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Ireland. It’s not easy creating a short list of beautiful places has there are so many I could have gone on forever. But, the idea is to give you “food for thought” and a starting point for your Irish vacation. It’s no good us telling you, you should visit everywhere in Ireland as that would take you at least 3 months, but we can give you a started pack of ideas. Hopefully, you will pick up some great ideas. This is exactly how I started my Irish Adventure. Please enjoy!
1. The Cliffs Of Moher
This is one of, if not the best tourist attraction in Ireland. For hundreds of years people have been transfixed by the sheer beauty of the views from the cliffs and of the cliffs. It stands 702 feet above the Atlantic Ocean on the Western Coast of Ireland. If you like Outdoors combined with rugged beauty, then you need to put this top of your list, as we have!
It’s so utterly beautiful the cliffs have even been featured in the 2009 movie of J.K Rowling’s “Harry Potter – And The Half – Blood Prince” among quite a few others. Looking at the above picture, its not hard to see why photographers and film makers want to showcase it’s beauty!
They were carved out over 300 million years ago by a massive river delta and they stretch from the village Doolin for 5 miles to the hags head in County Clare.The Cliffs also drop into the Ocean at The Burren, another impressive feat of nature and number 2 in our list.
2. The Burren
Sitting below The Cliffs Of Moher, The Burren has been likened to walking on the moon, with its ruts, fissures and rocky mounds. There’s also a portal tomb called the Poulnabrone Dolman pictured above. This is the oldest megalithic monument in Ireland and another important tourist attraction. Be careful when visiting as it’s privately owned land and cattle do graze there. You can also visit the nearby Caherconnell stone fort, which is a 1000 year old well-preserved ring fort, and home to an archaeological field school with lots of historical information available.
3. The Village Of Doolin
While your our and about at The Burren & The Cliffs Of Moher, you might want a little relax time. Why not visit the village of Doolin. It’s really little more than a couple of streets and a few pubs but visitors are so captivated by its charm, they return again and again.By day you can check out the local attractions, then by night, shield yourself from the biting winds and relax with a pint of Ireland’s best and a typical Burren meal. You’ll also see the Irish as they were meant to be-Traditional Irish dancing, speaking Gaelic (The Irish Language) tasting traditional Irish food and drink (Not just Guinness by the way)
4. Lahinch Surfing Beach
Situated just 8 miles from Doolin and just south of the Cliffs Of Moher. Lahinch is a small lively holiday resort that has become well-known as a surfing destination. If you or your kids have never tried surfing then this is the place to start as there’s even a surfing school you can join. The waters here attract all sorts of water sports enthusiasts including sailing, swimming, wind surfing & kayaking to name a few. It nestles at the head of Liscannor Bay besides a 1.5 miles beach of golden sand. But it’s the Atlantic breakers that’s created by the shape of the coast that really attracts the sporting enthusiasts.
There is also plenty of other attractions, such as a vast marshland to the north of the town, home to a variety of terrestrial, marine & freshwater birds. And a championship 18 hole golf course at the Lahinch Castle.
Plenty of amenities & facilities to add joy to your holiday, including shops, pubs, restaurants.
5. Aran Islands
Said to be a bit like “Going back in Time” the Aran Islands will give you a real insight into the old Irish traditions. A short ferry journey from the mainland, you’ll find the small rocky islets known as the Aran Islands. Inishmore is the tourist attraction, but Inishmaan & Inishmeer are still quite popular. All 3 are inhabited by a population of just 1200.
This is one of the few remaining areas of Gaeltacht Irish, where the residents speak the Irish Gaelic language are quite set in the old traditional Irish traditions. Even their newspapers and road signs are in Gaelic. The tourist should never fear however, as the locals are very welcoming and can even speak English when they need to!
6. Kylemore Abbey
Still on the western coast of Ireland, we find the beautiful Kylemore Abbey and Victorian Walled Gardens. One of Ireland’s top tourist attractions and not to be missed.
Based in Connemara, at the base of the Druchruach Mountain, it was built in 1867 by Mitchell Henry as a gift for his wife following a visit to Klylemore during their honeymoon. Along with the castle, Henry built a Victorian walled garden and various walkways into the 13,000 acre site.
Your visit will probably include these attractions:
- The Abbey
- The Gothic Church
- The Walled Victorian Garden
- The Craft Shop
- The Pottery Studio
- Lake and woodland Walks
- Restaurant and Tea Rooms
There’s quite a lot to see and do, so I would suggest at least 4 hours for your visit, plus your journey time.
7. Ashford Castle
Ashford Castle is a Medieval Castle built in 1228 by the Anglo Norman House of Burke and once owned by the Guinness Family. The castle even featured as a back drop to the John Ford’s film “The Quiet Man” in 1951, such is the beauty and fame of the castle. The Castle is located near Cong in County Mayo on the idyllic shore of lough Corrib. It if frequented by royals and dignitaries, but non guests can view the grounds for 5 euros payable at the entrance gates. Another fabulous experience!
8. Croagh Patrick
Is Ireland’s sacred mountain since ancient times. Women thought the mountain to be especially important as they used to climb the 2,500 feet to the summit to sleep there, believing this to increase fertility during Lughnasa, which is an Irish festival set on August 1st each year.
In 1441 St Patrick went up the mountain during festival period. After fasting on the mountain for 40 days he decided to banish all snakes and demons from Ireland forever. The site then became an important site for Christian pilgrimage and to this day, up to 1 million people visit either to pray at the stations of the cross, which is a little church erected in the 5th century or just for the spectacular views. Many of the Pilgrims trek barefoot as penance but visitors aren’t obliged to do this, so don’t worry too much if you happen to see this happening around August time. But do take care, hundreds of years of erosion as made this trek a lot tougher than the 3 hour round trip suggested.
9. Connemara National Park
This is a nature lovers paradise with 3000 hectares of Mountains, Bogs, Heaths, grasslands & woods. You’ll definitely escape the city life with a visit here! Some of the Parks mountains are Benbaun, Bencullagh & Benbrack, which are part of the famous 12 Bens or Beanna Beola range.
Once at the visitors centre, you will find a number of walking trails, with quite a variety of scenic routes through the park. As you can probably imagine, the park is home to a number of Animals including Connemara ponies & red deer. Plus a variety of bird life including Falcons & Skylarks.
From one of the walks you reach the 400m high Diamond Hill, where you can survey the surrounding area. From the summit there, you can spot the turrets of Kylemore Castle and the distant islands of Inishark & Inishturk.
The visitors centre also includes exhibitions and audio-visual shows and a tea room. Entrance to the visitors centre is free. During the summer months there are also guided walks of the park.
10. Aillwee Caves
Set near the Village of Ballyvaughan, right in the heart of The Burren, the Aillwee Caves are nested high on a mountainside that overlooks the Galway Bay.
Aillwee Cave is one of the oldest caves in Ireland. Alluring and Ancient, it captures the mystical spirit of The Burren and will entrance you. Once home to a raging underground river fed by streams from the Aillwee Mountain. The bones from Bears have been found in the cave suggesting that Bears where once roaming the Aillwee Vicinity, although they have been extinct in Ireland for over 1,000 years.
First discovered in the 1940’s further exploration has discovered additional tunnels and chambers including Bear Haven & Midsummer Cavern.
Delving nearly 2,000 feet into the ground, the underground tour guides you through the caves & caverns, with their underground waterfalls, Stalactites and stalagmites, you’ll learn everything about the caves. Once re-emerged, you will see the Burren Bird Of Pray Centre, with its wonderful flight displays and commentary of these fantastic animals!
We hope you enjoyed our top 10 places to visit in Western Ireland. This was a tough choice and these are the places we have so far visited. There were also other places that we personally haven’t been but are high on our itinerary when we next visit western Ireland. These include but are not limited to:
- Saint Munchin’s Church & Graveyard in Co Limerick, West Ireland
- King John’s Castle on the River Shannon, Co limerick, West Ireland
- Clonmacnoise Monastic Settlement in Co Offaly
- Galway City, West Ireland
- Westport House, West Ireland
- Clare Island-largest of 365 Islands in Clew Bay, Western Ireland
- Achill Island-largest island in Ireland, West Ireland
- Skellig Islands, South West Ireland
- Blasket Islands, South West Ireland
- Dingle Mountains, South West Ireland
- Slieve League Cliffs North West Ireland
- Glencar Waterfall, North West Ireland
- Benwishin Mountain, North West Ireland
- Aranmore Island, North West Ireland
If you have the time, all of these would be great places to visit!
Thank You for your visit, you may also wish to visit our sister blog post “15 Ireland Travel Tips“