Prepare to be enchanted by the Emerald Isle with this ultimate Ireland itinerary, 10 days or longer. Rugged coastlines and emerald green landscapes are scattered all throughout this country that is steeped in history, myth and legend. From the dramatic cliffs of Moher to the haunting beauty of the Giant’s Causeway, Ireland and Northern Ireland’s natural wonders are matched only by its rich cultural heritage and welcoming people.
With an abundance of castles, cathedrals, and ancient ruins, Ireland is a destination that invites you to explore its storied past while immersing yourself in its vibrant present. The best way to enjoy all this incredible country has to offer is through a series of spectacular Ireland road trips. So pack your bags and embark on this epic Ireland road trip Itinerary, 10 days (or an Ireland itinerary 14 days if you have more time) to this magical land, where the warmth of the people and the beauty of the landscape will leave an indelible mark on your soul.
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Best Ireland Itinerary, 10 Days or More
This self drive Ireland itinerary will take you on a 1000-mile road trip looping around Ireland and Northern Ireland in as little as a 10 day Ireland road trip, with suggestions on how to make this a 12 day Ireland itinerary or 14 day Ireland itinerary. This mostly coastal route will start in Dublin, going up to Northern Ireland, and end with the option of flying out of Cork, Shannon, or returning to Dublin.
Ireland Self-Driving Tours – Renting a Car and Driving in Ireland
To embark on your epic Ireland road trip itinerary, you’ll first need to secure a rental car. Hertz car hire is an excellent choice, with numerous drop-off locations throughout the country that are ideal if you’re flying into one airport and departing from another, as we did. Additionally, their after-hours drop boxes offer convenience for those with early or late flights, and they offer automatic cars for those accustomed to them, despite the standard in Ireland being manual.
Fortunately, touring Ireland by car is quite straightforward, even for those from the US who may find themselves on the opposite side of the road. Though it may seem daunting at first, we discovered that directions are great with Google Maps and heavy traffic is generally non-existent, even in bustling cities, making the adjustment a breeze. With your rental car secured, you’ll be ready to hit the open road and discover all that the beautiful island has to offer with this ultimate Ireland driving itinerary.
Tip: If you are looking for airport transfers, or any type of bus tour to see popular sites within Ireland, I recommend Dualway.
2 Nights in Dublin – Kick Off Your Trip With This Dublin Itinerary
Begin your Ireland road trip itinerary by flying into Ireland’s Charismatic capital, Dublin. A treasure trove of history, culture, and cuisine, the old-meets-new city of Dublin boasts plenty of attractions and experiences that cater to travelers with a diverse range of interests. With so many great establishments, drinking and eating were at the forefront of my personal preference for time spent in Dublin, but there was plenty of time to immerse in more cultural activities as well. Dublin is the perfect jumping point to get a taste (figuratively and literally) of the Irish way.
Top things to do in Dublin, Ireland
2 Days is just enough time to allow you to visit all of Dublin’s top attractions, dine at the best restaurants, and enjoy a pint of Guinness or a glass of Irish whiskey at one of the city’s many pubs. Here are some ideas and not-to-be-missed attractions for how to spend 2 days in Dublin.
At the pinnacle of Dublin’s must-visited attractions lies the Guinness Storehouse, an architectural masterpiece housed within the St. James’s Gate Brewery. This world-renowned attraction offers visitors an immersive, sensory journey through the history and production of Ireland’s most famous export: Guinness beer. Encompassing seven stories, the Storehouse allows guests to discover the art of brewing, witness the brewing process, and indulge in a taste of the dark stout at the Gravity Bar, while taking in 360-degree views of the city. I recommend indulging in a connoisseur tasting experience, followed by lunch or dinner at the 1837 Bar & Brasserie.
Jameson Distillery Bow St.
For whiskey aficionados, the Jameson Distillery in the bustling Smithfield neighborhood is the ultimate destination. A tour of the distillery offers a window into the heritage and craftsmanship that goes into producing Jameson whiskey, Ireland’s best-selling brand. A sensory experience of the whiskey-making process culminates in a tutored tasting of a selection of Jameson’s signature blends.
Once you’re done, take the quick walk over to the Fish Shop, one of Dublin’s best fish & chips places. (Reservations highly recommended.)
Book of Kells
Trinity College, Dublin’s prestigious academic institution, is home to one of the city’s most treasured artifacts, the Book of Kells. A masterpiece of early Christian art, this ancient manuscript dates back to the 9th century and is regarded as one of the world’s most significant medieval artifacts. Visitors can marvel at the intricate illustrations and illuminations within the book’s pages, and explore one of the world’s most exquisite libraries.
Immerse yourself in Irish history at Dublin Castle. This stunning 13th-century castle served as a residence of English, British, and Irish monarchs for over 800 years. Take a guided tour to learn about the castle’s colorful past, including the Easter Rising and War of Independence.
Visit a Museum or Art Gallery
Dublin’s Hugh Lane Gallery is a world-class institution that showcases an impressive collection of modern and contemporary art. Located in the heart of the city on Parnell Square, this museum is a must-visit for art enthusiasts. The gallery showcases an impressive range of media, from oil paintings and watercolors to stained glass and sculptures. Of its most prized art pieces are two paintings by the father of modern art himself, Claude Monet.
Additionally, visitors can explore the works of famous Irish artists such as Jack B. Yeats, William Orpen, and Roderic O’Conor, as well as international artists like Francis Bacon and Pierre Bonnard. The gallery is also home to the reconstructed studio of Francis Bacon, which for me, was the most fascinating part of the exhibit. Visiting this museum is one of the best free museums and free things to do in Dublin.
Other museums to check out include the Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA); the National Museum of Ireland, which has three separate locations: Archaeology, Decorative Arts & History, and Natural History; and the Museum of Literature (MoLi) — a must for writers or anyone who is interested in learning about the city’s deep literary history.
Hit the Pubs – Temple Bar & Beyond
As the birthplace of Irish pub culture, Dublin is home to an abundance of historic watering holes. Iconic establishments such as the Brazen Head, Dublin’s oldest pub, and the Temple Bar Pub, with its live music, provide a lively Irish pub experience, while the city’s numerous craft beer bars offer an alternative to the ubiquitous pint of Guinness. The Temple Bar area is a great place for Dublin nightlife, as the area is lively and ideal for pub-hopping.
Tip: There are many ways to get around Dublin if you don't want to drive or aren't in walking distance. You can get a Leap card for public transportation, or even get a Hop on Hop Off City Tour which is great for this city and takes you to all the popular sites. Lastly, I definitely recommend getting the Dublin Go City Pass, which gives you access to over 40+ top attractions making your time in Dublin much more economical.
Celebrating St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland
If you are lucky enough to be in Ireland during Saint Patrick’s Day like I was, you’re in for a real treat. Dublin is home to the biggest St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Ireland, gathering crowds of up to half a million. As a media guest, I was fortunate to be able to ride in the parade — an experience I’ll treasure forever as we floated by a sea of green-clad, cheerful parade-goers.
After the parade, the pubs are where you’ll want to be. The Temple Bar neighborhood and the Temple Bar pub itself is a great place to be if you want to be in the center of the action with people from all over the world who are coming together to celebrate this quintessential Irish holiday. The crowds here are thick and mighty, so if that’s not what you’re into, you’ll be spoiled with choice by the many neighborhood pubs that dot the city.
Another option for St. Patrick’s Day celebrations is to check out the Festival Quarter at Collins Barrack’s, a day-to-night street fair with live music, food, and holiday festivities.
Lastly, for a more refined experience, consider spending time at the Guinness Storehouse. They have St. Patrick’s Day events on and during the week of the holiday.
Tip: Sláinte is how you say "cheers" in Ireland!
Where to Eat in Dublin, Ireland
From hole-in-the-wall fish and chips to Michelin-starred restaurants, Dublin’s food scene is note-worthy from top to bottom. If you’ve heard rumors that the food in Ireland is simple or bland, that couldn’t be further from the truth! At least not these days. Dublin, and all of Ireland has an incredibly note-worthy food and restaurant scene where quality ingredients are eminent with every bite. Here are some of my recommendations for the best restaurants in Dublin:
ALT Bar at the Wren Urban Nest – I loved everything about this spot. Trendy and stylish setting, really tasty and innovative food with a sustainable menu, and amazing craft cocktails. A great place for lunch or happy hour in a central location, near Temple Bar.
Roly’s Terrace Restaurant – Simply-conceived, contemporary Irish cuisine relying on top quality ingredients in a romantic setting with wonderful service. If you want Irish food, Roly’s is where to go.
Leo Burdock – The most classic fish & chips spot in Dublin, dating back to 1913. You can’t visit Dublin without a trip to the “chipper!”
Chapter One – Dublin has its fair share of Michelin and Bib Gourmand restaurants, so if you’re looking to really treat yourself, consider this two Michelin-starred restaurant (if you’re lucky enough to snag a reservation) which serves an upscale modern tasting menu. Opt for a lunch seating for something a little lighter (and more pocket-friendly.)
Where to Stay in Dublin, Ireland
The Clayton Hotel Ballsbridge
The Clayton Hotel Ballsbridge is situated in a historic 19th-century building and has been beautifully restored and renovated to offer modern amenities and comforts. The hotel’s dining options include the Grandstand Bar & Restaurant, which offers a range of classic Irish dishes and drinks, as well as a variety of other dining options within walking distance in the Ballsbridge neighborhood. The hotel features a 22-meter swimming pool, sauna and even an on-site barber.
What I loved about this hotel: A historic victorian building in Dublin’s most sought-after neighborhood. The location is great, offering a nice stroll to many attractions.
If staying here or visiting Ballsbridge, don’t miss the opportunity to have breakfast at the Orange Goat, my favorite breakfast during the entire trip (and very veggie-friendly, too!)
Other hotels to consider:
Clontarf Castle – If you fancy a stay in a castle during your trip to Ireland itinerary (and why would you not?) the charming Clontarf Castle is just the ticket with its ornate stone staircases, vaulted ceilings, and original medieval features such as gothic arches and stained glass windows.
The Marrion – The top luxury hotel in Dublin, which houses the Two Michelin Star restaurant, Patrick Guilbaud. One of the unique features of The Merrion Hotel is its beautiful gardens, which are spread out over two acres and include a classical garden, a water garden, and a wildflower meadow.
The Wilder – A design-forward boutique hotel situated in a restored Victorian townhouse in the heart of the city’s fashionable Portobello neighborhood.
Northern Ireland Road Trip Itinerary
The next part of the journey is a road trip Northern Ireland, a country separate from Ireland governed under the United Kingdom as opposed to the European Union.
Though no official border separate the two, the currency switches from euro to pound sterling, and kilometers to miles (so be aware when driving, as there is no warning for the switch in these speed limit units of measurement.)
Northern Ireland may have a deep and weary past, with tensions still palpable from both within as a divide between Protestants and Catholics lingers, and externally as opinions about a United Ireland still clash, but it is a country of rich heritage, and undeniable prosperity. Visiting Northern Ireland is a must.
1 – 2 Nights Belfast – Northern Ireland Itinerary
From Dublin, it is about a 2-hour drive to the spirited city of Belfast in Northern Ireland. If you are on a 10 day Ireland itinerary, you’ll only get to spend a night here, but you’ll make the most of it by departing from Dublin as early as you can. I recommend 7:00 or no later than 9:00AM.
Top things to do in Belfast
Belfast is most famously known as being the home of the Titanic where the ill-fated ship was conceived and built, and last touched dry land. Spend the first half of the day exploring the Titanic Quarter, one of the world’s largest urban-waterfront regeneration projects. Here’s what you shouldn’t miss:
Titanic Belfast Museum
With 9 galleries spanned across 4 floors, the interactive and extremely well-thought-out Titanic Belfast Museum is one of the most impressive exhibits on the Titanic, and museums in general. The €97 million opened in 2012 on the centenary of the Titanic’s maiden voyage. The interactive galleries take you on a journey through the Titanic’s history, from its construction to its tragic sinking, with tales of its passengers in between, both survivors and victims. Don’t forget to hop on the virtual reality ride to experience life as a passenger aboard the ship.
Once done exploring the museum, head across to the Titanic’s sister ship, the SS Nomadic, the restored tender that transferred passengers to the titanic. As the oldest surviving vessel constructed by makers of the Titanic, Harland & Wolff, you’ll be able to step into what feels like a time capsule that contributed to such a historical maritime event.
The Titanic Hotel
Located directly next to the museum, this beautifully-designed Victorian Titanic Hotel and historic building is located in the Harland & Wolff headquarters where thousands of ships were designed in its Drawing Offices. You’ll definitely want to stop for lunch or afternoon tea in the stunning Drawing Office 2, whose three-story barrel-vaulted ceilings are the only surviving example of this type of architecture in the world.
After exploring the Titanic Quarter, you can check in to your hotel (recommended later in this section.)
The Linen Quarter
In the evening, you may wish to explore Belfast’s lively Linen Quarter to get a feel for its local atmosphere. The Linen Quarter is an area in the immediate vicinity of City Hall, which stands on the site of the White Linen Hall, which was demolished in 1896. It was once nicknamed “Linenopolis” as Belfast was the leader in the production of fine Irish Linen. Here are some of the best local bars and restaurants to check out:
The Crown Bar – The most famous bar in Belfast, set in an ornate and cozy Victorian atmosphere with period gaslamp lighting.
Sweet Afton – A stylish restaurant bar with live music.
The Perch – A relaxed rooftop cocktail bar on the rooftop of a victorian warehouse.
Pug Ugly’s – A quirky Irish pub with live music and entertainment.
Where to stay in Belfast
Grand Central Hotel Belfast
Grand Central Hotel is a stylish and modern luxury hotel set in a former office high rise building, with sweeping views from the rooms and their Observatory cocktail lounge.
What I loved about this hotel: Well-appointed rooms, top-notch service, great food at their fine dining Seahorse Restaurant, and great cocktails at the Observatory.
Belfast to Derry-Londonderry via the Causeway Coastal Route – Northern Ireland Scenic Drives
After your night in Belfast, rise early to spend the day on the spectacular Causeway Coastal Route, the best of Northern Ireland scenic drives near the coastline of Northern Ireland, which stretches from Belfast to Derry~Londonderry. In my opinion the Causeway Coastal Route is the gem of Northern Ireland.
Like the Ring of Kerry, which you will experience later on during your road trip of Ireland, the Causeway Coastal Route includes many scenic stops, including the most famous, Giant’s Causeway. The Causeway Coastal Route is easily the best of Northern Ireland road trips and shouldn’t be missed.
Stops along the Causeway Coastal Route – Choose Your Own Adventure
You can choose which stops you wish to visit and which to skip depending on your preferences, or you can visit them all! Of course, you won’t want to miss the Giant’s Causeway.
To give you an idea about timing, without any stops, the drive from Belfast to Giant’s Causeway is about an hour, and from Giant’s Causeway to Derry~Londonderry is around another 20 minutes. Each stop along the route can range from a few minutes (in the case of scenic viewing points) to an hour plus.
If you have the time, take the ferry from the town of Bellycastle to Northern Ireland’s only inhabited island.
This 6-mile L shaped island has a slowly growing population of 140 people, and is home to over 250,000 seabirds during their breeding season, including guillemots, razorbills, kittiwakes, fulmars and puffins. It also inhabits a colony of seals.
Aside from birdwatching, peaceful walks, and fresh seafood, Rathlin Island is a place that is full of folklore. The magical Golden Hare of the island is one such tale that says this mystical creature brings good fortune in the form of wealth and prosperity to anyone who manages to catch it. Another legend relays that of the Children of Lir: the story of four siblings who were turned into swans by their jealous stepmother, and were forced to spend 900 years on various bodies of water, including the Sea of Moyle surrounding Rathlin.
Perhaps the most famous legend is that of Robert the Bruce, the king of Scotland who was driven from Scotland by Edward I of England, and took refuge in a cave on Rathlin. Inspired by the persistence of a web spinning spider that refused to give up despite repeated failures to build a web, Robert willed to keep fighting for Scottish independence, and eventually led his forces to victory at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314.
Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge
Take a short yet exhilarating stroll across this double hand-railed rope bridge across the 30m-deep/20m-wide gorge to be rewarded with stunning views of the North Coast.
Whether you choose to walk the bridge or not, be sure to stop for a photo opportunity at he Portaneevy Scenic Viewing Point located near the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge. Perched on a cliff overlooking the sea, the lookout offers spectacular views of the North Atlantic coastline and surrounding areas, including Carrick-a-Rede Island, Rathlin Island, and the Mull of Kintyre in Scotland on a clear day.
Ireland/Northern Ireland is full of Game of Thrones filming locations and other fantastical movies such as Star Wars and Harry Potter, but the Dark Hedges is a scenery one can appreciate whether you’re a GOT fan or not.
The Dark Hedges appeared in Season 2, Episode 1 of Game of Thrones as the location of the King’s Road, where Arya Stark escapes from King’s Landing. It’s a popular tourist attraction in Northern Ireland known for its unique avenue of beech trees that create a tunnel-like arch over the road.
Ballintoy Village and Harbour
Another filming location for Game of Thrones, the town consists of a collection of small shops and two churches. In the show, it was used to represent the Iron Islands, the home of the Greyjoys. Specifically, the harbour was used in Season 2 of the show as the location where Theon Greyjoy returns home to the Iron Islands (Lordsport Harbour) to be reunited with his sister Yara.
Visiting Giant’s Causeway
The Causeway Coastal Route peaks at one of the region’s most treasured locations, Giant’s Causeway. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, this geographical wonder set on the coast was formed over 60 million years ago, when volcanic activity formed black hexagonal basalt columns as rapidly cooling lava came in contact with the sea.
According to local legend, the causeway was built by the giant Finn McCool as a bridge to reach Scotland to fight his Scottish rival, Benandonner. However, when he saw the size of Benandonner, Finn fled back to Ireland, destroying the causeway behind him so that Benandonner could not follow him.
To see this captivatingly unique landscape, begin at the visitor’s center where you can park your car and purchase tickets (guided tours available). Then walk up about 10 minutes or take the shuttle bus up to the site. For a truly unique time, whiskey lovers will especially love “Whiskey on the Rocks” experience, where a tour guide from the nearby Bushmill’s Distillery (which is also worth visiting) will give you a tasting experience right on Giant’s Causeway rocks. (You must book this in advance and days are limited.)
Perched on the edge of a North Antrim headland and surrounded by jaw-dropping coastal scenery, this medieval castle ruin stands on the site of an even earlier Irish fort dating back to early Christians and vikings. The castle was built in the 13th century by the MacQuillan family and later taken over by the MacDonnell clan in the 16th century.
Whiterocks Beach – Mageracross Scenic Viewing Point
Whiterocks Beach is a popular sandy beach amongst locals that stretches for approximately 3 miles, and it is known for its dramatic limestone cliffs and stunning views of the Atlantic Ocean. These soft, sedimentary rocks have formed through centries a labyrinth of caves and arches, and distguinshables forms that rise out of the ocean, including, Shelagh’s Head, the Wishing Arch, Elephant Rock and the Lion’s Paw.
Mageracross Scenic Viewing Point is located on a hill overlooking Whiterocks Beach, and it offers panoramic views of the coastline and the surrounding countryside. The viewing point is accessible by car or on foot, and it is a popular spot for photography and sightseeing.
Mussenden Temple – Downhill Demesne
Downhill Demesne is a large estate in county Londonderry that was originally built in the 18th century by Frederick, 4th Earl of Bristol, and Bishop of Derry. The estate includes the ruins of the grand house, a mausoleum, a dovecote, and a walled garden, among other features. The estate also includes miles of walking trails through the surrounding woodlands and along the coastline.
Mussenden Temple is an iconic 18th-century temple that was built in the surroundings of Downhill Demmesne as a library and modeled after the Temple of Vesta in Italy. The temple is perched on a dramatic cliff overlooking the Atlantic Ocean and offers great views of the surrounding coastline, and westwards over Downhill Strand towards Magilligan Point and County Donegal (home to the Slieve League Cliffs,) and eastwards Castlerock beach towards Portstewart, Portrush and Fair Head.
It is considered one of the most photographed buildings in Northern Ireland. Although the temple is not open to the public so you cannot actually enter, you’ll still be able to appreciate the exterior views.
Gortmore scenic viewing point
The Bishop’s Road, which links Derry, Limavady and Downhill, holds one of the best vistas on the north coast and is a worthy detour off the Causeway Coastal Route.
The Gortmore scenic viewing point in county Londonderry offers panoramic views of the surrounding area, including the majestic Binevenagh Mountain and the nearby Lough Foyle. On a clear day, visitors can see views of Donegal and the islands of Islay and Jura off the west coast of Scotland. The views from the top of Gortmore Scenic Viewing Point are particularly impressive and make for great photo opportunities.
The area around Gortmore Scenic Viewing Point is also popular with hikers and cyclists, with several trails leading through the surrounding countryside and up to the top of Binevenagh Mountain.
1 – 2 nights Derry~Londonderry – The Walled City and Beyond
As you arrive in Derry~Londonderry and enter the Walled City of Derry the palpable sensation of an old-meets-new world will be undeniable. The city is one of a troubled past that trickles into the modern present as reflected by its hyphenated name, which stems from the fact that the city has historically had both Irish and British identities and has been the site of conflict between the two. Politics aside, Derry~Londonderry is undoubtedly a place of hope and prosperity.
The city is located on the River Foyle and has a rich cultural heritage, with numerous historic sites and landmarks. It is also home to a number of festivals and events throughout the year, including the Derry Jazz Festival, and is especially known for their large, festive Halloween celebrations. You may also be familiar with the popular Neflix show, Derry Girls based on the city.
As a brief background on the history, The Troubles refer to a period of sectarian violence and political conflict in the city of Derry~Londonderry, Northern Ireland, that lasted from the late 1960s until the late 1990s. The conflict was rooted in deep-seated political and social tensions between the mainly Protestant Unionist community, who wanted Northern Ireland to remain part of the United Kingdom, and the mainly Catholic Nationalist community, who sought reunification with the Republic of Ireland.
The conflict was characterized by paramilitary violence, civil unrest, and a heavy security presence. The city was the site of a number of high-profile incidents during the Troubles, including the Bloody Sunday massacre in 1972, when 14 unarmed civil rights protesters were killed by British soldiers.
Things to do – Derry / Londonderry
Although Derry~Londonderry is known for its role in the Northern Ireland conflict, it has since undergone a period of significant redevelopment and regeneration.
In recent years, Derry~Londonderry has undergone resurgence, particularly in the wake of the Northern Ireland peace process. Today, the city is a vibrant hub of creativity and innovation, with a thriving arts scene, world-class museums and galleries, and a dynamic and diverse population. Women are especially celebrated in Derry for their role as activists of peace-building and conflict resolution.
To fully appreciate the splendor of this Northern Irish gem, I cannot recommend highly enough taking a tour with Derry City Tours. Our guide Charlene led us on a captivating walking tour of the Walled City, regaling us with fascinating historical insights, intriguing anecdotes, and insider tips to make the most of our visit. Her enthusiasm and charm made the tour engaging and fun, and I’m certain that it would be a highlight of any trip to Northern Ireland. This five-star tour operating agency offers an array of tour options, including public and private tours, food tours, spooky tours, and more, ensuring there’s something to suit every traveler’s interests. Trust me, you won’t regret exploring the wonders of this region with the expertise of Derry City Tours.
After your tour, be sure to explore the quaint local artisan shops around the Craft Village, and absolutely stop for a scone and coffee at The Cottage Craft Gallery Coffee Shop, known for the best scones in the country (they really are so good!)
Museums in Derry
A great way to further immerse yourself in the historical nuances of Derry~Londonderry is by visiting their well-designed museums. Here are a few that well-worth the visit:
Tower Museum – Explores the history of the city and the wider region.
Guildhall – Built in 1890, the building is a beautiful example of neo-Gothic architecture, with a striking clock tower and ornate stonework. Inside, artwork of stained glass and a striking pipe organ add to the character of this ornate structure, inside and out. The exhibit is the only one of its kind, displaying 3 different peace prizes of Northern Ireland activist John Hume, the Nobel Peace Prize, Mahatma Gandhi Peace Prize and the Martin Luther King Junior Non-Violent Prize.
Museum of Free Derry – Dedicated to the history of the Civil Rights Movement and the Troubles in Northern Ireland, with a particular focus on the events that took place in the city in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
The Siege Museum – Dedicated to the history of the Siege of Derry in 1688-1689. The museum is housed in the historic St. Columb’s Cathedral, which was one of the key sites of the siege.
Pubs in Derry
The walled city of Derry has some great local pubs and bars to enjoy after your day of exploration. Among the best pubs in Derry are:
Peadar O’Donnells/The Gweedore Bar/Fifty Seven Waterloo Street – A classic establishment in the historic city center with 3 separate bars featuring traditional and contemporary music.
Sandino’s Café Bar – A live music bar and restaurant featuring eclectic live musical performances.
Bennigan’s Bar and Jazz Club – A jazz and blues bar in an intimate setting.
Where to Stay in Derry
Bishop’s Gate Hotel Derry
Within the Walled City of Derry lies a charming boutique hotel by the name of Bishop’s Gate Hotel. The hotel is housed in a beautifully restored 19th-century building that was formerly a bank. The building’s original features, such as the marble floors and ornate ceilings, have been carefully preserved, while modern amenities and furnishings have been added to provide guests with a comfortable and luxurious experience.
The hotel’s Wig and Gown Champagne Bar and Restaurant is the perfect place to grab one of their carefully crafted cocktails, dinner, or afternoon tea in Derry.
What I loved about this hotel: The location is in perfect proximity for a day of exploring by foot.
0 – 1 nights Sligo – West Coast of Ireland Road Trip – Galway via Sligo
From Northern Ireland, we will be continuing on to our Ireland west coast road trip before making our way down to our southern Ireland road trip.
The drive from Derry~Londonderry to Galway is about 3.5 hours. If you don’t wish to drive it all in one go, you can stop 2 hours into the journey and overnight in the town of Sligo.
If you’re headed to Sligo, take the time to relax and unwind in the natural scenery. The town is surrounded by picturesque hills and mountains, including Benbulben, a distinctive flat-topped mountain that dominates the landscape. Up until this point, this driving tour of Ireland has been very fast paced, so enjoy a night off and perhaps book yourself a spa treatment or have a soak in a jacuzzi or sauna.
Where to Stay in Sligo
Raddison Blu Hotel & Spa
This Raddison Blu Hotel is set on a hillside overlooking Sligo Bay and the surrounding countryside, offering peaceful views and a tranquil setting. Enjoy a meal at their on-site restaurant The Brasserie, which focuses on modern Irish cuisine made from locally sourced ingredients, and indulge in a treatment at their luxurious Sólás Spa.
What I loved about this hotel: the large indoor swimming pool and quartz crystal sauna at the spa.
2 – 3 Nights Galway
Next on the Ireland trip itinerary is my favorite Irish city, Galway. What sets Galway apart is its vibrant, youthful energy that blends seamlessly with its old-world charm, making it a cool, coastal city unlike any other in the country.
The gastronomy scene here is simply amazing, with plenty of local restaurants and pubs offering delicious food and drink. But what truly makes Galway a must-visit destination is its proximity to some of the most breathtaking natural scenery and some of the best road trips in Ireland. From the Wild Atlantic Way, a stunning Ireland coastal drive along the western coast, to Connemara National Park, a vast wilderness of rugged mountains, lakes, and moors teeming with wildlife, there’s no shortage of awe-inspiring sights to explore. And of course, one cannot forget the Cliffs of Moher, Ireland’s most iconic attraction, located just a short distance away.
This analogy will probably only be understood by a niche audience, but to me, if Dublin is New York City, Galway is Los Angeles.
Note: If you are short on time and wanted to create an Ireland itinerary 5 days, I would recommend starting your trip here in Galway, see the Cliffs of Moher, then travel down to the Ring of Kerry.
Top things to do in Galway
See the Spanish Arch and Galway City Museum: The Spanish Arch is a 16th-century stone archway that once formed part of the city’s defensive walls. The Galway City Museum, located nearby, offers fascinating exhibits on the history and culture of the city.
Explore the medieval streets of Galway’s Latin Quarter: Galway’s Latin Quarter is a labyrinth of narrow streets and alleyways that date back to medieval times. It is home to many boutiques, cafes, and traditional pubs, and is a great place to soak up the city’s local atmosphere.
Take a day trip to the Aran Islands: The Aran Islands are a group of three rugged islands off the coast of Galway. They are known for their ancient ruins, traditional Irish culture, and stunning natural beauty.
Eat, eat, eat. More on that in the section below.
Where to eat in Galway – Best Restaurants
Galway is an incredible place for innovative dining in Ireland. With several Michelin-starred and Bib Gourmand restaurants to choose from, fresh seafood, and local pubs offering comforting traditional food, the variety of cuisine are all top tier in Galway. Here are some of the best restaurants in Galway that you should not miss – (reservations a must):
Kai: A cozy restaurant that has a highly innovative and creative farm-to-table menu and a Green Michelin Star awarded for excellence and sustainability. Their commitment to using locally sourced and sustainable ingredients extends to its drinks menu, which features a range of organic and biodynamic wines, craft beers, and cocktails made with seasonal fruits and herbs.
Aniar: Fine dining, Michelin-starred, daily changing tasting menu coursed through at minimum, 2.5 hours. The intricately crafted dishes are influenced by local, seasonal ingredients, contemporary Irish cuisine, and the sea/west coast of Ireland.
Ean: A cafe/bakery by day and wine bar/restaurant by night, excellent for both lunch and dinner. The sister to Michelin-starred restaurant, Loam. They also offer a tasting menu and focus on natural and organic wines.
Galway Pubs & Bars
The Galway nightlife scene is very lively, with many bars and pubs offering craft beer and cocktails. Some of the best bars and pubs in Galway include:
Historic & Traditional Pubs:
Famous Latin Quarter Pubs:
Where to Stay in Galway
The G Hotel and Spa
The 5-Star G Hotel has a bold modern design and one of the best spas in the city. It’s located a short distance from the city center and offers a complimentary chauffeur service to get you into town. The hotel’s signature restaurant, Geo, serves modern Irish cuisine with a focus on locally-sourced ingredients. The menu changes regularly to reflect the seasons and the availability of fresh ingredients, and the restaurant also offers an extensive wine list. The hotel also offers a really great afternoon tea service with delicious sweets and bites.
What I loved about this hotel: The eSPA thermal suite, which houses a jetted pool, sauna, steam room, and ice fountain, along with the beautiful relaxation room.
Visiting the Cliffs on Moher on Your 10 Day Ireland Itinerary (or Longer)
On one of your days in Galway, you’ll want to plan about half a day visiting the Cliffs of Moher. The Cliffs of Moher are one of Ireland’s most iconic natural wonders, located on the western coast of the country in County Clare. The cliffs stretch for about 8 kilometers (5 miles) along the Atlantic Ocean and rise to heights of over 200 meters (700 feet) in some places, offering exhilerating views of the sea and the cliff’s distinguished coastline.
The Cliffs of Moher is about a 1.5 hour drive from Galway. The best time to see the Cliffs of Moher is between 11 – 4:00pm when most of the tour busses are gone. Sunset is also a particularly magical time to see the cliffs.
You can view the Cliffs of Moher from the visitor center’s area up the castle of O’briens Tower, however if you really want to get close to the cliffs, you can walk along the designated walking trail that runs along the cliff edge, offering unparalleled views of the crashing waves below and the sheer drop to the sea. (Be VERY careful and don’t get too close to the cliffs!)
On your way to the Cliffs of Moher you may have noticed the 16th-century Dungaire Castle. I loved stopping at this castle on the way back from seeing the Cliffs for its fairytale-like appearance of well-preserved stone walls and turrets.
2 – 3 Nights Kerry – Ring of Kerry Tour (Self-Drive)
Now we continue down the Wild Atlantic Way on our tour of Ireland by car for a couple of days on the Ring of Kerry. The driving time from Galway to Kerry is about 2.5 hours.This is one greatest scenic drives Ireland has to offer and my favorite excursion or self guided tours of Ireland.
The Ring of Kerry is an Ireland coastal road trip that loops around the Iveragh Peninsula, through stunning views of the soaring coast, sandy beaches, rolling hills, and charming villages–with castles, natural wonders, and many scenic lookouts along the way. It’s popular amongst people who simply wish to drive it, cycle it, hike around it, and those campervanning in Ireland. The Ring of Kerry in my opinion is the best road trip in Ireland
The route is approximately 179 km (111 miles) long and can be completed in a day, although many choose to take their time and explore the plentiful attractions and landmarks along the way. A small diversion off the Ring of Kerry to the Skellig Ring is also highly recommended and included in our guide.
There are a few different ways to see the Ring of Kerry depending on where you are staying in County Kerry, and how many days you’d like to spend driving the ring (1, 2, or 3.)
Driving into County Kerry from Galway, it makes sense to start the Ring of Kerry that same day, and stop at the sites in Killarney, Kenmare, and up to Sneem if you are staying there like I was.
On day two, you can finish the stops from Sneem onward, ending the loop back in Sneem (or wherever you’re staying.)
We have a full Ring of Kerry travel guide here on the site, but you can scroll through the slideshow below to see each of the must-see sites in order starting in Killarney, with the inclusion of the stops on the Skellig Ring.
The Ring of Kerry map I’ve made below shares all the stops in order, with photos and info so you can follow it with ease.
Ring of Kerry Map & Skellig Ring Map
(Click the square on the top right corner to open the map)
Ring of Kerry Highlights – Ireland Road Trip 10 Days or More
Note: Many guides recommend doing the Gap of Dunloe toward the start of the Ring of Kerry, but I recommend saving it for last -- especially if you are splitting up the Ring in 2 days or more.
Where to Stay – Ring of Kerry Hotels
Part of the Original Irish Hotels, the Sneem Hotel is beautifully set on the picturesque waterfront right along the Ring of Kerry and Wild Atlantic Way. The hotel exudes classic Irish charm in a warm and inviting atmosphere. The restaurant at Sneem Hotel offers fresh and local fare accompanied by a great wine list.
What I loved about this hotel: The picturesque views and the unique Seaweed Bath experience.
Sneem Seaweed Baths
What really makes the Sneem Hotel unique however, is the Sneem Seaweed Baths. An outdoor spa experience on the waterfront where you can relax in a old whiskey barrel filled with hot water and hand-harvested local seaweed, which has healing properties and countless benefits for the skin. Seaweed has been used for centuries in Ireland for its therapeutic benefits, which include detoxification, improved circulation, and skin nourishment. You’ll leave the bath with smooth silky skin and complete relaxation.
Park Hotel Kenmare
For the most luxury you can get out of Kerry, the Park Hotel is where you want to be. This small boutique property offers an intimate luxury experience set in a historic Victorian era estate on acres of manicured gardens. Highlights include their award-winning fine dining restaurant, champagne bar, and The SÁMAS spa — one of the most beautiful and luxurious spas you’ll come across in all of Ireland
What I loved about this hotel: The exceptional service and attention to detail, with a dedicated staff that goes above and beyond to ensure that guests have a comfortable and enjoyable stay.
The Dingle Peninsula
If you find you have more time leftover while in Kerry, you can plan to travel further down the Wild Atlantic Way to visit the Dingle Peninsula. Some of the highlights of the Dingle Peninsula include the Slea Head Drive, a scenic route that takes visitors along the coast to see stunning cliffs, beaches, and ancient ruins; the Blasket Islands, a group of uninhabited islands off the coast that were once home to a small community of Gaelic speakers; and the town of Dingle itself, which is known for its colorful buildings, lively pubs, and resident population of friendly dolphins.
0 – 1 night Cork, Shannon, or Dublin
Your road trip in Ireland is sadly nearing the end and your next city depends on where you will be departing from.
If your trip is like mine, you’ll be making the 1.5 hour drive to Cork, Ireland’s second largest city and known for its renowned food hall: The English Market.
Recommended hotel in Cork: Cork International Hotel
Alternatively, you can drive 1.5 to Shannon, and have one last epic Irish experience: indulge in a Medieval Banquet at Bunratty Castle.
Recommended hotel in Shannon: Park Inn by Radisson
If you’re flying round-trip out of Dublin, you may want to stop in Cork first, because the drive from Kerry to Dublin is 3.5 hours. In between Cork to Dublin is the Waterford Crystal Factory, a popular tourist attraction where you can book a tour to see some of the finest crystals and crystal-making in the world.
You can also take a connecting flight from Cork or Shannon to Dublin if you find yourself short on time. (Just make sure you specify with your rental car company which airport you’ll be leaving your car at.)
Best Time to Visit Ireland & Weather in Ireland
With about 150 days of rain a year along the east and south-east coasts, and about 225 days a year in the west, it’s safe to say that you may encounter a little (or a lot) of rain any time you visit Ireland.
Ireland has a mild and temperate maritime climate, which means that the weather is generally damp and mild throughout the year, with rainfall occurring in all seasons. In general, the best time to visit Ireland in terms of weather and activities is from May to September, but the country is beautiful and welcoming all year round. March is a great time to visit too, which I’ll get to in a bit.
If you are looking for the warmest and driest weather, the best time to visit Ireland is in the summer between June and August. During this time, the average temperatures are between 16°C (61°F) and 20°C (68°F) with longer daylight hours. This is high season/peak tourist season in Ireland, so you can expect large crowds and higher prices.
If you want to avoid the crowds and don’t mind cooler weather, the shoulder season months of May, September, and October can be a good option. (Especially if you’re there to experience Halloween!) During these months, the weather is generally still mild, with average temperatures between 12°C (54°F) and 16°C (61°F). This is also a great time to enjoy the stunning fall foliage that Ireland is known for.
If you’re able to visit Ireland in March during St. Patrick’s Day, spending the holiday here will definitely be a highlight of your Ireland vacation itinerary. The days in March can be intermittently rainy, but it never poured enough to ruin any plans. As a bonus, the rain makes the landscape very green, adding to the quintessential Ireland experience. Lastly, the crowds were few and far between! I was amazed at how few and manageable the crowds were at all the top sites.
What to Pack for Ireland – 10 Day Road Trip Ireland Packing List
Packing for Ireland is almost the same year-round. For starters, you will always want to dress in layers as temperatures can change throughout the day, sometimes experiencing all 4 seasons in one!
I typically run cold, but I was great with a base layer (usually thermal or heattech), a sweater, and a coat/jacket. (In March.)
A rain jacket or rain-proof coat is a must in Ireland. For the colder months, a down puffer jacket works great. In the summer, you can get away with a lighter rain coat. I also wore a long wool peacoat that kept me very warm.
You’ll also want to pack weather-proof boots that you won’t mind getting dirty.
A scarf, hat, and umbrella are also recommended. I like this compact travel umbrella that I could carry around when visiting sites in times of random rain showers.
Lastly, these small, disposable pocket / hand warmers are life savers for me when I travel anywhere chilly or cold. I pop one in each pocket and they keep me toasty all day.
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Getting to Ireland
I recommend flying with the Irish airline Aer Lingus. They offer many options for direct flights from major cities in the US and Europe/UK, to major cities in Ireland. They are a reliable airline with some of the friendliest crew. Flying with Aer Lingus is a great introduction to the wonderful Irish hospitality you will experience on your trip.
Sláinte to Ireland, the Land of a Thousand Welcomes.
I want to conclude by mentioning that there is something to be said about Irish hospitality. The country of Ireland is known as “the land of a thousand welcomes” with an accompanying national saying that goes, “you’re very welcome.” And very welcome I felt, indeed, throughout the entire time on my epic road trip Ireland itinerary. Out of all the places I’ve been, Ireland has the friendliest, most welcoming people. Every person you encounter has the potential to become a friend, as conversations flow as fluidly as the Guinness.
Ireland is a realm of endless fascination, where the fresh sea breeze drifts on the winds and the rolling green hills seem to go on forever for the colorfully-sprayed sheep to mosey on. With its rugged cliffs and wind-whipped beaches; ancient ruins and soaring cathedrals; and cities that pulse with life and culture both new and old, this is a destination that speaks to the soul. Whether you’re sipping a pint in a cozy pub, hiking across wild moors, or exploring hidden villages tucked into the countryside, you’ll find an Ireland that’s both welcoming and thrilling, rooted in rich traditions and yet utterly contemporary. In the words of the Irish, Sláinte – to your health and the joys of traveling Ireland.