11 Hidden Gems in Ireland to Add to Your Next Trip
Ireland is a country of remote islands, dramatic cliffs, unique towns full of character, and lots of seemingly endless green rolling hills. Chances are you’ve heard about the island’s popular attractions, but there are endless hidden gems in Ireland that deserve your attention.
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We are sure you know about the atmospheric towns of the Wild Atlantic Way, the unique landscapes of Inishmore on the Aran Islands, the beautiful Blarney Castle, and the Dublin’s hospitality. But once you’ve ticked off the Emerald Isle’s main attractions, where should you go?
We recommend heading to one of the less touristy spots. These destinations help you get off the beaten track and explore the secret side of the country. Without further ado, here are some of the. best hidden gems in Ireland.
11 Hidden Gems in Ireland You Don’t Want to Miss
1. Doon Fort
Doon Fort is located close to Ardara in County Donegal. Fort Doon is a circular stone fort built on a little island in the middle of Loughadoon Lake. It is an impressive archaeological site considered a treasure of Irish heritage.
No one knows exactly when it was constructed, but historians estimate that it happened at some time between the late Iron Age and the early Middle Ages. During that time, this type of thick-walled, isolated fort in the middle of a lake was considered a symbol of power and governance of influential families in the region.
A boat ride is required to reach the island where Doon Fort rises, but it is well worth the effort. The fort’s ruins are enough to make the detour worthwhile, but the wild nature that surrounds them is spectacular too. Whether you’re into Irish history or a nature lover – or both! – you’ll be delighted with this private island.
2. Lough Ouler – The Heart-Shaped Lake
One of the prettiest hidden gems in Ireland is Lough Ouler, best known as the Heart-Shaped Lake. This lake is nestled inside Wicklow National Park under the Wicklow mountains.
This beautiful lake can only be reached on foot, making it one of the more unique places to visit. It’s a favorite for hikers (and romantics too!). The unique heart shape of this unusual lake and the stunning views around it are quickly putting it on local and foreign tourists’ radars. However, it can still be considered a hidden gem in Ireland.
Different trails lead to Lough Ouler, some more challenging than others. The most popular routes are Tonelagee Mountain trail, which is moderate, and the harder Lough Ouler Loop.
Whichever route you choose, your efforts will be rewarded with gorgeous vistas and perfect pics. Although swimming is not allowed, jogging, biking, and having a picnic on the outskirts are some of the best things to enjoy an amazing day.
3. Marsh’s Library
This wonderful hidden gem in Ireland is the oldest public library in the country and sits right in Dublin city. It is right around the corner from St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
Founded in 1707, it is wonderfully preserved. It remains practically unchanged since its early days. It is one of the few libraries still used for its original purpose.
Marsh’s Library is not as popular as the Trinity College Library. This means that you’ll find fewer crowds admiring its impressive architecture, lovely courtyard garden, and fascinating collection of over 25,000 rare books and manuscripts.
Famous personalities that have actually sat and read inside Marsh’s walls include Bram Stoker, James Joyce, and Jonathan Swift. Legend has it that the ghost of Archbishop March roams around and lets himself be seen every once in a while! Whether that’s true or not, Marsh’s Library is a the perfect place for adults and children alike.
4. Cappagh Beach
This beach is situated in the Dingle Peninsula, a beautiful region in southwest Ireland. It features beaches, mountains, and surprising jungle-like terrain. Cappagh is a breathtaking hidden gem in Ireland. Although it is not included in many itineraries, it is worthy of some attention! Its deep blue waters and soft sand are backdropped by gorgeous green mountains.
Ireland isn’t famous for having ideal beach weather, but it does happen sometimes. That said, Cappagh Beach is small and sheltered, with crystal-clear calm water most of the time. It’s more peaceful than other popular beaches in the area. If you’re fond of hidden beaches with stunning views away from the typical tourist attractions, Cappagh Beach will suit you to a tee.
5. Beltany Stone Circle
One of the most mysterious and intriguing hidden gems in Ireland is Beltany Stone Circle. It is located south of Raphoe in County Donegal. There are 64 stones of different sizes in a circular formation surrounded by the characteristic Irish green landscape. Dating back to the Bronze Age, Beltany Stone Circle many speculate it is related to supernatural phenomena or mystic rituals.
Beltany is a captivating and great place for all types of travelers. This includes nature enthusiasts, history aficionados, mystic lovers, and photographers. Of the more than 240 stone circles that can be found in Ireland, this is one of the larger, best-preserved, and most unusual ones.
A carved stone mask from the Iron Age was found nearby, only adding to the mystery. It is on exhibit at the National Museum of Ireland.
6. Museum of Country Life
Located in Turlough Park, four miles east of Castlebar, the Museum of Country Life is Ireland’s only national museum outside of Dublin.
It is an extension of the National Museum of Ireland and is dedicated to Irish country life. Clothing, farming tools, spinning wheels, wickerwork, and other artifacts are displayed over four floors of a Victorian Gothic-style house built in 1865.
Whether you’re into history or not, you’re sure to enjoy this museum. There are eye-catching displays and amazing collections that tell the story of ordinary people and their lives as farmers, fishermen, and blacksmiths. When you’re finished exploring take a look at the 800-year-old tower and enjoy a snack at the café.
7. Dunbrody Abbey
You’ll find Dunbrody Abbey on the Hook Peninsula in County Wexford. It was founded by the Cistercian Order after the Norman invasion of Ireland in the year 1170.
This hidden gem in Ireland offers a fun day outing for the whole family. There is also a castle adjacent to it, which was built more than 500 years later although it was never fully finished.
The castle grounds of Dunbrody Abbey offer an intricate yew maze and a 9-hole pitch and putt course. Families might also enjoy a nice picnic, especially during the summer months.
8. Gougane Barra Forest Park
Sitting amid stunning scenery in West County Cork, Gougane Barra is a wonderful hidden gem in Ireland that is perfect for unwinding in a beautiful setting.
As soon as you enter Gougane Barra, you’ll be awed by the gorgeous man-made and natural beauty. Here you’ll find the lovely Sheehy Mountains overlooking the lake, and pretty St. Finbarr’s Oratory seeming to float on a tiny island in the middle.
Although the church is very small, you’ll experience some of the best views here. Tourists are growing increasingly fond of marrying here due to the spectacular views!
Gaugane Barra is a fantastic place for all nature lovers. It is especially great for hikers and bikers, with six trails offering splendid views and the opportunity to hike through a pine forest and rugged mountains. If you’re not too keen on sweating it out, worry not, Gaugane Barra has you covered with a 1.9-mile scenic drive.
Whichever way you decide to explore, keep your eyes open for the holy well. This is a simple square stone covered by a large flat stone and a mound of earth. It has been attracting pilgrims for ages because legend has it, its water has miraculous healing powers.
When you’re done sightseeing on your day tour, treat yourself to the delicious food served in the area’s restaurants.
9. Serpents Lair on Inis Mor
Dubbed the Wormhole on Inis Mor, the official name of this intriguing hidden gem on Galway’s Aran Islands is Poll na bPéist .
This natural rectangular pool is linked to the sea by several underground channels and caves. Gaelic folklore has it that a reptilian sea monster or snake carved out this almost perfect rectangle to make his lair.
This natural attraction on Inis Mor is a favorite spot for daredevil divers. However, it’s best avoided on stormy days and high tide. This is because the water rushes in from the sea with great force through an underground channel. This then causes it to fill and spill over the edges.
Plan on visiting when the weather is calm if you want to get close to the pool. If high tide surprises you upon arrival, don’t worry! You can watch and take pictures from afar and enjoy other attractions in the area. Dún Aonghasa is a great choice, which is a semicircular stone fort sitting on the edge of a 328 feet cliff.
10. Dunmore Cave
Dunmore Cave is located near Kilkenny in southeast Ireland. It is a unique attraction that deserves a visit. This cave system was formed over 300 million years ago and has a fascinating history that dates to prehistoric times.
The remains of over 40 people, have been discovered in the cave, suggesting it may have been used for rituals at some point.
Today, visitors can take a guided tour of the cave to see its stunning crystal formations and underground streams while learning about its unique history.
11. Coumshingaun Lough
Coumshingaun Lough, located in the Comeragh Mountains in County Waterford, is a stunning natural wonder that is well worth a visit. The lake itself is a beautiful sight, with its navy blue water surrounded by dramatic cliffs and rolling hills.
If your family is looking for adventure, the lake has it in spades. There are a number of trails that lead to the lake, offering stunning views along the way.
The most popular hiking route is the Coumshingaun Loop, which takes visitors on a challenging trek through the mountains. Whether you are looking for a scenic picnic spot, a challenging hike, or simply a relaxing spot in nature, Coumshingaun Lough shouldn’t be missed.
As you can see, there are tons of unique places to visit in Ireland with kids. Add one or more of these hidden gems in Ireland to your itinerary and your kids are sure to be impressed!