathedral’s north wall—a piece of architecture that astoundingly dates to the early part of the 8th century.

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