If Ireland isn’t high on your travel list, move it on up. We spent a week traveling around the beautiful country, here’s a complete guide.
Before we jump on in to the full itinerary here is a rough guide on where you’ll be on what days:
Day 1: Fly in – Dublin – Galway
Day 2: Dunguaire Castle – Burren – Cliffs of Moher – Limerick
Day 3: King Johns Castle – Conor Pass – Dingle Peninsula – Killarney
Day 4: Hike the tallest mountain in Ireland – Gap of Dunloe – Ross Castle – Torc Waterefall
Day 5: Kenmare – Cork – Cobh
Day 6: Macroom – Kilkenny – Carlow
Day 7: Wicklow National Park – Dublin
Day 8: Dublin – Fly out
Click here for the full interactive google map, this will show you the keys for the location dots and letters.
So as you can see you’ll be flying into Dublin, hiring a car and then making your way back to Dublin to fly out. When booking your flights, ensure you’re arriving on an early flight into Dublin to make the most of the first day.
Side note: We travelled late June/August and the weather was beautiful!
This itinerary could also easily be for winter too.
Once you’ve landed, make your way to the hire car area of the airport (we pre-booked our hire car with Europcar but there are multiple other car companies that you can hire on the day).
Now jump in the car and drive cross country to Galway – Just pre-warning that there are multiple tolls around Ireland so just be prepared for them (some you can pay as you arrive, and others are online like the M50) – they’re not expensive by any means but just be wary there a few.
The drive from Dublin to Galway works out to be 2 and a half hours, or 3 if you plan to stop for lunch in a cute Irish town (you’ll come across MANY of these by the way, and they’ll never get old).
Once you’ve arrived in Galway, park your car and use the afternoon to stroll your way through the streets and along the river/ocean front. Key attractions to see in Galway are:
- Spanish Arch (a little under-whelming mind you)
- Latin Quarter
- Quay Street
Once you’ve had dinner and visited Kenny Joe’s gelato for dessert. Make your way back to the hotel for a huge day tomorrow.
Plan to set off for around 8:30am and the first stop for the day will be Dunguaire Castle. This is only around 30 mins from Galway, and we spent around 15-20 mins here walking the base of the castle.
Stop #2 for the day is another 30 mins down the road to Burren National Park. At this park there are 7 different trail options and we hiked the 6.5km green route which took around 3 hours return.
Bring a packed lunch and have a picnic back at the car before heading off to the next destination.
Stop #3 – Doolin, is one of the cutest towns in Ireland that you’ll come across. It’s the town home of the Cliffs of Moher and you’ll pass it before heading out to the cliffs.
Now for the cliffs you have two ways to see them (we did both):
- A ferry ride beside them
- Walk along the top
We originally had planned to park and walk along the top, but last minute decided to go on a ferry ride and so glad we did – It was not only incredible to see them from the bottom and the facts learnt from the tour guides we would never have known otherwise – for example, one of the caves from Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince was filmed there (for the HP fans out there ;).
We then drove around to the top of them and also found this magical castle along the way.
HOT TIP: Once you get to the top of the cliffs there is a very commercialized car park that was going to cost €20 per person which is so expensive. So we had actually planned to skip this as that was a little unreasonable and there wasn’t anywhere else to park. But literally 2-3 minutes down the road there is another car park on the right that is much more affordable with a lot less tourists as buses park at the other one.
From here, make your way to the city of Limerick to stay for the night (1-hour 10 min drive). Check into your hotel, grab some dinner (we had the YUMMIEST Indian, it was called Spice of India in the city center) and then head to bed for another jam-packed day tomorrow.
Set off again around 8:30am. We went for breakfast at the Buttery if you’re looking for a nice cafe. King John’s Castle originally wasn’t a part of our plan, but we added it in for the morning and it was really interesting to learn about the history of Ireland and the Castle. If you’re short on time or it’s not really your thing you can skip this first attraction of the day.
Then jump in the car and make your way to the Dingle Peninsula. Get ready to pull over multiple times on this car ride as the views are just UNREAL! Besides stopping where you like, the first official stop will be Conor’s Pass and this is roughly 2 hours from Limerick.
Once you arrive at Conor’s Pass which is literally just a pull in from the side of the road and you won’t miss it as there will be lots of other cars there too. There’ll be a little waterfall on your left. When you look up, climb the rocks to the right of it, it’s quite an easy climb, and at the top you’ll be rewarded with one of the most beautiful lakes in Ireland.
From here, jump back in the car and make your way to Dingle, another cute Irish to have a pint or two before heading to Killarney. The beautiful drive continues as you make your way to Killarney, and don’t be afraid to stop at Inch Beach as you pass it for some fish and chips and a play on the beach.
On arrival in Killarney, check into your accommodation, grab some food and settle in before climbing Ireland’s tallest mountain tomorrow.
So. You have 2 options for day 4. If you’re like us and love a hike, option 1 will be for you. But if you prefer to drive around and see the sights for a more relaxed day (like Nicola’s parents), definitely go for option 2 as that was a highlight for them too.
- Option 1: Carountoohill hike – Ireland’s highest mountain
- Option 2: Gap of Dunloe, Ross Castle and Muckross Abbey
If you’re up for an adventure and picked option 1, click here to find out everything you need to know for your hike.
For option 2, jump in the car and make your way to the Gap of Dunloe, this attraction is part of the Ring of Kerry which is also another recommendation (but the drive could potentially take most of the day). Ross’ Castle and Muckross Abbey are other key attractions around Killarney.
After you’ve finished either option, make your way to Torc Waterfall, this is the perfect finish to the day before heading out for dinner and relaxing.
This morning head to Cork. On your way to Cork stop in a little town called Macroom for morning tea or lunch. It’s a lovely chance to have a break from driving and stroll around and grab a bite to eat.
When you arrive in Cork, you can either check into your accommodation or drive straight to Cobh (Nicola’s favourite city). Cobh (pronounced cove) is just beautiful – take your time to go to the Cobh Cathedral, stroll along the promenade, have a drink on the front deck at The Quays bar and restaurant, do the titanic experience, grab an ice-cream and find the colorful houses.
Side note: if you’re into golf, stop by the Cobh golf course and have a round of nine holes. This was definitely a highlight of Nic’s Dad’s and Brandon’s trip.
Head back into Cork for a dinner and a drink before heading back to your accommodation.
Spend the morning strolling around Cork. We didn’t particularly have anything in mind to see in Cork so we walked around the city center before jumping in the car and heading up to Kilkenny.
On the way to Kilkenny, stop by Mahon Falls to stretch the legs. It’s a very friendly waterfall hike that takes about 40 minutes round-trip.
Kilkenny is another stunning old city with more of a medieval feel. Kilkenny is a wonderful city to wander the streets, visit the castle and cathedral and have a pint or two in the pubs.
(Ideally stay here, but accommodation was difficult for us to find here as we were booking on the go so we stayed a little further north in Carlow).
Set off around 7:30/8:00am to make the most of your second last day in Ireland. Drive north up to Wicklow National Park, pack some lunch and set off The Two Lake Hike (for full info on this hike, click here). Take your time on this hike to take in the beautiful scenery before heading to the city.
Once you’ve finished the hike and looked around the lakes, it’s time to see Dublin. If you have time and energy, explore the city in the afternoon/evening. If not – rest up, get ready for dinner and enjoy a night out in Dublin.
**For THE BEST pizza and cocktails, head to The Jar. The Devitt is also an awesome bar on a Saturday night for classic sing-alongs, with an acoustic Irish twist.
Use your last day in Ireland to explore the city of Dublin (we flew out late evening so had all day to explore). Key attractions to see in the city are:
- St. Patrick’s Cathedral
- Dublin Castle
- Guinness Storehouse Factory
- The Spire of Dublin
- Christ Church Cathedral
- Dublin Flea Market
- Have lunch in a bar with an Irish band and dancers
Well, that’s it. A jam packed eight days. We hope you’ve found this super helpful and love Ireland as much as we do.
If you have any queries or questions, do not hesitate to leave a comment and we’ll get back to you ASAP! Or, just simply let us know if this guide came in handy! 🙂
HIKING IRELAND’S TALLEST MOUNTAIN