Fri. Jun 21st, 2024

Dublin, Galway, Belfast—they have their charms. But for sheer eye-candy it’s hard to beat the smaller towns of Ireland. We’re counting down the 7 loveliest ones.

Dalkey, County Dublin

The cutest of a number of upscale seaside towns unfurling south from Dublin like a string of pearls. Dalkey is both a short drive and a million miles away from the busy city. With a castle, a mountaintop folly, lovely beaches, and some fine restaurants, this is a town that tempts you to settle into its comfortable affluence.

Dingle, County Kerry

Dingle is a charming hilltop medieval town overlooking a bustling harbor (pictured). Stone buildings ramble up and down hills, and the small population is relaxed about visitors. It has lots of little diners and picturesque pubs, plus a lovely, historic church.

Athlone, County Westmeathe

Sitting at the edge of the River Shannon, its streets curving around a sturdy, fortress-like castle, Athlone is a charmer. Houses are painted in bright hues, and with its small, funky boutiques and
spirit of fun, it has the feel of a busy university town. Good restaurants and lively pubs add to its charms.

Kenmare, County Kerry

It’s easy to fall in love with Kenmare, with its stone cottages, colorful gardens, and flowers overflowing from window boxes. It’s also home to several elegant hotels, so it makes an enchanting base when exploring the Ring of Kerry.

Adare, County Limerick

This really is a picture-postcard town, its image having been reproduced alongside a hundred thousand “Wish You Were Heres.” Unfortunately the secret is very much out, but if you manage to visit
when the roads aren’t clogged with tour buses, you’ll leave with a memory card full of photos.

Kinsale, County Cork

Kinsale’s narrow streets all lead to the sea, dropping steeply from the hills around the harbor. The walk from Kinsale through Scilly to Charles Fort (pictured) and Frower Point is breathtaking. Kinsale has the added benefit of being a foodie town with no shortage of good restaurants.

Ardara, County Donegal

On the southwest coast of County Donegal, the tiny town of Ardara (seen here in the distance) looks as if it were carved out of a solid block of granite. Its streets undulate up and down the rocky hills and are lined with little boutiques and charming arts shops, many selling clothes made of the famed Donegal wool. You can wander its entirety in a few minutes. It’s a bite-sized place.