If Ireland is not on your travel list when travel reopens, it should be. Ireland is a fantastic destination for a first-time visitor to Europe and can easily be combined with a visit to the UK or Paris. English is the native language, Irish hospitality food, drinks, music and dance are legendary, and the green natural landscapes are breathtaking. Over 50 million Americans and over 4 million Canadians can trace their ancestral roots back to Ireland. What are you waiting for? Check out the top things to do in Ireland…
1) St. Patrick’s Festival and Parade (Dublin)
Even if you have visited Ireland before it is a totally different feeling and experience when visiting over St. Patrick’s Day and a great reason to return. Dublin, Ireland is the ultimate St. Patrick’s destination. Not only is it home to one of the most popular and vibrant St. Patrick’s Day parades in the world, drawing half a million revelers to its streets, but the St. Patrick’s Festival stretches on for five days and nights from March 13 - 17 in a dynamic showcase of Ireland’s culture and heritage.
The culmination of the Festival is the St. Patrick’s Day Parade always held on March 17th featuring over 3,000 band members, entertainers, and dancers along with decorated floats, cars parading through downtown. The Festival and parade were canceled in 2020 and 2021 due to COVID19 so plan on attending in 2022 when the Irish will welcome back the world for an epic reunion and celebration.
Home | St Patrick’s Festival
Pro Tip: Book your downtown center city hotel early as the city gets sold out way in advance for this popular celebration. It is so much more fun, convenient and safe if you can just walk to the celebration instead of driving or taking public transit.
2) Irish Pubs (all over Ireland)
Pubs have been an integral part of the social fabric and culture of the Irish for over 800 years. For all its fame and excesses, the best part of Irish drinking pub culture is the social aspect. Traditionally the pub was where the town met, stories were exchanged, and the 'craic' (fun) had. Pubs are the living room of the Irish culture and you will find good music and some dancing by the locals. There is a difference in pubs in the cities, towns and country so suggest trying to visit them whenever and wherever you can. It is said often that if you sit at bar in the Irish pub you will not be stranger for long as the Irish locals are very friendly and love meeting new people.
FYI, the drinking age in Ireland is 18, though children may be allowed into some pubs (mainly those that serve food) during the day and in the evenings for the live music sessions.
If you just order a “Pint” in a pub, you will be served a Pint of Guinness Stout. If you would like another type of beer or drink just ask.
3) Guinness Storehouse (Dublin)
Ireland's number one attraction is the Guinness Storehouse which is centrally located on its original site on the river Liffey in Dublin. People from all corners of the world come to visit the birthplace of Ireland’s most iconic beer and learn its long history and how it is brewed. The visitor’s center is a fantastic multi-media visitor experience demonstrating the brewing process as well as the history of this legendary stout. The self-guided tour allows guests to look at old ads, touch the barley, smell the hops, hear the waterfall and finally, to taste the finished product. On the top floor, visitors are offered a complimentary pint of Guinness, complete with shamrock flourish, to enjoy in the Gravity Bar. The completely glass-enclosed level provides 360-degree views over the brewery and city and is a great meeting point for friends.
Welcome to the Home of Guinness (guinness-storehouse.com)
Pro Tip: AS the number one attraction in Ireland Tour and Gravity Bar can get very crowded daily after 1pm. Purchase a skip the line ticket ahead of time and arrive mid-morning for less crowds.
4) Cliffs of Moher (Western Ireland in Country Clare)
Located on the West Coast of Ireland in the Burren area of County Clare, these famous cliffs are approximately 5 miles long and up to 700’ high. The Cliffs of Moher are the top natural attraction in all of Ireland and a stunning sight you will never forget. These spectacular Cliffs have been featured in many movies including Harry Potter and the Princess Bride. They are located about 165 miles from Dublin and we suggest staying close by as there are great hiking trails around as well as bird watching. If you can visit at sunrise or sunset, you’ll be in for an even more incredible experience.
Ireland Cliffs, Famous Cliffs in Ireland | Cliffs of Moher
Pro Tip: The cliffs face west, so the afternoon and evening offer the best lighting for your photographs. The cliffs can also be very windy so bring a sweater or waterproof jacket with you and wear comfortable but sturdy walking shoes.
5) House of Waterford (South Ireland in Waterford)
Waterford Crystal, the prestigious brand behind New York City’s Times Square New Year’s Eve Ball and many of sports famous trophies was founded back in 1783. Located in the south of Ireland in the ancient city of Waterford, the main crystal factory complex is open to the public with an interesting behind the scenes tour. You’ll learn the history of Waterford Crystal while observing skilled craftsmen blowing the molten crystal and gain a better understanding of the time, work, talent, and dedication that goes into making these handcrafted crystal pieces. The tour also includes a visit to their gallery to visit incredible crystal glass masterpieces.
House of Waterford Crystal Factory and Retail Store
Pro Tip: The well- stocked gift store has some amazing crystal pieces you may not have ever seen and make for a great souvenir. They can securely and safely pack your breakable glass items and ship them directly home, so you will not have to worry about breaking them during your holiday.
) Ring of Kerry (Southwest Ireland in Country Kerry)
The famous "Ring of Kerry”, of 100-mile panorama drive of marvelous scenery around a rocky peninsula in the Southwest of Ireland is considered one the world’s most scenic drives. You'll see some of Ireland's highest peaks on one side of the road and a coastline scattered with golden beaches and rocky headlands on the other. There are plenty of opportunities to take-in the scenery and to snap photos of castles or fabulous landscapes. You can even see a distant view of the Skellig Islands that were featured as the home of Luke Skywalker in the Star Wars movies “The Force Awakens and Last Jedi”.
Pro Tip: You can drive this loop tour on your own, hire a driver or purchase a motorcoach tours but suggest starting your day early so are not rushed…the roads can be windy and narrow.
7. Cobh Cultural Centre (Southwest Ireland in country Cork)
Over 50 million Americans and 4 million Canadians trace their ancestral roots to Ireland. The Cobh Heritage Centre tells the stories of Irish heritage and emigration to the United States. Between 1848 and 1950 more than 6 million people emigrated from Ireland, and more than 2.5 million of them left from Cobh, making Cobh the most important port of emigration in the country. Cobh was the last port of call for the ill-fated Titanic and many other ocean liners brining immigrants to America. At the museum, visitors can retrace the steps of the people who left from Cobh and what conditions and life were on board the early emigrant ships.
Home - Cobh Heritage Centre
Pro Tip: Although not located in Cobh, if you have interest in the Titanic, the ship was built in the shipyards of Belfast, Ireland in the Northern Ireland. They have a new amazing, award winning, and interactive attraction that is worth a visit. Titantic Belfast
8. St. Patrick’s Cathedral (Dublin)
Saint Patrick's Cathedral in Dublin, Ireland, founded in 1191, is the national cathedral of the Church of Ireland. Built in honor of Ireland’s patron saint between 1220 and 1260, Saint Patrick’s Cathedral offers visitors a rich and compelling cultural experience and is one of the few buildings left from medieval Dublin. St Patrick baptized people here 1500 years ago. As the largest cathedral and one of the most important pilgrimage sites in Ireland, Saint Patrick’s has been at the heart of Dublin and Ireland’s history and culture for over 800 years.
St Patrick's Cathedral
Pro Tip: Attending a mass with the organ and choir singing will really provide a glimpse into the past of the power and influence services had upon the congregation. Bear in mind this was way before 24hr news channels, personal audio devices and Netflix.
9. Kylemore Abbey & Walled Garden (Western Ireland in county
If you want to experience and take an Instagram worthy picture in a Fairytale atmosphere than Kylemore Abbey is your best bet. Set in a dramatic landscape close to Galway on the west coast, Kylemore Abbey was designed to look like it belonged in fairy tale and is the story of a castle mansion that was built as a romantic gift in the 1860’s. It is now an Abbey for Benedictine nuns that fled Belgium in the 1920’s after their Abbey was burned down in World War I. The Victorian mansion with restored rooms of the Abbey and neo-Gothic church along with a magical walled garden and nature trails are open to explore. If you come to Ireland and do not see this place, then you will have missed a true wonder!
Kylemore Abbey – Abbey & Victorian Walled Gardens
Pro Tip: The University of Notre Dame has one of their Global Education Centers located at Kylemore Abbey so you could actually stay onsite, attend a conference, do research or take a course in this quintessential Irish setting. Can you imagine?
Kylemore Abbey Global Centre | University of Notre Dame
10) Visit and or stay in a real castle
With over 4,000 castles in the Emerald Isle, you don’t have to look far for the royal treatment in Ireland. There are more surviving castles from the Medieval times than in most European countries. During Ireland’s long history of feuding armies, castles provided protected fortress for Kings and nobles. Some castles have been completely renovated and now are 4- and 5-star deluxe hotels featuring fine dining, golf, high tea, spa, falconry and many more experiences.
Pro Tip: If possible, try to stay in a castle during your trip to Ireland. The guest rooms located outside the castle are usually less expensive than the guest rooms located inside the castle.
You can't go wrong with a first time or repeat visit to Ireland as there is so much to see, do and experience on any visit
Come join us on our amazing group journey to Ireland and "Celebrate St. Patrick's Day the Irish Way" March 12-19, 2022.
I hope you make it to the Emerald Isle soon for a magical time. It will enrich your spirit and make you smile.
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