Planning Your Irish Vacation
I suppose the question isn’t as much “what should I see while in Ireland” as much as it is “What can I see in the amount of time I’ve got?”
While Ireland is a small country, roughly the size of Maine, there is much to see and experience. One visit – even 3 or 4- is not enough to “see it all”.
My recommendation: Pick three or four “must see” sights and plan your itinerary from that. You’ll likely not make it from the Giant’s Causeway on the Antrim coast to Dingle in a single trip- and if you do you’re rushing far too much!
Ireland’s Most Popular Tourist Attractions
Ireland's tourist attractions are popular for a few reasons: they are breathtaking, they have a great tale or they are centrally located. Ireland’s most popular sites include:
- Cliffs of Moher
- Ring of Kerry (Iveragh Peninsula)
- Giant’s causeway
- Blarney Castle
- Bunratty Castle
- Glendalough in the Wicklow Mountains
- Rock of Cashel
This is by no means an exhaustive list, but one that will give you a starting point.
Choosing What to See
Deciding what you want to see in Ireland is a personal preference.
- For traditional music and a gaeltacht head to the west of Ireland- Doolin, Galway and the Aran Islands.
- For Ireland’s pre-Christian heritage head north or west of Dublin.
- For magnificent landscapes stick to the coasts.
- Foodie? The Sunny Southeast, from Wexford, through Waterford and down to Cork will amaze your tastebuds.
- If you’re traveling with young children head to Killarney and explore from the Cliffs of Moher to the Ring of Kerry.
- As for Dublin… I believe a day & a half is plenty of time to explore what the city has to offer.
Tips for planning Your Itinerary
My first trip to Ireland I remember rushing from place to place, not really enjoying what each had to offer, only knowing I wanted to see as much as possible. While my memories of that trip are fond, I recall feeling rushed. These tried and tested tips will help you avoid that.
- Don’t switch lodging nightly; try to stay in an area 2-3 nights and take short day trips. You’ll feel less rushed if you don’t have to do a nightly check in.
- Plan no more than 2 major sites in a day; one in the morning and one in the afternoon. Leave plenty of time for exploring both the sites and anything you may discover along the way.
- If you’re traveling with kids don’t forget fun things like animal farms, playgrounds and sweet shops. I really like the Ireland: Are We There Yet app to help track down these spots.
- Don’t try to cover more than 60 miles per day. Unless you’re on the main highways- but then you’re not really seeing anything, are you?
- Staying in a B&B? Ask your hosts for advice on what to see, where to eat and things to do.
- Change your plans as necessary. Part of the fun of travel is the unexpected- don’t be on such a rigid itinerary that you can’t change plans at the drop of a hat.
I've found that circling my points of interest on a map helps me plot our itinerary a bit easier than just writing down what I want to see.
For our upcoming trip in June (10 days) I want to visit spots north of Dublin, and Northern Ireland. But Kylemore Abbey in far western Ireland has been on my “must see” list for years, and I would like to visit friends in Limerick and Tipperary. It's a lot of ground to cover in 10 days, which wasn't as apparent until I laid it out on a map.
There is no right or wrong way to see Ireland- unless you are so rushed that you don’t really see anything. Relax, enjoy, and remember- you can always go back!
Be sure to visit the Itinerary Suggestions if you need more in-depth help planning your Irish vacation!
Do you have anything to add or tips to give on What to See in Ireland? Additional questions I can answer? I love comments! Or use the simple contact form if you would like to email me directly.