The 12 Most Beautiful Villages in Ireland

Ireland © Pixabay
Ireland © Pixabay
Photo of Julie Daunt
9 February 2017

For those in search of the true Irish way of life, look no further than the many picturesque villages dotted across the island of Ireland. Every village on the Emerald Isle has a story. From sites of the historical invasions by the Spanish Armada, to summer haunts of famous writers and artists, here is a list of the top 12 most beautiful villages in Ireland every traveler must visit.

Rosses Point | Sligo

Rosses Point is both a village and peninsula in County Sligo. This quaint village, with views of Coney Island and Oyster Island, was the summer residence of writer William Butler Yeats and his younger artist brother, Jack, who both whiled away the days at Elsinore House. The house was said to have been built by Black Jack, and is believed to be haunted. The name Rosses Point comes from the Irish “Ros Cheide,” which roughly translates as “promontory fort of the hill.” Notable landmarks in the village include the Metal Man lighthouse built in 1921, the Waiting on Shore sculpture, the Sligo Yacht Club and the County Sligo Golf Club. In 1985, archaeologists also uncovered shipwrecks of the Spanish Armada from 1588. Rosses Point is famous for its various sea-faring activities, with deep sea angling, reef and shark fishing and island visits available to tourists.

Rosses Point – Siglo | © Alain Rouiller/Flickr

Cong | Mayo

Lying on the border between County Galway and County Mayo, Cong is an island village. There are a number of streams in the area that converge at Cong, forming the land mass of the village. The Irish name for the village is “Cúnga Fheichín” which means “Saint Feichin’s narrows,” referring to the convergence of rivers. These rivers connect Lough Corrib with Lough Mask. Cong has famous literary connections, as it was the home of Sir William Wilde, the father of Oscar Wilde, the prominent Irish playwright. Notable attractions in the village include Ashford Castle, which was converted into a hotel by the Guinness family, and the medieval Cong Abbey which once house the Cross of Cong, now in the National History Museum in Dublin. The town was also used a location for John Ford’s 1952 Oscar-winning film, The Quiet Man.

Cong, Ireland © Doug Kerr/Flickr

Cong, Ireland © Doug Kerr/Flickr

Derrynane | Kerry

Located in County Kerry, Derrynane sits on the Iveragh Peninsula, and has ancient historical roots. The village is home to a Stone Age portal dolmen, which dates to around 3000 BC. There are other historical remains around the village which date from 2000 BC. These ancient artifacts are linked to the Beaker people, who mined for copper during the Bronze Age. The village has other historical significances such as Staigue ringfort, and the home of famous politician and activist Daniel O’Connell. Derrynane now has a national monument and heritage park around the house. Sightseers to Derrynane can also avail of boat trips to the Skellig Islands in the harbor during the summer.

Ruins of Derrynane Abbey © Vin Crosbie/Flickr

Ruins of Derrynane Abbey © Vin Crosbie/Flickr

Baltimore | Cork

With its spectacular views of Sherkin Island,Cape Clear and the Roaring Water Bay, Baltimore in County Cork is a picturesque gem on the south coast of Ireland. Baltimore is the Anglicisation of “Baile an Tí Mhóir” which means “town of the big house,” referring to O’Driscoll castle, which overlooks the village. In the early 1600s, Baltimore was largely an English pirate base, but was invaded in 1631 by Barbary pirates from Algeria, which had an impact on the village’s population. A few pubs in the village bear names referring to this incident. It is also thought that Napoleon’s white horse came from the area. Baltimore is renowned for its outdoor pursuits, such as sailing, fishing, scuba diving and exploring. Lough Hyne, Ireland’s first marine nature reserve, is located nearby. In the bay, there are a variety of shipwrecks, such as a World War 2 submarine and the Alondra from 1916. A must visit for any maritime or history buff.

The Beacon from Sherkin Island | © Patrick and Martha Dundon/Flickr

Sneem | Kerry

Situated on the Ring of Kerry, Sneem is a charming village, which is also known as The Knot, a translation from its Irish name. Sneem is also famed for its art and sculpture, such as the work of Vivienne Roche, Alan Hall, James Scanlon and Tamara Rikman. The village is divided by the river and won the Irish Tidy Towns Competition in 1987. There are two green areas in Sneem, one to the north and one to the south of the village. There is a great selection of restaurants, pubs and shops in the village. For those who love the great outdoors, Sneem has numerous walking and horse riding trails.

Sneem | © Doug Kerr/Flickr

Adare | Limerick

Adare is nestled on the River Maigue, just outside of Limerick city. The name means “Ford of the Oak” in Irish, and the village is often boasted as one of Ireland’s most beautiful villages. The village is also known for its historical roots as it was once a marketplace during the Middle Ages, and was then part of the Dunraven estate. As a result, the village’s appearance is more planned than others in Ireland, with the architecture a mixture between traditional Irish and a more English style. Golf lovers will enjoy the village’s 18-hole golf course at the Adare Golf Club. There are also a number of old abbeys and fortresses in the village, adding to Adare’s architectural charm.

Adare, Ireland | © Kate Hooper/Flickr

Roundstone | Galway

A translation from “Cloch na Rón” which means “seal’s rock,” Roundstone in County Galway is known as a creative hub in the west of Ireland. Located in the Connemara region, Roundstone and its bay have attracted a number of Irish and international artists to the area, who recreate the village’s scenic beauty in their work. Famous Irish artists who were fond of the village include Paul Henry, Jack Butler Yeats, Nano Reid and Gerard Dillon, who lived there for a few years. There is an annual arts week in Roundstone which celebrates the village’s artistic creativity. There are also a number of galleries and studios in the villages, such as Roundstone Ceramics in Michael Killeen Park, and The Stable Gallery at Errisbeg House. A must visit for any art lover.

Roundstone | © jrs7t7/Flickr

Leighlinbridge | Carlow

Situated on the River Barrow, Leighlinbridge in County Carlow is a village of winding streets and ancient ruins. The village represented Ireland in the European Entente Florale competition in 2001, and has won numerous awards for its geological beauty. Other picturesque features of the village include the limestone malt houses and the 14th century bridge over the river, which is believed to be one of the oldest functioning bridges in Europe. Leighlinbridge Castle is also noteworthy as it is one of the country’s earliest Norman settlements; however, only ruins of the castle remain today. Leighlinbridge is also the birthplace of John Tyndall, the famous 19th century physicist, and Myles Keogh, the notable American Civil War military officer.

Dunmore East | Waterford

A popular tourist destination in the southeast of Ireland, Dunmore East is situated on the west side of Waterford harbor. Known for its fishing, and listed as one of the five National Fishery Harbors in Ireland, the village also bears evidence of Norman and Viking settlements. Numerous travelers come to Dunmore East every year for sailing, with yachts and dinghies often dotted about the harbor. There is also a golf course located on the cliff top which overlooks the bay, and is perhaps one of the most scenic golf courses in the country. For food lovers, there are many seafood restaurants with the most tantalizing dishes to try. Now in its 21st year, the annual Guinness International Bluegrass festival takes place in August, so there is something for music lovers in Dunmore East too.

Dunmore East | © bea & txema & alan/Flickr

Killaloe | Clare

Located in east County Clare on the River Shannon is the village of Killaloe or “Lua’s Church.” Killaloe is twinned with the neighboring town of Ballina across the river, which is linked to Killaloe by a bridge constructed in the early 18th century. The village has connections to ancient Irish history, from the 6th century monastic site of Saint Lua, to the 10th century settlement of Brian Boru. Killaloe also has literary connections, as it was the hometown of Phineas Finn, the protagonist from two of Anthony Trollope’s Palliser novels – Phineas Finn and Phineas Redux. Killaloe and the surrounding area is a popular destination for hill-walking, and there are many trails to follow.

St. Flannan’s Cathedral, Killaloe | © Lindy Buckley/Flickr

Aughrim | Wicklow

Aughrim in County Wicklow is famed for its beauty. Situated where the Ow and Derry Rivers meet to become the Aughrim River, the village won the Tidy Towns competition for tidiest village from 1996 until 2007. The word Aughrim translates as “horse ridge,” and may refer to the scenic valley that surrounds the village. Aughrim was once a granite mining village, and much of the village’s architecture reflects this, with many of the terraced houses faced with granite. This gives the village a charming and unusual appearance compared to other Irish villages. The Rednagh Bridge in the village was also the site of a battle between Crown forces and rebels during the 1798 rebellion. Due to its location, Aughrim is also a notable spot for walkers and explorers.

Moynalty | Meath

Near the border of Cavan and just north of Kells, the home of the Book of Kells, is the village of Moynalty. Translated from the Irish meaning “The Plain of the Flocks,” Moynalty sits on the Owenroe River. The village was built during the 19th century by the grandson of James Farrell, and it is believed to have been based on a Swiss design. However, the village was only constructed on one side of the river, and it wasn’t until the following century when the village spread across to the other side. Moynalty is famed for its lace-making industry, with the wife of King George supplied with lace from the village. The village was also voted as the tidiest village in the Tidy Towns competition in 2011. Moynalty hosts an annual steam thrashing festival, which is now in its 40th year, having begun in 1975.

Owenroe river | © Grace Smith/Flickr

By Julie Daunt

Julie Daunt is a 24-year-old art historian and writer from Cork in Ireland, but currently resides in Dublin. She has a Masters in modern and contemporary art history, and is currently a tour guide in the National Gallery of Ireland. When she is not dying her hair blue or pink, Julie loves experiencing new cities, soaking up their art, food and culture. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

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