Ireland’s Top Spots for First Time Visitors // See or Skip

If you’re headed to Ireland for the first time and don’t mind making a few touristy stops, then this list is for you!

Guinness Storehouse – SEE

This is a must! It’s touristy and can get pretty crowded, but it’s completely worth it. You can get your tickets ahead of time: We did and it saved us so much time. When you first walk into the Guinness Storehouse, security will check your bags before you head to the kiosk to pick up your tickets. Your adventure will begin on the ground level and end on the highest floor called the Gravity Bar, where you’ll be given your complimentary pint.

Castletown House – SKIP

Besides the country house built in 1722, the parkland and river walks are pleasant, but you can get both these things and more at other places. Feel free to skip this one.

Wicklow Mountains – SEE

This was a gorgeous place! Please take time to walk the trails and gaze at the lakes. If you head to the top of the mountains, you’ll see the Guinness Lake. Guinness actually uses the water from the Wicklow Mountains to make their unique beverages. This place is always camera ready regardless of how cloudy or rainy it is outside. While you’re there, visit the Glendalough Monastic Site.

Kilkenny’s Bollard Bistro – SEE

This family owned pub has the best service and the most delicious stews. We recommend the beef & guinness stew and the irish stew, as well as the hot chocolate. Their interior gives off a cozy vibe, so you’ll never want to leave. But when you do decide to leave, the streets are perfect for strolling. Honestly, it’s an absolutely amazing city, home to our favorite meals of the trip!

Waterford Crystal Glass Tour – SKIP

Glass. Cool? Skip this one. If you’re someone overly interested in the glass making process, then you may want to take the tour; however, if you’ve never been interested in this sort of thing, then we think you should just visit the gift shop full of expensive glass products… just make sure to keep your hands to yourself to avoid accidentally knocking over their glass items on display.

Howth Marina – SEE

This was the most beautiful place we visited. We arrived early in the day when it was still dark and got to watch the sunrise over the mountains. While we explored the coast by foot, we saw three sea lions and about lost our minds from excitement! We’ve never looked more like tourists than when we were yelling to the sea lions from the rocks. Apparently, Bono has a house here and the homes near the marina are wicked expensive, so no future house hunting here… but a girl can dream.

Reginald’s Tower- SKIP

This medieval tower located in Waterford is not worth your time. You can see it from the outside and that’s more than enough exposure to it. There are other towers worth your time. With Viking influence, it’s a beautiful tower, but if the title doesn’t excite you, the actual site won’t either.

St Mary’s Medieval Mile Museum – SKIP

With the choice of self guided tours and guided tours, this museum allows you to explore your way. There is a lot of medieval history, which just isn’t what I’m interested in. Josh, who is actually interested in that sort of stuff, found this museum to be interesting but not worth the money. We suggest you skip it!

Cliffs of Moher – SEE

When we visited there were signs saying that the Cliffs of Moher were closed due to dangerous winds and weather… apparently this happens a lot. We flew 9 hours to get to Ireland, so we parked and confidently walked to the edge of the cliffs. It was ridiculously windy, and there were times that the wind was so intense that it was hard to breathe.  But the views… They are majestic. Go. Hurry. This place was astonishing.

Blarney Castle – SKIP

Yes, it’s a touristy spot, and there really isn’t anything wrong with it. We just think that you could get more from other castle tours. Home to the famous Blarney Stone, you’ll also find walking trails, fairy gardens, caves, and gorgeous botanical gardens. It’s really a great spot to visit, but we feel that it shouldn’t be at the top of your destination’s list.

Phoenix Park – SEE

This was our favorite park and the first place we visited when we landed- even before the hotel. Walking, running, polo, cricket, hurling, and petting wild deer are just a few of the many things you can do in the “largest park in any capital city in Europe.” So, fix yourself a picnic in this beautiful park. It’s a must!

King John’s Castle – SEE

This castle turned museum is interactive and educational for any group of learners. Visitors of all ages will find something interesting. This castle had a little something for Josh (a real archaelogical site under the castle) and a little something for me (gorgeous views of Limerick from the highest tower). We learned more here than in any other place while in Ireland. Make a stop here for some great picture moments and some even greater memories.

Malahide Castle & Gardens – SEE

We took the guided castle tour and self-guided through the botanical gardens. This was another one of those spots where we left with a great appreciation and respect for Irish culture and history. Our tour guide was knowledgeable and gave ample time to explore on your own,  before bringing you back as a group to share some really unique stories about the castle and the people of that time. Make a trip here; you won’t regret it.

Ardgillan Castle – SKIP

Quite honestly, the only reason I would suggest you do visit this castle would be for the beautiful body of water the castle overlooks. Other than that, we found nothing absolutely spectacular or unique about this one. If you decide to visit, make sure to wear comfortable shoes, as the hike from the car to the door is a long, inclined journey.

Newgrange Passage Tombs – SKIP

Located in the Boyne Valley, this 5,200 year old tomb is a bore. Before heading to the tomb, we explored the museum and gift shop. A bus came to pick us up and take us to the tomb. When we finally got there, the tomb was massive and we were so excited, until we entered the tomb and realized we’d only be taking a few feet inside before exiting. We were like “What? That’s it!” Yes, the circular tomb is huge, but you will only be able to see a fraction of it due to the limited access once in the tomb. Go ahead and pass on this one.


Limerick’s The Red Hen Pub – SEE

We must have visited this pub a total of three times during our stay in Limerick. We couldn’t get enough of their delicious food and amazing atmosphere. With the weather being rainy and cold, we made ourselves comfy in this pub. We made friends with the bartenders and enjoyed our fish and chips in solitude on the second floor of the bar. This is such a cool place! Check it out!

The White House Pub Limerick – SEE

In the heart of Limerick, you’ll find this warm and relaxed pub. Although food is only served a portion of the day, drinks and conversations are always flowing. We found a lovely spot near the fireplace and let the hours pass. You must visit!

Christ Church Cathedral – SEE

Churches hold just as much history, as government buildings and castles. These places of worship are full of tradition and custom, that is exactly why we recommend you see ANY cathedral. Personally, we loved Christ Church for its ornate interior. We self guided after paying a small admissions fee, and, in the process, saw a priest, attended a portion of the morning prayer, and walked the halls taking us from chapel to chapel. Enjoy yourself!