In Ireland, you will be absolutely torn for places to visit. Having explored this country top to bottom, I thought I’d share my top places in Ireland you need to visit, for an adventure-packed trip. Perfect for a weekend away.
This country has such impressive and unique scenery. Because of it’s size, everything is fairly accessible and seeing it all in a short space of time is completely achievable. So, whether you’re a tourist who wants to see the best Ireland scenery and attractions, or you’re a native looking for the perfect spot for your long weekend, here is my top 5 places to visit in Ireland.
I’ve chosen these counties, as they all have multiple attractions in a close radius. Visit one place and tick off numerous Ireland Bucket list spots in the process! As long as you love the outdoors and exploring, there should be something here for you.
Do you need to drive?
All the places I’ve mentioned are great for a road trip. This is my favourite way to see Ireland. You can stop along the route as you please and don’t have to follow a strict schedule. Driving is by far the best way you can experience Ireland.
However, you do not need a car to visit these places. Public transport and tour companies make it possible to experience the wilderness of Ireland without having to get behind the wheel. For instance, I advise checking out the links below for more information on planning your trip:
- Irish Rail (Iarnrod Eireann) – You can view timetables and book tickets online.
- Bus Eireann – Bus routes
- Paddywagon Tours – Ireland’s most popular tour company, with loads of tours to choose from.
- Shamrocker Adventures – Offer longer 2 – 8 day tours of Ireland’s must-see spots
- Vagabond Tours – This company does smaller tour groups and provides an intimate authentic experience.
Top places you need to visit in Ireland:
1. Killarney – Places in Ireland you need to visit
If you want to go on the ultimate sight seeing trip, you need to get yourself to Kerry. Killarney is the perfect base to see all of the spectacular beauty of the surrounding county. It is such a welcoming tourist town and is perfectly situated in the centre of Kerry, surrounded by scenic countryside and countless attractions. I have been here on two occasions for a couple of days, and already know I’ll be going back again. There is so much to see and do in the area. I’ll give you a few examples:
Killarney National park
Ireland’s first named National Park. You can walk your feet off here, with so much to see – Torc waterfall, the Old Weir bridge and Ross castle to name a few. Ladies view is a must see, if you’re lucky enough you might see a rainbow stretching across it like I did.
You can visit Muckross house, a beautiful Victorian mansion with stunning views across Muckross lake and the National Park. This is also part of the National park. The house is open for guided tours between July and August, while the gardens are open year round (except Christmas).
The famous narrow mountain pass forged between the MacGillycuddy Reeks and Purple Mountain is a must-see, if you want too see the most beautiful landscapes.
If you want to see more images of the Killarney and the national park, there are loads in my photodiary from our first trip: Killarney trip – Camping and exploring photodiary
The Ring of Kerry
Perfect for those who love driving. It’s a 179km route around the county of Kerry, and encompasses all the best towns and views. The roads are windy but you’ll be rewarded with breathtaking views. Must sees include:
Please note: Car drivers are advised to travel anti-clockwise around the ring. This keeps the traffic at a minimum as the narrow twisty roads are incredibly busy in peak months.
There really are endless things to do in Kerry and you’ll be surprised just how much of it you can see in a weekend. Try to fit in a trip to Dingle too. It’s about an hours drive from Killarney. Kerry is one of my favourite places to go in Ireland for sure.
In Killarney we always stay with Killarney Glamping. The first year we stayed in the standard suites, while the following year we tried out the Luxury suites. It’s a really beautiful couples place, I’ve done a couple of posts on it: Killarney Glamping at the Grove review.
For more information and photos on the places to see around Kerry, be sure to check out the photo diary posts below:
- Killarney Trip – Glamping and Exploring – We stayed in yurts
- Photodiary: Kerry 2019 Part 1 – Portmagee
- Kerry 2019 Part 2 – Valentia Island
- Photodiary: Kerry 2019 Part 3 – The Tetrapod Trackway Valentia Island
- Photodiary: Kerry 2019 Part 4 – Dingle
2. Wicklow – The Garden of Ireland. A must-see in Ireland
Wicklow has such beautiful landscapes and scenery, all within short distances of each other. From the Wicklow mountains to waterfalls, lakes to sandy beaches and cliffs; it’s no wonder it’s named the garden county. There’s so many things you can choose from to fill your weekend.
Wicklow is just a 30 minute drive from Dublin and is the perfect destination for your outdoorsy weekend. Attractions like Hiking the Great Sugar Loaf Mountain are so accessible from the big city. Below are just some of the reasons you need to visit Wicklow.
Glendalough is a glacial valley in Co.Wicklow. The landscape here is beautiful. There’s Medieval monuments in the grounds for those with an interest in history. A short walk from the car park reveals views of the upper and lower lakes, surrounded by wooded hills. There’s a number of walking trails all beginning at the information office. The highest one giving a unique view of the valley below. It is a perfect day out and is even better in good weather. I’ve been here numerous times and never turn down an opportunity to go
Powerscourt hotel, gardens and waterfall
Powerscourt Gardens were recently voted No.3 in the World’s Top Ten Gardens by National Geographic. Also, the waterfall is super accessible with a car park nearby and worth a visit.
Or as its better known, Guinness lake. What could be more Irish!?
Bray, Bray Head & Cliff Walk
Bray is a lovely seaside town. The seafront is lined with restaurants and pubs and a beautiful pebble beach. Sit out in the ocean breeze and enjoy some food or tackle Bray head or the cliff walk.
Bray head will take you up a hill to look out on the amazing views of Bray and the Irish sea. After that, the Cliff walk extends from Bray, all the way to Greystones ~7Km long. Don’t worry, you can get the dart back to Bray.
To read more about all the fun you can have in Bray, Weekend Exploring Bray has a lot of options.
I recently learned Bray is home to he first Geocache in Europe. If that’s something you are interested in, you can get more information – The Geo-Tourist’s Guide to Europe’s First Geocache, and Geocaching double first.
3. Antrim – you can’t miss this place on your trip to Ireland
Antrim is another location perfect for a road trip. There is such a range of attractions here and again, all within pretty short distances of one another. Want to see for yourself? I’ve gone through a few of my top places to see in Antrim below:
The Giant’s Causeway
You can’t visit Ireland without seeing the Giants Causeway! The vast basalt columns are the remains of intense volcanic activity, or as legend tells, the remains of a causeway built by a giant trying to get to Scotland; I’ll let you decide which.
It’s such a unique landscape and visitors are welcome to walk over the basalt. It’s something so different and on a nice sunny day it’s fantastic. Although it does be absolutely thronged with people, so if you want a nice picture without hundreds of people in the background, I suggest you go very early, or very late!
Carrick-a-rede Rope Bridge
Just further East is the Carrick-a-rede rope bridge, where you can walk, suspended above the ocean, from the mainland to Carrick-A-Rede Island. It’s only 20m long for those afraid of heights, but it is tolled – be warned! Even if not crossing the bridge, you can get a great view of it from the viewpoint.
Then further west of the causeway is the striking ruins of Dunluce castle. If you can catch sunset and dusk here, it’s an amazing site!
There is so much to see and do in this area. If you’re a Game of Thrones fan, the hugely famous Dark Hedges is only a twenty minute drive south of the causeway, so you can get that selfie on-route. What a way to spend a weekend.
4. Galway – one of the top cities you’ll need to visit while in Ireland
Galway has a special place in my heart and is where I currently live. It is known for being a lively, friendly colourful city and the cultural capital of Ireland. You will be kept busy from the street buskers, to the best pubs and stunning landscapes. When visiting Galway, some top attractions come to mind:
Shop and Quay street
These are the main streets in the city centre. They have been pedestrianised and are full of amazing atmosphere. You will see street entertainers from dancers to barefoot saxophone players and pubs with the best music and craic you would ever want. There is also so many amazing places to eat, check out these Cool Places to Eat in Galway City.
Pubs – Have the craic in Galway’s best pubs
Galway is home to countless amazing pubs – well known for being the best craic, and providing traditional music sessions.
O’Connells is my favourite, with Galway’s largest beer garden out back. Also, O’Carrolls, Tig Coili, The Quays (400 years old) and Tigh Neachtain are always good.
Connemara National Park and Diamond Hill
Connemara is where you will find the real beauty of the west. It is an area of expansive countryside with beautiful beaches and mountains. If you are driving through Connemara on a good summers day you will be blown away by the scenery. Some things you should see in Connemara include:
- Derryclare Lake
- Sky Road Drive
- Clifden Castle
- Diamond hill
- Kylemore abbey
- Killary Harbour
- Rosscahill Woods
- Brigit’s Garden – Great places to visit for families
To see some more photos and experiences in Galway, you can check out the resources below:
- Cool Places to Eat in Galway
- Christmas in Galway | Winter Bucket List for Galway City
- Things to do in Cong
- Menlo Castle
- Galway Wind Way
Galway is placed perfectly on the West coast of Ireland and is a only a short drive from another amazing county – Clare. Clare is well known for the Cliffs of Moher and the Burren – so you can also check these out easily from Galway.
5. Donegal – You absolutely cannot visit Ireland without exploring Donegal!
With each visit, I fall more in love with Donegal. This county is absolutely beautiful and was voted “coolest place on the planet” by National Geographic. It is no wonder why. Beaches, mountains, lighthouses – it is a very remote and wild place with enough “Irish” scenery to make you weep.
Another world-renowned place – It has been voted one of the most beautiful lighthouses in the world. Fanad Lighthouse was built after a boat was wrecked off the coast in the 1800s’, whose only survivor was the ship’s parrot. The lighthouse itself is worth the visit, but it’s hard to ignore the spectacular surrounding landscape
Slieve league – Enough to Compete with the Cliffs of Moher
Although people tend to think of the Cliffs of Moher as Ireland’s most beautiful cliffs, it’s a shame to miss out on Slieve League: standing double the height of the Cliffs of Moher. These are in fact, the second-highest cliffs in the country and are so impressive. On a nice day, the short hike to the cliffs is so rewarding. It is also much quieter than the Cliffs of Moher.
- Fort Dunree
- Ballymastocker Bay
- The Glengesh Pass
- Ramelton town is beautiful
- Grianan of Aileach
- Errigal mountain
There is so much amazing scenery to see in Donegal, I have included more images below:
I hope you enjoyed this post of the 5 top places you need to visit in Ireland. Maybe it’s given you a sense of wanderlust or even narrowed down your choice of places you already wish to visit. Either way, I hope it’s given you some inspiration to pack your bags and take a weekend break somewhere in Ireland.
If you think I’ve missed some must-visit places for a weekend trip, let me know in the comments. In addition, please feel free to share any experiences you have had in any of these places below!
For more pictures of my travels be sure to check out my Instagram here.
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Top 5 Places you Need to Visit in Ireland