Best Small Towns to visit in Ireland

Ireland’s hospitable population, rolling hills, and lively cities make it one of the great countries of the world to visit. Yet for all the visitors that places like Dublin and Cork receive, there’s something to be said for the small, historic villages that represent the absolute best of Ireland. With that in mind, we’ve put together some useful information about some of the best small towns in the country and how they can be visited.

Preparing to Travel

Visiting the very best small towns of Ireland makes for a truly memorable holiday, but they’re slightly more difficult to plan than visiting one the big cities, purely because they’re usually far out of the way (which is really the reason they’re small in the first place). Because of this, it’s essential that visitors have access to a car, be it a rental or one borrowed from a friend. If this is a road trip adventure, try and pick a car slightly bigger than required, as luggage can take up more space than expected and you’ll be more comfortable if you have more room to spread out. Also always ensure that the vehicle is properly covered against any accidents that could occur while in Ireland; this is important wherever you go, but even more so when visiting a small town, as issues such as reduced visibility and small, winding roads can create problems for drivers unaccustomed to driving in Ireland. Finally, try to exchange any currency you’ll need while travelling before you arrive; small towns might not have the facilities to exchange money, and withdrawing from your home bank account can be costly.

Where to Go

Which small towns you visit will depend on various factors, such as which airport you’re flying into and how long you’re staying in Ireland. It may be that you can visit them all!


Carlingford, County Louth

The medieval streets of Carlingford make it an attractive option for people who want to sample what Ireland looked like in the old days. Located on Ireland’s eastern coast, just 11km south of the Northern Ireland border, the town boasts a number of old streets and attractions. These include King John’s Castle, which was constructed in the 13th century, the Town Wall, which was constructed in 14th century (though little of it remains, the parts that do are filled with musket loops). If you do nothing else, just wander the medieval streets and enjoy the atmosphere.


Inistioge, County Kilkenny

If you were to close your eyes and think of a small Irish village, Inistioge might be what you think of. Located in the south-east in County Kilkenny, the small, quaint village is located in a valley and is complimented by miles and miles of surrounding hills and forests. Make sure to visit “The Square” and have a beer with the locals.


Killeshandra, County Cavan

Located in the north of Ireland, in County Cavan, Killeshandra is the place to go if you want your small Irish village mixed with great natural resources. While here, take some time to practice your fishing skills in the lake, go for a long walk in the many forests, and, as ever, enjoy a pint with the locals in the pub. The population also stands at only around 350, so you’ll be relatively at peace, if that’s what you’re looking for.


Kinsale, County Cork

The small fishing village of Kinsale is located on the south coast of Ireland. The town is brimming with joy after being awarded the Ireland’s 2014 Top Small Tourism Town. The award was certainly well deserved; colourful buildings and locals add plenty of visual appeal to a town already filled with fascinating history. Make sure to try the some fish – as it’s a fishing village, it’s usually to die for.


Donegal, County Donegal

Donegal is located in the north-west of Ireland. The picturesque village is complimented by a harbour and the surrounding valleys, beaches, and craggy shores. The gothic Donegal Castle is a must visit; it was built in 1474 and features a gothic design that is fascinating to see. Elsewhere, partake in some ancient activities by going angling Lough Eske, taking a horse ride through the majestic surrounding countryside, or by simply sitting peacefully on the edge of the lake and taking it all in.  

*This is a freelance article sent in by site reader Sally Warner