All Ireland’s museums change our perceptions of endless halls, dusty shop windows and grumpy old ladies-in-waiting. Take a fascinating journey through different eras.
Top 10 Popular Irish Museums
Let’s visit some of Ireland’s most interesting museum treasures:
- The National Museum of Ireland . It is located in the center of the Irish capital. It was founded in 1877 and is dedicated to history and decorative arts. The museum’s collections include prehistoric gold, Ireland’s national attributes – ceramics, silver, furniture, weapons. Samples of folk costumes and folklore are collected here. Visitors are especially attracted by the human skeleton, which was found as far back as the Iron Age and is well preserved to this day.
- State Museum of Heraldry . Founded in 1908, it is the oldest museum on the subject. Its unique exhibitions are devoted to heraldic symbolism and the various Irish coats of arms. Here you can see both state coats of arms and symbols of eminent dynasties or families.
- National Maritime Museum of Ireland . It is devoted to the history of seafaring in this country. The basis of the museum collection – the materials of the family of the ship’s captain of the Great Eastern. Here you can view images of various sailing ships that were used to bring food to Ireland during World War II. The model of the ship Sirius draws particular attention. The museum is located on the grounds of St. Michael’s Church.
- Leprechaun Museum in Ireland . These little fairy tale men are one of the unofficial symbols of Ireland. The museum is located near the Wolfe Tone Square. It was opened to preserve the original Irish culture. Everyone who gets here can feel like a leprechaun, because all the furniture in the halls of the museum is huge, its size is several times larger than the real one.
- Museum of Modern Art . It is located in a beautiful old building from the XVII century. Here are collected works of art, which were created after 1940. Here throughout the year are various thematic exhibitions, as well as theater productions and concerts.
- National Printing Museum . It was opened in 1996. You will learn about the history of printing and will be shown different documents about the craft. The museum offers tours and exhibitions, lectures and seminars.
- Waterford Treasure Museum . Located in the city of Waterford, it was opened in 1999. The main part of its exhibits are items found during excavations conducted in the city center. In addition, there are other ancient artifacts that have been collected during the city’s thousands of years of existence. The museum has a theater, cafe and souvenir shop.
- Museum Cemetery in Glasnevin . This is Ireland’s most unusual museum, located in an ancient cemetery where more than 1.5 million people are buried. The museum’s modern glass building has a ten-meter panel with touch-screen monitors. Their database contains information about the lives of those people buried here.
- Guinness Beer Museum . This is a very popular institution in Ireland, which was opened in 2006. Under its roof is a display of antique brewing equipment, on which visitors can even press buttons. On one of the floors you can see a huge collection of beer bottles. The tour of the museum ends with a tasting of the famous drink.
- Jameson Distillery Museum . It is dedicated to the history and methods of making Irish whiskey. All of its exhibits recreate the realities of the production of this drink. First visitors can watch a short film, and then go through all the stages of whiskey production, from grain harvesting to demonstration of oak barrels, in which the hops are aged. The tour is followed by a tasting, and you can buy a bottle of real Irish whiskey in the company store.
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Top 10 attractions in Northern Ireland
For many years Northern Ireland did not attract tourists, but after the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, a power-sharing agreement to promote peace, it became popular again. Since then, Ulster (also called Northern Ireland) has recovered both economically and culturally and is one of the most visited places in the world.
Recently, Northern Ireland’s role as a filming location for “Game of Thrones” has led to a new wave of tourists. For those in the know, even in bad times, this corner of Ireland has always been high on the tourist agenda. Famous natural attractions, such as the mystical Bridge of Giants, are complemented by new sites, such as the Titanic in Belfast.
The government has invested heavily in making Northern Ireland a magnet for visitors. There are fantastic stores, world-class restaurants, remarkable history and culture, exceptional golf opportunities and a vibrant music scene. There are plenty of places for families, couples and individual travelers to visit in Northern Ireland, and all can be assured of a warm and friendly welcome.
Learn more about the best places to visit with our list of the best attractions in Northern Ireland.
- Note: Some sites may be temporarily closed due to recent global health and safety concerns.
1. Bridge of Giants
Known worldwide for its layered basalt columns, the Bridge of Giants is Northern Ireland’s only UNESCO World Heritage Site. These polygonal natural formations (there are about 40,000 of them) were created by a volcanic eruption 60 million years ago. Today they form the centerpiece of an area of exceptional natural beauty.
Three different periods of volcanic activity have produced lower, middle and upper basalts. The middle basalt rock forms the famous amphitheaters of hexagonal columns. Legend has it that it was carved by the mighty giant Finn McCool, who left his ancient home to fight his enemy Benandonner on the other side of Scottish waters.
Weather permitting, you can even see Scotland from afar.
Don’t forget to check out Giant’s Causeway Visitor Centre, the most modern visitor center. This state-of-the-art facility not only stands out for its architecture and design that reflect the unique topography of the area, but also offers a fascinating introduction to the history of the area (audio guides are provided).
2. Causeway Coast and Dunlus Castle
The first stop for most tourists on this picturesque coastline is, of course, the Giant’s Bridge, a World Heritage Site. However, the surrounding coastline is stunning and not to be missed. There’s plenty to enjoy, including beautiful beaches, sand dunes, and golf at Portrush (with a world-class course) and Portstewart.
If you’re brave enough, either one is perfect for an invigorating swim.
A 10-minute drive west through the picturesque village of Bushmills takes you to the ruins of medieval Dunlus Castle. It’s definitely worth a visit to the kitchen, located on the edge of a cliff, and many centuries ago, on a terrible night, the kitchen fell into the terrible waves below. Apparently, the only survivor was the kitchen boy who was sitting on the windowsill and had to be rescued.
Footage of the castle’s exterior was used in the movie Game of Thrones.
3. Carrick-a-Ride Rope Bridge
The drive east from the Giant’s Bridge takes about 15 minutes and takes you to another Northern Ireland landmark, the dizzying Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge. Located near the pretty seaside town of Ballintoy, this impressive sight is not for the faint of heart.
A hanging bridge connects a small island where fishermen used to catch salmon. Admission to the area is free, but if you cross the bridge, you’ll have to pay.
4. Titanic Belfast Museum.
This star-shaped building with the White Star Line logo is a Belfast landmark. It is a tribute to the history of the Titanic ship. Belfast was once the shipbuilding center of the British Empire, a fact not to be overlooked in this part of the city.
There are nine interactive exhibits on the site where the infamous Titanic ship was built. Enjoy a tour of the slipway and dry dock, and for a fee, you can visit the ship Nomadic. This steamer, built in 1911, transported passengers from shore to waiting liners.
There is a restaurant, cafe and souvenir store on site. It really is a world-class tourist attraction.
5. Glens of Antrim
It’s not just the North Antrim coast that attracts. Drive from Ballycastle toward Larne on the coastal A2 road and serene lakes, waterfalls, forest trails and rolling hills await you.
Along the way, look out for the Glendoon Bridge, a fine example of innovative design and construction. In Ballypatrick Forest Park, there’s a 10-kilometer trail around Mount Carnigani, which is particularly scenic.
The small seaside town of Portrush, on the border with Londonderry, is also worth a visit. Royal Portrush Golf Club and Dunluce Links, one of the most challenging golf courses in the world.
6. Carrickfergus Castle.
About 20 minutes from Belfast is the important town and port of Carrickfergus, home to an imposing castle. One of Ireland’s best-preserved medieval structures, this Norman castle fought off enemies for eight centuries.
The fortress, just off the coast and overlooking the town, still exists, and the reconstructed banqueting hall is a special attraction, especially for children. You can take an audio guide at the visitor center and explore the interior and walls of the castle.
Nearby is the Andrew Jackson Center, the reconstructed ancestral home of the 7th president of the United States.
7. Ards Peninsula.
South of Bangor, near Donahady, begins the scenic 32 km long Ards Peninsula. From Donahady the road goes along the Irish Sea coast to Bellywalter with its beautiful beach, Bellyhalbert and finally Cloughie, where it branches inland to Portaferry.
It’s worth stopping and admiring the serene 18th-century Mount Stewart house and gardens, just a 10-minute drive from Bellyhalter. On the west shore of Strangford Loch is the seaside resort of Killilig, dominated by Hilltop Castle. On a good day you can see the famous Mourne Mountains in the distance.
Portaferry is at the southern tip of the peninsula, where there is a ferry to Strangford. Or you can drive along the west side of the peninsula along the shores of Strangford Loch.
8. Ulster Folklore and Transportation Museum
This “living” museum, about 15 minutes from downtown Belfast, is designed to show life in Northern Ireland more than 100 years ago. There are reconstructed working cottages, working farms, village schools and stores, and 68 hectares of parkland to explore. Tour guides demonstrate traditional crafts.
You can climb aboard a steam locomotive and tour the Transportation Museum with its impressive collections of streetcars, fire engines, motorcycles, beautiful vintage cars and horse-drawn carriages. A visit to this place takes a whole day.
9. Londonderry (Derry)
The second city of Northern Ireland, Londonderry – or Derry as the locals call it – is located where the River Foyle flows into the sea lake of the same name. The partition of Ireland has stripped the city of part of its natural inland territory, Donegal, but it remains a major port and industrial center with a traditional textile industry, chemical and engineering plants, and pottery factories.
Its attractive surroundings make it a popular tourist destination and a good base for trips to the Inishowen Peninsula and Donegal in the Republic of Ireland. The town itself has almost entirely preserved the outlines of its medieval walls and a number of interesting old buildings.
10. Loch Earn
Two connected lakes form Loch Earn in County Fermanagh, a favorite place for fishing, kayaking and boating. Castles and stately homes dot the shores, and the islands are a major attraction.
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