Road Trip Ireland Itinerary

10 Day Ireland Itinerary

Julie Ireland, Itinerary 23 Comments

Ireland is a popular destination on many travelers’ wish lists, for a good reason. This country is a joy to explore, with stunning landscapes, friendly and welcoming people, and ancient historical sites. Don’t let it’s small size fool you…there is a lot to see and do here. On this 10 day Ireland itinerary, tour the highlights of this country.

This itinerary is designed as a road trip. You will need to rent a car in order to tour the island. Ten days is just enough time to visit the highlights of Ireland, including Dublin, the Rock of Cashel, Galway, the Cliffs of Moher, the Dingle Peninsula, and Northern Ireland. It’s an amazing trip, but expect to have busy, action packed days.

Ireland Itinerary Road Trip 10 Days

10 Day Ireland Itinerary

This Ireland Itinerary is good for:

  • Families
  • Scenic Drives
  • Game of Thrones fans
  • Historical Sites
  • Stunning Scenery

Day 1

Arrive in Dublin

Your tour of Ireland begins in Dublin, Ireland’s largest city. Depending on where you are arriving from, you may have limited time (and energy) today.

Check into your hotel and take a quick nap if you need it. Spend the afternoon and early evening getting acquainted with Dublin. We recommend heading over to the Temple Bar area, for dinner and drinks in one of the many pubs.

Sláinte! You are in Ireland!

Dublin Temple Bar

Day 2

Dublin

Spend today touring the city of Dublin. Must see sights include a visit to Trinity College to see the Book of Kells, the Kilmainham Gaol, Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, and the National Museum of Ireland. Many people love the tours at the Guinness Storehouse, which ends with a pint of Guinness in the penthouse bar with 360° views over Dublin. End the day with live Irish music in one of the pubs.

Dublin things to do

If you prefer, you can skip some of these sights in Dublin, opting to take a four-hour day trip out of the city to Newgrange, also known as Brú na Bóinne. Newgrange is a 5,000 year old passage tomb, one of Ireland’s most important archaeological sites.

Read more: How We Spent 24 Hours in Dublin

Day 3

Drive to Killarney

It’s time to say goodbye to Dublin and hello to the Irish countryside.

Today you will drive out to Killarney. If you drive directly there, it takes about four hours. However, there are sights to see along the way.

Kilkenny

Kilkenny is an awesome little city in Ireland. We only spent about two hours here, having dinner and then a pint (or two!) in one of the many pubs. We loved this place, more so than Killarney or Kinsale. Explore the town in the morning, have lunch, and then continue your road trip, heading to the Rock of Cashel next.

Kilkenny

The Rock of Cashel

This is not to be missed. Overlooking the Plains of Tipperary, the Rock of Cashel is one of Ireland’s most historic sights. This was the seat of the ancient kings of Ireland. St. Patrick baptized King Aengus here in 450 AD. Now visitors arrive every day to tour this historic complex of buildings.

You can tour the Rock of Cashel in about an hour, but make sure you also walk downhill to the much less visited and just as awesome Hore Abbey.

Hore Abbey with the Rock of Cashel on the hill behind it.

Rock of Cashel Drone

Read more: Why Hore Abbey is Worth a Visit

Before driving to Killarney, there is still enough time in the day to visit either the Blarney Stone or the colorful town of Kinsale.

The Blarney Stone

Located in Cork, the Blarney Stone is a major tourist site, where groups of people line up to kiss the famous Blarney Stone to get the “gift of gab.” We skipped this, since Rick Steves ripped this experience. We chose to put our time into Kinsale and Kilkenny instead.

Kinsale

Kinsale is one of Ireland’s most picturesque towns. With colorful, winding lanes, fabulous restaurants, and a nearby golf course, Kinsale attracts a lot of visitors during the summer months. It’s also the starting point (or ending point, depending on which way you are traveling) of the Wild Atlantic Way.

Ideally, Kinsale deserves a full day of your time. However, with just an hour, you have enough time to explore the colorful town center and have a drink, snack, or even dinner, depending on what time it is when you get here.

Kinsale

Old Midleton Distillery

If you want to tour a whiskey distillery in Ireland, this one is the best of the best. You can take a one hour tour of the distillery, ending with a Irish vs. Scotch whiskey taste test. The Old Midleton Distillery is located just east of Cork.

Jameson

Today’s road trip ends in Killarney.

Restaurants to try in Killarney

Bricin Restaurant. This is a fabulous restaurant serving traditional Irish cuisine. We loved the food and we loved the atmosphere.

Treyvaud’s. Another great restaurant serving gourmet food.

Dinner at Treyvauds

Day 4

Skellig Michael and the Ring of Kerry

Skellig Michael is a rocky island located off of the coast of the Ring of Kerry. Visit an ancient monastery, see the nesting spot of Puffins, and see where “Star Wars: A Force Awakens” was filmed.

To get here, it is a one-hour trip by boat over the somewhat rough Atlantic Ocean. Only a handful of boats are permitted to make the trip everyday, so your tickets must be booked well in advance. Also, landing tours to Skellig Michael only run between the beginning of May and early October.

Skellig Michael

Star Wars Ireland

Read more: Skellig Michael: One of Ireland’s Most Unique Destinations

If you are in Ireland during the off-season, you will not be able to visit Skellig Michael, but you can still drive the Ring of Kerry.

Ring of Kerry

The Ring of Kerry is one of Ireland’s most popular drives. In one day, you can drive through miles of green, rolling hills, explore colorful, Irish towns, and see a fantastic stretch of Ireland’s rugged coastline.

Tours to Skellig Michael return to Portmagee by 2 pm. You have enough time the see the highlights of the Ring of Kerry as you make your way back to Killarney.

Read more: Driving the Ring of Kerry

Day 5

Dingle Peninsula

The Dingle Peninsula is gorgeous and this is one of Ireland’s best road tripping spots. Yes, the Ring of Kerry is beautiful, but the Dingle Peninsula is stunning. Tour charming little Dingle, enjoy the views out to the Blasket Islands, walk on the huge beach named Inch Beach, and be prepared for some amazing sights.

Dingle Peninsula Ireland

Dingle

Read more: Driving the Dingle Peninsula

Day 6

Drive from Killarney to the Cliffs of Moher

Today we drive north to the Cliffs of Moher. From Killarney to Doolin it is two and a half hours of driving, but we recommend some stops along the way.

Adare is a cute town with a small strip of colorful, thatched houses. Unfortunately, a fire several years damaged several of these houses, so it’s not quite the scenic detour that it once was.

Adare Cottage

Limerick is a small city with a very cool castle that can be explored.

The Burren is a rocky, limestone plateau with Iron Age stone structures.

Your day ends in Doolin, a very small town that is a great base for exploring the Cliffs of Moher.

Day 7

Cliffs of Moher

The Cliffs of Moher stretch 14 km from north to south, starting at Doolin in the north and ending at Hags Head in the south. There is a well-marked hiking trail along the entire stretch of coastline. The Visitor Center, located at the midpoint, is also at the highest point of the Cliffs.

Over one million people every year visit the Cliffs of Moher, making this one of Ireland’s most popular attractions.

Today, walk the Cliffs of Moher, a journey that takes most people five hours.

Cliffs of Moher

Read more: Walking the Cliffs of Moher: Doolin to Hags Head

Tonight, you have the option to spend a second night in Doolin or drive an hour and a half north to Galway.

Day 8

Drive to Northern Ireland

This is the longest driving day on the itinerary. Today you will be heading north to the town of Portrush in Northern Ireland. From Doolin, it is a six hour drive (five hours from Galway).

Spend some time in Galway, a favorite city of many visitors to Ireland. Between Sligo and Donegal, enjoy the views of the wild and rugged coastline.

Galway

Galway

Mullaghmore Head on the Wild Atlantic Way.

Atlantic Way

If you are making great time, you can take a three hour detour out to the Slieve League. This is another dramatic stretch of coastline, similar to the Cliffs of Moher. Because of the remoteness of these cliffs, not many tourists make it out this way. We didn’t either, unfortunately.

Have dinner and check into your hotel in lovely little Portrush.

Day 9

Northern Ireland

One day gives you just enough time to tour the highlights of Northern Ireland. Most sites are clustered around the northern coastline and around Belfast.

Northern Ireland draws many Game of Thrones fans, as this is a major filming location for the HBO TV series. We toured the sites but were disappointed. Many of them were overcrowded and barely resemble what you see on TV. If you are traveling to Northern Ireland to see the Game of Thrones filming sites, read this before you go: Game of Thrones Filming Sites in Northern Ireland…What You Should Really Expect!

Places you should visit in Northern Ireland

Dunluce Castle. See the ruins of an ancient castle perched on the cliffs of the Northern Ireland coastline.

Dunluce Castle

Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge. This rope bridge spans the gap between two rocky, coastal cliffs. Get here early or late to miss the crowds.

Giant’s Causeway. This is spectacular. It is worth traveling to Northern Ireland just to see this. The Giant’s Causeway is a stretch of coastline with perfectly formed hexagonal columns, all massed together at the water’s edge…it’s an amazing sight to see.

Get here at sunrise or sunset for the best experience. If you arrive in Portrush early enough on day 8, consider coming here to watch the sunset. This just may be one of the highlights of this entire trip.

Visiting Giants Causeway

Read more: The Jaw-Dropping Giant’s Causeway

The Dark Hedges. This is the most popular Game of Thrones filming location in Northern Ireland. The Dark Hedges is a short road lined with twisted, mature beech trees. This is the Kingsroad.

Kingsroad

Your day ends in Belfast. If you make it before closing time (between 5 pm and 7 pm depending on the season), you can tour the Titanic Museum. The Titanic was constructed in the Belfast Harbour in 1911.

Day 10

Fly Home

Begin your travels home. Or, for those with more time, continue on to your next destination.

With More Time

Aran Islands

The Aran Islands sit off the coast of Ireland and are accessible from Doolin and Galway between March and October. To see the Aran Islands you can either add a day or visit the islands on day 7 of this itinerary. To do this, on day 6, drive directly from Killarney to Doolin and spend the afternoon on the Cliffs of Moher, in order to spend day 7 on the Aran Islands.

Connemara National Park

Connemara National Park is a great place for hiking and exploring the Irish outdoors. You can visit Connemara on a day trip from Galway.

Kylemore Abbey

Kylemore Abbey is a Benedictine Monastery located just around the bend from Connemara National Park. This is a very picturesque spot, a gorgeous building that is featured in many publications about Ireland.

Ashford Castle

Ashford Castle is a medieval castle that has been turned into a five star luxury hotel. It’s an impressive building to see, and John Wayne, President Ronald Reagan, King George V, John Lennon, Brad Pitt, and many more celebrities have been guests here. Ashford Castle is located one hour north of Galway.

Spend more time in your favorite spot

Places where adding more time would be beneficial are Northern Ireland, Kilkenny, Galway, and Dublin.

Best Time to go to Ireland

Spring, summer, and fall are the best seasons to visit Ireland. Summer is peak season, so expect large crowds of people but longer days and warmer temperatures.

If you want to avoid most of the tourists, late spring and early fall are your best bets.

Post updated July 2017.

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Read Next: 14 Must-Have Experiences in Ireland

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Comments 23

  1. Thank you for this great itinerary! Where did you stay in each spot? Any places to avoid? I’d love to narrow down our options.

    Thanks!

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      Author

      In Dublin we stayed in an apartment that was TERRIBLE, in Killarney we stayed at the Gleann Fia Guest House (wonderful), in Limerick we stayed in the Savoy Hotel (good), in Doolin we stayed in the Doolin Hostel (a great hostel and a good place to stay if you are a budget traveler), and in Portrush we stayed at the Albany Lodge (average, nothing special). Cheers, Julie

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  2. Your write up was exactly what I was looking for. I will be traveling alone and am trying to get as much out of it as I can and this helps tremendously. Thank you,

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  3. This was just what I was looking for! Thanks so much for sharing your itinerary. I used this as my base plan and modified it slightly to plan our trip to Ireland this coming May. My wife and I made a list of the top things we wanted to hit in 10 days and your itinerary had 90% of them! I can’t wait to see how it turns out. Your information, photos and tips were most helpful. Cheers!

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  4. I absolutely love this itinerary and blog. This is so helpful! Planning a trip for June and I was getting overwhelmed but this really helps. I had a question about the rental car. If you rented the car in Dublin and ended in Belfast, was that a problem to return the car there? was there a large fee? Also was there any issue with customs etc. Did you fly into Dublin and out of Belfast? Looking to end our trip with four days in London so trying to figure that out as well.

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      Author

      We flew into Belfast (from Scotland) and did this itinerary in reverse, ending in Dublin. There was a fee to drop the car and I don’t have the exact number to give you, but it wasn’t too bad. We rented a standard shift (it’s cheaper and many rental cars in Europe are manual). I recommend contacting several rental car companies and comparing prices. We had no issues at all with customs. It should be an easy, and a very quick flight, to get to London. Have a great time! Cheers, Julie

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  5. Phew, thank goodness you did not focus on Donegal, the coolest place on Earth. Slieve League is not only similar to Cliffs of Moher, they are three times the height. No matter, it is better to follow the masses to the over visited cliffs.

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      Author

      I’ve heard the Slieve League is awesome, which is why I included it in this itinerary. Unfortunately, our timing did not work out on our trip to Ireland, so we missed it. But I wanted others to know about it, that’s why it got a mention. By the way, the Cliffs of Moher are spectacular, even if they are crowded. Sometimes travel destinations are busy for a reason. Cheers, Julie

  6. We are heading to Ireland in a month and your info is most helpful.

    You have chosen most of what we want to do too; but thanks for the tip about the Ring of Kerry vs Dingle Peninsula.

    I do have a question about shopping…how do the prices in Dublin compare to the small towns that you visited? I want to purchase a gold Claddagh ring and was wondering about the pricing comparison. Also, souvenirs (authentic, not ones made elsewhere).

    Thank you

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      Author

      Well, restaurant and hotel prices were similar between the small towns and Dublin. However, we did not do much shopping, so I can’t really comment on souvenir prices. But I did not notice a big difference for other costs. I hope this helps! – Julie

  7. What a great blog! Thanks for all the tips! How long did it take on Day 3 to drive to Kilkenny, then Kinsale, then Killarney – did you do that all in one day??? Very interested to hear how the drive was, thanks for the help!

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      Author

      Yes, we did this in one very busy day. We started around 8 am, leaving Killarney. We drove right to Kinsale, walked through the city center, went shopping, and ate an early lunch here. From Kinsale, we drove to the Jameson Experience in Midleton. However, we chose not to take the tour…it cost more than we were expecting and we don’t like Jameson that much. Then we drove to Cashel to see the Rock of Cashel and Hore Abbey. We probably spent 2 hours here. We were in Kilkenny by mid to late afternoon for an early dinner and drinks at a pub. By 8 pm we arrived in Dublin.

      This was our attempt to squeeze as much into one day as possible. Obviously, it can be done, if every stop is quick. To make it more leisurely and enjoyable, stop only at Kilkenny (love this city!!) and the Rock of Cashel on the drive between Dublin and Killarney. Adding on Kinsale or the Jameson Experience does not add much time onto the drive if you want to see these places as well. We never saw the Blarney stone since Rick Steves ripped the experience, and we usually agree with what he says.

      Cheers, Julie

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      Author

      We used Budget simply because they offered the best rates while we were in Ireland. And it was a very good experience. Tim usually prices out the rental car options and chooses the one with the best price. Cheers, Julie

  8. We just used this as a guide to cherry pick a 7 day trip to Ireland – and of all the blogs we found this was the most invaluable! Especially all of the breakdowns – like Skellig and the Cliffs of Moher! Thank you so much!!!

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