Hi everyone. I hope you all had a great week and a wonderful St. Patrick’s Day. So it seems spring has well and truly sprung (well this week anyway!) and as the weather turns kinder our thoughts turn to vacations. With that in mind I thought it was a good time to revisit and refresh our Irish road trip blog which has been hugely popular with our followers in the USA. So how much can you pack into a week? Well quite a lot!
Ireland is a very small but beautifully formed country. 280 km (175 miles) wide and 486 km (300 miles) long to be exact! This makes it about the size of South Carolina or Maine so you can cover a lot in 7 days.
The best way to get around is to drive. I recommend hiring a car at the airport so you can get on the road straight away. At the time of writing the cost of renting a mid sized car for 5 passengers for a week in May 2019 was approximately €163/$185. I recommend a medium sized car as some of the roads here in Ireland are pretty winding and narrow compared to North America!
I have planned this particular Irish road trip itinerary using Dublin as the starting point for Day 1. If you are planning to fly into Shannon airport then simply start your trip from Day 4 in Clare and loop around to finish in Clare again and return to Shannon. So let’s buckle up and get on our Irish road trip!
Day 1. Kilkenny
Rent your car at Dublin airport and get on the road to the stunning city of Kilkenny. The drive is pretty straightforward and mainly on motorways so you can ease into driving on the other side of the road! You can find the Google maps directions here. The drive will take approx. 1:30hrs. The city itself is buzzing with energy against a stunning medieval backdrop.
Things to see in Kilkenny:
- Kilkenny Castle – An absolute must-see in the heart of the city dating back to the 12th century.
- Kilkenny Design Shop – Located opposite the Kilkenny Castle. A treasure trove of Irish arts, crafts and Irish clothing.
- Smithwicks Experience – Ireland’s favourite ale is over 300 years old and very popular. A chance to sample Ireland’s second most famous export after Guinness!
- St Canice’s Cathedral & Round Tower – a place of Christian worship since the 6th century. A 100 foot round tower dating back to the 9th century stands beside the cathedral which can still be climbed to the top commanding stunning views of the surrounding area.
- Kytlers Inn – The oldest inn in Kilkenny with an intriguing history. Perfect for great Guinness, great food and some toe-tapping traditional Irish music.
Day 2. Cork
On day 2 travel from Kilkenny to Cork and include 2 stops at 2 iconic Irish landmarks. First up it’s the stunning Rock of Cashel in Tipperary.
This trip should take approximately 2:30hrs without stops so allow around 6 hours to take in the sights. By evening you will have arrived in Cork city. Time to sample some of its great restaurants and bars as you unwind after your busy day of driving and sightseeing!
Day 3. Cork
Grab some breakfast in the heart of the city at a Cork institution, The English Market. I love this place. The present building dates back to 1786 and there’s always a wonderful bustling atmosphere here. Now that you’re fed and watered it’s time to get on the road again for a 30-minute drive to the seaside town of Cobh.
Formerly Queenstown, this picturesque town is built on a steep hill that sweeps down to the harbor- the second largest in the world after Sydney Harbor. Steeped in history, Cobh was the last port of call for the ill-fated Titanic before she embarked on her maiden voyage across the Atlantic. Of the six million Irish emigrants that left Irish shores for America between 1848 and 1950, 2.5 million set sail from this very port.
Back to Cork city now for some well-earned rest before setting off for the magnificent county Clare in the morning!
Day 4. Clare
Next on our Irish road trip are two wonders of Ireland. The Cliffs of Moher and the Burren. The drive takes approximately 2.30 hours from Cork city. Prepare to be bowled over! The cliffs rise from the southwestern edge of the Burren and rise over 8 km along the edge of the Atlantic to their highest point at 214 meters at their midpoint at O’Briens’s tower. On a clear day, you can see the Aran Islands, home to Ireland’s favourite sweater.
Taking its name from the Irish word “Boireann” which means “great rock”, the Burren consists of rolling hills of limestone pavements with crisscrossing cracks. One of Ireland’s 6 national parks, it covers 250 square kilometres. Truly awesome and other-worldly!
Day 5. Galway
Just an hour’s drive up the road this morning to Galway-the penultimate stop on our Irish road trip. The home of the Claddagh Ring and Fisherman sweater nestles where the Atlantic meets the Corrib river and really has it all. Great food, friendly people, great music and endless craic! You can come back and enjoy all this later but first get on the road to the stunning Connemara region
Magical, mystical, majestic. This stunning region perches on the edge of western Europe. Endless mountain vistas, lake-studded boglands and miles of golden beaches washed clean by the mighty Atlantic make this a truly special part of our beloved island. Back to bustling Galway city now for dinner and dancing before heading off to the capital tomorrow!
Days 6 & 7. Dublin
Time for the final stop on our Irish road trip. The 2.5-hour drive to Dublin is almost completely on a motorway making it nice and easy. Aim to arrive in Dublin for noon to give you as much time as possible over the next 2 days. There’ s so much to do and see with its wealth of museums, galleries and heritage sites. Here are our top 5 must-sees/dos.
1. Trinity College & 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. Thought to be over 1200 years old, it is a true Irish national treasure.
2. Kilmainham Gaol
This iconic gaol held many Irish leaders involved in the 1916 Easter Rising prior to their execution on the grounds. It was built in 1796 and features in films such as Michael Collins, The Italian Job, In The Name of the Father and The Wind That Shakes the Barley. An absolute must on any Irish road trip and it’s also a must to book tickets in advance. I 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.
3. Guinness Storehouse
Time to embrace Ireland’s most famous export. 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 Guinness which is a skill in itself and you can enjoy a pint of the Black Stuff high above Dublin city in the Gravity Bar.
4. Dublin Castle
An absolute must-see in the heart of the city. Most of the structures present today are from the 18th century although there has been a castle building on the site since 1204. Until 1922 it was the seat of British power in Dublin. Today it is still a major government building and houses a museum and the Chester Beatty Library which has been hailed as one of the best museums in Europe.
5. Christchurch Cathedral
Christchurch Cathedral is set in the heart of medieval Dublin. The first cathedral was built on this site sometime around 1028 on elevated ground above the Viking settlement at Wood Quay. Extensive renovations took place in the 19th century restoring much of its medieval Gothic design. Inside you can visit the fantastic Dublinia exhibition charting Dublin’s medieval past. Then there’s the intriguing 12th-century crypt. As well as being the oldest crypt in Ireland, it is also the city’s oldest surviving structure.
So there you have it. Of course, this particular Irish road trip is by no means definitive and I’d love to hear your comments queries and suggestions. My last piece of advice is to remember to bring an Aran sweater and raincoat!
Slán go fóill!