It happens to the best of us: you spend those long months of exam revision thinking about how you’re going to spend your summer. You and your friends decide that you’ll visit all the places that you’ve always wanted to go. Yet when the summer does come, the days start to slip away, it’s September once again and you’ve done absolutely nothing on your list. Well, this year, we’ve rounded up some of the must-see attractions in our wonderful country and put together the ultimate Irish road trip, to ensure that this never happens to you again.
Whether you live up North and decide to start at the causeway, or in Dublin and want to only go as far as Wicklow, we’ve put together this list to help you make this summer your best one yet!
Kilmainham Gaol, Dublin
Starting with Dublin, this former-gaol-turned-museum is one of the largest of its kind in Europe and is a must-see for anyone interested in political history. The gaol is open all year, student tickets are €6 and it’s advisable that you book in advance.
Skyline Croke Park, Dublin
If you want an excellent photograph of the whole of the city, there’s no better way to see it than from the seventeen-story-high roof of Croke Park. The Skyline tour promises visitors “unmatched panoramic city views combined with the thrill of walking on top of one of Europe’s largest stadiums”. Tour times can be found on the Croke Park Website and student tickets are €18.
Guinness Storehouse, Dublin
Chances are you’ve already ticked this one of your list, but there’s no harm in visiting twice. With such a famous brewer comes one of the best tours in the country. With two bars, a restaurant, guided tour and gift shop, this is a great stop.
Powerscourt House & Gardens, Co. Wicklow
One of the most beautiful gardens in the whole of the country, Powerscourt Gardens should most definitely be on your list. Tickets to enter the garden range from €7 to €8.50 depending on the time of year. If you have time, you could also walk to Ireland’s Highest Waterfall, just be sure to check opening times first.
The Rock of Dunamase, Co. Laois
The Rock of Dunamase sits 150-feet above ground and has on its top the ruins of Dunamase Castle. As a national monument of Ireland, it attracts hundreds of tourists to see the 12th century ruins.
Dunmore East, Co. Waterford
This tourist village in Waterford is a great place to spend a few days or even a week! With plenty of places to eat, things to do and events happening, you certainly won’t be bored. You can take your pick from art galleries, local walks, sailing, golfing, museums and much more.
Comeragh Mountains, Co. Waterford
Stretching the whole way out to Clonmel, this mountain range has something to offer even the most novice of hikers. With over eight different loops which you can take, if you manage to get a sunny day, this has to be one of the best hikes out there.
Swiss Cottage, Co. Tipperary
With regular guided tours every day, this 19th century cottage is one of the few of its kind left in the country. Hidden away in Cahir, this is a true gem that few people know about, but that everyone should see. Admission is €3 for students.
Dursey Island, Co. Cork
This completely uninhabited island off the southwest coast has no shops, pubs or restaurants (apart from a small coffee dock) but it is often surrounded by dolphins and whales and is accessible by a cable car. If you want to disconnect completely for a few hours, then this is definitely the place to do it.
Blarney Castle, Co. Cork
This nearly 600-year-old castle built by Cormac McCarthy is one of the biggest tourist attractions that our country has to offer. People from all over the world have travelled to Cork to kiss the infamous Blarney stone to “gain the gift of eloquence”. You simply can’t live in Ireland without having experienced this. Tickets are €14, and you can save money by booking them online.
To Skellig Michael, Co. Kerry
Recently featured in one of the most famous franchises in film history, this isolated island can be seen in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. You can either choose to view the silhouette of the land from a distance from Bray Head, or if you book well enough in advance, you can board one of the Skellig Michael Cruises to see the island from a unique perspective.
Ring of Kerry, Co. Kerry
This is the tourist trail in Kerry that is home to some of the finest beaches, forts and monasteries in the whole of Ireland. You can either choose to drive around the ring yourself (the tourist centre ask that you travel anti-clockwise to minimise traffic problems), or you can hop on one of the bus tours that leave twice a day, or you can walk or cycle, weather permitting. Visit this website for more info.
Cliffs of Moher, Clare
One of Ireland’s most famous landscapes the Cliffs of Moher just has to be on your list. Used in scenes from films Leap Year, The Princess Bride, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, as well as being in music videos of Maroon 5 and Westlife, the beauty of this landscape is obviously a favourite among directors. Advertised as a “lifetime experience”, the cliffs are something you need to make sure to include on your trip.
Lisdoonvarna, Co. Clare
This tiny town in Clare is famous for its festivals and music; but most of all, it is most well known for is annual Matchmaking Festival in September — watch Janeane Garofalo’s
The MatchMaker for more info on that! If you want to miss a couple of lectures and head down for the festival, make sure to book early as it’s bound to be packed!
Galway Atlantaquaria, Galway
If you get stuck with a rainy day, which is bound to happen at some time during the trip, an aquarium is a cool and different way to spend a few hours. The Galway Atlantaquaria is the largest Native Aquarium in Ireland, housed in a huge two floor building filled with sea creatures from around the world. Student tickets are €12.
Ashford Castle, Co. Galway
What has to be one of the most breathtaking medieval castles in the world, Ashford Castle has been expanded and has evolved into a five-star luxury hotel. Whether you choose to splash out on a one-night-stay, stop off for the day and rejuvenate in their spa, or just take a few snaps on the front lawn, this Quiet Man film location is a definite must-see!
Inishkea Islands, Co. Mayo
Situated just off the coast of the Mullet peninsula, these islands are completely uninhabited but have many beautiful coves that just have to been seen. Atlantic Grey Seals, Blue Whales and dolphins are regular visitors to the waters around the island. This part of the trip must be carefully planned, as there are only organised boat trips a few times a week.
Marble Arch Caves, Co. Fermanagh
Advertised as one of “the finest show caves in Europe”, the Marble Arch Caves invites visitors to view a collection of rivers and waterfalls, all while travelling by boat through the underground caves. Combined with a 2km walk around the beautiful Marble Arch Nature Reserve, the guided tours here are a great way to spend part of your road trip. Be sure to book tickets in advance to avoid disappointment (£6.75 for students).
Cuilcagh Mountain Trail “Stairway to Heaven”, Co. Fermanagh
A stone’s throw from the Marble Arch Caves, this insta-worthy walk takes about three hours in total. Boasting breathtaking views of the Fermanagh countryside, we guarantee that you’ll spend the majority of your time trying to get that perfect pic at the top of the stairway.
Glengesh Pass, Co. Donegal
Although you don’t actually have to get out of your car for this one, you should definitely make a slight detour on your way to go through this amazing area. It is one of the best experiences of Donegal. If you can spare the time, you should park nearby and then cycle along the pass, so that you can fully appreciate the view from the top.
City Walls, Derry
If you’ve never been to this city before, the walk around the City Walls is definitely the best way to discover all the history and heritage in the shortest amount of time. You can either choose to walk the 1.5km by yourself for free, or you can opt for one of the guided tours available from the tourist information centre.
The Giant’s Causeway, Co. Antrim
Featured in the Game of Thrones television series, this famous landscape is an incredible sight to see. Legend has it that the columns are what is left of a causeway built by the giant, Finn MacCool, so that he could fight the Scottish giant Benandonner. In some tales Finn wins the fight fairly but in others his wife disguised him as their baby, and when Benandonner sees the size of the “baby”, he is terrified at the prospect of fighting his father and he runs back to Scotland, destroying the causeway in his wake so that Finn could not ever follow him. Whether you choose to believe the tale or not, it cannot be questioned that this is one of the most spectacular sites in the country.
Old Bushmills Distillery, Co. Antrim
Discover how Bushmills Irish Whiskey is crafted by taking a guided tour of the oldest working distillery in Ireland. Visiting every part of the distillery and with a tasting experiences available, student tickets are £7 and should be booked online to avoid disappointment.
The Boyne Valley, Counties Kildare, Meath and Louth
Described as “9000 years of history in one valley”, the Boyne Valley contains a number of Ireland’s most famous monuments. With the Hill of Tara, Trim Castle, Kell’s High Crosses, St Laurence’s Gate and Slane Castle all within this valley, you can manage to cover a lot of what our country has to offer in a day or two.