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Knockbrack Megalithic Tomb, Ireland | © Ronan Delaney/WikiCommons
Knockbrack Megalithic Tomb, Ireland | © Ronan Delaney/WikiCommons

The 10 Most Beautiful Towns In Ireland

One of the most scenic countries in the world, Ireland is known for its unique and captivating beauty. While those visiting the country may spend most of their time in the country’s cities, it is the smaller towns that reveal just how stunning and charming Ireland can be. From medieval castles to unique botanical gardens, we take a look at the top ten most beautiful towns in the Emerald Isle.

Kinsale | County Cork

Located on Kinsale Harbour, Kinsale is a historical fishing town on the River Bandon. The town’s narrow streets are decorated by charming shops, galleries and pubs, providing a peaceful oasis away from the hustle and bustle of Cork city centre. The old ring fort provides spectacular views of Kinsale harbour, and of Kinsale. The yacht club and marina also attract annual visitors, with numerous fishing boats regularly bobbing in the inlet. The town also hosts an annual arts festival, which is well worth a visit.

Kinsale, County Cork, Ireland
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Kinsale, Ireland © psyberartist/Flickr

Kinsale, Ireland © psyberartist/Flickr

Glengarriff | County Cork

Meaning ‘rough glen’, Glengarriff is situated on the Beara Peninsula in Cork. It is a renowned tourist location, due to its spectacular views and picturesque landscapes. The town is surrounded by rugged mountains, which contains Lady Bantry’s Lookout, and provides an amazing vista of the area. The town itself offers visitors a wide variety of shops, galleries, pubs and restaurants.

Glengarriff, County Cork, Ireland
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Caha Mountains, Glengarriff, Ireland © Katarzyna Pracuch/Flickr

Caha Mountains, Glengarriff, Ireland © Katarzyna Pracuch/Flickr

Lismore | County Waterford

Found at the foot of the Knockmealdown Mountains, Lismore is a historical town in Waterford. The town’s main tourist attraction is the 800 year old castle, which is situated on the site of the town’s old monastery. Built during Medieval times, the imposing castle is located on a steep hill, providing impressive views of the town and neighboring Blackwater Valley. Important artefacts from Lismore Castle include the Book of Lismore, now located Chatsworth House in Derbyshire, and the Lismore Crozier, now housed in the National Museum of Ireland.

Lismore, County Waterford, Ireland
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Lismore Castle, Ireland © Christ Brooks/Flickr

Lismore Castle, Ireland © Christ Brooks/Flickr

Valentia | County Kerry

Valentia on Valentia Island is located on the Iveragh Peninsula in the south west of Ireland. The island is connected to the mainland via a bridge from Portmagee, as well as a car ferry from Reenard Point. In 1993, fossilised footprints were discovered dating from 385 million years ago, and are some of the oldest remnants of vertebrate life on land in the world. Another key attraction in Valentia is the beautiful Glanleam House and its sub-tropical gardens. Due to their geographical location, these gardens have a unique microclimate, and as a result, house a collection of rare plants. From Valentia, you can also travel to Skellig Michael, an ancient monastic island.

Valentia, County Kerry, Ireland
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Valentia Cliffs, Ireland © Beni Arnold/Flickr

Valentia Cliffs, Ireland © Beni Arnold/Flickr

Strandhill | County Sligo

Strandhill is known for being a surfer’s haven. The coastal town is situated at the western base of the Knocknarea Mountain, which is west of Sligo town. For history enthusiasts, the 200 year old traditional thatched cottage called Dolly’s Cottage is an interesting visit, or the megalithic tombs of Carrowmore, which are some of the biggest in the country. There are also a number of festivals held in Strandhill, such as the Warrior Festival. A stay in the award-winning Strandhill Lodge and Suites will guarantee to make a visit to Strandhill a memorable one.

Strandhill, County Sligo, Ireland
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Carlingford | County Louth

The name of the town Carlingford is derived from the Old Norse meaning ‘narrow sea-inlet of the hag’. Over the years, the town has managed to maintain its Viking heritage, with many of the town’s streets showing evidence of the medieval age. One example is the Tholsel or ‘town gate’, which is the one of the very few left in Ireland. The gate was originally taller than it is now, but there is still evidence of its original function as a town gaol and toll. The heritage centre displays the history of the town, from the Viking and Norman days to the present. The town itself is located between Carlingford Lough and Slieve Foy, and as a result, has a spectacular panoramic view. Carlingford is also known for its fishing, as oysters and crabs are often the catch of the day from the nearby harbour. There is also an annual Carlingford Oyster Festival which celebrates the town’s sea cuisine.

Carlingford, County Louth, Ireland
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Carlingford, Ireland © Nico Kaiser/Flickr

Carlingford, Ireland © Nico Kaiser/Flickr

 

Gweedore | County Donegal

Gweedore is an Gaelic-speaking town in Donegal in the north west of Ireland. Gweedore is also the largest town in Ireland where they speak Irish, and as a result, is a cradle of Irish culture. The area is also known for its breath-taking scenery of long sandy beaches and mountains. A notable site in Gweedore is Glenveagh National Park and Castle, which is the largest national park in Ireland. Looking out to sea, visitors will spot many small islands, such as Gola and Tory island. Evidence of the area’s harsh weather conditions is visible on Magheraclogher beach with the famous shipwreck Friend of the Sea.

Gweedore, County Donegale, Ireland

Westport | County Mayo

Situated on the south east corner of Clew Bay, Westport is one of the few planned towns in the country. The town centre was designed by the architect James Wyatt in 1780, and the town is a prime example of the Georgian style. The design cleverly incorporated the river into the town, and features quaint streets and promenades lined by trees. There are several small bridges over the river Carrowbeg, which further add to the town’s charm. The town is also home to Westport House, which was once the stately home of the Marquess of Sligo. The house was built on the site of the O’Malley Castle, and the dungeons of the castle still remain. Westport is also located near the famous pilgrimage mountain of Croagh Patrick, known as ‘The Reek’, which attracts hundreds of visitors every year, particularly on ‘Reek Sunday’.

Westport, County Mayo, Ireland
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Westport, Ireland © Richard Smith/Flickr

Westport, Ireland © Richard Smith/Flickr

Birr | County Offaly

Birr is one of the best Georgian towns in Ireland, and has been carefully preserved over the years. Wide streets and elegant buildings make this town a charming place to visit. The houses in John’s Place and on the Oxmantown Mall are good examples of Georgian fanlight windows. Emmet Square and Emmet Street have some of the earliest examples of Georgian style buildings in the town. These are contrasted by John’s Hall, which is built in the style of a Greek temple. The monastery in the town was founded by St. Brendan, and it produced the famous Gospels of MacRegol. These can be seen in the Bodleian Library in Oxford. Other ancient artefacts in Birr include the Seffin Stone, which is said to mark the centre of Ireland.

Birr, County Offaly, Ireland
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Birr Castle, Millenium Gardens © bea & txema & alan/Flickr

Birr Castle, Millenium Gardens © bea & txema & alan/Flickr

Enniskerry | County Wicklow

Enniskerry is a translation of ‘rugged ford’, and the town is located on the Glencullen River and at the foot of the Wicklow Mountains. The area is famous for the Powerscourt Estate, which comprises of a large house and 47 acre gardens. The house is built in the Palladian style, and dates from the 18th century. The gardens were destroyed in a fire in 1974, but both the house and gardens were restored in 1996 to their former glory. Also located on the estate is the Powerscourt Waterfall, which is said to be the highest waterfall in Ireland, at 121 metres high.

Enniskerry, County Wicklow, Ireland
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Powerscourt Estate, Enniskerry, Ireland © William Murphy/Flickr

Powerscourt Estate, Enniskerry, Ireland © William Murphy/Flickr