Dublin is undoubtably one of the most exciting cities in Ireland with world-renowned visitor attractions, but sometimes it’s a good idea to venture a little of the beaten track. Visiting attractions that are less known is the perfect way to step back in time and have a real cultural experience. You might not always know where to look, so we have listed some hidden gems than can be found on Dublin’s doorstep.
Wicklow Mountains National Park
Situated south of Dublin, Wicklow Mountains National Park covers a magnificent 20,000 hectares of mountain scenery. Wicklow Mountains National Park was established in 1991, however, its history goes back much further. During and after the Irish Rebellion of 1798, the mountains were a hiding place for the rebel troops. The Great Military Road which was constructed during this time to make the area more accessible still remains there today as an important route for tourists. Today, the park offers a great variety of outdoor activities, like hillwalking, biking and kayaking.
Kilkenny City is known as Ireland’s best-preserved medieval city with 800 years of history and historical gems including Kilkenny Castle, Rothe House and Gardens and St Mary’s Cathedral. Visitors can learn about the town’s interesting past in the award-winning Medieval Mile Museum which was formerly the 13th century St Mary’s Church. Kilkenny city can be reached in around 1 hour and 30 minutes from Dublin via car or there are various buses and trains which run from Dublin city daily.
Also located in County Wicklow, Glendalough is a glacial valley best known as the home to one of the most important monastic sites in Ireland. The early Christian monastic settlement was established in the 6th century by St. Kevin, creating what is known as the ‘Monastic City’. Many buildings that still stand in Glendalough were built during the 10th and 12th centuries, despite being a target of Viking raids. Today, there is an interactive centre close to the Monastic City with an interesting exhibition and audio-visual show. Aside from being a historical hidden gem, Glendalough is also a popular area for hillwalking and rock-climbing.
The National Stud and Gardens
There is no better way to experience Ireland’s thoroughbred horse industry than by visiting the National Stud in County Kildare just an hour away from Dublin. The National Stud is a thoroughbred horse breeding facility with immaculately-bred stallions, mares, foals and yearlings. Visitors are welcome to come watch the horses at close quarters and can book guided tours. The iconic Japanese Gardens can be found here too, created by the Japanese craftsman, Tassa Eida. The gardens aim to symbolise the ‘Life of Man’ through trees, plants, flowers, lawns, rocks and water.
Rock of Dunamase
Many have heard of the Rock of Cashel, but have you heard of the Rock of Dunamase? The Rock of Dunamase is a large rocky outcrop, hidden away in the outskirts of Portlaoise, County Laois. It’s thought that the first fortress was built during the 9th century and was attacked by Vikings not long after. Most of the surviving ruins at this site date from the late 12th century and early 13th centuries. The Rock of Dunamase is now maintained by the Office of Public Works and is open to the public year-round. The top offers a beautiful view over to the Slieve Bloom Mountains and the surrounding countrysides.
You can visit these hidden gems through our ‘On Dublin’s Doorstep’ package. We travel from pre-pyramid tombs to Anglo-Norman forts taking in lessons in astrological horse racing and a Japanese Garden in Ireland’s equestrian heartland. We’ll meet pagans and saints, Colonels and stars. You simply won’t believe all of this sits slap bang on Dublin’s Doorstep.