Photo: Peter Zoeller/Design Pics/Getty Images Birr, County Offaly Designated an Irish Heritage Town, Birr has Georgian roots dating from the 1740s. The community is...
Photo: Peter Zoeller/Design Pics/Getty Images
Birr, County Offaly
Designated an Irish Heritage Town, Birr has Georgian roots dating from the 1740s. The community is well known for Birr Castle, which is the oldest inhabited home in the county, being the seat of the Earls of Rosse. Don’t miss the castle’s gardens, which have the tallest box hedges in the world, and the Leviathan of Parsonstown, a telescope that was once the largest ever made. Birr is also home to the Irish Hot Air Balloon festival each September.
Photo: The Christian Science Monitor/Getty Images
Ennistymon, County Clare
Notable for the cascades produced where the River Cullenagh flows over a ridge, Ennistymon combines old-world charm with natural scenic beauty and is home to many shops, restaurants that play traditional music, and art galleries. Drop by the weekly food and craft fair on Sundays to shop local goods.
Photo: David Cannon/Getty Images
Belmullet, County Mayo
If you’re looking for towering cliffs, miles of beaches, and uninhabited islands to explore, Belmullet is the place to go. Thirty-nine species of fish have been caught in the waters surrounding the town, and the Carne Golf Links (shown) provides a challenging experience for those looking to tee off. For a more cultural experience, the Feile Iorras international arts festival is held every July.
Photo: DEA/N. Cirani/Getty Images
Ballyvaughan, County Clare
At the northernmost point in County Clare is Ballyvaughan, a small village ideally situated for those looking to explore the Burren National Park, go fishing, or learn about Irish history. The oceanside community offers live traditional music, local craft shops, and plenty of pubs for a true Irish experience.
Photo: John Greim/Getty Images
Adare, County Limerick
Another designated Heritage Town, Adare was founded in the 13th century and sits along the River Maigue. It is known for its preserved thatched cottages that were built in the mid-1800s by the Earl of Dunraven for men constructing the now-famous Adare Manor. The main street is also home to medieval monasteries and stone buildings.
Photo: George Munday/Design Pics/Getty Images
Fethard, County Tipperary
Fethard was originally designed as a market town that generated tax revenue for the kings of England, but it is now famous for its various structures dating from medieval times. Much of the wall that once surrounded the town remains intact, as does an 800-year-old church and three sheela na gigs, decorative carvings of women thought to promote fertility or ward off evil. Every June, the Fethard Medieval Festival takes place, with a parade that runs through the main thoroughfare and ends next to the River Clashawley.
Photo: Slow Images/Getty Images
Kinsale, County Cork
Located on the southwest coast of Ireland, Kinsale was a main fishing port for over 300 years, starting in the 13th century. Today visitors are entranced by Kinsale’s brightly painted buildings and winding streets. Its boat-filled harbor provides numerous adventures for marine-loving tourists, including deep-sea angling, scuba diving, fishing, and kayaking, while the Kinsale Yacht Club hosts many international sailing events. Kinsale has multiple sister cities, including Newport, Rhode Island.
Photo: Glen Allison/Getty Images
Eyeries Village, County Cork
Another southwestern town worth the visit is Eyeries Village. Situated on a bluff that looks over the Atlantic Ocean, the community is well known for its pastel houses and stunning vistas. The locals keep the town in such a pristine condition that Eyeries Village has placed at least second in Ireland’s annual Tidy Town competition seven different years.
Photo: The Irish Image Collection/Design Pics/Getty Images
Aughrim, County Wicklow
Originally a granite-mining village, Aughrim, located at the confluence of two rivers, is an important timber-processing and agricultural town surrounded by forested hills. Many stone houses grace the area today. Aughrim won the title of Tidiest Small Town in Ireland in 2007 and has won other Tidy Town awards throughout the years.