Experiencing the grandeur of Ireland partially filled my pang of wanderlust for the country. Starting at Dublin, traveling around the entire country, and ending back at Dublin was sensational. However, after touring, my desire to dig deeper and explore more is piqued.
Touring Ireland offers both experiences and iconic adventures and if done well should result in a, “I want more” feeling. This means your journeys in Ireland exceeded your expectations but leaves you craving more! Now, is an opportunity to grow your bucket list options.
Join me, visiting 27 iconic adventures and experiences throughout Ireland, as I travel, eat, adventure and repeat my journey!
27 Iconic Adventures and Experiences Throughout Ireland
Our trip was hosted, and all information contained within is based on my experience traveling with CIE TOURS International. Imagery and content are all subject to copyright.
Fret not, 27 is just a small part of iconic adventures and experiences throughout Ireland. How much can a tour of Ireland crunch in? You are about to find out! Buckle up and let’s go!
Every day before our trip, I would try to imagine what our tour of Ireland would be like. There is so much to see and do. Where do you begin planning? Also, where should your trip start from? Killarney? Dublin? There are so many unknowns.
Being fortunate enough to be a guest of CIE TOURS International took the burden of planning off of me, and allowed me to just enjoy! The 27 iconic adventures and experiences I am about to share only cover the bigger parts of our tour. Please note, that I could have written forever about all the ‘travel deeper’ moments we had. Get ready for an experience of a lifetime!
9 Days 8 Nights & 27 Iconic Adventures and Experiences In Ireland
Our decision to embark on a 9 Day, 8 Night Irish adventure was one of the best things Michael and I have ever made. We traveled from the USA to Ireland and met up with our tour operator host CIE TOURS International in Dublin.
As a travel writer, globetrotter, and experienced jet lag athlete, I changed our itinerary to reflect our needs. I highly suggest you do the same!
We did not just go for the 9 Days and 8 Nights, we extended our time in Ireland by 2 nights before and 1 day after the tour ended (please note, this article does not reflect those extra itinerary days we created)
Do this for your own well-being. The time change is a wicked beast and personally, I am not a plane sleeping kind of gal! Some people on our tour arrived on the day of the tour and were with headaches and severe fatigue. That just kills the joy of enjoying what you have traveled so far for.
Game Planning the 27 Iconic Adventures and Experiences Throughout Ireland
We chose CIE TOURS International for both their stellar reviews and to lend a grand overview of Ireland. As most of you do, we read reviews, and we wanted to experience Ireland with the ability to enjoy it.
This basically means that we did not want the challenge of both navigating and driving. Instead, we wanted to watch, adventure and enjoy and then decide which cities we might return to for further adventures in the future. Driving was left up to our local guide and professional tour leader, BRIAN.
CIE TOURS International and Touring Via Bus – 27 Iconic Adventures and Experiences Made Easy
Another reason we chose to travel with CIE TOURS International is that we wanted to be able to see and enjoy, as well as experience Ireland. We’ve driven ourselves around Italy, and as much fun as it is, we surrendered to traveling a different way.
What we learned, is that traveling on a tour is a very effective way to truly get a flavor for the area, a sample. Yet, you are able to say, ‘Oh yes, I’ve been there it’s beautiful and I can’t wait to go back!”
27 Iconic Adventures and Experiences Throughout Ireland – What You Will See Over 9 Days and 8 Nights Will Astound You
In fact, we saw more of Ireland than many couples and families we know that have been there a few times. The depth of the tour is perfectly aligned with the balance of adventures.
Some days we would walk about 2 miles and other days, up to 4. We always were in control of how much we saw of an experience. Last, there were no add-ons.
Our tour included everything it stated, as we booked. Meals, and Ferry Rides, and museums. Extra costs, were simple Pub stops (cheers!), and tips for the guides and driver, shopping and any meals not specifically stated in the itinerary!
CIE TOURS International offers a perfect blend of together with a group, coupled with travel deeper moments with your family or partner!
Wheels Up & Asses In The Seat –
That is exactly what our guide and driver used to say every single night before we would leave him. He means, that the wheels are on the road at 7:30 AM and your butts better be in because they don’t wait! You work together as a group to be on time!
Every night before we went to our hotel room, we checked the lobby area, to read our itinerary for the upcoming day! Therefore, when Brian would make his rounds at breakfast and remind us of, “Wheels Up, and Asses in Seats!” we were present!
Travel Tip – Jetsetters are you ready for everything?
Travel insurance is one of the most important parts of any trip! From medical emergencies to theft of personal property, to flight cancellation or embassy help, you need to have these potential vacation-ruiners under control ahead of the time!
For all of those reasons and more, I always use Allianz Travel. Allianz Travel insurance is a global provider and help is there 24/7. The addition of the free TravelSmart app makes it easy to access whatever I might need! Make sure to check into this insurance no matter where you are traveling!
Let’s Enjoy 27 Iconic Adventures and Experiences Throughout Ireland
We met up with our group (28 of us) in Dublin, at our hotel. There we were given ‘whispers’ (headsets to hear background when touring), our backpacks, and all the itinerary.
Additional details of looking for the posted bulletin boards each morning by the hotel concierge with updated itinerary, and meal times.
Walking & Bus Tour of Dublin
Our first adventure was driven by Brian and guided by a local. She stepped aboard, as we drove throughout Dublin, seeing parks, O’Connell Street and some 18th-century Georgian houses.
Next, we headed via bus to Trinity College and the Book Of Kells. Walking into Trinity College property was awe-inspiring, but that was just the beginning. Truly an architectural photographer’s dream and the campus is so full of life.
Then it was time to go to see the Book of Kells and the awesome library with over 4 Million books in it! It is insanely stocked, and antique-looking, yet modern. It’s historical and you get chills just being in there.
We had about an hour of time and then we left. Hardly is it enough time to venture and get into details, but it is enough to say, “I have been there and experienced it!” and definitely iconic!
Glendalough Monastic Site #2
A short hour ride from Dublin and we arrived at our first historically rich stop, Glendalough Monastic Site. Located in County Wicklow. Inside the visitor’s center are restrooms and more interesting information about the site.
Take your time, stay on the path and enjoy the view, the site and learn the history. Our guide was very informative and allowed us to ask questions beyond the norm.
Our guide was fantastic, knowledgable and took us through the gravel-like pathways. Learn about all of the gravestones and walk to the tower. The whole area is simply incredible and it should be on your list of things to do.
Once you are done visiting the archeological area, you can follow a path back to the Visitor Center. The scenery along the trail is beautiful, from the flowing water to the bridges you will walk over.
After a little, we continued on towards Waterford. Waterford is about 2 hours North Of County Wicklow. Right in time for lunch, we passed through the most quaint town in Clonroche, County Wexford, Ireland.
We stop to eat lunch in the Cloch Ban. Want to see what we ate? Read more on the Cloch Ban here. After lunch, we carried on and reached Waterford County and Waterford Crystal. Things are about to get really sparkly!
Waterford Crystal was everywhere, but that is not the story. Inside the factory, is where you want to be. We watched Waterford Crystal Artisans designing each piece of crystal, and of course, we watched the hand-blown crystal being made too.
Once you are done touring the factory, you can shop in the House Of Waterford Crystal store. What a grand experience. I have several Waterford Crystal pieces so seeing them being created by the artisan was an absolute must experience.
This piece of the tour is all about the creation and how fabulous it is to watch the artisans craft.
The Streets of Waterford – Viking Triangle
History is just pouring out on to the streets and with the right local guide, you can learn all about it. We had one of the best because CIE TOURS International works with the top local guides in each leg of the tour.
The Viking Triangle Walk in Waterford
Our walking tour was fun. It was guided with the award-winning Jack Burtchaell and you definitely want to seek him out! The tour is about an hour and will cover thousands of years of history!
We met up with him and began the tour with our group. There’s a lot of beautiful scenery, and history here, so pay attention! I kept getting preoccupied taking pictures!
From a huge Viking sword to multiple shops and beautifully landscaped buildings. Truly, the roads we were walking on looked like a scene out of a movie. The local guide was knowledgable and led us straight back to our hotel.
Waterford was very walkable, but in February everything closes up by about 6:30P so we really did not have time to shop (le sigh). We walked around as late as we could until dinner to see as much as we could.
Temperatures in February were about 45-50° Fahrenheit, so a light coat and layers underneath worked well every day, not just in Waterford!
Michael and I did manage to find ONE open pub and we went in. The owner was there as was the local guide that had just taken us around. We sat, and sipped our pints and then went to the hotel for the evening meal.
Cobh – The Titanic’s last port of call. #4
From Waterford, we continued North, on to seaport town of Cobh, located in County Cork. 1 West Beach, Kilgarvan, Cobh, Co. Cork, Ireland. From the moment we started our tour with the local guide until it ended, we consumed a lot of information.
I also spent a little time taking pictures as Cobh lends itself so well to brilliant travel photography moments. Learn more about Discovering Cobh, The Quaint Seaport Town Rich In World History Here.
The Blarney Castle Experience #5
Looking at Blarney Castle before we entered was fantastic. Today it was not raining, just overcast. Almost daunting from below, isn’t it? We would walk a lot of stairs to get to the top! Do wear solid shoes that are comfortable for walking.
First I am going to tell you this was ONE of my favorite stops. From gardens, pathways, and a The Blarney Castle with a view, this destination is everything. Michael and I went straight up to the castle because Michael was set on kissing the Blarney Stone.
I loathe heights as you all know, so this was a very challenging 40 minutes for me. First, you have to wind up very steep, and triangular steps that seem to disappear as you step higher and higher. Then once you reach the top, all bets are off.
These are the stairs or a glimpse of them. They get more narrow as your progress towards the top and when you need to leave the top of the castle, you descend on the most narrow triangles.
All I am saying is keep this in mind if you don’t like tight spaces and small steps. The descent is incredibly tough (if you are afraid of heights) as the ascent!
The siding is high, and the view will leave you with no words, however, when you start walking to the Blarney Stone it is a difficult walk if you hate heights. The middle of the castle is on your left and wide open ALL the way down is the view.
Up at the Top of the Blarney Castle
While your stepping over a large stone (speed bumps for lack of a better descriptor). Like every other step had to be watched or you would trip.
I have to tell you this was the hardest thing for me to conquer and I did it. Admittedly, I was chided on by Michael and I wanted to see him kiss the Blarney Stone, or I would not have done this!
On my right was the wide open Blarney Castle Gardens and the wind was blowing. Then, when I saw what Michael had to do to kiss the Blarney Stone, I almost fainted. Pretty much you have to lie on your back, while one guy holds your pants and another your legs.
NO netting beneath you and no safety harness (totally could not believe this) and you go out and kiss it upside down. We survived this, but you can see I was totally upset and then we had to do the descent which was another challenge.
Those steps at the top were a very thing and you have to grab a rail. I made it, but would NEVER do it again. Mike, however, is ready to see it and experience it again.
Gardens of Blarney Castle #6
Everything was not in bloom as we were there in February, but the roses were and they were so brilliant. In addition to the rose gardens, we sauntered through the poisonous garden. Everything in there was poisonous, so very dark, and creepy if you ask me.
After we continued walking as much as we could (keeping an eye on the time) and headed to the Rock Garden. Really there’s hours or a good 1/2 day that could be spent here, not just 2 hours.
Did Someone Say Shopping?
Don’t hesitate, or debate, BUY! You simply can’t go wrong with the pricing and the selection at the Blarney Woolen Mills. The sales associates are the kindest I have ever run into in all my travels and the selection is HUGE! Make sure to get your FEXCO card and register it!
We purchased several sweaters, hoodies, tea towels, scarves, gloves and more. Then, we did the best thing we could have ever done, we shipped it home for FREE! If you purchase $200 or more in products, they ship it to wherever for you FREE! Additionally, the FEXCO is already tended to so you don’t have to worry about it!
I have to tell you this over and over, shop here. Why? We saw other prices and other items. Not one other place had NEAR the selection of clothing, and trinkets that Blarney Woolen Mills did. What I would have done differently is skip lunch. We lost too much time in the food court, as it was just too busy. I could afford to skip a meal, no problem there! Onward!
Kicking it in Killarney #7
Here is where I will return, without a doubt. By far, it is the best part of the trip, next to the shopping at the Blarney Castle and the castle grounds. All the hotels are right in the center, and you can literally WALK to everything.
Side alleys, main road walkways, are all loaded with hidden pubs, stores, and restaurants. As far as your eye can see, you will find something to do. The nightlife at all of the pubs is fun as well with the music.
Each night spent in Killarney (we had 2), we navigated all around and walked for miles. We loved our hotel’s location as it was truly central, it was the International Hotel on Kenmare Place, right across from where the horse and carriage jockeys park, which is something else to discuss.
Step by step, we uncovered the fact, that there were more pubs, than shops, lol, if that is even possible! Now, to prove our thesis, we stopped in most of them for a Pint and moved on to the next!
It’s truly living the Killarney relaxed style life! Enjoy. Travel Deeper, and meet the locals in every Pub, just like we did! Did I mention how many people knew Pittsburgh? Always asking us where we were from!
Horse & Carriage Ride To Ross Castle – #8
To date, this may be the most romantic thing we have ever done. It was Valentine’s Day and we rode in a horse and carriage from our hotel to the Ross Castle.
Our tour guide made sure the rides would be available and as soon as we got back that day, we left. Read all about A Horse & Carriage Ride Fit For A Princess Here.
Claddagh Jewelry Shopping – #9
Our first morning stop was to the Gap Of Dunloe. Moriarty’s. Shop here for Jewelry if you want a quality product from crosses to Claddagh rings. After touring Ireland from Dublin, to Glendalough, Cobh, Sneem, Galway, County Clare, and so on, I can attest that this is a great stop for Jewelry.
We did see other rings along the way, all either more expensive for the same product or less selection. I can concede you won’t find a better selection of products at the price point. (Note if you want a grab and go for a trinkety gift wait till Galway, there’s a shop there for $25 and under).
If for some reason you kick yourself for not purchasing here, there is one other stop, comparable, in Donegal City Centre, called the Irish House, so don’t dismay!
Ring Of Kerry #10
The scenic drive through the Ring of Kerry was stellar. Stopping a few times to capture amazing, movie-like imagery and just to have a moment and live in the surreal. We rode around the Iveragh Peninsula, which is situated in Ireland’s County Kerry. Therefore we lodged in Killarney!
Below, through the window of the bus, I took this photo of Kerry County’s River’s Edge B&B. It’s incredible architecture and on my list for a stay next time around!
During our time traveling through the area, we had a multitude of photo stops and experiences, which I will cover below. Including Skellig Michael, endless coastal scapes, sea cliffs, and Killarney National Park, but that is not all, so read on!
Valentia Island – Skellig Experience #11
Rain, gusty winds and more rain, was a bit of challenge during the leg of the trip. The Skellig Experience to me could have just been viewing Skellig Michael, Skellig Rock Great from afar. Taking photos was nearly impossible due to the shifty weather.
I will say this, the rich history of Skellig Michael, its development and those that inhabited it, truly was remarkable.
IG-Worthy Village Of Sneem – Experiential #12
Sneem actually lies on the estuary of the River Sneem. As I stood atop the flowing water (An tSnaidhm, Inchinaleega East – in case you want location), I could not restrain from taking photos. Unique. Different.
Does it look like glacial grooves with water running through them? Stop and listen to the water trickling and moving. Solace. Peace. Tranquility in a quiet village.
Then just walking through the little village of Sneem was an IG-Worthy moment as well. I stopped and got hot chocolate at Dan Murphy’s Bar, I have never seen a door so narrow. Get this, the door opened in 2 pieces!
Michael shopped in a small store there, named Quills. In fact, the deals here for tee shirts and hats were the best. Make sure to capture a picture with the Bronze Statue of John Egan in the square.
Moll’s Gap – Scenic Experience #13
Grab your cameras, hold onto your hats, and snap away. This experience provides one of the finest views. You have to stop to see and experience. When you are driving the Ring Of Kerry, this is a mountain pass that runs from Kenmare to Killarney, in Kerry County. Be prepared for gusty conditions, but eye-poppin’ views.
Ferry Ride X’ing The River Shannon Estuary #14
The tour bus boarded the ferry and we were off to cross the river. My first sighting was the Tarbert Lighthouse. In fact, it is a historical landmark at the Shannon Banks and very visible by both Ferry and from a walk to the end of the pier.
This is an Experience moment! You will be able to say you rode a Ferry In Ireland!
You have to take a Ferry at some point on your travels through Ireland, it truly is an experience not to miss, and one to mark off your bucketlist!
Cliffs of Moher #15
The Cliffs of Moher are breathtaking, but getting there is even better. Look at everything from the coastlines to the farms. Picturesque, quaint, charming and so very Ireland! Epic photography moments are right before your eyes!
Long before you reach the Cliffs of Moher you will pass lovely oceanside villages. As we were driving along, I snapped this image in County Clare. Serene and independent on an endless property!
The scenic ride along the way lends a teaser of what is to come. The Cliffs of Moher are in the Burren region of County Clare and a must go to destination.
Sure, you could sleep as we drove, but I did not! Why would I want to miss incredible castles, greenscapes, and coastal lines? I am here to enjoy and I did every mile of the way.
The Cliffs of Moher are sea cliffs that are stunningly beautiful and yet very dangerous. Respect all signage and not stand on the edge. Lives are lost daily, but if you stay on the path, you will be fine.
We used the viewing platforms to enjoy the 360° views. The vistas can all be seen using these platforms, they total three, so stop, gaze, jaw drop and continue. This easily could be a 1/2 day adventure, if you take pictures and walk.
First stop The main platform, which allows you to view the south cliffs and when clear, Hag’s head. Keep moving, there’s a lot more to see, not just this vantage point.
O’Brien’s Tower #16
While the wind was nonstop, and the rain kept coming we kept on climbing up! Our goal was O’Brien’s Tower, however, it was under construction (Feb 19′). The North Platform is up here, and it nearly the highest point of the Cliffs.
The proper name is Knockardakin. You can look North, South, East, and West at this platform. (Galway Bay and Aran Islands are viewed from up here !)
There are pubs everywhere, tons of people, and lots of shopping. I wish we could have spent the day here, but we had only 45 minutes. Here is a quick look at a little of Galway!
Here is where roamed the streets of the old city, just a bit, a few blocks in fact. We stopped at a pub (of course) and enjoyed a pint, before heading to our tour bus to go to our host hotel the Ardilaun.
Also found in the city of Galway, this huge Claddagh ring. If you are looking for the rings for Under $100 there is a huge shop in the city for rings at this price level.
We spent VERY little time in the City of Galway, and it seemed there was a lot to look at. I feel that we missed out a bit here, especially for shopping.
It was quite populated in this area and bustling even at 5p at night! Guess I was surprised because this was one of the busier stops since Dublin.
What makes it so unique here, is that when you are walking along, you see displays like this. Literally on the window ledge. It’s decorative, beautiful and really celebrates Ireland. Now, seeing this told me, that if the store can put this on their storefront without the worry of theft. A testimony to the area!
Our Walk By Ardilaun #18
Once we checked in, we took a small walk and found this phone booth in the middle of someone’s yard. The rain began again, and it was coming down really hard, so we never, made it seaside to walk along with the villages.
Knock Shrine – The Experience #19
A witnessed Apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary and a few other saints were said to have appeared on the altar of a gable wall in the church.
Those who gathered watched for hours (2) and while it poured rain all around, none of them were touched by a drop! Yeah, we decided to bottle up some of the water, and bring it on home! More luck is always welcome!
Holy Water – Bring It Home #20
While we were there, we stopped at the local bookstore, by the shrine and purchased simple empty water bottles. We then went 2 of the 18 Holy Water Fonts that are right in front of the Apparition Shrine and filled them.
Why? The water is considered to be blessed since the Apparition occurred here. It costs under $1 for 3 empty bottles, depending on the size you choose (remember airport security rules).
Sheepdogs At An Irish Farm #21
I’ve never seen any dog so talented and obedient as Martin. We arrived at Atlantic Sheepdogs, Streedagh, Grange, Sligo, Ireland a working Irish Farm. Here we learned about color coding sheep. and viewed a dog, who rounded up his posse (the mountain sheep).
Donegal Adventure #22
Upon arrival, it was lunch. Donegal is a bustling village and walkable. Our first objective, fill our bellies with really good eats. After disembarking the tour bus, we headed straight up the street. Look down every alley and side street, or you will miss food, pubs and shopping. I love this!
We wanted to be away from the crowds and all of the insane traffic right in the center! Walking out of the center we headed towards St. Patrick’s Church. Read my post on Where To Eat Donegal Town Center Here.
From here, we visited the Donegal Castle and the church and shopped a bit. It is very easy to navigate through the City Centre here, just watch the traffic when you cross. There are a lot of shops and restaurants and you could spend a few hours here!
Dunluce Castle #23
Dunluce Castle is located on the Antrim coast. This stop was a perfect compliment to our Giant’s Causeway tour day. We stopped for about 10 minutes to capture photographs of this impressive castle. There is a history behind it, but what makes it more infamous and iconic? Read on.
You may recognize this because it is used as the location of Castle Greyjoy in the Game of Thrones. Therefore, it is iconic and a Must See while headed to the Giant’s Causeway!
Giant’s Causeway #24
This was shaping up to be one of the best adventures ever, other than the wind, rain and muddle trails, lol! I am not a person who loves heights or walking without a railing. Yet, I somehow conquered this.
We walked all along the trail to get to the part where it said, ‘Do not go any farther!’ Pretty much where you see me standing in the arch, is where we stopped our initial trek. If you want to see it, look at this picture above, and where you see that tiny split at the very top of the mountain is where we were!
That’s me standing against the walls formed from volcanic rock. Totally incredible views and nature to take in all around me!
After the first part of our journey, we turned around, and headed towards a very tall stairwell, which again freaked me out! However, step by step, I managed my way to the top with a lot of coaxing from Mike and a few others we were traveling with!
Once we got to the top, we headed to the right, in order to head back to the main entrance, and it took a while to get there. The wind was fighting us every step of the way. I often felt that if a big enough gust of wind would come, I was going to be swept off my feet and off the cliff. Well, that never happened, but this incredible view of the sea coastline did!
Titanic Belfast #25
Wow, we are in Belfast, and that is so hard to believe isn’t it? Now we are going to visit an experience filled with Titanic displays and information. It is surreal, and yet at some points gloomy. Inside, the museum is filled with people. If you are really into history, this could take hours.
For us, it was about an hour and a half, to move through, learn what we could, walk it all, and move on! Did we have enough time? Yes, we did. I was happy to see blueprints read, learn, and then go. Walk the shipyard, we did!
By the way, there is a great coffee and pastry shop inside, so if you are hungry, Enjoy!
Belfast Peace Wall #26
This stop really was emotionally moving, and a must when in Belfast. I could feel the spirit of the walls, almost as though the past is here in the future. Feelings of sadness due to division by walls and lack of people out and about are emotions I will use to describe it here.
This area felt desolate and different than most other areas we visited in Ireland. Odd right? Not really, the history of Belfast was troubled and the fact that the gates close every night and open in the morning, even in times of peace is just odd.
Yes, we signed the Peach Wall in Belfast and we hope that their newfound peace lasts a lifetime! The area was sullen. Full disclosure: I would not have traveled to the wall on my own, but since we were with CIE TOURS, it was possible to see and experience with a great level of comfort!
The People’s Gallery of Murals in Derry #27
Inside the Bogside of Derry exists several murals that truly ‘paint’ the truth of the troubled past of the area and the people. Created by three brothers to portray the sad, and upsetting mistreatment of people in this area.
Every mural has a story, and every story has a sad tale attached. I have to say, this was the most exciting piece in Derry, aside from walking on the walls.
An Epic Irish Adventure
We have now had the best overview of Ireland. From top to bottom and all the way around the country, we had a taste of a lot of different adventures, experiences, and culture. Yes, we want to go back.
Touring as a group was easy and made navigating fast. Since we knew where we were going to be from the itinerary we chose ahead of time and usually had some built-in exploration time, I planned ahead. I read, about all the places and marked things we would want to look for.
Our driver and guide, always made us aware of how much free time we would have in an area. Additionally, we always were provided information on where to meet back up. Truly was the trip of a lifetime, and I can’t even capture enough of what we did in this article.
If you asked me if it fulfilled my Ireland Pang, I would answer with a resounding yes. Even if we never get back to Ireland, I feel that we saw and experienced enough to really say, “we’ve seen and adventured through Ireland!”
I was hosted by CIE TOURS International. All opinions, content, and images are my own, based on my personal experience. I am a brand ambassador for ALLIANZ Travel and have my own policy for travel no matter where I go!