Are you guilty of wasting your weekends and your days off? I am, despite having quite a large Irish bucket list. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good sleep in at the weekend, but you can’t do that every weekend, or you shouldn’t anyway.
Whether your interests lie in extreme adventures, cultural exhibitions or famous bucket list attractions, you may be surprised to learn that Ireland has it all.
While you might want more than a day for some of these activities, they’re definitely and extremely doable in a single day, such is the benefit of living on a small island. So get up off that couch and explore Ireland. You don’t need to board a plane for these incredible day trips.
Cliffs of Moher
Stand on the edge of Ireland’s west coast and take in the incredible view that surrounds you. The rugged Cliffs of Moher are the ultimate symbol of Ireland’s rich and varied landscape.
With a detailed visitors’ centre and a number of attractions in the surrounding areas (Aran Islands and The Burren), a day in Clare is a day well spent. Be sure to also check out our food guide to Clare.
Be mesmerised by the 40,000 interlocking basalt columns in Co. Antrim and truly embrace The Giant’s Causeway, one of Northern Ireland’s most spectacular attractions, if not the most incredible on the entire island. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Giant’s Causeway needs to be seen to be believed.
It can sometimes be difficult to find activities that will appeal to both children and adults, but I can pretty much guarantee that big and small kids of all ages will enjoy visits to Dublin Zoo (I may be a fan of the elephants and red pandas), Fota Wildlife Park and Blarney Castle.
Other solid options are Tayto Park and Dublin’s Epic Museum, which is an impressive interactive museum that takes you through the history of Irish Emigration – something people aged 1 to 100 would love.
For those with a sweet tooth, a visit to The Chocolate Garden of Ireland is a magical experience, with chocolate-making workshops, tours and tastings. You also have the beautiful Rathwood woodland located right next door.
Waterford’s Viking Triangle
Waterford is Ireland’s oldest city, a port city in the south-east with a rich viking history. While the city boasts a number of modern activities and festivals, including Spraoi and Wintervel, a stroll through Reginald’s Tower, the Medieval Museum and Bishop’s Palce will take you right back to the past.
With all the Viking Triangle has to offer, Waterford city is the perfect place for a family day trip. We’ve also compiled a food guide to the county, just in case you want to prolong your stay in Waterford.
Titanic Belfast is the world’s largest Titanic visitor experience. This fascinating exhibition takes visitors through nine interactive galleries, each one focusing on a different aspect of the tragic Titanic tale.
The impressive Titanic Experience building is aptly located in Belfast’s Titanic quarter, where the fated ship was constructed. An incredible attraction that will appeal to people of all ages and all varying interests in Titanic.
Easily accessibly from many different locations, Kilkenny is a small medieval city in the south-east of Ireland. Famous for its well-preserved monastic ruins, Kilkenny is a history lover’s dream, from exploring Kilkenny Castle to walking the medieval mile and experiencing 800 years of history in the city’s fascinating Medieval Mile Museum.
Older than the great pyramids of Egypt, Newgrange is a 19 metre long passage tomb located along Ireland’s Ancient East. Aligned with the rising sun, Newgrange is spectacular during the summer and winter solsistes.
There’s a visitor centre in the local and if you fancy venturing a little further, you can prolong your day trip by visiting nearby Trim Castle and the Hill of Tara.
Trace the important political history of Ireland with a historical tour of Dublin. Utillise DoDublin‘s hop-on hop-off bus tours or get around solo and visit key sites like Kilmainham Gaol, Glasnevin Cemetary, the GPO museum and The Garden of Rememberance.
Game of Thrones
Delve deeper into the rugged landscape of Northern Ireland and explore key filming locations from the popular Tollymore Forest Park, Co. Down, Dark Hedges, Armoy, Co. Antrim and The Mourne Mountains, Co. Down.
Live out your Jedi dreams and let the force guide you to Skellig Michael, the remote island off the coast of Kerry. The UNESCO World Heritage site has come to prominence recently thanks to its appearance in Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
If you happen to be in the middle of your adventure through the beautiful limestone landscape of The Burren, you might feel a sudden urge to have a cup of tea.
The Father Ted lover in you is calling out for a true Craggy Island experience. Fans of the TV show can have a cup of the hot stuff in Father Ted’s House, or Glanquin Farmhouse as it’s known. Tempted? Ah, go on!
Ireland is an outdoor lover’s dreamland. With mountain hikes, cycle paths and much more, you can happily wile away the hours outside year round, if the rain doesn’t bother you of course.
Exploring the various trails along the Wild Atlantic Way, Munster Vales, Ireland’s Ancient East and the Causeway Coast will delight you, as will adventures up Crough Patrick, Glendalough and the Wicklow Mountains. Don’t forget Killarney National Park and the Aran Islands too.
For thrill seekers, visit Donegal for some sea stack climbing and be sure to check out Belfast’s newly opened sky diving arena.
Whiskey lovers have a wealth of tours available to them on the island of Ireland. If you’re visiting Dublin, you can cross Teeling Distillery and the excellent Jameson experience on Bow Street off your list.
Throughout the rest of Ireland, you can visit Walsh Whiskey, The Old Bushmills Distillery, Dingle Distillery, Slane Whiskey Distillery and of course, the Jameson Distillery in Midelton, Co. Cork. Perhaps a good starting point for Irish whiskey would be a tour of the Irish Whiskey Museum in Dublin.
Beer & Cider
Visit one of Ireland’s most popular tourist attractions, the Guinness Storehouse, while you’re in Dublin. From stunning city views to pulling your own pint, get a bit of the black stuff into you.
Museums & Galleries
There’s no shortage of museums and galleries to entertain and educate in Dublin, from the National Gallery of Ireland to Glasnevin Museum, The Little Museum of Dublin and my personal favourite, the Chester Beatty Library.
For families, a visit to Malahide Castle and Gardens, the Museum of Natural History and the interactive Dublinia will keep your kids entertained all day.
Around the country, Muckross House will delight visitors young and old, as will Cobh Heritage Centre, a somewhat emotional tour through Irish naval and military history.
While you’ll find traces of Ireland’s literary history in all corners of the country, from wandering Sligo and paying your respects at Yeats’ grave to Limerick and Kerry and beyond. But for the purpose of a good literary day trip, we’ll stick with Dublin.
One of only four UNESCO Cities of Literature in the world, Dublin is associated with four winners of the Nobel Prize for literature, including George Bernard Shaw, W.B Yeats, Seamus Heany and Samuel Beckett. Be sure to pay a visit to the Dublin Writers Museum as well as a few exhibitions dedicated to particular writers, including the James Joyce Centre.
If you don’t have time to attend any of the museums dedicated to our literary greats, then why not hear about the writers themselves. Talking Statues Dublin enables you, with the aid of your smartphone, to get a call from key literary figures.
You can also pay a visit to Trinity College and walk in the footsteps of the university’s alumi, including Jonathan Swift, Samuel Beckett, Bram Stoker and Oscar Wilde.
If you want a more unique experience, both the Abbey and Smock Alley offer backstage tours, taking you on a journey through the history and cultural significance of the theatres.
Sarah has always had a great love of travel, food and photography. Following her journalism degree at DCU, she developed a passion for travel writing while living in Spain.
Sarah loves exploring new places and sampling the local cuisine. Working with TheTaste.ie combines her love of food and travel.
A big people person, especially when it comes to hearing other people’s stories, Sarah loves interviewing chefs, food producers and more.