Discovering Ireland is one of the great travelling experiences of the world. Set out on its own at the very fringes of Europe, Ireland has so much going for it with a completely unique culture, a rich, vibrant history and some of the finest scenery on the whole continent. While Dublin is understandably the main draw for visitors, if you are looking to discover an authentic and tranquil side of Ireland, the South West of this proud island nation is the spot to visit.
With so many hidden little beauty spots, southwest Ireland is bursting with character and we are going to lay out some of our favourites to give you a flavour of this stunning part of the world.
The little harbour town of Kinsale lies on the coast of County Cork. Idyllic and relaxing, this delightful little town has the customary multicoloured buildings, bringing a visual vibrance that is equally matched by the friendly locals. With a multitude of galleries, boutique stores and excellent restaurants, Kinsale makes for an excellent little escape. Add to this the imposing 17th Century fortress that overlooks the beautiful harbour and you have a destination well worth visiting.
A small stone-built town just at the mouth of the Owenacurra River, there are a couple of reasons to visit. The first is the incredible farmers market that comes to town every week. A riot of colour, mountains of fresh local produce and a fantastic place to interact with the local characters and get some chat. The main reason for visiting Midelton, however, is the fantastic distillery, the home of the world-famous Jameson Whiskey. You can take a tour to find out how the whisky is made and it would be rude not to indulge in the tutored tasting to discover the different flavours and expressions. This is ideal with a private driver, just in case you have one too many!
This hidden gem is located in the sheltered harbour of Glengarriff, Garinish is a tiny island that hides away a beautiful house and gardens of rare beauty. The island is renowned for its richness of plant form and colour, which change continuously with the seasons. You can walk on the specially constructed pathways which wind around the grounds and gardens and lead to unique and fascinating garden buildings like the Grecian temple, clock tower and casita. The house has remained preserved the way the family would have run it and contains many unique and interesting paintings and artifacts. A true hidden wonder off the Irish coast.
Another island? Well, we just had to. While there are a plethora of incredible islands on this coastline, these are the little hidden gems, the ones nobody has really heard of and the beautiful Valentia Island definitely falls into that category. Despite its size, there is a lot to do on Valentia island, most of which encapsulates its wild beauty and incredible scenery. You can walk the Bray Head loop, giving you access to the islands little local beauty spots, you can walk up Geokaun Mountain and drink in the incredible views. All this activity can make for exhausting work, but you can then indulge in Irelands finest ice cream, handmade with milk from select, grass-fed flocks, it really is the pinnacle of creamy deliciousness. You can also investigate the lives of the Skellig Island monks at the Discovery Centre, or learn about the great leap in intercontinental communications at the Transatlantic Cable Station.
Slea Head Peninsula
So incredible, we named our company after it! This little part of the Dingle Peninsula is so rich in beauty and manmade wonder that we feel it is the highlight of this whole list. Uncompromisingly beautiful, this is where you will witness the full power of the Atlantic Ocean as it crashes against the dramatic cliffs of Slea Head. You can experience the madness of Ventry Harbour as it snakes down the cliffside to an impossible-seeming launching point. You can visit the beautiful Blasket Islands, abandoned in the 1950s to keep the population safe from ungodly winters and there are a few Pre-historic Forts and Beehive Huts dating back to the Iron Age (800BC – AD400) just to round out a completely unique little corner of Ireland.
Discovering hidden treasure can be tough work, so why not save yourselves hours in front of the computer or elbow-deep in guidebooks. Dingle Slea Head Tours have completely customisable tours in the South West of Ireland that will take you to all of these sites and many many more. With incredibly friendly local guides, their heads packed with knowledge of all the history, the best restaurants and the most beautiful vistas, you are going to experience a trip like no other. If exploring the southwest of Ireland sounds like something for you, don’t hesitate to get in touch.