The Emerald Isle is one of our favorite places in the world. To date, we’ve been 4 times, each visit totaling several weeks. Needless to say, we have a pretty good idea of the best places to visit in Ireland. Chances are you’re on a quest searching where to go in Ireland that rivals the postcard images you’ve seen in advertisements and elsewhere online. If that describes you, you’ve come to the right place… we’ve got some awesome recommendations for you!
Tip: Don’t Plan Too Much!
A word of caution before we continue, though. You may be tempted to see as much as possible on your first visit. While that was certainly our approach on our first trip to Ireland, we strongly advise against it. There are so many wonderful places to go in Ireland. If you try to do too much, you’ll run yourself ragged.
That’s why we’ve sorted our recommendations of where to visit in Ireland by region. Pick a region and explore it deeply. We have no doubt after your first trip, you’ll long to go back. And when you do, you can pick another region to explore.
Ireland is much bigger than it appears at first glance. First-time visitors often underestimate the time it takes to get between destinations. “But it looks so close on the map“, you’ll say. Keep in mind that the roads in Ireland are narrow and windy.
And if you’re learning to drive on the right side of the car on the left side of the road for the first time, you’ll definitely want to take it easy. (If you do plan on renting a car, read our write-up on what you need to know about car hire in Ireland.) Want to leave the driving up to someone else? We highlight some great guided tour options in our massive Ireland Trip Planning post.
But for now, without further adieu, allow us to share with you the BEST Places To Go in Ireland. Again, we’ve broken down the list by region and then further by county.
Places to Visit in Ireland – Southeast
The majority of people who visit Ireland, fly in to Dublin. So naturally, we’ll start our journey of the best places to visit in Ireland here! From the vibrant capital city to the sleepy towns dotting the coast in Counties Waterford and Wexford, there are plenty of things to do in Ireland’s southwest region.
- Trinity College – Tour the campus, visit the 18th-century Old Library, & gaze upon the historic Book of Kells
- Guinness Storehouse – Take a tour, enjoy the rooftop bar, & sample Guinness straight from the source
- St Patrick’s Cathedral (pictured below) – The National Cathedral of the Church of Ireland located in the heart of Dublin
- Killiney Hill – A nice hill walk with views of Dublin, Bray Head, the Irish Sea, and the Wicklow Mountains
- Johnnie Fox’s Irish Pub – Ireland’s ‘highest pub’ located in the Dublin mountains offering daily live music
- Mahon Waterfall (pictured below) – A majestic 262-ft (80 m) multi-level waterfall nestled in the Comeragh Mountains
- House of Waterford Crystal – Enjoy a guided factory tour and/or shop in the luxurious retail store
- Copper Coast Geopark – Historical sites and natural beauty (coves, bays, bogs, and beaches) along the coast
- Dungarvan – A quaint harbor town w/ a variety of waterfront dining options, local pubs, & live music events
- Waterford Greenway – 28.5 mile (46 km) off-road walking and cycling path (Waterford City to Dungarvan)
- Hook Head Drive – Scenic drive & lighthouse; thought to be the oldest working lighthouse in Europe
- Dunbrody Abbey (pictured below) – A cross-shaped former Cistercian monastery, built in the 13th century
- New Ross – Small town located on the River Barrow; home to Emigrant Flame & Dunbrody Famine Ship
- Tintern Abbey – Partially restored ruins of a Cistercian abbey; wooded walking paths nearby
- Loftus Hall – Believed to be the most haunted house in Ireland; located along the Hook Head scenic drive
- Bray Head – 4.3-mile (7 km) hill walk offering stunning views over Dublin’s Bay & the Wicklow Mountains
- Sally Gap – Scenic drive through open landscapes at an elev. of 1,600 feet (503m) in the Wicklow Mountains
- Glendalough (pictured below) – A natural valley in Wicklow Mountains National Park containing an abundance of wildlife & historical sites
- Avoca Wool Mill – Oldest working woolen mill in Ireland | Tour the factory, peruse the shop, and eat in the café
- Powerscourt Gardens & Estate – Voted No. 3 Garden in the World by National Geographic; Ireland’s tallest waterfall
Places to Go in Ireland – Southwest
The southwest region of the country is where it’s at! This is where you’ll find the largest collection of popular places to visit in Ireland. If you don’t mind the crowds (summer especially) and want to hit the highlights, you’ll want to spend several days in the southwest. (Our Ireland Destination Guide has some great sample itineraries.) Many of our recommendations for the top 10 scenic drives in Ireland can be found in this region. It’s where the famed Wild Atlantic Way begins (or ends, depending on which direction you travel).
- Dingle Peninsula (pictured below) – 30-mile (47 km) circular drive around Slea Head w/ stunning coastal views and historic sites (The Dingle Peninsula just might be one of our favorite places to visit in Ireland! We think Slea Head Drive rivals the Ring of Kerry.)
- Ring of Kerry – 111-mile (179 km) drive around the Iveragh Peninsula with several notable stops and attractions (It’s probably one of Ireland’s most popular scenic drives.)
- Gap of Dunloe – A scenic mountain pass btwn MacGillycuddy Reeks & Purple Mountain, formed by glaciers (We love the Gap of Dunloe and have visited ‘The Gap’ on two different trips!)
- Killarney National Park – Attractions incl. Muckross House & Abbey, Ross Castle, and Torc Waterfall (We’ve now visited all 6 of Ireland’s National Parks.)
- Beara Peninsula – A 92-mile (148 km) drive around the peninsula crosses Healy Pass & offers superb scenic views (Beara may be one of Ireland’s lesser known peninsulas, but definitely still deserves a visit.)
- The Burren National Park – A fascinating and rugged landscape with exposed limestone pavement; it looks otherworldly
- Cliffs of Moher (pictured below) – 5 miles (8 km) of natural cliffs reaching a height of 702 feet (214 m) with magnificent views (No trip to Ireland is complete without a visit to the famed Cliffs of Moher.)
- Ballinalacken Castle – 15th- or 16th-century two-stage tower house located in the Burren region
- Ennis Friary – A partially preserved 13th-century Franciscan Friary, located in the small town of Ennis (Ennis was voted one of Ireland’s friendliest cities.)
- Bunratty Castle & Folk Park – Visit traditional farm houses/cottages | Explore a 15th-century tower house
- Mizen Head Signal Station (pictured below) – Visitor’s center, fog signal station, arched bridge, and dramatic coastlines
- Blarney Castle – Medieval castle & gardens where you can climb the steps and kiss the Blarney Stone
- Drombeg Stone Circle – Recumbent stone circle and one of the most visited megalithic sites in Ireland
- St Colman’s Cathedral – Neo-Gothic style church overlooking Cork Harbor (also known as Cobh Cathedral)
- Jameson Distillery – Take a guided distillery tour, learn about the whiskey making process, and enjoy samples
60 Things to See in Ireland Printable Photo Guide – FREE!
If you would like the accompanying printable guide of these recommendations (complete with photos), click HERE and it will be in your inbox within minutes!
Places to See in Ireland – Northwest
The northwest may be one of the least visited places to visit in Ireland. This is precisely why you should put this region on your list, before it gets discovered by crowds of visitors. The Wild Atlantic Way continues on up the west coast, offering some really great stops along the way! Several of Ireland’s national parks can be found in the northwest corner of the country, as well.
- Glenveagh National Park & Castle – Enjoy beautiful lakes, scenic walks, and a late 19th-century castle
- Slieve League – At 1,971 ft (601 m), Slieve League Mountain has some of the highest sea cliffs in Ireland (It’s like the Cliffs of Moher without the crowds)
- Malin Head – Ireland’s most northerly point (Banba’s Crown), located on the Inishowen Peninsula
- Grianan of Aileach (pictured below) – A circular stone fort sitting atop Greenan Mountain with origins dating back to 1700 BC
- Silver Strand Beach – A secluded horseshoe shaped beach with dramatic coastline situated at Malin Beg
- Connemara National Park – Access Diamond Hill with a selection of 4 varied hiking trails at the visitor’s center; offers some of the best views in Ireland
- Kylemore Abbey (pictured below) – 1,000-acre estate with scenic walks, walled garden, neo-Gothic church, café, & craft shop
- Galway City (Quay Street & Latin Quarter) – Lively corner of town with old pubs & charming restaurants
- Aughnanure Castle – 16th-century tower house in a picturesque setting near the shores of Lough Corrib
- Connemara Loop Drive – Highlights including Inagh Valley, Connemara NP, Renvyle Peninsula, and Killary Fjord
- Croagh Patrick – At 2,507 ft (764 m), it is the holiest mountain in Ireland and an important site of pilgrimage
- Ballycroy National Park – Boggy and mountainous terrain make up this National Park / Dark Sky Park
- Cong – Charming small town featuring Cong Abbey, 5-star Ashford Castle, Monk’s Fishing House, and nature trails
- Achill Island (pictured below) – Largest island off the coast of Ireland with scenic drives, natural beauty, and historical sites
- Downpatrick Head – Scenic peninsula point with sea caves, sea stacks, and crashing waves
- Knocknarea – A 1,073-ft (327 m) high limestone hill prominently located on the Cúil Irra peninsula
- Rosses Point Beach – Delight in a nice coastal walk at this sheltered beach near the entrance to Sligo Harbor
- Mullaghmore Head – Enjoy panoramic coastal views and witness waves crashing under Classiebawn Castle
- Benbulbin – A large rock formation that is part of Dartry Mountains (also known as Ben Bulben or Benbulben)
- Glencar Waterfall (County Leitrim / pictured below) – Follow a short wooded walk to this 50-ft (15 m) romantic waterfall
Northern Ireland Highlights
While Northern Ireland is technically a different country, it’s easy to get to from the Republic of Ireland. In fact, you may not even be able to tell when you’ve crossed the border. (Except the speed limit signs will now be in kph instead of mph. And if you purchase anything, be prepared to pay in pounds, as opposed to Euros). Otherwise, the beauty of the Emerald Isle continues.
Counties Londonderry & Antrim
- Causeway Coastal Route – Scenic drive featuring Giant’s Causeway (see next), Dark Hedges, Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge & more
- Giant’s Causeway – A collection of 40,000 interlocking basalt columns formed from a volcanic eruption
- Murlough Bay – A remote location sandwiched between Fair Head & Torr Head with views of Rathlin Island
- Ballintoy Harbor (pictured below)- A small fishing harbor at the end of a small, narrow, steep road down Knocksaughey Hill; stunning coastal views
- Glenariff Forest Park – 2,928 acres (1,185 hectares) of scenic forest trails and tranquil riverside walks
So, as you can see, there are plenty of stunning places to visit in Ireland. See why we warned you against trying to fit in everything on your first visit? If you haven’t already, be sure to download the accompanying photo guide to this post of the 60 Best Places to Visit in Ireland. Get your FREE copy HERE. We wish you a wonderful visit to the Emerald Isle!