Ireland is at the top of many travelers’ bucket lists. But what about the bucket list experiences that can be enjoyed while you’re there? The Emerald Isle offers so much to see and do among some of the world’s greenest and most magnificent scenery, you’ll probably have to make a few return trips – get a head start by putting these experiences on your must-do list.
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Take in a 360-Degree View of Dublin from the Gravity Bar
One of the best ways to beat jag and enjoy a breathtaking view is to head to the Guinness Storehouse where you’ll find the Gravity Bar set on the very top floor. It’s the perfect place to enjoy the famous drink with a 360-degree view of Dublin and beyond – can you spot St. Patrick’s Cathedral and Trinity College? On your way up you’ll learn all about Guinness and how it’s brewed.
Visit Skellig Michael
Plan to spend a night or two in Portmagee, a tiny fishing village that sits just off the Ring of Kerry, and you can join a boat trip to visit Skellig Michael, a beautiful island located about eight miles from the harbor. You’ll not only be surrounded by stunning views but you’ll get to explore the ruins of a well-preserved 6th-century monastery at the top. Back in town, relax in the Bridge Bar where actor Mark Hamill pulled Guinness in between his time filming the final scene of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”
Stand at the Edge of the Cliffs of Moher
The dramatic Cliffs of Moher rise over 700 feet above the Atlantic, stretching from about the village of Doolin for nearly five miles to Hags Head in County Clare at the southwestern edge of the Burren region. From here you’ll be able to gaze out at one of the country’s most impressive views which, on a clear day, includes Galway Bay, the Twelve Pins mountain range and the Aran Islands: Inis Oirr, Inis Meain and Inis Mor.
You’ll find lots to discover just an hour north of Dublin in the Boyne Valley. The endless green landscape is home to passage tombs, monastic ruins, Trim Castle (renowned for its role in Mel Gibson’s “Braveheart”) and Newgrange. The pre-historic site dates all the way back to 3200 BC, earlier than Stonehenge and even the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt. No one knows for certain what its purpose was, but it’s believed to have been a passage tomb, a temple for ancient people that worshiped the sun and a place of astrological, spiritual, religious and ceremonial importance.
Climb the 'Steps' of Giants Causeway, Northern Ireland
Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland is flanked by the North Atlantic and a landscape of towering cliffs, with its coastal area made up of about 40,000 basalt columns. Created by a volcanic eruption that took place some 60 million years ago, this awe-inspiring site has given birth to many myths and legends over the centuries. Legend tells that it was the handiwork of an angry giant, but the real story behind it is even more fascinating as the result of an ancient volcanic eruption, with its tops forming stepping stones that lead from the foot of the cliff, gradually disappearing under the sea.
Explore a Castle
There are more than 30,000 castles in Ireland, and visiting or staying overnight in at least one of them should be on your list. Built in 1195, Kilkenny Castle is one of the most impressive. A symbol of Norman occupation in its original condition, it played an important role in the city’s defenses with four large circular corner towers and a huge ditch, part of which can still be seen today. Its elevated position on the River Nore provides added appeal from the outside, but the inside should be seen as well. A self-guided tour will bring you to everything from the medieval foundation to the Tapestry Room in the north tower with its 12th-century stone walls.
Kiss the Blarney Stone
While it may be one of Ireland’s cheesiest attractions, kissing the Blarney stone is also worth doing just to say you’ve done it. Plus you’ll get to climb the steep, winding stairs of the castle that was built over 600 years ago – the stone, which you’ll have to be dangled over a crevice to kiss, is only part of the experience. Beneath the castle is a maze of underground passages and chambers, dating from different periods in its history, including a dungeon, Blarney’s prison. The spectacular surrounding grounds include all sorts of attractions too like the Wishing Steps and Witch’s Kitchen.
Live Music at Matt Molloy's, Westport
Matt Molloy’s in the pretty town of Westport is owned by that Matt Malloy, The Chieftain’s famous flutist, and as you might imagine, this is one of the best places to go for live music in the country. When Matt isn’t on tour, he often joins in on traditional music sessions, but even when he’s not, you’re practically guaranteed to hear some great stuff, played in a very intimate venue, any night of the week.
Walk Wicklow Way
Wicklow Way is one of Europe’s most famous hiking trails, stretching for over 80 miles from the village of Clonegal into hills of southwest Wicklow and the dramatic mountains Wicklow National Park. While the walk is fairly challenging, you don’t have to do the entire thing, but you shouldn’t miss the span that traverses through Sally Gap. The 7.5-mile span will bring you to Sally Gap deep into the mountains that are home to Lough Tay, sometimes referred to as Guinness Lake. Not only is the scenery sure to take your breath away, but fans of the “Vikings” show will recognize it as one of the series’ main filming sites.
Take a Scenic Drive on the Dingle Peninsula
If you’re looking for Ireland’s famous postcard-perfect scenery, one of the best places to find it is along the Dingle Peninsula. The 30-mile-long Slea Head Loop is one of the world’s most breathtaking drives. As it winds along the Atlantic coast, you’ll have the lush green hills on one side and dramatic cliffs dipping down to secluded coves with golden beaches on the over. You’ll want to make multiple stops along the way to visit stone huts dating to an ancient Celtic settlement, an Iron Age fort and one of the most beautiful stretches of sand, Slea Head Beach, not to mention making the most of the countless photo-ops.