15 Magical Places In Ireland That Look Like Something From A Fairytale

magical places in Ireland
Photo left: Brian Morrison (via Tourism Ireland). Right: ianmitchinson (Shutterstock)

Ireland’s home to an endless number of incredible places to visit.

Some of these places are steeped in history. Others are areas of immense natural beauty. And others, well, others are a different story altogether, as you’ll discover shortly.

In the guide below, you’ll find 15 places in Ireland that look like they’ve been whipped straight from a Walt Disney movie.

Expect everything from cliff-side castles and romantic ruins to ancient forts and plenty more.

1. Menlo Castle in Galway

menlo castle in galway
Photo by Lisandro Luis Trarbach (Shutterstock)

You’ll find Menlo Castle, a gorgeous ruin of a 16th-century castle, just outside Galway City on the banks of the River Corrib.

Once owned by the richest family in Galway in 1592, all that remains now are its ivy-covered walls.

The castle is a half-hour walk or a short drive from the centre of Galway. When you arrive, walk to the end of the dirt road and climb over the locked gate. After that, it’s possible to go inside and explore but BE CAREFUL.

Related read: Check out our guide to 41 of the best things to do in Galway in 2020.

2. A crumbly cliff-side castle in Antrim

kinbane castle on the causeway coastal route
Photo by shawnwil23 (Shutterstock)

To say that the location of Kinbane Castle, which was built in 1547, is dramatic would be doing it a colossal injustice.

Built on a small rock promontory called Kinbane Head which extends out into the sea, the scenery surrounding the castle is just breath-taking.

Isolated ruins, jagged cliffs and the powerful Atlantic Ocean combine to make this a place that’ll cement itself in your mind.

Related read: Check out our guide to the best things to do in Antrim in 2020.

3. The incredible Gougane Barra in West Cork

where to go in Ireland
Photo by Brian Fox (this is his website and you’ll find him on IG here)

You’ll find the brilliant Gougane Barra in County Cork, in the South West of Ireland, not far from the Beara Peninsula and a stone’s throw (54-minute drive) from Kenmare in Kerry.

If you’re not familiar with it, Gougane Barra is an area of immense wild scenery and natural beauty that you’ll find tucked away on 137 acres at the edge of the Sheehy Mountains.

Many people that visit Cork, for some bizarre reason, completely overlook the gorgeous 137-acre park that’s hidden away in a lovely valley at the edge of the Sheehy mountains.

Related read: Check out our guide to 31 of the best things to do in West Cork in 2020.

4. Doon Fort in Donegal

doo fort in donegal
Photos by Lukassek/Shutterstock

You’ll find Doon Fort in Donegal on a little island in the centre of Loughadoon, not far from the coastal villages of Narin and Portnoo.

Doon Fort is a large Western Stone Fort and, when gawked at from above, it looks like it’s home to a lush green garden. 

Over the years the fort has been linked to the Breslin and the O’Boyle clans. It’s said that the Breslin’s occupied the fort from the 5th century, while the O’Boyle clan took it over until it fell into disrepair. 

If you fancy visiting Doon Fort, I’ve heard that you can rent boats during the summer and sail over to it for a nosey (there’s no official website stating this but you can find more info in this guide).

Related read: Check out our guide to 49 of the best things to do in Donegal in 2020.

5. Clough Oughter Castle in Cavan

clough oughter castle cavan
Photo by Tom Archer via Tourism Ireland

You’ll find the fairytale-like Clough Oughter Castle in the Marble Arch Geopark, next to the picturesque Killykeen Forest Park.

The island upon which Clough Oughter sits (known as a Crannog) was made by man. It’s incredible to think of the engineering that must have went into building it.

Over the years, the castle fell under the control of many different clans. Towards the end of the 12th century, the castle was in the grasps of the O’Rourkes.

Related read: Check out our guide to the best things to do in Cavan in 2020.

6. Mussenden Temple in Derry

mussenden temple
Photo by Gareth Wray

The Mussenden Temple is one of those places that looks like it’s been whipped from a Hollywood set.

You’ll find the temple in the stunning surroundings of Downhill Demesne in County Derry where it’s perched on a 120-foot high cliff overlooking the ocean.

It was constructed in 1785 and its architecture was inspired by the Temple of Vesta in Tivoli, near Rome.

Related read: Check out our guide to 25 of the best things to do in Derry in 2020.

7. The Rock of Cashel in Tipperary

The rock of cashel
Photo by Brian Morrison

Tourists go mad for the Rock of Cashel. And it’s not exactly hard to see why. The place looks like something whipped straight from the mind of Walt Disney.

The fairytale-like Rock of Cashel dates back to the 5th Century and the inauguration of Aenghus King of Munster by St. Patrick himself.

St. Patrick travelled to Cashel to transform the Munster kingship from one of paganism to one of Christianity. 

Related read: Check out our guide to 19 of the best things to do in Tipperary in 2020.

8. Tollymore Forrest in Down

a bridge in Tollymore Forrest
Photo by Chris Hill

Next up is Tollymore Forest Park which, in the picture above, looks a little bit like something from the Lord of the Rings.

Tollymore Forest covers an impressive 630 hectares of land at the foot of the Mourne Mountains.

It’s a fine spot for walking, camping, horse riding, and orienteering, and there’s also a big play area for kids.

There are 4 different trails that you can head off on in Tullymore, the most popular of which is the Red Trail, a three-mile-long trail that passes through woodland and offers dramatic views of the Pot of Legawherry.

Related read: Check out our guide to 18 of the best things to do in Down in 2020.

9. The Swiss Cottage in Tipperary

swiss cottage tipperary
Photo by Brian Morrison

Built in the early 1800s by Richard Butler, the Swiss Cottage in Tipperary was originally part of Lord and Lady Cahir’s estate and was used to entertain guests.

While the cottage was restored in 1985, its unusual and rustic features remain intact. A visit to the Swiss Cottage is perfectly paired with a trip to Cahir Castle.

You can stroll along the riverside to the Swiss Cottage from the castle in about 45 minutes.

10. Kylemore Abbey in Galway

Kylemore Abbey connemara
Photo by Brian Morrison

Kylemore Castle in Connemara tends to top the to-see lists of many people planning a visit to County Galway.

Constructed in 1867, Kylemore Abbey boasts an almost endless number of tales of romance, tragedy, spirituality, and innovation.

The abbey is now home to the Benedictine nuns, who’ve been calling it home since 1920. I’ve visited Kylemore Abbey 2 or 3 times over the years and have never once gone inside.

You can just as easily admire the beauty of this place from afar. 

11. Grianan of Aileach in Donegal

Grianan of Aileach donegal
Photo by Tom Archer

The Grianan of Aileach is a hillfort that sits on top of the 801 ft high Greenan Mountain on Inishowen in Donegal.

The scenic drive up to the fort, which is said to date back to the 1st century, is worth the trip alone.

When you reach the top you’ll have a magnificent 360 view that takes in Lough Swilly, Lough Foyle and the spectacular countryside that the Inishowen Peninsula boasts by the bucket load.

12. Doonagore Castle in Clare

Doonagore Castle
Photo by shutterupeire (shutterstock)

The iconic Doonagore Castle in Doolin is like something whipped straight from a fairytale. You’ll find it plonked on a hill that overlooks the beautiful Aran Islands.

The castle dates back to the 16th century and while you can’t go inside, it’s worth visiting to admire it from the outside and from afar.

13. Leap Castle in Offaly

most haunted castle in ireland
Photo on left by Brian Morrisson. Right via Shutterstock

You’ll find Leap Castle 6km north of Roscrea in a town called Coolderry in County Offaly. How long it has been there is open to debate, by all accounts.

Some say that the castle was constructed in the 12th century. Other websites and news outlets claim that it was built much later, in the 15th century.

Leap Castle is said to be one of the longest continually inhabited castles in Ireland, and it boasts a rich and disturbing history (which you can find out more about here).

Related read: Check out our guide to the best things to do in Offaly in 2020.

14. McDermott’s Castle in Roscommon

mcdermott's castle in roscommon
Photos by ianmitchinson (shutterstock)

You’ll find McDermott’s Castle in County Roscommon on Lough Key, 3km northeast of the town of Boyle.

Stretching around 10km across and forming a rough circular shape, Lough Key contains over 30 islands scattered throughout its chilly waters.

One of these islands is aptly named ‘Castle Island’ and it’s here that you’ll find the ruins of McDermott’s Castle. Learn more about the history of the castle here.

Howaya! Thanks for visiting the Irish road trip! This site exists to inspire and guide you on an Irish adventure that’ll give birth to a lifetime of memories (sounds very arsey altogether, I know!) You'll find everything from things to do in Ireland to where to stay in Ireland (unique and unusual places) if you have a nosey around!

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