There is no better way to experience Ireland than on a road trip! Exploring the Emerald Isle by road allows you to go at your own pace, admire the serenity of the countryside and the beauty of its coast, dive into the history and tales of castles, kings and warriors, and indulge in hearty Irish cuisine with its traditional touches and contemporary twists.
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Whether you are a nature lover, a history buff, or a Game of Thrones fan, there is plenty to do and see in Ireland for every type of traveler!
Before we jump into our recommended Ireland road trip itinerary, it’s worth noting that the island of Ireland consists of 2 separate countries, Northern Ireland – part of the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland – an independent country formed in 1922 following the Anglo-Irish Treaty.
For the purpose of this article, we’ll focus on exploring both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, suggesting plenty of stops in both regions along the way. Regardless of how much time you plan to spend in Ireland, we highly recommend that you make time to visit both parts of the island to compare and contrast and see the best this region has to offer.
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This 10-day Ireland road trip itinerary will take you around some of the most stunning parts of both countries!
Is Ireland Good for a Road Trip?
The short answer is yes! Thanks to its well-maintained roads and many attractions dotted around the region, Ireland is one of the best destinations for a road trip itinerary. Plus, the island’s compact size (486 km long and 275 km wide) and the close proximity between many destinations and scenic areas allow you to see several places in one day. It’s the perfect recipe for a great road trip!
How Many Days is Enough for Ireland?
While it’s possible to experience highlights of Ireland in a week or even a few days, we definitely recommend staying for at least 10-14 days.
You’ll need at least 7-10 days to cover the main highlights and attractions like Dublin, the Cliffs of Moher, the Ring of Kerry, and the Giant’s Causeway.
If you want to dive deeper, explore lesser-known regions, spend time hiking outdoors, or get on the water in areas such as Connemara National Park, the Aran Islands, or the Dingle Peninsula, we recommend that you extend your trip to 2-3 weeks to give you time to go beyond the major sights and attractions.
Tips for Driving in Ireland
Our Itinerary: 2 Weeks in Ireland
We spent 2 weeks in Ireland on our first visit to the region. This allowed us to follow the 10-day Ireland road trip itinerary that we share below with all the detours and extra time in the cities of Dublin and Belfast.
But this was by no means enough to see all of Ireland. So we decided to focus our trip on the Northern part of the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland and leave the southern part of the Republic for another visit. Starting in Dublin, our road trip sent us West to County Clare and then north, along the Wild Atlantic Way and through County Galway, County Mayo and onto Northern Ireland.
Those interested in extending their trip to add a few destinations in the Southern part of the region to their itinerary will find some suggestions at the end of this article.
Now let’s jump into our recommended 10-day Ireland road trip itinerary!
10-Day Ireland Itinerary
Day 1-2: Dublin
Dublin is the perfect place to begin your Irish road trip. It’s full of historic architecture, beautiful green spaces in the city, and iconic attractions like the Dublin Castle, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Guinness Storehouse, and Irish Whiskey Museum.
If you only have a few days to spend in Dublin, base yourself in the heart of the city to soak up Dublin’s lively atmosphere. One of the most popular tourist destinations in the city, the Temple Bar neighbourhood is full of pubs, restaurants, eclectic shops, and art galleries. This is where you’ll find plenty of traditional music and traditional food. Just note that Temple Bar does get rowdy at night, especially during weekends and peak tourist seasons.
Quays Irish Restaurant specializes in traditional Irish dishes like Irish Stew, Cottage Pie, and Dublin Coddle. O’Sheas Restaurant is another good option. Alternatively, check out Gallaghers Boxty House – a restaurant that specializes in serving traditional Irish “boxty,” a potato pancake made from grated potatoes, flour, and buttermilk or milk. You’ll find a variety of boxty dishes on the menu, including both traditional and contemporary interpretations of this classic dish.
Where to Stay in Dublin
During our time in Dublin, we based ourselves at the Staycity Aparthotels City Quay, a great affordable and centrally located hotel with a variety of room options, including studios and apartments. Our studio apartment had a comfortable bed, an en suite bathroom, free and fast Wi-Fi, and a fully equipped kitchenette.
The hotel is within walking distance of the Temple Bar area, has a 24-hour reception, and allows for early check-in – which was fantastic given our early arrival time. There is a fitness center on-site, and their buffet breakfast was great value for the price.
Day 3: County Clare
Drive time from Dublin: 3 hrs
Known for cliffs towering over the Atlantic, dramatic limestone landscapes, and historic sites, County Clare is one of the most scenic destinations on the west coast of Ireland.
There are a few big attractions on this section of your Ireland road trip, including the famous Cliffs of Moher, a stretch of towering cliffs along the Atlantic coast, and the Burren, a unique and fascinating karst landscape, as well as the charming town of Doolin. So it’s worth spending at least 2 days to explore the area.
Visit the Cliffs of Moher
The spectacular Cliffs of Moher stretch for over 8 kilometres and tower some 214 metres above the ocean, offering magnificent views of the west coast of Ireland. A designated UNESCO Global Geopark, the Cliffs attract millions of visitors each year and are known as one of the top attractions in all of Ireland.
The scenery alone is breathtaking, and the landscape is home to some amazing wildlife. You can spot puffins, razorbills, and with a bit of luck, maybe even a peregrine falcon.
The Cliffs can get very busy throughout the day, so we recommend planning a visit at sunset when the crowds subside and you can enjoy the cliffs in their best light. During our Ireland road trip, we checked into our hotel (recommendation below), had an early dinner, and headed to the Cliffs for a sunset visit. It was a perfectly planned evening – the sunset was beautiful and we had the place all to ourselves!
Stay at the Armada Hotel
The Armada Hotel is the perfect spot to stay in County Clare. It’s a charming seaside hotel in Spanish Point with beautiful ocean views, spacious rooms with comfortable beds, and a great on-site restaurant, Aileen’s, where we had one of the best meals in Ireland, a taste of contemporary Irish Cuisine.
The hotel is located just 30 mins from Cliffs of Moher, so you can easily check-in and enjoy a beautiful meal at Aileen’s Restaurant before heading out for sunset at Cliffs of Moher.
After visiting the Cliffs, spend the night here and hit the road early the following day to take in some of the other attractions in County Clare en route to your next destination – Galway.
Things to do en route to Galway
Visit the Burren Smokehouse & Burren Brewery
The Burren Smokehouse and the nearby Burren Brewery and Roadside Tavern are sister businesses focused on preserving the traditions of Ireland’s culinary heritage. The smokehouse offers guided tours that provide a fascinating insight into the art of smoking fish, showcasing the meticulous preparation and aging techniques that result in their exceptional flavors.
While the brewery showcases the step-by-step process of craft beer production with varieties ranging from ale to stouts, both their delicious smoked salmon and on-site brewed beer are available to sample at the Roadside Tavern – a great stop for lunch along the way.
Flaggy Shore Oysters Experience
A stop at the Flaggy Shore Oysters is another opportunity for a great food and wine experience along the Wild Atlantic Way. The 90-minute experience is as educational as it is delicious, offering a fun and interactive way to learn about the area’s rich history of oyster bays, the fascinating life cycle of oysters, and the diverse sea creatures and seaweeds that grace the Flaggy Shore.
Led by knowledgeable guides, the experience culminates in a hands-on oyster shucking lesson, followed by a lovely sampling of their renowned local oysters paired with a glass of carefully selected organic wine.
Visit the Burren
The dramatic rocky landscape of the Burren is another must-see in County Clare. The Burren National Park has marked trails that lead to vantage points of the sea and varied landscapes. If you plan to explore the Burren, be sure to check out the Poulnabrone Dolmen, a portal tomb dating back 5,000 years. This megalith monument is one of the most photographed of its kind in Ireland.
Detour: Take a Day Trip to the Aran Islands
If you have an extra day to spare, take a day trip to one of the Aran Islands, Inishmore (Árainn), Inishmaan (Inis Meáin), and Inisheer (Inis Oírr). The islands are known for their rugged beauty, rich Gaelic heritage, and unique charm and the islands’ wild beauty has inspired writers, artists, and poets for centuries.
Day 4: Galway
Drive time from County Clare: 1.5 hrs
Galway is the third-largest city in Ireland, famous for its rich cultural heritage, lively atmosphere, and beautiful natural surroundings.
Often referred to as the “Cultural Heart of Ireland”, the city has a thriving culinary scene, with lively pubs serving traditional Irish dishes, culinary walking tours, innovative contemporary restaurants, and Michelin-starred chefs.
Dine at Kai Restaurant
We had an amazing meal at Kai Restaurant during our time in Galway. This culinary gem is situated in the West End neighbourhood and is known for its innovative and seasonally inspired cuisine, as well as its commitment to using locally sourced, organic ingredients.
Kai’s menu changes daily to reflect the availability of fresh ingredients and the chef’s creativity. The focus is on showcasing the best of Irish produce with thoughtfully crafted dishes, combining traditional flavours with modern techniques.
We loved the rustic, cozy atmosphere with wooden furnishings and dimly lit dining room – it was a perfect spot to cocoon and enjoy a great meal on a rainy evening in Galway.
Other Things to Do in Galway
Visit Eyre Square. Dating back to medieval times, this square has been a popular gathering spot for visitors and locals, especially in the summer. Located right in the centre of Galway, Eyre Square is surrounded by shops, pubs, and restaurants. It’s a great palace to take in the pace of the city.
Just a 10-minute walk from Eyre Square, Galway Cathedral is another spot worth visiting in the city. It’s one of the largest buildings in the city and the last church in Ireland to be made from stone. Completed in 1965, it does feel quite modern, but the art, stained glass, and rose windows are still intricate and interesting.
Stretching between the Spanish Arch and St. Nicholas’ Church, the colourful Latin Quarter is home to Galway’s most popular and eclectic shops, pubs, and historic buildings. You can easily spend an afternoon strolling along the cobblestone streets, shopping at the family-run shops selling local crafts, antique jewelry, and handmade souvenirs.
The city is full of galleries, theatre companies, and cinemas showing independent films. While the arts scene is spread all over the city, you can’t go wrong by sticking to the Latin Quarter. There are theatres and galleries within walking distance, and you can enjoy some live Irish music at one of the many pubs in the Latin Quarter.
Where to Stay in Galway
We stayed at a very average hotel while in Galway, which we do not want to recommend to others. Here is a great option that we wish we had booked instead.
Hyde Hotel is a stylish and sustainable boutique hotel in the heart of Galway. With 69 bright and colourful guest rooms, the hotel offers a mix of comfort and luxury with an uncluttered design and modern amenities. The hotel has a 24/7 front desk and a restaurant and bar on site.
Day 5: Killary Fjord
Drive time from Galway: 1.5 hrs
Ireland’s only true fjord, Killary Fjord, forms a stunningly beautiful border between counties Galway and Mayo. The fjord extends 16 km from the Atlantic coast to its head at Aasleagh Falls and features some of the most dramatic vistas in the western part of Ireland.
Killary and the surrounding mountains offer much in the way of outdoor activities, including hiking, kayaking, and boating. If you’re short on time, the best way to take in this amazing landscape is with a boat tour.
En route: Lunch at Misunderstood Heron
Make sure you stop for lunch at the Misunderstood Heron, a unique food truck set up along the Wild Atlantic Way overlooking the Killary Fjord. The menu changes to reflect seasonality as the team pickles, ferments, forages and puts a lot of care into the food they serve. Enjoy a simple, delicious lunch with a view of Connemara’s mountains and sea vistas.
Detour: Day Trip to Inisbofin
If you have an extra day, consider taking a day trip to Bofin Island or Inisbofin. You can reach the island by ferry from Cleggan Village.
There is not a lot to do on Inisbofin, aside from admiring its beautiful cliffs and beaches, but the main attraction here is the ability to escape the mainland and immerse yourself in the tranquil traditional Irish lifestyle. The island is popular for biking, hiking, fishing, and kayaking, but we spent our day strolling around the island’s quaint streets, immersed in tales of life on the island from our local guide, Tommy.
Day 6: Lough Erne
Drive time from Killary Fjord: 3 hrs
Today, you’ll travel further North, crossing the border into Northern Ireland. Spend a day at the charming Lough Erne, a jewel of the Fermanagh Lakelands.
The lake offers water activities, trails that lead to vantage points over breathtaking scenery, and ancient sites for history buffs to explore. The connecting lakes that form Lough Erne have a large presence in Irish mythology and folklore, and it’s said that warrior queens, high kings, and giants visited the area.
Explore the Landmarks around the Lake
There are also a number of unique landmarks worth visiting around the lake, like Cliffs of Magho Viewing Point, which offer spectacular views over Counties Fermanagh, Leitrim, Sligo and Donegal, Tully Castle, or Enniskillen Castle, which dates back to the 15th century. The latter served as a guard to one of the few passes into Ulster and houses the Fermanagh County Museum and Inniskillings Museum with exhibits on the area’s ancient history.
Take a Boat Tour to Devenish Island
During our visit, we joined Barry from Erne Water Taxi for a few hours on the lake aboard their new all-electric passenger boat Island Discovery. Our destination was the Devenish Island, home to the ruins of a monastic settlement that dates back to the 6th century, as well as a well-preserved round tower, an abbey, and several ornate high crosses.
Detour: Visit the Marble Arch Caves
If time permits, drive about 20 mins south of Enniskillen to visit the Marble Arch Caves. The caves and the surrounding landscape are part of the Cuilcagh Lakelands UNESCO Global Geopark. Guided tours through the caves give insight into the fascinating underground landscape of cave formations, chambers, and subterranean rivers. During the months of June and July, there are even yoga classes offered in the Marble Arch Caves.
Stay at Finn Lough Forest Hideaway
The highlight of the visit to Lough Erne was our stay at Finn Lough Forest Hideaway, set on the shores of the lake surrounded by lush woodlands and rolling hills.
The luxury getaway resort offers a variety of accommodation options ranging from bubble domes to lakeside cottages and offers a range of activities for guests to enjoy, such as paddleboarding, kayaking, cycling, and nature walks.
This is the perfect place to linger for an extra day, as the resort has great wellness facilities on site, including their morning yoga sessions, the Awen Shore private soak tub on the water’s edge, and the Elements Trail, a private 2-hour experience, through a series of hot and cold therapy treatments nestled in the forest.
The on-site Barn Restaurant deserves its own shout-out. The beautiful restaurant offers a seasonal tapas menu with locally sourced, seasonal produce with a modern twist on traditional Irish fare.
Day 7-8: Northern Ireland: Causeway Coastal Route
Total driving distance from Londonderry to Belfast : 3-4 hours
The next few days will undoubtedly be a highlight of your Ireland road trip itinerary. We recommend following the Causeway Coastal Route, to explore Northern Ireland’s rugged coastline along a 300-kilometre drive between Derry-Londonderry and Belfast. This drive features plenty of natural beauty, historic sites, and quaint seaside towns that North Ireland is famous for.
You can easily spend two weeks touring the sites along Northern Ireland’s Causeway Coast, but if you only have a few days, visit the following.
Visit Dunluce and Dunseverick Castles
Don’t miss the picturesque and historically fascinating Dunluce Castle and Dunseverick Castle.
Dunluce Castle is one of the most picturesque castles in Northern Ireland, set against the dramatic basalt landscape of the country’s coastline. The castle ruins are open to the public and offer panoramic views of the coastline below. Castle grounds are open from 9:30am – 5pm daily, and tickets are £6.
Perched on a basalt cliff over the Atlantic Ocean, Dunseverick Castle is a 5th-century fort and ancient royal site. The ruins aren’t as well preserved as those of Dunluce Castle, but its historical significance is unique, as it is said that Saint Patrick visited the castle to baptize a local man named Olcán, who went on to become a Bishop of Ireland. The fort also served as a point of defence during Viking invasions of the 9th and 10th centuries.
See Sunset at Giant’s Causeway
The iconic Giant’s Causeway, Northern Ireland’s only UNESCO World Heritage Site, is the dramatic landscape of basalt columns that have inspired legends and folklore for generations. The causeway and its main attractions, the Amphitheatre and the Organ Pipes can be visited any time of the day, but we recommend saving the trip for sunset to enjoy the beauty of this area at the best light.
Snap a Moody Photo at the Dark Hedges
The picturesque site, known as Dark Hedges, is a renowned tourist hot spot not far from Giant’s Causeway, made famous as the filming location for the Game of Thrones series.
Aside from being a Game of Thrones filming location, the Dark Hedges is a very scenic location with beautiful rows of beech trees dating back to the 18th century. The visually dramatic trees line the sides of Bregagh Road, which was built as an entrance to Gracehill House, a Georgian Mansion once home to the Stuart family.
Bregagh Road is now primarily pedestrian, with only an occasional vehicle passing by this road at night. The road is one of the most photographed sites in Northern Ireland and is well worth a stop for any aspiring photographer or Game of Thrones fan.
To avoid the crowds (tour buses come to this site in great numbers from Belfast), head to the Dark Hedges early in the morning, before 9 am or late at night.
Visit the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge
The Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge is a unique scenic stop to include on your tour of the northern coast. This famous rope bridge was erected by salmon fishermen over two centuries ago, and offers breathtaking views of Rathlin Island, the Scottish Islands, and the surrounding coastal landscape. The rope bridge is only open from 9am-5pm, so be sure to plan accordingly.
Follow the Antrim Coast Road
The Antrim Coast Road is a part of the Causeway Coastal Route and a natural continuation of your Ireland road trip itinerary. Passing along the nine Glens of Antrim, this stretch of road offers unparalleled views of the natural beauty of the Antrim Coast. Take your time and use the many viewpoints to take some amazing photos of the vertical cliffs, glacial valleys, and ancient cultural sites along the Antrim Coast Road. Don’t miss a stop at Torr Head, Cushendun Caves, and Glenarm Castle.
Do the Gobbins Cliff Walk
One of the most incredible ways to experience the Causeway Coast is by doing the Gobbins Cliff Walk. This unique coastal path, designed by a 19th-century engineer, offers a thrilling and immersive adventure along the rugged Antrim coastline. Spanning 5 km, the trail winds its way along the cliffside, featuring suspension bridges, caves, staircases, and tunnels.
Despite the chilly weather, the walk exceeded our expectations, showcasing the power of crashing waves and the sights and sounds of nesting seabirds.
Stay at Salthouse Hotel
During our Ireland road trip, we stayed at the Salthouse Hotel, a stunning eco-friendly property near Ballycastle. It’s perfectly located about halfway along the Coastal Causeway Route and offers a blend of seaside charm and modern comforts. The rooms are spacious, bright and comfortable, and the on-site restaurant offers a sophisticated yet relaxed ambience, serving a great menu showcasing locally sourced dishes, including freshly caught seafood.
Day 9-10: Belfast
There is no better place to finish your Ireland road trip than in Belfast. While we enjoyed our time in Dublin, we found Belfast to be a much more vibrant and happening destination with lots more to see and do.
Full of history dating back millennia, the Northern Irish capital of Belfast is a cultural hub known for its art, maritime history, and culinary scene. Plenty of interesting architecture tells the story of Belfast and attractions that are unique to the city.
Visit the Titanic Exhibit
Known as the birthplace of the Titanic, Belfast is now home to a world-class exhibit honouring the famous ship, its builders, and its passengers. Titanic Belfast is an immersive, state-of-the-art attraction that brings the ship’s story to life, and a must-see for anyone visiting the city.
Explore the Queen’s Quarter
To see some stunning architecture and the famous Botanic Gardens, head to the cultural district of Queen’s Quarter for a scenic stroll. Right next to the Botanic Gardens is Queen’s University, the oldest university in Northern Ireland and a wonderful example of the city’s world-famous architecture. Belfast Castle represents the Scottish Baronial Style of Architecture and offers views of Belfast Lough.
Dine at A Peculiar Tea
Make sure to experience Belfast’s renowned culinary scene while you’re in town. Our favourite dining experience was at A Peculiar Tea, a Willy Wonka-themed restaurant in the heart of Queen’s Quarter. Their splurge-worthy 7-course dinner tasting menu was a whimsical culinary adventure full of vibrant colours and unique ingredient combinations.
From goat cheese to monkfish, Jerusalem artichoke to duck, each course was a masterpiece of presentation and flavour complexity – we were absolutely in awe!
Stay at the Harrison Chambers of Distinction
This swanky boutique hotel was a highlight of our stay in Belfast. The hotel offers a luxurious and stylish experience with 16 uniquely themed rooms, each with its own personality and story. The rooms offer plenty of comforts, including four-poster beds, sitting areas, and ensuite bathrooms, while the suites feature Victorian-style bathtubs.
The hotel takes care of the essentials with fast Wi-Fi and includes breakfast, even offering the luxury of breakfast in bed. The lively downstairs bar is the perfect place to mingle with other guests and enjoy evening drinks, adding to the cool and vibrant vibe of this hidden gem in Belfast’s Queen’s Quarter.
Ireland Road Trip: What You’ll Miss
We had an amazing time on our Ireland road trip, but given that we chose to focus on the northern part of the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, we of course, missed a number of great destinations in the South and a few great stops along the Wild Atlantic Way.
The truth is, 10 days is not enough to see the entire country!
We did not include many destinations in our Ireland road trip itinerary, but you can easily customize your own to suit your taste and road trip pace. From ancient ruins for castle enthusiasts to parks full of natural beauty, there is much to add to your Irish adventure.
Blarney Castle is a popular destination in southern Ireland, known for the famous Blarney Stone. The romantic ruins are set in the Cork countryside and have been drawing visitors for over 200 years.
Kilkenny Castle, located in Ireland’s Ancient East, is another attraction to add to your Ireland road trip itinerary. The beautifully restored castle dates to the 13th century and is open to visitors year-round.
If time permits, there are also several national parks that you can add to your Ireland road trip itinerary.
Killarney National Park is the first national park established in Ireland and the most visited National Park in the country. The park is home to McGillycuddy’s Reeks, the highest mountain range in Ireland, Muckross House, Ross Castle, and has been designated as a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO.
Wicklow Mountains National Park stretches 23,000 hectares south of Dublin, is Ireland’s largest national park and is home to St. Kevin’s monastic settlement at Glendalough.
Connemara National Park is located in County Galway and covers 2,000 hectares of mountains, bogs, and heaths. The mixed terrain is best for experienced hikers, and there are paths of varying difficulty.
Glenveagh National Park is in the heart of County Donegal, with trails to a Victorian castle with remarkable gardens.
This 10-day Ireland tour follows a section of the Wild Atlantic Way, another popular Ireland road trip. This alternative route hugs the Atlantic Coast from the Inishowen Peninsula in Donegal south to Kinsale in Cork and offers 2,500km of stunning scenery and great food and wine experiences.
The Ring of Kerry is another popular Ireland road trip. It’s a 179km circular route around the Iveragh Peninsula in southwestern Ireland. This route is ideal for travellers who prefer to go off the beaten track and leads to attractions like a 6th-century monastery, ancient stone forts, and picturesque fishing villages among the Kerry cliffs.
And finally, there is Slea Head Drive a scenic coastal route along the Dingle Peninsula in southwest Ireland. The circular route is 47km long, beginning and ending in the town of Dingle.
We hope you enjoyed this summary of our Ireland road trip itinerary, a great route that, in our opinion, highlights the best of the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, offering great food and wine experiences, scenic drives, stunning landscapes and unique cultural and historical sights.
Have any questions about our Ireland road trip itinerary? Leave a comment below, and we’ll be happy to offer our insights to help you plan a great road trip of your own!
Disclaimer: We visited Ireland as guests of Tourism Ireland, but, as always, all opinions expressed in this article are our own.