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The 19 Prettiest Villages and Small Towns in Ireland 2019

Rows of colourfully painted houses, lush green hills, beach fronts or on the river's edge. Warm welcomes, lively chat, intimate pub snugs, great food and drink. It's all waiting to be explored in the pretty villages and towns around the isle. Find out if your local villages made it into Skyscanner's "The Top 19 Prettiest Villages and Towns" listing.

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1. Adare, Co. Limerick

Thatched yellow cottage, Adare village, Limerick, Ireland

Adare’s prettiness is no accident. This quaint village grew up around the Georgian-meets-Tudor-revival, Adare Manor. Its landlords, the Earls of Dunraven, beautified their estate’s village by lining its main street with thatched cottages and neat Arts and Crafts-style houses. This is the heart of golf country, so tee off at one of the two courses. Alternatively, visit the 13th-century Desmond Castle.

For more historic castles to visit in Ireland read this list of the top 10 turrets in the land.

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2. Inistioge, Co. Kilkenny

The 18th-century stone bridge on River Nore in Inistioge, Kilkenny

Bucolic Inistioge (pronounced “Inisteeg”) sits on the River Nore, around a scenic 18th-century stone bridge. Lush hills surround the village, its tree-lined green the starting point for a walk up the steep lane to the Woodstock Desmesne – a Georgian mansion surrounded by Victorian gardens. Walk between the monkey puzzle trees to find the arboretum, rose garden and some of the best views in the southeast of Ireland.

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3. Howth, Co. Dublin

The pretty fishing village of Howth has a long pier, harbour views, lighthouse and deliciously fresh fish served in a number of good restaurants, and other fresh food offerings in its food and craft market. Howth Castle, its beautiful gardens and the ruins of St Mary’s Abbey are all to be admired.

However for spectacular views get your walking shoes on and take the walking trail up to Howth Head and enjoy views of the cliffs, Lambay Island and Baily Lighthouse. Or if you’re looking for something a little less strenuous then just walk along the pier, see Ireland’s Eye and visit Howth Beach and the Martello Tower.

Flower blossoms under purple skies in the Howth Head peninsula, Dublin

Travel Tip: Howth in County Dublin is approximately 30 minutes from Dublin City by train or car. Travelling by train is the most scenic way to travel on land. But if you’re travelling from Dún Laoighaire (another great Dublin coastal town) in south County Dublin, an option that offers lots of photographic opportunities is to travel with Dublin Bay Cruises. This takes you right through Dublin Bay.

Had a long day sightseeing? From a refreshing swim to a relaxing massage, discover the luxurious treatments on offer at Dublin’s 10 best spa hotels.

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4. Carlingford, Co. Louth

Carlingford marina on a sunny day

Come hungry to Carlingford, home to what are arguably Ireland’s best oysters. Farmed on the loch, these plump beauties are best served with a slice of lemon and a pint of Guinness in the Carlingford Arms, or as part of a proper home-cooked feast at renowned local hotel and restaurant Ghan House. This medieval village also has plenty of nooks and crannies to explore, as well as the remains of medieval King John’s Castle and the fifteenth century fortified Mint.

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5. Cong, Co. Galway/Co. Mayo

Ruin on the banks of a loch, Cong, Ireland

Few villages are more beguilingly situated than Cong, balanced on a thin neck of land between two lochs – the Connemara Mountains of County Galway on one side, the emerald green fields of County Mayo on the other. Check out the kitschy Quiet Man Museum (the 1950s Oscar-winning movie was filmed here) and the extensive medieval ruins of Cong Abbey, its stone vaulted archways and Celtic crosses an atmospheric setting for a stroll.

Discover more scenic spots across the country with our guide to 10 spectacular filming locations in Ireland 2019.

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6. Dunmore East, Co. Waterford

Colourful boats in Dunmore East's fishing harbour, Co. Waterford

Dunmore East’s crescent of buttery yellow sands might be its main draw, but this must-see village is also home to a lively fishing harbour – and, subsequently, a smattering of seafood restaurants. Pop into the Bay Café for a crab sandwich, or sit overlooking the water in the restaurant of the Strand Inn for seasonal seafood, from mussels to wild prawns. Get out on the water afterwards with Dunmore East Adventure Centre, which offers kayaking, windsurfing and sailing.

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7. Glasslough, Co. Monaghan

Glaslough is a small village in North County Monaghan. It has some wonderfully picturesque scenes throughout. Houses and their windows are adorned with hanging baskets of flowers and window boxes. The Glaslough railway station can be seen just on the edge of the village – it was once part of the Ulster Railway but ceased service in the late 1950’s.

Take a walk around the village and find a perfectly pretty doorway for that postcard photo opportunity. Visit the local stables at Conclaw Equestrian Centre and sign up for a horse riding lesson or some cross-country sessions. Enjoy a coffee and cake at Ambledown Cottages, or something stronger at The Coach House and Olde Bar. Window shop for antiques or make your own pottery with Ceramic Artist Brenda McGinn at her Busy Bee Ceramics Studio.

Travel tip: Hire a bike from the McQuaid family at Drumlin Trails and enjoy more than just the pretty village – immerse yourself in the gorgeous Glaslough and Emyvale countryside. And if you think the drumlins will be too much for your legs then hire an electric bike – also helpful if you’ve got kids to tow along the country roads too.

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8. Ballyvaughan, Co. Clare

Ballyvaughan, Clare

A cluster of white and cream houses cling to the wild Atlantic coast, their backdrop the otherworldly limestone landscape of the Burren. This is Ballyvaughan, a Mecca for outdoor sports, with rock climbing and mountain biking in the Burren, surfing and kayaking in Galway Bay. Be sure to check out Ailwee Cave, one of the oldest caves in Ireland, carved out by glacial meltwaters some two million years ago (adults €15, children €7 instead of €5.50).

There’s no need to head abroad for a beach break. Check out 10 of the best beaches for a staycation in Ireland in 2019!

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9. Athy, Co. Kildare

The Heritage town of Athy in County Kildare could be considered off the beaten track but it’s only an hour drive or train ride from Dublin. If getting a train, Athy Train Station will be your first pretty sight. The town deserves its place on the prettiest villages and small towns list for its host of pretty gems. The changing of the seasons brings with it glorious views from the banks and on the waters of the River Barrow, which runs through the town. Whites Castle, which is over 600 years old, stands next to the 200 year old Crom-a-Boo Bridge.

The town square with its 18th century Market House now houses Athy Town Hall, Heritage Centre and the Shackleton Museum. Ernest Shackleton was born in Kilkea, a ten-minute drive from Athy town. The Fredrick Darley designed Courthouse, which was built in the 1850’s still stands tall next to the rivers jetty. Fredrick Darley’s most important works are the Merchant’s Hall and the King’s Inns Library in Dublin. The town is also home to the famous Grand Canal that travels all the way to Dublin. In yesteryear it took malt to the Guinness Brewery in Dublin. And it too offers plenty of photographic moments.

Travel Tip: Take a boat tour along the River Barrow that takes in river views, locks and the statuesque Levitstown Mill. Or take a walking tour and take in sights such as the 14th-century St Michael’s Church, Preston’s Gate and Woodstock Castle.

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10. Portmagee, Co. Kerry

Night view of Portmagee's seafront with light reflections on the water

It’s not just the scenery that is jaw-dropping on the drive out onto the Iveragh Peninsula and Portmagee. It’s the road itself too, winding inexorably out along this sinewy rocky finger towards the Atlantic. The neat, colourful buildings of Portmagee’s seafront stare straight out over St Finian’s Bay and mark the jumping off point for Valentia Island, home to the oldest fossilised footprints in the northern hemisphere (some 400 millions years old).

Here’s our pick of the 5 most scenic drives in Ireland for spectacular getaways in 2019.

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11. Arthurstown, Co. Wexford

Dunbrody Abbey, Arthurstown, Co. Wexford

More of a hamlet than a village, Arthurstown is a quiet spot to sit and contemplate, the waters of Waterford Harbour estuary sliding out into the Celtic Sea. Come for sunset – and dinner at Dunbrody House, an 1830s mansion house and home to one of Ireland’s leading cookery schools. The Harvest Room restaurant here has a garland of awards, and an eight-course Irish tasting menu for €80 per person.

There are free attractions in almost every town and village, and some of the best places to visit in Ireland are free of charge! Check out our list of the 10 best free things to do in Ireland 2019.

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12. Caherdaniel, Co. Kerry

It would be impossible not to mention Ireland’s ‘Ring of Kerry‘ when talking about Ireland’s prettiest villages and small towns. The landscape of this part of Ireland is simply stunning. And nestled among the rolling hills and mountains there are a number of picture perfect places to visit. The village of Caherdaniel is one such place that stands out. Found on the southern coast of the Iveragh Peninsula, Caherdaniel is a tiny village that makes a big impression.

Hugged by the grassy green mountains and surrounded by the rugged shoreline of Derrynane Bay, Caherdaniel is special. Scariff and Deenish Islands are in view; Kenmare Bay and the vast Amazing Atlantic Ocean are neighbours. And with stunning scenery as its backdrop and its blue flag beach, photo opportunities are abundant. Explore the natural beauty of the landscape by foot, by bike, on horse back or by sea. For history enthusiasts visit Derrynane National Park and Derrynane House, which was once the home of Irish patriot Daniel “The Liberator” O’Connell. Take a drive to forts, Caher Fort provides views of the Skellig islands; Staigue Fort, which is over 2000 years old, is the country’s largest pre-Christian circular stone fort.

Travel Tip: For those who love water activities head to the bay and its blue flag beach for a number of water sport offerings. If fishing is your thing then you’ll be happy to know that Caherdaniel is in the valley of Glenmore – famous for its lake and river fishing.

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13. Carrick-on-Shannon, Co. Leitrim

Carrick-on-Shannon in County Leitrim might be a mecca for stags and hens parties but its also one of Ireland‘s prettiest towns. With its home is on the banks of the River Shannon it has become one of Ireland’s most popular inland resorts. And the county of Leitrim’s cruising capital.

Carrick-on-Shannon is historically rich and evidence can be seen throughout the town. Take a walk through and keep an eye out for the beautifully restored Georgian house, Hatley Manor. Visit the Costello Chapel, which is said to be the smallest chapel in Europe. Learn about the Workhouse and Famine Graveyard, a huge part of Irish history. Near Carrick Bridge and you’ll spot the remains of Carrick Castle. The town is also home to an Iron Age fort called Lisdarush Ring Fort.

However the marina offers the town’s biggest attraction when it comes to stunning scenery. As a gateway to the River Shannon and the Shannon-Erne Waterway, there are plenty of options to explore the waterways. Hire a pleasure cruiser for a day or a week, enjoy fishing, or water sports.

Travel Tip: Get on the Shannon-Erne Waterways. The scenery is spectacular and unspoilt. Cruise through Lough Key, Acres Lake and Lough Allen passing through the picturesque villages of Cootehall, Knockvicar, Jamestown, Leitrim Village, Drumshanbo and Keshcarrigan. If driving and time is on your side consider the Northern Glens Trail. It offers beautiful scenery over 385 km of rural roads in Cavan, Fermanagh, Leitrim and Sligo.

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14. Clifden, Co. Galway

The coastal town of Clifden in County Galway is found on the Owenglin River overlooking Clifden Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. This town itself has a population of less than 3000 people but that doesn’t stop it being a hive of activity. And on that note the name Clifden actually means ‘beehive cell’.

This town in the Connemara region is as picturesque as they get. Its’ skyline, which is dominated by the spires of St Joseph’s Catholic Church and Christ Church of Ireland, is surrounded by lush landscape. The Connemara Mountains in the distance offer depth and beauty. Its nearby coastline offering endless photographic possibilities. The most famous route to take for stunning sites is the Sky Road route. This road guides you up along the rolling hills that overlook Clifden Bay and the offshore islands of Inishturk and Turbot.

Travel Tip: When taking the Sky Road route, take a detour north. This will bring you to the Connemara National Park at Letterfrack. Here you’ll find Ireland’s only fjord, the beautiful Killary Harbour.

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15. Dungarvan, Co. Waterford

Dungarvan in County Waterford is a coastal town and harbour on the south coast of Ireland. This part of Ireland is known as the ‘Sunny South East’. And for good reason as it tends to receive more sunshine than the rest of the country.

The town, which opens up onto its own harbour, is a pretty market town that offers visitors plenty to do. When you’re not sitting by the harbour watching the boats bobbing up and down take a walk through the town and find its other picturesque gems. Places like the Old Market Art Centre and King John’s Castle are a great start. And when you want to get in touch with nature then the Comeragh Mountains and the Waterford Greenway are at your door.

Travel Tip: Food culture goes hand in hand with travel and so a visit to the farmers market in Grattan Square on a Thursday morning is worth your while. If visiting in spring then keep an eye out for the Food Festival, which takes over the town and celebrates local produce from farms and the sea.

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16. Eyeries, Beara Peninsula, Co. Cork

The village of Eyeries on the Beara Peninsula in County Cork is one of the regions most colourful and prettiest villages. Standing on a hill that overlooks the Atlantic Ocean the village has been featured in a number of commercials, T.V. Series and films. The popular British series ‘The Royal’, and films ‘The Purple Taxi’ with Fred Astaire and ‘Falling for a Dancer’ with Liam Cunningham and Colin Farrell, just to name a few.

Eyeries is a stones throw from The Beara Way, a 196km circular route through the Beara Peninsula that gives way to the stunning mountain and coastal scenery. The trail that gives a glimpse into Ireland’s history, by showing you ancient standing stones and burial monuments, usually takes nine days to complete by foot. Home to the Anam Cara Artist & Writers Retreat, it’s easy to see why people come from all over the World to be inspired to write and paint. It’s the perfect rural setting for inspiration.

Travel Tip: Eyeries biggest event happens in mid July each year when the Eyeries Family Festival takes place. The festival celebrates with live music, food and family friendly things to do throughout the celebration.

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17. Killeshandra, Co. Cavan

View of the countryside with a big tree in the foreground, Killeshandra, Co. Cavan

This quaint, tiny village with its population in the hundreds is a great base for exploring the County Cavan countryside. Nearby Lough Oughter is an angler’s paradise, with no permit required to catch everything from pike and perch to carp, bream and eel. In addition, Killykeen Forest Park has a network of woodland trails and a swimming area on the lough. Don’t miss a visit to the 13-century castle on the lough, too, only reachable by boat.

 It’s hard to know where you’ll find the perfect pint and a plate of hearty home-cooking on your travels to the Irish countryside. Let us make this easy for you: here are 17 of Ireland’s best pubs and bars for 2019.

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18. Gweedore, Co. Donegal

You’ll find Gweedore, ‘Gaoth Dobhair’ between Narosa ‘Na Rosa’ and Cloughaneely ‘Cloich Cheannfhaola’ in the northwest of Donegal. Gweedore is a Gaeltacht area, which means that Ireland’s national language, Irish is the first language spoken by locals, with English a close second.

Gweedore is set in stunning scenery. Mount Errigal, the highest mountain of the Derryveagh Mountain range in the distance, and the Atlantic coastline within easy reach. This coastline gives visitors 25km of breathtaking beaches, coves, bays and unspoilt natural wonders to witness.

Travel Tip: Gweedore is a nature lover and adventure seekers paradise. Adventure travel awaits, from walks to rock climbing, water sports to Island hopping. Everything you need to help you make a memorable trip.

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19. Westport, Co. Mayo

The town of Westport in County Mayo has been called home to the Irish for over 5000 years. Its rich history is evident from its megalithic monuments found around Clew Bay to the Pirate Queen Grace O Malley. Grace governed the seas and the town by means of her fortress.

Nowadays Westport, which opens onto the Atlantic Sea, is home to one of Ireland’s prettiest towns. It’s an award-winning town bustling with life by the banks of the Carrabawn River and the Quay. Visitors can relax in the town, taking in the sights across the bay, and the Connemara Mountains. A visit to the beautiful Westport House is a must. There are walking trails, cycle routes and water sports to be enjoyed. Westport opens the door to Blue flag beaches, greenways and Island tours.

Croagh Patrick in the distance, under a big white cloud

Travel Tip: For hikers consider Croagh Patrick for spectacular views over Clew Bay. The terrain has some difficult and rocky parts so hiring a walking stick is advised. The estimated assent is two hours and decent is one hour but always set your own pace. Start early and take your time, and camera.

Discover more scenic hiking and biking routes in the country with our selection of the 10 best walking routes and trails in Ireland.

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*Updated February 2019. Prices correct at the time of publication but may be subject to change and/or availability.

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