Best Hidden Gems in Ireland
Are you looking for Ireland's secret spots? Are you ready to discover exceptional landscapes, some of which have served as filming locations for your favourite series or films? Are you ready to leave the city and go deep into the countryside, the forests, the coasts? If the answer is yes, this selection of Ireland's best hidden gems is for you.
This colourful village looks a bit like Mellieha fishing village in Malta for the shooting of the film “Popeye”. Kinsale is not a movie set but an authentic Irish village. The coloured houses are owned by sailors. In order to recognize their boats from afar, even in the fog, they would paint their boats and houses in bright colours. The orange boat belonged to the fisherman of the orange house and the pink boat to the fisherman of the pink house.
These colour codes should not be confused with those used in Alsace, in Colmar for example wherea pink house means "house of naughty pleasures". Kinsale will appeal to gourmets, the city is renowned for its many restaurants some of which are Mchelin-starred such as the "Bastion Restaurant".
How to get there: Book your flights to Cork (20 min by car).
Where to stay: "Trident Hotel Kinsale" located on the waterfrond of Kinsale.
Just a few kilometres from Cork, this incredible fishing village with colourful houses is a popular destination for travellers looking for off the beaten track destinations. Cobh also attracts enthusiasts of water sports, kayaking, kitesurfing as well as jazz enthusiasts.
Come and discover this amazing and colourful city by booking your flights at the best price as well as your accommodation and your tours and activities such as a "Cobh cultural tour" on the roads of the Titanic shipyard.
How to get there: Book your flights to Cork (20 minutes by car).
Where to stay: “Commodore Hotel”. We love the decor of its rooms and the views of Cobh harbour.
Connemara - County Galway
This Abbey is one of the most mystical places in Connemara. When the mist rises and reveals the outlines of this abbey and its neo-Gothic church, a magnificent Victorian garden appears to the delight of travellers and photographers. This incredible construction is due to a wealthy inhabitant of Liverpool who fell in love with this place during his honeymoon. In 1868 Henri Mitchell had this castle built which was at the forefront of comfort and modernity, for the time.
You can be happy in business and sad in love. This is unfortunately what happened to the rich owner of this castle. During a trip to South Africa his wife fell seriously ill and died in a devastating manner. His body was repatriated to Kylemore and a cathedral was erected in his memory.
The drama did not end there since a few years later, one of the daughters of the owner of this incredible place, drowned in the waters of the lake. Devastated by this new disappearance, Henry Mitchell left the scene and sold his castle. The castle ended up being abandoned until the Benedictine sisters took possession of it in 1920. They still occupy this mystical place today. Surrounded by trees, the abbey took the name of "Kylemore" which means in Gaelic "the great forest".
Opening hours: Open daily from 9 a.m. to 5.30 p.m.
How to get there: Book your flights to Galway and drive 1 hour 30 minutes to Pollacappul. The abbey is easy to access since it is located along the N59 road.
Where to stay: Stay near Kylemore Abbey, “Sharamore House B&B” is just 10 minutes'drive from Kylemore Abbey.
Ireland is a dream land for travellers looking for beautiful scenery. This incredible flat mountain rises near the border with Northern Ireland. It might make you think of wild west landscapes. An Indian chief is almost expected to come and make a fire there to send messages of peace or war.
This flat mountain is located in County Sligo also known as the Land of Yeats. This second name is given to him in homage to the Irish poet William Butler Yeats who had written many poems on this region including one of the most famous “Under Ben Bulden”.
If you are planning to climb this impressive 500-meter-high mountain, we recommend that you do not climb via the northern facade which is very exposed to the strong winds of the Atlantic Ocean. Don't take any chances and climb to the top of this flat mountain on the south side, more sheltered from the winds. Ask the Sligo tourist office in the city centre about hiking. Some private land around Ben Bulden is no longer accessible and it is better to avoid improvising a path in the middle of the peat bogs.
How to get there: Book your flights to Knock (1 hour by car) or Derry (2 hours), Belfast (2:30) and Dublin (3 hours).
Where to stay: “Sligo Southern Hotel” for its restaurant which serves local cuisine and its bar has a cozy atmosphere with open fires.
Bushmills - Northern Ireland
In the north of Northern Ireland, almost facing Rathlin Island, Portbradden and its fishing port is one of Ireland's best hidden gems.
One of the best views of this small fishing village is from the Causeway Coast Road, from there you can see the fishing village, the harbour and the bay. There is nothing to do here, no shopping malls, no restaurants, no pubs. There is only a tiny parking lot with 6 spaces available.
It is the perfect place to face the ocean, nature and marvel. We almost forgot to tell you, Portbradden is located just 10 minutes by car from Giant's Causeway, one more reason to make a detour for a few minutes to discover this unique place in the world.
How to get there: Book your flights to Derry or Belfast, Portbradden is located 1 hour by car from these two airports.
Where to stay: “Causeway Lodge” located 5 minutes away from Giant's Causeway, this is a 5 star B&B perfect for exploring the spectacular landscapes of the North of Ireland.
Stranocum - Country Antrim - Northern Ireland
Dark Hedges is probably one of the most incredible places in Northern Ireland. The twisting trees of Bregagh Road in County Antrim, form a spellbinding tunnel that inspired the directors of the Game of Thrones series.
These trees are a hundred years old. It was a wealthy local owner, James Stuart, who planted them in the 18th century to create a somewhat flashy driveway for his house. With this avenue of trees he wanted to show that he was someone important.
Legend has it that the trees grew normally until the day of the tragic death of James Stuart's daughter. Since that day they have started to twist.
How to get there: Book your flights to Belfast or Derry (1 hour by car in both cases).
Where to stay: “Causeway Coast Haven” located near Dark Edges and only 15 km from Giant's Causeway.
Ballycastle - County Mayo
Downpatrick head is a must-see for nature lovers but also for foodies. The Dunn Bruiste rock you see in this photo does indeed look like a large slice of cake, with chocolate streaks and layers of crèmes fraiche. The site is easy to access. You can park nearby and take a lovely walk along the Irish coast. A statue of Saint Patrick marks the start of this walk which will take you to discover one of Ireland's best hidden gems.
How to get there: Book your flights to Knock Airport and drive 1 hour to Ballycastle (Mayo County, not to be confused with Ballycastle located in Antrim County). Allow 2 hours by car from Galway airport and 3h30 from Dublin
Where to stay: “Diamond Coast Hotel” this 4-star hotel overlooks 5km of golden beaches and dune lands.
Connemara - County Galway
This place, located in the Connemara Lake District, seems like something straight out of a children's tale. Lost in the middle of the mountains, Derryclare Lough has inspired many filmmakers and is a popular spot for professional and amateur photographers. It's incredible because we have the impression that in this remote corner of Ireland, in the middle of peat bogs, elephants, gazelles and giraffes will come to drink at the edge of the lake.
The national park is crossed by road 344, so there are many places you can stop to take a picture of this magical place. A tip, come in autumn, the colours are of rare beauty.
How to get there: Book your flights to Galway and drive to Derryclare Lough, the lake is easily observable from the R344 road through the national park.
Where to stay: "Island View B&B" situated in the picturesque fishing village of Roundstone.
Cahir Swiss Cottage
Kilcommon - Cahir - Limerick
This strange Swiss cottage was built at the beginning of the 19th century at a somewhat wacky request from wealthy owners: Lord and Lady Cahir. They wanted a special place not to live there but to receive their friends and entertain them.
If they gave their name to this curious Swiss cottage, it was quickly abandoned before being restored and opened to the public. The Cottage is located near the Golf de Cahir and ample parking is available nearby.
Opening hours: Open daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
How to get there: Book your flights to Cork (1 hour drive) or Shannon Airport (2 hours and drive to Cahir.
Where to stay: “Annaswood B&B” located 2Km from Swiss Cottage.
Skellig Michael Monastery
Portmagee - Skellig Michael Island - County Kerry
Imagine that on this rocky outcrop, jutting out from the Irish Sea, beaten by waves and wind, monks lived cloistered in a tiny monastery. Isolated, on an island with almost no vegetation, they had to struggle to find food and shelter from storms. Finally, after 3 centuries of a rough life, the monks decided to leave the island in the 9th century to reach the main island of Ballinskelligs, leaving on Skellig Mickael the ruins of one of the most amazing monasteries in the world.
Are you more passionate about the 7th art than history and religion? Skellig Michael is a place of pilgrimage for fans of Stars wars since this mysterious island served as the setting for one of the last opus of this film "The Force Awakens".
Book your flights to Cork (2h30 by car) or Shannon (3h) as well as your accommodation at the best price in and your tours and activities such as a "Ring of Kerry full-day tour from Killarney to discover one of the most mystical regions of Ireland.
How to get there: Book your flights to Cork (2h30 by car) or Shannon Airport (3h) and drive to Portmagee. Once in Portmagee, book your boat trips to Skellig Michael (departure every day between 8:30 am and 9:30 am (no crossing in winter, tours start on March 18).
Where to stay: “The Moorings Guesthouse & Seafood Restaurant” overlooking Portmagee's harbor.
Baltimore - County Cork
Fastnet lighthouse faces Cape Clear Island, a short boat ride from the Port of Baltimore. Drive from Cork to Baltimore, to experience one of Europe's most impressive lighthouses. This lighthouse has resisted wind and waves, but also numerous collisions with boats since its creation in 1853.
How about taking a cruise around this incredible lighthouse? Meet at the Port of Baltimore and purchase your tickets for a cruise. This tour will also allow you to see Cape Clear Island and observe dolphins and whales. During your stay, be sure to visit Clonakilty, a sustainable tourism destination recognized for its commitment to local people and the preservation of the environment.
How to get there: Book your flights to Cork and drive 1.5 hours to Clonakilty or Baltimore.
Where to stay: "Casey's of Baltimore Collections - The cottage" located a few minutes walk from the pord of Baltimore.
Bushmills - County Antrim - Northern Ireland
One of the other wonders of Northern Ireland that you must put at the top of your travel wishlist is the Giant's Causeway. This incredible volcanic formation is unique in the world. Large basalt columns form steps of different sizes that seem to sink into the Irish Sea.
How to get there: Book your flights to Belfast and drive 1 hour to Bushmill (3 hour drive from Dublin). You can also get there by public transport by taking the train to Portrush and walking 10 km along the coast.
Where to stay: “Portrush Atlantic Hotel” overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.
The scariest, but also the fastest way to cross the tumultuous waters surrounding Dursey Island, since 1969, has been to board this incredible cable car. Only here can you have such an experience. This cable car is the only one in Europe suspended above the sea.
There are no pubs, restaurants, shops on Dursey Island, so we advise you to take your picnic with you to visit this incredible little island where a few inhabitants still live.
Book your flights to Cork and drive to Billerough, cruises leave from Billeragh Harbour for Dursey. The cable car is open every day of the week from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. (closing at 4:30 p.m. in winter). During your stay in County Cork do not miss to visit BarleyCove beach.
How to get there: Book your flights to Cork and drive to Ballaghboy (2h30).
Where to stay: "Beachview bed&breakfast" couples particularly like the location.
The Cliffs of Moher
Liscannor - County Clare
Many travellers come to Ireland to recharge their batteries in the midst of nature. Cliffs of Moher is thus Ireland's most popular tourist attraction with over 1 million visitors. 15 kilometres of walk along its magnificent cliffs await you. From the top of these impressive cliffs you can see many of Ireland's tourist spots including Loop Head, a sustainable tourism destination awarded for its actions to protect the environment. If you are interested in the impressive history of the geological formation of these breathtaking landscapes be sure to visit the Burren and Cliffs of Moher Geopark.
How to get there: Book your flights to Shannon Airport (1 hour by car) or Galway Airport (1 hour 30 minutes) and drive to Liscannor.
Where to stay: "Bay View House" situated just 5km from Cliffs of Moher.
Adare - County Limerick
Adare is an authentic Irish village considered one of the most beautiful villages in Ireland. The correct denomination is "Heritage town", a title awarded to it by the Irish Government.
Adare is famous for its Fransican Abbey and the Triantarian Abbey but also the Adare Manor near which you will find beautiful cottages with thatched roofs. His thatched cottages appeared in Adare by decision of the Countess of Dunraven. They housed the staff who lived there in fairly good conditions for the time, with a garden around the cottage and good insulation thanks to the thatched roof.
During your stay do not miss a visit to Limerick Castle located 20 minutes from Adare: it is considered one of the most beautiful castles in Ireland.
Where to stay: "The Dunraven, Adare" is an award-winning oasis of tranquility.
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