Ireland is a place full of endless green landscapes, tons of history, and a fun culture. There is more breath taking trails to hike, than I could have ever imagined. The drive from destination to destination, is just as magical as the destination itself. And to top it all off, Ireland is home to the friendliest locals!
We cruised around the entire Emerald Isle for two weeks, fitting in everything possible. Whether you are heading to Ireland for 5 days, or two months this blog post will give you some spots you just can’t miss!
Glenariff Forest Scenic Trail Circular – We went out on a moody morning, then had every season in a matter of hours. Starting off with a light drizzle, turning into fluffy blue skies, with a twist of gusty winds. Glenariff Forest will keep you on your toes with the ever changing forecasts, and the diverse trails.
The Scenic Trail was a big ole 5.5 mile loop around a fair amount of the Glenariff Forest. After hiking the Scenic trail, ate at Manors Lodge along the way, then continued on the Waterfall Trail, back to the car park. I would consider it a moderate hike, although we spent majority of the day here.
There are a few different trails you can follow, depending on what you want to see. You can also just do the 2.2 mile Glenariff Gorge Walk and Waterfall loop trail. This route will take you by Manors Lodge, one of our favorite meals on the trip!
Whichever route you choose to take will be amazing. The amount of ferns, moss, and plant vegetation covering this forest makes you feel like you’re in a fairytale! If you venture up North on your trip to Ireland, don’t miss these hikes.
Torr Head – We saw a castle looking structure next to the coast on google maps, and decided to check it out. Well safe to say, it was no castle. But the views from here were INCREDIBLE.
Let me start by saying the ride here was probably one of the most beautiful on our entire trip. Cruising through the back country roads, filled with big blue skies, bright green plots of farm land, seeing all the animals living their best lives. Truly an Ireland dream.
Think Microsoft screen saver panoramic views, but in real life…
Torr head is the closest point in Ireland to Scotland, and was used as a signal station for ships passing through the North Passage. Now a days, it’s vacant building with incredible views.
We pulled up on a dirt road and saw another car just parked along the side, so we did the same. There is a gate leading to the trail, it was not locked, so we walked on through and enjoyed the views! Quick, short jaunt up to the top.
Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge:
Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge – One of my favorite views we saw on the entire trip. The turquoise waters, surrounding these bright mounds that used to be bits of a volcano, with little wildflowers springing up everywhere. I consider it a must, to walk across this rope bridge that fishermen used back in the day!
We got here right around 9am, and bought tickets on the spot. They recommend purchasing tickets before hand if you can. It was 13 euro per person, if you want to cross the bride. 10 euro per car if you don’t wish to cross the bridge. …you definitely want to cross the bridge!
(I have heard that this site is not always open, due to weather. Make sure to check that out before heading there.)
Once you park, its about a 10 minute walk to the bridge. It was a little windy and shaky, but non the less, quite sturdy in my opinion. After crossing you can wander around the other side for a while, the views are spectacular!
It sprinkled a little while we were there, and some of the rocks do get slick. I’d recommend comfortable footwear, and a rain jacket. There is a small cafe with ice cream and treats to enjoy after, cash only. Bathrooms on site, near the car park.
When we left Cushendall, we stopped at Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, then The Giants Causeway, before heading to Portrush. If you want to see our full day by day itinerary, click here!
The Giants Causeway:
The Giants Causeway – The reason we decided to venture North, was to see these incredible hexagon basalt columns jolting out of the sea. I mean just look at the photos, it’s sight like no other!
The scientific reason behind these iconic rock formations, is that a volcano erupted 50-60 million years ago. The Irish fable says this site was built by giants. Honestly, both sound pretty cool to me.
We got here about 11am, and were one of the last cars to park in the lot. It was 5 dollars to park just down the road from the visitors center. Or you can pay for the visitors center, and park there. The earlier you get here the better, as it gets quite busy with tour buses.
There are a few different trails you can take. The blue trail is asphalt, being stroller friendly, and leads you right to The Giants Causeway. The red trail snakes along the the upper cliffs, giving you a view of the coastline. The yellow trail follows the entire Causeway Coastline. We took the blue trail down, and the red trail back.
Highly recommend a rain jacket and comfortable/hiking shoes. It was suuuuuper windy the day that we went, as you can see in my photo above, LOL. We spent a good 2 hours here.
Cliffs of Moher:
Seeing Cliffs of Moher, is what draws a lot of people to plan a visit to Ireland. And let me tell you it is undeniable incredible, being so beautiful, yet so harsh. The bright turquoise waters smacking up against the grass covered cliffs. All the birds soaring through the gusty winds. It is truly is a sight like no other, and a bucket list check for sure!
Guerin’s path – My best advice is to skip the busy-ness of the visitors center, and park here. It was 5 dollars a person, and worth every penny. There are signs leading you this way, it’s just a few minutes past the visitors center. Once parked we walked the path up, and went left. It’s way less busy and the views were MAGICAL!
Cliffs of Moher Visitors Center – We decided to go twice and see what this side of the cliffs had to offer. This side would be good if you have limited mobility, or want to push a stroller around. There are bathrooms, wifi, a cafe, and learning center. We paid day of to enter and it was 25 euro for two of us. The online rates seem to be a bit cheaper, if you plan ahead. Ranging from 7-10 euro a person, depending on the time of day and season.
My best advice, is to skip the visitors center altogether, and park at Guerin’s path. It’s more affordable, less crowded, and I personally think the views were better. There are no restrooms, but there was a food truck for coffee and snacks. You can also walk from Guerin’s path to the visitors center, if you wanted to see it all!
We ended up staying here one night, with the intention of seeing sunrise and sunset at the cliffs. Well, Ireland is moody, so there were no sunsets or sunrises. But that gave us a chance to explore the cute little town of Doolin.
Gus O’ Conners pub was the place to be on a Sunday afternoon. The live Irish music had the whole pub sining along. They also had some of the best fish n chips, and seafood chowder! I give a little more insight on this gem in my other post, Ireland Road-trips: Pubs and Restaurants!
Along the way to Gus O’ Conners, you’ll see a few shops that I would recommend popping into. If the weather is right, you can even book a ferry ride, and catch a glimpse of the cliffs from a different perspective.
This photo in front of the pink house, is The Sweater Shop. An iconic stop in Doolin! They have the most beautiful traditional Irish sweaters.
Muckross House – The dreamiest green gardens surrounding this entire gorgeous property! Bonus, its free to park and enter.
(If you want to tour the house, you’d need to purchase a ticket.)
We skipped the house tour, and wandered through the gardens, took the trail to Torc Waterfall, then walked around the outside of the house. Between the lush green grass, the massive trees, views of the lakes, and the array of plants you could get lost on this property all day.
Many people rented bikes and cruised around. If we didn’t get there so late in the day, I definitely would have done the same! There was a bike rental place, just down the road.
Torc Waterfall Loop – We love this little loop trail to see Torc Waterfall, it was not nearly as busy as the waterfall itself. There was parking right near the waterfall, if that’s all you wanted to see.
Ross Castle Loop – Nice area to wander, take a boat ride, or hike. We looked around the castle, and did the Ross Castle loop, to Governer’s rock. You had to have a tour booked to view inside the castle.
Tomies Wood and Lough Leane Circular – Amazing hike in Killarney National park! Incredible views of all the lakes, more ferns than the eyes can count, and wild wildlife along the way. This was one of our favorite hikes.
Make sure to wander down O’ Sullivan’s Cascade, for the dreamiest moss covered rocks, and the most serene waterfall. It’s on the AllTrails maps but there’s also a sign for it on the trail.
It was about 4.1 miles, although we probably did closer to 5.5 miles with O Sullivan’s Cascade. Maps brought us to the entrance where there was a small gravel lot. Continue down that road and it’ll bring you to a larger parking lot, and the trail head.
Bring snacks! There were some benches with gorgeous views, that make for a great break and refuel.
I was between staying in Cork, or a smaller city close by. We landed with Cobh, because I saw a super affordable Airbnb, with a bar down the street that everyone raved about. Cobh is a cute, smaller city, with the friendliest locals, and the best views. (Pronounced Cove)
It’s only 40 minutes to the Blarney Castle, and 30 minutes to the Jameson Distillery. The spots that bring most to stay in Cork.
I am SO SO happy we landed in Cobh, and I would most definitely visit again. The night at the pub, ended up being our favorite on the trip! Check out my post Ireland Road-trips: Pubs and Restaurants to find out where to go! 😉
St Colman’s Cathedral – Absoultley stunning Cathedral, that towers over the entire city.
We didn’t go for a service, but I bet it would be beautiful whether you are religious or not. The amount of detail that was put into the inside and outside of the building, is mind-blowing.
There is a free car park right next to the cathedral. We actually left our car here for our entire stay in Cobh, and it was safe.
The Titanic Experience – So, we didn’t realize this was more geared towards children. However, it was pretty neat to see what rooms looked like on the Titanic, and to learn a bit more about some of the people that boarded. Cobh was the last pick up point, where 123 people boarded the Titanic.
Also, heartbreak pier, they call it this because most people that say goodbye to a loved one here, would most likely never see them again. There was an exhibit after the tour, where you can learn more about how they skipped the safety check, just days before. Or how there were over 400 open seats on the life boats.
I probably wouldn’t do this tour again, however if you are traveling with kids I think it makes for a pretty great, and educational stop.
West View Park – If you’ve heard of the city of Cobh, then you’ve probably seen the photo of the colorful houses, with the Cathedral in the back! Well, West View Park is where you can go to “get the shot”.
It’s a very steep hill to walk up, so try going up around the Cathedral, and heading to the park from that direction.
Will you kiss the Blarney Stone or not? Will it actually make you more eloquent? or will you simply catch covid?
Blarney Castle and Gardens – Like Cliffs of Moher, The Blarney Castle, is something a lot of people want to see while visiting Ireland. For good reason, there is a ton of history and culture that lives here. The Blarney property, is nothing short of incredible. We spent about 3 hours wandering, and could have spent another 3.
Unpopular opinon, the castle itself wasn’t THAT cool. Yes, it was pretty neat to see inside and bend backwards to kiss the stone. But the line up was not worth it. The property around the castle is what amazed me. The poison garden, the MASSIVE trees, the trails, and the blarney house are what I would go for.
It’s quite expensive enter, we paid 54 euro for two tickets to see the castle and house. While the house tour was interesting, people currently live there so you only see a few rooms. In which are scattered with modern day items, taking the charm out of it for me. However, the grounds around the house were magical!
So is it worth the visit to Blarney Castle or not? That depends on you. It’s a tourist spot, so are you okay with crowds? If not, maybe try to get there at open. We got there about 10am, and on our way out it was PACKED. Is kissing the Blarney Stone on your bucket list? If so, GO!
Will your trip to Ireland be complete, with or without a visit here? YES!
Wicklow National Park :
Upper Lake and Poulanass Waterfall Circular – I know I said this about all the hikes, but this one was SO incredible!!!! It was actually quite different, than most hikes i’ve done.
They use wood planks on the trail, to keep you from sinking into the mud. The views from every direction on this hike were STUNNING.
It wasn’t hardest hike, but it was more of a challenge then the other hikes listed above. 5.9 miles of switchbacks, wooden track, rock paths, and lush views!
We stopped here on the way from Cobh to Dublin. Being just over an hour from Dublin, you could easily head from the direction as well.
The maps from AllTrails will lead you to a car park, that cost a few euro to enter. There are restrooms and food trucks in that lot. As you are heading here, there is a carpark a few miles before on the left, DONT turn in there, go a bit further down to the next lot.
I mention this in my other post, but Dublin wasn’t for me. The bars were a bit too young and rowdy, the streets were dirty, and it just wasn’t my vibe. It was also the last stop on a 14 day trip, so we were a bit tired. Some things I was interested in doing but didn’t make it to was Trinity Library, and St. Stephens Green.
Guinness Storehouse – The coolest thing we saw in Dublin, the Guinness Storehouse. This was definitely the best brewery tour i’ve ever experienced.
They have done an amazing job of showing you everything from how the barley gets roasted, to all the advertisements over the years. Ending the tour at the rooftop bar, that has panoramic views of the entire city!
It was an experience I would highly recommend while visiting Dublin. We bought tickets online the day before for 26 euro each. That included the self guided tour, a mini pint, and a full sized pint. We went on a Saturday at 2pm and it was VERY busy, if you have the option I would try to go during the week for less crowds.
Anne’s Lane – You may or may not have seen this on Instagram. It’s a cute little street, with umbrellas hanging overhead. Making it on every influencers must see list.
Honestly, it’s super cute, and when we got there, no one else was around. But a few minutes later quite a few needy influencers took over.
Time to plan!
I hope all this honest insight, helps you plan your own Ireland adventure! There is so much to do and see in Ireland, you can’t really go wrong.
If you need help with where to stay check out my post, Ireland Road-trip: The Stays.
Where to catch the best Irish music and bites to eat? Ireland Road-trip: Pubs and Restaurant’s.
Want a day by day break down of how we fit it all in? Ireland Road-trip: The Itinerary.
I know this was a long post, so if you made it to the bottom, thank you for being here!
If you have any question while booking your own trip, don’t hesitate to reach out. Shoot me an email firstname.lastname@example.org or message me on Instagram @BrittanyMassey.