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8 Hidden Towns and Charming Villages in Ireland

Looking for quaint and charming villages in Ireland? Here are our favourites!

A couple gaze down from an arched bridge in Inistioge, Kilkenny

1. Inistioge

Irish (Gaelic) meaning: inis tíog (Tighe’s Island)

Population: 285

Loving Inistioge is easy. Sit yourself down beside the lazy River Nore, admire the romantic ten arch bridge and go with the flow. That’s all Inistioge asks of you. Easy.

Such is the beauty of this heavenly little village that no less than three Hollywood movies have been filmed here over the years.

  • Widows Peak (1994)
  • Circle of Friends (1995)
  • The Secret Scripture (2015)

Just a short drive from Kilkenny city, and one of the most charming villages in Ireland, Inistioge is the perfect lunch stop as you explore the sunny south east of Ireland.

Our 6 Day Driftwood Ancient Ireland Tour stops off at Inistioge on its journey south.

Tower and church near the river at Glendalough

2. Laragh

Irish (Gaelic) meaning: Laighreach (old ruins)

Population: 342

Oh, lovely Laragh!

Where three mountain roads meet, lies Laragh, the perfect village to stop and watch the world go by.

This area, Wicklow, is known as the Garden of Ireland. On a sunny summer’s day, you’ll see cyclists, hikers and bikers passing through. Close by are the delights of Glendalough (a 6th century monastic settlement) and the stunning scenery of the Wicklow Mountain National Park.

With just enough cafés, pubs and restaurants to cater for everyone, a visit to Laragh won’t see you go hungry or thirsty!

Bantry House and Gardens

3. Bantry

Irish (Gaelic) meaning: Beanntraí (place of Beann’s people)

Population: 2722 ← Big city!

Nestled at the head of beautiful Bantry Bay in West Cork, this harbour town is a definite highlight along the Wild Atlantic Way.

Bantry is a pivotal town in Irish history. It was from this region that early Christian saint and explorer St Brendan set forth. In the 18th century, Wolfe Tone landed here with French forces to lead a doomed rebellion.

Driftwooders love to stop off at majestic Bantry House on our 11 Day Driftwood Discover Ireland Tour.

Bantry House is still in the hands of the family who built it – way back in 1710! Wander the lovely gardens, breathe the pure air and sample some homemade Irish cooking.

Surfers at sunset in Ireland

4. Lahinch

Irish (Gaelic) meaning: Leath Inse (half island or peninsula)

Population: 638

Where do VagaGuides go on holiday? Yes, it’s Lahinch.

Why? Surfing. Paddle-boarding. Hiking. Biking. Fishing. And perhaps a little eating and drinking.

Lahinch is also spiritual home to the country’s outdoor scene. Surfers will be delighted to find a perfect beach break lapping on this funky little town.

Sandwiched between gorgeous Spanish Point and the spectacular Cliffs of Moher, Lahinch is perfectly placed for you to enjoy the Wild Atlantic Way.

Guest Judy Marazas' image of cottages in Ballyvaughan

5. Ballyvaughan

Irish (Gaelic) meaning: Baile Uí Bheacháin (Ó Beachán’s townland)

Population: 258

Ballyvaughan boasts 1 pub for every 37 people, placing it firmly in the top ten most bars per capita towns in Ireland.

But Ballyvaughan has so much more than pubs. It’s the the perfect location to watch the sun set over Galway bay, enjoy great restaurants and sample O’Loclainn’s, one of Ireland’s finest drinking holes.

 

Evening light in Portmagee, Kerry

6. Portmagee

Irish (Gaelic) meaning: An Caladh (Harbour)

Population: 122

Named after an 18th century smuggler – the notorious Captain Theobold Magee – Portmagee has surprises aplenty up its sleeve.

Aside from the picture perfect brightly coloured cottages and seaside location, Portmagee is the starting point for a cruise around Ireland’s island treasures – the Skelligs.

And that’s not all. A short hop across the water from one of the most charming villages in Ireland brings you to stunning Valentia Island.

Riverside scene in Carrick on Shannon in Leitrim

7. Carrick-on-Shannon

Irish (Gaelic) meaning: Cora Droma Rúisc (weir of the marshy ridge)

Population: 4072

As the name suggests, Carrick-on-Shannon is perfectly located on Ireland’s longest river, the Shannon.

Hop on a cruise boat or just chill out. The lush Lough Key forest park is close by.

Itching for some angling? There are almost 40 lakes locally where you can sample world class fishing.

Gene Goff's picture of Glengarriff harbour at twilight

8. Glengarriff

Irish (Gaelic) meaning: Gleann Garbh (rough glen)

Population: 4072

Neatly tucked away in the wilds of West Cork, Glengarriff is probably Ireland’s best kept secret. With the potential for island adventures, spectacular hill hikes, or just some lazy shopping, this little town has it all.

Look out for seals and sea eagles on the short boat trip to nearby Garnish Island. The beautiful Italianate gardens here enjoy a tropical microclimate.

Cosy pubs and creamy pints await you on your return!

 

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