“Ireland has a Riviera? How? Where?” This in essence, sums up a recent conversation with a friend from Nice about the hidden gems of the Emerald Isle. Such innocent ignorance might be forgiven from a bronzed native of the C?te d’Azur, where the waters and coastal communes of the Mediterranean lure millions of sun-worshippers every year. The Italian Riviera similarly, is a terribly enchanting destination. More and more tourists too have become fond of the Turkish Riviera, a now-familiar nickname that resonates from ?e?me to dynamic Antalya.
Americans even have their own version of the Riviera in Florida, on the Emerald Coast of the Gulf of Mexico. Although the Redneck Riviera is decidedly less posh than the Mediterranean shores of Europe, the weather and fine sand of the Gulf coast is a powerful magnet for college students on a budget and retirees on a pension.
So what about the Irish Riviera? Ireland is a haven for tourists, that much is certain. But of the millions of international visitors who comb the streets of Dublin, Cork, Galway and Limerick every year pack swim trunks and sunscreen? The answer is most likely nil. Yet for almost a century, the south coast of Ireland has been a popular and affordable retreat for locals and people on vacation from all over the United Kingdom. Here are some of the major points of interest in the area known as the Irish Riviera.
Ardmore’s paramount claim to fame is as the first Christian settlement in all of Ireland. Established way back in 316 AD by Saint Declan, before even Saint Patrick had made a name for himself, the tiny (and we mean tiny) fishing village has won numerous accolades for town tidiness, a most-prized virtue in the United Kingdom. Of course, it’s not difficult to maintain order and cleanliness in a town of less than 500 people. Yet Ardmore’s appeal stems precisely from the seaside hamlet’s calm, serene and halycon vibe. A round tower spire and ancient monastic ruins comprise the main attractions in town.
Less than an hour’s drive from Cork lies the pretty cliffside village of Ballycotton. Like the rest of the Irish Riviera, fishing is the traditional industry in town, other than tourism of course. The two do collide however, as Ballycotton is a notable hub for deep-sea anglers. The natural beauty of the area, from country backroads to the sea coast, make Ballycotton a choice escape for rest and relaxation.
The seaport of Cobh dwarfs most other communes on the Irish Riviera, with a local population in excess of 13,000 people. For golf and a wide variety of watersports, Cobh is second to none and many flock here in summer precisely for the panoply of recreation on tap. In the same vein, superb pubs in town give one a veritable sense of Irish conviviality. A popular gateway to other points along the Irish Riviera, Cobh has the best hotels and traditional attractions for international visitors to the coast. A beautiful cathedral and colorful waterfront dominate the cityscape.
In the beautiful province of Munster, Dungarvan is a lively seaside market town at the epicenter of the Irish Riviera. The town’s harbour is particularly attractive, with the remains of a castle built on the orders of King John of England in the very early 13th century and a network of fantastic shops in tow. Every May Dungarvan hosts a notable festival of traditional Irish music and culture.
On the estuary of the River Blackwater, prized for world class trout and salmon, Youghal is one of the most popular tourist destinations in all of Ireland. Mainly with natives of course, but with wide Blue Flag beaches (two, to be exact) and gorgeous natural scenery, the town of 7,000 is a gem. Thankfully spared from the wretches of overdevelopment, Youghal is one of the prettiest seaside communities in Ireland and the United Kingdom.
Check out some of the best rates on great hotels all over Ireland.