9 incredible places in Ireland

Ireland is everything you expect, and more. It has patchwork landscapes, wild Atlantic coastlines, cozy pubs, warm welcomes, everything. You can see the Northern lights here, you can explore filming locations for popular movies and TV shows, like the Star Wars or the Game of Thrones. Ireland is home to historic sites that date back older than the pyramids of Egypt, there are myth inspiring landscapes, and so much more. Here’s a list of 9 awesome places on the Emerald Isle, that you probably had no idea existed at all.


1. Titanic Belfast, Belfast

“She was fine when she left here”, that is what they say about the RMS Titanic in Belfast, hometown to the one-time largest ship in the world, which set sail from the local Harland and Wolff shipyards for Southampton, England and then to her fateful maiden voyage in 1912. The working shipyard no longer exists, but in its place is Titanic Belfast, a truly immense interactive exhibition that tells the full story of the building of the ship and its fate in the Atlantic, including the all-too-vivid portrayal of the vessel’s final moments. It makes for quite a visit, in fact, it was named the world’s best tourist attraction at the World Travel Awards, so don’t take only my word for it. Titanic Belfast is the capstone of an entire city’s worth of Titanic experiences.

Newgrange, over 5000 years old World Heritage site, Co Meath
Newgrange, over 5000 years old World Heritage site, Co Meath


2. Newgrange, County Meath

Ireland has more than its fair share of Celtic history and mystery. In particular, there’s Newgrange, a huge mound of a tomb built around 3200 BC, making it at least half a millennium older than the earliest of Egypt’s pyramids. Ringed by a stone circle, the circular mound is more than 250 feet in diameter, and inside is a passageway that leads to several chambers, some lined with engraved stones. These rooms contained bones and offerings, so it is thought Newgrange was once a burial mound, perhaps for the kings, but it is believed to have been much more. Some building material was brought by Stone Age farmers all the way from Wicklow, 70 miles away, and everything is aligned in such a way that sunlight enters the chamber on the day of the winter solstice, suggesting the monument was once used as a kind of prehistoric calendar, or as the site of Stone Age rituals. To experience the solstice magic yourself, enter the lottery for the chance at being one of the lucky few allowed into the site’s inner sanctum on the shortest day of the year. Or just visit anytime of the year to see a simulation of the effect.


3. Castle Ward (AKA Winterfell), County Down

Northern Ireland is one of the key filming locations for the Game of Thrones, with much of the action taking place along the dramatic north coast of Antrim – at Dark Hedges, Ballintoy Harbor and Larrybane, to name a few. If you want to bump into someone from the GoT cast, then you might want to check into the Fitzwilliam Hotel which is where the stars themselves stay most of the time. But you can also visit Winterfell, which is actually Castle Ward in County Down. Its courtyard is immediately recognizable as the home of the Star family. A replica of the archery set has been built here for your viewing as well.


4. The Northern Lights, Malin Head, County Donegal

You don’t have to travel to the Arctic Circle to see the Northern Lights. When the conditions are right, you can spy this unrivaled natural phenomenon off the northwest coast of Ireland. The most Northerly point of Ireland, Malin Head, in County Donegal, has been particularly good spot for seeing those green flashes dance across the sky in recent years. That’s be thanks to its lack of light pollution and the wide open views. And if the lights don’t show, then well, this is Ireland. There is always a local pub to retire into, enjoy some live music, have some booze and call it a great night.


5. The Wild Atlantic Way

The island of Ireland might only be one-fifth the size of California, but it is home to some epic road trip routes. One of these, which has been making an international name for itself over the last couple of years, is the Wild Atlantic Way, a 1500 mile touring route down Ireland’s rugged west coast, with a little of the north and south coasts thrown in for good measure. This incredible journey takes you from Ireland’s northernmost point, Malin Head, down the coast to the opposite tip at Mizen Head, then along the south coast, as far as Kinsale. It is indeed an epic drive. Along the way, expect to pass through charming towns and villages, many of which remain off the traditional tourist trail. There’s plenty of authentic Irish culture, delicious seafood and world famous views. If some of the locations feel familiar, that is because spots like Skellig Michael were featured in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Donegal and Cork appear in the next movie in the franchise as well.


6. Giant’s Causeway, County Antrim

You won’t see anything like the Giant’s Causeway anywhere else in the world. This UNESCO World Heritage Site on the northern coast of Northern Ireland consists of about 40,000 basalt columns, some as high as 39 feet, all fitting together like some kind of giant puzzle. A version of the local legend about the place says that Finn MacCool was challenged to a fight by Scottish giant Benandonner and built the causeway across to Fingal’s cave in Scotland to enable him to march over for the battle. If you prefer scientific explanations instead, the columns were actually created by volcanic eruptions, lava cooling and drying in such a way as to cause these regular cracks, just as mud cracks in patterns when it dries. To believe in geology or giants – the choice is yours.


7. The Jameson Experience, Midleton, County Cork

Nobody in Scotland will admit it, but it was the Irish who introduced them to whisky making and Ireland is undergoing a renaissance in distilling even today. They are making gin in places like Dingle and Glendalough and producing award – winning Vodka in Lisburn, but it is still whiskey that the island is most associated with, thanks to names like Bushmills, Powers, Tullamore and Jameson. One of the best ways to learn about the history of Irish Whiskey-making is at The Jameson Experience in Midleton, which is a working distillery in addition to being an awesome place to visit. It makes for a great companion experience to the better-known Old Jameson Distillery in Dublin – at both, you will learn the story of Ireland’s most famous spirit and, of course, get an opportunity to sneak in a sample or two.


8. The Long Room at Trinity College, Dublin

Dublin has many fine museums, historic buildings, university buildings and other world class attractions, but only the Long Room at Trinity College’s Old Library is home to the Book of Kells. This stunning illuminated manuscript of the New Testament Gospels were created by monks on the Scottish Isle of Iona, more than 1200 years ago. A new page is turned by librarians each day, so you get to see new details each time you visit. The book alone is worth the trip, but then there’s the one-of-a-kind setting that surrounds it. At nearly 214 feet in length, the Long Room houses more than 200,000 of the library’s most ancient volumes (just imagine the old book smell!) and is believed to have provided inspiration for the library in the Harry Potter books.


9. Dolphins in Dingle, County Kerry

Dolphins? In Ireland? Oh yes, and especially off the southwest coast of the island, where the Gulf Streams warms the waters. The heavyweight champion of the dolphins is Fungie – he has been hanging out in and around the harbor at Dingle for over 30 years now. Fans have even started a Fungie Facebook Page. When you have had fun with Fungie, kick back and enjoy what Dingle is best known for – great music pubs. Lively spots like O’Sullivan Courthouse Pub, run by Irish musician Tommy O’Sullivan and his Texan Wife, Saundra, have music every night, while O’Flaherty’s Bar near the pier and John Benny’s are just two of the many other pubs in town with regular music sessions.

This post is inspired from Matador Network and in partnership with Tourism England.

4 Comments Add yours

  1. My husband has promised that we will go for a visit soon. I have wanted to see Ireland for many many years.

  2. rachaelstray says:

    I used to regularly visit Northern Ireland as my ex was from there. Giants Causeway is beautiful and well worth a visit. The Rope Bridge is not for the faint hearted.

    The coastline in Northern Ireland is stunning.

    The Republic of Ireland is also gorgeous but not as well visited by me. I’ve only been to Dublin and we drove from Belfast down so I haven’t seen anywhere near as much. Will rectify in the future.

  3. Anindya says:

    Great review of such amazing places in Ireland with lovely pictures….surely it will act as very useful guide for future travelers to this amazing land.

  4. I clearly need to get back to Ireland. I am a fan of GoT and the Stark family. I didn’t know Winterfell was a real castle!
    We visited Ireland two years ago and thought some of these sites are familiar, there seems to be much i missed. Thanks for the post.

Penny for your thoughts!