If you are traveling to Ireland and you have the time, I highly recommend you go beyond the capital city and see what else the country has to offer.
There are so many other beautiful places to go in Ireland besides Dublin. I’ve got nothing against Dublin, it’s a very cool city with lots of culture, a great nightlife and live music scene and lots to see and do.
However, it’s the largest metropolis and the place in Ireland that is most like everywhere else in the world. If you want to experience the unique character of Ireland, it’s definitely worth going beyond the capital and visiting some of the smaller destinations. There are so many lovely and charming places, steeped in history and filled with friendly people.
In order to get some recommendations for where to really see the best of Ireland, I asked seven different travel bloggers with experience exploring the Emerald Isle. They recommended some truly gorgeous places to go in Ireland- including tiny towns, churches, cliffs and much more. Here are the Ireland destinations they say you shouldn’t miss:
Carrauntoohil, Co. Kerry
Recommended by Brian and Noelle from WanderingOn.com
“Diving into the raw, untouched landscape of Killarney National Park is both a humbling and rewarding experience. Standing amongst the stunning McGillycuddy’s Reeks, preparing to climb Ireland’s highest mountain, you are quickly removed from everything and left with just you and your wits to rely on. Share the path with sheep, see some of the highest lakes in the country and get lost in nature.
Having completed the hike in different seasons and different conditions, believe us when we say that hiking Carrauntoohil is no easy feat. However, anyone with a reasonable level of fitness and enough willpower can make it the summit. And the rewards are incredible; on a clear day, the views from the top of Ireland are mind-blowing with 360-degree views of the Kerry countryside and the Atlantic coastline in the distance. It’s worth every step.”
Ireland’s Smallest Church
Recommended by: Johnny Blair from Northern Irishman in Poland
“The tiny north coast settlement of Portbraddon in Northern Ireland houses Ireland’s smallest church. This is a truly idyllic wee place, not far from the village of Ballintoy in County Antrim. To get here, I climbed along the rocks by the sea, with the waves crashing in. Views were idyllic and apart from a man walking his dog, I didn’t see anybody else. But be aware that the church is not always open.
Officially, despite being the smallest church in Ireland, you can still get married here. A truly unique and remote spot. Lovers of the TV Show “Game of Thrones” will also love this place, as on the way you can stop off in Ballintoy, which was used for a lot of the filming. There is a nice hostel nearby too – the Whitepark Bay Hostel so you can sleep here and enjoy these unknown Northern Irish charms!”
The Cliffs of Moher
Recommended by Teanna Sidles from SidlesAdventures.com
“If you haven’t heard of the Cliff’s of Moher, you have surely missed out. While visiting Ireland, the Cliffs of Moher was the must see on our list. In my opinion it’s not until you’re there that you can really appreciate the sheer beauty of this part of Ireland.
The Cliffs of Moher have left a lasting impression on us and it’s something we’ll remember for the rest of our lives. If you’re looking for something outside of Dublin, make sure that the Cliff’s of Moher is on your list, County Clare is one of, if not the most breathtaking place I’ve ever been able to visit.”
Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge in County Antrim
Recommended by Miranda from Miranda the Adventurer
“A definite must-see in Northern Ireland is the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge in County Antrim. The bridge connects the mainland to a tiny island called Carrickarede, hence the name, and it is quite the experience trying to cross it! This old bridge wobbles in the wind as you carefully grasp on to the ropes, but it provides a gorgeous view of the water.
It has been speculated that fishermen have been building bridges to this small island for over 350 years.”
Recommended by Dearbhaile Ni Dhubhghaill from Life of Dearbh
“This small twin-town crossing the River Shannon is bursting with history. For twelve short years this lake-side area was the capital of Ireland, when, over 1000 years ago, it became the seat of the last High King. Its iconic bridge joins two villages, while its cathedral sits proudly on the river bank. Surrounded by the stunning scenery of Lough Derg, Killaloe has so much to offer visitors – water activities during the summer, easy hiking all year round, and cute cafes to lounge in in between.
Killaloe hosts several festivals during the year, celebrating traditional Irish music, its unique history, international cuisine and even tapping into Ireland’s pagan roots with a Festival of Light. I feel really lucky to have grown up in such a wonderful place and to call it home every time I return from my travels”
Recommended by Candice Walsh from FreeCandie.com
“I came across Sligo, Ireland entirely on a whim – I was travelling around Ireland researching my family ancestry, and a local invited my friend Julia and I to visit. I was in Galway at the time, and the local lads I was living with couldn’t understand why I’d go there. But Julia and me thought we’d give it a shot. Why not?
Sligo is a county in the northwest corner of Ireland, along the Wild Atlantic Way. It’s a huge hub for outdoors adventuring, especially surfing. No, seriously; world-class surfers come to surf here, especially in Strandhill. The landscape lends itself to outdoors fun too – there’s plenty of rugged coastline, hiking trails, and inland lakes. Stand-up paddling is also popular.
I spent most of my time between Strandhill and Sligo (the town). For such a small place, there’s a huge youth population, and a really vibrant music scene; you can easily wander between bars and pubs seeking out new music and friends. I recommend McGarrigles – they do a really great Sunday night MASS session! (Massive Acoustic Sound Session.)”
Monasterboice and Kells
Recommended by Faith Coates from XYUandBeyond.com
“Monasterboice, just outside Dublin, is a must see as it contains some of Ireland’s most superb high crosses. Like murals and church sculptures, these magnificent examples of Celtic art brought the Bible to life for those who could not read. This spot is immensely peaceful and has 3 high crosses and a Norman tower with superb carvings. The crosses depict stories from the Old and New Testament, it is believed they were used to educate early Christians. Local volunteers will give you a tour of the site and take you through the images carved into these majestic crosses
Most people have heard of the Book of Kells, which was found at the Abbey of Kells which is just down the road from Monasterboice. The book is comprised of the four Gospels of the New Testament; it is a masterwork of western calligraphy with complex and extravagant illustrations and ornamentation. The manuscript is brought to life with figures of humans, animals, mythical beasts, Celtic patterns and vibrant colours. The actual Book of Kells is now far too valuable to be left in an unguarded location so you can see it at Trinity College in Dublin where it is on display year round.”
These are just a few of the most beautiful places to go in Ireland when you venture beyond Dublin and explore a little further. What are your favourite Irish spots to visit? Let us know in the comments below.
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