Updated: Feb 27, 2020
So you’re going to IRELAND?!
WAHOO!! Ireland is my favorite place! Talk about magic, folklore and mysterious celtic music playing through the misty hills…it is truly like walking into a fairytale.
During our trips to Ireland we have made a Master Map full of all our favorite places that we recommend other travelers. Click here to see the Google Map and get my 40+ exact pin locations.
My suggestion: split the country in half and do two trips. You have two airports (Shannon in the west and Dublin in the east) so fly into one airport and travel the north or south side of the country and then fly out of the other side. That will be just enough driving for a 5-7 day trip and you’ll be able to see everything you want.
But if you do go in a loop around the country, here is the exact itinerary we used (When we had a really good experience with our AirBnB we included a link to their listing):
DAY 1 – Shannon to Dingle
Fly into the Shannon Airport in the morning. Rent a car and drive south right to Connor’s Pass. The map will take you along the rest of the route.
Our AirBnB: https://www.airbnb.co.uk/rooms/24245863?source_impression_id=p3_1572523773_hUKrB8Ug5EHeLyhj which was pretty overpriced but super cute. The hostess was very kind. 3 min showers because there isn’t much hot water in the tank.
DAY 2 – Dingle to The Ring of Kerry to Sneem
There is one road that wraps around the coast, with a few roads which connect through the middle of the peninsula. Once you start, you have to finish the drive.
Our AirBnB: https://www.airbnb.co.uk/rooms/30050765?source_impression_id=p3_1572524136_wRN%2Fs%2F%2FSDabOvtUx great for big groups. New, clean has a washer + dryer. Couldn’t figure out how to get the water hot though…
DAY 3 – Sneem to Killarney
This national park is gorgeous and Ross Castle was so fun to tour!
Nice old man who likes to talk runs this. We rented a room in his personal house. Nice guys, long hot showers.
DAY 4 -Killarney to Cork
This day is full of pulling off the road to see castles and the amazing southern coast!
DAY 5 – Cork to Kilkenny
Get ready for huge, tour-able, amazing castles!! Go kiss the Blarney stone!
Nice guy in his 30s renting out rooms. He was very chill. Best suited for only 2 people.
DAY 6 – driving….. Kilkenny to Belfast
See Kilkenny Castle and then driiiiiiiiiiiiive to Belfast. Skip Dublin completely. Irish people we met described Dublin as more European than Irish, and we didn’t like it because it was so busy with none of the magic we love most about Ireland.
DAY 7 – Northern Ireland Coast (Belfast to Giants Causeway)
This drive is gorgeous. The Giants Causeway was the first place we saw other tourists (in October).
DAY 8 – Dark Hedges to Slieve League
Maybe skip Glenveagh Castle. It’s so far out there there is nothing else to see in the area. The Rusty Mackerel pub has local musicians playing irish music after 8:30pm and that was the best evening experience we had.
DAY 9 – Slieve League to Galway-ish
Start with Slieve League and end around Galway. We really should have split this day into two days because didn’t get to see Galway much on this trip, but it’s worth a day or two. The way we did it this time was mostly just a long drive but you can stop by a few places like Ashford castle to mix it up.
DAY 10 – Cliffs of Moher
The cliffs are definitely worth it – be safe!! And the medieval feast at Bunratty Castle is a must!
Be wise. The weather is so hard to predict and some locations on my map might not be safe during high wind or rain. There are lots of cliffs, so be safe!
A few other tips…
They drive on the left side of the road. It takes a few hours to get used to but then becomes second nature. Don’t stress about making scary turns…most intersections are roundabouts! If you’re “turning” left or going straight through a roundabout stay in the left lane, if you’re turning right stay in the right lane.
Get a small SUV. I know everyone talks about the roads being tiny (they are), but instead of a small car what you need is a car that can handle driving off the road when you have to share with another car. Many roads are paved, but many are not and when it’s rainy and muddy (which it usually is) you will be happy you have a car that can handle it. A small SUV is perfect for this.
Watch for the brown signs – they show all the upcoming attractions and historical sites. Black and white signs show street names.
Download the map of Ireland in Google Maps. That way, when you don’t have service you can still have directions on hand. Because some places are so rural, they have EIRCODES, basically codes for individual houses. Use this site to locate with an EIRCODE. https://www.eircode.ie/
The Republic of Ireland uses Kilometers but Northern Ireland (United Kingdom) uses miles. Crossing the border is like crossing a state line…no booths or passport needed. Be careful of that change because the signs and speed limits will change, but your car will likely still read in kilometers.
People in Ireland like sparkling water…when you buy water bottles look for the word “still” on the bottle. That way you won’t be surprised by a bunch of carbonation.
Visit right after the normal tourist season (the off season). We go in the last few weeks of October before daylight savings time so that there are fewer people but still pretty enough day light to have a full day of adventuring before it gets dark. We like that because instead of feeling like tourists, we feel like explorers because there are NO other people (except in touristy places like Giants Causeway or Cliffs of Moher). The majority of the time we are the only people at the castle ruins and we don’t have to stand in lines.