The country is huge! I had no idea when I booked a visit to Ireland for the first time, having only a week to see all the sights that I often heard about.
The list of tourist attractions was long, but the detailed plans allowed me to see a bunch of beautiful places that make Ireland so unique.
If you ask me if I got to know everything I wanted… no. Unfortunately, some locations were postponed for the next time. But those that I visited, captured my attention and my heart.
Visit Ireland: Things to do for a week
On this trip, I made my way through the counties of Tipperary, Cork, Kerry, Clare, Galway, and Sligo. It may seem like a lot and, in fact, resulted in many miles of driving from the south to the north of the country. But it was totally worthwhile.
Cashel Rock, Tipperary
Rock of Cashel was my first stop as soon as I arrived in Ireland’s capital city. From Dublin to this castle, it’s almost two hours by car.
Considered one of the most amazing historical sites in the country, Rock of Cashel is at the top of a hill, just a 5-minute walk from the village that gives it its name.
Unfortunately, my arrival at the end of the day matched with closing time and that prevented me from discovering the interior of this medieval fortress.
There you can find a round tower, a gothic cathedral of the 13th century, and one of the most beautiful romantic-style churches dating from the 12th century, with some of the oldest frescoes in the country.
Even if you don’t go inside, be amazed by this incredible medieval building and the view from the top.
Before heading up to the castle, stop at Cafe Hans, a super-cozy place to lunch, or just have tea.
Blarney Castle, Cork
Blarney Castle in Cork is home to the famous Blarney Stone. The origin of this stone remains a mystery. Still, everyone — or at least those who visit it and bend over to reach it — believe that if they kiss it, they’ll be given the gift of eloquence.
Apart from this rock, Blarney Castle is a fantastic place, full of history and detail, not to mention the incredible gardens that span 60 hectares.
Ring of Kerry, Kerry
Going to Ireland and not doing the Ring of Kerry is unthinkable! This is an unforgettable experience, especially if you are a fan of nature and breathtaking scenery.
This circle that embraces the Iveragh Peninsula stretches for 179 km. Yet, many argue that the true beauty of the Ring of Kerry lies in the side roads, often indicated by arrows from the main road.
You can make the ring in one day, but the advice is to stay a few more in this area and enjoy the scenery and all the cultural details you’ll find.
Muckross House, Kerry
Also in the Ring of Kerry, in the heart of Killarney National Park, is Muckross House. This Victorian building will make you feel in one of Downtown Abbey’s episodes.
Built in 1843 by the Herbert family to serve as a hunting and fishing house, this mansion is distinguished not only by the interiors but by the vast park and lake that make up the property.
Within 1,5 km from the house are also the ruins of Muckross Abbey. Try to find the enormous tree in the center of the cloister.
You can navigate the entire Muckross House property aboard a carriage. Drivers are at the entrance of the park and can really be a help if you are not on long walks.
Ring of Skellig, Kerry
I confess I had never heard of the Ring of Skellig before this trip, but for me, it was one of the great discoveries! Totally worth it if you visit Ireland!
You have the Valentia Island (see below), the starting point to visit the Skellig Islands; the Skellig Chocolate Factory in The Glen, where I tasted various varieties of chocolate; and also the Derrynane House, a beautiful property that flows into an incredible beach. There’s so much to see in this Ring!
Valentia Island, Kerry
The visit to Valentia Island came by luck, following the suggestion of a nice lady in Cahersiveen, where I stayed.
Although small, this island holds real treasures! Beyond the lighthouse or The Grotto — a place of religious pilgrimage —, it’s in Valentia that you can see the first traces of when the living being came out of the water and began to walk the earth.
The Tetrapod Trackway is in itself a beautiful walk that ends with an incredible testimony of the planet’s history.
It’s also from Valentia that the visits to the Skellig Islands depart. Skellig Michael is the proof of man’s perseverance and faith against the elements. An island completely formed in stone, inhospitable, in the middle of the sea, with a monastery that was built in the 19th century.
This site, also referenced by geological aspects and local fauna and flora, is considered a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
Even if you don’t visit the Skellig Islands (in my case I couldn’t do it because of bad weather), it’s worth visiting the visitors center.
Cliffs of Moher, Clare
The images I’ve always seen of the Cliffs of Moher were of towering slopes topped by green vegetation and sunshine showing the grandeur of the place. But my experience at the Cliffs of Moher was quite different. When I was there, it was downpouring!
Despite the terrible weather, it’s a magnificent place and one of Ireland’s main sights. I can only highlight its importance. Not only for the dramatic impact of this landscape but for knowing that there are 20 species of seabirds that call this place “home”.
This was a route I wasn’t thinking of following, but on my way to the Carrowmore Megalithic Cemetary seemed to be the obvious path. And it was the best decision!
Located in the county of Galway, this piece of coast, full of coves and beaches, showed me roads that led me from town to town, with extraordinary scenery.
Carrowmore Megalithic Cemetery, Sligo
It’s one of the most important and oldest megalithic sites in all of Europe, full of stone circles, tombs and dolmens.
The Carrowmore Megalithic Cemetery stretches for miles and its archaeological exploration is far from complete.
The data collected at the complex indicate that the most significant activity at the site, including the construction of the graves, took place between 5800 and 6400 BC.
There are 30 tombs, but it’s the number 51 that attracts the most attention. Every October 31, the sun enters the structure directly, and many believe in the energy it conveys.
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As I said, there’s still much to see beyond the roadmap I describe here. But I had only one week to spare, and these nine spots were unforgettable and made me want to visit Ireland again.
What about you? Have you ever been to Ireland? What did you like the most? If you have never been there, are you curious about the country? Leave your opinion and tips in the comments box below.
And if you liked this post, check out my visit to the Old Bushmills! 🙂