Ireland is a charming island-nation nestled in the North Atlantic region encircled by smaller islands and islets. It consists of the Republic of Ireland and Northern Island, with 32 counties in total.
Aptly nicknamed as the Emerald Isle, it is a country that is blanketed by lush greenery and home to some of the most fascinating creations of nature. The landmarks in Ireland are a variety of natural, human-made, cultural, and historic attractions perfectly complementing each other to give its visitors a one-of-a-kind experience.
You can get around the country by train, bus, bike, taxi, or renting a car and road-tripping around the country. But, to visit certain landmarks like its islands, you will have to take the boat. It’s a relatively safe destination for people to travel around, even for solo travellers. If you have decided to visit Ireland and explore its hidden gems, you are in for an unforgettable experience. Make the best of your trip by including these famous Ireland landmarks on your list!
In the heart of the city of Dublin lies a 600-year old castle that loyally served its possessors from Danish Vikings to the British Empire. The historic building holds a significant collection of artefacts, including a range of portrait paintings.
You can wander around the castle, but access to certain places will be restricted. If you want to get the most of the castle and its adjacent buildings, join a 70-minute guided tour for a fare of 4.50€ for adults and 2€ for children. It will take you through the State Apartments, Viking excavation area, Medieval Tower, Chapel Royal, and castle gardens.
Aran Islands are a cluster of three islands, namely, Innis, Oirr, and Inis Meanin, located in Galway Bay towards the west of Ireland. The beautiful yet secluded archipelago is a place that you would have come across only in fictional narratives before with rustic stone huts atop mountains, gothic churches, cliff-laden areas that seem to touch to the sky.
Inhabited by a small population of Irish-speaking natives, it’s a destination that gives you a taste of traditional Irish culture. You can spend some time at the beach, visit the Inis Meáin Knitting Company, or purchase local handicrafts at the small shops here. The ruins of O’Brien’s Castle, the Plassey shipwreck, Black Fort, and Dún Aonghasa are some key attractions here.
The mythical tale of Satan spitting a chunk of rock out of a cave after he was banished by St. Patrick makes a visit to this gothic place ever more interesting. Set atop a limestone rock plateau, this is a classic medieval building complex that consists of a 12th century round tower, Romanesque chapel, cathedral, and a castle. If you love architecture, this structure, with the influence of both Herbeno-Romanesque and German architecture, will definitely interest you.
To make your experience more appealing, you will be shown an audio-visual presentation that takes you through the origin of the place and some exhibitions. The site also goes by the names of St. Patrick’s Rock and Cashel of the Kings. You have to book a tour in advance to visit the Rock of Cashel.
The Blarney Stone and Castle in County Cork is one of the most revered historical landmarks in Ireland. The iconic attraction here is the Blarney Stone, which according to the legend, can grant you the gift of eloquence upon kissing it.
The structure of the 600-year old castle that looks like a war-torn hero from one angle and a mystic building from the other is very interesting to explore. You can also take a walk on the expansive gardens of the Blarney castle premises that are well-maintained with separate areas like Poison Garden, Fern Garden & Ice House, The Seven Sisters, and many more.
Ireland’s oldest national park, Killarney, offers you a plethora of nature-bound experiences that your memory may never cast aside. Situated in Country Kerry, the park that spans over 26,000 acres of land features a freshwater lake, waterfall, towering mountains, and interesting flora and fauna.
Explore its diversity by foot once you choose a hiking trail that best fits your ability and schedule. You can also obtain a permit and go on a canoeing or kayaking trip or a more thrilling experience. Killarney National Park is also home to the mansion-styled Killarney House that’s surrounded by well-maintained gardens. So, don’t forget to explore it as well!
The star of the Wild Atlantic Way, Dingle Peninsula is one of the best-preserved natural landmarks in Ireland that will spellbind you. You can rent a bicycle and explore the scenic beauty of green pastures, sharp cliffs, and sheltering mountains leisurely at your own pace or drive a car if you prefer an easier way.
The town is traditionally Irish with Gaelic speaking locals and has an eclectic collection of cafes, pubs, and shops selling a variety of goods. The speciality is that you would also find shops where you can purchase goods, and also settle for a good drink at the same time. The Inch Beach here is sporty by day brimming with surfers and romantic at night as a famous place for stargazers.
Country Clare in the Wild Atlantic Way is home to Cliffs of Moher that are over 350 million years old. The highest point of the cliffs with a drop of 700-feet has an observational tower called O’Brien’s Tower to give you the best, unobscured sight as possible.
Wherever you are in the cliffs that stretch over nine miles, the views of the oceanic surrounding are nothing short of magnificent and will leave you in awe about nature’s charms.
In order to make it easier for visitors, a trail was opened in 2013 to provide a better walking experience on the cliffs. The cliffs are home to impressive birdlife species like razorbills, kittiwakes, and falcons who wander casually in their natural habitat.
Ireland’s oldest and most celebrated university, Trinity College Dublin was founded in 1592 by Queen Elizabeth I. Initially born out of ruins of an Augustinian monastery, the university had been expanded by its predecessors, as an architectural masterpiece with impressive landscaping.
One thing you will realize as you wander in its cobblestone ways is the many dreams it has given wings to for more than 600 years. The best way to learn about Trinity College is by taking the 35-minute long guided tour that covers four important squares of the university along with an explanation into its historic background.
During your visit, make sure to check out the Book of Kells & Old Library that contains a stack of more than 200,000 books from top to bottom - it is an attraction you shouldn’t miss during your visit here.
Guinness Storehouse is a museum dedicated to beer aficionados or literally anyone interested in sneaking a peek at the 250-year old art of brewing the world-famous beverage, Guinness.
It is housed in St. James Gate’s Brewery or popularly known as the “Home of the Black Stuff” which is the largest stout brewery in the world today. The self-guided tour would take around 1.5 hours as you explore its 7 floors that centre around one giant pint. The Gravity Bar located at the top lets you sip the iconic Irish beer while enjoying stunning views of the surrounding.
While most Irish landmarks have a very colourful heritage, some others have a more tragic past. One such attraction is Kilmainham Gaol Museum; a prison now turned into a museum for onlookers to gain a glimpse into the shelter in which prisoners accused of serious crimes to petty offences were detained.
The prison's main role was probably during the Anglo-Irish war when it was run by British troops to imprison Irish revolutionaries. The permanent exhibition of the museum covers three main aspects such as its social history, Irish nationalism and republicanism, and the restoration of the Kilmainham Gaol.
Managed by the Office of Public Works, it is open to visitors who book a tour in advance through the website.
The UNESCO World Heritage Site, Brú na Bóinne is one of the oldest man-made landmarks in Ireland.
Brú na Bóinne is home to a massive passage of tombs that are believed to be at least 5000 years old belonging to the Neolithic era – that’s older than the Egyptian Pyramids! The main attractions here are Newgrange, Knowth, and Dowth that are mounds with internal passages leading to a burial chamber.
The tombs are adorned with megalithic art that will leave you stunned about the kind of sophisticated knowledge that existed back then. Interestingly, it remains a mystery as to who and what inspired these creations.
As one of the most famous landmarks in Ireland, Spike Island in County Cork is where you will learn a remarkable tale of Ireland that is 1300 years old.
At first, it was a monastery that served as a secluded sanctuary for monks, and later, a fortress that bowed down to an empire. Eventually, it was converted to a prison, the largest in the world in the mid-1800s.
It was once called "Hell on Earth," and you will understand why as you see the Punishment Block and its grim prison cells that still echo the brutality endured by the inmates back then. You have to take a ferry ride that's included in the ticket price to get to the island.
Glendalough, the valley of two lakes in County Wicklow, is one of the best natural landmarks in Ireland. For nature lovers, it’s a moment never to be forgotten.
You will love the serene views of lakes’ still waters, the lulling sound of glacial streams flowing across rocks, and the lush greenery that beautifully drapes all of this.
There are so many walking trails for you to pick and explore nature easily. Glendalough is also home to a monastic city that stood through battles and invasions, and its charming ruins are a feast for the eyes. There’s a visitor centre close to the city, where you can learn all about Glendalough.
Also known as the National Cathedral of Ireland, this historical and religious site is one of the popular Dublin landmarks.
It is believed to be the location where St. Patrick baptized the first converts into Christian faith. Since it was founded in 1191, it has undergone many restorations due to damages and invasions it succumbed over time.
The cathedral today is a representation of classical, medieval architecture with a 43-meter high spire. The interior is exceptionally designed, and anyone is welcome to tour around after paying a small fee.
Today, St. Patrick’s Cathedral hosts many public national ceremonies like Ireland’s National Remembrance day.
If you are an art lover, you should know that there’s a national gallery a short walk away from Trinity College of Dublin worth visiting.
Established in 1854, this gallery holds an extensive collection of paintings and other artistic works in the form of drawing, prints, sculpture, photographs, miniatures, glass, and furniture. There’s a collection available for sale here as well for art enthusiasts who like to own prized possessions. The gallery is home to a renowned collection of European and Irish art done by famous artists.
If you are interested in archaeology or looking for more historical Irish landmarks, then this is a museum you shouldn’t miss when you are in Ireland.
Located in Kildare Street in Dublin, it features precious artefacts from Celtic and Medieval eras. Among them are notable artworks from famous painters and objects from the Viking Age obtained from excavations.
The museum also displays an interesting array of gold items like jewellery and decorative objects in its Ór-Ireland’s Gold exhibition. There is also a collection of mummified bodies belonging to the Iron Age in the Kingship and Sacrifice exhibition here.
A hidden gem in the County Cork of the southern coast of Ireland, Kinsale is a charming seaside town that has a very colourful ambience. Initially, it was a medieval fishing port, and now, it’s turning into a vibrant town with a lavish appeal.
Famed as the ‘Gourmet Capital of Ireland,’ Kinsale offers you some of the best restaurants, cafés, and bars in Ireland. It also has a range of upscale boutiques selling unique, high-quality clothes, accessories, and footwear items. Some of the popular attractions here are Charles Fort, James Fort, Kinsale Museum, and St. Multose House.
Skellig Islands are a unique set of rocky islands situated towards the western coast of Ireland. The largest of them, Skellig Michael, is the only one that can be explored by foot and offers you breathtaking vistas of the Ireland Coast.
The Skellig Islands remained hidden to travellers’ eyes until its appearance in Star Wars, which has sparked a lot of enthusiasm.
To get here, you have to book in advance as only 180 visitors are allowed per day. The 1-hour long boat ride and the steep climb to the island are not easy, but certainly a treat for adventure junkies.
Sitting atop the island is a Christian Monastery dating back to the 6th century.
The Ring of Kerry in County Kerry is one of the best hideaway spots in Ireland that presents nature in its best form; unspoiled and serene.
The 110 miles long circular route takes you around the Inveragh Peninsula, through mountains, valleys, rivers, beaches, towns, historic sites, and soon you would be mouthing- perfection. Drive through the rolling hills with your special someone, and you wouldn’t even feel the time flying by.
If you want to make your journey more interesting, stop by its beaches or hike its peaks or visit its noteworthy sites like Ross Castle, Cahergal Stone Fort, and Kerry Cliffs.
Spookily, this castle in County Offaly also goes as Ireland’s most haunted castle, which is why it’s intriguing enough to pay a visit unless you believe that ghosts can travel in your backpack.
Jokes aside, the castle’s owner Sean Ryan swears by his countless experiences of sensing the active presence of spirits. Their presence has even felt by some of the visitors to the castle.
The 16th-century manor surrounded by greenery is a sight to behold, and if you are brave enough to socialize with spirits, here’s your chance. The history of the Leap castle also includes many gruesome incidents in the past - learning about these makes for a fascinating visit!
While this list highlights the best landmarks in Ireland, the island is packed with so many more attractions that you should consider exploring if you have more time to spare. Ireland is also popular for its festivals, so if you happen to visit the island during a celebration, don’t miss it.
From picturesque natural scenery to vibrant towns in Ireland, everything is worth a capture, so don’t forget to take your camera and snap a lot of pictures!
If you want to get most of these Irish landmarks, I suggest you spend at least 10 days but if you have less time, don’t worry. Pick and choose what appeals to you the most, and create an itinerary that’s convenient and easy to cover.
This article was edited by Loredana Elena.
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