Ireland – the land of culture, history, art, music and unpredictable weather. I went to Ireland 3 years ago with my family and it was one of the most special trips we had. You can pretty much navigate the entire island or most of it in 5 days. Needless to say, you need a car to drive through the various towns. You can eat at the oldest pubs in town, drink Guinness and experience all 4 seasons in a single day.
It’s a lot of driving, a lot of exploring, but the efforts will be worth it. I promise!
Day 1 (Kilkenny, Tipperery, Cork (southeast)):
We flew to Dublin from London and stayed at an overnight lodge, got our car from our rental company. So we were fresh and ready to hit the road the next day.
To start with, here are some navigation notes, so you have an idea about driving times and how to manage that.
- Dublin to Glendalough: approx. 1 hour 6 minutes
- Glendalough to Kilkenny: 1 1/2 hours
- Kilkenny to The Rock: 1 hour
- Rock of Cashel to Blarney Castle: approx. 1 hour 10 min
- Blarney Castle to Killarney: approx. 1 hour 20 min
1) Glendalough Monastic City: One of the most important monastic ruins site in Ireland. Most of the ruins are from the 10th century. The vikings attacked this over the years.
Entry Fee: 5€
2) Powerscourt House and Gardens: This grand estate was recently voted one of the top 10 in the world for its construction and incredible gardens, Ireland’s tallest waterfall on the grounds.
Entry Fee: 5€, Closing Time: 5:15 PM
3) Rock of Cashel: Imposing cathedral fortress that is The Rock is easy to spot from the highway. Sitting atop a hill in Co. Tipperary, the Cashel of Kings was the seat of the high kings of Munster and reportedly where St Patrick himself converted the high king in 5 AD. Known not just for its historical importance, the structure itself is incredibly well preserved, and a window into Ireland’s celtic and historical past.
Entry Fee: 8€, Timings: 9AM–7PM
4) Kilkenny: This is a medieval-style town with imposing castle and fantastic food and boutique shopping. Take a quick tour of various cathedrals and churches (St. Mary’s and St. Canice), round towers, and city walls dating well back into the middle ages. John’s Bridge and Green’s Bridge are landmarks if you can get to them.
5) Blarney Castle: Ireland’s best preserved ruins. The gardens are equally impressive. And don’t forget to kiss the Blarney Stone! Also, while you’re there check out “Kytler’s Inn”, one of Ireland’s oldest pubs.
Entry Fee: €15, Timings: 9 AM – 6 PM
Selfie Points: the Rapunzel-esque round tower at Glendalough, front of Kytler’s Inn, base of the hill with The Rock behind you, kissing the Blarney Stone!!
We stayed the night at the The Heights Hotel Killarney Cork Road in Killarney.
Day 2: Kerry (West)
County Kerry, or “The Kingdom” as its known, sits at the southern part of the world famous Wild Atlantic Way, one of the famous driving routes in the world. It contains the western most point in Ireland — Dunmore Head.
Take a Gap of Dunloe tour : (https://www.viator.com/tours/Killarney/Full-Day-Tour-of-The-Gap-of-Dunloe/d911-3544KIL03). I recommend booking the viator tour and here is everything that is included.
- Depart central Killarney and travel in an air-conditioned coach to Kate Kearney’s Cottage, where you’ll have the chance to experience the magic of a traditional Jaunting Cart Ride (€25.00 per person to be paid on the day, based on 4 people sharing) through six miles of scenic landscape.
- After an epic wander through the emerald isle, boats will be waiting along the Gearhameen River for a tour of the upper, middle and lower lakes.
- Make a stop at the Ross Castle, where you’ll have a chance to witness the life of early Irish royalty before making your way back to Killarney on a comfortable coach bus.
Main spots during the tour:
1) Gap of Dunloe: A mountain pass accessible only by foot, bike, or horse-drawn carriage sits in between McGillicuddy’s Reeks and the Purple Mountain and among five lakes.
2) Ross Castle: 15th century tower house
3) Muckross House & Gardens: fun way to tour the grounds is taking a horse-drawn carriage about
4) Dingle Penninsula: The westernmost part of Ireland is where land meets see. Many movies have been filmed here, including Far and Away.
5) Beara Penninsula: Driving route through charming seaside villages
6) Torc Waterfall: A legendary waterfall at the base of Torc Mountain in Killarney National Park.
7) Uragh Stone Circle: One of the many stone circles found in Ireland,
8) Skellig Michael: An island off the coast housing a 6th century monastery ruin
Food: Do try out the Wharton’s Traditional Fish & Chips in Kenmar
Day 3: (Cork, Clare, Galway (closer to north, western))
- Killarney to Bunratty Castle: approx. 1 hour 40 min
- Bunratty to Cliffs of Moher: approx. 1 hour
- Cliffs of Moher to Doolin: approx. 15 min
- Doolin to The Burren: approx. 20 min
1) Bunratty Castle: Ireland’s best preserved medieval castle. 15th century tower fortress. Get tickets for an authentic medieval banquet if you have the time. Sounds like a fun experience, though unfortunately I din’t have time to do this.
2) The Cliffs of Moher: Ireland’s most visited and photographed location, the Cliffs are situated seemingly on the edge of the world. Gorgeous location. You will easily spend a couple of hours here. We got really good weather while we were here and some amazing views.
3) The Burren: Pulnabrone Portal Tomb, Karst dome, various ancient celtic burial mounds and tombs are among the many historically important ruins in the Burren.
4) Doolin Town: Drive back and stay at Doolin. It’s a fun town to walk around and explore. I absolutely loved the small Irish bars. We went to a few of those at night for a few drinks, live music and food. O’Connor’s Pub, McGanns Pub, and McDermotts offer the quintessential Doolin experience.
We stayed at the Doolin View Bed & Breakfast Teergoneen and it was the cutest and coziest boutique hotel I’ve stayed in. I think they had 4 rooms in total, prepared a wonderful breakfast for us and were very nice and welcoming.
Day 4: (Athlone, Kildare, Offaly, Meath (center); Dublin)
- Bunratty to Newgrange: approx. 2 hours 30 min
- Bunratty to Offaly/Clonmacnoise: approx. 1 hour 35 min
- Newgrange to Dublin: approx. 30 min
1) Kildare: On your way towards Dublin you can stop in Kildare. St. Brigid’s Cathedral is worth a visit, St. Brigid’s Well, as is architectural curiosity, the Wonderful Barn.
2) Bir Castle: Offaly. Example of Anglo-Normam architecture in Ireland.
3) Clonmacnoise: 6th century monastic ruin with cemetery, it was an artist hub in early medieval Ireland. Today it houses impressive ruins on the River Shannon, and some of Ireland’s best kept High Crosses.
4) Newgrange: No better insight into the life and ritual of ancient Ireland can be found save for Newgrange. Located on picturesque and serene gardens alongside the Boyne, Newgrange sits formidably atop the countryside and is visible from the road as you approach.
Food: – Sean’s Bar – At 900 years old it is the oldest bar in Ireland and Europe!
Day 5: Dublin
1) St. Stephen’s Green: beautiful garden in the center of the city.
2) City Hall: Tours include a history of Dublin from Vikings to present, the great sword and mace of Dublin, and Lord Mayor’s chains and medieval manuscripts, costumes and more.
3) Trinity College
4) St. Patrick’s Cathedral: One of Ireland’s oldest medieval buildings, famous for mosiac tile work and stained glass work
5) Christ Church Cathedral: Dublin’s oldest building, it was founded in 1030
6) Guinness Factory: enjoy a pint at Gravity Bar for an unparalleled panoramic view of Dublin.
8) Dublin Bay: Beautiful views
9) Graffton Street : known for its shops and boutiques, street performers and cobbled stones
- If you want to take a Hop on Hop Off, here are the details: (9 – 5 PM, 24 hrs = 19 euros, 48 hrs = 21 euros, 15% off online)
- Dublin Bay Cruises offer a 75 minute cruise birthing out of Dublin Bay and Dun Laogaire Harbors
- Temple Bar: One of the most famous places in Dublin. I loved this spot for pictures and grabbing a pint of beer
- Anchor House serves the best Irish breakfast in the city.
- Bewley’s Oriental Cafe for tea
- Grab a pint at The Brazen Head, Dublin’s oldest pub.
Thanks for visiting.