Ireland is full of well-known and highly visited attractions but also peppered with unique and forgotten-about places. Exploring the niche areas of a country gives insight into the people’s way of life more so than touristy places would. While some excursions require a weekend to truly take in the site, some visits can be easily done in an evening or on a single day off. Travelling in Ireland can be simple and rewarding, and to begin with, here are the best adventures located right off campus.
Without having to venture too far outside College Green
These nooks of Dublin are a perfect after-class adventure to take with a friend or by yourself! While College boasts a library constantly thronged with tourists from all around the world, just beside St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Marsh’s library offers a more secluded treat. The library is an unchanged 18th-century establishment open to the public, complete with research exhibits, rare books, and a hidden garden. Tickets are available on their website, and their reading room can be booked in advance.
With a little more time to spare, Dublin’s Botanic Gardens are definitely worth an afternoon visit if you want to see the best of Irish flora and fauna. The gardens are open for tours to get a glimpse of the “iconic” and “quirky plants of their collection” as stated on their website. Entry to the gardens is free, but tours must be booked beforehand.
“Consisting of four major components, the Salt Cave Paradise offers a quick retreat perfect for a Monday afternoon to start off the week”.
In the corner of Balbriggan lies a hidden paradise … made of salt! Consisting of four major components, the Salt Cave Paradise offers a quick retreat perfect for a Monday afternoon to start off the week. Their services range from Halotherapy to saltwater pools. Booking is required in advance, but this lesser-known treat is just one bus ride from the city centre.
Dún Laoghaire is a haven for avid readers, lovers of the sea, and classic history fans. Dedicated to the renowned author of Ulysses, The James Joyce Tower & Museum is open to visitors; group tours can be made, but for individual viewers, the tower and museum are self-guided experiences. This historic site is just a short walk away from the famous 40 Foot sea-swimming destination, which is the perfect combination for the friend group made up of people with different interests. After taking a dive in the sea, you can stop at Teddy’s Ice Cream on the walk back to the Dart station for a classic 99 ice cream cone.
Unravelling Ireland’s Ancient East
“Tucked in the peninsula of Wexford, Hook Lighthouse for instance is a secluded but rewarding site. It is said to be the second oldest operating lighthouse in the world”.
County Wexford is located south of Dublin and is home to many coastal gems. Tucked in the peninsula of Wexford, Hook Lighthouse for instance is a secluded but rewarding site. It is said to be the second oldest operating lighthouse in the world. The lighthouse can be viewed by tour. After seeing the ocean from afar, what better way to experience the waves than by riding them? Sea Cave kayaking is available right off the coast of Hook Peninsula and takes guests to explore sea caves and see beautiful aquatic wildlife. To round off your day in Wexford, you can sit down for a meal at The Wheelhouse Cafe and Garden Centre and enjoy a homey meal after a great evening of touring.
Nestled on the cobblestone streets of Kilkenny, the Black Abbey breathes gothic and Norman architecture. This Catholic abbey is home to beautiful historical artefacts and is open for daily and Sunday Mass. St. Canice’s Cathedral sits alongside the Black Abbey and is accompanied by a functioning round tower open for climbing to those willing to brave the 121 steps (from personal experience, the experience is worth the climb)! Inside the church resides detailed artefacts of Kilkenny and stories of the heritage that created the town’s vibrancy. If historic buildings aren’t appealing to you, the Woodstock Garden and Arboretum are open for the season and consist of two incredible avenues, a rose garden, and a walled terrace, to name a few attractions within the park.
Kilkenny Round Tower by Honey Morris
Braving the Wild Atlantic Way
The west of Ireland is brimming with historic places that are worth leaving Dublin for, even just for a weekend trip. Mayo is a county that deserves to be explored by car or bicycle. The Wild Atlantic Way runs along the coastal edge of Mayo and provides a phenomenal view of the Atlantic Ocean to those touring the road. Achill Island is accessible via a bridge from the mainland. This island is filled with beautiful cliffs and beaches, promising to etch an image of Ireland’s natural beauty into your memory forever. Another gem of the area is the presence of the Gaeltacht region. So before heading out for the weekend to enjoy the fantastic views, research a few useful native phrases!
“While Cork is not a secret part of Ireland by any means, many unique places exist within this county, such as the Dursley Island and a hidden waterfall.”
While Cork is not a secret part of Ireland by any means, many unique places exist within this county, such as the Dursley Island and a hidden waterfall. The Dursley Islands can be accessed by cable car, which takes roughly 10 minutes to cross over water to from the mainland. There are no hostels on the island, but this short excursion would make for an excellent addition to a weekend getaway to Cork. Another addition worth mentioning is the Mullinhassig Waterfall. Located down a nature walk, this waterfall is beautiful for sightseeing and photography. A historic castle converted into a modern observatory is a secret treasure of Cork! Blackrock Castle Observatory is outside Cork’s city centre and is another great but simple activity to enjoy. To acquire memorabilia from your excursion to Cork, check out the Village Hall, which is a market consisting of vintage-like oddities from clothes to trinkets.
Exploring and discovering the hidden gems of Ireland is an ideal way to see more of what the island has to offer. While this list is meant to be used, feel free to deviate and find your own hidden treasures! Dublin and beyond are full of one-of-a-kind places. Be adventurous and step outside of the common areas to see what the rest of the city and country have to offer!