If you are planning a trip to the Republic of Ireland or just need some inspiration on things to do, maybe this will point you in the right direction! I have been to Ireland twice now and have loved it both times. It has a way of making you feel at home. But beyond it’s friendly nature and amazing natural beauty, there are some truly fun things to see and do there. If you are like me, I try to steer clear of things that label me as a tourist and really try to immerse myself in the culture. That being said, there are a few things that I feel, tourist or not, should be done when traveling through the Republic of Ireland: the National Leprechaun Museum in Dublin; Knowth/Newgrange, part of the Brú na Bóinne in Donore, County Meath; Blarney Castle and Fern Garden; Trim Castle which was featured in “Braveheart”; the Cliffs of Moher in County Clare; and many activities in Dingle including the Fungie Dolphin Tour.
The National Leprechaun Museum.
Rarely would I ever visit or recommend a museum, but this was the exception! This will probably be the closest and easiest thing on the list to do, as most people will fly into Ireland through the capitol. It is located close to the Ha’penny Bridge and the Temple Bar region. The cost for an adult is €12, but well worth the fun! They tell lots of fun, interesting stories about the folklore/mythology of Ireland. Also included is a little bit of magic! This is great for any age.
BrúnaBóinne: Newgrange and Knowth.
We did this as a day trip from Dublin via bus. These are historical sites that are older than the pyramids, and are truly a wonder of the world. Basically in layman’s terms, they are ancient burials with some astronomical attachments, such as the sun only shines through the burial mound during the winter solstice (from December 18-23). The main one to visit is Newgrange, but we opted to go to Knowth as it had a shorter wait. You can see both (and there is a third, smaller site called Dowth) if you feel so inclined to do so, but either reservations or getting an early start is recommended. The difference between the 2 sites is that with Newgrange, you are allowed to enter the central chamber, versus Knowth has more art and you can only see down the central tunnel, not the chamber itself. Definitely a once in a lifetime visit.
This is the famous castle that was used in the shooting of the movie “Braveheart” directed by Mel Gibson. It is also the largest Norman castle in Ireland. At the front of the keep is a very heavy wooden door, that has a massive key that the tour guides will show that is still functional. A wonderful old castle to check out while in Ireland! The grounds are beautiful as well, so don’t miss exploring. It is located in the quaint little town of Trim. The town has a wonderful bakery within walking distance, that serves amazing Irish vegetable soup and brown bread.
Blarney Castle and Fern Garden.
This castle is known for the legendary Stone of Eloquence. It is said that kissing it will give you the “gift of gab” and you will never be at a loss for words.1 This tops the list for tourist attractions in Ireland, but for good reason! It really is fun to do and even though it costs quite a lot, I really do think the photo of kissing the stone is worth getting while you are there. It is perfectly safe and has a beautiful view from the top. Another part of the ground that is worth seeing while you’re there is the fern garden located nearby. Now I know what you are thinking, why would someone want to see some old ferns? But these ferns are almost the size of palm trees, and there is a gorgeous waterfall. Plus as an added bonus, there are a few tiki statues scattered about.
The Best Place in Ireland: Dingle!
I really cannot say enough good things about this town! It has a small hometown feel to it, which for me is perfect. I have taken 2 trips to Ireland, and I can honestly say this was by far the best place in Ireland! There are lots of shops, great eateries, terrific local music, an archaeological tour, pubs, an aquarium, quaint hostels and B&B’s, a little movie theater, and of course Fungie the dolphin. I won’t get into everything about Dingle. Instead let me say that if you do nothing else in this town, go see Fungie and listen to Eoin Duignan the traditional Irish bagpiper. You can catch a boat tour of Fungie at the bay and you are guaranteed to see him or you don’t pay. As for Eoin, he can usually be found playing in a local pub and his wife owns a vegetarian cafe in town. Or you can go by the Celtic gift store, formerly known as the Craic House2, where Mike the owner can point you in the right direction. Really though, this town should be the number one stop on any Irish itinerary.
Last But Not Least: the Breathtaking Cliffs of Moher.
702 feet at their highest point they stretch for 5 miles along the Atlantic coast of County Clare in the west of Ireland3. These cliffs have been in dozens of movies as well as having thousands of visitors each year. They are also known for great surfing. Many shops have setup in the nearby visitors center. A viewing tower (O’Brien Tower) is also located there but has a small entry fee. For me, having lived in a landlocked region my whole life, this was really a spectacular sight! Be sure to plan enough time for exploring this area.
Of course this is all just my opinion, but I hope it was helpful. I have made countless memories on my trips to the Emerald Isle. May you make countless on your travels! As they say in Gaelic sláinte mhaith!