PHOTOS - Ireland’s top ten most popular tourist attractions for 2011 photo gallery

Failte Ireland, the National Tourism Development Authority, has revealed the 2011 list of fee-paying and free attractions around Ireland.

Dublin Zoo, who have welcomed many new arrivals this year including giraffes and gorillas, came in at first place in the fee-paying category while the National Gallery of Ireland maintained its dominance in the free attractions category.

The authority said that although 2010 was the most difficult year in tourism in decades the popularity of the attractions remained high.


1. Dublin Zoo

Failte Ireland reported that its numbers grew by almost seven percent in 2010 to 960,000.

The Zoo opened in 1813. It is the largest zoo in Ireland covering 24 hectares (59 acres) of Phoenix Park.

This May the zoo welcomed 12 new arrivals including a litter of piglets in the “Family Farm”, a blackbuck calf, a Sulawesi-crested macaque. Also in the last year the zoo welcomed a new giraffe and gorilla.

2. Guinness Storehouse

The Guinness Storehouse, at St. James's Gate Brewery in Dublin, has welcomed over 4 million visitors in the last decade. The Storehouse introduces the beer's four ingredients, water, barley, hops and yeast, as well as the brewery's founder, Arthur Guinness.

Other floors feature the history of Guinness advertising and an interactive exhibit that encourages responsible drinking. In 2006, a new wing opened incorporating a live installation of the present day brewing process.

The seventh floor houses the Gravity Bar where visitors may claim a complimentary pint of Guinness and enjoy the 360° views over Dublin City.

3. National Aquatic Centre

National Aquatic Centre is a water-sports facility near the village of Blanchardstown Dublin. The NAC was built to be "the home of Irish swimming", with modern facilities such as a 50m competition pool (one of only three in Ireland), diving pool with movable floor, and leisure centre — it is Ireland's largest indoor water leisure facility.

4. Cliffs of Moher

The most famous and breathtaking parts of Ireland’s craggy west coastline are the Cliffs of Moher, which feature some of the most breathtaking views on the entire island.

The Cliffs stretch for almost five miles and rise up to 702-feet over the waters of the Atlantic ocean. The amazing view from the Cliffs includes the Aran Islands, Galway Bay, The Twelve Pins and the Maum Turk Mountains.

The landscape and seascape of the Cliffs of Moher have, for centuries, welcomed a multitude of visitors; close to one million people per year now travel to this iconic location.

5. The Book of Kells

The Book of Kells is an illuminated manuscript Gospel book in Latin, containing the four Gospels of the New Testament together with various prefatory texts and tables. It was created by Celtic monks 800 AD or slightly earlier. It is a masterwork of Western calligraphy and is widely regarded as Ireland's finest national treasure.

It is on permanent display at the Trinity College Library, Dublin. The library usually displays two of the current four volumes at a time, one showing a major illustration and the other showing typical text pages.



1. The National Gallery of Ireland

National Gallery of Ireland continued its dominance as the favored free attraction, recording more than 736,000 visitors last year.

Although it’s not the Louvre, the National Gallery of Ireland does have its charms and when visiting Dublin art lovers should make some time for a leisurely stroll. Situated at Merrion Square near the home and birthplace of Oscar Wilde and close to the National Museum in Kildare Street it is not too out of the way. And the small but exquisite collection of renowned masterpieces, including an only recently discovered Caravaggio, will make the visit definitely worth your while.

2. Botanic Gardens

The National Botanic Gardens are located in Glasnevin, north-west of Dublin city centre. The 27 acres (19.5 hectares), are situated between Prospect Cemetery and the River Tolka where it forms part of that river's floodplain.

The gardens were founded in 1795 by the Dublin Society (later the Royal Dublin Society) and they have grown to hold 20,000 living plants and many millions of dried plant specimens. There are several architecturally notable greenhouses.

3. Irish Museum of Modern Art

The Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA) is Ireland's leading national institution exhibiting and collecting modern and contemporary art. The museum opened in May 1991 and is located in Royal Hospital Kilmainham, a 17th-century building near Heuston Station to the west of Dublin's city centre.

4. Farmleigh

Farmleigh was formerly one of the Dublin residences of the Guinness family. It is situated in the civil parish of Castleknock on an elevated position above the River Liffey to the north-west of the Phoenix Park. The estate of 78 acres (32 ha) consists of extensive private gardens with stands of mature cypress, pine and oak trees, a boating pond, walled garden, sunken garden, out offices and a herd of rare native Kerry cattle.

As if this location needed anymore press after Queen Elizabeth II made it her based during her visit to Ireland this May.

5. Holy Cross Abbey

The Holy Cross Abbey in Tipperary is a restored Cistercian monastery situated on the River Suir. It takes its name from a relic of the True Cross or Holy rood. The fragment of that Holy rood was brought to Ireland by the Plantagenet Queen, Isabella of Angouleme around 1233.

The Holy Rood relic was last exposed for public veneration in 1632, and following the Cromwellian war, Holy Cross Abbey fell into ruins. Local people used the roofless ruins as a burial place after 1740. It became a scheduled national monument in 1880, "to be preserved and not used as a place of worship".

Special legislation in the Dáil on its 50th anniversary, 21 January 1969, enabled Holy Cross Abbey to be restored as a place of Catholic worship, exceptionally for a national monument. The Sacristan of St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican provided an authenticated relic of the Holy Cross, and the emblem of the Jerusalem Cross, or Crusader Cross, has been restored for the Abbey.

PHOTOS - Ireland’s top ten most popular tourist attractions for 2011 photo gallery


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