Ah, the Emerald Isle. From the green mountains of County Wicklow to the jaw-dropping coast roads of County Kerry, the wave-battered cliffs of the wild western shoreline to the bumping pubs of downtown Dublin, there are so many reasons to add this corner of Europe to your to-do list this year. But there are some things to watch out for, just as this guide to the most dangerous places in Ireland will show…
Yep, here we’ll run through just a handful of the spots that we think you might want to think twice about visiting, or at least have your wits about you when you do! It’s got quite an eclectic mix of locations all across the land of limericks and leprechauns – think suburbs of the vibrant capital and remote county villages alike.
The good news is that Ireland is considered to be a very safe place overall. There aren’t really many places that have soaring crime rates or vulnerabilities to natural disasters. For the most part, you can travel anywhere you like without too much trouble, whether you want to surf the beaches out west or glug Guinness in the east. Anyhow, let’s get into it…
Cliffs of Moher, County Clare
The Cliffs of Moher are nothing short of stunning. Lurching straight out of the wild Atlantic Ocean from the sides of County Clare in the amazing Burren region, they are sheer-cut faces of salt-washed rock that can hit over 150 meters in height. Lookout points along the trails that zigzag along the upper ridge of the cliffs reveal seriously eye-watering vistas of splashing waves bashing into the coastline far below. It’s drama from beginning to end.
Sadly, all that natural power comes with danger. These days, travel agencies estimate that there are between 8-12 fatal incidents at the Cliffs of Moher each year. Most of those come from people straying off the marked trail on the hunt for the perfect selfie or the most dramatic landscape shot, only to fall victim to the precipitous drops that are sometimes only a matter of feet from the official walking paths.
Things can hit all-new heights of danger when the weather gets bad along the Cliffs of Moher, too. Winter storms bring uber-strong westerly winds that will often swirl around the amphitheaters of stone along the County Clare shoreline, even occasionally blowing offshore and making it even harder to plant those feet on safe ground. Our advice would be to avoid visiting the region altogether if there’s a big weather system passing through.
Today, there are park rangers employed to patrol the main routes along the Cliffs of Moher. They’ll regularly remind hikers to keep to the marked paths, and even offer weather updates to ensure you stay safe. If in doubt at all, be sure to drop by the designated Cliffs of Moher Visitor Centre, where trained staff offer regular updates on where’s okay to go and where’s not.
Tallaght is basically a suburb of Dublin. It extends well south of the city center, covering almost three whole miles from the end of Ballymount to the edge of the Wicklow Mountains. It’s all very far from the maddening crowds of the Temple Bar and the historic core of the Emerald Isle capital. And while some folks might wax lyrical about the sleepy vibes of the district and the proximity to the lush backcountry of eastern Ireland, there are some things to watch out for.
Mhmm…Tallaght has the dubious honor of having some of the highest crime rates of anywhere in the Dublin region. We can tell that because the local Garda (that’s the police in Ireland, if your Gaelic isn’t up to scratch) recorded the fourth-highest number of crimes in the country in the 16 years from 2003 to 2019. And before you say, “oh, only the fourth?”, remember that the first couple of places were taken by inner-city police stations that have to deal with a far higher population number than this southeastern suburb.
More specifically, Tallaght ranks among the worst places in the city for burglaries, theft, and environmental offences. The area has a soaring rate of break-ins, along with high levels of fly tipping and illegal dumping. On top of that, increasing drug rates right across Dublin have begun to make their impact felt, particularly in the wake of an economic turndown in the aftermath of the Covid pandemic.
Still, for all its woes, Tallaght remains a down-to-earth and interesting part of the metropolis. As we’ve mentioned, it’s but a hop, skip, and a jump from here to the wild reaches of the Wicklow Mountains for hiking, there are plenty of country pubs and local drinking holes to enjoy, and a series of out-of-town shopping malls for the retail buffs. Just be sure to have your wits about you!
Athy, County Kildare
The small country town of Athy has garnered itself a bit of a reputation in recent years for being right at the epicenter of Ireland’s growing drug epidemic. Recent reports have estimated that between 50 and 90 Heroin users currently reside here. That might not seem like a whole load at first glance, but then you remember that the historic market town of County Kildare only has a total population of under 9,500, which means there’s a chance that nearly 1% of the whole place is wrapped up in hard drugs. Yikes!
The drug problem in Athy has been so well publicized that there have been recent calls from senior police staff for the inauguration of a dedicated drug squad to combat the growing issue. They cite the fact that underlying drug use is leading to higher than normal rates of everything from petty theft to home burglaries, and say that the local stations are now among the busiest in the whole of the county.
We don’t want to put you off visiting Athy entirely, though. The town has some intriguing little claims to fame, along with a couple of attractive points of interest. First off, it’s considered the home of competitive motor racing in Ireland, having been a part of the Gordon Bennett Cup circuit way back in 1903. Second, it’s riddled with historic buildings, from the 1850s Athy Courthouse to the ancestral manor of the Fitzgerald clan at Kilkea Castle.
Waterford, County Waterford
Famed for its crystal glass and its Viking history, its ancient port and pretty riverside districts, little old Waterford is a regular on travel itineraries through the Emerald Isle. But the Munster city – the fifth-largest in the country, no less – does have a darker side…
Take the overall picture from travel stat collator Numbeo. They reveal that Waterford has an total Moderate level of crime, but a high level of drug-related crimes. That’s coupled with the fact that crime is increasing overall to put Waterford up there with the most dangerous places in Ireland as a whole.
The good news is that most of the crime here tends to be limited to a select few areas that lie far away from the typical tourist trail. The chances of you setting foot in them when you come to tour the House of Waterford Crystal or hop the pubs along the River Suir are pretty low. That said, just in case you do decide to venture a little further out, areas like Skangertown, the Manor, and Hillview tend to get the worst wraps.
Don’t worry – County Kerry, beautiful, lovely, picturesque County Kerry, doesn’t make it onto this list of the most dangerous places in Ireland on account of any drug problem or soaring crime rates. No sir…it’s here precisely because it’s so beautiful. Yep, County Kerry sees some of the highest rates of coastal and mountain rescues in the whole country, something that’s almost all down to the fact that it draws so many adventure seekers, coastereers, boaters, and hikers.
Of the 408 incidents recorded by Irish mountain rescue teams in 2021, this gorgeous part of the nation claimed nearly 70 of them. That was officially the highest number the regional team had seen since they were first established in the late 60s! Experts have put the increase down to good summer weather, which drew more people to the national parks and the shores.
We can see why people wanted to come. The heart of Kerry is dominated by the serrated tops of the Killarney National Park, a vast range of mountains that roll down from the summit of Carrauntoohil (the tallest in Ireland at over 3,000 feet above sea level ) to a craggy coastline of hidden bays and beaches. It’s an adventure mecca, all punctuated by cute fishing towns with taverns that serve potato broths and oysters.
The most dangerous places in Ireland – our conclusion
There aren’t all that many spots to compete for a place on this list of the most dangerous places in Ireland. The Emerald Isle is generally a bucolic, wild nation that’s given over to nature, interspersed only now and then with small villages and little towns. You can get some urban destinations where it’s worth keeping your wits about you, such as the southern suburbs of Dublin or some parts of Waterford in the south. On top of that, there are mountain ranges and wild coastlines that present some serious natural hazards to hikers and sightseers, from the Moher Cliffs to the peaks of County Kerry.