Travel to Ireland: Nine Must-See Spots
Planning a trip to Ireland? Or, have a trip to the Emerald Isle on your bucket list? No travel to Ireland is complete without visiting a few must-see spots, including quaint cities, beautiful castles, and breathtaking cliffs.
This is part two in a six-part series on travel to Ireland. Check out last week's post on recommendations for planning your trip. Then, stay tuned for posts three through six on what to wear and how to pack, driving recos and watch outs, photography tips, and fabulous food finds.
Must-See Spots for a 5-Day Trip to Ireland
The best decision we made when visiting Ireland was renting a car. For not being a huge country, Ireland boasts some of the most diverse and amazing sites. While you can take tours, driving allows you the opportunity to set your own schedule and change it as necessary, especially to accommodate changes in the weather.
We stayed in Adare, a small city in central Ireland. The sites we visited we all about a 1 1/2-hour to 2-hour drive from our villa. For travel in the winter months, you'll want to get out the door early since daylight ends around 4:30 p.m.
For a 1-week trip to Ireland, I recommend visiting nine different locations.
1. County Cork—Blarney Castle.
The first day, we visited Blarney Castle so we could kiss the famous Blarney Stone. Even in the middle of winter, the drive from Adare to County Cork was breathtaking and green, just like you see in the pictures. The castle grounds were gorgeous. The stairs were a bit steep, so I took things slow. And kissing the Blarney Stone was scary (scary, but worth it) since you had to lay on your back while putting your head far back to reach the stone.
2. The Irish Countryside.
Road tripping through Ireland allows you the opportunity to stop and take pictures at very old cemeteries, walk out into the ocean, jump in rain puddles, and stop while sheep cross the road. Our favorite moments from the trip took place as we veered off the beaten path or simply stopped to smell the roses (or the four leaf clovers)... and take pictures of them, of course!
3. Southeast Ireland: Coastal Towns.
On our drive back from Blarney Castle, we drove along the water and stopped in many coastal towns: Waterford, Youghal, Cobh, and more. We all agreed we would have loved to have had more time in each place and while Cobh was beautiful, we wouldn't recommend going out of your way to stop there for a week-long trip. Waterford, on the other hand, seemed like a town to explore a little more. Youghal has a terrific beach where we stopped to get our Karate Kid on by doing the Crane on some posts in the sand. It's all about the photo opps, right?
4. Kilarney National Park.
We found ourselves in Kilarney National Park on a drive from Kilarney to Kenmare. We loved this lush forest complete with waterfalls, moss covered trees, lakes, rivers, mountains, quaint churches on the sides of hills, and beautiful vistas. This was the perfect place to end up on a rainy day, given that you spend so much time in the car. Jumping in rain puddles, anyone?
5. The Ring of Kerry.
The Ring of Kerry was recommended in every book and online resource we read and we could see why. Its breathtaking views of the mountains and water were amazing. Be careful of fog, however. We nearly missed the beauty, but fortunately, the fog lifted. Give yourself enough time to wait for the fog to lift if you have to. You'll definitely want to experience the views.
Dublin is a big city with a quaint feel, incorporating big buildings with small and colorful pubs and businesses. We took the train from Adare to Dublin and did a Hop On, Hop Off Tour of the city, enjoying some of the major sites. Our favorite was Trinity College and the library there.
The only thing we didn't enjoy about Dublin was not having enough time there. I recommend spending a minimum of 2-3 days in Dublin if you're traveling more than a week to Ireland as it has so much to offer and seeing the sites alone can consume a good amount of time.
7. Cliffs of Moher.
Save the Cliffs of Moher for one of your sunniest days. You absolutely don't want to miss the breathtaking views. Plan to spend a good few hours there, walking on the trails, taking pictures, and enjoying the scenery. Words truly can't describe how amazing this site is!
8. Galway City.
Galway City isn't nearly the size of Dublin, but is still a large city. It boasts fabulous restaurants, shopping, pubs, and sits right on the water. We enjoyed an evening there after visiting the Cliffs of Moher, but would have loved to have spent more time there. If you're wanting to go shopping, make sure to get there before 6 p.m. as most shops close at that time.
9. Dingle Bay.
Another place to save for sunny weather is Dingle Bay. If you are not comfortable driving on teeny tiny roads. Or, if curvy mountain roads get you sick, you'll want to take an organized tour. But, we found driving to be great and gave us the freedom we wanted. Take Connor Pass and wind around the peninsula for stunning scenery that won't stop. Plan extra time and bring a lunch so you can enjoy the ocean views while walking along beautiful trails. And if golf is your game, Dingle Bay has a great course worth checking out.
Must-See Spots for an Extended Irish Vacation
A 1-week trip simply won't allow you to get to all parts of the country, especially during winter travel given the short daylight hours. For our next trip, we're excited to check out these recommended places: more days in Dublin, Connemara, Donegal, Kilkinney, Waterford, one of the islands off the western coast, and Belfast. We'd also love to squeeze in some whale watching and a boat tour underneath the Cliffs of Moher for a little added adventure.
Have you visited Ireland? What are your recommended must-see sites?