21 Underrated Towns In Ireland Perfect For A Mighty Weekend Away This Autumn

In need of some staycation inspiration? Here you are, so!

towns in ireland
Photo left: Fabiano's_Photo. Right: Johannes Rigg (shutterstock)

I tend to receive a fair few emails from people asking for advice on where to go in Ireland for a weekend away.

Now, it’d be easy to just say, ‘Ah, sure head to Galway or Killarney. There’s a heap of things to do in both of them’. But, to be blunt, balls to that.

Don’t get me wrong, Galway and Killarney are both great, but there are so many more places to visit in Ireland outside of the better-known cities and towns, with many little villages packing a punch far mightier than their size.

In the guide below, we’re going to show you the most underrated villages and towns in Ireland that are perfect for a weekend away in 2020 when things get back to normal.

1. Ennistymon (Clare)

Ennistimon village
Photo by Chris Hill via Tourism Ireland

Many people that visit Clare and never make it past the likes of Shannon and Doolin. Which is a shame, as there is a clatter of other towns and villages in Clare that are well worth nipping into.

One of the best is the town of Ennistymon. This is a gorgeous little market town a stone’s throw from Lahinch (5-minute drive), the Cliffs of Moher (15-minute drive), Doonagore Castle (16-minute drive) and Spanish Point (19-minute drive).

Translation: Ennistymon is one of the best places to base yourself from if you’re looking to explore Clare. Expect traditional shop fronts, buzzy pubs and top-notch restaurants galore.

2. Belmullet (Mayo)

Belmullet Walks
Photo by Christian McLeod via Failte Ireland

From one great base to another. The little coastal town of Belmullet is a remote Gaeltacht town in Mayo, finely plonked on the mighty Mullet Peninsula.

Like Ennistymon, Belmullet is a lovely base for exploring some of the Wild Atlantic Way’s most unspoiled and underexplored scenery.

You can head off on the Erris Head Loop Walk in the morning, grab a feed in the afternoon, and then take a drive out as far as Doonamo Point in the evening. 

The Mullet Peninsula is also home to several different beaches that are perfect for a ramble. The spectacular Benwee Head is also nearby (35-minute drive) as are the historic Ceide Fields (34-minute drive).

3. Strangford (Down)

Strangford lough
Photo by Bernie Brown vi Tourism Ireland

You’ll find the little village of Strangford at the mouth of the spectacular Strangford Lough in County Down

Those that stay in Strangford have an endless choice of activities to choose from, with several different walking trails waiting to be conquered and a gorgeous coastline that’s waiting to be explored.

There are also countless great restaurants and bars to nip into and a clatter of castles to have a nosey around.

It’s also less than an hours drive from Belfast and a stone’s throw from the starting point of the brilliant Causeway Coastal Route.

4. Waterville (Kerry)

waterville kerry
Photo by George Munday

I chat to a lot of people that are in the early stages of planning a trip to Ireland. Many of them have Kerry on their itinerary, but few opt to spend a night in Waterville.

Which is a pity – yes the Dingle Peninsula is brilliant and yes, Killarney Town is full of life, but places like Waterville are where you’ll get a proper feel for Ireland.

This is a lovely little town that offers mighty views of the surrounding mountains. There’s several great restaurants and pubs and there’s plenty to see and do nearby.

A brilliant friend that’s sadly no longer with us brought me to Waterville in Kerry many years back. It’s a trip that I’ll remember for as long as I live.

5. Roundstone (Galway)

roundstone village galway
Photo by Chris Hill via Tourism Ireland

On Connemara’s magnificent west coast lies the often overlooked little harbour village of Roundstone. If you’ve yet to visit this place, you’re in for a treat.

Roundstone is smack bang in the middle of oodles of natural beauty. The mighty Mount Errisbeg provides a spectacular backdrop for the town. Throw in the little harbour and you have a place that looks like something whipped straight from an oil painting.

Spend an evening sauntering along the sand on Dog’s Bay Beach and then enjoy a pint with a view in O’Dowd’s after. Magic. The next time someone asks you where to stay in Galway, point them here.

If you’re looking for a place to kip in Roundstone, the Roundstone House Hotel is a solid option. It’s grand and central and the reviews are top-notch!

6. Inistioge (Kilkenny)

inistioge kilkenny
Photo by Finn Richards via Failte Ireland

I’ve visited Kilkenny a lot over the years, but I’ve been guilty of never staying outside of the city… actually… scratch that. I ended up staying in a castle there randomly a while back.

What I mean is, I’ve never really broadened my horizons with this county. Which is a disgrace, considering it’s home to places like Inistioge – a historic little village on the river Nore in South Kilkenny.

Those that visit can expect stunning scenery, river walks and woodland hikes, and a plethora of great pubs and restaurants. It’s also a handy 28-minute drive from the city if you fancy having a nosey around.

7. Dunfanaghy (Donegal)

dunfanghy donegal
Photo by Chris Hill

I visited Dunfanaghy for the first time last April and I’ve been trying to wiggle in a return visit ever since. This little town overlooks the sandy shores of the spectacular Sheephaven Bay.

It’s close to several Blue Flag beaches and it’s overlooked by the Derryveagh Mountains, so you can expect golden sand (see above) and endless scenery.

It’s also close to many of Donegal’s best attractions, like Horn Head (10-minute drive), Glenveagh (22-minute drive) and Fanad Lighthouse (45-minute drive).

8. Glasson (Westmeath)

Glasson
Photo by Brian Morrison via Tourism Ireland

The charming little village of Glasson in Westmeath is another place that tends to get overlooked. It’s a stone’s thrown from Athlone Town (perfect if you want to visit the oldest pub in Ireland) and it’s not far from the shores of the stunning Lough Ree.

Although not home to the oldest, Glasson village is home to some mighty old-world pubs, with Grogan’s (in my opinion) being the pick of the bunch.

If you’re looking to get out and about, the Portlick Millennium forest walk is an 8-minute drive away, the Dún na Sí Amenity and Heritage Park is a 15-minute spin and Athlone Town with its fine aul castle is a 14-minute drive. 

9. Lismore (Waterford)

Lismore Castle waterford
Lismore Castle by George Munday via Tourism Ireland

You’ll find our next town, Lismore, in the west of Waterford, at the foot of the wonderful Knockmealdown Mountains. The town can trace its origins way back to 636AD and is one of a handful of designated heritage towns in Ireland.

Lismore is surrounded by a clatter of the gorgeous countryside that’s ideal for a bit of exploring. You can give the Lady Louisa’s Walk a bash in the morning, head for a saunter around Lismore Castle in the afternoon and kick-back with food and a pint in the evening.

It’s also a handy 23-minute drive from Dungarvan, for any of you looking to cycle the Waterford Greenway from Dungarvan to Waterford City.

10. Allihies (Cork)

things to do in allihies

One of my favourite solo weeks away in Ireland involved stopping off in Allihies for a night. This is a tiny town that’s so ridiculously scenic you’ll never want to leave.

In fact, I remember sitting in the pub in the village (O’Neill’s) with a pint and a pair of wet socks, browsing through Daft.ie trying to suss out home much a place here would cost.

This corner of Ireland possesses the unique ability to make you feel like you’re the only person left on earth. It’s just you, the mountains, the wind and the waves.

11. Killaloe (Clare)

Killaloe clare
Photo by Brian Morrison via Tourism Ireland

I was in Killaloe recently and it really is one of the most beautiful little villages in Ireland. You’ll find it in Clare on the western bank of Lough Derg.

Killaloe is one of those places where I could see myself living. On the day that we visited, the sun was shining, boats were driving along the lough, and we managed to get lunch a stone’s throw from the water.

Interestingly enough, Killaloe is known as the birthplace of Brian Boru – the High King of Ireland. If you visit, make sure you nip into the Brian Boru Heritage Centre to learn more about the history of the town and Ireland’s High King.

12. Kilfinane (Limerick)

Ballyhoura Mountains
One of the Ballyhoura walks via Failte Ireland

Kilfinane is a proper hidden gem. It’s a small market town and it’s also the highest town in Limerick, thanks to its fine location (it’s nestled within the dazzling Ballyhoura Mountain range).

Kilfinane is the perfect base for those of you looking to explore by foot. The Attychraan Loop Walk and the Ballinaboola Loop are two brilliant nearby walking trails that you can conquer.

It’s also not a million miles from Limerick City (49-minute drive) and the gorgeous little village of Adare (40-minute drive).

13. Graiguenamanagh (Kilkenny)

things to do in kilkenny
Photo by Finn Richards

The picture-perfect town of Graiguenamanagh in Kilkenny can be found on the River Barrow, right at the foot of Brandon Hill.

If you read our guide to the best places to visit in Kilkenny, you’ll have come across Brandon Hill already – it’s from the summit of Brandon that you’ll catch a magnificent panoramic view that rivals many in Ireland.

If you visit Graiguenamanagh in the warmer months, get stuck into some watersports (sea kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding, canoeing) or if you prefer to keep your feet firmly on land, nip into the historic Duiske Abbey.

14. Baltimore (Cork)

Baltimore village cork
Photo by Lukasz Warzecha

A lot of people pass through Baltimore when they’re exploring West Cork, but many that I chat to don’t bother stopping for the night. 

Baltimore is an ideal spot for those of you looking for a base for an active weekend away at the heart of some of the islands best scenery.

This little village is a handy spin away from Cape Clear Island (you’ll see Fastnet Lighthouse on the ferry over), Mizen Head (60-minute drive), Brow Head (48-minute drive) and plenty more.

15. Leenaun (Galway)

leenaun village galway
Photo by Postdlf via Wikicommons Source

Leenaun is hands-down one of my favourite little villages in Ireland. It’s small, has a lively atmosphere from all of the tourists and locals milling about the place (during peak season) and the views out over the Killary Fjord are nothing short of sensational.

If you’re looking to surround yourself with an endless amount of unspoiled landscape, pop Leenaun at the top of your list. It’s the perfect base for exploring the nearby Doolough Valley and Connemara.

Now, if you visit Leenaun in the winter or during the off-season, expect to find many places closed – we were here for an afternoon in April and couldn’t find a spot for a bite to eat or a coffee.

16. Dunmore East (Waterford)

thatch cottages in dunmore east
Photo by Chris Hill

Waterford’s Dunmore East is hands-down one of the best Irish towns for a weekend away during the summer.

Boasting Golden beaches, a lively fishing harbour and a town that’s full of great restaurants, Dunmore East is the perfect place to set up shop for a couple of days.

I spent a night in Dunmore East last summer and it was easily one of the best nights away that I had last year. When the sun’s shining, there’s nowhere like it!

17. Portmagee (Kerry)

Portmagee in Kerry
Photo by Tom Archer via Tourism Ireland

So, a lot of people visit Portmagee when they’re exploring Kerry, but many just pass through it on the way to the Skelligs.

I’ve stayed here several times over the years and it’s a solid little base, with heaps of things to see and do nearby. 

Those that visit have easy access to the incredible Valentia Island, the Kerry Cliffs, the Skelligs, the Skellig Ring drive and lots more.

18. Portrush (Antrim)

portrush village
Photo by Chris Hill via Tourism Ireland

You’ll find the gorgeous little seaside town of Portrush in County Antrim where it’s known for its three gorgeous beaches, the Royal Portrush Golf Club (which hosted The Open in 2019) and its proximity to many of Antrim’s top attractions.

It’s a handy 8-minute drive from Dunluce Castle, a 12-minute drive from the Bushmills Distillery, 17 minutes from the Giants Causeway and 25 minutes from the Carrick-a-rede Rope Bridge.

If you’re in search of a spot by the sea with great pubs (the Quays and the Harbour Gin Bar are brilliant), even better restaurants (Ramore and Neptune and Prawn are top-notch) and a tonne of things to see and do nearby, get yourself here.

19. Duncannon (Wexford)

Duncannon Wexford
Photo by Visit Wexford via Failte Ireland

Duncannon is a little fishing village in southwest Wexford. It tends to make many Ireland itineraries thanks to Duncannon Fort, which was built in 1588 (it’s now home to a maritime museum along with a cafe and craft shop).

Fort aside, Duncannon is a great little base for exploring Wexford. It’s a handy 15-minute drive from the most haunted house in Ireland, under 20-minutes from the historic Hook Lighthouse and 13 minutes from the beautiful Tintern Abbey.

The village is also home to several great pubs and restaurants that are perfect for a post-adventure pint and a feed.

20. Birr (Offaly)

birr castle offaly
Photo by Chris Hill

The heritage town of Birr in Offaly was developed around the iconic Birr Castle. Now, Birr Castle is brilliant, don’t get me wrong, but there’s plenty more to this place than its main attraction.

The town of Birr boasts beautiful Georgian architecture, tree-lined malls, elegant old house that date back to the 1800s and a heap of history and culture. T

here are also several walks worth conquering, like the Birr Town Trail and the Riverbank Walk. Nip into our guide to the best things to do in Offaly for more.

21. Ardara

nancys bar ardara donegal
Photo via Donegal Holiday Cottages

Ardara is a brilliant little town in Donegal. Myself and a friend called Mayo Declan spent a night here a few years back, and I’ve been hoping to get back ever since.

 If you’re in search of a place that’s close to loads of great scenery, home to brilliant pubs (Nancy’s is deadly!), great restaurants and lovely people, make a beeline for Ardara.

The only issue we had was when it came to accommodation – we booked a B&B 5 minutes away from the centre, down many a dark narrow road… stupidity on our part!

What underrated towns and villages have we missed?

Is there another town or village in Ireland that doesn’t get half enough credit (or visitors) that you want to recommend? 

I’ve left the comments section open below – pop your recommendation in there!

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!

49 COMMENTS

  1. Can’t leave the Beautiful village of Rooskey out, on the banks of the Shannon between Leitrin and Roscommom. Hugh amount of Rivers , country walks ,water sports. Only 15 mins from Ck on Shannon/Longford town/ Roscommon town…

  2. Try Glenbeigh Co. Kerry. Panoramic walks along the Horse shoe mountain range, with views of the Mc Gillicuddy reeks, the Ring of Kerry and the spectacular Rossbeigh beach with its 5 km of golden sands. Two fabulous hotels many fine b+be pubs and resteraunts.

  3. Newport Co Mayo great little town great pubs loverley river and the fabulous Newport house to stay in all on the Wild Atlantic way and the centre of the Greenway cycle / walking route , next door to Mulranny with its fabulous views and walks in Clew Bay great hotel and the most unique shop in Ireland , The Greenway Antiques and Book Store housed in a thatched cottage / blacksmiths shop its like the best museum you were ever in but all is for sale!

  4. the beautiful heritage town of listowel in north Kerry rich in literary tradition and known for its freat pubs and raataurants. located just 9 miles from the wonderful beaches and cliffs of ballybunion.Listowel where every visitor is treated like a friend, a taste of real Ireland.

  5. Cahersiveen.Co Kerry,between the hills and Sea. The town is gateway to a land of glacial features, beautiful hill walks, artifacts from stories of old and mythical tales.. gateway to The transatlantic cable, Valentia observatory and a wealth of music and literature

  6. The beautiful village of Clonbur in Galway situated between lakes Corrib and the Mask with Mount Gable overlooking it all. Gateway to Connemara Fantastic views, woodlands and fishing. Five minutes drive to Ashford Castle and thirty minutes drive to Galway City. Great restaurants and pubs and a wonderful community spirit.

  7. WHEN YOU HAVE A HIRE CAR YOU ARE ALWAYS ON THE MOVE TO YOUR NEXT B&b for the night. How do you make the time to visit these quaint villages.

  8. I spent two weeks in Waterville in Sept 2019 – I intentionally looked for a more out-of-the way spot than the usual tourist destinations. I LOVED it! It was a treat for my 50th birthday and I couldn’t have picked a better spot. I spent a few days in Killarney, too (the National Park is STUNNING!), but Waterville was the gem of the trip. I didn’t have a car, so when I say I spent two weeks there, I really mean I spent the two weeks there. I wasn’t bored for a minute. And because it’s on the beaten path of the Ring of Kerry, which brings buses of tourists in daily, there are loads of pubs and places to visit, in addition to the fabulous outdoors activities, which abound. One of my brothers spent 3 months on Valentia Island a few years ago and spent a fair bit of time in Portmagee, too, and he still raves about his time there. So both of those spots are definite must-sees!!

  9. Ashford co. Wicklow stunning gardens in mount usher, the walkways in the mountains, Wicklow’s historic Gaol and
    Glendalough Wicklow.

    The garden of Ireland! Come check it out!

  10. Banagher Co Offaly. On the Shannon, a beautiful historic little town, linked to Charlotte Bronte and Johnny McEvoy among others. The famous JJ Houghs singing pub is only one of the fine pubs on offer. Clonmacnoise and Birr are only a short drive away. Well worth a visit.

  11. Trim in County Meath is missing from your list.A beautiful town that has everything and a short drive from the city….
    Our castle is the number one attraction,but with hotels, B and B’s, panoramic walks, swimming pools, pitch n’ putt, golf courses,boating activities and much more..
    It’s the ideal town for a few days away…
    Tom l.

  12. What about Killybegs, the main fishing port of Ireland. Come and see the beautiful Cruise Liners docked at the pier, we have 13 arriving this year and one overnight. Fintra Beach just 5 minutes up the road, Slieve League 25 minutes. Angling Trip and Sight Seeing Trips. Loads of places to eat and 2 beautiful Hotels.

  13. Enniscrone, co.sligo…fab beach..cudn’t ask for better..lovely wee village,been going here since I was a child and every year it’s just a tonic to get back !!

  14. Ballybofey in connected by a bridge over the river Finn to the town of Stranorlar. They are known together to some as the Twin Towns in the centre of east Donegal on the main Derry to Galway road near the border with Tyrone. Drumboe Woods a stone’s throw from the towns have numerous beautiful walks in a mixed woodland full of flowers and wildlife offering views of the meandering Finn River famous for it’s fishing. There are a number of reasonably priced high standard hotels and lots of great B&Bs, fine pubs and restaurants with regular live music for all tastes. The beautifully newly built Balor Theater offers a full programme of plays, concerts and comedy gigs of the highest standard. McElhinneys Department store has an international reputation winning countless awards for it’s wide range of fashion and is famous all over for it’s excellent customer service, plus lots of other small shops and numerous big supermarkets to chose from in this growing vibrant town also famously the sporting capital of Donegal hosting the Donegal County ground, League of Ireland club Finn Harps, the Finn Valley Athletic Club with Swimming Pool and a beautiful Golf Club.
    Just 25 mins from Letterkenny and Donegal Town it is a great base for exploring the beautiful sites of Ireland’s most beautiful county and the wonderful wild Atlantic Way. You will be made feel very welcome by the people of Ballybofey, the town that’s famous for drinking tae according to a local poem and by those in Stranorlar just across the water famed for a drop of Brandy according to the same poem where a friendly rivalry exists between the 2 towns that are really one community. Ballybofey is curiously the only town of it’s size in Ireland without a school or Church as people here cross the bridge to Stranorlar for those. Interesting fact: Mark Twain named Huckleberry Finn after this River Finn on the advice of his secretary who was from this area, he felt Huckleberry Mississippi was a bit too long so asked about the name of the river where his secretary was from, the rest as they say is History.

  15. Just to add to Graiguenamanagh the “Town of Books Festival and Regatta” in August or September every year.

    Been several times, great time to see the town.

    Google for details of 2020

  16. Ballyferriter, Kerry. Just a few miles from Dingle and there are lively pubs with good food, fab unspoilt beaches and the beautiful Dingle Peninsula to explore. So much history there and also the fantastic Blasket Centre.

    • Yess denise. A hidden treasure. We went there on hols as kids…the beautiful zetland pier and we used to jump off the pier in the village that served the ferry going to the amazing garnish island.
      Stunning

  17. Terryglass in North Tipperary well worth a visit, most welcoming people you will meet, great craic and music galore, lovely food in the village, beautiful scenery and walkways located on Lough Derg. *A must see for anyone, put it in the diary lads*

  18. As a Donegal I would like to see another one or 2 Donegal towns but I think Ballycastle a much better friendlier town than Portrush plus right in the centre of the glens of Antrim

  19. Dunmore East is a diamond in the rough. I grew up in Dunmore Every night I would look out my bed room and see Hook Head Lighthouse. Its light shimmering on the bay. I visit Dunmore and think of my visit, and look forward to my next visit. These days I hope I can return to that wonderful picturesque town. I miss my time there.

  20. Ballyheigue in co Kerry with stunning beach. Fabulous golf course many lovely walks many pubs n hotel serving food all day close to Tralee town for great shopping also easy to get to dingle or Killarney if you like to see the stunning scenery nearby.

  21. Rostrevor co down is the most beautiful place
    I have been there many times.I love kilbroney forest park and the Fairy Glen.

  22. Killala on the Wild Atlantic Way is stunning. The harbour/pier is beautiful (especially at sunrise), lovely river views too that continue out to Palmerstown bridge (where they also filmed The Year of The French). Cosy little town that’s great for staying in with several pubs/restaurants and local shops. Several things to visit like the Killala round tower, Ross beach, Moyne Abbey, Rosserk Friary. Also very close to Céide Fields and Downpatrick Head which are well worth visiting! Make sure to walk around Downpatrick Head… you can get fairly close and there’s a lot of history there (including war history). Killala’s not too far from Ballina either. Bike hire is also fun for getting around if you’re not driving… or just want to change it up a bit.

  23. Cong in Co. Mayo should be on thie list. It is a wonderful, clean and charming historical village.
    There is loads of activities on and around the village from sightseeing , walking, fishing, enjoying the unique flora and fa una.
    The magic of ealking around Cong abbey or fabulous Ashford Castle is a must for young and old.
    The community spirit is thriving and this is echoed by the floral arrangements and cleanliness o f the village.
    All of the businesses from pubs , shops, hotels, coffee, tourist and not forgetting those shops that have remained open will provide a safe and enjoyable exlerience to all who visit Cong Village
    There are loads of places to stay to cater for everyones needs.
    #LoveCongVillage

  24. Drumshanbo, county Leitrim. Beautiful lakes, hiking, music festival, outdoor pool, children’s playground, magnificent blueway, water park, and much more!! And the nicest people in Ireland of course!!!

  25. Castletownsend, Co. Cork. I was blown away when I visited at the start of July. The locals were incredible friendly and passionate about their village. It is incredibly beautiful, from buildings to scenery. Great pubs too.

    St Mullins, Co. Carlow. Perhaps THE hidden gem of Ireland. I won’t even describe it, discovering it for yourself is an amazing feeling.

  26. Have a look at Mullaghmore Co. Sligo . The Wild Atlantic Coast with views of the beach , the views of Classiebawn Castle and of course the beauty of Benbulbin .

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