During our 10 day trip to Ireland, we crammed in a lot of sightseeing across four cities. While 10 days isn’t very long, we definitely managed to see and do quite a bit. But if I have to pick my top spots, these are the top three things you must do in Ireland. If you’re short on time or need help planning an Ireland itinerary, I suggest you plan it around these three activities.
Walk around Giant’s Causeway
So my first must do in Ireland isn’t even technically in Ireland – well, not in the Republic of Ireland, anyway. It’s in Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom. Giant’s Causeway is located in the Bushmills area of Northern Ireland, about an hour outside of Belfast. It’s made up of 40,000 interlocking basalt columns.
While technically Giant’s Causeway is the result of an ancient volcanic fissure eruption, the myth behind it is much cooler. Legend has it that two giants living on either end of the causeway were building a bridge so they could fight one another. Through a series of misadventures, both giants got scared and called off the battle. They broke their bridge, which is why the pathway doesn’t reach all the way across.
Giant’s Causeway is just about the coolest place ever. It’s like a giant playground, but adults are welcome on it. We spent a good amount of time climbing around on the stones, which are the most awesome hexagonal shapes. You get to walk all over and just marvel at the view and this awesome natural wonder. Colin and I both had huge smiles on our faces as we explored Giant’s Causeway – our first must do in Ireland!
Visit the Cliffs of Moher
Next up on the must do in Ireland list? The Cliffs of Moher on the west coast of Ireland. The Cliffs of Moher are sea cliffs on the southwestern edge of the Burren region in County Clare. And it’s just about the most gorgeous part of Ireland!
On our way to the Cliffs, we drove through the Burren, which is a cool region in itself. We saw all sorts of landscapes, from lush green hills to rocky pastures, and lots of old buildings and traditional sites. But the Cliffs were definitely the highlight.
The best viewpoint, in my opinion, is actually when you first arrive at the Cliffs of Moher and walk a little ways up the steps to your right. From there, you can see the drastic outline of the cliffs on the left-hand side. So even if you’re not into doing a lot of climbing or you’re scared of heights, you can still enjoy this easy to get to view.
Most people head up on the left side of the entrance and start climbing up and over the Cliffs. For the first little bit, there are stairs and a well-marked path. After that, a sign shows up telling you that you are leaving the tourist area of the Cliffs and that they are no longer responsible for you. They also remind you about all of the people who have fallen to their death after that spot. And yet? People keep walking! Not only do they walk on this part of the cliff, but they even walk on the other side of the barrier where there is just a steep drop down the cliff with no protection!
So whether you want to be a daredevil and get close to the edge or stay at a lower altitude, visiting the Cliffs of Moher is something you must do in Ireland.
Explore Blarney Castle
The last thing you must do in Ireland is a surprising addition to my list. When we were planning our itinerary, we weren’t even sure if we were going to make it to Blarney Castle. But on our last morning in Cork, we had just enough time to head to Blarney Castle and check it out for an hour or so.
The worst part? We only had an hour before we had to get back on the bus and travel to Dublin. Blarney Castle is located just outside Cork (you can take the local city bus there) and was built way back in 1446. Of course, Blarney Castle is best known as the home of the Blarney Stone or Stone of Eloquence. Legend has it that those who kiss the stone will be given the gift of eloquence.
So since we only had an hour at the castle, we headed straight to the stone. Unfortunately, getting there was a little traumatic. Colin doesn’t like heights and I don’t like cramped spaces – getting to the Blarney Stone involved both. It’s a very narrow, very steep and very damp winding stairwell up to the top of the castle. Of course, it’s also pretty lined up so you can get stuck on the stairs. It took us a little while to get up; luckily there were lots of little rooms you could stop into along the way. Once we finally got to the top, I was relieved to be done with the stairs (until we had to go back down) but Colin was even more terrified to be up so high.
Once we reached the stone, Colin was probably more likely to throw up than to actually lie down and kiss it, so he passed. I decided to go for it. If you’re thinking the Blarney Stone is a nice little rock you can just peck at the top of the castle without much effort, you would be wrong. You have to lie on your back and then lower yourself down a wall while someone holds your legs. I wasn’t such a fan of this. So I decided to blow an air kiss to the stone instead. I got in position, lowered myself about halfway, and then just made a loud kissing noise and said, “Good enough!”
So why is Blarney Castle a must do in Ireland if I had such a traumatic time getting to and kissing the stone? Because Blarney is so much more than just the stone. The entire castle is pretty cool to explore. But better than that are the grounds around the castle. We only had a limited time, but were so enchanted by the caves, fields and poison garden (!!!). There was so much more we didn’t get to discover and it hurt to leave. We easily could’ve spent the entire day roaming around Blarney Castle and its grounds.
A few other must do’s in Ireland
- The most obvious thing you must do in Ireland? A pub with live Irish music, of course! We went to a great one on our first night in Dublin and had the time of our lives drinking Guinness, singing along to songs we didn’t know and applauding the impressive dancers.
- If you are going to be in Dublin, you’ll definitely want to check out Trinity College and the Guinness Storehouse. Check out my 24 hours in Dublin post for the best tips/tricks for these two sites and more!
- If you’re in Belfast, make sure you see some street art and visit the Titanic Belfast. For tips and tricks for these and more on Belfast, check out my 24 hours in Belfast post.
- The Ring of Kerry is another famous must do in Ireland. I wasn’t a huge fan of the tour we did it with but it is pretty. I’ve also heard great things about Dingle and the Dingle Peninsula, which we saw a little bit of.
- A must do in Ireland for the foodies? Head to Cork! We had the best food of our entire trip in Cork. Let me know if you need some recommendations!
- The quintessential must do in Ireland would have to be journeying through the green countryside and visiting the small towns. We saw a little bit of this on our tours but not as much as we would’ve liked. But there’s always next time!
What tops your must do in Ireland list?