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white lighthouse off the dingle peninsula in ireland
Travel tips

7 hidden-gem towns to visit in Ireland

Aug 05, 2022 by Kara Kramer

Irish cities like Dublin and Galway may be the most famous—and for good reason!—but the small towns in Ireland add so much to the soul of the Emerald Isle. Discover the Irish towns that are hidden gems, then visit them on one of our tours of Ireland.

dingle test

1. Dingle

The charming, colorful town of Dingle is one of the best towns to visit in Ireland. It’s known for its hardware pubs (which are a combination of a hardware store and a pub!), and also has a beautifully rugged coastline. The jagged rocks and emerald waters make the roadway along the Dingle Peninsula one of the most scenic places to drive in the entire country.

What to do here:

For magical coastal views that will take your breath way, take a hike on the Lúb na Cille loop trail on our Dingle Peninsula Walk & Whiskey Tasting excursion. Then, visit Dingle Distillery for a taste of small, craft batches of whiskey, gin, or vodka. “We took the extension to the Dingle Peninsula on our Ireland: Wild Atlantic Way Tour. At every turn, the scenery was awesome,” said taveler Ann. “I just couldn’t stop staring at those cliffs.”

Visit Dingle on tour


2. Kilkenny

Of all the Irish cities, Kilkenny may be the most under-the-radar. Kilkenny is Ireland’s medieval capital. And it’s easy to see why right when you set foot in this historic little city. Kilkenny, nicknamed the Marble City, is Ireland’s best-preserved medieval town, and is famous for its medieval buildings and iconic castles. Exploring the city’s Medieval Mile is one of the best things to do in Ireland. Oh yeah, and we do it all on our Ireland: A Feast of Culinary Flavors & Local Traditions tour.

What to do here:

Roam the castle rooms and grounds of 12th-century Kilkenny Castle and see St. Canice’s Cathedral, an important place of worship dating back to the 6th century. Then, get into nature and learn about organic farming from fifth-generation farmers in Kilkenny at Highbank Organic Farm. Take a tractor ride through the orchards before visiting the distillery and 17th-century mill to taste organic ciders, syrups, and apple spirits alongside an expert.

Discover tours of Ireland

skibbereen heritage center

3. Skibbereen

Skibbereen is one of the most historic villages in Ireland. It’s known for its eye-popping, brightly colored houses. And as if the vibrant houses weren’t already primed enough for a photo op, Skibbereen means “little boat harbor.” The prettiness of the town is accented by the harbor, and you can happily spend an afternoon just wandering the streets. Skibbereen is also a town steeped in Irish history. Skibbereen was heavily affected by the Irish Famine and today the town plays an important role in commemorating the events.

What to do here:

Tour the Skibbereen Heritage Centre to learn about the Great Famine, the Irish diaspora, and Irish genealogy. You can also visit the Abbeystrowry Cemetery in Skibbereen, where over 8,000 unnamed people who died during the Great Famine are buried.

Visit Skibbereen on tour


4. Kinsale

Hey foodies, this one’s for you. Kinsale is often hailed as the Gourmet Capital of Ireland, with no shortage of cafes, pubs, and restaurants that’ll tickle your tastebuds. Kinsale is also a feast for your eyes, as it’s one of the oldest and prettiest towns in Ireland. The harbor town is filled with narrow, winding streets lined with artsy shops and lively restaurants.

What to do here:

Make your way to Kinsale Mead Co. to learn how local honey is used to ferment the mead produced on site.


5. Caherdaniel

Travel along the scenic Ring of Kerry to one of Ireland’s can’t-miss coastal spots, the postcard-perfect coastal town of Caherdaniel. This village is known for having the most beautiful beaches in Ireland. Here, you can dive into some local seaside specialties.

What to do here:

Visit the Seaweed Discovery Centre and sample a cup of seaweed-infused tea and snacks. You’ll learn about the tides in the area and how important seaweed is to the local diet and culture. Walk along the water at low tide as you forage for different types of seaweed on our Ireland: A Feast of Culinary Flavors & Local Traditions tour.


6. Glen Keen

Glen Keen is located on the Wild Atlantic Way, the scenic route along Ireland’s western coast, and is home to one of the largest sheep farms in Ireland.

What to do here:

Visit Glen Keen Farm on our Grand Tour of Ireland for a one-of-a-kind and a great way to learn about local sheep farming while soaking in the natural beauty that defines the area. You’ll watch a sheep herding demonstration at the farm followed by traditional lunch of lamb stew, dessert, coffee, and tea (yum!). “I thought that a visit of this nature would be silly,” said traveler Kathy. “Once I was there—it was absolutely the most interesting, amazing several hours on the whole trip for me.”

Visit Glen Keen on tour


7. Bushmills

For over 400 years, the tiny village of Bushmills has been home to the oldest working distillery in the UK. Bushmills gets its name from the River Bush, which runs through the village to a large watermill that was built in the 17th century. The River Bush is the distillery’s main water source, and also runs through the volcanic rock one of the most mythical places in the world—Giant’s Causeway.

What to do here:

Visit the distillery, then pay a visit to Giant’s Causeway, a series of 40,000 naturally formed basalt columns. The hexagonal columns, which you can walk on, are 60 million years old and originated as volcanic lava. A colorful local legend says that mythical giant Finn McCool built the walkway so that he could cross the sea to Scotland. Take a cliff walk to soak in spectacular views of the causeway and coastline on our Grand Tour of Ireland.

Visit Bushmills on tour

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About the author | Kara Kramer
Growing up, Kara’s backyard was the Sonoran Desert where her love for exploration was ignited by dirt roads leading to petroglyphs and family road trips to sleepy Mexican fishing villages. Kara’s enjoyment for charting new territory continued with teaching abroad in Thailand, roaming wine cellar caves in Portugal, and swimming in the bioluminescent waters of the Caribbean. She’s always on the lookout for dive bars and a bowl of Vietnamese Pho (lime, basil, and jalapeño is the holy trinity).

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