Wednesday, September 18, 2019

10 Amazing Hidden Gems in Ireland You HAVE To Visit ♥

Ireland is such a beautiful country and I feel absolutely privileged to be born and bred here. I never tire of discovering new and stunning places in this country and I love sharing all my finds with my followers.

As a family, we regularly go on road trips around the country, looking for the most historical, beautiful, interesting and photo opportunity worthy (it's all about the photography!) places to visit in this gorgeous Emerald Isle.

If you're looking to visit a country that's small enough to navigate, filled with stunning historic places and the most beautiful nature you'll ever see - how cherished we are here in Ireland to witness the four seasons in all their glory, then Ireland is the perfect place for you to visit.

Here are hidden gems that I've discovered on my own travels. These are places that aren't filled with tourists and are perfect for adding to you itinerary of Ireland.

1. Bantry House & Gardens, Co. Cork
Oh my goodness, this place, it's one of the most beautiful places I've ever visited in Ireland and I can't believe that it's such a hidden gem! When shared my image of Bantry House on their Instagram and Facebook pages the amount of people who had never heard of it was astounding!

This is a privately owned house that is open for tours. We didn't do the tour but the gardens were enough to entertain us. You can climb 100 steps to see the most stunning view (shown in the picture above) of Bantry Harbour.

 We visited when the gardens were in bloom with wisteria and rhododendrons and it was just magical! I highly recommend a visit if you're in West Cork. You can see more about our visit here.

2. Ballysaggartmore Towers, Co. Waterford
Nestled just beyond Lismore Castle, these towers are nothing short of a fairy tale. The towers are part of a loop walk of a woodland are and are the remnants of a manor house that were never built.

The towers themselves are located above a stream, which is lovely for having a picnic by on a sunny day. There's also a mini waterfall which you can climb up to. It's such a gorgeous place with a real feel of being otherworldly and it's a definite 'must-see' if you find yourself in the Blackwater Valley.

You can see more pictures and read more about our visit to Ballysaggartmore Towers here if you want even more of a feel for the place.

3. Ballymaloe Cookery School Gardens, Co. Cork
This is such a gorgeous place, located in gorgeous East Cork. Just a short drive from the famous Ballymaloe House, the cookery school gardens are home to lots of beautiful gardens, all with something different to look at.

The shell house is the most beautiful element to the gardens and a real hidden gem. You get the key from the reception desk - which is tied to a whisk head (it is a cookery school after all!). The shell house is, as you would guess, a house of shells! The inside of the little house is covered head to toe in various types of shells and it is SO beautiful in there!

You definitely have to visit if you're in the East Cork area. It's a gorgeous place and so quiet! We were the only ones there during our mid-week visit, which you can read more about here.

4. The Viking Ship on Lough Ree, Co. Roscommon
This is a little bit of a different hidden gem as it's not a place as such, but it's the most perfect way to see the place, if you get me.

We stayed in the beautiful area of Lough Ree - a stunning lake which is in between County Roscommon and County Westmeath and took a Viking boat tour from Hodson Bay into the centre of Athlone town.

It was the perfect way to see the lake, see it's islands and learn more about it's history from the commentary on board by Viking Mike. It was a lovely, comfortable cruise (lasting approximately 45 minutes each way) and I would highly recommend it. You can read more about our cruise of Lough Ree with Viking Tours Ireland here.

5. The Apple Farm, Co. Tipperary
If you're looking for a place to pick your own fruit in Ireland then The Apple Farm is a great place to visit. The apples here are like gorgeous bright baubles hanging off the trees!

This is a huge family farm, filled with hundred of apple trees and polytunnels of berries, all ripe for picking through the summer months. The farm is open for apple picking during weekends in September and is free to visit and explore all year round.

It also has a little farm shop with the most delicious cloudy lemonade I've ever tasted. A must visit if you're in Tipperary! You can read more about our visit to The Apple Farm here.

6. Tourin House & Gardens, Co. Waterford
Oh this place is like a dream! We stumbled upon here while visiting the Blackwater Valley area and we were so delighted we found it.

It's a stunning privately owned house which gives informal tours - the owners are very friendly! However, it was the gardens which we really fell in love with, especially the walled garden. They were filled with the most beautiful flowers and fruit that was ripe for picking (€5 per punnet).

We visited on an especially hot and sunny summers day and were able to cool off under the shade of tree by the quay, watching people kayaking on the River Blackwater while our boys paddles off the slipway. It was such a beautiful place - like something from a storybook and we can't wait to return. You can read more about our visit to Tourin House & Gardens here.

7. Garnish Island, Co. Cork
What a beautiful little island this is! You catch the little ferry from Glengarriff, passing seals on your way, before reaching this stunning island which almost has a Mediterranean feel to it.

The most famous feature of Garnish Island is this pond garden and it's a perfect place to sit and have a bit of quiet reflection.

The whole island is accessible by foot and there's lots of amazing places to visit along the way including the temple, walled garden, road tower, cliff face and so much more. It's a beautiful spot for nature lovers to enjoy and is our own little taste of paradise here in County Cork. You can read more about our visit to Garnish Island here.

8. Poulnabrone Dolmen, The Burren, Co. Clare
If you want to come to Ireland and experience a place that's quite unique to the usual green fields you usually find in Ireland then The Burren is the place to visit!

Located in charming and rural County Clare, this is a true taste of Ireland. The Poulnabrone Dolmen dates to approximately 4200BC to 2900BC and is set upon limestone that was laid down about 350 million years ago so this really is an amazing historical site within Ireland!

The Burren is vast, sparse and I liken it to being on the moon because the landscape is so extraordinary! The saying goes that - "The Burren: there isn't a tree to hang a man, water to drown a man, nor soil to hang a man". This is a must visit if you're in Ireland and the whole area is so quiet that we were the only people for miles around - or so it seemed!

8. Killarney National Park & Ross Castle, Co. Kerry
Probably the most 'touristy' area of my list, but still a bit of a hidden gem as it was so quiet when we visited! Not as famous as neighbouring Muckross House, Killarney National Park is still absolutely beautiful and the perfect place to go for a bike ride or walk.

If you fancy it, you can take a boat tour around the Killarney Lakes, or if you fancy just viewing them from the shore line that's fine too. There's little strand beaches where you can enjoy a paddle on warmer days and lots of shaded areas to hide from the sun and enjoy a picnic.

Ross Castle is by guided tour only and the outside area features a whole host of swans a ducks, with scenes that look like they're from an old Irish legend! You can see more about our visit to Killarney National Park and Ross Castle here.

9. Lismore Castle Gardens, Co. Waterford
A fairy tale garden if ever there was one, Lismore Castle Gardens are the most beautiful place to visit any time of year and feature a whole host of flowers, plants and even a beautiful rope swing under bowed trees for people of all ages to enjoy!

The castle is a private residence and is not open to the public, but the gardens themselves (there's an upper and a lower garden), are enough to keep you busy. There's so much to see and there's even picnic blankets available for people to enjoy their own picnics on the lawn.

This is a stunning place that we'll never tire of and there's so many amazing places just a stone's throw from Lismore Castle Gardens, that it makes for a perfect stop off on any Ireland trip itinerary. You can read more about one of our many visits to Lismore Castle Gardens here.

10. Spike Island, Co. Cork
Not as famous as the town of Cobh just across from it, but Spike Island is an interesting place to visit when in the Cork area. Located in the middle of the second largest natural harbour in the world, Spike Island is a former prison site that holds a 200 year old star-shaped fortress that is open for visitors - now all the prisoners have left of course!

The island is steeped in history and in the last 1300 years has held a 6th century monastery, the largest convict depot in Victorian times and centuries of island homes. Boats are available daily from Kennedy Pier, Cobh and you're able to explore the island freely for three and half hours.

If you're feeling brave, Spike Island also hosts 'after dark' tours. This is a must-visit for anyone into military history.


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