To-Do’s of Southern and Western Ireland

I went with C’s family to Ireland back in July and it was also my first trip to Europe. I had an amazing time experiencing the culture, visiting noted landmarks, and eating (of course). We did a five day rail tour with Railtours Ireland that covered a majority of the Wild Atlantic Way, which includes stops in Cork, Cobh, Killarney, Galway, Limerick, Connemara, and the Aran Islands. Outside the tour, we were on our own for a few days in Dublin and Dun Laoghaire.

It would’ve been tough to hit some of the attractions without a local guide so it was worthwhile to explore with their knowledge and guidance. Here are some recommendations for things to do when you’re in Southern or Western Ireland, all of which I thoroughly enjoyed myself.

Try all the local food and signature dishes

This alone was one of the highlights of my trip. I would describe their cuisine as hearty comfort food. Some of the local dishes that I had are:

  • Beef stew (bonus if Guinness is incorporated)
  • Shepherd’s pie
  • Traditional Irish breakfast (must include baked beans and black pudding)
  • Bangers and mash
  • Fish and chips
  • Bacon and cabbage
  • Crab salad
  • Fish pie (like chicken pot pie, but with fish!)

Visit some castles and learn about the history

There’s a countless number of abandoned castles scattered across the land, but there are also a handful of them that have been restored for the public. They all have a story behind them. All the restored sites require admission, and a few that I suggest are:

  • Blarney Castle
    • Line up to go into the castle before doing anything else on the grounds, the wait time can be as long as two hours if you go during peak times
  • Bunratty Castle
    • The grounds include replica store fronts and houses that are from back in the day
  • Kylemore Abbey
    • Nestled into the mountainside and includes huge, pristine gardens to walk around

Admire the natural beauty of the land and sea

You don’t get to see rolling green hills, mountain ranges, or seascape when you live in a busy city, so take the opportunity to soak in the natural beauty of Ireland. There are many landmarks that you can visit to see the different landscapes of the country.

  • Cliffs of Moher
    • An iconic spot in Ireland as the cliffs have been used in movie scenes in The Princess Bride and Harry Potter and the Half-Blooded Prince
  • Skellig Michael
    • Iconic location where Rey found Luke Skywalker in Star Wars: The Force Awakens
  • Inis Mor of The Aran Islands
    • Take a ferry to the largest of the three Aran Islands and step into the fort to see more sea-cliffs, views of the Atlantic Ocean, and possibly sea lions swimming around
  • Drive through Connemara
    • This region is known for its unspoilt countryside and views of the mountain range

Experience true Irish music and dance

Experiencing Irish music and dance is such an immersive way to experience the culture. If you walk into a pub and there’s live Irish music playing, the locals will get up and start dancing the night away! If you are in Killarney, you MUST make time to see The Celtic Steps, an amazing Irish music, song, and dance show! This show was another one of the highlights of the trip.

Classic to-do: museums and exhibits

This is probably the easiest to do when you’re in the city, but we took a day to visit several museums. Time can pass by so fast when you’re into the exhibits and taken back in history. We went to quite a few, but here are the most memorable ones:

  • The Book of Kells @ Trinity College Dublin
    • The world’s most famous medieval manuscript: the four Gospels of Jesus Christ, original from the 9th century
  • Dublin Castle
  • Museum of Natural History
  • Arts of the Book @ Chester Beaty Library
    • Exploring East Asian, Islamic and Western printing traditions and viewing beautiful prints and books of the age

Some other activities worth doing:

  • Watch a live shepherd do a demonstration of how they herd sheep with their sheep dogs
  • Visit the “Deck of Cards”, original Titanic ticket offices, and the Heritage Centre in Cobh
  • Go see the giant Irish Wolfhound dogs and small Kerry Bog ponies, both native to Ireland

Hopefully this gives you insight in planning your trip to Southern and Western Ireland! C and I do want to go back in the future and check out everything else that we didn’t have time for. Please note down other places and attractions that we must visit in Ireland in the comments below!

Until next time,

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