Ireland is renowned for its majestic beauty and rich heritage, and many of its classic sites are world famous. What if you were looking to get off the beaten track a bit? Maybe delve a little deeper into Irish culture and heritage? The six attractions below are great options if you’re looking for lesser-known ways to experience some of Ireland’s fascinating and distinctive culture.
The Custom House is one of Dublin’s most beautiful and historic landmarks. This masterpiece of neoclassical architecture, completed in 1791, stands on the River Liffey, once Ireland’s gateway to the world. The design features 14 carved keystones representing 14 river gods, one for each of Ireland’s major rivers. More than an architectural icon, The Custom House has been the site of some of the most tumultuous milestones in Irish history. Destroyed by fire in 1921 during the Revolutionary War, it has since been restored to its former glory, and today the Custom House Visitor Center tells the two-century story of this glorious building in an exciting new exhibit.
Suggested visit: Irish adventure
Pearse Lyons Distillery in Dublin’s Liberties
Pearse Lyons Distillery is a distillery with a difference: not only is it Dublin’s only independent family-run distillery, it is located in the lovingly restored St James’s Church in the heart of Dublin’s Liberties. The Distillery Experience immerses visitors in the art of Irish whiskey distilling: visitors meet the distillers and taste a range of Pearse Irish Whiskey exclusives during intimate tours and tasting experiences – but this is not is not all. Tours showcase the unique culture of the Freedoms, with local storytellers telling stories from the neighborhood as visitors explore the church and graveyard outside.
Suggested visit: Irish classic
Strokestown Park offers the opportunity to explore the tragic history of colonization and famine in Ireland. The centerpiece of the park is Strokestown House, a grand Victorian mansion that reveals the contrast between the luxurious lives of its 19th century inhabitants and the destitution of their tenants. The house is surrounded by enclosed gardens and woods. Additionally, the park is home to the National Famine Museum, which recently reopened after extensive renovations.
Suggested visit: Irish explorer
Croke Park and Skyline Tour
Sports fans will be delighted to visit Croke Park, the legendary stadium that hosts the All-Ireland Championships in Gaelic football (similar to soccer) and hurling (a fast-paced sport played with sticks similar to field hockey). The park includes the GAA Museum, where visitors learn not only about the games themselves, but also about the Gaelic Athletic Association’s fascinating role in cultural, social and sporting heritage. A treat is the Skyline Tour, which rises to the roof of the stadium 44 meters above the city for sweeping views of Dublin.
Suggested visit: Jewels of Ireland
Crumlin Road Jail
The Victorian-era Crumlin Road Gaol outside Belfast offers a fascinating look at 150 years of history and the 25,000 men, women and children who were imprisoned there. Those imprisoned included suffragettes in 1914, Eamon De Valera (future leader of Ireland) in 1924, and political prisoners throughout the troubles of the late 20th century. Suggested tour: Irish and Scottish sampler
Lough Key Forest Park
Lough Key Forest Park in Roscommon is an experience that allows visitors to explore how humans have shaped the landscape of this ancient domain over thousands of years. The park is a lush natural area with meadows, picnic areas and the ruins of a 12th century abbey. Visitors can walk through tunnels used by servants in the 19th century, see the garden below, then walk along the Tree Canopy Bridge for panoramic views of nature and the glistening lake.
Suggested visit: The Scottish-Irish Tour
Ready to start planning? CIE Tours has a number of tours in Ireland. Contact your travel consultant or visit the CIE Tours website to find out more.