Last Updated on October 13, 2023
Looking to visit South East Ireland’s top attractions? Discover all the best places to visit and things to do in Kilkenny, Wexford, Waterford, Tipperary, and Carlow Counties.
Whether you want to spend time at the beach, explore historic towns and castles, or enjoy outdoor activities, there are plenty of fun things to do in South East Ireland. Get ready to embark on an epic road trip through some of the best places to visit in the country.
I’ve first listed the most popular places to visit that you definitely should see, and then I’ve added more attractions for each southeastern county so you can pick and choose what you want to do if you have some extra time.
HELPFUL WEBSITES TO HELP YOU PLAN YOUR TRIP
HELPFUL WEBSITES TO HELP YOU PLAN YOUR TRIP
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Most Popular Places to Visit in South East Ireland
Kilkenny is a must-visit in South East Ireland and one of the best destinations to visit during a first-time trip to Ireland. Plan to spend at least a full day there but if you want to stay longer, it’s a great base to explore the area.
Your first stop should be to visit the iconic Kilkenny Castle, stroll around the garden then head inside to tour the building. Among the must-see landmarks, you’ll find St Canice’s Cathedral, The Black Abbey, Rothe House & Garden, and Saint Mary’s Cathedral.
If you like museums, the St. Mary’s Medieval Mile Museum is set in a 13th-century church and features a graveyard with medieval sculptures, artifacts, and Renaissance-era tombs. You can take a guided tour to learn more about the medieval history of Kilkenny.
For something a bit more fun, go on a distillery or brewery tour and tasting. The Smithwick’s Experience is one of the most popular places in the city. They offer interactive guided tours of their 18th-century brewery during which you’ll get to help with the brewing process, the tour is then followed by a tasting.
Castlecomer Discovery Park, Kilkenny
If you’re looking for some family fun during your trip to Southern Ireland, head to the Castlecomer Discovery Park where you can enjoy treetop walks, climbing walls, ziplines, canoeing, orienteering, and much more.
The park is located on the former Wandersforde Estate on over 32 ha of forest and lakes. They offer activities for all ages with many fun things to do. There, you’ll also find a restaurant, a craft yard, and a museum about coal mining.
It’s a great destination to spend a day, enjoying the outdoors and some adventure. It’s recommended to book online the activities you want to do, especially during pick times. In any case, make sure to check their opening time before heading there.
Rock of Cashel, Tipperary
One of the most stunning castles in Ireland, the Rock of Cashel is a sight to behold. From the main road leading to the town of Cashel, you’ll get a stunning view of the castle, set on top of a hill. Once inside, see some of the best-preserved medieval buildings in the country.
You can tour the castle on your own or hire a guide if you want to learn more about the history of the place and its architecture. Note that you’ll need to take a guided tour if you want to visit the iconic Cormac’s Chapel.
In town, you can check out if there’s something going on at the Brú Ború Cultural Centre. They often host traditional music concerts and shows and have a music-themed interactive exhibit in their underground chambers.
Cahir Castle, Tipperary
One of the biggest and best-preserved castles in Ireland, Cahir Castle is an architectural gem. It’s a perfect example of a defensive building that withheld through time. Rich in history, it was built in 1142 by Conor O’Brien, passed hands several times, and barely escaped being destroyed a couple of times.
Located on the River Suir, the area is beautiful and you can easily walk around to get a nice view of the castle and the countryside. Inside, take a guided tour through several rooms, and climb up the tower for a panoramic view.
Copper Coast Geopark, Waterford
Classified as a global geopark by UNESCO, the Copper Coast is one of the best places to visit in South East Ireland. The coast features stunning rock formations, the famous Mahon Falls, and the scenic Waterford Greenway.
Whether you’re driving around, hiking, or biking the greenway, you’ll be surprised by the beauty of the area. Start your journey hiking to the Mahon Falls – the trail is an easy one – from the top, you’ll get a stunning view over the coast.
Next, head to Durrow where you can rent bikes at O’Mahony’s Pub, and start cycling along the greenway following the path of the old railway. Pass by the iconic Durrow Viaduct and the Ballyvoyle Tunnel and stop at a couple of beaches. Among the most stunning beaches, you’ll find Annestown Beach, Tramore Beach, and Newtown Cove.
Lismore Castle, Waterford
Lismore Castle was built in 1185 by King John and changed hands a couple of times until 1753 when the Fourth Duke of Devonshire acquired it. It’s still owned today by the Devonshire family. While you can’t visit the castle, the gardens are open to the public.
The gardens are said to be the oldest continually cultivated gardens in Ireland and feature stunning views of the castle and the Blackwater valley. Strolling around, you’ll find different types of set up with the oldest part of the garden dating back to the 16th century.
During your trip to South East Ireland, make sure to visit Waterford, the country’s oldest city, founded by the Vikings back in 914AD! Stroll around town and stop by some of the city’s highlights such as the Viking Triangle, Reginald’s Tower, the Medieval Museum, and the Bishop’s Palace.
The town is also home to the famous Waterford Crystal, which made it a prosperous port city since the 18th century. You can tour the factory and see craftsmen at work.
Furlongs Road Loop, Wexford
One of the nicest hiking trails in County Wexford, the Furlongs Road Loop starts in Kilmore Quay and follows along the beautiful Ballyteigue Burrow beach and sand dunes. On top of the highest dune, you’ll get a stunning view over Ballyteigue Castle and Forth Mountain.
The loop is 2.8 miles and is pretty easy. Pack a picnic and plan to spend some time enjoying the beach.
Saltee Islands, Wexford
A paradise for birders, the Saltee Islands should definitely be on your South East Ireland bucket list. There are actually two islands, Great Saltee and Little Saltee, both mostly uninhabited since the 20th century.
Head to Kilmore Quay to take a short ferry ride to the island where you can enjoy hiking and birdwatching.
Depending on the season you visit, you’ll be rewarded by wildflowers in bloom and all sorts of resident and migratory birds. Gannets, Puffins, Guillemots, and Razorbills are the most often seen.
Saltee Ferry offers daily departures from April to September. They drop you off and you get to spend 3.5 hours on the island before they come to pick you up. Be ready to get wet on the boat and to get your feet in the water when disembarking (there is no pier on the island).
Irish National Heritage Park, Wexford
If you want to learn more about how Irish people used to live, head to the living history museum at the Irish National Heritage Park. Stroll around an authentic recreation of Irish settlements through different time periods.
The park will take you through 9,000 years of Irish history, from the first settlements up to the arrival of the Normans in the 12th century, with replicas of prehistoric campsites, ringforts, crannogs, and Viking houses.
They offer guided tours if you want to have more insights into what life used to look like during Pre-Historic Ireland, Early Christian Ireland, or The Age of Invasion. Check out their event calendar as well as they organize reenactments, themed activities, and tons of different experiences, you can even spend a night in a Viking hut!
Curracloe Beach, Wexford
A local’s favorite, Curracloe Strand is one of the most beautiful beaches in South East Ireland. In 1997, Spielberg filmed part of Saving Private Ryan there with the beach being turned into Omaha Beach.
It’s a great place to go for a walk, enjoying the high dunes and the white thin sand. In summer, the waters are known to be safe for swimming with lifeguards on duty. You can easily park at White Park, Ballinesker, or Culleton’s Gap.
Ballymoney Beach, Wexford
Another beautiful beach, Ballymoney Beach is a popular place among locals, especially during summer when the sea is calm, making swimming safe for all ages. Bring a picnic and spend the day relaxing and enjoying the sun – arrive early to find a parking spot.
The rest of the year, it’s a great place to go for a stroll and enjoy the stunning landscape.
Duckett’s Grove, Carlow
Destroyed by a fire in 1933, Duckett’s Grove was originally a Georgian country house built around 1745 and with the renovations was later on considered to be one of the finest Gothic Mansions in Europe.
Today you can take a guided tour through part of the castle and walk around the extensive and well-maintained garden.
Brownshill Portal Tomb, Carlow
Dating back to the Early Neolithic period (4000-3000 BC), the Brownshill Portal Tomb is one of the most impressive dolmens in Ireland and is believed to be the largest megalithic tomb in Europe. The top stone weighs around 150 tons and it’s still unknown how it was raised there.
It’s a nice place to see if you’re in the area, but I wouldn’t recommend doing a detour just to visit it unless you have a high interest in megalithic structures.
More Things to Do in County Wexford
The Southern Coast is also great for sea kayaking. In Fethard-on-Sea, the Irish Experience offers guided sunset kayak tours around Hook Head passing by sea caves, arches, and majestic cliffs.
On Duncannon Beach, you can rent stand-up paddle boards and try your hand at kitesurfing.
If you’re traveling with kids, in The Village at Wheelocks you can pick seasonal fruit, take a guided tour, attend seasonal events, explore the woods, and pet farm animals. There’s also a restaurant and shop on site.
In New Ross, tour the Dunbrody Famine Ship to experience what life on board was like during the 19th century, when people left Ireland during the Great Famine. There, you can also enjoy 250 hectares of trails, forest, flowers, wildlife, and a pretty lake at the John F. Kennedy Arboretum.
In nearby Dunganstown, the Kennedy Homestead was home to five generations of the Kennedys and is now a museum.
The Seal Rescue Ireland in Courtown offers guided tours and opportunities to help with the seals.
In Ballyedmond, you can spend some time at Wells House And Gardens. They offer tours of the house and you can explore the garden and go for a hike in the woodland.
The Wexford Lavender Farm in Inch is open in Spring and Summer and offers farm tours, workshops, distillery tours, and woodland walks.
More Things to Do in Country Waterford
In Kilmeaden, embark on a train ride along the Suir Valley Railway, from the 19th century, through the scenic landscape of Wexford’s river valley.
From May to September, you can tour the beautiful Curraghmore House and Gardens, the former home of the 9th Marquess of Waterford.
Walk along the Ardmore Cliff Walk and visit St. Declan’s Monastery which is believed to date back to the 5th century AD.
Near Lismore, see the beautiful Ballysaggartmore Towers and learn about their funny history.
If you’re traveling with kids, enjoy the many indoor and outdoor activities at Dunmore East Adventure Centre.
More Places to Visit in County Carlow
On the outskirts of Clonegal Village, lay the 17th-century Huntington Castle and Gardens. This former garrison features impressive artwork and architecture, and in the basement, a temple dedicated to the Egyptian goddess, Isis.
The Altamont Gardens are considered one of the most beautiful gardens in Ireland. You can visit year-round and just explore the different parts of the garden from the Bog Garden to the Ice Age Glen. The Delta Sensory Gardens are also worth checking out.
Located near the town of Borris, Blackstairs Eco Trails offers a variety of hiking tours and experiences to discover Carlow’s rich biodiversity and stunning landscape. They also offer accommodation if you are looking for a peaceful retreat.
In Borris, you can also explore the area’s waterways with Go with the Flow River Adventures. Rent canoes, kayaks, or river surfers and follow their incredible water trails, or go on a guided excursion.
If you like hiking, head for a leisurely stroll at Rathwood Forest where you might spot some wildlife such as deer, rabbits, foxes, pheasants, and minks.
If you have a sweet tooth, attend a workshop or just enjoy sampling some delicacies at The Chocolate Garden of Ireland in Carlow City.
More Places to Go in Kilkenny
In Thomastown, you’ll find plenty of things to do and places to visit. Start with a visit to Jerpoint Glass Studio where can see artists at work, then head to the 1158 Jerpoint Abbey, before going for a stroll at Jerpoint Park, where you can see remains of a deserted medieval town.
The Dunmore Cave is also a must-visit and is only a 15-minute drive from Kilkenny City. Viking artifacts dating as far back as 928 AD were found inside.
Dating back to the 17th century, the Highbank Organic Orchards in Cuffesgrange offers apple juices, ciders, and their iconic product, the Highbank Organic Orchard Syrup.
In the medieval village of Kells, you’ll find one of the largest medieval monuments in Ireland, the ruins of the Augustine Kells Priory along King’s River, still pretty well preserved considering it was founded in 1193.
In the charming village of Inistioge, you’ll find one of the nicest hikes in the County, the Woodstock Loop. Start by heading to the Woodstock House Gardens and Arboretum and walk along the River Nore Valley. From the village, you can also hike to Thomastown.
More Attractions in Tipperary
The Galtee Mountains are a hikers’ paradise. At the Glen of Aherlow, you’ll find eight looped walks starting at the Christ the King Trail Head or Lisvarrinane Village Trail Head, passing by mountains, lakes, forests, and moorlands.
in Kilcommon, you can tour the Swiss Cottage built in the early 19th century by Richard Butler, first Earl of Glengall.
Hike to the summit of Devil’s Bit Mountain for stunning views over 5 counties. A moderate 5km trail will take you to the top through a lush forest and rolling hills.
One of the most beautiful Elizabethan manor houses in Ireland, Ormond Castle was built by the 10th Earl of Ormond in the 16th century and can be visited.
Take an underground tour of the Mitchelstown Caves, one of the most popular attractions in County Tipperary.
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