Like most countries around the globe, Ireland is full of world-famous sights. In Dublin you’ve got the Guinness Storehouse and Trinity College, down south in Cong you have the wonderful Ashford Castle, and over in the west, you’ve got the stunning Cliffs of Moher. While visiting an attraction is one thing, experiencing the best things to do in Ireland is wholly different altogether – your group gets to immerse themselves in a piece of culture or history.
Despite its small stature, the Emerald Isle has a mighty presence. Known for its fascinating history, breathtaking beauty, and charming cultural traditions, the country offers endless opportunities for exploration. So where to begin with the top things to do in Ireland?
Unique Things To Do In Ireland As A Student
A feast for the eyes, this dramatic medieval castle has been painstakingly refurbished in recent years to become the world’s finest castle hotel. Previously owned by the Guinness family, the original structure was built in the early 12th century. Situated on 350 acres surrounding the shores of Lough Corrib, the castle grounds offer a range of activities including fishing, falconry, horseback riding, and more. Over the years this iconic property has played host to its share of celebrities and royalty and has served as a backdrop for films such as The Quiet Man.
You need to grab your cameras for this one. This monastery, built for nuns who fled Belgium during World War 1, was built on the grounds of the Kylemore Castle in 1920 and is absolutely astounding. The castle itself was constructed in 1867 as a home for the Mitchell family and features more than 33 bedrooms. The estate was sold to other families over the next several decades before coming into the possession of the Irish Benedictine nuns. The nuns ran the Abbey as a Catholic school for girls until 2010. Today the estate offers tours of their impressive walled Victorian-style gardens.
The Ring of Kerry
This ring is not a royal jewel but is actually a famed scenic route along with County Kerry in southwest Ireland. Appreciated for passing through iconic and picturesque landscapes, the route crosses Killarney and Kenmare before passing through the Iveragh Peninsula, Sneem, Waterville, Cahersiveen, and Glenbeigh. An easy day trip for students and families with the best things to do in Ireland, this driving route offers views of castles, a national park, Rossbeigh Beach, Moll’s Gap, the Torc Waterfall, and St. Mary’s Cathedral. The best way to undergo this journey is with an experienced guide who can manage the sometimes complex, narrow winding roads of the ring while pointing out the many points of interest.
Positioned in West Ireland between Lough Corrib and Galway Bay along the River Corrib, this populous Irish city is noted for both its history as well as its places of interest. Here you will find Lynch’s Castle, little more than a medieval townhouse, as well as the Church of Ireland that is the St. Nicholas Collegiate Church, the oldest remaining medieval church is still in daily use in all of Ireland. There’s also an assortment of museums, canals, parks, and other ancient castles to explore. This combination of offerings has earned Galway the title of Ireland’s “Cultural Center,” and it’s also been ranked in the top 50 cities worldwide to visit.
Located on the northeast coast of Ireland, the Giant’s Causeway consists of nearly 40,000 interlocking basalt columns which were made by an ancient volcanic eruption. Irish legend tells a different story that the causeway was built by giants to cross the North Channel between Ireland and Scotland. While versions of the outcome of this meeting vary, what is fascinating, is that across the channel on the Scottish side, a very similar formation also exists.
The Dingle Peninsula
Marked as the northernmost peninsula in County Kerry, this area is home to Ireland’s Slieve Mountain range. At 951 meters, Mount Brandon offers a summit with enormous views of the peninsula. The Peninsula is renowned for exquisite panoramic as well as Minard Castle, the shipwreck Ranga, and the East Tower which is part of the Ring of Kerry. Many of these sites can be taken in during a scenic drive along Connor Pass, which also doubles as the highest mountain pass road in Ireland.
The Library at Trinity College
Ireland’s oldest college founded in 1592, Trinity plays home to the famed Book of Kells. If you have a chance to visit Trinity’s centuries-old library, don’t pass it up. Here you’ll find what’s been regarded as Ireland’s “finest national treasure.” The Book of Kells, which was completed by St Jerome in 834AD, is an illustrated four-volume manuscript depicting tales of the Gospels of the New Testament. Take a look for yourself and enjoy a fascinating dose of Irish history, religion, and culture and mark it in your bucket list as a priority.
A Pint of Guinness
Is a trip to Ireland worth it without a stop at one of the famed pubs for a tall glass of stout? Temple Bar is a historic area in central Dublin. Unlike other parts of Dublin, it is promoted as a cultural quarter and has sparkling nightlife. Popular venues include The Palace Bar, The Temple Bar Pub, the Turk’s Head, Czech Inn, the Quays Bar, the Foggy Dew, The Auld Dubliner, and Bad Bobs. Order a perfectly poured Guinness at one of these pubs and step back in time while you take in all this neighborhood has to offer.
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If you plan to visit Belfast on your trip to Ireland you should consider adding Titanic Belfast to your itinerary of unique things to do in Ireland. This monument to Belfast’s maritime heritage tells the stories of the RMS Titanic through a variety of interactive exhibitions and galleries. The facility has over 130,000 square feet of floor space.
You can also stay at the Titanic Belfast Hotel, which is conveniently located right beside the museum. Before you go to Titanic Belfast, it is recommended that you look at when the cruise ships are in town. Then, plan around the cruise ship schedule.
Catch a Gaelic Football or Hurling Game
The Irish love their games and while there are many sports in Ireland, Hurling and Gaelic Football are perhaps the country’s most unique sports. Hurling is the fastest field game on grass in the world. It can be linked to field hockey but with a little twist.
On the other hand, Gaelic Football can simply be loosely described as a hybrid between soccer and rugby. You can catch live matches of these unique Irish outdoor team sports during summer and should be one of the things on your to-do list in Ireland.
The Wild Atlantic Way
The Wild Atlantic Way runs along the west coast of Ireland, bordered by villages unspoiled by pollution. If you choose to drive along this way, you’ll be treated to a panorama of stunning coastlines along with one of the most captivating, wildest, and culturally rich coastal routes in the world. Once you start your adventure, you’ll fall in love with the rugged beauty of the west. There are up to 156 strategically placed viewpoints along the route where you can take stops to soak in the sights.
Muckross Head, County Donegal
If you’re a rock-climbing enthusiast, then grab your ropes and head over to Muckross Head. Once there, you’ll find some of the best rock-climbing opportunities, and is one of the best things to do in Ireland. While the brave and daring can challenge themselves with climbs going up to 20m in height, don’t be fooled by this short distance in vertical height since climbs can get quite strenuous due to the overhanging nature of rocks on the Muckross Head.
The multi-layered terrain of mudstone and sand also provides many overhangs to cling to when scaling steep cliffs. For people not looking to scale cliffs, beaches are waiting nearby for you to take a dip in. Windy and tidal conditions of the beaches make them ideal for surfing as well.
Attend An Irish Festival
Ireland has a busy calendar of festivals all year round. So, no matter the time of the year, there will definitely be a local cultural event of interest for you to attend. The Irish know how to throw a great festival and you’re expected to come prepared for some fun.
Some of the best annual festivals you should try attending are:
- The Dublin Theater Festival is held every September and October.
- The Galway Arts Festival, which takes place every July and attracts more than 400 artists from all corners of the globe.
- Watching the Kilkenny Cat Laughs, which is a comedy festival held during the June Bank Holiday Weekend.
Indulge In Authentic Irish Cuisine
Ireland’s culinary diversity will simply leave you spoiled for choice since there are countless restaurants to choose from where you can enjoy exotic dishes. What would be the point of traveling to Ireland without sampling some authentic Irish cuisine, of course, this has to be one of the best things to do in Ireland. Irish food can be best described as hearty. Almost all dishes involve potatoes, cabbage, and meat, especially lamb and pork, but with a strong emphasis on using fresh local ingredients.
When visiting one of the local eateries, don’t just stick to eating Fish and Chips – make it a point to try some of the local dishes too. A few of the best Irish dishes to order include mashed potatoes with cabbage, potato pancakes, seafood pie, and Irish stew that is a watery broth full of flavor containing lamb stew, potatoes, celery, carrots, and onions. Once you’ve had your fill, be sure to wash down your delicious meal with an ice-cold glass of Guinness or your favorite beer in the true Irish style.
Listing the top things to do in Ireland is not an easy call because there’s a lot more than you can undergo in a land that’s so heavily steeped in culture, beauty, and history. However, the travel attractions and activities listed above have been thoughtfully chosen to ensure that there will be something for anyone who chooses to explore the mythical Celtic wonderland, Ireland.
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