Top of the morning! So you want to hear all about Ireland, do you? Well, I’ve got some stories to tell from my most recent romp around Ireland. What an amazing country! Ireland is a beautifully lush, relatively flat island just to the East of England. It has rolling hills, rugged shorelines, and old castles and architecture at every turn.
The best way to see Ireland is by doing a road trip. I have put together my 7-day Ireland itinerary for you to use as a guide when planning your road trip around Ireland. The best time to travel to Ireland, in my opinion, is the spring or the fall — the summer crowds can make the popular sights very busy.
Day 1: Dublin, Ireland
It made the most sense to start and end in Dublin. (This makes it super easy for car rental pick up and return). My best guy friend and I arrived in Dublin from the States at 8 a.m. and had our whole first day ahead of us. (We did struggle a bit with jet lag, for the first couple days, which is hard with only a week trip, but you gotta work with what you’re given!)
Dublin International Airport is just 15 minutes from the heart of Dublin. We picked up our rental car and headed to the city center. We started our trip with a walking tour of this riverfront city. We booked our tour with Sandeman’s Free Walking Tour. The guides were knowledgeable and hilarious. (I also absolutely love the Irish accent).
Dublin is a lot larger than I expected – covering 44 square miles and having a population of over one million. It has brick-lined roads and ancient architecture. We got to check out Dublin Castle which has a ton of history — our guide had some great stories to tell about the castle. I always recommend a guided tour to make sure to get the most information you can about where you are.
After our tour, we headed to the trendy downtown area surrounding Temple Bar. Temple Bar is the classic old Irish pub with a hefty collection of whiskey and great beers. It’s a very touristy spot so leave yourself some time if you’d actually like to go inside and have a drink. If not, there are plenty of other bars and restaurants along the street that are eclectic and have great vibes. We finished off our evening just popping in and out of the adorable Irish pubs before heading to our hotel.
Day 2: Dublin to Cork
We started our second day early and drove through the gorgeous Wicklow Mountain region. About an hour and a half into our drive we stopped to see the Glendalough Cathedral in Derrybawn. This is a must-stop in my opinion. It is an ancient monastery that survived several Viking attacks. There is plenty of hiking to do in the area so we spent a couple of hours checking out the viewpoints and taking in the fresh air. We ended at Glendalough Hotel for some coffee and pastries.
Our next stop on the way to Cork was Kilkenny. Kilkenny is a quaint medieval town that lines the River Nore. The main thing I wanted to see here was the Kilkenny Castle, which is an extravagant castle that was built in 1195! It’s absolutely stunning to see the old architecture and imagine the history involved in a building like this. After our castle exploration, we grabbed an elegant lunch at Petronella, a cute cafe that is situated in the old stone alleys of Kilkenny.
Onward to Cork! Cork is an old monastic settlement that is situated between two channels of the River Lee. There are many attractions in Cork, including Cobh Heritage Center,Charles Fort, and the Blarney Castle and Garden. We stayed at the Hayfield Manor just outside of town and spent the evening eating and drinking at various downtown pubs.
Day 3: The Ring of Kerry and Killarney
We had a quick hotel breakfast and headed out of Cork early in the morning and made our way towards The Ring of Kerry. The Ring of Kerry is scenic, unspoiled Ireland. This is one of the most popular tourist trails in Ireland and loops around a small peninsula. The whole road is full of beautiful beaches, rocky coastlines, and beautiful forests. If you love photography, outdoor explorations, and old forts, The Ring of Kerry is an absolute must.
The whole loop takes about 3 hours if you don’t stop, but if you plan on stopping (which you inevitably will) I would plan to not have a time frame and just go with the flow of the day. You’ll definitely want to stop for lunch along the way, check out these awesome restaurants with panoramic views.
After we had our fill of the scenery, we headed off to Killarney which is a stop on the Ring of Kerry. Killarney is also home to the Killarney National Park and the beginning and end of a 200-kilometer hiking trail if you’re up for a big adventure. While you’re here you can go hiking, check out St. Mary’s Cathedral, and take in the breathtaking Purple Mountain.
Day 4: Dingle Peninsula and the Cliffs of Moher
This Ireland trip was full of early mornings to make sure we saw everything. We pushed through the jet lag, drank lots of coffee, and plenty of good Irish whiskey when we got the chance. We left Killarney and headed to the Dingle Peninsula. Just an hour away, it was an easy morning drive to get to the beautiful coastline.
The Dingle Peninsula is on Ireland’s most southwest coast on the Atlantic Ocean. It has views of the Blasket Islands off in the distance. The peninsula is home to the heart of the Irish language and culture. The flat green hills climb to big cliffs that drop into the ocean or down to a beautiful sandy beach. We had an awesome lunch at Inch Beach and lounged outside for a bit before hitting the road.
Our next leg of the trip was our longest yet — about three hours. None of the drives around Ireland are a drag though because the scenery along the way is so pretty! We were off to the famous Cliffs of Moher. The Cliffs of Moher are so famous because they are 715 feet high, dropping directly into the ocean. It’s a stunning juxtaposition from green to deep blue. They are an absolutely breathtaking sight. You can drive in for a small fee or walk in and take the paths along the cliffs.
We spent about an hour there and headed out just as the sun started to dip. We wanted to make Galway for the night which was another hour and a half north. We did a lot of driving this day, but the sights along the way made it well worth it.
Day 5: Galway, Ireland
After a really busy day, we decided to take it easy and explore Galway, which is a port town where the River Corrib meets the Atlantic Ocean. It’s quaint (like most of Ireland) and has tons of really good restaurants to eat your heart out. A slow day exploring this old city was exactly what we needed.
We took a long walk around the harbor and had some tea and pastries at various cafes along the way. Then, we headed out to Salthill which is about a 20-minute walk from the city and offers some stunning coastal views. Great for taking pictures! I put my aesthetic photo tips to use and got some breathtaking photos on this gorgeous coast!
In the evening we checked out Quay Street, which is the heart of Galway. My favorite restaurant was called 1520 because it had amazing food and a great atmosphere. Another one of my favorites was Taaffes Bar. We bar hopped around Galway as the Irish locals sang and danced their way into our hearts. We had a ton of fun just bouncing around the tiny pubs and going with the flow of the evening.
Day 6: Belfast
We woke up the next morning a little foggy after all the whiskey and dancing but began the 4-hour journey to Belfast. Again, the drives along the countryside were just as enjoyable as the destinations themselves.
Belfast, Northern Ireland is actually a part of the UK and is more of a big city but has some cool areas to check out. One place in Belfast that I absolutely had to see was the Crumlin Road Gaol, which is a 19th-century jail that is now open to the public for tours, concerts, and public events. It was quite the sight and you can only imagine the history that has transpired in a place like this.
We didn’t want to do any more driving, but if you have extra time, I would definitely check out Giant’s Causeway. Giant’s Causeway is at the foot of the basalt cliffs along the northern coast of Ireland where neatly packed hexagonal columns jut out of the earth. I heard amazing things about the “8th Irish wonder of the world.”
We spent the evening doing what the Irish do: drinking whiskey and dancing. We met some locals at a hole-in-the-wall pub downtown and they taught us some Irish drinking games and some Irish jigs! What a night!
Day 7: Back to Dublin
We slept in on our last morning and prepared for the two-hour drive back to Dublin with coffee, sugary pastries, and some more coffee. It was an easy and pretty drive back into the Wicklow Mountains. We got one last lunch in town at JP Moonies and hung out with their cute pup mascot before heading to the airport. An easy car rental drop at the airport and we were ready to fly.
All in all, Ireland was stunningly scenic and the people were overly-friendly at every turn. The landscape is something unique to the massive island and you are reminded of its ancient past constantly with the castles and ruins everywhere. I would highly recommend making the trip to Ireland. And, hey, you already have the road trip itinerary! If you’re looking for a closer multi-day road trip check out my itinerary for Western Canada!