10-Day Road Trip in Ireland, from Dublin to Killarney
Road Trip Travel
Ireland will always be a special place for us as it was the first international trip we took with our two children, and there are no words to describe the feeling of seeing them "catch the travel bug" and have a desire to explore the world. The country truly felt magical — we experienced feeding swans with a local Irish family, trying our "Irish Luck" in the Wishing Steps, and enjoyed the magic of an Irish rainstorm while exploring by bike. There are so many hidden gems here, we know we barely scratched the surface, but finding locally known attractions such as "The Worm Hole" is what made the adventure OURS.
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Where to stay
Radisson Blu Royal Hotel, Dublin
No-frills, modern hotel with sleek interiors.
Ashling Hotel Dublin
Luxury hotel in Dublin overlooking the Liffey River and close to many of the city's historical monuments.
The Heights Hotel Killarney
Located just one mile from the Killarney Train Station, this gorgeous family-run hotel overlooks the Flesk Valley and Torc and Mangerton mountains.
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Day 1: Arrive in Dublin and explore the city
Arrive in Dublin and stay for a night to recover from the long flight and to explore a bit of the "city life" before heading to the countryside. Dublin has LOTS to offer in the way of pubs, live music & food. You will not be without something to do or somewhere to go while here. If arriving with enough time, you can tour the Guinness Factory. We did not have the opportunity to see this, but have heard it's an experience worth doing.
Day 2: Drive to Killarney
After breakfast (Ashling Hotel had a GREAT buffet style breakfast), walk to rental car pick up. Head to Killarney with a mapped out route/plans to sightsee on the way. Get an early start out of Dublin and make the most of the drive. There are a few ways you can go, some of which have some cool castles. Kilkenny is one we had on the list. Unfortunately, we had to spend a few hours recovering our car seats that were lost in transit (never a dull moment when traveling with kids!), so we ended up just going straight with a stop for food in Adare, just past Limerick.
You could go to Co Cork and do the Jameson Distillery on the way if this interests you and if you build in enough time. It would be the long way around, but depending on the rest of your plans, might be worth the detour!
Day 3: Explore the town of Dingle
Drive to the adorable small town of Dingle. You can drive the entire Dingle Peninsula, we opted to travel counter clockwise, but can go either direction.
A few highlights here:
Fermoyle Beach - was fun to walk on, and check out the views - the beaches are SO different from CA beaches!
Coumeenoole Beach - we didn't get to see this one, but it was on the list and definitely recommend based on research & photos.
Connor Pass - VERY cool drive, and totally doable. A lot of reviews/people said it was too scary, and too narrow to drive, especially in a car on the "wrong" side of the road. We were so glad we went for it and had no issues. Just take it SLOW and you'll be just fine.
Ice cream at Murphy's - SO YUMMY!
Dingle Aquarium - there is an aquarium we took kids to here as well - if you have young ones, this is a good spot if they are into this stuff. Its no SeaWorld, but they did enjoy it :)
Minard Castle - this was our first castle we saw. Its ruins are right on the water, a pretty spot as the sun was setting. Quick stop - you cannot enter this castle.
Inch Beach - we had dinner here. Beautiful sunset!! Great end to the long day.
Day 4: Dunloe Gap Drive and Blarney Castle
Dunloe was SO cool, but if you want to drive it yourself you will need to go early. It's a one lane two way road. Very pretty drive with beautiful views. We stopped many times to see the sheep, scenery and just spend a moment in awe of the beauty here. If our children were older we would have hiked/walked it during the day, but it's 14 miles. We went at 7am, and we finished the drive (with multiple stops to get out and explore) around 8:30. We saw one other car the whole time. They also have horse and buggy for hire, which I have heard great things about!
After the drive, we went back to the hotel for breakfast and then headed to Blarney Castle. Plan to spend a good amount of time here as the castle grounds are very large, and there is so much to see and do here! The castle grounds were really beautiful, and definitely worth seeing. The castle itself is also really cool! A lot of history and information here. You can explore the castle and get a feel for what life was like back at this time.
After Blarney, if you have the time and energy, there is a really cool castle on your way home: Mallow Castle. You couldn't go inside, as it is in ruins, however it was so beautiful (they really all are) and so cool how it was right next to a school with a field of white deer (interesting story on the castle grounds about the white deer too!). We we found the coolest playground right there for the kids too. MUST stop for kiddos to get some energy out if you are traveling with young ones, they even had a zipline!
Day 5: Killarney National Park: Bike Rentals & Ross Castle
I HIGHLY recommend renting bikes for Killarney NP. This day was so fun!! There is a rental place right outside of the entrance. We rented through Viatour, but we could have walked up without a reservation on the day we went as there were not many crowds. If you are comfortable on a bike, definitely do this!
First stop, Muckross Abbey - very cool old abbey where you are able to walk around and explore, going up small stone staircases, huge fireplaces and truly experience what it may have been like to spend time here years ago. Really cool stop!
Muckross Manor - I believe you can pay to go inside, however we opted to view from outside without the tour.
There are boats at Dinish Island. I would definitely consider renting one for a quick tour on the water!
Bike around Muckross Lake and over to Torc Waterfall. There are LOTS of steps up past the falls, but worth the climb to see from the top. Kids were able to make it :)
After returning bikes, go straight to Ross castle if you have time to catch the last tour! We missed the last tour by a few minutes later that evening. It was a beautiful castle (even from only the outside), you can pay for inside tour, we were so sad we missed it.
This is where the kids met a little Irish boy and he shared peas to feed the swans here. This was a magical evening.
Day 6: Travel to Galway & stops along the way
NewCastle - make a quick stop for coffee, its such a cute little town. Also got pastries at the bakery there, you won't regret it!
Skip the stop in Limerick - it did not off the same "authentic" feeling as some of the more rural/less visited castles.
Stop at Bunratty Castle - this is a paid castle tour, and while not as "authentic" as the Muckross abbey for example, it was a really fun stop for us. We actually would have spent more time there, but we were trying to see the Cliffs of Moher on the way. Definitely build in enough time and flexibility for this stop, oh and check out the Irish hounds! They sweetest (and largest!!) in Ireland!
Cliffs of Moher - if you are able, and up to the challenge, I strongly recommend hiking the entire cliff. Get an early start to your day, pack some food and water and enjoy the early morning lull. There are less crowds during non "peak" hours, and not too many folks choose to hike, giving you a wonderful experience shared with less travelers.
Dinner at Pulman Restaurant (Glenlow Abbey Hotel) - it's FANCY! Such a cute hotel and restaurant and close to Galway without the chaos of being in the city. You could also opt for dinner at a local pub, equally as good of an option. But highly recommend a dinner here during your trip. If you are in the area it's a beautiful place and would be a fun night out.
Day 7: Aran Islands: Inishmore Island
SUCH a fun unique place to experience. If you are able, plan to stay a night or two at the island.
For the active and adventurous ones, rent bikes!! Realistically you wont see the whole island in a day. We saw probably half the island in one day, and wish we had more time - we were RUSHING (and sweating on those uphill sections!)
Highlight of the day: The Worm Hole. You need to be willing to go on an adventure to find this thing. A lot of research ahead, screen shots of pictures and landmarks to look for (such as red arrows painted on rocks). You just to keep walking and following them. This is a must see, lesser known "attraction" in Ireland.
Food: Fish n chips on the island and a beer/cider. It was delicious!
You can buy wool here, but you can also buy it in Galway.
Day 8: Sheep Dog Farm Tour & Kylemore Abbey
Drive about an hour to Joyce County Sheep Dog Farm from Galway. This farm was featured in the movie "Marley and Me" and the owner has wonderful stories to tell about that experience. You can feed baby farm animals, snuggle puppies and watch in awe as the sheep dogs work!
Following the farm, make your way to Kylemore Abbey. This place was beautiful and has good food to fill up after your long drive and time spend at the farm.
Day 9: Drive from Galway to Dublin
You can make the most of this drive. Strongly recommend setting your rental car return to later in the day. You can see a LOT of cool stuff on the Galway/Dublin drive.
Portumna castle - worth exploring.
Athlone - Stop here for food and coffee. It's a cute place to stretch your legs & fill up on coffee and snacks for the drive.
There is so much more to explore depending on your time allotment and preference for activity on travel day.
Spending your last night in Dublin, you can go out for dinner, drinks and dessert and to walk the city. We found a park for the kiddos and watched as they made friends with those around them.
Day 10: Breakfast in Dublin & head home
Breakfast at hotel. The Radisson breakfast was AMAZING! After this, catch your transfer service to the airport, and start planning your next trip ;)
Need to Know
I should also mention that a rental car is a MUST and so strongly recommended. Of course you can take taxis, trains and a variety of tours, but what really made the experience for us was the ability to explore on our own at our own pace.
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