Ireland is a small country, but it has had a huge impact on the world stage. Its popular drinks, Guinness and Bailey’s, are exported around the world, major TV shows like Game of Thrones are filmed on its shores, and St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated by citizens of other countries in every corner of the globe.
1. Kiss the Blarney StoneImage by Per Waernborg from Pixabay
Do you know why so many Irish folks have the gift of the gab? From Johnathan Swift to Oscar Wilde, many of the world’s most popular writers came from the Emerald Isle.
Of course, it’s because they’ve kissed the Blarney Stone. The Blarney Stone can be found atop the towers of Blarney Castle. Thousands of visitors every day lean over the parapet to kiss the stone that will magically make them more eloquent.
Blarney Castle is a 600-year-old fortress located near Cork. The castle was built by Cormac MacCarthy, who was an important chieftain. Today, you can explore the dungeons, ruined towers, and landscaped gardens. But watch out for the poison garden, where you’ll find a selection of dangerous plants, such as ricin, opium, mandrake, and wolfsbane.
2. Celebrate the winter solstice in styleImage by hbieser from Pixabay
County Meath boasts one of the most important prehistoric sites in Europe — Newgrange. This masterpiece of Neolithic architecture is a passage tomb that was aligned to the heavens. At dawn on the winter solstice, a shaft of sunlight from a small opening above the entrance enters the chamber.
Newgrange was built around 5,200 years ago, meaning it predates the Egyptian pyramids and Stonehenge. It is surrounded by a ring of standing stones. Many of the larger stones around the site are inscribed with elaborate abstract act reminiscent of the later Celts. The overall sophistication of the complex implies that the people living in Ireland at that time were amongst the world’s most advanced.
3. Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in DublinImage by McElspeth from Pixabay
Where better to celebrate Saint Paddy’s Day? Every year, half the population of Ireland makes the pilgrimage to Dublin for St. Patrick’s Day. The city marks the day with the nation’s largest street festival and parade.
While in Dublin, visit the place where the black stuff is made — The Guinness Storehouse. The old Guinness brewery is the most popular tourist attraction in Dublin. Even the Queen has been!
When you take a tour around the seven-story building, you’ll learn about the history of stout, brewing, and the importance of marketing. And at the end, adults are treated to a free glass of Ireland’s most famous export.
4. Hike through some of Ireland’s most beautiful countrysideImage by Kim Broomhall from Pixabay
Killarney National Park is one of Ireland’s most popular attractions. Inside the park, you’ll find Muckross House. Queen Victoria stayed in this beautiful mansion, and you can follow in her footsteps by touring the gardens in a horse and trap. Those interested in history can visit the traditional farm and learn about the contrast between the lives of the rich and the poor in Victorian Ireland.
Killarney National Park also features three lakes. On the banks of the lower lake sits the 15 th -century Ross Castle. According to legend, the castle’s first owner sleeps under the lake. Once every seven years, O’Donoghue Mor rises from the water on a white steed. If you witness this, you’ll be blessed with good fortune for life.
The park is riddled with scenic hiking trails that enable you to admire the buildings, wildlife, and landscape. However, a word to the wise. Ireland is noted for its rainfall, especially during winter. Why else would it be so green? If you’re hiking around Ireland, you’ll need some sturdy, waterproof boots and a waterproof backpack to prevent your things from getting soaked.
5. Visit a haunted castleImage by Szilárd Szabó from Pixabay
Leap Castle in County Offaly is believed to be the world’s most haunted castle. It has featured in many supernatural TV shows, such as Ghost Adventures, Most Haunted, Scariest Places on Earth, and Ghost Hunters. They’re all trying to find the Red Lady, who is said to lurk around the castle clutching a dagger. Another supernatural creature appears accompanied by the stench of Sulphur.
If the castle had a peaceful history, perhaps the ghosts could be ignored or explained away. However, during building work in the early twentieth century, a shaft was discovered behind a wall. At its base were dozens of human skeletons impaled on wooden spikes. It is believed that the owners of the castle disposed of people they disliked by dropping them through the shaft onto the spikes.
6. Ride horseback across a beachImage by annetteJO from Pixabay
Horseback riding is a popular activity in Ireland. There are organized equestrian events in every county. A horseback riding adventure is a great way to explore Ireland’s beautiful coastline.
Ireland’s pristine beaches provide a smooth surface for a wild gallop. Feel the wind in your hair as your horse’s hooves plow through the foam. Meet other equestrian enthusiasts who share your love for horses and nature.
Along the west coast of Ireland, you’ll find the Wild Atlantic Way. This is a 1,553-mile tourism trail that passes through nine counties. There are many splendid beaches along the way that are perfect for a canter. And you’ll find riding stables in many areas that offer equestrian day trips to the beach and provide guided rides for beginners.
7. Walk on the Giant’s CausewayImage by fsHH from Pixabay
The Giant’s Causeway on the coast of County Antrim is one of the most famous natural landmarks in Ireland. Geologically, it was formed during a volcanic eruption when a lava flow solidified into regularly-shaped columns of basalt. However, according to legend, it is actually a road built by the Irish giant Fionn mac Cumhaill to reach his foe in Scotland.
Today, you can walk in Fionn’s footsteps across the gigantic cobblestones. However, you won’t be able to reach Scotland on this road because you’re not as tall as Fionn and your head will soon slip under the waves.
*The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of Finn McCools Tours.
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