Enjoy this self-driving road trip of Ireland. Whether travelling for one week or two weeks, our itinerary provides all the major highlights of the beautiful Emerald Isle.
On this scenic drive, see ancient historic sites and monastic ruins set in the beautiful Irish countryside. The stunning sheer cliffs of the coast hide secluded bays and sheltered beaches ready to explore.
Best of all, meet the locals in their friendly towns, small and large, that define the island.
Table of Contents
Ireland Road Trip Map
Use our map to plan your road self-drive tour of Ireland.
7-Day Ireland Itinerary
A 1-week Ireland road trip is a good introduction to the Republic of Ireland. This road trip itinerary concentrates on the highlights of the southern half of the island, beginning and ending in Dublin.
- Day 1. Dublin
- Day 2. Glendalough and Ireland’s Ancient East
- Day 3. Cork
- Day 4. Killarney
- Day 5. Ring of Kerry Drive
- Day 6. Dingle Peninsula Drive
- Day 7. Cliffs of Moher and return to Dublin
14-Day Ireland Itinerary
A 2-week Ireland road trip explores the whole island. Drive the 7-day route, then continue north on the Wild Atlantic Way into Northern Ireland before returning to Dublin.
- Day 8. Limerick and County Clare
- Day 9. Galway
- Day 10. Ceide Fields and Sligo
- Day 11. Donegal
- Day 12. Northern Ireland’s Causeway Coastal Route
- Day 13. Belfast
- Day 14. Brú na Bóinne and return to Dublin
Spend at least a day in Dublin enjoying this city full of history, museums and traditional Irish pubs.
Walk the green squares of the historic Trinity College campus. The most impressive part is the Long Room inside the Old Library which holds over 200,000 of the library’s oldest books. At 65 metres long with an amazing barrel-vaulted ceiling, this room is an excellent photo stop. Get in line to admire the famous 9th century gospel manuscript Book of Kells.
Walk along the River Liffey admiring the many bridges spanning the river, such as the beautiful Ha’penny Bridge.
Ireland is the home of Guinness so a visit to the Guinness Storehouse is a must. It’s an impressive multimedia experience. Learn how Guinness has been brewed and enjoyed for centuries. Attend the Guinness Academy to master the art of the perfect pour then enjoy your pint. The tour ends at the Gravity Bar, on the top floor. Enjoy another pint and admire the panoramic views of the city of Dublin.
On a second day in Dublin, check out several of the world-class national museums.
The National Museum – Archaeology and History houses Ireland’s treasures including prehistoric and Viking artifacts. Next door at the Natural History Museum, explore the endless displays of preserved specimens. Its creaky floors give it an old-world charm. Enjoy the art at the National Gallery of Ireland with 4 wings and 54 galleries of works.
Nearby Merrion Square and St. Stephen’s Green are perfect city parks for a peaceful break.
End the day in the Temple Bar area. This trendy area has many interesting shops and restaurants. After dinner, enjoy a walk through the lovely cobblestone streets, stopping at pubs along the way for some traditional Irish music.
Visit the Glendalough Monastery in the beautiful Glendalough Valley. This 6th-century monastic settlement has seven church ruins, graveyard and an intact round tower. After walking the ruins, explore the surrounding trails and lakes of the stunning valley, part of Wicklow Mountains National Park.
We provide more details in our article about Glendalough Monastery and the Best Glendalough Walks.
Ireland’s Ancient East
Explore Kilkenny, dubbed “Ireland’s Medieval Capital”. Walk the colourful streets where there are over 60 traditional pubs. Tour the 12th-century, fortress Kilkenny Castle, perched over the River Nore. See the many architectural additions that have been made over hundreds of years. Enjoy a lovely stroll on the paths and grassy lawns of adjacent Kilkenny Castle Park.
The Rock of Cashel is an ancient fortress. Built high atop an outcrop of limestone, this was the home of the High Kings of Ireland. Walk through several spectacular medieval buildings. The immense, thick walls and the roofless shell of the 13th-century St. Patrick’s Cathedral are incredible. Admire the wonderful entry archway of Cormac’s Chapel built in 1127. Walk through the old cemetery and view the oldest building on the Rock, the Round Tower.
Wild Atlantic Way
The Wild Atlantic Way stretches 2,600 kilometres through nine counties on Ireland’s west coast. It is described as the longest coastal driving route in the world.
Get ready for dazzling coastal viewpoints, stunning jagged cliffs and the friendly towns along the way.
Cork City is a gastronomic delight, defined by its great food markets and restaurants. The heart of a food tour is the famous English Market in the city centre. In a Victorian building, with beautiful columns and vaulted ceilings, over 140 vendors create colourful picture-worthy displays of their wares, typically local produce.
Wander town exploring historic sites, like the medieval city wall in Bishop Lucy Park. At St Anne’s Church to climb the 120-foot tower and ring the famous Shandon Bells.
Visit Fota House Arboretum and Gardens, outside of the city. Take a tour of the impressive home and walk the massive arboretum and gardens.
With extra time and no hatred for throngs of tourists, drive to Blarney Castle to kiss the famous Blarney Stone.
A great end to your foodie tour is dinner at Ballymaloe House. Known for new Irish cuisine, their menu is crafted from local produce including food produced at the onsite farm.
The town of Killarney has been welcoming visitors to the Killarney Lakes for 250 years. It is a busy town with lots of restaurants, bars and accommodation options.
Be sure to spend some time in town. Admire the beautiful, Gothic revival St. Mary’s Catholic Cathedral. The interior is equally impressive. The Franciscan Friary’s ornate Flemish-style altar piece and stained glass windows are well worth a look.
Killarney National Park includes the three Killarney Lakes and the surrounding mountains and woodlands. The lakes cover about a quarter of the park’s 10,200+ hectares. The park is a UNESCO biosphere reserve and a special protection area for birds, with many birds staying year-round. Wildlife is abundant. Ireland’s only remaining herd of Red Deer roam the park. The lakes contain a number of fish species.
The heart of the park, the Bourn-Vincent Memorial Park (originally called the Muckross Estate), is a great starting point for visitors. The ivy-covered Muckross House, built in 1843, is open for tours.
Muckross Gardens are extensive and renowned for their rhododendrons and azaleas. Plant species not usually found this far north flourish due to the area’s milder climate. The ruins of Muckross Abbey, a 15th century Franciscan friary, are nearby.
The fully-restored, 15th-century Ross Castle sits on the shore of Lough Leane. It is a typical tower house surrounded by a defensive wall, with towers at each corner.
Walking, cycling and boating are great ways to explore the national park. For a relaxing tour, take a jaunting car ride. These traditional horse-drawn carts are driven by locals who are happy to share their stories about the region with visitors.
About 3 kilometres south of Muckross House, visit Torc Waterfall. A wooded pathway leads to the 18-metre waterfall. Nine kilometres further south, Ladies View is a great stop for a stunning view of Upper Lake.
Ring of Kerry Drive
This 150-kilometre drive around the Iveragh Peninsula is one of Ireland’s most popular tourist destinations. It make a perfect day trip and provides a taste of the Wild Atlantic Way. Get ready to see spectacular mountains, rugged coastline, pristine beaches, medieval ruins and friendly, picturesque villages.
Stop at the Kenmare Stone Circle. Built in the Bronze Age between 2,000 and 4,000 years ago, the circle is more ovoid measuring 15.5 metres by 17.5 metres. This is the largest stone circle in southwest Ireland. A large boulder-dolmen tomb is at its centre. If staying in Kenmare, check out Sheen Falls and Holy Cross Church.
At Kenneigh, leave N70 and take the Skellig Ring, a wild, scenic drive itself. Pull over and enjoy the view anywhere along the route. There are countless options. Kerry Cliffs is the closest point on the mainland to the Skellig Islands.
Portmagee, a pretty, little town, is famous for the colourful houses along its main street. Cross the bridge to Valentia Island. The Skellig Experience Visitor Centre highlights the Skellig Michael Monastery and the Skellig Islands. With more time in County Kerry, consider a day trip to visit the islands. Get tickets ahead of time as the number of visitors allowed on Skellig Michael is quite limited and weather often cancels trips. Trips run daily from March through October weather permitting.
Skellig Michael, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is one of Europe’s most magnificent monastic sites. Sixth-century monks built a compact settlement on the cliffs, 200 metres above the Atlantic Ocean. Climb the 600+ steps, chiselled by the monks into the sandstone, to the ruins of beehive huts, the Church of St. Michael and more. The island is an internationally renowned site for breeding seabirds and was a filming location for Star Wars: Episode VII and Star Wars: Episode VIII.
From Portmagee, travel north to Cahersiveen. There are two stone forts on the peninsula, 3 kilometres west of town. Cahergall, over 1,000 years old, has massive drystone walls with flights of steps and terraces in the inner face of the wall. The circular wall of Leacanabuaile, built in the 9th or 10th century AD, is over 3 metres thick.
The Ring of Kerry drive ends in the town of Killorglin. The town comes alive for 3 days every August for the Puck Fair, one of Ireland’s oldest fairs.
Dingle Peninsula Drive
The most westerly peninsula in Europe, Dingle Peninsula has rugged mountains, valley lakes, seaside cliffs and long, sandy beaches. The charming town of Dingle is the peninsula’s hub. Beautiful stone buildings house the town’s many art galleries, shops, diners and pubs. It’s a great place to stretch your legs and grab a bite to eat. We timed our arrival to catch the Dingle Food Festival, which is held annually on the first weekend of October. It’s a popular event with lots of food stalls and cooking demonstrations along with wine and beer tasting.
Boat tours of Dingle Bay take visitors out for a different view of the stunning coast. The bay’s star attraction for over 35 years was a bottlenose dolphin named Fungie. He disappeared in 2020 and is missed. He delighted in playing close to the tour boats becoming a favourite with locals and tourists alike.
Slea Head Drive heads west from Dingle hugging the ocean coastline. This drive travels through a dramatic landscape of prehistoric ring forts, early Christian churches and picturesque villages.
Dún Beag Fort, built atop the steep sea cliffs, has guarded the land for over 2500 years. A series of banks and ditches show its defensive structure. While there are several examples of beehive huts along the drive, the huts at Fahan are a popular stop. It is a great example of how the plentiful, flat stones were piled into beehive-shaped, waterproof buildings without using any mortar. Unfortunately, a visit into the fort is no longer allowed, due to cliff erosion. Safe viewpoints have been established. Be sure to see the short audio-visual presentation in the Visitor Centre to learn more.
At Dunquin, the Blasket Centre explains the rich cultural heritage and rugged life of subsistence fishing and farming on the Blasket Islands. Evidence exists of island habitation for 2500 years up to their abandonment in 1953. If time permits, take a day trip to Great Blasket, the largest island.
Continue to the stone-walled Riask Monastic Settlement, thought to be from the 5th or 6th century. See outlines of beehive-shaped huts and slabs with carved crosses. The drystone-walled Gallarus Oratory is a Christian church over 1000 years old. Nearby see Gallarus Castle, a 15th-century fortified house. The 12th-century Kilmalkedar Church shows classic Romanesque architecture with its round-arched doorway. The church sits on the site of a 6th or 7th-century monastery.
Return to Dingle. Drive north through Conor Pass, the highest-driveable mountain pass in Ireland. It’s a perfect stop for one last panoramic view of the peninsula.
Cliffs of Moher
The shear, limestone Cliffs of Moher, on Ireland’s west coast, stand 214 metres at their highest point. The eco-friendly visitor centre, built in 2007, has world-class exhibits. O’Brien’s Tower, at the edge of the cliffs, was built in the early 1800s as a tourist attraction. It still provides visitors a great bird’s eye view to the base of the cliffs.
The cliffs are a protected area for seabirds, with over 20 species under protection. The cliffs stretch for 8 kilometres. Explore their wild beauty with an easy hike along the well-worn trail. Make sure to bring a camera to capture incredible views of the iconic cliffs and surf beaches.
These impressive cliffs form a protective barrier around the rich, fertile land at the southern end of the Burren region. The region is the northwestern portion of County Clare. The Cliffs of Moher and the Burren were awarded UNESCO Global Geopark status in 2011.
Stop at any of the small towns and villages of the Burren and enjoy the local pubs and restaurants. Find many hidden churches, abbey ruins and medieval forts. Just north of the cliffs is Doolin, internationally known as a centre for live Irish music played at many popular pubs.
This is the end of the 7-Day Road Trip. We know that those on the 7-day tour want to stay longer. Sorry. Its time to drive back to Dublin which is about 3 hours from the Cliffs of Moher.
Limerick and County Clare
A stroll along the River Shannon is the perfect way to start a visit to the city of Limerick. On the river bank, see the restored King John’s Castle, Limerick’s most iconic landmark. Its high-tech 3D projections show what it was like to live in a castle 800 years ago.
Just outside the city, in County Clare, enjoy Bunratty Castle & Folk Park. It recreates a 19th-century, Irish village with actors playing Victorian era residents.
County Clare’s most famous landmark is the Cliffs of Moher. Be sure it’s on the “Must-See” list.
With more time in the area, check out the remains of the ancient 10th century stone fort, Cathair Chonaill. Visit Poulnabrone Dolmen nearby, a megalithic tomb which archaeologists have shown was in use between 5,200 and 5,800 years ago.
County Clare is the unofficial capital of Irish music. Spending the night in Doolin is a great idea. Visit a lively, local pub to enjoy this fine music tradition.
This is another vibrant, Irish city worth spending time in. It’s an easy walk around the town’s compact Latin Quarter. These colourful, pedestrian-only streets are filled with stores and pubs. St. Nicholas Collegiate Church, Ireland’s largest medieval parish church, has operated continuously as a church for over 700 years.
At Connemara National Park, the7-kilometre Diamond Hill Loop is a great, short hike. Its wonderful, blue lakes and peat bogs are a sample of the entire park.
Another popular activity in County Galway is cycling the 12-kilometre Sky Road loop starting from the town of Clifden.
With more time in the county, visit Inishmore in the Aran Islands. Meet the friendly locals and discover stone structures that were built 3,000 years ago.
Ceide Fields and Sligo
The beaches of Westport, in County Mayo, are some of the best on the west coast. Enjoy a walk or a swim to get the day started. For the rest of the day explore several prehistoric sites.
Almost 6 centuries ago, Ceide Fields was a Neolithic farming village high on the ocean cliffs. The visitor centre provides a huge amount of information about these early villages, their agricultural methods, and the ancient walls preserved beneath the blanket bog. Guided tours of the grounds show visitors sections of the excavated walls and demonstrate how the walls are found under the bog. The site is open daily June through November and by appointment the rest of the year.
Carrowkeel Passage Tombs is a megalithic cemetery on a quiet hilltop. A less developed site than the larger Carrowmore, this National Monument complex has 14 visible, passage tombs.
Ireland’s largest megalithic cemetery is Carrowmore Megalithic Cemetery, with over 60 tombs. The oldest tomb, labelled tomb 52A, is thought to be 7400 years old. It is the earliest known piece of free standing stone architecture in the world.
Before continuing the drive north, duck into the partial ruins of Sligo Abbey to see its 15th century high altar. The abbey is open to wander from April through October.
The impressive Donegal coastline is the finale on this drive along of the Wild Atlantic Way. Find secluded coves and dramatic cliffs.
The cliffs of Slieve League are some of the most magnificent. The 600-metre cliffs are much higher than the Cliffs of Moher, but not as well known. The views from the upper car park are stunning. Hike further up the footpath for 500 metres to be rewarded with an even more spectacular view of these sheer cliffs.
Glenveagh National Park is 16,000 hectares of wilderness. Enjoy a guided tour of its fairy-tale 19th-century, Glenveagh Castle overlooking Lough Veagh. Walk the castle’s impressive gardens and see many exotic plants.
With more time in Donegal, drive the Inishowen Peninsula. Find pretty villages and reach Malin Head, Ireland’s most northern point.
Derry City (also called Londonderry) is one of Europe’s finest examples of a walled city. It is the only city in Ireland whose city walls are still completely intact. These 9-metre thick walls even survived the 1688 ‘Siege of Derry’. Spend at least an hour walking along the top of the walls soaking in history and viewing the old medieval town within them.
A drive along Northern Ireland’s Causeway Coastal Route showcases many great sites.
See the ruins of a bishop’s mansion at Downhill Demesne. Walk over to the nearby Mussenden Temple perched on the cliff edge to get panoramic views of the coastal beaches below.
Make a brief stop to see the ruins of Dunluce Castle. The 17th century castle was abandoned when part of it collapsed into the ocean below.
The highlight of the drive is the over 40,000 interlocking rock columns of Giant’s Causeway. This beautiful landscape was created 60 million years ago. The columns formed when lava flows cooled, shrinking and cracking like mud puddles do. Scramble among the long interlocking basalt columns. This UNESCO World Heritage Site has a great visitor centre that explains the unique geology of the area.
Brave enough to walk across the swaying Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge? The bridge, 30 metres above the sea, is the same bridge local salmon fishermen have used for centuries to reach Carrick-a-Rede Island (with repairs of course).
Game of Thrones fans enjoy the many recognizable locations along the coast including: Ballintoy Harbour, Larrybane and Cushendun. The Dark Hedges are just a short trip inland.
With more time, drive the entire Antrim Coast for even more spectacular cliffs on the way toward Belfast.
Titanic Belfast, an amazing multi-media experience, is the city’s most popular attraction. Its four floors and nine interactive galleries tell the story of the world’s most famous ocean liner, from construction to its sinking in the middle of the Atlantic. Learn everything, from the detailed construction of the ship and its outfitting, to the atmosphere of the thriving city and shipyards of Belfast during the early 20th century. A multimillion pound refreshment of the museum opens in 2023.
Large windows in Titanic Belfast look north to the Titanic Slipway where the Titanic was actually built. Walk this plaza and see the outline of the ship on the ground. It provides a better appreciation for the ships truly titanic size.
The SS Nomadic floating museum is moored just to the south. It was the Titanic’s original tender ship, ferrying passengers from shore to ship for their ill-fated voyage.
The Ulster Museum displays artifacts of Irish history from prehistoric treasures to modern times.
Belfast Castle overlooks the city from the slopes of Cave Hill. Built first by the Normans in the 12th century, Belfast Castle has burned down and been rebuilt several times throughout its history. The latest reconstruction was completed in 1870. Take a tour of the interior of this elegant home. See the stunning Italian-style serpentine exterior staircase. In the adjoining yard, have some fun searching for the nine cat references and sculptures in the gardens.
“The Troubles” were an unsettling and violent era in Northern Ireland’s history. On a Black Taxi Tour visit landmarks important in these conflicts between Catholic and Protestant neighbourhoods. The local guides provide their perspective on the events and impact of the Troubles. Additionally, self-tour these neighbourhoods to see the various political murals located at the Peace Wall and the Solidarity Wall.
Brú na Bóinne
Driving back to Dublin, a noteworthy stop is Brú na Bóinne (the Boyne Palace). In the Boyne Valley, there are a number of ancient cemetery tombs dating back to the Neolithic time period. Two of the main necropolis sites are Newgrange and Knowth
Newgrange, with its large stone walls topped by a grass dome, is immense at 80 metres in diameter. Walking into the long tomb, it seems incredible that this structure is well over 5000 years old, older than the Egyptian pyramids.
The 14-day Ireland road trip ends back in Dublin. Visit the attractions missed on Day 1.
Know Before You Go
When is the best time to go to Ireland?
The best weather is June through August making it peak tourist season. We went in late September-early October and found touring to be enjoyable. Yes, of course, it rained but the temperatures were still reasonable.
Is it easy to self-drive Ireland?
Although many people join organized bus tours, we feel that you’ll experience greater satisfaction touring Ireland by car. The itinerary in this article provides a great way to plan your Ireland road trip with lots of flexibility.
How do I rent a car in Ireland?
Rental cars can easily be picked up when you arrive at Dublin Airport. North American visitors are reminded that most rental cars have manual transmission. Automatic transmission vehicles are available, but usually at a surcharge.
What currency is used in Ireland?
The island of Ireland consists of two nations, each with their own currency.
– The Republic of Ireland uses the Euro (€).
– Northern Ireland uses the pound sterling (£).
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