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My County-By-County Guide to the Hidden Gems in Ireland

Mourne Mountains

Take the road less travelled and visit some of the hidden gems in Ireland this year. My handy county-by-county guide has attractions, walks, beach and hotel recommendations.

There are countless posts on the top things to do in Ireland, but if you want to escape the crowds, or are looking for some new places to discover in Ireland, this post just might be the answer. I asked on my social media channels what were your favourite hidden gems in Ireland, and I was delighted with your responses – although there was a lot more than I expected!
 
I love hearing about new places to visit in Ireland and I’m sure you do to, especially with staycations looking like the holiday of choice for most of us this summer. As promised, I have compiled a list of your favourite hidden gems in Ireland, along with some of my own favourites, into one long post. 

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I have broken the list down by county, which will hopefully make it easier for you to search through, and I have also included a few hidden gems to stay in each county, in case you wish to plan a trip soon. Some of these hotels or holiday homes contain affiliate links, where I receive a small commission if a booking is made, but at no additional cost to you.

the best beaches in Ireland

Some counties had many more recommendations than others, so I plan to update this post with more recommendations as I receive them. So please comment below if I have left out any of your favourite hidden gems in Ireland, and I will update the post accordingly.
 

 

 
Click on the destination to wish to explore to jump straight to the hidden gems for that county.

 

 

 

Antrim

 

 
 
 
 
 
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At just over 1,200 ft. above sea level, Cave Hill offers the best views of Belfast from its peak. On a clear day you can even see as far as the Isle of Man and Scotland. The hill is also said to be the inspiration for Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels, as its shape resembles the shape of a sleeping giant.

Cave Hill offers the best view of Belfast city
Cave Hill. Belfast

I love the Causeway Coast, and while its not one of the hidden gems in Ireland, there are some stunning places that should not be missed if you are planning a visit. We loved Ballycastle, it is a beach town with some great restaurants, and it is often overlooked for the more well known towns of Portrush or Bushmills. Don’t miss the drive around Fair Head and Murlough Bay, and if you have time, continue along the coast road as far as Larne.

 

 
 
 
 
 
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The Gobbins Cliff Path Walk is an attraction that I was supposed to visit in 2020, but unfortunately I had to cancel my trip due to travel restrictions. Carved from rock, this unique two-mile-long cliff walk has suspension bridges, a staircase, caves and tunnels. Fingers crossed I get to walk it this summer.
 

 

 
Glenariff Forest Park is widely regarded as the most beautiful of the nine Glens of Antrim, the Ess-na-Larach Waterfall is one of many reasons why.  The unique Waterfall Walkway has been significantly upgraded, which passes through a National Nature Reserve. 

Hidden Gems to stay in Antrim – The Coach House or Me & Mrs Jones Hotel
 

 

 

Armagh

The Armagh cider tour is one of Ireland's hidden gems

Did you know Armagh is known as the Orchard County? It is home to over 40,000 acres of orchards, and their treasured Bramley apples are used to make Armagh cider. The Armagh Cider Company‘s ‘Blossom to Bottle’ tour was awarded the prestigious title of Northern Ireland’s Most Authentic Experience of the Year.
 

 

 

Lurgan Park is the second-largest park in Ireland, after Phoenix Park. There are tons of walks, boating adventures and gardens to enjoy. The Slieve Gullion Drive in Armagh / Down is also highly recommended – see more under County Down, below.  

Armagh

The Armagh Obervatory and Planetarium is the place to learn about astronomy. Enjoy guided tours, behind the scenes access and even private night time viewing can be arranged.

You can also learn what it is like to be a celt for a day in the Navan Centre and Fort.

Hidden gem to stay in Armagh – Blackwell House
 

 

 

Carlow

Carlow
Clashganny Lock and Weir

The heritage village of St Mullins is your clear favourite in Carlow. Located on the River Barrow, surrounded by the Blackstairs mountains and Mount Brandon, this area is home to churches, a high cross, round tower and holy well, as well as a Heritage Centre. Clashganny Forest looped walks were also recommended.
 

 

 
Hidden gems can be restaurants too, right? The award-winning Mimosa Bar de Tapas in Carlow town’s cultural quarter receives rave reviews. If you are looking for good food in attractive surroundings, look no further.

Hidden gem to stay Carlow – Lorum Old Rectory , The Pump House
 

 

 

Cavan

WW1 Replica Trench in Cavan - one of Ireland's hidden gems

I learned many things writing this post, and this is up there with the best of them! Did you know that Cavan is now home to the largest outdoor replica WW1 trench open to the public in Ireland and the UK? The Trench includes sound and visual effects to enhance the experience, and to educate visitors on life in the trenches in World War One.  See more here.
 

 

 
The Cavan Burren Park was one of your top recommendations. It is free to enter and has a wonderful interpretative centre and five walking trails, highlighting prehistoric tombs, fantastic geology and special stories throughout this prehistoric park.
 

 

 
Dun A Ri Forest Park is another park I’m looking forward to visiting. It covers 565 acres and is famous for its abundance of flowers and wildlife, as well as the ruins of Fleming’s Castle, a wishing well, dramatic gorge, and four walks under 2km in length.

Hidden gems to stay Cavan – CABU by the lakes or Virginia Park Lodge
 

 

 

Clare

Bridges of Ross, Clare
Bridges of Ross

I had so many messages about visiting the Loop Head Peninsula, and I have to agree, it is one of the hidden gems in Ireland. The Cliffs of Moher are without a doubt Clare’s top attraction, but the Bridges of Ross may surprise you, as will the cliffs at Kilkee, Carrigaholt and Kilbaha, located along the coast road to Loophead.
 

 

 
 Vandeleur Walled Garden in Kilrush is also one of your favourites, as is nearby Scattery Island which is just off the coast. However if you are visiting the Cliffs of Moher, lets face it you probably will if you are in Clare, take the cliff walk from Doolin, and check out Doolin Cave while you are there.

The Derg Isle Adventure Centre offers land and water based activities away from the busy beaches, with direct access to the lake through a series of calm and winding channels which lead onto the mighty expanse of Lough Derg.

Hidden gems to stay in Clare – The Stone House or Hotel Doolin
 

 

 

Cork

Traditional Irish pub in West Cork
Allihies, West Cork

West Cork is one of my favourite parts of Ireland, and while its beauty may have been a well-kept secret for many years, its gorgeous towns and villages are probably no longer considered some of the hidden gems in Ireland. However, for those of you who don’t know – the Beara Peninsula is stunning!
 

 

 
The colourful villages of Allihies and Eyeries are gorgeous, and the principle town Castletownbere is a must visit. Incidentally Allihies is 394kms from Dublin, making it the furthest village in Ireland from the capital. You can take also Ireland’s only cable car to Dursey Island from the Beara Peninsula.
 

 

 
One of my personal hidden gems in Ireland to visit is Skerkin Island. I recall wild camping there many years ago – you can catch the boat from Baltimore harbour. It is a little piece of heaven.

Baltimore, West Cork, one of the hidden gems in Ireland to visit

Other favourites in West Cork are Barleycove beach – one of the best beaches in Ireland, the Seven Heads Walk, and Lough Hyne near Skibbereen – for a swim and for the loop walk that offers stunning views. 

Glenbower Woods in Killeagh, East Cork, is another favourite,  and it seems the Irish Times agree.
 

 

 
The Spike Island tour off the coast in Cobh is actually the number 1 thing to do in Cork according to TripAdvisor, but it is surprising how many of us haven’t visited. 

Similarly I am sure many of you have visited Fota Wildlife Park, but did you know there was a VIP Family Experience tour ? I can highly recommend it, and it is an experience that my children still talk about many years later.

Read: The VIP Family Experience at Fota Wildlife Park

Leahy’s Open Farm near Middleton is a popular choice for families with young children, while Ballyhass Outdoor Adventure Centre is highly recommended with older children – we visited here a few years ago and loved it. Doneraile Park is another firm favourite  – expect gorgeous family friendly walks, and some deer herds to meet you along the way.  

Hidden gems to stay in Cork – Stone Cottage or Luxury Treehouses
 

 

 

Derry

 

 
 
 
 
 
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Did you know that one of Ireland’s longest beaches is in Derry? It’s called Benone beach. It is seven miles long and should definitely be on your list if you are visiting Derry. 

Roe Valley Country Park in Limavady is also one of your favourite hidden gems in Ireland, with many of you commenting on its woodland walks and water activities available on the river, as well as the scenic views from O’Cahan’s Rock. 

Seamus Heaney Homeplace, Derry
Seamus Heaney Homeplace, Derry

The Seamus Heaney Homeplace is without a doubt the place to visit to celebrate the life of one of Ireland’s greatest writers.

Hidden gems to stay in Derry – Number One Barn Lane or Bishops Gate Hotel
 

 

 

Donegal

 

 
 
 
 
 
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I have plans to visit Donegal this summer, but it has been a long time since my last visit, so I had to rely on your recommendations on Donegal’s hidden gems – luckily there are plenty! 

The Inishowen Peninsula is one of your favourites, which is great to hear, as this will hopefully be my home for a week in June. Incidentally this is Ireland’s largest peninsula, and it is home to Ireland’s most northerly point – Malin Head. The Inishowen 100 is a 100 mile scenic drive that is regarded as one of Ireland’s best road trips.
 

 

 
I’m told I have to walk the Wild Alpaca Way – where else can you see these gorgeous animals in such a dramatic setting, walk the Five Fingers Strand, and find the ‘Wee House of Malin’. The Gap of Mamore has also been highly recommended.

 

 
 
 
 
 
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A boat trip to Inishtrahull Island was also recommended, as were many of Inishowen’s beaches – Culdaff and the beaches and Stragill being the most popular. The seaside town of Buncrana is another one of your favourites, and I’m told not to miss the nearby walk to Father Hegarty’s Rock.
 

 

 
Something that caught my eye were the kayaking tours with Eco Atlantic Adventures. There are many different tours to choose from, including sunset tours and a trip to the full-size Ghost Ship in a cave. These certainly deserve a place on this list of Ireland’s hidden gems, as does discovering the hidden caves of the Fanad and Sheephaven Peninsulas.

kayaking in Donegal

Another place that is on my own personal wish list, and I plan to visit this summer is Wild Ireland. This unique wildlife sanctuary is home to many rescued animals, and includes Brown Bears, Wolves, Lynx and Wild Boar.

Ards Forest Park proved a popular choice – with 1200 acres of sand dunes, beaches, lakes and woodlands, there is a huge variety of habitats to discover. 
 

 

 
Donegal’s coastline stretches for 772 miles and is home to 12 Blue Flag beaches, so I think its safe to say that some of the best beaches in Ireland are in Donegal. Murder Hole beach has long been considered one of the hidden gems in Ireland, however it has been discovered by many visitors in recent years. You must hike from Melmore near Downings to find this secret beach, but there may be issues gaining access through private land. I’m told there is new signage forbidding access, so we will just have to watch this space!

 

 
 
 
 
 
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In the south of Donegal Maghera Caves and beach have been recommended, and don’t miss Silver Strand in Malin Beg, although you need to take 200 steps to reach it. 

You can read about these beaches and many more of Donegals best beaches in this post:

Read: The best beaches in Ireland and where to stay nearby.

Where to stay in Donegal – The Oyster House, Harvey’s Point, Lough Mardal Lodge or Port Salon luxury glamping
 

 

 

Down

Slieve Gullion Forest Park, Down

The Slieve Gullion Forest Park  is one of those rare parks that caters well for people of all ages. Kids will love the adventure park, there is an abundance of walking trails, as well as a 10km scenic drive around the slopes of Slieve Gullion. If travelling with kids, don’t miss the Giants Lair Story Trail – this is the most ambitious children’s arts project commissioned in Northern Ireland.
 

 

 
The Silent Valley Mountain Park and reservoir is nestled in between the Mourne uplands, and walkers can expect it to live up to its name. This peaceful walk is the perfect place to escape, and certainly deserves a place on this list of hidden gems in Ireland.

Silent Valley is one of the hidden gems in Ireland
SIlent Valley Mountain Park

The charming beach town of Newcastle offers superb mountain and sea views, and it is a great base to explore the many walking trails of the Mourne Mountains. If you reach the top you could be rewarded with views like this.

Mourne Mountains in Ireland
Mourne Mountains

The short trip across The Narrows on the scenic Strangford Lough Ferry is also recommended, as is the 6km Blue Flag Murlough Beach. 

Hidden gems to stay in Down – The Slieve Donard Hotel & Spa , Beachfront Apartment
 

 

 

Dublin

 

 
 
 
 
 
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As Dublin is my home town, I like to think I have visited most of its hidden gems. However, I am conscious that visitors from other counties, or countries, may not be so lucky. I have already included some of my favourites in a separate post on Dublin walks, but the Howth Cliff Walk, Lough Shinny Cliff Walk and Killiney Hill walk, need to be highlighted here too – they offer some of the best sea view walks in Dublin. 

 

 
 
 
 
 
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One of my favourite daycations in Dublin is along the Grand Canal Walk. We tend to walk as far as Grand Canal Harbour, and then treat ourselves to a delicious rooftop lunch in the Marker Hotel. Street artists are usually on hard to entertain us afterwards.
 

 

 
Poolbeg Lighthouse, Bohernabreena Reservoir, as well as various walks in the Dublin mountains also some of my favourites, but you can read more about my favourite Dublin walks here.

Read: 16 gorgeous walks in Dublin for all fitness levels

 

 
 
 
 
 
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I live in Rathfarnham, so perhaps I am a little biased, but St Enda’s Park is worth a visit, if only to avoid the crowds on a hot day – it really is one of Ireland’s hidden gems, as even some of the locals don’t know about it. It has a river, lake, bridges and a coffee shop – what more could you want? 
 

 

 
The Donabate to Portane Cliff Walk is another popular choice, as is Ardgillan Castle, which is located close by. Red Rock Sutton and Bull Island were also favourites.

 

 
 
 
 
 
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For enthusiastic bikers, check out The Gap Adventure Park in Glencullen. They have a great uplift service, a host of intermediate and advanced bike trails, and you have to reward yourself with one of their amazing burgers at the end! 
 

 

 
Indoor attractions were not recommended as highly by you, perhaps its a sign of the times, but I think it would be remiss of me to not mention Kilamainham Gaol. I know this is not considered a hidden gem to Dubliners, but many visitors to the capital tend to overlook it. It is without a doubt one of the best attractions I have visited in Dublin and I highly recommend the experience. Pop into the War Memorial Gardens afterwards, to complete a wonderful day in the capital.

 

 
 
 
 
 
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Epic, The Irish Immigration Museum is also a must visit in the capital. It was voted as Europe’s leading tourist attraction in 2019 and 2020, yet many Irish people have yet to visit. The Chester Beatty Library, is also recommended by my readers.

A few readers recommended the tour in Dalkey Castle. It is interactive with actors – now this is something I must try too!

Hidden gems to stay in Dublin – The Wilder, The Alex, City Cottage
 

 

 

Fermanagh

 

 
 
 
 
 
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Fermanagh is home to stunning lakelands , so no visit would be complete without trying at least one water activity. Why not hire a hydrobike from Castle Archdale Boat Hire ? At only £15 for an hour, it not only sounds like great fun, but is great value too! 
 

 

 
There is no doubt that the Cuilcagh Mountain or Stairway to Heaven walk, is one of the top things to do in Fermanagh, but it takes approximately six hours to complete it. If that sounds too much like hard work, take a trip to Lough Navar Forest instead. We enjoyed walking through this forest park a few years ago when we stayed in Lough Erne Resort. 

Lough Erne viewpoints

You can also drive through the park, but make sure you visit Magho Viewpoint which offers panoramic views over Lower Lough Erne, Donegal Bay and the Blue Stack and Sperrin Mountains. This is part of the Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark, so it might be a good option to combine a walk with a tour of the caves. 

The Castle Archdale Forest Park was also recommended for walks and wildlife.

Read: Living it up at Lough Erne Resort

Hidden gems to stay in Fermanagh – Lakeside Cottage, Lusty Beg Island 

 

 

 

Galway

 

 
 
 
 
 
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Galway is full of so many of Ireland’s top attractions, that hidden gems might be hard to find… You may already have heard of Dogs Bay, but in case you didn’t, it is arguably one of the best beaches in Ireland
 

 

 
Dogs Bay, together with Gurteen Bay form a tombolo, whose sand is made from fragments of seashells which give it a pure white colour. Inishbofin, Mweenish Island and Ceantar na nOileán should also be visited. You can read more about them and more of Galway’s stunning beaches here:

Read: The best beaches in Ireland and where to stay nearby 
 

 

 
Brigit’s Gardens is considered one of the hidden gems in Ireland by many of my readers. It is set within 11 acres of woodland and wildflower meadows, and is home to a nature trail, ancient ring fort, thatched roundhouse and crannog, as well as the largest calendar sundial in Ireland.

Bridgits Garden is one of the hidden gems in Ireland

Ballycurrin Lighthouse in the shore of Lough Corrib is said to be the only known inland lighthouse of its type in Europe. Aughnanure Castle and Ross Errilly Franciscan Friary were also recommended.

Hidden gems to stay in Galway – Mannin Bay CottageInis Meain Suites, Renvyle House Hotel
 

 

 

Kerry

 

 
 
 
 
 
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Considering my family is from Kerry and I spent every summer there as a child, you would think I should know Kerry’s hidden gems…. However, the fact that the Kingdom is one of our most visited counties, makes the hidden gems a little harder to find. The Maharees is one of the hidden gems in Ireland that I am sure you will love. My family can not believe that I have not yet visited one of their favourite parts of Kerry – I vow to get there soon!
 

 

 
The Maharees is a 5 km long tombolo (sand peninsula) located on the Dingle Peninsula. It is home to some of Kerry’s best beaches, sand dunes and a wide selection of water activities.

Glenteenassig Woods is nearby if you want a break from the beach, and is considered a hidden gem in its own right. With over 450 hectares of woodlands and mountains to explore – if you want to get off the tourist trail in Kerry, this is the place to go.  
 

 

 
Gleninchaquin Forest Park is another one of your favourites. Located near Kenmare, this park has six trails, and many are accessible for all ages and fitness levels. There are also some exhilarating hikes if you fancy a more challenging climb.

 

 
 
 
 
 
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Another recommendation of interest is the tiny coral beach beside Gleesk Pier, outside Sneem. This is one of two Irish coral beaches, which are rare geological gems – the other beach is near Carraroe in Galway. The dried algae is different from the coral that you find in a tropical island, but a nice spot if you like sea shells. The pier is also a popular spot for children, who like to jump into the sea below

Hidden gems stay in Kerry – Seal Rock CottageThe Hideaway at Dromquinna Manor
 

 

 

Kildare

 

 
 
 
 
 
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The Wonderful Barn at Castletown House was one of your favourite hidden gems in Ireland, and it is a place I was unaware of – so thank you for that! 

Donadea Forest Park with its walled gardens, ice house and boathouse was another popular recommendation. Killinthomas Wood has 10km of signposted walks, and the Bog of Allen, Grand Canal Way and Royal Canal Greenway have a wide variety of walking trails.
 

 

 

Check out Firecastle, the newly opened artisan food store, cookery school and guest house in the heart of Kildare town. The McKennas guide recently called it the opening of the year and the place to be.

Where to stay in Kildare – Lodges at Kilkea Castle, Cliff at Lyons , Firecastle Lane
 

 

 

Kilkenny

 

 
 
 
 
 
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We enjoyed a fabulous few days in Kilkenny last summer and I’m sure plenty of Ireland’s hidden gems are located there! If travelling with kids, don’t miss Castlecomer Discovery Park – it is home to Ireland’s longest zip line, and has lots of activities as well as woodland walks for all fitness levels.
 

 

 
Many of you mentioned the River Barrow walk from Goresbridge to Graiguenamanagh, and depending on your fitness levels, you can continue the walk towards St. Mullins in Carlow. Adventure specialists Gowiththeflow.ie offer kayaking and rafting trips along the Barrow, as well as wild camping experiences. 

Inistioge is another one of your favourite hidden gems in Ireland. This historic village on the river Nore is surrounded by beautiful scenery and is home to the recently restored gardens of the Woodstock Estate.  
 

 

 
One of the best things we did in Kilkenny was a falconry experience with Hawkeye Falconry. With a base on the grounds of Lyrath Estate, you can enjoy the experience there, or in many locations throughout Kilkenny.

Read: Top 10 things to do in Kilkenny with kids

Where to stay in Kilkenny – Mount Juliet, Zuni Hotel, Croan Cottages
 

 

 

Laois

 

 
 
 
 
 
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The Rock of Dunamase is the clear winner in Laois. This historic landmark is located outside Portlaoise and although it is Laois’ top attraction, it is surprising how little is known of this fortress – it was once the dowry of the King of Leinster’s daughter in the 12th century. Spectacular views of the surrounding countryside are rewarded from the site.
 

 

 
Emo Court is the place to go to enjoy beautiful gardens and woodlands. The gardens are open all year and there is a guided tour of the house available from late March to October. 

Hidden gems stay in Laois – Ballintubbert HouseGlamping under the Stars
 

 

 

Leitrim

 

 
 
 
 
 
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Lovely Leitrim is home to over ten lakes, the famous Glencar waterfall, the River Shannon and also a part of the Wild Atlantic Way. There are tons of water based activities available, but don’t forget about its lush forests and walking trails too!

Ballinaglera is situated along the shore of Lough Allen and was recommended for the many scenic walks in the area. 
 

 

 
Eagles Rock is Ireland’s highest free-standing tower and reminds me of Signal Hill in Cape Town. It is not possible to climb to the top, (very few have succeeded), but the view from below is dramatic, and there are walking trails around it. 

Where to stay in Leitrim – Ard Nahoo Eco Cabins , Lough Rynn Castle
 

 

 

Limerick

Ballyhoura bike trails in Limerick

Despite being one of the gateways to the Wild Atlantic Way, Limerick often plays second fiddle to its neighbours. Luckily for visitors this means lower hotel prices, more availability in peak season, and less crowds!

Ballyhoura country is renowned as Ireland’s top mountain biking destination – it is home to over 90km of world-class purpose built trails, it is also great for hill walking and hiking.
 

 

 
Lough Gur is home to one of Ireland’s most important archaeological sites, as well as a unique crannog-shaped heritage site and a horseshoe lake.

 

 
 
 
 
 
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Griston Bog boardwalk trail in Ballylanders has a delightful loop walk with an abundance of interesting flora and fauna. Curragh Chase Forest Park  and Clare Glens are also recommended. 

Hidden gems to stay in Limerick – No 1 Pery Square Hotel & Spa or The Mustard Seed
 

 

 

Longford

 

 
 
 
 
 
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Inchcleraun Monastic Site, also known as Quaker Island, is a place I hadn’t heard of, but now I need to know more! It is located in Lough Ree, and there are a number of ecclesiastic sites on the island. It is only accessible by private boat or kayak, making it an ideal selection on this list of hidden gems in Ireland.
 

 

 
Corlea Bog has three walking trails that take in the natural bogland, flora and fauna of the area. You can connect to the Royal Canal by adding a further 1.5km walk to the trail.

Where to stay in Longford – Viewmount House
 

 

 

Louth

The Boyne Camino - one of the hidden gems in Ireland

Did you know we have our very own Camino in Co. Louth? The self-guided Boyne Valley Camino is a 25km looped walk that is officially recognised, and can be included in the 100km required to receive an official Compostela Pilgrims Certificate. You can download the Boyne Valley Camino Map & Guide here. 

There are many shorter walks and hikes to enjoy along the Cooley Peninsula, see more here.

Read: 5 Family activity breaks less than an hour from Dublin

Hidden gems to stay in Louth – Ghan House

 

 

 

Mayo

 

 
 
 
 
 
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I enjoyed a wonderful few days in Mayo last summer, and was blown away by how much the county has to offer. Did you know that Great Western Greenway is located here, a 42km trail where you can cycle from Westport to Achill? Ireland’s best beach, according to Lonely Planet, Keem Bay, is also in Mayo. Unfortunately these are no longer considered some of the hidden gems in Ireland, but don’t let that deter you from visiting – just go early in the morning to avoid the crowds! 
 

 

 
There are many other beaches and attractions in Mayo that should be less crowded, the stunning Silver Strand beach near Louisburgh being one of them. 

 

 
 
 
 
 
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Read: 3 Beaches in Mayo you have to visit

We didn’t get the opportunity to visit Claggan Island. It is a tidal island that can only be reached by walking along low tide. I’m told if you are there at the right time, it is spectacular.
 

 

 
The Erris or Belmullet Peninsula is considered one of Mayo’s best kept secrets. The coastline is lined with dramatic sea cliffs, white sandy beaches and acres of mountains and bog. Glosh beach is another one of your hidden gem recommendations and it is located here.

The Erris Loophead walk is a 5k walk that is ideal for all fitness levels, and the Ballycroy National Park has an abundance of hiking trails to choose from. It is also home to Ireland’s first International Dark Sky Park.
 

 

 
We drove from from Louisburgh through Doo Lough Valley to Connemara last summer and I thought it was one of the most beautiful drives in Ireland. The mountainous landscape is breathtaking, as are the the two lakes that you pass by in the valley. It is without a doubt one of the hidden gems in Ireland.

Doo Lough Valley drive is one of the hidden gems in Ireland

Carrowteige Loop walk is another one of your recommendations, as is the boat trip to Clare Island. And don’t miss Downpatrick Head, although not exactly a hidden gem, I was surprised when I visited Mayo how few people knew about it. 

Read: Top 10 things to do in Mayo
 
Hidden gems to stay in Mayo – The Hideaway at Ashford Castle , Belmullet luxury pods, Clare Island Lighthouse
 

 

 

Meath

Water activities in one of the hidden gems in Ireland, the Boyne Valley

Meath is home to some of Ireland’s top attractions, including Bru na Boinne and Tayto Park, but it is also home to many of Ireland’s hidden gems. The Ramparts Walk was one of the most popular recommendations, and Trim Castle Walk and Girley Bog were also popular choices for walkers.
 

 

 
The Boyne Blueway has over 35km of rivers to explore. You can enjoy rafting trips or family kayaking, passing through medieval abbeys, castles and bell-towers. Boyne Valley Activities have a wide range of guided and self-guided activities available.
 

 

 
If you fancy a bigger boat, Boyne Boats will share stories about the Battle of the Boyne in a traditional Irish currach – the same boats that were used in Game of Thrones series.

5 Family activity breaks less than an hour from Dublin

Hidden gems to stay in Meath – The Cottages, Rock Farm Slane , The Old Rectory
 

 

 

Monaghan:

 

 
 
 
 
 
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Monaghan really surprised me when I visited a few years ago. We stayed in Castle Leslie Estate and loved it. And while Castle Leslie is clearly not one of Ireland’s hidden gems, the village where it is located surely is. The pretty little village of Glaslough is a regular tidy town winner and is bursting with character. Make sure to stop in Ambledown Cottage for a bite to eat. 

Read: Captivated by Castle Leslie
 

 

 
Lough Muckno was another favourite spot of mine. There are plenty of water activities available including kayaking, SUP and sailing, as well as the 2km Black Island walk which is ideal for all fitness levels, including young children. 

 

 
 
 
 
 
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The wild and untouched Sliabh Beagh Way offers a choice of walking routes for all fitness levels, yet is surprisingly undiscovered. The walks range from 6-10km in length, and you will find some of the finest examples of blanket bog in Ireland.  
 

 

 
The Patrick Kavanagh Centre and Trail opened in July 2020 and has already scooped a European Cultural Heritage Award! There is a 6km trail here too which takes in the landscape and landmarks that shaped one of Ireland’s most celebrated poets.  

Patick Kavanagh trail, Monaghan is considered on of the hidden gems in Ireland

Rossmore Forest Park is the second most-popular park in the country, according to Coillte, so this may not be a hidden gem for locals! However visitors will love its extensive playground, giant redwoods, fabulous flower displays, as well as the enormous sculptures made by Game of Thrones set designer, Marc Kelly.

Hidden gems to stay in Monaghan – Killyliss Country House

 

Offaly

adventure holidays in Ireland - skydiving

Did you know you can skydive in Offaly? Skydive.ie are a non-profit organisation that offer training from beginner level to advanced. You can go solo or take a tandem dive – prices from €199.

Read: The best adventure holidays in Ireland
 

 

 
The gardens at Birr Castle have been recommended to me many times, and they were your top recommendation this time too. However, Lough Boora is more of a hidden gem, and was also highly recommended for its family friendly amenities including fairy trails and sculptures.

Lough Boora in Roscommon is considered one of the hidden gems in Ireland
Lough Boora

The Slieve Bloom Mountains are packed with numerous walking, hiking and biking trails for you to explore, and the Tullamore Dew Distillery offers immersive whiskey tours.

Hidden gems to stay in Offaly – Traditional cottage
 

 

 

Roscommon

Sliabh Bawn Trim Trail, Roscommon is one of the hidden gems in Ireland

The Sliabh Bawn Trail is highly recommended by my readers. There are six looped walks, including an equestrian trail and a trail for fitness. The viewing platform at the top offers stunning sea views. The peaceful walks and bathing areas along Lough Errit were another favourite.
 

 

 
Rindoon is an abandoned medieval village, that was completely destroyed in the 14th century. With a town wall, castle, medieval hospital and more, it is one of the most important medieval town sites in Ireland. A looped walk has been constructed which adds to its charm. 

Hidden gems to stay in Roscommon – Kilronan Castle Hotel & Spa, The Hideaway
 

 

 

Sligo

 

 
 
 
 
 
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Sligo is home to some of Ireland’s best beaches, but if you are looking for something off the beaten track, check out Cliffoney beach. There are some strong currents here so it is not recommended for swimming, but if you want a nice quiet walk along the beach, with views of the fairytale-like Classiebawn Castle in the distance, it is perfect!

 

 
 
 
 
 
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For walkers, the trails at Knocknarea are the most well known, but I’m told the Union Rock Walk in Union Woods is spectacular on a clear day. The Lough Talt and Slishwood walks were recommended on numerous occasions, and the Gleniff Horseshoe Drive was also a popular choice.
 
The Tobernalt Holy Well is a nice place to reflect and relax.

Hidden gems to stay in Sligo – The Lighthouse or Markree Castle
 

 

 

Tipperary

 

 
 
 
 
 
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I was fortunate to visit Tipperary recently and was surprised at how much it had to offer. In fact I recall passing through the towns of Cahir and Nenagh for years but never spending any time there.  

Cahir is a delightful town. Located on the banks of the River Suir, with colourful streets, and home to the medieval Cahir Castle,  it is also the starting point for the Suir Blueway, which has 56km of walking trails, 53km of paddling experiences and a 21km cycle route.
 

 

 
We visited Cahir castle and took the leisurely 2km walk to Swiss Cottage, a beautifully restored cottage, designed by the famous architect John Nash (of Buckingham Palace fame) – this is certainly one of the hidden gems in Ireland to visit.

 

 
 
 
 
 
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It was no surprise that the Vee drive between the Tipperary and Waterford border is one of your top recommendations – I drove this myself and it is stunning! 

Read: Top things to do in the Munster Vales

 

 
 
 
 
 
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Some of your other recommendations that I have yet to visit include Dromineer on the shores of Lough Derg, and Ballina/ Killaloe – where a bridge separates these two towns, which are in Tipperary & Clare respectively. 
 

 

 
There are also many hiking trails recommended. The 5km Devils Bit Loop, Slievenamon, and the Glen of Aherlow are your favourites, while one of Tipperary’s highest peaks Keeper Hill is more suitable for avid climbers.

There are numerous trails around Silvermines, Kilcommon, Templederry, Portroe, Rearcross and Killoscully, all close to Lough Derg and suitable for all walking abilities.

Where to stay in Tipperary – Golden Vale Cottage , Cashel Palace Hotel ( opening August 2021)
 

 

 

Tyrone

Todds Leap Adventure Centre, Tyrone

The Sperrin Mountains are a paradise for walkers, mountain bikers and even stargazers. Spanning 40 miles, they are the largest mountain range in Ireland with 10 summits above 500m. Add in over 90 sets of stone circles and wonderful wildlife, and you’ve got a walkers paradise.
 

 

 
Todd’s Leap outdoor adventure centre is the place to enjoy off road trekking, clay pigeon shooting and lots more. Mountain bikers will love Blessingbourne Mountain Bike Trails, where they have loads of trails for bikers of all ages and abilities.

Read: The best adventure holidays in Ireland

Hidden gem to stay in Tyrone – 5-Star Gate Lodge on Blessingbourne Estate 
 

 

 

Waterford

 

 
 
 
 
 
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The Waterford Greenway may get a lot of attention (and rightly so), but Waterford’s cliff walks should not be overlooked. Many of you recommended the Ardmore cliff walk, where there are seven beaches within a three-mile radius – Goat Island being one of your favourite hidden gems in Ireland.
 

 

 
I can personally recommend the Bunmahon cliff walk, and the Copper Coast overall. It stretches along the coast from Dungarvan to Tramore with stunning seascapes and beautiful beaches. It is also home to the Copper Coast Geopark, where you can book seaweed foraging trips, sand art workshops and lots more.
 

 

 
There are many walking trails to choose from, the Lough Mohra and Glenpatrick Woods Loop walks have both been called “hidden gems in The Comeragh Mountains” while the more well known hike to Coumshingaun Lake is more challenging, but you will be rewarded by stunning views from one of Ireland’s best Instagram locations.

 

 
 
 
 
 
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St Declan’s Way Walk from Ardmore in Waterford to Cashel in Tipperary was also recommended, although it is 96km long!  

Hidden gems to stay in Waterford – The Cliff Cottage  or Nire Valley Eco Camp 
 

 

 

Westmeath

 

 
 
 
 
 
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Step back 1,200 years and cruise the Shannon on a replica Viking Ship with Viking Tours Ireland. Voyage to the monastic settlement and round tower of Clonmacnoise and hear stories about Viking escapades and the battles that took place on these very waters. You can even dress up for the occasion! 
 

 

 
Westmeath is also home to Ireland oldest distillery at Kilbeggan. Take the tour to see how whiskey is made, and how it has evolved through the years. 

Hidden gem to stay in Westmeath – Glasson Lakehouse or Shannon Princess Barge
 

 

 

Wexford

 

 
 
 
 
 
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With 275km of coastline, beaches are without a doubt some of Wexford’s top attractions. However, Wexford is home to some of the hidden gems in Ireland too. If you haven’t visited the Irish National Heritage Park – make sure you put it on your list.

Seeing 9,000 years of Irish history in one place was remarkable. You can opt for audio or self guided walks, but I recommend taking the guided tour, your kids will love it too. 

Read: 5 things to do in Wexford with kids
 

 

 
Did you know Ireland’s only Seal Rescue centre is located in Courtown? It rehabilitates over 120 seals a year and returns them to the wild. It is a charity organisation and free tours are available from 10am to 5pm every day.
 

 

 
The Hook Head Peninsula offers much more than Hook Lighthouse. Booley Bay and Dollar Bay beaches are some of Ireland’s hidden gems and the new coastal walk from Arthurstown to Duncannon in Wexford has also been recommended. The Irish Experience offers a variety of experiences including sea cave kayaking from Fethard-On-Sea.

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
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Wells House & Gardens is a place that is on my own wish list. I have heard it recommended many times and although it is not exactly a hidden gem, it was mentioned by my readers on numerous occasions. It was voted the number one family day out by the Irish Hospitality Awards, and has over 450 acres of woodlands and gardens to explore. Children will love the fairy and gruffalo walks, animal farm and playground.
 

 

 
Carnsore Point, Ireland’s southern limit point of the Irish Sea, and Forth Mountain are also recommended.

Hidden gems to stay in Wexford – The Dunes Thatched Cottage, Bellfry at Old Boley
 

 

 

Wicklow

 

 
 
 
 
 
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Wicklow is full of gorgeous walks, but the Bray Head and the Bray to Greystones cliff walks have to be up there with the best of them. You can choose to walk one way (7km) , and take the DART back to your car if the loop is too long for you.
 

 

 
Lough Dan and Lough Tay – otherwise known as the Guinness lake, are another favourites of mine, as is climbing the Sugar Loaf.

 

 
 
 
 
 
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Glendalough is clearly not one of Ireland’s hidden gems, but I wonder have you walked all the trails? The Spinc Walk has always been a firm favourite, but we walked the easy 5km Miners Road Walk last summer and loved it – it is an ideal family friendly walk.

 

 

 
You can’t beat the Greenan Maze slogan – ‘it is a hidden gem worth finding’- I guess that speaks for itself!

Killruddery Estate was also highly recommended, but I was interested to learn about nearby Belmont Demesne, and its 15km of bike trails – you can bring your own bikes or hire their own fat-bikes.  

Hidden gems to stay in Wicklow – Swallow Cottage, Brooklodge
 

 

 
I hope this post on hidden gems in Ireland will help you get off the beaten track and explore some more of our great country. It is important to note that some of the facilities / activities listed may not be operating to full capacity and are subject to change.
 

 

 
Some of the hotels and holiday homes were searched on third-party websites. so when you make a booking you do so via the supplier listed. I may receive a small commission if a booking is made, but at no additional cost to you. Read more in my privacy policy.

 

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The best beaches in Ireland and places to stay nearby

 

Sarah

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