1. Two or Three Week Ireland Itinerary
Approximate Time: 1 or 2 Weeks
Ireland is a great place to rent a car. Many visitors choose to pick up a car to explore the more rural areas outside of the city. Public transportation in the form of buses and trains are available for many parts of Ireland, but you'll have to dramatically cut back on this itinerary and allow significantly more time to travel around. Ultimately, a rental car is the best way to explore the island.
Most visitors arrive in Dublin. We recommend heading straight out of town and saving Dublin for the end of your trip. This way you can relax and leisurely explore the city before your flight home.
From Dublin, head south to the Wicklow Mountains and Kilkenny. You can drive from Dublin to the Wicklow Mountains in less than two hours. You can grab lunch in one of the towns along the way. In particular we recommend Enniskerry. Also visit Glendalough, which is a beautiful mountain retreat. Kilkenny is a great place to pass some time shopping for pottery or local crafts. It's also home to the Kilkenny Castle. Spend the night here before moving on to Waterford and Cork.
The next morning head on to the coastal fishing villages in County Waterford. Some interesting stopping points during this drive include Dunmore East and Ardmore. You can grab lunch in Waterford Town and shop for crystal along the way. There's also a castle, King John's Castle, at Dungarvan that will break up the drive. From there head to the Cork coast where you can explore both smaller towns and the fun Cork City.
From Cork you can head to County Kerry. It's located at the southwest tip of the island and is most famous for the Ring of Kerry. The drive itself is quite picturesque but there are many tour buses that may detract from the experience. There are many different historic sites and small villages along the way. If you choose to do the entire Ring, allow two days, and even then you'd have to skip other side trips along the way. If you're looking for a less hectic visit, skip the long route and take the shorter section of the Ring the connects Kenmare with Killarney National Park. There you'll find a little more peace and quiet.
From there continue on to the Cliffs of Moher with its spectacular view. Ennis is a great place to stop off for lunch. There's also the Bunratty Castle to explore, or you could allow yourself more time to take in the area's stunning landscape. Head for the R480 road to take in some of the impressive limestone landscape. Take the next day to explore Clare and the castles of the area. Corcomroe Abbey is also worth a visit.
The next morning continue on to Galway City about an hour away. You can relax there for the day wandering the streets and exploring it's popular art scene. There's also a pleasant waterfront, or the option to take a cruise to the Aran Islands.
After a day in Galway, make your way along R336 to see the Galway coastline. The small town of Spiddal is a great place to stop, as is Clifden. You can enjoy some shopping and lunch in either of the quaint towns. The south Mayo town of Westport is picturesque. It sits on a river's edge and is a relaxing place to wander. Continue on from there toward Achill Island. This drive is deceptively long but also beautiful with wonderful views. Wander around the island and find a place to spend the night.
From there continue to Donegal. Pick up the N15 road and take it along the beautiful coastline until you reach Ballyshannon. There you can take some time to shop for local crafts and enjoy the views from the top of the hill. You can also explore Catsby Cave on the edge of the Abbey River. Then continue along the beautiful drive to the Fanad and a scenic drive around Lough Swilly. You can spend the night in the quiet town of Rathmullan, which sits pleasantly on a lake. You can then slow your pace and enjoy a day at the lake or head on back to Dublin. Also consider making a side trip to the northernmost tip of Ireland, which is just a couple of hours drive from Rathmullan. Finally, spend your last few days taking in everything that Dublin has to offer.