7 amazing experiences worth flying to Ireland for

Ballintoy, County Antrim

Jam-packed with amazing experiences that are only available in Ireland, book that flight or ferry because it’s time to lace up your hiking boots, swing a sword or live like royalty

1 Stay in a real castle

Ireland is full of old towns and medieval castles, and there’s really no better way to immerse yourself in the history of this ancient island than to stay the night in a real-life fairytale fortress! Check out 16th century Dromoland Castle, which has become an icon of luxury accommodation. Get historical with archery lessons, falconry and horse riding, or relax in the castle’s state-of-the-art spa. Whatever your interests, this is the perfect place to escape the modern world and live like royalty for a day. Bliss.

2 Go on a bat walk in Glendalough

Carved by grinding glaciers during the last Ice Age, the valley of Glendalough in Wicklow is a sweeping expanse that combines unbelievable natural beauty with utter serenity. It’s bursting with nature, including nine native species of bat. Gather at dusk to see hundreds of bats emerge from their roosts and swoop over the lakes and into the night. Expert guides will help you track the bats with sonar equipment, and tell you all about these marvellous, misunderstood creatures.

3 Visit Father Ted's Craggy Island

Located off the County Galway coastline and surrounded by the Atlantic, the cluster of three islands known as the Arans are celebrated for their heritage, culture and arresting landscapes. But for those who fondly remember one of Ireland’s favourite sitcoms – and much-loved export – the escapades of Father Ted and Co are celebrated for three days at the annual TedFest on Inishmore. With the Lovely Girls Competition, Ted’s Got Talent and Blind Date with Eoin McLove, all that’s left to say is: Go on, go on, go on, now – you know you want to!

4 Go cliff jumping in Ballintoy

This spot may be famous to fans of HBO’s Game of Thrones® as the Iron Islands, but Ballintoy is equally wonderful for those looking for a rather more uplifting adrenaline rush. Adventure seekers can sign up with Coasteering NI to climb, explore and jump, in the company of experienced guides. They’ll start you off with small jumps and build you up to the ‘Big Kahuna’ jump – a terrifying 45ft above the sea!

5 Walk on water on the Gobbins

Along the stunning Causeway Coastal Route, you'll find The Gobbins: a spectacular cliff path that hugs the Antrim coastline. Step through the entrance known as Wise’s Eye and enter a magical place, rich in biodiversity. Pass a natural aquarium of seawater teeming with marine life, explore a smugglers’ cave, and cross the tubular bridge suspended above the choppy sea – you might say it's as close to walking on water as you're ever likely to get!

6 Wield your broadsword in Winterfell

Northern Ireland is Game of Thrones® Territory and is home to more filming locations than anywhere else in the world. So any self-respecting fan will adore a trip to Castle Ward’s Winterfell, as it brings you full throttle into the world that was to become Westeros. Experience the full Westeros experience, meet the Master-at-Arms, put on your battle armour, and become master archer and swordsman like a true Stark.

7 Go to jail

We don’t mean for good… but for a slice of the island’s turbulent history. Fearsome island fortresses, chilling cell blocks and bleak punishments: life inside Ireland’s oldest gaols was brutal in every sense of the word. In Dublin’s Kilmainham Gaol you can get a glimpse of Ireland’s political history from the last century. In Cork City Gaol, step back in time to see what 19th and early 20th century life was like in Cork, both inside and outside prison walls. The exhibition shows amazingly lifelike figures, furnished cells and sound effects that allow the visitor to experience the day-to-day life of prisoners and gaolers.

Walk in the footsteps of over 25,000 prisoners at Belfast's Crumlin Road Gaol. Since it first opened in 1846, "The Crum" has held murderers, suffragettes and political rebels. Or visit Wicklow Gaol, said to be one of Ireland's most haunted places. Daring visitors can book ahead for the Paranormal Tour – this is not for the faint-hearted!

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