This summer I took my parents to Ireland on their dream trip, and little did I know that it would quickly turn into my dream trip too. What a delightful surprise!
It didn’t take long for the charming towns, cute houses, quaint countrysides and beautiful landscapes to win me over. I mean, Ireland had everything I didn’t know I wanted!
From adorable seaside towns to lovely B&B’s to old houses (not in Paris) covered in vines to charming cafes where you can squirrel away in on a rainy day, Ireland has no shortage of charming locals and haunts. I have found the more and more I travel over the years, the more I look out for places that feel comfortable and homey, places I almost could imagine myself living in. Now who do I have to marry to get a castle in Ireland?
Oh and I’m saving Northern Ireland for another day because I have too much to say on it to fit it in here too.
Here are my picks for the 12 most charming spots to visit in Ireland – enjoy!
Cobh was a happy surprise, and it turned out to be one of the most charming spots on my trip to Ireland. It wasn’t a place I was planning to visit or was even on my radar. I was staying nearby outside Kinsale with my family, and was looking for a nice place to visit for sunrise, saw it on the map, and thought,hey, I’d give it a shot.
The seaside town of Cobh (pronounced ‘Cove’), is pretty much the cutest place ever, full of bright colors and charm. The last port of call for the Titanic, it oozes charm, especially in the early morning before anyone else is awake.
If you want it all, the setting, the history, the charm, check out Cobh.
2. Muckross House in Killarney
Killarney is definitely really well-known on the Irish tourist trail, something that I usually give a miss on when I’m on the road, preferring to get a little more off the beaten path. And while we skipped staying here on this trip, I really wanted to show my parents the Muckross House and Gardens because I knew they’d really enjoy it.
Especially as you can get around in jaunting cars (horse and carriages) which was great for my older parents who aren’t really up for big walks and heavy adventures.
I actually liked Muckross so much I came back twice!
We spent my birthday in Kinsale, and it definitely was a great choice to ring in 29 years. A little town on the south coast of Ireland, it’s super cute and when I discovered the most adorable Airbnb in all of Ireland on my search for places to stay, I knew we’d have to come here.
Kinsale is full of quirky shops, cozy pubs, really REALLY good restaurants (Finns’ Table for my bday dinner – AMAZING), artsy corners, colorful streets and a lovely harbor.
Adorable Airbnb in Myrtleville outside Kinsale
4. Dingle Peninsula
What can I say about Dingle? Let’s start with delightful. Even though our day trip out to Dingle started off rocky (let’s say a 20 minute screaming fight with my parents in the tiny car – guys, traveling with your parents is SO HARD), it still ended up being one of my favorite places we visited – if only because Dingle is so damn cute!
Colorful buildings, moody atmosphere, fishing vibes, knit sweaters and little chocolate shops and cafes to hide away in, Dingle really had it all.
Definitely grab a coffee at Bean in Dingle, it was amazing!
5. Dunbrody House
Pretty much the main reason for choosing Ireland was that my parent’s are huge fans of Kevin Dundon, an Irish celebrity chef. They have been following him for years and he was a huge inspiration for getting them to travel, not me haha.
Oh the irony.
So we knew that we would want to stay at Dunbrody House, his luxury small hotel on the Hook Peninsula on the south coast of Ireland. It’s the kind of place where you want to curl up with a book and a pint all day. And lucky for us, my parents were even able to meet Kevin while we were there, a total dream come from true!
6. Wicklow and Glendalough
Wicklow National Park was one of the few places I had actually been before in Ireland, way back when on a blog trip in 2013, though the weather was so bad you couldn’t see two feet in front of you. I was so excited to head back here again.
I reckon Wicklow is one of Ireland’s best-kept secrets. A wild and desolate landscape, it’s truly stunning and really felt like we had the place to ourselves.
The monastic remains at Glendalough are exactly what you picture when you imagine Ireland.
7. Powerscourt Estate
As we made our way out of Dublin, the first stop on our trip was to Powerscourt Estate. I’m such a sucker for big historical houses and castles, especially ones with great gardens so I knew I’d love it here.
The tea room is the perfect spot for lunch in the sunshine followed up by a long stroll amongst the gardens; honestly Ireland in the spring is so lovely.
I’ve never been much of a city girl but Galway definitely stole our hearts in Ireland. Colorful pubs and rowdy music meets historical buildings gives Galway a funky bohemian vibe, that oddly enough, my parents loved.
Smack in the middle of the Wild Atlantic Way, Galway makes you want to be out and about, taking it all in.
It’s old and charming and lively, where old meets new.
9. Ring of Kerry
I feel like a road trip in Ireland without driving the Ring of Kerry would be incomplete.
A 179 kilometer long circular route along the Iveragh Peninsula (good luck pronouncing that, guys) this is the part of Ireland where if you don’t pay close attention, you might not catch what people are saying. In English.
There are incredible beaches, even more incredible cliffs (I liked the Kerry Cliffs better than the Cliffs of Moher), adorable little towns and great views just about anywhere. Definitely worth exploring.
My favorite bit of Irish countryside might have to be around Connemara, a stunning region in County Galway on the west coast and the Wild Atlantic Way.
Up here feels wild and empty, vast skies and lots of sheep, great views and big mountains that are dotted with little cute spots waiting to be explored, and everything transected by stone walls and lots of bogs.
We headed up here so I could finally check out the super famous Kylemore Abbey, probably one of the most photographed places in Ireland. I was really disappointed to arrive and see that the whole thing was pretty much covered in scaffolding, and it was absolutely heaving with tourists. Where did they all come from? Luckily the surrounding views and the drive all through Connemara made up for it.
I’ll be back for you, Kylemore. And I’ll definitely be back to Connemara for a longer trip.
11. Tintern Abbey
Man, there is just something so iconically Irish about the ruins of some beautiful historic abbey or castle surrounded by lush greenery, at one with nature. Or perhaps being taken over by nature.
In any case, you will find no shortage of spots like that in Ireland. By the end of the trip, my parents were absolutely fed up with me dragging them to places like this.
Tintern Abbey was definitely one of those spots. Hidden away in County Wexford on the Hook Peninsula, founded in the 13th century, it’s mostly in ruins these days and a lovely spot to wander around, and their tea room is quaint and cozy on a rainy day.
12. Ashford Castle
The castle to end all castles without a doubt has to be Ashford Castle, Ireland’s greatest castle hotel.
Nothing but charm, Ashford Castle is a highlight for most on a trip to Ireland. One of the best luxury experiences in the world, if you’re ready to indulge, do it here. And situated next the adorable village of Cong (from the movie The Quiet Man, remember?) its setting couldn’t be more picturesque.
Have you been to Ireland before? What’s the most charming place you’ve ever traveled to? Share!