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The great Irish bucket list: 35 places you have to visit
Soak up the stunning scenery from Dursey Island in Cork.
Whether you're planning a short break or a month-long adventure, it can be impossible to squeeze in all the possible sights you'd like to see. That's especially true when travelling in Ireland, where each county has its very own claim to fame, and each town its own unique history. If you're on a mission to discover the most beautiful natural wonders and the most unique experiences, it's best to start with a list of the best of the best, then narrow it down to suit your schedule.

Here are 35 must-see places around the county to build your Irish bucket list.

Natural wonders

1| A Wild Atlantic Way road trip

People all over the world adore the Wild Atlantic Way, the legendary coastal 2,500km drive that runs from Donegal to Kinsale. Marvel at craggy cliff faces, roaring waves, and fiery red sunsets along this once in a lifetime journey.

It’s the ultimate Irish road trip with 15 signature discovery points along the way, stop at magnificent Malin Head, the most northerly point of Ireland, swim in the turquoise waters of Keem Bay in Mayo.

A road beside a body of water in the Doolough Valley, Mayo
Driving the Wild Atlantic Way is an unforgettable experience.

2| Stand on top of the Cliffs of Moher

You’ve looked at the photos, you’ve heard all the stories, but there’s nothing quite like standing on top of the iconic Cliffs of Moher for yourself. A trip to this special place in the heart of Clare is one of the best things to do in Ireland. You’ll find the largest colony of puffins in Ireland on the Cliffs of Moher, visit and meet these adorable seabirds with their brightly coloured beaks.

The Cliffs of Moher in County Clare on a sunny day
Take in the view from the top of the Cliffs of Moher.

3| Walk to Coney Island at low tide

A visit to tranquil Coney Island in Sligo is as much about the journey as it is about the destination - it’s accessible only by car or foot at low tide. The remote island gets its name from the colony of rabbits who live there, follow the stone pillars that mark out the route and tell your friends how you walked to an island.

4| Explore Sceilg Mhichíl (Skellig Michael)

Featured in the recent Star Wars films, Sceilg Mhichíl (Skellig Michael) in Kerry is one of the most spectacular places to go in Ireland. Steps carved into the steep rockface take you to a monastic settlement and beehive huts that date back to the sixth century. 

Landing tours to this otherworldly island are an unforgettable experience and boat tours offer a remarkable view of Sceilg Mhichíl from the sea.

Mist settling on Skellig Michael in County Kerry
Discover the mystical island of Sceilg Mhichíl.

5| Walk along the top of Slieve League Cliffs

Donegal's Sliabh Liag (Slieve League) is the Cliffs of Moher’s bigger, wilder cousin with some of the country’s best hiking routes on these sea cliffs, like the Pilgrim’s Path and the treacherous One Man’s Path. Hold your breath as you look down at the crashing waves far below you and if you have time, admire the cliffs from the sea with a boat trip from Teelin Pier.

People looking out from Slieve League Cliffs, Donegal
Hike some of the country's best routes.

6| Cruise the Shannon

What could be better than renting out a boat and cruising down Ireland’s longest river, the Shannon? As captain, choose where to set sail from and where to drop anchor. Experience the soothing atmosphere of Lough Derg, stop off at gorgeous Garrykennedy and spend some time in the pretty village of Terryglass.

A boat sailing down a calm river near the shore on the Shannon
Enjoy a cruise down Ireland’s longest river.

7| See the “Tower of Babel” in the Mitchelstown Caves

You don’t expect to find caves like this in Ireland. Trek to Tipperary where Mitchelstown Cave’s three massive caverns are filled with stalactites, stalagmites and huge calcite columns. It’s an awe-inspiring sight but the main attraction is the 9m high "Tower of Babel", one of the most incredible stone formations in Europe.

8| Watch Ireland’s best sunsets

Don’t miss golden hour at Doolin Pier in charming Clare, as the sun sets over the Atlantic Ocean with outstanding views across to the Árainn (Aran Islands) and Galway Bay. For those on the east coast, watch the sun set from Dublin’s Killiney Hill to see the bay and mountains transform into a splendid kaleidoscope of colour.

Aerial image of people at Dun Aengus on Inishmore Island, County Galway
Enjoy a spectacular sunset on the Árainn.

9| Walk across the Mizen Head bridge

Cross the awe inspiring bridge at Mizen Head in Cork to the Mizen Head Signal Station and stand on the most southwesterly point of Ireland. Watch waves lap at the bottom of the cliffs as sea birds fly overhead, and pose for a memorable photo on the bridge.

A modern white bridge crossing to Mizen Head in County Cork
Grab a great selfie on the Mizen Head bridge.

Ireland’s past

10| See dinosaur footprints on Valentia Island

How often do you get to see an actual dinosaur’s footprints? Head to Kerry and discover the fossilised tetrapod tracks at Valentia Island, thought to be at least 350 million years old. Scientists believe they were made when Ireland was still south of the equator. They are remarkably well-preserved, a snapshot of a moment in time from our prehistoric past.

Waves crashing against rocks at Valentia Island Lighthouse, Kerry
Go back in time to the prehistoric era on Valentia Island.

11| Visit Carrowmore in Sligo

Older than the great Egyptian pyramids, the Carrowmore Megalithic Cemetery in Sligo is one of the most important megalithic sites in Ireland with an extraordinary collection of huge dolmens, tombs, and stone circles. Wander around the mysterious stone structures, immerse yourself in their rich history and uncover their ancient secrets.

Aerial image of Carrowmore Megalithic Cemetery in County Sligo
Wander the ancient Carrowmore Megalithic Cemetery.

12| See the Winter Solstice at Newgrange

Plan a trip to the grand passage tomb of Newgrange in Meath, book a guided tour and learn about the ancient history of this Stone Age monument. Famous for its Winter Solstice, watching the rays of the sun illuminate the ancient chamber at Newgrange is a true bucket list experience. Entry to the chamber for this annual event is by lottery only and you can apply in September.

Sunrise at Newgrange in a grassy field
Gaze up at the Winter Solstice at Newgrange.

13| Tour Kilkenny Castle

Visit Kilkenny Castle, this towering fortress sits on the banks of the River Nore in Kilkenny. Admire the amazing art in the Butler Gallery, see detailed portraits whose eyes follow you around the room, and take in three floors of history on one of the daily guided tours. Spend some time in its gorgeous grounds and find the perfect selfie spot in the rose garden.

People exploring the grounds of Kilkenny Castle
Appreciate the rich history on display at Kilkenny Castle.

Unique Ireland

14| Discover the delights of Daingean Uí Chúis (Dingle)

Visit charming Daingean Uí Chúis (Dingle) with its brightly coloured shopfronts and traditional pubs. This Kerry town was once home to bottlenose dolphin Fungie and it holds special childhood memories for people across Ireland. A boat trip to see Dingle Bay is an unforgettable experience and if time allows, spin around the Slea Head Drive for incredible coastal views.

Views of the sea cliffs and a beach in Slea Head, Dingle, Kerry
Look out at Dingle's spectacular coast.

15| Hop in Ireland’s only cable car

Experience Ireland’s one and only cable car on a journey to Dursey Island from the Beara Peninsula in Cork. Drink in the mesmerising blue waters of the Atlantic and if you’re lucky, spot a dolphin poke its head above the sea - what bucket list dreams are made of.

A cable car making its way to Dursey Island.
Hop on board Ireland's only cable car.

16| Practice your cúpla focail

Visit Connemara in glorious Galway and put your cúpla focail into practice in this stronghold of Irish heritage. Take the Sky Road Drive and soak up some of the best scenery in the country with lofty mountain peaks, stone walls and serene lakes. Don’t miss an opportunity to hike Diamond Hill - it's the jewel in the crown of Connemara National Park.

Water surrounding trees at Pine Island, Derryclare, Galway
Soak up the breathtaking scenery.

17| A stay with the Brennan brothers

Brothers John and Francis Brennan shot to fame on RTE’s At Your Service but they’re also the men behind the splendid Park Hotel in charming Kenmare. Mark a special occasion with a luxury stay in this award-winning Kerry hotel and pamper yourself in its luxury Sámas Spa.

Image of Kenmare Bay in County Kerry
Treat yourself to a stay with the Brennan brothers.

18| A bioluminescent night kayak on Lough Hyne

Kayaking under the stars would be special enough but the bioluminescent plankton in Lough Hyne explode into light as you glide through the water. The result is a magical light show that’s one of West Cork’s best kept secrets. You’ll need the right conditions but it’s a thing of beauty when it happens.

Group of kayakers paddling beside rocks in the sea.
Marvel at one of West Cork’s best kept secrets.

19| See the Book of Kells at Trinity College

You’ve heard of the Book of Kells, but have you ever been to see the 1,200-year-old manuscript? The magnificent book in Trinity College Dublin is famous for its intricate illustrations of the four gospels of the New Testament and is widely recognised as one of Ireland’s most famous cultural treasures. When you’re there, wander the Long Room at the Old Library – the books have been temporarily taken off the shelves for restoration, but you can dive into their contents at an immersive digital exhibition in the nearby Pavilion. 

Gaia sculpture hanging above three people at Trinity's Old Library.
Wander around the Long Room at Trinity College.

20| Wild camp in a national park

With the sky as your roof and the earth as your mattress, there’s something exhilarating about going wild camping. Where better to get back to nature than in one of Ireland’s stunning national parks?

Pitch your tent at Wild Nephin National Park in Mayo and experience the magic of this Dark Sky Reserve or watch the sun go down over the majestic mountains in Wicklow Mountains National Park. Just be sure to leave no trace when you go on your way. 

A couple walking on a boardwalk towards a sign in Wild Nephin Ballycroy, Co. Mayo
Set up camp in a national park.

The great outdoors

21| Hike to the highest point in Ireland

The strenuous hike to the 1,038m peak of Carrauntoohil in Kerry is worth the effort for the fantastic views from the summit. Hikers with less experience can choose from local walking trails, soaking up the stunning scenery along the way.

Person standing at the summit of Carrauntoohil, Co Kerry
Celebrate making it to the highest point in Ireland.

22| Cycle The Ring of Kerry

Seasoned cyclists relish the challenge of The Ring of Kerry, a mammoth 175km route but there are plenty of easier – but just as impressive – sections. With the wind in your hair and amazing vistas unfolding before you, it’s a truly memorable way to explore the Kingdom.

Image of the Ring of Kerry in County Kerry
Explore the Kingdom by bicycle.

23| Surf on the Wild Atlantic Way

The outstanding surf spots on the Wild Atlantic Way are among the best in the world, from popular surfing areas like Lahinch in Clare to the wild ocean swells of Mullaghmore in Sligo.

Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned pro, there’s a perfect wave for you to tick surfing the Atlantic off your list.

People getting into the sea to go surfing at Lahinch, Co Clare
Surf the ocean swells.

24| Walk the Wicklow Way

Forget the Camino, Ireland has its own epic long-distance walking route with the Wicklow Way right on your doorstep. The full 132km route takes between five and seven days, but you can pick your favourite part if that sounds like too much of a trek.

Highlights along the way include ancient monastic settlement Glendalough, the stunning Powerscourt Waterfall and Lough Tay, the Guinness Lake - there’s no shortage of Instagram-friendly sights.

Image of hikers in Glendalough in County Wicklow
Observe panoramic views in Glendalough.

25| Swim at the Forty Foot

The Forty Foot is an iconic Dublin swimming spot and no dip in these shimmering waters is complete without grabbing a 99 at Teddy’s afterwards.

People jumping off rocks at The Forty Foot in Sandycove, Dublin
Take a dip at the legendary Forty Foot.

26| Cycle the Great Western Greenway

Explore the scenic trails of the Great Western Greenway in magical Mayo. The old railway route between Westport and Cashel has been reinvented as a scenic 49km cycle path that showcases the breathtaking beauty of Clew Bay, Acaill and more incredible landscapes.

Two people cycling along the Great Western Greenway, Mayo
Experience the Great Western Greenway on two wheels.

27| Go mountain biking in Ballyhoura

Hop on your bike and plan a day on the Ballyhoura mountain biking trails on the borders of Limerick, Cork and Tipperary. As one of the best places to go mountain biking in Ireland, there are trails for all levels and abilities. Blast down technical trails or spend a day exploring the entire network. For those without a bike, there are bike rental shops nearby.

A man wearing biking gear and a helmet cycling on a boardwalk
Mountain bike the Ballyhoura trails.

Culture and craic

28| Enjoy a blaa in Waterford

Protected by the same legislation that champagne is, the Waterford blaa is a much-loved Irish delicacy. The soft doughy bread is best served as a breakfast treat, try it once and you’ll soon be coming back for more delicious carbs.

Three people cycling by the sea along the Waterford Greenway in County Waterford
Sample an Irish delicacy in Waterford.

29| Order a pint in Ireland’s oldest pub

Open since 900AD, Sean’s Bar in Athlone, Westmeath is Ireland’s oldest pub. Listed as one of the 25 most incredible bars in the world by Lonely Planet, sit by the open fire and enjoy a creamy pint. With ancient artefacts on the walls and sawdust on the floor, Sean’s is the definition of an authentic Irish pub.

30| Join in at a trad session in Dublin

Dublin is well-known for its lively trad sessions so why not get in on the action? Whether you can sing a song or play an instrument, you’re sure to receive a warm welcome at a rousing music session in the colourful capital of Ireland.

31| Learn how to pour a pint in the Guinness Storehouse

Make time for a visit to the Guinness Storehouse, and learn how to pour a perfect pint of the black stuff. Now that you’ve picked up this quintessential Irish skill, enjoy a creamy pint in the Gravity Bar and check out the panoramic views over Dublin’s fair city.

32| Watch a trad session in John B Keane’s bar

John B Keane’s pub in Listowel, Kerry, is where the famous playwright worked on many of his literary masterpieces but it’s also renowned for its trad sessions. This is a place where the sessions are the stuff of legends and the craic is always mighty.

Memorable overnight trips

33| Live like royalty in a fairytale castle

Get the ferry to Waterford Castle and stay overnight on a private island, an experience you’ll be talking about for months or journey to Monaghan and soak up the old-world charm of Castle Leslie Estate, a luxury 5-star hotel on 1,000 acres of spectacular woodland and lakes. 

Exterior image of Waterford Castle Hotel and Golf Resort in County Waterford
Stay overnight in a luxurious castle.

34| Stay on an Blascaod Mór (the Blasket Islands)

Escape to Europe’s most westerly islands, an Blascaod Mór (the Blasket Islands), on the edge of the rugged Dingle Peninsula. Take the ferry from Cé Dhún Chaoin (Dunquin Pier) across the choppy waters to see seals basking on the sandy beach at Trá Bhán and after, take a guided tour of this fascinating island. Stay at one of the Great Blasket’s four restored cottages and live like Peig Sayers, the great Irish author and seanchaí, for a night.

A white cottage beside the sea on the Great Blasket Islands, Kerry
Live like a local on the Blasket Islands.

35| Experience a night in a lighthouse

Book an overnight trip to one of Ireland’s lofty lighthouses and fall asleep to the sound of waves spilling against the walls outside. Stay in the lighthouse tower itself at Wicklow Head Tower and see what life was like as a lightkeeper once upon a time, or travel to Fanad Head in Donegal where the lighthouse juts right into the roaring Atlantic Ocean, and check out the restored lightkeeper’s cottages.

Image of Fanad Lighthouse in County Donegal
Spend the night in one of Ireland’s historic lighthouses.
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