We recently shared the ultimate Irish travel bucket list of 96 places around the country that everyone should visit at least once. Ireland is full of amazing landscapes and coastline, world-famous attractions, and inspirational historic sites that attract millions of visitors from all over the world each year. But it’s not just tourists who appreciate the sheer beauty of this country, as many locals travel from village to village, town to town, city to city and county to county to enjoy the sites and sounds that make this place so special.
With so much to see and do no matter where you visit, it’s often easy to just head straight for the most popular tourist attractions. Our advice: set off and do some exploring as you travel because you just never know what hidden gems could be waiting for you around the corner. Today, we look at 32 hidden gems around Ireland that everyone should try to discover at least once when exploring this beautiful country.
Hidden Gems in Ireland Everyone Should Visit
Glenariff Waterfall Walk, Co Antrim
Glenariff Forest Park in Antrim is a picturesque park with some great walking trails to explore, the best of which is the stunning waterfall walk. This walk will take you past three waterfalls as you stroll over a series of boardwalks. The waterfalls provide the perfect photo opportunity, while the walk itself provides some great views over the Glens of Antrim.
Ballymacdermott Court Tomb, Co Armagh
With amazing views of the Mourne Mountains and the Ring of Gullion, the neolithic burial site of Ballymacdermott is something really special. The three-chamber burial site is thought to date back to between 2,500 and 4,000 BC, making it older than the Pyramids.
Leighlinbridge Castle, Co Carlow
The quaint town of Leighlinbridge in County Carlow is well worth visiting when exploring the South East of Ireland, with the 12th Century Norman, Leighlinbridge Castle top of the list of things to see. Also known as Black Castle, the structure today is a long way from how it was in its prime, but the location on Leighlinbridge Bridge on the River Barrow is a great place to relax and unwind.
Drumlane Monastic Site, Co Cavan
The remains of the 6th-Century monastery at Drumlane is one of the most beautiful historic sites in Cavan, and a destination well worth visiting, nestled between Drumlane and Derrybrick Loughs. Look out for the carvings of birds on the external walls of the site.
Scattery Island, Co Clare
Located in the mouth of the Shannon estuary, off the coast of Kilrush is the beautiful Scattery Island, home to the 6th-Century monastery of St Senan, and a number of other ancient monastic sites. The island is also home to a lighthouse, holy well and round tower (one of the highest in Ireland). The island is a great place to escape from it all and can be accessed via boat from Kilrush Marina.
Gougane Barra, Co Cork
The ancient monastic settlement of Gougane Barra in West Cork is one of the most stunning monastic sites to be found anywhere in Ireland. The beautiful St Finbar’s Oratory is located on an island in the middle of the lake, with the Shehy Mountains providing a spectacular backdrop.
Mountsandel Fort, Co Derry
Set foot on a real piece of Irish history at Mountsandel Fort in County Derry. This historic site dates back to around 7,600 to 7,900 BC, and is considered the earliest known settlement in Ireland. Flint tools dating back to the Stone Age have been found on the site.
Coral Beach, St John’s Point, Co Donegal
Located near the village of Dunkineely, at the end of an 11km peninsula lies St John’s Point, and at this location, you’ll also find one of the most stunning beaches in all of Donegal, Coral Beach. The beach is a great spot to relax, while a walk to the very tip of the peninsula provides great views over Donegal Bay and Sligo. The area is popular with scuba divers and is said to have some of the clearest diving waters in Europe, something for visitors to consider.
Dundrum Castle, Co Down
Located in the popular coastal village of Dundrum is the ruins of the 12th-Century medieval Dundrum Castle. Enjoy a tour of the grounds of the castle while marvelling at the great views of Dundrum Bay and the nearby Mourne Mountains. When you’ve finished exploring the castle, make your way towards the nearby Murlough Nature Reserve.
The Hellfire Club, Co Dublin
The ruins of this old hunting lodge at the top of Montpelier Hill is surrounded by a string of macabre stories and paranormal activities. In the 18th century, this place was the meeting quarters of an exclusive order named the Hellfire Club. The lodge is said to have been cursed by the devil when stones of a nearby neolithic burial site were used in its construction. Whether you’re a sceptic or not, one thing is sure, the views from the Hellfire Club over Dublin and the plains of Meath and Kildare are unbeatable and well worth a sudden case of the heebie-jeebies.
Narvar Forest, Co Fermanagh
Known for its vast lakeland areas, there’s plenty to explore when visiting Fermanagh. One area that many locals would recommend is Narvar Forest, which can be enjoyed in the car (with a seven-mile drive) or on foot along the popular boardwalk trails. Whatever way you decide to explore the forest, the views atop the cliff make your trip worthwhile, with Lough Erne, Donegal and the Atlantic Ocean all in site.
McDonaghs, Oranmore, Co Galway
Galway is a county that has so much to offer, from the stunning Connemara National Park to the bustling streets of Galway City, there’s so much for visitors to the area to see and do. A popular county for many looking an entertaining weekend away, Galway pubs are among the best in Ireland, and the town of Oranmore has a hidden gem that simply must be enjoyed. McDonaghs is a popular traditional thatched pub in that attracts visitors across the year, so if you’re in the area, be sure to call in for one.
Valentia Island, Co Kerry
Whether it’s visiting Killarney, driving the Ring of Kerry or marvelling at the beauty of Dingle, and the Dingle Peninsula, Kerry is a county with so much to see and do. While Valentia Island is well known to many, it’s an island that just doesn’t get the visitors that nearby Dingle enjoys, but the deep history and amazing views of Skellig Michael should put Valentia Island on any travellers list when visiting The Kingdom. Find out more about Valentia Island on our guide to Ireland’s top islands.
The Wonderful Barn, Co Kildare
The 18th-Century corkscrew-shaped barn in Leixlip, County Kildare is something truly unique, given the fact most Irish barns are rectangular in shape, and 18th-Century ones would have most likely been built with a straw roof. The barn was built in 1743 not long after the ‘forgotten famine’ of 1740 – 1741 and is located on the edge of Castletown House.
Kilfane Waterfall and Glen, Co Kilkenny
Known as Kilkenny’s Secret Garden, Kilfane Waterfall and Glen remains virtually unspoilt since the 1790s, with the picturesque waterfall making it a must see when exploring Kilkenny. Located just outside the town of Thomastown, about 20 minutes from Kilkenny City, the glen also features a wealth of 18th-Century plants and trees, across 15 acres of land.
Glenbarrow Waterfall, Co Laois
The picturesque Slieve Bloom mountains separate Offaly and Laois, and one of the most spectacular areas in the mountain range is Glenbarrow. With three looped walks starting and finishing at Glenbarrow, the stunning three-tiered waterfall is just one of a number of great photo opportunities visitors to the park can look forward to.
Lough Melvin, Co Leitrim
Lying in the shadows of the Darty Mountains is the secluded Lough Melvin, a great spot for hiking and fishing (in fact, you’re likely to see more people fishing than doing anything else at Lough Melvin). Part of the lough is located in Fermanagh, but the tranquillity of the area, make it a must visit if you’re looking to just get away from it all when exploring this part of Ireland.
Lough Gur Stone Circle, Co Limerick
While there is plenty to keep you busy when visiting Limerick, no trip to the area will be complete unless you have visited the ancient site of Lough Gur and marvelled at the neolithic stone circle, the oldest of its kind in Ireland. Lough Gur is some 6,000 years old and officially a part of Ireland’s Ancient East, so there’s plenty for you to explore in the area. Just ensure you get along to the historic stone circles.
The Corlea Track, Co Longford
Longford in itself is a hidden gem for many as it is one of the least-visited counties in Ireland. Despite this, Longford has some great places to just waiting to be explored, and top of the pile is the Corlea Track, a prehistoric track that was discovered in 1984 and is thought to date back to 148 BC and the Iron Age.
Leprechaun Cavern, Co Louth
The town of Carlingford in Louth is the home of the last leprechauns of Ireland, and the best place to find out about this story is to join the tour at the Leprechaun Cavern in Carlingford. A popular tour for families, the Leprechaun tour at Leprechaun Cavern will help you discover the legend of the last leprechauns to live in Ireland.
Benwee Head, Co Mayo
Located near the town of Carrowteige is the spectacular cliff edge of Benwee Head, perhaps one of the most spectacular cliffs along the Wild Atlantic Way (and certainly one of the least visited). While the Cliffs of Moher and Slieve League grab much of the western cliff love, this impressive coastline will really take your breath away, and there’s a good chance you’ll have them all to yourself, which will make for plenty of great photo opportunities. With two picturesque beaches nearby and a number of coastal walks to enjoy, you can easily spend a day enjoying the great scenery of Benwee Head.
Old Mellifont Abbey, Co Meath
Situated close to the town of Drogheda you’ll find the impressive monastic site of Old Mellifont Abbey, a 12th-Century Cistercian monastery. While a new monastery was built in the 1900s, this historic site is well worth visiting as you explore both Meath and Ireland’s Ancient East.
Edergole Court Tomb, Co Monaghan
Known to locals as the Giant’s Grave, Edergole Court Tomb lies almost eight metres long and is a site of significant historic importance in Monaghan. This was a meeting centre for the Neolithic community in the area over thousands of years ago, acting as both a burial tomb and an ancient ritual site. While the burials and rituals have long since gone, the stones at the tomb still remain today and act as a reminder to some of Ireland’s earliest farmers.
Clara Bog, Co Offaly
Clare Bog once covered some 310,000 hectares of land, but today, the nature reserve covers just 464 hectares of raised bog. The nature reserve is home to much-protected wildlife and is one of the biggest raised bogs in Northern Europe. In a county that has so many hidden gems just waiting to be discovered by visitors, Clara Bog Nature Reserve is up there at the top of the list.
Rindoon, Co Roscommon
Built by King Henry III in the 13th Century, the town of Rindoon had over 1,000 inhabitants in its heydey but was destroyed in only 150 years. Despite this, many ruins remain today, and in recent times, the town has become a popular spot for visitors to Roscommon to set off on foot and find out a bit more of the area. Join one of the guided tours as you explore an area that has been brought back to life some 600 years since it was destroyed.
Carrowmore, Co Sligo
Carrowmore is the largest cemetery of megalithic tombs in Ireland, and one of the oldest in the country with some monuments almost 6000 years old. With some 30 tombs visible to explore (there were over 60 recorded), a trip to Carrowmore will see you explore one of Ireland’s most ancient sites.
Loughmore Castle, Co Tipperary
There are many famous castles in Tipperary, but one of the lesser-known castles that you simply must explore when visiting the area is Loughmore Castle, a ruined castle in Loughmore Village. The castle was the ancestral home of the Purcell family, the Barons of Loughmore, but today all that remains is the ruins of the castle, albeit, an impressive ruin.
Harry Avery’s Castle, Co Tyrone
Built in the 14th Century by the local O’Neill clan and named after on of the local chiefs (Harry Avery O’Neill), the castle is considered to be unusual for its time as Irish chieftains rarely built stone castles. The impressive ruins will provide plenty for you to explore, while the area itself will afford you some of the best views of the Tyrone countryside and The Sperrins.
St Declan’s Well, Co Waterford
The Holy Well of St Declan in the town of Ardmore holds significant importance to Irish Christianity as there are many who believe it was St Declan who first brought Christianity to Ireland. The well today is located beside the ruins of a church and is one of many ancient monuments in Ardmore dedicated to St Declan.
The Jealous Wall, Co Westmeath
The Jealous Wall in Belvidere, Westmeath, is the largest folly in Ireland and is made up of a detached three-storey ‘sham ruin’ located to the south of the popular Belvedere House. This impressive structure is a worth visiting when travelling through Westmeath.
Dunbrody Abbey, Co Wexford
Considered by many to be one of the finest examples of a Cistercian Monastery in Ireland, Dunbrody Abbey, and indeed the Yew Hedge Maze (which is made up of 1,500 yew trees) in Wexford are both stunning, and a must see. The 12th-Century Abbey was founded by Herve de Montmorency on the instructions of his uncle, Strongbow. The Abbey is next to Dunbrody Castle, which has beautiful gardens joining it, providing plenty for you to explore should you visit Dunbrody Abbey.
Lough Tay, Co Wicklow
The Wicklow Mountains are up there with the most scenic places in Ireland, and while the ancient site of Glendalough attracts most of the attention, the picturesque Lough Tay is another area that draws in plenty of visitors throughout the year. Lough Tay is often referred to as Guinness Lake due to the fact that the tip of the lake is finished with bright white stand, making the top of the lough look like a pint of Guinness. Indeed, the Guinness family imported the sand as their estate runs through the Lough Tay area. This is a great location to simply sit back, and just unwind.
What are your Favourite Irish Hidden Gems?
What are your favourite hidden gems from your own town or county, or which hidden gems have you unearthed on your travels around Ireland? Let us know below or by sharing your favourite hidden gems with us on Facebook and Twitter.
Images via Fáilte Ireland