Competition heats up in search for Ireland’s top vacation destination - from beach resorts to idyllic country villages


The status as Ireland’s top holiday destination is up for grabs – with the competition down to 25 locations on both sides of the border.

The Irish Times newspaper is running the search to find the country’s top holiday location and has published a long list of 25 contenders.

These have been nominated by over 1400 members of the public with the official judging committee now set to visit all 25 locations in the coming weeks.

The list includes tourist-friendly towns and cities, remote beauty spots, inland and coastal locations.

The paper says some are suitable for two week-holidays, others for short breaks.

Four islands are on the list namely Achill, Inis Meain, Inishbofin and Valentia. Rugid West Cork is represented by the Beara Peninsula and Gougane Barra lake and Kerry’s famous tourist towns of Killarney and Dingle have, not surprisingly, made longlisted.

The paper reports that the Irish beach holiday is represented by Carherdaniel and Derrynane in County Kerry; Dunmore East, Co Waterford; Gweedore, Co Donegal; Rosslare Strand, Co Wexford; and Strandhill, Co Sligo.

Cork, Dublin and Derry top the city nominations. Cushendall, Co Antrim, and the Fermanagh lakelands feature on behalf of Northern Ireland.

A shortlist will be announced on May 20th, and the overall winner on May 27th for the competition which has been running since early March when members of the public were invited to nominate the places they love to holiday.

Judge Steve McPhilemy, a tour guide and hostel owner in Derry, told the Irish Times he had been cheered by the quality of entries for some of the less-celebrated midlands destinations, such as the Glen of Aherlow in Co Tipperary.

He added: “But the old stalwart locations like Kinsale and Dingle showed they still have it too.”

The Irish Times journalist Rosita Boland, author of A Secret Map of Ireland, said: “The hardest thing for me as a judge is teasing out what holiday means. It means different things for the readers who sent us pitches, usually to do with the length of time spent in a place.”

Eamon Ryan, leader of the Green Party and a former tourism entrepreneur, told the paper he was impressed by the entries submitted by the public.

He said: “I liked that the entries were very personal. People communicated that attraction or love they felt for a place; they weren’t corporate and didn’t smack of advertising.

“Being honest, I found the judging process difficult. You can’t help letting your personal experience of a place colour your assessment. And the process is going to get worse as we try to narrow it down. It’s shouldn’t be a beauty contest, but it is.”
The long list of contenders, as printed by the Irish Times and reproduced from their website, is

Nominated by Elizabeth Hickey, who wrote: “At the end of my first Irish summer holiday in 15 years I was surprised that the days had been filled with activities. In Ireland you have to make your own fun … Achill offers the opportunity to do this no matter what the weather.”

Nominated by Orla McEvoy, who wrote: “A beautiful coastal village with a personality all of its own. Spectacular views around every bend, wonderful west of Ireland atmosphere in the pub, and the Burren is one of the most stunning limestone settings on earth.”

Nominated by Siobhan O’Connor, who wrote: “The physical beauty is overwhelming. The people are unique. It is a gem we should treasure. It is my heritage.”

Nominated by Mervyn Boles, who wrote: “This town is steeped in history and unspoilt, with friendly, independent shops. King House and Boyle Abbey have been restored and Lough Key Adventure Centre has an excellent playground for kids, a new zip-it adventure for teenagers and for the less energetic tree-top walks and bog garden trails.”

Nominated by Mairead Franklin, who wrote: “Beaches spread from Derrynane bay to the sheltered harbour, sand dunes abound. You can be as active or as lazy as you like. For 42 years I spent my holidays in Derrynane. It is not only my favourite Irish holiday destination, it is part of me.”

Nominated by Brian McCarthy who wrote: “Cork is a vibrant city, alive day and night, and a haven for foodies. It is easy to explore on foot and well situated for exploring Co Cork and the beautiful south coast.”


Nominated by Jim Owens, who wrote: “Cushendall, ‘the Heart of the Glens’, is at the foot of Glenballyeamon one of the most striking of the nine Glens of Antrim, where the scenery is equal to anywhere in Ireland.”