Charming towns and villages of Ireland’s Ancient East
Entering this picturesque Meath town, it’s kind of hard to miss Trim Castle, as it rises like a behemoth over the River Boyne. Trim town is full of friendly locals, cute cafés and has a storied Norman past, not to mention Hollywood connections. Oh yes, if the star attraction looks familiar, that’s because Mel Gibson fought for freedom using this as a backdrop during the filming of 1995’s Braveheart! And if you’re visiting in June, be sure to catch the Trim Hay Making Festival, a celebration of Ireland’s rural tradition.
“Bay of the hag” might not be the most enticing name for Carlingford Lough, but we’ve the Vikings to thank for that. Thankfully the town is a lot more picturesque than its lough’s moniker might suggest. This is a pint-sized medieval marvel, with guides happy to show you the sights and tell you the stories. Watched over by the magnificent King John’s Castle, take a wander, sample the fresh catch from the lough, or make a date to meet Ireland’s last official leprechaun whisperer, Kevin Woods.
At the entrance to Waterford Harbour, the sleepy fishing village of Dunmore East is where you’ll taste the salt on your lips and feel the wind in your hair – this is the perfect spot for getting away from it all. There’s lots to eat, see and do along this stunning stretch, including historic walks, watersports, and a spot of golf. But if you want to do some time travelling, how about making like a pirate on board a traditional Viking-style wooden sailboat, where you can take in the views from the sea? Bliss.
Located in a county that’s known as the “garden of Ireland”, the lovely coastal town of Greystones is one of Wicklow’s most charming spots and is accessible by DART train from Dublin city. Perched right on the Irish Sea and backed by the Wicklow Mountains, Greystones is a lively spot with a great selection of shops, restaurants, cafés and pubs, with top local favourites including The Happy Pear (for delicious plant-based feasts), JuJu (for a great mix of Irish and international clothing labels), and the retro-cool bar, Mrs Robinsons. Feeling energetic? Hike the stunning Bray Head to Greystones Cliff Walk, for amazing coastal views, or join the locals for a sunrise swim at The Cove. Otherwise, just chill out, relax and enjoy the best that this pretty town has to offer.
The connection to the sea is strong in this pretty Cork town, with a maritime legacy radiating from land to shore whichever way you look. But if one tragic tale from the tide stands out, it’s the ship that can never return that remains an indelible part of Cobh’s legacy. At the Titanic Experience, take a ticket and follow the story of the Ship of Dreams that was doomed to nightmare as it left Cobh in 1912. Of course, there’s much more to this town than the Titanic, and the Cobh Heritage Centre explores it all, from Annie Moore – the first immigrant to pass through Ellis Island in New York – to the convict ships that departed for Australia in 1801.
At the heart of Ireland’s Ancient East, the town of Cashel is most famous for the Rock of Cashel that looms over it. The devil bit off more than he could chew with the Rock of Cashel – quite literally if you believe the legend. Dropped from his grasp in the heart of the Tipperary countryside, this hulking rock became home many ages later to the spectacular collection of medieval buildings that remain today. While visiting the Rock is the main thing to do in town, you’ll also find Cashel is a charming destination in its own right, with great little pubs such as TJ Ryan’s, excellent restaurants including Chez Hans, and a sumptuous Palladian Manor-hotel called the Cashel Palace.