Ireland, known as the “Emerald Isle” for its lush green landscapes, also boasts nearly 2,000 miles of stunning coastline, rivers, and lakes, offering a wide array of experiences for travelers. From ancient castles to lively pubs with traditional music, Ireland has it all. Here are the top ten things you must do to fully immerse yourself in the colorful charm of this European gem.
- Discover the Wild Atlantic Way from the Water
Embark on a breathtaking journey along the Wild Atlantic Way, a 1,600-mile driving route along the western coast. For an exceptional experience, opt for small-group tours in inflatables led by Dingle Sea Safari. These tours provide close encounters with marine wildlife near the mesmerizing Blasket Islands and the majestic “Cathedral Rocks.” Nearby, adventure seekers can enjoy diving in Brandon and Tralee Bays, or ride the swells in Castlegregory.
- Uncover Irish History through Seaweed
Explore the southwest’s rocky coves, where the rich history of Ireland comes alive through seaweed. During Lent, locals would collect laver or sleabhac, a protein-rich seaweed, as an alternative to meat. Atlantic Irish Seaweed offers educational sea vegetable walks at Derrynane Harbour, while Sneem Seaweed Baths allow you to indulge in therapeutic heated soaks overlooking Kenmare Bay.
- Savor Real Irish Whiskey
Experience the revival of Dublin’s whiskey-making legacy at the city’s five new distilleries, including Roe and Co. Take part in a whiskey flavors experience, where you can sample different varieties, learn about the distillation process, and even try your hand at mixing cocktails. Don’t miss the opportunity to visit the Irish Whiskey Museum and the Whiskey Palace at the historic Palace Bar, pouring over 400 whiskeys, including its own label.
- Immerse Yourself in Irish Gaeltacht Culture
Venture to Cape Clear Island, one of the Irish-speaking Gaeltacht areas located eight miles off the southern coast. Travel via Cape Clear ferries, passing by the iconic Fastnet Lighthouse. Explore the island’s maritime history and culture at the Heritage Centre, and treat yourself to delicious goat milk ice cream at Cléire Goats.
- Journey Along a Blueway
Rediscover County Tipperary’s past by traveling along the 33-mile Suir Blueway, one of Ireland’s accredited blueways, dedicated to exploring water routes. Join a tour to float past castles and stone bridges from Cahir to Carrick-on-Suir, or walk along the 13-mile riverbank towpath from Clonmel to Carrick-on-Suir, passing by charming fishing huts and picturesque wildflower-filled banks.
- Explore Galway’s Artsy Westend
Escape the crowds and embrace the bohemian atmosphere of Galway’s Westend neighborhood, situated across the River Corrib. Discover treasures at Bell Book and Candle, a haven for new and second-hand books and vinyl. Visit the monthly Flea Style Market at the Galway Arts Centre and enjoy traditional music at the Crane Bar. Take a walking tour to learn about the origins of the Claddagh ring and relish the culinary highlights of this emerging dining destination.
- Paddle under the Stars on a Night Kayak Excursion
Explore the beauty of Ireland’s prime kayak spots at night for a unique nature experience. Join Atlantic Sea Kayaking’s small groups for a night paddle in Castlehaven Bay, County Cork. Switch off your flashlights and stargaze on clear nights or witness the mesmerizing bioluminescence of the bay. The sounds of nature become more profound, allowing you to connect with the beauty of the skies and darkness.
- Practice Yoga in an Underground Studio
Head to the Marble Arch Caves, Northern Ireland’s longest known cave system, for a one-of-a-kind yoga class held 164 feet below ground. Experience the subterranean sights and sounds during this hour-long yoga session. Afterward, explore the island-rich lakelands at Upper and Lower Lough Erne, and take a boat trip to Devenish Island, home to ancient ruins dating back to the 12th century.
- Hike Northern Ireland’s Iconic Coast
Experience the breathtaking three-mile Gobbins path in Islandmagee, which clings to dramatic cliff faces and features Edwardian bridges over crashing waves. If you visit between May and September, join Islandmagee SUP for a guided tour to explore the Seven Sisters caves and witness nesting puffins. Refuel at Kings Road in Whitehead with loose-leaf tea and signature kombuchas from Belfast’s Craft Tea Brew Co., complemented by a satisfying breakfast fry-up.
- Live the Life of a Lighthouse Keeper
Discover the allure of Ireland’s lighthouses with Great Lighthouses of Ireland. Stay overnight at the remote St. John’s Point Lighthouse in County Donegal, where you can experience the solitude of keeping watch over the stunning Donegal Bay and County Sligo. With no Wi-Fi, immerse yourself in the tranquility of the surroundings, read a book by the fire, and witness the captivating sunrise over the headland.
These ten unforgettable experiences will ensure you get the most out of your time in Ireland, exploring its natural wonders, rich history, and vibrant culture.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about TravelIreland
Q: What are some of the best things to do in Ireland?
A: Ireland offers a wide range of amazing experiences. Some of the best things to do include exploring the Wild Atlantic Way from the water, learning about Irish history through seaweed, savoring real Irish whiskey, visiting an Irish-speaking Gaeltacht island, traveling along a blueway, strolling Galway’s artsy Westend, embarking on a night kayak paddle under the stars, practicing yoga in an underground cave, hiking Northern Ireland’s iconic coast, and experiencing the solitude of being a lighthouse keeper.
Q: How can I explore the Wild Atlantic Way?
A: To experience the breathtaking Wild Atlantic Way, consider taking small-group tours in inflatables led by Dingle Sea Safari. These tours offer up-close encounters with marine wildlife near the Blasket Islands and other scenic spots along the western coast.
Q: What is the significance of seaweed in Irish history?
A: Seaweed played a crucial role in Irish history as an alternative protein source during Lent when meat consumption was restricted. Today, you can learn about this history by joining educational sea vegetable walks at Derrynane Harbour with Atlantic Irish Seaweed, or indulge in therapeutic seaweed baths at Sneem Seaweed Baths.
Q: Where can I experience the real taste of Irish whiskey?
A: For an authentic Irish whiskey experience, head to Dublin, where you can visit distilleries like Roe and Co., learn about the spirit’s history at the Irish Whiskey Museum, and enjoy over 400 whiskeys, including its own label, at the Whiskey Palace inside the historic Palace Bar.
Q: How can I immerse myself in Irish Gaeltacht culture?
A: To experience Irish-speaking Gaeltacht culture, travel to Cape Clear Island, which is located off the southern coast. You can take Cape Clear ferries from Baltimore and visit the Heritage Centre to learn about the island’s maritime history and culture while enjoying some delicious goat milk ice cream at Cléire Goats.
Q: What are blueways in Ireland?
A: Blueways are dedicated water trails for exploring river and coastal routes. The Suir Blueway, stretching 33 miles in County Tipperary, is one of Ireland’s accredited blueways, where you can join a tour to float past castles and stone bridges or enjoy the 13-mile riverbank towpath from Clonmel to Carrick-on-Suir.
Q: What makes Galway’s Westend special?
A: Galway’s Westend neighborhood, situated across the River Corrib, offers a bohemian vibe with unique attractions like Bell Book and Candle, the monthly Flea Style Market, and the traditional music venue, the Crane Bar. Food tours and culinary highlights are also a must in this emerging dining destination.
Q: How can I experience Ireland’s nature in a unique way?
A: Enjoy the enchanting beauty of Ireland’s nature through a night kayak paddle with Atlantic Sea Kayaking in County Cork. Paddle under the stars or witness the bay’s bioluminescence, connecting with the sounds of nature and embracing the magic of the night.
Q: Can I practice yoga in Ireland’s caves?
A: Yes, you can! The Marble Arch Caves in Northern Ireland offer an hour-long yoga class held 164 feet below ground, providing a unique and intimate experience with the subterranean sights and sounds.
Q: How can I stay in a lighthouse and experience its solitude?
A: Great Lighthouses of Ireland offers an opportunity to stay overnight at remote lighthouses like St. John’s Point Lighthouse in County Donegal. Enjoy the solitude of keeping watch over Donegal Bay and County Sligo, free from Wi-Fi distractions, and immerse yourself in the captivating surroundings.
More about TravelIreland
- Wild Atlantic Way
- Dingle Sea Safari
- Atlantic Irish Seaweed
- Sneem Seaweed Baths
- Roe and Co.
- Irish Whiskey Museum
- Palace Bar
- Cape Clear Ferries
- Heritage Centre, Cape Clear Island
- Suir Blueway
- Islandmagee SUP
- Galway’s Westend
- Bell Book and Candle
- Galway Arts Centre
- The Crane Bar
- Kai Restaurant
- Atlantic Sea Kayaking
- Marble Arch Caves
- Upper and Lower Lough Erne
- Islandmagee SUP – Guided Tours
- Great Lighthouses of Ireland
- St. John’s Point Lighthouse