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An Ireland Road Trip Guide: How to Drive for 10 Days in Ireland

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There’s something magical about Ireland. With emerald fields dotted with sheep (hence the nickname “The Emerald Isle”), Ireland is a perfect destination any time of the year. And, as a small island nation, it’s especially prime for an Ireland road trip.

Most travelers will make the trip to Dublin at some point, be it for celebrating St. Patrick’s Day or to see the famous sights and historical spots. More intrepid travelers will want to explore further. Ireland is known for some fantastic drives: the Ring of Kerry and the Wild Atlantic Way are chief among them. If you want to explore Ireland in 10 days by car, this is how to do it!

In 2013, three friends and I spent a week in Ireland, drinking all the Guinness and driving around the countryside (not at the same time!). Based on our experiences, here’s the perfect guide for planning your own Ireland road trip.

Quick Glance: Your 10-Day Ireland Road Trip Itinerary

Here’s the super-quickest, TL;DR version of my suggested 10-day itinerary for an Ireland road trip. Below you’ll find a table that gives the start and end points each day, plus a map that shows you exactly how much of Ireland you’ll see. If you like what you see on this Ireland road trip itinerary for 10 days, you can read the rest of the article for more detail!

Quick Tips for Your Ireland Road Trip

Before we get into the details, here are a few other tips to help you make the most of your Ireland road trip:

  1. Have a packing list. Making sure you have everything you need before you go can help you avoid extra stops on your trip, so you can reference my list of what to pack for Ireland if you need ideas.
  2. Drive on the left! Due to its British heritage, Ireland observes the British rules of the road, which include driving on the left. You’ll need some time to wrap your head around it, but if I can do it – you can do it!
  3. Go manual to save. As is the case for most rental car situations in Europe, you can save a lot by renting a manual transmission car instead of an automatic one. I ended up as the sole driver for my Irish road trip because I was the only one who knew how to drive a manual transmission.
  4. Distance doesn’t correlate to time. Though some of the distances I mention seem brief for a day, you’ll notice the estimated time might be quite long. Some of these routes include winding two-lane roads and mountain passes. It takes a while to see this much of a country, okay? Settle in for the ride, and remember to bring snacks.
  5. Adjust accordingly. This Ireland 10 day itinerary is flexible. If, for example, you’ve already visited Dublin or have planned out your trip, you could cut those days and turn this into a 7-day Ireland road trip itinerary instead. If you fly into Cork or Shannon airport, you could start from that point on the itinerary and work your way around. I’m not here to tell you exactly how to do this trip – just to provide suggestions and help you have an unforgettable experience.
  6. Understand the rules of the road. You’ll want to research driving tips in Ireland so you will feel more confident before you set off.

The Ultimate 10-Day Ireland Road Trip Guide

Without further ado, let’s get into the nitty-gritty details of this Ireland road trip I’m suggesting. You’ll find a day-by-day breakdown below, with suggested start and stop points, plus breaks and scenery/sites to see along the way. While this is for a 10 day trip to Ireland, you can always add or subtract a few days to match how much time you have.

Day 1: Arrive in Ireland

I often see itinerary and road trip posts like mine jump right in and put you on the road from Day 1. I’m a bit more realistic: if you’re flying into Ireland from North America, you’re going to need a day to recover.

This is that day. Catch up on sleep, get on Irish time, and be ready for adventure for your 10 day Ireland itinerary.

If you’re a hotel person, try checking Booking.com to see what hotels fit your budget and style. Here’s a map you can use if you’d prefer to stay based on location during your road trip around Ireland.

Booking.com

I have a whole list of where to stay in Dublin, but here are a few hotels I recommend otherwise:

  • Wren Urban Nest is modern hotel that’s close to the Temple Bar area and other attractions that are within walking distance. Rates start at $122/night.
  • The Address Connolly is a treat to stay at with a sauna, gym, and rooms with power showers. Rates start at $158/night.
  • Ashling Hotel Dublin is right by the LUAS tram and Heuston Station, making it a breeze to get around. Rates start at $169/night.

If you’d instead go for a more local option, consider a VRBO. Here are a few, right in the heart of the city, that catch my eye:

  • This penthouse is a rare find in Dublin with a large patio overlooking the city and a kitchen, and it sleeps up to four, from $283/night.
  • This two-bedroom is another good group option; it says it can fit up to eight people and has two bathrooms, from $176/night.
  • For a little less – and if you’re not spending much time in the room – this homely apartment fits two comfortably, from $89/night.

Resources for Day 1:

  • You’ll need to book three nights at your Dublin accommodation.

Day 2: Dublin

3 Days in Dublin 1

For the first two days of this Irish road trip, you should spend some time in the Irish capital: Dublin. I’ve already detailed extensively what you should do for three days in Dublin, so here’s a short version of that.

There are loads of attractions in Dublin, but here are some of my favorites:

Jameson Distillery Tour

The Jameson Distillery on Bow St is a must-see during your ten days in Ireland if you’re interested in Irish Whiskey. Consider it part of your cultural education, and book a tour even if you’re not. They have three tour options:

  • The Jameson Distillery Guided Tour is a 40-minute group tour that includes a drink at JJ’s Bar. Tickets are €20 for Adults and €16 for Students and Seniors. Book here.
  • The Skip the Line Tour is a 90-minute small-group tour where learn how the drinks are made from a Jameson Ambassador and get to try the beer and whiskey. €90 per person. Book here.
  • The Whiskey Cocktail Making Class is a 60-minute small-group where you get to make and try three Jameson cocktails. €50 per person. Book here.

Like visiting the Guinness Factory (which I recommend on Day 2, to help balance the impact of a trip to Dublin on your liver), the Jameson Factory is a must-do during your 10 day Ireland road trip!

Ha’penny Bridge

On my trip to Dublin, I stayed in an Airbnb literally right at one end of the Ha’penny Bridge – I could see it out the window from the tiny studio I was sharing with the three classmates traveling with me! Officially called the Liffey Bridge, this cast-iron span is a pedestrian-only crossing of the River Liffey and connects the Temple Bar and North City.

Here’s another rental apartment right next door to where I stayed if you want another option right near the Ha’penny Bridge.

Oh, and conveniently, it’s a short walk from the Jameson Factory to the Ha’penny Bridge, which you can then cross to visit Temple Bar! It’s touristy but fun to put on your Ireland itinerary for 10 days, and you may learn some fun Ireland facts while there.

Temple Bar

Dublin Temple Street Bar

Temple Bar is possibly one of the most popular parts of Dublin, especially around St. Patrick’s Day. This neighborhood is the center of all tourist nightlife in the city, and you have your choice from noisy pubs to bass-pumping clubs. Since I stayed so close to Temple Bar (like I said, literally across the Ha’penny Bridge!), I had dinner here almost every night and partook of a few pints too!

Resources for Day 2:

  • Stay another night in your Dublin accommodations.

Day 3: Dublin

3 Days in Dublin 9

For your second day in Dublin, take in the city’s Greatest Hits: the masterpieces of history, architecture, intellect, and cuisine that make the Irish capital unique. You could see these sights in any order, but I’ve arranged them in an order that makes sense for walking between them. You’ll also learn a ton of fun facts about Dublin while you’re there.

Trinity College

Trinity College University Library

Trinity College is an active academic institution – but it’s also one of the most touristed sites in the city. You can walk freely through the gorgeous green courtyards past the statues of famous Irish citizens. Or, book a tour of the picturesque library with its Long Hall and the exhibit on the Book of Kells, the most famous medieval manuscript in the world. Can you believe students actually go to school here?

Dublin Castle

3 Days in Dublin 5

Dublin Castle dates back to the year 1204, which is older than just about anything I’ve ever seen – how about you?! The castle was the seat of British power in Ireland until the civil war in the 1920s; now, it houses government staterooms and two museums. The building and grounds are generally open to the public, and sometimes public events like concerts are hosted here.

You can do a self-guided tour (€7 for adults, €6 for students/seniors, €3 for kids), or book a guided 70-minute tour which includes the State Apartments, the Viking Excavation, and the Chapel Royal (€10 for adults, €8 for students/seniors, €4 for kids) to make the most of your Ireland road trip for 10 days.

If you plan on hitting a bunch of attractions, buying the Dublin Pass will save you money!

Christ Church Cathedral

Christ Church Cathedral is close to Dublin Castle, just a five-minute walk. The Cathedral is the older of the two medieval cathedrals in Dublin, dating back to 1028. (Seriously, if you’re from the U.S. like me, it’s pretty mind-blowing how old buildings can be – and they’re still preserved and open for tours!)

You can explore the crypt (including seeing the famous mummified cat and rat), walk in the footsteps of pilgrims (this church was once a famous site for Catholic pilgrims), and experience Evensong (typically sung at 5 pm or 6 pm, so this depends on your time of visit). Religious travel is a common activity, and if you enjoy visiting sacred sites, Christ Church Cathedral is a must.

Guinness Storehouse

3 Days in Dublin 10

While everything else you visit in Dublin for Day 2 is pretty old, the Guinness Storehouse is relatively new: it was only established in 1902. However, it’s likely to be around as long as any of them since Arthur Guinness signed a 9,000-year lease on the land!

The Guinness Storehouse is part brewery, part museum, part bar. When you book a tour, you get to see all three. Tickets are €18.50 (adults/students/seniors), and you can pretty much wander through the museum as long as you like. Make sure you end at the Gravity Bar, with its panoramic views of Dublin, where you can enjoy the freshest pint of Guinness in the world. You can also take a private guided tour to skip the line.

Alternatively, you could also take a day trip from Dublin if you want to see the surrounding area but still come back to your hotel at the end of the night.

At the end of this day, take an easy night and rest – tomorrow, you hit the road to continue your 10 day driving tour of Ireland!

Resources for Day 3:

  • Stay a final night in your Dublin accommodations.

Day 4: Dublin to Kinsale

Ireland Road Trip Church in Gowran

Details for Day 4:

  • Start: Dublin
  • Stops: Kilcullen, Gowran, Inistioge
  • End: Kinsale
  • Distance: 200mi (323km)
  • Estimated time: 4.5 hours not including stops

The first thing you’ll need to do this morning is pick up your rental car. You can rent a car from the city center or the airport. Both Sixt and Europcar have rental locations near the city center; Enterprise and Hertz are further out of town.

Setting out from Dublin is an exciting prospect: once you leave the city traffic behind, Ireland’s rolling emerald green fields appear almost immediately.

Kilcullen

Rather than taking the most direct motorway from one town to the next, I recommend smaller highways and roads. Therefore, take the M7 to the M9 and stop for a late breakfast in the town of Kilcullen. I recommend Ann Tearmann for a light breakfast and coffee.

Gowran

church in ireland

From Kilcullen, continue on the M9 toward Gowran. There, friends and I stopped to explore the ruins surrounding St. Mary’s Collegiate Church, parts of which date back over 2,000 years to Celtic times:

These kinds of diversions are one of the best parts of taking a road trip through Ireland: you can stop and explore at will, on your own schedule. There are numerous famous landmarks in Ireland to enjoy. Please be respectful of ruins and historical sites while exploring!

Inistioge

Inistioge Bridge Ireland

From Gowran, I recommend you continue to the small town of Inistioge (“In-ish-teeg”). An Irish friend recommended lunch here, and the diversion from the main route is worth it. Aside from lunch at Circle of Friends Cafe, you can see a beautiful arched bridge across the River Nore:

From Inistioge, make the 2.5-hour drive along the N25 to Kinsale for the evening. While there, spend time admiring the boats as they come into the harbor for the night; their fresh catches will be on the menu at many restaurants around town. The best is Fishy Fishy, recommended by my Irish friend, and verified when friends and I dined there. With a full belly of fresh seafood, enjoy a well-earned night of rest after your first day on the road.

Resources for Day 4:

Day 5: Kinsale to Ballinskelligs

Kinsale Harbor Ireland

Details for Day 5:

  • Start: Kinsale
  • Stops: Blarney Castle, Blarney Stone, Drombeg Stone Circle, Schull
  • End: Ballinskelligs
  • Distance: 186mi (299km)
  • Estimated time: 5.5 hours not including stops

Kinsale

Colorful Kinsale

Rise early for an ambitious day of sightseeing and driving. Explore Kinsale a little while making your way to breakfast at the Lemon Leaf Cafe. They claim to offer the best coffee and breakfast in the county, and I agree. You’ll also love the colorful buildings when deciding what to see in Ireland in 10 days.

Cork & Blarney Castle

Blarney Castle 2

Backtrack slightly on a 45-minute drive to the city of Cork and Blarney Castle. This must-see sight is home to the famous Blarney Stone. If you arrive early enough (or on a rainy day, as I did), you can avoid the crowds that form and explore the castle and grounds at your leisure. Without crowds, the precariously perched Stone will also be slightly less gross or terrifying.

While you can’t stay at this castle, there are many Ireland castle hotels that you can book a room at!

Drombeg Stone Circle & Schull

By mid-morning, head away from Cork toward the town of Schull (“Skull”) to continue your Irish road trip. En route along the N71, stop off to see the Drombeg Stone Circle, a 75-minute drive. This megalithic site dates back to the Bronze/Iron Ages (as far back as 3200BC) and is one of the most-visited sites of its type. It also looks out across stunning rolling fields dressed up in Irish green. It’s not hard to see why people have settled here for five millennia.

Drombeg Stone Circle

Note: The road to Drombeg Stone Circle is what my past passengers call a “Valerie Road.” It’s narrow, unpaved, and a bit tricky to navigate. However, it’s really cool to see the stone circle, thus proving Valerie Roads are always worth it.

Schull 1

Drive another 45-minutes along the N71 to Schull for lunch. This seaside town is popular with visitors in the summer months, due to close ocean access and beautiful countryside. I recommend you enjoy lunch at the Black Sheep Bar; during winter in Ireland, they usually have a fire going where you can warm up.

Ballinskelligs

After a leisurely lunch, you still have roughly three hours of driving on your road trip in Ireland from Schull to Ballinskelligs on N71 and N70. The majority of this drive will be along Ireland’s famous Ring of Kerry, and this renowned route creates a circle on the Kerry Peninsula, which you’ll drive in part from Kenmare to Ballinskelligs.

You should arrive in Ballinskellings with enough daylight to stop at Ballinskelligs Castle and the nearby Abbey and watch the sunset on the Pacific coast.

Once the sun goes down, you’re in for one last treat for the day: Ballinskelligs is part of the Kerry Dark Sky Reserve. This area of Ireland has one of the darkest skies in the country, making it an excellent spot for stargazing. You can check their website to see if any events are happening or just head out of town to a darker spot to look up at the night sky.

Resources for Day 5:

  • Stay at a cute B&B, The Old School House B&B, for waterfront and mountain views in the Ballinskelligs. From $111 per night.
  • Skelling Cottages are close to the beach and St. Michael’s Abbey. From $175 per night for six adults.
  • This family-friendly cottage has room for 10 people with four bedrooms and three bathrooms. From $155 per night.

Day 6: Ballinskelligs to Dingle through Killarney

Killarney

Details for Day 6:

  • Start: Ballinskelligs
  • Stops: Gap of Dunloe, Killarney National Park, Killarney
  • End: Dingle
  • Distance: 117mi (187km)
  • Estimated time: 4.0 hours not including stops

Hopefully, you didn’t stay up too late stargazing last night! There’s another exciting day of driving ahead. You might wonder: how can only 100 miles take four hours to drive?! Remember what I said about two-lane roads and mountain passes?

This is one of the main days you’ll experience both. You’re also taking a meandering route rather than a direct one to enjoy the sights along the way. The scenery is definitely worth it, though.

Gap of Dunloe

Gap of Dunloe
The Gap of Dunloe. Photo via Wikimedia Commons by Daniel Dudek.

Set out from Ballinskelligs after breakfast (Cafe Cois Trá seems to be the place for a morning bite!) back to N70, then head north. You’ll follow the Ring of Kerry around to N72, then cut south on Gap of Dunloe to… the Gap of Dunloe!

Park. Stop off to stretch your legs and enjoy the view, or take a tiny two-lane road to the Gap of Dunloe and the Wishing Bridge:

This mountain pass is famously beautiful, and as you can tell, it’s for a good reason.

Killarney National Park

Continue south on Gap of Dunloe to Molls Gap, then turn east toward Killarney National Park on N71. You may want to stop at this point (there’s a little roadside shop called Avoca Shop & Café) to grab a bite and snacks if you don’t have any and are feeling peckish. This also gives you the luxury to stop in Killarney National Park and enjoy the scenery.

Some of the famous viewpoints along N71 in Killarney National Park include Ladies View, Torc Waterfall, and Muckrock House. As you approach Killarney, you can also drive out on Ross Island to view Innisfallen Abbey on its island in Lough Leane. In short, it’s easy to spend most of the day making your way through the national park!

Dingle

From Killarney, it’s one more hour north and west to the town of Dingle on the peninsula of the same name. Dingle is yet another seaside fishing town, well known to locals and recommended by my friend. This is your base for the night, and you’ll love exploring all the things to do in Dingle.

Resources for Day 6:

  • You’re halfway! If you want to splurge, consider Castlewood House, a luxurious manor with reasonable rates. From $114 in the off-season or $176 in the summer months.
  • Dingle Benners House is a more budget-conscious option. From $96 per night.
  • Harbour Haven is right on the waterfront, includes street parking, and sleeps up to seven guests. From $233 per night.

Day 7: Dingle to Liscannor & the Cliffs of Moher

Liscannor

Details for Day 7:

  • Start: Dingle
  • Stops: Conor Pass, Castlegregory, Tarbert
  • End: Liscannor
  • Distance: 107mi (172km) including a ferry ride
  • Estimated time: 4.0 hours not including stops

Castlegregory

Conor Pass

Set out after breakfast in Dingle over Conor Pass to the town of Castlegregory. This beautiful drive takes you to an elevation of 1,500 feet above sea level and offers stunning views to both the north and south as you cross the top of the pass.

Castlegregory Beach
A beach near Castlegregory. Photo by Jen from The Social Girl Traveler

Though it’s a short drive over the pass to the town (just 30 minutes), stop and wander along the beach for a while. The water isn’t generally warm enough to swim, but the beaches in this area are popular with surfers and scuba during certain months.

Tarbert Ferry

Back in the car, it’s an hour’s drive to the town of Tarbert and a ferry ride that helps cut an hour of driving off the day. The ferry is officially called the “Tarbert-Shannon Ferry,” and cars are €19 for a one-way transfer.

If you choose to skip the ferry, you’ll pass through Limerick and Shannon, both well-known spots to explore. Otherwise, you can continue north another two hours to the town of Liscannor, and this is your base for the night.

Liscannor

Liscannor 2 1

Depending on the timing of your arrival and sunset, you have two choices: dinner first or sunset at the Cliffs of Moher first. The drive to the Cliffs from Liscannor is less than 10 minutes. There are plenty of hiking trails you can walk along if the weather is nice, and the views are unforgettable.

If you want a second opinion on what makes the Cliffs of Moher so incredible, this guide to visiting the Cliffs of Moher will help.

When sunset begins, all you have to do is enjoy the show:

Cliffs of Moher 4

For dinner, there’s only one place to go: Vaughan’s Anchor Inn. This award-winning Inn and restaurant had the freshest seafood I’ve ever eaten; it’s well worth indulging on starters and dessert too. You can book a room at the Inn as well, or consider the other options below.

Resources for Day 7:

Day 8: The Cliffs of Moher to Bushmills

Cliffs of Moher rainbow

Details for Day 8:

  • Start: Liscannor
  • Stops: The Cliffs of Moher, Sligo, Londonderry
  • End: Bushmills
  • Distance: 260mi (417km)
  • Estimated time: 6.0 hours not including stops

This, the eighth of 10 days in Ireland, is a long day of driving – the longest by far. It’s an unfortunate reality that at this point, you’ve got to make some choices about what to see. You could take these last three days and go to Galway and check out some pubs in Galway.

Instead, I recommend making the long haul up to the northern coast for a Northern Ireland road trip. You can spend a few hours in the morning at the Cliffs of Moher (Doolin2Aran Cruises leaves the town of Doolin north of the Cliffs of Moher. Their Cliffs cruise is only one hour and gives you a different perspective on the cliffs), then set out for the long drive north.

As today’s route takes you past most of the remaining parts of the Wild Atlantic Way, you can make stops in Sligo and/or Londonderry for a meal en route to the small town of Bushmills.

Resources for Day 8:

  • You’ll need to book two nights in Bushmills.
  • Portcaman House is close to the city center and Giant’s Causeway. From $118 per night.
  • Carnside Guest House is another great option, with beautiful views and an excellent location. From $153 per night.
  • Ready for one last VRBO? This three-bedroom cottage is one of the closest places you can stay to Giant’s Causeway and has beautiful views. From $153 per night.
  • You can also check out beautiful Irish country house hotels for a unique place to stay or bed and breakfasts in Galway if exploring that area.

Day 9: The Giant’s Causeway & Carrick-a-Rede

Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge 2

After a long day of driving, Day 9 of my suggested Ireland road trip is almost no driving – instead, you’ll be exploring two of the most famous sights in Northern Ireland.

Located just outside Bushmills, you can spend a few hours exploring the terrain and admiring the weirdly shaped volcanic rock formations at the Giant’s Causeway. As a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the area is protected and may be closed in certain portions, so respect any signage.

There’s also a stunning visitor center that I highly recommend if you have the time. It teaches you about the formation of the ’causeway’ and the region’s fascinating geology.

Want someone else to take care of the details? Consider booking a tour to the Giant’s Causeway instead.

Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge

After the Giant’s Causeway, head east along the coastline to see the ruins of Dunseverick Castle and the Carrick-a-Rede. This famous rope bridge takes you to a small island with limited walking trails. It’s still worth taking the time to check off this activity for your Irish bucket list if you’re in the area.

There are numerous Game of Thrones filming spots in this area, so make sure to check them out to reenact your favorite scene.

Resources for Day 9:

  • Stay another night in your Bushmills accommodation.

Day 10: Belfast & Dublin

Details for Day 10:

  • Start: Bushmills
  • Stops: Belfast
  • End: Dublin
  • Distance: 163mi (262km)
  • Estimated time: 3.0 hours not including stops

Depending on your departure, your last day of this 10-day Ireland road trip can be as quick or leisurely as you like. If you flew into Dublin, you’ll need to get back there: the best way is by passing through Belfast en route south.

However, if you have time, you might consider making a stop in Belfast too, as there are plenty of fun things to do in Belfast.

The Titanic Belfast museum (£18.50 for adults, £15 for students/seniors, £8 for kids) is the most popular site, and there are plenty of restaurants and bars where you could have lunch on your way back to Dublin.

If you decide to stay in the area, check out my post on where to stay in Belfast.

There can be some traffic from Belfast to Dublin so I’d allow at least a few hours to get back, time to drop off your rental car, and then a few hours to check-in for your flight. You’ll likely be pretty exhausted at this point, so you can cozy up at one of the pubs in the airport for some last-minute Irish food and drink.

If you want to stay in the area longer, there are plenty of day trips from Belfast you can go on.

Resources for Day 10:

  • None, you’re done! Great work!

Have other questions about your own 10-day Ireland road trip? Let me know in the comments.

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