10+ Hidden Gems & Secret Spots In Ireland To Visit_qh

Ireland is often nicknamed the Emerald Isle on account of its rich green rolling hills and it’s the perfect European destination for those on the lookout for a road trip filled with beautiful vistas, fishing villages nestled in time, and some of the best hospitality in Europe. And while the Republic of Ireland is a popular destination, there remain plenty of off the beaten path spots worth discovering. Here’s your guide to the best of hidden gems and secret spots in Ireland.

How to spend a rainy day in Dublin and still have fun! Looking for the best things to do in the Irish capital city in the rain? This is your ultimate guide for indoor attractions in the Emerald Isle Capital of Dublin in Europe

The Temple Bar in the Temple District of Dublin, Ireland

Ireland is an island nation which is located on the most westernmost edge of Europe. Its capital city is Dublin, a bustling settlement with plenty of pubs, bars, a famous nightlife, and enough museums to satisfy even the most knowledge-hungry of visitors.

Many people claim that Dublin feels more like a big town than a capital city, and anyone who has visited can attest to this. For more guides to Ireland, be sure to check out our guides to the best day trips from Dublin and our weekend guide to Dublin.

Marsh’s Library

By Sophie of Solo Sophie

Of all the iconic and off the beaten path hidden gems of Dublin, one of my absolute favourites is that of Marsh’s Library. After all, it’s not every day that you can visit a place where Bram Stoker once studied, James Joyce once researched, and where Jonathan Swift was known to frequent from time to time.

Marsh’s Library is pretty old and was founded in the first half of the 18th-century (1707 to be precise). The library was constructed at the behest of Narcissus Marsh, the Church of Ireland Archbishop of Dublin at the time.

In order to grow the library, Marsh donated many books from his own personal collection. Today, Narcissus Marsh is interred in the graveyard of nearby St Patrick’s Cathedral. The first librarian was a certain Dr Elie Bouhereau, who was a Huguenot refugee hailing from La Rochelle in France. 

If you want to see the beautiful bookcases and discover the enchanting ambiance of the library for yourself, then it’s possible to visit for a small fee. The best time to visit the library is mid-week and earlier in the day if possible so as to be able to enjoy the serene space with as few a crowds as possible. For more Ireland inspiration, be sure to check out our top Dublin travel tips.

A Visit to Marsh's Library, The Prettiest & Oldest Public Library in Ireland

Inis Mor, Aran Islands

By Pam of The Directionally Challenged Traveler

Ireland has some of the most beautiful landscapes in Europe. A hidden gem in Ireland that puts natural beauty at the forefront is Inis Mor of the Aran Islands.

The Aran Islands are located off the coast of County Galway in the west of Ireland. There are three islands – Inis Mor (big island), Inis Meain (middle island), and Inis Oirr (East island). 

A day trip to the Aran Islands is easy while visiting Galway. Most people take an hour-long ferry ride to the islands. Upon arrival to the islands, there’s an immediate sense of isolation wrapped in a heartwarming welcome. There are only about 850 people who live on Inis Mor. 

Dun Aonghasa is one of the most famous ruins on Inis Mor, with human activity dating back to 1100 BC. Originally built as a fort but was also the political, economic, and ritual center for the people living there. The fort was abandoned in shortly after 1000 AD and ended in ruins. Now it’s a National Monument of Ireland. In 490 AD, the Killeany monastery was founded by St. Enda. This is one of the first monasteries built in all of Ireland. 

The best way to enjoy the islands is to rent a bike for easy transportation. It allows you to travel at your own pace and get up close to the ruins. Inis Mor has five ancient ruin sites to explore.  You can easily bike around the island in about 5-6 hours. If biking is not for you, you can also take horse-drawn carriages or private minibusses around the island.

No matter how you get around Inis Mor, be sure to keep an eye on the landscape. The gorgeous cliffs, rolling hills, and peaceful scenery never get boring. Inis Mor is unlike anywhere else in Ireland and definitely worth at least a day trip. 

inis mor ireland

Tyrrellspass Castle

By Paulina of UK Everyday

There are about 10,000 medieval castles in Europe with some of the most beautiful in the world like Conwy Castle. During your visit in Ireland, don’t miss out the opportunity to see a unique medieval fortress located less than 2 hours drive from Dublin – Tyrrellspass Castle. 

It is a perfect spot to organise impressive private events such as weddings, but it also hosts superior medieval banquets. Tyrrellspass Castle became a stylish restaurant in the early 1990s. Medieval architecture of the building provides a unique dining experience.

If you are on a road trip, driving from Dublin to Galway there is no better place to stop for a meal than Tyrrellspass Castle. Delicious food in this amazing historic building is a top thing to do in Ireland. What’s interesting, it is the last castle of the Tyrrells that remained on the island.

The 20 metres tall stone structure is a great example of medieval architecture where you can relax and enjoy fantastic food. How many medieval castles serve food inside the building? If you are looking for a once in a lifetime experience, you should definitely visit Tyrrellspass Castle.

You can have a great meal in the main restaurant, go to a coffee shop or relax in the lounge room. Medieval banquet is a top attraction in Tyrrellspass Castle. Irish music and tasty food during the night make it an unforgettable experience. This remarkable castle is worth visiting at any time of the day. Whether you want to have breakfast, lunch or a great dinner in medieval style.

Tyrrellspass Castle

Inisheer, Aran Islands

By Christina of Explore Now or Never

One of the best places to see on an Ireland road trip is the Arran Islands. Any of the three islands make a great day trip from Galway or Doolin (or spend the night with extra time). Otherwise, plan a visit between Dingle to the south and the famous Cliffs of Mohr to the north. 

In fact, there may be no better way to fully appreciate the spectacle of the Cliffs of Mohr… looking back at them from the water on the ferry as you head out to sea. While Inishmore is the largest and most visited island by travelers, Inisheer—the smallest and most easterly of the three—is the true hidden gem.

Geologically, it’s actually an extension of The Burren, with crisscrossing limestone pavements. This makes it one of the best examples of this particular landscape anywhere in the world.

The best way to appreciate the unique delight of Inisheer is on bicycle. Rent a bike at the dock and then spend your day meandering the empty, narrow roads. Cycle through a patchwork of impossibly green farmlands bordered by sturdy rock walls. Meet grazing ponies and tranquil cows. It’s quiet here with only the sound of buzzing bees and songbirds for company.

You’ll also spy a shipwrecked freighter just off the coast here. The Plessey landed here in 1960 and was thrown above the high tide mark on the island by strong waves. Fortunately, local islanders came to the rescue…an event depicted today at the National Maritime Museum in Dún Laoghaire.

While you’re on the island, take a steep 20 minute walk up to the crumbling ruins of O’Brien’s castle for a birds-eye panoramic view of the island. Then, finish off your day in town at the café with a well-earned beer at the pub. Inisheer actually brews its own beer here. As the locals say, “Inish beer for Inisheer!”

inisheer, ireland

Dingle Peninsula

By Mary of Be Right Back by Mary

The beautiful Dingle Peninsula, located on the West coast of Ireland is a popular destination among the Irish and tourists. However, few know that one of the best things to do on the Dingle Peninsula is visiting one of Ireland’s most beautiful hidden gems, Cappagh beach.

Beaches in Ireland are often made of compact yellow sand or pebbles and accompanied by a rough sea, waves and seaweeds. However, it is not the case of Cappagh beach.

Cappagh beach, located in Brandon Bay, will have you feel like you have just traveled from Ireland to the Reunion Island. Overlooked by large and tall lush green mountains in the background, Cappagh beach is made of thin and soft golden sand.

The strand leads to clear and calm turquoise waters which are perfect for a dip on a sunny summer day. Depending on the light, those colours create a beautiful contrast with the dark green mountains in the background and will have you feel like you are on a tropical island! 

Cappagh beach is a mid-size beach with plenty of space to walk or lay down to take in the sun in the summer. In contrary to most of the famous beaches in Ireland, Cappagh beach remains very quiet and unvisited.

Actually, when coming to Cappagh Beach, inhabitant of adjacent Cloghane village might be surprised to see visitors driving all the way here and visiting what could be considered their backyard!

Cappagh beach is accessible by car only and the carpark is quite small. It is recommended to check that the tide is neither completely low or high when visiting in order to make the most of your visit!

dingle peninsula

Hellfire Club

By Nathan of All About Glamping

Just outside of Dublin on Montpelier Hill is a ruined hunting lodge known as a meeting place for the Hell Fire Club (in Irish: Club Thine Ifreann). This site is considered by many locals as one of the most haunted sites in Ireland.

It was built by William Connolly on a burial site, which of course adds to the allure. The Hell Fire Club was a group of rich and influential men from around the UK. This hunting lodge was used as a gathering place for members to talk, gamble and divulge in other ungentlemanly things.

Stories of sacrifices, debauchery, and a visit from the devil himself supposedly took place here. To get to this dark and eerie haunted house, you must trek to the top of Mount Pelier Hill.

The hike up has some amazing views with Dublin to the North and the Wicklow Mountains to the South. There is a great local company that will guide you to the top called Hilltop Treks.

The local guide may also provide some great local folklore during your guided adventure. Be careful if you decide to explore the inside of the hunting lodge as it can be wet and slippery. Exploring it does give chills down your spine and goosebumps on your arms if that is what you are looking for. 

hell fire club

Beltany Stone Circle Donegal

By Faith of XYUandBEYOND.

The Beltany stone circle is a Neolithic site which can be found in Donegal on the top of a small green hill called Tops Hill. It is around a kilometre from Raphoe and well marked.

There is a small parking lot at the base of Tops Hill and as you walk up to the top through the sheep you will be rewarded with an absolutely stunning panoramic view overlooking Croaghan Hill that features prominently in Irish legends and folk tales.

Stone circles are said to be observatories to track the sun and moon in the sky. They were probably places of significant ceremonies and possible gathering places for the community to come together to celebrate significant events.

There are 64 stones left in the circle and some have engravings on them. There is a large 2 metre high stone to the south which archaeologists believe may have had a ritual function. In the centre of the circle are the remains of a cairn which may have been a burial cairn or a Neolithic passage tomb.

The truth is that not much is known about stone circles in Ireland although there are around 187 in the Republic of Ireland dating back tens of thousands of years  Irish stone circles do tend to be much smaller than stone circles found in Britain such as Stonehenge.

Croaghan Hill which can be seen from Beltany is where – in Irish legends, the warrior Itha was laid to rest in a passage tomb on the summit after he was killed in the Battle of Magh Itha, the first war against the Tuatha De Danaan. So it is possible that Beltany held a major significance in Irish history. 

Beltany Stone Circle Donegal

Museum of Country Life

By Ada of beyond the Yellow Brick Road

It’s not all rainbows, leprechauns, and red-haired lasses in Ireland. Life on this small island nation was often rough and the Museum of Country Life pays homage to this harsh reality.

Located in rural County Mayo, the area of Ireland hit hardest by the potato famine of the 1840s, the museum sits on the grounds of Turlough Park, about four miles east of Castlebar.

It’s the only museum associated with the National Museum of Ireland institution located outside of Dublin. An impressive Victorian Gothic “big house” built in 1865 greets visitors when they arrive.

Part of the museum’s unique appeal is that it gives visitors a real glimpse of the oppressive socio/economic structure that allowed the English to keep the Irish subservient in the centuries after Cromwell invaded.

The Fitzgeralds, an English upper-class family, lived in this “big house” (which is actually a pretty moderately sized mansion) while Irish peasants worked the estate’s lands as subtenants.

The museum grounds include a manicured garden and artificial lake. Adjacent pastures brimming with sheep, lambs, and cows add to the remote museum’s rural charm.   

The Museum of Country Life exhibits are housed in a modern museum building next to the lake. As a whole, the museum focuses on removing the romance often associated with Irish peasant life by exposing a gritty existence that prompted at least 8 million Irish to migrate in the 19th century.

You’ll find exhibits explaining traditional Irish crafts like the making of St. Brigid crosses and furniture, a permanent exhibit on life in rural Ireland post famine from 1850 – 1950, as well as ever-changing temporary exhibits. 

Admission to the Museum of Country Life is free, but you must book a ticket in advance. The museum limits single groups to 6 people.

museum of country life

Howth Cliff Walk

By Krystianna of Volumes & Voyages

One of the best hidden gems of Ireland is the Howth Cliff Walk, located in none other than Howth, Ireland. It’s only a short day trip to Howth from Dublin, but for the most part, only locals will visit this spot when they’re looking to get away from the city!

This is one of the most unique spots in the country because of its beauty. Sure, there are many different coastal hikes and walks in the country, but this one is so breathtaking, isn’t super long (it’s very kid-friendly), and is easy to get to from the most popular city in Ireland.

Plus, the town of Howth itself is filled with things to do, like visiting the local beach or shopping and supporting locals at the Howth Market. What makes the Howth Cliff Walk so excellent is that there are actually multiple routes within it.

So, for instance, there’s one route that’s super difficult while another is very easy. It’s your choice which version of the hike you’d like to do, and each one offers different views.

Here’s a tip for doing the cliff walk: consider packing yourself a lunch and carry it in a backpack. About halfway through the walk, there’s a huge open space where you can have a picnic launch while looking out at the beauty of the area!

Howth Harbour dates back to the early 1800s when it was built. It served as Dublin’s main harbour for ships going between England and Ireland for quite some time. Over the years, it turned into the beautiful town that it is today.

howth cliff walk ireland

Source by: solosophie.com