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.
Table of Contents
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, 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:
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.
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!
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.
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.
Adjust accordingly. This 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.
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.
Day 1: Arrive in Ireland
Way too often, I 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.
When I stayed in Dublin, like usual, I went for a vacation rental. If you’re a hotel person, try checking to what hotels fit your budget and style.
If you’d rather 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 for $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
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 if you’re interested in Irish Whiskey. Even if you’re not, consider it part of your cultural education, and book a tour. They have three tour options:
The Bow Street Experience 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 Whiskey Blending Class is a 90-minute small-group tour where learn from a Jameson Ambassador and get to blend your own whiskey (and take that blend home with you). €60 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!
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.
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!
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
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.
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 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 trip.
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 the year 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 5pm or 6pm, so this depends on your time of visit). Religious travel is a common activity, and if you enjoy visiting religious sites, Christ Church Cathedral is a must.
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 literally freshest pint of Guinness in the world.
At the end of this day, take an easy night and rest – tomorrow you hit the road!
Resources for Day 3:
Stay a final night in your Dublin accommodations.
Day 4: Dublin to Kinsale
Details for Day 4:
Stops: Kilcullen, Gowran, Inistioge
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 a bit further out of town.
Setting out from Dublin is an exciting prospect: once you leave the city traffic behind, the rolling emerald green fields of Ireland appear almost immediately.
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.
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 historic sites while exploring!
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.
Stops: Blarney Castle, Blarney Stone, Drombeg Stone Circle, Schull
Distance: 186mi (299km)
Estimated time: 5.5 hours not including stops
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 don’t disagree.
Cork & Blarney Castle
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. The precariously perched Stone will also be slightly less gross or terrifying without crowds.
Drombeg Stone Circle & Schull
By mid-morning, head away from Cork toward the town of Schull (“Skull”). 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 all dressed up in Irish green. It’s not hard to see why people have settled here for five millennia.
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.
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; in colder months they usually have a fire going where you can warm up.
After a leisurely lunch, you still have roughly three hours of driving from Schull to Ballinskelligs on N71 and N70. The majority of this drive will be along Ireland’s famous Ring of Kerry. This famous 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 to 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 a great 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.
Stops: Gap of Dunloe, Killarney National Park, Killarney
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
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 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!
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.
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
Details for Day 7:
Stops: Conor Pass, Castlegregory, Tarbert
Distance: 107mi (172km) including a ferry ride
Estimated time: 4.0 hours not including stops
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.
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.
Back in the car, it’s an hour 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. This is your base for the night.
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.
When sunset begins, all you have to do is enjoy the show:
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.
If you’re all in for a vacation rental on this trip, this charming cottage starts from $155 per night and has three bedrooms.
Day 8: The Cliffs of Moher to Bushmills
Details for Day 8:
Stops: The Cliffs of Moher, Sligo, Londonderry
Distance: 260mi (417km) including a ferry ride
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, but I haven’t been there, so I can’t really recommend what to see and do en route.
Instead, I recommend making the long haul up to the northern coast of Northern Ireland. 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.
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’ll need to book two nights in Bushmills.
Day 9: The Giant’s Causeway & Carrick-a-Rede
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 be sure to 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 fascinating geology of the region.
Want someone else to take care of the details? Consider booking a tour to the Giant’s Causeway instead.
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 if you’re in the area to check off this activity for your Irish bucket list.
Resources for Day 9:
Stay another night in your Bushmills accommodation.
Day 10: The Giant’s Causeway to Belfast & Dublin
Details for Day 10:
Distance: 163mi (262km) including a ferry ride
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.
You might consider making a stop in Belfast too. 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.
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.