What You Should See in Ireland

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Planning Your Irish Vacation

Rock of Cashel, Ireland
Rock of Cashel

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

Cliffs of Moher, Ireland
Sun breaks through the clouds at the Cliffs of Moher

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)
  • Killarney
  • Giant’s causeway
  • Blarney Castle
  • Bunratty Castle
  • Glendalough in the Wicklow Mountains
  • Rock of Cashel
  • Newgrange
  • Belfast

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but one that will give you a starting point.

Choosing What to See

Aisles of Cheese at the English Market in Cork City
Aisles of Cheese

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

Doonagore Castle, Doolin, Ireland
Doonagore Castle

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.

Ireland Trip Planning
Places I hope to see in Ireland this June

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.

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Jody Halsted
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  1. […] that there was no way we could cover that many miles in 9 days.  In other words, I had to follow my own advice and not try to see too […]

    […] I am in the midst of planning a 10 day Ireland vacation.  And, as usual, I want to see way more than I have time to.  We fly in and out of Dublin, I want to spend some time in Northern Ireland, Kylemore Abbey has been on my “want to see” list for ever and I am hoping to see the Cliffs of Moher from a different vantage point this year- by boat.  Toss in a quick visit with friends in Limerick & Tipperary and we will be busy girls.  Too busy, as a matter of fact.  Something will have to go….  This completely breaks Planning Your Irish Vacation Tip #4…. […]

    @bitesizeirish Thanks for the RT! Would love to have your input on the post!

      @iatraveler Great tip on can’t see all at once. For me it’s hard to beat Dingle/An Daingean and its peninsula. Nice post!

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