With stories and legends 5,000 years in the making, Ireland is a treasure trove of heritage and history. And considering all this history is packed into an area roughly the size of Maine, Ireland is a top destination for those looking to explore ancient and medieval historical sights while discovering the magic and allure of years past.
Bringing Ireland’s ancient history to life
With so many places it can be difficult to know where to begin. So here’s our roundup of Ireland’s Top five must-see historical destinations.
Brú na Bóinne, County Meath
This UNESCO World Heritage Site pre-dates the Egyptian pyramids and is one of the most important pre-historic sites in Europe. This site offers a stunning array of Neolithic chamber and passage tombs, mounds, henges, and other ancient structures that demonstrate advanced scientific understanding and celebrate the elaborate traditions and rituals of human history. Most visitors come to see the Newgrange Passage Tomb, which was built around 3200 BC. Although there is some disagreement about its original purpose, it is definitely a captivating and inspiring sight. Newgrange is perhaps best known for attracting visitors with a unique roofbox that illuminates the central chamber during the annual Winter Solstice.
Rock of Cashel, County Tipperary
Nestled in Tipperary, the Rock of Cashel is the most visited heritage site in Ireland and fabled spot where the King of Munster was converted by St. Patrick during the fifth century. The Rock of Cashel displays remarkable examples of twelfth-century medieval and gothic architecture along with one of the most magnificent collections of Celtic art in Ireland.
Clonmacnoise, County Offaly
Founded in the sixth century along the eastern bank of the River Shannon, Clonmacnoise once encompassed some of the most spectacular churches of the Middle Ages. In the ninth century, it came to be a renowned European hub for religion, learning, and scholarly pursuits. Today, a visit to Clonmacnoise stokes the imagination and offers a window into the very early days of Christianity.
Aran Islands, County Galway
A visit to the Aran Islands combines ancient cultural roots with the rugged and majestic scenery that Ireland is known for. The Aran Islands are located just across Galway Bay on Ireland’s west coast, and dotted with millennia-old fortifications and monastic settlements from the Middle Ages. Given the islands’ physical separation from the mainland, the Gaelic language and its rich cultural traditions remain alive and well.
The Skellig Islands, located about eight miles from County Kerry, offer both expansive seaside views and rich Irish legend. One of the islands, known as Skellig Michael, has a story dating back to 1400 B.C. The island is known for its stone “beehive huts,” which historians say were part of monastic settlements of the sixth century. Visitors can experience these huts for themselves along the way to the top of a 714-foot summit overlooking the Atlantic. It’s no wonder Skellig Michael is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
We’ve only just scratched the surface of the historical adventures that await you in Ireland. Click here to learn more.