Planning a 3-day Ireland itinerary using only public transport 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 3-day itinerary:
- Has been meticulously planned for those only using public transport
- 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
Who this itinerary will suit
It’s important that you take a look at the graphic above as 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 public transport and organised tours
- 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 itinerary
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 Town
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 one night in Sligo before making your way to Galway.
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
- Budget: Old Fort B&B (great reviews and a 7-minute spin from town) and Tranquility B&B (solid reviews and a 5-minute drive from town)
- Mid-range: Riverside Hotel (central with great reviews) and Sligo Southern Hotel (10-minute stroll into town and nice and comfy)
- Upper-range: The Glasshouse (right by the river in the town – close to everything) and the Clayton Hotel (5-minute drive to town with swimming pool)
Stop 1: The bus to Sligo
You only have one option at Knock and that is to take the bus. Expressway operates an hourly service between the airport and Sligo Town as does Bus Eireann and Bus Feda. The journey takes around 1.5 hours.
Stop 2: Sligo Abbey
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’.
Stop 3: Lunch
Our personal favourite lunch spot in Sligo is Hooked. 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 (delicious home-cooked meals, light bites, and cakes) or Bridgefoot House (incredible open-faced sandwiches made with Irish soda bread).
Stop 4: Historic Walking Tour of Sligo Town
If you’re up for a gentle walk, there’s a great signposted walking tour around Sligo that takes you to all the historical spots in this medieval town.
You can follow the gold arrows underfoot or pick up a map from the tourist office here. It’s a mostly flat 4.5km walk that takes most people around 1.5 hours.
Some town highlights the walk passes by are the Sligo town City Hall, a bronze W.B. Yeats statue, and the town’s sole surviving Medieval building.
Stop 5: The Model
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 6: Yeats Society Sligo
To continue on with the Yeats theme, walk the five minutes to the Yeats Society Sligo. Inside the 120-year-old building, you’ll find a permanent Yeats exhibition as well as the Hyde Bridge Gallery, which is home to various contemporary exhibitions.
The Yeats exhibition is an ode to W.B. Yeat’s life, works, and family, with loads of interesting information and stories in the exhibition.
The society itself dates back to 1957 when a small group of dedicated Yeats fans decided to hold a Yeats Country Festival. The festival happened in May of the following year and was a great success. Following the festival, the group organised to meet every year in May, and thus the society was born!
Stop 7: Dinner, drinks and live music
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: The trip to Galway
Today we are heading to Galway, where we will spend one night before you head back home.
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.
Recommended accommodation in Galway
- Budget: Feeney’s Audubon Lodge (in Salthill outside of the city by the sea) and Corrib View Guesthouse (a 45-minute walk from Eyre Square)
- Mid-range: Balcony House B&B (10-minute walk from Eyre Square) and Ash Grove House (gorgeous guesthouse near Galway Cathedral)
- Luxury: The G Hotel (luxury hotel in the city) and Glenlo Abbey (one of Ireland’s top hotels – 15-minute drive from the city)
Stop 1: Getting from Sligo to Galway
Our best option for getting to Galway from Sligo is via an Expressway bus. There is a Galway bus departing from Sligo Bus Station about every 2 hours. The journey takes around 2 hours and 40 minutes and deposits you at Galway Bus Station. As always, we recommend that you check the schedule and purchase your tickets in advance.
Stop 2: Check-in, get lunch and decide between walking or the bus
When you land in Galway, head to your accommodation, get checked in and head for lunch.
By now, you must be hungry. There are heaps of brilliant places for lunch in Galway, but if you don’t want the hassle of finding somewhere to eat, we’ve got a few suggestions!
We recommend Blakes Bar (traditional pub grub), Zappis (authentic Italian cuisine), or Tigh Neachtain (Irish and international cuisine).
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 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’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
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
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: Galway City for the night
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 3: The Bus to Knock Airport
Unfortunately, all good things come to an end, and today, you’ll be heading to Knock to catch a plane back home.
Grab some breakfast at your accommodation or nearby, and then head on out to the bus station.
You only have one option to get to knock and that’s to take a bus. There are two options
- Option 1: Bus Eireann (takes about 1.5 hours)
- Option 2: Bus Feda (takes about an hour but it only operates twice a day)
And that’s a wrap on this road trip
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!