Thomas Smith of Skerries, County Dublin, visited more than 100 places in Ireland in 2019. Here are his 10 favourite attractions, plus a travel tip for each.
Ireland Before You Die is lucky to hear from readers all over Ireland—and the world—telling us how our articles inspired them to travel around the Emerald Isle. When 24-year-old Thomas Smith contacted us, we were blown away by his experience: He visited over 100 places in Ireland in 2019—and he had amazing photos to prove it.
Nicer still, he said our website and social media content inspired him to see most of these destinations. If there’s one way to make us smile, it’s this!
Thomas, who lives in Skerries in County Dublin, told us all about his travel adventures, sharing his photos and 10 inspirational destinations that he would recommend to other Ireland Before You Die readers, as well as a key travel tip for each destination.
“I like to find landmarks in Ireland that are not as visibly promoted as some of the other major ones like the Guinness Storehouse,” Thomas told us. And we have to agree—there’s a certain magic in veering off the beaten tourist path. So, without further ado, here are Thomas’s top 10 places in Ireland that he recommends you visit.
10. The Gobbins, Co. Antrim – “breathtaking views”
Experienced as a 2.5km walking tour, the Gobbins cliff path in Islandmagee takes you across bridges and along rugged staircases carved into the cliff face that was once home to smugglers and privateers. Thomas recommends this spectacular coastal path hugging a cliffside, saying, “I really liked this one as it has breath taking views of County Antrim.”
Thomas’s travel tip: “Wrap up warm and wear good hiking clothing.”
Address: Middle Road, Islandmagee, Co, Antrim
9. Ulster Folk Museum, Co. Down – “it gave me great insight”
Another of Thomas’s favourite places in Ireland, the Ulster Folk Museum in Holywood is modelled after a typical village in Ulster in the 1800s, with cottages, farm dwellings, schools, and shops—and even actors in costume acting as locals. “I particularly liked this one as it gave me great insight into how day to day operations were run in the 1800s, e.g., how shoes and clothes were made,” he said.
Thomas’s travel tip: “If you do the Ulster Transport Museum 200 metres next to this location in the same day, you can get a discount by buying both.”
Address: 153 Bangor Rd, Holywood, Co. Down
8. Stairway to Heaven, Co. Fermanagh and Co. Cavan – “a unique experience”
The Stairway to Heaven is a 3km boardwalk trail located on the Cuilcagh Mountain in Enniskillen. Thomas explained that it takes approximately one and a half hours from the car park to reach the summit and back. “I like this as it’s a unique experience as you’re walking on the bog, and when you get to the top you are 650 meters above sea level,” Thomas said. “And on a bright sunny day you will see the stunning views of the geopark.”
Thomas’s travel tip: “When you enter the car park, ask the car park attendant to open the far gates as this will take about 25 minutes off your walking journey to the boardwalk, which otherwise would be about 45 minutes. You will be parked closer.”
Location: Cuilcagh, Co. Fermanagh and Co. Cavan
7. Fota Wildlife Park, Co. Cork – “great for families”
Fota Wildlife Park is the largest zoo in Ireland consists of many different wildlife species found around the world. Thomas advised that it takes approximately three hours to complete and is “great for families”. He added, “I really liked this place because the animals had lots of space to roam around. You could see the animals clearly and information was written in the guidebook, given for free at the reception upon arrival.”
Thomas’s travel tip: “Families should bring a packed lunch; there are plenty of picnic tables available. Parking is free outside.”
Address: Fota, Carrigtohill, Co. Cork
6. Father Ted’s House, Co. Clare – “very scenic”
Father Ted’s house is a two-storey house from the famous TV series of the same name. It is located along the beautiful scenic views of the Burren, and Thomas advised that visitors can book a tour of the house’s interior by contacting the site in advance Monday to Friday. “I really liked visiting this place because the area was the exact same layout as in the TV series,” Thomas said.
Thomas’s travel tip: “The area is very scenic with long, stony, narrow roads. There are no gas stations or shops in the area, so be prepared and have sufficient supplies with you in the car in case of an emergency.”
Address: House, Glenquin, Killinaboy, Co. Clare
5. Arigna Mining Experience, Co. Roscommon – “one of only a few coal mines you can still visit”
The Arigna Mining Experience consists of many underground coal mines and tells the story of how the coal miners dug out the coal in such treacherous conditions beginning in the 1700s right up until closure in 1999.
“I really liked this attraction,” Thomas said, “because you could go down into the coal mine and experience what it was like working down there in such bad conditions and what tools they had to work with back then. It is one of only a few coal mines you can still visit in the world.”
Thomas’s travel tip: “The temperature below the surface in the coal mine is plus 10 degrees, so dress in the appropriate clothing, and walking shoes are essential.”
Address: Derreenavoggy, Carrick-On-Shannon, Co. Roscommon
4. Kilmainham Gaol, Co. Dublin – “insight into the 1916 rising”
Kilmainham Gaol is a jail that used to imprison the leaders of the 1916 Easter Rising and give executing orders by the British government. “I really liked visiting this jail because it gave you insight into what it was like to be alive during the 1916 rising, being imprisoned in the jail or living outside of the walls in the local villages,” Thomas said. “The jail also imprisoned young children who were put in for petty theft.” Yikes!
Thomas’s travel tip: “There is public parking outside of the jail, but I recommend using public transport because parking is pay-and-display, and it’s quite expensive to stay there long term.”
Address: Inchicore Rd, Kilmainham, Dublin 8
3. Armagh Planetarium, Co. Armagh – “lots to see”
Armagh Planetarium is a space observatory used for educational purposes and for understanding the solar system. “I really enjoyed visiting the place as I have a great interest in planets,” Thomas said. “There is lots to see, and they also have a movie room and props for dressing up. There are loads of display items that give great understanding of space and how man landed on the moon.”
Thomas’s travel tip: “You can walk from the planetarium to Armagh city within only a few minutes.”
Address: College Hill, Armagh
2. Space Adventure Golf, Co. Armagh – “crazy golf course”
Space Adventure Golf is an 18-hole “crazy golf course,” as Thomas calls it, that is set over two floors and consists of different space craft displays each varying in levels of difficulty. “I recommend this place as it’s very unique compared to any other golf course in Ireland. The way they have set up the displays are excellent, and attention to detail is superb.”
Thomas’s travel tip: “Go at off-peak times when less people are there. Queues can form at busy times!”
Address: 3 Marlborough Retail Park, Craigavon, Co. Armagh
1. Spike Island, Co. Cork – “rich in history”
“Spike Island is my favorite place to visit in Ireland,” Thomas told us, and we can understand why, especially if you’re a history buff. Spike Island was used as a prison and military base from the 1800s and again used in 1916 as a prison, and it’s rich in history about the British ruling of Ireland and Ireland’s independents in 1916.
The journey to the island takes about 20 minutes, Thomas advises, and he also recommends bringing a packed lunch if weather is good as picnic tables are available around the island.
Thomas’s travel tip: “The island is very accessible from Cobh harbour by boat. And if you book online in advance, you won’t have to queue up at the reception for a ticket prior to boarding.”
Location: Cork Harbour, Co. Cork
We want to thank Thomas for sharing his travel experiences with us and wish him many more adventures around the Emerald Isle! Follow his adventures at facebook.com/T.G.T.IRISH.ADVENTURES.
Are you also an Ireland Before You Die fan who has been to a lot of places in Ireland and is in interested in being featured on our website? Send us an email at [email protected], and tell us why you think we should feature you!