14 Day Irish Road Trip
Road Trip Travel
Ireland is known as the “Green Isle” and for good reason. With the same rain that England is known for, the country side is always green. The Republic of Ireland shares the same island as Northern Ireland which is actually in the UK. One of the benefits of Ireland to being such a small island country is that you can take day trips to cities if you pick “host” cities to stop and stay in. Here is our two week Irish road trip, starting in Dublin, working clockwise around the entire island, Northern Ireland included, and ending in Dublin. Go dté tú slán (safe travels)!
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Where to stay
The Fitzwilliam Hotel Dublin
Modern property nearby St. Stephen's Green with elegant rooms and suites.
$100 hotel / resort credit.
Upgrade & extended check-in/out whenever possible.
The Montenotte Hotel
Inviting hotel that overlooks the city of Cork with modern rooms and apartments.
Trees planted per night.
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Mount Juliet Estate, Autograph Collection
A stunning, storied two-residence estate with contemporary design and en-suite amenities.
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Day 1: Arrive & explore Dublin
Arriving in Dublin
First stop on just about any Irish road trip is going to be Dublin and so does this one. One of the benefits of a trans-Atlantic flight is that I always get to Europe way before my hotel check-in. So, my second stop once we land (after we get the rental car) in Ireland is going to be Andersons Food Hall & Cafe for a late breakfast.
As you make your way south, take in the sites as you make your way into the heart of the city. If you’re staying near College Park, you’ll probably pass over the Liffey River, Trinity College Dublin and Parliament Square. Maybe a little more west in Drimnagh, you’ll pass the infamous Guinness Storehouse, the Dublin Zoo and Drimnagh Castle. Or, even down on the Dublin Bay (like my fiancée and I), you might see the Casino of Marino, the Dublin Graving Docks and hopefully plenty of coastline and beaches.
Once you check into your hotel and get settled, find an activity, tour or some other experience on your Irish bucket list and start checking them off: Temple Bar, Dublin Castle, Trinity College & The Book of Kells, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, strolling down Grafton Street, Saint Stephen’s Green or the National Gallery or Museum of Ireland.
Day 2: Day trip to County Wicklow
County Wicklow is the county just south of County Dublin. County Wicklow is the home of the Wicklow Mountains National Park, so this will be a day outdoors.
First stop: Wicklow Mountain National Park. This national park is nearly 23,000 hectares, with wooded valleys, mountain roads, streams and lakes. From walking and hiking, cycling, climbing, paragliding and even swimming, there is something for everyone at Wicklow Mountain. We will be finding one of the easiest hiking trails, a couple mountains, some waterfalls and a lake (Glendalough) to take ALL of the pictures. This is easily in the top five places/activities that I want to do in our entire honeymoon road trip!
Tyler (my fiancée) has one rule for when we travel: If there’s an aquarium, we’re going! So we are going to head to Bray for a late lunch and an afternoon in the aquarium. It’s not a large aquarium, so you shouldn’t need to worry about having a lot of time to get through the entire aquarium.
Day 3: Day trip to County Kildare
County Kildare is southwest of County Dublin, but the drive to and from Dublin is longer than Wicklow’s.
Starting with an oldie, but a goodie: Kildare isn’t a large town, but it’s one of the oldest in all of Ireland! The Falite Ireland Tourist Office houses an immersive VR experience through the stories of Fianna, Brigid the Goddess, St. Brigid and the Normans arrival. After that St. Brigid’s Cathedral and Round Tower (only open from May to September), the White, Grey and Black Abbeys, the Irish National Stud and Gardens.
If you can only handle so much history in a day, cap the day off at the Kildare Village, an outlet-style shopping village with cafes &andrestaurants nearby.
After history and shopping, time for lunch at the Big Blue Bus in Blessington. A small goal that I have is to see as much Irish natural beauty as I can, so right after lunch we are going for a walk on the Blessington Greenway Trail.
Day 4: Day in Cork (Kilkenny & Waterford)
Counties Kilkenny and Waterford are about two hours from Dublin, so time to pack up and move to the next “host” city: Cork. Instead of just waiting a day in the car, request a late check-in and stop by two towns on the way, Kilkenny and Waterford.
Kilkenny has a lot to offer: history like castles and cathedrals, nature like the National Reptile Zoo and green spaces and sports like hurling. To be completely honest, the first thing I remember learning about Ireland came from Disney Channel’s The Luck of the Irish and one of my favorite scenes is when the main character has to hurl! After grabbing breakfast and checking out of our hotel we are going to start the day slow with some history (St. Canice’s Cathedral and Round Tower, Rothe House & Garden), channel our non-existent Irish heritage in one of The Kilkenny Way’s hurling experiences and then end our time in Kilkenny at the Kilkenny Castle and Rose Gardens.
After Kilkenny, we will make our way down to Waterford, mostly for the history museums like the Waterford Treasures Medieval Museum and Bishop’s Palace. The Viking Triangle Display, and some art like the Theatre Royal Waterford and the House of Waterford Crystal.
After a long day of moving, we will check into our hotel in Cork.
Day 5: Day in Cork & Cobh
The reason that so many people come to Ireland, from what I can tell, is to see the Blarney Castle and the Blarney Stone. So, you have to start the day at Blarney Castle & Gardens. Make you sure you get in line to kiss the Blarney Stone. After a trip to a castle, time to visit jail, the Cork City Gaol, a nineteenth century prison. Then, park your car in any of the Blackrock Castle Car Parks and go for a walk past the Blackrock House & Gardens, the Bessborough Castle, a snack or coffee from the Mahon Point Shopping Centre and hopefully on the way back you pass a sports practice or game as you finish your loop back to your car.
After a lunch stop when you get to Cobh, it’s time for some infamous Irish history. Whether you’re stopping at the RMS Lusitania Memorial, the Titanic Experience, the JFK Park & Pier and Spike Island Tours.
Day 6: Killarney & Kerry
Today is the day everyone on an Irish road trip has been expecting: the Ring of Kerry. It’s also another moving day, so pack up your things, get stoked for a wonderful day seeing the natural beauty of western Ireland and grab car snacks.
Your first stop on the Ring of Kerry is probably going to be the Killarney National Park. With all of the rainfall straight from the Atlantic, this national park is going to be gorgeous year round, from lush greens during summer and vibrant fall colors to breathtaking waterfalls. Here is my laundry list of stops on the Ring of Kerry: Owengarriff River, Derrycunnihy Falls, Looscaunagh Lough Viewpoint, Lough Barfinnihy Viewpoints, Sneem falls, Statius Stone Fort, Derryanne House, Loher Stone Fort, Lough Currane, Ballinskelligs Beach, Kerry Cliffs, Valentia Island Tetrapod Footprints, Valentina Island Lighthouse, Leacanabuaile Ring Fort, Kells Bay Beach, Mountain Stage Viewpoint, Rossbeigh Mountain, the Wishing Bridge at Black Lake and finally the Killarney House and Gardens.
Day 7: Day trip to Limerick
Personally, every time I hear “Limerick” I think about Shakespeare (I know he’s British) and then I think about rugby. In case you’re not a international rugby fan, Thomond Park is a well-renowned rugby pitch in international rugby, so of course we’re going! And, before you say Limerick is too far from Cork, it’s about an hour and a half and you’re only doing Limerick today.
Start the day trip to Limerick with a pit stop at Lough Gur, a quiet, horseshoe-shaped lake. Take a moment to pause, take in some fresh air, snap a pic and get back on the road to Limerick.
First stop in Limerick has to be a visit to King John’s castle (the same John from Disney’s Robin Hood), a medieval fortress with interactive exhibits. For the rugby fans, cross the River Shannon over Thomond Bridge and grab a quick pick me up before heading to the Thomond Park for the Ultimate Experience, a tour of the stadium and museum). All before grabbing a late lunch or early dinner at JJ Bowles, the oldest pub in Limerick! If you’re not a rugby fan, check out the many museums in Limerick.
If it’s not too late in the day, get to the Cliffs of Moher. I’ve heard the the best experience of the Cliffs of Moher is not just from above but also from below. Find a cruise/boat trip so you can get both experiences!
Or, if you need to rest and recharge because spending all that time in and out of the car is exhausting and frustrating, take a day to enjoy all the amenities that the Adare Manor has to offer, from the pool and spa, to a round of gold and carriage tour around the grounds.
Day 8: Galway
To be completely honest, the first time Galway stuck in my brain was because of the Ed Sheehan song. If that’s you too, go look at some pictures and a map of Galway. Today is going to be a land and sea day.
Depending on when you travel to Ireland, wake up and make your way to catch a ferry to any of the islands of the Aran Islands, Inishmore the largest, Inishmaan and Inisheer the smallest. After your day on the Aran Islands, explore the city of Galway. There’s a beautiful waterfront area by Salthill, another aquarium, a Latin Quarter and plenty of downtown area to explore.
Day 9: Westport
Today begins three days of moving, so make sure you don’t get to comfy in those hotels. When I was researching for my honeymoon road trip, I had never heard of Westport, but wanted some connection point between northern Ireland and Northern Island, hence Westport. Looking at a map, I wanted to some more time on as far deep into the Atlantic as possible while still being on land, the Achill Island.
Another Ring of Kerry type day, so here’s the laundry list (it’s a lot shorter than Kerry’s) for the Wild Atlantic Drive: Burrishoole Abbey, Mulroney Causeway, Lookout Hill Loop, Dumhach Bheag, Curran Steps, Spanish Armada Viewpoint, Grace O’Malley’s Towerhouse, Cloughmore, White Cliffs of Ashleam, Donegal Bay Beach, Minaun Cliffs, On the Top Observation Deck, Cathedral Rocks, Minaun Heights, Achill-henge, Montenegrin Head, Cliffs of Croaghaun, Bunafreva Lake, Slievemore Deserted Village and Dugort Beach before driving back to Westport.
Day 10: Day in Derry
From northern Ireland to Northern Ireland, it’s time to trade those euros for pounds. Welcome to the UK!
Another day taking the scenic route to your next city. Here’s today’s laundry list: a drive north to Downpatrick Head, Dromore West Union Workhouse, Pollnadivva Pier, Aughris Coastal Walk, Portavade Beach, Luke’s Bridge at Benbulbin Mountain, Gleniff Horseshoe, Gleniff Barytes Mill Site, Fairy Bridges in Bundoran, Sliabh Liag Walk, Owenwee River Waterfalls, Caves of Maghera at Maghera Beach, and your last Irish stop is the Assaranca Waterfall After you cross into the UK, explore Derry from the historical (Bloody Sunday Monument, the Derry Walls and the Peace Bridge) to the popular (Derry Girls Mural and Derry Girls Hangout).
Day 11: Belfast
After crossing the Irish-British boarder, take your time exploring the northern coast as you make your way to Belfast. All of the maps told me that Giant’s Causeway is in Belfast, but it’s closer to Derry. Time to make sure you get those photos at Giant’s Causeway and around the northern tip of this island.
Here’s today’s site list: Mussenden Temple, Castelrock Beach, The Barmouth, Dunluce Castle, Giant’s Causeway, Dunseverick Castle, Falls, & Harbour; Carrick-a-Rede, Kinbane Castle, and a drive through Antrim Coast & Glens, Carrickfergus Castle and then a long await arrival in Belfast. If your lucky, catch a performance at the Lyric Theatre or a match at Kingspan Stadium.
Day 12: From Belfast to Dublin (Bandbridge & Mourne)
As your two weeks in Ireland is starting to come to an end, your laundry list is going to get shorter so you can spend more time enjoying the rest of your Irish adventure outside of the car.
Take some time to explore the downtown area (St. Anne’s Cathedral, the Botanic Gardens, and the Belfast Castle) or sneak in a museum or two (the SS Nomadic, Titanic experience, and the Ulster Museum) on your way back to Dublin.
Pack up your car snacks and hit the road for one of the most anticipated stops: the Game of Thrones Studio Tour in Banbridge. And, if you’re able catch the sun setting over the Mourne Mountains, a filming location in the Game of Thrones and the natural influence of C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia.
Day 13-14: Last days in Dublin
For all of you that were upset because you didn’t have enough time 12 days ago to explore Dublin, here is all of that time! Whether that is a day trip to one of your favorite stops or getting a vacation from your vacation with a spa day at your hotel, take your time and enjoy the rest of your time in Ireland.
Here is my bucket list of museums and other attractions: National Botanic Gardens, Hugh Lane Gallery, Kilmainham Gaol, The Irish Rock’n’Roll Museum, Irish Whiskey Museum, Saint Stephen’s Green and National Print Museum.
Here is my bucket list of tours: Trinity College Dublin & the Book of Kells, Rathfarnham Castle, Jameson Distillery-Bow St., Drimnagh Castle, Dublin Castle, Dubh Linn Garden, Guinness Storehouse, Dublin Walking Food Tour, River Liffey Sightseeing Cruise, Irish Night Show, Dublin Bay Kayaking or Cruise and Howth Boat Tour.
Here is my bucket list of restaurants and bars: Eatyard, Temple Bar, Etto, 31 Lennox and Nutbutter.
Need to Know
For more travel tips, check out Fora Advisor Caitlin Comiskey’s guide, Road Tripping Across Ireland.
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This guide is part of our ongoing series on travel to Ireland.