The 32 counties of Ireland: an epic island overview

Every one of the 32 counties of Ireland offers different sights, cultures, and experiences. This overview will teach you a little more about each and every one.

Ireland is a small island located in the North Atlantic Ocean. To the east lies the Irish Sea and, across the pond, the British Isles. To the west, the Atlantic divides Ireland from North America.

The Emerald Isle is a small country consisting of 32 counties. Given its intimate size, travelling the width and breadth of the landmass is more than achievable.

For those of you eager to learn a little more about the country in question, here are some insights into the 32 counties of Ireland.

Antrim – home of Belfast

Antrim is one of the best in all 32 counties of Ireland, home to Belfast, Lough Neagh and beautiful countryside.
Credit: Tourism NI

Located at the north of the Island, Antrim is one of the six counties that make up Northern Ireland. It is also the home of Belfast, the capital city of Northern Ireland.

Lough Neagh – the largest freshwater lake in Ireland – sits only six miles from Antrim’s centre and is known for its stunning scenery.

Armagh – the ecclesiastical capital

Armagh is another county located in Northern Ireland. It is known as the “ecclesiastical capital of Ireland” and is the site of Navan Fort – an ancient, pagan ceremonial ground.

Carlow – for ancient Ireland

Located in the southeast of Ireland, Carlow is a small county rich in native flora, fauna, landscapes, and scenery. The River Barrow flows through Carlow, and it is known for its burial sites and ancient ruins.

Cavan – The Lake County

Cavan is one of the best of the 32 counties of Ireland, known for its huge number of lakes.

Cavan is border county in the Republic of Ireland, meaning it sits close to the border of Northern Ireland. It is a scenic county rich in heritage and history. Cavan is also home to 365 lakes, thus leading to its nickname, “The Lake County”.

Clare – for the Cliffs of Moher

Those keen to take in some awe-inspiring sights, head to County Clare on the west coast of Ireland. The county had a population of 118,817 in the 2016 census, and significant points of interest include the Cliffs of Moher.

Cork – Rebel Country

Located in the southeast of the country is Cork, colloquially known as “Rebel Country”. Cork is rich in local culture and has many sights of interest, including Spike Island, Fota Wildlife, and Titanic Experience.

Derry – for its old city

Derry is one of the most fascinating counties in Ireland, home to historic sites and beautiful scenery.
Credit: Jenny Jensma

Derry (also referred to as Londonderry) is in Northern Ireland. This county sits on the northern tip of the island and offers land rich in scenery and coastal stretches. With a well-preserved old city that lies on the bank of the River Foyle, Derry is a favourite of history buffs.

Donegal – for rugged nature

Donegal sits snug in the northwest tip of the county. Wild and rugged, this ancient land offers some of the most unspoiled scenery you’re likely to come across on the Emerald Isle. Check out Bundoran and Glenveagh.

Down – for the Mourne Mountains

This county is part of Northern Ireland and sits just over the border on the east coast of the island. As of the 2011 census, Down had a population of 531,665, and places of interest include the Mourne Mountains and Tullymore National Park.

Dublin – the capital city

A hustling, bustling hub, Dublin is one of the greatest of the 32 counties in Ireland.
via www.centralhoteldublin.com

As the capital of Ireland, Dublin is a thriving metropolis. Expect European vibes, an electric youth culture, nightlife, and entertainment. Dublin is home to the Guinness Storehouse, Trinity College, and so much more. As of the 2016 census, 1.345 million live in County Dublin.

Fermanagh – for the Marble Arch Caves

Located in the north of Ireland, Fermanagh has a population of 61,805 (2011) and is known for the Marble Arch Caves, stunning lakes, and manor houses.

Galway – the Capital of Culture 2020

Named Capital of Culture 2020, Galway is truly one of the best of all 32 counties in Ireland.

This epic county has earned the title Capital of Culture 2020. It is a county rich in tradition with many residents speak the native Irish language. The city thrives with bars and nightlife, and the countryside blossoms in abundance.

Kerry – for stunning scenery

Kerry is considered one of the most beautiful places on the island. It is rich in landscapes and coastal scenery, beaches and the Killarney National Park, too.

Kildare – for horse-racing

Home to 222,504 people (as of 2016 census), Kildare is most remembered as Ireland’s premium horse-breeding region. The Irish National Stud farm is in Kildare and Curragh Racecourse is home to many sporting events.

Kilkenny – for medieval history and heritage

Covered with historic architecture, Kilkenny is one of the best counties in Ireland.

Kilkenny is a medieval town located in the southeast of the county. Rich with architectural merit and heritage sites, the county is an ideal destination for history buffs.

Laois – for countryside manors and castles

Located in the Midlands region of Ireland is County Laois. With stunning landscapes and wild countryside roots, this is home to Dunamase Castle and Stradbally Hall.

Leitrim – for boating enthusiasts

Sitting on the northwest coast of Ireland is County Leitrim. Carrick-on-Shannon is the most populated town of Leitrim, and boating enthusiasts favour its setting in the spring and summer months.

Limerick – for Ireland’s ancient past

You can't miss Limerick, it boasts a wide range of cultural and historical sites.

Limerick is an ancient town which continues to thrive in the modern-day. As of 2016, the county was said to have 194,899 residents. Sites of interest include King John’s Castle and the Hunt Museum.

Longford – for Lough Ree

Located in the Midlands, County Longford is known for its undisputed beauty and waterways, including the beautiful Lough Ree. It’s quite possibly the most beautiful of all the 32 counties of Ireland.

Louth – the Wee County

County Louth is located just above Dublin on the east coast. It is famed for its proximity to heritage sites including Newgrange and Knowth. Louth is the smallest county in Ireland, and bears the nickname “the Wee County”.

Mayo – for dramatic coastlines

Look no further than Mayo for some of the most outstanding coastlines in the entire country of Ireland.

Sitting on the west coast of Ireland, Mayo is a county characterised by spectacular coastlines and wild landscapes rich in native flora and fauna. Top sights include Achill Island and the rural town of Cong.

Meath – for prehistoric burial sites

Meath is home to Newgrange and Knowth, which lie close to the Louth border. It is a countryside county rich in history and heritage.

Monaghan – for craft-work

Located in the border region, Monaghan is bountiful when it comes to nature and outdoor adventure. The county is known to be a leader in craftwork, particularly lace-making. As of 2011, Monaghan was listed as having 60,483 residents.

Offaly – for haunted houses

Located in the Midlands, Offaly is a postcard-worthy landscape setting, rich in farmland and grazing herds. It is home to some of Ireland’s most notoriously haunted houses such as Leap Castle and Kinnitty Castle.

Roscommon – for Lough Key

Located in the middle north of the country, Roscommon is a landlocked county. The area is home to Boyle and the scenic Lough Key. As of 2016, Roscommon was said to have 64,544 residents.

Sligo – a surfer’s paradise

Sligo is heralded as a surfer's paradise, because of its dramatic coastlines and raw natural landscapes.

Sligo is a county defined by its dramatic coastline and raw natural landscapes making it one of the most spectacular of all 32 counties of Ireland. Favoured by surfers and outdoor enthusiasts, the county had a population of 65,535 in 2016.

Tipperary – for mountain ranges

Rich in natural landscapes, mountain ranges, rivers, and loughs,  Tipperary is a stunning county abundant in natural sights. In the 2016 census there were 159,553 living in Tipperary.

Tyrone – for ancient clans

Tyrone is a county in Northern Ireland characterised by rural landscapes. Top things to do include the Ulster Folk Park and Dungannon Park. In ancient Ireland, Tyrone was an area ripe with powerful clans, such as the O’Neill family.

Waterford – Ireland’s oldest city

Waterford is home to Ireland's oldest city, a county heavily steeped in history.

Located in the southeast of Ireland is County Waterford. It’s home to Ireland’s oldest city, Waterford, and the locale is steeped in history. Make sure to check out Waterford House of Crystal and the Medieval Museum.

Westmeath – for heritage sites

Located in the Midlands, Westmeath is rich in farmlands and rolling pastures. Expect tonnes of heritage sites and make sure to check out Mullingar.

Wexford – for outdoor enthusiasts

Situated on the southeast coast of Ireland, Wexford is a prime spot for outdoor enthusiasts. Check out Wexford town for culture and the surrounding towns for heritage sites and adventure.

Wicklow – the Garden of Ireland

Colloquially known as the “Garden of Ireland”, Wicklow blooms with nature in abundance. Sights not to be missed include Powerscourt Estate and Glendalough. It’s up there with the greatest of all 32 counties of Ireland.

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Paris Donnatella is an avid writer and traveller. From a young age, nomadic parents placed a strong emphasis on education in real experience and the outdoors - a trait which has carried through her life and into her career. She has travelled Europe, Africa, America, Asia and Australia and still claims that wanderlust tempts her daily. Saying that she believes Ireland - her homeland - is the most enchanting place she has ever been and is passionate about documenting the Emerald Isle. Chances are, you can find her drinking coffee in some hidden gem cafe in Dublin, planning her next big trip.