- Famous Landmarks In Ireland
- Famous Landmarks In Ireland – The West Coast
- Famous Landmarks In Ireland – Dublin
- Famous Landmarks In Ireland – Around Dublin & Central Ireland
- Famous Landmarks In Ireland – The South
- Famous Landmarks In Ireland – Northern Ireland
Famous Landmarks In Ireland
Ancient monasteries and castles, geological wonders, some of the most dramatic coastline in Europe, sheer sea cliffs hundreds of metres high, landscapes steeped in legend. Not to mention the occasional pub. Join us on our journey around 30 of the most famous landmarks in Ireland, and begin your exploration of this beguiling, beautiful country.
Famous Landmarks In Ireland – The West Coast
Twelve Bens, Connemara
The Twelve Bens are a range of around twenty mountains dominating the landscape of remote Connemara in western Galway. The range is close to the Atlantic coast, and reaching a height of over 700 metres (2,300 feet), makes for a spectacular sight from many places along the wild Connemara coast.
The best place from which to see them is Bertraghboy Bay, around the village of Roundstone. And they’re called the Twelve Bens because, from the south, you can only see and count twelve of them. Explore further for some of the best hikes in Ireland.
See Also: Things to Do In Connemara, Ireland
This 19th century neo-Gothic pile was originally known as Kylemore Castle, the grand private house of Mitchell Henry, a London doctor of not inconsiderable means, who became the MP for County Galway in 1871.
In 1920 the property, on the fringe of the mountains of Connemara, was acquired by the Benedictine nuns of Ypres, Belgium, which was destroyed during World War I, and has been known as Kylemore Abbey ever since.
It enjoys a wonderful picturesque setting overlooking a lake, and you can visit the house, church and Gardens on the tour. This guided Connemara day tour from Galway includes a visit to Kylemore Abbey.
Keem Bay, Achill Island
Keem Beach, the westernmost on Achill Island, is one of the best beaches in Ireland. Unlike other Achill beaches it’s sheltered from the ferocious Atlantic by a headland, the pristine golden sand lapped by the sort of turquoise water you’re more likely to see in Crete or the Indian Ocean.
The scene is completed by sheep ambling across the narrow access road, while a steep mountain rises up behind. The Faroes meets the Tropics. One of the most beautiful beaches in Europe, while we’re on the subject.
See Also: Things To Do On Achill Island
Sky Road, Clifden, County Galway
The Connemara coast is one of the most beautiful places in Ireland to visit, a straggling stretch of long, remote peninsulas, inlets and islands within sight of the imposing Twelve Bens.
The easiest area to explore is the Sky Road, a 10-mile (16 km) circular route running from Clifden, with commanding views over the fingers of land reaching out into the Atlantic. You’ll need a car to see it, or there’s the option of a full day tour from Galway which takes you along the route and plenty more.
The three Aran Islands in Galway Bay, within sight of the Cliffs of Moher, are among the most famous landmarks in Ireland. Their landscape – much of it glacial karst with limestone pavements – is similar to that of The Burren, also just across the water, and much of the limestone has been used to construct the limestone walls you see all over the islands.
The Aran Islands – Inishmore, Inishmaan and Inisheer – are also known for their many ancient sites, from the daunting Dun Aengus, a Bronze and Iron Age hillfort on a clifftop on Inishmore, to the tiny Teampall Bheanain, believed to be a shrine to the Irish saint Benan, which is over a thousand years old.
As the islands are so close to the Cliffs of Moher, many visitors to the area tend to visit both attractions on a cruise. If you’re looking to do it all in a day, this Aran Islands and Cliffs of Moher tour from Galway will get you around all the bases.
Croagh Patrick mountain, just to the west of Westport, County Mayo, is one of the most famous places in Ireland as it’s a popular pilgrimage destination. Pilgrims climb to the 2,507 feet (764 metre) summit on the last Sunday of July, where a modern chapel marks the site where St Patrick is said to have fasted and prayed for 40 days and nights.
Many make the ascent barefoot as an act of penance, though such self-punishment is not compulsory! If the weather is clear at the summit, the view over the hundred-plus drumlin islands of Clew Bay is unforgettable.
National Famine Memorial, Murrisk, County Mayo
This famous sculpture, installed in 1997, is the most poignant of Irish landmarks. It’s a harrowing depiction of a ‘coffin ship’ used to evacuate the starving and sick from the affected areas of the Great Famine of 1846 to 1850.
Look closely and you’ll see that the figures in the rigging are skeletons. Many thousands died on these ships, crammed into shocking conditions and perishing from starvation or typhus. It’s one of the most famous monuments in Ireland and stands at the base of Croagh Patrick mountain, which we describe immediately below.
Cliffs of Moher, County Clare
The Cliffs of Moher in County Clare are one of the best-known natural landmarks in Ireland, an 8-mile (14 km) long series of soaring sandstone and shale cliffs reaching a height of 702 feet (214 metres). They’re the most famous cliffs in Ireland, though not the highest – that distinction goes to another of our famous Irish landmarks, Slieve League.
The Cliffs of Moher are a paid visitor attraction, with tickets (8 euros) giving you access to the footpaths on the site. Another way to see them is on a Cliffs of Moher cruise from Doolin, a few miles to the north. The Cliffs are also close to the amazing Aran Islands, and it’s possible to do the Cliffs cruise and visit Inisheer, the nearest of the Aran Islands, from Doolin. There are also Cliffs of Moher and Aran Islands cruises from Galway.
The Burren, County Clare
The Burren is one of the most remarkable landscapes in Ireland, a unique environment with limestone pavement, hills and sea cliffs. This karst landscape was formed by glacial action, over hundreds of millions of years including the last Ice Age.
It’s incredibly biodiverse, supporting both Mediterranean and Arctic-Alpine plant life. You’ll also find the outstanding Poulnabrone dolmen (prehistoric burial chamber) and the fine ruined Corcomroe Abbey in the area, one of the most intriguing places to go in Ireland.
The Burren extends to within a few miles of the Cliffs of Moher, and the natural thing to do is to visit the two together. This guided coach tour from Galway, an hour’s drive up the coast, takes you to the Burren and Cliffs of Moher, and this tour from Dublin does the same. .
Slieve League Cliffs, County Donegal
This coastal mountain and cliff is perhaps the most impressive natural Ireland landmark of all. Slieve League soars a shade below 2,000 feet – 600 metres – above the wild waves of the Atlantic Ocean below. You can climb to the top for breathtaking views of the Donegal coastline, or stay lower down, following the footpath around to enjoy the breathtaking view from the lookout point. The cliffs are almost three times higher than the (admittedly spectacular) Cliffs of Moher but their remoteness means they get far less visitors. Nonetheless, one of the most famous landmarks in Ireland.
Fanad Head Lighthouse, County Donegal
The north coast of County Donegal, in the north-west corner of Ireland, has a startling, almost desolate beauty, lashed by the wild North Atlantic Ocean. Fanad Head Lighthouse is one of the most spectacular places on this part of the coast, warning passing shipping away from the treacherous rocky headland.
It’s one of the most famous Ireland landmarks for photographers, especially with the scenic coastal backdrop at sunrise. You can also stay there, definitely one for the wind-buffeted romantics among you.
Famous Landmarks In Ireland – Dublin
Temple Bar is one of the most famous streets in Dublin, and the hub of Dublin’s cultural quarter, which includes the Irish Film Institute, the National Photographic Archive, arts centres, theatres and more. It’s also the nexus of Dublin nightlife, with a profusion of pubs and bars, where you can eat, drink or watch live music. One of these is the Temple Bar Pub, one of the most popular, best decorated and most-photographed famous landmarks in Dublin, pictured above.
General Post Office Building Dublin
The Greek temple-inspired GPO Building is one of the most famous buildings in Ireland. It was the last of the Georgian Neoclassical buildings to be built – in 1818 – and it occupies a prominent site on O’Connell Street, arguably the most famous street in Dublin.
It is best known, however, as the headquarters of the 1916 Easter Rising, and a declaration of Irish independence was made there. The British reaction was swift and brutal, with the 16 leaders executed – this helped sway public opinion in favour of the goal of the rebels, independence for Ireland.
Trinity College Library
The Trinity College Library, which also serves the University of Dublin, is the most wondrous of Dublin landmarks. The Old Library was built in the 18th century, and guided tours take you to the atmospheric Long Room, which houses over 200,000 of the Library’s oldest volumes.
You also see the Book of Kells exhibition, telling the story of this astonishing 9th century illuminated manuscript of the four Gospels. The Book is divided into four volumes, and you usually see two of these open, one with an illustrated page, one with text.
Often the travel brochures’ shorthand for Dublin – and Ireland – this elegant cast-iron bridge is one of the most famous Dublin landmarks. It was built in 1816 to replace a ferry over the river Liffey, and got its name from the toll charged for crossing the bridge. It was cast in Coalbrookdale, over in Shropshire, where the world’s first Iron Bridge was also cast in 1781.
Dublin Castle is one of the most famous places in Dublin, a complex dating back over 800 years to the reign of King John. Only the record Tower remains from the 13th century, with most of what we now see dating from the 18th century. It was the headquarters of the ruling British until Independence in 1922, and is now where Presidents of Ireland are sworn in.
If you ask someone what Ireland is famous for, Guinness is almost certainly going to be one of the first things they mention. I certainly would! The Guinness Storehouse at St James’s Gate is where yeast used to be added to the beer to ferment.
The Storehouse website describes the seven-storey edifice as ‘the first skyscraper in the British Isles’ – it was built in 1902. It’s essentially an immersive history of Guinness, gong back to the brewery’s foundation in 1759, culminating in a pint at the Gravity Bar on the rooftop, overlooking the Dublin skyline.
Famous Landmarks In Ireland – Around Dublin & Central Ireland
Newgrange and Bru na Boinne, County Meath
The Newgrange passage tomb is one of the greatest prehistoric sites in Europe, built around 3200 BC before the Pyramids of Giza. This astonishing Neolithic tomb is one of several at the Bru na Bhoinne (River Boyne Bend), and it’s one of the most famous Ireland landmarks, partly as it’s currently the only UNESCO World Heritage Site on the Irish mainland.
A fascinating place – I’ve been intrigued ever since seeing it on Arthur C Clarke’s Mysterious World in the early ‘80s.
Newgrange is one of many possible day trips from Dublin, just 50 km (30 miles) to the south. It’s possible to reach it by bus via nearby Drogheda, and also on a tour from Dublin which also takes in mighty Trim Castle.
Clonmacnoise Monastery, County Offaly
Clonmacnoise is a magnificent Celtic Christian site, originally founded in the 6th century AD by St Ciaran. It’s one of the largest sites in the Celtic fringes of Europe, consisting of the ruins of a cathedral, nine churches, three superb Celtic crosses, two round towers and hundreds of Celtic gravestones.
It also occupies a beautiful, atmospheric site on the bank of the River Shannon. It’s one of the most famous places in Ireland, and an essential stop if you’re keen to delve into Irish Christian history.
Famous Landmarks In Ireland – The South
Cobh Cathedral, County Cork
If you’re visiting Ireland on a cruise, the first famous Irish landmark you’ll set eyes on is the 300-feet spire of St Colman’s Cathedral rising high above the painted houses of Cobh harbour.
It was completed in 1919, and is the tallest church spire in Ireland. It’s well worth a look, as is the small town of Cobh, which was one of the main departure points of the Irish diaspora, which is documented in the Cobh Heritage Centre.
Also check out the famous Deck of Cards, a row of brightly painted houses on West View.
Blarney Castle, County Cork
Blarney Castle, around 5 miles from the southern city of Cork, is one of the most famous destinations in Ireland. The Castle dates from the 15th century, and together with its Gardens, is well worth a long journey.
However, the main reason many visitors come is to kiss the Blarney stone, one of the most popular and unique things to do in Ireland. Doing so – which involves a considerable (albeit assisted) gymnastic feat, bending over backwards to kiss it, not to mention what could be lengthy wait – is meant to give you the gift of eloquence.
You can test this out on a Blarney Castle day tour from Dublin which also takes in nearby Cobh and the impressive Rock of Cashel.
Rock of Cashel, County Tipperary
The Rock of Cashel is one of the best places to visit in Ireland if you want to delve into the country’s history. Its Gaelic name, Carraig Phadraig, means ’Rock of Patrick’, though it’s not known whether Ireland’s patron saint had any role in its foundation. It’s a fortified site that was the seat of the kings of Munster (south-west Ireland) including Brian Boru, who also went on to become High King of Ireland in 1002.
The Rock was eventually given to the Church, and it became a very powerful ecclesiastical centre, reflected in some of the finest Romanesque architecture in Ireland, including a ruined cathedral, a round tower and the Cormac Chapel, which has surviving fragments of 900-year-old frescoes in its vaulted ceiling.
King John’s Castle, Limerick
One of the most famous castles in Ireland, King John’s Castle in Limerick is one of the most formidable Norman castles in Europe. It was built next to the river Shannon in the prosperous city of Limerick, and completed just after John (of Magna Carta fame) suppressed a rebellion by Anglo-Norman lords in Ireland.
The Castle was restored after five sieges in the 17th century, and now has a new visitor centre, and even the opportunity to abseil down the Castle walls!
Skellig Michael, County Kerry
Skellig Michael (Sceilg Mhichil in Gaelic) is one of the most famous landmarks of Ireland, yet one of the least accessible. It’s a pyramidal rocky crag on which the 6th century AD St Fionan’s Monastery is built, a remarkable place where early Christian asceticism was taken to one of its greatest extremes. The island and stone beehive huts will be familiar to anyone who has seen Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and the view back to its twin island and the mainland is astounding.
It’s difficult to get to Skellig Michael because there’s a limit on visitor numbers – 180 a day – and you often have to book months in advance and hope for favourable weather. It is pot luck. Boats make the seven-mile (11 km), one-hour crossing from Portmagee between May 15th and early October.
Rossbeigh Strand, County Kerry
Rossbeigh Beach is one of the most famous beaches in Ireland, on the northern section of the breathtaking Ring of Kerry drive. The beach occupies the western side of a sand bar, backed by extensive dunes, with a steep mountain immediately to the south offering breathtaking views over the beach and bay to the Dingle Peninsula to the north. The beach is popular with horse riders and hosts the popular Glenbeigh Races in late August each year.
Famous Landmarks In Ireland – Northern Ireland
Giant’s Causeway, County Antrim
The most famous of Northern Ireland landmarks, the Giant’s Causeway is a remarkable rock formation on the Antrim coast. It consists of around 40,000 basalt columns of varying height, formed by lava cooling after a volcanic eruption. According to legend, Irish giant Finn MacCool built the causeway to cross over to Scotland to confront his counterpart Benandonner.
The Giant’s Causeway can easily be reached on a day tour from Belfast. This Giant’s Causeway day tour also takes in the nearby Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, while Game of Thrones fans can combine a tour of film locations and Giant’s Causeway, again from Belfast.
There is also a day tour from Dublin to Belfast and the Giant’s Causeway, a long but very fulfilling day out.
See Also: 26 Of the Best UK Landmarks
The Mourne Mountains – also known as the Mountains of Mourne – are among the most famous landmarks in Northern Ireland. This range of mountains in County Down, close to the border with the Republic of Ireland, are the highest in Ulster, with Slieve Donard the tallest peak at a height of 850 metres (2,790 feet). They were the inspiration for CS Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia and have also been used as a location for Game of Thrones.
Titanic Belfast is one of the newer landmarks in Belfast, built on the site of the former Harland & Wolff shipyard where the ill-fated ocean liner was built. Locally known as ‘The Iceberg’, the building is meant to resemble a series of ship prows.
You’re taken on a series of interactive immersions into the life of the ship, from its construction to a cabin interior to the fatal encounter with the iceberg in the North Atlantic. One of the top attractions in Northern Ireland.
David Angel is a British writer and photographer who has been travelling and photographing Europe for over 25 years. His work is regularly featured in worldwide media including the BBC, the Guardian, the Times and the Sunday Times.
You can read more of my articles on famous landmarks in Europe below:
- Famous landmarks in Venice
- Famous UK landmarks
- Famous Spanish landmarks
- Famous Landmarks in England
- Famous landmarks in Italy
- Famous landmarks in Austria
- Famous landmarks in Poland
- Famous landmarks in Prague
- Famous London Landmarks
- Famous landmarks in Greece
- Famous landmarks in Berlin
- Famous landmarks in France
- Famous landmarks in Portugal