Whether you are from Ireland, are living here temporarily, or are just visiting, here are all the best things to do in Ireland. Be it summer or winter, these unique activities in Ireland are calling your name.
From the spectacular Cliffs of Moher to the magical Ring of Kerry — you will never want to leave once you visit even a handful of these wonderful destinations. Also, don’t forget to rent a car for your trip to Ireland. It’s the easiest way to get to and enjoy all the fun experiences Ireland has on offer.
Top Tip: Before heading to this enigmatic island, take at these 10 things you need to know about Ireland.
48 Fun Things to Do in Ireland | Unique Experience & More
Here’s my curated list of the top places to visit and things to do on the always green isle of Ireland — with some fun, quirky activities thrown in for good measure.
1. Spend a Night in a Castle
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 claimed fourth spot in the Condé Nast Traveler Readers’ Choice Awards for 2023.
Feel like treating yourself? A night in Ashford Castle is one you will never forget! Can’t afford that? You can always book into The Lodge! You can also do day trips from Dublin to see some of Ireland’s most beautiful and ancient castles and sites.
Consider joining a Dublin castles tour so you can admire some Irish history in a comfortable and convenient way.
Other Amazing Irish Castles
- Lough Eske Castle, Co Donegal (From €269 ($295) per night)
- Waterford Castle Hotel, Co Waterford (From €240 ($265) per night)
2. Watch Big Wave Surfers Ride Mullaghmore
Mullaghmore is known to be one of the biggest and most powerful waves in the rough Atlantic Ocean. So, 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 County Donegal, Mullaghmore is a must-see on your Irish bucket list. You can stay in either Bundoran or nearby Strandhill in Sligo, with both towns offering a great range of accommodations.
The town of Mullaghmore itself offers picturesque coastal walks and beginner surf lessons if you’re willing to brave to cold waters in a full-body wetsuit. As one of the top wave-riding destinations in the world, surfing is one of the fun activities in Ireland you shouldn’t pass up on.
3. Cycle the Mayo Greenway
The Mayo Greenway is an incredible 26-mile-long cycling path in the West of Ireland, connecting 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 boutique Ferndale Bed and Breakfast once there if you’re looking for some Northern Ireland hospitality. Mayo is one of the most beautiful parts of Ireland, making it an unmissable location during your Celtic Route trip.
You can cycle all the way around the island and visit some of Ireland’s wildest beaches and best Atlantic viewpoints.
PS: It’s far less touristy than the Cliffs of Moher but just as impressive.
4. Go Night Kayaking on Lough Hyne
This is by far one of the most exciting 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 both a lake and a Marine Nature Reserve. It’s 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 bioluminescent plankton, an unforgettable experience. They do night kayaking sessions almost every night during the summer and are weather-dependent for the rest of the year. It’s a mighty adventure for sure!
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. Don’t have time to go that far south? You can also enjoy a music-led kayak tour in Dublin, which is a lot of fun when the weather is good.
Read More: Unique Things to Do in County Cork
5. Take a Ferry to the Aran Islands
If you want to feel as if you have traveled back in time to a place where everyone still speaks Irish first and English second, then head to the beautiful Aran Islands. It’s also a place where a bike or a horse and carriage are the main methods of transport.
The Aran Islands are situated just off the west coast of County Clare and accessed by a regular ferry from Doolin. Inis Mor, Inis Meain, and Inis Oirr make this part of the country one of the best places to visit in Ireland.
You can do an Aran Islands day trip, but it’s better to stay in one of the welcoming local B&Bs or Hostels where you can experience true Irish hospitality. Rent a bike to get around the islands, visit the spectacular sea cliffs and ancient forts, and be sure to join in a traditional Irish sing-song down at the local pub.
6. Go Whale Watching in West Cork
West Cork is a fantastic location for a whale-watching tour, as this photo taken by Simon Duggan shows. The best time to go is after the summer months, from September to November.
Boat trips leave from both Baltimore and Union Hall and last for around four hours. Even if you don’t see whales, there are many dolphins, seals, and other marine life to watch out for. It has to be one of the most fun activities in Ireland for adults looking for the thrills and splashes of the Atlantic Ocean.
7. Watch the Sunrise Over Lough Tay
Even if it’s 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 cool things to do in Ireland.
Once you’ve seen the sunrise, spend the day hiking around Glendalough to see the famous Guinness Lake and Round Tower. You can also spot the ancient monastery and be sure to stop off for breakfast in their very cute tea rooms.
If you have a car and don’t mind the winding roads, it’s easy enough to drive from Dublin to Wicklow for a day trip. Otherwise, you can take a half-day bus tour, which brings you to beautiful Glendalough and the Wicklow Mountains.
8. Star Gazing at Blackrock Observatory
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 interactive storytelling on the castle grounds. Plus, it’s open seven days a week!
Blackrock Observatory is also a top venue and has a cute cafe restaurant that is a firm favorite for Sunday brunch, especially among locals with families. It’s one of the most fun things to do in Ireland for couples with kids.
9. 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 Glenquin House and is situated in a beautiful valley with Slieve na Glasha to the north and Mullaghmore and its national park to the south.
It’s open year-round, but you must book in advance, and don’t forget to get your classic ‘kicking Bishop Brennan up the ass’ photo.
10. Find Love at the Lisdoonvarna Matchmaking Festival
Ireland’s oldest traditional festival, The Lisdoonvarna Matchmaking Festival, is certainly one of the more unusual 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.
11. Visit the Historic Kilfenora Cathedral
Visiting Kilfenora Cathedral is by far one of the most unique experiences Ireland has to offer on its west coast. While it might look like yet another old Irish church from the outside, this place is truly special.
Dating back to 1189, the Kilfenora Cathedral is a medieval cathedral home to many of Ireland’s most important high crosses. In order to protect the most important high cross, the “Doorty Cross“, from the elements, an artist came up with the idea to build a glass roof over the cathedral.
So now it makes for an interesting visit and a great photo opportunity. It’s not every day you can see an almost 1,000-year-old tiny cathedral covered with a super modern glass ceiling.
12. 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 a great photo!
There are lots of day trips from Cork, short walking tours, or even day trips from Dublin to this part of Ireland.
13. Drive the Healy Pass in Cork
Healy Pass represents Ireland as you always imagined it, dreamed it or saw it as in the movies. The winding road that connects Cork with County Kerry is known as Healy Pass and is one of the most beautiful parts of the country.
It is a popular cycle route, but only if you’re 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.
14. 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 it is still remote enough that it remains a tight-knit community of storytellers.
To get there, you will have to make your way to Baltimore. You’ll then need to take a ferry for about 45 minutes, as the festival takes place on Cape Clear Island, which is 14km off the Irish mainland.
15. 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 center, and no tour guides.
They are also, in my opinion, a lot more spectacular. When the weather is crap, sea mist creeps in over the cliffs hiding the sheer drop below, creating an otherworldly atmosphere.
They are also one of the highest sea cliffs in Europe, and when you get there, you will see that Slieve League is more of a mountain by the sea than simply cliffs. So, if you’re looking for some cool experiences Ireland-style, head over to Donegal.
16. Join a Trad Music Session
You can do this pretty much anywhere in Ireland, be it the Cobblestone Trad Pub in Dublin, Gus O’ Connor’s down in Doolin County, Clare, or any number of pubs in Dingle, Killarney, or even Cork. If you happen to play an instrument, feel free to bring it along and join in.
When my cousin visited Ireland from Colorado, she brought her guitar, and many bars just let her play when she showed up with it — which she obviously loved!
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17. 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 in County Cork transports up to 6 people at a time across the Dursey Sound, where you can often see dolphins jumping through the water below.
When the weather is rainy or windy, it can be quite a scary ride — but one you should do nonetheless!
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!
18. Watch the Sunset at the Baltimore Beacon
Baltimore is one of my favorite 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 harbor below as fishing boats and ferries back their way to the mainland.
One of the main landmarks in the area, the white Baltimore Beacon, isn’t hard to find and is a fun uphill walk from the small village of Baltimore. Check into Caseys of Baltimore if you’re looking for a hotel with a view, and be sure to stop off for one of the best pints of Guinness in Ireland at Bushes Bar.
19. 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. The Ballyhooura Mountain Bike Trails are 92km long in total, but there are trails of varying length depending on your skill and fitness level.
Simply put, it’s a great day out and, by far, one of the most adventurous and fun activities Ireland has to offer!
20. 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. This is the place where keen swimmers and wannabe cliff jumpers wait their turn to show off their backflip skills. Even in Winter, you will find a few brave souls swimming here, come rain or shine.
21. Cycle or Drive the Ring of Kerry
The Ring of Kerry is one of the most popular and spectacular drives in Ireland, if not the world. It often makes it onto the top road trip lists by travel journalists around the world, and 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. There are some great Ring of Kerry tour options available, too, so don’t worry if you don’t have a car or are too scared to take on the Kerry roads!
22. Scream Your Lungs Out at Emerald Park
Since its opening in 2010, Emerald Park has been renowned for having Europe’s biggest wooden rollercoaster. It has become a popular choice for people looking for a little fun just outside of Dublin in County Meath.
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 leaves in the morning and returns late afternoon.
23. Visit Fota Wildlife Park
Ireland’s only wildlife park, Fota Wildlife Park, is a very special place. Many animals, such as Kangaroos, roam freely within the grounds, while larger African wildlife, like Giraffes and Zebras, are given such huge enclosures to wander around.
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.
24. Walk From Bray to Greystones
The Bray to Greystones walk is one of the once-in-a-lifetime experiences Ireland has to offer. It’s a really lovely way to enjoy your weekend or whenever you have a day off when in Dublin. It is a stunning coastal path along the cliffs and follows the railway line which connects Dublin with Wicklow and Waterford.
You can easily access it from Dublin by hopping on the DART at Connolly Station, and it’s 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 yourself 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.
26. People Watch Outside Grogans Pub
One of Dublin’s most authentic pubs, Grogans is an institution in Dublin. It’s situated on South William Street and serves the best pints and toasties for miles. Grogans Pub 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 in 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 a slice of Irish charm.
27. Dance to 90’s Pop Music in Copper Face Jacks
Ahhh, Copper Face Jacks. We hate to love it, and we love to hate it, but you can’t live in Dublin and not go along at least once. It’s a great old spot, 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 two people who met their future husband and wife in Coppers, so it may not be that bad after all.
Next Read: 9 Best Places to Visit in Dublin
29. Join a ‘Hooley Night’ at Johnnie Foxes Pub
Johnnie Fox’s pub claims to be the ‘Highest Pub in Ireland’ and is a seriously fun place to spend any night of the week. Open seven days a week, 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 collectibles and looking at photographs of all the famous people who have had a pint here, from movie stars to world presidents.
30. Go Blo Karting in Bundoran
While Bundoran is known as the surfing capital of Ireland, it also has a wide range of other Irish summertime activities on offer. So why not try your hand at some coasteering, kayaking, SUPing, or even 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 can spend the night and wake up to a lovely breakfast overlooking the ocean.
31. 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 day, 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.
32. Sip On a Pint at Reidy’s Sweet Shop and Pub
Also found in beautiful Killarney, Reidy’s Sweet Shop and Pub is certainly not for tourists, but you would be welcome should you come across it.
The bar looks like an old-fashioned grocery and sweet shop from the front. But if you walk through to the back rooms, 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.
33. 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. Get here on a gloriously sunny day between April and July, and 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, so it actually pairs perfectly with a Ring of Kerry trip.
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 thousands of years. It is one of a kind and one of the most unique Ireland experiences you could ever have.
34. Watch the Sunset at the Cliffs of Moher
The Cliffs of Moher are one of the most photographed pieces of land in Ireland, and it’s easy to see why. On a clear day, you can see for miles, while on a misty day, you may make the long trip here and 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 photographer’s dream. Just be careful not to get too near the edge! Check out some of the epic Cliffs of Moher tours if you can’t drive down yourself from Galway or anywhere along the Wild Atlantic Way.
35. 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 the Market.
Do the Howth cliff walk, which has spectacular views of Dublin Bay over to Dun Laoghaire. Then finish up back in Howth village and treat yourself to a fish and chips and maybe an ice cream. It’s a perfect day out that won’t break the bank.
36. 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 that roam freely throughout the park. You can get really close to them, and they are best photographed at dawn or at sunset.
This is by far one of the most fun things to do in Dublin that can be free!
37. Spend an Afternoon at Powerscourt Estate
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.
38. 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 and poultry to fruit and veg and Flynn’s famous sausages, a trip here is a treat for the senses.
When the Queen visited Ireland many years ago, she even took a small detour into the English Market to chat with the local producers. There is also a lovely cafe called Farmgate, which is one of the best places to eat lunch in Cork City.
39. 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 an activity that has almost become a tradition in Ireland and involves groups of friends getting together before Christmas to do the ’12 Pubs of Christmas’. It’s a festive-themed pub crawl involving costumes, rules, and way too many drinks.
40. 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.
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.
41. Watch a Hurling Match at Croke Park
Hurling is the fastest ball sport in the world and is very unique to Ireland. If you get the chance, scoring a ticket to the 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!
42. 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 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.
43. Watch a Rugby Match at Thomond Park
Besides the National sports of Hurling and Football, Rugby is the sport the Irish are most proud of. For such a small nation, we have an incredible National Rugby team. There a four amazing teams that represent 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. So watching a match in their home stadium, Thomond Park is an unforgettable Irish experience. (The fact I myself am from Munster has had no influence on this article whatsoever. Ahem.)
44. 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 of 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.
45. 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.
Enjoy 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, harbors, and the remote Maam Valley.
If you can’t drive yourself, consider joining a guided tour from Galway for the opportunity to visit Cong Abbey.
46. Soak In a Seaweed Bath in Strandhill
Nothing helps you recover faster from a tough day surfing, hiking, or sightseeing than soaking in a hot bath full of freshly harvested seaweed. Your skin and hair will feel unbelievably soft, and you will leave you 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.
47. Go SUPing on Lake Isle, Innisfree
Want to get back to nature? Try hopping on a Stand-Up Paddle Board with SUPFORALL. You can slowly paddle 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.
48. 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 Lights illuminating the Irish sky. For updates on when the Aurora will next be visible, sign up for Astronomy Ireland and read my detailed post on catching the Northern Lights in Ireland.
Final Thoughts on All the Fun Activities to Do in Ireland
So there you have it, a jampacked list of all the best things to do in Ireland. I’ve covered a vast range of activities, from the usual touristy attractions to some off-the-beaten-path experiences.
While I’ve covered a lot in the article, you may still want to do a bit more planning ahead of your Irish adventure. So, why not discover the best time to visit Ireland?
Last updated on November 30th, 2023 at 07:52 pm