Looking to explore Ireland off the beaten path? These are some of the most beautiful places in Ireland and Ireland hidden gems for your next trip to the Emerald Isle.
I write extensively about Ireland and one of my most popular posts to date is my recommended itinerary for a road trip around the country. I am very proud of that post, it took me ages to write it; however it is written with a specific type of reader in mind, which is the first time visitor to Ireland.
It covers most of the must see sites in the country, but it doesn’t really talk about what I believe is one of the most beautiful aspects of Ireland and precisely the fact that sometimes its beauty lies away from the main sites and is hidden, sometimes very well, off the beaten track.
With this post, I want to complement that itinerary with a few more places, some secret spots in Ireland, lesser known locations and Ireland hidden gems that most visitors do not see and sometimes even local may not realize are as worth a visit as they are.
This is my selection of off the beaten path Ireland locations most visitors never see (but should!)
Ireland off the beaten path locations
Off the beaten track Ireland castle: Dunlough, West Cork
I owe my discovery of Dunlough castle to a friend of my husband who, one day, met us in County Cork and lead us to this remote and stunning corner of the country.
Dunlough castle crowns the promontory of ‘Three Castle Head’, in Co Cork, in the South West of Ireland, a green tongue of land stretching into the waves of the Atlantic ocean.
It is a place of incredible charm and beauty and one of those locations that embodies the Ireland of the imagination: green, sparsely populated and dotted with castles and medieval ruins.
You reach Dunlough castle following the road to Goleen and Mizen head and you need to keep your eyes peeled to find the entrance to the pathways to the castle since the ruins are hardly signposted.
The access is through private but accessible land (you can find complete directions here) and requires you to walk for about 30 minuets along grassy hills.
The walk is not particularly strenuous but you do need decent walking shoes to tackle it as it climbs up a hill. The steepest part of the walk may get you discouraged and lead you to believe you are going nowhere fast but when you least expect it, the castle reveals itself and it is a truly magical moment. This is Ireland off the beaten path at its best.
Secret beaches and views in Ireland: Fanad head
Fanad Head is a promontory in Co. Donegal, in the North West of Ireland.
This area of the country is remote and scenic and while it is technically on the well know Wild Atlantic Way, it sees less visitors than almost anywhere else in the country and feels secluded and authentic. If off the beaten path Ireland is what you are looking for, Fanad Head is sure to deliver!
You can drive around the head in few hours, along arrow, scenic road, and you will encounter what I believe is some of the most beautiful scenery in the whole of the country.
As you drive along the head, you first see its large, windswept beaches. The water here is cold and the wind strong even in summer but the golden stretches of sand are stunning and wide, with a wild and remote quality to them.
You first spot them from the heights of the road, which follows the rocky and winding promontory shape, but they are also accessible and see walkers, surfers and sometimes even bathers!
Farther on, the scenery changes and through winding roads you get to the northernmost point of the promontory, guarded by the Fanad Lighthouse.
Off the beaten path Ireland lakes: Lough Dan, Co. Wicklow
Gorgeous Lough Dan sits quietly in a valley in the Wicklow mountains, about an hour South of Dublin. The lake is invisible from the road and to reach it you need to hike a (easy enough) path leading to its secluded waters.
Loch Dan is not equipped for tourism and this is what makes it so special: the walk leads you across woodlands and open patches of land, across brooks and open fields. Along the way, it is easy to stop for a picnic (bring your own food) and you may even find yourself in front of groups of deer, that roam freely in this area.
This is one of the many magical corners of County Wicklow: for more, have a look at our family guide to the area!
Remote Ireland cliffs: Slieve League, Co. Donegal
Slieve League cliffs are among the tallest sea cliffs in Europe, plunging into the Atlantic ocean from a height of over 1972 feet. Despite this, they tend to be ignored by visitors, who flock to the more famous and much smaller cliffs of Moher, better equipped for visitors (and worth visiting, find our guide here).
However, I believe there is something magical about Slieve League,something so special that I often talk about them as my favourite corner of the whole of Ireland and without a doubt my favourite coastal walk in the country.
The way to visit them is by car and then on foot. Leave the car at the lowest car park and take your time to stroll along the easy but scenic coastal route.
The first stretch sees you walking along wide laws covered in heather and sloping towards the ocean while the second part has you reaching much higher grounds and suddenly opens up to a gorgeous belvedere overlooking the cliffs.
You will not be alone at the top of this path (you may even find an ice cream van at the top in high season!) but you don’t get half of the crowds you get on the cliffs of Moher here and will enjoy a much wilder scenery.
Secret Ireland walk: Waterford castle island, Co.Waterford
I close this list with a place I only recently discovered but that was so pleasant and so unexpected I now want to tell the world about: Waterford castle and its island. The castle lies on a small island just outside Waterford city and is dates back to Norman times
The castle itself is now a hotel, where it s pleasant to spend the night, but even more than the building itself what is special here is the tranquil land around it.
Leave the caste early in the morning and head for the nature walk along the perimeter of the island; soon, in spring, you will find yourself in a tranquil wood with a carpet of bluebells dancing in the morning breeze!
Walk in silence to hear the wind in the trees and don’t be surprised if you see one of the resident deer of the island cross the road in front of you.
Interested in more Irish castles? Then you may also like our guide to the most beautiful castles in Ireland here.
I hope you enjoyed this selection of Ireland hidden gems! Safe travels.
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