The Most Beautiful Places in Ireland

The Best Places to Visit in Ireland

What do you imagine when you think of Ireland? Since Ireland is an island (try saying that five times fast!), you might think of untouched beaches and the rugged Cliffs of Moher. You might imagine cozy, dark wooden pubs with roaring fireplaces in Dublin. You might think of lush, rolling hills and miles of farmland in County Kerry. It is the Emerald Isle, after all.

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Cotton candy skies at the Cliffs of Moher

And you wouldn’t be wrong! These are some of the most beautiful places in Ireland to visit. But aside from Ireland’s cities and famous national parks, there are lots of hidden gems to visit in Ireland that are just as picturesque too.

During our time living in Ireland, we were lucky enough to cover the entire island, exploring the most beautiful sites, scenery, and towns. I’ll share some of my favorites with you.

This list covers the Republic of Ireland in the European Union as well as Northern Ireland in the UK. It includes all the prettiest and most iconic sites on the east, west, and south coast of Ireland as well as the scenic Irish countryside in between.

Fall in love with these destinations, the most beautiful places in Ireland to see on your next great adventure!

1. Trinity College Library in Dublin City

While old fortresses like Dublin Castle are among the most beautiful places in Ireland, old libraries can be captivating places too. Let’s start this list of beautiful Ireland destinations in County Dublin and, more specifically, the Irish capital city.

Trinity College Dublin dates back to 1592, making it the oldest and also the most prestigious university in Ireland. Its library opened the same year, with its ancient long room holding over 200,000 ancient tomes along its high, dark wooden shelves.

It’s home to one of the oldest books in the world, the Book of Kells, and it’s such a magical place. This library truly would not look out of place as the library at Hogwarts!

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2. Cliffs of Moher in County Clare

According to Tourism Ireland, the Cliffs of Moher in County Clare are one of the top 10 places people visit in Ireland. These sea cliffs on the west coast are approximately 8.5 miles/14 km in length and 702 ft/214 m at their tallest point.

The Best Places to Visit in Ireland Cliffs of Moher

The Cliffs of Moher consist of sandstone, siltstone, and shale layers with grassy ledges which makes this epic part of the coastline one of the most beautiful natural places in Ireland. No wonder The Princess Bride (1987) chose the Cliffs of Moher as the filming location for the magical Cliffs of Insanity!

There are a couple of ways to enjoy a visit to the cliffs. You can walk along the Cliffs of Moher coastal walk from Doolin to Hags Head, although it’s 8 miles/13 km which takes four to five hours to walk in one direction. Alternatively, drive to the Cliffs of Moher Visitor Center and walk parts of the trail from there. This section has the best views!

3. Glendalough in County Wicklow

When locals are asked, “Where is the most beautiful place in Ireland to visit?” Their first answer is usually to roll their eyes at such a hard question!

But many Dubliners have fond memories of whiling away their weekends and summers in the nearby Wicklow Mountains National Park. Specifically, the area around the old monastic settlement of Glendalough.

Glendalough means ‘two lakes’ in the Irish Gaelic language. Saint Kevin founded a monastery next to the largest lake in the 6th century, the ruins of which you can still see today near the visitor center.

One of the best hikes in the Irish countryside is a 6.2-mile/10 km looped walk around the largest lake at Glendalough. You’ll be treated to views of deep blue waters, tree-covered mountains, and yellowing gorse bushes in the winter.

4. The Ring of Kerry Scenic Drive

Some of the most beautiful places to see in Ireland are on the southwest Iveragh Peninsula in County Kerry. Luckily, there is a scenic loop drive around the coastline of the Peninsula dubbed the Ring of Kerry and many people visit Ireland just to drive on this 111-mile/179 km route.

Sheeps and lambs on the grass fields in Ring of Kerry .Ireland

Killarney is usually considered to be the start and end point of the trail and you can drive the whole road in a day or spread it out. Some beautiful highlights include Rossbeigh Beach, Kenmare Stone Circle, the colorful village of Portmagee, and Cahergal Stone Fort.

5. Connemara National Park in County Galway

Ireland has six incredibly diverse national parks and all are some of the most beautiful places to visit in Ireland. But the national park that showcases the best of the green Irish countryside is Connemara. Founded in 1980, it covers 7,000 acres of hillside, bogs, heathland, grassland, and miles of hiking trails.

The Best Places to Visit in Ireland Connemara

One of the best hiking trails in Connemara for kids and keen hikers alike (there are two levels of difficulty!) is up Diamond Hill. This rugged hill offers sensational views across the other mountains in the national park as well as the jagged coastline.

6. Skellig Michael UNESCO World Heritage Site

Although there are a couple of UNESCO geoparks in Ireland, Skellig Michael is one of only two official UNESCO heritage sites in the Republic. It’s the largest of the Skellig islands located off the coast of the Iveragh Peninsula in County Kerry.

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As well as being a beautiful, otherworldly rocky island, Skellig Michael was also home to an early Christian monastery in the 6th century. It even featured heavily in the Star Wars movies as the planet Ahch-To where Luke Skywalker hides out.

You can visit Skellig Michael for yourself during the warmer seasons by booking tickets on a ferry departing from Portmagee. They only set sail in the warmer months as the Atlantic Ocean is far too rough in the winter! Plan to visit Ireland from April to July for the puffin breeding season.

7. Cobh Harbor in County Cork

As a postcard-perfect colorful coastal town, Cobh is one of the most beautiful places in Southern Ireland! It’s nestled on the River Lee just south of Cork. Cobh was the last port of call for the Titanic in 1912 so it is steeped in history, but it would be worth visiting just for the beauty of the harbor.

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It’s lined with patchwork terraces homes known as the “Deck of Cards” houses. The striking St. Colman’s Cathedral looms behind them with a Gothic Revival architectural style. Even further behind is the scenic southern Irish coastline which looks beautiful even on a gray day.

8. Achill Island in County Mayo

With 80 islands of significant size (and hundreds more besides), they are some of the most beautiful places in Ireland to stay overnight. Especially if you’re looking for somewhere remote and secluded! Even though Achill Island is the largest island off the coast of Ireland, it is still overlooked by other nearby areas of the Irish countryside easier to reach.

The Best Places to Visit in Ireland Achill Island

But the largest island is much more accessible than you might think!

For starters, you can drive to Achill Island over a road and you don’t have to wait for a ferry. Plus, its beauty is absolutely worth driving an extra half hour. The white sands of Keem Bay, the White Cliffs of Ashleam, and the vibrant greens and blues of Keel Beach would be famous if they existed in any other part of the country.

9. Waterford Greenway in County Waterford

The natural beauty of the Irish countryside is best admired up close by hike or bike. That was the vision when the Waterford Greenway was created in 2017.

It’s a cycling and walking path on a former railway track that stretches 28.5 miles/46 km from Gratton Quay in the city of Waterford to the coastal town of Dungarvan in the south of Ireland.

Of course, you don’t have to hike or bike the whole trail! You can cover short sections and get on and off the trail as you please. It traverses along eleven bridges, three viaducts, through a 400m-long tunnel, and along river banks. This is not the only greenway you can visit in Ireland, so if you’re not heading to Waterford then check if there are others nearby!

10. Killarney National Park in County Kerry

Aside from Connemara, Killarney National Park is one of the most picturesque national parks and is home to the most beautiful places to stay in Ireland.

This is Ireland’s oldest national park since it was founded in 1932. It boasts stately homes, waterfalls, lakes, castles, hills, mountain passes, and more.

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There are so many things to do in Killarney National Park and you will find beauty here no matter where you visit. Some highlights are the ruined Ross Castle on the banks of Lough Leanne, Muckross House (once visited by Queen Victoria!), Torc Waterfall, and the Gap of Dunloe for incredible views.

11. Aran Islands in County Galway

West Ireland is home to the vast majority of the country’s islands, but nowhere more so than Galway Bay. While most of them are too small for public transport, the largest of the Aran Islands (Inishmore) makes for a beautiful day trip from Galway.

The Best Places to Visit in Ireland Aran Islands

Hire a bike and enjoy cycling around the prehistoric archaeological site of DĂșn Aonghasa, visiting ruined forts and churches, and admiring the lighthouses from the Aran Islands.

12. Giant’s Causeway UNESCO World Heritage Site

One of the most beautiful places in Northern Ireland, hands down, is its only UNESCO world heritage site. The Giant’s Causeway is located on the scenic Antrim Coast and it consists of impossible interlocking basalt columns in geometric polygon shapes. It stretches 4 miles/6 km along Northern Ireland’s Antrim Coast and you can visit a small section or walk the entire path.

Ireland-Itinerary-Giants-Causeway

According to Irish tradition, the Giant’s Causeway was built by local giant Finn McCool (just go with it) as a bridge. He wanted to confront a Scottish giant he was feuding with.

What’s left of the Giant’s Causeway is what’s left of the Causeway! Whether you believe in the folkloric version or science, it’s just one of the most beautiful places in Ireland.

13. Rock of Cashel in County Tipperary

According to Irish tradition, St Patrick baptized King Aengus on this limestone outcrop in 448 CE.

The Best Places to Visit in Ireland Rock of Cashel

Today, this hill is covered in the ruins of several religious buildings and is one of the most beautiful places in Central Ireland. Visit what remains of an ornate Gothic cathedral, the Round Tower, an abbey, a Romanesque chapel, and many more.

14. The Dingle Peninsula in County Kerry

Although the Ring of Kerry is a beautiful scenic drive, an alternative place to visit is the Dingle Peninsula.

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This part of County Kerry is slightly north of the Ring of Kerry Drive and offers its own hidden gems. Inch Beach, Dunquin Pier, and the Blasket Islands (only a short ferry ride away) are highlights of this part of Ireland.

15. Galway City’s Quay Street in County Galway

Ireland’s west coast has some of the most beautiful places in Ireland, particularly in the Irish countryside and the islands in Galway Bay. But let’s not overlook Galway City! Quay Street in the Latin Quarter is particularly picturesque.

It’s a lively cobbled street lined with colorful centuries-old pubs and established jewelry stores with bunting and flags flying from window frames. There are also murals and fairylights strewn from the gutters making this the most well-dressed street in Galway City!

16. The Burren National Park in County Clare

The Best Places to Visit in Ireland The Burren

Forget everything you know about Ireland’s natural beauty when you see The Burren National Park in the west of Ireland. It has a lunar-like landscape completely covering 138 square miles in limestone rock. It’s still uniquely beautiful and the flora that still grows between the cracks in the rock is poetic.

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17. Hill of Tara in County Meath

The Hill of Tara was an extremely important religious and mythological site for the ancient east of Ireland.

The Best Places to Visit in Ireland Hill of Tara

For over 5,000 years, it’s been used as a burial site but it became even more prominent in the Iron Age as the place where the High Kings of Ireland were inaugurated. This vast green mountain is covered in mounds, ruins, and stone markers which makes this place both moving and beautiful.

18. Kylemore Abbey in County Galway

According to Tourism Ireland, Kylemore Abbey is one of the most-visited beautiful places in Ireland. It’s a 19th-century Gothic manor house that became a nunnery in the 1920s.

The Best Places to Visit in Ireland Connemara

Located on the border of Connemara National Park, this beautiful house sits on the banks of Pollacapall Lough and boasts well-pruned formal gardens.

19. Benbulben Mountain in County Sligo

Tucked away in the north west in the county of Sligo, Benbulben is a peculiarly shaped mountain. Formed thousands of years ago in the last Ice Age, Benbulben is a stand-alone tabletop peak with ridges cascading down on all sides. It’s such a unique, captivating formation that yes, is unbelievably possible to climb!

20. Powerscourt Gardens in County Wicklow

Some of the most beautiful places in Ireland to visit are extravagant formal gardens that you’ll find on the grounds of opulent stately homes. One of the best is Powerscourt Gardens just south of Dublin.

Its Japanese garden is complete with pergolas, and a huge ornamental pond. The 18th-century Powerscourt House is equally worth checking out too.

21. English Market in Cork City

Covered produce markets are the norm in the British Isles (it makes sense, considering the weather!). The English Market in Cork is just as thriving as it was when it first opened in 1862. Stall after stall is filled with fresh produce and local souvenirs as the light pours in through the glass roof.

22. Ashford Castle in County Mayo

Are you looking for the most beautiful place to stay in Ireland? If you have the cash to splash, you won’t find anywhere more beautiful than Ashford Castle in County Mayo.

Castle Hotels in Ireland

This sprawling five-star estate dates back to the 13th century. It offers guests a full spa with an indoor pool, lavish interiors, and even a movie theater.

23. Adare Village in County Limerick

Some of the most beautiful places in Ireland to visit are idyllic, quintessential Irish villages that look like they’ve been ripped from a storybook. But Ireland is an ever-evolving country and a truly traditional Irish village is hard to find.

Adare comes close with its rows of 19th-century charming thatched cottages. It’s an officially-designated heritage town so these beautiful cottages are here to stay!

24. Hook Lighthouse in County Wexford

The Best Places to Visit in Ireland Hook Lighthouse

There are around 80 lighthouses left dotted around the Irish coastline, but there are none so striking and historical than Hook Lighthouse in the southeast of Ireland. Located at the tip of County Wexford, this 800-year-old lighthouse is the oldest in the country. It’s surrounded by beautiful bays and is one of the most beautiful places in Ireland to visit.

25. Newgrange in County Meath

The Best Places to Visit in Ireland Newgrange

Older than the Egyptian pyramids and Stonehenge, Newgrange is a prehistoric grave dating back to 3,200 BCE. It was built so that the light would directly shine through the burial mound around the winter solstice. It’s a beautiful, unmissable sight if you are visiting Ireland around the winter solstice.

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26. Slieve League Cliffs in County Donegal

Since the Cliffs of Moher are so popular, you might be looking for an alternative to visit in Ireland if you prefer off-the-beaten-path locales. Slieve League Cliffs on the northwest coast are perfect!

These 1,972 ft/600 m-tall cliffs are one of the most beautiful hidden places in Ireland. Their steep, rugged dropoffs are dramatic. Plus, the earth changes color with the seasons so you may visit when the grass is a lush shade of green and the seas are vibrant, or you might visit in the fog with burnt orange terrain.

27. Blarney Castle in County Cork

The Best Places to Visit in Ireland Blarney Castle

Blarney Castle is known for its fabled stone where legend says those who kiss the stone receive the ‘gift of the gab’ as the Irish tradition says! But this 600-year-old castle is also one of the most beautiful places in Ireland to visit and a must-do if you’re near West Cork.

28. Kilkenny City in County Kilkenny

Dublin, Belfast, Galway City… Ireland has lots of cities but the consensus is that one of the most beautiful places to visit in Ireland is Kilkenny. With its first council dating back to 1231, this medieval city has lots of beautiful buildings lining the River Nore.

The Best Places to Visit in Ireland Kilkenny

Check out Kilkenny Castle, Kilkenny Design Centre, and St Mary’s Medieval Mile Museum housed in a former church. When you’re at the castle, don’t forget to wander around the castle grounds and walk along the canal.

29. Curracloe Beach in County Wexford

You’ll find dramatically beautiful beaches on the western coast of Ireland thanks to the force of the Atlantic Ocean. But what about the beaches on the east coast next to the Irish Sea?

Well, there are lots of white sandy beaches here and one of the most beautiful places to visit in Ireland is Curracloe Beach. It is a cinematic beach having featured as Omaha Beach and the site of the D-Day landings in Saving Private Ryan (2015) and also in the Saoirse Ronan film Brooklyn (2015).

This 7-mile/11 km-long beach is famous for its delicate, soft sand backed by grassy dunes. It’s perfect for a beach day trip from Dublin.

30. Wild Atlantic Way on Ireland’s West Coast

This is a bit of a cheat, but the Wild Atlantic Way has to be on any list of the most beautiful places in Ireland.

This is a scenic route encompassing the incredible stretch of 1,600 miles/2,600 km from Malin Head in the north of Ireland to Kinsale in the south along the Atlantic coast. If you had two weeks, you could drive this road and see some incredible beauty!

Visit the Most Beautiful Places in Ireland on Your Next Trip

With castles, cliffs, coastal villages, and more, you should have found lots of inspiration to visit the most beautiful places in Ireland on your next trip! Immerse yourself in the beauty of both the Irish countryside and the lively cities and you won’t be able to help but fall in love with the people and places of the Emerald Isle.

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