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15 Days In Ireland From Knock (‘Fast-Trip’ For Those Using A Car + Good Fitness)

15 Days In Ireland From Knock (‘Fast-Trip’ For Those Using A Car + Good Fitness)

Planning a 15-day Ireland itinerary can be a pain in the backside… So, we’ve done all of the hard work for you!

We’ve spent 25+ years travelling around Ireland and the itinerary below leans on that experience and the many mistakes we made along the way!

In a nutshell, this 15-day itinerary:

  • Has been meticulously planned
  • Has an hour-by-hour itinerary for each day to save you time/hassle
  • Follows logical routes that take you to hidden gems, tourist favourites and great pubs and restaurants

Table of Contents

Who this itinerary will suit

Who this itinerary will suit

Now, before you scroll down, take 10 seconds to look at the graphic above – each of our road trip itineraries have been tailored to specific needs.

This road trip is specifically for those of you:

  • Starting in/near Knock
  • Using your own car/a rental (if you’re renting a car, read this Irish car rental guide – it’ll save you time and hassle)
  • Looking to explore at a fast pace
  • With a good level of fitness (i.e. it includes long walks and hikes)
  • Remember, we have hundreds of different itineraries here if this one doesn’t suit you

An overview of this 15-day itinerary

map holder image
 The map above gives you a very high-level overview of where this route will take you.

It uses several bases (e.g. Dublin for 4 nights) and provides you with day-long road trips you can head off on, so you avoid having to change accommodation constantly.

Now, I’ll stop rambling on – here’s a day-by-day insight into each of the days below!

Day 1: Sligo’s history and beaches

Strandhill

Photos via Shutterstock

It’s day one and welcome to Ireland! Today, you’re heading up to Sligo Town from Knock Airport, where you’ll be doing some exploring of Ireland’s gorgeous northwest coast. You’ll spend two nights in Sligo before making your way to Westport.

If you haven’t already got somewhere in mind to stay, we’ve made a list of our favourite hotels and B&Bs in Sligo town below!

Our Sligo accommodation recommendations

Stop 1: Carrowmore Megalithic Cemetery

Carrowmore Megalithic Cemetery

Photos via Shutterstock

From the airport, it’s a roughly 45-minute drive to the Carrowmore Megalithic Cemetery. This is a fascinating spot containing the country’s oldest and densest cluster of Neolithic tombs.

The site dates back over 6,000 years, with around 30 passage tombs still standing today (sadly, many were lost to quarrying and land clearance during the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries).

At the centre of the cemetery, you’ll easily spot Listoghil or Tomb 51, by far the largest monument on the site at 34 metres in diameter. It’s the only tomb on the site clearly covered by a cairn, and Megalithic art has been found under the roof slab!

The site is free to visit, but we recommend paying extra (around €5, cash only) for a guided tour and access to the exhibition in the restored cottage on site. Most people spend around one and a half hours here.

Stop 2: Lunch in Strandhill

The Strand Bar

Photos via The Strand Bar on FB

Drive the 10 minutes to Strandhill, a little seaside village, to grab some lunch. If you’re looking to kick off your holiday with some traditional Irish pub grub, then look no further than The Strand Bar.

They have all the classics, and their Guinness beef stew is divine.

Dunnes Bar is our go-to for a mouth-watering burger, with heaps of options, including two vegetarian burgers. If you’re in a group, then consider heading to Stoked for world-cuisine tapas.

They’ve got some bangers on the menu, like Tandoori squid and lamb shoulder bao.

Stop 3: Coffee and a stroll on the beach

Strandhill

Photos via Shutterstock

If you’ve still got a little bit of room left, walk over to Mammy Johnstons for a coffee to go, followed by a leisurely stroll on the beach.

Strandhill Beach is a beautiful sandy beach with some great views of Sligo Bay and Knocknarea Mountain.

Coffee in hand, walk along the shore and explore the sand dunes or watch the surfers tackling the waves (it’s a popular surf spot throughout the year).

Although the water may look tempting (especially in the summer), Strandhill Beach is not a swimmer’s beach as there are dangerous rip currents further out.

Stop 4: Sligo Abbey

Sligo Abbey

Photos via Shutterstock

Your next stop is Sligo Abbey, a 15-minute drive from Strandhill. The Dominican friary dates back to the mid-13th century and was founded by Maurice FitzGerald, the founder of Sligo Town.

The abbey ruins are in great condition considering they survived a fire in 1414; an attack during the ‘Nine Year War’ in 1595; and pillaging during the Rebellion of 1641. Legend has it that during the rebellion, the abbey’s silver bell was salvaged and thrown into nearby Lough Gill. Today, only those “pure of heart” can still hear the peal of the bell through the town…

Despite sustaining heavy damage, the abbey, which is a blend of Norman and Gothic architecture, still has beautiful carvings and monuments. For those interested in literature, the abbey was featured in two of W.B. Yeat’s poems – ‘The Curse of the Fires and of the Shadows’ and ‘The Crucifixion of the Outcast’.

The abbey is open daily with a small admission fee (around €5).

Stop 5: Yeats building

Yeats Building

Photos courtesy Eddie Lee/Ed Lee Photography via Failte Ireland

If you’ve an interest in Irish culture, take the short, 6-minute stroll to the Yeats Building. It’s here that you’ll be immersed in all things drama, history, literature and poetry.

There’s a Yeats exhibition that’ll take you into the mind of one of Ireland’s most famous poets, and you can also take a guided tour (advance booking needed).

Stop 6: Dinner, drinks and live music

Sligo pubs

Photos by The Irish Road Trip

It’s time to wrap up your first day, and what a day it was! Head back to your hotel to freshen up, or go directly from the museum to grab some dinner. We’ve got some suggestions below.

Our Sligo food recommendations

Hopefully, you’re hungry as there’s some excellent restaurants in Sligo.

Head to Hooked for delicious Irish and international food made from local ingredients sourced from Sligo County. Some of our favourite dishes are the Sherlock of Tubbercurry’s prime beef steak sandwich and the buffalo chicken mac’n’cheese, but they also have some delicious vegan and vegetarian dishes.

For seafood and steaks, we love Coachlane. It’s a little on the pricey side, but their certified Irish Angus beef is worth the extra money. If steak isn’t your thing, their seafood platter is incredible, with salmon, scallops, crab claws, cod, monkfish, and shrimp.

Our Sligo pub recommendations

If you’re feeling like after dinner drinks, we suggest hitting up Hargadon Bros (a traditional Irish pub dating back to 1868), Thomas Connolly (a heritage Irish pub and the oldest in Sligo Town), and Shoot the Crows (a cosy and quirky traditional pub with a great pint of Guinness).

For a night of lively trad music, pass by McLynns Bar or Fureys Pub (or both!).

McLynns is in the heart of Sligo town on Old Market Street. The fourth-generation pub has been running since 1889, with live music (Irish folk, acoustic, and bluegrass) every weekend and on mid-week nights. The traditional interior will transport you back in time with wooden furniture and historical decor.

Fureys Pub on Bridge Street is a cosy old-style pub with a great atmosphere, an open fire (great for those cold winter evenings), and live trad music on weekends and certain weekday nights.

Day 2: Sligo – Yeats Country

Streedagh Beach

Photos via Shutterstock

Today we are exploring more of Sligo. Just a note on today, we have you drive back to Sligo to grab some lunch before heading back out to Lissadel house. If you want to cut down on driving time today, we recommend that you drop into a Centra, Spar, or SuperValu and grab a sandwich or packed lunch to keep in the car with you.

Start the day with a hearty breakfast at your accommodation. Or, if you want to have breakfast out, we recommend Margarets Cafe (a cosy spot with traditional Irish breakfast, french toast, and pancakes) or Lyons Cafe and Bakeshop (hearty cooked breakfasts and artisanal pastries).

Stop 1: The Model

The Model

Photos courtesy Eddie Lee/Ed Lee Photography via Failte Ireland

Sligo is officially Yeats country, so it’s a great opportunity to learn about and see works by both brothers. The Model is a wonderful contemporary art gallery and centre in the heart of Sligo town.

It’s home to the Niland Collection (named after the librarian who founded the collection in the 1950s, Nora Niland), with over 300 works, including a significant collection of Yeats pieces.

‘A Political Meeting (In the West of Ireland’, ‘A Sunday Morning in Sligo’, and ‘An Island Man’ are just a few of the J.B. Yeats works in the collection. Each year, the gallery curates six exhibitions from the Niland Collection, with a heavy focus on the works of J.B. Yeats.

Stop 2: Drumcliffe Church and WB Yeats Grave

Drumcliffe Church

Photos via Shutterstock

After The Model, hop in the car and drive the 10 minutes to Drumcliffe Church (also known as St. Columba’s Church).

This beautiful church is renowned for being the location of W.B. Yeat’s grave (although it wasn’t his first resting place!). His simple grave is in the churchyard, with an inscription reading, “cast a cold eye on life, on death, horseman, pass by”, written by the poet himself.

The church is in a stunning location, in front of Benbulben Mountain, amongst lush green fields. There’s free parking on-site, and if you’re already hankering for another coffee, there’s a little coffee shop.

Stop 3: Benbulben Forest Walk

Benbulben Forest

Photos via Shutterstock

Next on today’s agenda is the gorgeous Benbulben Forest Walk. It’s a six-minute drive from Drumcliffe Church, simply type in “Benbulbin Walk” into Google Maps and follow the map to the car park.

The walk is a relatively easy 5.5km loop, which is mostly flat, making it perfect for families. It takes most people around 1.5 hours to complete with unbeatable views of Benbulben Mountain and the Sligo countryside. On clear days, you might even be able to see Slieve League and Classiebawn Castle in the distance.

Stop 4: Glencar Waterfall

Glencar Waterfall

Photos via Shutterstock

Okay, so Glencar Waterfall is technically in Leitrim, but since it’s only 20 minutes from the Benbulben Forest Walk and right on the Sligo border, we had to include it!

Glencar Waterfall is a magical place and the inspiration for W.B. Yeat’s poem ‘The Stolen Child’. The waterfall, a lovely little cascade, is tucked away within an enchanting forest only a five to 10 minutes walk from the car park.

There’s plenty of parking there, so there’s usually no trouble finding a space. You’ll also find public toilets on-site, in case you need the loo after the forest walk.

Stop 5: Back to Sligo for Lunch (optional)

Flipside Sligo

Photos via Flipside Sligo on FB

If you didn’t opt to grab a packed lunch this morning, then drive the 17 minutes back to Sligo town for a cooked meal.

Our personal favourite lunch spot is Hooked (which we recommended last night for dinner). Their brunch menu has Irish classics like beer-battered fish and chips and international dishes like the 12-Hour Slow Cooked Pork Belly Vietnamese Bahn Mi.

If Hooked doesn’t take your fancy, then we also recommend Lyons Cafe and Bakeshop or Bridgefoot House.

Stop 6: Lissadell House

Lissadell House

Photos via Lissadell House on FB

Kick off the afternoon with a visit to Lissadell House, a 19-minute drive outside of Sligo Town and Glencar. The neo-classical Greek revivalist home dates back to 1830 and was completed in 1835.

The original 32,000-acre estate belonged to the Gore-Booth family and was the childhood home of Constance (who would become Countess Markievicz, a famous Irish revolutionary) and Eva Gore-Booth (a poet and suffragette), alongside their three siblings. The Yeats brothers also visited the home on holiday, with W. B. Yeats referencing the home and the famous sisters in his poem “In Memory of Eva Gore-Booth and Con Markiewicz”.

Today, the now 500-acre estate and home are privately owned, although it is open to the public. There’s lots to do, whether it’s taking a stroll through the 2.5-acre garden, admiring the lavish rooms, seeing the 1916 exhibition, or visiting the Yeats Gallery, which contains works of painter Jack B. Yeats.

Stop 7: Streedagh Beach stroll

Streedagh Beach

Photos via Shutterstock

Hop in the car and make your way to Streedagh Beach, a 15-minute drive away. There’s a large car park there, so you usually don’t have to worry about finding a spot.

The beach itself is an impressive 3km long sandy stretch on a sandbar that links the mainland to Connor’s Island. We think the beach probably has the best view of Benbulben Mountain in the county, and you may recognise it from the TV show, Normal People.

It’s a lovely spot for a ramble to take in the fresh sea air and the amazing views. During the summer, there’s a lifeguard service, although we advise against swimming unless you’re experienced, as the waters have strong tides and undercurrents.

Stop 8: Back to Sligo town for the evening

Sligo pubs

Photos by The Irish Road Trip

It’s time to call it a day and head back to Sligo town. It’s around 22 minutes in the car, and you may want to stop by your accommodation to freshen up before dinner or, if you’re really hungry, go straight to the restaurant!

Our Sligo food recommendations

Hopefully, you’re hungry as there’s some excellent restaurants in Sligo.

Head to Hooked for delicious Irish and international food made from local ingredients sourced from Sligo County. Some of our favourite dishes are the Sherlock of Tubbercurry’s prime beef steak sandwich and the buffalo chicken mac’n’cheese, but they also have some delicious vegan and vegetarian dishes.

For seafood and steaks, we love Coachlane. It’s a little on the pricey side, but their certified Irish Angus beef is worth the extra money. If steak isn’t your thing, their seafood platter is incredible, with salmon, scallops, crab claws, cod, monkfish, and shrimp.

Our Sligo pub recommendations

If you’re feeling like after dinner drinks, we suggest hitting up Hargadon Bros (a traditional Irish pub dating back to 1868), Thomas Connolly (a heritage Irish pub and the oldest in Sligo Town), and Shoot the Crows (a cosy and quirky traditional pub with a great pint of Guinness).

For a night of lively trad music, pass by McLynns Bar or Fureys Pub (or both!).

McLynns is in the heart of Sligo town on Old Market Street. The fourth-generation pub has been running since 1889, with live music (Irish folk, acoustic, and bluegrass) every weekend and on mid-week nights. The traditional interior will transport you back in time with wooden furniture and historical decor.

Fureys Pub on Bridge Street is a cosy old-style pub with a great atmosphere, an open fire (great for those cold winter evenings), and live trad music on weekends and certain weekday nights.

Day 3: The Mayo Coast

Keem Bay

Photos via Shutterstock

Today we’re heading to Westport, the long way round. Along the way, we’ll take in the stunning Mayo coast and the sights of Achill Island, one of the country’s most remote areas and Ireland’s largest island. 

There’s going to be a lot of driving today, but it really is the only way to see all of the incredible places we’ve got lined up for you! Be sure to drop by a shop before you leave Sligo to grab plenty of snacks and water for the car.

Before hitting the road, let’s grab one last breakfast in Sligo, either at your accommodation or one of the many fantastic cafes in town. Margaret’s Cafe does a wonderful full Irish, but their pancakes and smoked bacon are also well worth giving a go. For a vegan-friendly alternative, head to Sweet Beat, where you’ll find an extensive menu and great coffee.

You’ll need to book three nights’ accommodation in Westport, so be sure to check out our suggestions.

Our Westport accommodation recommendations

Stop 1: Grab a cup of coffee and stretch your legs in Ballina

Ballina

Photos via Shutterstock

Our first stop takes us to the riverside town of Ballina, about an hour’s drive from Sligo. Straddling the River Moy, it’s a beautiful, tranquil town that’s nice to stroll around. Park up in the Market Square car park, which costs around 50 cents an hour or so. 

If you fancy a cup of coffee while you wander the town, both The Coffee Vine Cafe and Dave’s Deli and Coffee Shack are a short walk from the car park. They both offer a superb choice of coffee styles, as well as pastries and cakes.

Stop 2: Dun Briste

Dun Briste

Photos via Shutterstock

Jumping back in the car, we’ll drive 34 minutes to the spectacular Dun Briste sea stack, just off Downpatrick Head. Standing 45 metres high, 63 metres long and 23 metres wide, it lies just 200 metres offshore, and is home to puffins, kittiwakes and cormorants. There’s a spacious car park when you reach the headland, and from there it’s about a 15-minute walk to the edge of the cliffs.

With its colourful rock strata and churning waters below, it’s an impressive sight. Legend tells that it was formed by Saint Patrick, who struck the ground with his crozier to strand Crom Dubh, a Celtic Chieftain. There’s a clatter of things to see at Downpatrick Head, including the WWII EIRE 64 lookout post, St Patrick’s Church, and Pul Na Sean Tinne, a blowhole known as the “Hole of the Old Fire”. You’ll also find a nice tea shop and cafe there.

Stop 3: Ceide Fields

Ceide Fields

Photo left and bottom right: Michael Mc Laughlin. Top right: Alison Crummy. Via Failte Ireland

Our next stop is the Ceide Fields, just a 19-minute drive from Dun Briste. More than 6,000 years old, this remarkable neolithic site perches atop the cliffs, some 113 metres above the sea. This extensive Stone Age monument is the oldest-known field system in the world, containing a number of megalithic tombs, ancient stone-walled fields, and the remains of centuries-old dwelling places.

There’s a fantastic visitor centre, which rises from the peat bog in a pyramid shape and boasts an array of displays and exhibits to check out. You can enjoy a guided tour of the area too, or visit the viewing platform. And of course, there’s a decent little cafe too.

Stop 4: Ballycroy – Wild Nephin National Park

Ballycroy

Photos via Shutterstock

After Ceide Fields, we’ll take a beautiful 50-minute drive through the stark beauty of Mayo’s countryside before arriving at Ballycroy Visitor Centre in the heart of Wild Nephin National Park. The park is home to a wealth of gorgeous lakes, mountains, and bogs, with a range of walks to suit all schedules and abilities.

First, it’s worth popping into the visitor centre, which showcases some fascinating displays and exhibits that explain the history and culture of the area. If you want to check out your beautiful surroundings, there’s a nice, easy-going 2 km walk from the visitor centre that offers spectacular views out to Achill Island and the Nephin Beg Mountain Range.

Stop 5: Lunch on Achill Island

Beehive Crafts and Gifts Restaurant

Photos via Beehive Crafts and Gifts on FB

For lunch, we’ll drive over the Michael Davitt Bridge onto the epic Achill Island, which boasts breathtaking landscapes and plenty to see and do. For food, the lively village of Keel, about 45 minutes from Ballycroy, is the place to be, with several pubs, cafes, and restaurants to choose from.

We recommend the Beehive Crafts and Gifts Restaurant, with excellent indoor and outdoor seating, and a varied menu, with options for all dietary requirements. Be sure to check out the fishcakes! Alternatively, The Currach is a good choice, and they do a mean seafood chowder.

Alternatively, stop off at Blásta at Ted’s in Cashel. Parked up in the pub car park, this fantastic food truck offers up a wealth of tasty treats, including mussels, excellent fish and chips, shrimp tacos, and falafel. With daily specials, there’s always something new to try. In fact, the only problem with Blásta is that it’s so hard to choose just one thing!

Stop 6: Keel Beach

Keel Beach

Photos via Shutterstock

After lunch, feel free to potter about Keel Beach, one of the most popular on Achill, especially for surfers. There’s even board and wetsuit rental if you fancy giving surfing a go yourself! Blue Flag certified, the beach enjoys fantastic water quality, as well as a seasonal lifeguard service, making it a great spot for swimming too.

You’ll find plenty of parking at Keel Beach, as well as clean toilets and numerous picnic tables. It’s a 12-minute drive from Ted’s, or just down the road from the restaurants and cafes in Keel.

Stop 7: Keem Bay

Keem Bay

Photos via Shutterstock

Next stop, the exotic-looking Keem Bay. Seriously, on a sunny day, it looks more like Bali than Ireland! Surrounded by towering green cliffs, it boasts a luscious white sandy beach and crystal-clear seas. A nice place for a swim (lifeguards are on duty during summer months), it’s also a top place for relaxing and taking in the scenery. The 12-minute drive up there from Keel is also incredibly scenic, so be sure to take your time.

Stop 8: White Cliffs of Ashleam

White Cliffs of Ashleam

Photos via Shutterstock

The White Cliffs of Ashleam are another Achill Island highlight that are well worth driving to. If you put “White Cliffs of Ashleam @ Wild Atlantic Way” into Google Maps, it’ll take you on a 30-minute drive from Keem to the viewpoint, taking in amazing scenery the entire way. The road winds up to the viewpoint, and from there, you’ll get a fantastic eyeful. The jagged, bright white cliffs seem to cut into the sea, which crashes against them in a violent yet beautiful display.

Stop 9: Grace O’Malley Towerhouse

Grace O'Malley Towerhouse

Photos via Shutterstock

Our final stop on Achill Island takes us to Grace O’Malley’s Towerhouse. It’s just an 11-minute drive from the White Cliffs of Ashleam on the edge of Achill Sound. The tower dates back to the 15th century and was famously used by Grace O’Malley, the legendary Pirate Queen, who ruled the island hundreds of years ago. You’ll find a small car park at the tower, and if you want to get close, just hop over the stile and walk over.

Stop 10: Back to Westport for the night

Westport Town

Photos via Shutterstock

Our final stop for the day takes us back onto the mainland and to the vibrant seaside town of Westport, which is about 50 minutes away.

Along the way, we’ll pass Clew Bay, which is home to 365 islands, one for each day of the year. After a long day on the road, you’ll want to check into your accommodation, freshen up, and then reward yourself with dinner and a few drinks in town.

Our Westport food recommendations

There’s some excellent restaurants in Westport and the town is another great place for locally-sourced food, with a host of restaurants to choose from. The award-winning An Port Mor, located in the town centre, is one of the best, with an array of succulent dishes, including the ever-popular Clew Bay Lobster.

JJ O’Malleys is another great choice, beloved by locals and visitors alike for its extensive menu that combines traditional Irish food and seafood with contemporary dishes. Plus, the decor is fantastic!

Our Westport pub recommendations

There’s some mighty pubs in Westport, too! For an end-of-day pint, you’d struggle to beat a visit to Toby’s Bar.

Small and unassuming, it’s a favourite among locals, with a friendly crowd of regulars. It boasts a fantastic atmosphere and many say that they pour the best pint of Guinness in town.

Blousers is another great option, especially on a cold night. A dram of whiskey or a pint by the roaring fireplace is always a welcome treat, plus they’ll often have live music.

The most iconic pub for live music in Westport is definitely Matt Molloy’s. It’s owned by the flautist from The Chieftains (if you’ve not heard them, check them out!) and offers traditional Irish music live every night. It has a lively atmosphere and often attracts a crowd.

Day 4: Croagh Patrick

Croagh Patrick hike

Photos courtesy Gareth McCormack/garethmccormack via Failte Ireland

Day 9 sees us tackling the spectacular Croagh Patrick hike, the fourth-highest mountain in County Mayo.

It’s an excellent way to spend the morning, and if the weather is clear, you’re in for some superb views from the top. Make sure to pack decent footwear and clothes for sun, rain, and wind. It’s also well worth stocking up on plenty of water and snacks to fuel your trek up this holy mountain.

First things first, you’ll want to grab a hearty breakfast either at your accommodation or in town. If you’re heading into town, This Must Be The Place serves up a mighty feed and a superb cup of coffee. The menu encompasses a bunch of healthy breakfast classics, as well as vegan options, toasties, and tasty cakes.

If you’re craving something not quite so healthy, get down to Cian’s for one of the best full Irish breakfasts in the country. The locally sourced ingredients make all the difference, and it makes for a decadent start to the day.

Stop 1: Croagh Patrick

Croagh Patrick

Photos via Shutterstock

The path up to the summit of Croagh Patrick is well-signed and really easy to follow. While the pilgrimage starts from the village of Murrisk, you can start it from Murrisk Car Park, which sits at the foot of the mountain. The car park is just a 12-minute drive from Westport and should cost €3 for the entire day. Bear in mind you’ll need to pay in cash.

Croagh Patrick, also known as “The Reek”, stands at an impressive 764 metres tall, and while the hike up is easy enough to follow, it’s pretty hard-going. There’s a lot of climbing up steep inclines and steps, with very few flat sections for the first 20 minutes or so. It’s worth the effort though, and from the summit, you’ll enjoy breathtaking views over Clew Bay. With its 365 islands, it really is a sight to behold.

The hike up and down can take anywhere between 2.5 hours to 5 hours on average, depending on fitness and photo stops. It’s tough but doable for anyone in reasonable shape. Once you get back down, you can grab a refreshing pint at the Tavern, just down the road from the car park. They also do great food, so if you fancy it, you could have lunch here.

Stop 2: Back to Westport for lunch

Cian's Westport

Photos via Cian’s on FB

After giving yourself a pat on the back from conquering Croagh Patrick, it’s time to head back to Westport and grab a shower.

If you haven’t had lunch yet, we’ve plenty of great options for you in Westport. Friends Bistro is one of our favourite spots, and they do amazing burgers, mussels, and desserts to die for. They also offer lighter lunches, with a nice selection of sandwiches, soups, and salads, plus veggie options. 

Cian’s is another favourite, especially their seafood chowder. They do a great selection of Irish dishes and seafood, as well as juicy burgers.

Stop 3: Westport House

Westport House

Photos via Shutterstock

We’ll take it easy this afternoon, driving just five minutes out of town to the historic Westport House. Dating back to 1730, the house has been welcoming guests for hundreds of years. There’s plenty to do during your visit too. The gorgeous grounds and gardens are just waiting to be discovered, and there’s now a 3.5 km looped walk that takes you through the woods and alongside the lough.

Inside, you’ll feel as if you’ve stepped back in time. Take a guided tour to discover the history of the house and the family that called it home, or wander the halls at your own pace with a self-guided audio tour.

Stop 4: Dinner, drinks and live music

The Old Grainstore

Photos via The Old Grainstore on FB

After this morning’s walk, it’s worth taking it easy this evening. So, why not grab dinner and finish your night with a pint at the iconic Matt Molloy’s Pub for some of the best live trad sessions this side of the Shannon?

Our Westport food recommendations

There’s some excellent restaurants in Westport and the town is another great place for locally-sourced food, with a host of restaurants to choose from. The award-winning An Port Mor, located in the town centre, is one of the best, with an array of succulent dishes, including the ever-popular Clew Bay Lobster.

JJ O’Malleys is another great choice, beloved by locals and visitors alike for its extensive menu that combines traditional Irish food and seafood with contemporary dishes. Plus, the decor is fantastic!

Our Westport pub recommendations

There’s some mighty pubs in Westport, too! For an end-of-day pint, you’d struggle to beat a visit to Toby’s Bar.

Small and unassuming, it’s a favourite among locals, with a friendly crowd of regulars. It boasts a fantastic atmosphere and many say that they pour the best pint of Guinness in town.

Blousers is another great option, especially on a cold night. A dram of whiskey or a pint by the roaring fireplace is always a welcome treat, plus they’ll often have live music.

The most iconic pub for live music in Westport is definitely Matt Molloy’s. It’s owned by the flautist from The Chieftains (if you’ve not heard them, check them out!) and offers traditional Irish music live every night. It has a lively atmosphere and often attracts a crowd.

Day 5: Connemara

Kylemore Abbey

Photos via Shutterstock

Today you’re heading down through Connemara (an incredibly scenic part of the country) to Galway City, where you’ll be spending two nights.

You’ve got a busy day ahead, so enjoy a hearty breakfast at your accommodation, or, if you’d prefer to have breakfast out, Christy’s Harvest and This Must Be The Place are both solid choices.

Recommended accommodation in Galway

Stop 1: Silver Strand in Louisburg

Silver Strand Louisburgh

Photo left and top right: Kelvin Gillmor. Other: Google Maps

Today’s drive is all about taking in some of Ireland’s most stunning landscapes. This first leg takes us on a short but sweet 25-minute drive from Westport to the charming village of Louisburg.

The road hugs the southern edge of Clew Bay, with the sea and its many islands on one side and the mighty Croagh Patrick mountain on the other.

Once you arrive in Louisburg, feel free to park up, stretch your legs, and grab a cup of coffee. Tia Cafe does a great cup, plus tasty cakes and bakes, and you can normally park right out in front on the roadside. 

When you’re ready, take the short drive around to Silver Strand Beach. This is one of the Wild Atlantic Way’s finest, so soak up the sights, sounds and fresh sea air for a bit.

Stop 2: The Doolough Valley

Doolough Valley

Photos via Shutterstock

After you leave Louisburgh, you’ll be making your way to Leenane via the outstanding Doolough Valley.

This stretch of road is one of the most scenic drives in Ireland, and you’ll often find the place virtually empty.

Before you enter the valley, you’ll reach a Wild Atlantic Way viewpoint sign. Stop here, and you’ll have a view of the area in the photo above.

When you’re ready, follow the road as it winds around the ink-black waters of the Killary Fjord towards the village of Leenane.

Stop 3: Aasleagh Falls

Aasleagh Falls

Photos via Shutterstock

Take your time on the 35-minute drive through Doolough, and you’ll eventually reach Aasleagh Falls, which lies at the head of Killary Fjord.

There are two car parks at the falls, and it’s just a short walk to the cascade. However, with no official path to the waterfall, be prepared to cross a mucky field. It’s a gorgeous cascade, especially after the rain, and it’s a fine place to relax a little while, contemplating the meaning of life as the tranquil sound of running water fills the air.

Stop 4: Leenane and Killary Fjord

Killary Fjord

Photos via Shutterstock

The gorgeous village of Leenane is just a short 5-minute drive from the waterfall. It sits on the edge of Killary Fjord, the only fjord in Ireland, and it’s another area of spectacular scenery. The village offers a truly authentic experience of rural Ireland, and for most of the year, it’s pretty quiet, although it can get busy in summer.

Having said that, there are plenty of attractions. It’s perhaps most well-known for serving as the impressive backdrop to Jim Sheridan’s classic, ‘The Field’, starring Richard Harris, John Hurt, Sean Bean, Brenda Fricker, and Tom Berenger. Fans of the movie will recognise much of the village, especially Gaynor’s Bar, which starred as the local pub in the film.

The Sheep and Wool Centre is always worth checking out, and you can find hand-crafted woolly sweaters, scarves, and much more while learning about how they’re made.

Stop 5: Kylemore Abbey

Kylemore Abbey

Photos via Shutterstock

Our next stop is the epic Kylemore Abbey. Built in 1867, it’s perched on the edge of both Pollacapall Lough and the breathtaking Connemara National Park. As you wander the grounds, enjoy the gardens, church, and abbey, before checking out the tea room and gift shop.

The grounds cover a staggering 13,000 acres of land and include magnificent gardens, walks and woodlands. Meanwhile, inside the tour takes visitors on a journey through the many generations of people who have dwelled, worked, studied and prayed inside the castle’s magnificent walls.

Visitors will have stories brought to life in spectacular fashion via historical photographs, audio-visual presentations, artefacts, historical costumes and much more.

Stop 6: Lunch in Letterfrack

Veldons Letterfrack

Photos via Veldons on FB

Just 7 minutes down the road from Kylemore Abbey, the bustling village of Letterfrack is a great choice for lunch. You’ve got some fantastic options too. One of our favourites is the Clover Fox Restaurant and Bar. This traditional pub boasts open fires and a welcoming atmosphere, as well as a varied menu that takes in fresh, local seafood and a wealth of classic Irish dishes.

For more sumptuous seafood, Veldons Seafarer Bar and Restaurant is an excellent choice, and their seafood platter is hard to beat. For a lighter lunch of sandwiches, toasties, quiche, cakes, and coffee, the Hungry Hiker is a must. You can sometimes find street parking in Letterfrack. Otherwise, park up at the Connemara National Park Visitor Centre.

Stop 7: Diamond Hill

Diamond Hill

Photos via Shutterstock

Drive three minutes to the Connemara National Park Visitor Centre and park up. There are two Diamond Hill trails, but we recommend the Upper Diamond Hill trail, the longer of the two.

It’s a strenuous 7km walk that takes most people between two and a half and three hours to finish. Although it’s a challenging route, you’ll be rewarded at the 445-metre summit with stunning panoramic views of Connemara and maybe even a wild goat or two along the way!

Stop 8: The Sky Road

Sky Road

Photos via Shutterstock

Head 18 minutes south to Clifden and then follow signs for The Sky Road.

The Sky Road is a breathtaking 16km loop. It begins in Clifden, making its way around the Kingston peninsula along a coastal road with stunning views. Along the way, the loop passes by Clifden Castle, a ruined manor house overlooking the water.

After the castle, the Sky Road deviates into two routes which join up again later, the lower road, which has close-up views of the sea, and the upper road, which has views over the bay.

Some scenic stops along the way are Clifden Castle, the viewing point on the upper road, and Eyrephort Beach. We’d say two hours is a good length to spend on the Sky Road, including stops, but this depends on what time you begin the drive.

Stop 9: Dinner, drinks and live music in Galway

Galway Pubs

Photos courtesy Failte Ireland

Once you’ve finished the Sky Road loop, it’s time to head south to Galway, a roughly one hour and 20-minute drive. Check into your accommodation then head out for a night of food and music.

Galway is a lively city regardless of the time of year. Here’s some spots worth checking out:

Our dinner recommendations

There’s some excellent restaurants in Galway – our favourites are Ard Bia, The Quay Street Kitchen, and Dela. Ard Bia is absolutely fantastic, but you need to book in advance for dinner.

The restaurant has a quirky interior and serves beautifully presented modern dishes.

The Quay Street Kitchen has a great selection of vegan and vegetarian-friendly dishes, and Dela has modern Irish cuisine on the menu.

Live music and trad bars

There’s some mighty pubs in Galway. After dinner, head out for drinks at either Tigh Neachtain or The Crane. Both are traditional pubs with a great atmosphere. 

Trad music is an integral part of the city, with heaps of options to choose from. Our favourite spots are Crane Bar (mentioned above) and Tigh Chóilí.

Day 6: Galway City

Galway City

Photos by Stephen Power via Ireland’s Content Pool

Today, you’ve got the whole day to explore Galway and its wonderful attractions.

We’re going to recommend that you start your day out in Salthill, by the sea, before coming back into the city and either exploring on foot or via a hop-on/hop-off bus tour.

Stop 1: Breakfast in Salthill

Salthill

Photos via Shutterstock

We’d recommend driving over to Salthill (5-minute spin) and starting the day off with breakfast at Coco Cafe Salthill or Gourmet Food Parlour Salthill.

Then, enjoy a walk along the famous Salthill Promenade (and kick the wall) before heading back towards the city centre.

Stop 2: Decide how you’ll get around for the day

Spanish Arch

Photos via Shutterstock

Now, Galway is a very walkable city, but if it’s raining or if you fancy getting dropped to the ‘main’ attractions, the hop-on/hop-off bus tour is well worth buying.

Regardless of which option you choose, here are some of our favourite sites in Galway City (we’ve listed them in a logical way for you to walk between them).

Stop 3: Galway Cathedral

galway cathedral

Photos via Shutterstock

Galway Cathedral is wonderfully impressive both inside and out. It’s arguably the jewel in the Galway City skyline and you’ll cop it from many places as you stroll around the city.

Interestingly enough, it’s not as old as it looks, and construction on the building was only completed in 1965, earning it the title of ‘the last great stone cathedral to be constructed in Europe’.

The cathedral is free to enter, but visitors are asked for a donation of €2 to help with the building’s upkeep.

Stop 4: Quay Street and the Latin Quarter

Galway City

Photos by Stephen Power via Ireland’s Content Pool

Galway’s colourful streets are an absolute joy the ramble along regardless of the time of year.

If you’re walking from the cathedral, you’re a short stroll away from the Latin Quarter and Quay Street where you can have a nosey around.

These streets are alive with the buzz from tourists and locals alike.

Stop 5: The Hall of the Red Earl

One of our favourite places to visit in Galway (especially if it’s raining!) is the Hall of the Red Earl.

The Hall of the Red Earl is one of Galway’s most interesting sites. The ruins date back to the 13th century, with ties to the founding of Galway and the Anglo-Norman De Burgo family.

It was the first municipal building in the city, used for collecting taxes, hosting banquets, and sentencing criminals. 

The Hall of the Red Earl was lost as the city grew until 1997, when the ruins were unearthed by archaeologists on behalf of the Office of the Public Works.

Today, you can walk amongst the ruins, view the artefacts, and learn about the hall’s history from the informative displays. 

Stop 6: Galway City Museum

Galway City Museum

Photos via Galway City Museum on FB

The Galway City Museum is just a stone’s throw from the Spanish Arch. It’s one of the best places to learn about Galway’s history, culture, and archaeology, with collections telling the story of prehistoric Galway all the way through to 19th and 20th-century Galway! 

The museum has three floors and seven long-term exhibitions, including The Wild Atlantic – Sea Science, and an exhibition on Pádraic Ó Conaire. 

It’s free to visit, although donations are always appreciated. 

Stop 7: Spanish Arch and the Long Walk

Spanish Arch

Photos via Shutterstock

The Spanish Arch is a must-see Galway attraction, dating back to Medieval times. The large stone arch is located on the outskirts of the city centre, overlooking the Claddagh (shore).

It originally housed soldiers who were keeping watch on the city’s Medieval walls. Its nickname is thought to come from the city’s merchant trade with the Spanish, whose ships would often be docked in the area!

From the Spanish Arch, you can take a short stroll alongside the water to what’s known as The Long Walk. You’ll likely have seen pictures of it (it’s a line of colourful buildings right on the water).

Stop 8: Dinner, drinks and live music 

Galway Pubs

Photos courtesy Failte Ireland

Galway is a lively city regardless of the time of year. Here’s some spots worth checking out:

Our dinner recommendations

There’s some excellent restaurants in Galway – our favourites are Ard Bia, The Quay Street Kitchen, and Dela. Ard Bia is absolutely fantastic, but you need to book in advance for dinner.

The restaurant has a quirky interior and serves beautifully presented modern dishes.

The Quay Street Kitchen has a great selection of vegan and vegetarian-friendly dishes, and Dela has modern Irish cuisine on the menu.

Live music and trad bars

There’s some mighty pubs in Galway. After dinner, head out for drinks at either Tigh Neachtain or The Crane. Both are traditional pubs with a great atmosphere. 

Trad music is an integral part of the city, with heaps of options to choose from. Our favourite spots are Crane Bar (mentioned above) and Tigh Chóilí.

Day 7: The best of Clare

Cliffs of Moher

Photos via Shutterstock

You are heading from Galway to Doolin today, where you will spend two nights. The total drive time is less than two hours, depending on whether you take the coast road. But we have lots of places for you to stop on the way!

Doolin is a lovely village on Ireland’s west coast, known for its trad music. It’s got some lovely places to stay, and we’ve popped out top picks below:

Doolin accommodation recommendations

Stop 1: Dunguaire Castle

Dunguaire Castle

Photos via Shutterstock

Dunguaire Castle is a 35-minute drive from Galway. The castle was built in 1520 and belonged to the O’Hynes clan. In 1912, the castle was bought by writer Oliver St. John Gogarty. During his ownership, he restored the castle and hosted several famous writers, including W.B. Yeats and George Bernard Shaw.

The enchanting castle sits on the shores of Galway Bay and has an impressive 75-foot tower. We’d recommend spending at least an hour here, walking the grounds and taking a self-guided tour. According to legend, if you stand at the front gate and ask a question, you’ll have an answer by the end of the day!

Admission costs €7.50 (adult), €5.5 (seniors and students), €5 (child), €21.50 (family 2A and 2C), and €32.50 (family 2A and up to 6C). The castle is open from April to October, between 10am and 5pm.

Stop 2: Aillwee Cave

Aillwee Cave

Photos via Aillwee Caves on FB

Your next stop, Aillwee Cave, is around 27 minutes from Dungaire. Aillwee Cave is a fascinating underground system full of caverns, rock formations, and even the bones of an ancient bear! The site is close to the Birds of Prey Centre, a unique and educational experience involving some of the world’s top birds of prey.

We’d recommend spending at least one hour at this stop, or even longer if you visit both attractions. The Aillwee Cave tour lasts 45 minutes, passing by an underground waterfall and over bridged ravines. At the Burren Birds of Prey Centre, you’ll be able to see predators like owls, vultures, and hawks, and possibly watch a 45-minute flying demonstration.

Stop 3: Poulnabrone Dolmen

Poulnabrone Dolmen

Photos via Shutterstock

Only 10 minutes from Aillwee, Poulnabrone Dolmen is a large portal tomb that dates back to the Neolithic period (between 4200 BC and 2900 BC). It’s one of the most famous dolmens in the country and one of the most photographed.

When it was excavated in the late 1980s, around 33 remains were discovered buried underneath, alongside various objects. It’s a really interesting piece of ancient Irish history and free to visit.

Stop 4: Ballyvaughan for lunch

Monks Ballyvaughan

Photos via Monk’s on FB

It’s time to head to the quaint seaside village of Ballyvaughan, only 13 minutes from Poulnabrone Dolmen. Our favourite places to eat in the village are Monks (a brilliant seafood restaurant with handpicked Galway Bay oysters), The Wild Atlantic Lodge (a beautiful restaurant with delicious Irish cuisine), or The Larder (a cosy cafe with sandwiches, soup, and quiches).

Stop 5: Fanore Beach

Fanore Beach

Photos via Shutterstock

Fanore Beach is 18 minutes from Ballyvaughan. It’s a gorgeous beach backed by rolling sand dunes. The exposed beach is a popular spot for swimmers and surfers, and in the summer, there’s a lifeguard service and a surf school.

Take a scenic walk along the beach, and if you need to pop to the toilet after lunch, there are public toilets on-site (open seasonally in the summer).

Stop 6: Doolin

Doolin Village

Photos courtesy of Chaosheng Zhang

The drive from Fanore Beach to Doolin usually takes around 25 minutes, but we would recommend giving yourself a little extra time.

There are some amazing views of the Burren along the way and you might want to pull over! Once you arrive at Doolin, check into your hotel and rest/freshen up/etc.

Stop 7: Cliffs of Moher

Cliffs of Moher

Photos via Shutterstock

Your next stop, the magnificent Cliffs of Moher are one of the area’s (if not Ireland’s) most popular attractions.

The cliffs are a 15-minute drive from Doolin, with breathtaking views of the wild Atlantic, Galway Bay, and the Aran Islands. 

There’s a visitor centre on-site, as well as 800 metres of paved walkways with viewing areas, and the historic O’Brien’s Tower. In our opinion, the visitor centre isn’t really anything that special, but you’ll get access to all three with the Cliffs of Moher Experience. 

Stop 8: Dinner, drinks and live music in Doolin

Doolin Pubs

Photos by The Irish Road Trip

Although it’s fairly small, there’s some great restaurants in Doolin and there’s a handful of mighty pubs in Doolin, too.

Our Doolin food recommendations

We have quite a few recommendations for where to eat in Doolin. These are Riverside Bistro (the seafood pasta and lamb shank are delicious), Anthony’s at Doolin (modern Irish and international cuisine with a great selection of cocktails), and Russell’s Seafood Bar at Fiddle + Bow (amazing local seafood from award-winning chef Viv Kelly).

Our Doolin pub recommendations

Doolin is packed full of traditional Irish pubs which are great for a pint (or a hearty pub meal if the restaurants above aren’t to your liking). Our favourites are McDermot, McGanns, Fitz’s, and Gus O’Connors. 

The pubs above are also a good place to catch some live music, as well as Anthony’s at Doolin. 

Day 8: Inis Mor

Dún Aonghasa

Photos via Shutterstock

Today’s a big day, as you’ll be heading off to explore Inis Mor, a beautiful island off the west coast of Ireland and one of the Aran Islands, a chain of limestone islands rich in history.

Inis Mor is the largest of the Aran Islands at 31 km², with a population of around 800 people. Inis Mor’s residents are within the Irish-speaking Gaeltacht, and you’ll notice there’s a strong sense of Irish culture. The landscapes are incredible, with miles of stone walls and rugged coastline.

It’s going to be an adventure-filled day packed with walking and cycling, so make sure to wear appropriate clothes and pack for all types of weather!

Grab a hearty breakfast where you’re staying, or check out the Doolin Cafe or Gus O’Connor’s Pub.

Stop 1: Doolin Pier

Doolin Pier

Photos via Shutterstock

There are two ferry services running to Inis Mor: the Doolin Ferry Co. and Doolin2Aran Ferries. We’ve used them both and are happy to recommend either!

The journey is generally 35 minutes long (via express boat) and the ferries run daily services. Just make sure to book your ticket in advance.

Stop 2: Arrive on Inis Mor and rent a bike or get on the bus

Inis Mor

Photos via Shutterstock

We recommend either renting a bike (preferably an eBike), or if you don’t feel like being too active today, hopping on a mini bus tour when you arrive on the island.

Aran Bike Hire is right in front of the pier on the right and the most convenient place to hire a bike. They have a huge range of bikes on offer, such as mountain bikes (€20), electric bikes (€40), tandem bikes (€40), and children’s bikes (€10).

Inis Mor Bike Hire is further past the pier next to the tourist information centre. They have a range of regular bikes and ebikes, contact them via their website for up-to-date rates.

eBike Self Guided Tours is the furthest away, a six-minute walk from the pier. Their standard day rate is €20.

Stop 3: The Seal Colony

Inis Mor Seal

Photos via Shutterstock

From the pier, it’s 4.1km to the Seal Colony Viewing Point (around 15 minutes cycling). The island is home to a population of Atlantic Seals who live close to Kilmurvey Beach.

The viewpoint is easy to find, and during low tide, you can spot as many as a dozen seals sunbathing on the beach and rocks.

Stop 4: Dún Aonghasa

Dún Aonghasa

Photos via Shutterstock

After you’ve seen the colony, hop on your bike and cycle the 4.2km to the Dún Aonghasa Visitor Centre (around 10 minutes).

Dún Aonghasa is a prehistoric hill fort sitting on the edge of an 87-metre cliff. It’s not clear exactly how old the fort is, but parts of the fort date back to the Bronze Age and Iron Age. It’s the biggest fort on the Aran Islands with three impressive drystone defence walls.

You’ll need to park your bike at the ‘bike parking’ area (here on Google Maps), then walk the final 1km on foot.

There’s an incline approaching the fort and the last section is on rocky ground, so good shoes are a must. There’s no barrier at the edge of the cliff, so make sure to take extra care close to the edge.

Please note: The walk out to Dún Aonghasa may not suit those with low levels of fitness. If you don’t fancy the walk, head for a cup of coffee in the gorgeous Teach Nan Phaidi nearby.

Stop 5: The Worm Hole

Worm Hole Inis More

Photos via Shutterstock

Also known as the Serpent’s Lair or ‘Poll na bPeist’, the Worm Hole is a one-of-a-kind natural tidal pool! What makes it so unique?

Well, its rectangular shape is 100% natural. It was featured in the 2017 Red Bull Cliff Diving Series and although it’s a little hard to find, it’s well worth the extra effort.

From Dún Aonghasa, the best way to visit The Worm Hole is to (carefully) make your way east along the cliffs. It’s roughly 1.6km with painted rocks marking the way.

Even though it may be tempting to go for a swim, we highly advise against it as there’s no easy way to get out of the pool if you get into trouble. The tidal pool also contains underwater currents, and depending on the tide and weather, waves can crash over the top.

Stop 6: Lunch

Joe Watty's

Photo left: Gareth McCormack via Failte Ireland. Others: Via Joe Watty’s

After the trek back to your bike, you must be hungry. For a small island, there are plenty of places to eat and some of our top picks are Joe Watty’s Bar, Bayview Restaurant, and Madigan’s Bar & Restaurant at the Aran Islands Hotel.

Both Joe Watty’s Bar and Bayview Restaurant are a good pick for families, with hearty Irish dishes, delicious seafood, and a children’s menu. Madigan’s Bar & Restaurant has a seasonal menu with light bites and a lovely outdoor seating area overlooking the water.

Stop 7: Black Fort

Black Fort

Photos via Shutterstock

Dún Dúchathair, or the Black Fort, is an ancient fort 2.7km (roughly eight minutes cycling) from Kilronan. The fort is near a cliff edge and it’s thought that it gets its nickname thanks to the cliff’s dark limestone which is characteristic of the area.

The site has terraced stone walls that surround the Clocháns (stone dwellings). Similarly to Dún Aonghasa, it’s not clear just how old the Black Fort is, but it’s believed to be built around the same time.

The way is clearly signposted and easy to find, but before you reach the fort, the paved road ends and the terrain becomes rockier. Most people choose to leave their bikes at the side of the road and proceed on foot. There’s no barrier or fence at the cliff edge, so once again, take extra care close to the cliffs.

Stop 8: Back to Doolin for dinner, drinks and live music

Doolin Pubs

Photos by The Irish Road Trip

Get the ferry back to Doolin and chill for the evening.

Although it’s fairly small, there’s some great restaurants in Doolin and there’s a handful of mighty pubs in Doolin, too.

Our Doolin food recommendations

We have quite a few recommendations for where to eat in Doolin. These are Riverside Bistro (the seafood pasta and lamb shank are delicious), Anthony’s at Doolin (modern Irish and international cuisine with a great selection of cocktails), and Russell’s Seafood Bar at Fiddle + Bow (amazing local seafood from award-winning chef Viv Kelly).

Our Doolin pub recommendations

Doolin is packed full of traditional Irish pubs which are great for a pint (or a hearty pub meal if the restaurants above aren’t to your liking). Our favourites are McDermot, McGanns, Fitz’s, and Gus O’Connors. 

The pubs above are also a good place to catch some live music, as well as Anthony’s at Doolin. 

Day 9: Limerick City

King John’s Castle

Photos via Shutterstock

Today we are heading from Doolin to Limerick, where we will spend two nights before heading off to Dublin, Ireland’s vibrant capital.

Grab a hearty breakfast before you check out, or find somewhere nearby to eat. Then, make sure the car is fueled up and hit the road!

Recommended accommodation in Limerick

Stop 1: Clare Abbey

Clare Abbey

Photos via Shutterstock

Clare Abbey is a 46-minute drive from Doolin. Although the abbey is now in ruin, it was once the largest and most important Augustinian monastery in the county. It was built in 1189 on what was possibly the site of an earlier church, and in 1278, it was the site of a battle between Toirdhealbhach Mór Ó Briain and Thomas de Clare during a civil war.

Today, all that remains are a church and belfry, plus a few domestic buildings to the south and east of the church, surrounded by a cloister. It’s an interesting historical site to visit, and it’s free. Take care if it has rained as it can get very muddy.

Stop 2: Bunratty Castle and Folk Park

Bunratty Castle

Photos via Shutterstock

Bunratty Castle and Folk Park sit on 26 acres of lovely countryside around one hour from Doolin (grab your skip-the-line ticket online before you go).

Visiting the Folk Park feels like stepping back in time as the 19th-century buildings and streets have been recreated to resemble what they would have originally looked like.

The park has over 30 buildings, including village shops, rural farmhouses, and Bunratty House, a beautiful Georgian home.

You can also take a tour of 15th-century Bunratty Castle, the last of four castles built on the site. However, prior to the castles being built, the site was home to a Viking trading camp in 970.

Stop 3: Lunch in Limerick

Hook and Ladder

Photos via Hook and Ladder on FB

Welcome to Limerick! It’s around 20 minutes from the folk park, and once you arrive, park the car and head out to explore the city on foot.

It’s probably close to lunchtime by now and we’ve got a couple of suggestions for you. We usually head to Coqbull, The Buttery, or the Hook and Ladder when we’re in the city. Coqbull is a casual dining restaurant serving up top-notch burgers and wings. The Buttery is our go-to for brunch, and the Hook and Ladder (the one on Sarsfield Street) has delicious sandwiches and a mouth-watering vegan burger.

Stop 4: King John’s Castle

King John’s Castle

Photos via Shutterstock

Head off to King John’s Castle, a 10-minute walk from the centre of the city. The 13th-century castle sits on King’s Island, on the banks of the River Shannon. The castle is in fantastic condition and is one of Europe’s best preserved-Norman castles.

King John’s Castle was built under the orders of King John, the “Lord of Ireland” and Richard the Lionheart’s brother. It was built between 1200 and 1212, with numerous repairs and extensions over its 800-year history.

The castle was a military stronghold with solid curtain walls, turrets, and strong fortifications. However, despite this, it sustained heavy damage during the 1642 siege of Limerick (the first of five Limerick sieges during the 17th century). There’s a fantastic exhibition on the siege inside the castle if you’d like to learn more.

Most people spend around one and a half hours visiting the castle and visitor centre. You can have a look at the interactive exhibits, try on historical costumes, and in the summer, play Medieval games in the courtyard!

Stop 5: St Mary’s Cathedral

St Mary's Cathedral

Photos via Shutterstock

The next stop is St. Mary’s Cathedral. It’s a three-minute walk from King John’s Castle, and you probably passed it on your way to the castle. The cathedral was founded in 1168, making it even older than King John’s Castle and the oldest building in Limerick that’s still in use today!

The cathedral contains six chapels, but if you’re pressed for time, the Lady Chapel is a must-visit. The Lady Chapel contains its original pre-reformation altar, which is four metres long and weighs three tons. During the mid-1600s, the altar was removed and dumped by Oliver Cromwell’s troops when they captured the city. But, by some miracle, it was recovered in the 1960s and reinstated to its rightful place.

Another highlight of St. Mary’s Cathedral is its misericords (small wooden carvings). They are the only complete set in Ireland and the only remaining pre-Elizabethan carvings.

Stop 6: The Hunt Museum

Hunt Museum 

Photos via Tourism Ireland’s Content Pool

It’s time to walk another three minutes to the Hunt Museum. Again, you probably already passed it on your way to the castle.

The Hunt Museum was established after John and Gertrude Hunt decided to donate items from their personal collection to the people of Ireland.

The museum has a large collection with over 2,500 artefacts, including pieces from Ancient Egypt and Stone-Age Ireland.

Highlights of the collection include works by Picasso and dresses by famous Irish fashion designer Sybil Connolly.

Recently, the museum launched the “Museum in a Garden”, a beautiful garden dotted with 3D printed replicas of historical artefacts (get your ticket online here).

Stop 7: Dinner, drinks and live music

Nancy Blakes

Photos via Nancy Blakes on FB

There’s some excellent restaurants in Limerick and there’s some mighty old-school pubs in Limerick, too.

Our Limerick food recommendations

Our absolute favourite spot for dinner is the Curragower. It’s right on the banks of the River Shannon with beautiful views of King John’s Castle across the water.

Grab some delicious pub grub like the roasted lamb rump or the lightly breaded scampi, then stick around for some pints after dinner.

Otherwise, we also like SpitJack (the rotisserie pork belly is a customer favourite) and The Locke (they have a delicious steak and ale pie and great vegetarian options).

Our Limerick pub recommendations

For drinks, again, we love the Curragower but Tom Collins is another lovely pub.

Another great trad pub is Nancy Blakes and depending on the night, they might have some music on.

However, if you don’t mind heading a little out of the city centre, then Charlie Malones is a must-visit. In our opinion, it’s one of Limerick’s best-kept secrets, with a real old-school pub vibe. 

Limerick is a great city for trad music. The Locke often has music and even dancing on some nights if you’re lucky! Dolans is also great, but it’s a short walk from the city centre. 

Day 10: Limerick, Tipperary, and Clare

Clare Glens

Photos courtesy Tipperary Tourism via Tourism Ireland

Today you are exploring Limerick, Tipperary, and Clare. You will be hiking the highest peak in Clare today so make sure to bring good hiking boots, clothing for all weather, and plenty of water and snacks!

Grab some food at your accommodation or nearby. We like Cafe Rose or Aroma Coffee for breakfast.

Stop 1: The Moylussa Hike

Moylussa, Clare’s tallest peak, is an admirable 532 metres tall. The 12.75km hike is a moderate one, but towards the summit, the difficulty ramps up.

It takes most people around 3 hours to finish, but it’s well worth the effort, as you’ll have awesome views from the top!

The weather at the summit can be unpredictable, so as we mentioned earlier, make sure to bring clothing for all kinds of scenarios. 

Stop 2: Lunch

breakfast

Photos via Shutterstock

It’s probably around lunchtime by now, so head over to Killaloe, which has some lovely lunch spots. We recommend checking out The Wooden Spoon or Pontevecchio. 

The Wooden Spoon is a top choice for light bites like salads, sandwiches, and soups. Whereas Pontevecchio is a beautiful little restaurant with a bookshop, wine bar, and Italian deli vibe serving up delicious Italian light bites. 

If you’re not feeling like a ‘light bite’ after your mega hike (very understandable), head to the Pipers Inn, an Irish gastropub open from noon, which serves hearty dishes like burgers and roast beef. 

Stop 3: Coffee and a stroll around Killaloe

Killaloe

Photos courtesy Discover Lough Derg via Failte Ireland

After lunch, it’s time to explore the gorgeous little town of Killaloe, which is an absolute joy to saunter around.

Grab yourself a coffee to go from Bless Cafe or Derg House Cafe and go for a little wander through its streets and down by the river where you’ll see the boat cruises take off.

Stop 4: Clare Glens

Clare Glens

Photos courtesy Tipperary Tourism via Tourism Ireland

Next up is the Clare Glens, a gorgeous waterfall and walk, a 23-minute drive from Killaloe.

There are two walks: a 2km Nature Loop (which takes 30 minutes to one hour) and the Clare Glens Loop Walk (which takes one to 1.5 hours).

Both loops start on either side of the Clare Bridge. Since you’ve already had a big walk today, we recommend the shorter Clare Glens Nature Loop. 

Stop 5: Treaty City Brewery 

Treaty City Brewery

Photos via Treaty City Brewery on FB

When you’re ready, you will take the 15-minute drive back to Limerick City and head to Treaty City Brewery on Nicholas St, right by King John’s Castle. 

While Ireland is known internationally for the black stuff, there is also an incredible craft brewery scene as well, and Treaty City is one of the many craft breweries that have popped up around the country. 

Take a brewery tour or enjoy a pint in this unique brewery that is housed in what was once a derelict building.  

Stop 6: Dinner, drinks and live music 

Nancy Blakes

Photos via Nancy Blakes on FB

There’s some excellent restaurants in Limerick and there’s some mighty old-school pubs in Limerick, too.

Our Limerick food recommendations

Our absolute favourite spot for dinner is the Curragower. It’s right on the banks of the River Shannon with beautiful views of King John’s Castle across the water.

Grab some delicious pub grub like the roasted lamb rump or the lightly breaded scampi, then stick around for some pints after dinner.

Otherwise, we also like SpitJack (the rotisserie pork belly is a customer favourite) and The Locke (they have a delicious steak and ale pie and great vegetarian options).

Our Limerick pub recommendations

For drinks, again, we love the Curragower but Tom Collins is another lovely pub.

Another great trad pub is Nancy Blakes and depending on the night, they might have some music on. However, if you don’t mind heading a little out of the city centre, then Charlie Malones is a must-visit.

In our opinion, it’s one of Limerick’s best-kept secrets, with a real old-school pub vibe. 

Limerick is a great city for trad music. The Locke often has music and even dancing on some nights if you’re lucky! Dolans is also great, but it’s a short walk from the city centre. 

Day 11: Dublin City

Ha’penny Bridge

Photos via Shutterstock

It’s time to say goodbye to Limerick, as today you’re making your way to Dublin. You’ll be spending three nights here as you explore the city and nearby attractions.

Before you head off on your trip, grab a hearty breakfast from where you’re staying, or venture out into the city for some grub. The Hook and Ladder is a personal breakfast favourite of ours (the breakfast burrito is amazing).

We’ve got some recommendations on where to stay in Dublin below, so check them out if you don’t have anywhere in mind already:

Recommended accommodation in Dublin

Getting around Dublin + money savers

  • Time savers: If you want to avoid walking where possible, it’s worth getting a ticket for the Hop On Hop Off Bus around Dublin. It goes to or near all of the main sites on this itinerary plus plenty more.
  • Money saver: If you’re visiting the ‘main’ Dublin attractions, the Dublin Pass can save you €€€ (here’s how)

Stop 1: Dublin City

Dublin City

Photos via Shutterstock

Dublin is around 2.5 hours from Limerick. One thing to note for the drive to Dublin is that you’ll be passing through two tolls. So make sure you have euro coins or a contactless card.

Once you arrive, park the car at your accommodation and set out on foot to explore the city.

Stop 2: Trinity

Trinity College

Photos via Shutterstock

Head straight to wherever you’re staying. Check in and leave the car behind you. The city is very walkable.

When you get to the city, head straight for Trinity College to see the Book of Kells, arguably the most famous cultural attraction in Dublin.

If you can, we highly recommend pre-booking your tickets online, as the queues can get really long (bordering on ridiculous!). This fast-track ticket allows you to dodge the queue and gets you into Dublin Castle, too! 

Spend around one hour seeing the Book of Kells, walking around the exhibit, and taking in the beauty of the Old Library. After that, give yourself another 20 minutes or so to walk around the university campus.

Stop 3: Lunch

Neary's Pub

Photos © Tourism Ireland

There’s plenty of great restaurants in Dublin, but for lunch we suggest you head to Neary’s. It’s just up the road from Trinity College, along the bustling Grafton Street.

This old-school pub is a classic and it serves up a range of simple lunch options, like sandwiches, soup, toasties, and Carlingford Oysters, all washed down with a tasty pint of Guinness.

Affordable and delicious, we can’t recommend it highly enough. Sprout and Co on Dawson Street is another good shout for a quick, light lunch that tastes great and is close to Trinity College.

Stop 4: The Ha’penny Bridge (via Temple Bar)

Ha’penny Bridge

Photos via Shutterstock

The Ha’penny Bridge is an iconic sight in Dublin and crossing it is a must. From Neary’s, it’s about a ten-minute walk that passes through the vibrant Temple Bar area.

As you pass through Temple Bar, you’ll see why this is the nightlife capital of Dublin, with endless pubs and clubs lining the streets.

The bridge itself is a quaint little footbridge over the River Liffey. In the old days, you’d have to pay a toll of half a penny to cross, hence the name.

If you fancy a coffee after your walk, head to Vice Coffee Inc, just over the bridge for a superb brew. You’ll also find tons of shops and pubs to enjoy on either side of the bridge.

Stop 5: Dublin Castle

Dublin Castle

Photos via Shutterstock

Next on the itinerary is Dublin Castle. Nestled in the city centre, the castle dates back to the 13th century and was the seat of the English for over 700 years. Today, it’s an important government complex and the site of Presidential Inaugurations and key State events.

The castle is around 10 minutes from the Ha’penny Bridge on foot. There’s no admission fee to explore the grounds, but if you want to have a look inside, you’ll need to purchase tickets for either a self-guided tour or a guided tour.

Guided tours include access to the State Apartments, Exhibitions, Chapel Royal, and the Mediaeval Undercroft. Self-guided tours include access to the State Apartments and Exhibitions only.

Stop 6: Christ Church Cathedral

Christ Church Cathedral

Photos via Shutterstock

Christ Church Cathedral (a 6-minute stroll from the castle) is another of Dublin’s top attractions and dating back more than 1,000 years. It’s pretty much as old as the city itself!

Steeped in history, it was originally founded by Viking king Sitruic Silkenbeard, but it’s come a long way since those early days (you can grab a ticket online here).

After admiring the stunning architecture from the outside, you can take a self-guided audio tour inside the cathedral.

Along the way, you’ll discover Strongbow’s grave and explore the crypts, which are home to a wealth of artefacts and exhibits, with such treasures as the mummified cat chasing a mummified rat inside an organ pipe.

Listen out for the record-breaking bells of Christ Church, and if you’re really lucky, you might catch the choir in action.

Stop 7: Guinness Storehouse

Guinness Storehouse

Photos © Diageo via Ireland’s Content Pool

Next up is another iconic Dublin attraction, the Guinness Storehouse, a 15-minute walk from Christ Church. Dublin is the home of Guinness, and this tour of the brewery is a must for anyone with a love for the black stuff.

In fact, even if you’re not a fan of beer, this is a fantastic attraction to visit. Book your tickets in advance to avoid the queues. You can do a self-guided tour, but the guided-tour is, in our minds, the better option.

Along the way, you’ll hear a number of humorous tales, enjoy some of the brand’s most iconic adverts, and sample the brew at various stages of the process.

To finish, you’ll get a free pint in the fantastic Gravity Bar. Situated on the seventh floor, you’ll enjoy great views over the city as you sink a pint or two.

Stop 8: Dinner, drinks and live music

Pubs in Dublin

Different trad bars in Dublin. © Tourism Ireland

Stop by your hotel to freshen up before dinner or continue straight on to the restaurant. If you’re not sure of where to eat dinner in Dublin, we’ve got a couple of suggestions below for the evening.

Our Dublin food recommendations

There’s endless excellent restaurants in Dublin. However, if we had to pick one or two… 

The first would be The Bull and Castle – it’s always a good choice and it’s right across the street from the Christ Church Cathedral.

An FX Buckley steakhouse (a Dublin institution), they offer a great range of steaks cooked to perfection, paired with their incredible beef dripping chips.

The Vintage Kitchen is an alternative, but it’s best to book in advance as it’s incredibly popular. A BYOB (bring your own bottle) place, the food is phenomenal, with a small but diverse menu that features classic Irish dishes with a contemporary twist.

Our Dublin pub recommendations

There’s certainly no shortage of great pubs in Dublin. If you’re a fan of old-school pubs, follow our Dublin pub crawl guide – it contains a short route with some of the city’s finest trad bars.

McNeils on Capel Street is an authentic Dublin pub, complete with wood panelling, impromptu folk sessions, and plenty of beers on tap.

The Long Hall is another must-see. Part Victorian time capsule, part vibrant boozer, it enjoys a fantastic atmosphere and is one of the most visually stunning pubs in the city.

You’ll find trad sessions at Pipers Corner every night of the week. O’Donoghues Bar on Merrion Row is another must-visit, with vintage decor and frequent trad sessions. It’s best-known as the home of the Dubliners, who used to play here regularly.

The Celt on Talbot Street is another great choice for live music, and while it’s not always trad, the bands are normally really good.

Day 12: Wicklow’s Wonders

Powerscourt Waterfall

Photos via Shutterstock

On day 12 of your 15 days in Ireland itinerary, it’s time to head out of Dublin and explore Wicklow, also known as the Garden of Ireland.

There are a few walks on the agenda today, so make sure to bring appropriate clothing and footwear, lots of water and snacks, and a raincoat (just in case!).

Stop 1: The Sally Gap Drive (multiple stops)

Lough Tay

Photos via Shutterstock

The glorious Sally Gap Drive can’t be missed and you’re best off doing it either before you head to Glendalough, if you’re up early, or after, on your way home.

The reason for this is that you’re best off getting to Glendalough as early as you can, as it tends to get very busy at times.

When you do get to do the drive, aim for Lough Tay, first. Also known as Guinness Lake, Lough Tay is the jewel in Sally Gap’s crown!

From here, follow the winding road down, over the PS I Love You bridge and around until you reach a car park (on your right). 

From here, very carefully walk around and get an eyeful of Glenmacnass Waterfall before heading on to Glendalough.

If you’re feeling up for a walk, we’ve got two for you to choose from. There’s the Djouce Mountain Walk and the Ballinastoe Woods Walk, both of which range from 2 to 2.5 hours in length.

Stop 2: Glendalough Visitor Centre and Monastic City

Glendalough Round Tower

Photos via Shutterstock

Park up at the Glendalough Visitor Centre (the Lower Car Park – €4) and plan to spend between one and 30 – 45 minutes exploring the centre and the ‘Monastic City’ (your next stop). 

The visitor centre is right next to the Monastic City, one of the most important monastic sites in the country. The city was founded by St. Kevin in the 6th century and went on to become one of Europe’s most famous religious sites!

At the centre, there’s a wonderful exhibition on the history of Glendalough and St. Kevin. There’s also an interesting 15-minute long audio and visual presentation about early Irish Saints and monasteries. 

Now you’ve learned about the site, it’s time to take a 2-minute stroll to the Monastic City next door. Whilst the remains of the city are scattered all across the glen, many of the main ruins and features are within walking distance of the visitor centre. 

These include the Glendalough Round Tower, one of the city’s most well-known landmarks. It stands 33 metres high and dates back almost 1000 years! Other attractions nearby include St. Kevin’s Church and the Glendalough Cathedral ruins. 

Stop 3: The Spinc Walk

Glendalough walks

Photos via Shutterstock

The Spinc Walk is one of the finest trails in Glendalough. The Spinc Loop takes you on a 9.5 km ramble with some steep inclines and tricky paths.

There’s some steep climbing and over 600 steps near the start, but after that, it’s a little more relaxed, though there are some tricky downhill sections later.

It’s a moderate to strenuous walk, with a total ascent of 380 metres. Having said that, if you’re in reasonable shape, you should be okay and most people complete the walk in just over 3 hours.

Stop 4: Lunch at the Wicklow Heather

Wicklow Heather

Photo left: The Irish Road Trip. Others: Via Wicklow Heather

We absolutely love stopping by the Wicklow Heather for lunch whenever we’re in Glendalough. The restaurant is in the heart of idyllic Laragh, with a historical interior and some lovely outdoor seating areas.

It’s only a 6-minute drive from the Upper Lake Car Park.

The menu has traditional Irish dishes, like comforting seafood chowder or hearty cottage pies, with an option for vegetarians and vegans.

Stop 5: Powerscourt Waterfall

Powerscourt Waterfall

Photos via Shutterstock

From the Wicklow Heather, Powerscourt Waterfall is around a 30-minute drive away. The waterfall stands 121 metres high, making it the tallest waterfall in Ireland! It’s a beautiful spot, with the water cascading down the rock face, surrounded by trees. 

At the waterfall, you’ll find a dedicated car park, toilets, and in the summer, a refreshment kiosk selling drinks and snacks.

There’s a lovely walking route that takes around 30 minutes to complete, giving walkers nice views of the falls and surrounding parkland.

There are some small inclines, so make sure to put on some appropriate footwear. 

Stop 6: Bray Seaside Stroll

bray seafront

Photos via Shutterstock

Hop in the car and drive 17 minutes towards Bray. The best place to park is at the Bray Council Car Park here. It’s right above the beach, so it’s just a short stroll to the sand. 

Bray Beach is a sandy and shingle beach over 1.6km long. You can walk along the sand or along the promenade towards Bray Head and back. 

Stop 7: Back to Dublin for the night

Pubs in Dublin

Different trad bars in Dublin. © Tourism Ireland

After a long (and hopefully enjoyable!) day of exploring, it’s time to say goodbye to Wicklow and head back to Dublin. 

Our Dublin food recommendations

There’s endless excellent restaurants in Dublin. However, if we had to pick one or two… 

The first would be The Bull and Castle – it’s always a good choice and it’s right across the street from the Christ Church Cathedral.

An FX Buckley steakhouse (a Dublin institution), they offer a great range of steaks cooked to perfection, paired with their incredible beef dripping chips.

The Vintage Kitchen is an alternative, but it’s best to book in advance as it’s incredibly popular. A BYOB (bring your own bottle) place, the food is phenomenal, with a small but diverse menu that features classic Irish dishes with a contemporary twist.

Our Dublin pub recommendations

There’s certainly no shortage of great pubs in Dublin. If you’re a fan of old-school pubs, follow our Dublin pub crawl guide – it contains a short route with some of the city’s finest trad bars.

McNeils on Capel Street is an authentic Dublin pub, complete with wood panelling, impromptu folk sessions, and plenty of beers on tap.

The Long Hall is another must-see. Part Victorian time capsule, part vibrant boozer, it enjoys a fantastic atmosphere and is one of the most visually stunning pubs in the city.

You’ll find trad sessions at Pipers Corner every night of the week. O’Donoghues Bar on Merrion Row is another must-visit, with vintage decor and frequent trad sessions. It’s best-known as the home of the Dubliners, who used to play here regularly.

The Celt on Talbot Street is another great choice for live music, and while it’s not always trad, the bands are normally really good.

Day 13: Mighty Meath and Louth

Monasterboice

Photos via Shutterstock

Today you’ll be heading out to County Meath, more specifically, the area around the Boyne Valley, known for its archaeological sites.

Today, we recommend getting breakfast either at your accommodation or a nearby cafe. There won’t be places to grab a bite near your first stop, so it’s best to eat before you leave Dublin.

Stop 1: Newgrange

Newgrange

Photos via Shutterstock

Newgrange is a fascinating prehistoric monument and the main attraction in the Brú na Bóinne World Heritage Site. The neolithic passage tomb was built around 3200 BC, making it older than the Egyptian pyramids and Stonehenge!

From Dublin City Centre, it’s around a 45-minute drive (depending on traffic). We recommend setting out as early as possible to avoid traffic. 

You can book your Newgrange Tour + Exhibition tickets here. Pre-booking is essential. Please note that you cannot go to the monuments directly. You must start at the Brú na Bóinne Visitor Centre. The Newgrange Tour is roughly one hour long. 

Stop 2: St Peter’s Church Drogheda

Church Drogheda

Photos via Shutterstock

Your next stop is St. Peter’s Church, a 15-minute drive from Newgrange. It’s a stunning French Gothic-style church that dates back to 1884. 

It’s well known for being home to the national shrine to St. Oliver Plunkett, a Catholic archbishop who was executed in Tyburn, England, for treason and “promoting the Roman Faith”.

The shrine is elaborate and detailed and contains the preserved head of St. Oliver Plunkett! Other artefacts on show include his bones and the cell door of his Newgate prison. 

Please take care to observe complete silence in the church as it’s a sacred place. 

Stop 3: Monasterboice

Monasterboice

Photos via Shutterstock

Monasterboice is a 12-minute drive from the church. The ruins date back to the late 5th century and were founded by Saint Buithe.

The Christian settlement was an important centre of religion and learning in the area up until 1142 when the Mellifont Abbey was founded. 

Highlights of the settlement are the 28-metre round tower, two church ruins, and the magnificent 10th-century high crosses – the Muiredach’s Cross and the West Cross (the tallest in Ireland).

We recommend spending around 30 minutes here. 

Stop 4: Hill of Slane

Hill of Slane

Photos via Shutterstock

The Hill of Slane is an incredibly important site and a possible location for where St. Patrick lit the Paschal Candle, which represented Christianity coming to Ireland.

The site is home to 16th-century Franciscan Monastery ruins, built on top of an older monastery founded by St. Erc, one of St. Patrick’s followers. 

It’s a 15-minute drive from Monasterboice, and we’d recommend spending between 30 minutes to an hour here, depending on how much you want to explore. 

Stop 5: Lunch in Navan

The Gate Restaurant

Photos via The Gate Restaurant on FB

Drive the 25 minutes to Navan to grab a bite of lunch. We recommend checking out The Gate Restaurant (a family-run restaurant serving Irish food) or the Crystal Cafe (a great spot for light bites like gourmet sandwiches and wraps).

Room8 (delicious salads and sandwiches – vegetarian and vegan friendly) and Checkov’s Cafe (a cosy spot for sandwiches and salads) are good options, too!

Stop 6: Kells Round Tower and High Crosses

Kells Round Tower

Photos via Shutterstock

Kells Round Tower and High Cross is a 17-minute drive from Navan. The tower and high cross are in the town of Kells, which was founded by Saint Columba in 550 AD.

The round tower is in good condition, but interestingly, unlike other round towers in the country, it has five upper windows instead of four. 

Once you’ve had a look at the round tower (it’s 26 metres tall, you can’t miss it!), head over to admire the five high crosses: the South Cross, the West Cross, the East Cross, the Market Cross, and the North Cross (only the base remains). 

The South Cross, also known as the Cross of St. Patrick and St. Columba, is the most impressive and in the best condition. It dates back to the 9th century, with intricate carvings of Adam and Eve and Cain and Abel, amongst other things. 

Stop 7: Spire of Lloyd

Spire of Lloyd

Photos via Shutterstock

The Spire of Lloyd is just a quick 4-minute drive away, and an interesting building sometimes referred to as “Ireland’s only inland lighthouse”!

It’s a long column with a 360-degree glass viewing room that is accessed via 164 stairs but please note that it’s rarely open to the public. 

The 30-metre spire is said to have been used for watching horse races and hunting in the 19th century, although the racecourse in Kells was built after the tower. 

The tower was built in 1791, although it was built on an Iron Age ring fort, with evidence that the site was used as far back as the Bronze Age!

Stop 8: Trim Castle

Trim Castle

Photos via Shutterstock

Trim Castle is Ireland’s largest Anglo-Norman fortification. It’s very impressive with an imposing presence and it’s only 25 minutes away from Kells.

The Castle dates back to the 12th century and took Hugh de Lacy and his successors 30 years to complete. 

It’s free to visit the castle grounds, but a guided tour of the keep costs €5 (adult), €4 (senior), €3 (student/child), and €13 (family).

The tour is well worth it, especially for any Braveheart fans, as parts of the movie were filmed there!

The castle is open daily between 10am and 5pm. We’d recommend at least 30 minutes to one hour here. It’s a 30-minute drive from the Spire of Lloyd. 

Stop 9: Bective Abbey

Bective Abbey

Photos via Shutterstock

The next stop is Bective Abbey, a 10-minute drive away. It was founded in 1147 for the Cistercian Order and became a significant monastic settlement.

The ruins you can see today mostly date back to the 13th and 15th centuries, with a chapter house, a church, and a cloister. 

The ruins have been used several times in Hollywood movies. Most recently, in The Last Duel, which came out in 2020.

The abbey is free to visit with a designated car park. Give yourself around 30 minutes here. 

Stop 10: Hill of Tara

Hill of Tara

Photos via Shutterstock

The last stop of the day is the Hill of Tara. It’s a 12-minute drive from Bective Abbey and we’d say 30-45 minutes is a good amount of time to spend here. 

The Hill of Tara has been in use since the late Stone Age, but it’s known best as the seat of the High Kings of Ireland, with all old Irish roads leading to the site!

The site is shrouded in myth, and the story of Conn of the Hundred Battles tells the tale of how the High Kings of Ireland came to be. 

It’s free to visit, with a free 25-minute Audio Visual Show at the visitor centre (in the church), and free guided tours scheduled every day. The centre is open between 10am and 5pm year-round, but the site is open 24/7. 

Stop 11: Back to Dublin for the night

Pubs in Dublin

Different trad bars in Dublin. © Tourism Ireland

From the Hill of Tara, it’s a 50-minute drive back to Dublin City Centre (depending on traffic). 

Our Dublin food recommendations

There’s endless excellent restaurants in Dublin. However, if we had to pick one or two… 

The first would be The Bull and Castle – it’s always a good choice and it’s right across the street from the Christ Church Cathedral.

An FX Buckley steakhouse (a Dublin institution), they offer a great range of steaks cooked to perfection, paired with their incredible beef dripping chips.

The Vintage Kitchen is an alternative, but it’s best to book in advance as it’s incredibly popular. A BYOB (bring your own bottle) place, the food is phenomenal, with a small but diverse menu that features classic Irish dishes with a contemporary twist.

Our Dublin pub recommendations

There’s certainly no shortage of great pubs in Dublin. If you’re a fan of old-school pubs, follow our Dublin pub crawl guide – it contains a short route with some of the city’s finest trad bars.

McNeils on Capel Street is an authentic Dublin pub, complete with wood panelling, impromptu folk sessions, and plenty of beers on tap.

The Long Hall is another must-see. Part Victorian time capsule, part vibrant boozer, it enjoys a fantastic atmosphere and is one of the most visually stunning pubs in the city.

You’ll find trad sessions at Pipers Corner every night of the week. O’Donoghues Bar on Merrion Row is another must-visit, with vintage decor and frequent trad sessions. It’s best-known as the home of the Dubliners, who used to play here regularly.

The Celt on Talbot Street is another great choice for live music, and while it’s not always trad, the bands are normally really good.

Day 14: Athlone

Sean's Bar

Photos courtesy Sonder Visuals via Ireland’s Content Pool

Today you’ll be heading to historic Athlone, where you will spend your last night in Ireland. Below are our top places to stay in Athlone.

Grab some breakfast at your accommodation or nearby and then hit the road. The drive to Athlone takes around 1.5 hours, but we’ll be breaking up the journey with some stops. You’ll pass through tolls on the M4 and the M6 so make sure to bring some euro coins or a card that taps!

Our Athlone accommodation recommendations

Stop 1: Lough Boora Discovery Park

The Lough Boora Discovery Park is a really cool attraction about 1.5 hours outside of Dublin. There’s lots to do, whether you’re looking to cycle or walk along the park’s 50km of trails or check out the interesting sculptures.

We recommend setting out on the 3.5km sculpture loop, which features sculptures inspired by nature, made using natural and re-purposed materials. Left out throughout the year, it’s really interesting to see how the elements have affected the works of art over time.

It’s a lovely spot with lakes, wetlands, and lots of local wildlife. You can learn about Lough Boora’s history in the Pavillion or sit down in the cafe and enjoy a drink and a snack.

Make sure to put the park’s full name into Google Maps, otherwise, you might not find it!

Stop 2: Lunch in Athlone

Athlone Restaurants

Photos via Beans & Leaves on FB

From the park, it’s a 38-minute drive to historical Athlone. By now you must be getting hungry, so enjoy a hearty lunch at Craft Bistro, Loaves and Fishes, or Bean and Leaves.

Stop 3: Athlone Castle

Athlone Castle

Top right photo: Ros Kavanagh via Failte Ireland. Others: Shutterstock

Athlone Castle is in the centre of Athlone on the banks of the River Shannon. There are two public car parks around the castle, as well as plenty of street parking if these get full (see parking here and here on Google Maps).

The stone castle is in great condition and dates back to the 13th century. It was in a key strategic position for defending the Athlone river crossing and played an important part in the infamous Siege of Athlone. The visitor centre is full of information about the castle’s history, with eight exhibitions.

The castle is open year-round, with seasonal opening times that you can check here. General admission costs €10 (adult), €7 (seniors and students), €5 (children under 15), and €25 (family). Schedule in at least one hour here.

Stop 4: Church of St. Peter and St. Paul

Church of St. Peter and St. Paul

Photos via Shutterstock

The Church of St. Peter and St. Paul is just across from Athlone Castle. It’s a beautiful Roman Catholic Church built in the Baroque-revival style between 1932 and 1939.

It’s most well-known for its stunning stained-glass windows that were made in the Harry Clarke workshop. Head inside if you can and admire Saint Joseph, Saint Patrick, Last Judgement, and Purgatory windows.

Stop 5: Shannon Banks Nature Trail

Shannon Banks Nature Trail

Photos courtesy of Westmeath County Council (www.visitwestmeath.ie)

Starting at Athlone Castle, the Shannon Banks Nature Trail is a pleasant 5km loop that passes by the old Athlone canal and the shores of the River Shannon.

It’s a refreshing walk through some lovely scenery, with red oak, sycamore, and horse chestnut trees lining the banks of the river. Along the way, you’ll find boards depicting local flora and fauna, and if you’re a keen birdwatcher, keep your eyes peeled, as you could spot moorhens, herons, little grebes, and mute swans.

It’s a bi-directional trail, so you can tackle it in any direction you’d like.

Stop 6: Dinner, drinks, and live music

Sean's Bar

Photos courtesy Sonder Visuals via Ireland’s Content Pool

Head to your accommodation to check in (if you didn’t already) and freshen up before dinner.

Our Athlone food recommendations

We’ve got a couple of stellar recommendations for your last night in Ireland.

For something special, choose Thyme for dinner, a restaurant featured in the Michelin Guide. Their menu features modern Irish cuisine, with dishes like ham hock, celeriac, and crispy hen’s egg, or goat loin, confit belly, pressed shoulder, asparagus, hen of the woods, and wild garlic. They also have a value menu if your budget is feeling a little tight at the end of the trip.

For classic Irish and fusion cuisine, we like Bacchus. They have a delicious seafood casserole and more imaginative dishes like Tandoori roast lamb rump.

Our Athlone pub recommendations

For post-dinner drinks, Sean’s Bar is a must. It’s Ireland’s oldest pub and is officially recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records. Inside, it’s got traditional decor and a great atmosphere. They do a cracking pint of Guinness but even if you’re not a drinker, it’s worth visiting this historical pub.

Other spots we like for post-dinner drinks are Peddler Mac, The Snug Bar, and Nuts Corner.

Head to our recommendations above for live music, although you may have to pick and choose based on who’s got live music going on that night.

Day 15: Back to Knock and home

Knock

Photos via Shutterstock

And that’s the end of your whirlwind trip to Ireland! Depending on what time your flight leaves, you may have to head out early or have some more time to explore before you drive to Knock Airport.

The airport is approximately an hour and 20 minutes away, so make sure to give yourself plenty of time to catch your flight!

And that’s a wrap on this road trip

slea head loop

Photos via Shutterstock

We hope you found the above road trip guide useful. If you have any questions, ask in the comments below and we’ll do our best to help.

Or, if you’d like to browse our other Irish Road Trip itineraries, visit our Road Trip Hub – cheers!

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