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.
This Offaly town has an intriguing history, centred around the magnificent 17th century Birr Castle Demesne. Lord Rosse will happily spin tales of astronomy and his family history, as well as a monumental telescope from the 1840s called the Leviathan. But Birr’s beauty doesn’t stop at the castle gates. All roads surrounding the town are lined with a patchwork of farmland offering tranquillity seldom found these days. But don’t think for a second that things will be too quiet: spend your nights tapping your feet to traditional music in a lively pub, or strap on your walking boots for a stroll around the nearby Slieve Bloom Mountains.
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 midlands, the town of Athlone acts as a gateway between east and west. Sitting in County Westmeath, but straddling the border of Roscommon, the first thing you'll notice as you enter is Athlone Castle, perched on the banks of the River Shannon, which once withstood a fierce 10-day assault on the town during the Siege of Athlone in 1691. Use the town as your base to explore the wilderness of the Shannon Basin on a riverside walk; delve into a treasure trove of history at the Drum Heritage Centre, where you'll find famous literary works and emigrant letters; or pop into neighbouring County Offaly and check out the beautiful monastic site of Clonmacnoise.