When people travel thousands of miles to Ireland it is natural to want to check out the big cities such as Dublin and Belfast. However, there are countess hidden gems in Ireland to delight those who venture off the beaten track.
We asked Ireland Calling readers to tell us about some of the unexpected treasures they had stumbled across on their travels… the kind of places that make a holiday extra special and linger in the mind long after memories of more famous attractions have faded.
We were amazed at the response. You told us about places even we hadn’t heard about… and each one of offering something totally different.
Here are some of our favourite hidden gems – as nominated by Ireland Calling readers and Facebook friends.
1 – Margaret Flannigan visited Cashel and found a Swiss cottage, full of character. Margaret posted this fantastic photo on our Facebook page. She said: “So pleased we didn’t miss it.”
2 – Valery Adams Jedwabny nominated the Guinness Tower on the grounds of Ashford Castle. The Guinness Tower was built by Benjamin Guinness who was a former Lord Mayor of Dublin and grandson of Arthur Guinness, founder of the Guinness brewery.
3 – Ray Fitzgerald visited Co Limerick and enjoyed Glin Castle, former home of Desmond Fitzgerald, 29th Knight of Glin. Ray also visited the graves of the Fitzgerald knights.
4 – Coleen Kaneen suggested Portmuck harbour in Co Antrim. Portmuck boasts stunning views of the Antrim Coast. There are a number of walking trails along the cliffs for visitors to take in the scenery.
5 – Tricia Self had a peaceful holiday in Co Sligo. She posted this photo and commented: “Left Westport heading to Achill Island. This Holy Well, Tolbernalt, was somewhere in between. Signs called for Silence and you could hear the water flowing.
“There were statues in the hillsides on each side of an altar and the well itself. People lit candles and knelt to pray. Very powerful spiritual energy there and yet so calming and peaceful. Glad we didn’t miss this.”
6 – Myra O’Connor visited the Aran Islands and enjoyed taking carriage ride. The sights included “leprechaun houses next to thatched cottages”.
7 – Sherise McKinzie told us that her hidden gem was actually a person she met – The owner of the B&B where she had stayed who was a ‘well of knowledge’.
Sherise said: “She took my 8 year old and really educated her on the country she was visiting. She is 16 now and still using her first hand teachings in school. I think some of the stories and pic of the potato famine will remain with her for life. Always try to book a B&B where ever you wander.”
8 – Mike Robinson also liked the people he met and enjoyed relaxing in the local pubs such as Jack Duggan’s bar and the North Park Hotel Pub in Athenry. He said: “Awesome food and staff! There the 1st April this year.”
9- There are several castles and ruins in Ireland. Kathleen Marie Mestyanek visited Co Laois and sent us this photo of the ruins of Dunamase Castle, on the Rock of Dunamase.
10 – Kate Earley simply said “Donegal”. Anne O’Farell-Devoe expanded on Kate’s enthusiasm for the northern county and Co Westmeath by nominating a number of attractions.
Anne said: “The Folk Village at GlenColumkill-County Donegal; Slieve Liabh, Muckcross Point-Donegal, the Snug in Bantry- has the BEST mussels ever!! Kilbegan’s Irish Distillery and Museum, in Co Westmeath, I think.”
11 – Melanie Kelly Halsey visited St Kevin’s Church in Glendalough. She Said: “The whole area was so beautiful!”
12 – Many people enjoyed some of the charming shops in Ireland. Dan Dillon suggested Kitty’s sweetshop in Kilkenny.
Meanwhile Suzanne Mary Snyder had been visiting Dingle and suggested “the wee little music store in Dingle”. The Siopa Ceoil An Daingin music shop has a selection of local music from the Dingle area and has live unplugged performances.
Other gems that got a mention included Brigid’s Well in Mullingar, which was nominated by Devi Lanphere, Patrick Pearse’s cottage in Co Galway, nominated by CJ Wolfe, The Ring of Kerry, nominated by Marie Green and Annestown in Co Waterford, a popular destination for surfers, nominated by Tony O’Neill.