Only in Ireland

The Aran Islands

Learn the Irish language, taste the island's food revolution, and soar over the Atlantic Ocean – there's nowhere quite like Ireland!

1. Tuck into a real medieval feast

The fire crackles, the stars twinkle overhead, and the direwolves howl in the night. This is Castle Ward, the filming location where Winterfell came to life in HBO's Game of Thrones®. Get dressed up in your finest Stark colors, practice your archery skills on the shooting range, and as night descends indulge in a real medieval banquet inspired by the show, featuring roast boar cooked over a flaming fire pit. A meal truly fit for a Lord!

2. Go island hopping around Ireland's coast

Bastions against the raging sea, Ireland’s islands are treasure troves of unique culture and experiences – each with its own individual personality. Take a ferry to the three Aran Islands in County Galway, explore the ancient stone fort of Dún Aonghasa on Inis Mór or pick up a world-famous Aran jumper on Inis Meáin. Escape to the isolated serenity of Skellig Michael where Star Wars Episode VII was filmed, and it'll feel like you've been transported to a galaxy far far away. Or take in the gorse-covered hills of Rathlin Island in County Antrim, where the lighthouse casts an eerie red glow out into the ocean...

3. Get spooked in a haunted castle

Imagine you’re lying in bed fast asleep, when a knock on your door wakes you from your slumber. You slide from under the covers, turn the knob, and open it to find... nothing! Such occurrences aren’t uncommon at Ballygally Castle, one of the most haunted sites in Ireland. This 17th century castle is home to the ghost of Lady Isobel Shaw, who jumped to her death from the turret when her husband locked her in the tower room for birthing him a daughter instead of a son. The castle is now a hotel, and Lady Isobel's specter is regularly spotted by guests wandering the halls, seeking her lost daughter. Stay the night if you dare, but prepare for a fright...

4. Put on your dancing shoes

Legs kicking, hair flying, music pumping – nothing quite beats the excitement and exhilaration of a hooley show at Johnnie Fox’s. Famed as the highest pub in Ireland, enjoy a four-course seafood dinner before the band strikes up with a rousing session of traditional music and sing-along ballads. As the lights dim, and the dancers take to the stage, prepare to hear the thumping beat echo throughout your body, making your foot tap and your heart leap at the sound of these infectious tunes. 

5. Visit a Gaeltacht and learn some Irish

Did you know that English isn't the only language spoken in Ireland? Many people speak a few words, but there are parts of the island where it’s the first language children learn. These are known as Gaeltacht areas, and they’re usually found in some of the most beautiful parts of the country. Get yourself to Connemara in County Galway or the west coast of County Donegal, explore the area, and get chatting with the locals – people are always delighted to pass on a few phrases of Irish! We’ll help get you started – “dia duit” (DEE-A GWITCH) is how you say hello!

6. Ride Ireland's only cable car

Sail out over the crashing waves of Dursey Sound, and towards a tranquil haven on Ireland's Wild Atlantic Way. This is the island's only cable car, and it links mainland County Cork with Dursey Island, one of the few inhabited islands on the southwest coast. As you cross, be sure to keep an eye on the ocean below, and you may catch sight of a dolphin or two! Bring a picnic with you, bike around the ­­island, and explore the wreck of the 200-year-old signal tower in the south before you glide back towards the mainland.

7. Follow the lights

Perched on the edge of Europe, the coastline of Ireland is lined with majestic lighthouses, their beams swinging out to sea. Stay the night in Blackhead Lighthouse, which once shone its beam over the Titanic, marvel at the octagonal walls of Wicklow Head Lighthouse, or visit lonely Loop Head Lighthouse miles from civilization. There’s something truly magical about these centuries-old beacons of light and hope.

8. Feeling hungry?

Ireland is experiencing a food revolution. Incredible produce and innovative minds have resulted in a series of amazing restaurants and stellar street food taking over the towns and cities of the island. As a result, a whole host of cookery schools have popped up around the island, ready to teach you the very best in authentic cuisine from Ireland. Get hands on with the freshest seafood at the Belfast Cookery School, learn how to make your own perfect crusty bread at the Firehouse Bakery & Bread School in Wicklow, or go all the way and pick up tips from Ireland’s cooking royalty, the Allen family, at the Ballymaloe Cookery School...

9. Swing out over the sea at Carrick-a-Rede

The waves crash beneath your feet, you feel yourself sway gently in the wind, and you put one foot in front of the other as you carefully cross the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge. Connecting County Antrim with Carrick Island, the rope bridge once allowed fishermen to access premium salmon fishing spots in the ocean. Back then it was just a simple handrail with some wooden planks below. Nowadays it's a lot safer, but the gusts of winds and salty spray will give thrill-seekers just what they’re looking for. When you make it to the island, you’ll be rewarded with views towards Rathlin Island, Scotland, the Giant’s Causeway, and the breathtaking Causeway Coastal Route that extends along the island’s northern coast.

10. Dig deep into the Aillwee Cave

Descend into the earth, and you’ll discover an underground wonderland. The Aillwee Cave is like something out of The Lord of the Rings – dripping stalactites, plunging chasms and a thundering waterfall beneath the ground create a vista of subterranean beauty. This underworld was once the hibernation spot for ancient cave bears, their remains having been found upon initial excavation of the area, and a waterfall remains calcified and frozen in time along one of the cavern walls. The cave itself is a haven for explorers and sits near the Burren and Cliffs of Moher Geopark. While you’re here, don’t miss the chance to explore the Burren’s incredible limestone landscapes, which are covered in a blanket of colorful wildflowers in the spring.

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