The Ultimate 7-Day Ireland Road Trip

There’s no better way to see Ireland than by taking a road trip around the country. This guide will include everything you should do and see during your week on the Emerald Isle. If you have a little longer, check out the More To Do section for ideas.

When Jack and I started planning our trip to Ireland, we knew we wanted to spend some time away from Dublin and explore the rest of the country. I was a little hesitant about the driving part, but it’s the best way to see everything the country offers. 

Ireland is a country filled with natural beauty and history. You could spend weeks exploring ancient castles and getting lost in the countryside. 

This seven-day itinerary is jam-packed, but there’s plenty we’ll miss. If you have extra time, take it slow and enjoy the charming small towns and sights around the island.       

Overview

This itinerary starts and ends in Dublin. Dublin Airport (DUB) is the country’s largest airport, so you can find a flight here from just about anywhere in the world. However, the road trip is a loop, so you could start elsewhere.

Geography

Ireland is an island in the North Atlantic Ocean consisting of two countries. The Republic of Ireland is officially named Ireland, while Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom. We will be staying in the Republic of Ireland for this road trip.

Language

Ireland has two main languages, English and Irish (also known as Gaelic). You’ll be able to get by with just English, but you’ll notice many signs are in both languages. 

Currency

The currency of Ireland is the euro, while Northern Ireland uses the pound sterling. Major credit cards are widely accepted, but it’s always a good idea to have some cash, just in case.  

When To Visit

You can visit Ireland any time of the year. Both summers and winter are mild. While December and January are the rainiest months, you can expect some rain year-round. Summer is peak season, so attractions will be busier.

Jack and I visited in November, and the weather was mainly between the mid-40s to 60°F with some rain. While it was nice that the places we visited weren’t too crowded, sunset was around 5 PM, so it was hard to explore later in the day.     

Emergency Number

You can reach emergency services with 112 or 999 in Ireland. (Fun fact: Police in Ireland are known as the Garda)

Driving in Ireland

Coming from the U.S., driving on the opposite side can be a little nerve-wracking. Take it slow the first couple of days, and you’ll get the hang of it in no time. Some roads are very narrow, especially in the countryside, so I’d suggest renting a small car. Also, specify you want an automatic car when booking your rental unless you can drive manually.

Cellphone Service

Depending on your current phone plan, it may be cheaper to buy a SIM card once you’re in Ireland. Jack and I each got a Vodafone one at the Dublin airport that worked well for us. While in the city, you shouldn’t have any issues with service. However, I’d recommend downloading offline Google Maps (and Spotify playlists while you’re at it) for when you’re out in more rural areas. 

The 7-Day Ireland Road Trip Itinerary

Day 1 & 2: Dublin

Dublin is the ideal starting point for any Ireland road trip, especially if it’s your first time visiting the country. The city has been through many changes throughout history, and you can see it all in one place. Some of Ireland’s best-known landmarks, like Trinity College and St. Patrick’s Cathedral, will give you a glimpse into Dublin’s past. 

Dublin is estimated to have over 700 pubs. The pubs range from old-fashioned to modern, with plenty of places to eat, drink and relax. Although it’s a little touristy, Temple Bar is Ireland’s most iconic bar and worth a quick stop.

Ireland’s most famous export is Guinness Beer, and there’s no better place to learn how it’s made. The Guinness Storehouse is Ireland’s most popular tourist attraction. The self-guided tour takes you through the history of Guinness, starting with the company’s humble beginnings to its rise as a global brand. It ends at the Gravity Bar on the 7th floor, where you can enjoy 360° views of Dublin City while enjoying a Guinness.

For more ideas, check out my post on How To Spend Two Days in Dublin.

Where To Stay

Day 3: Dublin to Cork

We’re heading south to Cork for your first day out of Dublin. If you were to drive straight there, it’d take about three hours, but I’d recommend making a few stops along the way. 

Powerscourt Estate

Just about an hour outside of Dublin is Powerscourt Estate. The house was originally a medieval castle transformed into a grand mansion in the 1700s. The estate’s gardens are the real attraction as they cover 47 acres. There’s also a whiskey distillery with daily tours and tastings and Ireland’s second highest waterfall, the Powerscourt Waterfall. 

Kilkenny

Kilkenny Castle | Ireland Road Trip

Kilkenny is a small town about halfway between Dublin and Cork, making it the perfect place to stop for lunch. Afterward, you can visit Kilkenny Castle and the Smithwick’s Experience to learn about Ireland’s oldest ale.

Rock of Cashel

Rock of Cashel in Ireland

The Rock of Cashel, also known as the Cashel of the Kings, is an archeological site with buildings from the 12th and 13th centuries. The site was originally a fortress before it was gifted to the church.

Hore Abbey | Ireland Road Trip

A short walk from the Rock of Cashel is the ruins of Hore Abbey, a monastery built in 1270. The Abbey doesn’t get quite as many visitors as the Rock of Cashel – we had the whole place to ourselves when we visited, which was cool but also a little spooky. While it may not be as grand, it’s free to visit and is always open.

Spend the night in Cork

Where To Stay

Day 4: Cork & Cobh

Cork is Ireland’s second-largest city after Dublin, so it’s worth a visit. 

The English Market

The English Market is the best place in the city to find fresh, local produce and traditional Cork foods. There are cafes and bakeries where you can grab breakfast. 

Titanic Museum

The town of Cobh (pronounced “cove”) is just outside Cork and was the Titanic’s last port of call before it set sail across the Atlantic. The Titanic Experience is located in the former ticket office for White Star Line, the company that owned the Titanic. During the tour, you’ll learn about the passengers who boarded the ship in Cobh (known as Queenstown at the time), life on the boat, and the aftermath of the tragedy.

Deck of Cards Houses

The Deck of Cards houses are the most photographed sight in Cobh. They’re known for their bright colors and St Colman’s Cathedral in the background. However, in the last few years, some of the houses have been repainted with more neutral colors, so although it’s still a great view, it’s not quite as vibrant as it used to be.

Blarney Castle

Blarney Castle may be the most famous castle in Ireland. While you can explore the gardens and dungeons, at the top is its most notable feature, the Blarney Stone. Kissing the stone is said to give you the gift of eloquence.  

Drive the hour and a half to Killarney to get an early start tomorrow

Where To Stay

Day 5: Ring of Kerry 

Driving the Ring of Kerry is a road trip in itself. The 110 miles will take you around the Iveragh Peninsula, and you can add in the Skellig Ring if you have the time. There are castles, forts, and seaside towns to visit along the way. You’ll also get panoramic views of the Atlantic Ocean once you hit the western part of the Ring. 

The Skellig Ring is an extension of the Ring of Kerry. It tends to be quieter as there are fewer tour buses along the route. Stop by the Kerry Cliffs for some amazing cliffside views. 

Killarney National Park

The Ring of Kerry goes through Killarney National Park, the oldest national park in Ireland. If you have the time, you could spend a whole day in just the park. The focal point is Muckross House and Gardens, which also serves as the visitor center. You can spend the day hiking to see the mountains and waterfalls and admire the historic sites. Some of the park’s highlights include:

  • Muckross Abbey
  • Torc Waterfall
  • Inisfallen Abbey on Inisfallen Island
  • Ross Castle
  • Ladies’ Viewpoint 

Stay the night in Killarney

Day 6: Cliffs of Moher & Galway

Bunratty Castle

On your way from Killarney to Cliffs of Moher is Bunratty Castle, the most complete and authentic castle in Ireland. Over a thousand years ago, the site was a Viking trading camp. Since then, multiple castles have been built here. You can also visit Bunratty Folk Park to experience village life in 19th century Ireland.

Cliffs of Moher

The Cliffs of Moher is a must-see attraction in Ireland. You also might have seen them in movies, like The Princess Bride and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. Located on the Atlantic coast in County Clare is nine miles of sea cliffs. The height of the cliffs ranges from about 400 to 700 feet tall. 

While I don’t think there’s any bad way to view the cliffs, the coolest way may be from sea level. You can book a ferry trip to take you on the water to get a different perspective.

No matter when you visit, be prepared for some wind. When we saw the cliffs in November, the wind was so strong it was difficult to walk. It was also a little rainy, but it cleared up quickly and we got to see a double rainbow!

Galway

Galway, also known as Ireland’s Cultural Heart, is a short distance north of the Cliffs of Moher. The city hosts numerous festivals and celebrations throughout the year. I’d recommend staying in the town as it’s very walkable.
Some places of interest are the Latin Quarter, Quay Street, Galway Cathedral, the Spanish Arch, and Lynch’s Castle. If you’re an Ed Sheeran fan, he filmed his music video for Galway Girl at O’Connell’s Bar near Eyre Square.

Where To Stay

Day 7: Galway to Dublin

The last leg of your road trip is 2 ½ hour drive from Galway to Dublin. If you want to stop somewhere in between, consider Kilconnell Franciscan Friary, Dun Na Si Amenity & Heritage Park, or Belvedere House Gardens.  

More To Do

Slieve League
Slieve League

Connemara National Park

If you’re not ready to return to Dublin, Connemara National Park is a short drive northwest of Galway. The park is open year-round and is free to enter. 

Slieve League

In the northern part of Ireland is County Donegal, where you can see the Slieve League, the second-highest sea cliffs in Ireland. The highest point is almost 2000 feet. For comparison, the Cliffs of Moher peak at 700 feet. 

Glenveagh National Park

The Glenveagh National Park is the second-largest national park in Ireland. It includes the Derryveagh Mountains, Lough Veagh (a freshwater lake), and Glenveagh Castle. 

Dingle Peninsula

The Dingle Peninsula is just north of the Ring of Kerry. Highlights include Conor Pass and the Conor Pass Waterfall, Rahinnane Castle, and many spots used in the Star Wars movies.

The Sheep’s Head Peninsula

The Sheep’s Head Peninsula is another scenic area of Ireland with over 25 trails to give you some beautiful views of Bantry Bay, Dunmanus Bay, and Sheep’s Head Lighthouse.

Mizen Head

Mizen Head is another place you should definitely visit if you have the time. There are some fantastic cliff views, you can cross the Mizen Head Bridge to reach Cloghane Island, and you can see Brow Head, the southernmost point of mainland Ireland.

Leave a Comment