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21 Most Spectacular Hidden Gems in Ireland

21 Most Spectacular Hidden Gems in Ireland

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Planning a trip to Ireland and want to explore the country beyond the famous attractions? Keep scrolling for my list of the best hidden gems in Ireland worth adding to your itinerary!
This list of the best hidden gems in Ireland was written by family travel expert Marcie Cheung and contains affiliate links which means if you purchase something from one of my affiliate links, I may earn a small commission that goes back into maintaining this blog.

Ireland is a fantastic place for a road trip! It’s a fairly small country, so you can see and do lots of things in just one week. 

But there’s a well-worn tourist route around Ireland. Most travelers arrive in Ireland’s capital city of Dublin and check off Galway, the Ring of Kerry, and the Giant’s Causeway.

These are all beautiful, exciting places to see on the Emerald Isle! But there are lots of hidden gems in Ireland to visit too.

We’re talking remote islands, haunted ruins, cinematic locations, and so much more.

Here are just some of the best Ireland off-the-beaten-path destinations for your itinerary to make your road trip that extra bit special. 

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21 Most Spectacular Hidden Gems in Ireland

The Gobbins Cliff Walk in Northern Ireland

Hike along bridges and walkways built on the rocky County Antrim coastline to get up close and personal to the bird colonies and sea life teeming in the waters. 

The Gobbins Headland – is a popular tourist attraction along the rugged and breathtakingly beautiful North Antrim Coast of Islandmagee.
You’ll love the views from the Gobbins Cliff Walk.

You’ll have to don hard hats and walk along the cliff for 3 miles/5 km! But the views from one of the best, hidden gems in Northern Ireland are dramatic and unique.

Kinsale’s Culinary Scene in County Cork

One of the top Ireland hidden gems has to be its culinary offerings. Very few people visit Ireland for the food.

Image of Street with bright colored houses  in Kinsale, Ireland
Head to the colorful town of Kinsale for some amazing food options!

Head to the small town of Kinsale on the south coast and you’ll find several world-class chefs behind eight Michelin-starred restaurants. Bear in mind this is a small town with approximately 6,000 residents!

Book a table at Bastion, Saint Francis Provisions, or Fishy Fishy and you won’t be disappointed.

Achill Island in County Mayo

While the Aran Islands are a popular attraction, one of the more unusual places to stay in Ireland is Achill Island.

Image of Keem Beach in Achill Island in Ireland
Keem Beach is one of the many things to see on Achill Island.

It’s the country’s largest island and even accessible by road. It was one of the main filming locations in The Banshees of Inisherin, so visit quickly before it becomes popular!

Malin Head in County Donegal

This is one of the top hidden gems in Ireland because so few travel this far north. In fact, Malin Head is the most northerly point on the whole island of Ireland.

Enjoy views across the Atlantic Ocean and the rocky coastline.

Whitepark Bay Beach in Northern Ireland

This is a beautiful crescent-shaped, white sand beach. But that’s not what makes Whitepark Bay Beach a hidden gem.

White Park Bay (also spelled Whitepark Bay) has three-mile long beach near Ballycastle, County Antrim on the north coast of Northern Ireland. Sheep and cattle graze the hills and beach along the bay, which has been under the care of the National Trust for Places of Historic Interest and Natural Beauty since 1938
But the beach is pretty nice, too!

For most of the year, dozens of cows from a local farm can be found relaxing on the beach and eating the seaweed. If you’ve never seen a cow on a beach before, now’s your chance!

The Wonderful Barn in County Kildare 

Looking like something out of a fairytale, The Wonderful Barn is an 18th-century, corkscrew-shaped tower around 20 km/12 miles from Dublin.

Image of Wonderful Barn - round tower in Ireland.
It’s worth going off the beaten path to see this!

It truly is off the beaten path in Ireland as you’ll need to park before the gate to avoid getting locked in by local farmers. Don’t worry, there are lots of accessible walking paths and you can visit the barn up close.

Drombeg Stone Circle in County Cork

Secret Ireland is filled with ancient stone circles dating back thousands of years. Drombeg Stone Circle on the south coast is one of the best-preserved ones to visit.

Image of Drombeg Stone Circle in West Cork, Ireland
Drombeg Stone Circle in West Cork, Ireland.

Also known as The Druid’s Altar, this stone circle dates back to the Bronze Age or Early Iron Age. It consists of 13 surviving stones. One of the likely reasons why people like visiting this stone circle is because of the prehistoric phallic markings on one of the stones!

The Hungry Tree in County Dublin

You might think there are no hidden gems in Dublin, Ireland left since it’s such a popular city to visit. 

Image of Hungry tree in King's inn Park. Dublin .Ireland .
Don’t miss the Hungry Tree in King’s Inns Park.

Head to King’s Inns Park and you’ll find an 80-year-old London plane tree at the southern end. This tree has grown so large, that it’s ‘consumed’ the back of the bench sitting in front of it! 

It’s a fun photo op for your next trip to Ireland’s capital.

Keshcorran Caves in County Sligo

Most caves are dark, subterranean places but not these hidden gems of Ireland. Walk through Keshcorran Caves and you’ll be treated to huge windows at the end of your path with views overlooking the Sligo countryside. 

These caves are free and open 24/7. The walk up to the caves is through a sheep field so pack your hiking boots.

Bunbeg Beach Shipwreck in County Donegal

Visit the Bunbeg Beach Shipwreck sooner rather than later. There are concerns from the local community that it won’t hold out much longer!

Image of Old ship wreck called Bad Eddie.  This was taken at low tide at sunset in Donegal Ireland
Bad Eddie’s Boat is a pretty cool shipwreck in Ireland.

The wooden Cara Na Mara ship (also known as Bad Eddie’s Boat) ran aground on Bunbeg Beach in 1977. She’s been lying there ever since and you can get up close when the tide is out.

Down Cathedral in Northern Ireland

Only dating back to 1818 (young by Ireland’s standards!), Down Cathedral is a pretty nondescript church. However, there’s a pretty famous person’s grave supposedly on the grounds of the cathedral.

Image of Down Cathedral at the site of Saint Patrick grave site
Look for the white Celtic cross.

None other than St. Patrick, Ireland’s patron saint, is believed to be buried here. You can visit the exact spot as it’s marked by a white Celtic cross. There’s also a visitor center nearby so you can learn all about his life.

The Hell Fire Club in County Dublin

Not quite as scary as it sounds, The Hell Fire Club is the local name of a ruined building that sits on top of Montpelier Hill. It was an old hunting lodge bought in 1735 by Richard Parsons who was known for dealing in black magic.

Night scene with blue sky and moon at Montpelier Hill, known as Hell Fire Club with view at old, ruined and abandoned building, Dublin, Ireland
Brave souls can visit at night.

All sorts of stories about the goings on of this club have been told over the years. Even the devil himself supposedly made an appearance! 

Today, you can follow a hiking path to the lodge to enjoy the views over County Dublin. Maybe visit during the day…

Glenveagh National Park in County Donegal

Ireland has six incredible national parks. While Killarney and the Wicklow Mountains get a lot of attention, Glenveagh is still a hidden gem.

Aerial view of the Glenveagh National Park with castle Castle and Loch in the background - County Donegal, Ireland.
Glenveagh has lots of cool hikes.

Its lush forests filled with deer are just one reason to visit. The 19th-century Glenveagh Castle on Lough Beagh and the picturesque hike to Astelleen Burn Waterfall are two more!

Bective Abbey in County Meath

One of the best-preserved abbeys in Ireland, Bective Abbey dates back to the 13th century. It’s a miracle that some of the narrow tower staircases and cloister hallways are still intact.

Ruins of old, 12th century Bective Abbey, large green trees and grazing cattle on green field. Dramatic sky at sunset. Count Meath, Ireland
Be sure to check out Bective Abbey.

It was a Cistercian abbey built by the King of Meath and it even featured in the movie Braveheart.

The Quiet Man Museum in County Mayo

Speaking of movies, one of the most famous films ever shot on the Emerald Isle was John Ford’s The Quiet Man starring John Wayne. Many of the filming locations still exist over 70 years later, and its popularity means there’s even a museum dedicated to the movie.

It’s filled with memorabilia and behind-the-scenes photographs. The museum is open during the warmer months and you can even join a daily walking tour!

The Wormhole on Inishmore in County Galway

Inishmore is the largest of the Aran Islands and it’s home to a small water hole that the locals call Poll na bPéist or the Serpent’s Lair.

The famous "Wormhole" in Inishmore, Aran Islands, ireland
How cool is this Ireland hidden gem?!

Although the smooth, rectangular shape of this pool by the coastline looks manmade, it’s totally natural! Unfortunately, it’s far too dangerous to swim in but it is cool to look at.

Derreen Woods in County Roscommon

Located deep within one of the lesser-visited counties in Ireland, Derreen Woods might look like any other forest in Ireland for most of the year.

Pay a visit to Derreen in late April or early May and you’ll know why it is a hidden gem of Ireland. It has such a large blanket of bluebells across the entire forest floor. These flowers attract bees and butterflies and it’s a beautiful springtime scene. 

The Bull Rock in County Cork

Located off the coast of Dursey Island on the southwestern tip of Ireland, Bull Rock is one of the lesser-known attractions only because it takes a lot of effort to visit. You need to take the cable car to the island and then a 90-minute sail with Dursey Boat Trips to get close.

Image of a blue cable car on Dursey Island in Ireland
You’ll need to take this cute cable car to get there.

This 305 ft/93 m-tall rock in the middle of the sea has a narrow tunnel at the bottom known as the ‘entrance to the underworld.’ Sitting on top of this rock is an 1889 lighthouse which seems like it would have been impossible to build.

Largy Waterfall in County Donegal

This waterfall in Largy is often called the Secret Waterfall, so you know it’s one of the true hidden gems in Ireland!

This 50-ft cascading waterfall is secret because it flows into a secluded cave. Surrounded by smooth pebbled and moss-covered cave walls, it looks like something out of The Lord of the Rings!

Black Head Lighthouse in County Clare

Between the city of Galway and the small town of Doolin, stop off at the Black Head Lighthouse. While the structure itself might look unimpressive (it’s possibly the shortest lighthouse you’ve ever seen), its landscape is not.

Image of Black Head Lighthouse
It’s a fairly tiny lighthouse.

This lighthouse is completely surrounded by rocky limestone mountains that look out of this world. They form part of the Burren National Park and this grey rock stretches as far as the eye can see.

Ballycarbery Castle in County Kerry

Ireland has lots of castles – thousands! – but Ballycarbery Castle is a real hidden gem. It’s a ruined 16th-century castle which means it’s free to visit, 24/7.

Ballycarbery Castle is a castle 3 miles from Cahersiveen, County Kerry, Ireland.
Don’t miss this free castle!

This vine-covered castle is located just off the Ring of Kerry scenic route on top of a hill by the coast. It offers an incredible panorama of the coastline across the narrow inlet that you just cannot beat.

Hidden Gems in Ireland FAQs

Where is the most magical place in Ireland?

There are so many magical places in Ireland! Some hidden places in Ireland to visit that will make you believe in magic are the Drombeg Stone Circle in County Cork, The Hell Fire Club in County Dublin, and Achill Island.

Some more popular magical places in Ireland are Glendalough in County Wicklow, the Hill of Tara, and Newgrange in County Meath.

Where is the least touristy part of Ireland?

Since Ireland is an island, the most-touristed parts of the country are close to its scenic, wild coastline. Some of the least-touristed parts of the country are inland, like County Cavan, County Laois, and Offaly.

What is one thing not to miss in Ireland?

Can I give you two things not to miss in Ireland? 

One thing not to miss in Ireland is the traditional folk music. It’s not difficult to find local musicians playing a session in any pub across the country.

The second thing not to miss in Ireland is the countryside. Even in a city, you’re never far from a coastal walk or a lush, green hillside stroll. Make the most of the fresh, Irish air while you can!

Hidden Gems in Ireland Wrap-Up

There are many, many more hidden gems in Ireland than you might think!

Despite the country’s popularity with tourists, there’s always a waterfall, stone circle, or cave that you can experience away from crowds.

From County Donegal to County Cork, there are countless hidden gems Ireland has to offer if you make the time to find them!

Looking for more Ireland travel resources? Check out 12 Best Day Trips From Dublin by Train, Ireland in Summer: Tips  + Things to Do, How To Plan a Trip to Ireland: Step-by-Step Guide, 19 Best Things To Do in Wicklow for Families Visiting Ireland, 13 Important Ireland Travel Tips for First-Timers, Insider’s List of Things to Do in Cork with Kids, Ireland or Scotland: Which is Better for Families?, and 10 Best Dublin Hotels for Families Worth Booking!

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