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Why you should go Newgrange is one of the most remarkable prehistoric sites in Europe, famous for the illumination of its passage and tomb during the winter solstice sun. Newgrange, together with Dowth and Knowth, are the three main Megalithic passage tombs that make the Brú na Bóinne Unesco World Heritage site. The site is so ancient (constructed about 5200 years ago) that it predates Egypt's pyramids by some six centuries. Winter Solstice It’s magical to see it at any time of year but winter solstice (weather permitting) is incredibly special — a bucket-list event if you’re lucky enough to nab a ticket. At around 8.20am on the winter solstice (between December 18 and 23), the rising sun's rays shine through the roof-box above the entrance, creep slowly down the long passage and illuminate the tomb chamber for 17 minutes. There is little doubt that this is one of the country's most memorable, even mystical, experiences. No matter when you visit, there's a simulated winter sunrise for every group taken into the mound. Newgrange lights up for winter solstice ©wieditmedia/Getty Images History: facts and legends Newgrange dates from around 3200 BC, making it older than Stonehenge and the Great Pyramids of Giza. No one is quite sure of Newgrange’s original purpose — it has been the subject of much archaeological debate over the years. The most common theories are that it was a burial place for kings or a center for ritual. The tomb's precise alignment with the sun at the time of the winter solstice suggests it was also designed to act as a calendar. After being sealed for several millennia, Newgrange was eventually rediscovered in 1699 when a local landowner began quarrying the mound for stones. Over time, Newgrange, like Dowth and Knowth, deteriorated and at one stage was even used as a quarry. Archaeological excavations didn't begin until the 1960s. The site was extensively restored in 1962 and again in 1975. Newgrange's name derives from 'New Granary' (the tomb did in fact serve as a repository for wheat and grain at one stage), although a more popular belief is that it comes from the Irish for 'Cave of Gráinne', a reference to a popular Celtic myth. The Pursuit of Diarmuid and Gráinne tells of the illicit love between the woman betrothed to Fionn MacCumhaill (or Finn McCool), leader of the Fianna, and Diarmuid, one of his most trusted lieutenants. When Diarmuid was fatally wounded, his body was brought to Newgrange by the god Aengus in a vain attempt to save him, and the despairing Gráinne followed him into the cave, where she remained long after he died. This suspiciously Arthurian tale (substitute Lancelot and Guinevere for Diarmuid and Gráinne) is undoubtedly a myth, but it's still a pretty good story. Newgrange also plays another role in Celtic mythology as the site where the hero Cúchulainn was conceived. Aerial view of Newgrange ©MNStudio/Shutterstock Inside Newgrange A startling 80m in diameter and 13m high, Newgrange's white round stone walls, topped by a grass dome, look eerily futuristic, despite its ancient origins. Underneath the dome lies the Stone Age passage tomb. A superbly carved kerbstone with double and triple spirals guards the tomb's main entrance, but the area has been reconstructed so that visitors don't have to clamber in over it. Above the entrance is a slit, or roof-box, which lets light in. Another beautifully decorated kerbstone stands at the exact opposite side of the mound. Some experts say that a ring of standing stones encircled the mound, forming a great circle about 100m in diameter, but only 12 of these stones remain, with traces of others below ground level. Holding the whole structure together are the 97 boulders of the kerb ring, designed to stop the mound from collapsing outwards. Eleven of these are decorated with motifs similar to those on the main entrance stone, although only three have extensive carvings. The white quartzite that encases the tomb was originally obtained from Wicklow, 70km south – in an age before horse and wheel, it was transported by sea and then up the River Boyne. More than 200,000 tonnes of earth and stone also went into the mound. You can walk down the narrow 19m passage, lined with 43 stone uprights (some of them engraved), which leads into the tomb chamber about one third of the way into the colossal mound. The chamber has three recesses, and in these are large basin stones that held cremated human bones. As well as the remains, the basins would have held funeral offerings of beads and pendants, but these were stolen long before the archaeologists arrived. Above, the massive stones support a 6m-high corbel-vaulted roof. A complex drainage system means that not a drop of water has penetrated the interior in 40 centuries. Megalithic art at the entrance of Newgrange ©powerofforever/Getty Images Tickets and other practicalities Brú na Bóinne Unesco World Heritage site in County Meath is roughly a 45-minute drive from Dublin. Access to Newgrange is granted by guided tour from the Brú na Bóinne Visitor Centre where a shuttle bus will take you to the tombs. Allow plenty of time: an hour for the visitor center alone and two hours for Newgrange. Tickets are sold on a first-come, first-served basis (no advance booking). Arrive early in the morning or visit midweek and be prepared to wait, especially in summer. Alternatively, visiting as part of an organised tour, such as Mary Gibbons Tours (€45 per adult - departs from Dublin), guarantees a spot. Tickets for the Brú na Bóinne and Newgrange Chamber tour cost €18 per adult, €12 for children between the ages 12 and 17, and €16 for seniors. Family tickets (two adults and two children) cost €48. Children under 12 go free. To be in with a chance of witnessing the Solstice Sunrise event on one of six mornings around the winter solstice, enter the free lottery that's drawn in late September; 50 names are drawn and each winner is allowed to take one guest (be aware, however, that over 30,000 people apply each year). Fill out the form at the Brú na Bóinne Visitor Centre or email email@example.com Where to stay near Newgrange Some of the best accommodation options near Newgrange are in the town of Slane, with a small choice that runs from budget to luxury. Slane Farm Hostel Rock Farm Glamping Conyngham Arms
Why you should go Trinity's greatest treasures are found within the Old Library and the incredible Long Room is one of the most photographed rooms in Dublin, for good reason. The star of the show is the Book of Kells, a breathtaking, illuminated manuscript of the four Gospels of the New Testament. Unfortunately, only a few pages are ever on display at one time and in busy times it can be just a quick look for visitors. You can linger more in the magnificent Long Room, which houses around 200,000 of the library's oldest and rarest volumes. Other displays include a one of the last remaining copies of the Proclamation of the Irish Republic, read out by Pádraig Pearse at the beginning of the Easter Rising in 1916, as well as the Trinity College Harp, the oldest medieval harp in Ireland and the model for the Guinness logo and the flag of the Irish president. History The history of the Book of Kells is almost as fascinating as its intricate illuminations. It is thought to have been created around AD 800 by the monks at St Colmcille's Monastery on Iona, a remote island off the coast of Scotland; repeated looting by marauding Vikings forced the monks to flee to Kells, County Meath, along with their masterpiece. It was stolen in 1007, then rediscovered three months later buried underground. The Book of Kells was brought to Trinity College for safekeeping in 1654 and now more than half a million visitors queue up to see it annually. The 680-page (340-folio) book was rebound in four calfskin volumes in 1953. There has been a library at Trinity College since its founding in 1592 and the Old Library dates from 1732. In 1743, the college began collecting the busts that now line the Long Room; notables include Jonathan Swift, Shakespeare, Aristotle and Wolfe Tone. Despite being sometimes described as a ‘Harry Potter library’ online, the Old Library does not appear in the wizarding films but it does bear a striking resemblance to the Jedi Archives in the Star Wars franchise, a resemblance which Lucas Film has denied was intentional. Tickets and other practicalities The Book of Kells and Trinity Old Library are open seven days a week and is wheelchair accessible. Timed entry tickets are available online. An adult ticket is €16 and concessions are available for seniors, students and groups. Your entry ticket also includes admission to temporary exhibitions on display. The visit takes about 40 minutes. The Old Library gets very busy during the summer months and you'll only get a fleeting moment with the Book of Kells, as the constant flow of viewers is hurried past. To linger in front of the masterpiece, you will need to go at a very quiet, off-peak time and be very lucky.
The Cliffs of Moher get more publicity, but the cliffs of Sliabh Liag are higher. In fact, these spectacular sea cliffs are among the highest in Europe, plunging some 600m to the ceaselessly churning sea. From Teelin, a road through the stark landscape leads to the lower car park (with hiking signs) beside a gate in the road; drive another 1.5km to the upper car park (often full in summer) right beside the viewpoint (close the gate though). From the upper car park, a rough footpath leads up and along the top of the near-vertical cliffs to the aptly named One Man's Pass, a narrow ridge that reaches the summit of Sliabh Liag (595m, 10km round-trip). Be aware that mist and rain can roll in unexpectedly and rapidly, making conditions slippery and treacherous. Be especially careful near the edge of the cliffs. Walking just the first 500m will give you spectacular views. It's also possible to hike to the summit of Sliabh Liag from Carrick via the Pilgrim Path (signposted along the minor road on the right before the Sliabh Liag cliffs road), returning via One Man's Pass and the viewpoint road (12km, allow four to six hours). The cliffs are particularly scenic at sunset when the waves crash dramatically far below and the ocean reflects the last rays of the day. Looking down, you'll see two rocks nicknamed the 'giant's desk and chair' for reasons that are immediately obvious.
If you have any desire to understand Irish history – especially the long-running resistance to British colonial rule – then a visit to this former prison is an absolute must. Why you should go An imposing grey building, built in 1796, it's played a role in virtually every act of Ireland's painful path to independence, and even today, it still has the power to chill. Sometimes referred to as "The Bastille of Ireland", Kilmainham Gaol was decommissioned in 1924 and is now a museum with an enthralling exhibit on the history of Irish nationalism. Browsing the museum will give you excellent context and access to some of the former prisoners' personal belongings and letters. The enthusiastic guides provide a thought-provoking tour of the eerie prison, the largest unoccupied building of its kind in Europe. The highly memorable tour takes about 90 minutes and finishes in the yard where the leaders of the failed 1916 Easter Rising were executed. History Ireland’s struggle for independence was a bloody and tempestuous journey, and this forbidding prison on the western edge of the city, which opened in 1796, played a role in it for nearly 150 years, as the forced temporary home of many a rebel and revolutionary. The uprisings of 1798, 1803, 1848, 1867 and 1916 ended with the leaders' confinement in Kilmainham Gaol. Robert Emmet, Thomas Francis Meagher, Charles Stewart Parnell and the 1916 Easter Rising leaders were all visitors, but it was the executions in 1916 that most deeply etched the jail's name into the Irish consciousness. Of the 15 executions that took place between 3 May and 12 May after the revolt, 14 were conducted here. As a finale, prisoners from the Civil War were held here from 1922. The last prisoner, Éamon de Valera, was released in July 1924. He went on to serve as Taoiseach (Prime Minister) of Ireland on three separate occasions, and eventually became President. Prison cells at Kilmainham Goal in Dublin ©Flavia8/Shutterstock But it’s not just political prisoners whose stories are shared here. Kilmainham Gaol offers a great, and at times uncomfortable, insight into the conditions in Ireland in the 18th, 19th and early 20th-centuries, and the lives and struggles of its people. Registers show just how easy it was to get on the wrong side of the law back then, particularly during the Great Famine (1845–49) when starvation forced people to steal and beg for food, or deliberately break the law in order to have a roof over their heads. Many of those who did leave the prison ended up being deported to the other side of the world, never to return home. Some 4000 convicts, many petty thieves, were held in Kilmainham Gaol before being shipped to the British colonies in Australia. The Kilmainham Gaol Restoration Society was established in 1958 to restore the former prison, transforming it into the most important historical monuments in the country with the help of voluntary labor, free materials and donations - such was the desire to preserve the site. Ahead of the centenary of the 1916 Rising, the Office of Public Works invested €5 million in refurbishing the site. Tickets and other practicalities Entrance is by guided tour and is managed through timed tickets. Online booking is required. Book as far in advance as possible to get your preferred visiting time. If you're planning a trip on short notice, cancellation tickets for the day are released online between 9:15am and 9:30am. Group bookings (10 or more people) can be arranged by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Wheelchair users, visitors with additional needs and carers are advised to email the museum in advance to arrange a visit. Kilmainham Gaol is located 3.5km from Dublin city center; a number of bus routes have stops nearby and the nearest Luas stop (red line) is Suir Road. Entrance is via the Kilmainham Courthouse next door. What's nearby? While in this part of the city you can visit the fine collection at the Irish Museum of Modern Art (don’t forget to visit the gardens too), which is about a 15-minute walk from Kilmainham Gaol. If the weather is good, enjoy a stroll in War Memorial Gardens. Slightly further afield is the Phoenix Park. For lunch, try Storyboard, LimeTree Cafe or the Kilmainham Gaol Cafe.
Why you should go Trinity College Dublin is Ireland 's most prestigious university, a collection of elegant Georgian and Victorian buildings, cobbled squares and nature-friendly wildflower meadows that make for a delightful place to wander. Located next to Grafton Street in the heart of the city, Trinity College is one of Ireland’s most visited sites, attracting more than two million visitors per year. Its biggest draws are the barrel-vaulted Long Room in Old Library, one of the most photographed rooms in Dublin, and the Book of Kells, the beautifully illuminated Gospel manuscript that dates back to the 9th-century and is one of Ireland's greatest cultural treasures. The campus is a masterpiece of architecture. Notable buildings include the 1798 Chapel, with its painted windows, and the red-brick Rubrics Building which dates from around 1690, making it the oldest building in the college. There’s also the neo-Gothic Museum Building, home to the Zoological Museum (a bit of a hidden gem that's great for kids) with a collection that includes examples of extinct creatures such as Ireland’s Last Great Auk and the Tasmanian Wolf. Not to be outdone is the brutalist, brilliant Berkeley Library, designed by Paul Koralek in 1967, and the Arts & Social Science Building, which is home to the Douglas Hyde Gallery of Modern Art - one of the country's leading contemporary galleries. Towards the eastern end of the complex, College Park is a lovely place to lounge around on a sunny day and occasionally you'll catch a game of cricket. On sunny days, people flock to the campus bar, The Pavillion (or 'The Pav' as it's known to students) and lounge on the cricket grounds with a cold can of beer. Slightly further afield on Pearse Street is the Science Gallery, a family-friendly attraction that offers a lively and informative exploration of the relationship between science, art and the world we live in. History The college was established by Queen Elizabeth I in 1592 when Ireland was under British colonial rule. It was built on land confiscated from an Augustinian priory to the south east of the city walls, and modelled on England 's University of Oxford and University of Cambridge. The goal of the college was to stop the brain drain of young Protestant Dubliners, who were skipping across to continental Europe for an education, choosing universities in France and Italy – and so risking conversion to Roman Catholicism. It remained completely Protestant until 1793, but even when the university relented and began to admit Catholics, the Catholic Church held firm; until 1970, any Catholic who enrolled here could consider themselves excommunicated. It also remained a gentlemen-only university until 1904 when the first women were allowed to study there. Trinity is regarded as one of Europe's most outstanding universities, producing a host of notable graduates – including the writers Jonathan Swift, Oscar Wilde, Bram Stoker and Samuel Beckett, as well as Oscar-nominated actress Ruth Negga and novelist Sally Rooney, whose novels Conversations with Friends and Normal People were set in Trinity College. Opening hours and other practicalities Trinity College campus grounds, the Long Room and the Book of Kells exhibition are open seven days a week. Entry for the exhibition is timed and tickets must be purchased online. The Science Gallery is open seven days a week, while the Zoological Museum is only open to the public in summer. A great way to see the grounds is on a student-led walking tour, departing from the Regent House entrance on College Green. There are also guided tours of the Old Library. The college is located right in the heart of the city and is easily accessible by public transport; the Green Line of the Luas stops outside the College Green entrance, and most city center buses have a stop nearby. Hotels near Trinity College If you want to stay near Trinity College, prepare to pay for the privilege. Most of the hotels nearby are of the top-end luxury variety. Westin The Davenport The Westbury The Merrion Trinity Townhouse Hotel The Shelbourne Cliff Townhouse
A magnificent Caravaggio and a breathtaking collection of works by Jack B Yeats – William Butler Yeats' younger brother – are the main reasons to visit the National Gallery, but certainly not the only ones. Its excellent collection is strong in Irish art, and there are also high-quality collections of every major European school of painting. What's inside Spread about its four wings you'll find: works by Rembrandt and his circle; a Spanish collection with paintings by El Greco, Goya and Picasso; and a well-represented display of Italian works dating from the early Renaissance to the 18th century. Fra Angelico, Titian and Tintoretto are among the artists represented, but the highlight is undoubtedly Caravaggio's The Taking of Christ (1602), which lay for over 60 years in a Jesuit house on Leeson Street and was accidentally discovered by chief curator Sergio Benedetti. National Gallery of Ireland's collection of 3000 artworks includes oils, watercolors, sketches, prints and sculptures ©Salvador Maniquiz/Shutterstock The ground floor displays the gallery's fine Irish collection, plus a smaller British collection, with works by Reynolds, Hogarth, Gainsborough, Landseer and Turner. Absolutely unmissable is the Yeats Collection at the back of the gallery, displaying more than 30 works by Irish impressionist Jack B Yeats (1871–1957), Ireland's most important 20th-century painter. Entrance is via the light-filled modern Millennium Wing on Clare Street or the refurbished entrance on Merrion Square West. Here you'll also find a small collection of 20th-century Irish art, high-profile visiting collections (for which there are admission charges), an art reference library, a lecture theatre, a good bookshop and Fitzer's Café. The collection spans works from the 14th to the 20th centuries and includes all the major continental schools ©Olivier Cirendini/Lonely Planet Insider tips In order to protect FW Burton's gorgeous watercolor, Hellelil and Hildebrand, the Meeting on the Turret Stairs (1864) from too much light exposure, it is only displayed twice a week in Room 20, for an hour at a time on Thursdays at 5.30pm and Sundays at 2pm. The best time to visit the gallery is Thursday evening, when it's open late and there are fewer visitors. There are family workshops for kids to try their hand at art throughout the year, usually on Saturdays; check the gallery website for details. Tours, tickets and accessibility There are free tours at 6.30pm Thursday, 12.30pm Saturday and at 11.30am, 12.30pm and 1.30pm on Sunday. The gallery also has a free Masterpieces app (available for both Android and iPhone) featuring 80% of its collection. Wheelchairs and stools are available free of charge at the cloakrooms. Entrances on Merrion Square West and Clare Street are accessible for buggies and wheelchair users and people with reduced mobility. Lifts provide access to all levels of the gallery. Visitors who are deaf or are hard of hearing can avail of hearing induction loops. The National Gallery also hosts tours with listening devices and Irish Sign Language tours. Visitors with assistance dogs are welcome to the gallery, dog bowls with water are available from the Information desks. Free audio guides, magnifying glasses and large text booklets are available for adults and children. The best time to visit the gallery is Thursday evening, when it's open late ©Benoit Daoust/Shutterstock How to get there Dublin Bus numbers 4, 7, 8, 39A and 46A will lead you there from the city centre. What's nearby? Drop into Doheny & Nesbitt's for a post-gallery pint. For food, try Tiller & Grain or Allta (book ahead). Both Trinity College and Merrion Square park are a two-minute walk away, and you're just a stone's throw from the Natural Museum of Ireland.
Slane Castle is a 300-year-old sprawling estate on the banks of the River Boyne in County Meath. The neo-gothic castle and grounds are open to visitors for tours, where you can see up close the living quarters and exquisite 18th century interiors. It is still very much the private residence of Henry Conyngham, Earl of Mountcharles and his family—the castle has been their ancestral home since 1703. The Conyngham’s are originally a noble Scottish family, who came to Ireland in 1611. History The castle was designed by two of the country's most famous architects, James Wyatt and Francis Johnson, who oversaw the build in Gothic-revival style in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. The dramatic gates at the Mill Hill entrance are highly regarded as being outstanding examples of gothic design and are much photographed to this day. Rock concerts at Slane Castle The castle has a long association with rock royalty. U2, friends of Lord Henry, recorded their 1984 album The Unforgettable Fire while staying at the castle. The video for Pride (In The Name of Love) was filmed in the Gothic Revival Ballroom. In 1991, one-third of the castle was gutted by a fire. The distress was compounded by the discovery the castle was not insured. In order to rebuild, Lord Henry focused his attention on attracting big international rock acts for the annual Slane Castle summer concert held in the shadow of the castle. The Rolling Stones, Madonna, David Bowie, Queen, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, Guns N' Roses and U2 (3 times to date) have all headlined. The concerts formed part of a fundraising drive that led to a painstaking 10-year restoration that saw the castle reopen to visitors in 2001. Tours Visitors can buy tickets for a 45-minute castle tour, but it's highly recommended to combine this with a visit to Slane Whiskey Distillery, housed in 250-year-old stables on the grounds of the estate. Visitors can see the whisky distilling process in the likes of the cooperage, the barley room and the maturation warehouse. The tour concludes with raising a glass of Slane Irish Whiskey. Restaurants The castle has currently two restaurants on site, and the nearby village of Slane, just 1.5 km away, offers many options for lunch and casual dining options, including Brabazon in near-by Tankardstown House. Attractions near Slane Castle Slane Castle is nestled on a hillside in County Meath, just under one hour’s drive from Dublin. There are direct bus routes from Dublin city centre to the village of Slane. It is in the heart of the Boyne Valley region, with lots of other heritage sites in the vicinity that can be explored over the course of a day or two, including the famous prehistoric monument at Newgrange, the highcross of Monasterboice, Mellifont Abbey, and the ruins of a Franciscan Monastery, dating from 1512 on the hill of Slane, where St Patrick is said to have lit the fire introducing Christianity to Ireland. Tickets to Slane Castle Tickets for tours should be booked in advance and cost from €14 per adult, with reduced pricing for young people, students and groups. Children under 5 years are free. Combined tickets for the castle and distillery tour are discounted.
The most popular attraction in Dublin is this multimedia homage to Guinness. An old fermentation plant in the St James's Gate Brewery has been converted into a seven-storey museum devoted to the beer, the company’s history, how the beer is made and how it became the brand it is today. The top floor Gravity Bar is an atrium bar, where you can test your pouring power and drink a pint; just below it is an excellent restaurant for lunch. History Since Arthur Guinness (1725–1803) founded the brewery in 1759, the operation has expanded down to the Liffey and across both sides of the street; at one point, it had its own railway and there was a giant gate stretching across St James's St, hence the brewery's proper name, St James’s Gate Brewery. At its apogee in the 1930s, it employed over 5000 workers, making it the largest employer in the city. Increased automation has reduced the workforce to around 600, but it still produces 2.5 million pints of stout every day. Guinness Gates is one of the most photographed spots in town ©Evan Hammonds/500px Tours and tickets The tour is spread across 1.6 hectares, involving an array of audiovisual and interactive displays that cover pretty much all aspects of the brewery's history and the brewing process. You'll even learn how to perfect the famous two-part pour in the vertiginous heights of the Gravity Bar. The tour takes about 90 minutes and tickets cost from €18.50 per adult. Die-hards can opt for the upgraded Connoisseur Experience, where a designated barkeeper goes through the histories of the four variants of Guinness – Draught, Original, Foreign Extra Stout and Black Lager – and provides delicious samples of each. Tickets cost €55. Enjoy a pint of Guinness in the Gravity Bar ©Anton_Ivanov/Shutterstock In 2020, the Storehouse launched a Behind-the-Gate tour, bringing visitors to parts of St James's Gate that were previously off limits to the public. Tickets cost €95. Other add-ons include the STOUTie, the stout equivalent of latte art, where a pretty good likeness of yourself is drawn in the creamy head of the pint. Strictly for photographs, of course. What's nearby? The experimental Open Gate Brewery is just around the corner, where you can test a sample board of Guinness or enjoy a selection of craft beers and food. There's also a choice of distillery experiences nearby, including Teeling and Roe & Co. For lunch try Groundstate, or head to Container Coffee for a takeaway hot drink - both are within walking distance. The Storehouse is in the Liberties district so you're surrounded by a great selection of restaurants and traditional pubs. The tour is spread across seven floors of the museum ©Jonathan Smith/Lonely Planet How to get there The 123 bus will take you from the city center to the Guinness Storehouse; it has stops on O'Connell Street and Dame Street.
A 2300-hectare nature reserve with a mountain range in the middle, full of walking and biking trails. A visit to Slieve Bloom is the perfect excuse to explore this often overlooked area of Ireland. Straddling Offaly and Laois, there are a number of walking trails ranging from easy 4km loop walks to the multi-day 75km Slieve Bloom Way. The walks are all color-coded according to difficulty. Walking is probably the best way to spot some of the reserve’s rare species of birds and appreciate the wide variety of wildflowers. Slieve Bloom is also a really popular spot for mountain biking. It has 35km of dedicated trails with plans to eventually expand them to 100km. If you prefer slow wandering, there are plenty of concrete roads to cycle on too. The mountains themselves are one of the oldest in Europe and once stood 3,700 metres tall. According to Irish mythology, the famous warrior Fionn Mac Cumhaill was raised in the forests at the foothills of the mountains where he trained in warfare and hunting before beginning a renowned life of adventure. Access to the nature reserve is via six main trailhead access points. To find out which is the most convenient for you and for directions, go to the reserve’s website.
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