If you’re planning a visit to our lovely country, there are so many unique and wonderful cities, towns, and villages to choose from. Dublin is Ireland’s capital and is certainly a place that you shouldn’t miss out on seeing – from the Guinness Storehouse, to the Jameson Distillery, to Dublin Zoo – the list of sights is endless! However we know that when visiting Ireland a lot of our guests start or finish their journey in Dublin, but try and travel around the country to experience the breathtakingly beautiful country views. Along with this, the famous Irish “craic” is often best experienced in some of Ireland’s small towns, where some of the best traditional Irish music can be discovered.
Today we bring you 10 of Ireland’s best cities, towns, and villages; should you be venturing beyond the capital. Being an island, Ireland boasts some of the best coastal destinations. If you’re familiar with Ireland and have had a great experience in a particular place, we’d love to hear from you!
Number 10: Ardmore, County Waterford
Ardmore is a beautiful seaside resort in the Gaeltacht are of County Waterford. It’s an extremely popular summer destination and is home to the luxury 5 star Cliff House Hotel, if you’re looking for accommodation for a very special occasion. We’d give Ardmore the thumbs up if you’re looking for a tranquil location with picturesque views – the ideal place for a romantic getaway.
Number 9: Inisbofin, County Galway
Admittedly Inisbofin isn’t the most convenient of places to get to… You have to take a ferry over to this picturesque island. One which operates just once in the morning, afternoon, and evening from Cleggan (which also is a bit of a trek to get to on land)… But if that doesn’t scare you off, I would highly recommend a visit to the wonderful, beautiful, mystical land of Inisbofin. The island doesn’t have a humongous amount of choice in terms of things to do, but I think that’s the point – you can enjoy a blissful escape from your hectic life. Take time to explore the island by foot or by bicycle. Keep your eyes peeled for rare wildlife species. Inisbofin is an ideal escape for photographers seeking inspiration. By night, enjoy the “craic agus ceol” which can be found in the island’s pubs.
Number 8: Clonakilty, County Cork
Clonakilty or “Clon” as it’s called by the locals, is a small town in the heart of West Cork. It’s most famously known in Ireland for its delicious white and black puddings (or blood sausage as it’s often called abroad), but also boasts some of the most beautiful blue flag beaches in the south. If you’re in search of traditional Irish music, it’s one of the best places to visit to experience it, along with one of the warmest welcomes you’ll receive in the country! For inspiration on places of interest in Clonakilty to pay a visit to, go to: www.clonakilty.ie/visiting-clonakilty.
Number 7: Dingle, County Kerry
Another town located on the seafront; Dingle is the only town which is on the Kerry Peninsula. Dingle is a great place to visit for people of all ages, but in particular for families as children just love keeping their eyes peeled for Fungi, the famous dolphin who lives in the Atlantic coastal area which surrounds the town. If you’re not feeling up to going out on a boat on a quest to find Fungi, then visit the Dingle Oceanworld Aquarium. Here you’ll be able to see penguins, turtles, several species of fish, and much more.
3 eateries you shouldn’t miss out on in Dingle:
- Murphy’s Ice Cream also has an ice cream shop in Dublin, but this one in Dingle is the original. Admittedly, it’s a little on the expensive side, so maybe stick to the regular 99 cone if you’ve a bunch of kids with you. But if not, definitely treat yourself to a scoop of some of the best ice cream you’ll ever have! The homemade ice cream boasts one of the largest range of flavours I’ve ever seen! There are some seriously wacky flavours (Blue Cheese and Caramelised Shallots), and some seriously cool ones too, such as Dingle Gin (delicious!). The staff are really enthusiastic too, and they often give you a little taste if you’re unsure of the bizarre flavour names.
- Idas Restaurantis a great dinner choice, especially if you’re looking for something for a special occasion. Great presentation and fabulous flavours; what more could you want?! Booking is advised to avoid disappointment.
- If you’re a lover of seafood, then check out Doyle’s Seafood Restaurant where you can expect exceptionally good food, wonderful atmosphere, and fantastic service. Yet another spot where booking is advised, but trust me – you don’t want to miss out on this little gem of a restaurant!
Number 6: Bundoran, County Donegal
If surfing and water sports are your thing, then be sure to have Bundoran on your itinerary! The town is a coastal area of Donegal, which is also home to the Irish festival “Sea Sessions” which has become hugely popular over the last couple of years with headlining artists such as Bastille, Kaiser Chiefs, and Ziggy Marley to name but a few. Bundoran is a great option if you’re looking for a holiday spot that’s based more around activities than sight-seeing. A superb place for a family getaway as there’s always something to keep the kids busy.
Number 5: Dunmore East, County Waterford
Dunmore East is a beautiful picturesque village along the south-east coast in County Waterford. The village is home of the Waterford Harbour Sailing Club, some great seafood restaurants, and nice guesthouses and hotels. During the summer months especially, sailors of all ages can be seen tackling the Atlantic Ocean and enjoying the weather that the sunny south east promises. If you have children with you, why not check out the Dunmore Adventure Centre where you can participate in a range of watersports. Take a stroll across the pier to visit the lighthouse, visit one of the lovely sandy beaches, enjoyed a bowl of chowder looking onto the seafront at The Strand Inn. If you’re visiting towards the end of the summer, be sure to check out the annual Bluegrass Festival which usually takes place on the last weekend of August.
Number 4: Clifden, County Galway
The drive out to Clifden alone is enough to make you take a visit! The Connemaraarea is quite different in comparison to the rest of Ireland. The district is one of the most scenic, unspoilt areas of Ireland, with tonnes of bog-land and picturesque lakes to be seen throughout. The only thing I would put emphasis on in terms of advice… Maybe bring a rain jacket! If you’re lucky enough to visit and it’s a sunny day, then great! But unfortunately on most occasions that I’ve been there (and I’ve had many a person saying the same thing) it’s been raining… Regardless of the weather, check out Connemara National Park for some beautiful hike options – a great place to bring children for a walk through nature, with it’s pretty waterfalls and great variety of greenery to be seen. In Clifden town itself, the “capital of Connemara”, are some great pubs to choose from, which often play fantastic traditional Irish music throughout the summer. E. J. King’s Bar & Restaurantis a popular spot which has great atmosphere at night with its live music, and a good place for lunch or a snack during the day (try the mussels!).
Number 3: Kilkenny City
Kilkenny is an Irish city which has incredible medieval heritage, having the beautiful Kilkenny Castle on its riverside. The city is certainly a point of interest should you have an interest in art, culture, or architecture. Boasting fantastic nightlife as well as several amazing restaurants, Kilkenny is an all-round crowd pleaser if you’re visiting Ireland.
3 things to have on your must-do list:
- Kilkenny Castle was built in 1195 and is one of the city’s most visited attractions. Admission to the castle is at a fee of €7.00 for an adult, with various concession prices also available. Even with paid admission, the castle’s beauty can be seen from outside, where you can also enjoy the vast parkland which surrounds it, along with the River Nore which flows beside it. The Castle tends to be quite busy during the summer months, so I’d probably advise going during the week if at all possible.
- I have visited Ristorante Rinuccini on several occasions starting from when I was just a child. I love the fine Italian dining experience it offers, and the service delivered by the staff is consistently excellent. The restaurant has a nice warm feeling to it and I would certainly recommend it for a special occasion if you’re visiting Kilkenny City.
- Kilkenny Design Centrehas been around for years and has grown hugely in popularity with its wonderful range of Irish designers’ merchandise in-store. Perfect if you’re looking for something truly Irish to bring home as a gift. It’s also the perfect place to grab lunch in, with plenty to choose from at the food-hall.
Number 2: Kinsale, County Cork
Kinsale is a small coastal town in west Cork that is full to the brim of character and charm. Enjoy the energetic nightlife of the town, with several small pubs to choose from. Check out Fishy Fishy, my favourite seafood restaurant by the Irish chef Martin Shanahan, from the RTÉ television show “Martin’s Mad about Fish”. The menu is full of flavour whatever you decide on and everything is consistently cooked to perfection. A walk along the Kinsale waterfront is always a nice way to pass a summers day, and there are tonnes of small boutiques, chocolatiers, and other Irish-based shops to visit. If you enjoy golf, then check out The Old Head Golf Links, a World-class championship golf course which is on a 220 acre piece of land that juts out over the massive Atlantic Ocean. If you’re staying in Kinsale for a couple of days, then try and get out to Fota Wildlife, an amazing 75 acre wildlife park that is home to over 30 mammal and 50 bird species. Fota Wildlife is high up on our list of places to visit in Ireland, and is around a 40 minute drive from Kinsale.
Number 1: Galway City
What can I say, but that both tourists and the native Irish alike ADORE Galway City! It’s one of those great-feeling cities that has a personal touch about it, where everyone is so friendly and gives a warm welcome to all! Shop Street is always full of energy and excitement, day or night. Galway always has the best summer events, with the famous Galway Races and the Galway Arts Festival which bring in massive crowds from all over the country and abroad. In the past, Galway has been the host of the world famous Volvo Ocean Race and Tall Ships Race. We’d definitely recommend you making a trip to the West of Ireland and having Galway on the top of your list!
3 things to have on your must-do list:
- Neachtains Pub in my opinion has the best pint of Guinness you’ll get in Ireland! A bold statement I know, but pop into this cosy traditional pub and order a pint of the “black stuff” and see for yourself! This little pub has been around for years (since 1894!) and is a great place to experience the famous traditional Irish craic.
- Twice as Nice – this little shop on Quay Street is incredibly cute and has some really nice one-off pieces and some great gift ideas too. Expect fantastic vintage wear and small antiques.
- The Ó’Máille Storeon High Street – Aran jumpers are a hugely popular Irish gift and as of more recent times, are quite the fashion item in the cold winter months. If you’re looking for one that’s not fiercely overpriced like some, then pop into this shop on High Street to get a good quality Aran jumper at a reasonable price. They also stock a range of Irish designers if you’re looking for something nice to bring back to that special someone back at home.
So that’s it on our top must-visit places of Ireland, which we hope will help you plan your upcoming visit. We’d love to hear from you with places not mentioned above that you’ve had a memorable experience in, so as always, don’t hesitate to get in touch! We hope you enjoy your time in Ireland!