Need Things to Do in Ireland? Make Your Own Themed Travel Tour!
When a setting requires as much a character as the actors, producers know to shoot in Ireland. You’d be surprised to see how versatile Ireland is, being used for 16th century castles, fantasy realms where dragons fly, and even the far reaches of space!
Game of Thrones
The north of Ireland is rife with Game of Thrones shooting sites. Dothraki horses galloped across Ireland’s Slemish mountain, along with Tollymore Forest Park where the White Walkers were first seen in the lands beyond the Wall. If you want to walk through Winterfell’s battlements, you can visit Castle Ward in County Down, and if the scene where Melisandre gave birth to the shadow assassin still haunts you (how could it not?) visit the Cushendun caves that were created over 400 million years.
For some Canadian pride, visit Dublin in Southern Ireland to find the set pieces that comprised the Canadian/American/British smash television series. To view the halls that King Henry VIII walked (or at least a version of him from TV), you can then visit the ostentatious Dublin Castle; the Kilmainham Gaol, which served as a prison until 1924; and the resplendent Killruddery House. For a closer look at the actual film studio where it was produced, drive for less than hour south of Dublin to the town of Wicklow to see Ardmore Studios.
Then, journeying down to the southeast corner of island, near a town called Dingle (which must be visited for the name alone), you’ll come upon the island of Skellig Michael. For fans of the recent Star Wars movies, the lone isle will be instantly recognizable from its stone stairs to the dark waves that surround its rocks: it’s where Luke Skywalker was hiding! Tours of the island will take you up the ancient stairs, and you may even catch a glimpse of a few puffins (the inspiration for The Last Jedi’s “porgs”) along the way.
Ireland is known more for its drink than for its food; this we can all agree on. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t delicious meals you must try, especially when it comes to comfort fare and seafood.
Galway oysters – Being on the coast, Galway is rich with delicious seafood. Get shucking these fresh oysters with the rest and best of them, but be sure to visit when they’re available between September and April. If you’re visiting outside this timeframe, you can still enjoy the Gigas oysters, which are available year-round.
Boxty – This potato pancake originated in County Mayo, so while its made across the whole of Ireland, to sample it as it was originally prepared it’s best to visit Northern Ireland. As simple as it gets – a potato pancake – its starchiness is a delicious comfort.
Traditional Corned Beef – If you think the Irish have mastered the potato, you should see what they can do with corned beef. However, while you might want to try traditional corned beef, know that it’s rarely eaten by the Irish, and is made moreso to please tourists.
Cockles (small saltwater clams) – After a good storm along the coast of County Cork, one may be able to find cockles washed ashore. If you have the means to cook while visiting, fit a few in your hat, take them home, and steam them with a bit of white wine. Delicious.
Pastie – Another comfort-food favourite of northern Ireland (consistently wet conditions means you want to wrap your food in a warm blanket as well), this meat dish is wrapped in a light and flaky crust.
Visitors who want to experience the culture of Ireland will find an abundance in its modern cities, from the large to the quaint.
With half the population of Edmonton or Calgary, Dublin may feel more intimate, but its just as much a haven for fantastic food, music venues, and history. Download the Dublin Discovery Trails app to take a tour of the city at your own pace, and see what James Joyce was writing about in Dubliners (which we highly recommend you read before any Dublin trip).
A mere three-hour drive west of Dublin you’ll find Galway, a port town filled with churches, museums, beaches, and beautiful scenery that could have been pulled from a painting. Take a trip to the Cliffs of Moher, one of Ireland’s most visited tourist attractions, bike down numerous mountain trails, surf, or set sail for the 365 islands across the Lough Corrib lake.
Another three-hour drive south and you’ll hit the city of Cork. A university town, it’s filled with shops, artisanal coffee stops, and the grand architecture of the Queens University college (resembling a castle), Griffith college (resembling a beautiful manse), and several other colleges. The student population gives it a great youth culture, so young travellers will immediately feel at home.
On the Ring of Kerry, one of Irelands most scenic and popular drives, you’ll find the city of Killarney. Self-branded as “the town in the park,” Killarney is surrounded by natural forest and hilly greenery. The restaurants of the city stock their shelves with fresh, local ingredients, and the architecture (dating back as far as the sixth century) are worth visiting.
Far to the north is the historic city of Derry. Sunken Spanish vessels discovered four hundred years after they were lost, emancipation tales of the Irish from the English, traditional Irish music centers, and public murals are just a few pieces that give the city its mature character.
(we would include a pronunciation guide but it really doesn’t help)
This is not actually a city, but a townland named in a rather matter-of-fact Irish parlance for its appearance: “a ridge shaped like a pig’s back between two expanses of briny water.” There isn’t much to do here, but you will have the fun of telling people that you went there, then getting to repeat the name.
Whiskey and Beer Tasting Tour
It’s a cliché to say that the Irish are known for their drinking. But if where you came from had the same quality of beer and whiskey, you’d probably be known for drinking too! If you enjoy a bit of the brown stuff, there’s good quaffing to be had on Ireland’s whiskey trails which are as full of liquor as they are with history.