Our Readers’ 15 Favorite Places in Ireland

Smarter Travel
Kate Hamman, SmarterTravel Staff – March 17, 2010

Ireland - Doolin: Doonagore Castle
(Photo: iStockphoto/Kelvin Jay Wakefield)
We gathered comments from Facebook, twitter, and our own Ireland picks to create a new photo gallery showcasing your favorite places on the Emerald Isle. From Doolin to Dublin, and many surprising destinations in between, here are your top picks.


Overlooking the Atlantic Coast in County Clare, Doolin is a small seaside village known for its lively music and close proximity to the Cliffs of Moher. The town may seem a bit sleepy during the day, but the nights are filled with traditional Irish songs.

Reader Marcia Smith Preusser says Doolin “has the best bars, and is the traditional Irish music center in country, they say. It is great and just two miles from Cliffs of Mohr.”

Ireland-Aran Islands: Farmhouse
(Photo: iStockphoto/mikeuk)

Aran Islands

Nestled at the mouth of Galway Bay, the Aran Islands offer a glimpse into the past by preserving many of Ireland’s cultural and heritage traditions. Visitors may even overhear Gaelic being spoken, as the native-born islanders still speak it. The islands are well known for their monuments, including Dun Aonghasa Fort, a World Heritage site located on the island of Inis Mor.
Among Ireland’s many historic sites, reader Otarre felt “it was the Aran Isles that captured my heart. I love the peacefulness I found there, the music, the Gaelic spoken in the church services, the craftsmanship, and the hospitality of the people.”

Ireland - Killarney: Cottage with Horse
(Photo: iStockphoto/Joan Champ)


Considered the starting point for the Ring of Kerry scenic drive, Killarney makes an excellent home base, yet is also an attraction all its own. Surrounded by natural beauty—including the Killarney National Park and the enchanted lakes—the town offers many different ways to explore the area, including by pony ride, boat tour, or a jaunting car (horse-drawn carriage) trip.
Reader allaboard loved Killarney’s location, saying it’s “very centralized in the southwest part of Ireland, and convenient to so many wonderful sites. We stayed at the Loch Lien Country House, which is like a little piece of heaven with its awesome tranquil views, and beautiful, clean, and friendly accommodations.”

Ireland: Doneagl National Park
(Photo: iStockphoto/RafalStachura)

County Donegal

Located on the northwest coast, County Donegal provides a varied landscape sure to please any taste, including a national park, sandy beaches, towering mountains, landscaped golf courses, castles, and historic ruins. The area is an explorer’s dream, and offers visitors plenty of ways to enjoy the journey, and not just the destination.
Reader hildynyc loves County Donegal’s “beautiful coast, mountains, and countryside. And the best musicians in Ireland! It’s free of the hordes of tourists and tour buses. You’ll find wonderfully welcoming and friendly people in County Donegal.”

Ireland - Galway Bay: Dunguair Castle at Sunset
(Photo: iStockphoto/Hon Lau)

Galway Bay

Nestled between County Galway and the Burren in County Clare, Galway Bay encompasses about 31 miles of land, offering views of the Aran Islands. The Bay is known for its sailing—especially its traditional sailing craft known as the Hooker—cruises, deep-sea fishing, and swimming. Reader ginnyg44 found the area particularly delightful, noting that “it was simple and beautiful. The people were lovely.”
Even though reader PatrickH. “loved all of the parts of Ireland I was able to visit,” he was particularly impressed by Galway Bay, saying, “to be able to watch the sun go down on Galway Bay was a great treat. Loved the Connemara area. More than 40 shades of green and I loved them all.”

Ireland - Dublin: Ha'Penny Bridge at Night
(Photo: iStockphoto/thierry Maffeis)


Dublin—with its historic castles, plethora of museums, a world-famous brewery, and a lively bar scene—has something for everyone. The city is a friendly and welcoming host, inviting visitors to learn about its history, listen to its music, and experience its culture.
Reader lawthomas believes Dublin is worth visiting, saying, “there is so much to do and see, including easy day trips by car. The city is fun and the prices at the luxury hotels are a bargain. Many restaurants have reduced prices.”

Ireland - Kinsale
(Photo: iStockphoto/Marc C. Johnson)


With cultural influences including French, Spanish, and English, Kinsale was a port of consequence for more than 300 years, and still maintains a great deal of its Victorian and Georgian architecture. The city was also the site of a great battle in 1601, which many consider a major turning point in Irish history. Today, Kinsale welcomes visitors with great food, historic sites, and traditional pubs.
Reader lesleya1 spent 10 days in Ireland with her husband, and claims “the residents of Kinsale are warm and friendly, and the food an amazing offering of fresh seafood and local delicacies. It’s location within an easy drive to many other tourist locations makes Kinsale the ideal spot to spend several nights as you travel the Irish countryside.”
Ireland - Wicklow: Celtic Cross
(Photo: iStockphoto/Ciaran Carty)

Wicklow National Park

The Wicklow Mountains National Park is unique, with remnants of the past scattered everywhere. Visitors may stumble upon tombs, cairns, rock art, standing stones, and bullaun stones surrounded by a lush natural setting. One of the most important monastic sites in Ireland, Glendalough, can also be found within the park.
Reader Avivitohio was particularly enchanted by the area, saying the “view felt like walking into Ireland’s fairie wilds, prehistoric times, and ancient Celtic and Viking history. The views on the drive there from Dublin were equally enchanting; hills and cliffs, deep beer colored Loch Tay, peat cutting sites, vines and gorse bushes and isolated farms.”

Ireland: Errigal Mountain
(Photo: iStockphoto/Alasdair Thomson)

Mount Errigal

County Donegal is known for its dramatic peaks, and Mount Errigal stands tallest—a towering 2,466 feet—among them. Made from metamorphic rock, the mountain is an outdoor enthusiast’s playground, and many visitors come to hike, picnic, or explore the area.
“Whether you hike to the top or look at it from a distance, [Mount] Errigal evokes ancient Ireland, and is a living part of today’s landscape as well,” said reader kathleen2.

Ireland: Newgrange Tomb
(Photo: iStockphoto/Philippa Banks)


Built around 3200 B.C., Newgrange’s Megalithic Passage Tomb covers an area of more than one acre and is estimated to have taken a crew of 300 people 20 years to complete. The tomb was once thought to be the home of Oenghus, the god of love, in Irish mythology, and was rediscovered in 1699. As a designated World Heritage Site, the tomb is quite popular among tourists, especially during the Winter Solstice, when the chamber is illuminated with the rising sun.
During a visit to Newgrange, reader winkpc20 was “reminded … of the Mayan ruins in Central America.”

Reader ben657681 thinks the tomb is a “must-see,” and that “the passage tomb is truly awe inspiring when you consider that it was built before the pyramids.”

Belfast: City Hall
(Photo: iStockphoto/Robert Mayne)


Long a bustling seaport and safe haven for weary travelers, Belfast has nevertheless seen its fair share of troubles. The city, however, is still a place where a tired tourist will always be welcome. These days, Belfast combines the historic with the hip and offers a dynamic art scene and nightlife.
Reader gondaluer ranks Belfast as a favorite, and swears that “the mural/black cab tour will change your perspective on the ‘struggles,’ and maybe even change your perspective on life.”

Ireland - Sligo
(Photo: iStockphoto/Michael Walsh)


Once a major port, Sligo, meaning “Shelley River” in Gaelic, is now the second largest city in the west of Ireland, and continues to grow. Surrounded by rugged mountains and serene ocean views, the area’s natural beauty was immortalized in poetry and stories by William Butler Yeats, who spent school holidays here with his grandmother.

Reader imzaidi is a fan of Sligo and its literary roots, saying “I’ll never forget bicycling through the area and going to ‘The Lake Isle of Innisfree,’ made famous by his poem, and seeing where he is buried—a truly amazing trip that still nourishes my heart and soul.”

Ireland - Dingle: Dunquin
(Photo: iStockphoto/Scott Atherton)

Dingle Peninsula

With a dramatic mountainside plunging into a rugged and richly green coastline, as well as tiny, winding roads passing breathtaking ocean views, stone ruins, and colorful wildflowers, the Dingle Peninsula has won the hearts of many, including reader teddi who continues to return for the “the beauty and the people.”

Reader radmoo visited the peninsula last summer, and “loved waking in the morning, looking out our window and seeing cows to the left and sheep to the right,” and said the people were “the friendliest we have ever encountered in our travels.”

Ireland - Ring of Kerry: Sheep
(Photo: iStockphoto/Christian Campbell)

Ring of Kerry

With historic sites, monuments, ancient monasteries, waterfalls, and beaches, the Ring of Kerry is far more than just a 110-mile drive along the Iveragh Peninsula. And, outdoor enthusiasts will rejoice in the many activities available, including hiking, cycling, golfing, fishing, and horseback riding.
Reader Bon explored the area with family, and was captivated: “To say it was breathtaking is an understatement. Majestic, diverse, magnificent, twisty, windy, scary, and exhilarating just starts to sum it up.”

Link to Original Article: http://www.smartertravel.com/travel-advice/photos/our-readers-15-favorite-places-in-ireland.html?id=4498906&frame=0

Categories: Ireland

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