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Explore Like a Local: Off-the-Beaten-Path Destinations in Ireland

Visit the Emerald Isle, and you’ll hear about the Guinness Storehouse, Cliffs of Moher, Galway, and Blarney Castle. But what if you’ve already done all this, or you’re looking to step away from the conventional?
Don’t follow the same itineraries as the 11 million tourists who come to Ireland every year. Instead, let’s get away from the usual routes and discover some places only the locals know – and even some most Irish people have never heard of.

Ring of Beara

Overlanding around Ireland in a rental car is one of the best ways to go where Bus Éireann doesn’t, at a pace to suit you. Everyone’s heard of the Ring of Kerry route, but let’s be honest, it’s a pretty crowded place in the high season.

Instead, tour the Ring of Beara. This route is close to the Ring of Kerry but circles the Beara Peninsula. It’s a chance to uncover the wilder parts of the island in County Cork and County Kerry, with astonishing stops like the Uragh Stone Circle in the heart of the peninsula.

Torc Waterfall

First-timers and regulars alike love heading to the Killarney National Park to see the best of Ireland’s natural wonders. But did you know there’s a quick escape most people don’t know about?

It’s a short five-minute drive off the beaten path, but it’s well worth it. The Torc Waterfall drops 60 feet into The Devil’s Punchbowl. If you’re looking for somewhere remote, Insta-worthy, without going too far off the main roads, don’t forget to stop at this lesser-known waterfall.

Belleek Castle

Ireland is a castle country, and most of its castles have been written about ad nauseam. But not Belleek Castle.

Belleek Castle is located in County Mayo, one of the least visited parts of the island. Its remote, tranquil beauty has long been a draw for explorers, and Belleek Castle is one of its gems.

Explore everything from the well-preserved architecture to fossils and antique weaponry. Plus, if you’re booking in advance and want to tick off a bucket list item, you can even stay the night in Belleek Castle!

Howth Cliff Walk

Don’t have much time to get out of Dublin? You don’t have to go very far to experience the idyllic vistas of Ireland.

Howth is a gorgeous seaside spot that most overseas visitors miss out on. The Howth Cliff Walk can be accessed by the DART train service from the heart of Dublin. Once you arrive, follow the signs and walk to the highly Instagrammable lighthouse at the very end.

It’s also worth popping into Crabby Jo’s in the town if you’re salivating over seafood and a pint of Guinness!

Skellig Michael

Skellig Michael is the towering sea crag surrounded by the dramatic swells of the Atlantic Ocean. Most people know about the Aran Islands, but this is located in the Skellig Islands.

Head over to see the ruins of a monastery built by Christian monks more than 1,000 years ago. This dramatic architectural project has survived, alongside two lighthouses built in the 19th century.

It’s a little harder to access, but it’s worth the trouble. Also, Skellig Michael even appeared in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.

Caves of Kesh

The Caves of Kesh are easy to see but difficult to experience. However, the adventurous can experience a land of myth and fairy tales. Accessed by a steep climb down a hillside covered in stinging nettles, if you’re willing to brave the rough terrain, you’ll step into 16 shallow caverns and an unmatched view from Cormac’s Cave.

Feeling brave? Keep traversing the caves until you reach King’s Mountain, the very top of the hill. On top of the hill, you’ll uncover the Stone Age tomb of Keshcorran, a worthy reward indeed.

Ireland countryside

The Beaches of County Galway

Ireland isn’t well-regarded among beach connoisseurs or even among the Irish themselves, but head out on tours of Ireland, and you might be surprised at what you find.

Although Ireland’s remote islands and rough coastline are famous, you’ll also find pristine beaches if you look hard enough. County Galway is the heart and soul of Ireland’s beach scene, with two found reasonably close to Galway City itself.

You’ll find Dog’s Bay, a horseshoe-shaped beach 50 km from the cute village of Roundstone, and Gurteen Beach just next door. Come on a good day, and you’ll be greeted with clear azure waters and white sand as if you were in the Caribbean.

Follow in the Footsteps of the Pirate Queen of Connacht

Pirate lovers might be surprised to learn about Ireland’s rich history in this trade. Head over to County Mayo and uncover the nation’s pirate heritage.

Begin in Westport, famous for its Georgian architecture, and experience its bars and restaurants. But don’t linger because something special awaits a short drive away. Leave the town behind and add Clare Island, Clew Bay, and Croagh Patrick to your itinerary.

Visit the former home of Grace O’Malley, the Pirate Queen of Connaught, at Rockfleet Castle before heading out to Westport House for a history lesson and plenty of pirate-themed activities for all the family.

World-Class Hiking in County Waterford

The Alps might be the premier mountain hiking spot in Europe, but Ireland also has its own miniature version of mainland Europe’s snow-capped mountains.

Add the Comeragh Mountains to your itinerary for a serious hike with spectacular scenery and a great workout to boot.

Hikers looking for a challenge should take on the Coumshingaun Loop. The Loop is a 7.5km route that’ll take you over steep terrain and deliver some of the most beautiful panoramas County Waterford has to offer. Marvel at the Fauscoum, the highest point of the mountain range, and grab your camera when you reach the region’s cliff-lined glacial lake and the nearby Mahon Falls.

Just beware that this isn’t the hike for the faint-hearted.

Getting Around Ireland

Visitors to Ireland’s main sights will find ample bus, road, and rental car options, but what happens if you want to get to some of these lesser-known sights?

Unfortunately, you’ll find that in many cases, the public transport network will end long before you get to where you need to be. If you’re not comfortable or don’t want to drive around Ireland, the next best option is to schedule a tour of Ireland featuring bespoke itineraries aligning with what you want to see.

Ireland is an awe-inspiring country to spend a little or a lot of time in, and you should experience it how it was meant to be experienced. Start planning your itinerary and uncover the secrets of the Irish Republic.