With two big festivities toward the end of the month, St Patrick's Day and Easter, traveling to Ireland should be on your bucket list. Besides exploring Irish culture, enjoying the wonderful scenery and enjoying the odd pint of black stout in a traditional pub, the increasing appearance of the sun in spring, means you can also enjoy a pretty good range of outdoor activities all across Ireland.
While the Irish capital Dublin might be the obvious first choice, especially for joining the celebrations St Patrick's Day celebrations, the city becomes crowded over Ireland 's National holiday, so, if you are travelling to Ireland over the coming weeks and are looking for a more authentic festive experience and good opportunities for outdoor adventures, you might want to consider our list of off-beat places across Ireland!
Located in Ireland's County Louth, halfway between Belfast and Dublin, Carlingford is a town of charm and character and has a wealth of history and culture for you to uncover. Wander through the small center with cozy medieval alleys and cobbled streets lined with boutiques, antique shops, modern Irish restaurants, traditional pubs, and cute tearooms.
Besides, Carlingford is surrounded by stunning scenery. The glacial fjord, Carlingford Louth, is ideal for trying out water sports including canoeing, catamaran sailing, and even scuba diving, while the Cooley Mountains (with its peak Slieve Foye at 600m) are perfect for hiking.
Foodies can explore and taste some drinks at Cooley Whiskey, Carlingford Brewing Company and discover the Sea Louth Scenic Seafood Trail, which combines the best of the coast: its scenery and its fine local seafood.
In nearby Newry and Downpatrick, you can join the locals in their festivities and community parades on St. Patrick's Day.
Set in one of Ireland's most Northernwestern locations in Co. Donegal, the picturesque seaside town of Buncrana boasts some of the most breathtaking beaches in Ireland, from secluded coves to family-friendly sands which invite you for a long stroll.
Yet, Buncrana has also a rich artistic heritage and is home to an important artistic and creative community. Throughout the town and its surroundings, you find knitwear, pottery, tweed, weaving, and furniture. Visit one of the town’s art studios or artisan workshops to see the local artist at work.
On a sunny spring day, choose a picnic spot on the beach or take home-baked local goods with you on a walk on one of the stunning hiking trails taking you around the stunning coastal scenery set between the blue Atlantic ocean, the rugged coastline and the wild raw mountains of Co. Donegal in the back. With an array of designated picnic areas, you’ll find the perfect seaside spot just for you!
Clonakilty is a must-see town in Ireland's Western County Cork that is full of charm, colorful shopping streets, great cafés, and plenty of local specialties.
A stroll through Clonakilty’s buzzing Friday market is a good starting point to understand the town’s food culture. Organic farmers, cheesemakers, foragers, fishmongers, and bakers all exhibit their wares. Then head to Clonakilty Distillery (on the waterfront) for a tour around the factory (and maybe a tasting of its whiskey) and don’t miss Clonakilty Black Pudding Visitor Centre to get an insight into the history of the popular black pudding...
Alternatively, head to Inchydoney Beach (5 kilometers South of Clonakilty), a long stretch of golden sand, that is popular for surfing (there’s even a Surf School). You can also try a dolphin and whale-watching tour!
Clonakilty is as well a real music town and organizes plenty of festivals throughout the year. Check out the calendar for St. Patrick’s Day, for sure you find some live music in the streets!
Cahir will attract visitors with its sceneries and views that you can best indulge in on a hike. Stroll through the peaceful Glengarra Wood or trek into the hills of the impressive Galtee Mountains surrounding the area. Also, Mitchelstown limestone cave will amaze you for its natural beauty.
Of course, don’t miss out on a visit to Cahir Castle, one of Ireland's largest and best-preserved medieval castles, a family adventure by itself.
Cahir is celebrating St. Patrick’s Day with it's own local parade making it's way through town and this year's theme is biodiversity and the environment! A fabulous opportunity if your a looking for a cultural break in one of Ireland's charming smaller centers and to join in the St Patrick's celebrations with the local community.
Ennis If you’re looking for a charming little town to explore Ireland's West coast and the Wild Atlantic Way, then Ennis is the place for you. Ennis has something magical. It is surrounded by ruins of medieval abbeys and castles and its picturesque centre is characterised by cobblestone streets, colorful houses, local shops, and cafes. If you’re staying until the evening, you might be able to listen to some live music at a local pub. No wonder the town was accredited with the Purple Flag Award for being "the Friendliest Town in Ireland".
And that’s not all. Ennis prizes itself with amazing natural wonders at it's doorstep, many of them reachable within a one hour drive. First, there’s the breathtaking Cliffs of Moher, stretching for 8 kilometers along the coastline, a paradise for hikers and bird lovers. Then, there is Loop Head Peninsula, the ideal destination for water sports like snorkeling, windsurfing, paddle-boarding, and coasteering.
Last but not least, Burren National Park will amaze you with its distinctive glaciated 'rocky' landscape that you can explore while hiking one of the marked trails. The area has also build a reputation as an eco destination in Ireland with local businesses engaging in sustainable and green experiences, where visitors can learn about the fragile environment of the area and participate in local activities, workshops and tours.
Ennis will hold its own St Patrick's Day parade during the day, but the real celebrations will take place in the local pubs with music and Irish trad from early afternoon.
If you’re looking for bustling festivities, head to Galway; a bohemian city with a love for traditional music. Galway has been famed as the cultural heart of Ireland and has an extensive St. Patrick’s Day festival where local artists give great performances in the streets: expect unique artwork, live music, and parties, many of which and taking place in the buzzling city center betwen Eyre Square and the Spanish Arch.
But Galway offers as well plenty of choices for outdoor getaways, e.g. to the Aran Islands in the Galway Bay or the wonderful wilderness that is Connemara. Rent a bike and discover the unspoiled authentic cultural landscape and some of Ireland's ancient heritage like the pre-historic fort of Dun Aonghasa on the island of Inis Mor, dramatically set over a 110000m high steep sea cliff, or enjoy the breath-taking views over Ireland's Western Atlantic coastline and the Twelve Bens in the Connemara National Park. The many outdoor adventure opportunities and the traditional appeal of the region will definitely help to keep a cool head during the festivities.
Did you know?
Saint Patrick’s Day Facts
Patrick’s Day in Ireland dates back to the 17th century, as a religious feast day that commemorates the death of Saint Patrick (a missionary) in the fifth century.
It wasn't until 1798 that the color green became officially linked with St. Patrick's Day. Before then, it was blue.
Dublin's first official celebration of St. Patrick's Day did not take place until 1931
The festivities aren’t just on March 17th, but also on the days before and after.
What weather can you expect?
Generally, March transitions from winter to spring but remain quite cold overall. You can expect a mix of occasional rain, winds, and lovely bright days. In April you can still experience all types of weather in one day, but tends to be more settled and days are getting longer! Average day temperatures are around 8-10 degrees Celsius.
How to get there?
The best way to reach the towns in Ireland in this article is by flying to Dublin and to rent a car. Dublin offers direct connections to many destinations across Europe and has a well extended network of flights to North America and the Middle East. You can rent a car directly from Dublin airport and reach most of the towns in about a 2.5-3 hour drive. You also find (direct) flights to Cork in Southern Ireland or Knock in the West.