71 Of The Best Things To Do In Ireland On A Staycation In 2020

best things to do in Ireland
Photos via Shutterstock (Bottom right: @clairemcelligott)

The purpose of this guide is to help you discover LOADS of deadly things to do in Ireland for when life gets back to normal.

Now, this is a long guide, but I promise that when you decide to tap that little ‘x’, you’ll be leaving with a tonne of ideas of what to do in Ireland buzzing about in your head.

If not, well… if not I’ll owe you a pint.

I’m going to split this up into three different parts: What I think are the best things to do in Ireland, unique things to do in Ireland and the ‘old reliable’ places to go in Ireland.

Table of Contents

The Best Things to do in Ireland (my favourites!)

  1. Head off on a hike that’ll treat you to some mighty views
  2. Nurse a post-adventure pint while soaking up some scenery
  3. Step off the beaten path and explore a bit of ‘hidden Ireland’
  4. Head off on an Irish road trip packed with adventure, scenery and history
  5. Stroll along the most dramatic path in Europe
  6. Spend a night in one of Ireland’s unique rentals
  7. Watch the sunset from Valentia Island
  8. See the whales do their thing in West Cork
  9. Get your nature buzz on at Gougane Barra
  10. Spend a day spinning along the Waterford Greenway

1. Head off on a hike that’ll treat you to some mighty views

Devil's Bit mountain
Photo by mark_gusev/shutterstock.com

Our little island is home to a tonne of different hiking trails that boast views that’ll knock you sideways!

From Diamond Hill in Galway (the view from there is out of this world!) to Carrauntoohil in Kerry, there are plenty of hikes and walks that’ll suit most levels of fitness.

You just need to know which ones to try. In our guide to the most scenic hikes in Ireland, you’ll find 88 rambles that’ll reward you with spectacular views throughout.

2. Nurse a pint while soaking up some scenery

murphys of brandon
Photo by @clairemcelligott

There are few pints (or cups of tea!) as tasty as the ones that you sit down to after a hard day of exploring. Throw in a fine view and you’re living the dream!

Now, although Ireland’s home to many a pub, only a handful boast a view that you can soak up while you enjoy your tipple of choice.

In our guide to the best places for a scenic pint in Ireland, you’ll find heaps of pubs and hotel bars with views so good they’ll make you salivate.

3. Step off the beaten path and explore a bit of ‘hidden Ireland’

doon fort donegal
Photo by Lukassek/shutterstock

One of the best things to do in Ireland, in my opinion, is to step off the beaten track and experience a bit of ‘hidden’ Ireland.

If you fancy seeing places like Doon Fort (pictured above) or other ‘hidden’ tourist attractions in Ireland, like ‘secret’ waterfalls, you’re in for a treat, as Ireland’s home to plenty of them.

In our guide to the best ‘hidden’ places to visit in Ireland, you’ll find 35 very unique things to do in Ireland, some of which you hopefully won’t have seen before.

4. Head off on an Irish road trip packed with adventure, scenery and history

scenic drives in ireland
Photos via shutterstock.com

There’s no end to the number of different road trips that you can head off on when visiting Ireland, regardless of how long you’re here for.

In our road trip hub, you’ll find a load of different ready-made road trips that you can follow from beginning to end.

If you’re wondering what kind of stuff you can expect, nip into our guide to 30 of the most scenic drives in Ireland.

5. Stroll along the most dramatic path In Europe (one of the most unique things to do in Ireland!)

Gobbins Antrim
Photos by Cushla Monk + Paul Vance (shutterstock.com)

The Gobbins in Antrim was originally aimed at Edwardian thrill-seekers that wanted to experience a slice of Ireland’s dramatic coastline up close.

It first opened in 1902, and although it succeeded in amazing and captivating visitors, it was abandoned in the 1960s.

It wasn’t until 2015 that it reopened after a £7.5 million investment. Today, the Gobbins takes visitors off on a guided tour that’s up there with the best things to do in Ireland.

6. Spend a night in one of Ireland’s funky rentals

the inside and outside of the tower

Gone are the days that B&Bs, hotels, and hostels were the only places where you could spend a night in Ireland.

Thanks to the likes of Airbnb, there is an almost endless number of unique places to stay in Ireland.

From thatch cottages to hobbit pods (yes, they’re a thing), these days you have your pick of many a weird, usual and wonderful Irish rental. Here’s some guides to dive into:

7. Nip away for a weekend filled with hikes, scenic drives and evenings whittled away in cosy pubs

road trip featured
Photos on the left via shutterstock. Photo on the right by Photo by @kgbmclarnon

Few things rival a well-planned weekend away with a group of friends that you haven’t met up with for a while.

A weekend packed with hikes, walks, scenic drives and evenings spent in cosy pubs are hard to bate.

If this tickles your fancy, or if you’re planning a weekend away with friends in 2020, you’ll enjoy these guides:

  • 17 Towns In Ireland That Are Perfect For A Weekend Of Road Trips, Trad Music + Pints (read the guide)
  • 27 Towns In Ireland Perfect For A Weekend Of Hikes & Pints With Friends (read the guide)

8. Watch the sunset from Valentia Island

geokaun mountain and cliffs
Photo by mikemike10/shutterstock

If you’re in search of things to see in Ireland that’ll paint themselves upon your mind for a long aul time, get yourself to Valentia Island in Kerry for sunset.

When you arrive on the island, head for the Geokaun Mountain and Cliffs side of the island. You’ll arrive at the viewing point above.

If you have the chance, get here for sunset. The view is out of this world. The last couple of times that I visited I ended up having the whole place to myself.

9. See the whales do their thing in West Cork

whale watching west cork
Photo via the Irish Air Corps

Whale watching. In Ireland. Yep, it’s a thing. To date, a whopping 24 species of the world’s whales and dolphins have been recorded in Irish waters.

In recent years over 12 cetacean species have been seen in in the unpolluted waters of West Cork, making them a prime area for whale and dolphin watching in Ireland.

Back in 1991, Ireland’s biologically diverse waters were declared a whale and dolphin sanctuary, the very first of its kind in Europe.

10. Get your nature buzz on at Gougane Barra

where to go in Ireland
Photo by Brian Fox

The magnificent Gougane Barra Forest Park should be on every single top 10 things to do in Ireland guide/list. But it isn’t.

You’ll find this regularly overlooked 339-acre park tucked away in a lush valley at the edge of the Sheehy mountains in West Cork.

Those that visit can have a nosey at the now-iconic tiny island at the edge of the lake where St. Finbarr, the patron saint of Cork, founded a Christian monastery during the 6th century.

11. Spend a day whizzing along the Waterford Greenway

the waterford greenway
Photo by Luke Myers

If you’re a keen cyclist and you’re looking for places to visit in Ireland that are perfect for a cycle, get yourself and your bike out to the Waterford Greenway.

Although the Greenway is Ireland’s longest off-road trail, you can complete it in a couple of hours by bike. 

Those that tackle the Greenway can expect to encounter deserted railway stations, historic pubs, churches, Norman castles, the site of a Viking settlement, along with a tonne of scenery.

12. Explore the Wild Atlantic Way on foot or by bike

the dingle way walk
Photo © Hillwalk Tours

One of the best things to do in Ireland is to explore on foot (or by bike). If you’re open to a long walk or cycle, the Wild Atlantic Way is home to plenty of trails to do both.

From long-distance walks, like the Dingle Way, that’ll take a few days to shorter hikes like the one up Croagh Patrick, you’re spoiled for choice.

Hop into our guide to the best walks on the Wild Atlantic Way for a clatter of inspiration on where to head for a walking holiday.

13. Head off on a 3-day’ road trip’ around the Aran Islands

aran islands ireland
Photos: L – Gareth McCormack. Centre – Gastro Gays. Right – Chris Hill

If you read our guide to the Aran Islands, you’ll know that it’s possible to road trip around them… by ferry.

While this isn’t a traditional road trip, it’s easy to follow and it packs a sizeable punch, as the islands are home to an almost endless number of things to see and do.

You’ll start your journey with a trip to Inis Mor (from Doolin pier in Clare) before moving on to Inis Meain and then, finally, to the brilliant Inis Oirr.

Over the course of your trip, you’ll see many a fort, sea cliff and historic site (you’ll also find a handful of cosy pubs for post-adventure pints).

Unique things to do in Ireland

  1. Visit Bull Rock – the ‘Gateway to the Underworld’
  2. Discover the story behind ‘the Darkest Place in Ireland’
  3. Gaze out at the highest sea cliffs in Ireland
  4. Climb the stone staircase on Arranmore Island
  5. Visit the most haunted castle in Ireland
  6. Get consumed by the stars at the Kerry International Dark-Sky Reserve
  7. Take a ferry to the isolated prison once known as ‘Ireland’s Hell’
  8. Visit Ireland’s heart-shaped lake
  9. Experience a natural underworld of rivers and waterfalls at the Marble Arch Caves
  10. Visit the most extensive Stone Age monument in the world in Mayo

1. Visit Bull Rock – the ‘Gateway to the Underworld’

bull rock island cork
Photo on the right: Deirdre Fitzgerald. Left: J.A. Ross (shutterstock)

If you’re looking for off-the-beaten-track things to do in Ireland, few attractions pack a punch as mighty as a visit to the incredible Bull Rock.

The chances are you’ll have heard of Dursey – a little island at the southwestern tip of the Beara Peninsula (yep, it’s the one that you can reach via Ireland’s only cable car).

Off the western point of Dursey lies three rocks: Bull Rock, Cow Rock and Calf Rock. Bull Rock (pictured above) is a wonderfully unique looking 93m high and 228m by 164m wide island.

You can sail around (and through) the island via a boat tour. Find out everything you need to know about Bull Rock and how to reach it here.

2. Discover the story behind ‘the Darkest Place in Ireland’

Dunmore cave county kilkenny
Photo by Mark Heard (creative commons)

The earliest mention of Dunmore Cave was in a 9th-century Irish triad poem, where it’s chillingly referred to as ‘the darkest place in Ireland’.

In 928 AD, Dunmore cave witnessed the slaughter of 1,000 people at the hands of the Vikings.

The tragic event, which is documented in the Annals of the Kingdom of Ireland, was backed up in 1973 when the bones of 44 people were found in the cave. Learn more here.

Related Read: Check out our guide to 21 things to do in Kilkenny (because there’s more to this county than just a castle).

3. Gaze out at the highest sea cliffs in Ireland

highest cliffs ireland
Photo by Junk Culture/shutterstock.com

Contrary to popular belief, the highest sea cliffs in Ireland aren’t the ones at Slieve League in Donegal. And they aren’t the Cliffs of Moher, either!

The highest sea cliffs in Ireland can be found on Achill Island in County Mayo where they stand at a staggering 2,257 feet/687 meters… that’s pretty damn high.

Mayo’s Croaghaun Cliffs are the third highest in Europe, falling behind Hornelen in Norway (2821 feet/860 meters) and Cape Enniberg on the Faroe Islands (2,474 feet/754 meters).

You’ll find them hidden away at the western end of Achill Island on the northern side of the towering Croaghaun Mountain, near the magnificent Keem Bay.

4. Climb the stone staircase on Arranmore Island

arrandmore island donegal
Photo by ‎Sebastian Sebo

Often, the best things to do in Ireland are the little hidden gems that rarely make it onto the big flashy tourism ads. 

At around seven square miles in size, Arranmore island is the second largest of Ireland’s inhabited islands, and it’s the biggest of Donegal’s islands.

For those looking to explore, the island has many marked trails that’ll take you past an ever-changing tapestry of natural beauty, from sandy beaches to craggy cliffs.

And steps. A big ass staircase of stone steps that look like something plucked from a land that time forgot.

Related Read: Check out our guide to 45+ things to do in Donegal on a lovely 3-day road trip (full guide + itinerary).

5. Try not to sh*t bricks at the most haunted castle in Ireland

most haunted castle in ireland
Photo on left by Brian Morrisson. Right via Shutterstock

If you’re in search of things to do in Ireland that’ll give you a bit of a scare, get yourself to Leap Castle.

You’ll find it in County Offally, a stone’s throw from the little village of Coolderry. It’s widely accepted that Leap is the most haunted castle in Ireland.

The reason for this belief is the many bloody events that took place in the castle over the years. Read more here (the castles history really is mental!).

6. Get consumed by the stars at the Kerry International Dark-Sky Reserve

kerry dark sky reserve
Photo by Tom Archer via Tourism Ireland

The next stop on the list takes us to a little corner of Kerry that has been designated Ireland’s very first International Dark Sky Reserve by the International Dark-Sky Association.

It’s also one of only 3 Gold Tier Reserves on the planet, and the only Gold Tier Reserve in the Northern Hemisphere. Sounds cool, but what does it mean?

It means that on a clear night the sky in this part of Ireland is scattered with astronomical sights that you can gander at with the naked eye.

This, in my opinion, is one of the best things to do in Ireland. Imagine kicking-back without any equipment and being treated to a show that’ll knock the breath from your lungs.

Related Read: Check out our guide to the best things to do in Kerry (the Skellig Ring, Slea Head and much more).

7. Take a ferry to a prison once known as ‘Ireland’s Hell’

spike island cobh
Photos by Irish Drone Photography (shutterstock)

You’ll find a 103-acre island that’s been used as a place of worship, defense, confinement, and punishment a short ferry ride from the village of Cobh in Cork.

Spike Island was originally the site of a monastic settlement, but for over 200 years it has been dominated by the star fort named ‘Fort Mitchel’. 

A ‘Punishment Block’, built in response to the murder of a warder in 1856, was made up of 28 solitary confinement cells and it housed the most dangerous prisoners on the island.

There were several suicide attempts and the Punishment Block was the main reason that Spike Island was described as “Hell on earth” by many.

8. Visit Ireland’s heart-shaped lake 

koh
Standing out at Lough Ouler on a not-so-sunny May morning

You’ll find Lough Ouler in the Wicklow Mountains, at the side of Tonelagee Mountain, the 33rd highest mountain in Ireland and the 3rd highest peak in the Wicklow Mountains.

It’s from the summit of Tonelagee that you’ll be treated to a view of Ireland’s unique heart-shaped lake. 

The hike here is reasonably handy (here’s a guide to it) and the views that you’re treated to on a clear day are well worth the quad spasms.

Related Read: Check out our guide to 37 of the best things to do in Wicklow this weekend.

9. Experience a natural underworld of rivers and waterfalls at the Marble Arch Caves

Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark
Photo via Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark

The Marble Arch Caves in County Fermanagh are a series of natural limestone caves found near the village of Florencecourt.

At around 11.5 kilometres in length, the caves form the longest known cave system in Northern Ireland.

Those that nip along to the Marble Arch Caves will experience a natural underworld of rivers, waterfalls, winding passages and lofty chambers, while gorgeous cave formations glisten all around.

Northern Ireland guide: Check out our detailed guide to the 56 best things to do in Northern Ireland.

10. Visit the most extensive Stone Age monument in the world in Mayo

the Céide Fields county mayo
Photo by Peter McCabe

Beneath the boglands of North Mayo lies the Céide Fields – the most extensive Stone Age monument in the world.

The Céide Fields consist of field systems, dwelling areas and megalithic tombs. The magnificent stone-walled fields, which extend over thousands of acres, are a whopping 6,000 years old.

You can easily pair a visit here with a trip out to Downpatrick Head to see the big aul sea stack known as Dun Briste.

Related Read: Check out our guide to 19 things to do in Mayo in 2019 (Ireland’s highest cliffs, a lost valley & plenty more).

11. Visit the Caves of Keash

Caves of Keash sligo
Photo by Gareth Wray (you can buy a print of this photo here)

The Caves of Keash are another often missed natural attraction in Ireland. The caves are an ancient passage tomb cluster.

Interestingly enough, it’s said that they predate the Pyramids of Egypt by a whopping 500-800 years. 

Geological and archaeological inspections in the 1900s revealed that early man used and lived in the caves at Keash.

There are 17 caves in total here and you can visit them via a guided tour that leaves from the Keash visitor centre.

12. Spin along one of Ireland’s very bendy roads

Ballaghbeama pass
Photos via shutterstock.com

Ireland’s home to some very unique roads. Some take you very close to the side of a cliff, like Conor Pass, while others look like something from a different world, like Glengesh Pass.

Now, some tourists visiting Ireland tend to avoid these roads, however, there’s nothing to be frightened of once you take your time and drive carefully. 

Related Read: Check out our guide to 13 of the narrowest, bendiest and, at times, dangerous roads in Ireland.

13. Get a grand aul 360 view at an Grianan of Aileach

Grianan of Aileach donegal
Photo by Tom Archer

The Grianan of Aileach is a hillfort that sits on top of the 801 ft high Greenan Mountain on Inishowen in Donegal.

The scenic drive up to the fort, which is said to date back to the 1st century, is worth the trip alone.

When you reach the top you’ll have a magnificent 360 view that takes in Lough Swilly, Lough Foyle and the spectacular countryside that the Inishowen Peninsula has by the bucket load.

14. Have a float around Doonagore Castle

Doonagore Castle
Photo by shutterupeire (Shutterstock)

I’ve visited Doolin on many different occasions over the years, but it wasn’t until my most recent visit in late 2019 that I visited Doonagore Castle.

Dating back to the 16th century, this castle looks like something plucked straight from Walt Disney’s head.

If you’re visiting Doolin, Doonagore Castle is a handy 5-minute drive from the village. It’s well worth slapping this place onto your Ireland itinerary.

15. Cruise beneath the Cliffs of Moher in a little ferry

Visiting the cliffs of moher
Photo by Simon Crowe

The best way to see the Cliffs of Moher is by sailing below them. The lads at Doolin Ferry and Doolin2Aran offer a tour that’ll take you over to Inis Oirr Island and then back beneath the Cliffs of Moher on the return journey.

I’ve been to the cliffs twice before and loved each visit, but this is just a different ball game altogether.

You get surprisingly close to the cliff face, and it’s only when you approach from below that you truly appreciate the sight of the 700-foot cliff that’s towering above you.

Couple the view with the fact that you’re on a relatively small boat that’s swaying side-to-side thanks to the choppy Atlantic Ocean and you’re in for a treat.

16. Visit the oldest library in Ireland

marsh's library dublin
Photo by James Fennell via Ireland’s Content Pool

You’ll find the oldest library in Ireland just behind St Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin, and it’s absolutely gorgeous.

Founded wayyyyy back in 1707, Marsh’s Library holds roughly 25,000 books and 300 manuscripts.

As you wander around this little hidden gem, keep an eye out for bullet holes in the bookcases, which made their mark during the Easter Rising when the hotel next door was being occupied.

Over the years, Marsh’s has had a lot of famous visitors. The likes of Bram Stoker, Jonathan Swift and James Joyce have all been here and you can see their signatures in the visitor book.

17. Soak up the northern lights (if you’re lucky)

malin head northern lights
Photo By Michael Gill

You won’t find the greatest show in the world on Broadway or in London’s West End. It’s not airing at 9 p.m. on Sunday night on HBO and, contrary to popular belief – you don’t have to board a plane to check it out.

Over recent years, thanks to strong solar wind activity, the skies above Ireland have played host to the shimmering beauty that is Aurora Borealis. The result – mind-boggling beauty.

If you read our guide to seeing the Northern Lights in Ireland, you’ll know that a lot of factors need to fall into place for the lights to be visible, so slot this onto the to-see-before-you-kick-the-bucket list.

18. Explore one of the oldest operational lighthouses on earth

Hook head at sunset
Photo by Hook Tourism via Failte Ireland

Next up is Hook Lighthouse in County Wexford. The current structure has been marking the entrance to Wexford Harbour for at least 800 years, yet its history goes back a whole lot further.

Monks kept a warning beacon to warn sailors of the dangers of shipwreck on the rocky headland during the period 500-1000 AD.

Grab a cup of coffee in the café after your drive before climbing the 115 steps to the top of the lighthouse to enjoy the mighty view of the Wexford coastline.

19. Walk along the cliffs at Loop Head (one of the best things to see in Ireland)

kilbaha cliffs loop head
Photo © The Irish Road Trip

I love the Cliffs of Moher, but they’re constantly packed (unless you visit after hours). Many people visiting Ireland completely bypass Kilbaha and the magnificent cliffs at Loop Head Lighthouse.

I’ve visited here many times over the past 5 years and I’m always blown away by the sheer lack of people that you meet.

Park the car at the lighthouse and walk along the grass to the right of the wall that surrounds it. 

20. Take a ferry to Clare Island (and stay in a lighthouse)

clare island lighthouse spend a night

You’ll find Clare Island off the south Mayo coast at the entrance to Clew Bay. This island is known and loved for its craggy cliffs, hills, bogs, and woodlands.

For those of you in search of a bed for the night that’s a little bit different, you can spend a night in the island’s lighthouse, which was built in 1806.

What to do in Ireland for tourists: A guide to the ‘old reliables’ 

  1. Visit one of the many castles in Ireland
  2. Gaze out at the Cliffs of Moher at sunset
  3. Have a stroll down around Giants Causeway
  4. Visit the Guinness Storehouse
  5. Take a trip to a whiskey distillery
  6. Soak up some scenery (and history) in Glendalough
  7. Visit Brú na Bóinne
  8. Battle the breeze up at Malin Head
  9. Nurse a pint in the oldest pub in Ireland
  10. Walk the bridge at Mizen Head
  11. Spend the night in a castle
  12. Dodge the crowds at the Kerry Cliffs
  13. Saunter along the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge
  14. Visit the Titanic Belfast

1. Visit one of the many castles in Ireland

castles in northern ireland
Photo left: Ester Lo Feudo. Right: shawnwil23 (Shutterstock)

Ireland’s home to an almost endless number of castles and they’re at the top of the ‘must see in Ireland’ list for many of those that visit.

From tourist favourites like Blarney Castle, Bunratty Castle and the Rock of Cashel to less-visited castles like Kinbane Castle and Swords Castle, there’s plenty to choose from.

In our guide to the best Irish castles, you’ll get an insight in the many different castles that you can find in Ireland along with which ones we think are most worth visiting.

2. Gaze out at the Cliffs of Moher at sunset

cliffs of moher at sunset
Photo © The Irish Road Trip

A visit to the Cliffs of Moher is one of the most popular things to do in Ireland. Millions of people (a whopping 1,580,010 in 2018) visit each and every year.

I’m pretty sure that they, along with the Guinness Storehouse, tend to rank one and two in the annual Tourism Ireland report on the most visited Ireland attractions.

Located in County Clare, The Cliffs of Moher are situated at the southwestern edge of the Burren, where they stretch for around 8 kilometres.

If you can, try and arrive at Moher for sunrise or sunset. It tends to be quieter at these times and your experience will be twice as enjoyable.

3. Have a stroll down around Giants Causeway

giants causeway
Photo by Arthur Ward

Next on the list is a place where, according to legend, a giant by the name of Finn MacCool began his quest to defeat a cocky Scottish giant.

An official Unesco World Heritage Site since 1986, the Giant’s Causeway was formed between 50 to 60 million years ago as a result of a volcanic eruption.

The eruption led to the creation of a corner of the world so incredibly unique that it has been nicknamed the 8th wonder of the world.

Those that visit will see some of the estimated 40,000 interlocking basalt columns that make up this natural masterpiece.

4. Visit the Guinness Storehouse

guinness storehouse

Many (and I mean many) tourists place a visit to the Guinness Storehouse up there as one of the best things to do in Ireland.

A colossal 1.7 million visitors passed through its doors in 2018 and they’re set to welcome visitor number 20,000,000 in 2019.

Take a spin out here for an interactive experience that fuses Guinnesses’ lengthy brewing heritage with Ireland’s history. 

5. Soak up some scenery (and history) in Glendalough

spinc walk wicklow
Photo via Failte Ireland

Ah, Glendalough. A place where nature and history collide beautifully. Glendalough in County Wicklow is one of those places that I know I’ll be visiting for the rest of my life.

There’s an endless number of walks and hikes to head off on, the scenery is out-of-this-world and you always tend to discover something new on each visit. 

If you’re renting a car in Ireland and you’re looking to park near Glendalough, make sure to arrive EARLY – getting a place to park here can be a nightmare.

6. Explore Brú na Bóinne (Newgrange is one of the most historical places to visit in Ireland)

Newgrange meath
Photo by Brian Morrison

I talk to a lot of tourists that have visited Ireland. Many shout from the rooftops that the Brú na Bóinne Visitor Centre is the best place to see in Ireland.

The centre is an information hub that’ll help you explore Newgrange and Knowth before you visit the attractions themselves. It’s from here that you’ll make your journey out to Newgrange.

For those that have never heard of Newgrange, it’s an 85 meters in diameter and 13.5 meters high ancient passage tomb that was built over 5,200 years ago by Stone Age farmers. That makes it OLDER than Stonehenge and the Great Pyramids of Giza.

7. Battle the breeze up at Malin Head

malin head
Photo by Lukassek (Shutterstock)

Youll find Malin Head, the most northerly point* on the island of Ireland, in Donegal, on the Inishowen Peninsula.

This corner of Ireland is renowned for its rugged coastal landscape, which attracts everyone from photographers to rock climbers. I visited here recently and the one thing that hit me was the sheer power of mother nature.

As I stood and gazed out at the weathered rocks that jutted out of the ocean nearby, I was half deafened from the whistle of the wind that whipped over the Atlantic coupled with the sound of water crashing against rock.

Definitely one of the top things to see in Ireland. Especially if you’re here to explore the coast.

*To be completely accurate, the most northerly point is a section of Malin Head named Banba’s Crown.

8. Nurse a pint in the oldest pub in Ireland 

seans bar athlone
Photo via Sean’s Bar

It’s crazy to think that for over 1,000 years a pub smack bang in the middle of Ireland has been catering to the needs of weary travellers and locals alike.

You’ll find Sean’s Bar a short stroll from the River Shannon, and a stone’s throw from the castle in Athlone Town.

The pub dates back to 900AD, a fact that was verified during an excavation in 1970 that exposed walls consisting of ancient wattle and daub, dating back to the 9th century.

While one of the original walls that was discovered during the excavation remains on show in Sean’s, the rest, along with coins that were also discovered at the time, now sit inside Dublin’s National History Museum.

9. Walk the bridge at Mizen Head

Mizen Head
Photo by RR Photo (Shutterstock)

We’re heading from the extreme north to the extreme south, next! Mizen Head in Cork is Ireland’s most Southwesterly Point.

Located atop high cliffs and towering above the swirling tides below, the signal station here was built to save lives off the treacherous rocks at Mizen.

Visitors can ramble around the award-winning museum before heading off to admire the cliffs.

Related read: check out our guide to 41 of the best things to do in Cork in 2020!

10. Spend a night in a castle… that won’t banjax your bank account

irish castle hotel

Spending a night in an Irish castle doesn’t have to break the bank. OK, if you choose to stay in the one Kanye West stayed in, then it probably will, but there are plenty that come in at a reasonable enough price.

One of the most frequent messages I get from tourists from the states revolves around staying in an Irish castle.

Check out our guide to 20 of the swankiest castle Airbnbs and castle hotels Ireland has to offer (there’s something to suit most budgets!)

11. Dodge the crowds at the Cliffs of Moher and visit the Kerry Cliffs instead (one of my favourite places to visit in Ireland)

the kerry cliffs
Photo by Mark Heighes/shutterstock.com

If you’re in search of things to do in Ireland that’ll help you dodge hoards of tourists and that’ll still deliver a solid experience, get yourself to the Kerry Cliffs.

I’ve been here three times in the past 2 years and there were less than 10 people there on both occasions.

The Kerry Cliffs were formed over 400 million years ago and you’ll find them a handy 3km from Portmagee. Expect a cool and powerful Atlantic breeze along with views of the Skellig Islands.

12. Saunter along the Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge

Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge from above
Photo by @storytravelers

The Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge in County Antrim hangs over 25 feet above the icy waters below. The first rope bridge was erected between the mainland and Carrick-a-Rede in 1755.

It was originally used by local salmon fishermen who cast their nets off into the Atlantic, in search of the perfect catch.

If you fancy crossing the bridge, fret not – the bridge in place today is made of sturdy wire.

Related Read: Take a look at our guide to 25 things to do in Belfast today (if you’re fond of amazing views, history + ancient pubs).

Wondering what to do in Ireland? Here’s a map with 870+ things to do and places to see

If you’re wondering what to do in Ireland and you aren’t sure where to begin, hopefully the map above helps.

It’s packed with 870+ places to visit and things to do in Ireland that should give you a bit of inspiration if you’re stuck.

We created this originally back in mid-2018, but it received a solid revamp over the last few months.

To use it, simply zoom in on the place that you’re visiting and you’ll be presented with tonnes of things to do nearby.

What you’ll get from the map

    • The best things to do in Ireland across every single county
    • Unique off-the-beaten-track sights that you won’t find in a lot of guidebooks
    • Places that myself, family and/or friends have been to and loved – a lot of these are random places that you’ll only hear about when chatting to a local.
    • Large tourist attractions that you’ll have heard of, but sure we’ve popped them on just in case

FAQs about things to do in Ireland

Since launching this guide, we’ve received a tonne of emails from people asking for recommendations of things to do in Ireland and places to visit.

Below, I’ve popped in some of the most frequently asked questions we get from people that revolve around things to see in Ireland and places to go.

What is the best thing to do in Ireland?

This is going to vary greatly depending on who you ask. In my opinion, the best things to do in Ireland are:

  1. Head off on a hike that’ll treat you to some mighty views
  2. Nurse a post-adventure pint while soaking up some scenery
  3. Step off the beaten path and explore a bit of ‘hidden Ireland’
  4. Head off on an Irish road trip packed with adventure, scenery and history
  5. Stroll along the most dramatic path in Europe
  6. Spend a night in one of Ireland’s unique rentals
  7. Watch the sunset from Valentia Island
  8. See the whales do their thing in West Cork
  9. Get your nature buzz on at Gougane Barra
  10. Spend a day spinning along the Waterford Greenway

What fun things can you do in Ireland?

This will, again, vary depending on who you ask but, in my opinion, some fun things to do in Ireland are:

  1. Catch the sunset on Valentia Island in Kerry
  2. Spend a week working around the Aran Islands
  3. Sail below the Cliffs of Moher and Slieve League
  4. Walk alongside the highest sea cliffs in Ireland (Croaghaun on Achill Island)
  5. Spend days hiking or cycling and nights chilling in buzzy ‘old-school’ pubs

What places to see in Ireland do you think are overrated?

his is a topic that tends to cause quite a bit of debate online. The only tourist attraction in Ireland that I’ve found really overrated was the Dark Hedges. 

There have been others that I felt were a bit of a scam (the Giants Causeway car park being the main one!)

What are the most unique places to see in Ireland?

In my opinion, the most unique places to visit in Ireland are:

  1. Dunmore Cave, Kilkenny
  2. The Blasket Islands, Kerry
  3. Gougane Barra, Cork
  4. Queen Maeve’s Grave, Sligo
  5. The Mourne Mountains, Down
  6. Torr Head, Antrim
  7. Croaghaun Cliffs, Mayo
  8. Bull Rock, Cork

What should you not miss in Ireland?

This is a tricky one. If you read our guide to planning the perfect Ireland itinerary, you’ll see me recommend a handy process for mapping out the best route for YOU.

If you follow this process, you’ll end up seeing and visiting places in Ireland that are likely to leave you with a lasting happy (hopefully…) memory.