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Things to Do in Ireland

On the Emerald Isle, coastlines, castles, and hospitality abound. Pucker up at the Blarney Stone, sip a stout in a thatched-roof pub or after a tour of the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin, or feel the icy blast of the Atlantic at the Cliffs of Moher. Indisputable highlights include the UNESCO-listed Giant’s Causeway, with its mysterious rows of hexagonal columns; the culture-rich cities of Galway and Cork; and the natural wonders contained by the Ring of Kerry. Roughly 300 miles long, the island can easily be explored end to end, with live music, ancient ruins, and traditional watering holes never too far away from any stop.
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Killarney National Park
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Killarney National Park is 25,000 acres (10,000 hectares) of mountain and lakeside beauty. It has woodlands, islands, waterfalls, historic houses and working farms. There are deer and cattle, eagles and world famous gardens. It's the perfect place for hiking, cycling, boating, pony trekking, fishing, landscape-gazing, or riding in a jaunting car - a light, two-wheeled horse drawn vehicle. One of the most popular panoramic viewing points is Ladies View.

Within the park, Muckross House is one of Ireland's foremost stately homes which is open to the public along with its famous gardens. Here you can pick up a guide to the park from the National Park Information Centre. There is also Knockreer which has an eduction center, and Killarney House and Gardens (the gate lodge here also has information booklets on the park) and Muckross Abbey and y can catch a boat across to Innisfallen Island on the Lower Lake.

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Dublin Castle
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Dublin Castle has served many functions since it was built by King John of England in 1230. At that time, the castle was meant to act as a defense center against the current invaders, the Normans, and serve as the seat of the English government. Since then, Dublin Castle has also been the site of the royal mint, the police headquarters and the residence of various British leaders. Today, the castle grounds are used for some governmental purposes but are mostly only used for ceremonial purposes, such as the Irish President's inauguration, and to host conferences, like those of the European Council.

When no such event is occurring, Dublin Castle is open to the public. Guided tours take visitors through the grounds, sharing the history and ever-changing purpose of each building.

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Torc Waterfall
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Experience the natural beauty of County Kerry with a visit to the Torc Waterfall. Located a short walk from the Killarney–Kenmare road, in Killarney National Park, Torc Waterfall is part of the River Owengariff and flows into Muckross (Middle) Lake. The site is a popular spot on the area’s scenic drives and hiking routes.
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Molly Malone Statue
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The bronze statue of Molly Malone commemorates the young woman featured in the local ballad, 'Cockles and Mussels'. As the song goes, this beautiful woman plied her trade as a fishmonger through the streets where her statue now rests, until she suddenly died of a fever. As a nod to the folk song, a statue was erected on the corner of Grafton and Suffolk streets and unveiled at the 1988 Dublin Millennium celebrations.

This tune has been adopted as Dublin's unofficial anthem, boosting this heroine to eternal fame. Though there is debate as to whether or not a Molly Malone like the one in the song ever existed, she is real to the people of Dublin and is remembered both in song as well as on June 13, National Molly Malone Day. The statue also acts as a popular rendezvous spot for groups as the beautiful bosomy woman with her cart cannot be missed.

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St. Michan's Church
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St Michan's Church is a church in Dublin, Ireland that was originally founded in 1095. The church was established to serve a colony of Danish Vikings who had been forced outside of the city walls after the majority of the Vikings had been killed or kicked out. The church was rebuilt in the late 1600s, and a large pipe organ was installed in 1724. It is believed that George F. Handel used this organ when composing The Messiah.

The big draw for St Michan's Church is in the basement. Below the church is a crypt with coffins, many of which are open. The bodies laid to rest here have mummified over the centuries with various theories as to why the bodies here have remained in a semi-preserved state. Some credit the limestone that makes the basement so dry, and others point to the methane gas from the former swamp land the church was built on. While the bodies have been preserved, the coffins have been disintegrating, often causing them to fall apart and reveal the mummies.

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Muckross House, Gardens & Traditional Farms
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Muckross House is one of Ireland's most famous stately homes. A 65-room, lakeshore, Victorian mansion, it was built for Henry Arthur Herbert and his wife, a watercolour painter, Mary Balfour Herbert in 1843. The house is richly furnished in period-style giving an excellent insight into the lives of the landed gentry. The basement areas give a good understanding of the lives of those who worked keeping the rich happy and well-fed day to day. On site are also a number of local craftspeople giving demonstrations of weaving, bookbinding and pottery.

Beautiful Muckross Gardens are known worldwide, especially the rock garden and large water garden. In 1861, the gardens were extensively developed in preparation for Queen Victoria's visit. There are also several working farms which use methods from the 1930s and 1940s and can be toured. And being situated in the middle of the National Park, the house is a perfect place to explore the whole area from.

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Kilmainham Gaol
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Playing a large part in the establishment of Ireland as an independent nation, Dublin’s Kilmainham Gaol was built in 1787 and many prominent Irish independent fighters were incarcerated – and some executed – in this jailhouse during the lengthy political Troubles between Ireland and the UK. Irish Republican Robert Emmet was hung here in 1803 and later that century Irish Parliamentary Party leader Charles Stewart Parnell was imprisoned at Kilmainham in 1881, before his private life – scandalous by the standards of the time – led to his downfall in public life. The future Irish Prime Minister Eamon de Valera was also held at Kilmainham for his part in the Easter Rising of 1916, which failed in its attempt to establish an independent Ireland but saw increased public support for the radical republican group Sinn Féin. Founded in 1905, the party is still active in both parts of Ireland; today it has five Northern Irish MPs at Westminster under the leadership of Gerry Adams.

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Temple Bar
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Temple Bar is known as the cultural quarter of Dublin. Originally a slum that was to be developed into a bus terminus, it became home to a number of artists' galleries and small businessmen's shops who took advantage of the cheap rent in the 1980s. Presently, the Irish Film Institute and the Temple Bar Music Centre are amongst the several cultural institutions tucked away in this district's narrow cobbled streets.

Since the success of the movement to preserve Temple Bar, several drinking establishments have also popped up in the neighborhood. Though family-friendly during the day, what happens here after dark wouldn't be considered "culturally rich experiences" by most. As far as nightlife goes, Temple Bar is a popular place to get a drink or two (or three!) with friends, enjoy some traditional Irish music and observe the rowdy antics from a distance.

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River Liffey
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Dividing Dublin into north and south, the River Liffey is the subject of stories and songs by everyone from James Joyce to Radiohead. Entwined in Dublin's cultural identity, let's just say that some of the stories surrounding the Liffey are more than a little mythical: so if any Dubliners tell you that the capital’s Guinness tastes so good because the water comes from the Liffey, let them know that Guinness water is actually piped from the Wicklow mountains.

A popular spot for a river cruise or for a spot of canoeing, in recent years, the Liffey has had its riverbanks' developed so that you can stroll the overhanging boardwalks and visit the riverside parks which run alongside many parts of the river. Most Dublin attractions are near the river, and there are plenty of bridges to help you get from side to side, including the famous Ha'penny Bridge, built in 1816, and the modern Samuel Beckett bridge which is shaped like a harp.

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Galway Bay
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Off the west coast of Ireland and beside Galway City, Galway Bay is a beautiful bay that has inspired many Irish legends and songs. You may have heard it sung in Arthur Colahan's Galway Bay or John Lennon’s Luck of the Irish. Yet the Atlantic coast of Ireland is a scenic, natural beauty that deserves to be seen with your own eyes. It’s also a magnet of authentic Irish and Celtic culture and has been called “the most Irish place in Ireland.”

Galway Bay is known for a few things in particular, including its morning dew and unique sailing culture, including a boat type called the Galway Hooker. As Galway was the center of maritime activity in western Ireland at the time, the Hooker boats were prominent in the mid-19th century. Many beaches dot the coastline that are accessible for swimming. Deep sea fishing, boating, and visiting the nearby Aran Islands are other popular activities on the bay.

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More Things to Do in Ireland

House of Waterford Crystal

House of Waterford Crystal

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Jameson Distillery Bow St.

Jameson Distillery Bow St.

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The Old Jameson Distillery, tucked away in a quaint cobbled alley that opens into a small courtyard, has managed to maintain the charm of its heyday in the early 1800s. Though most of the operation has since moved to Cork, Ireland, the old distillery is one of Dublin's top attractions and a must-see for whiskey fans as well as those curious about this Irish landmark.

Tours run daily and cover the history of John Jameson and the family business he created in addition to the whiskey making process. After learning about malting, milling, mashing, fermenting, distilling and maturing, visitors are invited to take part in the final step--tasting!

For those who feel that the tour sample has not quenched their thirst, they have the option to pull up a stool at the Jameson Bar or take their next drink with a meal at The 3rd Still restaurant. On the way out, a stop at the gift shop is a must to pick up souvenir bottles, glasses and everything else.

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Ross Castle

Ross Castle

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A vision on the shores of Lough Leane, the 15th-century Ross Castle was built as a medieval fortress for an Irish chieftain named O’Donoghue, and was said to be one of the last strongholds to fall to the brutal English Cromwellian forces in the mid-16th century. The ruin has been restored, and features lovely 16th- and 17th-century furniture.
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The Spanish Arch

The Spanish Arch

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Standing on the left bank of the River Corrib, Galway’s famous Spanish Arch is the sole remainder of the city’s 16th century bastion, designed to protect the town’s quays and merchant ships from looting. The arch itself, built as an access point to the town, was known as the ‘Ceann an Bhalla’, or the ‘Head of the wall’, later taking its name from the Spanish ships that it docked beneath it. Despite being partially destroyed in the 1755 tsunami, the Spanish Arch still stands today - an important landmark, directly opposite the Claddagh shore.
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Trinity College Dublin

Trinity College Dublin

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Supremely located in the heart of Dublin, Trinity College stands as the gem of Ireland. Ranked as the number one university in the nation and in the top forty globally, Trinity College has a stellar academic reputation in addition to being one of Dublin's finest landmarks. Established in 1592, the college has been at its current location since the 1700s and boasts some beautiful Georgian architecture from that time. The Campanile and Examination Hall are commonly the subjects of photographs. The Old Library is popular amongst visitors as well, but it is not the look of the building's exterior that draws them there. Held within the Old Library is the world famous Book of Kells, an ancient sacred text, which is on display in a special exhibit. While Trinity College is deeply rooted in its history, much has changed since the institution first opened its doors over 400 years ago. Founded by Queen Elizabeth I of England, the college was originally only open to Protestant men.
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Christ Church Cathedral

Christ Church Cathedral

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One of the oldest buildings in Dublin, Christ Church Cathedral is located in the former medieval heart of the city. Founded in 1030 by Sitric, King of the Dublin Norsemen, the grand cathedral (also known as The Cathedral of the Holy Trinity) has long been a place of pilgrimage for Ireland's devout. Incorporated into the Irish Church in 1152, today it's the seat of both the Church of Ireland and Roman Catholic archbishops of Dublin.

Renowned for its design, on a one-hour tour you'll get to explore the interior, keeping a look out for its famous stained glass windows, the smaller chapels behind the main altar, and the secret underground floor. You'll get an insight into the history of the cathedral, and hear the strange tale of the mummified cat and rat. You'll visit the crypt — one of the largest and oldest in Britain and Ireland, and also get to have a go at ringing the bells of Christ Church Cathedral in the belfry.

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Dublin Grafton Street

Dublin Grafton Street

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The pedestrian-friendly Grafton Street stems off of the western end of Trinity College and runs down to the main entrance of St. Stephen's Green. Acting as a direct link between these famous landmarks, Grafton Street is a main thoroughfare but is also a popular destination in itself. Both locals and visitors to Dublin come to Grafton Street to peek in the high-end shops and grab a bite at one of the eateries. At the end of the street, across from the entrance to the park, there's also St. Stephen's Green Shopping Centre, which adds to the wide selection of stores down at street level.

Those meandering the broad boulevard will find entertainment along their way as well. The fact that most of Grafton Street is closed to cars makes it a prime location for street performers to set up their acts.

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Dublin O’Connell Street

Dublin O’Connell Street

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Any visitor touring Dublin by foot will eventually walk down O’Connell Street. This bustling street is Dublin’s main thoroughfare, and while it’s only approximately a quarter mile in length, it’s believed to be the widest urban street found anywhere in all Europe. O’Connell Street is also famous for its statues, where the stone likeness of James Joyce watches over the swarm of crowds. It’s also home to the world’s tallest sculpture, and is the site of the O’Connell Monument that still has bullet holes from the 1916 Easter uprising. The General Post Office involved in the uprising is also along the street, although the historical buildings and statues aside, it’s the shopping, restaurants, and pubs that draw most of O’Connell Street’s visitors today. After slowly strolling the length of the street—past the impromptu gatherings of street musicians and shadowy city eccentrics—cross the River Liffey on the O’Connell Bridge to head towards Trinity College.

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Dublin General Post Office (GPO)

Dublin General Post Office (GPO)

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The name might not sound inspiring, but one glimpse of the General Post Office’s (GPO) imposing facade is sure to capture your attention with its ornate stone-carved portico and iconic statues punctuating the skyline.

The monumental building was constructed on O'Connell Street between 1815 and 1818 as the headquarters of the Irish postal service. Designed by Francis Johnston, the building’s architectural prowess features a Greek-revival theme, with 55-foot (17-meter) high Greco-Roman pillars and a series of dramatic Ionic columns flanking the entrance. Statues of Hibernia (goddess of Ireland), Fidelity and Mercury (messenger of the gods) stand proud atop the roof – the handiwork of sculptor John Smyth. The GPO isn’t simply a landmark though; its walls hide an illustrious history. The building was famously used as the main stronghold of Irish Volunteers during the 1916 Easter Rising and the front steps were where Patrick Pearse made his famous pre-siege speech.

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National Museum of Ireland - Archaeology

National Museum of Ireland - Archaeology

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The National Museum of Ireland is dedicated to showcasing items of Irish art, culture, and natural history. Of the three branches the collections are divided amongst, the archaeology section, located on Kildare Street, holds the best known and most impressive of all of the exhibits.

Its collection of medieval metalwork is known as the Treasury and is home to the world's most complete collection of Celtic metal artifacts, dating back from Ireland's Iron and Bronze Ages. Highlights of the collection include the Ardaugh Chalice, considered the finest piece of Celtic art found, and the Tara Brooch, an intricate piece of jewelry crafted in the 8th century. Other artifacts are grouped into "hoards", of which the Mooghaun and Broighter hoards are the most notable. The museum also displays an extensive collection of prehistoric goldwork as well as artifacts that document the settlement of Ireland from 7,000 BC all the way up to 500 BC.

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Dublin City Hall

Dublin City Hall

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Built in the late 18th century, Dublin City Hall is a classic Georgian building that was designed by renowned architect Thomas Cooley. Originally intended as the Royal Exchange for prosperous Dublin's large merchant population, inside it's all fluted columns and grand pillars, and as you enter you'll notice the beautiful rotunda.

Then head to the vaults to visit the "Dublin City Hall, The Story of the Capital," exhibition. Through multimedia displays you'll get to trace the story of Dublin from Viking times before the Anglo-Norman invasion back in 1170, through to tales of the buzzing Irish capital today. Downstairs in the gallery, Dublin City Hall is also home to Tir na nÓg Caife, which serves breakfast, brunch, lunch, and snacks.

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Dublin City Gallery the Hugh Lane

Dublin City Gallery the Hugh Lane

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At this laidback, small-scale gallery in Dublin’s happening city center, visitors can browse over 2,000 pieces of modern and contemporary art. “The Hugh Lane,” as locals call it, holds the work of well-known artistic greats such as Monet, Renoir, Degas, and Manet, and also hosts a revolving array of temporary exhibits. Perhaps most fascinating is the studio of Francis Bacon—an Irish born painter who won international acclaim for his emotional and moving pieces. Here in the Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane, his entire studio was recreated in the exact, eccentric, and extremely messy state that he kept it while he was alive. Historians have lauded the Hugh Lane Gallery for the impeccable attention to detail, and a visit today is a look into the life of one Ireland’s most legendary painters. If visiting on a Sunday, show up in the morning and stay until Noon for the weekly Sunday concert series that takes place in the sculpture hall.

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Guinness Storehouse

Guinness Storehouse

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Ireland's top attraction is the Guinness Storehouse. People from all corners of the world come to visit the birthplace of the black frothy brew and get a taste straight from the barrel. In November 2000, the Guinness Storehouse opened its doors as a multi-media visitor experience. Thousands of visitors each year enter the pint glass-shaped tower and make their way up through seven stories of interactive exhibits demonstrating the brewing process as well as the history behind this legendary stout. A treat for the senses, the self-guided tour allows guests to look at old ads, touch the barley, smell the hops, hear the waterfall and finally, to taste the finished product. On the top floor, visitors line up to claim their complimentary pint of Guinness, complete with shamrock flourish, to enjoy in the Gravity Bar. The completely glass-enclosed level provides 360 degree views over the brewery and city.
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St. Patrick's Cathedral

St. Patrick's Cathedral

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St. Patrick's Cathedral, built to honor the patron saint of Ireland, is a must-see attraction in Dublin. It stands adjacent to the well that it is said St. Patrick himself used to baptize converts. The original wooden church was erected in this spot in the 5th century but was rebuilt at the end of the 13th century to reflect its boost to cathedral status. Some repairs were done in the 1800s but the original style was maintained well enough to make it unclear as to how much of the medieval structure remains.

Milestones in the cathedral's history include famous author Jonathan Swift serving as Dean and the first performance of Handel's Messiah by members of the cathedral's Choir School. The former Dean's grave and the original music composition are on display in the cathedral as evidence of these events. Besides these items, St. Patrick's is filled with rows of statues, beautiful stained glass, and elegant decorations for visitors to marvel at as they walk through.

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