Beyond the major destinations, there are many amazing places to visit on the island of Ireland. Here are eight to get you started.
1 The Guinness Lake, County Wicklow
Viewed from above, Lough Tay in beautiful County Wicklow resembles a pint of Guinness, with its white sand covering the dark lake. The sand was imported by the Guinness family, whose estate runs through the area. A must stop on a walking or driving tour of this stunning countryside.
2 The O’Neill Hill, County Tyrone
One of the most important sites in Irish history, Hill of The O’Neill in Dungannon was home to the powerful Gaelic O’Neill dynasty. A guided tour starting at Ranfurly House reveals their fascinating history and finishes with a gentle climb up the hill to the glass viewing tower where spectacular views await.
3 Birr Castle and Estate, County Offaly
For over 400 years Birr Castle and Demesne has been the private residence of the Parsons family, the Earl and Countess of Rosse. Although the castle is not open to the public, you can explore the beautiful 100-acre gardens and the Science Centre on the grounds, with its world-famous Great Telescope, built in 1845.
4 Arranmore Island, County Donegal
A ruggedly beautiful island on the Wild Atlantic Way, Arranmore offers an authentic experience of Gaelic Ireland. Waymarked trails take you from sandy beaches to rocky cliffs, past ancient monuments, while traditional music emanates from lively pubs where you are always warmly welcomed.
5 Armagh Robinson Library, County Armagh
Founded in 1771, Armagh Robinson Library has a floor-to-ceiling collection of rare and beautiful books. These include medieval manuscripts, incunabula (books printed before 1501), Jonathan Swift’s copy of Gulliver’s Travels with his handwritten notes and an early edition of Handel’s Messiah.
6 Spike Island, County Cork
Spike Island has a fascinating history spanning 1300 years. It has been home to a seventh-century monastery, a huge fortress, the largest convict prison in the world in Victorian times and centuries of island homes. Take a guided tour to learn about its history, then explore the fort’s atmospheric prison cells, impressive military fortifications and many exhibitions.
7 Lafcadio Hearn Japanese Gardens, Co. Waterford
East meets West in this unique garden that tells the life story of the Greek-Irish writer Patrick Lafcadio Hearn. The area is divided into 11 gardens that reflect his journeys from the Victorian garden of his childhood through American, Greek and Japanese gardens to a simple Zen space.
8 Lough Key Forest Park, County Roscommon
An island castle rises from the water in this fairytale setting, now a fantastic woodland and activity park. Waymarked trails allow you to explore the native woodland, bog garden and forest through underground tunnels and along a canopy walk, while the activity centre offers a world of adrenaline-pumping fun.