If you find yourself excitedly Googling, “Ireland Road Trip,” you’ve come to the right place.
Dobbernationloves has organized several Ireland road trip itineraries over the years. We consider ourselves experts on getting around the Emerald Isle.
Read through our comprehensive Ireland road trip guide and you’ll find inspiration in all the island has to offer. It’s full of helpful tips for everything from a weekend getaway to a luxurious Honeymoon in Ireland.
Ireland Road Trip Planning
The best way to discover all that Ireland has to offer is by organizing a road trip. While you can easily explore city’s like Belfast and Dublin on foot, our favourite Irish attractions require a rural romp.
If you’re from Canada or the United States you’r likely used to enduring long and painful road trip days. You’ll find happiness on an Irish road trip as you can easily drive the entire width of Ireland, from Dublin to Galway in 2 hours and 30 minutes.
Tourism Ireland’s website offers a wealth of great resources for road trippers. Check out their Irish Trip Ideas and you’ll discover creative road trip suggestions that outline kilometres you’ll need to drive along with a suggested number of days.
Renting a Car in Ireland
If it’s your first time renting a car in Ireland you’ll want to ensure you have a valid drivers license from your home country as well as a credit card.
If you’re from Canada or the United States and used to driving on the right side of the road, be prepared to drive on the left side of the road as they do throughout the United Kingdom.
This is a great resource if you’re looking for additional information on vehicle rental in Ireland. Be sure to check the cost of renting a car in Ireland for the dates you are hoping to travel. If your dates are flexible try and avoid high season, national holidays and festivals to get the best rate. Once you’ve confirmed your Ireland Road Trip dates book an affordable rental car.
Whether you’ve travelled through Ireland extensively or are keen to plan your first visit, it’s important to research your Ireland road trip in advance.
We suggest using the newest edition of Eyewitness Travel Ireland. If you’re a first time visitor you’ll want to take notes on the “Reasons to Love” section, which sums up all of the top sights and experiences in Ireland.
Eyewitness Travel Ireland also features handy Ireland Road Trip itineraries including:
- 2 Weeks Across Ireland
- 7 Days on the Wild Atlantic Way
- Ireland for History Buffs
- Ireland for Music Lovers
- Ireland for Natural Beauty
Eyewitness Travel Ireland also includes detailed itineraries and “don’t miss” destination highlights at a glance. You’ll also find illustrated cutaway 3-D drawings of important sights, floor plans for major museums, area maps marked with popular sights, and top hotel and restaurant listings. The guide also features a slew of info on niche interests such as bookworms, sports fans and foodies.
We suggest reading Eyewitness Travel Ireland from cover to cover. Take notes on the destinations and experiences that most excite you and then sketch out an Ireland road trip itinerary that is realistic based on your available vacation time. You’ll find the informative guidebook acts as an excellent companion on long driving days. Once home, DK Eyewitness Travel Ireland is a perfect memento to showcase on your bookshelf.
Ireland Road Trip Route
Dublin is the best city to start an Ireland road trip. The Irish capital is home to the country’s largest international airport. The Dublin Airport is also the headquarters for Ryan Air and Air Lingus, which offer excellent service throughout Europe and beyond.
If you’re traveling from North America across the Atlantic we suggest planning a lengthy layover in Dublin before exploring mainland Europe. Dublin Airport offers the best selection of car rental companies. It’s a great start and end point for those planning a road trip of Ireland.
Our Ireland Road Trip planner begins in Dublin than heads north to Belfast. We’ll drive along the Causeway Coast in Northern Ireland all the way to Bushmills Distillery. Next up we’ll drive south along the Wild Atlantic Way, exploring ancient castles in Connemara to the jaw-dropping Cliffs of Moher. We’ll finish up the adventure by enjoying a scenic drive of Ireland’s southern gems: Adare, Cork, Waterford and Kilkenny.
Dublin is the perfect starting point to begin an Ireland Road Trip. The Irish capital’s clutch of history museums offer excellent research for first time visitors looking to better understand the Emerald Isle’s ancient history.
Dublin is one of Europe’s most walkable cities and can easily be explore on foot. Explore Dublin’s medieval streets with stops at Temple Bar, Trinity College and St. Stephen’s Green.
Beer and whisky fans arrive into Dublin on a pilgrimage to find happiness while sipping through tours at the Guinness Storehouse and Jameson Distillery Bow Street.
The Irish capital perhaps offers its best surprises in its diverse restaurant dining rooms. Church Bar and Restaurant offers classic Irish pub grub with nightly live music. Fade Street Social and 37 Dawson Street are the place to be if you’re looking for a trendy interior. Gallaghers Boxty House Restaurant is a must for those looking to explore Ireland’s culinary classics. The Saddle Room at The Shelbourne Hotel offers the creme de la creme for those looking to savour and splurge.
Belfast was once lumped with Beirut, Baghdad and Bosnia as one of the four “Bs” for travellers to avoid. The city was regularly mired with gruesome international headlines, now politely referred to as The Troubles.
Today, Northern Ireland practices peace and the capital has quite remarkably pulled off a transformation from bombs-and-bullets to a hip hotels-and-hedonism party town.
The city’s skyline is in a constant state of flux. Old shipyards are giving way to the luxury waterfront apartments of the Titanic Quarter and Victoria Square. It’s Europe’s biggest urban regeneration project, adding a massive city-centre shopping mall to a list of tourist attractions that include Victorian architecture, waterfront lined with modern art and foot-stomping music in packed out pubs.
Check out our favourite restaurants in Belfast:
- Hadskis Restaurant
- Deanes Meat Locker Restaurant
- The Restaurant at Fitzwilliam Hotel Belfast
- The John Hewitt Bar
- Saphyre Restaurant in Belfast
119 Whitepark Road, 44-28-2076-9839
First used by salmon fishermen in 1755, Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge is one of the top attractions on Ireland’s Causeway Coast.
Connected to craggy cliffs by a slender rope bridge that stretches across the Atlantic Ocean, Carrick-a-Rede Island is your final destination. The tiny island is home to a single building, a historical fisherman’s cottage.
Suspended almost 100 feet above the crash of salty ocean waves below, the famous Irish rope bridge was first erected over 350 years ago.
The bridge is such as popular attraction the conversation charity which manages the site now offers a timed ticketed system so you can book your visit in advance online.
44 Causeway Road, 44-28-2073-1855
The Giant’s Causeway is one of the most popular stops on an Ireland road trip. Flanked by the North Atlantic Ocean on a landscape of dramatic cliffs, the Giant’s Causeway has inspired artists and stirred scientific debate for centuries.
Visit on a sunny day and you’ll enjoy a stroll through the regions world-famous basalt columns with an informative audio guide. The area is home to over 40,000 interlocking balsalt columns, the result of an ancient volcanic fissure eruption.
Be sure to march up the Shepherd’s Steps and hike along the Giant’s Causeway cliff-top trail. Once you’ve made it to the top take a moment to rest while taking in the bird’s eye view of the causeway coast below.
67 Dunluce Road, 44-28-2073-1938
Located a short drive from Bushmills Whisky Distillery, the iconic ruins of Dunluce Castle offer a jaw-dropping history lesson.
Dunluce Castle was first built on the dramatic cliffs of the Causeway Coast by the MacQuillan family around 1500.
In the 17th-century Dunluce Castle was the seat of the earls of County Antrim and saw the establishment of a small town in 1608.
Today, visitors to Dunluce Castle can explore the findings of past archaeological digs while enjoying scenic views over the Atlantic Ocean. Dunluce is considered one of the best castles to visit in Ireland, likely because its history is filled with tales of a spooky banshee.
2 Distillery Road, 44-28-2073-3218
Many whiskey lovers plan an Ireland Road Trip, from Belfast to Bushmills, intent on strolling through one of the country’s best distilleries.
Bushmills Irish Whiskey is made at Ireland’s oldest working distillery in County Antrim. The award winning distillery’s original grant was signed in 1608 by King James I. The distillery in Northern Ireland has been producing whiskey using pure water from a nearby stream and local barely ever since.
The Bushmills experience features guided tours around the working distillery, tutored whiskey tastings, a specialty whiskey shop and well stocked retail store selling exclusive Bushmills swag.
If you’re a whiskey lightweight enjoy a lunch at the onsite restaurant before getting back on the road.
We suggest starting a Wild Atlantic Way adventure at the historic Ballynahinch Castle in Connemara.
Built in 1756 by the Martin Family, Ballynahinch was the Manor House for one of the largest estates in Ireland and The British Isles at the time. The area, previously ruled by the O’Flaherty Clan in the 16th Century, and home of the infamous pirate queen, Grace O’Malley is steeped in history and legend.
Ballynahinch Castle’s estate offers a wild variety of woodland and riverside walks with ample opportunity to explore local flora and fauna: red squirrels, pine martins, peregrine falcons, Atlantic salmon and red deer.
It’s a luxurious Irish castle hotel that offers plenty of opportunity to poke around. Stroll through the hotel’s ancient halls and you’ll find shimmering chandeliers, antique sofas, ancient libraries and cracking fireplaces.
Ballynahinch Castle’s little pub is the best place to enjoy a pint of fresh Irish beer, (we suggest a cold glass of Smithwick’s). After a few sudsy swigs prance over to Owenmore Restaurant for a romantic evening of contemporary Irish feasting.
Fun Fact: celebrated Canadian author Margaret Atwood (Handmaids Tale) visits the Ballynahinch Castle regularly. She’s known for coming here to write for weeks at a time, enjoying the hotels quiet calm.
Fahee North, 353-65-708-9102
Located off an unassuming dirt road, Burren Perfumery is a must-visit for those who love apothecary.
Founded 40 years ago, the team at Burren Perfumery have been taking advantage of the West Coasts unique limestone uplands outstanding floral diversity. The surrounding hills feature 70% of the countries wildflower species, which are curated into Burren Perfumery’s uniquely Irish cosmetic products.
Guests can wander through the gift shop, enjoy a video presentation in their wee theatre, wander through the garden, chat with staff in the workshop and enjoy an organic tea room offering savoury lunches and sweet cakes.
It’s a charming little cottage filled with perfume, cream, balm and soap. All made by hand in small batches.
Lislorkan North, 353-65-708-6141
The epic Cliffs of Moher are one of Ireland’s top visitor attractions and a designated UNESCO Geo Park.
The Cliffs of Moher are 214m high at the highest point and range for 8 kilometres over the Atlantic Ocean on the western seaboard of County Clare.
If you stand perched over Ireland’s famous cliffs you can see the Aran Islands and Galway Bay. The Cliffs of Moher take their name from a ruined promontory fort “Mothar,” which was demolished during the Napoleonic wards to make room for a signal tower.
The Cliffs of Moher are not just a highlight of the Wild Atlantic Way, but are a must-see on an Ireland Road Trip as the site is the most visited attraction in the country.
Old Dublin Road, 353-91-865-200
The g Hotel in Galway is one of Ireland’s most iconic design hotels. The interior here is jaw dropping, designed by world famous Irish hat designer Philip Treacy.
A visit to Galway is not complete without a stroll through the wild and whimsical rooms of the luxurious 5 star g Hotel.
Located on the edge of Loug Atalia as you enter the heart of the city, the g Hotel is ideal for a romantic escape in Ireland. The luxury boutique hotel offers the only 5 star destination spa in Galway, featuring two dedicated floors designed by ESPA International.
If you’re a wandering foodie be sure to book Afternoon Tea at The g Hotel in Galway. The daily tea tradition is served in the hotel’s stylish Signature Lounge, which feel a bit like you’ve dropped into Alice and Wonderland. Tantalize your tastebuds with handmade pastries, freshly baked scones and savoury bites.
The small village of Adare is regularly ranked as one of Ireland’s prettiest towns. Located south-west of Limerick, Adare offers those on an Ireland road trip a scenic strip to enjoy a stroll.
Adare’s main draw is its humble high street which is flanked by historic homes. The classic Irish architecture in Adare features cute thatched roof, brightly painted window frames, local stones criss crossed with red bricks, petite fences and gorgeous gardens.
If you’re making a short stop in Adare be sure to visit the castle, Trinitarian Abbey, stroll through the park and stop for a snack at one of the town’s many cute cafes. If you’ve got time to sleepover and want to make your mark, book yourself into an elegant suite at Adare Manor.
Blarney Castle is Ireland’s most famous historic castle, located a short drive outside of Cork. The Irish castle is so famous that many tourists in Dublin book day trips departing from the capital to whisk themselves away for a day.
Visit Blarney Castle and you’ll find yourself tip toeing up steep winding staircases to finally arrive on an open air rooftop. The current castle is actually the properties third iteration, build in 1446 by Dermot McCarthy, King of Munster.
Curious pilgrims have been visiting Blarney Castle to kiss its famous stone for over 200 years. The Blarney Stone is located on the castles rooftop and requires visitors to lie flat on their back in hopes of gaining “the gift of eloquence.” Ages ago, visitors had to be held by their ankles and lowered head first over the battlements. Today, the Blarney Stone is set in the wall and only requires you to lean backwards while holding on to an iron railing.
While Blarney Castle is most famous for its kissing stone, visitors should plan to spend hours on the property to explore its seemingly endless thematic gardens.
The city of Cork is one of the most popular holiday destinations in Ireland. Cork city is famous for its unique local Irish dialect, which you’ll hear chirped by friendly locals in restaurants and pubs.
The bustling city also offers some of Ireland’s weirdest and most wonderful attractions. Enjoy Ireland’s favourite city on the south coast by strolling through the dairy-loving Cork Butter Museum, historic English Market and haunting Cork City Goal.
If you’re a fan of postcard-perfect panoramas, enjoy jaw-dropping views of Cork by climbing the Shannon Bells or skipping along the ancient walls of Elizabeth Fort.
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Distillery Walk, 353-21-461-3594
Whisky lovers visiting Ireland should make a point to plan a pilgrimage to visit the historic Jameson Distillery in Midleton.
Located a short drive outside fo Cork city, Jameson Distillery offers daily tours of its 1800s warehouse, distillery and waterwheel.
Visitors on the Jameson Distillery Tour also experience an insightful historical film and tutored tasting which helps better distinguish the subtle differences between the flavour profile of Irish whisky, Scotch and Bourbon.
Finish your tour at Jameson Distillery by booking an intimate tasting of the whisky brands finest bottles, or enjoy an Irish feast at the onsite restaurant.
If you’re a newlywed couple keen to impress guests with your culinary skills Ballymaloe Hotel and Cookery School is an ideal romantic retreat.
Ballymaloe House is located a short drive east of Cork. It’s a family run country guest house offering a lauded restaurant and award-winning cooking school in the quaint Irish countryside.
The earliest iteration of Ballymaloe Hotel and its Irish cooking school were dreamed up by Myrtle Allen 55 years ago. Myrtle’s husband, Ivan Allen, bought the Georgian country house, built on the remains of a Norman castle, in 1947. Myrtle began cooking for guests from the farm’s produce in the 1960s and later the operation evolved into a 30-bedroom hotel, self-catering cottages and cooking school.
Internationally recognized as the birthplace of modern Irish cuisine, Ballymaloe House was voted Ireland’s Favourite Food Experience 2019 by the Independent and won a World Restaurant Award for having the world’s best dessert trolley!
The boutique hotel is located on a 300-acre farm, and the menus at its restaurant are written daily to reflect the seasonal vegetables available that morning. If you’ve signed up for a cooking course you’ll enjoy hands on experience within a lofty demo kitchen.
Cooking classes range from half-day to 12 weeks and are taught by Darina Allen (Myrtle is her mother-in-law). Novice cooks and professional chefs visit from all over the world to learn how to forage for mushrooms, ferment vegetables, bake pizza and cook their own baby food.
Middle Road, 353-24-87800
Cliff House Hotel in Ardmore is a gorgeous oceanside resort near Ireland’s oldest city, Waterford.
The 5 star hotel’s architecture is a true marvel, built directly into the side of a cliff. The rural resort is located in a small fishing village and is regarded as one of the best small luxury 5 star hotels in Ireland. It features just 39 well-appointed suites, featuring private balconies where you can spot lobster pots and dolphins at play below.
Cliff House Hotel’s elegant bar, al fresco terrace, fine dining restaurant, spa and each guest room offer jaw-dropping views of the bright blue bay. Guests can also enjoy beautifully sculpted gardens and an outdoor rock pool in the warm summer months.
Foodies pilgrimage to Cliff House Hotel to enjoy Michelin-starred dining at House Restaurant. Chef Martijn Kajuiter uses fine local ingredients such as organic salmon, local beef and edible flowers.
With direct access to the sea, Cliff House Hotel offers plenty of active adventures for couples who are keen to get up close and personal with Mother Nature. Guests can enjoy ocean kayaking, surfing, whale watching, fishing and rock climbing. There are also a handful of beaches nearby that you can hike to via a famous Ardmore cliff walk.
Kilkenny rose to prominence in the 13th-century when it became the medieval capital of Ireland. It was home to the Anglo-Norman Butler family, who came to power in the 1390s and ruled for over 500 years.
Today, Kilkenny continues to show off her ancient architectural legacy. History buffs visit to explore the city’s medieval alleys, small artisan houses, and architectural icons Kilkenny Castle, St. Canice’s Cathedral, and the Black Abbey.
While Kilkenny is most famous for its medieval streetscape, it’s the city’s contemporary cool that make a visit here so rewarding. Once you’ve soaked up the city’s medieval marvels, relax at a luxury spa, tuck into afternoon tea, enjoy a beer tour at Smithwick’s Experience or enjoy late night laughs at a comedy club.
Finish your Ireland Road Trip by stretching your legs just south of Dublin Airport at nature lovers Wicklow Mountains.
Located in County Wicklow a short drive south of Dublin, Wicklow Mountains National Park offers excellent hiking trails, historical ruins, impressive waterfall and posh Powerscort Estate.
Begin your visit in the region’s southern end by enjoying a stroll through the ruins at Glendalough. Drive north up a rural road and you’ll find a popular viewpoint overlooking Lough Tay. Continue your drive for a hike to Powerscourt Waterfall, a magnificent 398 foot falls surrounded by ancient trees, wild deer and chirping birds.
Enjoy your final stop before heading back to Dublin Airport at Powerscourt Estate, an 18th-century stately home famous for its landscaped gardens, gift shop and cafe.
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