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Ireland Road Trip

So, after visiting every single country in the world (all 197/197!), it was time to go back home and properly explore my country on an Ireland road trip, both the North and the South. This was my Irish homecoming and I couldn’t have been more excited.

Ireland should be on everyone’s bucket list. Lots of Guinness, friendly people, rugged scenery, green fields and lots of Guinness (that was intentional). And the best way to explore Ireland by driving it. I’ve just finished an epic Ireland road trip so let me help you guys out with an awesome 2-week itinerary to make sure you hit all the top spots!

Ireland Road Trip
Ireland Road Trip at the Cliffs of Moher

I was born on Inismor, on the Aran Islands, County Galway and grew up in Kilkeel, County Down and I hadn’t really explored anywhere outside of Dublin, so July 2017, 3 months after finishing my last country, was the time to rectify that. I gave myself just shy of 2 weeks to hit the main spots across the whole of Ireland,  so the best way to do that would be to grab a friend or 3 and go on an epic Ireland road trip, so that was the plan, and these what I came up with:

  • Dublin
  • Rock of Cashel
  • Cork
  • Blarney Stone
  • Mizen Head
  • Skellig Michael
  • Cliffs of Moher
  • Galway
  • Kylemore Abbey/Connemara National Park
  • Aran Islands
  • Donegal
  • Slieve League
  • Derry
  • Giant’s Causeway
  • Dark Hedges
  • Belfast
  • Silent Valley Reservoir
  • Back to Dublin to cry that it’s all over!

This would be a busy 2 weeks, that’s for sure. But they say that sleep is for the dead, and if we’re going to travel around Ireland, then let’s do it properly.  We were almost all set for yourIreland road trip, so I plugged all the destinations into my map, and this was our route.

Skellig Michael Island
Ireland Road Trip – the spectacular Skellig Michael Island

Irish Road Trip Route:

You can use my google map here. The stops listed here aren’t the stops we necessarily used each day (you can see those below) but as Google Maps infuriatingly only allows 10 stops, I had to put these 10 in to show the exact route we took, so here we go:

wild atlantic way ireland
Ireland road trip – the Wild Atlantic Way

Our Ireland Road Trip Schedule:

Ok, so like I said above, the Google Map does show our exact route, but it doesn’t break it down correctly in terms of where we stopped each night, so let me break that down for you guys. I should also note, that we packed A LOT into our 12 days, and I’ll add a note in each place where I think you should add a couple more days.

DAY 1: START IN DUBLIN, & SLEEP IN DUBLIN

So Day 1 you’ll land in Dublin. Walk around the city a bit, soak it up, recover from your jet lag and rest. The next couple of weeks are going to be epic, but you’ll need to be ready for the onslaught, so get an early night (a tough request considering you’re in Dublin, I know!)

DAY 2: EXPLORE DUBLIN, & SLEEP IN DUBLIN

Check out how to spend One Day in Dublin right in my blog post right here. Time to light up Ireland’s Capital City. O’Connell Street, the Book of Kells, the Guinness Storehouse, Temple Bar. One of the best cities in the world. You’re in for one hell of a day!

DAY 3: DRIVE TO CORK, & SLEEP IN CORK. STOP AT THE ROCK OF CASHEL EN ROUTE


Say goodbye to Dublin and head to Ireland’s southern coast, and its second city – Cork. On the way stop off at the beautiful Rock of Cashel (read the blog post here). Then explore Cork city.

NOTE: If you have extra time, spend 2 or 3 nights in Cork, rather than 1 like me. Drive down to beautiful Kinsale for lunch too, gorgeous place.

DAY 4: KISS THE BLARNEY STONE, THEN DRIVE TO PORT MAGEE, VIA MIZENHEAD

Kissing the Blarney stone is one of those things you MUST do when you’re in Ireland (read the blog post here), just be sure to arrive early and avoid the queues! Then spend the day driving along the Wild Atlantic Way, via Ireland’s most Southern Westerly point at Mizenhead. If the weather holds, the whole drive will be spectacular. Finish the night in Port Magee, ready to explore Star War’s Skellig Michael tomorrow.

DAY 5: BOAT TRIP TO SKELLIG MICHAEL, DRIVE TO GALWAY VIA THE CLIFFS OF MOHER


One of Ireland’s most impressive sights. Skellig Michael was made famous by Star Wars being filmed there, but it’s more than that. Read the blog post here, and organise your visit. One of my top 3 things to do in Ireland for sure, not to mention it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site for a reason! Remember to book in advance, it’s popular.

From there, drive to the famous Cliffs of Moher and grab yourself some epic photographs, the place is magical, read all about it here.

After that, you’ll finish up in Ireland’s best city, Galway. It’s been a long day but Galway’s famous pubs will be calling, I can guarantee you that!

NOTE: Spend 2 nights in Galway, not 1 like me. It’s an amazing city, and you should spend the day exploring it. 

DAY 6: FERRY TO THE BEAUTIFUL ARAN ISLANDS, & SLEEP IN INISHMORE

Inis Mor, Aran Islands, Ireland. Travel can be emotional sometimes…. I’m back ‘home’. Back to where I spent my first couple of years of life, back to where my mum and my father (who I don’t know) lived, before different circumstances meant my mum, my sister and I would leave – never to return. And now I’m back, back in the pub my mum carried me under her arm as she pulled pints of Guinness, back where people I bump into in the village remember my mum and me when I was a kid. Emotional day, in a beautiful, beautiful place. Add Aran Islands to your Ireland itinerary, it’s the Ireland you dreamed of. People speaking Irish as their mother tongue and everyone ready with a smile and a chat ❤️🍀❤️🍀 Big thanks to my friends for being so cool today too 👊🏻👊🏻 #loveireland #aranislands #inismor #ireland #homecoming

A post shared by Johnny Ward 🌍🌎🌏 (@onestep4ward) on

The Aran Islands are the real Ireland and so, so beautiful. Having been born here, it was an emotional trip for me as I was also tracking my father who I haven’t seen since I was 2 (read about it, and the Aran Islands in my post here). Lots of people day trip here and head back to Galway at night, but don’t. Stay, soak it up, this is the real Ireland, where people speak Irish, and the Guinness is flowing. It’s beautiful.

DAY 7: FERRY BACK TO THE MAINLAND, DRIVE TO DONEGAL VIA CONNEMARA NATIONAL PARK AND KYLEMOREABBEY

You’ll be driving through Connemara National Park where everywhere you look is the Ireland you dreamed of.  If you’re lucky enough to be road-tripping Ireland in a camper van, like me, make sure to pack a picnic, because you’re going to want to stop and stare at the scenery today. Unreal. Kylemore Abbey is worth a stop too, a beautiful building lost in the middle of the Irish countryside, and then head to Donegal for the evening.

NOTE: Spend 2 days in Donegal, rather than 1 like us, to explore the city and the surroundings. It’s a gorgeous, historic city and all of Donegal is beautiful.

DAY 8: DRIVE TO THE SLIEVE LEAGUE CLIFFS, THEN TURN BACK AND HEAD TO DERRY/LONDONDERRY

County Donegal, Ireland. Doin’ it right 💚🍀 #donegal #slieveleague #ireland #onestep4ward #loveireland @tourismireland

A post shared by Johnny Ward 🌍🌎🌏 (@onestep4ward) on


The Cliffs of Moher gather all the plaudits but Donegal’s Slieve League Cliffs are every bit as impressive. And you won’t be sharing them with a million other tourists, at least not now, but in 10 years these bad boys will be every bit as famous as the Cliffs of Moher, so go and see and earn your bragging rights. You’ll then backtrack, via Donegal again, and cross the border into Northern Ireland (the UK) to Derry/Londonderry. A political hotspot since Ireland’s troubles, and a place well worth exploring (read about it here).

DAY 9: DRIVE TO BELFAST VIA THE GIANT’S CAUSEWAY, DUNLUCE CASTLE, THE DARK HEDGES AND CARRICK-A-REDE’S ROPE BRIDGE

Busy day! Leave Derry early in the morning and make your way to Belfast, but you have 4 hotspots to hit today, including Northern Ireland’s only UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Giant’s Causeway. Read about it, Dunluce Castle and the Carrick-a-rede rope bridge here. Then you have the Dark Hedges, made famous from filming the Game of Thrones! It eerily cool, and not far from the Giant’s Causeway, so don’t miss it. On your way to Belfast, don’t take the direct route, follow the Causeway Coastal Route – it’ll blow your mind. You’ll be in Belfast soon enough.

DAY 10: SPEND A DAY SIGHTSEEING IN BELFAST, SLEEP IN BELFAST


Belfast City, Northern Ireland’s capital and a buzzing, fun place to spend a few days. The Black Taxi Political tour is one of my favourite things to do in all of Ireland, and the ‘Titanic Belfast’, the huge museum to the Titanic, which was built in Belfast, is awe-inspring. Not surprising to see it’s the most popular tourist attraction each year in Northern Ireland. Check out the best way to spend one day in Belfast in my blog post here.

DAY 11: DRIVE THE COASTAL ROUTE TO KILKEEL/NEWCASTLE, CHECK OUT THE SILENT VALLEY


For me, we drove to Kilkeel, a small town in County Down where I grew up, surrounded by the Mourne Mountains and the Irish sea. This area is a beautiful ‘off the beaten track’ part of Ireland, and I’d highly recommend it. The Silent Valley Reservoir is gorgeous, hike up Binian or Donard Mountain, and stay the night in Newcastle, a tourist town near to Kilkeel (or by all means sleep in Kilkeel if you’re so inclined, we do have 1 hotel!). Your Ireland road trip is almost at an end!

DAY 12: LEAVE KILKEEL/NEWCASTLE AND HEAD BACK TO DUBLIN

All good things come to an end. Time to give your liver a rest, lay off the Guinness and reminisce about how much you managed to squeeze into a couple of weeks. Check out Carlingford Lough on the way, stop for lunch in Warrenpoint (the Whistledown hotel is great for that), and then another 90 minutes you’ll be back in Dublin ready for your evening flight. The Ireland Road Trip is over!

ireland road trip
Goodbye Ireland! Ireland Road Trip
Inishmore, Aran Islands
The view from Dun Aengus on InishMore, Aran Islands – Ireland Road Trip

THOUGHTS?

So I spent 12 days for my Ireland road trip, as you can see, it was a packed schedule! I’d recommend a minimum of 14 or 15 days to truly do it justice. Being Irish though, I’m back ‘home’ twice a year so I’ll be back to explore further over the next few years. I hope this schedule, and the corresponding blog posts, help you plan your Ireland trip. I’m proud to be Irish, and it’s a privilege that I can share my beautiful island with you guys. I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below, and I’m happy to answer any and all questions. Enjoy your Ireland road trip, maybe see you there!

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3 thoughts on “The Perfect Ireland Road Trip Itinerary

  1. Hi. My husband and I are in early 60s and planning a driving holiday for 16 days around Ireland from Dublin arriving by ferry to Belfast and departing by ferry. What do you think of 3 days Dublin, 2 in Cork, 3 in Killarney, 2 in Galway then 1 in Sligo, 2 in Londonderry, 3 in Belfast. Might stay in villages near the big towns but that’s the gist of the trip. Appreciate thoughts.

  2. Hi everyone
    I’d like to talk to you about a great way to travel in Ireland: Day Tours.
    If you are interested in this I recommend you this successful tour operator in Ireland: Smart Tour. Check out their website http://www.smarttour.ie.
    Their strength is relying on Irish guides, offering a luxurious service but at an affordable price.

  3. Hi there!!
    My husband and I are planning a trip to Ireland March 2019. Love your itinerary! I’m stuck with one day here and go or slowing our roll and staying Longer in places SW and Aran islands. We have 2 weeks and can add /delete days if needed. We are in our late 40s but active and love the idea of hanging out in the pubs. I thought we would have more time outside the car on the ladder. But I WANT TO SEE IT ALL! 😉 Any input would be appreciated.

    Thanks in advanced

    Tammy

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