Must-See Ireland: 9 Most Beautiful Sights & Attractions
Ireland is as attractive as they come—in the “au naturel” way. Beautiful scenery abounds everywhere you look, but there are some attractions and landmarks in Ireland you truly can’t miss, especially if you’re a first-timer. But don't just take our word for it. We tapped the most in-the-know Irish locals we could find—our EF Ultimate Break Ireland Tour Directors—for their reccos on their favorite scenic spots.
by Kevin McGraw
May 21, 2020
If Ireland entered into a beauty pageant...
It probably wouldn’t win (because, you know, it’s a country). But if the judges in this hypothetical scenario could just look past that, they’d see that the breathtaking landscapes and rolling green hills make Ireland a solid contender.
It makes sense then that trips to Ireland are some of the most popular amongst our EF Ultimate Break travelers. Whether you're a fitness freak looking to hike and bike your way through Ireland's national parks, or you're just here for the St. Paddy's Day celebrations—we have a great Ireland sightseeing (or pub-crawling) adventure for you.
So where are the most beautiful places in Ireland? Luckily, many of Ireland’s top attractions are absurdly photogenic. But don’t just take our word for it. We asked a few EF Ultimate Break Tour Directors from Ireland what they’d recommend. If your bucket list is driven by awe and wonder, these are the best sights in Ireland to check off first. (And to make sure you fit in upon arrival, check out our first-timer tips for visiting Ireland).
Cliffs of Moher
This one’s a no-brainer, as one of Ireland’s most iconic landmarks. Even if you haven’t visited, you’ve at least seen photos of these seaside cliffs. And surely, upon seeing these photos, Ireland shot to the top of your “Daydreaming of Europe” Pinterest board. You don’t have a board like that? Oh, uh… me neither. Let’s move on.
The cliffs rise 700 feet above the ocean, giving you dramatic views of the coastline as well as a strong desire to spread your arms and yell “I’m on top of the world!” And while 700 feet is certainly not the “top of the world,” it sure feels that way. Not only is this a must-see in Ireland, but it’s one of the most stunning places in the world.
Have you ever seen a place so beautiful you just had to kiss it? No? Well clearly you’ve never been to Blarney Castle. Travelers flock to this medieval stronghold near Cork, Ireland to plant their lips on the Blarney Stone. Legend has it that kissing the stone gives you the “gift of gab,” which is just a fancy way to say, the ability to speak eloquently.
To kiss the stone, you lean backwards over a long drop while holding on to an iron railing. Essentially, it’s an upside-down Spider-Man kiss. You’re Toby Maguire, but Kirsten Dunst is nowhere to be found.
If you’re not into smooching an old rock, there’s more fun to be had. There’s the castle itself, which was built during the 15th century, as well as plenty of beautiful gardens to walk through.
Featured Trip: Grand Tour of Ireland
9 days. 4 cities. All the Guinness and craic (good times).
Pros: Frolic amongst the gorgeous countryside then cozy up in a pub with a pint and acoustic melodies. By the end of this trip, you'll be convinced Ed Sheeran's "Galway Girl" is about you.
Cons: You'll grow so fond of traditional Irish music, buy a fiddle, quit your job, and try to make it as a busker. Reality check: you won't. But you'll always have that night at the Temple Bar.
Ring of Kerry
Stretching 111 miles around Ireland’s Iveragh Peninsula, the Ring of Kerry is guaranteed to be one of the most scenic drives of your life. Yes, even more scenic than Mario Kart’s Rainbow Road. You can easily spend a day exploring all the hiking paths, waterfalls, vistas, and medieval ruins along the way.
EF Ultimate Break’s Irish Tour Director Marco agrees, offering up this little insider tidbit: “The most epic and favourite point on the Ring of Kerry is just after the tiny village of Waterville... the road starts to climb steeply to reach Coomakista Pass with stunning views of Scariff Island and if the weather permits, you might have the chance to spot the iconic Skellig Islands.”
There’s so much beauty in Galway, we tossed the whole damn city in here. Located on the western coast of Ireland, this picture-perfect town is downright delightful—a utopia of authentic Irish sightseeing. The streets are bustling, the buildings are rich in history, and the pubs are always buzzing with live music and merriment.
And would you really be in Ireland if spectacular natural beauty wasn’t a short walk away? Take a stroll along the River Corrib, gaze out at Galway Bay, think of us, and be glad you took time to read this post and plan a trip to Ireland.
Just off the coast of Galway are the rugged, desolate, and beautiful Aran Islands: Inishmore, Inishmaan, and Inisheer. The largest and most popular is Inishmore, where you can visit Dún Aengus, a 2,000-year-old fort with walls that go right up the side of a cliff high above the sea. From there you can take in stunning views of the fierce, yet tranquil Atlantic Ocean.
Spending a few hours here feels suspiciously like traveling back in time. The locals speak Irish (like true Irish, not just English with a strong accent), fisherman haul their catch in traditional wooden boats, and I’m fairly certain I saw my great-great-great grandfather feeding a horse when I was there (cue The Twilight Zone music).
Featured Trip: England, Scotland & Ireland
17 days. 6 cities. Infinite fairytale vibes.
Pros: Experience castles, pubs, Beatlemania and Harry Potter sites galore in the United Kingdom and Ireland's premier cities. Relish the quaint countrysides juxtaposed with booming metropolises.
Cons: You'll realize you've been pronouncing Edinburgh wrong your whole life (it's Ed-in-buh-ruh, or simply Em-bruh to the locals).
Killarney National Park
Now I won’t pretend to know how big an acre is, but I will tell you that this park covers over 25,000 of ‘em, which I imagine has to be a lot. And more space means more opportunities to admire the diverse beauty of the Emerald Isle. EF Ultimate Break’s Irish Tour Director Laura is a fan: “Killarney National Park is nestled at the foot of the highest mountain range in Ireland. Here you will find lakes and woodlands, home to a variety of wildlife. The most magical way to witness this special scenic beauty is of course on a traditional horse and trap with a local to share some secrets along the way. This is only one piece of the Ring of Kerry... don't get me started, so incredible!"
As Laura mentioned, Killarney National Park is part of the Ring of Kerry (see #3 above). But an attraction of this magnitude firmly deserves its own spot on our list of the best sights in Ireland. Go at your own pace and soak it all in, one acre at a time.
St. Stephen’s Green
When you’re done working on that perfect pour at the Guinness Storehouse, make your way to St. Stephen’s Green, one of Dublin’s pristine public parks. Located right next to Grafton Street, it’s the perfect place to go when you need a break from buying gifts for all your friends and family back home.
With over two miles of walking paths, trees, flowers, a waterfall, a lake, and plenty of sculptures to tilt your head at, St. Stephen’s Green is a must-see. Leave it to Ireland to have beautiful green spaces everywhere, even in the middle of a major city like Dublin. Johnny Cash wasn’t kidding when he sang about Ireland’s “forty shades of green.”
Featured Trip: Active Ireland
12 days. 5 cities. The most hard-earned pints of your life.
Pros: Hike and bike along some of the most scenic stretches in all of Ireland, from the Cliffs of Moher and Giant's Causeway to 'One Man's Pass' and Carrauntoohil (the country's highest point). Pose at the base of Torc Waterfall and wish you had that kind of water pressure at home.
Cons: Instagramming-while-biking isn't easy.
When it comes to Ireland’s rugged, yet breathtaking countryside, nothing quite compares to Glendalough. The word translates to “the valley of the two lakes,” and in the sixth century, St. Kevin founded a monastery on this very spot. So do your best to imagine yourself as a sixth-century church-goer (you might need a tunic). Spend some time walking around and then spend even more time gawking at the famous Round Tower, believed to be one of the most beautiful structures in Ireland.
Tour Director Laura says Glendalough “is not only stunningly beautiful but also a very spiritual place with an interesting history. Hollywood also agrees with me as it is used as a backdrop for movies and TV shows, like Braveheart, Vikings and of course P.S. I Love You, to name a few.” I’d trust Laura on this one.
That’s right, we just put sheep on a list of the most beautiful sights in Ireland. Be honest, you’ve been reading this, just waiting for a sheep reference. You almost stopped reading at #4 because there hadn’t even been one single mention of these wooly wonders. But you knew we’d come around.
The best part about sheep in Ireland is you won’t even have to try hard to find them. You’ll likely stumble upon sheep farms as you travel around the country—even passing right by them in the wild on many of Ireland's iconic hikes and bike rides. Just promise one thing: When you see some sheep, give ‘em a good “baaa.” They’ll know what it means.
There you have it, folks. Eight iconic, stunning sights—and one gorgeous, fluffy animal—you have to add to your Ireland itinerary. Or, you know, you could check out our Grand Tour of Ireland and let us do the legwork.
by Kevin McGraw
Kevin is a copywriter at EF Ultimate Break. He loves drinking chocolate milk, looking at photos of his parents’ dog, and, for some reason, running for hours at a time. His favorite place in the world is Mürren, Switzerland.
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