Every now and then it pays to take the road less travelled. And, although Ireland is small compared to other places, there are still plenty of hidden gems to discover. From castles to epic landscapes, friendly locals and monastic sites, the lesser-known parts of Ireland will surprise you with many special and unique experiences.
Below is a list of 7 off-the-beaten-track destinations to inspire you as you plan your travels this new year.
1 Kinvara, County Galway
A small fishing village nestled in the west of Ireland, Kinvara is a spot that is often bypassed by travellers. Here you will find beautiful walks along the water and a laidback atmosphere in the colourful and quaint village. In Kinvara, you will also find Dunguaire Castle, a restored tower house that is open to the public to enjoy. The castle hosts events and a regular banquet so visitors can channel medieval times.
Find the latest hotel deals in Galway and take a few days to explore the deepest parts of Galway.
2 Skellig Michael, County Clare
Although Skellig Michael, a world-famous monastic site, is not such a secret, it is still somewhere many will have missed off their itinerary. Now the word is out about Skellig Michael through the latest Star Wars episodes, it is safe to say that the island will only become more popular and there is no time like the present to get a glimpse of it.
The Skelligs, as a whole collection of islands, are too good to miss. Travel by boat from the town of Portmagee to see the islands in all their glory.
Check out the latest accommodation deals in Portmagee and have an unforgettable experience at Skellig.
3 Gougane Barra, County Cork
Deep in the western part of County Cork, Gougan Barra could easily be missed amidst everything else there is to see. Although that would be a crying shame, as this part of Ireland is totally unspoiled and worth a visit. The mountain tarn will whisk you away to another world and guarantee some down time if you are needing it this year. Also close by is St Finbarr’s Oratory, an idyllic 6th-Century monastery that looks out over the water.
After a few days in the countryside, why not spoil yourself with some of Cork’s best foodie finds?
Find the latest accommodation deals in Cork and plan an adventure across the county.
4 Rathlin Island, County Antrim
Rathlin has to compete with the nearby Giant’s Causeway. However, if you are looking to get away from the crowds of tourists then a short boat trip from Ballycastle will take you to this gem of a place. From the island it is possible to see across to nearby Scotland. The wildlife here is wonderful, including puffins, which can be spotted during spring and summer.
5 Magic Road, County Louth
Image sourced from Flickr
Some have questioned whether it is myth or truth but actor and passionate traveller Andrew McCarthy appears to have cleared things up when he visited Ireland some years ago. We challenge you to travel to Louth and find out for yourself if the Magic Road does exist. Whilst in Louth, Ireland’s smallest county, spend a few nights in the pretty village of Carlingford and enjoy many of its great highlights.
6 An Riasc, County Kerry
Featured in our recent Historic Ireland pages, An Riasc is a special find along the Dingle Peninsula. Stop here to the admire the ancient monastic site that is said to have been founded between the late 5th Century and early 6th Century. The site is close to the town of Ballyferriter, where a musuem holds more details about the site.
Read our 48 Hours Exploring the Dingle Peninsula for more inspiration as you visit this part of the world.
Find the best places to stay in Dingle when planning your trip.
7 Keem Bay, County Mayo
Located on Achill Island, Ireland’s largest island, Keem Bay is a beautiful cove with a beach with golden sand and turquoise waters (you would be forgiven for thinking you were on the continent on a sunny day here!). Before making your way down to the beach, explore the Croaghan mountains on Achill for epic views over the bay and all that lies beyond.
Check out the latest accommodation deals close to Achill.
Know any other off-the-beaten-track places in Ireland?
Share your favourite hidden spots in the comment section below.