Ireland's top ten tourist attractions in 2013 - Where to go and what to see in Ireland


Until you have visited the Straw exhibition you could not imagine all the things that were made out of straw, everything from a babies cradle to a donkey’s saddle. There are displays depicting farming life, fishermen and even poachers and lots of original memorabilia, often made by school children associated with St Patrick's Day and Halloween and other great Irish traditions like ‘courting’ and ‘waking’ the dead. Check their own website for details of the many free events and workshops they hold throughout the year.

4. Croke Park Museum, Croke Park, Dublin is probably the best (and most passionate) tour in Ireland, especially if you know nothing at all about Gaelic Games. 

This museum and stadium tour will keep you occupied for several hours. Go behind the scenes into the only carbon neutral stadium in the world. Visit the player’s dressing rooms and rehearsal astro-turf-pitch and see where all the media-free after-match revelry goes on. Top of their game right now, with a momentous Dublin win in 2011 (which they will get over) it is highly recommended.

5. Glasnevin Cemetery Museum, Dublin 

It’s not often I would recommend a visit to a graveyard as a fun day out but this really is something else. The only recipient of a Thea award in Ireland, Glasnevin is an excellent modern museum with superb multi-media, as well as the personal touch, which is so important when dealing with a sensitive subject like this. 

Over a million people are buried here, including the great and the good and (the not so good) of Ireland. Guided graveyard tours take place daily with visits to the Daniel O’Connell tower and famous graves such as Michael Collins. It is a very interesting and quirky alternative, visitor attraction. 

6. Bantry House, Bantry, County Cork was my favorite Big House this year. It is absolutely stunning, the location on the shores of Bantry Bay and the history. 

How many houses do you know that where furnished with contents of a fire-sale in Versailles, following the beheading of the Dauphin of France? The blue dining-room is the most magnificent I have seen anywhere in the world. And the gardens (go in May when the wisteria is out) and don’t forget to climb those 100 steps for a view of heaven. 

7. Mizen Head Lighthouse, County Cork 

I am including this visitor attraction, more for the gangway walks and blowing the cobwebs away, rather than the actual museum, which is quite good and interesting as well. But it is all happening outdoors here (so pick a fine day if you can) it is so well done, there are different walks for various abilities, but they all have spectacular sea views, of course (and seats). And, you just have to cross the scary bridge to the old lighthouse for the thrill of it! Tip Hook Head Lighthouse in Wexford is also very good as an alternative. 

8. Lismore Castle Gardens Lismore, County Waterford 

What a dreamy garden, immaculate vegetable and flower gardens bursting at their neatly boxed seams while big blousy rambling roses run away with themselves over the mellow castle walls. It’s exactly how I would love my garden to be, if I had unlimited resources and a team of willing hefty types to dig, plant and weed it. 

Beyond beautiful, with a great variety of all kinds of plants, a riot of color too and with brightly painted wrought iron seats where you can sit out and enjoy a nice cup of tea or coffee and a slice of homemade lemon drizzle cake or a wander around the art gallery.

9. Limerick City Gallery of Art, Limerick has recently re-opened following a major revamp which include a new sculpture wing, a new curator and a wonderful new restaurant.