An Irish road trip has been on my bucket list for as long as I can remember. It’s the combination between beautiful scenery, vibrant cities and quaint towns that captured my interest and I’ve longed to drive along the Wild Atlantic Way with my car windows down and the radio blasting out my favourite songs.
An Irish road trip was a dream I’d been putting off because I was a little worried it wouldn’t live up to my very high expectations. I’ve followed countless bloggers and Instagrammers as they’ve journeyed around the beautiful country. I’ve seen their epic photographs of jaw-dropping coastal views, colourful towns and old-fashioned pubs bustling with musicians and I was worried my own experience wouldn’t live up to the hype.
But you can all breathe a massive sign of relief because my Irish road trip was every bit as incredible as I’d hoped. Actually, it was even better than I’d hoped because I was blessed with glorious sunshine every day and I met some wonderful people along the way. (Phew, that would have been awkward if it wasn’t so great!)
Ireland’s compact size makes it entirely possible to explore the highlights of the Emerald Isle in just one week, as long as you are up for a jam-packed week of activities and a lot of driving.
While extending your stay will allow you to explore at a much slower pace and afford you the opportunity to explore Ireland’s hidden gems, there is still plenty you can do if you’re restricted to just seven days.
Day One – Start in Dublin
Fly into Dublin Airport, which is right outside the city. If possible, try to book a flight that arrives in the morning, so you can get the most out of your first day. Once you’ve checked in and dropped your bags off at your hotel, get out and explore the sights and sounds of Ireland’s capital city.
With only one day to explore the city, we recommend exploring Grafton and O’Connell Street in the morning, where you will find Trinity College Dublin, St Stephen’s Green, and the GPO – a walking tour is a great way to explore this area and find out more about the city’s history.
In the afternoon, head to Kilmainham Gaol or the Guinness Storehouse, both of which are popular tourist attractions and two of the best things to do in Dublin. In the evening, indulge in Irish pub life with a pint from the iconic Temple Bar.
Day Two – Head south to Cork
Wake up early on day two to make your way to Ireland’s second-biggest city: Cork.
Non-stop, the drive from Dublin to Cork will take around three hours, but we recommend making a few pit stops along the way to check out some of Ireland’s best sights, including Kilkenny Castle and the Rock of Cashel.
You should arrive in Cork by early afternoon, leaving you plenty of time to explore the highlights of the city. City centre highlights include the English Market, the Shandon Bells, and St. Fin Barre’s Cathedral.
However, a 15-minute drive out of the city will bring you to the iconic Blarney Castle, where you can kiss the Blarney Stone.
Day Three – Explore the Ring of Kerry
An hour from Cork is the town of Killarney, which is where you’ll begin exploring the scenic Ring of Kerry.
One of Ireland’s highlights for sure, the Ring of Kerry is the epitome of Irish scenery from rugged wild Atlantic coastlines to green mountainous countryside dotted with historical monuments.
Without stopping, driving the Ring of Kerry will take three hours. However, we consider leaving the whole day so you can truly enjoy the experience.
Highlights on this road trip include Killarney National Park, Macgillycuddy’s Reeks mountain range, Skellig Islands, and the Gap of Dunloe.
End your day in Dingle, home to stunning scenery and plenty of traditional Irish pubs.
Day Four – Dingle to Galway
Day four will see you head north along Ireland’s famous Wild Atlantic Way as you head to Galway, the country’s capital of culture.
Break up this three-and-a-half-hour drive by stopping off at one of Ireland’s most famous attractions, the Cliffs of Moher, for a truly breathtaking experience.
Soak up the sights and sounds of Galway city from its quaint Salthill Promenade to its historic Latin Quarter, which make it a must-visit on any trip to Ireland.
Day Five – Galway to Donegal
Continue north along Ireland’s Wild Atlantic on your fifth day in Ireland to reach Donegal, home to some of the best beaches in Ireland.
While in Donegal, we recommend checking out the breathtaking Slieve League Cliffs, the beautiful scenery of Glenveagh National Park, and the golden sands of Murder Hole Beach.
Star Wars fans should make sure to pay a visit to the most northern point in Ireland, Malin Head, where many scenes from Star Wars: The Last Jedi were filmed.
Day Six – Make your way into Northern Ireland
Day six of your one week Ireland itinerary will see you cross the border from the Republic of Ireland into Northern Ireland.
Head east from Donegal to Derry, where you will begin your journey along the iconic Causeway Coast, home to a number of attractions, including the Giant’s Causeway, Dunluce Castle, and the Dark Hedges.
Day Seven – Explore Belfast
You will end your seven days in Ireland in the capital city of Northern Ireland, Belfast.
As a relatively small city, it is possible to see much of Belfast in just one day – but no doubt your whistlestop tour will just leave you wanting more.
To save you the hassle of making your way back to Dublin, book your return flight from either Belfast International or Belfast City Airport.
Experience Northern Ireland
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