The Perfect Ireland Bucket List

Ireland's Blue Book shares the bucket list items for your next trip to the Emerald Isle.

Just on the other side of the pond, the rolling green hills and imposing castles are drawing Americans in droves this summer. The colorful doorways set against stone in quaint villages and the verdant scenery take visitors to a simpler time. A road trip across the relatively small island is easily accomplished, or pick an area and soak it in for a more relaxed vacation.


To make sure you don't miss anything during your visit, Ireland's Blue Book - an exclusive group of hospitality providers from hotels and restaurants- has put together a bucket list of must-see attractions across the island.

County Dublin

Howth Head

Any visit to Ireland will most likely begin in Dublin. Visitors could easily spend a week exploring the capital of the Republic of Ireland with tours of the Jameson Distillery, the Guinness Factory and St. Patrick's Cathedral. To add a touch of class to the trip, have afternoon tea at the Merrion Hotel or just stay there as a guest. The adjacent 18th-century Georgian manor houses the Restaurant Patrick Guilaud, a two Michelin star restaurant for a luxurious and delicious end to a long day in Dublin.

Get out of the city for a day and hike the Cliff Path or Howth Head. There's a trail for every energy level, and the jagged coastal cliffs are quintessentially Irish. Stay overnight in Howth Village (famous for being featured in James Joyce's Ulysses) at the King Sitric.

South Ireland: County Cork and Kerry

Irish Sky Garden and Crater
Courtesy of Liss Ard Estate

The southern tip of Ireland is known for quaint fishing villages, rocky beaches, and fresh seafood, so stop by Aherne's Townhouse and Seafood Bar for locally sourced scallops, oysters and lobster in Youghal.

In Skibereen, on the southern coast is a public art installation that offers a unique view. From above, the Irish Sky Garden and Crater appears to be a grassy crater, but from the inside, the garden seems suspended in the sky, creating a magical effect. Stay at the Liss Ard Estate for the night, an 1850's Irish country home now serving as a bed and breakfast featuring vast grounds and a lake.

Carrig Country House
Courtesy of Carrig Country House

In neighboring Kerry, you'll need a car to enjoy the jagged cliffs and harsh yet beautiful coastline along the 120 miles of the Ring of Kerry. This drive is best enjoyed slowly, stopping frequently to take in the sights. One of the stops should be the Carrig Country House, a large manor hidden by a wooded area while overlooking Caragh Lake.

Continuing with the relaxing and leisurely theme of Kerry, the spa at the Park Hotel Kenmare is a place to unwind. Enjoy a much-needed spa day, or just spend the day floating in the infinity pool overlooking Kenmare Bay.

Southwest Ireland: County Limerick and Clare

Lahinch Beach
Getty/Johnny Quinlan

The famous Cliffs of Moher are located in County Clare, but that is not the only reason to visit. The Blue Book suggests visiting Burren National Park, known for its unique flora and fauna, and oddly rounded geological creations.

Though not the first thing you would associate with Ireland, the chilly Atlantic waters in Lahinch, County Clare are surprisingly popular for surfing. You will need a full body wet suit, which you can get at one of the many surf shops in town. Stay at the Moy House, to fall asleep listening to the soft waves of Lahinch Bay. Surfing is hard work, so reward yourself with a seaweed bath at the Spa at No. 1 Pery Square in Limerick.

West Ireland: County Mayo

Clare Island Lighthouse
Courtesy of Clare Island Lighthouse

County Mayo is home to some pretty spectacular and interesting places to stay. A trip to Ireland must include at least one castle, so why not sleep in it? Belleek Castle was built in the 1820s, but the museum is filled with much older artifacts like medieval armor.

For a more secluded destination, take a ferry to Clare Island Lighthouse. This working lighthouse turned boutique hotel has a two-floor suite in the lighthouse tower, with a winding wrought-iron staircase leading to circular sleeping quarters with panoramic sea views.

The Wild Atlantic Way runs the length of the western side of Ireland, beginning in Kinsale, Cork and ending at the Inishowen Peninsula in County Donegal. This drive along the western edge of Europe is known for the rugged beauty of the coast but in Mayo, the Great Western Greenway offers a different experience. This 27 mile stretch of off-road trail is the way to see the Wild Atlantic Way without a car. The shortest hike or bike begins in Westport, the closest town to Clare Island Lighthouse.

Northwest Ireland: County Donegal

Drongawn Lough Donegal
Getty/Angelo D'Amico

The northernmost county in the Republic of Ireland may be a little out of the way, but it's still worth a visit. If you are planning a trip to Ireland in August 2019, stop by the Taste of Donegal Food Festival August 23-25. The festival features three days of back to back cooking demonstrations from some of Ireland's best chefs as well as hundreds of food stands and a firework display. To get away from the crowds but still be close by, stay at the Coolmore Manor House overlooking Donegal Bay.

Since the beaches in Donegal are renowned, a unique way to enjoy them by horseback. Nearing the northern tip of the island, Carrigart Horse Riding Centre specialized in horseback riding on beaches and sand dunes along the Drongawn Lough. After a long day of riding, stay near the beach at Rathmullan House, which has two miles of beach right out front.

Northern Ireland: County Antrim, Armagh, and Londonderry

Dark Hedges Ballymoney

Though technically a different country, it is still easy to visit Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland is known for the Causeway Coastal Route. If visiting from Donegal, start by visiting the town of Bushmills to take a tour of Bushmills Distillery which was established in 1784. Nearby is the Bushmills Inn Hotel, which is even older than the distillery.

Northern Ireland was the site of a few filming locations for the TV show Game of Thrones. Along the road stop by the small town of Ballymoney, check outthe eerie tree tunnel that served as the King's Road in the show.

On the way to the largest city in Northern Ireland, get a night of deep sleep at Ardtara Country House. Once you arrive in Belfast, visit the Titanic Belfast, which is an interactive museum about the ill-fated Titanic.