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When you think of Ireland you probably think of rolling green countryside, great beer, St. Patrick’s Day and maybe even rainbows with leprechauns at the end. After visiting Ireland twice, once on my honeymoon and the second time recently with friends from High School. I had a distinctly different experience each time. I came to the conclusion that Ireland is a place that everyone should experience. Compared to other countries in Europe, getting around the country is much easier if you drive.
Driving in Ireland
Driving in Ireland is an experience in and of itself coming from the United States where we drive on the right side of the road. Ireland is completely opposite driving on the left side. Compared to other countries where train and rail travel is more prevalent, if you want to experience the charm of the Irish countryside you (or someone you’re traveling with) will more than likely have to get behind the wheel of a car. It takes a little getting used to, both driving on the left hand side and the noticeably narrow roads but as long as you are safe and cautious it will be a great experience.
Another option is to book a bus tour that will take you around. But, if you choose to do that you won’t have as much control over your time or where you go. I personally like to plan my own trips and have options of things to do. But of course, if something strikes my fancy you have the flexibility to pivot and do that instead.
Important tip for Driving in Ireland
Tip: Before arriving to Ireland, be sure you know your insurance coverage. Likely your auto insurance will not cover you driving in a rental car abroad. But if you have AAA or travel credit cards be well versed in what’s covered and what isn’t. For example, I used a travel card to secure my rental car. This card offered coverage in case theft or any other unforeseen circumstance with the vehicle occurred. But, because I declined the insurance coverage of the car rental company they placed a $5,000 hold on my card. This charge would have been declined if I didn’t have this coverage through my card. Then, once the car was returned the hold was released that same day. If you have questions about coverage definitely contact your credit card company. It is important to use the actual card that has the coverage.
Planning your trip to Ireland
I largely planned this trip, with input on what my friends wanted to do. It was influenced by a previous trip to Ireland and also areas that I hadn’t explored before. If you aren’t a planner but want to travel, I am planning some group trips in the future. (They might not be to Ireland, but you can let me know you’re interested and where you want to go! Just by clicking here on the survey link and filling it out. It will only take you two minutes to complete! More about how the group trip works here.
7 Day Ireland Itinerary
Days 1-2: Ireland’s capital, Dublin
Arriving into the Dublin airport you will likely have the best airfare prices flying in here. Immediately after gathering your bags from the baggage claim head to the buses. There are one way fares available that will take you right into the city center.
I know you’re thinking, I thought this was a driving itinerary but you just took a bus, whats up with that? We didn’t rent a car until we ventured out of Dublin which was a few days later so stay tuned!
In advance, I mapped out a luggage storage facility near the bus stop and the meeting point for our walking tour. Through Get Your Guide we had booked a walking tour to truly hit the ground running. Getting our bearings on the history of the capital city of Dublin was a great start to the trip. Afterward, walking around and shopping on the famous Grafton Street, getting a bite to eat then checking into our Air b n b for the night.
We ended up having a pub dinner at a recommendation from our tour guide earlier in the afternoon. I love doing this! I always ask where they eat or their favorite places. These truly will take you to the most authentic spots that locals prefer.
Getting around Dublin
What I love about Dublin compared to other European cities is that it’s large enough, but much of it is very accessible by foot as well. You can choose to take public transportation depending on what your plans are. But unlike other cities it isn’t absolutely necessary.
Day 2: Dublin
After being fully rested, the best thing to do on a rainy morning is head to Guinness Storehouse! I’ve visited twice now. It’s true, I love beer and finding local beer when traveling. But whether you really love beer or beer isn’t your thing I guarantee you’ll enjoy at least 2-3 hours here. At Guinness Storehouse they teach you all about the origin of the beer and how they make it.
There are many different levels of tickets with different experiences and things included. Each experience includes a pint at the Gravity Bar with great views of of Dublin. Since our visit in 2017, there was only a single gravity bar. Now there are actually two different spaces that make up the Gravity Bar at Guinness Storehouse. Read more in depth information about each experience:
Even though the Storehouse does offer dining options, we chose to venture off for a pub late lunch and relax for a bit. Another great service they offer is a luggage hold service if you’re on your way out of Dublin or just arrived and can’t check into your accommodation yet. After lunch, we made our way to Croke Park for the Garth Brooks concert (and the main reason we decided to make this trip happen!)
Other iconic things to do in Dublin during your 7 day Ireland Itinerary:
Trinity College & The Book of Kells
You can visit Trinity College as a part of a Dublin walking tour, however depending on the tour it likely won’t include going inside of the library and viewing The Book Of Kells. You want to be sure you book tickets online in advance because this is a popular attraction and it does sell out. Booking an earlier time in the day will ensure there are less people there for the perfect photo ops.
Ha’Penney Bridge & River Liffey
Cross the River Liffey using the iconic cast iron pedestrian bridge.
Molly Malone Statue
A famous bronze statue located in Dublin it’s somewhat unclear whether Molly Malone was an actual person or not. Based on the Irish lore tune there are several speculations made about this Irish lass that she was a merchant selling fish but also worked as a prostitute. Some Dubliners refer to this statue as “The tart with a cart”.
Temple Bar Area & The Temple Bar
The Temple Bar area on the south bank of the River Liffey in central Dublin featuring the actual Temple Bar. Temple Bar is known for having the largest whiskey collection in Ireland. It’s usually always busy both inside and out with live music playing. Temple Bar and this area is definitely going to be a more pricey pub experience.
The Long Hall Pub
This was an amazing quintessential Victorian Irish pub that was recommended by a beertender at the Guinness Storehouse on my first visit.
Brazen Head Pub
Visit Ireland’s oldest pub while you’re in Dublin established in 1198. Whether you pop in for a quick pint or grab a bite to eat it’s definitely something you want to add to your Ireland itinerary.
A gorgeous restored 17th century former church now bar restaurant.
Located in the heart of Dubin’s city center on O’Connell Street.
If you’re really into off the wall beers then the open Gate Brewery is a small batch experimental beer taproom that’s affiliated with Guinness. They also offer food so it’s really more of a brewpub.
Days 3-4: Wicklow
Powerscourt Estate (Enniskerry)
Picking up our car in Dublin and heading south toward the Wicklow Mountains, we stopped and explored the Powerscourt Estate house & gardens located in Enniskerry (Wicklow County).
Note: The Estate house & gardens and waterfall admission is two separate fees if you’re planning on visiting both! That’s what we did and it was a great afternoon enroute to the Wicklow area from Dublin.
Wicklow & Wicklow Mountains National Park
Wicklow & the Wicklow Mountains are located just south of Dublin. The Wicklow Mountains National Park is absolutely stunning and you could spend many days hiking and exploring. During our condensed 7 day Ireland Itinerary we really just drove through the Sally Gap Road. (Which is known as one of Ireland’s most scenic drives, however less known compared to the Ring of Kerry it’s definitely a hidden gem!)
While staying in Wicklow we stayed at the cutest little B&B with stunning views into the mountains. Everything was a drive away and after traveling with two Heather’s, (myself and my friend from High school) we had to have dinner at Wicklow Heather’s. Because why not, right?
One thing to note, when we first arrived in Wicklow it was insanely foggy. Ireland be like that sometimes, am I right? So, we initially planned on driving through the Mountains and the National Park prior to going to the B&B but we ended up deciding to try again the next day. The views the next morning were definitely worth the wait!
Although due to timing we didn’t end up exploring Glendalough. (We were kicking ourselves after because apparently Garth Brooks and his wife Trisha Yearwood were there when we briefly were in the area!) Glendalough is an ancient monastic city that is free to visit you just have to pay to park your car.
Days 4-5: Kilkenny enroute to Killarney, Killarney & The Ring of Kerry
After an awesome full Irish Breakfast at the B&B in Wicklow we made our way toward Killarney, Ireland by way of Kilkenny after driving the Sally Gap scenic drive and taking in the views. Arriving in Kilkenny mid-day to the cute mid-evil town perched alongside a river with the Kilkenny castle and cobble stone streets was nostalgic of my honeymoon years ago. But yet we explored some things I didn’t the first time I visited such as the Kilkenny Castle.
You can have some beautiful views of the castle from the street and the sprawling grounds and don’t necessarily need to pay the admission to tour the castle. But, I just can’t resist a castle tour if I have time in my itinerary. Afterward, strolling the cobblestone streets shopping and having a much needed late lunch. (That seems to be a theme with this group!) We got so busy doing all of the things that we’d eat a later lunch once we were on the verge of hangry. Don’t be like us! It’s a good thing that pub lunches truly are the best.
From my previous trip, we weren’t as aware of the beauty located in Killarney. The National Park has so much natural beauty to explore and take in. You can choose to spend days here exploring or a quick drive through. (Note: The Ring of Kerry route goes through Killarney National Park.) Another thing of interest to note about Killarney National Park is it was the first National Park in Ireland. Established when the Muckross Estate was donated to Irish Free State.
The town of Killarney is a bustling place and we chose to stay right in the midst of it all so we could walk along the streets and shop and be right in the action!
Things not to miss in Killarney:
Murphy’s Ice Cream
This Irish established ice cream shop first started in Dingle with a shop to enjoy the deliciousness in Killarney and other locations across Ireland. Try a unique Irish flavor such as brown bread or Irish whiskey.
Killarney Brewing & Distillery
Depending on where you’re staying in Killarney there are two different locations for Killarney Brewing & Distillery. There is a newer facility that is a little ways outside of the city center and the original brewery that’s easier to get to by foot from Killarney’s city center. They offer a nice patio to have a few brews and brick oven pizza as well.
Shopping & Live Music in pubs
The city center of Killarney is a lively place with many shops, street performances and lively pubs featuring live music often. Staying close to all of the action will have plenty to do right outside your doorstep in Killarney while visiting as a pat of your 7 day (or beyond) Ireland itinerary.
Killarney National Park
Some of the best things to explore within Killarney National Park are the Muckross House (don’t miss the nearby Muckross Abbey Ruins!), hiking to Torc Waterfall, taking a jaunting cart around, renting a bike (regular or ebike), take a boat tour and explore Ross Castle.
Driving the Ring of Kerry from Killarney
Starting in Killarney driving the scenic Ring of Kerry, starting early is key. (Especially if you’re planning on extending on to Limerick, Galway or in our case Doolin was our final destination for the day.) The Ring of Kerry goes through Killarney National Park.
One key thing to note is that tour buses can only drive on the Ring of Kerry counterclockwise. So, if you’re driving the route yourself or one of your travel mates is this will help you to plan your route. Do you want to have a bus possibly come at you head on or be in front or or behind you. We chose the latter so we drove the Ring of Kerry the same way that the tour buses do, counterclockwise.
The Ring of Kerry is approximately 111 miles so driving it without stopping at any look outs will take around 3 1/2-4 hours. So if you’re driving the route, planning on making stops and also driving beyond I would account a day within your itinerary for it. The Ring of Kerry starts and ends in the lovely town of Killarney. So plan on driving the ring while you’re staying there or as we did on the tail end of our time there.
Days 5-6: Doolin & Cliffs of Moher
From Killarney to Doolin takes just under 3 hours to drive after taking in the gorgeous views along the Ring of Kerry scenic loop drive.
Doolin is a small Irish village located near the Cliffs of Moher. The small downtown area has some quaint pubs & great B&B’s as well as a fun pitch and putt course with the Cliffs of Moher off in the distance on a clear day.
While in Doolin, pop into the Clare Jam Company store. My favorite is the Strawberry & Guinness flavor.
Visit the Cliffs of Moher
The Cliffs of Moher, an iconic Irish landmark and UNESCO heritage site is a must see as a part of your 7 day Ireland itinerary. There are many ways you can choose to visit and it had been made more accessible for all. The peak times at the Cliffs are between 11-4 so for a less crowded experience plan to visit outside of these hours.
There is a large parking lot that is right across the road from the Visitor Center. Parking in this lot you will pay a per person admission (and can also book this online prior to your visit for a discount.) However, if you want to bypass this fee but still visit the Cliffs you can also park in a lot that’s on the south side of the cliffs. (This lot is free to park in!)
However, keep in mind if you park in this lot, walking to the northern part of the Cliffs and back is going to be a considerable distance. Whereas if you parked near the visitor center that’s central to the North and South parts of the Cliffs of Moher.
While at the Cliffs on my most recent trip, there were a number of engagements that we witnessed. There was an adorable coffee/drinks foodtruck that also will do private dinners in either “The Pod” or an outdoor dining experience. This is located at Guerins Path and you can find more information about these options here. But, wouldn’t that be a perfect dinner if you were planning on popping the question while at the Cliffs of Moher?
After the Cliffs stopping in Lisdoonvarna for again another late lunch enroute back to Dublin at the Roadside Tavern. This was probably the best meal of the entire trip! A special of the day consisting of a prawn risotto with asparagus & the most perfectly cooked salmon fillet. Just thinking about it makes my mouth water.
Since I was driving, I didn’t partake in the beer they brew onsite, however frequently while having pub lunches I ordered a sparkling water with blackberry currant syrup. I would highly recommend this. It’s so tasty!
Side Note: Lisdoonvarna was really busy when we were there because the Lisdoonvarna Match Making Festival was going on. This festival has historic roots dating back to 1857.
Days 6-7: Dublin & fly home
Making it back to Dublin in the evening after the last full day in Ireland exploring the Cliffs & driving back to Dublin to spend one more night, packing up to prepare for our flight home the next morning.
Beyond 7 days in Ireland Itinerary:
If you have more time, consider adding these additional stops and cities into your itinerary.
The town of Kenmare is located along the Ring of Kerry as well so splitting your time between Killarney and Kenmare during your 7 day Ireland itinerary is something to consider. It’s a very picturesque town and features golf courses nearby as well if that’s something you’d like to include in your plans.
The picturesque town of Cobh is located on the southern coast of the Emerald Isle. Cobh (pronounced “Cove”) is well known as the last port of call for the Titanic’s historic voyage and the beautiful street tilted at an angle with colorful residential houses known as the “Deck of Cards” with the gorgeous granite St. Colman’s cathedral in the distance.
The Titanic Experience is located in the historic White Star Line building where you go through the events of that fateful night as though you were a ticketed passenger on the ship.
The second largest town in Ireland, Cork has a lot to offer. If you travel mouth first, Cork is a foodie destination and a must add on your 7 day (or beyond) Ireland itinerary. Located just outside of Cork is the Blarney Castle (one of the more well known castles in Ireland). Where you can visit and kiss the Blarney stone to have “the gift of gab”.
Located on the west coast of Ireland, Galway is a great place to base yourself from to further explore Connemara and the Aran Islands.
Northern Ireland: Belfast & Beyond
If you choose to explore Northern Ireland, you will likely need more than a 7 day Ireland itinerary but it will also require some additional reservations and coordination. If you originally rented a car from Dublin, you will be heavily fined if you drive it to Northern Ireland. This may be specific to the car rental company, however definitely check before you decide to just add Northern Ireland into your 7 day (and beyond) Ireland driving itinerary.
More Europe & Ireland Travel:
Breweries & Distilleries to visit in Ireland