Why The Best of Ireland Is Found Beyond Dublin

Cliffs of Moher
Cliffs of Moher | © Theo Crazzolara/ Flickr

Dublin is a vibrant, historic city filled to the very rim of its pint with culture, but when people talk of Ireland, it’s usually the rolling green hills and rural villages they fawn over. Many people from outside the capital view Dubliners as a different breed: not quite as Irish as them, and resigned to the hustle and bustle of a city that’s a growing financial hub and increasingly unaffordable to reside in. Dubliners, in turn, call the rest of the country ‘culchies’. So heading out of the capital, what else is there? Well, for the discerning traveler, there’s a whole lot. Here are the best spots that explain just why your trip to Ireland should focus on the beauty found outside its domineering capital city.

Loved by over 40s

The Wild Atlantic Way

As Ireland tourism’s new, marked tourist trail down the entire west of the country, The Wild Atlantic Way was long overdue, offering the ultimate glance at rural Ireland, taking in many of the Emerald Isle’s best natural sights. You’ll cruise through the craggy bays and tiny towns of Kerry, the looming Cliffs of Moher, the ancient culture of Connemara, Sligo’s literary history, the best night out craic the country has to offer in Galway, and sublime, rustic Donegal. This is the route to base a trip around, and it doesn’t go within 200kms of the capital.

Cliffs on the Wild Atlantic Way

Wexford, County Wexford

An often overlooked county town in the south east, Wexford is small but perfectly formed. Its quaint streets contain some of the best foodie offerings in the entire country, while the substantial harbour hides seals by the hundreds, with the boat ride out to the sandbanks they lounge on a tourist must-do. The county’s famous for its strawberries, which in early summer pack twice the juice and flavour of supermarket staples, and are well worth picking yourself in various nearby open farms. The beaches are great, too.

The Wicklow Mountains, County Wicklow

Known as Ireland’s garden, the Wicklow Mountains are so close to Dublin that you can comfortably drop down for a day trip, something capital locals take full advantage of in the summer. Its rugged hills contain endless hiking opportunities (including the multi-day Wicklow Way), the ancient lakeside round tower settlement of Glendalough, and a sudden sense that you’re a long, long way from Dublin’s bustle.


The English Market, County Cork

Unquestionably Ireland’s most attractive and original shopping option, the English Market – in the heart of Cork city – is the place to stock up on the local farm and sea products. Set in a mid-19th century hallway, the artisan food here had chef Rick Stein calling it: “The best covered market in the UK and Ireland.” Don’t eat before your visit; this is a spot to go overboard on an empty stomach.

The Ring Of Kerry

Kerry’s long-established tourist route taking in the gorgeous cliffsides around Kenmare and Sneem, as well as throwback seaside villages, the Ring of Kerry is a trip the Irish themselves still indulge in, and that says all you need to know. The more ambitious will find ample walking opportunities around the 179km route. For the rest of us, the rugged hillsides, hidden beaches and a glance at Star Wars island (and 7th-century monastery) Skellig Michael are more than enough.

A view of Little Skellig from Skellig Michael

The Aran Islands, County Galway

A collection of islands located in the Atlantic off the County Galway coast, the Aran Islands are as authentic a look at the Ireland of yesteryear as you could hope to find. Alongside the tiny towns – home to great rural food fayre and local pubs that top the best Hollywood could have come up with – there’s also the picturesque, rusting ruin of fishing boat MV Plassy, the imposing Dun Aonghasa fort and some memorable cycling adventures down winding, walled roads to be had.

Blarney Castle, County Cork

A medieval fortification that dates back to the 15th century, the Blarney Castle has become part of Irish folklore thanks to the legend of the Blarney Stone. Tourists hang upside down over a large drop to kiss a certain spot on the ramparts (secured with metal railings), as doing so is said to give the ‘gift of the gab’ – the famed Irish eloquence. The extensive gardens contain an educational poison garden, while ornate Blarney House, nearby, is well worth a detour, too.

Blarney Castle

Bundoran, County Donegal

Donegal is an often overlooked spot, tucked away in the north west of Ireland, but offers rural allure that’s a match for even County Kerry. Bundoran, though, is a world class spot for surfers, cited in the top 20 locations in the world by National Geographic back in 2012. Waves here can have the weight of the Atlantic behind them, and many visitors spend hours learning to stand on a board on the kilometres of sandy beach. There’s also a natural pool and the views of the Roughey Cliff Walk to enjoy.

Carlingford, County Louth

Right on the border with Northern Ireland against the East coast, Carlingford has a startling history as a hideaway for IRA folks needing to escape the north to safer harbours. These days, it’s more of an activity centre, with the lough and stone-wall harbour hosting water sports, while the hills attract hikers and host adventure rope walkways, ziplining and paintballing. Carlingford’s Easter leprechaun hunt and daft leprechaun-themed cave attraction give the place colour.


The Cliffs of Moher, County Clare

The Cliffs of Moher are so famous in Ireland they’re known simply as ‘the cliffs’. Soaring 200 metres above the Atlantic, you can stroll right up to the edge and stare through a terrifying amount of thin air from the cliff top walkways, watching the birds come and go from nests in jutting crags that head towards the horizon. There’s a boat trip to the base, too, and while you’re here, the nearby Burren – a crumbling stone plateau – is a landscape so unusual it can’t be passed up.

Dingle, County Kerry

This port town in Kerry is an absolute tour-de-force when it comes to gorgeous settings and quirky attractions. As well as hosting probably the best music festival in the country in its 80-capacity church (Amy Winehouse, The National and Bob Geldof have played Other Voices), Dingle’s attractions include a load of pubs that also serve as other things (including a pub/hardware store, and a pub/bicycle rental shop), sea salt ice cream, and a dolphin resident in the harbour. The countryside, unsurprisingly, is that gorgeous kind of rugged that just begs to be photographed.

Dunquin Harbour, just outside Dingle, Co Kerry
culture trip left arrow
 culture trip brand logo

Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip

meet our Local Insider


women sitting on iceberg


2 years.


It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.


I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!

culture trip logo letter c
group posing for picture on iceberg
group posing for picture on iceberg

Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.

map of volcanic iceland trip destination points
culture trip brand logo
culture trip right arrow
landscape with balloons floating in the air


Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world

Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.

Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.

Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.

Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.

We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.