Even though Ireland is relatively small, there's so much to see and do and the beauty of the size of the country is that you can fit a lot of them into a trip pretty easily.
Editor's note: National Heritage Week celebrates all things heritage. It brings together organizations, cultural institutions, academics, and enthusiasts, to build awareness about the value of heritage and support its conservation. In 2019, more than 2,000 events took place across Ireland during the third week of August. However, to COVID-19-related restrictions on social gatherings, this year, it has gone online. In the spirit of sharing experience and knowledge on Irish heritage this week, we’re exploring Ireland’s most beloved Irish heritage sites.
If you're planning a trip and trying to prioritize, look no further than this list of stunning spots in Ireland, from the historic to the sublimely beautiful, that offer profound experiences.
The ancient temple is older than the pyramids and the 550 largest stones used in its construction had to be brought to the site from all around Ireland. It attracts more than 200,000 tourists a year and if you're one of the lucky few who wins tickets to be there for the Winter Solstice, it can definitely be a life-changing experience.
Rich in beautiful scenery and history, it's home to the highest mountain in Ireland, Carrantuohill, and climbing it is said to be an exhilarating experience. Not only that, but the county is also home to Fungie, the country's most famous dolphin who's about 25 years on the go. It certainly changed his life.
Miracles have happened here, and it's an important site of pilgrimage.
The early medieval monastic settlement was founded in the 6th Century by St. Kevin. Although it was almost destroyed by English troops in the 1300s, Glendalough survived and thrived as a place of religious importance.
However, you don't have to be religious to enjoy visiting. Its biggest attraction is its natural beauty and peacefulness, which is no doubt what attracted priests and monks here in the first place.
5. Kilmainham Gaol
Many leading Irish rebels spent time in the jail, including Eamon de Valera and Charles Stewart Parnell. Some would never leave. The leaders of 1916 were among those to be executed on the prison grounds.
Visitors today are brought on a tour of the jail and the museum which was reopened to the public in the 1970s. We are given the chance to read some of the letters written by those held there, and the weight of history can definitely be a life-changing experience.
6. The Aran Islands
A rare glimpse into old Ireland, the Aran Islands' beauty is the attraction for thousands of tourists every year.
The three islands of Inis Mór, Inis Oírr, and Inis Meáin provide an insight into Ireland's journey through time. One can find Iron Age huts, 14th Century castles, and cottages from the 1800s while staying in modern guesthouses.
The Aran Islands have served as inspiration for many great writers including James Joyce and John Millington Synge.
The are many historically significant sites around the city and for those interested in the history of The Troubles, Derry is a place which is top of the list to visit.
8. Lisdoonvarna Matchmaking Festival
The Lisdoonvarna Festival in Co. Clare is one of Europe's largest matchmaking events. It lasts for the whole month of September and there have been matchmaking shenanigans in the town for over 150 years.
The current, fourth-generation matchmaker is Willie Daly, and if he sets you up with a lad or lassie than it definitely could change your life!
Have you visited any of the attractions mentioned above? Tell us all about it in the comments section below.
* Originally published in March 2014.