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10 new Irish tourist attractions worth visiting this summer

From the Derry Girls Experience to mazes, treetop walks and more, new attractions are opening like buds this summer

An undeniable fact related to the Irish tourism industry is its doughty resilience. Having survived 30 years of sectarian violence, followed by foot-and-mouth disease, 9/11, the Icelandic ash cloud and a worldwide recession, the Covid pandemic must have seemed the last straw.

Nevertheless, the industry has come bouncing back – as it invariably does. Putting the darkness of Covid behind, its sights are now fixed on the future. Investment is taking place once again and a wave of innovation is revitalising Ireland’s tourism offering, which is great news for overseas visitors and staycationers in 2023. New attractions are opening like buds this summer – here are 10 of the most compelling.

Mount Congreve Gardens

Co Waterford; adult €9, child €5.50;

Located by the estuary of the river Suir and created as a passion project by industrialist Ambrose Congreve, the woodland gardens at Mount Congreve have long been regarded as among the world’s finest. So, the recent €6 million investment hasn’t so much created a new attraction as revamped and modernised an existing one.

What is new, however, is the visitor centre, cafe and gift shop, along with the possibility of entering the gardens through part of the great house, which is now open to the public. Beyond, you enter a world of botanic perfection. The gardens are a palette of vibrant colours and aromas that immediately assail the senses. Comprising 70 acres of planted woodland, four acres of walled garden and 16km of walkways, the perfect way to reach Mount Congreve is by walking or cycling the Waterford Greenway, which passes by the gardens.


Derry Girls Experience

Tower Museum, Derry city;

Derry has been given a superb tourism hand and has played it well. Now, another opportunity has dropped on to its lap and the city isn’t found wanting. Apropos the beloved sitcom, which was the most popular ever produced in Northern Ireland, a new Derry Girls experience is set to open in July in the Tower Museum. Located right at the heart of the city, fans of the award-winning TV show will be able to visit a museum exhibition where items on display will include props from the show, other memorabilia and costumes. Visitors can also take an interactive walking trail celebrating the most recognisable filming locations and the Derry Girls mural.

Dark Sky Park

Sperrin Mountains, Co Tyrone; adult £5, concessions £3.50;

Since ancient times people have been drawn on dark, moonless nights to gaze in wonder at the constellations above and reflect upon the immensity of creation. Recently, this has become more difficult. Pollution and artificial light means the number of stars visible worldwide has diminished greatly. The good news is that, as an island, this country is well-located for stargazing.

Already possessing two specially designated reserves – one in south Kerry and another in west Mayo – that offer exceptionally dark night skies, we have now another. The OM Dark Sky Observatory in the Sperrin Mountains is the latest location to receive the coveted designation as a Dark Sky Reserve. The first of its kind in Northern Ireland, its minute levels of light spill provide excellent opportunities for stargazing. Even when it isn’t dark, holographic installations, virtual reality headsets and audiovisual shows give visitors an opportunity to explore the solar system. There is also a 14-inch telescope used at night for stargazing events and special guided tours.

Beyond the Trees

Avondale, Co Wicklow; adult €15, child €12;

A song made popular by the Dubliners poses the question, “Have you been to Avondale?” and if the answer is no, you now have reason to go. The birthplace of Charles Stewart Parnell has long been famous for its tree varieties, with more than 100 secreted within its woodlands. Recently, however, another major attraction has been added: Beyond the Trees, Avondale Treetop Walk and Viewing Tower. This consists of an unforgettable 1.2km treetop walkway leading to a spectacular 38-metre viewing tower, providing expansive views of Avondale Forest Park and Wicklow Uplands. To top off the experience, there is a 90m spiral slide from the top of the tower, that kids will particularly love. History nerds will enjoy the guided tour of the newly refurbished Avondale House, which tells the poignant story of Irish statesman Charles Stewart Parnell.

Abbeyfeale-Listowel Greenway


The Greenway linking Rathkeale with Abbeyfeale has long existed in the shadow of its better-known cousins, the Great Western Greenway and the Waterford Greenway. Now, it is reclaiming its rightful inheritance with a newly created extension into Kerry following the track-bed of a disused railway line that once linked Limerick with Tralee. Last October, an additional section of greenway opened linking Abbeyfeale with the attractive heritage town of Listowel. Branded as one of two Kingdom of Kerry Greenways, the route leads through the Feale River Valley, traversing woodlands, rolling countryside and atmospheric tunnels. When the Tralee to Listowel Greenway, which is currently in the planning stage, is complete, it will be possible to journey off-road from Rathkeale to the Atlantic coast at Fenit.

Ireland’s Ancient East Maze

Sky Park, Co Louth;

At Sky Park Ireland, just outside the medieval town of Carlingford, getting lost is great fun. Ireland’s largest aerial adventure park offers a host of adrenalin-rich activities in a sublime location on the Carlingford Peninsula. For those who would prefer to keep their feet firmly on the ground, their latest innovation is the Ancient East Maze. Finding your route is a challenge in itself, but it also takes you on a whirlwind tour to find some of the main attractions along Ireland’s Ancient East, such as Glendalough and Blarney Castle. With towers, bridges and constantly changing gates, the maze never offers the same challenge again.

International Rugby Experience

Limerick city; adult €15, child €10;

Arriving at the International Rugby Experience in Limerick, I lacked enthusiasm. My fear was another tiresome sporting museum filled with moth-eaten jerseys, ancient boots and grainy photographs. I needn’t have worried. More than €30 million has been invested here, and it shows. To assist with urban regeneration, the promoters decided not to locate the attraction in a stadium, but in Limerick city centre. And to encourage repeat visits, the place is highly interactive with no two visits the same.

Rugby is a passion in Limerick, and immediately there is the roar of the crowd, the emotional faces, the huge wraparound screens, the sense of solidarity, the emphasis on belonging. Rugby aficionados of all ages can test their ball skills and find their best playing position. Kids and adult groups will enjoy the competition for the highest score, while older folk will recall the story of how England courageously played in Dublin during the Troubles when Scotland and Wales refused to.

Skellig Six18 Distillery

Cahersiveen, Co Kerry; €18;

The Ring of Kerry is the foremost jewel in Ireland’s rich treasury of outdoor attractions, and usually involves circuiting a magically scenic ring in a day. This means that relatively little spending takes place on the ring itself, with visitors tending to overnight in Killarney. This trend is now reversing, with new attractions springing up across the Iveragh Peninsula.

Foremost among these is the Skellig Six18 Distillery and Visitor Experience in Cahersiveen. Created by locally-born, former corporate lawyer June O’Connell, the new attraction takes inspiration from the visceral local landscape. A working distillery and whiskey maturation warehouse, the visitor experience is led by a local storyteller who narrates the journey of the Skellig Six18 product. This guided tour won The Double Gold at the International Spirits Challenge Awards 2022.

Game of Thrones Studio Tour

Banbridge, Co Down; adults from £29, under-12s free;

Northern Ireland was the principal location for making the HBO series Game of Thrones, and since then the region has become a Mecca for “thronies” travelling from far and wide to visit the filming sites, to be captivated by places such as the Dark Hedges, Murlough Bay and the Cushendun Caves. Until recently there had been no dedicated centre catering to their specific obsessions, but this was put right with the opening last year of the Game of Thrones Studio Tour. Linen Mill Studios, one of the main filming locations, reopened as a £24 million attraction (€27.9 million), featuring sets, props and costumes used in the series. Visitors can also interact virtually with the actors.

Irish Wake Museum


Ireland’s oldest city has never been shy about showcasing its ancient credentials. The many captivating museums of Waterford’s Viking Triangle have just welcomed a new arrival. The Almshouse, one of the city’s oldest buildings, has been transformed into Ireland’s newest museum. Opening this week, it traces the Gaelic customs, traditions and superstitions associated with death from the earliest times to the 20th century. Irish communities have traditionally embraced the end of life rather than shying away from it. The Irish Wake Museum provides the opportunity to explore and keep alive for posterity the rituals that are unique to Ireland. On a guided tour, visitors will experience storytelling from the 15th to the 20th centuries, with different themes associated with dying explored.