I know that by now most of us are raring to get outside and start adventuring again. While we’re not quite there just yet, we can still dream! So I’ve put together a list of 60 of the best and most unique things to do in Ireland that will provide plenty of inspiration for when we can travel again.
We are so spoilt for choice when it comes to amazing things to do in Ireland. Having travelled much of the country over the last 3 years, there was no shortage of things to list here. I originally planned to stop at 30 unique things to do in Ireland but that didn’t quit go to plan! It may be a bit on the long side now but I promise it’s full of good stuff.
If you have other unique experiences in Ireland that you want to share, please add them in the comments. But for now, and in no particular order, here’s my list of the most unique things to do in Ireland. Which ones will you be doing when we’re able to get out and about again?
1. Uncover the rich history of Spike Island
Located in Cork Harbour, just a short ferry ride from Cobh, Spike Island has an incredible past just waiting to be discovered. Often referred to as ‘Ireland’s Alcatraz’, Spike Island was once the largest prison in the world. In fact it functioned as a prison no less than four times in the last 1300 years. In addition it has been a monastic settlement, a convict depot and a military fortress.
Since 2016 you can add tourist attraction to that list and hopefully it’s the final addition! Spike Island was already named Europe’s leading tourist attraction in 2017 and since then has added even more exhibitions and enhancements.
Trips to the island include a fascinating guided tour after which you can explore further at your leisure. The Cinema Club also offers the chance to visit after dark to watch a film. Maybe not the best idea if you’re easily spooked! Either way, Spike Island is definitely a place to add to your own Irish Bucket List.
Read more: Taking a tour of Spike Island
2. Hike to Ireland’s heart-shaped Lake
When viewed from the right angle, Lough Ouler in Wicklow is pretty much a perfect heart shape. Hiking to the lake can be a bit of a challenge but is definitely worth the effort. Leave enough time to relax and enjoy the stunning panoramic views when you get there too. If you still have energy you can continue up Ireland’s 33rd highest mountain, Tonelagee. The name translates to “arse to the wind”, how very poetic indeed!
3. Experience the Dursey Island cable car
If the idea of dangling 250 metres over the Atlantic ocean in a wooden box gives you a thrill, then you’ll love the Dursey Island Cable Car in West Cork. In addition to being Ireland’s only cable car, it is the only cable car in Europe that crosses the open sea. A short ride takes you from the mainland over to Dursey and the views along the way are totally captivating. So, will the Dursey Island Cable Car make it onto your list of things to do in Ireland?
Read more: Take a ride on Ireland’s only cable car
4. Walk the Gobbins Cliff Path in Antrim
When it comes to unique things to do in Ireland, this dramatic cliff walk is certainly up there with the best. The Gobbins Cliff Path first was a major attraction when it opened in the early 1900s and became every bit as popular as the famous Giant’s Causeway. Later abandoned, it lay in ruin for many years but has thankfully been reopened more recently.
An amazing feat of engineering, the walk takes you along the base of the cliffs at Islandmagee in County Down. Along the way you’ll pass sea stacks, chasms and caves and even a large colony of Kittiwakes. The Gobbins is a must for anyone looking for a unique adventure in Ireland.
5. Take a trip to the Skellig Islands
If you ever have the chance to do a trip to the Skellig Islands, take it! Visiting Skellig Michael has been one of the best day trips in Ireland that I have done. It’s such a magical place and one that should be on every Irish bucket list. Everything about Skellig Michael is just remarkable; the history, the natural beauty, the ancient beehive huts and the fact that the monks carved all those stone steps by hand. I’m sweating just thinking about it!
Due to restricted numbers it can be hard to get to Skellig Michael but if you can’t do the landing trip, take the eco tour instead. The eco tour brings you around both Little Skellig and Skellig Michael. Even just getting up close to the islands is an incredible experience. Little Skellig is home to one of the largest gannet colonies in the world, as well as many other bird species. The noise when you get up close is unreal!
6. Get pally with Puffins
If you are planning a trip to Skellig Michael, try to visit between the months of May and July to see the Puffins. These adorably cute birds are pretty much everywhere you turn. It’s amazing to be in such close proximity to them as they take off and land all around you.
Other good places to see Puffins in Ireland are the Blasket Islands in Kerry, the Saltee Islands in Wexford and Rathlin Island in Antrim. You may be lucky enough to see them at the Cliffs of Moher too. Take a boat cruise along the cliffs for the best chance to see them there.
7. Photograph the Northern Lights
To say you can ‘see’ the Northern Lights in Ireland may be a bit of a stretch. But while it’s unlikely you’ll be able to see them with the naked eye, you might be lucky enough to capture them on camera, which is the next best thing!
If you’re keen to give it a go, download an Aurora Forecast app and set up notifications. If auroral activity is high and the forecast is for clear skies, then you might just be in luck. Get as far north as you can for the best chance to capture them. Donegal is your best bet when hunting for the Northern Lights in Ireland and the long winter nights increase your chances too. We got lucky and captured the above image at Fanad Head.
8. Marvel at Longford’s ancient bog road
Discovered in bogland near the village of Keenagh in 1985, the Corlea Trackway is an Iron Age road over 2,000 years old. The road was constructed from oak planks that have been radiocarbon dated to 148 BC. It’s the largest Iron Age road that has been discovered in Europe and is well worth a visit. You can view an 18 metre section of the amazingly well preserved trackway inside the Corlea Visitor Centre.
9. Embrace the darkness at Marble Arch Caves
There are a lot of amazing show caves in Ireland but the Marble Arch Caves in Fermanagh standout as they include a short boat ride too. Gliding through the caverns in darkness is a pretty amazing experience, even if only for a few minutes. Afterwards, you’ll cover about 1.5 kms by foot through the caves. The tour lasts about 75 minutes and is definitely one that should be high up on your list of things to do in Ireland.
10. Tackle the Stairway to Heaven
The Marble Arch Caves are part of the greater Marble Arch Geopark, which is also home to the Stairway to Heaven hike. So why not do both while you’re in the area! Though the Stairway to Heaven has become a common nickname, the walk is actually named the Cuilcagh Legnabrocky Trail or Cuilcagh Boardwalk Trail.
The trail leads you to just below the summit of Cuilcagh mountain. At 665 metres, it’s the highest peak in both Fermanagh and Cavan counties. At the top a viewing platform allows you to take in the incredible surrounding views while you catch your breath.
This area is one of the most intact blanket bogs in Western Europe and is a Special Area of Conservation. So the boardwalk and stairs were installed to protect the fragile environment. As an added bonus it makes the summit a little easier to tackle too!
Read more: Hiking Ireland’s Stairway to Heaven
11. Spend a night in a lighthouse
If you’re looking for a unique place to stay in Ireland, how about a lighthouse? Many of the Great Lighthouses of Ireland are available for rent and make for one heck of an amazing experience. Wake up to the pounding waves, surrounded by nature and fabulous sea views in some of the most beautiful places in Ireland. Just be prepared for a lot of stair climbing!
12. Visit Ireland’s only inland lighthouse
While we’re on the subject of lighthouses, the Spire of Lloyd has got to be one of the most unique in Ireland, given the fact that it’s nowhere near the coast! Located in Kells, Co. Meath, the Spire of Lloyd is in fact an 18th century folly. It is usually open on bank holiday Mondays, when you can climb the spiral staircase inside and take in the sweeping 360 views over five counties.
13. Search for the Wormhole on Inis Mór
A trip to the Aran Islands is never a bad idea and should you find yourself on Inis Mór, the largest of the three islands, be sure to check out one of Ireland’s most unique natural attractions.
Poll na bPéist, or the Wormhole, looks like it was carved out of the rocks but is actually completely natural. The rectangular pool is not the easiest spot to find, but there is some signage from the village of Gort na gCapall, which at least points you in the general direction of it. I can’t make it too easy on you, as finding it is all part of the adventure!
14. Visit Ireland’s oldest licensed distillery in Kilbeggan
What better place to learn about Irish Whiskey than in Ireland’s oldest licensed distillery. Kilbeggan Distillery in Westmeath was established in 1757, when the first license to produce whiskey was granted to Matthew MacManus. Today, tours of the distillery offer the perfect mix of old and new.
Most of the machinery you’ll see on the tour was used to produce whiskey here up until the distillery closed in 1957. Afterwards the distillery changed hands a number of times until the local community saved it and brought it back to life. Distillation started once again in 2007, so you also get to see the new process behind the small batch whiskeys now produced onsite. Naturally, the tour finishes off with the all important tasting session!
15. Go moonlight kayaking on Lough Hyne
Nestled between the rolling hills of West Cork is Lough Hynes, a unique saltwater lake and Ireland’s first Marine Nature Reserve. It is also one of Europe’s most important Marine habitats. The lake is connected to the sea by a narrow channel and its waters rise and fall with the ebb and flow of the tide.
Climb nearby Knockomagh Hill for stunning panoramic views of Lough Hynes and its surrounds but for a real adventure you’ll want to get out on the water. Atlantic Sea Kayaking offers both day and night kayak trips on the lake. Opt for the Moonlight Kayaking Experience to experience a pretty unique phenomenon. As you slide your paddle through the dark waters, bioluminescence sparkles around you like tiny underwater stars. This definitely makes it one of the more unique things to do in Ireland and a must for any bucket list.
16. Take an alpaca for a wander
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For a unique activity that’s both fun and memorable, give Alpaca trekking a go. With K2Alpacas you’ll be paired up with your very own alpaca for a 2 hour experience. You get to walk and feed your companion as you ramble along and get to know each other. Afterwards you’ll be treated to strawberries and Prosecco (or juice), to help ease the pain of saying goodbye to your new buddy!
If you just can’t wait for the trekking to resume, then fear not. You can book a private video chat with one of the alpacas or a virtual tour of the farm to meet all of the alpacas. You can even send a personal greeting to someone special via an Alpaca Gram!
17. Test drive Waterford’s magic road
Close to the beautiful Mahon Falls in Waterford, you’ll find one of Ireland’s most famous magic roads. Or perhaps it’s just the easiest one to find, thanks to a big rock with the words ‘Magic Road’ written on it! It really is helpful, considering most magic roads are a bit of a secret unless you’re local and in the know.
What’s so magic about these roads? Well, stop your car by the rock, put it in neutral with the handbrake off and wait. Your car should actually start to roll uphill, even though it’s facing downhill. Strange but true. Now some people will try and explain it as an optical illusion but we know it’s really fairy magic, right?!
18. Meet Fungie the dolphin
It’s said that dolphins are pretty intelligent and Fungie is proof of that. Since 1983 he has chosen Dingle as his place of residence, obviously because he knows it’s one of the best places in Ireland! He’s so happy about it, that he spends his days playing and interacting with anyone who visits him.
Fungie has even been noted in the Guinness World Records as the world’s oldest solitary dolphin. Unfortunately, as there are no boat trips right now, it has been reported that poor Fungie is lonely for human contact. So he’ll definitely be excited to see everyone when trips start up again. You can get up close and personal to Fungie with Dingle Dolphin Tours. Don’t forget to say hi from us!
19. Visit Foynes Flying Boat Museum
Did you know that Ireland’s first major airport was at Foynes in Limerick? Or that the Irish Coffee was invented there? At the incredibly fascinating Foynes Flying Boat Museum you’ll discover it all, including how the town of Foynes became a major global aviation hub from 1937 to 1945. You can also explore the inside of a life-size replica Boeing 314 Flying Boat, the only one of its kind in the world.
20. Walk the walls of Derry City
Derry is one of the finest examples of a walled city in Europe and is the only city in Ireland where the walls remain completely intact. They were built between 1613 and 1619, so recently celebrated reaching 400 years old! The walls measure approximately one mile in circumference and had four original gates. Three additional gates were added later. Walk the walls at your leisure or take an informative and fun guided tour and learn more about the history of this fascinating city as you go.
21. Tour the picture perfect Swiss Cottage in Cahir
The beautifully restored Swiss Cottage in Cahir is one of Europe’s finest examples of a 19th century cottage orné or ornamental cottage. It was originally part of the estate of Lord and Lady Cahir and was used for summer picnics and entertaining guests. Painstaking work was done to restore it to its former glory and you can now visit as part of a guided tours. The most scenic route to the cottage is to take the 2km Coronation Walk along the river from Cahir Castle, another great attraction to visit while you’re in the area.
22. Explore Waterford’s spectacular Copper Coast
The Copper Coast is a stunning 17km stretch of beautiful bays, long sandy beaches, rugged cliffs and rock formations. Stretching from Kilfassary in the east to Stradbally in the west, it is also part of the UNESCO designated Copper Coast Geopark.
In addition to its natural beauty, the area is one of international geological significance and was Ireland’s first Geopark. Exploring this stunning coastline is definitely one of the top things to do in Ireland, yet somehow it still seems to be one of our best kept secrets.
Read more: Exploring Waterford’s Copper Coast
23. Admire Ireland’s most scenic GAA pitch on Inishturk Island
Located about 15km off the west coast of Mayo, Inishturk is a beautiful island to visit. Well…if I’m honest, the ferry trip there in stormy seas was one I would rather forget but all was forgiven once I arrived! Rugged and wild, the island has some of the most spectacular scenery in the country.
Inishturk is also home what is without a doubt the most scenic GAA Pitch in all of Ireland. I was never any good at team sports anyway but seriously, how are you supposed to focus on your game surrounded by views like that. This is definitely a place I’ll be returning but I’ll be sure to go in calmer weather next time round!
24. Test your nerves on the Conor Pass
At 456 metres, Conor Pass is Ireland’s highest mountain road. Narrow and winding, it’s not one you’ll want to tackle on a bad day. However, in fairer conditions it’s one of Ireland’s most breathtaking scenic drives.
There are two main viewing points along this 12km stretch of twisting road. So don’t miss the opportunity to stop and take in the amazing views of the valley as you travel from one side of the Dingle Peninsula to the other. At the very least it will give your hands a break from clenching the steering wheel!
25. Explore Rothe House in Kilkenny
A unique attraction along Kilkenny’s Medieval Mile is Rothe House, a late 16th century merchant’s townhouse. It is the only one of its kind in Ireland and is definitely a hidden gem. Inside you’ll find so much more than the exterior reveals.
Rothe House is actually a townhouse complex with three houses, and as many courtyards. There’s also an extensive Tudor garden, which includes an orchard and stretches way back to the original city wall line. It’s so unexpected in the middle of such a built up city area and definitely another attraction to add to your Irish bucket List.
26. Eye up the Great Telescope at Birr Castle Gardens
For 70 years, from 1845 to 1917, the telescope at Birr Castle was the largest in the world. It was built by William Parsons, 3rd Earl of Rosse and with it he discovered the spiral nature of galaxies. Scientists came from all over the world to witness the phenomenon and Birr Castle was well known as a hub of innovation and scientific discovery.
The restored telescope can still be viewed today in the magnificent Birr Castle Gardens, while at the Science Centre you can learn more about the telescope and other significant achievements of the Parsons family.
Read More: An afternoon at Birr Castle Gardens
27. Soak in the views of Clew Bay from Croagh Patrick
Dotted with islands, Clew Bay is one of the most beautiful bays in all of Ireland. According to folklore there are 365 islands in all, one for every day of the year. In reality, I don’t know if anyone has counted them but why let facts get in the way of a good story.
For the best view of Clew Bay, getting your hiking boots on and climb to the summit of Croagh Patrick, Ireland’s Holy mountain. If the climb doesn’t get your heart pumping, the stunning views certainly will.
Disclaimer: The climb will most definitely get your heart pumping! It’s not an easy one but it’s well worth it.
28. Take a tour of Hook Lighthouse
Standing proud at the tip of the Wexford’s Hook Peninsula for almost 850 years, Hook Head Lighthouse is one of the world’s oldest lighthouses. It’s also the second oldest lighthouse in the world that is still in operation today. Since 1996 the lighthouse has been automated and it’s now controlled from Dublin.
Take a guided tour to the top of the tower and enjoy the fabulous panoramic views along the coast. If the standard tour doesn’t float your boat, try one of the more unique tours on offer. Sunrise or sunset tours can be arranged, in addition to a Seafood Banquet Tour or Fish and Chip Supper Tour. Which will you choose?
29. Visit the Temple of the Goddess at Huntington Castle
Built in 1625, Huntington Castle is one of only a handful of castles in Ireland still in the possession of the founding family. With beautiful gardens including a 500 year old Yew Walk, rose garden and even a resident peacock, it’s well worth a visit.
Though the castle is a private home, you can tour some of the rooms inside and can even stay overnight. One of the more unique aspects of the castle tour is a visit to the basement and the Temple of the Goddess found within. In 1976 it became the Foundation Centre for the Fellowship of Isis, a recognised world religion which celebrates the divine feminine. Today the Fellowship has thousands of members throughout the world.
30. Delve into Ireland’s ancient past at Newgrange
Newgrange passage tomb in the Boyne Valley, Co Meath, was built over 5,200 years ago by Stone Age farmers. It is part of a complex of Neolithic monuments known as Brú na Bóinne, which is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site.
During the Winter Solstice, the rising sun aligns with the opening of the tomb, gradually lighting up the passage and the chamber within. Tours of the tomb are available year round, though access during the solstice is reserved for the lucky few who are chosen by lottery. If you get to attend and there is actually sunshine on the morning of your visit, count yourself very lucky indeed!
Read more: Exploring Newgrange and Brú na Bóinne
31. Treat yourself to a seaweed bath in Ballybunion
Collins’ Seaweed Baths in Ballybunion have been welcoming visitors since 1932. The business has been run by the Collins family for four generation now and the seaweed is still collected daily from the nearby black rocks.
Situated on the Ladies Beach, a visit to the baths is the perfect way to relax, unwind and rejuvenate. Soak in your your own private bathroom while the warm seawater and seaweed work wonders on your skin or aching muscles. I usually rinse myself off in the bracing waters of the Atlantic afterwards. It’s so invigorating! Don’t leave town without doing the stunning cliff walk either.
32. Sail away to Garinish Island
A trip to Garinish Island (or Ilnacullin) is one of the most unique trips to do in Ireland. Where else in the country could you step into a boat and end up in the Mediterranean 15 minutes later? Yeah ok, not exactly, but thanks to the unique micro climate on the island and features such as a Grecian Temple and Italian Gardens, it certainly feels like you have.
It’s just a short 15 minute boat ride to get to the island and along the way you get the chance to spot seals too. The history of the island and the family who lived here is fascinating and you can visit their home, which has been beautifully restored. Visitors to the island included the likes of George Bernard Shaw, Agatha Christie and many Irish Presidents.
Read more: Visiting idyllic Garinish Island in Cork
33. Go whale watching in West Cork
You might not think Ireland is the obvious choice when it comes to whale watching, but think again. Take a wildlife boat tour in West Cork and there’s every chance you’ll see humpback whales, fin whales or minke whales depending on the time of year. You might also be lucky enough to spot dolphins, porpoises, basking sharks and other wildlife along the way too.
34. Ring the Shandon Bells
Built in 1722, St. Anne’s Church is one of Cork’s oldest buildings. The church tower is a famous landmark in Cork City and home to the Shandon Bells. Climb to the first floor where you actually get to play a tune on the bells yourself. It’s definitely one of the most unique things you can do in Ireland, though I’m not sure how the neighbours feel about it! After your performance, continue to the top of the tower for a bird’s eye view of the city.
35. Cruise Ireland’s only fjord
Enjoy a relaxing cruise along Ireland’s only fjord with Killary Fjord Boat Tours. The fjord is 16kms long and forms a natural border between Galway and Mayo. This 90 minute cruise is the best way to take in the spectacular views of the surrounding mountainous landscape. Dolphins are sometimes spotted at the mouth of the harbour too. It’s perfect if you’re looking for a fun family adventure in Ireland. Better yet, kids under the age of 10 go free.
36. Discover past accomplishments on the Derrigimlagh Loop Walk in Connemara
This interactive 5km loop walk takes you through the Derrygimlagh Bog, an area of outstanding natural beauty. It was also home to a Marconi wireless station from where the first wireless commercial messages were successfully sent in October 1907.
Later, in 1919, pilots Alcock & Brown crash-landed into the bog bringing a dramatic end to the world’s first transatlantic flight. News of their success was quick to spread across the globe thanks to the nearby wireless station! A series of information panels and interactive displays tell you more about these fascinating events as you explore the area.
37. Check out the tetrapod trackway on Valentia Island.
Along a stretch of shore on Valentia Island in Co. Kerry, a series of imprints can be found in the rocks. To some, they may seem unremarkable, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.
These fossilised footprints were made by a primitive amphibian-like vertebrate or tetrapod and are believed to have been created as much as 370 million years ago. The imprints are of international significance as they provide evidence of the transition of life from water to land. Only four early tetrapod trackways have been discovered in the world but the Valentia Trackway is thought to be both the oldest and the longest on the planet. It doesn’t get much more unique than that.
38. Order a pint of plain in Sean’s Bar, Athlone
Located in Athlone, on the banks of the River Shannon is Sean’s Bar. Dating back to 900 AD, it’s the oldest pub in Ireland. It has also been recognised by Guinness World Records as the oldest pub in Europe. So if you find yourself in the town, it’d be a shame to walk past its door without nipping in for a cheeky pint!
Inside you can see part of an old wattle and wicker wall, which dates back to the 10th century. It was uncovered during renovations in 1970 along with coins dating back to the same period. The coins and sections of the wall are now on display in the National Museum.
39. Discover the story behind Westmeath’s Jealous Wall
Located in Belvedere House and Gardens in Mullingar, the Jealous Wall is an 18th century Gothic folly and also the largest folly in Ireland. At the time it built (around 1760) Belvedere House was home to Robert Rochfort the 1st Earl of Belvedere. He built the Jealous Wall, at great expense, to hide his brother’s house from view. Why? You guessed it…because it was more grand than his and he was jealous! Unfortunately for his poor wife and family, that wasn’t the worst thing he did either.
40. Enjoy a gin cruise on Lough Derg
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Try a gin tasting experience with a difference, with Killaloe River Cruises. Relax as you sail for 90 minutes along the River Shannon and Lough Derg. Along the way your experienced mixologist will help you select the perfect tonics and garnishes to go along with your three premium gins. Not a bad way to take in some of the stunning scenery in this beautiful part of Ireland!
41. Visit Ireland’s largest stone circle
Measuring 150 feet in diameter, Grange stone circle at Lough Gur in Co. Limerick, is the largest stone circle in Ireland. It is made up of 113 standing stones with the largest stone weighing in at around 40 tons and standing over 13 feet high.
Built in the Bronze Age, Grange Stone Circle is over 4,000 years old and was an important ritual site. The entrance to the circle is aligned with the sunrise of the summer solstice. To this day, people still gather on Midsummer’s Eve to celebrate and await the dawn, hoping to witness the sun shine through the passageway.
Be sure to visit nearby Lough Gur Heritage Centre to learn more about this and other historical sites nearby. The area is one of Ireland’s most important archaeological sites, having visible evidence of every age since Neolithic times.
42. Travel back in time at the Céide Fields
The Céide Fields in North Mayo are the oldest known field systems in the world. This vast neolithic landscape is some 5,500 years old, making it even older than the pyramids in Egypt. Preserved for centuries below blanket bog, the remains of stone walls, houses and megalith tombs reveal a wealth of information about our Stone Age ancestors and make the Céide Feilds one of Ireland’s most unique attractions.
43. Explore the otherworldly landscape of the Burren
While most visitors to Ireland are keen to see the Cliffs of Moher, too many miss out on the delights of the neighbouring Burren Region. The unique karst landscape, characterised by its cracked limestone pavement, is often referred to as lunar-like. However, while it may look barren, the Burren is teeming with nature and renowned for its flora and fauna. Over 70% of Ireland’s flower species are found here and it’s particularly vibrant in summer months, when the wildflowers are in bloom.
In addition, the Burren offer beautiful beaches, caves, prehistoric sites such as Poulnabrone Dolmen, picturesque towns, wonderful walks and so much more. Simply put, this is not a part of Ireland you want to miss out on. Stay a few days and savour all it has to offer. You won’t be sorry.
44. Take the Ericsson Skyline Tour at Croke Park
For a unique view of Dublin get yourself to the iconic Croke Park Stadium for the Skyline Tour. Take in the city’s famous landmarks and stunning panoramic views from the 17 storey high open-viewing platform. Your guide will also fill you in on aspects of Dublin’s history and the construction of the stadium too. There is even a dusk tour during the winter months, so you can watch the skyline begin to glow as the city transitions from day to night.
45. Marvel at the Giant’s Causeway in Antrim
There’s no disputing the fact that the Giant’s Causeway is one of the most unique places to visit in Ireland. Comprised of around 40,000 interlocking basalt columns, the area became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1986 and is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Northern Ireland.
You need to get up close and personal to appreciate this unusual landscape, which resulted from an ancient volcanic eruption. As you explore, keep an eye out for some of the more recognisable features such as the Chimney Stacks, the Giant’s Boot and the Organ.
46. Explore Portumna Castle & Gardens in Co. Galway
Located on the northern shores of Lough Derg, Portumna Castle was built between 1610 and 1618 by Richard de Burgo, the 4th Earl of Clanricarde. It was without equal at the time and was the first building in Ireland to include some elements of the Renaissance style, already well established in other parts of Europe.
The castle is one of Ireland’s most important early seventeenth century homes and marks the transition from fortified medieval structures to the manor houses of the 18th and 19th century. The beautiful gardens were also the first Renaissance gardens in Ireland and include a rose garden and magnificently restored walled kitchen garden.
In 1826 an accidental fire gutted the building and it remained abandoned for many years, becoming a roofless shell. Thankfully major restoration work has been done and visitors can can access the ground floor as well as exploring the gardens and surrounds. Other attractions in the town include nearby Portumna Forest Park and The Irish Workhouse Centre.
47. Take a guided tour of Glasnevin Cemetery
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Glasnevin cemetery is Ireland’s National cemetery. Opened in 1832, is covers over 50 hectares and is the resting place of many iconic Irish figures. Take a tour to discover the graves of Ireland’s heroes, rebels and revolutionaries including Michael Collins, Constance Markievicz, Maud Gonne, Éamon de Valera and many more. Visitors can now also climb the iconic O’Connell Tower. It’s the tallest round tower in Ireland and was built in honour of Daniel O’Connell.
48. Learn about life in the trenches at Cavan County Museum
Every county in Ireland has its own museum but Cavan County Museum is definitely the best I have been to. The museum is housed in a former convent, built in 1883 by the Poor Sisters of St Clare. Like most county museums, it has many artefacts and exhibitions, including the medieval gallery, archaeology room and GAA history exhibition.
However, Cavan County Museum also has a number of more unique outdoor exhibitions too. Behind a replica GPO facade you get to experience the chaos and upheaval of the 1916 Rising. Nearby, the WW1 Trench Experience uses sound and visual effects to educate visitors on life in the trenches. It’s the largest outdoor replica trench in Ireland and the UK and a must-see for anyone.
49. Climb to the top of Ireland!
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At 1038 metres, Carrauntoohil is the highest mountain in Ireland. Part of the MacGillycuddy Reeks mountain range in Kerry, the hike to the summit is a demanding one but rewards you with absolutely stunning views, not to mention an amazing sense of achievement. You’ll feel like you’re on top of the world, not just the top of Ireland! So if hiking is your thing, make sure that Carrauntoohil is up there on your list of things to do in Ireland.
If you’re not an experienced hiker or prefer to hike with others, get in touch with Kerry Climbing who offer guided ascents of Carrauntoohil. If you’re after more of a challenge, they can also guide you on more difficult climbs and scrambles.
50. See the Book of Kells & the Long Room at Trinity College
The Book of Kells was created by Early Christian monks circa 800AD and is regarded as Ireland’s finest national treasure. Pages of this intricately illustrated and colourful manuscript can be viewed in Trinity College Dublin as part of the Turning Darkness into Light exhibition. The exhibition is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Ireland.
Tickets for the exhibition also include entry to the Long Room, the main chamber of the Old Library. The long Room is home over 200,000 books and is one of the most impressive libraries in the world. It also contains a rare copy of the 1916 Proclamation of the Irish Republic as well as a 15th century Brian Boru harp, the national symbol of Ireland.
51. Make your very own bottle of Gin at Listoke Gin School
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Based in Co. Louth, Listoke Distillery is home to Ireland’s only Gin School. Sign up for the Gin School Experience and enjoy a tour of the distillery before creating your own bottle of gin. Throughout the process you will enjoy a few Gin & Tonics (of course!), along with a selection of local Boyne Valley meats and cheeses. According to the website all you need to bring is a good attitude and an open mind. It also warns you should leave the high heels at home! Sounds like the perfect recipe for a great day out.
52. Visit the deer in the Phoenix Park
The Phoenix Park in Dublin is a place that I feel a lot of us (yes, I’m including myself here!) take for granted but we are so lucky to have. Located just a few kilometres from the city centre, it’s the largest enclosed public park in any European Capital City. Its perimeter stretches 11kms and encloses 707 hectares of land.
With ample walking and cycling trails, Victorian Gardens, playgrounds, an orienteering course and much more, the Phoenix Park is perfect for a family day out. However, one of the biggest highlights is always spotting deer. The park was established in 1662 as a Royal Deer Park and some 600 fallow deer roam the park today.
Fallow deer are not native to Ireland but some of the deer in the park are descendants of the original deer imported from Great Britain 350 years ago. While the deer are beautiful to watch and have became used to people, remember they are still wild animals. Keep a safe distance and please don’t feed the deer. Despite signs everywhere warning people not to feed them, it still happens all the time and can actually cause illness, malnourishment or disease.
53. Pour a perfect pint at the Guinness Storehouse
Sure, the Guinness Storehouse might be classed as a tourist trap but that doesn’t make it any less fun! And if you’ve never had the experience of pulling your own pint of Guinness, this is the place to do it. Your entrance ticket includes a voucher for a free pint, which you can use at the Guinness Academy.
In this short masterclass you’ll learn everything you need to know about the 6 steps (and 119.5 seconds) required to pour the perfect pint. By the time you leave, with your certificate in hand, you’ll be a total pro! Head up to the Gravity Bar afterwards for some of the best panoramic views of Dublin.
54. Summit sea stacks in Donegal
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If you’re on the hunt for the most adventurous thing to do in Ireland, then this one’s for you. Venture out with Unique Ascent to remote locations as they guide you to the summit of sea stacks along the pristine Donegal Coast. As challenging as it sounds, sea stack climbing is open to everyone and previous climbing experience is not required. It’s sure to make for a totally unforgettable day.
55. Watch weavers at work in the Avoca Handweavers Mill
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Today Avoca is a well-known brand with numerous stores and cafés around Ireland. The company is also one of the oldest surviving clothing manufacturers in the world. Its success can be traced back to the picturesque village of Avoca in Co. Wicklow, where its story began.
On the banks of the Avoca River, there’s now an Avoca store and café within the original whitewashed buildings of the founding mill. Established in 1723, it’s the oldest surviving mill still in use in Ireland. Inside, you can take a tour of the mill and witness firsthand the skill and expertise of the weavers. Once you see the work that goes into each piece and the beautiful finished products, you won’t want to leave empty handed!
56. Hike to Ireland’s highest waterfall
Sruth In Aghaidh An Aird, also known as the Devil’s Chimney, is the highest waterfall in Ireland at 150 metres. It’s located on the Dartry mountains, straddling the borders of Sligo and Leitrim. Sruth In Aghaidh An Aird, translates to “stream against the height” referring to the fact that the wind sometimes causes the water to be blown backwards over the cliff from which it falls.
There’s a public hiking trail which takes you close to the base of the falls. It takes about 45 mins to an hour and you’ll get some pretty great views. Bear in mind that the flow is weather dependent and sometimes there is little or no flow. Visit after heavy rain to see the waterfall at its best.
57. Take a boat ride to Holy Island in East Clare
Holy Island, or Inis Cealtra, is located on Lough Derg in Co. Clare and is one of the most famous monastic sites in Ireland. The island is reached by a short boat trip from Mountshannon Harbour. Its attractions include a well preserved Round Tower, several church ruins, Bullaun stones and a monastic cell-like structure, which is said to be one of the most extraordinary buildings in Ireland.
Boat trips to the island are run by local historian Gerard Madden. So you’re in good hands should you have any questions. Once on the island you can explore at your leisure, though guided tours can also be arranged. In 2010 Holy Island was one of the sites submitted to UNESCO for future nomination to the World Heritage List.
58. Head underground at the Arigna Mines in Co. Roscommon
Trace 400 years of mining history at the Arigna Mines, the last working coal mine in Ireland. With tours run by ex-miners who have actually worked here, this is one of the most unique and authentic experiences in Ireland.
The Arigna Mining Experience tours last about 45 minutes long and provide a fascinating account of life in the mines. From the visitor centre you can also enjoy stunning panoramic views over Lough Allen and the surrounding landscape.
59. Cycle Ireland’s longest greenway
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Ireland has a growing number of Greenways, providing plenty of opportunity to hop on a bike and explore safely. Many of these dedicated off-road trails have been created along disused railway routes, offering access to some of the most scenic and unspoilt parts of Ireland.
Stretching for 46km from Waterford City to Dungarvan, the Waterford Greenway is the longest Greenway in Ireland. The trail follows the old Waterford to Mallow railway line and passes lots of breathtaking landscapes along the way. If you cycle the entire route you’ll also take in 11 bridges, 3 viaducts and pass through a 400 metre long tunnel. Alternative, the mostly flat trail is broken into six distinct sections, so it’s easy to just do part of it. The choice is all yours!
60. Face your fears at Tayto Park
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Why not end with a thrilling rollercoaster ride! Tayto Park in Meath is Ireland’s only theme park and is home to the Cú Chulainn Coaster. The Cú Chulainn was Ireland’s first rollercoaster and is also the largest wooden rollercoaster in Europe with an inversion. It might be a good idea not to fill up on too many delicious Tayto crisps before you get onboard. Just a thought.
What unique things to do in Ireland will you add to your list?!
Phew, that’s it! If you’re still reading I’m very impressed and hope you’ve enjoyed my list of unique things to do in Ireland. Before visiting please confirm reopening details with individual providers and check government guidelines in regards to travel restrictions.
Are you planning to visit any of these attractions when we can travel again? Let me know in the comments below!