Ireland

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There’s plenty to do on a visit to Ireland whether you’re discovering a city or the countryside. Dublin has a wealth of cultural attractions from museums and art galleries to the home of Guinness, while the country offers outdoor activities including golf, fishing, horseback riding and coastal walks.

Things to do in Ireland

Aran Islands

Just off Ireland’s coasts are dozens of rugged, beautiful islands, many of which remain Irish-speaking, unspoiled, and remote. Visit for nature walks, beaches, fishing, traditional music sessions, or just to escape the hurly burly. The most visited and easiest to access are the Aran Islands off Galway, while further north, Tory Island in Donegal is also a fascinating place to visit.

West and Northwest Ireland, www.irelandsislands.ie
Tags: beach | island | things to do | culture | archeology

Croke Park Experience

Visit the headquarters of the GAA (Gaelic Athletic Association) at Croke Park Stadium. The main sports are Gaelic football (a cross between soccer and rugby) and hurling (the world’s fastest field sport). Fiercely competitive teams compete virtually year round. The GAA museum brings the sports alive through exhibits and interactive technology. You can also take a guided tour of the stadium.

Croke Park, 011-353-1-819-2300, www.crokepark.ie
Tags: family | things to do | spectator sport

Farmers' Markets

Ireland has experienced a food renaissance in the past two decades, and farmer and artisan food markets are abundant. Buy cheese, cider, chocolates, vegetables, and fresh cooked food straight from the producer and picnic in the countryside. The Irish Food Board (www.bordbia.ie) lists all the markets in the country; we recommend the Saturday Temple Bar Market in Dublin.

Saturday Temple Bar Market, Temple Bar, 011-353-1-677-2255, www.templebar.ie
Tags: family | things to do | outdoors | culinary | market

Fota Wildlife Park and Fota House

Spend a day on Fota Island visiting Fota Wildlife Park, set on 70 acres where various species of animals and birds roam free, before taking a tour of Fota House, Arboretum, and Gardens, an elegant Regency-style house with over 70 rooms and surrounded by gardens. There’s also a golf club and hotel resort on the island.

Fota Island, County Cork, Wildlife Park 011-353-21-481-2678; Fota House 011-353-21-481-5543, www.visitfota.com
Tags: family | island | things to do | wildlife | gardens

Geneology

More than six million people emigrated from Ireland to North America between 1848 and 1950, nearly 2.5 million of these by ship from the southern town of Cobh. Tracing your ancestry gets easier every year thanks to computerized records at the Cobh Heritage Centre, an excellent starting point (and a good spot for lunch).

Cobh Heritage Centre, County Cork, 011-353-21-4813-591, www.cobhheritage.com
Tags: family | things to do | history

Golf

You’d be challenged to travel more than a few miles in any direction in Ireland without finding a golf course – from small local courses with spectacular scenery to championship links such as Druids Glen, Ballybunion, Portmarnock, and The K Club (host of the Ryder Cup in 2006). See our picks for the top courses in the Ireland Golf section.

The K Club, County Kildare, 011-353-1-601-7200, www.kclub.com
Tags: things to do | outdoors | sports

Horseback Riding

Ireland, known for its horse-breeding, is the perfect place to try horseback riding or pony trekking – and a good way to soak up the scenery. There are plenty of horse riding schools and centers around the country offering everything from beginner lessons to beach riding and country treks and trails.

Equestrian Holidays Ireland, www.ehi.ie
Tags: family | smart splurge | things to do | outdoors | horseback riding

National Museums

Dublin is home to three National Museums. The National Museum of Archaeology on Kildare Street houses Viking artifacts, early Christian treasures, and an amazing collection of Bronze-age gold. Nearby on Merrion Street is the Natural History Museum which has Victorian cabinets full of animal specimens, many of which are now extinct. The National Museum – Decorative Arts and History is at Collins Barracks on Benburb Street and displays an array of Irish period furniture, clothing, and other cultural memorabilia.

Kildare Street; Merrion Street; Collins Barracks, Benburb St, 011-353-1-677-7444, www.museum.ie
Tags: family | art | things to do | culture | museum | archeology

Newgrange and the Boyne Valley

Newgrange, Dowth, and Knowth are three fascinating passage tombs that date from around 3200 BC, making them older than the pyramids. The rising sun lights the passageway and inner chamber every winter solstice. A day trip to this history-rich area is strongly advised.

County Meath, 011-353-41-988-0300, www.newgrange.com
Tags: things to do | outdoors | history | archeology

Spas

Ireland has a huge number of spas and thermal treatment centers. One of the best is County Kerry’s five-star Park Hotel Kenmare Sámas Spa, which specializes in a three-hour treatment with three tiers: a heat experience, holistic treatments, and pure relaxation. Other popular spas include Monart in County Wexford and Inchydoney Island Spa in West Cork.

Park Hotel Kenmare, County Kerry, Kenmare, 011-353-644-1200, www.parkkenmare.com
Tags: spa | smart splurge | things to do

Temple Bar

The Temple Bar district is home to galleries, theaters, the Irish Film Centre, free year-round events, and children’s cultural center The Ark. You’ll also discover an excellent food market, Saturday book and craft markets, and lots of shops, pubs and restaurants. See more things to do in Temple Bar with our Top 10 Tourist Trap Tips.

South bank of the River Liffey, 011-353-1-677-2255, www.templebar.ie
Tags: family | art | things to do | culture | performing arts

The Burren

The Burren is a fascinating cracked limestone landscape rich with historical and archaeological sites including megalithic tombs, dolmens, and ring forts, as well as rare species of flora and fauna. Start your visit at The Burren Centre in Kilfenora, and don’t miss the stunning Aillwee Cave and Cliffs of Moher, which are both nearby.

The Burren, County Clare, 011-353-65-708-8030, www.theburrencentre.ie
Tags: family | things to do | history | wildlife | national park | archeology

Trinity College

Walk around the cobbled courtyards of this city-center campus and imagine college life experienced here by Samuel Beckett, Oscar Wilde, and Bram Stoker. Trinity College is home to the magnificent Book of Kells, an ornate and decorative manuscript which was illustrated by monks in the 9th century.

College Green, 011-353-1-896-1000, www.tcd.ie
Tags: family | things to do | culture | architecture | history

Walking Tour of Dublin

Many Dublin walking tours are worth experiencing: The Literary Pub Crawl visits the haunts mentioned in James Joyce's Ulysses, the Rock and Roll Stroll explores the Dublin of U2 and Bob Geldof, and there are a number of Medieval, Georgian, and general history tours on offer. Dublin Tourism also has a series of iWalks available as podcast audio tours.

Visit Dublin, Various locations, 011-353-66-979-2083, www.visitdublin.com/seeanddo/tours
Tags: things to do | culture | history | tour | walk

Walking Tours

From the mountains and valleys to the lakes, canals, bogs, and moorlands, Ireland was made for long walks and hikes (www.walkingireland.ie). County Kerry offers a good range of walks for all levels of experience matched with unspoiled scenery – particularly around Killarney, while the Wicklow Way runs for 82 miles through the Wicklow Mountains.

Go Ireland, County Kerry, 011-353-66-976-2094, www.govisitireland.com
Tags: things to do | outdoors | history | tour | walk

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