The Beara Peninsula, in County Cork, among the 25 finalists for the Irish Times top vacation locations in Ireland Photo by: Google Images

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


The Beara Peninsula, in County Cork, among the 25 finalists for the Irish Times top vacation locations in Ireland Photo by: Google Images

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.”


Nominated by Peter J Mackenzie, who wrote: “Derry has so much to see and do. Great live music in so many venues and a growing quality hospitality industry, and a great base to explore the natural beauty of Donegal on one side and the splendour of the Causeway coast.”

Nominated by Kylie L Smith, who wrote: “In all the places I have been in the world Dingle, with its narrow streets, colourful housing and glorious peninsula, is the best. Friendliness oozes from its people, shops and eating and drinking places (of which there are many!).”


Nominated by Kate Rooney, who wrote: “Although not the most attractive county, Dublin is the best to actually spend time and money. You don’t need empty beaches, you need entertainment and action to have a good holiday.”

Nominated by Daragh Hickey, who wrote: “When the sun comes out, get your spot on Ireland’s classic town beach and share a day with folks who built sandcastles and hunted crabs on this strand just like their accompanying grandchildren do now.”

Nominated by Joan Healy, who wrote: “Wake in the morning to the sound of birdsong, watch the trout jumping in the lake, walk the crags of the mountains before a sumptuous meal. Peaceful, tranquil Gougane Barra has a magnetic attraction.”

Nominated by Seán Mullin, who wrote: “The sheer, narrow inlets mash the surf into slosh pits of creamy foam next to beaches of smooth rocks which clack and rustle with each monster wave. I’m in New Zealand now. I still compare everywhere I go here to Gweedore.”

Nominated by Nicole Trewartha, who wrote: “It feels remote, removed from the rest of the world, and the sky somehow seems larger than anywhere else in Ireland as there is nothing to interrupt your view. But the people are warm and generous. There are no strangers here.”

Nominated by Hugh McMahon, who wrote: “From the minute you get off the ferry you know that you are in a magical place. The scenery, the Atlantic air and the pace of life allow you to leave behind the mainland and the personality you inhabit there.”


Nominated by Maighread Forde, who wrote: “The view is the first thing that takes your breath away. But one can’t holiday on views alone. Around Killarney you can walk, take boat trips on the lakes, cycle, tour Muckross House or Ross Castle, go to the playground or the pet farms, go horse racing, golfing, fishing, run a marathon or learn to cook.”


Nominated by George Harding, who wrote: “Cork might be Ireland’s second city, but Kinsale is its first town. Known as the gourmet capital of Ireland, it has restaurants to suit every taste, from the award-winning Fishy Fishy, to high-end fish-and-chippers.”


Nominated by Patricia Thirgood, who wrote: “Fermanagh is so green and not always wet, with amazing walks, lovely lakes, mountains sea breezes, and even the G8.”

Nominated by Mary Redmond, who wrote: “Beautiful, wild and unspoilt … with three beaches , the wonderful cliff walk in Kilkee, and loop head walk at the light house and the ruins of Carrigaholt Castle.”

Nominated by Catherine Duffy, who wrote: “Louisburgh, nestled under Croagh Patrick, is where Westport people go on holidays. For the painter, the pilgrim, the photographer, the forager, the fisherman, the foodie, the walker, the geogologist, the historian and the child there is no better place.”

Nominated by Jennifer Joyce, who wrote: “Time slows down on the Shannon. Enjoy the pace of your boat as you travel through Loughs Derg, Ree, Allen and Erne. Cruise, then drop in to any of the picturesque harbours for a meal, or cook on board and enjoy the peace.”

Nominated by Ray Corish, who wrote: “Rosslare Strand is in the heart of Ireland’s sunniest county, far enough from the Greater Dublin Area for holiday makers to relax and yet within striking distance via the N11.”

Nominated by Megan Boyle, who wrote: “A holiday destination for all ages, whether you just want to walk on the beach, take a seaweed bath, have a nice bite to eat or a surf lesson, climb the mountain and hit the pubs for a great night of music and madness.”

Nominated by Frank Kelly, who wrote: “Good company, camping, guesthouses, quality hotels and an amazing 16th century castle, activities in a pleasant environment, local guides and quality food experience, all great value.”


Nominated by Siobhan Lynch, who wrote: “Valentia is a magical spot to kick back, relax and holiday in. The vibe is laid back, the pace of life gentle, the scenery all year round is amazing. But what can we do there?, I hear you ask. Quite a lot.”


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