10 Things You Must Do in Ireland
Discover What’s Worthwhile on the Emerald Isle
The Emerald Isle is becoming a more popular destination to study abroad. With it’s gorgeous green scenery, rich literary history, and pub-filled night life, it is no surprise College Tourists are flocking to the location. Whether you’re in Ireland for a whole semester or just on a quick holiday, there are a few things you must do. I’ve included items from around the country. From the coasts of Galway to the capital in Dublin, there’s no lack of exciting things to do.
When I was in Ireland, we took advantage of our first sunny day by heading to the Dublin Zoo. The zoo is the largest in Ireland at almost 60 acres, so there’s plenty to see and do there. The zoo features a Gorilla Rainforest, House of Reptiles, Family Farm, African Savanna, South American House, Kaziranga Forest Trail, and more. I enjoyed the African Savanna the most because my favorite animal is a giraffe, and there were several of those. The coolest past about the Savanna was that the animals all roamed together, so I got to see ostriches, zebras, and rhinos all within the same habitat. There’s a discounted rate for students (€12.80), so make sure you bring along an ID! (And don’t forget other ways to be thrifty too)
I’m admittedly not a beer drinker, but even I knew you can’t go to Ireland without visiting the Guinness factory. Almost any time I tell someone I studied abroad in Dublin, his or her first question is, “Did you go to the Guinness factory??” If you do like beer, you’re in luck because a pint of Guinness is included with your admission. The factory serves as a museum detailing the history of Guinness and the production process. At the end of the self guided tour, you can take in the sights of Dublin from the 360 degree viewing area. It’s a great place to sit back, relax, and sip your drink.
Cliffs of Moher:
It’s difficult to fully describe just how awe-inspiring the Cliffs of Moher are. Pictures don’t do them justice. We took a bus from Belfast, and our tour guide gave us 2 hours to enjoy the cliffs. I thought that sounded like a lot of time, but when he called us back to the bus, I wasn’t ready to go. I enjoyed taking in the view and feeling so small among the rocks. It was pretty cool to look out at the Atlantic Ocean and know that my home in America was way on the other side.
It may not be the most sanitary tourist experience, but it had to be done. I kissed the Blarney stone during my visit to Blarney Castle. Built in the 15th century, the castle is almost 600 years old. Not much of the interior rooms remain, but the structure is still in tact. It’s cool to walk through and realize people once lived there. As you walk through, you’re free to explore at your own pace, and the signs guide you through each area eventually leading you to the Blarney stone. Read up on the folklore surrounding it here.
During our time in Galway, we took a boat out to the Aran Islands for a few hours. My guides let us rent bicycles and explore the island. I enjoyed the chance to get out on my own and just bike around. I explored some ancient temple ruins from the 8th century and even fed a horse. A few of us hiked up to the top of the island to a spot called Dun Aengus. The site once once a prehistoric-fort. While there’s a few ruins left, the main draw is the stunning view of the Atlantic Ocean that even rivals the Cliffs of Moher.
St. Stephens Green & Merrion Square Park:
These two parks located in Dublin are perfect for an afternoon stroll while wandering through the city. The lush greens are simply beautiful. St. Stephen’s green features some small ponds we’re you’re sure to spot some wildlife or ducks swimming around. Merrion Square Park is home to the Oscar Wilde Statue. I was obviously excited to visit it because I’m an English major, but really anyone should visit it because it is an awesome statue.
National Library of Ireland:
You can’t check out any books, but you can peruse all you want. The National Library of Ireland is home to over 8 million items and houses the personal notes and collections of renowned authors like James Joyce and William Butler Yeats. While I was visiting, there was even a special exhibit on Yeats. If you have an Irish history, librarians are happy to assist you with researching your genealogy. The most beautiful section was the reading room:
You can find a Claddagh ring almost anywhere in Ireland, but Thomas Dillon’s hails itself as the original manufacture. Located in Galway, this storefront is one of many in a stretch of several charming shops. Rings are available in silver and gold. The tradition of how to wear the ring is very distinctive. If the owner of the ring wears it with the crown pointing towards the fingernail, he or she is said to be in love or married. To wear the ring with heart pointing to the fingernail, he or she is said to be unattached to anyone. Makes for a great souvenir!
Belfast is in Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom. It’s a little frustrating to have to change your Euros into pounds. However, Belfast has such a rich and troubled history, that it’s worth checking out. A few of us took a Black Taxi Tour. Our cabbie was great. He presented a lot of knowledge of the political history of Belfast and made sure to take us to the important sites. He was also pretty funny, which made for some great exchanges.
You really can’t go to Ireland without hitting up a pub and having a drink. Temple Bar in Dublin is a great place to start. There’s the world famous actual Temple Bar but the area is filled with plenty of other pubs to suit anyone’s needs. If beer isn’t your thing, I recommend trying a hard cider or opting for a great Irish whiskey like Jameson.