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With 10 days in Ireland, the best Irish road trip will connect you with the people, the music, and the unique natural beauty here…and these are best experienced in small villages far from urban Dublin. Here’s how to plan the best road trip for a 10 day Ireland itinerary (and where to spend extra days if you have more time):
*Note: Google Maps only allows 10 points of interest so the above map doesn’t show your return to Dublin, but you’ll just cut straight across the country at the end of your trip to return to Dublin (unless you are flying out of Shannon on the west coast).
- Ireland in 10 Days
- Day 1: Trim
- Day 2: Kilkenny via Glendaloch
- Day 3: Glengarriff or Killarney
- Day 4: Drive the Mizen Peninsula or Ring of Kerry
- Day 5: To Dingle
- Day 6: Dingle
- Day 7: Cliffs of Moher
- Day 8: Day Trip to the Aran Islands
- Day 9: Falconry at Ashford Castle
- Day 10: Dublin
- Have more time? Here’s what to do with two weeks in Ireland…
Ireland in 10 Days
Here’s your Ireland road trip itinerary: Fly into Dublin, rent a car, and then head towards Ireland’s incredibly scenic Wild Atlantic Way on the stunning west coast, with stops in tiny fishing villages and postcard-worthy towns along the way.
My recommended tour ends near Galway on the west coast—with a round-trip back to Dublin—to maximize a leisurely pace for an immersive travel experience. While it’s tempting to bomb up the west coast to squeeze in points further north (I’m looking at you Connemara National Park, Giants Causeway, and Belfast), resist the temptation.
Save those for a next trip out of Shannon instead.
A string of one night stays will only leave you exhausted instead of renewed at the end of your vacation. Try to base two days in a single location where possible.
This road trip itinerary allows you time to get out into nature, feel the “craic” in the pubs that locals love best, and taste the unique brews, seafood, music, and stories that are the best of what Ireland has to offer.
It mixes up well-loved iconic spots with off-the-beaten destinations for fewer crowds.
Day 1: Trim
Save your stop in Ireland’s capital for the end of your trip when you’re less jetlagged and readier for an urban pace. Pick up a rental car at the airport and head directly to lovely Trim in County Meath on the River Boyne.
Trim is an easy drive—less than an hour—from the airport and makes a great first stop on a road trip. It’s small and rural with quaint pubs and plenty of romantic ruins to make a memorable first impression.
Here’s what to do in Trim:
- See Trim Castle. It’s the largest Norman castle in Ireland! A walk through the nearby meadow on a summer evening makes a great antidote for jet lag!
- St. Patrick’s Cathedral is also a must-see stop for cathedral lovers. See St. Patrick preaching on the Hill of Tara in one of the stained glass windows.
- Marcie Regan’s by the Norman bridge is an ideal first pub visit for a Guinness or Smithwick ale. (Smithwick is pronounced with no “w” in these parts!) No food is served here, however, so be aware. If the weather cooperates, you can sit outside with incredible views of the 13th-century priory ruins to watch the sheep graze at sunset as we did.
Where to stay in Trim
Trim is a small, rural village so it’s easy to find a B&B with plenty of parking close to major sights. Highland House Guesthouse is well-loved. We booked there, in fact, but actually stayed at Tigh Cathain B&B when the owner at Highland House thoughtfully rebooked us last minute due to a water emergency. These are both excellent options conveniently located.
You can find the best deals for accommodation in Trim here.
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Day 2: Kilkenny via Glendaloch
Kilkenny makes an ideal overnight stop on your journey west, breaking up the otherwise long drive. It’s just under two hours to drive from Trim. But in Ireland, it’s all about the journey so plan to take most of the day to enjoy some memorable stops along the way!
Here are some ideas for things to do on your drive to Kilkenny:
- See Powerscourt Gardens, voted the #3 garden in the world by National Geographic. Ireland’s highest waterfall is also here. The Italianate gardens and Japanese gardens are stunning.
- Dine at Johnnie Fox’s, one of Ireland’s best-loved and oldest pubs—since 1798, in fact—for a delicious lunch. Try the seafood chowder! You’ll be surprised by all the delicious seafood this island nation has to offer. This is also a great spot to hear Irish ballads or see Irish dancing in the evening.
- Admire the views at Sally Gap through the scenic Wicklow Mountains. This is a favorite pass for serious cyclists. And be sure to stop to gawk at Lough—pronounced “Lock”—Tay, otherwise known as Guinness Lake for its rich brown color.
- Tour Glendalough, pronounced “Glen-da-lock,” a medieval monastic settlement from the 6th(!) century. In addition to walking through the beautiful crumbling cathedral ruins and lichen-covered Celtic crosses studding the graveyard, Glendalough is a great spot for a beautiful hike or riverside walk. Plan an hour or two here for sure.
Some practical tips for visiting Kilkenny
Where to eat and hear trad music. Kilkenny is foodie heaven! Try The Marble City Bar for creative Irish fare or Paris Texas. Then walk around the corner for an evening of trad music at the Kytelers Inn.
Fun fact: Way back in 1263, the original proprietress of Kytelers Inn accumulated a vast fortune courtesy of her four marriages. Her fortune aroused considerable jealousy and she was burned at the stake for witchcraft!
Day 3: Glengarriff or Killarney
Next up on your 10 day Ireland itinerary: The Wild Atlantic Way! It’s only an hour-long scenic drive to Glengariff (or 2.5 hours to Killarney…more below on where to base) so take the day to see the incredible sights along the way:
- See Kilkenny Castle and St. Canice’s Cathedral and Round Tower before you leave Kilkenny.
- Rock of Cashel makes a perfect stop en route. Also known as St. Patrick’s Rock, the Rock of Cashel was a fortress and center of power back in the 4th and 5th centuries AD! Be sure to see St. Patrick’s Cross, Cormac’s Chapel and the cathedral here.
We were fortunate to have stunningly good weather on our two weeks in Ireland. We arrived in Glengarriff late one evening (it was getting dark at 10 pm in May) with the sun streaming through puffy white clouds to light up wildflower-strewn meadows of grazing sheep and cows.
What a first impression!
Where to Stay in Glengarriff or Killarney
You have two great choices for a base in this beautiful corner of Southwestern Ireland. For 10 days in Ireland, spend two nights here. With two weeks, consider adding a third day.
Glengarriff is a tiny fishing town—with essentially one main street—ideally positioned between Ireland’s Mizen peninsula and Ring of Beara. It’s also an easy hop from here to the famous Ring of Kerry or Kilkenny National Park as well.
If you enjoy the idea of a remote small village in a super scenic locale with fewer tourists, stay here at either at the Glengarriff Park Hotel (as we did) or at Casey’s Hotel. Both B&Bs come with a full breakfast each morning and are nice gastropubs with dinner options. (Casey’s is known for their oysters!) You can find the best deals for Glengarriff accommodation here.
Killarney is a better choice for a base in this region if you’d prefer a bigger town with more shopping and dining options. It’s also well-located. You can find the best deals for Killarney accommodation here.
Day 4: Drive the Mizen Peninsula or Ring of Kerry
There are several half- or all-day “loop” drives in this area and all are memorable. Just a few of the contenders for your time include the famous Ring of Kerry, Ring of Beara, or the Mizen Head peninsula.
With just 10 days, I recommend you choose one of these three and then save an additional loop drive—the incredible Slea Head loop—for the Dingle Peninsula. Then break up the scenic drives with time for walks, ferry rides, and shopping the quaint boutiques.
We decided to forgo the Ring of Kerry to skip the tourist buses that often clog the roads here. (To be fair, though, we encountered relatively few crowds in May. If you drive it mid-summer, consider driving this loop counter-clockwise to better avoid the buses that go in the opposite direction.)
While the Ring of Beara is also a beautiful drive, we elected for the Mizen Peninsula as we were intrigued by the opportunity to hike to a secret castle.
You’ll want a full day to explore this gorgeous peninsula. If you drive to the very end, you’ll be standing on the most western point in Ireland!
Things to See and Do on the Mizen Peninsula
As you drive the tiny, narrow roads in Ireland, keep a look out for the brown road signs that highlight historic sights. It’s the very best way to happen upon impressive castles, stone circles, megaliths, and more.
- Kealkill Stone Circle is just a few minutes drive from Glengariff before you head down the peninsula. Built in the Bronze Age, stone circles are still a mystery. Scholars today believe they were involved in religious rituals use to observe the sun and moon.
- Carriganass Castle is just a five minutes drive from the stone circle. Built in 1540 for the powerful O’Sullivan Beare clan, this Irish tower house sits perched over a lovely river.
- Stop in tiny Bantry to explore the handmade jewelry, candles, and pottery from artisans here. Organico Cafe makes a delicious stop for beautiful coffees, pastry or a healthy vegetarian lunch.
- Eat dinner at The Fish Kitchen in Bantry. Located just above an actual shop that sells fish just pulled from the bay, The Fish Kitchen was our favorite meal during our two weeks in Ireland. It’s an intimate dining experience with under 20 tables so reserve ahead. The Crookhaven Inn in Crookhaven is another great option for lunch or dinner. (Reservations recommended.)
- Altar Wedge Tomb— You’ll pass an excellent example of an altar wedge tomb—a tomb dating from the Neolithic and early Bronze age c. 2500 BC—at the edge of a craggy cliff next to the bay. With pink clover and yellow lichen growing in every crevice of these coastal rocks, it doesn’t get more scenic than this!
- Hike at Three-Castle Head. Continue down the peninsula to Three-Castle Head for a magical 30-minute hike to a secret castle! You’ll park in a tiny lot at an ocean overlook, walk through a small gate, and enter a meadow of sheep. Follow the footpath across the meadow for impressive ocean vistas. After you summit the hill, Dun Lough Castle comes into view with its three towers standing sentry above Dun Lake. Legends abound about this place, including one about the O’Donohues who resided here and apparently all died via murder or suicide.
Day 4 Option: Day Trip to Garnish Island
One of my secrets to planning a great trip is to mix up the activities. Too many driving days in a row makes me restless, but if I add in a short hike, ferry ride or bicycling adventure to mix it up, the trip stays fresh.
Garnish Island makes a fantastic half day trip from Glengarriff for garden and architecture lovers…No driving involved! If you have two weeks in Ireland, add this to your itinerary as Day 5.
Just catch the ferry at the ferry terminal in Glengarriff for a 15-minute ferry ride across Bantry Bay. It runs every 30 minutes.
You’ll pass plenty of seals cavorting on rocks in the ocean along the way. After arrival, be sure to tour the incredible Italianate, walled gardens, Greek temple and Martello Temple here.
There’s a cafe on the island, but it’s better suited to a cup of bracing Irish tea than a meal.
Stop into a pub for a pint and some “craic”—conversation and good cheer—upon your return. Of all the places I’ve visited, I’ve never felt quite so welcomed as in Ireland.
From the shop girl who suggests her favorite pub to the barkeep who offers an impromptu whiskey tutorial, you’ll find locals genuinely interested in learning where you’re from and where you’re headed in Ireland, with lots of local tips to enhance your stay.
It’s easy to connect in Ireland. My top tip: Sit at the bar! It’s the best invitation there is.
Day 5: To Dingle
It’s about a two-hour drive from Glengarriff to Dingle on the scenic Dingle Peninsula, less if you’re staying in Killarney. I recommend you take a good chunk of the day to get there, however.
Things to Do on the Way to Dingle
- Drive through super scenic Molls Gap. Avoca—a combination gourmet cafe/bookseller/hand weaver of sweaters and woolen blankets—makes an ideal lunch spot with a gorgeous view of the valley here.
- Take a hike in Killarney National Park. On our spring visit, the park was on fire with thousands and thousands of bright pink rhododendron blossoms. Opportunities for day hikes abound here. Whether you’re in search of an easy half hour jaunt or a challenging full-day excursion, Killarney National Park offers scenic trails aplenty.
- See the Gothic cathedral of St. Mary’s in Killarney.
- Taste whiskey or enjoy an Irish coffee at the Celtic Whiskey Bar and Larder.
- See Inch Beach. If the weather is nice—or even if it isn’t…Can’t let weather stop you in Ireland—stop for a pint at Sammy’s on the Beach. This long wind-swept beach on the Atlantic is popular with surfers, swimmers, and fishermen. Rumour has it you can even drive your car on this beach!
Some practical tips for visiting Dingle
Spend two nights in Dingle. The trad music scene is incredible and so is the scenery. Don’t make the mistake of rushing it! It can be crowded, however, so visit in May or September for best weather and fewer crowds.
Where to stay: We loved our rural stay at Ocean View B&B just outside of Dingle…with lots of windswept views of sheep and pastures, a friendly host, and delicious breakfast included.
If you’d prefer a lovely hotel in town, reserve at Milltown House Dingle. You can find the best deals for Dingle accommodation here.
Where to eat and hear music: Of all the music we heard in Ireland, Dingle was the highlight. Dingle is an epicenter of the traditional music scene here, drawing all kinds of instrumentalists and ballad singers throughout Ireland for impromptu performances.
We first met Courthouse Pub owner Tommy O’Sullivan and his Texan wife Saundra while we were at home in San Diego at a friend’s house concert. We were smitten by their music then and resolved to visit their pub.
And we were not disappointed! We heard an incredible accordion and guitar performance one night and an Uileann pipe player (an Irish version of a Scottish bagpipe) the next. Be sure to visit when in Dingle!
Day 6: Dingle
Ireland’s cultural heritage lives here on the Dingle Peninsula. This is a “Gaeltract” country, an area where Irish is spoken as a first language in homes and taught in schools. In fact, families in other parts of Ireland frequently send their children here for Irish immersion programs.
Things to Do in Dingle:
- Drive the Slea Head Loop. This drive takes several hours to drive with frequent stops to fully appreciate the views and history. It’s simply stunning and not to be missed. In mid-summer, I’d do the drive on a long evening to miss the crowds.
- See the beehive huts. These cone-shaped houses (on Slea Head Loop) likely date from the 8th to 12th centuries AD and housed hermit monks and possibly some pagans. There was no mortar used in building them…just the plentiful rocks dotting the meadows throughout Ireland. At one point, more than 400 of these beehive huts covered the hillsides here.
- Tour the Gallarus Oratory. This 12th-century chapel (also on the Slea Head Loop drive) is the only intact specimen of its kind and therefore extremely famous! Skip the touristy visitor center and movie (a private venture by an enterprising local). Instead, drive past the visitor center to a free parking lot just next to the actual Gallarus Oratory for free admission.
- Visit the Dingle Whiskey Distillery, an award-winning artisan whiskey distillery.
- Eat at Out of the Blue (reservation required) for incredible seafood. Get your lobster on here!
Day 7: Cliffs of Moher
It’s a three-hour drive from Dingle (via Limerick) to see the unbelievable Cliffs of Moher. If there’s good weather and visibility, be sure to drive here via Connor’s Pass.
The views just become more and more impressive as you eventually climb to the highest point in Western Ireland. (Some of these views reminded me of our road trip in New Zealand!)
Things to Do on the Way to Cliffs of Moher
- See Adare, which bills itself as “the prettiest village in Ireland.” Adare is all about the quaint thatched roof cottages. It makes a great stop en route to either Doolin or Liscannor, both great bases for seeing the Cliffs of Moher. We enjoyed a lovely lunch here at The Good Room.
- Just outside of town is Adare Desmond Castle, a 13th-century castle and ring fort.
- We stopped instead, a bit further up the road in Quin to tour the Quin Abbey, a 15th-century cloistered monastery. In fact, we came upon a group of actors filming a movie about St. Patrick there, which was particularly fun. The Abby Tavern makes a nice stop for tea.
The Cliffs of Moher are one of Ireland’s most impressive sights. These jaw-dropping cliffs rise 390 feet above the Atlantic Ocean at the southern end and stretch for nearly nine miles along the western coast of Ireland here.
They are also home to one of Ireland’s biggest sea bird colonies, including the adorable White Atlantic puffins.
Practical tips for seeing the Cliffs of Moher:
Insider tip: In mid-summer, the Cliffs of Moher may be mobbed with tourists. (More than 1 million people visit each year!) For a more solitary experience, consider an evening hike from the south end of the cliffs north to the visitor center.
You can make this hike as long or short as you like. It’s a seven-hour hike between Doolin and Liscannor. We did a two-hour version of this hike by parking in a parking lot at Hag’s Head for two Euro.
Where to stay. Stay two nights here. Most visitors to Cliffs of Moher stay in nearby Doolin. It’s convenient and wasn’t crowded in May. Harbor View B&B is a great choice (just five minutes to the Cliffs).
For a more local experience, however, stay at Vaughn’s Anchor Inn as we did in the tiny village of Liscannor (10-minute drive to the cliffs). This is an award-winning gastropub with comfortable rooms just upstairs.
Not only will you find homemade chocolate chip cookies in your room daily, but a gourmet hot breakfast is included in your stay. (One of the most impressive breakfast I’ve ever had in my travels, I might add.)
Where to eat and hear music. In Liscannor, eat at Vaughn’s Anchor Inn and head to Joseph McHugh for music. In Doolin, candlelight sets the mood at Gus O’Connor’s Pub for a simple meal and music afterward. McGann’s is another excellent spot for music in Doolin.
Shopping for gifts? Pick up some unbelievable strawberry jam or whiskey marmalade at The Clare Jam Company. Small samplers make it easy.
Day 8: Day Trip to the Aran Islands
Ireland’s three Aran islands—Inishmore, Inishmaan, and Inisheer are an easy day trip from either Galway or Doolin. With an extra day, spend one night here to enjoy an island all to yourselves after the day trippers leave.
Practical tips for visiting the Aran Islands
Inishmore is the largest and most popular island to visit with shops, pubs and the famous sight, Dún Aenghus (an Iron Age Fort). For fewer tourists and a relaxed day in a gorgeous locale, consider Inisheer.
It’s easy to rent bicycles right at the dock on Inisheer for a lovely ride around the island (mostly flat) past content cows and cute ponies in bucolic meadows crisscrossed with rock walls.
You’ll see a shipwrecked freighter off the coast as well. Those who prefer not to bicycle can also tour the island in a horse-drawn carriage driven by a local.
The ruins of O’Brien’s Castle are a steep 20-minute walk or ride up from the pier, but offer phenomenal views of the island and a convenient café for a rest halfway up. (Inisheer actually has its own beer! “Inish beer for Inisheer,” as the locals say.)
See the Cliffs of Moher from the sea. No visit to the Cliffs would be complete without looking up at them from the sea. It’s easy to do this on your Aran Island visit, just book your ferry trip to include the Cliffs cruise on the return. You can check prices and reserve here.
Have more time? Consider overnighting on one of the Aran Islands. You’ll love having the island to yourself after the day trippers are gone! You can find the best deals for Aran Islands accommodation here.
Another option for your extra day (or after your overnight on the Aran Islands) is to see the fascinating Burren.
It’s just a 30-minute drive from Cliffs of Moher. (A visit to both sights is easily combined in a single day.)
With its cracked limestone and rocky moonscape, Burren National Park marks a stark contrast to the rest of lush green Ireland. And yet, it’s internationally famous for its flora and fauna. Arctic-Alpine plants comingle happily here with Mediterranean wildflowers. It’s a great place for a hike!
Definitely stop at the Burren Perfumery! This little shop makes singular botanical fragrances that are not your typical perfume. Another great spot for gifts.
Day 9: Falconry at Ashford Castle
Falconry in Ireland is designated as a UNESCO living heritage…and you can experience the magic of it for yourself with a Hawk Walk at the Ireland School of Falconry at Ashford Castle.
You’ll be matched with your very own Harris Hawk for a sixty-minute amble through the woods on the castle’s grounds, while the falconer teaches you everything you need to know to release and retrieve your hawk. It was a truly spectacular experience.
Where to stay
Or, stay in tiny Kinvara as we did at Fallon’s B&B. With an extra day (or as an alternative to falconry and tea at Ashford Castle), base in lively Galway. You can find the best deals for Galway accommodation here.
As a university town, Galway is all about the street scene. Without a car, Galway makes a great base for convenient tours to the Aran Islands, Cliffs of Moher, the Burren, and even points north on the Wild Atlantic Way, such as the Connemara region if you have more time. (Dining tip for your night near Kinvara or Cong: go to Moran’s Oyster Cottage!)
Day 10: Dublin
It’s s a two-hour drive from Galway, Kinvara or Cong to Dublin. If you have two nights in Dublin before your flight home, stop at Tullamore DEW for a whiskey tasting and lunch in their café. It’s conveniently en route.
With just one night before your flight, head directly to Dublin to make the most of your day there instead.
Return your car at the Dublin airport, walk over the sky bridge and catch the bus into town. Tickets can be purchased on-site just before boarding.
Whatever you do, don’t try to take your car into Dublin! It’s a major European city and the streets seem to change their names every few blocks for maximum confusion!
After arrival, enjoy an evening pub crawl or guided Irish literature walking tour. Beer lovers will want to visit the home of Guinness with a skip-the-line ticket for a self-guided tour of the Guinness storehouse.
Things to Do in Dublin
Dublin didn’t impress me the same way that Paris or Barcelona did with its iconic architecture. But there is so much history here to soak up! On a 10 day Ireland itinerary, Dublin deserves a full day or a day and a half on your itinerary.
Here are my top picks for your time in Dublin:
- See the Book of Kells at Trinity College Dublin. This incredible illuminated manuscript dates from 800 AD and was discovered in a farmer’s field! Here you’ll see detailed, lavish illustrations made by four main scribes on the Chi Rho page, the most celebrated page in the book. But reserve ahead for fast track access to skip the long lines. Tip: Get the audio guide when you reserve as you can’t add it once inside.
- Tour Trinity Library. Your ticket to the Book of Kells exhibition includes access to The Long Room at Trinity College, one of the most beautiful libraries in the world. The library houses 200,000 medieval books!
- Enjoy a picnic on St. Stephen’s Green.
- Visit the National Museum of Ireland to see everything from Viking swords to Celtic art.
- Take a hop-on hop-off sightseeing bus tour. It’s one of my favorite ways to really see a European city and Dublin is no exception. You can check prices on a tour here.
Practical tips for visiting Dublin
Where to stay. Stay central or be prepared for major walking or taxi rides. We loved our stay at Pembroke Hall, just a 15-minute walk to St. Stephens Green and Grafton Street. It’s a great value, but be aware breakfast is not included. (Bonus: The bus from the airport stops just across the street!)
Or stay at the beautiful Fitzwilliam even closer in. You can find the best deals for Dublin accommodation here.
Where to eat and hear music. Dublin is foodie central! If you’ve had your fill of full Irish breakfasts and are staying at Pembroke Hall, head just up the street to Eathos for a gourmet healthy breakfast. Fallon & Brynn is a delicious gourmet grocery and restaurant near Grafton Street for sandwiches and homemade soups.
When it comes to music, most tourists head directly to the Temple Bar area. If you’re more interested in hearing the next emerging musical talent out of Ireland, skip Temple Bar and head to Cobblestone Smithfield, Whelan’s or The Ruby Sessions instead.
Have more time? Here’s what to do with two weeks in Ireland…
With more time on the Emerald Isle, add at least one day for Garnish Island near Glengariff, overnight on one of the Aran Islands, see The Burren, and spend a day in Galway.
With even more time, head further north to Connemara National Park!
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