Ireland is an incredible place with friendly people, beautiful countrysides, and a bit of an ol’ Irish magic feeling. It has ancient history, gorgeous natural sites, and lively towns filled with classic Irish pubs. If you want to really experience Ireland, you should give yourself at least two weeks here. Rent a car, explore at your own pace and be sure to add some of the highlights below to your itinerary.
The capital city of Dublin deserves at least a day or two, with its many pubs, museums, and churches. Highlights include Trinity College, Dublin Castle, and of course Temple Bar. The Guinness Storehouse is also fun for any fans of the classic Irish brew with tours and a tasting room. The city is a great place to just wander and most of the major sites are within walking distance of each other.
Cork City is a great place to catch some Irish music. Try see a performance at the Triskel Christchurch, an old church turned music venue. Another must-see is the Cork English Market which is filled with local farmers, butchers, and bakers selling their goods. On your way towards Kerry, also stop to kiss the Blarney Stone at Blarney Castle
As one of the top tourist destinations in Ireland, the Ring of Kerry can often be crowded with tour buses and rental cars, especially in summer. Thankfully, besides the incredible cliffs of kerry to take your mind off the crowds, there are also picturesque farm houses, towns, and pubs dotted along this route that make great pit stops.
Another beautiful drive through county Clare will give you a chance to see highlights like the Cliffs of Moher and a half dozen castles, many of which offer very well priced banquet dinners. If you need a break from the car, consider the Cliffs of Moher Coastal Walk for amazing views without the crowds.
The lively city of Galway has a university town feel with plenty of pubs, great music, and artist galleries. It’s the perfect place to pick up some unique souvenirs before heading out to enjoy the Galway countryside. Also, if you appreciate architecture, don’t miss Kylemore Benedictine Abbey, between Clifden and Louisburgh.
Heading north through county Mayo, be sure to stop for a bit in the cute town of Westport, a nice place to wander and grab a pint at the local pub. From there head towards the Wild Atlantic Way, a beautiful route that winds its way along the coast, past little stone cottages. The route is much longer, heading as far south as Cork but this particular section is especially beautiful.
Heading into Northern Ireland is super simple, without even a border check. As you drive along the coast towards Belfast, make sure to stop off at Giant’s Causeway, a fascinating natural formation of basalt columns, and at the ruined medieval Dunluce Castle. Belfast city itself is a love it or hate it type of place, with a fascinating but violent past that is has mostly overcome and a unique Irish/English feel.
Now with a day left, it’s time to loop back to Dublin, return your rental car, and start planning your next trip.