We are regularly asked by our tremendous fans if it is possible to see the best bits of Ireland in a week and the answer is YES!
Ireland is a very small country, similar in size to South Carolina or Maine which means you can cover a lot of our beautiful homeland in 7 days. Ireland is just 280 km (175 miles) wide and 486 km (300 miles) long at it’s extremities. This means that many people visit Ireland from North America as part of a larger European trip incorporating the United Kingdom and France typically.
We have created this road trip itinerary using Dublin as the starting point for Day 1; if you are planning to fly into Shannon airport then you can simply start the from Day 4 and loop around to finish in Shannon, Co. Clare again easily.
Please bear in mind that the easiest way to get around Ireland is to drive, while there is public transport it can be infrequent in places. If time is a constraint then you are best off renting a car with one of the providers in the airport you fly in and out of during your time in the Emerald Isle. The country roads in Ireland are very narrow and small in comparison to North America, for this reason we would recommend you to rent a mid-size car at the most, you don’t want to be worried about driving on country roads with a gigantic SUV!
At the time of writing, using SkyScanner, you can rent an “intermediate” sized car like a Toyota Corolla which can hold 5 adults for just €174/$194 for the whole week. We would advise people to take out the insurance offered by these companies for peace of mind, it can be purchased for as little as €30/$35 and eliminates your payable excess, the last thing you need is the stress of your road trip becoming more expensive due to a small fender bender!
Irish road trip: Day 1
You have flown into Dublin airport where you rent your car and set off for the medieval city of Kilkenny. It is a simple drive with mostly dual carriageways and motorways so is great way for you to get accustomed to driving on the other side of the road. You can find the Google maps directions here. This drive will take approx. 1:30hrs.
There is plenty to see in Kilkenny. It is a beautiful city that is steeped in Irish traditions. Kilkenny are the leading Hurling county in the country and the Gaelic sport is a religion in the area, you will see children and teenagers walking around with their hurley in hand with their local or Irish jerseys on.
Things to see in Kilkenny:
- Kilkenny Castle – Absolutely stunning, built in the 12th century, this castle is the heart of the city. A must see.
- Smithwicks Experience – The most famous Irish ale is over 300 years in existence and is very popular, a super chance to trial Ireland’s second most famous export after Guinness. Don’t worry you will be visiting the Guinness Brewery during your time in Dublin so you can compare the two and let us know which you prefer!
- St Canice’s Cathedral & Round Tower – 1 of 2 medieval round towers that can still be climbed in Ireland, dating back to the 13th century.
- Kilkenny Design Shop – Located opposite the Castle, this has some beautiful Irish arts, crafts and clothing.
- Hole in the Wall pub – Housed in the oldest townhouse in Ireland, this venue has incredible history. Visit here for a couple of pints after your first day in Ireland. Closed on Tuesdays. The Left Bank bar, beside Kilkenny Castle, is another nice place to socialize in the evening.
Irish road trip: Day 2
Travel from Kilkenny to Cork making 2 stops at famous landmarks. One at the Rock of Cashel and the next just outside Cork city at Blarney Castle where you can kiss the famous Blarney Stone. This route will lead you by both sites.
This trip would take you approximately 2:30hrs without any stops so allow yourself around 6 hours in total, allowing for the two stops mentioned previously. You should be arriving into Cork at 4/5pm leaving you with your evening to sample the wonders of Cork City. Oliver Plunkett street and its surrounding area are very popular and have some excellent pubs and live music venues for you to unwind in following your day of driving.
Irish road trip: Day 3
Visit The English Market in the centre of Cork for your breakfast; it is a famous covered market with amazing food stalls where you can sample organic, local produce. It will most definitely be nicer than whatever breakfast your hotel has on offer. It is open from 8am to 6pm Monday to Saturday.
Following your breakfast, make your way into your car for the next part of your trip. Visit the seaside town of Cobh, a 30 minute drive from Cork, to see a huge part of Irish and American history. Cobh, formerly Queenstown, was the departure point for the very first person, Annie Moore, to go through Ellis Island immigration centre in New York in 1892. Cobh is arguably even more famous for being the final departure port for the RMS Titanic. 123 people boarded the Titanic at Cobh on the 11th April 1912 but only 44 survived the sinking. Cobh was also one of the major ports for people being deported to penal colonies in Australia as well as playing a large part in World War 1.
Things to see in Cobh:
- Titanic Museum
- Annie Moore Statue
- Cobh Cathedral
- Lusitania Memorial
- Cobh Heritage Centre
If time allows you should try to visit Kinsale from Cobh before returning to the city of Cork. Kinsale is a picturesque seaside town with some excellent boutiques and restaurants. If you are feeling hungry, Fishy Fishy restaurant in Kinsale is very well thought of by everyone who visits. We would advise you to have dinner here before returning to the city if your budget allows. Lonely Planet had this to say “Arguably the best seafood restaurant in the country”, if that doesn’t convince you then perhaps the fact that it won Best Seafood Restaurant of the Year by the RIA in 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008 as well as Best Seafood Experience in Ireland in 2013 will!
Make your way back to Cork city for some much needed rest before you set off for Co. Clare.
Irish road trip: Day 4
Set off for the Cliffs of Moher and the Burren, approx. 2:30hrs drive from Cork City. The Cliffs of Moher are one of the most stunning sights you will come across in your lifetime. The cliffs are over 200 meters (700 feet tall and are over 8 km (5 miles) long making them a breathtaking sight along the Atlantic coast of Clare. On a clear day, which are rare, you can see the Aran islands along with the Blasket islands. There is a tourist centre which provides shelter from the elements along with the history of the cliffs and the surrounding area.
The Aran islands are famous too for their iconic knitwear.
You can also see The Burren in the surrounding area which is a Karst landscape. The Burren is accurately summed up with the statement from Edmund Ludlow that “it is a country where there is not enough water to drown a man, wood enough to hang one, nor earth enough to bury him.”
Irish road trip: Day 5
Galway, in the west of the country, is a far cry from Dublin. It is a smaller city but also has a much more artistic and laid back vibe than the capital, Dublin. Many people that visit the Irish shores prefer Galway city over Dublin as it feels more traditionally Irish.
The county of Galway is famous for Connemara also which has Irish-speaking regions know as the Gaeltacht. Irish teenagers visit the Galetacht every summer in an attempt to improve their knowledge of the Irish language. Connemara itself is loved by visitors as it is very much the traditional Ireland, you will see hand built stone walls and small cottages at every turn. We recommend driving out to Spiddle/Spiddal and savoring the beautiful beaches and countryside that is unspoiled.
After enjoying the tranquility of Spiddal and the surrounding areas, return to the electric Galway city for the afternoon/evening where you can take in all the live music and dancing the place has to offer. Aim for the Latin quarter and you are bound to have a brilliant time.
Irish road trip: Day 6
The drive to Dublin is almost completely on a motorway which means it is a very easy drive, taking approx. 2:30hrs. Aim to arrive in Dublin for noon giving you the afternoon to tour the capital city. Dublin is full of sights to see but as time is limited we will select our favorites which are close in proximity to the city centre.
Things to do in Dublin:
Trinity College and the Book of Kells – Arguably one of the most famous landmarks and places to visit in Ireland. Trinity college is the most prestigious university in Ireland The Book of Kells is housed in the stunning old library of the college. The Book of Kells is thought to be over 1200 years old and is Ireland’s national treasure.
St. Stephen’s Green – Located in the center of the city, it is a great place to unwind for an hour after your hectic week. There is a famous statue of Oscar Wilde in the park, the renowned Irish poet, novelist and playwright.
Grafton Street – The premier shopping street of Ireland, this is the ideal place to pick up a memento of your week in Ireland or a gift for family and friends at home. Located adjacent to St. Stephen’s Green.
Kilmainham Gaol – The number 1 attraction on Trip Advisor for Dublin. The jail held many Irish leaders involved in the 1916 Easter Rising prior to their execution on the grounds. It was built in 1796 and films such as Michael Collins, The Italian Job, In The Name of the Father and The Wind That Shakes the Barley were shot here. It is a must to book tickets in advance to guarantee admittance to the Gaol, we advise visitors to book as far out from their trip as possible as it can be booked out for weeks in advance. You can book tickets here.
Guinness Storehouse – You have been thinking about this all week, time to embrace Ireland’s most famous export. Make sure to truly savor every second of your pint here as it is likely to be the best pint of Guinness you will ever taste. The tour itself shows the remarkable level of detail that goes into ensuring the taste is consistent in every keg produced. You can even pull your own pint of Guiness, who knows, if you are good at it you may end up staying in Ireland and moonlight as a bar man in one of the many pubs around the country!
Temple Bar – Although it is expensive for drinks, even by Dublin standards, Temple Bar is loved by our visitors. There are cobble locked streets, live music on every corner and more than enough pubs to sample even more local whiskys and stouts.
Irish road trip: Day 7
The last day of your trip has arrived and you are feeling the effects of the crazy week (maybe you also slightly overdid it last night!). If time allows before your flight you should try to visit Croke Park and Glasnevin Cemetry, both of which are in the direction of the airport from the city center.
Croke Park – Ireland’s national games, Gaelic Football and Hurling, are played here with the finals of both sports occurring in September every year. Croke Park is the 3rd largest stadium in Europe in terms of capacity with room for 82,300 people. This is even more remarkable when you consider the players are completely amateur yet have more supporters cheering them on than most professional teams in the world. There is an excellent tour of the stadium available and there are interactive games where you can test your skills at both Gaelic Football and Hurling. If you are feeling particularly energetic and adventurous there is also a sky-walk on the stadium roof on offer giving you a view of the city.
Glasnevin Cemetry – The resting place of Ireland’s most famous and notable figures such as Michael Collins, Eamon de Valera, Daniel O’Connell, Christy Brown and Luke Kelly of Dubliners fame. There are tours available for visitors throughout the year. There are two tours a day, seven days a week. We recommended booking your tour ticket in advance here as it can be busy.
Your time in Ireland has come to an end, if you are returning the car to the airport before you depart there are gas stations beside the airport for you to fill the tank of the rental. Make the most of the duty free shopping by stocking up on Irish food and drink to bring back with you.
Keep warm on your Irish road trip
We hope this guide to spending a week in Ireland was useful for you and please contact us in the comments below or on our Facebook page if you have any further questions. If you want to be warm during your visit to Ireland why not purchase a traditional Aran sweater, you will be glad of it in the evenings!