Ireland is a small country on a small island, it’s 280 km wide and 486 km long. You can actually see it all in 1-2 weeks. Our itinerary includes the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, which is part of the UK. Please note that you will need both an Irish visa and a UK visa for this trip. If you only have a UK tourist visa, then you need to change your route to enter Ireland from Northern Ireland.
Public transport in Ireland has its own features. If you don’t want to go deep into them, then the best option for you would be to rent a car. Renting a car in Ireland is not very expensive. See the best deals in Dublin city center here. And here you will find offers at the airport (sometimes it is even twice cheaper).
Keep in mind that the roads in Ireland are very narrow, so we advise you to rent a compact car for much more comfortable travel. And you shouldn’t be afraid of left-hand traffic as the Irish drive calmly and, even if you drive into the oncoming lane, they will understand and forgive you.
Day one, the sights of Dublin
We will start our journey through Ireland from the capital. Dublin is a compact city filled with the sound of Irish songs and the noise of national dances. Even a couple of days will be enough for you to get a good idea of the capital of Ireland. See our one-day itinerary around the city, quite an asset.
In the center of Dublin you will find Trinity College, founded in the 16th century by Queen Elizabeth I. Trinity College is considered one of the main jewels of the city and the vault of a million books and rare manuscripts. The most famous of these is the Book of Kells, created by Scottish monks on Iona island. If you don’t have time to see the entire library and Trinity College, try to see at least a book, truly the main cultural treasure of Ireland.
» READ MORE – Top 10 sights to see in Dublin
You can learn more about the history of the Book of Kells and other manuscripts kept at Trinity College at the Turning Darkness Into Light exhibition, which is organized here.
But Trinity College is not Dublin’s most popular attraction, despite its cultural significance and ancient history. This honorary title belongs to the Guinness Storehouse, most tourists begin their journey through Dublin and all of Ireland exactly from here. Here you will learn interesting facts about brewing and get a free pint of Guinness at the museum’s Gravity Bar. Even if you are not a fan of a cold one, it’s worth visiting the Guinness Storehouse to enjoy the breathtaking panorama of Dublin, which opens from the windows of its seven-story building.
» READ MORE – Guinness Storehouse and Jameson Distillery
To get familiar with the history and culture of Ireland, we advise you to visit Dublin Castle. Several museums are open on its territory, as well as the Royal Chapel and Dubh Lynn Gardens. You can capture the history of the city in one go at the Little Museum of Dublin, this is perhaps the city’s newest attraction and at the same time one of the most impressive.
Try to make time and visit the National Gallery of Ireland, which houses thousands of paintings and sculptures by world famous European masters such as Vermeer, Caravaggio, Picasso, Van Gogh and Monet.
Getting comfortable accommodation in Dublin is not difficult. If you want to stay in the heart of the city, then the elegant Merrion hotel on the square of the same name will satisfy your needs. The Fitzwilliam Hotel is also well located, right on the corner of St Stephen’s Green surrounded by shops and cultural attractions. Wynn’s Hotel is also centrally located, but a little away from the city noise, it has some special retro charm and a peaceful environment. See other hotels and apartments in the center of Dublin at this link.See hotels in Dublin
» READ MORE – One day in Dublin, itinerary
Rock of Cashel
After the sights of Dublin, we will head towards the Rock of Cashel, which is 167 kilometers far from the capital. The trip will take around 2 hours.
There is an interesting legend about the history of the appearance of the Rock of Cashel and the castle of the same name. It says that the rock appeared when Saint Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, expelled the devil from a cave in a mountain near Cashel. The vicious demon bit off a piece of the mountain, broke his tooth and immediately spat out a piece of the mountain, which later became the rock of Cashel. However this is just a folk tale: according to geological data, the rock appeared on this site long before St. Patrick appeared in Ireland.
For a long time, the Rock of Cashel was the residence of the kings of Munster. The top of the cliff is crowned by a complex of buildings of unique architecture, including the Cormac’s Chapel and the Cathedral of Cashel. It also houses a collection of Celtic art.
In the center of Cashel you will find several convenient hotels, such as Baileys, located in a Georgian mansion facing the Cashel Castle. The hotel offers free parking. Located on the outskirts of town, there is the Aulber House, a cozy guest house with its own garden and Irish breakfast for its guests.Choose a hotel in Cashel
Top sights in Cork
After the residence of the kings of Munster, we will continue our journey to Cork, the second largest city in Ireland. The drive to Cork takes one hour, it’s about 100 kilometers from Cashel.
Unfortunately, tourists often ignore Cork. But it’s actually one of the friendliest and coziest cities in Ireland. Moreover, the locals believe that if you want to get a taste of Ireland, then you can only do it in Cork, not in Dublin.
Getting familiar with Cork traditionally begins with the English Market located in the city center. This is one of the oldest city markets where you can buy fresh and ice-cold local products: meat, fish, vegetables, fruits, homemade cheeses and the offal, the Irish just adore it. After a cup of hot chocolate at the market, take a walk down St. Patrick’s Street, which will lead you to St. Finbarr’s Cathedral, built of Cork limestone and marble, decorated with intricate mosaics. The cathedral is named after the patron Cork and is a fine example of neo-gothic architecture.
There is Cork Public Museum not far from the city center, where you can learn some historical facts about the city since 1910. After the tour, take some time to walk around Fitzgerald Park, which surrounds the museum, along the River Lee.
Other interesting sights of Cork include St Anne’s Church, where you can try to ring the church bells, the Butter Museum, where you will learn why this product is so important in the history of the city, and the City Jail, offering visitors an insight into the prison system of Ireland in the 19th century.
If you prefer to stay by the river, River Lee Hotel offers comfortable and well-furnished rooms and free parking. The hotel is nicely located near the Cathedral and the English Market. The JurysInn Cork provides quick access to the city’s main attractions and shops. Hotel Maldron is a little further from the center, but there is a wonderful recreation center with a swimming pool, sauna and jacuzzi. For other Cork hotel deals, follow this link.
From Cork we will visit one of the most beautiful places in Ireland, the town of Killarney. It’s famous for its lakes and the National Park of the same name. The road to Killarney, located 85 kilometers from Cork, will take about an hour and a half.
Start your tour of Killarney at Muckross House, a luxurious Victorian mansion built in 1843. The house is close to Macross Lake, one of Killarney’s three main lakes. Before 1932, Muckross House was the property of the Herbert family, but the last owner of the estate sold it to the state. Traditional Irish farms coming around the mansion will open up a completely different Ireland for its visitors, a country of the 30s and 40s of the last century, when running water and electricity were not available to farmers.
Walk up to the Torc waterfall, placed among emerald landscapes. Along the way, you will come across a lake worth taking a picture.
If you are more keen on architectural sights, then check out Ross Castle. Its history traces back to the 15th century, only a 10–15 minutes ride from Macross House separates you from it. After visiting the elegant Macross House, the contrast between it and Ross Castle, a classic stone fortress, truly catches the eye.
» READ MORE – Ireland: a guide to the country of leprechauns
Killarney National park
And of course the main attraction of Killarney is the National Park and lakes. The national park occupies 10,000 hectares with beautiful lakes and mountains. The park is famous for its diversity of flora and fauna: there is a rare species of red deer, and at least 141 species of birds. Rare species of fish such as the Killarney shad and Arctic trout live right in the lakes of this park.
Killarney is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Ireland, so there is accommodation for every taste and budget. Fantastic luxury and five-star service await you at the Killarney Park Hotel. Housed in an Edwardian mansion, Killeen House is a lovely hotel with friendly hosts to make you feel at home. The budget Old Weir Lodge offers the bare essentials and excellent breakfast at an affordable price. Find more hotel deals in Killarney here.Relax in Killarney hotels
Ring of Kerry
Killarney is the starting point for the famous Ring of Kerry route. The Ring of Kerry is a 179 km long road along the coast of the Iveragh Peninsula. Following the Ring of Kerry, you will see green hills, vibrant Irish cities, Celtic ruins, a fantastic coastline and other scenic spots in one day. Keep in mind that for a cursory sightseeing along the Ring of Kerry you will need at least a couple of hours for each attraction.
The complete route around the Ring of Kerry, along with Killarney, includes 34 stops. To fully explore all these places, you will need days, or even weeks, so we advise you to find out more about the route in advance and define the most interesting points to visit. In addition to the already mentioned Macross House, Ross Castle and the National Park in Killarney, on the Ring of Kerry there are more places worth paying attention to. Check out Ballycarbery Castle, Glenby and Derrynane beaches, Ladies View, the town of Kenmare and the Skellig Islands.Choose a hotel in Kerry
Next, we will head to the third largest city in Ireland, Limerick. It’s 160 kilometers or three hours away from the Ring of Kerry by car.
Most visitors of Limerick begin their exploration of the city at King John’s Castle. With guided tours and interactive displays here you will immerse into the history of Ireland, filled with battles, conquests and trade wars.
You can learn more about the history of Ireland at St. Mary’s Cathedral, which has played an important role in the religious life of the city since the 12th century. The Cathedral is Limerick’s oldest building and one can say that the city actually grew up around it.
Fine art fans will love the Limerick City Gallery. It was built thanks to the generosity of philanthropist Andrew Carnegie. Today it is one of Ireland’s premier art galleries, displaying an impressive collection of Irish art from the 18th to the 21st century.
When choosing accommodation in Limerick staying in a hotel close to King John’s Castle won’t be a mistake. In stylish No. 1 Pery Square Hotel & Spa you will get comfortable rooms as well as a wonderful spa. Hotel Absolute deserves attention due to its location near the river and a nice restaurant. George Limerick Boutique Hotel offers value for money for those looking for affordable yet quality accommodation. See other hotels in the center of Limerick here.Book a hotel in Limerick
Cliffs of Moher
A trip to Ireland would not be complete without seeing the Cliffs of Moher, which are located 78 kilometers from Limerick. It will take you a little over an hour to get there.
Even if you have never been here, you will surely recognize these steep slopes, where Hollywood blockbusters are often filmed. The Cliffs of Moher have featured in box office films such as Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince and The Princess Bride. Curiously, the Cliffs of Moher is the second most popular attraction in Ireland, it gave the first place to the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin.
The Cliffs of Moher rise 200 meters above sea level, covering 8 kilometers of coastline. Known for its vibrant scenery, Ireland has few places that can challenge the Cliffs of Moher in terms of dramatic impression.The closest hotels to Cliffs of Moher are in Liscannor
The medieval town of Galway is located 75 kilometers from the Cliffs of Moher, about an hour and a half drive. This jolly and cheerful town is known for its love of music, it has become the epitome of the Irish spirit. Galway was almost completely destroyed in 1473 but quickly rebuilt. Extensive trade with Western Europe, especially with Spain, contributed to the growth of prosperity and wealth of the city, and the Spanish influence is still felt here.
Eyre Square, built in the 18th century, is considered the central attraction of Galway. Don’t be surprised when you see a memorial to American President John F. Kennedy here as he had Irish roots. Among the most interesting architectural structures in Galway there is Lynch Castle, which now houses a bank, St. Nicholas Church and Galway Cathedral. The history of Galway is displayed in the expositions of the City Museum. Near it there is another landmark, the Spanish Arch, which leads to the Spanish Parade Square, a favorite place for walking among the Spanish merchants who settled in Galway.
Eyre Square is a comfy place to stay if you are in Galway for 1–2 days. You can stay at the Park House Hotel, it’s five minutes walk from the square. If you prefer the Spanish Arch area, then book the Jurys Inn Galway Hotel, which offers wonderful views of Galway Bay. If you are looking for a budget option, check out the Travelodge Galway, a moderately priced hotel with comfortable beds, free parking and internet. Other hotels in the center of Galway can be found at the link.Choose a hotel in Galway
Connemara is the place considered the most beautiful part of Ireland by many people. It is located in the northwest of County Galway, the trip there will take about an hour.
Connemara, surrounded by steep mountains and soft clouds, seems like a magical kingdom from fairy tales. This pure natural beauty attracts travelers from all over the world.
One of the main attractions of Connemara is Kylemore Abbey. There are many beautiful castles in Ireland, but Kylemore occupies a special place among them due to the surrounding landscape and romanesque architecture.
To fully immerse yourself in the beauty of the peninsula, we recommend visiting the Connemara National Park. These are 2000 hectares of mountains, wastelands and swamps, which form that unique natural view that can sometimes only be seen on postcards.
» READ MORE – Connemara in Ireland: how to get there and what to see?
One of the most unusual Irish attractions is located in Connemara is the Glengowla mines, in the 19th century silver and lead were mined here. This is the only mine in Ireland allowing visitors. Of course, the mine itself is not distinguished by its beauty or picturesque view. Its charm lies in the opportunity to learn about the methods of extracting natural resources, exploring the difficult life of miners and see the bizarre mineral formations that are still preserved on the walls of the mine.
Staying in the town of Clifden will be the most convenient way to explore Connemara, it is also considered the capital of Connemara. After booking a room at the Abbeyglen Castle Hotel you have the chance to live in a castle surrounded by a wonderful garden. Another option is the Dun Ri Guest House, which is famous for its cozy rooms and hearty homemade breakfast. Find other Connemara hotels here.Book a hotel in Connemara
Now we have a rather long journey ahead, a three-hour trip from Connemara to County Donegal, located 213 kilometers away. Peaceful contemplation of natural beauty and vibrant active adventures — everyone will find something special in Donegal. Beautiful scenery, golden beaches, massive islands and diverse nature make it a unique holiday destination.
The main attraction of Donegal is the amazing cliffs of Slieve League, towering 600 meters above sea level. These are the highest cliffs in Europe one can climb. Panorama along Donegal Bay, which is a masterpiece that surprises with an unusual palette of vivid colors of the azure sky, milky clouds and cold blue of the sea, are waiting for the most rebellious bravehearts. No wonder Slieve League is called the best canvas of Mother Nature, where legends, myths and tales about Ireland are intertwined.
Another interesting place in Donegal is Malin Head, the northernmost point of the famous coast route «Wild Atlantic Way» and all of Ireland. Malin Head is interesting to visit at any time of the year. Here you should definitely look into the cave «Hell’s Hole» and see the natural arch «Devil’s Bridge». On a clear day, you can even see the coast of Scotland from here, as well as the Irish islands of Tory and Inishtrahull.
After a long walk through Donegal, it’s a great pleasure to relax in the comfort and luxury of Lough Eske hotel, which is located in the castle. If you want to be closer to the coast, then the Sandhouse hotel, perched on a hill above Rossnowlagh Beach, is a perfect place for you. The modest but intimate Highlands Hotel puts you in the center of Donegal life as it is surrounded by shops and pubs. Check other hotels and guesthouses in Donegal here.Compare hotel deals in Donegal
Trip to Northern ireland
After driving 125 kilometers from Donegal, which takes 2 hours, you will find yourself in a completely different country, Northern Ireland. On your way to Belfast, the capital of Northern Ireland, take a short detour to Dunluce Castle, which has witnessed many dramatic moments in the history of the British Isles.
There is the most unusual natural attraction in Northern Ireland located not far from Dunluce Castle, the Giant’s Causeway. It is a real wonder of nature, consisting of 40,000 stone columns. Fans of «Game of Thrones» will be interested in visiting the Ballintoy Harbor spotted in the series as the Iron Islands.
After seeing all these sights, we will finally find ourselves in Belfast. One day is definitely not enough even for a brief taste of the city. Belfast is known not only as the capital of Northern Ireland, but also as the city where the legendary Titanic was built. There is an entire museum dedicated to the ill-fated liner in Belfast. The Ulster Museum deserves special attention, there you will learn about the complicated history of Northern Ireland.
Other notable sights include St Anne’s Cathedral, Belfast Castle, the former Crumlin Road Gaol, the Botanic Gardens and the Zoo.
There is no lack of accommodations in Belfast. The Merchant Hotel will satisfy the tastes of the most hard to please travelers, who will surely appreciate the sophisticated Art Deco furnishings, spa and rooftop fitness room. If you just need a simple place to cool off and stay overnight, the Holiday Inn Belfast City Center or the budget Amica Guesthouse are perfect for this purpose. Other Belfast hotels can be found at this link.Choose a hotel in Belfast
After introductions with Northern Ireland, we return to Dublin. Traveling along the tracks with a total duration of 168 kilometers will take 2.5 hours.
We’ve finally made a circle around Ireland. We believe you liked the trip. And we hope you will come back for the Irish spirit, whiskey and Guinness, for the rocks and soft landscapes of Connemara. As well as for the «Game of Thrones» and knight’s castles, leprechauns, four-leaf clovers and a beautiful northern fairy tale.
Have a pleasant journey!