One Week in Ireland

If you can only spend one week in Ireland, here’s what you must see. From the half penny pass, to the colors of Galway, your week in Ireland will be filled with beautiful sites and lush green fields. During the week, stop by the Cliffs of Moher, the Kylemore Abbey, and the Glaencar Waterfall for some classic Irish sites.

College Green, Dublin 2, Co. Dublin, Ireland
Pass through the iconic arched doorway at College Green and enter the elegant quads, handsome architecture and verdant lawns of Trinity College, one of Ireland‘s most prestigious universities. Among its many attributes is the atmospheric 18th-century Old Library, whose most precious tome is the 1,200-year-old Book of Kells, a priceless illuminated manuscript. Also worth a visit are the college’s Douglas Hyde Gallery, devoted to contemporary art, and the thought-provoking Science Gallery.
15 Bachelors Walk
The Ha’penny Bridge, officially the Liffey Bridge, was built in 1816 over the River Liffey in Dublin. For over 100 years it had cost between half a penny and a penny and a half to cross the pedestrian bridge but today it is free. I found myself crossing the aerial pathway a couple of times daily during my two-week stay in Dublin. The Temple Bar area, just south of the bridge, is the main tourist area of the city and well worth a visit but when you want true “craic” (bar banter), and a more affordable Guinness, venture further out of the Temple Bar area.
15 Merrion Row, Dublin, Ireland
O’Donoghue’s Bar, which dates back to the eighteenth century, is arguably the most famous pub in Dublin for traditional Irish music. The bar is lively, rammed with a mainly—but by no means exclusively—local crowd, and has a great, welcoming atmosphere. There is a huge beer garden, and on busy nights there will be someone serving the tables outside. The main draw, of course, is the live traditional music, which kicks off mid-evening seven days a week. Unlike many other venues that boast live trad and there is no sense that the music at O’Donoghue’s is a performance put on for the tourists. In fact it’s quite the opposite: you get the feeling the musicians are playing solely for themselves, and don’t care whether you listen or not. Which is lucky, really—the night we were there the bar was so crowded, and the conversation so raucous, that you had to get really close to hear the music. If you’re a fan of, or curious about, traditional Irish music, O’Donoghue’s is definitely a place to check out. And make sure to keep your eyes open as well as your ears: such local musical luminaries as the Dubliners and Christy Moore have been known to swing by in the past!
Letterfrack, Co. Galway, Ireland
The bleak, windswept landscape of Connemara in the West of Ireland is characterized by bogs, lakes, mountains, and miles of stone walls. Connemara National Park is one of the best places to appreciate this unique landscape, with more than 7,000 acres of national park encompassing mountains, including some that are part of the Twelve Bens range, plus Western blanket bog and treeless plains that are home to red deer, sheep, and Connemara ponies. Explore for yourself, and find traces of history dating back thousands of years, including 4,000-year-old megalithic tombs and abandoned farms.
Before reaching this incredible castle, you will be astounded by the beautiful pastures and lakes along the roadside. Lambs occasionally trot across allowing a great opportunity for photos. Upon reaching Kylemore, you will enter through a quaint cafe for lattes, tea and delicious pastries. The tour begins walking through this enormous castle turned legendary private school that was originally owned by Mitchell Henry who built it for his wife. After taking in the luxuriousness of the manicured walls and decorations, you can then walk to the little cathedral. The cathedral is just as impressive as the castle. The pillars inside are made up of five different types of marble. Following the cathedral, you can choose to walk to the walled Victoria gardens or take the shuttle that runs to and fro the castle. The gardens have several green houses and a vast amount of exotic plants that dazzle the eyes and invigorate the nose! Here you can sit down for a coffee or tea and simply enjoy the man-made beauty that has lasted over a century. There are also several nature walks to allow more time for one to take in Ireland’s beauty. This is a fascinating place to admire historic architecture and learn about the love story that started it all!
Lislorkan North, Co. Clare, Ireland
Fancy yourself a brave one, do ye? Aye, aye, then the Cliffs of Moher are right up your alley. Ireland‘s most popular tourist destination does not disappoint, though visiting during the middle of the day means you’re going to have to share the walking paths with plenty of other folk - most of them American visitors in their finest Notre Dame Fighting Irish t-shirts. Come early in the morning or late in the afternoon and you’ll have the cliffs, beautiful light, and ancient rock monsters all to yourself. That’s right; rock monsters. That’s one giving tourists the finger right there in the ocean.
2 Church St, Knockaunroe, Corofin, Co. Clare, V95 T9V6, Ireland
South of Galway in neighboring County Clare is one of Ireland’s, if not Western Europe’s, unique landscapes: the extraordinary, lunarlike limestone scenery of the Burren. (Its name derives from the Gaelic word boíreann, which means “rocky place.”) The Burren has an eerie topography that supports a diverse array of flora and fauna, some more commonly found in alpine or Mediterranean climes. It is also home to Aillwee Cave, an otherworldly series of underground caverns, towers, and waterfalls.
Newgrange, Donore, Co. Meath, Ireland
Older than both Stonehenge and the pyramids of Egypt, the monument at Newgrange was built around 3,200 B.C.E. Its use is a mystery, although it was most likely a place of worship, and there are legends that it was used as a burial chamber. The main circular mound has a passage with small chambers off it, and each year on the winter solstice, the sun travels along the passage and lights up the main chamber. Many of the curbstones at the front and stone slabs lining the passage have decorative examples of megalithic art, with zigzags, spirals, and other geometric designs. Access to Newgrange is by guided tour, and it’s part of the Brú na Bóinne complex, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which also has the passage graves at Knowth (on view by guided tour) and Dowth (not open to visitors).
Sligo, Ireland
As a child, William Butler Yeats spent his summer holidays in County Sligo, and the lakes and hills inspired many of his most famous poems, such as The Lake Isle of Innisfree. Take a leisurely day and follow the Yeats Trail around the locations in the area that he loved, taking in Glencar Lough, the Isle of Innisfree, Rosses Point, Benbulben, Lissadell House, and finally the churchyard at Drumcliffe Parish Church, where Yeats is buried.
Formoyle, Glencar, Co. Leitrim, Ireland
Definitely worth a visit when in Sligo. An easy drive down the N16 - it is a beautiful drive. The waterfall is an easy walk from the parking lot. There is also a hike up the mountain, but I didn’t have time to check it out. If driving back to Sligo, try to go via 286 on the east side of Lough Gill, which is also pretty.
Glendalough, or Gleann Dá Loch in Irish (which means “valley of two lakes”), is a quiet, picturesque valley near the Wicklow Mountains. Its 6th-century monastic settlement founded by St. Kevin is one of the most important in Ireland, and it’s surrounded by dewy grass and heather, lush hills, mossy rocks, and an impressive variety of wildlife. Monastic City itself includes the remains of ancient stone churches, a priests’ house, a stone fort, and a 100-foot round bell tower. The cemetery is fascinating with its lichen-covered headstones tilted every which way amid unkempt vegetation. Generations of Irish family histories are contained in this small plot of land, which is an integral part of this site. Glendalough is about 90 minutes’ south of Dublin and makes for a worthwhile day tour that includes sightseeing and hiking followed by a visit to a cozy local pub.
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