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Discover Ireland: coastlines, castles and the ‘craic’

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Small but mighty. With its wild coastline, distinctive character and evocative history, Ireland punches well above its weight when it comes to vacation destinations. Its friendly inhabitants certainly know how to turn on the charm, too. Prepare to get carried away at a foot-stomping folk music night or fall head over heels for that sing-song Irish accent over a pint in Dublin.

Ireland is a country of imposing castles, delightful Celtic folklore, dingily dells and Riverdance, but it is much more besides. From exploring its epic coastline to reveling in the firelit warmth and lively chat of its many local pubs, Ireland is rich with experiences.

To help you plan your vacation in Ireland, we’ve rounded up some of our favorite destinations and the things to do there. Read on for the best places to go and things to do in Ireland.

The Ring of Kerry – Ireland’s scenic southwest

The Ring of Kerry is just the place for an Ireland road trip. This circular route of 175 km takes you around the gorgeous Iveragh Peninsula in Southwest Ireland. Dreamy landscapes and dramatic views abound as you loop around from Killarney, along lonely coastal routes and country lanes.

Be sure to take your time and soak up the atmosphere in seaside towns, castles and a deserted island monastery. And, of course, to pause and simply gaze at the sublime views.

Cork – the ‘foodie capital’ of Ireland

Cosmopolitan Cork is the largest urban center in the south and is the Republic of Ireland’s second city. Touted as the ‘foodie capital’ of Ireland, its scenic streets are busy with food markets standing side by side with cutting-edge restaurants. The city also has a great pub scene and plenty of live music venues, museums and galleries to keep visitors busy for several days.

Out in the bay, the island town of Cobh is famous for being the last port of call for the Titanic. It was also the embarkation point for many Irish citizens emigrating to America, so it has some real historic clout.

Cork City is just a hop, skip and jump from one of the top places to visit in Ireland, Blarney Castle. Those who dare to lean out from the battlements and kiss the famous Blarney Stone are said to be blessed with the gift of the gab.

Wider County Cork is a joy to explore too, with traditional villages tucked away in the lush folds of the landscape or stretched out along golden sandy bays.

Dublin – the little capital with a big personality

Spending at least a few days in Dublin is a must on any trip to Ireland. This handsome city is divided into the genteel south and the grittier north by the central River Liffey. Bridges span the water at regular intervals and visitors wander back and forth to visit the many sights all within easy walking distance. These include the foreboding Dublin Castle, the glorious Trinity College, and the ever-lively cobblestone streets of Temple Bar.

Dublin is a city that has nurtured and inspired many famous writers and musicians over the years and there is a palpable energy along its characterful streets. It is also well-known for its raucous nightlife and the sharp wit of its inhabitants. So prepare yourself for the social whirl and head out to meet the locals and sink a Guinness or two.

Dingle Peninsula – the rugged and wild west

Ireland’s most westerly spit of land is known as a bastion of traditional Irish culture. The Gaelic language is very much alive here, along with a thriving Irish folk music scene. If you’d like to tap along, you’ll find the jig alive and kicking in any one of dozens of local pubs. Some say Dingle has the most pubs per capita than anywhere else in Ireland.

Beyond the bar, you’ll find a wild and rugged landscape of sheer cliffs and wave-battered beaches. The exposed coastal hills are dotted with interesting ancient stone structures and the expansive views out to sea are epic. The region is also praised for its delicious seafood, so expect to feast on the freshest Atlantic catch.

River Shannon – the ‘wise river’

The scenic River Shannon rises in northwestern County Cavan and flows south to Limerick. Along its winding path, the river passes through idyllic countryside, past Celtic ruins, whiskey distilleries and tranquil towns. The best way to see it is by boat with an excellent stretch from Carrick-On-Shannon that can be explored by houseboat on our River Shannon Cruise Ireland tour.

Galway – city of culture and oysters

This west coast city crooned over in many a famous song is a lyrical and artistic place. Colorful streets come alive with festivals throughout the year and bookshops and whiskey bars sit side by side. Galway was the European Capital of Culture in 2020, and it lives up to this accolade with a full calendar of theater, performance and art events.

The waters of Galway Bay plump up some of the best oysters in the country, so be sure to take a stroll down to the waterfront and sample this local delicacy.

The Wild Atlantic Way – Europe’s westernmost edge

From Donegal in the north to West Cork, the Wild Atlantic Way winds its way along the west coast of Southern Ireland. This is the very edge of Europe, wide open to the ferocious weather and high seas of the Atlantic Ocean.

The coastline here is dramatic, to say the least, and with 2,500 km of it to explore you’ll need plenty of time. Alternatively, choose a section of it to get to know better and plan on exploring the rest on your next Ireland vacation.

Belfast – Northern Ireland’s rejuvenated capital

Belfast is famous for its chequered and troubled past, a fact that it doesn’t shy away from. Its recent history of unrest can be explored and reflected upon via the large-scale political murals that decorate its redbrick housing terraces. On the lighter side, the city’s thriving nightlife and art scene, along with plenty of great restaurants, provide opportunities for fun-filled days and nights out.

Down at the Harland and Wolff shipyard, where the HMS Titanic was built, the striking Titanic Belfast Museum shoots skyward in a glory of silver aluminum shards. Inside you can take an interactive walk through the city’s past, along with the history of the ill-fated Titanic ship.

The Giant’s Causeway – the geological wonder of the north

This spectacular UNESCO World Heritage Site lies on Ireland’s northern coast in County Antrim. Stroll along the windswept bay to gaze at the intricate patterns created by thousands of interlocking basalt columns. This geological wonder was created by a fierce volcanic eruption coming into contact with the icy waters of the Atlantic some sixty million years ago.

Make it happen

Chat with one of our local experts today and start planning your Ireland vacation. For more inspiration, take a look at some of our Ireland tour ideas.

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