14 Of Ireland’s Best Off The Beaten Path Attractions

off the beaten path ireland
off the beaten path ireland

Ireland is a country well known for its stunning landscapes, ancient history, cute coastal towns, and interesting indoor exhibitions. But what about the best kept secrets that you haven’t even heard of? 

When people say to you they’re travelling to Ireland, you’ll immediately think of the Rock of Cashel or Kylemore Abbey. Yeah, they’re great to see, but what about the like of the Rock of Dunamese or Bray Head? These are just some of the hidden gems that you can stumble across.

Here, I’ve gathered together 14 of Ireland’s off-the-beaten-path attractions that you must visit on your next trip. 

It’s time to find out about Ireland’s undiscovered highlights.

1. Grianán Ailigh - Co.Donegal, Ireland

off the beaten path ireland

Donegal is famous throughout Ireland for Grianán Ailigh, which is a stone fort on top of the Greenan Mountain in Inishowen.

This medieval structure dates back to 1700BC and has always been connected to the Tuatha de Danann. The word “Grianán” means “sunny place”. It was appropriated by the early Irish to mean “a place with a view.”

The fort itself was built completely without mortar. As you explore the inside of it, you’ll notice that it has three terraces. It’s believed that wooden structures were built around these to provide living areas.

Legend has it that the Giants of Inishowen lie sleeping below the fort and that when the sacred sword is removed, they will come back to life and reclaim their ancient lands.

off the beaten path ireland

Today, this hidden beauty is a national monument in Ireland. There’s no entry cost to the site itself, but there is an interpretive centre at the An Grianan Hotel where you have to pay a small fee to enter, which lies at the foot of the mountain. The centre is a fun learning experience with interactive displays and lots of fascinating information on the Tuatha de Danaan and their epic battles. The cost of entry to the centre is €3.00, or you can pay €5.00, which includes tea or coffee and scones.

When you arrive at the secret spot, there’s parking at the base of the fort where you can leave your car. It’s the best place to park. From there, you can walk up the hill to visit the fort itself. Be sure to relax and take in the panorama of Donegal, Derry and Tyrone, with fabulous views of Lough Swilly and Lough Foyle.

Contributed by Faith from XYUandBEYOND.

2. Inis Mór - The Aran Islands, Ireland

off the beaten path ireland

Some of the most beautiful landscapes in Europe can be found throughout Ireland. One of the best places to experience these natural views is the secret location known as the Aran Islands. 

The Aran Islands are located off the west coast of County Galway. There are a total of three islands: the big island, Inis Mor, the middle island, Inis Meain, and the east island, Inis Oirr.

It’s easy to see the Aran Islands while visiting the city of Galway. From there, you can take an hour-long ferry ride to get to the islands. Inis Mor is the largest of the islands and has the most to offer visitors looking to visit one of the most secluded places in Ireland.

off the beaten path ireland
A graveyard on the Aran Islands

Once you arrive on the islands, a feeling of isolation comes over you, but it’s wrapped in a heartwarming welcome from the 850 people who call the island home, embodying the kindness of the Irish. 

The most famous ruin on Inis Mor is Dun Aonghasa. Human activity in this area dates back to 1100 BC, as the ruin was a fort as well as an economic, political, and ritual centre for the people living there. It lies in ruins after it was abandoned in 1000 AD and is currently a National Monument in Ireland (included with the OPW Heritage Card).

Another fabulous ruin to wander through is the Killeany Monastery. It dates back to 490 AD when it was founded by St. Enda, and it was one of the first monasteries ever built in all of Ireland. 

To really see the beauty of the islands up close and at your own pace, you can rent a bike for the day. Inis Mor is mostly flat, making it easy to explore the five ancient ruin sites on your own. You can also rent a minibus for a tour or take a horse-drawn carriage around the island. There are plenty of ways you can explore one of Ireland’s best-hidden gems.

Inis Mor’s peaceful and serene nature is unlike anywhere else in Ireland.

Contributed by Faith from The Directionally Challenged Traveller

3. Newgrange - Co.Meath, Ireland

off the beaten path ireland

Newgrange is an ancient Stone Age passage tomb you’ll find in the countryside of Ireland. The structure is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and more than 5,000 years old, making it older than both Stonehenge and the Egyptian pyramids. 

At the Winter Solstice, the sun passes through a small window, illuminating the entire passage chamber. It’s believed that this time of year was used to mark the new year and that the light symbolized victory over death. Don’t worry if you can’t make it for the Winter Solstice; you’ll still get to see a demonstration of what the chamber looks like fully illuminated. 

off the beaten path ireland
A look at the inside of Newgrange

A visit to Newgrange is like travelling back in time! This is one of the oldest and best-sacred sites in Ireland. The ancient site is located in the Boyne Valley, about 40 minutes (51 km) north of Dublin, making it a great option for a day trip! You can hop on with a local tour or drive yourself if you’ve rented a car. 

Newgrange’s passage tomb is only accessible with a guided tour. The tour takes you around the grounds outside the passage tomb and into the inner chamber. You’ll get to hear about the discovery, the archaeological work, and the stories of the people who created this incredible structure. 

Tickets are available online or at the visitor centre. The tour of the tomb and chamber, plus access to the exhibitions in the Visitors Center, costs €8 for adults. There are discounts available for children, students, families, and seniors. The hours of operation vary according to the season. Tours fill up quickly! Be sure to book in advance or get there early. 

Without a doubt, a trip to Newgrange is a great way to spend your days out in Ireland.

Contributed by Annie from Into The Bold.

For information on planning your own trip to Europe, check out Annie’s step by step guide.

4. Slieve League Cliffs - Co.Donegal, Ireland

off the beaten path ireland

With the 2nd highest sea cliffs in all of Ireland and some of the highest sea cliffs in all of Europe, Slieve League (aka Slieve Liag) is one of the most amazing places to be found in Ireland. Yet it’s still relatively unknown given its rather secluded place of location on the west coast of Ireland, in County Donegal.

Slieve League is still a huge draw in the north of Ireland and is one of the main attractions of the Wild Atlantic Way, which follows the less-travelled, more remote west coast of Ireland, starting in the north in Donegal.

off the beaten path ireland
The stunning view from the top of the cliffs

At the same time, due to its rather far-flung location, the tourism infrastructure is still fairly basic, so there is no overpriced visitor centre, etc. to pass on the way. It’s a free attraction to visit (to date) and open pretty much 24-7. 

For the more active, it’s also possible to scale the mountain/cliff, and it’s really not very challenging when starting from the top car park, which is found right next to and overlooking the cliffs. However, many visitors start from the lower car park, not realizing that they can continue driving further past the gates (used to fence in the sheep), and this adds an extra 30 minutes or so to the overall hike. 

Contributed by Alan from It’s Sometimes Sunny In Bangor.

5. Lough Ouler - Co.Wicklow, Ireland

off the beaten path ireland
Hidden away within the Wicklow National Park, Lough Ouler is a beautiful heart-shaped lake only accessible by foot. It’s one of the lesser-known places in Ireland where locals reap the rewards of having the area basically to themselves. 
 
The lake is nestled under Tonelagee mountain, the 3rd highest peak in the Wicklow range, about 10 km from the famous monastery site of Glendalough and a 1-hour drive from Dublin.
off the beaten path ireland
The road that leads you to Lough Ouler

It’s one of the best hikes near Dublin due to its rewarding 360° panoramic view over the love-heart-shaped lake, the mountain range, and a 200m amphitheatre-like cliff. Depending on your fitness level and the trail chosen to climb to Tonelagee Summit, it can be a bit challenging hike. However, this off-the-beaten-track location in the heart of the Wicklow mountains is definitely worth the effort.

Unfortunately, there isn’t any public transport from Dublin that will bring you to the start of the trail. There are two trails to reach the Lough Ouler viewpoint. The first and most challenging trail starts near Glenmacnass waterfall and includes a river crossing, a muddy slope and large boulders. For easier access, park at the Turlough Hill car park and head straight up the Tonlegee mountain. In total, the hike takes roughly 2/3 hours to complete.

Summer is definitely the best season to hike to Lough Ouler and visit the Wicklow backcountry.

Contributed by Jenny from Tales From The Lens.

6. The Irish National Stud - Co.Kildare, Ireland

off the beaten path ireland
The Irish National Stud & Gardens is a horse and nature lover’s dream. Located just over one hour south of Dublin in Tully, County Kildare, the National Stud & Gardens is a Thoroughbred breeding facility. It’s home to some of the most stunning gardens and horses.
 
Visitors can leisurely explore the Japanese Gardens, visit the stables where the stallions and mares live, walk along the beautiful pathways and see the horses relaxing and grazing in the grass at one of Ireland’s most unique tourist attractions. There’s also an onsite gift shop that offers apparel and accessories for horse lovers of all ages. In addition, you’ll find a great onsite restaurant called The Japanese Gardens Restaurant that serves sandwiches, salads, wraps, quiche, tarts, and several traditional Irish delicacies. 
 
The easiest way to reach the Irish National Stud & Gardens is by car via the M7 Motorway. You can also take the train from Dublin or Cork to Kildare Train Station.
 
The Irish National Stud & Gardens open at 10 a.m. Monday-Sunday. Closing time is at 6 pm until November 1st and at 4 pm in November and December, with the last admission admitted at 5 pm. 
off the beaten path ireland
The Japanese Gardens on the same site as the Irish National Stud
Adult admission tickets are €14 per person, children under 16 are €8 per person, seniors and students are €11 per person, and children under 3 are free. There are daily guided tours during select times. Season ticket rates and group rates are also available. Off-peak ticket prices (November and December) are a little cheaper than the general admission rates during the peak season. Please note that dogs are welcome, but they must be kept on a leash. 
 
If you are looking for a notable hotel to stay at nearby, Kilkea Castle is considered to be one of the most enchanting castles in Ireland. This resort offers high-class Irish and international dining, an 18-hole golf course, a full spa, horseback riding, falconry, and much more.
 
Lastly, some of Ireland’s main points of interest are near the Irish National Stud, including the Kildare Village Outlet Centre and the Curragh racecourse.
 
Contributed by Vanessa from Eastend Taste Magazine.

7. Sherkin Island - Co.Cork, Ireland

off the beaten path ireland

When it comes to underrated tourist attractions in Ireland, a short 10-minute ferry ride from the colourful village of Baltimore in West Cork is the unique and less-explored Sherkin Island. This quintessentially Irish gem is tiny at just 3 miles long and has a permanent population of only 100 people-but, this number increases significantly during the busy summer months. The island is known as an “artist hub,” with many of the local residents being accomplished artists. You can even buy their work from the restaurants in town.

On Sherkin Island, there are numerous golden sandy beaches to relax on (when the Irish weather cooperates), as well as several walking paths, suitable for all abilities. You can also book a boat tour from the main pier to explore Roaring Water Bay. Who knows, you may even spot some whales and dolphins if you’re lucky. There are two restaurants on this tiny isle—Sherkin House and Jolly Rogers. And if you fancy spending the night, you can book into the 21-room Sherkin House, which is cosy and comfortable.

If you’re in the area for longer, a great activity in West Cork is to visit Cape Clear Island, next door to Sherkin. This island is larger and one of the prettiest places in Ireland, with more things to do and a famous Gaeltacht region (residents here speak Irish).

The ferry from Baltimore to Sherkin Island costs 12 euros return and departs several times throughout the day. 

Contributed by Aimee from Snap Happy Travel.

8. Huntington Castle And Gardens - Co.Carlow, Ireland

off the beaten path ireland

If you’re looking for a not so popular place to visit in Ireland, then head to Huntington Castle and Gardens. Located in County Carlow, near the border with Wexford, this castle is one of the lesser-known ones in the country, making it perfect for those looking to find some secret places/locations on the Emerald Isle.

Huntington Castle is located near the town of Clonegal, which is why some people refer to it as “Clonegal Castle.” The castle was built in the early 1600s as a plantation castle for defensive purposes only. Its original tower house was a garrison in the 1500s. During the Cromwell conquest of Ireland, it was captured due to its strategic location on the road between Dublin and Wexford.

Today, it’s a privately owned house, open to the public during the summer months for guided tours by the owners. Visitors can view apartments in the castle, the conservatory, where there is a little surprise in the mural on the wall, and the basement, which is an interesting part of the castle.

Beyond the castle, the gardens are stunning, with a yew walk, a lake, a rose garden, and more. It’s a great place for a stroll after visiting the castle, especially if the sun is shining.

The castle is one and a half hours by car south of Dublin. There’s an entry fee that covers both the castle and gardens. Entry is between 11 am and 5 pm from May to September and costs €6 per adult and €3 per child.

Huntington Castle is one of the ultimate non-touristy things to do in Ireland.

Contributed by Cath from Travel Around Ireland.

9. Lough Dan - Co.Wicklow, Ireland

off the beaten path ireland

Lough Dan is sometimes referred to as Ireland’s secret beach, as it is embedded in the Wicklow mountains. Personally, I think it’s one of the most amazing places on this list. Imagine being on a beach where there’s a high probability that you’ll be the only one there even when the weather is great. That’s the beauty of Lough Dan.

The best way to get there is by parking your car up by Sally Gap at the Pier Gates Carpark and then heading across the road and hopping the wall. Once you’ve done that, follow the trail and signs for about an hour, and you’ll eventually arrive at one of Ireland’s must-see places.

As soon as you arrive, set up shop and have a dip in the freshwater. God, it’s refreshing. Be sure to watch out for the little fishies that call the lake their home. There are tons of them (fishing is prohibited in the waters of the lake).

If you get the opportunity to visit Lough Dan during the summer months, consider wild camping there. It’s highly popular among outdoor enthusiasts. The area where the beach is situated in a tranquil paradise where you won’t be disturbed. Who knows, it could be your new vacation spot.

Contributed by Adam from As Adam Goes.

10. Glenbarrow Waterfall - Co.Laois, Ireland

off the beaten path ireland

Glenbarrow waterfall is a hidden tourist attraction in Ireland that doesn’t get as much attention as it should due to its location. This place sits in the county Laois countryside on the Slieve Bloom Way. 

To get to the waterfall, you’re best off heading to the Glenbarrow carpark. From there, follow the blue arrow to the downhill trail for about 15 minutes. Once you hit the trail, after about five minutes, you’ll come to a lake. Literally, just follow that lake and you’ll come to an alluring cascade. There you are.

The Glenbarrow trail is surrounded by one of the most beautiful forests in the Leinster province. You could spend hours running through them, exploring and searching for some wildlife. Make sure you bring hiking boots as they can get sludgy in some places.

There’s no need to worry about getting lost as the trail is signposted. You’ll likely encounter some locals out for their Sunday strolls, walking their dogs. They’re more than happy to see tourists in their neck of the woods, as it’s not regarded as one of the top tourist spots in Ireland.

Contributed by Adam from As Adam Goes.

11. Hook Lighthouse - Co.Wexford, Ireland

off the beaten path ireland

A must-do activity in Ireland that not many people know about or visit is the Hook Lighthouse in County Wexford. It’s one of the oldest lighthouses in the world that was built over 800 years ago and still functions today. Also, take note that it’s one of the most beautiful parts of the country. A bonus, if you ask me.

Take a tour of the lighthouse to discover its remarkable history over the years. Adult tickets cost 10 euros, and children 5–18 years old cost 6 euros. Any youngster under the age of 5 has free entry. For more information regarding tickets, see here.

Not a fan of tours? Take a stroll outside of the grounds along the sea cliffs of the Hook Peninsula. You’ll encounter some of the finest views and may even be able to see County Waterford across the water, which is one of the top holiday spots in Ireland.

Contributed by Adam from As Adam Goes.

12. Ticknock - Co.Dublin, Ireland

off the beaten path ireland

The Ticknock trail is one of the great outdoor activities in Ireland. It’s the perfect getaway for somebody who’s visiting Dublin and looking for a secret place to escape from the city’s madness.

The 10 km trail is situated in the heart of the Dublin mountains. Whether you’re an adventure seeker or just looking for a unique place to visit, there’s something for everybody at Ticknock, including mountain bike trails, fairy castles, and even a zipline course.

This must-see place is located only a half-hour drive from Dublin City, which makes it really accessible for any tourist visiting the city.

A word of advice: if you can make it to the top of the trail, you’ll be rewarded with a panoramic view of Dublin. It’s a must-see spot.

Contributed by Adam from As Adam Goes.

13. Victor's Way - Co.Wicklow, Ireland

off the beaten path ireland

Looking for something a bit more whacky? Well, Victor’s Way is one of the most unusual things you can do in Ireland. It’s a weird sight to see without any exaggeration.

Victor’s Way was apparently designed to be some sort of adult meditation for people to wind down. The use of electronics is forbidden, and it’s not recommended that you bring your child along as it can affect the grounds’ serenity. Talk about prejudice…

The garden is over 20 acres in size and has 9 major black granite sculptures and 35 smaller ones. Each one was made in India and has a spiritual life story attached to it for you to relate to.

This is up there with the oddest Irish places to visit.

Contributed by Adam from As Adam Goes.

14. Diarmuid And Grainne's Cave - Co.Sligo, Ireland

off the beaten path ireland

Known as Ireland’s highest cave, Diarmuid and Grainne’s Cave has long been an attraction that the average sightseer misses. It’s one of the top sights in our country.

The cave is located at the Gleniff Horseshoe in Sligo, which is one of the most beautiful places in Ireland. Beware that the cave itself is on private property, so make sure you ask for permission before attempting to climb it. 

Climbing up to the top is quite intense, but once you reach the top, you’ll have one of the best views from one of the most unique places in Ireland. I wouldn’t recommend anybody attempt it unless you have experience with cliff climbing. That’s speaking from experience. 

Contributed by Adam from As Adam Goes.

And That's That

I hope this visitor’s guide will assist you in choosing an off-the-beaten-path attraction or two when you travel to Ireland. The country is full of nice places to visit that a lot of people who live here haven’t even heard of. 

Never stop exploring.

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A Little Bit About Adam

Adam is the owner and writer of As Adam Goes. An Irish-born explorer, taking on one country at a time. Adam is an avid adventurer who has a great fascination with the world and is always plotting his next move. 

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