The 10 Best Small Towns in Ireland
Ireland has some of Europe's most charming small towns and villages, both inland and along its coast, one more atmospheric than the next. And here are 10 of the most colorful, most popular and best small towns in Ireland.
Quaint, colorful, traditional Irish town, generally at the top of the must-see lists of travelers. It's a small town, famous for its upscale restaurants and bistros and its annual Gourmet Festival. There's also a large marina here, filled with yachts, a couple of old churches worth seeing, the town's early-17th-century Market House, and Desmond Castle, also known as the French Prison, all of which add to the visitor interest.
Location: County Cork
One of Ireland's most popular tourist haunts, with numerous shops, restaurants and pubs, an effervescent nightlife, and more hotel beds than any other town or city in Ireland, other than Dublin. For sightseers, Killarney has a lovely Gothic Revival cathedral, a medieval castle, a splendid Tudor mansion called Muckross House, and fabulous Irish countryside all around, with lakes and all. Killarney is actually situated on the northeastern shore of Lough Leane, in the Killarney National Park. The Killarney SummerFest is popular throughout Irelnad.
Location: County Kerry
Donegal is a colorful little town, built around the picturesque, 15th-century Donegal Castle. It has a lovely town center, the remains of an ancient Franciscan abbey, and a long tradition of poetry, Gaelic music, and tweed and carpet weaving. The town has good visitor facilities such as hotels, and is linked to Dublin and other Irish towns by rail and road.
Location: County Donegal
Old Norse town-cum-seaport with a reclaimed waterfront, a legacy of woodworking, scores of historic churches, and the ruins of a 12th-century picture-postcard abbey that was sacked by Thomas Cromwell. The town has strong cultural underpinnings, and an Opera Festival, held in October each year, that dates from 1951 and enjoys world renown.
Location: County Wexford
Lively little town on the River Carrowbeg, with huge tourist appeal. It has tree-lined riverfront promenades, old stone bridges crisscrossing the river, and several old pubs and restaurants, including such atmospheric ones as McCarthy's and Matt Malloy's, the latter a musical pub in the heart of town. For sightseers, the principal draws are the 18th-century Westport House, long considered one of the most beautiful historic homes in Ireland that is still open to the public, the Holy Trinity Anglican Church, and Westport's 18th-century Georgian town center. What's more, the town enjoys a lovely backdrop in the pilgrimage mountain, Croagh Patrick.
Location: County Mayo
Medieval coastal town, tucked in the undulating sheep-studded country just to the south of the border with Northern Ireland. Tourism is front and center here, with the old castles, King John's and Taaffe's, the main draws. The medieval streets are still there, as are the 13th-century town wall and Dominican friary, the centuries-old three-story mint with its highly-decorated Celtic Renaissance windows, the Tholsel, or town gate, and the medieval Church of Holy Trinity which has exhibits depicting the history of Carlingford, dating from the Viking era.
Location: County Louth
Small heritage town with an old castle, the greystone Roscrea Castle, and the remains of a 12th-century Romanesque church and 15th-century Franciscan friary. The town has its fair share of pubs and cafés, and a prestigious boarding school for boys, Cistercian College, just outside town.
Location: County North Tipperary
Small, picturesque village on the River Nore, some 16 miles (25 km) to the southeast of Kilkenny, which has provided the setting for several films over the years, among them Widow's Peak (1994) and Circle of Friends (1995). Inistioge has a lovely village green, old stone bridges, and charming old pubs to inspire visitors.
Location: County Kilkenny
The most Irish of Ireland's villages, supremely picturesque, with an impressive collection of thatched-roof traditional Irish cottages and homes with whitewashed walls, now designated an "Irish Heritage Village." Overnight accommodations are available at the 19th-century mansion turned upscale hotel, Adare Manor.
Location: County Limerick
Pleasant little town on the Grand Canal, which links it to Dublin. The town has a famous haunted castle, which is also one of Ireland's most splendid Gothic buildings, and a legacy tied to Tullamore Dew, an Irish whiskey that was distilled here for more than a century, from 1829 until 1950.
Location: County Offaly
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