Study Ireland: 8 Gems Of The Emerald Isle

by Maureen Fox

Ireland has so much to offer, from medieval castles to bustling towns and awe-inspiring landscapes. If you really want to get to know this gorgeous country, consider these exciting side-trips to enhance your experience studying abroad in Ireland:

Feel tiny at Giant's Causeway located in the neighboring country of Norther Ireland.
Feel tiny at Giant's Causeway located in the neighboring country of Norther Ireland.
Photo Courtesy of Kaitlin Powers.

Blarney Castle.

This magnificent castle, just outside the city of Cork, looks like it belongs in a fairy tale. Explore the castle and the woods surrounding the ruins, searching for scenic spots throughout, such as Druid’s Circle and the Wishing Steps. Don’t forget to climb to the very top of Blarney Castle to kiss the famous Blarney Stone, said to give the kisser the gift of eloquence — but be prepared to hang upside-down over the castle wall to do so! Now that’s something to kiss and tell!

The Cliffs of Moher.

If you’re a fan of the Harry Potter films, these cliffs may look familiar as a perfect hiding place for a Horcrux. The Cliffs of Moher are arguably Ireland’s greatest natural wonder and definitely one of the country’s most popular tourist destinations. Reaching a dizzying height of 700 feet at their tallest point, these cliffs are absolutely breathtaking, and the pathways along the cliffs’ edges and the observation platform on O’Brien’s Watchtower provide stunning views of the Aran Islands in Galway Bay and the Atlantic Ocean.

King John’s Castle.

Located on King’s Island in Limerick, King John’s Castle is an impressive thirteenth-century fortress named for King John of Robin Hood fame. Learn about the castle’s long and often violent history through interactive displays and videos in the adjacent museum before exploring the castle’s grounds to your heart’s content, whether it’s climbing the tallest parapet or strolling along the battlements for a panoramic view of the city.

The Aran Islands.

Best known for their beautiful hand-crafted wool products, the Aran Islands off the west coast of Ireland make for a picturesque outing any day of the year. The Aran Islands are also one of the few places in Ireland where you can hear the country’s native language, Irish Gaelic, spoken as the primary tongue. Arriving by ferry, you can traverse the islands on foot, by car, or by bike. Visit the Iron Age fort Dun Aengus on Inis Mór (Inishmore), the largest of the three islands. Chat with the locals over a cup of tea at the Teach an Tae tea house on Inis Óirr (Inishee), the smallest island.


Translated to “valley of the two lakes,” Glendalough is a glacial valley in County Wicklow, south of Dublin. This quaint area is best known for its sixth-century monastery founded by St. Kevin and for its famous Round Tower and Gateway monuments. The monastery is home to St. Kevin’s Cross, one of Ireland’s largest high crosses; if you can wrap your arms around the entire cross, legend says all your wishes will come true. Be sure to check out the town of Glendalough and the rest of the valley, which is a perfect getaway for hikers, anglers, and golfers alike.

Kylemore Abbey.

This gorgeous country manor is nestled in the hills of the Connemara district. Originally a private mansion built by Dr. Mitchell Henry as a gift for his beloved wife, Margaret, Kylemore Castle became Kylemore Abbey in 1920. That’s when a group of Benedictine nuns, fleeing Belgium in World War I, came to the manor to establish a monastery and boarding school for girls. The estate includes the lovely Victorian Gardens and a Gothic cathedral, which are open to visitors along with parts of the house.

Killarney National Park.

This national park in County Kerry offers some of the most beautiful scenery in Ireland. Take a hike or ride a bike through lush forests, past sparkling waterfalls, and around crystal lakes, keeping an eye out for the country’s only native herd of Red Deer as you go. There are plenty of other activities available, from boating to fishing to horseback riding, as well as attractions such as Muckross Abbey, Ross Castle, and the Old Weir Bridge. Killarney National Park is part of the Ring of Kerry, a tourist trail in southwest Ireland (best traveled by car) that takes you around the park and through the neighboring town of Killarney.

Giant’s Causeway.

Located in the neighboring country of Northern Ireland, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is a recommended natural wonder to visit while studying abroad in Ireland. Legend has it that an Irish giant built this amazing rock formation, which looks like a series of stepping stones and pillars, to reach a rival giant in Scotland. It makes for a great story and pictures!