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A photograph of Rock of Cashel in Ireland

The Most Picturesque Places in…Ireland

So, what are the most photogenic and film-worthy historic sites in Ireland?

Image Credit: | Above: Rock of Cashel in Ireland

Céad Míle Fáilte! Literally translated it means ‘one hundred thousand welcomes’ and it’s a Gaelic phrase that encapsulates the warmth of the Irish people.

The Republic of Ireland – Éire – is a photographer and film-maker’s dream. Known as the Emerald Isle for its verdant, lush green countryside, the small island that’s big on natural beauty is famous the world over for jaw-dropping landscapes, rolling hills and valleys and stunning coastlines that go on for mile after spectacular mile.

However the true story of Ireland can be told through its monuments that are as connected to the nation of just under five million as the craic after a few pints of the black stuff. From prehistoric burial mounds dating back 5,000 years to castles, monasteries and even Georgian-era prisons, Ireland’s man-made marvels are what brings photographers and film-makers flocking to one of the most beautiful countries in the world.

So, what are the most photogenic and film-worthy historic sites in Ireland?


In County Meath on the north side of the River Boyne is one of the world’s most impressive prehistoric burial complexes. Newgrange predates Stonehenge and Egypt’s Great Pyramids of Giza and is thought to have been built between 3300 BC and 2900 BC.

Steeped in Irish folklore and mythology, Newgrange is said to be the dwelling of the Tuatha Dé Danann, the main deities of pre-Christian Gaelic Ireland and is a place of spiritual, astrological, religious and ceremonial importance.

Supported by 97 immense kerbstones richly decorated with megalithic art, it is part of a greater complex of prehistoric monuments known collectively as Brú na Bóinne and is perhaps best known for its alignment of the rising sun during the winter solstice which illuminates the chamber.

Whatever you do, don’t forget your camera and if you’re at Newgrange on December 21st, you’ll get the picture of a lifetime!

Rock of Cashel

Carraig Phádraig, or more formally St Patrick’s Rock of Cashel of the Kings is a huge complex steeped in millennia of royal and ecclesiastical history.

In Cashel in County Tipperary, the first iterations were built in the fourth or fifth century as the seat of the High Kings of Munster. It would become the royal residence of the Eóganacht dynasty, rulers of Southern Ireland between the seventh and tenth centuries but they were ousted from power by the kings of Dál Cais in the tenth century. In 1101, the then king of Dál Cais gave the Rock of Cashel to the Church. Most of the historic sites there today were built under the remit of the church.

Highlights include the Round Tower, the beautiful Romanesque church known as Cormac’s Chapel and the vast, imposing cathedral built between 1235 and 1270. The complex is also home to one of Europe’s finest and most comprehensive collections of Celtic art and medieval architecture so bring your camera because you won’t find a better collection for miles!

Blarney Castle

Blarney Castle (Caisleán na Blarnan) in County Cork is the pretty ruin of a medieval structure built in 1446. What remains today is the third castle built on the site. There is nothing left of the original 10th century wooden structure which was rebuilt as a stone fortification in around 1210 but this was destroyed in 1446 and rebuilt by Dermot McCarthy, King of Munster.

The castle saw action during the Irish Confederate Wars (1641 – 1653), but then over the next two centuries it changed hands many times until it settled under ownership of the Colthurst Baronetcy in the mid-19th century. It remains the family seat under present estate owner, 10th Baronet Sir Charles St John Colthurst.

Steeped in mystery and legend, Blarney Castle is home to the Stone of Eloquence, otherwise known as the world-famous Blarney Stone, believed to imbue anyone who kisses it with the gift of eloquence. To kiss it, visitors must to hang precariously upside down from the castle’s battlements, but kiss it – and photograph it – they do, to the tune of something like 400,000 people a year!

Kilmainham Jail

Kilmainham Jail (Príosún Chill Mhaighneann) in Dublin was a notoriously fearsome prison housing a mixture of common criminals and high profile political prisoners. Originally built in 1780, the current structure dates to the 1860s.

By the time it closed in 1924, the prison had been the final home of some of the most famous figures in Irish history, many imprisoned and executed in the fight for Irish independence. After leading the ultimately unsuccessful 1803 uprising against the English, Robert Emmet was held here and later executed, as were, in one of the exercise yards, members of the 1916 Easter Uprising.

Today, Kilmainham Jail is Europe’s largest unoccupied prison as well as a stunning example of late eighteenth century prison architecture. The museum offers visitors the chance to explore its history and in addition to the visibly gruesome cells and exercise sections, visitors can see the block on which Emmet was beheaded and the doorway where prisoners were hanged.

Dublin Castle

Dublin Castle (Caisleán Bhaile Átha Cliath) has served as a fortification and royal home, a gunpowder storage facility and a prison. Today, it hosts the inauguration of each president of Ireland.

Construction of a castle on the site began in 1204 by King John of England on a site that previously housed a Danish fortress. This first incarnation, completed around 1230, was primarily intended as a stronghold to defend the city as well as being a place from which the King could run the administration of Ireland. Little of the original remains, but what does, such as the Record Tower, demonstrates its purpose as a fortification.

Over the centuries, Dublin Castle has been renovated and reconstructed several times and as a result, it contains a mix of beautifully picturesque architectural influences, the most lavish of which date back to the Georgian period and includes the State Apartments and St Patrick’s Hall.

Barryscourt Castle

Located close to the town of Carrigtwohill in the east of County Cork, Barryscourt Castle (Caisleán Chúirt an Bharraigh) is a partly-ruined fortress probably built, based on the architectural style, in around 1550 by the Barrymore branch of the Barry family.

The site has been occupied for a thousand years, evidenced by remains of a wooden watermill constructed around the 7th century. Barryscourt was a strategic site coveted by many, including Sir Walter Raleigh in the 1580s who found it slighted after the Desmond Rebellions a decade before. Visitors can still see the damage done by cannonballs during the Irish Confederate War in 1645 but it eventually fell in to disuse.

The bawn (outer, or curtain) walls and the corner towers is one of Ireland’s best examples of an Irish Tower House and one of the country’s most photographed. The Main Hall and the Great Hall have been extensively restored with fittings and furnishings reinstated, the Orchard has been restored to an original 16th century design and a herb garden has been reinstated in the bawn making Barryscourt on of Ireland’s most picturesque places.

Knockmoy Abbey

Meaning ‘Abbey of Muaidh's Hill’, Abbeyknockmoy (Mainistir Chnoc Muaidhe) in County Galway was founded in 1189 by Cathal Crovdearg O’Connor, King of Connacht and is one of Ireland’s best preserved examples of 12th century church architecture.

Originally a Cistercian abbey, it was plundered by William de Burgo in 1200 and in 1483 the abbot of Knockmoy was accused of setting fire to it but its fate was ultimately settled in the late 1530s by Henry VIII’s Dissolution of the Monasteries.

The abbey remained in use as a parish church for another century or so until it was gifted in 1620 by King James I to Valentine Blake, one of Galway’s richest men.

Today, Abbeyknockmoy is home to some of Ireland’s most impressive medieval wall paintings and sculpture, an impressive capital, ornate stonework in the chancel as well as one of the last surviving medieval frescoes in Ireland. There are also a number of tombs, including one of the very few late medieval stone inscriptions written in the Irish language so make sure you bring your camera to capture some of Ireland’s unique history!