In this post I’ll show you our road trip in Ireland and give you my best tips for planning a self drive trip around the emerald isle. You will also get our itinerary map.
Me and three of my friends spent a week driving around in the beautiful, green landscape of Ireland. We flew to the capital of Ireland, Dublin and our road trip in Ireland could start.
– Guest post by Emma Nygård –
Ireland is a country that is known for both its beautiful green landscape and its unique culture.
Ireland has a oceanic climate, which means that both the summers and winters are quite mild. The rainfall in Ireland is abundant. We were lucky with the weather on our trip to Ireland. It rained only once during our stay, and that was only a shower.
Pubs and Irish folk music pops into your head anytime you think of Ireland. My friends and I are all fans of Irish music, so we spent a lot of time on our trip exploring Irish pubs listening to Irish troubadours. The Irish pub culture is definitely something worth exploring while in Ireland!
Road Trip in Ireland on the Map
This is our Ireland road trip itinerary on the map. We made a loop trip from Dublin and started west towards Galway. After the West Coast we returned via Limerick and Cork.
Many of our expectations about Ireland and its people were met. The landscapes really are that green in Ireland, and the cliffs really are that steep. The pubs really do have troubadours that play Irish music and the Irish people really do have an unique dialect.
Road Trip in Ireland: the Itinerary
Nights 1-3: Dublin
A major part of international flights to Ireland fly to the capital of Ireland, Dublin. That is also where we landed in the beginning of September 2014.
We had pre-ordered a rental car via Internet before the trip. It is easy to find different car rental companies located nearby Dublin airport.
Our road trip in Ireland was a week long, we spent our three first days in Dublin. We noticed that it is a lot cheaper to rent a car for a full week than just for five days, so we did rent a car for the full week. This is worth taking notice of, many car rental companies offer week-long “value” deals, so if you’re thinking about just renting a car for 5 or 6 days also do a search for a full week as it is often cheaper than the 5 or 6 days. It might be best to leave the car at the hotel while visiting the bigger cities. It saves the trouble of finding your way around and finding a parking spot.
Dublin is a lively city with a lot of sights to see. Since we wanted to experience the culture in Dublin, we didn’t focus that much on sightseeing. We walked around in Dublin and explored a big part of the city by random.
One of the things we did in Dublin was a visit to the Guinness Storehouse as Guinness is one of Ireland’s most famous export products. The Guinness Storehouse is located quite close to the city center. It took us about half an hour to walk there from O’Connell Street, which is kind of the main street of Dublin.
We explored all off Guinness’s history and how the world famous stout is made. We also got a chance to learn how to tap our own pint of Guinness. It is actually more complicated than I first thought! The Guinness Storehouse is definitely worth a visit while in Dublin.
Like many other tourists, we also visited the area of Temple Bar. Temple bar is a nice area full of Irish pubs in the city centre of Dublin. There were a lot of people in the pubs even though it was a Wednesday.
The prices in Temple Bar are quite high compared to other areas. Temple Bar is a nice enough place with it’s traditional tunes and crowded pubs, but at the same time it doesn’t really offer you a genuine Irish feeling. It’s very touristy and unless your image of Irish culture is tipsy middle-aged american men with a “Kiss me I’m Irish t-shirt” then don’t waste too much time there.
Nights 3-4: Galway
After our stay in Dublin we headed off to Galway on the west coast of Ireland. Halfway from Dublin to Galway, there is a small town called Kilbeggan. We stopped there to have lunch and visit Kilbeggans whiskey distillery. Kilbeggan, where whiskey has been distilled since 1757, is the oldest whiskey distillery in Ireland.
On our stop at Kilbeggan we got to learn how whiskey is made and at the end of the tour we got a chance to taste some of the whiskeys. Even though I’m not a friend of Whiskey, I still enjoyed the tour very much. Kilbeggan is located by the River Brosna, the scenery is gorgeous and you get a different sense of Irish authenticity than you get in say Temple Bar.
We only spent one night in Galway, so unfortunately we didn’t have so much time to explore Galway. The city is quite small with a few sights worth visiting such as the Galway Cathedral and the Spanish Arch.
Right in the city center there is a very nice and lively pedestrian street with small shops, restaurants and pubs. We had a great time strolling down the street.
Nights 4-5: Limerick
After our one night stay in Galway we continued our road trip in Ireland. We drove south on the Wild Atlantic Way towards Limerick. This is when we noticed that it is indeed very good to have a car when exploring Ireland. It is possible to get around with public transport as well, but with the car we were able to adjust our route and timetable in any way we pleased.
We drove the whole day in these scenic landscapes of the coast. We made frequent stops in tiny villages and just enjoyed the stunning scenery. There is a lot to explore on the coastline of Ireland, and in order to get the most out of it, it is good to plan where to stop in advance. Enjoying the old castles, caves, steep cliffs, beautiful villages and much more made the day go by very quickly. Two definite must-do’s when and if you decide to make a similar journey:
1. Cliffs of Moher
Admiring the scenes at Cliffs of Moher is an absolute dream. The rocks and the huge waves crashing in over 200 meters below your feet is an image i will cherish forever.
There are few places on earth that capture natures beauty as good as this one! If you go to Ireland, visit the West Coast and Cliffs of Moher!
2. Doolin Cave
The Irish West Coast is home to many caves due to the amount of limestone in the ground. As we were driving, we figured we’d stop at one of them and boy was it magical!
The place we visited is called Doolin Cave and we were lucky to have a tour group just heading down to the cave as we walked in to the reception. It costs under 20 euros to go down into the cave with a guided group. You walk down over 10 flights of stairs (with that said it’s not wheelchair accessible) after which you’re given hard-hats before entering the actual cave.
The cave itself is quite narrow at some points and you might bump your head in the ceiling. After a while of walking in the cave we reached a room where the tour-guide turned off all lighting. The purpose of this was to give each one an idea of just how pitch-black it is down there without lighting. When he flicked on the lights again everyones jaw dropped. Hanging before our eyes was the longest free-hanging stalactite in the Northern Hemisphere. With a length of a whopping 7.3 metres it really is a breath-taking sight!
The tour-guide was an older gentleman and one of the nicest fellows you’ll meet, he knew everything about the cave and was keen to answer any questions you had. If you go to Ireland, visit Doolin Cave!
In the evening we were exhausted, and it was good that we had booked a hotel in Limerick for the night. There would have been even more to see along the coastline but unfortunately we didn’t have time for it all.
If you’re looking to really see the West Coast in detail you should reserve at least a couple of days for it. We didn’t have the time for it though so when dawn broke we woke up in a sunny Limerick.
There was a big festival going on in the city, so we spent the day walking around Limerick just watching people have fun and enjoy the sunny weather. The festival was about a huge granny, yes you read that correctly granny as in grandmother, she waddled through the streets assisted by a big crane. It seemed a bit strange at first glance but people really seemed to enjoy it, and come to think of it now she was actually pretty funny!
Nights 5-7: Cork
From Limerick we drove south towards Cork. On the way to Cork we stopped by at the historical Blarney Castle. Blarney Castle has a stone, the Blarney Stone, that is believed to give you the gift of gab if you kiss it, the Irish certainly have that so there might be something to it. Other people (apart from us) who have kissed the stone include Mick Jagger, Winston Churchill and The Simpsons (well not actually but they did in a show).
Although we went to Blarney Castle mostly to kiss the stone, we were surprised over how much else there is to see in the surroundings of Blarney Castle. There are beautiful grounds to walk around in, a poison garden and much more! I’m glad we made a stop in Blarney Castle.
In Cork we met my friend, who showed us around the city. In the evening we got to take part in a pub crawl, and we all had a ball! We stayed in Cork for two nights, so we had time to get to know the city.
The beautiful town of Cork is full of colorful houses surrounding the river that floats trough the town. Cork is a town that never sleeps, it’s widely popular among students which means that there are loads of things going on, regardless of what time of the day it is.
On the last day of our road trip in Ireland we had planned to drive the whole way from Cork to Dublin airport. To make the trip seem shorter, we made a stop at Rock of Cashel, a historical site located between Cork and Dublin. We did a very reasonably priced guided tour in and around the castle.
As it was in Doolin Cave it was at Rock of Cashel, the tour-guide was phenomenal. He had a rich Irish brogue, a great sense of humor and superb knowledge of the castle and its surroundings. This beautiful place really was an ideal place to end our journey in Ireland.
Tips for a Road Trip in Ireland
I would definitely say that it is a great idea to explore Ireland by car. Although Dublin is a beautiful city you will miss a big part of Ireland if you don’t visit other parts of the country.
The west coast is amazing, and I wish that we could have had more days to explore that part of Ireland. I would also have liked to drive to the most southwestern point of Ireland, since there is a big national park there with supposedly amazing landscapes.
However I still think that we got to see a big part of Ireland, and got to experience many different sides of the country. We saw the green landscapes, the castles, cliffs, caves and rocks of the west coast, and we also experienced the rich culture of Ireland by visiting pubs and restaurants in both small towns and big cities.
When planning the itinerary for a road trip in Ireland, it is important to reserve enough time. There are so many places that you can stop at, and driving the tiny roads is slower than expected. Also note that if you don’t mention separately that you would like an automatic gearbox in your car you will most likely get a manual one.
Even more important than that, Ireland is one of the countries that still has left-hand traffic! This takes some time getting used to, but you’d be surprised how quickly you get accustomed to it though.
The route we made for our road trip in Ireland is just an example of a trip and you should make your own route, one that suits you. There are many similar journeys offered by travel agencies. You can get great ideas of where to go by inspecting what routes the travel agencies offer.
I’d be happy to answer any questions about planning a road trip in Ireland, or any other trip to Ireland. ‘Til next time Too-Ra-Loo-Ra-Loo-Ral my friends…