- Seeing a traditional music session at a proper Irish pub: While there are plenty of shows for the tourist crowd, nothing beats the energy, atmosphere, and authenticity of a genuine small-town traditional music session. The instructions for getting the most out of a session are simple: Buy a pint, grab a seat (preferably one near a smoldering peat fire), and wait for the action to begin. We’ve listed some of the best places around Ireland, including pubs such as the Long Valley in Cork or Gus O’Connor’s and McGann’s in little Doolin, County Clare.
- Getting lost down the back roads of County Kerry: It’s Ireland’s most visited county by far, and if you stick to the beaten path, in summer it’s thronged with tourists. Instead, veer off onto the winding back roads and allow yourself to get gloriously, hopelessly lost. There are always new discoveries to be made down its breathtaking byways.
- Touching the bullet holes in the walls of the General Post Office (Dublin, County Dublin): It’s hard to overstate what a potent national symbol the G.P.O. is. Yes, it’s still a working post office, but Patrick Pearse read his independence proclamation from its front steps in 1916 (the original document is displayed inside) and in 1922 it was the scene of fierce civil war fighting. Bullet scars still pock the facade. Touch them and you touch history.
- Walking down the long stone passage at Newgrange (County Meath): Sacred to the ancients, this passage tomb is more than 5,000 years old—that’s older than the Egyptian pyramids or Stonehenge. Wander down the atmospheric central tunnel and try to visualize how many generations have passed since it was built—it’s a mind-blowing exercise.
- Browsing the Old English Market in Cork (County Cork): Cork is a county made for foodies. In addition to Kinsale, a coastal village that’s become a hub for top restaurants, the eponymous main city is home to one of the country’s finest (and oldest) food markets. A walk through here is a feast for the senses.
- Driving through the Burren (County Clare): Ireland is full of memorable landscapes, but this is the most unique. For miles, this exposed coastal countryside has a haunting, alien feel, although it’s strikingly beautiful too. Try to be here as the sun goes down, when the craggy limestone planes turn an evening shade of red.
- Hiking the path down to the Giant’s Causeway (County Antrim): Taking the half-mile walk down to this extraordinary natural wonder—37,000 columns of basalt sitting at the base of cliffs along the Antrim Coast—is like passing through a fantasy landscape. Geologists claim these rocks were formed millions of years ago by cooling volcanoes. But don’t you prefer to believe they were really made by giants, as the ancients thought?
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.