Lyrically gorgeous, charmingly ancient and culturally endowed – Ireland is an enchantress all the way! With some of the friendliest people on earth and a proud heritage, there’s plenty for travelers to take in from this small country with such a large legacy. Here are eleven of our top things to do while in Ireland:
Trinity College, Dublin
Its mind-blowing Long Room was the inspiration behind “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” library. This fairytale-like university (Ireland’s oldest) provides a glimpse of old-worldly academic pursuit with its cobblestones, sprawling grounds and the jaw-dropping Book of Kells (permanent exhibit). Trinity College is the perfect blend of modern and ancient. Weird mix, huh? Grab a sandwich from the cafeteria, while you avoid the chaos of the outer world.
Grafton Street, Dublin
Grafton is beyond your regular shopping block. It pulsates with an unflinching energy evident in everything from the performing artists to flower-sellers. Watch the world pass by as you take in Dublin’s famed café culture. Tuck into hearty portions of the celebrated Irish breakfast at Bewley’s Oriental Café on a bright, sunny day or explore the labyrinth of vibrant alleyways. Dublin’s shopping nucleus is a great place for snagging cool merchandise at bargain prices.
The Aran Islands
Made famous by the fictional documentary “Man of Aran,” The Aran Islands captures the imagination of vacationers for its time-warp feel, rugged natural beauty and stone structures. From the Dun Aonghasa fort to the elevated cliffs and the endearing local culture, the place is a montage of utterly unusual experiences. The generous scenery offers rich camping and glamping options. Stay at a charming local Bed & Breakfast, while you explore the islands’ Celtic churches and other archeological wonders.
Ring of Kerry
Inarguably Ireland’s most picturesque route, the Ring of Kerry commences from Kenmare or Killarney, concluding at the same place in less than three hours. Along the route, there are visually stunning vistas to feast on, including Atlantic Ocean panoramas, gorgeous islands, rugged mountains and scenic village communities. Enjoy outdoor activities such as cycling, golf, horse-riding, water sports and more. Heritage enthusiasts can explore ancient monasteries and forts. Get ready to check out views like never before.
Bunratty Castle and Folk Park
The quintessential family attraction, Bunratty Castle is wow-worthy for its well preserved medieval charm (fortress restores in the 1950s), themed banquets and elegant tapestries. Witness fine furnishings from the 15th and 16th century inside the castle. Housing 30 structures in a traditional village atmosphere, the striking Folk Park brings alive the nostalgic Ireland of yore with its cute shops, farm homes and country-style streets. This attraction packs in plenty of excitement and exploration opportunities for families with young children.
Shop Street, Galway
If you’re in Galway, Shop Street is a must figure on your itinerary. It’s just how it sounds, a street to shop! Overflowing with retailers selling everything books to jewels, along with tons of small boutiques, street performers and cafés dotting the pedestrian streets. The iconic street also houses Lynch’s Castle – a medieval townhouse. There are lots of gift and souvenir shops around, complemented by Galway’s signature laid-back vibe. You can grab their fix of art and culture at the numerous galleries and shops here.
The Rock of Cashel
The country’s most visited attraction, the Rock of Cashel is a permanent fixture on the Emerald Isle landscape. Nestled on a limestone rock, this cluster of medieval structures comprises the High Cross and Romanesque Chapel, an erstwhile Gothic cathedral, The Hall of Vicars Choral, a round tower and a splendid centuries-old castle and more. There are audio-visual shows and exhibits for visitors. This former High Kings of Munster seat offers a delightful slice of Irish history.
St. Stephens Green, Dublin
Loved by locals for its rich historic legacy and serene setting, St. Stephen’s Green is perfect for unwinding or enjoying a leisurely family picnic. Feed ducks or stroll through ‘The Green’s’ (as locals call it) gorgeously landscaped gardens. The straight out of fables garden is replete with a beautiful bridge, a children’s playground and a pretty duck pond. Among the several Georgian structures, visit the Shelbourne Hotel for their popular afternoon tea treat at Lord Mayor’s Lounge.
Cork’s English Market
Prepare for a heady sensory experience at Cork’s English Market, a closed food emporium featuring the finest regional Irish food, artisanal preparations and locally grown ingredients. Go shopping, grab some food and people watch through the alleyways. This erstwhile market reverberates with tales of Irish Independence War, years of famine and the Civil War. It’s truly a historic walk in the marketplace. The English market was at the nucleus of much of Europe’s food culture centered on natural and locally grown produce. From craft butchers to fishmongers to artisanal producers (chutney, cakes, soda bread, chocolates and goat’s cheese), the fresh food buzz is palpably strong here.
It’s virtually blasphemous to visit Ireland and skip Guinness Storehouse, a center that pays homage to the most enduring Irish symbol like Guinness draught beer. This transformed former grain house is the access to a public zone of a 26-hectare brewery. If you love some the Irish black and gold famed beer, you can roam across seven sprawling floors of everything Guinness, concluding the tour with a memorable tasting session at the Gravity Bar (offering splendid views). Just make sure to book ahead online to save on tour charges.
Powerscourt House and Gardens, Co. Wicklow
With spectacular views, idyllic lakeside walks, stimulating history and a near-surreal Sugarloaf Mountain backdrop, there’s a lot going for this stunner of an Irish attraction. And it’s all nestled about 20 kilometers from the heart of Dublin. Owned by the Slazenger clan, the home rests on 47 beautifully manicured acres of land. Stroll along the Rose and Kitchen Gardens or explore the exquisite Italian Gardens. There’s more than 200 varieties of flora and a rather moving section (the family pets are buried here with headstone inscriptions) complete the experience. Make sure to visit the craft shops and an in-house amazing café and restaurant.