Despite being one of Ireland’s most important historical sites, it’s Tara’s otherworldly views and fascinating archaeological finds that make it such a popular day trip from Dublin. The Hill of Tara, known as Temair in Gaelic, is located in County Meath and was once the ancient seat of the High Kings of Ireland – a series of grassy landscaped mounds presiding over the surrounding land. Ancient Irish mythology tells that 142 kings reigned from this mount in prehistoric times and Temair was renowned as the ‘sacred place of dwelling for the gods’. Legend dictates that Saint Patrick, patron Saint of Ireland, also visited the Hill, and a statue of him still reigns proud at the top.
Entry to the site is free but the rough terrain means you’ll need to scramble over ditches and up slippery grass mounds, so don’t forget your hiking boots!
Visitors to Blarney Castle most often are actually visitors to the Stone of Eloquence, better known as the Blarney Stone. As its name implies, the legend states that if you kiss the stone, you will never be at a loss for words. People come year after year to kiss this mystical stone, which can only be done by hanging upside down over a sheer drop from the castle's tower. Leaders and entertainers from all over the world have journeyed here to partake in this ritual and capture the power of the stone and travelers from near and far continue to do the same.
Besides the draw of the Stone, the Blarney Castle also boasts handsome gardens and several interesting rock formations. Known collectively as Rock Close, the formations have been given such whimsical names as Wishing Steps and Witch's Cave, adding a certain sense of enchantment to this 600 year old fortress. So by all means, take your turn to kiss the Stone.
One may not truly understand the awesome power of Mother Nature’s beauty until you have visited Connemara. With a countryside that will knock your socks off with the sheer beauty of the peninsula, a plethora of gorgeous flora, and remarkable landscape and coastal view, Connemara is a hiker's dream.
Immerse yourself in the land by taking up on of the area's offered activities, including kayaking, gorge walking or even rock climbing. Getting outdoors is the perfect way to explore this paradise.
While there, make sure to visit Kylemore Abbey and its Victorian Walled Garden, man's answer and contribution to this the area's sheer beauty. Situated waterside and along a hill, the Abbey's garden is the gem, with more than 6 acres of manicured terrain that includes banana trees, vines, and various herbs and flowers, all displayed with a thoughtful and wonderful symmetry.
Malahide Castle is one of Ireland's oldest castles, built on land given to Richard Talbot, a knight who accompanied King Henry II of England to Ireland in 1174. The Talbot family resided in the castle for nearly 800 years, up until 1975 when one of the last heiresses turned it over to the Irish State.
Now visitors may take guided tours of the castle and grounds, tracing the Talbot family's history back through portraits, artifacts, and stories. The most interesting rooms of the castle include the Oak Room, filled with decorative carvings, and the Great Hall, which is lined with paintings of the family. Keep your eyes and ears open as you wander through the rooms - you may just spot one of the castle's five ghosts!
Ireland’s most popular cruise destination, Dublin sees nearly two million cruise and ferry passengers come through its port each year. A UNESCO City of Literature since 2010, it is also a very green city, boasting more green space per square kilometer than any other European capital. With a thousand years of history behind it, Dublin truly has something to offer everyone, from historic churches and theatrers to trendy boutiques and lively pubs.
Even though it’s only an hour from Dublin, Avoca is a town where visitors feel like they’ve traveled back 400 years. Much of that feeling can be attributed to the historic Mill at Avoca Village, which has been weaving rugs, throws and scarves since 1723. Today, Avoca Handweavers is renowned throughout Ireland for their woven women’s clothing, and in addition to being Ireland’s oldest mill, is also considered to be the oldest business still operating in Ireland today. The multi-generational business aside, Avoca village is so visually charming that’s it been chosen as the set for numerous movies and local Irish television. When strolling the pastel-cottage lined streets—which themselves are backed by rolling green hills that define the Irish landscape—you truly feel that you’ve left the city for an authentic Irish village. It’s little wonder, given its beauty, that Avoca is a popular weekend getaway or long day trip from Dublin.
If you forgot your favorite rain jacket at home, or need to pick up some gloves or a windbreaker for a trip to Western Ireland, Kildare Village is Dublin’s most popular outlet shopping experience. Over 60 different big name brands are found in the shopping village, with stores often offering a 60% discount off of the retail price. What makes Kildare such an experience, however, is that visitors don’t feel like their rummaging through the leftovers that brands just wanted to discard. Everything about the village—from the clean, modern, and comfortable facilities to the trendy cafés and free Wi-Fi—has the feel of a luxurious shopping outing at prices that thankfully don’t match. Once you’re finished with the shopping experience, explore the museums, restaurants, and shops in the surrounding Kildare area, which is located 35 minutes from Dublin when conveniently arriving by train.
In 1775, the Dutch author Richard Twiss remarked that Castletown House “is the only house in Ireland to which the term palace can be applied.” Though not to detract from the country’s other standouts, it’s indeed true that the Castletown House is a piece of architectural wonder. Situated in County Kildare about 30 minutes west of Dublin, this palatial, Palladian-style mansion was constructed during the 1720s for William Connolly—who, in addition to being the Speaker of the Irish House of Commons, was also the wealthiest Irish commoner of the time. It was Ireland’s first and largest Palladian-style home—an architectural style inherited from the grandeur of Renaissance-era Italy. On a guided tour of the historic home, stroll beneath towering Ionic columns that connect the adjacent wings, and peruse the artifacts of one of Ireland’s most political and military families.
A terrifying Irish jail for over two centuries, Wicklow Gaol opened in 1702 as a place of imprisonment for Catholics repressed under the Penal Laws. Over 400 prisoners — old people, women, children, it didn't matter — could be locked up here for as petty a crime as stealing two shillings. And the barbaric keepers, along with the constant threat of disease, floggings, torture, and capital punishment made Wicklow Gaol a truly fearsome place. The jail finally closed down during the Irish Revolution in 1924, and today the old prison is one of Wicklow's most visited places.
On a visit, you’ll meet your first “inmate” in the foyer. He'll give you a few dark facts and tales about the prison, then, as you make your way past the hanging beam, you can go round at your own pace with an audio guide (and you could easily spend hours doing so), or you can join a tour with an inmate as a guide. Either way, you’ll learn the history of Ireland through the eyes of the prisoners.
Just outside of Dublin, Dalkey Castle entertains and informs with live actors from the Deilg Inis Theatre Company who reenact typical scenes from what life was like in Ireland in the 1500s. You might see an archer shooting a longbow, a barber offering haircuts, or a cook making traditional meals of the day. There is also an interactive time line in the Heritage Center that begins from the early Christian era and works its way through the Viking period, Medieval times, the Victorian era, and finally modern times in Dalkey. The Writers' Gallery features literary and creative connections to Joyce, Beckett, Bono, and Maeve Binchy.
From the castle battlements, visitors can admire panoramic views of the sea and the mountains. You can also explore an early Christian church and graveyard dedicated to St. Begnet on the castle grounds. Historical and literary guided tours of the castle are available, and they will walk you through the fascinating history of Dalkey Castle.
If the constant buzz of Dublin’s streets leaves you seeking a moment of solace, escape to sprawling St. Anne’s Park in the city’s northern suburbs. In this area formerly owned by the Guinness family, the rose gardens, playgrounds, soccer fields, and walking paths form a green and spacious urban retreat that’s popular with locals and visitors. On Saturday mornings, peruse the local farmers market that’s held in stables once belonging to Lord Ardilaun, aka Arthur Guinness. Though the Guinness mansion was destroyed back in 1943, the extravagant garden surroundings they created are what form the park today. 18 tennis courts and a par-3 golf course are included in the park’s 450 acres, as is the forested Millennium Arboretum that’s planted with 1,000 different trees. St. Anne’s Park makes a convenient stop when traveling between Dublin and Howth, and is arguably one of the most popular green spaces in Ireland’s happening capital.
The James Joyce Tower is known for being featured at the beginning of James Joyce's Ulysses. Today it is a museum which houses letters, photographs, and other personal possessions from Joyce. The museum also contains rare editions of his work and other interesting items such as the original key to the tower, a plaster bust of Joyce made by Milton Hebald, and two plaster death masks of Joyce made by Paul Speck.
Visitors can also visit the living quarters which still show signs of the tower's original purpose, defense against Napoleon. Though the tower never saw any action, the massive outer door, reinforced against attackers with sheet metal, bolts, and bars, still stands here. You can also see a trap door leading to the artillery storage room below. The only windows are narrow and angled to protect from cannon attacks. A narrow winding staircase leads to the roof where there is a circular gun deck. From the roof, you can enjoy panoramic views across the Dublin Bay.
With its windswept coastlines and bucolic landscapes, Ireland abounds with hiking routes and the Wicklow Way remains one of the most popular. Boasting notoriety as Ireland’s first waymarked trail, the Wicklow Way opened back in 1980 and attracts nearly 24,000 walkers each year, making it the busiest National Trail in the country.
If you’re looking for a long-distance trail that offers some spectacular views along with constantly varying terrain, the Wicklow Way offers up an array of Irish countryside. This is storybook Ireland at its best: gently undulating foothills and trickling brooks; lush farmlands dotted with sheep and separated by rickety wooden stiles; mist-covered bogs and heather-carpeted moorlands. The Way starts in the southern suburbs of Dublin and runs to County Wicklow – aptly nicknamed the ‘Garden of Ireland’ - through the scenic Wicklow Mountain range.