Whether you are from Ireland, are living here temporarily or are just visiting, here are the 50 best things to do in Ireland summer or winter.…or any time of year that you plan to visit!
From the spectacular Cliffs of Moher to the magical Ring of Kerry – you will never want to leave once you visit even a handful of these wonderful destinations around Ireland. Also, don’t forget to rent a car for your trip to Ireland. It’s the ONLY way to get around Ireland, perfect for ticking everything off your Ireland Bucket List!
Unique Things To Do In Ireland
Here’s my curated list of the top places to visit and things to do on the always green isle of Ireland – with some fun, quirky activities thrown in for good measure.
50. Spend a night in a castle
With so many beautiful castles, no visit to Ireland would be complete without staying at least one night. If money is not an issue, and you want the best of the best, check yourself into Ashford Castle in County Mayo which was voted ‘Best Hotel in the World’ earlier this year.
Feel like treating yourself? A night in Ashford Castle is one you will never forget! Can’t afford that? You can always book into The Logde! You can also do day trips from Dublin to see some of Ireland’s most beautiful and historic castles and sites, including a Trip to Kylemore Abbey – one of the most iconic buildings in there west of Ireland.
Other Amazing Irish Castles
- Lough Eske Castle, Co Donegal (From €195 per night)
- Waterford Castle Hotel, Co Waterford (From €119 per night)
49. Watch big wave surfers ride Mullaghmore
Known to be one of the biggest and most powerful waves in the world, watching big wave surfers like Andrew Cotton ride into the cliffs on this monster of a wave is a sight you will never forget. Located just a few miles south of Bundoran, in Co. Donegal, Mullaghmore is a must-see on your Irish bucket list.
You can stay in either Bundoran or nearby Strandhill in Sligo, with both towns offering a great range of accommodation, coastal walks, and beginner surf lessons if you’re willing to brave to cold waters in a full body wetsuit. Most people don’t know that Ireland is one of the top surf destinations in the world, and surfing here is a great thing to add to your Ireland Bucket List!
48. Cycle the Mayo Greenway
The Mayo Greenway is an incredible 42km long cycling path in the West of Ireland which connects Westport on the mainland with Achill Island. It passes by many picturesque villages and mountains and will allow for breathtaking views of the coast including Clew Bay and its many islands.
Treat yourself to a lovely night’s stay in the beautiful Teach Cruachan Bed and Breakfast once there if you’re looking for true Irish hospitality. Mayo is one of the most beautiful parts of Ireland, so if you want to explore more of it check out my friends post on unique things to do in Mayo. You can cycle all the way around the island and visit some of Ireland’s wildest beaches and best Atlantic view pounts. Must LESS touristy that the Cliffs of Moher, but just as impressive.
47. Go night kayaking on Lough Hyne
This is one is by far one of the most unique things to do in Ireland and is well worth the drive down to West Cork. The night kayaking sessions take place on Lough Hyne, which is both a lake and Marine Nature Reserve, home to an enormous variety of plants and animals which are not found anywhere else in Ireland.
If you are lucky, every time you move your paddle the water below you will light up with bio luminescent Plankton, an unforgettable experience. They do the night kayaking sessions almost every night during the summer, and weather depending for the rest of the year. It’s a mighty adventure for sure!
If you’re looking for the best place to stay, head to Casey’s of Baltimore where you can enjoy live music and great pub food, as well as a perfect bed to rest your weary head. Don’t have time to go that far south? You can also do a half day kayaking trips in Dublin which are a lot of fun (when the weather is good!)
READ MORE: Unique Things To Do in County Cork
46. Take a ferry to the Aran Islands
If you want to feel as if you have travelled back in time, to a place where everyone still speaks Irish first and English second, and where a bike or a horse and carriage are the main methods of transport, then you need to head over to the beautiful Aran Islands. Situated off the west coast of County Clare, and accessed by a regular ferry from Doolin, Inis mor, Inis Meain and Inis Oirr are must stop places on any Ireland Bucket List.
You can do a day trip, but it’s better to stay in one of the welcoming local B&Bs or Hostels where you can experience true Irish hospitality. Rent a bike to get around the islands, visit the spectacular sea cliffs and ancient forts and be sure to join in a traditional Irish sing-song down the local pub.
You can actually book a day trip that also includes a trip to the famous Cliffs of Moher but I honestly think spending a night on the Aran Islands is a must to get the “real” Irish experience.
45. Go whale watching in West Cork
West Cork is a fantastic location for Whale Watching, as this photo taken by Simon Duggan shows. The best time to go is after the summer months, from Setember to November when you have the best chance of seeing whales and if you are very lucky you might ever see a whale breaching, something you will surely never forget.
Boat trips leave from both Baltimore and Union Hall and last for around four hours. Even if you don’t see whales, the are many dolphins, seals and other marine life to watch out for and it has to be one of the most adventurous things to do in Ireland.
44. Watch the sunrise over Lough Tay
If even just for one day, get yourself out of bed at the crack of dawn and make your way down to the Wicklow Mountains. If driving from Dublin, you can make it in about 35 minutes and will be rewarded with one of the most beautiful sunrises over Lough Tay in Glendalough National park.
It’s easy to do and it’s free, so this should definitely be on the top of your list of things to do in Ireland!
Once you’ve seen the sunrise, spend the day hiking around Glendalough to see the famous Guinness Lake and round tower, as well the ancient monastery and be sure to stop off for breakfast in their very cute tea rooms.
If you have a car, and don’t mind the winding roads, it’s easy enough to drive from Dublin to Wicklow for a day trip. Otherwise you can take a half day bus tour which brings you to beautiful Glendalough and the Wicklow Mountains.
43. Star gazing at Blackrock Observatory
If you live in Cork or will be visiting during your trip to Ireland, be sure to stop by the Blackrock Observatory where you can star gaze with the experts. Located in a 16th century castle just outside Cork city, Blackrock Observatory is an attraction unique to Ireland and includes and interactive storytelling experience in the castle grounds. Open 7 days a week!
Blackrock Observatory is also a top venue and has a cute cafe restaurant that is a firm favourite for Sunday Brunch, especially amoung locals with families. One of the most child-friendly things to do on the Emerals Isle!
42. Pay a visit to Father Ted’s House in Clare
For any fans of Father Ted, a visit to Father Ted’s House in County Clare is a must for your Irish Bucket List. The house is known locally as Glenquin House, and is situated in a beautiful valley with Slieve na Glasha to the north and Mullagh Mor and its National Park to the south.
Open year round but you must book in advance. And don’t forget to get your classic ‘kicking Bishop Brennan up the ass’ photo.
41. Find love at the Lisdoonvarna Matchmaking Festival
Ireland’s oldest traditional festival, The Lisdoonvarna Matchmaking Festival is certainly one of the more unique things to do in Ireland! It is also probably the longest festival in Ireland…lasting the whole month of September and includes midweek specials, dancing and a mini country music festival.
You’ll meet Willie Daly, Ireland’s most famous matchmaker, and if you’re lucky you might even meet your future husband or wife! Accommodation for this popular international festival gets booked out very fast so be sure to book something well in advance.
40. Visit the historic Kilfenora Cathedral
Visiting Kilfenora Cathedral is by far one of the most unique things to do in Clare, on the west coast of Ireland. While it might look like yet another old Irish church from the outside, this place is truly special.
Dating back to 1189, the Kilfenora Cathedral is medieval cathedral home to many of Ireland’s most important high crosses. In order to protect the most important high cross, the “Doorty Cross“ from the elements, an artist came up with an idea to build a glass roof over the cathedral, to protect the building and the crosses underneath.
So now it makes for an interesting visit and great photos, to see the almost 1,000-year old tiny cathedral building, covered with a super modern glass ceiling. One of a kind for sure!
39. Wave farewell to a Cruise Ship in Cobh
Cobh, then called Queenstown, was the last stop The Titanic made before heading off across the Atlantic. You can visit a small Titanic museum there as well as memorial statues to people who died on famine ships that also set sail from here many years ago.
The picturesque town just East of Cork city still welcomes large cruise ships and the harbor is known to be one of the deepest in the world. Be sure to check out St Colman’s cathedral and the row of rainbow houses, known as The Deck of Cards, which make for great photo! There are lots of day trips from Cork, short walking tours or even day trips from Dublin to this part of Ireland.
38. Drive the Healy Pass in Cork
Ireland as you always imagined it, dreamed it or saw glimpses of in the movies. The winding road that connects Cork with Kerry is known as the Healy pass and is one of the most beautiful parts of the country. It is a popular cycle route, but only if your feeling fit as there are some killer hills to test even the fittest of souls. If you take on the challenge, however, you will be rewarded with scenic views of mountains, lakes and the Beara peninsula.
37. Tell a tale at the Cape Clear Story Telling Festival
The Cape Clear Storytelling festival is one of the most authentically Irish events of the calendar year. It’s pretty well known, and attracts a nice crowd, but is still remote enough that it remains a tight knit community of story tellers. To get there you will have to make your way to Baltimore then take a ferry for about 45 minutes, as the festival takes place on Cape Clear island, which is 14km off the Irish mainland. This years festival takes place form the 4th to the 6th of September.
36. Walk along the Slieve League cliffs in Donegal
To many people, Slieve League is the older, more rugged brother to the Cliffs of Moher. They are certainly less tamed, with no fences, no visitor centre and no tour guides.
They are also, in my opinion, a lot more spectacular, when the weather is crap and this sea mist creeps in over the cliffs hiding the sheer drop below. They are also one of the highest sea cliffs in Europe and and when you get there you will see that Slieve League is more of a mountain by the sea than simply cliffs. Well worth the trek to Donegal.
35. Join a trad music session
You can do this pretty much anywhere in Ireland, be it the Cobblestone Trad Pub in Dublin, Gus O’ Connor’s down in Doolin County, Clare or any number of pubs in Dingle, Killarney or even Cork. If you happen to play an instrument, feel free to bring it along and join in.
When my cousin visited Ireland from Colorado, she brought her guitar and many bars just let her play when she showed up with it – which she obviously LOVED!
34. Take a ride on Ireland’s only cable car
Did you know that Ireland has a cable car? Just the one, but a very cool one in a very random location it must be said. The cable car on Dursey Island in County Cork transports up to 6 people at a time across the Dursey sound, where you can often see dolphins jumping through the water below.
When the weather is rainy or windy, it can be quite a scary ride – but one you should do nonetheless!
It is the only cable car in Europe that transports people across open sea water – yet another reason to put it on your Irish bucket list!
33. Watch the sunset at the Baltimore Beacon
Baltimore is one of my favourite places in Ireland and once you go there you will see why. It is unlike anywhere else, and on a sunny day, you sometimes feel like you are in another world.
Watching the sunset behind Sherkin Island, Cape Clear and Schull in the background is an unforgettable site. The whole sky turns orange and the sunset is reflected in the harbour below as fishing boats and ferries back there way back to the mainland. One of the main landmarks in the area, the white Beacon isn’t hard to find and is a fun uphill walk from the small village of Baltimore.
Check into Caseys of Baltimore is you’re looking for a hotel with a view and be sure to stop off for one of the best pints of Guinness in Ireland at Bushes Pub.
32. Go mountain biking in the Ballyhoura Mountains
The Ballyhoura mountains on the Cork Limerick border are one of the best places to go mountain biking in Ireland…so good, in fact, that Kanye West brought Kim Kardashian here on their last visit to Ireland. Turns out they are semi normal people after all! The Ballyhooura Mountain Bike Trails are 92km long in total but there are trails of varying length depending on your skill and fitness level. A great day out and by far one of the most adventurous things to do while visiting Ireland!
31. Go kayaking with The Vikings
Did you know the part of The Vikings TV series was filmed on location in County Wicklow, just South of Blessington? Sometimes when there you can see they in costume sailing around Blessington lake in Vikings ships! Blessington also happens to be an amazing kayaking spot, so why not head down for a day trip and rent kayaks for as little as 15 euro.
You can also do organized tours from Dublin or Wicklow and kayaking is a great way to see some of ireland’s most beautiful lakes and waterways.
30. Jump off the pier at Salthill
On those rare hot, sunny days in April, August and even late September, the Salthill Promenade in Galway is jam packed with keen swimmers and wannabe cliff jumpers waiting for their turn to show off their back flip skills. Even in Winter, you will find a few brave souls swimming here come rain or shine. A great Irish experience and another one for your bucket list!
29. Cycle or drive the Ring of Kerry
The Ring of Kerry is one of the most popular, and most spectacular, drives in Ireland if not the world. Often making into onto Top Road Trip Lists by travel journalist around the world, when you drive or cycle around this intensely green, mountainous region you will quickly see why.
With lakes, mountains, V shaped valleys and even the stunning Dingle Peninsula, a drive here offers a compact taste of beautiful Ireland. Need more Kerry inspiration? Check out these gorgeous photos of Kerry!
There’s a great choice of day tours (or longer) to Killarney and the Ring of Kerry, so don’t worry if you don’t have a car or are too scared to take on the Kerry roads!
28. Scream your lungs out at Tayto Park
Since opening some new rides earlier this summer, including Europe’s biggest wooden rollercoaster, Tayto Park has become a popular choice for people looking for a little fun just outside of Dublin in County Meath.
A full day is probably needed if you want to do as many rides as possible and get a free tour of the Tayto factory where you will be offered endless free bags of crisps to take home with you. You can either drive there or take one of the buses from Dublin, which leave in the morning and return late afternoon.
27. Devour a Tayto crisp sandwich
A Tatyo crips sandwich is an institution in Ireland and no trip here would be complete without making one for yourself. All you need is 2 slices of bread, some butter and a packet of cheese and onion crisps. Some call it ‘survival food’, I call it heaven.
26. Watch in awe at the Cliff Diving Championships
While this competiton is not unique to Ireland, the location where it takes place in Ireland is unlike anywhere else in the world. The Red Bull Cliff Diving championships takes place on Inis Mor island, off the West Coast. Professional divers dive off the top of the cliffs, from dizzying heights, into a saltwater swimming pool below known as ‘the Serpents Lair. It will scare and excite you in equal measures.
25. Visit Fota Wildlife Park
Ireland’s only wildlife park, Fota Wildlife Park is a very special place. Many animals such as the Kangaroos roam freely within the grounds while larger African wildlife such as Giraffes and Zebras are given such huge enclosures to wander around that they too almost look like they are roaming freely.
This really is an amazing thing to do in Ireland, and everyone should go at least once. If you are looking to stay nearby, check out the magnificent Fota Island House and Spa.
26. Walk from Bray to Greystones
If living in Dublin, or just visiting, the Bray to Greystones walks is one the things to do at the weekend or whenever you have a day off. It is a stunning coastal path along the cliffs, and follows the railway line which connects Dublin with Wicklow and Waterford.
Easily accessible form Dublin by hopping on the DART at Connolly station, and a pleasant day out in both Summer and winter! Just wrap up warm!
25. Drive the Wild Atlantic Way
The Wild Atlantic Way is without a doubt the most spectacular driving route in Ireland. It has been named the longest defined coastal driving route in the world, and stretches the whole way from Donegal in the very North to Cork in the very South.
It passes some of Ireland’s most stunning beaches, surf breaks, lakes, waterfalls, mountains and tiny coastal villages. Don’t rush it though…be sure to give your self a few days or even a week to see as much of this region as possible. Ireland may be small, but thanks to our small winding roads, it takes A LOT longer to get places than you might think.
24. People Watch outside Grogans Pub
One of Dublin’s most authentic pubs, Grogans is an institution in Dublin. Situated on South William Street, and serving the best pints and toasties for miles, it is the perfect place to pull up a chair outside, sit back and watch as the world passes you by.
This pub gets especially busy during the summer, during 12 Pubs of Christmas and often during the Dublin Web Summit when techies from around the world descend on Dublin and want slice of Irish charm.
23. Dance to 90’s pop music in Copper Face Jacks
Ahhh Coopers. We hate to love it and we love to hate it, but you can’y live in Dublin and not go along at least once. It’s a great old spot really, a sprawling nightclub full of Gardai and Nurses and Farmers up from the country. It plays cheesy 90’s pop as well as Irish rebel songs, and gets the crowd dancing til the early morning. I actually know of 2 people who met their future husband and wife in Coppers, so it may not be that bad after all.
22. Swim with Fungi the Dolphin
Fungi the Dolphin is Ireland’s favourite dolphin, and in a way our pride and joy. He lives on Dingle harbour and is one of the most friendly dolphins you will find anywhere in the world. Take a boat trip out with the locals and be treated to an acrobatics display by Fungi and his friends, just watch out as he sometimes comes VERY close and might scare the living daylights out of you!
Wear your waterproofs and protect your camera from all the splashing! Besides this friendly dolphin, there’s plenty more fun things to do in Dingle!
21. Join a ‘Hooley Night’ at Johnnie Foxes Pub
Johnnie Foxes pub claims to be the ‘Highest Pub in ireland’ and is a seriously fun place to spend any night of the week. open 7 days, they have live music, Irish dancing and entertainment every night, as well as delicious traditional Irish food on offer. You could spend hours just wandering around this pub up in the Dublin mountains, checking out all the old collectables and looking at photographs of all the famous people who have had a pint here, from movie stars to world Presidents.
20. Go Blo Karting in Bundoran
While Bundoran is known as the surfing capital of Ireland, it also has a wide range of other adventure activities on offer from coasteering to kayaking, SUPing to Blo Karting on the beach. Blo Karting is a very unique adventure sport, involving sitting in a beach buggy with a sail and flying down the wide open beaches of Donegal. Try it out at the TurfnSurf hostel and surf school where you spend the night and wake up to a lovely breakfast overlooking the ocean.
19. Ride a jaunting car through Killarney
Killarney National Park is one of Ireland’s top tourist attractions, but it is also loved by locals. It is such a beautiful place to spend the dat,whether doing a tour of Muckross House, a boat trip on the lake or hiking to Torc waterfall. One fun way to get around is by taking a Jaunting Car with the locals who are sure to entertain with their funny stories and folklore.
18. Sip on a pint at Reidys Sweet shop
Also found in beautiful Killarney, Reidys Sweet shop and bar is certainly not for tourists, but you would be welcome should you come across it. The bar looks lime an old-fashioned grocery and sweet shop from the front, but if you walk through the shop to the back rooms (which looks kind of like someones private living room) you will find a small bar with locals sitting on high stools or on a bench sipping on pints or cans of beer from the fridge.
A unique experience!