Must-Visit Locations for Your Ireland Road Trip
Ireland is a beautiful country, with a rich heritage and stunning landscapes. It’s the perfect location for a road trip and below are some of the destinations that should be on your Ireland road trip list.
Glendalough Monastic City
Glendalough is in east Ireland, not far from the city of Dublin. It is home to an early Christian monastic settlement, founded in the 6th century and located in a glaciated valley with two lakes. Most of the buildings that are still standing today are from the 10th to 12th centuries, including a 30m high tower.
The settlement faced numerous attacks by Vikings but survived as one of Ireland’s most important ecclesiastical sites until it was largely destroyed by the Normans in 1214 AD. The site now has an interactive visitor centre with plenty of information about the history of the site, with friendly and knowledgeable staff.
Kilkenny Castle is located in Kilkenny in south-west Ireland. It was originally built in the 12th century to control a fording-point on the River Nore. The castle has since been rebuilt and extended. It has had various uses over its 800 years, including becoming the seat of powerful Irish families and playing a role in the Catholic rebel movement, Confederate Ireland.
Kilkenny Castle is now open to visitors all year round, who can walk around the grand house and large grounds and gardens. Tickets are free and will sometimes include special exhibitions in the house.
Rock of Cashel
The Rock of Cashel is located in County Tipperary in southern central Ireland. It is a collection of Celtic art and medieval buildings, including a Romanesque chapel, a Gothic cathedral and a 15th-century Tower House. It’s also known as the Cashel of Kings and was once the seat of the kings of Munster. According to legend, St Patrick visited the Rock of Cashel to convert King Aenghus to Christianity in the 5th century.
Most of the remaining buildings are from the 12th and 13th centuries. The chapel contains the only surviving Romanesque frescoes in the country. Admission is free but tickets usually have to be pre-booked online.
The Blarney Stone
The Blarney Stone is built into the battlements of Blarney Castle, close to the city of Cork in south-west Ireland. There has been a tradition of visitors kissing the Blarney Stone for over 200 years, with the legend saying that those that do will be given the gift of eloquence. Whilst visitors once had to be held by their ankles and lowered over the battlements to reach the stone, now people are able to just have to lean backwards and hold onto the safety railings.
Blarney Castle and gardens offer a great road trip destination in their own right. Visitors can find out the long history of the site, from the 10th century to present day.
The Ring of Kerry
The Ring of Kerry is a 179km circular route in County Kerry in south-west Ireland. With spectacular views across the Iveragh Peninsula, it’s proved a popular road with tourists. It’s not only landscapes that visitors can enjoy, with rolling green hills, expansive beaches, and beautiful lakes and waterfalls, but there’s plenty of history too. Along the route are grand houses and ancient castles, like Muckross House and Staigue stone fort.
As well as driving the route, visitors can hike or cycle, with alternative and quieter routes available if you want to avoid traffic. The Ring of Kerry is also an ideal location if you want to visit Skellig Michael.
Skellig Michael is a twin-pinnacled crag off the south-west coast of Ireland. “Skellig” is derived from the Irish word for “splinter of stone” and Michael refers to the archangel Michael. It was largely uninhabited until an early Christian monastery settled there in the first century AD.
Movie-goers will recognise it from Star Wars: The Last Jedi and tours to filming locations are available on the island. As well as a spectacular landscape and rich history, Skellig Michael is also home to thousands of birds, like puffins, gannets and guillemots. The island is only accessible by boat, and trips will be cancelled in extremely bad weather.
Cliffs of Moher
The Cliffs of Moher are located on the west coast of Ireland, in County Clare. They’re about 14 km long and rise 214m high at their maximum point. The cliffs are named after an old fort that stood on Hag’s Head, the southernmost point of the cliffs. Now Moher Tower, a ruin of a Napoleonic-era watchtower, stands in its place.
The cliffs are part of the Burren and Cliffs of Moher UNESCO Global Geopark. There is an eco-friendly visitor centre built into the hillside with plenty of information about the cliffs and their history.
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