Sticking to Ireland’s Tourist Trail: 7 Reasons to Keep to the Beaten Path

Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge

Visitors lined up at the Carrick-a-Rede Roap Bridge during a holiday weekend.

On our podcast, we’re always encouraging listeners to get off the beaten path and “discover” places the tourists miss. Today, I’m changing my tune and telling you why you SHOULD follow the crowd.

That’s right, make a bee line for the Ring of Kerry, plant your lips firmly on the Blarney Stone, queue up for the Book of Kells, throw back some mead at a Medieval banquet, jump aboard Dublin’s Viking Splash tour, hop like Q-bert on the Giants Causeway, scavenge Galway for the perfect knit sweater! It’s okay… I promise.

  1. There’s a Reason They’re So Popular – Before the Cliffs of Moher put up a visitor centre and safety barricades… before Lady’s View had a gift shop… before Fungie the Dolphin splashed in Dingle Bay, visitors were drawn to these locations. That’s the case with most of Ireland’s most popular attractions. Beyond the commercial distractions that may surround them, you will likely find something that has stood the test of time and worthy of capturing your attention.
  2. They’re Easy to Get To – As much as we love a good adventure story, every leg of your itinerary can’t require a complicated or expensive transportation plan. Popular destinations tend to be near main roads, train depots, and bus stops; plus, day and package tours often include them in their all-in-one itineraries.
  3. It’s Tradition – Generations of families have kissed the Blarney Stone, sipped Guinness in a pub, and toured Killarney in a horse-drawn jarvey. It’s the people you share your experiences and memories with that matter, so let these popular places serve as a place to connect with friends and family.
  4. More Tourists = More Choices – While the downside to crowds can include long lines and diminished experiences, often an area’s popularity equates to more options for accommodations, food, shopping, and access to nearby sites. And while tourist areas are often criticized for high prices, in some instances, the competition can result in a wider range of price options.
  5. There’s More Nearby – For every major destination, there are hundreds of lesser-known sites nearby. By simply leaving a bit of time in your itinerary to “uncover” the places that don’t make the Top Ten lists, you will be rewarded with a string of extra finds to add to your trip report.
  6. There Are Deals to Be Had – As Ireland’s tourism sector bounces back from tough economic times, bargains are popping up from tour operators, hotels, and visitor attractions. It’s no surprise that the most popular tourist destinations are first in line to lure customers with lower rates and extra amenities.
  7. It’s Your Holiday – Your trip is what you make of it. No matter where you go or what you do, your experiences are your own. Embrace that, and make your dream trip happen… and the more tourist hot spots you include, the more leprechaun salt and pepper shakers you’ll have to choose from 😉

Photo by itmpa/Tom Parnell

This post was inspired by JoAnna Haugen’s 9 Reasons Why It’s Okay to Stay On the Beaten Path.


Author: Corey

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  1. Corey,

    Excellent article. There is a reason all those places are “touristy”. Because tourists want to visit them. That photo of the line for Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge is discouraging though. It looks like a solid queue for the whole mile-and-a-half pathway to the bridge.

    I have to admit that I’m amused every time I visit Blarney Castle because there are tourists wandering around like lost sheep yelling to each other “Martha, have you found the stone yet?” When they find out it is at the top of the castle you should see the looks on their faces as they tilt their heads way, way back and contemplate trekking to the top. I still think that Blarney Castle could make a million if they installed a lift.


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  2. Good points, one and all! My aunt passed away in 2005, and her husband passed last year. When my cousin sent my mother some boxes of my aunt’s belongings, among the treasures was her certificate from kissing the Blarney Stone (which was much cooler than mine, I might add). The really interesting thing was that my aunt had kissed the Stone almost exactly 30 years to the day before I did. I’m even more glad now that a trip to Blarney Castle was part of my first trip to Ireland!

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  3. Great post, Corey, and you know I agree 100%! Can’t wait to get to Ireland one of these days to check out each and every one of the most popular sites!

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  4. It never ceases to amaze me how many people go on to travel forums asking where to go off the beaten track but insist on Blarney, Ring of Kerry, Dingle, Cliffs of Moher and every other place riddled with tour bus’s. These places are popular for a reason either genuine or (more often) perceived and unfortunately some do prey excessively on our poor visitors.

    Be aware that there are many alternatives to most of the main tourist draws and if you don’t want to run into lots of other tourists consider the top left or bottom right corners and of course Northern Ireland has more than the Causeway and Rope Bridge.

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  5. I come to do family research and tyhe folks were in the outback of Slieve Bloom Mts, but we always take a day or two in a city….its is great travel after you ‘see the sights’…..

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  6. I have enjoyed some unexpected surprises and delights while on my way to the touristy attractions. I do make it a point to stop by a shop a few miles from the attractions, especially those that cannot accomodate coaches.

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  7. One thing to consider for all of these popular “touristy” sites is to go off season. I’ve been to all of them in the fall or spring – no crowds but you do get to see what everyone else wants to see.

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