We don’t have limitless free time, least limitless vacation days within a year. So each year we carefully plan when and where to travel, and how to get the best out of our time there. Last year our longest trip was a 2 weeks road trip in Ireland and Northern Ireland. Since we had a great time there, and you seem to find our itineraries useful, here’s another one: 2 weeks exploring Ireland and Northern Ireland, optionally adding three extra days – which we absolutely did. 🙂
If you’re familiar with our blog, it might not surprise you that we like road trips. Because they’re great and flexible ways to explore a country, get to several regions and national parks. So we did a road trip in Ireland, too. After driving a campervan on the left side of the road in Australia, we were not too worried about that. More worried about the narrow country roads, though. They are truly very narrow sometimes. (One tip: rent a small car.) On the other hand, we didn’t find traffic too bad on those roads, and also, people seemed to drive carefully – at least much more carefully than what we are used to in Central Europe.
All in all, road tripping in Ireland was a great experience! We’ve seen A LOT. We’ve been to more remote regions. We actually fell in love with those charming country roads and all the sheep nearby. And we could occasionally (though more often then we planned to) also hop into our car for a while to wait for the rain to stop.
So our itinerary is crafted for a road trip. But even if you don’t want to rent a car, a lot of these places can be visited on a day trip from Dublin. Ireland is not such a large country, after all, and there are zillions of bus tours to show you around.
Do you plan to do a road trip in Ireland, too? Check out rental car deals here!
Day 1: arrival & Wicklow Mountains National Park
Most probably you arrive to Dublin airport – at least we did. Since Dublin was the only place we didn’t want to explore by car (and where a car would have only been a pain in the ass), we wanted to see it either at the very beginning or at the very end of our trip. Since our flight to Budapest left in the evening on our last day, we ended up choosing that.
So on our first day we picked up our rental car at the airport and headed towards Wicklow Mountains National Park. It’s about 1.5 hours drive from Dublin, but we made a longer stop at Powerscourt Waterfall on the way. With its 121 meters height Powerscourt Waterfall is said to be the highest waterfall in Ireland, and it was an impressive stop. There’s no hiking trail to the waterfall though, it’s right by the parking lot. But we were happy to eat our breakfast on the benches with waterfall views.
Then we took road R115 through Sally Gap. It led us through the heart of Wicklow Mountains National Park. This drive is quite scenic and we stopped often. But our final destination was Glendalough Upper Lake Car Park where several trails start. We hiked to Poulanass waterfall, and did the loop through the Spins and Glenealo Valley. The trail to the waterfall is short and easy, but with the larger loop trail it easily filled our afternoon and rewarded us with awesome views of the Upper Lake and the valley from above.
We spent the night at Kate’s Rest in Kilkenny since our next day started right there.
Day 2: Kilkenny & Rock of Cashel
The best thing to see in Kilkenny is Kilkenny Castle. This mighty grey stone structure dates back to the 12th century. We could see both the medieval foundation and nicely furnished rooms of the first and second floor on a self-guided tour. The gardens and parkland adjoining the castle are free to visit.
In addition, Kilkenny has some lovely, colorful streets (very typical of all the Irish towns we’ve seen) and some majestic buildings like St.Mary’s Cathedral, the Dominican Black Abbey or St. Canice’s Cathedral.
In the afternoon we visited the Rock of Cashel. It’s one of the most remarkable pieces of medieval architecture in Europe. The ruins of Hore Abbey are just a short walk away from there. We found both of them astonishing and very photogenic. Irish ruins have a strong and wonderful vibe of their own.
We drove to Killarney in the evening, and stayed in a private room in Killarney International Hostel in the next couple of days.
Day 3: Killarney National Park
The next day was about Killarney National Park. We loved the harmony of elegant mansions and wonderful landscapes in Ireland, and Killarney National Park is a great example. Muckross House with its huge flower garden, giant trees and lush green lawn blends into the surrounding national park. Its interior is also worth a visit, we enjoyed the guided tour very much.
The lakes of Killarney look magical, especially on a clear, calm day when they reflect the blue skies and the bare hills. We did a short hike to Torc Waterfall and a longer one to Strickeen peak in the afternoon.
We’ve already written about these sights and hikes in our guide to the Ring of Kerry – which Killarney National Park is part of.
Day 4: Skellig Michael & Ring of Kerry
We recommend you spending a few days in Killarney as there are so many things to do and see in the area. We needed two days to see Killarney National Park and drive the famous scenic route of the Ring of Kerry. On our second day we took a half day boat trip to the Skellig Islands, too. It turned out to be one of our favorite bird-watching experiences ever. Just one word to explain the reason: puffins. 🙂
Extra – Day 5: Dingle Peninsula
If you wish to explore a lesser-known but amazing scenic drive that’s also very close to Killarney, do the drive around Dingle Peninsula. Here’s our detailed guide with the best viewpoints and our favorite short hikes.
Day 6: Cliffs of Moher
We left Killarney the following day and had a longer drive (about 3 hours) to the Cliffs of Moher. There we spent most of our day, hiking the coastal trail from the Visitor Center to Hags Head, then waiting for the fog to clear up, and exploring the exhibitions in the Visitor Center in the meantime.
We did the short scenic drive on Burren Coastal Road late afternoon, and spent the night in a hostel in Burren National Park.
Day 7: Burren National Park & Galway
We started our next day early, exploring the Burren. Its grey, lunar-like limestone landscape is not the typical one we got used to in Ireland. We hiked the Mullaghmore Trail – a 7.5 kilometres loop around Mullaghmore mountain – and enjoyed the strangeness of this national park.
Then we drove to Galway. We walked in the city center a bit, but honestly, we didn’t spend more than a couple of hours in Galway. Compared to the adorable colorful small towns like Killarney, Kilkenny or Dingle, Galway seemed not that special to us. But then, our drive along the ocean coast from Galway to Clifden was also awaiting. We usually prefer nature over cities, so no surprise, we wanted to have enough time for that drive – and rightly so, since it’s a pretty drive with nice beaches, coastal views and the abandoned ruins of Clifden Castle. Irish ruins really have something special about them.
We spent the next two nights at Killary Fjord so that we were close to Connemara National Park.
Day 8: Kylemore Abbey & Connemara National Park
This day was all about Connemara National Park. We started at Kylemore Abbey and Estate that’s in the heart of the national park. The abbey, the small Neo-Gothic Church, the walled gardens with the surrounding woods and lakes are spectacular. And that famous reflection of the abbey in the lake… we enjoyed it even on a foggy, rainy day.
Then we hiked to Diamond Hill from the Connemara National Park Visitor Center. However, we didn’t enjoy it that much in the fog and the rain, since the views got lost in the big white nothing.
Day 9: Killary Fjord & Croagh Patrick
Accommodation: Sligo or smaller towns nearby
We continued our drive along the Wild Atlantic Way the next morning. The views at Killary Fjord were stunning! We found a waterfall right by the road there, as well: Aasleagh Falls.
Then we conquered one of the highest peaks in the Western part of Ireland: 764 meters high Croagh Patrick. And what’s even more, we were able to see those wonderful views from the top before they disappeared in the fog. This hike was steeper and more scenic than what we expected from a mountain not even reaching 1000 metres. Croagh Patrick is bare and rocky, it’s a real mountain – Ireland’s holy mountain.
We finished our day at Ballycroy National Park, hiking the short Tóchar Daithí Bán Nature Trail.
We spent the night at Kilcommon Lodge Holiday Hostel so that we could continue our way towards Donegal the following day.
Day 10: Slieve League Cliffs
We started our next day at Glencar Waterfall which was a short detour on the way to magnificent Slieve League Cliffs. The 15 metres high waterfall is just a short walk from the parking, and it was roaring! We realized there’s another waterfall nearby and decided to do the short hike to Devil’s Chimney Waterfall.
But the highlight of our day was Slieve League Cliffs. Dropping 600 metres into Donegal Bay, they are the tallest sea cliffs in Ireland. We liked them even more than the famous Cliffs of Moher. After walking to Bunglas Viewpoint and continuing the coastal trail for a while, we turned back only because we realized it was getting late.
There’s another waterfall to finish your day with: Assaranca Waterfall. This 95 metres tall beauty is also right by the road, so it would be a pity to miss once you drove through Donegal.
We spent the next two nights at The River House Hostel in Dungloe.
Day 11: Glenveagh National Park
The following day was one of our few perfectly bright and sunny days in Ireland, and we spent it in Glenveagh National Park. We visited its stone castle that stands in a windswept landscape with bare hills and a large lake. We walked along the lakeshore and got to the waterfall in the valley behind the lake. We hiked the Viewpoint Trail, too, to see the landscape and the castle from above.
Day 12: Mount Errigal & Horn Head & Fanad Head
Accommodation: Derry (UK)
We had another mountain peak to conquer the next day: Mount Errigal, the iconic 751 meters tall peak of Donegal. However, fog took over us, so we’ve seen nothing at the top. 😛
Then we continued our drive on the Wild Atlantic Way, and it brought us to Horn Head, a peninsula in the remote North. Its cliffs rise to a height of 180 metres above the Atlantic Ocean. We hiked for about two hours along the coast, enjoying the views of the ocean and the seabirds. Then it started drizzling.
By the time we reached Fanad Head, it was pouring rain. Otherwise the hike to the lighthouse would have been nice. But since the rain only got heavier, we continued our drive along the shore of Lough Swilly Fjord, and reached Derry in Northern Ireland in the evening.
Day 13-14: Causeway Coast
In the next two days we drove along Northern Ireland’s famous scenic drive, the Causeway Coast. With amazing coastal views and dramatic ruins, it would have been love at first sight. Would have been – but unfortunately, the rain was pouring for two days. We had 20-30 minutes rainfree periods a couple of times, otherwise we got soaked even in our waterproof clothes after walking outside for about 30 minutes. This is the reason that we liked these two days the least on our trip – not because of the sights, but because of the weather.
Still these were our favorite stops: Mussenden Temple & Downhill Beach, Dunluce Castle, Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, Giant’s Causeway, Kinbane Castle – this last one is a really cool, yet not so well-known ruined castle on the coast.
We finished our second day at The Dark Hedges. Despite the rain, there was an enormous amount of people under the trees. It was just as we expected: less impressive than in those perfect insta pictures with no one around.
Extra – Day 15: The rest of Northern Ireland
Since we added three extra days to our 2 weeks, we surely could have had time to visit Belfast. If you’d love to add some city sightseeing to your itinerary, please do that. We chose to hike instead. (Hah, I know, we’re sooo predictable.)
We took a guided hiking tour at the Gobbins cliff-face path which was a great place to see thousands of seabirds, even a puffin (again). In the afternoon we hiked in Glenariff Forest Park and explored all of its lovely waterfalls.
Extra – Day 16: Malahide Castle & Howth Peninsula
Our suggestion for another optional day: spend some time near Dublin. Because there are pretty places around there! Our day was a mixture of touring Malahide Castle and hiking on the Howth Peninsula, and it turned out to be a fabulous day (unusually sunny, too).
At the end of the day, we retrieved our rental car. Finally, we were where we started 2 weeks ago. It was time for Dublin – and saying goodbye.
Day 17: Dublin
We spent a night and a day in Dublin, and we felt we had just enough time to see everything we wanted: Grafton Street, St. Stephen’s Green, Trinity College, Dublin Castle, giant cathedrals and lovely parks. While the colorful pubs and streets of Dublin’s center are nice, honestly, they easily got dimmed by everything else we’ve seen in Ireland before: the Wild Atlantic Way, the coastal hikes, the old castles and mansions, the abandoned ruins. Well, and we are not that much into cities, we can’t help it. Especially if there are mountains and ocean views nearby.
So that was our first trip to Ireland and Northern Ireland – perfect with all the imperfections (khm… rainy and foggy days). Here you can see all the places we visited on a map:
Have you been to Ireland and Northern Ireland? Have we missed anything spectacular? (Oh, we’re sure we did. Tell us what it is.)
Disclosure: We paid for this trip ourselves and our hotel stays were not sponsored either. However, affiliate links are used in this post, and at no additional cost to you, we earn a commission if you make a purchase. If you are ready to book your trip and would like to support this website in some way, here’s your chance. Thank you! 🙂
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