5 of the Top Historical Sites in Ireland

Discover just a few of the many fascinating historical sites to be found in Ireland

Blarney Castle in the Republic of Ireland

This guest post is by Cath from Passports and Adventures. She is an Irish expat who now lives in Portugal with her husband and son, and through her blog, inspires more families to travel by showing them that you can find education and adventure through cultural travel

Ireland is a country with over 1000 years of documented history, but people have inhabited the Emerald Isle for a lot longer. With so much history it is unsurprising that the island has a wealth of historical sites for locals and visitors to explore.

And with so much choice it can be hard to narrow down which ones to visit. In this post you’ll learn about some of the amazing historical sites in Ireland.

From castles, round towers, ornamental houses, archaeological sites and more, if you like history and visiting historical sites, Ireland is the place to visit. You’ll find an Irish historical site around almost every corner, so here are just a few of the best ones to visit in Ireland.

Blarney Castle

One of the most famous historical sites in Ireland for visitors is Blarney Castle, in County Cork.

This popular tourist attraction in Ireland draws the crowds for one big reason, for visitors to kiss the Blarney Stone. Legend has it that those who take the time to kiss the stone, in the traditional way, will be bestowed with the gift of the gab. That is, you’ll never be short on words.

While this is the main reason visitors flock to the castle, it is not the only thing to do there.

The castle grounds have extensive gardens which include two waterfalls, a poison garden, Blarney House (separate to the Castle), a lake, ferns gardens and more. You could easily spend a whole day exploring the grounds after kissing the Blarney Stone.

And my advice for that, arrive early, around opening time, make your way to the top of the castle to kiss the stone, and then spend the rest of your time at Blarney Castle at a slower pace.

Bru na Boinne

One of the oldest historical sites in Ireland is that of Bru na Boinne, otherwise known as the Boyne Valley tombs. Located in County Meath, Bru na Boinne is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and includes the sites of Newgrange, Knowth and Dowth as well as 90 additional monuments.

As it is located just 40 kilometres from Dublin, this historical site can easily be visited in one day from Dublin.

This area has been inhabited for around 6000 years but the current structures date back 5000 years, from the Neolithic period, predating the pyramids of Egypt.

The passage tomb of Newgrange is probably one of the most famous monuments at the site. Around the time of the winter solstice, the roofbox above the main passageway is flooded with light at sunrise, flooding the inner chamber with light, during which time the carvings in the stones are highly visible.

This chamber tomb was reopened to the public after excavations during the 1950’s, 60’s and 70’s and my mum was one of the first to visit, as my grandfather worked in the Office of Public Works.

Rock of Cashel, Ireland. Cathedral was built between 1235 and 1270

The Rock of Cashel

Standing on top of a hill, overlooking the rolling fields below in County Tipperary is the Rock of Cashel. Originally the seat of the High Kings of Munster from the 5th century, the current buildings at the site of the Rock of Cashel date from the 12th and 13th centuries when the rock was gifted to the Church.

The Rock of Cashel is a large site and is a popular destination for many visitors to Ireland. The cathedral is large and now roofless, after the roof was removed by Arthur Price in the 1740’s.

That said the main arches are still visible, giving visitors a taste of what it must have looked like in centuries gone by. There is also a well-preserved round tower at the site, other buildings and a graveyard with many high crosses still standing.

As this is another popular Irish tourist attraction, it is advisable to arrive early in the morning before the tour buses. The Rock of Cashel is one of the best things to do in Ireland with kids.

Bunratty castle in Co. Clare, Ireland

Bunratty Castle

Sitting on the banks of the River Ratty is a Medieval castle, Bunratty Castle. Originally a Norsemen settlement, Bunratty Castle was built in the early 15th century and was home to a powerful Munster clan, the O’Briens. They inhabited it as the Earls of Thomond after they moved their seat from Ennis in County Clare to the castle.

The castle is a major tourist attraction in the area and not only houses the castle but also the Bunratty Folk Park. This open-air museum has over 30 buildings depicting Irish village life from the 19th century. From village shops, to fishermen houses, to a post office, the buildings are furnished as they would have been at the time they were inhabited during the 19th century.

As well as rural village life, there is Bunratty House and walled gardens to explore, a fairy village for families and farm animals. Bunratty Castle and Folk Park is a great place to visit in Ireland if you happen to be in Clare or Limerick.

Saint Kevin Church at Glendalough Heritage Centre in the Wicklow Mountains
Saint Kevin Church at Glendalough Heritage Centre in the Wicklow Mountains

Glendalough

Nestled in a glacial valley in the Wicklow Mountains is one of the most scenic historical sites of Ireland, Glendalough.

An early Medieval monastic settlement in the 6th century, which was founded by Saint Kevin, it is a popular attraction, not only for its monastic buildings but for the stunning scenery which surrounds it.

Glendalough is filled with historical monuments including a round tower, something I have known Glendalough for since early childhood.

Other important buildings and structures include gatehouses, priest’s houses, the cathedral and several churches are also at the site of Glendalough. There is also a Miner’s Village close by where lead was mined in the 1800’s and early 1900’s to explore.

Glendalough is surrounded by the Wicklow Mountains and there are several trails and walks to be enjoyed alongside the monastic settlement, many of which will give you views across the lake of Glendalough. It is somewhere you must visit if you are in Ireland and visiting the Dublin area.

Ireland is a country steeped in rich history, from the time of the Vikings, through medieval times and into the modern day.

The sites mentioned here are just few of the historical sites in Ireland. No matter where you visit, you are sure to pass somewhere historical to visit.

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