Ireland has castles, pirate coves, ancient forests, and foodie towns. Traditional music rocks the streets, people are welcoming, and local crafts include sculpted Connemara marble plus woven scarves and blankets.
All of this is a banquet of beauty and wonder, but there is even more to experience in Ireland. Consider choosing at least one of the below for your dream Irish vacation.
Legendary Game of Thrones
Step into the sights, sounds, and scents of Winterfell, the ancestral House Stark. Visit nine iconic areas on the Winterfell Trek. Bring your walking shoes, rain gear, and imagination. From Winterfell to Storm’s End, the King’s Road to the Haunted Forest, this Game of Thrones experience takes you to loads of stunning film locations. Walk deeper into the world of Westeros, and you’ll discover breathtaking scenery and coastal views. While there, head to the Giant’s Causeway, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, formed over 60 million years ago. According to legend, Finn MacCool, a hero with supernatural powers, built it to walk across the sea to battle a Scot giant.
Horse and Carriage Jaunting Car Ride to Ross Castle
Get into a horse and buggy ride in Killarney National Park. It’s the ideal introduction to Killarney, and you’ll have an hour to unwind and soak up the views. The splendor of Killarney Park, the Ring of Kerry, and the Dingle Peninsula are all yours. Ross Castle is the jewel in the center of the park, and all roads lead out from there. A horse and carriage jaunting ride is the stuff of Celtic dreams.
Cliffs of Moher Cruise
Perched on the rugged, western coast of Ireland, the Cliffs of Moher are on most visitors’ bucket list. Imagine, now, climbing on a boat tour at the base of the cliffs. Along the way, you’ll have a clifftop walk and a stop at the Caherconnell Stone Fort. Go underground and explore the mysterious Ailwee Caves. View the Aran Islands, Loophead, and Galway Bay. Don’t just stand on the edge and look down the cliffs into the wild sea… ride the waves for a different point of view!
Tea is an exquisite ritual that may end up being one of the high points of your Irish vacation. In some towns there are tea shops that exist solely to give you this pleasure. There are also 5-star hotels and castles that welcome you for tea. You’ll be given a selection of scrumptious treats, including finger sandwiches, warm scones with clotted cream and fresh jam, plus pastries that are almost too pretty to eat. Loose leaf teas are imported from around the world and are served in silver pots and elegant china fit for royalty. (Pick up a saucer and hold it to the light. You can often see right through the porcelain.) Breathe and indulge yourself.
You can plan your Ireland vacation around food festivals or pick just one that’s serving up your favorites. In September, the “Taste of Cork” is a celebration of nature’s bounty. The Waterford Harvest Oyster and Seafood Festival, in October, is amazing, as are the Savour Kilkenny and the Dingle Food Festival. The Dublin Prawn Festival heralds in the spring season during March, followed by the Cork Whiskey Festival in April. Also in Cork, the Ballymaloe Cookery School at LitFest is all things that involve food and literature. If you want to get into the country, the Kilmore Quay Seafood Festival and Féile na Mara (Achill Island Festival of the Sea), is an unparalleled experience for the rural side of Ireland and authentic Irish food. Bonus: Food festivals are a great way to mingle with the locals.
Sailing in County Dublin
Never sailed before, but you’ve dreamed about trying it? This is your chance. Head to the marina at Dun Laoghaire, County Dublin. You’ll find an enthusiastic crowd of sailors who’d love to teach you everything you need to know to ply the waters. There are boats for just one or two people and yachts that carry a max of seven people. If you want to get on the water without sailing, you’ll find a willing captain here. Racing is held year-around. Go to the marina and see what’s happening!
Ireland has ample opportunities for you to delve into foraging and learn how to use wild plants as part of your meals. Consider a guided walk through forests and the seashore, seeking out tasty seaweeds, Palmaria palmata (Ireland’s indigenous health food), sea spirulina, watercress, pignuts, sampire, and ramsons. Next, cook up a fabulous meal in your guide’s kitchen. This is an unforgettable, off-the-beaten path adventure.
Kitesurfing in County Wexford
When you think of Ireland, surfing doesn’t usually come to mind. Time to broaden your horizons! There is a perfect stretch of beach in Wexford, with rental equipment and lessons for every age and ability. You may also opt for powerkiting; let the kite pull you across the sand with a mountain board or a kite buggy. If you’re in Ireland during the winter, no problem. You can head to the top of Mt. Leinster for snowkiting. (If you’re there in the summer, expect outdoor music and activities on the beach for the entire family.) The teachers are experts and happy to work with every ability level. Go for it!
A Historic Dublin Walking Tour
Dublin, founded by the Vikings, is a city with stories, tales, invasions, triumphs, heroes, and villains. A walking tour, given by a historian, is an exceptional way to really get into Dublin. You’ll come to understand Ireland through the lens of history, including the English Conquest, how Ireland was influenced by the United States and the French Revolution, the Famine, Immigration, struggles for independence, and the Northern Ireland Peace Process. With this awareness, all your Ireland experiences become richer.
The Cork and Blarney Castle Rail Tour
Leaving from Dublin, hop on a train and ride the rails to Blarney Castle, legendary and medieval center of Ireland. This day trip takes you through rolling countryside before you reach Blarney. (This is your chance to kiss the Blarney Stone!) Then head to Cork for the Queenstown Story Heritage Centre. This day trip also gives you plenty of time for lunch and shopping in Blarney. It is often an ideal day trip from Dublin.