5 Alternatives to Big Cities: Ireland

By Sarah A. Lybrand

Looking for less-populated places to experience Ireland than the busy travel hubs of Belfast, Dublin, or Cork? Here's a thought:

1. Howth

The little seaside village of Howth on the East coast of Ireland is just a short train ride from the heart of Dublin. With its pier flanked by seafood restaurants, cafes, and lunch spots, there’s also a long, stone walkway that'll take you out to a picturesque lighthouse.

2. Lahinch

If you’re headed west through Kilkenny and Limerick to County Clare to see the picturesque and wind-battered Cliffs of Moher (a must-see), then stop in the little seaside resort town of Lahinch. It sits right on Liscannor Bay, next to a long beach of golden sand and breakers that protect this beach from the rough Atlantic, attracting surfers and water sport enthusiasts from all over the world.

3. Galway

Make sure to take a full day to explore Galway, a picturesque city by the sea that’s delightfully walkable — and also famous for its oysters. Find yourself exploring the odd twists and turns, modern and ancient corners, tiny crepe shops, coffee shops, toy shops, and bakeries along one of Galway's popular shopping streets.

4. Bushmills

Just 60 miles from Belfast in Northern Ireland is Bushmills, a village on the north coast of County Antrim. Bushmills is (no surprise) home to the Old Bushmills Distillery, where visitors can taste home-grown Irish whiskey. Bushmills is just 11 miles from Ballycastle, 9 miles from Coleraine, and an easy midway point between the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge, and Giants' Causeway just a couple miles away.

5. Killarney

Killarney is home to Killarney National Park, Ireland's first National Park which features 26,000 acres of woodlands, sandstone mountains, and low-lying lakes. You can take a boat ride from Ross Castle, hike the park, or simply walk around town. It happens there are more hotel beds in Killarney than in any other Irish city aside from Dublin, so, rest assured you'll always have a place to stay!

Though there's hardly any avoiding the larger cities when you travel to/from Ireland and Northern Ireland, you can stay out of the fray in one of these smaller, quintessential Irish towns offering much to see and do.

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