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Visit 8 Irish places with links to American presidents
Remember Barack Obama's visit to Ireland in 2011?
As the 46th president of the United States, Joe Biden is a household name but are you familiar with his Irish ancestry? With great-great grandparents from Louth and Mayo, he's proud of his heritage and previously said that “being Irish shaped his whole life".

Joe Biden isn’t the only US president with Irish connections, some of America’s most powerful politicians down through the ages have Irish roots. Check out eight places linked with famous presidents and the best things to do in each area.

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1Explore the Cooley Peninsula

Joe Biden’s great-great grandfather Owen Finnegan was originally from the Cooley Peninsula, one of the most scenic parts of our country. The still waters of Carlingford Lough ebb and flow with sweeping views stretching as far as the eye can see, amidst the backdrop of magnificent mountains.

A stroll along the 6.2km Carlingford Lough Greenway is the perfect way to see Louth’s scenery in all its glory as the flat, gravel trail snakes around the enchanting lough. Discover historical treasures and an abundance of wildlife with waders, sea ducks and even the occasional friendly seal peeking its head above the lough to greet walkers.

If hillwalking is your thing, a trek along the 9km Slieve Foye Loop is a great way to spend an afternoon. The trail takes you through leafy forest paths and grassy tracks, winding up in the medieval town of Carlingford. Make time for a trip on the Carlingford Lough Ferry where you can choose from themed guided tours, and end your day with a delicious meal in one of the town’s cosy restaurants and a visit to Lily Finnegan's pub.

A peaceful Carlingford Lough with a backdrop of green fields and mountains
Check out the spectacular Cooley Peninsula.
2Experience the beauty of Ballina

Biden also has connections to Ballina in Mayo, where his maternal great-great grandfather, Patrick Blewitt, lived. Famous for its salmon fishing, Ballina overlooks the River Moy Estuary and attracts keen anglers from all corners of Ireland and further afield. It's also a great spot for canoeing so book in with Paddle & Pedal for an epic adventure.

When in Ballina, you can’t miss a visit to the Jackie Clarke Collection, a collection that features items associated with some of Ireland’s most notable figures including Wolfe Tone, Michael Collins and Michael Davitt. Travel back in time to get a unique look at Ireland’s history through the eyes of Jackie Clarke, a Ballina businessman with an unrivalled interest in our country’s past.

Play a round of golf at Ballina Golf Club where the scenery is on another level entirely. While perfecting your putt, admire the heather covered hills and rolling green countryside from the eighteen-hole course. Round off your day with a visit to the Connacht Whiskey Distillery and learn about the whiskey making process from grain to glass.

Boats bobbing along the water with a backdrop of green trees
Experience the beauty of Ballina in County Mayo.
3Embrace the outdoors in Moneygall

Former US President Barack Obama’s late mother Ann Dunham was a descendant of the Kearney family from Moneygall, who emigrated to start a new life in New York. Obama’s 2011 visit to Ireland was met with great excitement from people living in the Offaly village.

Almost ten years later, the novelty of stopping off at the Barack Obama Plaza hasn’t waned for those travelling the M7 Dublin to Limerick motorway. Don’t miss the bronze sculptures of the former US president and his wife Michelle, the scene of many a selfie.

When in the area, check out the Moneygall Kearney Loops, three walking trails that follow the footsteps taken by Obama’s ancestors when they lived in Moneygall, on the border of Tipperary and Offaly. Keep an eye out for Devil’s Bit Mountain - local legend says that the devil himself took a bite out of the mountain, losing a tooth and forming the Rock of Cashel along the way. Climb to the summit which peaks at 475m, and enjoy epic views of eight nearby counties, a truly impressive reward.

Barack and Michelle Obama in a pub in Moneygall, Offaly on their 2011 visit to Ireland
Barack Obama received a warm welcome to Moneygall in 2011.
4See natural wonders in Ballyporeen

In 1984, Ronald Reagan, the 40th American president, visited Ballyporeen in Tipperary to see where his great-great grandfather, Michael Regan once lived. At the time, his visit was the source of much excitement and put the quaint village on the global map.

There’s lots of things to do near Ballyporeen including a visit to Mitchelstown Cave, just a ten minute spin away. Wander through the magical caverns with massive calcite columns around every turn, and watch out for the 9m Tower of Babel, one of Europe’s most famous stone formations.

Get an unrivalled view of the spectacular Galtee Mountains on a trek through Glengarra Wood and if you can summon some energy after, head deep into the Glen of Aherlow on a guided horseback tour. Reach the Rock an Thorabh viewing point and gaze upon the Golden Vale in all its glory, with miles of undulating green pastures.

Two people exploring Mitchelstown Cave, Tipperary
Look out for Babel's Tower on a visit to Mitchelstown Cave.
5Pour over ancient history in Bruff

John F. Kennedy, the 35th president of the United States, was immensely proud of his Irish heritage describing his 1963 visit as “the best four days of his life”.

With Irish roots on both sides, research traces the former US president to two families, the Fitzgeralds who hailed from Bruff in Limerick and the Kennedys in New Ross, Wexford. Visit the Thomas Fitzgerald Centre in Bruff and after, continue the historical theme with a trip to the Lough Gur Heritage Centre, one of the country’s most important archaeological sites. See the 113 standing stones of the Grange Stone Circle, pour over ancient treasures, and check out the incredible horseshoe lake.

Grey skies at the Grange Stone Circle in Limerick
Uncover rich history at the Grange Stone Circle.
6Learn about the Kennedy dynasty in New Ross

The postcard perfect town of New Ross on the banks of the River Barrow is synonymous with the Kennedy Family. Spend some time at The Kennedy Homestead tracing the footsteps of Patrick Kennedy who left Wexford for the big city of Boston, and follow the famous family tree right up to the day John F. Kennedy met his Irish cousins.

Next, visit John F Kennedy Memorial Park with its impressive arboretum that houses over 4,500 different trees and shrubs. Take a walk around the lake and watch the water ripple as mallard ducks and moorhens float serenely on its surface.

Make time for the Dunbrody Famine Ship Experience which paints a realistic portrait of the hardships suffered by Irish emigrants. Climb aboard the tall ship and listen to costumed actors recount tales of life during the Great Famine and later, look at the exhibitions in the Irish America Hall of Fame.

The John F Kennedy memorial on the banks of the River Barrow in New Ross, Wexford
Visit the John F Kennedy memorial.
7Get out and about in Kilkenny City

Both George H W Bush, the 41st president of the United States, and his son George W Bush, the 43rd president, feature on this list of American presidents with Irish connections.

Father and son are said to be direct descendants of Richard de Clare or Strongbow as he was commonly known. Strongbow was a leading figure in the Norman invasion of Ireland and built the original Kilkenny Castle in the 12th century.

When in Kilkenny, go on a guided tour to see the grand interiors of the castle, wander around the beautiful parklands and snap the perfect Instagram in the rose garden. Book in with Shenanigans for a walking tour and a chance to hear stories of medieval times. Round off the day with a stop at St Canice’s Cathedral, and take the chance to climb the 30m round tower where you’ll get the best view of the city.

Two women taking pictures outside Kilkenny Castle, County Kilkenny
Take a guided tour of magnificent Kilkenny Castle.
8Enjoy Galway’s vibrant atmosphere

We can’t discuss presidents without acknowledging our very own Michael D Higgins. Born in Limerick, the President of Ireland also has a strong attachment to Galway. He was Students’ Union President when at college in Galway, he served as a TD for Galway West and he was Mayor of Galway twice. Galway is a city known for its colourful festivals and vibrant events with Michael D Higgins a well-known advocate for the Arts.

Discover Galway City with a walk by the Claddagh, wander through the Spanish Arch before dropping into the Galway City Museum to see an authentic Galway Hooker traditional sailing boat. Ramble along Quay Street where talented buskers provide a lively soundtrack and revel in the vibrant atmosphere. Finish your day with fish and chips watching the sun set on Salthill pier.

Another famous face with a direct link to Galway is CNN’s John King. As the result of the 2020 presidential election became clear and Joe Biden emerged victorious, King's ‘magic wall’ became a global hit as it filtered votes by state. It turns out he has a cousin living in Ballyconneely and Keogh’s Pub is said to be his first stop when he visits.

If you’re in this part of the country, pencil in a visit to Dog’s Bay Beach. With its powdery white sand and turquoise water, it’s a strong contender for the most beautiful beach in Ireland. Next up, drive the Sky Road in Clifden, part of the Wild Atlantic Way road trip route where towering mountains and the rugged coastline take your breath away.

Whether you realised it or not, there’s strong links between American presidents and Ireland and now, you have even more inspiration for epic places to visit across the country.

Two people walking along the golden strand of Dog's Bay Beach in County Galway
Make time for a stroll on glorious Dog's Bay Beach.

See what's happening in Louth

The Cooley Peninsula is one of the most beautiful parts of Ireland and if you haven't explored it before, why not plan a trip to see some of the places linked to Joe Biden's ancestors? Head over to our Louth destination page and discover the best things to see and do.

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