17 Secret Things to Do in Cork – Hidden Ireland

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Cork is often overlooked as one of the top places to see in Ireland, with most tourists opting to stay around Dublin or heading West to the Cliffs of Moher and Galway. While Cork city is known to be one of the most friendly cities in Ireland, if not the world, I believe the real hidden Ireland is to be found in the Cork countryside.  Sometimes, if you explore far enough, you will find some true hidden gems hiding right under your nose. Having spent the last 2 months in Cork exploring home territory, below are my top 17 secret things to do in Cork. Sure, many might not be a secret to locals, but I would like to think they’ll come as a welcome surprise to many visitors. Please leave a comment with any more suggestions you might have. 

My Top 17 Things To Do in Cork

17. See Cork from above at the Model Railway Village

I remember visiting this place as a child and being fascinated with every tiny building and every miniature town, wondering how they made such perfect replicas of Cork’s best known towns and villages. Clonakility’s Model Railway Village is a dream come true for every kid and a return to childhood for imaginative adults! As the name of this places indicates, expect to see lots of model trains doing the rounds around the village as well as an old steam carriage which now acts as a brilliant little cafe. You can also take the Choo Choo Train from the village on a tour of Clonakilty Town.

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The Model Railway Village. Photo: www.modelvillage.ie

16. Walk the old railway line to Crosshaven

The story behind the stunning old railway walk from Carrigaline to Crosshaven is what makes this beautiful walk all the more interesting. The walk connects two of Cork’s villages and runs the length of the old railway line that used to connect Crosshaven with Cork City. The building of the walk, including digging the pathway, the placement of benches at intervals throughout the walk and the landscaping and planting of flowers was not done by the local council but was carried out by two local men, Bill Condon and Eddie Cogan in 1996.

things to do in cork

15. Visit the seals near Garnish Island

Garnish Island near Glengarrif is by far one of the most unique places to visit in Cork. Situated in a protected part of Bantry Bay, the island has a micro-climate unlike anywhere else in Ireland. Here you will find exotic plant life not normally found in Ireland, plants that flourish due to the sheltered nature of the harbour and the effects of the warm gulf stream which pass by the island. On the ferry ride to the island you will stop by the famous seal island, home to hundreds of friendly (and very loud!) fur seals! You should also look out for rare birds, such as white-tailed sea eagles, and you might even spot some dolphins.


14. Try out night kayaking in Lough Hyne

One of the top 50 unique things to do in Ireland, kayaking in the pitch dark in Lough Hyne is also one of the most unique things to do in Cork. You will set out before nightfall to let your eyes adjust gradually to the darkness, and once the sun has fully set you will paddle your way through the lake, mesmerised by the bioluminescent plankton that glows in the water while listening to interesting tales from your guide and learning all about Lough Hyne’s unique biodiversity as Europe’s only salt water lake. Contact Atlantic Sea Kayaking for more information.

Night kayaking in cork. Photo: Atlantic Sea Kayaking Facebook

13. Catch a trad session in Sin E

If you’re looking for cool things to do in Cork but are short on time, I highly recommend checking out a trad session in Sin E. One of Cork’s most loved pubs, Sin E will charm the pants off you. With live traditional music (and not the type you’ll find in Dublin’s touristy Temple bar district!!) many nights a week, an evening in here will be an evening to remember. Full of characters holding up the bar and some very interesting decor including an old barbers chair upstairs, this tiny but cosy pub is one of Cork’s true hidden gems. Located on Coburg Street – check out their FB page for events and updates.


12. Feed the ducks at The Lough

This is another fun thing to do within walking distance of the city. Feeding, or simple observing, the ducks up at The Lough has been an age-old tradition in Cork, especially among locals from the area. Below is fun video documentary about Cork’s famous “talking ducks”!

11. Go stargazing at Blackrock Observatory

Blackrock Obseratory is one of the best attractions in or near Cork City. This incredible castle turned stargazing observatory is both stunning to look at it from the inside and out. Ideal for kids and adults a like, a visit to Blackrock Observatory is one you won’t forget. If you’re not interested in space or the stars, you can go or a lovely walk near the castle and finish up in the castle cafe which serves up some delicious home cooked cork treats. 


10. Devour lunch at Ballymaloe House

A trip to cork, and Ireland’s, most famous cookery school at Ballymaloe House will send your senses into overdrive. First of all the delicious food you will be served is all sourced locally, with the menu changing daily, and prepared and cooked by students from the cooking school. Should you be lucky and visit when the sun is shining, you can enjoy a walk around the beautiful house and gardens and understand why so many Corkonians choose to host their weddings at this incredible venue. If you’re lucky you might even be introduced to resident owner, girl boss and celebrity chef Darina Allen!


9. Go surfing at Inchydoney Beach

Voted Ireland’s best beach, Inchydoney Island is one of the most spectacular beaches in Cork. Stretching on for miles on either side of the island (where the award-winning Inchydoney Island Hotel is located) this beach is also a top spot for surfing, especially in winter. Granted you’ll have to wear a horrible wet suit and the water will of course be absolutely freezing, but nothing will cure your hangover quicker or make you feel more alive than an early morning surf!


8. Adopt a donkey in Liscarroll

If you want to do some good while visiting Cork, adopting a donkey seems a pretty great place to start!! The Donkey Sanctuary at Liscarroll near Mallow is free to visit but you will be given the choice to “Adopt a Donkey” while there which means the money you donate will go towards the upkeep of the sanctuary and taking care of your donkey. Don’t worry, you don’t have to take the donkey home with you, but you can leave with the knowledge that your donation will help the donkey have a happier life!


7. Enjoy a pint, a walk and the view in Baltimore

Nothing beats a few pints outside either Bushes Bar or The Waterfront in Baltimore. With the best beer garden in Ireland and one of the most stunning views, a day trip to West Cork should definitely be one of the first things you do while visiting Cork! You can enjoy a freshly cooked pizza from La Jolie Breeze or some more traditional seafood sambos or freshly caught oysters, depending on your preference. Be sure to walk up to the famous beacon or hop on the ferry and head over to the beautiful Sherkin Island for the day.


6. Bid farewell to a cruise ship in Cobh

The coastal town of Cobh is famous for being the last port of call for the ill-fated Titanic before it sailed out to sea. These days the picturesque town, famous for its beautiful cathedral and the colourful ‘house of cards’ street, is also a great place to spend an afternoon. Many of the world’s biggest cruise ships make a stop here and it can be a lot of fun to see how big these ships really are in person. Waving them off as they sail out into Cork Harbour, regardless if you know anyone on board or not, is certainly a unique way to spend an afternoon in Cork! Be sure to stop by the small Titanic Museum while here – the memorabilia alone is well worth a visit.

deck of cards houses cobh

5. Go wild at Fota Wildlife Park

Before local people go wild at me saying “Fota is hardly a hidden gem”, it should be noted that just because us locals love Ireland’s only wildlife park does not necessarily mean that visitors will have a clue what it is or where it is!! First of all, Fota is NOT a zoo. The animals are in wide ope spaces and roam around freely, to a extent. The best part is waking (or taking the train) around the park and observing the giraffes munching on the trees or allowing a cheeky peacock to steal you sandwich at lunch! You can get right up close to the kangaroos which aren’t locked in anywhere and watching the monkeys swinging around their own private island could occupy the entire family for hours. Splash out on a stay at the beautiful Fota House if you really want to push the boat out, or simply head to Fota on the train for the day if you’re on a budget.

 Photo: Darragh Kane / Fota Wildlife Park

4. Eat your way around the city on a fab food tour

Last Saturday I spent my morning on a Fab Food Tour of Cork. I couldn’t believe how little i knew about my own city and how clueless I was about where the food I eat every day comes from. It was fascinating to do a food tour in my own city, to discover new foods, new restaurants and new people along the way. This is a way better alternative to your usual walking tour of a city and I highly recommend signing up to a food tour on your first day in Cork – you’ll be sorted for places to eat for the duration of your stay!


3. Enjoy panoramic views from Camden Fort

While Kinsale’s Charles Fort and James Fort have become popular tourists attractions in Cork, most people seem to forget about Camden Fort, close to Crosshaven. While the fort is sadly only open at weekends, it has been beautifully preserved and is well worth the trip down to Crosshaven. You can take stunning photos across Cork Harbour to Cobh in one direction, Spike island in an another and over to Roches Point light house in yet another direction. During the summer months you will find family fun days and some times the rooms are used for local events such as art exhibitions.

Fort Camden

2. Soak up the tranquility in Gougane Barra

By far my absolute FAVOURITE place in Ireland, Gougane Barra always has this special effect on me – pulling me, mesmerising me, reassuring me that Ireland really is as naturally beautiful as we all imagined. While it’s not exactly on, nor is it off, the tourist trail, I always find myself one of the only people there. You can easily go for a walk and suddenly find yourself totally alone surrounded by towering mountains and flat calm lake that almost seems magical. The church here, St Fin Barres Oratory, is both tiny and perfect at the same time. I will never get sick of seeing it reflected in the lake water, and I could easily return here every weekend and never get bored. If you’re looking for a place to stay nearby, I can recommend the Gougane Barra Hotel – you can’t possibly wake up to a more beautiful view.


1. Meet the blind goat farmer on Cape Clear Island

While it’s quite the mission to get to and involves a 45 minute ferry ride from Baltimore, once you arrive on Cape Clear Island you will never look back. This sparsely populated and very remote corner of Ireland is also predominantly a gaelic speaking district, which mean inhabitants speak Irish first and English second. There’s a shop, a pub, a school and an abbey and….not much else! If you walk to the top of the island you will find a sweet old man who sells delicious ice-cream which he hand makes from goats milk. The fact that he is blind doesn’t stop him at all, and a visit here will be a real highlight of any trip to Cape Clear. Be sure to check out the annual storytelling festival and if you want to stay somewhere truly unique, book into the luxury yurts for a bit glamping!


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Things To Do in Cork / Hidden Ireland



Visiting Skellig Michael – One Of Europe’s Hidden Wonders

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People often say that in life, “We don’t know what we had until it’s gone”. When it comes to world travellers, we often experience something very similar. We never truly appreciate the beauty of our own country until we are exploring a place thousands of miles away. It is only when we leave our homeland that we begin to look back at the place we once lived with a longing to return.

Having travelled outside of Ireland on and off for over ten years, it was amazing to return home recently and discover a tiny pocket of Ireland that I never knew existed.  Thus, when the European Commission approached me to write about one of Ireland’s best kept secrets, I knew straight away I simply had to write about Skellig Michael.

My parents had always been raving about this set of islands off the coast of Kerry, and were very keen to bring my sister, my cousin Karen who was visiting from America, and myself on a day trip there. We wouldn’t regret the early morning start, my Dad kept saying. 

Visiting Skellig Michael is quite the challenge!  

It is located 12km off the west coast of County Kerry, a rocky outcrop standing tall in the Atlantic Ocean. The island is home to a 6th century monastery, famous in archaeology circles the world over, over 4,000 Atlantic Puffins and spectacular views across to small Skellig which is home to the second largest colony of gannets in the world.

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Whether you desire to visit this magical island to admire the marine life such as dolphins, whales and seal colonies, to stand in amazement at the ancient monastic settlements or to spend hours photographing the cutest birds in the world, a trip here is one you will never forget.

On that fateful July day a few years ago, we totally lucked out with the weather and woke up to clear blue skies, sunshine and a cool breeze. At this point I should emphasis how special this was. First off, booking a trip and visiting Skellig Michael (and the Skelligs in general) is a tricky task. Each year, to preserve the island and it’s marine and bird life, only 13 boat licences are handed out to local tour operators who must be contacted personally by phone to book a tour. These boats only operate in good weather, usually between May and October and if the weather is bad no tours will go ahead. This means the amount of people who will ever get the opportunity to visit this incredible place is severely restricted.

To actual book a tour and wake up to a clear sky and sunshine? You have hit the jackpot!

The boat ride itself was way longer than I thought it would be, reminding me how remote these islands really are and how difficult it must have been to both build a monastery on such an inhospitable island and then to actually live there in solitude. When we eventually set down on the island, getting off the boat was tricky and we were warned to watch out step as there are very few railings on the island and the steps can be both very steep and very slippery.


irish puffins

Stepping foot on the island was like being transported back in time. The scenery is honestly out of this world, there are very few people around and I got this odd feeling that sort of made me realise I was in a very special place.



monastery bee hives skellig

While I found the ancient monastic settlement at the very top of the island beautiful, a true look back at history, it was the puffins that really blew me away.

They were EVERYWHERE. You could get up close and personal with them and you could help but laugh at how funny looking they are and how cute they act with each other. These adorable birds combined with the spectacular views of the Atlantic, and pods of dolphins passing by if you’re really lucky, made sitting on the steep steps of Skellig Michael and looking back at the Irish mainland one of the best travel experiences of my life.

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puffins kissing

skellig michael puffins


I have seen Angkor Wat at dawn, watched the sun set over the African plains as giraffes and elephants roamed on by, swam with dolphins in New Zealand and dived in the Indian Ocean with turtles and clown fish but to this day nothing beats visiting Skellig Michael on a fine summers day! A true moment of wonder.

Do you enjoy travelling in Europe? Share hidden travel destinations and wonders on the Wonder Map application on Facebook! You can win train tickets to travel in Europe as well as inspire others to take the road less known! Follow #MyWonderfulEurope and ‘Europe. Wonder is all around.on Facebook. Learn more about “Europe. Wonder is all around.”, the European Commission’s campaign promoting tourism, here.


5 Of Ireland’s Most Beautiful Drives


If there is one thing my home country knows how to do, it’s a mean road trip. For a country so small, it has an incredible amount of diversity and natural beauty that could rival any other destination. While our country roads are often scarily narrow and you might even spot a few patches of grass growing here and there, they also make for some of the most beautiful drives in the world.

From the rugged cliffs of the Wild Atlantic Way and the green fields and mountains in Ireland’s Ancient East, to the beautiful beaches of County Cork, driving through Ireland is an experience you will never forget.

Personally, I think one of the most beautiful drives in Ireland is following the coast road through West Cork, stopping off at the many beautiful fishing villages and coastal towns along the way, and then heading out to any of the hundred carry isles. Then again, being Corkonian, I am bound to be a little biased.

Here’s a look at what some fellow Irish bloggers had to say when asked about their favourite drives by Chill.ie (an Irish travel insurance provider….trust me, you never want to take a road trip without the all important travel insurance!!).

1. The Military Road, County Wicklow

One of the most popular drives in Ireland, thanks to its proximity to Dublin city centre, wild and barren Wicklow is by far one of the most beautiful drives in Ireland. Stopping off at the famous Guinness Lake and the round tower at Glendalough, this drive is a perfect one dat trip from Dublin’s fair city. Swimming in the lake or hiking and mountain biking the Wicklow mountains are optional, but highly recommended for the adventurous at heart!

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2. South mayo Scenic Drive

While much of Mayo is famous for its islands and world-class surfing, there is also an undiscovered side to the county in the form of perfectly formed lakes, rolling hills and rugged mountains. Home to Ireland’s most famous mountain, Croagh Patrick, a days hiking after a long drive is sure to clear the air.

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3. Atlantic Drive, Achill Island

Chill Island has to be one of my favourite places in Ireland. A new addition to this part of Ireland is the Mayo Greenway, something I listed in my top 50 unique things to do in Ireland. The Greenway is an amazing cycle route, allowing tourists to take a break from driving and discover Ireland’s West coast on 2 wheels instead of 4. Once you make in to Achill, be sure to check out Keem Bay, one of the most beautiful beaches in Ireland.

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4. The Giants Causeway to Belfast

I only did this drive myself for the first time late last year and was blown away my the beauty of the Causeway Coast. We actually took a slight detour and spent one day on Ratlin Island, famous for its Atlantic Puffins and the fact that you can see as far as Scotland on a clear day. Highlights of this drive were walking across the Carrick-A-Rede rope bridge and watching the sun set at the Giants Causeway. an experience that will stay with you for years.


5. Clonakilty to Old Head of Kinsale

This is by far one of my favourite drives in Ireland, if not the world. When a drive starts in a town as picturesque as Clonakility and ends in a town known as the gourmet capital of Ireland, you can’t really go wrong! That said, I would also suggest going a little further West to places like Schull and Baltimore to see the real beauty of West Cork.

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FlightHub’s Guide To Visiting Ireland


For many people, Ireland represents a scenic getaway that is steeped in tradition and mystery and the experience of visiting Ireland for the first time is a treat for all the senses. As someone who is actually from here and who has explored the architecture and nature of the country from top to bottom, Ireland to me simply feels like home.

To help first time travelers to Ireland, I wanted to write a piece detailing great places for first timers to visit should they make their way to Ireland. To do this I teamed up with FlightHub, an online travel agency, to see what places they recommended for first timers in my beloved home country. As FlightHub reviews destination information in detail all the time as part of their business, I felt they could provide me with more than enough information to put together a list of some of the best places to see when visiting Ireland for the first time. Here’s what they came up with:

Brú na Bóinne


Comprised of Neolithic mounds, chamber tombs, standing stones, henges, and other ancient structures, Brú na Bóinne predates the Egyptian pyramids and was built a degree of scientific and astronomical skill. The site itself occupies over 1900 acres and contains numerous graves and monuments. The highlight of Brú na Bóinne according to FlightHub is Newgrange, the central mound of the settlement that features an expansive burial chamber. Several of the structures were built with the stars in mind, corresponding with different solstices and equinoxes.

Cliffs Of Moher


The Cliffs Of Moher are spectacular cliffs that sit on the Atlantic Ocean. Ranging from 390 to just over 700 feet, these cliffs are one of the most popular tourist destinations in Ireland, receiving over 1 million visitors annually. Sitting on the cliffs is OBriens Tower, which was built during the Napoleonic Wars to serve as a lookout point. From this tower you can see much of the surrounding area including the Aran Islands and the Twelve Pins mountain range. Their natural beauty isnt limited to tourists, as these cliffs have been featured in many movies, television shows, and music videos as well according to FlightHub.

Guinness Storehouse


Home of Irelands most famous beer, the Guinness Storehouse is a living monument to the world famous beer. Built to resemble the famous Guinness pint glass, this facility allows visitors to learn about the brewing process and the breweries founder, Arthur Guinness. Located in Dublin, the Storehouse features a seventh floor lookout that gives you a view of Irelands most famous city. The original building, which has since been modified, was built in 1902 and was the first multi-storey, steel framed building in Ireland.

Skellig Michael


Once an ancient monastery, Skellig Michael has the look and feel of an evil lair. This island monastery sits on the larger of the two Skellig Islands and sits just offshore of the Northwest corner of Ireland. Originally built between the sixth and seventh centuries, Skellig Michael was continuously occupied until the island was abandoned sometime in the 12th century. To reach the monastery site you must first climb 600 feet to a plateau. Once there, you can see the remains of six beehive cells, two oratories, and various stone crosses and monuments. Like the Cliffs of Moher, Skellig Michael has cultural significance in film, most recently appearing in Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens as the planet Ahch-To. It will also play heavily in the following films in the series according to the nerds at FlightHub.

The Burren


Featuring a massive amount of genetic diversity and ancient artifacts, The Burren is a region in Ireland steeped in history. Housed within its 250 square kilometre radius lies over 90 megalithic tombs, portal dolmens, celtic crosses, and ring forts. Beyond the artifacts, The Burren features many plants that are native strictly to this small region. In addition, it is home to over three quarters of all of Irelands plant species. This plant life is home to a diverse ecosystem of bugs and small animals that thrive in this region due to its unique climate, which is unusually temperate. While this region is great for hiking and exploring, The Burren is also great for spirited rock climbers and spelunkers looking to explore the regions caves and cliffs.

Editors note: This post was sponsored by Flight Hub and the article is a result of shared ideas between the two of us. Let me know if there are any other great places you feel first timers should visit!

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Flighthub's Guide To Visiting Ireland


50 Unique Things To Do in Ireland


Whether you are from Ireland, are living here temporarily or are just visiting, here are 50 unmissable things to do in the Emerald Isle. Sure, some are popular tourist spots, but they are popular for a reason.

Others are places way off the beaten track, that only locals may know about, and might give you a more authentic taste of Ireland.

From staying in castles (check out this post about the Irish castle listed on Airbnb!) and visiting remote islands off the West coast, to night kayaking in West Cork, stargazing and searching for the Northern Lights in Northern Ireland, here are my top 50 unique things to do in Ireland.


50. Spend a night in a castle

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With so many beautiful castles, no visit to Ireland would be complete without staying at least one night. If money is not an issue, and you want the best of the best, check yourself into Ashford Castle in County Mayo which was voted ‘Best Hotel in the World’ earlier this year. If you’re on a budget you can put on a brave face, pack your sleeping bag, and pitch your tent at any of Ireland’s abandoned castles such as Castlefreak in Co Cork…which also happens to be one of the most haunted places in Ireland.

49. Watch big wave surfers ride Mullaghmore


Known to be one of the biggest and most powerful waves in the world, watching big wave surfers like Andrew Cotton ride into the cliffs on this monster of a wave is a sight you will never forget. Located just a few miles south of Bundoran, in Co. Donegal, Mullaghmore is a must-see on your Irish bucket list.

48. Cycle the Mayo Greenway from Westport to Achill


The Mayo Greenway is an incredible 42km long cycling path in the West of Ireland which connects Westport on the mainland with Achill Island. It passes by many picturesque villages and mountains and will allow for breathtaking views of the coast including Clew bay and its many islands. Treat yourself to a lovely night’s stay in the beautiful Teach Cruachan Bed and Breakfast once there if you’re looking for true Irish hospitality.


47.  Go night kayaking on Lough Hyne


This is one of the most unique things to do in Ireland and is well worth the drive down to West Cork. The night kayaking sessions take place on Lough Hyne, which is a marine both a marine lake and Marine Nature Reserve, home to an enormous variety of plants and animals which are not found anywhere else in Ireland. If you are lucky, every time you move your paddle the water below you will light up with bio luminescent Plankton, an unforgettable experience. If you’re looking for the best place to stay, head to Casey’s of Baltimore where you can enjoy live music and great pub food, as well as a perfect bed to rest your weary head.

46. Roll your car uphill on a magic road

Imagine driving down to the bottom of a hill, turning off the car  without putting the handbrake on and then watching in disbelief as your car slowly rolls back up the hill? Of course it’s just an optical illusion but an amazing one to witness. There are actually a few strange places in Ireland where you can witness that, which are detailed on this site.

45. Go whale watching in West Cork


West Cork is a fantastic location for Whale Watching, as this photo taken by Simon Duggan shows. The best time to go is after the summer months, from September to November when you have the best chance of seeing whales and if you are very lucky you might ever see a whale breaching, something you will surely never forget. Boat trips leave from both Baltimore and Union Hall and last for around four hours.

44. Watch the sunrise over Lough Tay


If even just for one day, get yourself out of bed at the crack of dawn and make your way down to the Wicklow Mountains. If driving from Dublin, you can make it in about 35 minutes and will be rewarded with one of the most beautiful sunrises over Lough Tay in Glendalough National park. It’s easy to do and it’s free, so this should definitely be on the top of your list of things to do in Ireland!

43. Star gazing at Blackrock Observatory

Aina Andreu from Barcelona looking at the stars during the Global star count in Orion at Blackrock Castle Observatory last Saturday as part of Earth Hour event. Pic: Miki Barlok

If you live in Cork or will be visiting during your trip to Ireland, be sure to stop by the Blackrock Observatory where you can star gaze with the experts. Located in a 16th century castle just outside Cork city, Blackrock Observatory is an attraction unique to Ireland and includes and interactive storytelling experience in the castle grounds. Open 7 days a week!

42. Pay a visit to Father Ted’s House in Clare


For any fans of Father Ted, a visit to Father Ted’s House in County Clare is a must for your Irish Bucket List. The house is known locally as Glanquin House, and is situated in a beautiful valley with Slieve na Glasha to the north and Mullagh Mor and its National Park to the south. Open year round but you must book in advance. And don’t forget to get your classic ‘kicking Bishop Brennan up the ass’ photo.

41. Find love at the Lisdoonvarna Matchmaking Festival


Ireland’s oldest traditional festival, The Lisdoonvarna Matchmaking Festival is certainly one of the more unique things to do in Ireland! It is also probably the longest festival in Ireland…lasting the whole month of September and includes midweek specials, dancing and a mini country music festival. You’ll meet Willie Daly, Ireland’s most famous matchmaker, and if you’re lucky you might even meet your future husband or wife! Accommodation for this popular international festival gets booked out very fast so be sure to book something well in advance.

40. Get muddy at an Irish Music Festival


Thanks to the shocking Irish summer, and downpours at random moments throughout the day / week /year, you are almost guaranteed mud at any Irish music festival. Slane, Longitude, Oxygen or even Electric Picnic are all wash outs, at least at some stage. As the saying goes “If you can’t beat them, join them”, so be prepared to get absolutely covered in mud and slide down hills and dive into mud pits with your new muddy, drunk friends. Sounds horrible but it’s a once in a lifetime sort of experience, only to be found in rainy Ireland!

39. Wave farewell to a Cruise Ship in Cobh


Cobh, then called Queenstown, was the last stop The Titanic made before heading off across the Atlantic. You can visit a small Titanic museum there as well as memorial statues to people who died on famine ships that also set sail from here many years ago. The picturesque town just East of Cork city still welcomes large cruise ships and the harbor is known to be one of the deepest in the world. Be sure to check out St Colman’s cathedral and the row of rainbow houses, known as The Deck of Cards, which make for great photo!

38. Drive the Healy Pass in Cork

y9347 Ireland, county Cork, Beara Peninsula. The street of the Ring of Beara crosses the Healy Pass. Irland, Grafschaft Cork, Beara Halbinsel. Healy Pass und die Strasse des Ring of Beara. - 08.2005. - NUR DIGITAL ONLY, 48 MB. Copyright: Berthold Steinhilber / Bilderberg

Ireland as you always imagined it, dreamed it or saw glimpses of in the movies. The winding road that connects Cork with Kerry is known as the Healy pass and is one of the most beautiful parts of the country. It is a popular cycle route, but only if your feeling fit as there are some killer hills to test even the fittest of souls. If you take on the challenge, however, you will be rewarded with scenic views of mountains, lakes and the Beara peninsula.

37. Tell a tale at the Cape Clear Story Telling Festival


 The Cape Clear Storytelling festival is one of the most authentically Irish events of the calendar year. It’s pretty well known, and attracts a nice crowd, but is still remote enough that it remains a tight knit community of story tellers. To get there you will have to make your way to Baltimore then take a ferry for about 45 minutes, as the festival takes place on Cape Clear island, which is 14km off the Irish mainland. This years festival takes place form the 4th to the 6th of September.

36. Walk along the Slieve League cliffs in Donegal


To many people, Slieve League is the older, more rugged brother to the Cliffs of Moher. They are certainly less tamed, with no fences, no visitor centre and no tour guides. They are also, in my opinion, a lot more spectacular, when the weather is crap and this sea mist creeps in over the cliffs hiding the sheer drop below. They are also one of the highest sea cliffs in Europe and and when you get there you will see that Slieve League is more of a mountain by the sea than simply cliffs. Well worth the trek to Donegal.

35. Dress up for a day at the races


Be in the Galway Races during the summer, Punchestown in the Spring or Leoparstown after Christmas, a day in the races is a brilliant day out for anyone living or visiting Ireland. Apart from trying your hand at betting, and hopefully winning, it also gives you a chance to put on your best suit or dress and parade around sipping Champagne, as if you’re at the Queens annual Garden Party.

34. Take a ride on Ireland’s only cable car


Did you know that Ireland has a cable car? Just the one, but a very cool one in a very random location it must be said. The cable car on Dursey Island transports up to 6 people at a time across the Dursey sound, where you can often see dolphins jumping through the water below. It is the only cable car in Europe that transports people across open sea water – yet another reason to put it on your Irish bucket list!

33. Watch the sunset at the Baltimore Beacon

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Baltimore is one of my favourite places in Ireland and once you go there you will see why. It is unlike anywhere else, and on a sunny day, you sometimes feel like you are in another world. Watching the sunset behind Sherkin Island, Cape Clear and Schull in the background is an unforgettable site. The whole sky turns orange and the sunset is reflected in the harbour below as fishing boats and ferries back there way back to the mainland,

32. Go mountain biking in the Ballyhoura Mountains


The Ballyhoura mountains on the Cork Limerick border are one of the best places to go mountain biking in Ireland…so good, in fact, that Kanye West brought Kim Kardashian here on their last visit to Ireland. Turns out they are semi normal people after all! The Ballyhooura Mountain Bike Trails are 92km long in total but there are trails of varying length depending on your skill and fitness level. A great day out!

31. Go kayaking with The Vikings


Did you know the part of The Vikings TV series was filmed on location in County Wicklow, just South of Blessington? Sometimes when there you can see they in costume sailing around Blessington lake in Vikings ships! Blessington also happens to be an amazing kayaking spot, so why not head down for a day trip and rent kayaks for as little as 15 euro.

30. Jump off the pier at Salthill


On those rare hot, sunny days in April, August and even late September, the Salthill Promenade in Galway is jam packed with keen swimmers and wannabe cliff jumpers waiting for their turn to show off their back flip skills. Even in Winter, you will find a few brave souls swimming here come rain or shine. A great Irish experience and another one for your bucket list!

29. Cycle or drive the Ring of Kerry


The Ring of Kerry is one of the most popular, and most spectacular, drives in Ireland if not the world. Often making into onto Top Road Trip Lists by travel journalist around the world, when you drive or cycle around this intensely green, mountainous region you will quickly see why. With lakes, mountains, V shaped valleys and even the stunning Dingle Peninsula, a drive here offers a compact taste of beautiful Ireland.

28. Scream your lungs out at Tayto Park

Since opening some new rides earlier this summer, including Europe’s biggest wooden rollercoaster, Tayto Park has become a popular choice for people looking for a little fun just outside of Dublin. A full day is probably needed if you want to do as many rides as possible and get a free tour of the Tayto factory where you will be offered endless free bags of crisps to take home with you. You can either drive there or take one of the buses from Dublin, which leave in the morning and return late afternoon.

27. Devour a Tayto crisp sandwich


A Tatyo crips sandwich is an institution in Ireland and no trip here would be complete without making one for yourself. All you need is 2 slices of bread, some butter and a packet of cheese and onion crisps. Some call it ‘survival food’, I call it heaven.

26. Watch in awe at the Cliff Diving Championships

While this competiton is not unique to Ireland, the location where it takes place in Ireland is unlike anywhere else in the world. The Red Bull Cliff Diving championships takes place on Inis Mor island, off the West Coast. Professional divers dive off the top of the cliffs, from dizzying heights, into a saltwater swimming pool below known as ‘the Serpents Lair. It will scare and excite you in equal measures.

25. Visit Fota Wildlife Park


Ireland’s only wildlife park, Fota Wildlife Park is a very special place. Many animals such as the Kangaroos roam freely within the grounds while larger African wildlife such as Giraffes and Zebras are given such huge enclosures to wander around that they too almost look like they are roaming freely. This really is an amazing thing to do in Ireland, and everyone should go at least once. If you are looking to stay nearby, check out the magnificent Fota Island House and Spa.

26. Walk from Bray to Greystones


If living in Dublin, or just visiting, the Bray to Greystones walks is one the things to do at the weekend or whenever you have a day off. It is a stunning coastal path along the cliffs, and follows the railway line which connects Dublin with Wicklow and Waterford. Easily accessible form Dublin by hopping on the DART at Connolly station, and a pleasant day out in both Summer and winter! Just wrap up warm!

25. Drive the Wild Atlantic Way


The Wild Atlantic Way is without a doubt the most spectacular driving route in Ireland. It has been named the longest defined coastal driving route in the world, and stretches the whole way from Donegal in the very North to Cork in the very South. It passes some of Ireland’s most stunning beaches, surf breaks, lakes, waterfalls, mountains and tiny coastal villages. Don’t rush it though…be sure to give your self a few days or even a week to see as much of this region as possible. Ireland may be small, but thanks to our small winding roads, it takes A LOT longer to get places than you might think.

24. People Watch outside Grogans Pub 


One of Dublin’s most authentic pubs, Grogans is an institution in Dublin. Situated on South William Street, and serving the best pints and toasties for miles, it is the perfect place to pull up a chair outside, sit back and watch as the world passes you by. This pub gets especially busy during the summer, during 12 Pubs of Christmas and often during the Dublin Web Summit when techies from around the world descend on Dublin and want s lice of Irish charm.

23. Dance to 90’s pop music in Copper Face Jacks


Ahhh Coopers. We hate to love it and we love to hate it, but you can’y live in Dublin and not go along at least once. It’s a great old spot really, a sprawling nightclub full of Gardai and Nurses and Farmers up from the country.  It plays cheesy 90’s pop as well as Irish rebel songs, and gets the crowd dancing til the early morning. I actually know of 2 people who met their future husband and wife in Coppers, so it may not be that bad after all.

22. Swim with Fungi the Dolphin


Fungi the Dolphin is Ireland’s favourite dolphin, and in a way our pride and joy. He lives on Dingle harbour and is one of the most friendly dolphins you will find anywhere in the world. Take a boat trip out with the locals and be treated to an acrobatics display by Fungi and his friends, just watch out as he sometimes comes VERY close and might scare the living daylights out of you! Wear your waterproofs and protect your camera from all the splashing!

21. Join a ‘Hooley Night’ at Johnnie Foxes Pub


Johnnie Foxes pub claims to be the ‘Highest Pub in ireland’ and is a seriously fun place to spend any night of the week. open 7 days, they have live music, Irish dancing and entertainment every night, as well as delicious traditional Irish food on offer. You could spend hours just wandering around this pub up in the Dublin mountains, checking out all the old collectables and looking at photographs of all the famous people who have had a pint here, from movie stars to world Presidents.

20. Go Blo Karting in Bundoran


While Bundoran is known as the surfing capital of Ireland, it also has a wide range of other adventure activities on offer from coasteering to kayaking, SUPing to Blo Karting on the beach. Blo Karting is a very unique adventure sport, involving sitting in a beach buggy with a sail and flying down the wide open beaches of Donegal. Try it out at the TurfnSurf hostel and surf school where you spend the night and wake up to a lovely breakfast overlooking the ocean.

19. Ride a jaunting car through Killarney


Killarney National Park is one of Ireland’s top tourist attractions, but it is also loved by locals. It is such a beautiful place to spend the dat,whether doing a tour of Muckross House, a boat trip on the lake or hiking to Torc waterfall. One fun way to get around is by taking a Jaunting Car with the locals who are sure to entertain with their funny stories and folklore.

18. Sip on a pint at Reidys Sweet shop 


Also found in beautiful Killarney, Reidys Sweet shop and bar is certainly not for tourists, but you would be welcome should you come across it. The bar looks lime an old-fashioned grocery and sweet shop from the front,, but if you walk through the shop to the back rooms (which looks kind of like someones private living room) you will find a small bar with locals sitting on high stools or on a bench sipping on pints or cans of beer from the fridge. A unique experience!

17. Photograph the Puffins on Skellig Michael


If you can go here at the right time of year, in time to catch the Puffins at their best, and on a gloriously sunny day, the experience you will have is one you will remember forever. Skellig Michael is a rocky island outcrop, a few miles off the coast of Kerry. It is very remote, which makes it difficult to get there and stops most people from ever trying. It is home to a 6th century monastery and was home to some very devout monks for 1000’s of years. It is totally unique to Ireland, and is one of the most incredible things to do on your trip to Ireland.

16. Watch the sunset at the Cliffs of Moher


The Cliffs of Moher are one of the most photographed pieces of land in Ireland and once you arrive here you will soon understand why. On a clear day you can see for miles, while on a misty day you make the long trip here and may see nothing. That’s all part of the charm, the wickedness of nature and the ever-changing Irish weather. If you do make it here, try and stick around for the sunset, it is one of the most beautiful sights in Ireland and is honestly a photographers dream. Just be careful not to get too near the edge!

15. Scoff a bag of Fish and chips in Howth


Howth is an easy day trip from Dublin, less than 30 minutes on the DART, and is home to Dublin’s best fish and chip shop, Beshoffs. Do the Howth cliff walk which has spectacular views of Dublin bay and over to Dun Laoghaire, then finish up back in Howth village and treat yourself to a fish and chips and maybe an ice-cream. A perfect day out that won’t break the bank.

14. Visit the wild deer in Phoenix Park


Did you know Phoenix Park is the biggest city park in Europe? So big, in fact, that it is home to Dublin Zoo, a cafe / tea shop, the house of the President and 100’s of wild deer which roam freely throughout the park. You can get real close to them, and they are best photographed at dawn or at sunset.

13. Spend an afternoon at Powerscourt Estate


Powerscourt Estate in County Wicklow, is another beautiful place to visit that is easily accessible from Dublin. If you are not driving, there is an open top tour bus that stops here throughout the day. Featuring expansive gardens, water features, beautiful pathways, a walled garden and two championship golf courses, Powerscourt is known to be home to the most beautiful gardens in Ireland and one of the most exclusive hotels in the country.

12. Explore the food haven that is the English Market


The English Market in Cork is one of a kind. Selling locally made produce from fish, to poultry to fruit and veg and Flynns famous sausages, a trip here is a treat for the senses. When the Queen visited Ireland a few years back, she even took a small detour into the English Market to chat to the local producers. There is also a lovely cafe called Farmgate, which is one of the best places to eat lunch in Cork city.

11. Take part in the 12 Pubs of Christmas 


If you are living in Ireland, or you will be visiting in December, you would be forgiven for becoming overwhelmed by the amount of large drunken groups walking around wearing crappy Christmas Jumpers. It’s a tradition that must be nearly a decade old at this stage, and involves groups of friends getting together before Christmas to do the ’12 Pubs of Christmas’, a festive themed pub crawl involving costumes, rules and way too many drinks.

10. Swim at the Forty Foot

Another Irish festive tradition is the Christmas Day swim. While not unique to Ireland, it is growing in popularity each year and hundreds if not thousands of people can be seen jumping off piers and rocks or running into the cold water on beaches around Ireland every Christmas day. The best place to join the crowd is at the Forty Foot, a popular Dublin bathing spot just South of Dun Laoghaire.

9. Watch a Hurling match at Croke Park


Hurling is the fastest ball sport in the world is very unique to Ireland. If you get the chance, scoring s ticket to al All-Ireland final in Croke Park is the most exciting, enthralling and uniquely Irish experience you will have throughout your entire stay. Just be careful which team you decide to support!

8. Join a live music session in Doolin

Doolin in County Clare is the best place in Ireland to watch traditional Irish music sessions. Unlike Temple Bar, where they simply play for the tourists, these music sessions are very real and the music you hear will be miles different from any live music you listen to in Dublin. Just head along to any of the village pubs and feel free to bring your own instrument or just clap and sing along.

7. Watch a Rugby match at Thomond Park

Heineken Cup 8/12/2013 Munster vs Perpignan The Munster team take to the field Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/James Crombie

Besides our National sports of Hurling and Football, Rugby is the sport us Irish are most proud of. For such a small nation, we have an incredible National Rugby team and on a smaller level 4 amazing teams that re[resent each of Ireland’s four provinces. The Munster supporters, the Red Army, are known to be some of the loudest, most excitable, loyal and fun to be around which makes watching a match in their home stadium Thomond Park and unforgettable Irish experience. (The fact I myself am from Munster has had no influence on this article what-so-ever. Ahem.)

6. Climb Croagh Patrick


One of the most rewarding things to do in Ireland is to climb any of our tallest peaks. One such mountain, Croagh Patrick, named after our Patron Saint, allows for spectacular views over Clew Bay in County Mayo and out over Clare Island. You can either join the annual pilgrimage up the mountain on the last Sunday in July, or go at your own pace any other time of the year. Be warned that conditions can change quickly and it is no easy climb, with loose shale and rocks making the last few hundred meters quite the challenge.

5. Get lost in Connemara


Connemara in County Galway is one of the most beautiful regions of Ireland. It is also quite special as it is one of the last remaining Gealtacht (Irish speaking) areas of Ireland.Spend a day drive through here and you will be rewarded with lakes that reflect the surrounding countryside like a mirror, small seaside villages, deserted beaches and harbours and the remote Maam Valley. This is one the most unspoiled regions in all of Europe.

4. Soak in a seaweed bath in Strandhill


Nothing helps you recover faster from a tough days surfing, hiking or sight seeing that soaking in a hot bath full of freshly harvested seaweed. Your skin and hair will feel unbelievably soft and you will leave feeling relaxed and rejuvenated. I loved the Voya Seaweed Baths on my last visit to Strandhill and would totally recommend their one hour Seaweed bath and steam room package.

3. Go SUPing on Lake Isle, Innisfree

Want to get back to nature? Try hopping on a Stand Up Paddle Board with SUPFORALL and slowly paddling your way around Lake Isle in County Sligo, also known as the ‘Adventure Capital of Ireland’. So confident are they here that they can teach you how to SUP (and not fall into the lake!), that you can leave your clothes on and paddle out onto the lake without having to put on a horrible wetsuit! Kids, adults and even dogs are welcome here year round for one of the best outdoor experiences in Ireland.

2. Treat yourself to Teddy’s in Dun Laoghaire


Some people might wonder why ‘having an ice-cream’ can be classified as ‘something to do in Ireland’ but when you head out to Teddy’s in Dun Laoghaire, you’ll realise what makes it so special. Join the ever-long queue, then spend an hour strolling around the pier and watching both small sailing boats and larger cruise lines heading our across the harbour. The perfect way to spend an afternoon.

1. Catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights


Keeping the best for last. Over the past few years, something quite incredible has started happening in Ireland. Photographers have started to capture the Northern Lights dancing in the sky in the Northern parts of the country. There is even a website called Donegal Skies, which has a breathtaking collection of photos taken by Astrophotographer Brendan Alexander of the Northern lighting up the Irish sky. For updates on when the Aurora will next be visible, sign up to Astronomy Ireland.

Looking for cool places to stay in Ireland? Check out Ireland’s Most Unique Airbnb’s.

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Looking for more travel inspiration? Read my guide to Maldives On a Budget!