The best hidden gems of Ireland you may not have thought to visit
Ireland is one of the most beautiful places to visit, whether there is rain or sunshine there is an abundance of sights to see. Any visitor to our shores will always have an itinerary of places they want to pay a visit which is a fantastic idea but they are usually all the big well-known attractions. So keeping that in mind we have decided to take a look at some of the hidden gems that a lot of people overlook when choosing what they want to see. There might even be a few places our very own residents won’t recognize.
This is certainly one of the best things to come from the fact that it rains so much in Ireland. Located between the beautiful towns of Killarney and Kenmare, this waterfall is surrounded by scenic woodland views within the well-known Ring of Kerry route. The views from below are breathtaking after a heavy downpour which sees the water gushing from the Owengariff River leading into ‘The Devil’s Punchbowl’ located in the nearby Mountains of East Kerry, also known as the Mangerton Mountain range. There are also steps for visitors to climb and get an even closer look, but make sure to bring a rain jacket.
This vast region in the south west of Ireland is located in both the counties of Cork and Kerry. This untouched part of Ireland is filled with an abundance of views. Much like the Ring of Kerry this is a fantastic driving route with winding roads and picturesque scenery. There are many sights to behold within this vast region which will take up most of your weekend if you want to experience everything. From Healy Pass Road to Bere Island and everything in between there is beauty at every turn. For those feeling a bit daring why not try and cycle the 86 mile (138km) Beara Way route.
This beautiful lake is located on side of Knockaunabulloga and is close to the highest point of the Knockmealdown Mountain range. This is a hiker and cyclists dream as the journey to the lake is filled with breath-taking views. Visitors will be able to enjoy the sights of The Vee, The Sugar Loaf Mountain range and Gortacullen Wood to name just a few. The best time to visit this area is during the summer months when the flowers around Baylough are in full bloom and provide a fantastic purple haze provided by the rhododendron flowers that inhabit the region. Don’t worry about all the difficult place names, your smartphone will help you out.
This is one of the more mysterious sites on the list. Located near the town of Ardee in County Louth, this site is home to a church ruin which has gone down in local folklore. The story goes that the main gable of this once functioning church jumped inward three feet from its foundation. There are differing accounts as to why this happened which have left this mystery unsolved still to this day. One tells the tale of a great storm that lifted the wall and placed it where it stands today. The second even more peculiar story involves the burial of an excommunicated man on the site of the church and that the wall moved itself to avoid having this individual buried inside its walls. There is a plaque placed on the wall which reads, “This wall by its pitch, tilt and position can be seen to have moved three feet from its foundation.” The wall stands at 19 feet high, 15 feet wide and three feet thick.
This fantastic feat of engineering and design is the brainchild of famed American artist and sculptor, James Turrell. Also known as the ‘Crater’, this beautiful garden allows visitors to take in all the wonders of the sky over Ireland without any impediments or distractions. Located within the grounds of Liss Ard Estate, this major land sculptor was completed in 1992 after being commissioned by the owner of the estate at the time, Veith Turske, a German art dealer. Turrell recommends that you should visit the sight in small groups with two people being the most ideal number. Visitors can lay down on the ‘Vault Purchase’ (stone plinth) which was designed to allow people the perfect position to take in the views of this unique experience.
This might be the perfect site for all the visitors who want to take a walk on the wild side while visiting Ireland. Immersed in the beautiful surroundings of Carrick-a-Rede, this rope bridge was first erected by salmon fishermen in 1755. Now it has taken a different role becoming somewhat of a challenge for those who visit. The bridge stands above a 75 feet deep (23 meters) chasm and gives views of the surrounding areas as you make your way across. The area is home to some unique wildlife like fulmars, kittywakes, guillemots and razorbills which makes it an ideal place to visit for any staunch wildlife enthusiast. Just make sure you know that if you go over the bridge the only way back is on the bridge again.
This limestone cave has been open to the public since the 1960’s and has been the site of archaeological expeditions since the 1800’s. This cave has a vast amount of passages and caverns that take up around 984 feet (300 meters) in length while you explore this underground wonder during a guided tour. The cave is home to some fantastic calcite formations that will dwarf the tallest of individuals. It is also said to be home to a major Viking battle in 928 CE which saw around 1,000 casualties and archaeologists have confirmed that there was Viking activity within the cave.
This is home to arguably some of the most significant events and major former Irish leaders in the history of Ireland. Kilmainham Gaol (Jail) first opened its doors to prisoners in 1796 before closing in 1924 and is synonymous with famous rebellion leaders like Robert Emmet, Charles Stewart Parnell, Pádraig Pearse and former President of Ireland Eamonn de Valera. After the 1916 Easter Rising the Irish leaders of the rebellion were sent to Kilmainham Gaol (Jail) where they were secretly tried, found guilty and sentenced to death by firing squad in the courtyard. In the 1960’s the prison began to be restored before allowing it to be open to the general public. It is a site steeped in Irish history and is a must see for both foreign visitors and the people of Ireland. A guided tour will allow you to get a sense of what it was like to be a prisoner there and see what conditions they had to endure.
Dunluce Castle is one of the oldest standing landmarks of its kind in Ireland. Since being built in the 1500’s this castle has had a turbulent time being seized by different families. There are many tales associated with this castle with one being that the kitchen fell into the sea during a violent storm taking the lives of seven cooks. In modern times it has become associated with the HBO series Game of Thrones as the House of Greyjoy on the Iron Islands. With tremendous views in its immediate surroundings this is a must see.
Kylemore Abbey is a world renowned boarding school situated in the beautiful backdrop of Connemara. It was first built in the late 1800’s by a wealthy businessman and politician named Mitchell Henry MP. His idea was to build an estate which would boast ‘all the innovations of the modern age’. In the 1920’s it became the home of Benedictine nuns who came here from Ypres, Belgium after their abbey was destroyed during World War 1. While it is still home to these Benedictine nun’s, tours are available to take in the wonderful views of the grounds.
O’Shea’s Irish Pub, County Kerry, Ireland
For all the Guinness lovers in the audience this is the hidden gem for you. In a Guinness advert in the mid-2000’s this little Irish pub played a significant part. Located near the Ring of Kerry in a corner of Valentia Island stands O’Shea’s Pub. The idea for the ad was to show that Guinness technicians will go above and beyond to make sure that the quality of Guinness in every pub is met with the same degree of care. The ad shows a Guinness technician driving around the Irish countryside to the tune of ‘Do you know the way to San Jose’. When he gets to O’Shea’s Pub he makes sure everything is in order and asks the barman does he know the way to San Jose, which the bartender replies, “Sure that’s the back of beyond.” Then the camera pulls out to show that pub is in the middle of nowhere. The only thing about this pub is it isn’t a pub at all. It was thought up by Guinness specifically for this advert but that hasn’t stopped people from visiting this pub and getting a picture with the ads slogan, “Next Pint, New York”. Unfortunately, you will need to bring your own pint.
If you have any suggestions for some hidden gems that people should visit in Ireland then let us know below.
* Originally published in 2017.