Ireland is cliffs and Atlantic surf, ruined castles and proud palaces, mystical moors and ancient magic, modern life and dark Guinness. In short: a small green country that has it all!
Exploring the lush island of Ireland on a road trip is on the bucket list for many vacationers and globetrotters! No wonder, because here you can find nature and architecture like nowhere else in the world. For explorers, the home of Oscar Wilde offers windswept monasteries and coastal roads, green pastures and ancient forests. Magnificent estates from centuries past invite you to linger, as do Dublin's quaint pubs and picturesque sandy beaches. And on St. Patrick's Day on March 17, Ireland becomes even greener!
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Ireland's capital Dublin offers exciting history, imposing monuments and, above all, an incredible number of pubs and restaurants. Architecture enthusiasts should not miss the Custom House, Trinity College, St. Patrick's Cathedral and Christchurch Cathedral. If you are interested in Ireland's history, Dublin Castle, the National Museum or the former state prison are the right places to visit.
Dublin's nightlife takes place on Grafton Street or in the Temple Bar district. If you need to recover from a night of dancing, you can do so in the idyllic Phoenix Park - or have another pint at the Guinness Storehouse with a sensational view over the city.
Ring of Kerry and Killarney National Park
After the capital Dublin, Killarney National Park is considered the most visited sight in Ireland. Near the lovely village of Killarney, the nature reserve designated as a UNESCO biosphere reserve is also located directly on the Ring of Kerry, which leads around the entire Iveragh Peninsula. The almost 180km long coastal road along the Atlantic Ocean is probably the most beautiful, but above all the most popular panoramic road in Ireland and reveals the entire natural beauty of the green island.
Killarney National Park is known for its mystical forests, rushing waterfalls and idyllic hiking trails, including the Carrauntoohil, with a good 1000m the highest elevation in Ireland. Its ascent, by the way, is not as easy as one might think.
In addition, the three picturesque lakes are among the most popular tourist destinations, around which other attractions are lined up. Among them, for example, the Muckross House, the tourist center of Killarney National Park, the time-honored ruins of Innisfallen Abbey and several breathtaking viewpoints.
Tip: Not quite as crowded as the Ring of Kerry is the northern Dingle Peninsula. Here, too, you can relax amidst unspoiled nature of flowering meadows and sandy bays, and with a bit of luck you might spot a dolphin near the beaches.
Cliffs of Moher
Let's stay with the breathtaking view: This is also available at the famous Cliffs of Moher southwest of Galway! Up to 200 meters high, the spectacular limestone cliffs on the southwest coast of Ireland rise out of the Atlantic and inspire adventurers, hikers, nature lovers and amateur ornithologists!
Between the settlements of Doolin and Liscannor, the Cliffs of Moher are at their most impressive, for example at Hag's Head or O'Brien's Tower, which is one of the best viewpoints of the breathtaking cliffs. This is also where the visitor center is located, with a paid parking lot and a network of walking paths around it. If you look over the edge, you can see the roaring Atlantic far below - and countless seabirds!
Blarney Castle, dating back to the 10th century, is home to the famous Blarney Stone. It was named after Dermont McCarthy, the Lord of Blarney, who once avoided paying taxes by making lazy excuses. Since then, according to legend, the "stone of eloquence" promises anyone who kisses it the art of free speech.
In addition to the "Stone of Eloquence," Blarney Castle's venerable walls and idyllic castle gardens can be visited. The latter impresses with enchanting themed gardens and a small Druid castle called Rock Close.
Kylemore Abbey in Connemara
Originally founded in Ypres, Belgium, Kylemore Abbey came to rest after a turbulent history in a picturesque Irish lakeside castle. This and the associated "Walled Garden" were built in the late 19th century by the Henry family.
Some rooms of the present monastery are open to the public and transport its visitors to the Ireland of 200 years ago with original wooden paneling, furniture, porcelain service and majestic paintings.
Tip: The idyllic abbey is surrounded by the Connemara region, where you can discover the "true charm of Ireland" in the Connemara National Park.
Powerscourt Gardens in Enniskerry
Another luxurious estate in Ireland is the Powerscourt Gardens near the Irish village of Enniskerry, just under half an hour's drive south of Dublin . The gigantic grounds impress with their ornamental gardens adorned with fountains and statues, a magnificent 18th-century mansion, expansive lawns, and the highest waterfall in Ireland.
Rock of Cashel
Not as well preserved as Powerscourt House, but much older are the buildings on the Rock of Cashel. In the so-called "Golden Valley" about 1 hour's drive east of Limerick still stand the remains of a round tower and Cormac's Chapel, one of the oldest romantic churches in the world.
The "Acropolis of Ireland" was already revered thousands of years ago as the seat of fairies and spirits. The oldest of the ruins date back to the 12th century and are still impressive to look at - as is the view over the surrounding countryside!
Monastery Skellig Michael
On the barren, completely uninhabited island of Skellig Michael 12km off the coast of Ireland, the remains of a Spartan monastery from the 6th century can be visited on dizzying rocky paths. Despite the poor appearance of the now restored monks' cells, Skellig Michael is considered a place of pilgrimage, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of our top 10 monasteries in the world worth visiting. Star Wars fans have known it as the "Island of Luke Skywalker" since Episode VII.
Murder Hole Beach
On its coast, Ireland has to offer not only cliffs, but also romantic bays! One of the most beautiful of them is Murder Hole Beach. Although its name may not sound very inviting (why it is called that, by the way, is not undoubtedly clarified), its sight is really to kneel down! The beach nestles between dark hills covered with a thin blanket of greenery, and offshore rocks make the idyllic picture even more perfect.
And the best thing about it: Due to its secluded location in the north of Ireland (30 minutes walk cross-country from Melmore) hardly any tourists get lost in the beautiful bay. By the way, at high tide the beach is divided into two parts and you have to beware of the treachery of the Atlantic!
Sights in Northern Ireland
If you're traveling in Ireland, you might want to take a detour to the UK's Northern Ireland. Here, among others, the following places are worth seeing:
- the completely naturally formed basalt rocks of the Giant's Causeway (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), which the Irish call the Eighth Wonder of the World
- the mighty Dunluce Castle on the north coast of Northern Ireland, one of the largest medieval ruins on the Emerald Isle - it's said to be haunted
- the frighteningly high suspension bridge over the Atlantic Ocean on the Carrick-a-Rede peninsula
- the 150 or so gnarled beeches of the Dark Hedges (the "royal road" from Game of Thrones)
- the White Rocks Beach, with its symbiosis of limestone and light sand one of the most beautiful beaches in Europe
- the Titanic Belfast Museum in Belfast, which tells about the construction of the most famous ocean liner and its tragic accident