Are you planning an Ireland road trip itinerary?
Well, you’re in for a treat because Ireland is a great place to see and experience. From colorful small towns, ancient sites, beautiful beaches, spectacular natural beauty, and the friendliest people you’ll ever want to meet, your road trip around Ireland will likely become one of your most favorite trips!
To make this easy, I”ve put together an ultimate 10-day itinerary in Ireland. In this guide, you’ll find everything you need to plan your Ireland trip.
- A complete day-by-day plan for mapping out your Irish road trip,
- Tips for driving in Ireland,
- Where to stay in Ireland during your road trip, and
- How to extend or shorten your time in Ireland if you need to tweak this itinerary.
Ready to explore Ireland’s history, culture, and many of its most beautiful places? Let’s go!
Ireland Road Trip Map
The map below shows my road trip of Ireland.
I drove this route from the end of March into the first week of April. It was a 10-day Ireland road trip itinerary which also included time in Dublin.
Driving in Ireland
It’s easier than you might imagine to road trip in Ireland. Yes, you will be driving on the left side of the road while sitting on the right side of the car. Yes, the narrow roads can be quite narrow. But, after just a short while, it doesn’t feel so strange anymore and that’s coming from a solo traveler who did all the driving!
I use Kayak to search for rental cars whenever I travel because I can compare prices with a range of different companies.
As I planned a route in Ireland and prepared to drive through the Irish countryside, here’s what I kept in mind.
Since it was only me driving, I paid particular attention to how much distance I would need to cover, as well as how much time it would take to get from my last stop to the hotel for the night if I was switching to a new hotel.
I wanted to have enough time to explore and to avoid driving in the dark as much as possible. luckily the sun was setting around 8 p.m. when I visited so this really wasn’t an issue. I also had a cut-off time in mind if I was checking into a new hotel. I knew when I needed to leave from where I was to comfortably make that drive.
Although I knew some of the driving would be on major highways, the majority of my self-drive tour of Ireland would involve small country roads. For this reason, as well as because driving on the left is not what I am used to, I made sure my rental car was small.
In fact, even if my husband or someone else had joined me for this trip, I still would have wanted a compact car. I recommend you rent the smallest car possible depending on the number of people you’re traveling with.
Rental Car Insurance
If you’re like me and rely on the primary CDW coverage benefit of a premium travel rewards credit card, you’ll want to take note. The Chase Sapphire Reserve and Chase Sapphire Preferred don’t have country limitations.
However, the Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card restricts its primary CDW coverage within Ireland and Northern Ireland. If this is the card you usually use to access this coverage, you’ll need to use a different card or opt for coverage from the rental car company.
If you don’t have a credit card with primary CDW coverage, always make sure to take the rental car agency’s protection. Accidents happen but they don’t need to ruin your trip with the unexpected costs that come if your car is damaged or stolen.
Be sure you have access to your choice of navigation tools. Country roads are windy and although they are typically marked with helpful signage, it’s easy to veer the wrong way.
Use an app like Google Maps for navigation. You can download maps through the app before your trip so they are available to use offline or when you don’t have a cell signal.
Choose a rental car option that includes GPS. You might want to consider getting a paper map in the event your cell phone dies or technology fails in some other way.
ProTip: My rental car in Ireland did not have a USB port to keep my cell phone charged. Luckily, I had my portable battery pack to keep my cell phone charged. However, had I known (every rental car I’ve had in recent memory has had a USB port), I would have packed a cell phone charger that plugged into the car’s lighter, like this one.
10 Day Ireland Road Trip Itinerary
There are many different Ireland road trips you can put together. The following Ireland itinerary is the exact one I used for my own travels. I debated over beginning my trip in Dublin or heading into the Irish countryside first. I decided renting a car and heading out of Dublin to start the trip made a lot of sense.
First, it’s easy to rent a car from the airport. There are no transfer logistics to work out. Simply, pick up the car and start your road trip.
Next, aside from the first few miles out of the airport, highway driving gives you a great way to get used to driving on the left. Also, small country roads are certainly windy but their narrowness means you’re not really driving on the left or right but most of the road. (Unless someone is driving in the opposite direction, then, of course, move as left as you can.)
I also liked the idea of heading towards the mountains and the outdoors. It does wonders for jetlag!
And finally, I would need to return to Dublin for my return flight, anyways. And, upon checking, there were a couple of attractions in Dublin, like Kilmainham Gaol, that had better availability towards the end of my trip. Not wanting to miss out on these places, I headed to the countryside first.
Day 1: Glendalough & the Wicklow Mountains
Fly into Dublin International Airport. Flights arriving from the U.S. will mostly arrive in the morning, which means you can make the most of this first day.
With your rental car, you’ll begin your Ireland road trip itinerary by heading onto the M50, the main highway that circles Dublin, before heading south on Old Military Road (R115) towards the Wicklow Mountains and into Ireland’s Ancient East. The absolute can’t miss, besides the mountains themselves is the ancient monastic site of Glendalough.
If you were to head straight to Glendalough from Dublin Airport without making any other stops, the drive would take between 60-75 minutes. However, there’s plenty to see and so many great things to do in Wicklow, depending on your interests.
- Drive the Sally Gap: This is one of the most scenic drives through the Wicklow Mountains and Wicklow National Park. Follow R759 towards Lough Tay when it meets R115, Old Military Road. The narrow, winding road is more than 1,600 feet above sea level and has spectacular mountain and lake views.
- Enjoy the Views of the Loughs: The word lough is the Irish form of “loch” or lake. Along the way on R115, you’ll pass Lough Bray (Upper and Lower). On R759, you’ll have gorgeous views over Lough Tay (a.k.a. Guinness Lake). As you drive, there are pull-offs and small parking areas so you can get out, stretch your legs, take photos, and even sit for a while for an impromptu picnic.
- Go Back in Time at Glendalough: This beautiful valley with 2 lakes is home to an ancient monastic site that dates back to Ireland’s Middle Ages. There are ancient stone buildings, the remains of a church, a round tower, and a cemetery. The area also includes several walking trails where you can circle the lakes and explore the valley. If you navigate to the Glendalough Visitor Center, you’ll find parking, bathrooms, and an information center before seeing the ruins and setting off on a trail.
- Wicklow Mountains Viewing Platform: From Glendalough, use R756 to reach the viewing platform over the Wicklow Gap and Wicklow Mountains National Park for panoramic mountain views.
From Glendalough and Wicklow Mountains Viewing Platform area, you’ll need about 60-75 minutes to drive to your hotel in Kilkenny. Even with a meandering pace, you’ll have plenty of time to enjoy the day and comfortably get to your hotel.
If you arrive in Kilkenny and want to do a bit of exploring, consider joining an evening historical walking tour to make the most of your time before having dinner in one of the city’s many restaurants.
Where to Stay:
Tonight, plan to stay in Kilkenny or the immediate Kilkenny area. It’s just 80 minutes from the Glendalough Visitor Center.
This estate is situated about 15 minutes outside of Kilkenny’s downtown and features 2 Marriott properties, the gorgeous Manor House and Hunter’s Yard. While the grounds offer golf, walking trails, restaurants, equestrian activities, and more. It’s a one-of-a-kind place to stay that immerses you in the beauty and historic charm of the Irish countryside.
I stayed in the Manor House and would have gladly based myself here for more nights had I planned to spend more time exploring Ireland’s Ancient East.
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This hotel is located in the center of Kilkenny, just near Kilkenny Castle. It’s even possible to book castle-view rooms. Rooms are spacious and air-conditioned and the hotel offers free parking, which is a must if you plan to stay in the Kilkenny city center.
All of Kilkenny’s attractions and numerous restaurants are within walking distance.
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Day 2: Kilkenny, Rock of Cashel & Hore Abbey
Today, your Ireland itinerary will begin in Kilkenny. If your hotel is in the city center and your car is parked, leave it be. Kilkenny can be explored on foot. Otherwise, there’s affordable public parking available, which makes more sense than time-restricted street parking.
Start your day with a visit to Kilkenny Castle when it opens in the morning. Afterward, spend the rest of the morning exploring Kilkenny’s medieval past.
- Kilkenny Castle: This impressive castle in the heart of the city dates back to the 13th century and has played a role in 800+ years of Kilkenny’s history. It’s also one of Ireland’s best castles. The open rooms have been restored to reflect an opulent 13th-century style. You can do a self-guided tour or join a guided tour to learn more about the castle’s history.
- St. Canice’s Cathedral & Round Tower: This beautiful cathedral was built in the 1200s, while records show the Celtic Christian round tower dates back to the 9th century. It’s one of the only round towers in Ireland that can be climbed via a series of steps/ladders. The reward is sweeping views over the city and Irish countryside.
- Medieval Mile Museum: This museum is located in the 13th century former St. Mary’s church & graveyard and is where Kilkenny’s Medieval Mile begins. You can choose to tour the museum with an audio guide or if you time it right, a guided tour. Either way, the museum’s artifacts will bring Kilkenny’s medieval history to life.
After a short lunch or scones to-go for a late breakfast, drive to the Rock of Cashel. The drive from Kilkenny takes about 50 minutes.
- Rock of Cashel: This National Monument is one of the most visited historic places in Ireland. Set atop a rocky plateau are the remains of a Romanesque chapel, a Gothic cathedral, a round tower, and several other historically and religiously significant buildings that go back as far as the early 1100s. I highly recommend seeing Cormac Chapel, available for entry only with a special ticket, to see the only Romanesque frescoes inside.
- Hore Abbey: From the Rock of Cashel, you’ll notice another historic site just down the hill. This is Hore Abbey and it shouldn’t be missed. This abandoned 13th-century monastery is all that remains of what the Benedictines and Cistercians left behind. The ruins are beautifully eerie and from this vantage point, you can also look back on the Rock of Cashel. There is no parking, except for 1 small space on the road in front. Otherwise, walk from the Rock of Cashel or find the closest public parking lot and walk from there.
After an afternoon of historic ruins, make the 2-hour drive to Killarney. I arrived at my hotel in Killarney in time to make the short stroll to the city center and enjoy a relaxing dinner.
Where to Stay:
Tonight, you’ll check in to your hotel in Killarney. Plan to base yourself here for 2 nights.
This 4-star hotel offers spacious, modern rooms in a fantastic location. I had a great 2-night stay here. It offers Ireland road trippers, in particular, the perfect combination of free parking, a fuel service station with a convenience store across the street, access to the Ring of Kerry and Killarney National Park within 5 minutes of the hotel, and a few minutes walking to the Killarney city center.
The adjoining bar and restaurant also make it convenient to have dinner and a pint after a day of driving.
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Located in the heart of Killarney, this 5-star hotel has luxurious rooms and suites (some with fireplaces), a spa, a pool, a restaurant, and the Garden Bar. Guests receive free parking and excellent hospitality from a dedicated staff. It’s also part of the Leading Hotels of the World program.
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Another popular choice in Killarney, the International Hotel is also located in the heart of the city. The rooms are sophisticated and modern and come in 3 tiers, Classic, Superior, and Executive. The hotel is also connected to Hannigan’s fantastic Bar and Restaurant. I had a great dinner here on my last night in Killarney.
As with other hotels in the city center, this hotel doesn’t have free parking on-site. There’s a reasonable, paid public lot just a short walk from the hotel.
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Day 3: Ring of Kerry & Skelling Ring
Today, you’ll drive the famous Ring of Kerry. There’s a lot to say about this popular drive on Ireland’s west coast. First, let’s cover a few basics.
The Ring of Kerry is 111 miles, part of the Wild Atlantic Way, and takes 3-31/2 hours to drive without stops. The Skelling Ring is an extension of the Ring of Kerry at the peninsula’s western end. This short drive is 20 miles long and is arguably even more scenic than the main loop.
There are Ring of Kerry day trips from Killarney if you’d like a break from the driving today. Keep in mind, though, that buses can’t drive the Skelling Ring because the roads are too narrow.
Generally speaking, the Ring of Kerry is a popular part of an Ireland road trip itinerary because it’s a microcosm of Ireland’s many charms, quaint, colorful villages, sweeping landscapes, and historic sights.
So if you keep this in mind as you plan, the Ring of Kerry becomes less of a circular loop to race through, checking off sites as you go, but instead becomes a place where you can pick and choose the spots that are the most interesting to you.
Regardless of which stops you choose to make, you’ll want to start your day early. There’s a lot to see and do, plus during peak times this road can get busy.
Also, be sure to fill up your car’s fuel tank before leaving Killarney. The Ring of Kerry has service stations but it’s one less thing to worry about, especially when you’re in more remote areas.
I drove in a clockwise direction to avoid being stuck behind buses and was glad I did after seeing others desperately attempting to pass them.
And although I did bring a few snacks with me that I picked up in Killarney and grabbed a few small to-go bites in towns along the way, I never stopped for a proper sit-down lunch.
What stops should you make along the Ring of Kerry and Skelling Ring? It all depends on your interests and travel style. But here are a few popular spots to consider.
- Killarney National Park: In just 5 minutes by car from Killarney’s city center, the national park awaits. Ross Castle is a gorgeous first stop, especially when the morning light reflects on the calm Lough Leane. Muckross House & Gardens is a 19th-century estate preserved with artifacts of the time. Muckross Abbey is a 15th-century abbey, its ruins in beautiful decay.
- Ladies View: This panoramic viewpoint is only a 15-minute drive from Muckross House. The pull-off from the road gives you a fantastic vantage point over the national park’s landscape.
- Moll’s Gap: This is another viewpoint where you can appreciate the national park’s mountains. It’s even better if one of the local sheep photobombs your shot.
- Staigue Stone Fort: This Iron Age(!) fort dates to around 300-400 A.D. It’s one of a couple of stone forts along the Ring of Kerry. However, this was my favorite, also because the small country road leading to it is particularly scenic.
- Derrynane Beach: This is a pretty spot if the weather is right and you’d like to stick your toes in the sand.
- Kerry Cliffs: If I had to choose just 1 stop to make along this drive, the Kerry Cliffs would be the hands-down winner. The dramatic cliffs and the chop of the Atlantic Ocean collide for gorgeous natural beauty. (Note: The Kerry Cliffs are off the Skelling Ring, a drive that shouldn’t be missed.)
- Skelling Michael: The island of Skelling Michael rose to popularity after being used as a Star Wars shooting location. However, this remote island is also a UNESCO Heritage Site with a monastery dating back to at least the 6th century that can be explored. Boat trips depart in good weather from Portmagee from mid-May to October. If you want to make this journey, you’ll need to book months in advance and cut back on other Ring of Kerry stops, as this excursion will take half the day. The Kerry Cliffs are nearby so they can still easily be visited afterward.
Also, as you drive the Ring of Kerry and the Skelling Ring, you’ll pass through several small towns and villages and it’s impossible to stop at all of them.
However, Kenmare and Portmagee are pretty places to stroll and grab a bite to eat. Waterville’s waterfront walkway is a good spot to stretch your legs along the ocean.
Be mindful of your time and pace as you drive today. Of all the days of this Ireland road trip itinerary, this was the one that required the fullest day. Prioritize what you want to see and do and then sprinkle in additional stops along the way as you’d like.
Where to Stay:
After a day of exploring the Ring of Kerry and Skelling Ring, return to your hotel in Killarney for another night. If you didn’t last night, head to the Killarney city center for dinner and be sure to taste one of Killarney’s famous ales.
Day 4: Dingle Peninsula
Today is likely to be one of the best days of your 10 day road trip itinerary in Ireland because the Dingle Peninsula is spectacular! It’s an absolute can’t miss.
In particular, the Slea Head Drive Loop (R559) at the peninsula’s far western end steals the show. If you’re short on time, focus your energy on this gorgeous 30-mile loop.
Set off in the morning from Killarney and make your first stop at Inch Beach along the peninsula’s southern coast. Perhaps not properly named but this pretty, wide stretch of beach gives you a first glimpse of the coastline views to come.
From there, head to the cute and colorful seaside town of Dingle. It’s also the spot where the Slea Head Drive Loop starts and ends.
If you’ve made an early start from Killarney, you’ll likely arrive in Dingle on the early side as well. If so, I recommend driving the Slea Head Drive Loop first and enjoying Dingle later.
Plan to drive the loop in a clockwise direction. You’re driving on the left. The stunning views are on the left, along with many of the pull-offs, so it’s a win-win. Allot at least 3-4 hours to make stops along this route and explore, and even more, if you want to do a longer hike or enjoy some beach time.
These Dingle Peninsula stops are musts as you make the drive.
- Ancient Stone Structures: The Dingle Peninsula has several places where you can see the ancient beehive huts that were built of stones more than 1,000 years ago. These remarkable structures use no mortar, are watertight, and often align perfectly with the sun to maximize the light inside. The Fahan Beehive Huts, Cashel Murphy, and the Gallarus Oratory are all interesting stops along the Dingle Peninsula’s Slea Head Drive.
- Cross at Slea Head: This far western point along the loop drive is recognizable by the big white cross on the right side of the road. There is a pull-off on the left side where you can take in the ocean views and see the Blasket Islands off of the Irish coast.
- Coumeenoole Beach: This spectacular spot is a can’t miss! The beach is tucked into a small cove and on a clear day, the waters are as turquoise as the water you’d expect to see in some tropical locale. Park in the lot and take the walk down to the sand.
- Dunmore Head: From the same parking area above Coumeenoole Beach, there’s a small trailhead marker on the right side (if your back is to the road). This takes you on a 15-20 minute walk up into the green hills and down to a rocky outcropping with stunning ocean views. Star Wars fans might recognize this as a shooting location. If you’re lucky, the resident sheep will be in the hills as you walk and take photos.
- Dunquin Pier: Just past Dunmore Head, you get more sweeping ocean views. You can walk (NOT DRIVE) down the windy road towards the pier and the water, as well as feast on the views from above. A Blasket Island ferry connection is also at Dunquin Pier should you want to take a detour to the now uninhabited Great Blasket Island.
After making your way back to the town of Dingle, park in the public lot by the marina and stroll through the town. There are plenty of places to have lunch and small shops to browse.
As you move on from the Dingle Peninsula, the most direct route will put you on N86 before pointing you further north. However, you could also drive the winding and scenic Conor Pass from Dingle before connecting with the main roads again to head north.
Where to Stay
Today is a bit of a transition day from the southwestern portion of Ireland heading north towards tomorrow’s attraction, the Cliffs of Moher. Many people choose to stay in and around Doolin so they are just a 10-minute drive to the Cliffs but I deemed this to be too long of a drive while I was planning my Ireland road trip itinerary.
You absolutely don’t want to rush the Dingle Peninsula and, in hindsight, I made the right choice to position myself for the next day without committing to too long of a drive at the end of the day. And, I had plenty of time to enjoy the Dingle Peninsula and the Cliffs of Moher the next day without any stress.
I chose to stay 1 night at a hotel in Limerick but I also looked at a hotel in nearby Adare. From the town of Dingle, it was just about a 2-hour drive to Limerick. It would be slightly less time to Adare. Staying in Limerick will leave you just an hour from the Cliffs of Moher.
This hotel is in a restored Georgian townhouse in Limerick’s historic Georgian Quarter, just a few minutes on foot to the city center and main attractions like King John’s Castle.
My room was a peaceful oasis (classical music playing as I entered my room) with a fabulously restored bathroom. This is THE place to stay in Limerick whether you’re passing through or hoping to see the city and splurge on a spa treatment. The fantastic full breakfast was included with the room rate and, although the hotel doesn’t have parking, I easily found free street parking just across the street.
If you stay, walk just 2 blocks to South’s Pub for dinner. It was one of the best meals I had in all of Ireland and the Guinness was excellent!
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Adare is a Heritage Village just south of Limerick. The Dunraven Arms is a family-run hotel along Adare’s Main Street, steps away from several of the village’s restaurants and the historic thatched roof houses that make Adare so charming.
Rooms are large and comfortable, some with 4-poster beds. There are sitting rooms around the hotel, many with fireplaces which make the perfect places to relax after the day. Free parking and breakfast are included with your room rate.
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Day 5: Cliffs of Moher & The Burren
What road trip in Ireland would be complete without a stop at the Cliffs of Moher?!? They are one of the most visited places in Ireland with on average 1.5 million visitors each year. And with good reason, the Cliffs represent natural beauty at its finest.
Today’s main highlights include spending a few hours at the Cliffs of Moher in the early part of the day and exploration of the Burren for the rest of the day. This will also casually move you towards your hotel in Galway or the surrounding area.
Depending on how long you spend at the Cliffs and what you’d like to see and do in the Burren, there are a couple of other things to consider.
First, as you leave the Limerick area, you have King John’s Castle in the city and the nearby Bunratty Castle. Both castles play up their medieval history but if I had to choose 1 for a quick morning visit, I’d choose Bunratty Castle. It’s also very family-friendly if you’re traveling with kids and want to start the day with something entertaining.
Just keep in mind, that a longer castle visit may mean less time in the Burren later.
You could also head straight to the Cliffs of Moher for a morning visit and have lunch there or in nearby Doolin, with its enviable location along the Wild Atlantic Way.
Also, after your Cliffs of Moher visit, make a stop to see Doonagore Castle just 3 miles from the Cliffs visitor center. It’s not open to the public but the 16th-century tower sits oceanfront and is a perfect castle photo-op.
I spent a casual morning at the Cliffs of Moher walking the cliffside path and even stopping to sit and enjoy a scone picnic with a cliffside view.
Then, passing Doonagore Castle, I made my way into the Burren, which comes from Gaelic meaning place of stone.
The Burren is an otherworldly limestone landscape unlike anywhere you’ve likely seen or visited. The closest reminder for me was road tripping in Iceland. And as with most areas in Ireland, you can easily spend a few days here exploring. But even with half a day, you can pick a few spots to discover the region’s unusual landscape and ancient history.
- Burren National Park: Part of the UNESCO Heritage area comprising the Cliffs of Moher and the Burren, the national park has 7 walking trails designed to take you into the moon-like landscape to experience the geology, as well as see the plants and animals that survive here.
- Caherconnell Stone Fort: This prehistoric site dates back thousands of years. The stone fort and the surrounding archeological ruins are well-maintained to take you on a journey back to the past. This is a family-run site and if you time it right, you also could catch a sheepdog demonstration.
- Poulnabrone Dolmen: This Neolithic (stone age) portal tomb is one of the best intact tombs of its kind anywhere in the world. It was used as a collective burial site and the remains (both human and artifact) found inside are from around 3500 B.C.
- Corcomroe Abbey: This abandoned 13th-century abbey sits at the end of a quiet country road with Romanesque carvings of stone. Like Hore Abbey, there’s eerie, yet serene, quiet to this hidden gem in the Burren. It’s free to visit and you’ll likely have the place all to yourself.
As you make your way into County Galway, Dunguaire Castle is along the way. Unfortunately, it closes at 5 p.m. and I missed it by about half an hour. However, I stopped to take some photos and admire the castle’s exterior along the banks of Galway Bay before heading to my hotel.
For your reference, if Corcomroe Abbey is your last stop in the Burren, it’s a short drive of just 45 minutes from there to the city of Galway.
Where to Stay
Tonight, drive to your hotel in Galway or the immediate surroundings. Plan to stay 2 nights in this hotel. Galway is less than an hour’s drive from The Burren area so this allows you a lot of time to spend a full day exploring.
Since the next day’s activities aren’t in Galway, it’s not necessary to stay in the city center. A centrally located hotel in the city allows you to walk to nearby restaurants in Galway. But, you could also drive into the city center and park in a public lot if you wanted to go out to dinner in Galway.
Yet, given the number of day trips from Galway that you can plan, the city and its immediate surroundings are a helpful place to stay.
Located in Galway’s city center, a stay here affords you the opportunity to walk to Eyre Square (a.k.a John F. Kennedy Memorial Park) and the city’s restaurants and nightlife. The hotel’s rooms and suites are classic in style and the perfect respite to relax after a day of sightseeing.
There’s parking available in a city parking lot 2-minutes from the hotel. When you check out, the hotel will validate your parking ticket.
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This 5-star property is situated just a few minutes by car outside of Galway. It’s a member of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World collection, which makes it part of the World of Hyatt loyalty program. As such, this Category 6 hotel can be booked with Hyatt points (or Chase Ultimate Rewards points transferred to Hyatt).
To be clear, this hotel is an absolute splurge with nightly room rates (sometimes) double and triple the amount of the other hotels listed in this itinerary of Ireland. However, if booked with Hyatt points, this property could be a fantastic value redemption at a truly stunning hotel.
Aside from the elegant rooms, the estate sits on 138 acres and offers golf, fishing, archery, and a spa on the grounds. The Pullman restaurant is situated on-site, as well, in 2 former Orient Express train cars for a one-of-a-kind dining experience.
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Day 6: Kylemore Abbey & the Connemara
On day 6 of this 10 day itinerary in Ireland, you’ll explore the wild beauty of the Connemara only an hour or so northwest of Galway. The region is home to the famous Kylemore Abbey, one of the most popular attractions to visit in all of Ireland, and the spectacular Connemara National Park.
There are also several scenic drive loops that will take you through the vast landscape to castles, seaside towns, and sweeping views. You won’t be able to drive all of these loops completely but you can cover good chunks of them.
Just watch for sheep as you drive! They’re clearly in charge in this part of Ireland.
Soon after leaving Galway for your day’s adventure, you’ll see signs for Aughnanure Castle. I recommend stopping and if you’re lucky, one of the passionate guides will have the time to bring the castle’s history to life.
From here, I recommend driving toward the town of Recess, and then on to Kylemore Abbey. While you’re not stopping in Recess, it’ll ensure you drive along the western side of the Connemara Loop and through the Inagh Valley.
- Kylemore Abbey and Estate was built in 1868 as a private residence, however, today is an operating Benedictine Abbey. In addition to its interesting past, the majestic estate includes a Neo-Gothic cathedral and Victorian Gardens. It’s one of Ireland’s most visited places and is a can’t miss on a road trip into Ireland’s Connemara.
From here, it depends on whether you plan to do a longer hike in Connemara National Park. If you want to hike the Upper Diamond Trail, plan on 2.5-3 hours to complete this hike. Go straight to the national park entrance along N59 in Letterfrack.
However, it’s possible to also combine a shorter hike and more of the Connemara Loop. From Kylemore Abbey, you could continue on toward Renvyle and then loop around to Killary Harbour (next to Killary Adventure Company on Google Maps) to see the scenic Killary Fjord, before cutting back down N59 to Letterfrack and the national park. (You will pass Kylemore Abbey once more.)
- Connemara National Park: Depending on the weather, take a walk in the national park for beautiful views over the Connemara. There are color-coded trails, with the yellow and blue trails taking 40 minutes and 1 hour, respectively.
After this, continue on towards Clifden. It’s your starting and ending point for the 10-mile Sky Loop. You’ll want about 45 minutes to drive this ocean-view loop.
Drive this route clockwise, setting your first stop for Clifden Castle. After, follow the signs for Upper Sky Road (not Lower) for the best views. Be sure to stop at the Sky Road Drive Viewpoint, one of the viewpoints along the Wild Atlantic Way.
You’ll finish back in Clifden where you can stop for a snack before returning to Galway. By following N59 back to Galway, you’ll have completed the Inagh Valley Loop.
If you’ve still got the itch to explore and daylight hours, consider a more leisurely drive back to Galway closer to the coast, stopping at Dog’s Bay, before heading for the city. If you’re lucky, you’ll catch a sun-filled sky as it begins to sink on this western side of the Emerald Isle for a gorgeous conclusion to a day of Ireland road-tripping.
Where to Stay:
Stay the night again in Galway (or the surrounding area) and enjoy a well-deserved dinner in the city or in a restaurant at or near your hotel.
ProTip: If you’re dining out in Galway city, consider making reservations, especially on weekend nights. The city is quite popular with visitors and locals. Dinner tables fill up quickly.
Day 7: Newgrange & Dublin
This morning, your Ireland road trip itinerary will continue from Galway to Dublin which takes about 2 hours and 15 minutes using the major highways between the 2 cities. However, you might consider making 1 stop before reaching the city and if you do what I did, return your rental car.
Newgrange is a stone-age tomb and UNESCO World Heritage Site about 30 minutes north of Dublin Airport. It’s more than 5,000 years old and archaeologists mark it as older than places like Stonehenge or some of the Egyptian pyramids.
The massive tomb can be toured with a guide only so it’s best to book your tickets well in advance of your Ireland trip. Given its location outside the city center, it’s easier to visit while you still have your rental car.
Whatever you decide, I recommend returning your rental car as soon as you get to the Dublin area. I dropped my car off at the airport and took a taxi to my hotel in the city center. A car isn’t needed in Dublin so why pay for the extra days plus the fees to park it in the city.
Use the remaining time this afternoon to orient yourself in Dublin. If you’ve visited London before, it might seem similar at first. But as you get to know Dublin, you’ll see it has a character all its own.
Depending on your timing, you might enjoy a stroll through the Temple Bar area, a visit to Christ Church Cathedral, a tasting at the Irish Whiskey Museum, or go for a spooky ghost walking tour around Dublin.
You might also find it helpful to orient yourself on a Dublin walking tour.
Where to Stay:
You’ll spend the last 3 nights in Dublin. If you’ve decided to keep your rental car, be sure to choose a hotel that offers parking, even if there’s a fee to do so.
This Hyatt hotel is in a prime location, just a block from St. Patrick’s Cathedral. All of the city’s sights are accessible. Places like Temple Bar, the River Liffey, the Guinness Storehouse, Trinity College, and St. Stephen’s Green are within a 10-15 minute walk from the hotel.
My room was clean, bright, and spacious, with super cozy bedding. Because of my Hyatt status, I received a complimentary full breakfast each morning. The hotel also has a restaurant and bar on site. The hotel staff was friendly and helped with any request I had.
If I were to return to Dublin, I wouldn’t hesitate. I would rebook this hotel in a heartbeat. And as a category 3 hotel, it’s an absolute steal.
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I did also consider this centrally located Hilton Hotel. The hotel is along the River Liffey just steps from the Temple Bar neighborhood and within walking distance (7-10 minutes) to many of Dublin’s top sights.
The rooms have a modern design, some with a river view. The hotel serves a full breakfast and validates parking at a nearby public lot to reduce the cost of parking. If you have Hilton Honors points to redeem or just want a great hotel in the heart of the city, this just might be the Dublin hotel for you.
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Day 8: Northern Ireland Day Trip
Today, take this day trip to Northern Ireland. You’ll make stops along the way at Dunluce Castle, the Giant’s Causeway, and the city of Belfast.
Day trips depart Dublin before 7 a.m. and return around 6:30-7:00 p.m. so a full day commitment is required. But with that amount of time, I hiked at the Giant’s Causeway and learned a lot about the turbulent history of Northern Ireland in Belfast.
You might be wondering why I chose this Northern Ireland day trip instead of including the drive to Northern Ireland while I had the car so here was my rationale.
The most logical time to drive to Northern Ireland would have been after visiting the Cliffs of Moher. But the drive from there to Belfast is a minimum of 5 hours, more to the Giants Causeway.
I didn’t want to lose (at least) half a day driving myself that far north. I knew I could use that time to visit Kylemore Abbey and explore the Connemara. I also felt that 2 days in Dublin would be the right amount of time for what I wanted to do.
Lastly, doing the day trip from Dublin allowed me the luxury of staying at my hotel in Dublin for 3 nights, which was a really relaxing way to wrap up my Ireland Itinerary.
ProTip: If you don’t want to do a day trip to Northern Ireland, I would use the extra day and add to your time in the countryside. Two days in Dublin will give you a good amount of time to explore the city.
As for a few ideas…You could spend another day in Ireland’s Ancient East and southern Ireland exploring places like Kinsale, Cobh, and Spike Island. You could also spend another day in the Galway area to visit the Aran Islands. If you’re visiting in Summer, take a beach day on the Dingle Peninsula while savoring the spectacular coastline.
Where to Stay
Stay the 2nd night at your hotel of choice in Dublin.
After a day spent enjoying the Giant’s Causeway and Northern Ireland, go for dinner in Dublin. The city’s food scene is exploding because of an infusion of creative and eclectic chefs.
If the day spent on the coast has you craving seafood, The Seafood Cafe in the Temple Bar neighborhood is a great dinner choice.
Spitalfields in The Liberties neighborhood is perfect if you want comfort food at one of the city’s favorite gastropubs. (If you’re staying at the Hyatt Centric, Spitalfields is just a 2-minute walk from the hotel.)
Days 9-10: Dublin & Fly Home
For the time remaining in your Ireland 10 day itinerary, explore Dublin’s top sights. Keep in mind that Dublin Airport is only about 10 miles from the city center. If your flight is later on day 10, you can easily use some morning time in Dublin like I did.
I highly recommend making Kilmainham Gaol your first stop in Dublin. Tickets sell out and must be booked before your trip to Ireland because the site can only be toured with a guide.
Afterward, the Guinness Storehouse Experience is nearby.
ProTip: If you’re looking for a place to have a late breakfast (Is it ever a bad time for a scone?) or early lunch before downing a Guinness, Mannings Bakery & Cafe is near the Guinness Storehouse and walkable from Kilmainham Gaol.
The Book of Kells is another must-see in Dublin. It’s considered one of the most precious objects in the world and is on display at Trinity College. You must buy a ticket from their website before arriving or you’ll need to use the wifi at the attraction to book your ticket which as you can imagine is not secure or speedy.
You can also combine 2 popular sights and get fast-track entry to the Book of Kells and Dublin Castle to dive deeper into the with a local guide.
St. Patrick’s Cathedral dates back to the 1190s and is the National Cathedral of Ireland.
If you have Irish ancestry, the EPIC: The Irish Emigration Museum tells the story of the Irish who have emigrated all over the world. You can also do some ancestry sleuthing while you’re there!
Where to Stay
Enjoy your last night in Dublin at your hotel. If you’re looking for one last indulgence of fish and chips and of course a pint of Guinness, head to The Hairy Lemon in the vicinity of Temple Bar.
When is the Best Time to Go to Ireland?
The best times to visit Ireland are in Spring and Fall. In particular, March, April, May, September, October, and early November offer the best combination of moderate temperatures, reasonably long days, and fewer people. It’s perfect for any type of Ireland road trip itinerary.
In June, July, and August, the weather will be its warmest and the days longer. However, this is also peak season so expect more people visiting and more tour buses heading to popular places like the Cliffs of Moher and the Ring of Kerry.
I did this itinerary right at the end of March and into the first week of April. I may have had some luck smiling upon me, however, I had bright blue skies on most days with temperatures in the high 50s to high 60s on most days.
What Should I Pack for a Road Trip in Ireland?
If there ever was a place to advocate for packing layers, it would be Ireland. Days may start on the cool side but can quickly warm up, especially when the sun is shining. On days like this, you’ll be grateful to shed a layer whether you’re sightseeing in Dublin or enjoying the views on the Dingle Peninsula.
Ireland does get its fair share of rain, as well. (That’s why everything is so green!) It’s wise to pack a rain jacket and waterproof shoes. If you use a backpack to carry your things, consider at least a water-resistant backpack.
No matter what the weather brings, expect to see people out enjoying the beautiful Irish countryside. Being prepared with the right gear will ensure you’re comfortable and dry. You wouldn’t want wet feet or hair to dampen your overall experience!
What If I Have Just 5 or 7 Days in Ireland?
If you’re unable to get away for 10 days and instead are putting together a 7-day Ireland itinerary, focus your time in the Irish countryside on 1-2 areas and then save 2 days to explore Dublin.
For example, you could go straight to Kilkenny, then the Rock of Cashel and Hore Abbey, before moving on towards the Cliffs of Moher and possibly even a day in the Connemara.
You could also focus on Glendalough, the Wicklow Mountains, Kilkenny, the Rock of Cashel, and other places of interest in Ireland’s Ancient East like Newgrange in the north or Spike Island to the south.
Another possibility is to make the drive from Dublin Airport to Killarney to enjoy the city and the surrounding area including Killarney National, the Ring of Kerry, the Kerry Cliffs, Skelling Michael, and the Dingle Peninsula.
If you’re hoping for an Ireland itinerary in 5 days, I recommend not renting a car and using 2 of the days to explore Dublin and the other days to take day trips from the city to places like the Cliffs of Moher, Glendalough & the Wicklow Mountains, and Northern Ireland.
This will be the best way to maximize your time and see as much as possible without worrying about the logistics of traveling around Ireland.
What Should I Do on a 2 Week Ireland Itinerary?
If you have more than 10 days in Ireland on your itinerary, you have no shortage of things to see or do.
First, you could easily spend additional days in any of the areas visited as part of this self-drive tour of Ireland. Whether you want to hike in Killarney National Park, visit the Aran or Blasket Islands, or dive deeper into Ireland’s Ancient East or The Burren, there are more places to explore and experiences to have.
This Ireland road trip itinerary doesn’t go further north in Ireland than the Connemara. You could continue on up into the northwestern slice of Ireland stopping at places like the Slieve League Cliffs and the spectacular Malin Head, while driving the Inishowen Peninsula. This would also complete the drive along Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way.
Another idea would be to put together a 1-2 day Northern Ireland road trip itinerary. This would give you plenty of time to visit the Giant’s Causeway, as well as visit places like the Titanic Museum in Belfast and learn about the country’s political strife in a famous Black Cab Tour.
Bottom Line: Plan a Road Trip to Ireland!
Ireland is a beautiful country with a fascinating history, incredible natural landscapes, the nicest people you’ll ever want to meet, of course, the most delicious Guinness!
And a road trip around Ireland is the best way to see and experience all the best things the country has to offer. The only thing that remains is to start planning! 🙂
So, what are your questions about planning an Ireland road trip itinerary?
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