Category Archives: Ireland

7 HISTORICAL SITES TO VISIT IN IRELAND

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If you’re planning a trip to Ireland, you’ll likely want to enjoy some of the historic pubs, stunning natural landscape of the emerald isle, but you shouldn’t forget the many historical sites in Ireland. In this article, we’ve crafted a unique and fun driving itinerary: 7 top historical places to visit in Ireland you can’t miss! Each of these points of interest in Ireland offers a unique glimpse of Irish history, culture, and traditions. While some may be familiar Irish tourist attractions, others are lesser-known, allowing you to explore unique Irish landmarks without fighting crowds of travelers. Driving in Ireland is one of the best ways to explore this beautiful island. Not only will you be able to set your own pace, lingering at the landmarks and points of interest you find most interesting, but you’ll also be free to modify this round-trip guide, adding detours to other points of interest in Ireland you’ve been hoping to visit.

Looking for other things to do in Ireland? Check out our other Drive to Discover guides where we explore the best road trips in Ireland including a Ring of Kerry Tour, a guide to guide to the Wild Atlantic Way and a round trip beer tour from Dublin!

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1. START YOUR TRIP BY EXPLORING THE HISTORIC CITY OF DUBLIN

Upon arrival, pick up your car rental at Dublin airport and make your way to your downtown hotel. We find it’s usually best after a flight to a different time zone like this to give yourself at least 24 hours before hitting the road. This helps to resolve any issues with jet lag, and it also allows you to get your bearings and explore the city of your arrival. In this case, you’re in luck because The Historic City of Dublin is a UNESCO world heritage site – meaning that in addition to the fantastic pubs, restaurants, and museums available in the city, the historic city itself is a landmark of historic interest. Take a tour of the Guinness Storehouse to learn the unique history of this iconic brewery, say a prayer in St. Patrick’s Cathedral, or visit Kilmainham Gaol – a beautiful prison filled with stories of Ireland’s history.

NEXT STOP: 31 MINUTES

2. TO BRU NA BOINNE, FAIR LADS AND LASSES!

Once you’ve explored the city, hop into your Dublin car rental and head north along the coast – it’s a short drive to Bru na Boinne in Newgrange – a UNESCO world heritage site which easily makes our list of historical sites in Ireland which are worth driving to.

As Europe’s largest and most important concentration of prehistoric megalithic art, the prehistoric monuments arranged along the north bank of the River Boyne had social, economic, religious, and funerary functions. The peaceful, prehistoric archaeological remains found at Bru na Boinne in Newgrange are ideal historic landmarks to follow Historic Dublin, as they provide a real sense of the history of the Emerald Isle.

NEXT STOP:1 HOUR & 48 MINUTES

3. THE HISTORIC MONASTERY AT CLONMACNOISE

Nestled in bucolic County Offaly on the River Shannon, the historic monastery at Clonmacnoise (‘Meadow of the Sons of Nos’) dates back to 544. From its early days, the important location of Clonmacnoise Monastery made it a center for learning, religion, and trade and it became the most famous monastery in Ireland, drawing scholars from across Europe.

Religious services are held in a modern chapel on the site today, and the historic monastery is preserved as a historic Irish ruin which is open to the public for a small fee. Bring your camera when you visit this location – the scene is beautiful, and you’ll leave feeling a deep sense of the historical significance of the ruins.

NEXT STOP: 2 HOURS & 36 MINUTES

4. TOUR BLARNEY CASTLE AND KISS THE FAMOUS BLARNEY STONE IN COUNTY CORK

You’ve surely heard of the Blarney Stone (Cloch na Blarnan), and there are a number of stories which explain the origin and legends of this iconic landmark. You’ll have time to contemplate them as you drive south from Clonmacnoise, through Limerick and into County Cork. It’s a lovely, two and a half hour drive, which can be completed in the morning, or you can leave mid-morning and stop for lunch along the way.

The Blarney stone is said to grant those who kiss it the ability to deceive without offending, based on the legend of Cormac Laidir McCarthy (the builder of Blarney Castle), who was involved with a lawsuit. He asked the goddess Cliodhna for help, and she told McCarthy to kiss the first stone he found in the morning on his way to court. He did so, and argued eloquently in court, winning the case. Other legends of the Blarney Stone include one that the stone was presented to Cormac McCarthy as a gift by Robert the Bruce. Touring Blarney Castle and learning more about the history of this famous piece of limestone is sure to impart a unique sense of the history and folklore that Ireland is famous for.

NEXT STOP:1 HOUR & 13 MINUTES

5. DISCOVER ST. PATRICK’S ROCK!

The Rock of Cashel is a historical site in Ireland in County Tipperary, Ireland, and according to legend, the famous stone was originally procured when St. Patrick banished Satan from a cave in the Devil’s Bit, a mountain some 20 miles north of Cashel. This explosive event resulted in the famous Rock landing in Cashel, the historic seat of the kings of Munster in the years prior to the Norman invasion.

While there are only a few vestiges of the early structure today, there are a number of beautiful and historic structures dating from the 12th and 13th centuries. These include Cormac’s Chapel, a cathedral built between 1235 and 1270, and a number of ancient graves on the northern side of the ruins. A visit to the Rock of Cashel is an excellent place to learn more about the history and lore of St. Patrick in Ireland.

NEXT STOP:1 HOUR & 7 MINUTES

6. THE BEAUTIFUL RUINS OF JERPOINT ABBEY

Drive east from the Rock of Cashel and you’ll discover the stunning ruins of a Cistercian Abbey near Thomastown in County Kilkenny. Jerpoint Abbey was built during the second half of the 12th century and it stands as a national monument of Ireland today – making it an easy choice for inclusion on our list of historical sites in Ireland.

Jerpoint Abbey is an excellent point to stretch your legs and explore, and young children will be especially fascinated with the architecture of this historic landmark. The ruins are expansive and as you explore you’ll discover historical stone carvings and a square, embattled tower, and chapels filled with tomb sculptures and carvings. Bring your camera and you’ll be rewarded with unique backdrops for one-of-a-kind photos to commemorate your trip!

NEXT STOP: 21 MINUTES

7. ONWARD, TO THE CASTLE OF KILKENNY!

From Jerpoint Abbey it’s a quick 20-minute drive north to Kilkenny Castle, a stunning symbol of the Norman occupation, erected on the banks of the River Nore at a strategic point where soldiers could control those trying to ford the waterway. Kilkenny Castle today is an excellent point to enjoy a picnic lunch – there are expansive grounds managed by the Office of Public Works, and the gardens and parkland adjacent to the castle are well-kept and open to the public.

While Blarney Castle gets much of the fanfare, Kilkenny Castle has become one of the most visited tourist sites in Ireland thanks to its expansive gardens, well-maintained structure, and unique rotating art exhibitions in the castle basement. It’s a beautiful Irish historic site, which can be enjoyed by the young and the young at heart.

NEXT STOP: 1 HOUR & 23 MINUTES

From Kilkenny Castle it’s just over an hour and a half to DUB Airport in your Ireland rental car, so you can plan your trip accordingly – driving straight to the airport for your return flight, or spending a few more days in Dublin exploring the many points of interest and landmarks the city has to offer.

While exploring Ireland by car, we think you’ll fall in love with the bucolic countryside and the people who call it home. While booking a chartered tour may be tempting, there’s something uniquely fulfilling about planning a trip around a loose itinerary which allows flexibility to enjoy detours and unexpected wonders you’re sure to find along the way.

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BEST ROAD TRIPS FROM DUBLIN

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With a history that dates back to ancient times, Dublin has a lot to keep visitors captivated. If you can manage to make the time, why not go on a road trip? This beautiful,green country has plenty to offer.You can take three days and complete a road trip that spans six counties in Ireland and view the plush green countryside from the seat of your car along the way, driving only two to three hours per day. The Dublin’s Tour Road Trip itinerary takes you from Dublin City south to Avoca, then northwest to Tullamore, and finally back home to Dublin, with plenty of memorable and scenic stops along the way.

PREPARING FOR YOUR DRIVE FROM DUBLIN

Although the route we’ve chosen has no tolls,  it’s always a good idea to bring cash wherever you go in Ireland. Be extra careful when driving in bad weather, especially on the narrow roads that are common on the island. Our Dublin’s Tour road trip follows both country roads and major highways, so you can usually follow signs to your next destination. If you have a GPS device or a map application on your phone, make sure it is in proper working order before setting out, because it will come in handy should you get lost. We strongly recommend that travelers have all the travel information that they need prior to beginning a journey. It is also important to have plenty of supplies, such as warm clothes and extra food, in case of emergency. Expect the unexpected, enjoy the ride, and don’t forget to drive on the left!

DAY 1: DUBLIN TO AVOCA VIA GLENDALOUGH

Begin your journey with a car rental in Dublin and head south on R115 toward Glendalough. This route takes you through the rolling landscape and low-hanging skies of the Wicklow Mountains National Park. On this part of the trip, the hills seem to close in on both sides as if you had found your way inside a snow globe, but once you reach and take a left on R759, the view opens onto Sally Gap, a popular location for Hollywood filmmakers (think Braveheart).

As you follow the road up into the hills along some more rocky terrain, prepare for a stunning bird’s-eye view of Lough Tay’s dark water on your right. Stop off here to take in the scenery or continue south on your journey toward Glendalough via R755. Glendalough (which in Irish means “Valley of Two Lakes”) offers a nice resting point before making your way farther south toward Avoca. Just take a quick jaunt to the right on R756 for a few miles. There is a parking area where you can leave your car as you go for a walk through a small wooded area that opens up onto a white beach where the lake cleaves the hills in two. Be sure to check out the 6th-century Round Tower at Glendalough, too. You are sure to get some great pictures to send home.

Once you are back on the road, continue south on R755 until you pass through Rathdrum. R755 will end and you will take a right on R752 which will take you all the way to your final destination for the day, the picturesque town of Avoca, where you can grab a pint and mingle with the locals before nodding off.

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DAY 2: AVOCA TO TULLAMORE AND KILBEGGAN VIA ABBEYLEIX

With Avoca in your rearview, continue on R752 until you reach R747 and make a right turn. This leg of the drive is the longest on the journey, but it passes through some of the most idyllic and splendid scenery of the trip, so you won’t even notice how long you’ve been driving. Most of the route runs parallel to the Rivers Aughrim and Derry, so be sure to have your camera ready to capture some really beautiful countryside. Be sure to stop in some of the small villages that are along the way for something to eat or even just to stretch your legs.

Follow R727 and R726 toward Carlow, and if you have time, take the small jaunt up to Duckett’s Grove where you can see a 19th-century Gothic revival ruin. From Carlow, travel to Abbeyleix via R430 and see along the way the green flatland pastures and country farms of County Laios. The Slieve Bloom Mountains are just past Abbeyleix and are a wonder to see as you make your way up R440 and R421 to Tullamore. You can tour the Tullamore D.E.W. Visitor Centre and the Kilbeggan Distillery and learn a bit about the history of these historic brands of Irish whiskey.

DAY 3: TULLAMORE TO DUBLIN VIA BALLYMORE EUSTACE

As you say goodbye to Tullamore whiskey country and begin the final day’s journey back to Dublin along R420, get ready for open skies and wide horizons. Be sure to stop to see the exquisite Japanese Gardens at the National Stud near Kildare, where you can view one of the finest Japanese-style gardens in all of Europe. At the National Stud, you also have the opportunity to take a guided tour of the grounds and see the thoroughbred horses and the museum commemorating their history. Kildare also has on offer the Curragh Military Museum on offer for travelers interested in Irish military history.

From Kildare, you can travel to Ballymore Eustace on L6080, R448, and R413 where you can see the River Liffey before it flows into Dublin. If you want to get a bite to eat before returning to Dublin City, do visit the Ballymore Inn. There you will be treated to some of the best food that Ireland has to offer. After lunch, you can take L6048, connect with N81 towards Dublin, and drive until you hit R137, which will take you the rest of the way. Finally, finish your day with a pint of Guinness at Temple Bar and start thinking of where your next adventure will take you.

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Uncovering Dublin

Affluent historical sites, lush green parks and stunning views are some of the features of the capital city of the kingdom of Ireland, Dublin.

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Know More about Dublin

Dublin is the most populous city of Ireland. It is listed as a global city by Globalization and World Cities Research Network (GaWC) with an “Alpha-” ranking. It is a historical and a contemporary center for administration, arts, economy, industry and education.

Popular Tourist Attractions

Kilmainham Gaol – This bleak old prison was notoriously famous in the 19th century for its brutal treatment of the prisoners. Book your cheap airline tickets to Dublin and discover the opulent history of this Irish site.

Glasnevin Cemetery Museum – With several tours of the cemetery, a visit to a museum or by a genealogy search of your family history, this site tells the story of more than 1.5 million Irish who played a major role in shaping the modern Ireland.

Croke Park Stadium Tour & GAA Museum – It is one of the most historic and modern sports arenas in the world and the fourth largest stadium in Europe. A tour of the stadium will enlighten you about the history of the country as experienced by the nation’s largest sporting organization.

Phoenix Park – A scenic urban park lined with running trails. This beautiful park is dubbed as a must visit point, especially for the nature romantics. Find an unmatched feeling of tranquil at this wonderful site.

Guinness Storehouse – This brewery will tell you the story of iconic Irish drink and brings to life the heritage of this world famous beer. For all the beer lovers, it must be the top of your lists.

Getting Around in the City

Dublin offers numerous options as local transportation –

  • Buses
  • Trains
  • Trams
  • Leap Card and other Transport Passes

Other Popular Cities to Visit

  • Belfast
  • Galway
  • Cork
  • Limerick
  • Killarney

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Ballyfin – Ireland

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Ireland’s most exclusive 5-star hotel is at the foot of the Slieve Bloom Mountains about an hour north of Dublin. The history and beauty within the demesne is beyond compare. Built in the 1820’s by Sir Charles Coote, it was sold in 1928 to a Roman Catholic teaching order where it served as a school for 80 years. An extensive restoration project began in 2002 and opened it’s doors as a neoclassical country house hotel in 2011.

With a gateway that opens to 600 acres of private park and woodland, you find a mile-long drive that overlooks a 28-acre ornamental lake. Eventually, you will find Ireland’s most lavish Regency mansion and you will not be disappointed.

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There are 20 rooms in the house that are individually designed to mirror the original style of the original house. You’ll be treated to marble bathrooms, gilded mirrors, elegant bedrooms, 300 thread-count bed linens and luxurious toiletries.

The hotel antiques, paintings, and furniture are museum caliber. They also have a classically styled indoor pool with two treatment rooms. 

Taking a walk through the grounds, you come across beautiful gardens, grottoes, a private lake, and plenty more to see.  

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Room rate – €580 per night for singles                                                                                                €915 per night for two                                                                          1 euro = $1.16                         

Rates are All-Inclusive: Full Irish breakfast, lunch, tea in the afternoon, a drinks reception and dinner, laundry and shoe polish services. 

For individual reservations and dinner reservations, children over the age of 9 years are welcome. Children of all ages are welcome when the house is reserved by one group for exclusive use.

Pets are not permitted in Ballyfin House except for guide dogs.

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Ballyfin website

Rating   9.5/10