Iconic landmarks? Check. Top tourist attractions? Check. ‘Must see’ locations that live long in the memory? Check. Sorry if it sounds a bit boastful, but if you’re looking for things to ‘see and do’ we’re spoiled for choice in Ireland.
Not only do we have a plethora of natural and man-made attractions, a rich heritage, and fascinating culture, but you’ll also be welcomed like one of our own. Throw into the mix some of the best scenery on the planet, and you have all the ingredients for that trip of a lifetime.
Maybe you’re planning to visit us, and still deliberating over where to go? If so, we might be able to help. Causeway Campers has compiled a list. It’s not definitive (let’s be honest we could have made a top 100) but here is our Top 10 Best Places To Visit In Ireland.
1 – THE GIANT’S CAUSEWAY
We start right up north at the UNESCO World Heritage Site – The Giant’s Causeway (Northern Ireland’s most visited tourist attraction). This incredible vista of hexagonal-shaped basalt was created by volcanic eruption some 60 million years ago. At least that’s the scientific explanation. We much prefer the local legend of Finn McCool, a giant who built the causeway in order to do battle with his rival in Scotland. The Wishing Chair (everyone from politicians to celebrities and royalty have plonked their bottoms here), Giant’s Boot, and The Organ, are principal symbols of Finn’s magical myth. For the record there’s also a fantastic Visitor Centre on site.
2 – CLIFFS OF MOHER
Look up the definition of rugged, awe-inspiring natural beauty and it will probably just say, see: The Cliffs Of Moher. The west of Ireland’s craggy, unspoilt coastline boasts some of the most breath-taking views on the Emerald Isle, and the jewel in the crown is The Cliffs of Moher. Six hundred and sixty six feet above the Atlantic Ocean [not sure who measured it so exactly!) and stretching for five miles, these majestic vertical cliffs attract close to one million visitors every year (and yet still offers the opportunity to lose yourself in the surroundings). In addition to the cliffs themselves, the area provides a perfect vantage point from which to view the Aran Islands, Galway Bay, The Twelve Pins (Bens), and Maumturk Mountains.
3 – MUCKROSS HOUSE
Top of many people’s ‘must see’ list is Muckross House and Gardens, set in the spectacular 25,425 acre Killarney National Park. Perched on a peninsula between Muckross Lake and Lough Leane (two of the famed Lakes of Killarney) this 19th century building (once visited by Queen Victoria) retains the grandeur and elegance of a bygone era. Here you can step back in time (or ride back as the case may be) on board one of the Jaunting Cars (Killarney’s horse & traps) that ferry visitors around this fairy-tale world. Juxtaposed with the privileged existence of the few is that of the servants and local farm workers, with Muckross providing an intriguing insight into both. The gardens are simply stunning, with azaleas and rhododendrons spraying the entire area with a crimson hue in May.
4 – TITANIC BELFAST
The story of the world’s most famous ship; innovative and interactive displays; a stunning star-shaped six-floor setting; and all taking place a stone’s throw from where Titanic was built. What’s not to love? Titanic Belfast’s nine galleries take you on a voyage of discovery as you follow RMS Titanic from inception to launch, through ill-fated maiden trip to tragic end. The latest audio and visual technology is employed to ensure a true-to-life experience of ‘titanic’ proportions. Located in the heart of Belfast’s Titanic Quarter – just a short walk from the city centre – Titanic Belfast is the world’s largest Titanic visitor centre.
5 – CARRICK-A-REDE ROPE BRIDGE
Not perhaps the number one choice for vertigo sufferers, the National Trust run Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge is part experience, part personal challenge. Erected by fishermen more than 350-years ago to enable them to check their salmon nets, the bridge spans a 20-metrechasm with a 23-metre drop to the waters below. Once on the other side you can enjoy the diverse birdlife and stunning views of Rathlin Island (and Scotland beyond). Of course, the bad news is that the only way back is across the same swinging rope bridge that brought you there. Carrick-a-Rede is situated on the Causeway Coast, close to the picturesque Ballintoy Harbour. Are you up for the challenge?
6 – DUBLIN
Dublin’s ‘Fair City’ can rightfully claim to have something for everyone. Shopping, entertainment, historical buildings, museums – the list of attractions is endless. The city centre may have the expected metropolitan feel, but underpinning everything is a sense of history. This year, more than any other, that sense of the past will be inescapable with O’Connell Street the focus for the 100th anniversary of The Easter Rising. Delve further back in the annals and you can visit the Book of Kells (written in 800AD) or visit St Patrick’s Cathedral, one of the few remaining medieval buildings in the city. Dublin’s attractions, though, are myriad and diverse. Phoenix Park, the largest enclosed city park in Europe; the National Gallery of Ireland; Trinity College; Dublin Zoo; Grafton Street’s shops and buskers; the list goes on and on. Of course, you should also take time to relax and what do you know, the most visited tourist attraction in the city just happens to be the Guinness Storehouse, home of the ‘black stuff’ since 1759. Slainte!
7 – THE DARK HEDGES
The Dark Hedges is a natural phenomenon that makes shutters click involuntarily. A photographer’s dream, this beautiful avenue of beech trees [planted by the Stuart family in the 18th century] has a mystical quality. The branches, like bony, inter-twined fingers, can appear otherworldly and make the perfect setting for local ghost (the Grey Lady), who is said to appear at dusk. The Dark Hedges is also one of many local landmarks used as a filming location for HBO’s critically acclaimed Game Of Thrones [Why not check out our Causeway Campers’ Really Good Road Trips: Game Of Thrones Locations In Northern Ireland]
8 – THE RING OF KERRY
If you plan on visiting the Ring of Kerry it doesn’t much matter which direction you turn, or where you start. Kenmare could be your base, or Killarney, just go where the mood takes you and prepare for jaw-dropping Atlantic vista, wild sweeping mountains, picturesque villages, golden strands, and stunning islands. The Ring (so called due to the circular nature of this tourist route in the south-west of Ireland) offers endless variations, each with it’s own unique attraction. History buffs might fancy visiting Daniel O’Connell’s house at Derrynane or Ross Castle, avid snappers the panorama from Ladies View or Gap of Dunloe, solitude seekers Skellig Michael, or golfers (well, they’re in fairway nirvana). I suppose what we’re trying to say is that the Ring Of Kerry pretty much offers the best of everything.
9 – OLD BUSHMILLS DISTILLERY
By all means sample the sights and sounds of this great country, but don’t forget to ‘taste’. Next on our list, Old Bushmills Distillery, can certainly help in this area. One of the world’s oldest licensed whiskey distilleries (granted by King James I in 1608) it also boasts a brilliant visitor tour where you get to see first hand how the whiskey is made. From the special water that flows naturally from St Columb’s Rill, to the shiny copper stills and oak casks, the secrets of the world famous brand (well, some of them!) are revealed. The highlight for many, though, is The Sampling Room. Here you learn how to drink it too!
10 – DUNLUCE CASTLE
Dunluce Castle does not so much sit on a cliff top as precariously cling there. One of the Emerald Isle’s most iconic landmarks, this 14th century fortification overlooking Royal Portrush Golf Club (location for The Open Championship in 2019) has a rich history of occupation and siege. Richard de Burgh, legendary chieftain Sorley Boy McDonnell, Sir John Perrott, and its last occupant Randal MacConnell all came to appreciate its strengths as a stronghold. Like the Dark Hedges it is immensely popular with photographers, especially set against asummer sunset, but just be warned if you after the sun goes down…it’s haunted!