The lush green isle of Ireland is one of the most scenic countries in the world, and when visiting, one simply doesn’t just see the major cities or the most popular attractions.
There’s more to this country than it’s bustling capital, and a visit to a small town or two will definitely show anyone just how breathtaking Ireland can be.
From picturesque port towns to intriguing medieval villages and favorite stops in a scenic route, here are some of the best towns and cities in Ireland to visit.
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1. Cobh, Co. Cork
The quaint and quirky seaport town of Cobh is best known as the Titanic’s last port call in Europe before its fateful maiden voyage. It has witnessed other significant events in Ireland’s history, particularly those that involved mass migrations during war and conflict, with most of its people sailing to Australia or North America.
Along Cobh’s waterfront, you’ll see pretty cottages straight out of storybooks, complementing the prominent spire of the beautiful St. Colman’s Cathedral. The fascinating Heritage Center will tell you more about the town’s intriguing history, while a stroll along the promenade, feeding the ducks in the Cuskinny or high tea at the St. Benedict’s Priory Bible Garden and Tea Rooms are also great ways to experience this charming town.
2. Birr, Co. Offaly
The picturesque heritage town of Birr used to be called Parsostown, after the Parsons family, who owned the castle and estate. The town takes pride in its unique character and long history, seen in the colorful Georgian buildings. Of all the lovely structures you’ll see in this town in County Offaly, Birr Castles has to be the most intriguing.
Built by the Parsons family, the Earl of Rosse, it’s most unique feature is the massive telescope that stands on its grounds up to this day. It was the world’s biggest until 1927 and played a significant part in the advancement of astronomy.
3. Dingle, Co. Kerry
Dingle is the main town in the Dingle Peninsula and is part of the breathtaking Wild Atlantic Way. A vibrant fishing port situated at the end of the rugged Conor Pass, this town is also known for offers some of the most captivating sceneries in Ireland.
Don’t be surprised if you hear Gaelic as much as English when in Dingle, as it’s one of the few places left in the country that still speaks their native language.
Dingle is known for its thriving pub scene, serving not only a great selection of drinks but god traditional Irish music as well. Since it’s situated by the Atlantic, sea life in Dingle is among its top draws.
Hang out by the bay and you’d most likely spit bottlenose dolphins, including their famous resident sea mammal Fungie.
4. Galway, Co. Galway
Galway is the ideal base to explore the Aran Islands or Connemara. It is also easily accessible to the Cliffs of Moher. This captivating town is known for its artsy, bohemian vibe, evident in its lively pub scene mixed with quaint little shops that sell books, handcrafted Claddagh rings, and musical instruments.
It’s center bursts with light and color, but one will still see remnants of the medieval town walls and castles. While here and aside from the much talked about pub scene, have a meal or a drink in one of the many restaurants and cafés — they double as front seats to enjoy talented buskers and street theater.
Walk on the bridges over River Corrib, or stroll through the promenade with views of Galway Bay. While here, be sure to have some of Galway’s famous native oysters — said to be the best in the world.
5. Howth, Co. Dublin
Located east of Dublin is the picturesque village of Howth, on the north coast of the Howth Peninsula. It is a favorite weekend getaway for those living in the nearby capital, as it’s just a quick trip via the DART line.
Its history and varied landscape is a lovely discovery for visitors who are curious enough to see more of Ireland apart from busy Dublin.
Being a port and fishing town, among the best things to do here involves spending time on the pier, visiting nearby islands or watching the sunset as fisherfolk get their boats ready.
Around town, there’s the 15th-century Howth Castle and its rhododendron gardens, the Martello Tower which houses a vintage radio museum and the medieval ruins of St. Mary’s Abbey.
6. Strandhill, Co. Sligo
Situated at the west of Sligo town and on the base of the Knocknarea Mountain is the coastal town of Strandhill. It is known for its quiet stretches of rocky beaches and as a haven for surfers. It is not advisable to swim on the beach, however, because of the strong currents and tides.
Still, it is an ideal place for long quiet walks, from Strandhill to Culleenamore Strand and also to Killaspubrone.
Apart from its lovely coast, Strandhill also has interesting establishments and structures such as the 200-year-old traditional thatched cottage called Dolly’s Cottage, and the Carrowmore megalithic tombs which is one of the biggest in Ireland.
7. Killarney, Co. Kerry
Located in the southwest of Ireland and often the start or endpoint of the breathtaking Ring of Kerry, Killarney just has to be one of those towns in Ireland that’s worth a visit. A major attraction is the massive Killarney National Park, which is home to some of the town’s best attractions such as the Muckross Estate and Torc Waterfalls.
A walk around town is among the best things to do here, where you’ll see historic buildings like the Muckross Abbey, St. Mary’s Cathedral and Ross Castle. Killarney also has a great pub scene that you lust check out for a truly Irish experience that you won’t soon forget.
8. Lismore, County Waterford
Surrounded by beautiful countryside, Lismore in County Waterford is one of those towns in Ireland that’s perfect for the outdoorsy types, or simply those who enjoy nature walks. This historic town is situated at the foot of Knockmealdown Mountains, in Ireland’s Munster province.
One of the most popular attractions in Lismore is the 800-year-old castle, which stands on the site of an old monastery on a steep hill. This imposing castle was built during the medieval era, and its location offers stunning views of the town and the nearby Blackwater valley.
Lismore Castle was the former home of important historical artifacts such as the Book of Lismore, which is now in the Chatsworth House in Derbyshire, and the Lismore Crozier, now housed in the National Museum of Ireland.
9. Kilkenny, Co. Kilkenny
Just a few hours away from Dublin, in the southeast is the charming medieval town of Kilkenny. The town is best known for its grand castle and deeply religious roots, as seen in the brilliantly preserved churches and monasteries such as the majestic St. Canice’s Cathedral and the Black Abbey Dominican priory, which both date back to the 13th century.
Kilkenny is a medieval town in southeast Ireland.
It may be among the most recognizable buildings in Ireland but while in town, it is still a must for anyone to see Kilkenny Castle, built in 1195 by Norman occupiers.
There’s just a lot to see and do inside — with its important collections, an impressive art gallery, a crafts hub, and a working farm.
10. Kinsale, Co. Cork
One simply cannot resist Kinsale, a town on the southern coast of Ireland, in County Cork. With its historic streetscape and brightly colored shops, a stroll is like a walk back in time or into the pages of a storybook. The narrow streets of Kinsale’s old town center are lined with color and history, a perfect company during a morning walk or a late afternoon stroll. Since it is located by the coast, Kinsale is also a fishing town where you can enjoy plenty of fresh seafood.
Top places to visit in Kinsale include two well/preserved fortresses from the 17th century: the massive, star-shaped Charles Fort and the smaller James Fort which stands on opposite banks of the River Brandon. There are also museums housed in beautiful historic buildings— the Kinsale Regional Museum in the town’s 16th-century courthouse and the International Museum of Wine in the Desmond Castle.
11. Valentia, Co. Kerry
Easily one of the most beautiful and unique towns in Ireland, Valentia is found on an island with the same name. It is located in the Iveragh Peninsula in the southwest of Ireland. From here, you can also visit the ancient monastic island of Skellig Michael.
Valentia is easily accessible from the mainland via a bridge from Portmagee, and can also be reached by a car ferry from Reenard Point.
Valentia is best known for the fossilized footprints from 385 million years ago, said to be among the world’s oldest remnants of vertebrate life on land.
Another stunning place to see here is the lovely Glanleam House with its sub-tropical gardens. These gardeners have a unique microclimate, and therefore houses a variety of rare plants.
12. Westport, Co. Mayo
Situated by the scenic Clew Bay, the picturesque town of Westport is a must-visit in County Mayo. It is known for its colorful town center, and with its location by the bay, Westport is also known as a hub for a variety of water activities like fishing, kayaking, paddleboarding, sailing, snorkeling, surfing, and windsurfing.
For a unique kind of adventure mixed with the town’s fast local history, there’s the Pirate Adventure Park that’s a feature of the beautiful Westport House. This Georgian era estate also features lush gardens, an aviary, mini-railway and a house that has rooms with period decor and furnishings.
Hi, I’m Christine – a full-time traveler and career woman. Although I’m from the Philippines, my location independent career took me to over 40 countries for the past 8 years. I also lived in 3 continents – from the Caribbean, South East Asia to Africa. But despite living in several countries, my love for Ireland remains the same. A country that had been a part of my life since I was 14 because of my love for Irish music and bands. Ireland Travel Guides was born because of this passion and hopefully, in some little ways, this website will be able to help you on your next trip to Ireland.