Enjoy this self driving road trip of Ireland. Whether you have one week or two weeks, our itinerary will ensure you see all the major highlights of the beautiful Emerald Isle.
On this scenic drive you’ll 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 for you to explore.
Best of all, you’ll meet the locals in their friendly towns, small and large, that define the island.
Ireland Road Trip Map
For your self-drive tour of Ireland, use this handy trip planner map.
7-Day Ireland Itinerary
A 7-day road trip will give you a good introduction to the Republic of Ireland. This road trip itinerary concentrates on the highlights of the southern half of the island.
- 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
14-Day Ireland Itinerary
A 14-day road trip gives you a chance to explore 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. Sligo
- Day 11. Donegal
- Day 12. Northern Ireland
- Day 13. Belfast
- Day 14. Brú na Bóinne and Dublin
Here’s a guide to each of these areas.
Spend at least a day in Dublin enjoying this city full of history, museums and traditional Irish pubs.
Begin by walking 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. While here, 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. This is an impressive multimedia experience. You’ll learn how Guinness has been brewed and enjoyed for centuries. The staff will even teach you the art of the perfect pour which you get to enjoy. 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. Get your fill of 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 your 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.
The Glendalough Monastery is located in the beautiful Glendalough Valley. At this monastic settlement from the 6th century, you’ll discover seven church ruins plus an intact round tower. After walking the ruins, explore the surrounding trails and lakes of the stunning valley that form part of Wicklow Mountains National Park.
See our article for more details on both the Glendalough Monastery and the Best Glendalough Walks in valley.
Ireland’s Ancient East
Explore Kilkenny, dubbed “Ireland’s Medieval Capital”. Walk the colourful streets where there are over 60 traditional pubs. Visit Kilkenny Castle, perched over the River Nore. Tour this 12th century fortress and marvel at the many architectural additions that have been made over hundreds of years. The paths and grassy lawns of adjacent Kilkenny Castle Park make for a lovely stroll.
The Rock of Cashel is an ancient fortress. Built high atop an outcrop of limestone, this was once the home of the High Kings of Ireland. You’ll walk through several spectacular medieval buildings. Looking at the immense thick walls and skyward to the roofless shell of the 13th century St. Patrick’s Cathedral is an unforgettable sight. 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 over 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 your food tour is the English Market in the city center. This famous market is in a Victorian building with beautiful columns and vaulted ceilings. Over 140 vendors create colourful picture-worthy displays of their local produce.
As you wander town explore the historic sites, like the medieval city wall in Bishop Lucy Park. Make your way to St Anne’s Church to climb the 120-foot tower and ring the famous Shandon Bells.
Outside town, visit Fota House Arboretum and Gardens. Take a tour of the impressive home and walk the massive arboretum and gardens.
If have extra time and don’t mind 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 also 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 is a special protection area for birds, with many birds staying year-round. Wildlife is plentiful here. 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 and houses the park Visitor Centre.
Muckross Gardens are extensive and renowned for their rhododendrons and azaleas. The mild climate allows species not usually found this far north to flourish. 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 is perfect for a day trip and provides an opening glimpse of the Wild Atlantic Way. Get ready to see spectacular mountains, rugged coastline, pristine beaches, medieval ruins and friendly picturesque villages.
Your first stop is the Kenmare Stone Circle, built in the Bronze Age between 2,000 and 4,000 years ago. The circle is actually more ‘egg-shaped’ at 15.5 metres by 17.5 metres. This is the largest “circle” in southwest Ireland. A large boulder-dolmen tomb sits at its centre. If you’re 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. There are many beautiful places to pull over and enjoy the view. Kerry Cliffs is the closest point on the mainland to see the Skellig Islands.
The pretty little town of Portmagee is famous for the colourful houses along its main street. Cross the bridge to Valentia Island. The Skellig Experience Visitor Centre introduces you to the Skellig Michael Monastery and the Skellig Islands. If you have more time in County Kerry, consider a day-trip to visit the islands. Reserve your spot ahead of time as the number of visitors allowed on Skellig Michael is quite limited and weather often cancels trips.
Skellig Michael is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and 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 plus steps they carved 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.
Return to Portmagee and travel north to Cahersiveen. Here you’ll find 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 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 perfectly 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, a bottlenose dolphin named Fungie, disappeared in 2020 and will be 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. 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. See how the plentiful flat stones were piled into beehive-shaped, waterproof buildings without using any mortar.
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 inhabitation for 2500 years up to their abandonment in 1953. If you have time, 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 dry-stone 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.
After returning to Dingle, drive north through Conor Pass the highest drivable mountain pass in Ireland. It’s a perfect place 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. At the edge of the cliffs is O’Brien’s Tower. Built in the early 1800s for tourists, 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 you 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 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. You will also come across 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 by now those on the 7-day tour want to stay longer. Sorry but you’ll need to drive back to Dublin which is about 3 hours from here.
Limerick and County Clare
Begin in the city of Limerick with a stroll along the River Shannon. On the river bank you’ll 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 of Limerick in County Clare, kids will enjoy Bunratty Castle & Folk Park. It recreates a 19th century Irish village with actors playing the Victorian era residents.
County Clare’s most famous landmark is the Cliffs of Moher, mentioned above. Be sure it’s on your “Must-See” list.
With more time in the area, check out the remains of the ancient 10th century stone fort, Cathair Chonaill. Nearby, visit Poulnabrone Dolmen, 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 local pub and enjoy this fine music tradition in a lively atmosphere.
This is another vibrant Irish city worth spending some time in. It’s an easy walk around the town’s compact Latin Quarter. Its colourful pedestrian-only streets are filled with stores and pubs. Here you’ll find St. Nicholas Collegiate Church, Ireland’s largest medieval parish church which has operated continuously as a church for over 700 years.
At Connemara National Park, the7-kilometre Diamond Hill Loop is a great short hike. The wonderful blue lakes and peat bogs you find on the hike are a sample of what the entire park is like.
Another popular activity is cycling the 12-kilometre Sky Road loop starting from the town of Clifden.
If you have more time to spend in County Galway, visit Inishmore in the Aran Islands. You’ll find 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 your 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. Back outside, guided tours show visitors sections of the excavated walls and demonstrate how the walls are found under the bog.
Carrowkeel Megalithic Cemetery is less developed than the larger Carrowmore but this National Monument is worth a visit. The quiet hilltop complex has 14 visible passage tombs.
Ireland’s largest megalithic cemetery is Carrowmore Megalithic Cemetery, with over 60 tombs. The oldest tomb, labeled 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 your drive north, duck into the partial ruins of Sligo Abbey to see its 15th century high altar.
The impressive Donegal coastline is the finale on this drive along of the Wild Atlantic Way. You’ll 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.
If you have more than one day, the Inishowen Peninsula is a good driving tour. You’ll 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. Scrambling among the long interlocking basalt columns is an unforgettable experience. This UNESCO World Heritage Site has a great visitor center that describes the unique geology of the area.
If you’re brave enough, walk across the swaying Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge. At 30 metres above the sea, you’ll walk the same bridge the salmon fishermen have used for centuries to reach Carrick-a-Rede Island.
Game of Thrones fans will enjoy the many recognizable locations along the coast including: Ballintoy Harbour, Larrybane and Cushendun. A short trip inland brings you to The Dark Hedges.
With more than one day, you can drive the entire Antrim Coast to experience even more spectacular cliffs as you head 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.
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 gives you an appreciation for the Titanic’s massive size.
The SS Nomadic floating museum is moored beside Titanic Belfast 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 through history. The latest reconstruction was completed in 1870. Take a tour of the interior of this elegant home. Outside, photograph the stunning Italian-style serpentine 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, with the worst of it now in the past. 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. Alternatively, you can 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 predating the Egyptian pyramids.
Your 14-day road trip ends up back in Dublin where you can visit the attractions you didn’t get to on Day 1.
Ireland Attractions Map
You’ll find the location of the attractions in this article, in the map below.
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 trip to Ireland.
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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