The Emerald Isle is a country so packed with amazing places to see it’s a real challenge to narrow it down to just five, so we have chosen fabulous locations that suit a variety of visitors, whether they are looking for great food, history, culture, or photograph worthy scenery. Naturally as a Northern Irishman, I’d recommend Northern Ireland only but this list whacks a few southern locations in too.
1 – Sligo
This quaint medieval town shows off bygone Ireland really well, being packed with historic buildings set against a backdrop of Knocknarea Mountain – said to be the place where the mythical Queen Maedbh rests.) Sligo is also a seaside town, and visitors can hire a boat nearby and visit Inishmurray island, home to the well-preserved ruins of a 6th-century monastery. The local poet W.B. Yeats is honored by a museum here too, which is a treat for fans.
2 – Killarney National Park
County Derry is where this UNESCO site can be found, surrounded by magnificent purple mountains and populated by wildlife including red deer. Bird watchers, nature lovers and keen walkers will be in heaven here, for sure. If you don’t want to do too much walking there are boat trips around the lakes, and horse and carriages with a driver/guide available for hire.
3 – Dublin
This capital city (of the Republic of Ireland) boasts tons of things to do, eat, listen to and of course, drink! Learn about the history of Ireland’s most famous export at the Guinness Storehouse, which has a convenient bar too! Take a look at Dublin Castle which was built in 1204, or wander around Phoenix Park which is also home to Dublin Zoo. Kilmainham Gaol has an informative museum telling the stories of political prisoners who spent their last days in there, and for a touch of musical culture check out the lunchtime recitals at St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
4 – The Ring of Kerry
With its picture postcard scenery, ancient castles and quirky villages this represents every image visitors have of Ireland, and it doesn’t fail to deliver. Enjoy the breathtaking scenery, the clean beaches, and the historic buildings which are open to be explored. A visit to the town of Kenmare is a must for food fans who can indulge in the tasty cheese, bread, seafood and meat the area is famous for, before exploring the small shops selling local artists’ work. There are also several golf courses, cycling paths, and both diving and fishing opportunities here.
5 – The Giant’s Causeway
Close to Bushmills (famous for its whiskey distillery), this is one of the top tourist attractions across Ireland and Northern Ireland’s only UNESCO listed heritage site – the Giant’s Causeway. Science has it that the causeway is a result of a volcanic eruption which happened over 60 million years ago, but folklore tells the more interesting tale of local giant Finn MacCool who challenged his Scottish giant rival to a fight, and built the causeway so his enemy could make it across the water.
Wherever you decide to go during trips to ireland you can be sure of a warm welcome, great sights, excellent food and drink and a good time.