Sometimes it's necessary to just unplug and get away from it all. Discovering Ireland's rural regions is a good way to do that.
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Here are 8 remote places in Ireland to enjoy when you visit in 2023.
1. The Slieve League Cliffs, Co. Donegal
For years, tourists have flocked to other, more well-known parts of Ireland.
But Donegal has become a favorite destination for many, especially since the development of the Wild Atlantic Way, a 1,500-mile coastal route that begins in Donegal and ends in West Cork.
The Slieve League Cliffs located in southwest Donegal is the first of the 8 remote places in Ireland to visit while you're traveling around the country.
The cliffs fall steeply into the Atlantic Ocean and are among one of the world's highest cliffs.
Slieve Liag is a three-hour drive from Belfast, a four-hour drive from Dublin, and three hours from Galway.
The cliffs are located outside the village of Teelin, about 12 miles from Killybegs, and a 22-mile (36 km) drive from Donegal Town.
Read More: Wild Atlantic Way Named Number One Drive in the World
Walking to the Summit
Currently, there is no charge to visit the Slieve Liag cliffs, where you’ll be able to see the wide expanse of the Atlantic Ocean, the Sligo Mountains in the distance, and Donegal Bay.
To get the full experience, be sure to get to the official Bunglass Viewing Platform, which can be accessed from a parking lot close to the visitor center.
An alternate route can be taken to the Slieve Liag summit by way of the Pilgrim’s Path, a 90-minute hike each way.
The path starts out easy but gets more difficult due to its rocky terrain. Be sure to wear layers as the weather conditions may turn colder in the higher elevations.
Another way of getting to the top of the Slieve Liag Cliffs is by “One Man’s Pass.”
This path is for experienced hikers only. Take a look at the video below to get an idea of how exhilarating yet terrifying this climb can be.
Group tours are available, however, from local company Sliabh Liag Tours.
Video courtesy of Ivan Miller for Aras BnB (known in Gaelic as Aras Ghleann Cholm Cille), Glencolmkille, Co. Donegal.
Walking tours of the region are also available.
In addition, you can enjoy the scenery on a bike by renting from Grassroutes Electric and Traditional Bike Hire.
Other Attractions Near Slieve League
Other cool stuff to see in the area includes the Napoleonic watchtower, built between 1804 and 1806 by the British as a lookout against a French invasion.
Boat tours are also available that take visitors close to the cliffs. During the summer months, whales, dolphins, and seals have been known to appear.
If it’s warm enough, take a dip in the crystal-clear waters, courtesy of Atlantic Coastal Cruises.
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While you’re in the region, don’t forget to check out the Glencolmcille Folk Village, a replica of rural Donegal that includes a cluster of small cottages that show visitors what life was like in the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries.
Each cottage reflects a particular era and includes various artifacts, furniture, and utensils in use at the time.
The folk village also includes a reconstructed schoolhouse, a fisherman’s dwelling, and a small pub-grocery. There is also a craft shop and tearooms in the village.
Read More: Get Around Donegal in Style with Tour Guide Henry Doohan
2. Doolough Valley, Co. Mayo
While this area of Co. Mayo has been shaped by its traumatic history, the beauty you'll see here is unforgettable, not to mention that it's a great place to find some peace and quiet.
In 1849, at the height of the Great Famine, a group of starving local people walked from their homes in Louisburgh (about 15 miles away) to their landlord’s home in the Doolough Valley in search of much-needed food.
They were refused sustenance and subsequently died along the return route to Louisburgh.
Today, a stone memorial stands along the Doolough Pass commemorating the 400 or so people who lost their lives.
Other Attractions to Enjoy Near the Doolough Valley Region in the West of Ireland
3. Silver Strand, Co. Mayo – One of Ireland’s Unspoiled Beaches
While you’re in the region, check out Silver Strand, a deserted beach that received a Green Coast Award in 2018 for its excellent water quality and natural, unspoiled environment.
The beach, which is close to Killary Fjord, is popular with families due to the shelter that the high sand dunes provide. Note that there is no lifeguard on duty. On a clear day, you can see the islands of Inishturk, Inishbofin and Clare Island.
There are over 700 archaeological monuments and 20 areas of scientific interest in the surrounding area, including megalithic wedge tombs.
On a good day, this is the perfect place to spend the day and you may just get the benefit of a perfect sunset.
4. The Beara Peninsula, Cork/Kerry border
While the Ring of Kerry and West Cork gets all the adulation from tourism agencies, the Beara Peninsula is not as well known.
But it should be.
There is no way that I could leave this beautiful region off the list of 8 remote places in Ireland to enjoy.
The area is indeed breathtaking and is like stepping back into old Ireland when there wasn’t the kind of hustle and bustle we've become accustomed to in the 21st century.
The roads are narrow in this area, so be careful. You probably won’t come across too much traffic, however, as tour buses are too large for the narrow roads.
An Archaeological Haven
What makes this region also stand out is the number of prehistoric monuments that exist here. They include the tallest standing Ogham stone, as well as a stone circle called The Uragh Stone Circle.
Ireland’s Hidden Gems tour operator and writer Susan Byron provide a beautiful account of her visit there, recounting what it must have been like for the Bronze Age residents who lived and worked on the peninsula.
Luscious Gardens Where Exotic Plants Flourish
Other places to see while in the Beara Peninsula include the Dereen Garden, a mature woodland garden that was planted 150 years ago by the Marquess of Landsdowne, whose descendants currently run the estate.
In 1870, Lord Landsdowne set out to create a garden out of the rocks and scrub oak that surrounded his property.
He planted 400 acres of woodland and today that includes a collection of shrubs and specimen trees that were first brought back to Ireland from his plant hunting expeditions in the Himalayas.
Derreen Garden is famous for its collection of rhododendrons, some of which have grown to a size rarely seen in other Irish gardens, as well as its tree ferns.
It is a haven for wildlife, attracting Sika deer, red squirrels, and occasionally, you might just see an Irish hare.
Children who visit the estate have lots of fun trying to find the many fairies who are said to inhabit the “derreenies” or tiny two-inch houses that are scattered throughout the property.
There’s also a café on-site that is open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. April through October.
A beautiful tranquil spot to spend a few hours.
5. Black Valley, Co. Kerry
Located at the southern tip of the MacGillycuddy Reeks, visitors on the Ring of Kerry will find themselves in this beautiful remote region that is located south of the Gap of Dunloe and north of Moll’s Gap, two prominent attractions on the Ring.
The Black Valley is famous for being the last place in rural Ireland to be connected to electricity in the 1970s due to its remoteness. In fact, you can drive for miles and hike for many hours before seeing any signs of civilization.
During the springtime, the Black Valley is covered in bog cotton and yellow irises, making for a beautiful blanket of color. In addition, you’ll find lots of red and purple heather dotting the fields.
Adding to the region’s popularity is an abandoned cottage that has been pictured frequently on social media. The deserted house, also known as Molly's Cottage, is located near Lough Leagh.
6. Comeragh Mountains, Co. Waterford
A four-hour walk around the Comeragh Mountains seems like the perfect getaway activity for many.
Located in County Waterford, this mountain range stretches from Waterford’s coast to Clonmel in Co. Tipperary.
A dramatic waterfall down a cliff face, a “magic road” that winds its way through the mountain gap, and the spectacular Coomshingaun (pronounced “Coomshingawn”) corrie lake are just some of the many surprises that await visitors who visit this beautiful region.
Don’t forget to check out Ned Curran’s cottage, which is nestled in the heart of the mountains. It is said to have been a safe house during the Irish Civil War.
7. Silent Valley Mountain Park, County Down
This area of County Down is what supplies most of Belfast’s drinking water, as well as the water for the remainder of the county.
The area consists of beautiful parkland, lakes, and a pond.
The reservoir itself is enclosed by the famous Mourne Wall.
Approximately 50,000 people visit this park each year to enjoy the peace and solitude that it offers.
When you go there, be sure to check out the information center, where you’ll learn about the long and hazardous hours that were endured by the men who worked in the dam’s compression shafts.
There are three walks you can take. They include the all-ability loop, the reservoir loop, and the viewpoint loop.
Expect to pay a walking fee of £1.60 and £4.50 for driving through the park.
Learn more about the trails in the Silent Valley Park.
8. Gleniff Horseshoe, County Sligo
To arrive at this off-the-beaten-path attraction, you’ll need to drive north from Sligo town to Cliffoney on the N15 and then take the turnoff for the Horseshoe.
The main attraction for many is Diarmuid and Grainne’s cave, which is located at the back of the Gleniff Horseshoe. You can go either right or left from the old schoolhouse. Either way will bring you to the cave, the largest in Ireland.
For those unfamiliar with the story of Diarmuid and Grainne, they both feature largely in Irish mythology.
Grainne, the daughter of the High King Conor McAirt, was the most beautiful woman in Ireland and was to become the wife of Fionn MacCool, Ireland’s legendary warrior. On the night before her wedding to Fionn, she escaped with Diarmuid, who was one of Fionn's soldiers.
After years of traveling around Ireland, legend has it that they ended up on Benbulben, Sligo’s famous table mountain. It was there that Diarmuid was killed by a wild boar, no doubt an act of revenge by Fionn.
Whether you believe it or not, the cave itself is worth exploring and the view from the top is breathtaking.
Below is some recent drone footage from the area, courtesy of Paul McGuinness.
Read More: Spending a Week in County Sligo: 5 Activities to Enjoy
In addition to these 8 remote places to enjoy in Ireland, are there any others that you would add to the list? Let me know in the comments section below.
This Post Has 2 Comments
Thank you for this great article and excellent suggestions. There’s a typo regarding the distance from Donegal Town to Slieve League: says 1.5 miles, should be ~30 miles.
Thanks, Terry. I’ll make that change.