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The hexagonal stones at the Giant's Causeway. Photo: Tourism Ireland.

21 Attractions in Ireland that are Unmissable

Ireland might be small but there are so many attractions to see that it can be daunting. If you're wondering what to put on your itinerary, these unmissable ones are a sure bet.

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1. The Cliffs of Moher

This iconic attraction in County Clare is on almost every Top 10 list of attractions to see in Ireland.

There’s a good reason why.

sunset over the ocean with a cliff tower nearby the Cliffs of Moher
O'Brien's Tower on the Cliffs of Moher, one of the 21 attractions in Ireland that unmissable. Photo: Niall Cosgrove for Failte Ireland/Tourism Ireland.

The popular travel guidebook, Lonely Planet, describes them as “staggeringly beautiful,” with views that stretch to the Aran Islands and beyond, not to mention the sunsets that you can witness, if of course the weather cooperates.

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The Lonely Planet helps visitors plan a visit to the iconic cliffs, which gained UNESCO Global Geopark status in 2011.

The cliffs stretch for 5 miles (8 km) and are 702 feet/214 meters at their highest point.
The interior of the Cliffs of Moher Visitor Centre. Photo: Irish Fireside,

At the Cliffs of Moher Visitor Centre, you can see exhibits on the fauna, flora, geology, and climate of this unique area of Ireland.

2. The Wild Atlantic Way

The Wild Atlantic Way is akin to Route 1 on California’s coast (with decidedly cooler temperatures).

The 1,553-mile (2,500 km) route winds its way through nine counties and highlights the dramatic, sometimes craggy, coastline that is typical of Ireland’s western seaboard.
Malin Head in Co. Donegal along the Wild Atlantic Way. Photo: Chris Hill for Tourism Ireland.

Lonely Planet describes the northwestern section of the route as “an untamed collection of soaring cliffs (the tallest in Europe), lonely, sheep-speckled headlands and, between them, secluded coves and long stretches of white, powdery sand.”

You can start at Malin Head in County Donegal or at the Old Head at Kinsale in County Cork, whichever you prefer.

There’s much to see along the way, with designated discovery points that are intended to provide a better navigation experience.

a surfer virtual tours of Ireland's attractions
A surfer rides the waves at Easkey, Co. Sligo. Photo: Tony Reddington.

If you're  interested in surfing, for example, there’s plenty of opportunity along the route to test out the waters.

Two outstanding locations are both in County Sligo. They include Mullaghmore and Easkey.

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Get the Wild Atlantic Way Pocket Map from Collins Maps

3. Kilmainham Jail, Dublin

Perhaps one of the most popular attractions in Dublin, especially for Irish history enthusiasts, is Kilmainham Jail (Gaol).
The interior of Kilmainham Gaol in Dublin, one of Lonely Planet's 21 attractions in Ireland worth seeing. Photo: Alvaro Prieto,

The prison/museum is where many of Ireland’s nationalists died, including the 14 rebels who were executed for their part in planning The Easter Rising of 1916.

The only way that visitors can see the jail is by guided tour.

Lonely Planet writers believe it has “played a role in virtually every act of Ireland's painful path to independence, and even today, despite closing in 1924, it still has the power to chill.”

On a guided tour, you'll hear about the history of Kilmainham Gaol and the prisoners who were held there.

Attached to the jail is a museum that features many of the artifacts and personal effects of the prisoners, making it hallowed ground for most Irish people.
The Kilmainham courtyard where many executions took place. Photo:

The jail is located within walking distance of the Guinness Storehouse and the Irish Museum of Art.

The tour is not suitable for young children.

4. The Giant’s Causeway, County Antrim

Equally as popular as The Cliffs of Moher is the large rock formation known as The Giant’s Causeway in County Antrim, technically part of the U.K but on the island of Ireland.
The Giant's Causeway in County Antrim. Photo: Simon Quinn, Getty Images.

It contains a series of unique basalt columns that archaeologists believe were left behind by a volcanic eruption 50 to 60 million years ago.

You can learn more about it at the Giant’s Causeway Visitor Experience.

5. Croagh Patrick, County Mayo

If you're interested in hiking while in Ireland, climbing to the summit of Croagh Patrick, Ireland’s “Holy Mountain,” is a doable challenge if you are reasonably fit.
Croagh Patrick in Co. Mayo, Ireland's Holy Mountain and one of 21 attractions in Ireland worth climbing say Lonely Planet editors. Photo courtesy of Seamus Keane.

During the 5th century, Saint Patrick fasted on top of the mountain for 40 days, which is why each year in July, pilgrims make a point of climbing to the summit to pay homage to Ireland’s patron saint.

Close to the summit of Croagh Patrick, with views of Clew Bay below.

I have to say that the views of Clew Bay and the surrounding area are well worth the effort it takes to climb the 2,506 feet/764 meters.

Westport is a great stopping-off point while in the region.
The pretty town of Westport, Co. Mayo. Photo: Pawel Sadowski for Tourism Ireland.

The town has been a popular tourist destination for decades, with plenty of accommodation available, including quality B&Bs and hotels.

Read More: Clew Bay Bike Trail in County Mayo Open to Tourists

6. Belfast Murals

Taking a black taxi tour of Belfast is the best way to learn about “The Troubles,” the sectarian conflict that affected the lives of people all across Northern Ireland.
One of the many murals in West Belfast, among the 21 attractions in Ireland worth seeing, according to a recent Lonely Planet article. Photo: Colette Connolly.

Local taxi drivers have a deep knowledge of the murals — and the 30-year conflict — as visitors discover when they take a Black Taxi ride through West Belfast, visiting both the Nationalist and Loyalist strongholds.

7. Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, County Antrim

For those not scared of heights, this attraction is the ultimate thrill-seeker.
The Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge in County Antrim. Photo: Chris Hill Photographic for Tourism Northern Ireland.

Perched 30 meters (98 feet) above the North Atlantic, the Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge links the mainland with a tiny piece of land known as Carrickarede.

From there, you can see Rathlin Island and Scotland.

The island and its surroundings have been designated an Area of Special Scientific Interest.

8. The Aran Islands

If you're spending time in Galway city, a day trip to the Aran Islands is in order.

Most visitors only have time for Inishmore, the largest one, but the others Inishmaan, and Inisheer, are also worth seeing.
An aerial view of Dún Aonghasa on Inishmore. Photo: Gareth McCormack/ for Tourism Ireland.

Be sure to visit Dún Aonghasa, the most popular attraction on Inishmore and one of the largest prehistoric stone forts in Europe.

The site is located on the edge of a 100-meter (328 feet) cliff drop.

9. Galway City

Atmospheric pubs with nightly live music, great restaurants, a world-class theater, and a short distance from the seaside suburb of Salthill and the gateway to Connemara, all make Galway a crowd-pleaser, which is why I suggest you add it to your itinerary.
Visitors to Galway are being entertained on its streets by one of the many musicians you'll find in the city center. Galway city is one of 21 attractions in Ireland recommended by Lonely Planet. Photo: Tourism Ireland.

Two major events that draw visitors to the city include Race Week and the Oyster Festival.

10. St Declan’s Way, Ardmore, County Waterford

If you're looking for a different type of experience, Saint Declan’s Way is a pilgrimage walk that links the town of Cashel in Tipperary with Ardmore in County Waterford.
The Ardmore Round Tower, one of the attractions along St. Declan's pilgrimage route in Co. Waterford. Photo: Courtesy of Celtic Routes for Failte Ireland.

The 96-kilomerter/56-mile fully way-marked trek follows the route that Saint Declan took in the fifth century on his way to meeting St. Patrick in Cashel.

Each year, walkers are invited to participate in all six stages of the route, although all or parts of it can be attempted at any time of year.

This brochure includes details of the route and points of interest along the way.

11. The Rock of Cashel

Once the traditional seat of the kings of Munster, the Rock of Cashel was the center of power in Ireland for 400 years.

a castle on a hill 11 questions you should ask
The Rock of Cashel in Co. Tipperary, a favorite destination for tourists to Ireland. Photo: Nick Fox.

Lonely Planet reviewers say, “its impervious walls guard an awesome enclosure with a complete round tower, a 13th-century Gothic cathedral and the most magnificent 12th-century Romanesque chapel in Ireland.”

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12. Adare Village, County Limerick

Adare is often touted as Ireland's prettiest village.

The picture-perfect thatched cottages built by the 19th-century landlord, the Earl of Dunraven, are unmatched anywhere else in Ireland and are definitely worth a look.

a cottage 21 attractions in Ireland
One of the pretty cottages that you'll find in the village of Adare, Co. Limerick. Photo: Chris Hill Photographic, Tourism Ireland.

You will find several craft shops and fine restaurants there today.

The village is about 16 kilometers (10 miles) from Limerick City.

Other attractions nearby include the luxury castle and golf resort Adare Manor.

More affordable accommodation is available around the Limerick city center area.

Read More: Limerick Greenway Officially Open to Visitors

13. The English Market, Cork City

This is one of Ireland’s most popular indoor markets and a popular tourist attraction.

a large building with a flag on it 21 attractions in Ireland
The English Market in Cork, a popular destination for foodies. Photo: Juan Jimenez.

There is a lot of great food to choose from at the English Market, much of it coming from the County Cork countryside, including traders selling meat, fish, fruit, cheeses, and more.

Some of the best hotels near the market include the Maldron Hotel South Mall, Hotel Isaacs, the Imperial Hotel, and The Metropole Hotel.

14. Glendalough, Co. Wicklow

No trip to Ireland would be complete without a visit to Glendalough.

About 50 kilometers (30 miles) from Dublin, the ancient monastic site can easily be reached by rental car or bus.

an old church and round tower 21 attractions in Ireland
St. Kevin's Church and round tower form part of the Glendalough Monastic Site in Co. Wicklow. Photo: Getty Images.

In fact, there are lots of day tours from Dublin if you are not interested in driving yourself.

The monastery was founded by Saint Kevin in the 5th century and at the time evolved into the leading monastic learning centers in the country.

The area is ideal for exploration, and hiking around the Glendalough lakes is a popular activity.

Read More: 7 One-Day Tours in Ireland that are Doable Without a Rental Car

15. Garnish Island, West Cork

Described by many as West Cork's best-kept secret, Garnish Island is a must for those who are curious about how exotic plants and unusual species could possibly grow in Ireland.

You can get to this oasis of beauty and tranquility by taking a ferry ride from Glengarriff.
The Italian garden at Garnish Island in Co. Cork. Photo: Chris Hill, Tourism Ireland.

The garden was designed for John Annan Byrce, a Belfast native who purchased the island from the War Office in 1910.

It was bequeathed to the Irish people in 1953.

Things to see on the 37-acre island include the Italian Garden, the Japanese Garden, and the Kitchen Garden, which have been lovingly maintained for over a century, in addition to a restored Napoleonic Martello Tower.

water in front of an island house 21 attractions in Ireland
Bryce House on Garnish Island off the County Cork coast. Photo:

You can also take a guided tour of Bryce House, the home of the Byrce family who lived in the home until the last of the family members passed away in 1998.

It has been extensively restored by the Office of Public Works.

Tours are available each year until the end of October. Email [email protected].

16. Sheep's Head, West Cork

During the summer months, hiking is a popular activity in the Sheep's Head region of West Cork, with serious walkers tackling the Sheep’s Head walking route, a 93-kilometer trail that begins in the historic market town of Bantry and ends at the Sheep’s Head Lighthouse.

a long road near the ocean 21 attractions in Ireland
Sheep's Head Walk is one of the 21 attractions in Ireland worth experiencing, says Lonely Planet editors. Photo: George Karbus Photography for Failte Ireland.

There are several shorter routes that you can tackle that will of course take less time.

While in the region, you might want to stop off at the tin-roofed Ahakista Bar, which houses a 19th-century Victorian garden.

Durrus Farmhouse is also a popular attraction where local cheese is made.

17. The Gap of Dunloe, County Kerry

Visitors traveling through County Kerry will undoubtedly end up in the Gap of Dunloe, a wild and scenic mountain pass that includes beautiful lakes and waterfalls.

a country road21 attractions in Ireland
The Gap of Dunloe on the Ring of Kerry is an iconic destination with breathtaking views, lush nature, wildlife, and charming Irish villages. County Kerry, Ireland. Photo: Leamus.

The hair-raising drive is located west of Killarney National Park and is in between Kerry’s Purple Mountain and Ireland’s highest mountain range, the MacGillycuddy Reeks.

The Gap of Dunloe Adventure Day Tour from Killarney 

18. Croke Park GAA Stadium, Dublin

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the fast and furious Gaelic football and hurling games, to get a true understanding of it – and to feel the thrill that it exudes – a visit Croke Park, the largest sports stadium in Ireland, should be on your itinerary.

two men trying to catch a ball 21 attractions in Ireland
Players on opposing teams in an Irish hurling game reach for the ball, known as a sliotar. Photo: Failte Ireland.

If you are unable to snag a ticket to a live game, a visit to the Croke Park Museum is well worth it.

The museum covers the history of the GAA and how it has contributed to the cultural, social, and sporting heritage of the nation.

Read More: Finding the Best Authentic Experiences in Ireland

19. Dublin’s Georgian Squares

In addition to the many free museums that are situated in the heart of Dublin,  another cost-free activity that comes to mind includes an afternoon wandering around the city’s Merrion and Fitzwilliam Squares.

a red door 21 attractions in Ireland
One of Dublin's iconic Georgian-styled doors located in Dublin's Georgian squares, among the 21 attractions in Ireland worth seeing, according to Lonely Planet. Photo: Jonathan Hessian for Tourism Ireland.

The Georgian-styled buildings with their iconic brightly colored doors are a popular tourist attraction, inspiring many a postcard.

While these treasures are located on the south side of the city, I'd urge you to check out the north side, too, especially 14 Henrietta Street, an award-winning museum that tells the story of the building that was once a Georgian townhouse and that turned into a tenement dwelling.

20. The Phoenix Park

This large urban park located in Dublin is home to a herd of wild fallow deer that have made their home there since the 17th century.

deer in a field 21 attractions in Ireland
Herds of deer are a common sight on the grounds of Phoenix Park in Dublin, one of the 21 attractions in Ireland worth visiting, says Lonely Planet. Photo: Rpb Durston for Failte Ireland.

In addition to visiting Áras an Uachtaráin, the official residence of the president of Ireland, as well as the nearby Dublin Zoo, I suggest that you put Farmleigh House and Estate on your itinerary.

The Edwardian-styled mansion, which was initially purchased by a member of the famous Guinness family, was designed by the noted architect of the 18th century, James Gandon, who also designed the Custom House.

a large house 21 attractions in Ireland
Farmleigh House is located on the Phoenix Park property. Photo: William Murphy,

Farmleigh House is the official Irish state guesthouse, and it is where former U.S. President Barack Obama, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and the late Queen Elizabeth II have stayed, among others.

Guided tours of the house are available but must be booked in advance.

Some of its best attributes include a beautiful library and glass conservatory, not to mention the vast pleasure gardens and lake outside.

21. Benbulben, County Sligo

County Sligo’s Benbulben is an unusual sight to be sure, being one of Ireland's only table mountain.

the side of Benbulben mountain 21 attractions in Ireland
The view from the top of Benbulben is one of 21 attractions in Ireland cited in a recent Lonely Planet review. Photo: Gareth Wray Photography.

Why not take a hike on the iconic mountain when you're in the region, but not without an expert guide.

High Hopes Mountain Treks offers guided tours.

Are any of these 21 unmissable attractions on your itinerary? Let me know in the comments below.


Colette is a County Sligo native who created Ireland on a Budget to provide her readers with money-saving tips on how to get to Ireland and then save even more when they're there. She's a professional copywriter who lives in the New York area with her husband and two children.

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