Ireland is such a charming country full of a rich history and fun culture. There are countless destinations within the country that are worth visiting so we’ve given you what we believe is the best itinerary for your Ireland road trip and also added a section that includes Northern Ireland in case you have a few extra days to add to your trip.
Ireland is actually divided out into 2 different countries: the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland which actually belongs to the UK. The Republic of Ireland is generally referred to as just Ireland and is easily differentiated from its counterpart, Northern Ireland. So if you read a reference to either, you’ll know exactly which one we are referring to.
This travel guide gives you a few tips on what to see in Ireland in 7 days as well as how to plan for your trip. We’ve also included a few extra itineraries depending on how many days you have to spend in Ireland so scroll down if you’re planning on visiting for longer than a week.
For inspiration and a bit of wanderlust, check out our guide to beautiful photos of Ireland.
Ireland in 7 days
DUBLIN – 1 night
Start off your Ireland road trip with Dublin (easy to do since you can fly into Dublin). While you could spend a few days in Dublin touring every square inch of the city, one day is enough to get a feel for the city before embarking on your tour of Ireland. It goes without saying that one day is not enough time to visit Trinity College, the Guinness Storehouse, St Patrick’s Cathedral or any of the museums – you would need more like 3 or 4 days to fully grasp all the historical must-dos.
What I would recommend is forgetting all those tourist spots and using this day to relax and enjoy Dublin’s vibes. Wander around old town and stop at a few pubs along the way. If it’s sunny out, make sure you take a stroll at St. Stephen’s Green, a flowery park in downtown.
Tip: Unless you’re brave enough to drive in Dublin, make sure you rent the car for your 7 day road trip after your stay in Dublin.
Related: Best Europe Itineraries for 2 weeks
Where to stay The Shelbourne Dublin is the perfect option for lodging for your night in Dublin. It’s an absolutely gorgeous and historic five star hotel located a few short steps from Grafton Street. Rich in history and fame (you’ll be amazed at how many celebrities have stayed here), the Shelbourne not only serves a fantastic breakfast but also offers excellent spa services. This hotel is about a 25-30 euro taxi ride from Dublin’s airport.
Where to eat Dublin is a foodie haven. I don’t know that you can go wrong anywhere you eat but be sure to have dinner at The Hairy Lemon, stop by for a Guinness at charming and quaint The Brazen Head aka Ireland’s oldest pub, and enjoy a coffee and sandwich at Bewley’s Cafe.
CORK/KINSALE/COBH – 2 nights
Glendalough & Wicklow Mountains…your next stop on your Ireland road trip. If you leave Dublin early enough, you will have time to swing by Glendalough on your way over to Cork.
Glendalough is an ancient site where old ruins of a medieval monastery are located. The surrounding area looks like it came straight out of Robin Hood and if you don’t have more than 2 hours to spare, make sure you visit the monastery, walk down the path in the woods a bit and explore the area. If you have more than a few hours to spare (meaning you left Dublin 9am), then make sure you hike part of the 11 mile trail that takes you to various ruins throughout the site. You can check with the local Glendalough tourism office for route maps. We arrived at Glendalough too late so we were unable to spend more than 2 hours in the area.
After Glendalough, you’ll arrive in Cork in time for dinner. IMO Cork is a city and like Dublin, you need more than a day here. So I’d opt out of touring Cork for this trip and instead savor the surrounding (and more charming towns). I highly recommend having dinner here, especially if you’re fortunate enough to experience good weather and a sunset.
Day two is split between Kinsale and Cobh (pronounced “cove”). Head to Kinsale early in the morning and park along the street as soon as you hit town (it’s nearly impossible to find a spot further in). Wander the colorful streets for a bit, stop at a coffee shop for something sweet and then head over to Cobh. You can park in the free lot right behind the famous cathedral. Make your way down to the harbor by foot and enjoy all the colorful buildings downtown.
Where to stay The Maryborough Spa is the best option for lodging in the Cork area. Not only does this upscale and stunning hotel offer every amenity known to man (spa services, conference rooms, internet, full service restaurant, you name it), it has a prime location for discovering Cork and the surrounding areas. The rooms are gorgeous and their restaurant served one of the best dinners we had the entire trip in Ireland. *Suite pictured below
Where to eat If you’re arriving to your hotel late and you take my suggestion above and stay at the Maryborough Spa, then I’d suggest dining at the Maryborough your first night. They have a seasonal menu that is absolutely to die for and it makes dinner decisions easy that first night. Make sure you enjoy a coffee and cake at Poet’s Corner in Kinsale and try Quinlan’s Seafood in Cork.
DINGLE/BEARA PENINSULA – 1 night
Leave the Cork area early, right after breakfast and head towards the Beara Peninsula, driving along the Ring of Beara (the lesser known scenic ring). If you left early enough, you should be able to drive most of it: Glengariff – Castletown/Bearhaven – Eyeries.
However, if you left Cork around noon, then you have enough time to follow this route: Glengariff – Adrigole – Lauragh – Kenmare and then head towards Dingle. You’ll arrive in Dingle around evening. Spend the following day driving around the Dingle Peninsula and exploring the town of Dingle.
Where to stay My recommendation is Heaton’s Guesthouse. The breakfast there is out of this world, the rooms are clean and it’s in town.
Where to eat Be sure to stop by Jim’s Coffee House in Glengarriff on the way from Cork to the Beara Peninsula. Their sandwiches are delicious; make sure you try their coconut macaroons! Grab an ice cream from Murphy’s in Dingle.
KILLARNEY – 1 night
Killarney is only about an hour drive from Dingle so you can continue your Ireland road trip once you feel like you’ve had your fill of Dingle. Arrive in Killarney for an evening about the town. Stroll around the old town and then head to dinner. The following day head over to Killarney National Park and choose between Muckross Abbey, Ross Castle or Torc Waterfall. Conversely, you can opt to see Gap of Dunloe on the west side of Lough Leane.
Where to stay There are plenty of hotels downtown with great reviews so I would choose one of those. We stayed on the outskirts and I would’ve preferred a more central location.
Where to eat Go to Cronins Restaurant for burgers and a cozy Irish vibe!
CLIFFS OF MOHER/GALWAY/CONNEMARA – 2 nights
Leave Killarney around noon and head over to the thatched roof village of Adare. Walk around, have lunch and snap a few photos of the homes left remaining with thatched roofs. Every Ireland itinerary needs to include The Cliffs of Moher so afterwards drive to the Cliffs. You’ll appreciate the views especially if it’s a sunny day.
Continue driving to Galway; your arrival time in Galway will be around evening. This is where your Ireland road trip will come to an end. Enjoy dinner there and remember that the party only begins at 11pm 😉 Head to Connemara the following day. Use a map to help pick a route – Connemara will be beautiful anywhere you go so pick a loop and drive it. You can opt to spend the evening in Galway city (recommended) or you can spend more time in Connemara National Park. Spend the last day in Galway city; if you’re feel energetic, walk to Salthill and back.
Related Ireland post: What to do in Galway
Where to stay Though not luxurious, I recommend Jury’s Inn based on its location alone. Jury’s Inn sits in the best part of Galway, on Quay Street. However, rent the room alone sans breakfast (Galway has way too many delicious breakfast spots to choose from).
Where to eat Lunch at Sean Collins & Sons Bar in Adare. You MUST try the goat cheese salad – hands down best goat cheese I have ever had in my entire life. In Galway, Quay Street Kitchen serves up a delicious mushroom coconut soup and lamb shank while The Kings Head is the perfect pub to spend an evening drinking beer and listening to live music (skip the food). Above all, you must try Ard Bia. Try breakfast there and return for a spectacular dinner. It’s adorable on the inside and the food is even better. Best coffee shops: Esquires Coffee and Cafe Express (great for people watching).
Hidden Gems of Ireland
Even though Ireland is well-visited, there are still a few hidden gems and fun spots to visit along your road trip. We will love road trips because there are so many beautiful spots to discover so here are five of our favorites!
Dunquin, Ireland via Slea Hide Drive
12 Pines, Derryclare Lough
Clifden Castle, Connemara
Adare, County Limerick
Ring of Beara, Beara Peninsula
Glendalough, County Wicklow
Ireland itinerary 10 days
Adding on just 3 days to your 7 day Ireland itinerary will make a big difference. Those extra days will allow you to see each place a bit more and explore a few cities that you would never have been able to get to otherwise. We would recommend spending more time in Dublin and experiencing the rich culture and history there. We would also recommend exploring Cork as well as a few surrounding towns.
Days 1-3 Dublin/Kilkenny
- Trinity College Library – beautiful library built in the late 1500s
- Guinness Storehouse Tour – the famous Irish beer complete with tastings
- St Patrick’s Cathedral – largest church in Ireland built in the 1100s
- Christ Church Cathedral – incredible medieval cathedral built in the 1000s
- St. Stephens Green – a beautiful park located in the heart of the city
- Kilkenny – medieval town that houses Kilkenny Castle; about 2 hours from Dublin
Days 3-6 Cork/Killarney/Waterford/Kinsale/Cobh
- Saint Fin Barre’s Cathedral – Gothic cathedral in Cork
- English Market – food market in Cork dating back to the 1700s
- Killarney – 1.5 hours from Cork and with many different highlights including Muckross Abbey, Ross Castle & Torc Waterfall, an easy hike with a pretty waterfall
- Blarney Castle – castle with the the famous kissing stone; about 15 minutes from Cork
- Waterford – home of the famous Waterford crystal; 2 hours from Cork
- Kinsale – beautiful and colorful town with two forts: James and Charles forts; about 30 minutes from Cork
- Cobh – stunning harbor town and site of the Titanic’s last port of call; about 30 minutes from Cork
- Ring of Kerry – beautiful 3.5 hour drive starting and ending in Killarney
Days 6-7 Dingle
- Ring of Beara – the lesser known beautiful drive around the Beara Peninsula
- Dingle Peninsula
Days 7-10 Galway
- Limerick – King John’s Castle (medieval castle), Milk Market (food market)
- Connemara – a beautiful national park and region where you can find Kylemore Abbey as well as Clifden Castle
- Clifden Castle – super idyllic manor house located among rolling green hills. You can explore the ruins freely.
- Kylemore Abbey – beautiful monastery built in the 1900s
- Cliffs of Moher – famous sea cliffs with dramatic views
- Burren National Park
Ireland Itinerary 14 days (Ireland and Northern Ireland Itinerary)
We would recommend following the above 10 day itinerary and then adding on 4 days to explore northern Ireland. Since this is a road trip in Ireland, you’ll have a car and transportation will be easy to get you up to the north. You’ll want to continue from Galway to Sligo. This is where you’ll spend your next night before starting out your Northern Ireland part of the trip.
Days 10-11 Sligo/Cuilcagh
- Sligo – cute town that’s located only 15 minutes from the unique Benbulben, a flat top mountain range
- Cuilcagh Mountain – a beautiful area full of nature and that houses the Cuilgcagh Legnabrocky Trail
Days 11-14 Belfast
- Belfast Castle – built in the late 1800s offering a pretty garden and lovely views of the water and the city of Belfast
- Botanic Gardens – a venue and site for festivals; also holds an interesting glasshouse called the Palm House
- Giants Causeway – unique stones stacked naturally atop one another caused by an old volcanic eruption
- Dark Hedges – the famous and stunning line up of beech trees on Bregagh Rd
- Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge – a rope bridge that connects the mainland to Carrickarade Island; great for photo ops
Tips for planning a trip to Ireland
Rent/reserve a car before you go – But do your research beforehand. Renting a car in Ireland is tricky. First of all, make sure you do not buy car insurance from whatever third-party site you book through. Instead, buy the car insurance through the actual company you’re renting from. Why? Ireland is unique in that car rental companies will not honor car insurance purchased outside of them because they carry their own plans that you are required to buy. If you happen to make a mistake and purchase your insurance through the third-party site (i.e. Expedia, Travelocity, etc), then just give them a call and explain the situation. They should refund you the amount you paid for insurance assuming they did not make it clear at booking.
Make sure you study road signs beforehand. We would recommend reading our guide, Driving in Ireland, as it contains vital information for driving laws for those who drive on the opposite side of the road. Making yourself familiar with signs and road laws will ensure that you can concentrate on driving on the “wrong” side.
Map out your route – As with any road trip, it’s important to plan your route before you go. You’ll want to take note of the highlights that you want to visit as well as have a general idea of what destinations you want to hit on each day.
However. Be flexible.
During our road trip in Ireland, we were all ready to skip the Cliffs of Moher. Crazy, right? Our reasoning was that we didn’t have enough time and it wasn’t logistically possible considering our schedule. However, a fun chat with a local restaurant owner convinced us we needed to shuffle things around to make room for these beautiful cliffs. And we’re so glad we did!
Pack layers – Ireland has volatile weather. You’ll experience rain at least one day while you’re there and there will be chilly weather so you’ll want to pack lots of layers. Regardless of the season you visit, I’d recommend a rain jacket, rain boots, umbrella, sweater, and jeans; if you’re visiting in winter, make sure you have wool clothing including socks but if you are visiting during summer, don’t be afraid to pack a few dresses. When the sun comes out, it truly becomes beautiful in Ireland.
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