14 Of The Best Irish Small Towns For A Last-Minute Weekend Escape

Because why the hell not?

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Sometimes we forget how lucky we are to live on an island with so many gorgeous little towns dotted that are just made for an impromptu visit.

With local pubs for a pint of the good stuff, quaint restaurants and stunning scenery everywhere you glance, these towns will restore your soul and prepare you for another working week.

Our top tip is to book yourself into an Airbnb for that real home-away-from-home feel. Check out the places we're planning on hightailing it to next time it all gets a bit too much in the real world.

1. Kinsale, Cork

Life's worries will instantly disappear once you arrive to this cute harbour town.

It's been hailed 'The Gourmet Capital of Ireland' for a good reason, you'll find delish seafood restaurants. Culture vultures will love the artsy vibe too, which can be felt all over the town, right down to the brightly coloured buildings.

2. Birr, Offaly

Birr Castle isn't the only amazing thing about this pretty heritage town (although you have got to take a stroll around the estate grounds).

The candy-coloured buildings and a spirited nightlife make this Midlands stop a great location for an easy getaway. We love Spinners on Castle Street for a proper feed.

3. Dalkey, Dublin

This seaside town is a foodies' paradise. Think gourmet food stores such as the brill Select Stores, buzzy pubs and panoramic views of Dublin Bay if you take a wander to the top of Killiney Hill.

This is more of a luxury staycation, but well worth it for a real treat.

4. Lismore, Waterford

Lismore is a beautiful countryside town that's perfect for an entire weekend spent exploring the woodlands around River Blackwater. You can anything from boating tours to cycle trips along the banks, so outdoorsy folk will love it here.

The town itself has plenty of cafes and places to snack, with local watering holes such as The Classroom Bar a great shout for a chilled evening drink.

5. Roscrea, Tipperary

Traditionally an old market town, Roscrea is an absolute haven in the middle of Ireland.

There's century-old towers and monasteries, the main street is lined with pubs and restaurants so you're sure to find something yum. Fiacri Country House Restaurantis a great place with local foods that even does BBQ and music evenings.

6. Carlingford, Louth

This coastal town is perfect whether you want an adventure jam-packed trip or a complete retreat from the world. It has great live music, craic and loads of bars plus pretty much any activity you can think of.

Crab fishing? Yep. Rock climbing? Obvs. You can also just chill and take in the sea views. Dreamy.

7. Clifden, Galway

One of Connemara's best towns, Clifden is the perfect base if you want to explore the surrounding rugged countryside.

It's a pretty little town that has lots of arts and craft shops, some of the liveliest pubs you'll ever come across and fab choices for food. Check out Mitchell's Seafood Restaurant – the chowder is to die for.

8. Gweedore, Donegal

This Gaeltacht area of little townlands is a cradle of culture, and has breath-taking scenery of long sandy beaches and mountains.

If you're looking to clear the mind and want to be surrounded by gorge nature, then this is the place for you. You'll easily stumble upon small local restaurants, and trad pubs.

9. Enniskerry, Wicklow

Enniskerry is right at the foot of the Wicklow Mountains, so you've plenty on your doorstep here, including Glendalough and Powerscourt.

There's superb tearooms, shops,and we love the charming village triangle centred around its clock tower. There's a diverse range of restaurants so you can try something new each evening.

Be sure to eat in Poppies for wholesome, tasty grub.

10. Dingle, Kerry

One of the country's most charming towns, Dingle somehow manages to retain a quaint village feel even though its packed with buzzing bars, restaurants and a pretty amazing music scene.

It's a hotspot for booze lovers too, with a craft brewery and Dingle whiskey distillery must-sees. Murphy's Ice-cream on Strand Street even have a Dingle Gin flavour – we're in love.

11. Carrick-On-Shannon, Leitrim

The hopping town right on the waters of the River Shannon has everything you could possibly need for a weekend escape.

The marina is lovely for a stroll with cute cafes and shops looking out at the boats, and you can take a day cruise on the river for a real treat. Try the Moon River boat (it even has a fully stocked bar!).

12. Lahinch, Clare

For a lively break then you have to visit Lahinch, otherwise known as surfers paradise. It's known for its surf schools, social life and great atmosphere. Seriously, you will have the time of your life in any of the local bars down here.

Stop off at Danny Mac's for a sneaky cocktail or Joe's Café for some delish fuel after a day spent on the water.

13. Kenmare, Kerry

What's not to love about Kenmare? The picturesque town has gorge art galleries, a nature park with the most stunning rhododendrons you'll ever see and the sunset looking out over the bay is unforgettable.

For a cosy meal we recommend Packie's, a local food haven with a roaring fire.

14. Westport, Mayo

We <3 Westport.

Whether you're braving the famous pilgrimage mountain of Croagh Patrick, or simply want to have a lazy couple of days (we're always in the lazy group), it's perfect.

Nearby Old Head beach has the most stunning views of the Atlantic, Westport House is a lovely way to spend a day as you explore the stately manor, and in town the tree-lined bank of the Carrowbeg River is just made for a mosey after dinner.

All of these places are defo going on our list the next time we want to quickly take a few days to chill and have a breather (or a wild weekend, we all need one of those now and again).

Do you have a fave town that never fails to impress? Let us know in the comments!

Header image: Kinsale, Cork

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When it comes to fitness - it's not one-size-fits-all. Sami Dowling chats nutrition, fads, and finding the plan that's right for you on The Forty-Five podcast. Subscribe to The Forty-Five here

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