From the staggering Cliffs of Moher to the pristine Killarney National Park, Ireland is home to the kind of beauty that will instantly make you a believer. It’s difficult to narrow down the list, but we think these destinations are among the best in the country.
Cliffs of Moher, Co. Clare
You might know them better as the Cliffs of Insanity from The Princess Bride, but this seaside wonder is actually located just south of Galway. Stretching for five miles along the Atlantic coast, the 400-foot-high cliffs offer one of Ireland’s, shall we say, most inconceivable views.
Cobh, Co. Cork
Cobh redefines charming with its rows of candy-colored homes along the water and towering cathedral standing sentry over the harbor. This town is particularly popular with cruise-lovers—about 60 ships stop there every year. In fact, Cobh was the final port of call for the RMS Titanic, and a commemorate museum stands in the city today.
Glendalough, Co. Wicklow
Glendalough is a seventh-century monastery that’s a popular Catholic pilgrimage destination. Ireland has a complicated, fascinating religious history, and the era during which Glendalough flourished is an important one: Saint Patrick had begun converting the Irish to Catholicism from paganism in the fifth century, and 200 years later, Ireland had become known as a place of spiritual enlightenment. —Eimear Lynch
Skellig Michael, Co. Kerry
Although the boat ride out to Skellig Michael from the coast of County Kerry can be a rocky one, its well worth the effort. The craggy, emerald-green island houses the remains of a sixth-century monastery, which you can explore after ascending a chillingly steep 600-step climb. Who knows? Maybe you’ll find a brooding Luke Skywalker once you reach the top.
Rock of Cashel, Co. Tipperary
One of Ireland’s most popular tourist attractions is also one of the most beautiful—a group of medieval buildings (some dating back to the 12th century) situated on an outcrop of limestone. Don’t miss the Romanesque Cormac’s Chapel, or the Hall of the Vicars, which houses several Celtic relics like the original Cross of St. Patrick. Oh, and the views over the Golden Vale aren’t too shabby either.
Galway, Co. Galway
Galway is in a prime location on Ireland’s west coast, close to the Aran Islands and Connemara region. But the town itself is so charming, you might find yourself sticking close to the cobblestoned streets and ancient architecture for at least a day or two. During the day, make time to snap some photos of the Spanish Arch and the Claddagh, an area by Galway Bay where you’ll find rows of colorful buildings and swans floating by.
Killarney National Park, Co. Kerry
You could spend an entire day exploring the 41-square-mile Killarney National Park, from the towering Torc Waterfall to the 15th-century Ross Castle. One of the park’s greatest treasures is its population of wild red deer, which have lived in Ireland since the last Ice Age but now only survive in Killarney. Above all else, the park is most famous for its reflective lakes, which cover nearly a quarter of the entire reserve.
Kylemore Abbey, Co. Galway
Mountain and valley, lake and streams, all combine to make Connemara one of the loveliest regions in Ireland. See: Kylemore Abbey, in the heart of the Connemara mountains. This impressive structure was built in 1868 as one of the great neo-Gothic castles of the period. It is now a Benedictine abbey run by nuns, and the church and gardens have been completely restored.
Fanad Head Lighthouse, Co. Donegal
Built in 1818 to help guide ships (and sailors) safely to shore, the lighthouse—voted one of the most beautiful in the world—remains on its rocky outcrop between Lough Swilly and Mulroy Bay. It has 79 steps, sits approximately 120 feet above sea level, and is considered an essential stop on the Wild Atlantic Way. The rugged stretch of coastline is regularly visited by whales, porpoises, and dolphins, and its northerly location means little light pollution (and lots of stars) at night. It now serves as a visitor’s center with accommodation. —Katherine LaGrave
Kinsale, Co. Cork
You’ll probably never get tired of Ireland’s fifty shades of green, but if you do find yourself wanting some diversity in your Instagram feed, head directly to the town of Kinsale. The historical fishing town is known for its winding roads lined with pubs and galleries, tucked behind facades of bright purple, cerulean, and hot pink.
Achill Island, Co. Mayo
The largest island off the Irish coast, Achill is home to some of the most dramatic spots along the Wild Atlantic Way. Here you’ll find sheep scattered along roads and cliff tops, white sand beaches, peat bogs, and the Great Western Greenway—a 26-mile bike trail that takes you all around the island.
Bunratty Castle, Co. Clare
Originally built in 1425, Bunratty Castle is one of the country’s finest, most well-preserved medieval castles. The building is open to the public, where folks can enjoy the rooms stocked with 15th-century furnishings and artwork, plus stroll through the surrounding gardens and village. It gets better: The site hosts medieval banquets every evening, complete with live Irish music and honey mead.
Coral Beach, Carraroe, Co. Galway
As its name suggests, this beach outside of Galway is known for its scattering of coral (wear shoes). It’s outfitted perfectly for visitors, with bathroom facilities and a lifeguard on duty. The surrounding rock pools and calm Atlantic waters are great for snorkeling and swimming, and as an added bonus, the beach tends to be far less crowded than some of Galway’s other popular sandy hangouts.
The Long Room, Trinity College, Co. Dublin
Dublin’s Trinity College—the oldest university in Ireland—has no shortage of beautiful buildings and green lawns, but the main attraction is the Old Library’s Long Room. The vast hall holds 200,000 books and 14 marble busts under its barrel-vaulted ceiling—with the intricately illustrated Book of Kells being the centerpiece of a bibliophilic dream.
Benbulben Mountain, Co. Sligo
Formed hundreds of millions of years ago, this limestone formation hovers over Sligo like something from a fantasy novel. Benbulben’s paved trails make it a popular destination for hikers and climbers, but the peak is perhaps best known for its literary associations. Irish poet W. B. Yeats drew inspiration from the mountain and its surrounding landscapes, most notably in his 1938 poem “Under Ben Bulben.”
Dingle Peninsula, Co. Kerry
Pointing into the Atlantic Ocean like a nagging finger, the Dingle Peninsula is an incredible stretch of natural beauty: seaside cliffs, sheep-strewn fields, and Crayola-green hills. A short ferry ride away are the Blasket Islands, which once hosted a thriving community of Irish writers, but were abandoned in the 1950s after young residents emigrated en masse. Today, the on-site heritage museum—and remote, empty landscapes—are lovely yet somber reminders of a community lost.
Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, Co. Dublin
Dublin’s famed cathedral was built on sacred ground (St. Patrick himself is said to have performed baptisms here). The largest church in Ireland, it’s also one of it’s most gorgeous. Behind the towering stone exterior, you’ll find Gothic archways, and a staggering amount of color, in the form of stained glass windows, medieval flags, and a vibrantly tiled floor that was practically made for Instagram’s #ihavethisthingwithfloors hashtag.
Inishowen, Co. Donegal
Inishowen is Ireland’s largest peninsula, occupying over 218,500 acres off the northern coast of the country. Due to its location, the peninsula is the best place in the country to view the Northern Lights; head to places like Dunree or Malin Head (the most northerly tip of Ireland) between November and February for increased visibility. Even if you don’t have luck spotting the aurora borealis, Inishowen’s unspoiled landscapes are fantastic road trip material—it is the last (or first) stop on the Wild Atlantic Way, after all.
Aran Islands, Co. Galway
Three windswept isles—Inishmore, Inishmaan, and Inisheer—off the west coast of Ireland all have a rugged, bleak beauty to match the sinister 2,000-year-old ruins of Dún Aenghus, a Celtic fortress clinging to a cliff top as if declaring this to be the actual edge of the world. —David Jefferys
Kilkenny, Co. Kilkenny
Kilkenny began with an early sixth-century ecclesiastical foundation and was granted city status in 1609. It remains the smallest city in Ireland—and one of the prettiest, with its medieval buildings and narrow lanes lined with colorful shops. Black Abbey and Kilkenny Castle are particular stand-outs.