By Briana Seftel
While big cities like Dublin and Cork are must-sees on a trip to Ireland, it's the small towns and villages that really leave a lasting impression. Hop in a car and drive to these coastal and countryside beauties!
Kenmare • County Kerry
An essential stop on the Ring of Kerry, Kenmare is the perfect jumping off point to discover the South West of Ireland. It is one of the few planned towns in the country with a slew of candy-colored craft shops, galleries, cafes, and restaurants. Stop here for a full Irish breakfast before heading out for a day on the rugged Irish coastline.
Adare • County Limerick
Some may say Adare is too cute, but they would be wrong! Designated as a heritage town, Adare is renowned for its fairy tale thatched cottages in bright hues of pink and blue. Its main street is filled with medieval monasteries, ruins, and beautiful stone buildings. It’s also home to the 5-star Adare Manor and two golf courses.
Kinsale • County Cork
Any Irishman will tell you Kinsale is the most quintessentially Irish town in Ireland. A historic port and fishing town in County Cork, Kinsale boasts a kaleidoscope of colorful store fronts, a maze of narrow streets, and plenty of pubs to cozy up with a pint. Don’t miss the harbor and 17th-century fortress!
Cobh • County Cork
Another picturesque port town in County Cork, Cobh is like a miniature San Francisco with its narrow, steep streets leading down to the water. Overlooked by the imposing St. Colman’s Cathedral, Cobh was famously the last port of call for the ill-fated Titanic, and visitors can flock to the Titanic Memorial Garden in town.
Dingle • County Kerry
The only town on the Dingle Peninsula, Dingle is a welcome sight after a long day exploring the rugged coastline. Dingle is one of the best towns to hear traditional Irish music, and its pubs are sure to satisfy your need for a no-frills, authentic experience.
Dalkey • County Dublin
Even if you’re based in Dublin, you can still see Ireland’s charming towns. Just south of the capital is Dalkey, a seaside town dominated by a 10th-century church and two Norman castles. Walk to the harbor and consider taking a boat to Dalkey Island. Bono, The Edge, Enya and Van Morrison are all residents of this affluent suburb!
Enniskerry • County Wicklow
The elegant Victorian village of Enniskerry makes an excellent stop when exploring County Wicklow. Built to accompany Powerscourt Estate, Enniskerry is no wallflower. Enjoy tea and scones at one of the cafes, stroll past postcard-worthy cottages, and see the clock tower with its base shaped like a shamrock.
Lismore • County Waterford
Famous for Lismore Castle, a medieval castle on the banks of the River Blackwater, the town of Lismore is another heritage town with a fascinating history. Take your time strolling its story book streets and pay a visit to the Lismore Heritage Centre.
Clifden • County Galway
Known as the “Capital of Connemara,” Clifden boasts a stunning location at the foot of the Twelve Pins Mountains overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. Shaped like a diamond, the town bursts with boutiques, cafes, restaurants, and pubs. It’s also a popular starting point for exploring Connemara and Kylemore Abbey.
Carnlough • County Antrim
Located just steps from the water in Country Antrim, Carnlough is a blissfully uncrowded village in Northern Ireland. As both the entry and exit point for the Slemish Scenic Drive, Carnlough is both a jumping off point and destination on the northern coast.