7 Places To Visit In Ireland
From the valleys in Glendalough, to the breath-taking Cliffs of Moher, Star Wars and Harry Potter film locations, we will take you through 7 top-notch places to visit in Ireland.
No doubt we’ve missed a few along the way. Ireland has no shortage of stunning landscapes and hidden gems. Feel free to let us know of any places you think should be here in the comments section below.
We might even add them in! :)
Let’s get to it!
Skellig Micheal, County Kerry
For the Star Wars fans out there.
Rising 218m out of the Atlantic, this epic island sits 12 kilometres off the west coast of Kerry and was declared a Unesco World Heritage site in 1996.
So epic is this Island, that the Star Wars franchise used it to portray the ‘out-of-this-world’ land of Ahch-To - the lost planet where Luke Skywalker had withdrawn himself and been living for many years as a hermit until his crew found him sporting a rugged monk-like robe in ‘The Force Awakens’.
Ancient Ascetic Monks Of Skellig Michael
Funnily enough, Luke Skywalker wouldn’t have been the first to live a hermit lifestyle on Skellig Michael. The small stone huts, and 618 steps seen in the short Star Wars scene were built by real ancient monks who first set foot on the island of Skellig in the 6th century, and stayed until around 12th century.
Similar to a Jedi in training, the Ancient Monks would have practiced Asceticism, completely withdrawing themselves from any pleasure and confining themselves into a life of self-exile and pure devotion to God. It’s probably no coincidence that Luke Skywalker stated how the fictional Anch-To Island is said to be the birth place of the ‘Jedi Religion’.
Celtic Roots Tip: Book in advance!
Skellig Michael is one of the more difficult locations to get to, and is also in huge demand since the growth of its popularity since its appearance in Star Wars. If you plan ahead, you’ll be one of the few who actually do get there, and will have visited one of the most epic islands in the world.
2. The Cliffs Of Moher, County Clare
Further up the coast from Skellig Michael we have the majestic Cliffs of Moher in County Clare.
Like Skellig Michael, the cliffs with their dramatic and powerful views are used in many films like the movie ‘Leap Year’ and ‘Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince’. There certainly is an air of magic to be found here.
Iconic to Ireland, these Cliffs in County Clare - often be seen rising out of the mist, towering above the Atlantic Ocean - stand an impressive 700 feet above sea level. On a clear day you can see for miles, and if you’re cool with heights, peak down upon the rocky beaches below.
The cliffs are by far the largest tourist attraction in Ireland, both in popularity and sheer size - boasting over 1 million visitors a year and stretching 14 Kilometres across the Clare coast.
The Atlantic Puffin
If you are lucky enough, you might catch a glimpse of the Atlantic Puffin, also known as Sea Parrots, or my favourite, Clowns of the Sea. While they spend most of the time out at sea, they can be seen around the cliffs, and Islands of the west coast of Ireland, such as Skellig Michael mentioned above and (Spoiler alert) the Aran Islands, which we will get to in good time.
3. The Ring Of Kerry, County Kerry
Renowned by many as ‘Heaven’s Reflux’ since the 19th century, The Ring of Kerry is one of Kerry’s three peninsula’s, and is reckoned by many to be among the most beautiful landscapes in the world.
It is a consists of a 179km circular route around the Iveragh Peninsula in South Western Ireland and is home to Ireland’s tallest mountain range, the Macgillycuddy Reeks, with the tallest mountain - Carrantouhill, just waiting to be climbed by those who don’t mind getting off the beaten track and are up for a challenging hike!
If you aren’t ready to summit Ireland’s tallest mountain, there is no shortage of other less demanding trails, hikes, and treks around the Ring of Kerry for all fitness levels. Other popular places to visit here are the Gap of Dunloe, Valentia Island, Molls Gap, Ladies View, and many, many more.
Really, no matter where you turn you will be met by stunning and diverse views each step of the way. An added bonus are the vibrant towns with a rich music scene and pub culture dotted throughout Kerry, full of character and life waiting to be explored.
4. Glendalough, Co. Wicklow
Leaving the best of the West for the moment, and heading the East of Ireland we find Glendalough.
Pronounced ‘Glen - da - lock’ – meaning ‘The Valley of The Two Lakes’, this geographical gem is located in the heart of Wicklow mountains, less than an hour’s drive from the capital, Dublin.
From medieval monastic cities, Viking ships, stunning lakes, forests and mountains teeming with wildlife, Glendalough is truly a magical place you can’t afford to miss.
The Monastic City
The ancient ‘Monastic City’ dates back as early as the 6th century. The remains of the city makes for an incredible chance to get a glimpse of our ancient ancestors’ way of life.
Pictured above can be seen some the ruins of the city, and in the background - an impressive Round Tower standing some 30 metres high.
Once used as landmarks for approaching visitors, food storage, and refuge and safety when under attack from invaders, these towers can be spotted throughout Ireland acting as a reminder of our ancient ancestors ways of life. Many of these buildings are close to 1000 years old!
With such surroundings and history, you won’t be surprised to hear it’s a popular filming spot for many TV series, including the popular TV series ‘Vikings’, which often feature the stunning lakes and distinctive landmarks found throughout its valley!
Not only was a TV show about Vikings filmed there, but there numerous Viking attacks on the old Monastic cities. Around 1042, Vikings actually used oak timber from Glendalough to build the second largest Viking ship ever found on record! You can see an exact replica of that ship here.
From the picturesque valleys to the historic Monastic City, the mountainous national park is teeming with rich history and wild life waiting to be explored.
5. The Aran Islands
The National Geographic declared the three Aran Islands:
‘One of the World’s Top Island Destinations’
Three rugged and isolated islands located off the Galway Bay - the Aran Islands have a special old-worldly feel to them that you can’t get anywhere else on the mainland of Ireland. As time moved on, the Aran Island’s stood still, largely unaffected events on the mainland, bar perhaps recent tourism.
At its peak population, the Aran Islands was home to 3500 in 1840 - the time of the famine. However, numbers have since declined to around 1300. All the locals all speak Irish. There is a barren and rugged landscape, and there are over 2000km of the old stone walls throughout the islands
Earlier we briefly spoke of the colourful Puffins. If you are any sort of avid bird watcher, the Aran Islands is probably already on your list! The Aran Island’s is home to over 60,000 seabirds, many of which are rare, but there is obviously much more to the Island than the birds.
To reach the islands, you can either get ferry’s from Doolin, in County Clare, or Rossaveel about an hour’s drive west of Galway City – depending on the time of year.
The islands are home to Ireland’s most famous ancient fort standing precariously yet dramatically on the edge of a sheer cliff overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.
6. Dingle & Slea Head
One of the true highlights of Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way is unlike anywhere else in the world.
Ireland’s most westerly point, it is a place of breath-taking coastline with dramatic jutting cliffs, rolling hills and nail-bitingly narrow roads.
The town of Dingle itself is a cultural hub where you can get a real taste of the old traditional pub scene and join the friendly locals for a pint and a bit Irish traditional music and singing.
On the Dingle Peninsula, you are again spoiled for choice with hiking trekking and scenic drives. However, one of Dingle’s most famous attractions is a Bottle Nosed Dolphin living off the coast of Dingle named Fungi. Fungi - a particular friendly dolphin - will come right up to the boat to say hello to onlookers and loves to put on a show for the onlookers on the boats.
Dingle’s population is small with around 2000 people. However, Dingle’s immense popularity not only with tourists but the Irish as well, leads to a very interesting spectacle every New Years where the population is known to soar from to 2,000 to 10,000 to bring in the New Year together. For anyone who likes a bit of a party, this is the place to be on New Years in Ireland.
Be warned though, if you are keen to be in Dingle for New Year’s you need to book well in advance to ensure you get accommodation, as most places are taken long before New Year’s. Try to book at least 7 - 8 months in advance. The sooner the better.
7. The Rock Of Cashel
Located outside the small town of Cashel in Tipperary lies one of the most significant castles, not only in Ireland, but in all of Europe. The Rock of Cashel, also known as Cashel of the Kings and St. Patrick's Rock.
The oldest and tallest of the buildings is the well preserved round tower which stands 28 metres, dating from c.1100.
To quote from the WIKI entry “The complex has a character of its own, unique and native, and is one of the most remarkable collections of Celtic art and medieval architecture to be found anywhere in Europe.”
Let Us Know Your Favourite Irish Spots
And there you have it, 7 great places to put on your list when you visit Ireland. Or perhaps you already have! Did we miss any of your favourite spots? With so many gems to choose from we’ve no doubt missed a few!
But, If you think we missed something or somewhere really special, by all means let us know! We would love to include any places you think are deserving of a mention!
The Celtic Roots Team