Planning a 5-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…
The itinerary below has taken that experience (and the many mistakes we made along the way) to create an itinerary that we’re confident you’ll love!
In a nutshell, this 5-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 Dublin
- 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 5-day Ireland 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: Arrive in Dublin
Day 1 of this 5-day Ireland itinerary is going to be very dependent on the time that you arrive into Dublin.
For this itinerary, we’re going to make an assumption that you’ve landed in the morning and are ready to explore from mid-afternoon.
Recommended accommodation in Dublin
- Budget: Abigail’s Hostel (Temple Bar), Jacobs Inn (central hostel) and the Generator Hostel (short walk from the city)
- Mid-range: Dublin Skylon Hotel (just outside the city), Wren Urban Nest (Temple Bar) and the Harding Hotel (very central)
- Luxury: The Merrion (St. Stephen’s Green – very central) and The Westin (just off Grafton Street)
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: Lunch
There’s plenty of great restaurants in Dublin that serve up a delicious lunch, but if you fancy a tasty bite in a lovely old-world-style pub, Neary’s just off of Grafton Street is hard to bate!
They serve simple dishes (like soups and sandwiches) that are packed with flavour and great value for money. Alternatively, Sprout and Co. on Dawson St. is also a great choice.
They have a range of hearty salad bowls, with good options for vegetarians and vegans.
Stop 2: Trinity College
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: The Ha’penny Bridge (via Temple Bar)
The Ha’penny Bridge (officially named the Liffey Bridge) dates back to 1816 and was the first pedestrian bridge over the River Liffey!
It’s a seven-minute walk from the Trinity Gates, but feel free to take your time as you make your way through the lively streets of Temple Bar.
Now, Temple Bar can be a bit of a tourist trap. If you fancy a pint, here are several pubs in Temple Bar worth trying (the Palace is our go-to).
If you feel like an afternoon coffee, there are some great cafes in the Temple Bar area or on the other side of the river. Joe’s Coffee and Vice Coffee are two of our favourites across the water.
They’re both just a short stroll from the north side of the Ha’penny Bridge.
Stop 4: Dublin Castle
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.
Tickets for guided tours can be purchased on the day of your visit at the ticket booth.
Stop 5: Christ Church Cathedral
Christ Church Cathedral dates back to the early 11th century when it was founded under Sigtrygg Silkbeard, a Norse King of Dublin. It was rebuilt later in stone, largely thanks to the first Anglo-Norman archbishop, John Cumin, in the late 12th century.
The cathedral is only a 4-minute walk from Dublin Castle and a really interesting place to visit. Some highlights are the restored crypt houses, Strongbow’s tomb, and the Treasures of Christ Church exhibition.
You can grab a ticket online here – these include an audio guide that comes in several languages, with three themes to choose from – ‘Power and Politics’, ‘Music and Spirituality’, and ‘Christ Church and the City’.
Self-guided tours with an audio guide usually last around one hour.
Stop 6: St. Patrick’s Cathedral
St. Patrick’s Cathedral is just a short 7-minute walk from Christ Church Cathedral. The magnificent cathedral is one of the city’s top attractions as well as one of the few remnants of Medieval Dublin!
It dates back to the 12th century and is Ireland’s largest cathedral. As you may expect, St. Patrick’s Cathedral has a long and rich history. The cathedral has fallen into disrepair and has been damaged several times, most notably in the early 19th century.
During this period, it was restored by none other than Benjamin Lee Guinness (the first Lord Mayor of Dublin and owner of Guinness).
Stop 7: Teeling’s Distillery
Once you’ve had your fill of St. Patrick’s, head on over to the Teeling Distillery, an 8-minute walk away. Founded by the Teeling family in 2015, the Teeling’s Distillery was the first new distillery to open in Dublin in over 125 years!
However, the family’s expertise span back generations, as they established a small craft distillery on Marrowbone Lane in 1782. Today, the new distillery stands just a few streets away from the family’s ancestral distillery.
They have several tours available, each of which has great reviews online. You can grab a ticket online before you go that includes a fully-guided tour of the distillery, followed by a tasting.
Stop 8: Dinner, drinks and live music
By now, you must be getting hungry.
Dublin has heaps of options for dinner, but we’ve got a couple of suggestions for you!
Our dinner recommendations
If you’re looking for something close by, Spitalfields is a stone’s throw from the Teeling’s Distillery. It’s a little bit pricey, but the atmosphere is great and the food is top-notch!
However, Spitalfields is 16+ only, so it’s not suitable for young families. Otherwise, check out The Bull and Castle across the street from Christ Church Cathedral.
Their menu has F.X. Buckley Steaks (renowned in Dublin), plus a great selection of local craft beers. The restaurant can get booked out pretty quickly, but you can always eat in the bar upstairs, which also has steak on the menu.
Live music and trad bars
If you fancy a bit of live music, there’s plenty on offer. Pipers Corner on Marlborough St. has some great tunes, with live music from 9pm every Tuesday to Saturday, and from 8pm on Sunday.
The inside has more of a modern feel, but you’ll be guaranteed authentic Irish music.
For the full experience, O’Donoghues Bar on Merrion Row has live music every night of the week. It’s about as traditional as Irish pubs get, with a brilliant atmosphere.
The Celt is another fantastic pub with live music every night from 9pm, although it’s not always traditional.
Day 2: More Dublin City sites
It’s day 2 of our 5 days in Ireland itinerary, and there’s a full day of Dublin sightseeing ahead of you.
Now, although we’ve focused on the city for day two of this itinerary, you could easily change this day and explore the coast of Dublin.
Or, you can take it easy and stick to the city, like we do in the itinerary below.
Stop 1: Breakfast
It’s time for day 2, so grab some breakfast at your accommodation or grab a quick bite from a nearby cafe. We recommend stopping by Cool Hand Coffee Roasters on Emmet Road.
They’re a short 3-minute stroll from our next stop (Kilmainham Gaol), serving speciality coffees and a selection of pastries.
Stop 2: Kilmainham Gaol
Kilmainham Gaol is an extremely popular Dublin attraction, so you’ll need to buy tickets in advance as they tend to sell out quickly.
We recommend allowing an extra 30 minutes before/after your tour so you can visit the museum.
The gaol has a history spanning over 100 years, and during its time, it housed prisoners from the 1798 rebellion, the Anglo-Irish War, and the Irish Civil War.
Visitors will have an interesting insight into what imprisonment was like in the gaol and the role it played in Irish history.
We’d recommend making your own way here via the Luas Red line from the city centre. You can get off at Heuston Station and take the 15-to-20-minute walk to Kilmainham Gaol.
Stop 3: Irish Museum of Modern Art
Make your way to the Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA), a 10-minute walk away from Kilmainham Gaol. The museum is housed in the beautiful 17th-century Royal Hospital Kilmainham, tucked away on 48 acres of grounds.
The IMMA has a wide variety of exhibitions showcasing 3,500 modern and contemporary art pieces by local and international artists.
It’s free to visit (although some exhibitions may charge a small fee), and throughout the week there are free 30-minute tours – please check their website for up-to-date tour times.
If you’ve got the time (and the weather is in your favour), take a quick turn around the grounds to check out more artworks and the Formal Gardens.
Stop 4: St. Michan’s
St. Michan’s is a 25-minute walk away from IMMA, but if you’re feeling tired, you can head to Heuston Station and jump on the Luas towards Saggart.
Get off at Smithfield, which is a stone’s throw from St. Michan’s and close to the Brazen Head, our recommendation for lunch! All in all, this takes 15 minutes.
St. Michan’s is an incredibly interesting church that dates back to 1686, although there used to be a Christian chapel on the same spot, which was established as early as 1095.
Despite its modest size, St. Michan’s is packed full of history. In our opinion, the best way to learn about it is on their guided tour, which gives you loads of interesting info.
During the tour, you’ll get the chance to go into the 12th-century crypts and see real-life mummies that have been preserved for over 500 years; head into the vaults which were frequented by famous author Bram Stoker; and the magnificent organ, which is one of the oldest still in use in Ireland.
Stop 5: Lunch
The pub is the oldest in Dublin and one of the oldest in Ireland, dating back to 1198. They serve traditional Irish pub grub and their Guinness beef stew is divine.
You’ve had a busy morning so kick back here, make your belly happy and set yourself up for the next stop of the day.
Stop 6: Guinness Storehouse
Walk off your hearty pub lunch by taking the short 14-minute stroll to the Guinness Storehouse. It’s at St. James’s Gate, the home of Guinness, and there are several tours available.
We recommend the Guinness Storehouse Experience, a self-guided tour that takes roughly 90 minutes.
You’ll learn about Guinness’ history, its ingredients, and get to enjoy a pint of Guinness and one other Guinness beer (for ages 18+) whilst taking in the views of the Gravity Bar.
Stop 7: St. Audoen’s Church
St. Audoen’s Church is a 14-minute walk from the Guinness Storehouse. While it’s well worth a visit, you won’t need too much time here.
The church dates back to 1190, making it the oldest Parish church in the city. However, parts of the church were added/restored at a later date, including the tower, which was damaged in 1596 following a huge gunpowder explosion nearby.
When you stop by, make sure to head to the main porch to have a look at the “Lucky Stone”, a late 9th-century gravestone that traders and merchants used to rub for good luck!
Stop 8: Dinner, drinks and live music
For your second night in Dublin, we’ve got a few recommendations! For dinner, we love Crow Street Restaurant or Rustic Stone.
But, if you don’t mind going a little further, Richmond in Portobello is a Michelin Bib Gourmand serving modern European Cuisine.
If you can arrive between 5:30 to 6:30pm, they do an early bird special with two courses for €32 and three courses for €38 (prices may change).
Enjoy post-dinner drinks at McNeil’s on Capel Street, Long Hall on South Great George’s Street, or The Palace Bar in Temple Bar. And for trad music, check out our recommendations from day 1.
Day 3: Wicklow’s Wonders
On day 3 of your 5 days in Ireland itinerary, and today, you’ll be exploring Wicklow, also known as the Garden of Ireland.
You’ve got a big day ahead of you, so make sure to grab a hearty breakfast before you head off on your bus tour.
The tour leaves near the Molly Malone Statue on Suffolk Street, so if you’d rather eat out, we recommend heading to Keoghs Cafe (just around the corner from the statue) for breakfast and a coffee.
Getting to Wicklow option 1: A guided day trip
This 8-hour day trip includes a fully-guided day tour of Wicklow’s best sights and includes a visit to Powerscourt Gardens (you’ll need to pay into the gardens separately)!
You’ll be driven along the Sally Gap, see iconic film locations used in P.S. I Love You, Brave Heart, and Vikings, and explore an ancient 6th-century settlement.
There are two options for this tour, so make sure to choose the option with the Powerscourt Garden visit, as this is the more easy-going choice.
We’ll take you through the stops below, but note that 1, you may not always physically stop at all of these sights and 2, these tours are subject to change, so always check with the provider in advance.
Getting to Wicklow option 2: St. Kevin’s Bus
We definitely think a guided tour is the best way to explore Wicklow without a car, but if you can’t book onto the tour above, we suggest using St. Kevin’s Bus to get to Glendalough.
Stop 1: The Sally Gap Drive
OK, this isn’t really a stop. The Sally Gap is a famous crossroad on the Old Military Road through the Wicklow Mountains. The road was built in the early 1800s following the Irish Rebellion of 1798.
It’s a beautiful drive, with spectacular views of the mountains and blanket bog. One of the most notable attractions in this area is Lough Tay (AKA Guinness Lake).
Another is Glenmacnass Waterfall. However, the mountain views and the narrow roads that you drive along are what’ll really make this a corner of Ireland that you won’t forget.
Stop 2: Glendalough Monastic City
The Monastic City was one of the most important monastic sites in this part of 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!
Right next to the settlement, there’s a visitor centre where you can enjoy the exhibits and learn more about the site and what made it so important.
After you’re all clued up, walk the 2 minutes to the monastic site and admire the Glendalough Round Tower, Cathedral, and St. Kevin’s Church.
Stop 3: The Lakes at Glendalough
Along the way, you’ll be passing by Glendalough Upper Lake and Lower Lake. Carved out by a melting glacier long ago, the upper lake is spectacular, nestled between trees and mountains.
It’s home to St. Kevin’s Bed, a small cave where St. Kevin lived as a hermit for several years before he founded the monastic city.
The lower lake is the smaller of the two, but equal in beauty, with gorgeous views of the mountains and forest.
Stop 4: Powerscourt Gardens
The Powerscourt Gardens are filled with grandeur and were voted by National Geographic as one of the world’s Top Ten Gardens!
The 47-acre Powerscourt Gardens are managed by a team of five gardeners, who tend to the Walled Garden, the Japanese Garden, the Italian Garden, and more.
The grounds are filled with ornamental lakes, formal gardens, and statues, making them perfect for a leisurely stroll!
Stop 5: Back to Dublin for the night
After a long day of sightseeing, you’ll be heading back to the city. Nip into your hotel to freshen up before dinner, or if you’re not fussed, head out for something to eat as soon as you get back.
Tonight we have a few suggestions for dinner. If you’re feeling like splashing out, head to Chapter One, a Michelin-starred restaurant in the basement of the Dublin Writers Museum.
The food is pricey, and a four-course dinner will set you back €120 per person, but, the mix of modern Irish and French cuisine is divine and the atmosphere is laid back and relaxing.
If, one the other hand, you don’t feel like going too big tonight, we’d recommend hitting up Bunsen in Temple Bar. They have delicious burgers and the value for money is great.
Dublin is full of great pubs, but some of our suggestions for tonight are Bowes on Fleet Street (for the Guinness) and Mulligans of Poolbeg Street.
Mulligans has had a long history over the years, and several people of note have drank at the pub, like Judy Garland and John F. Kennedy!
For trad music, take a look at our previous day’s suggestions, or have a wander and pop into a local pub if the music is to your liking!
Day 4: Mighty Meath and Louth
On day 4 of the 5 days in Ireland itinerary, you’ll be heading out to County Meath, known for its archaeological sites.
It’s another jam-packed day, so make sure to have a hearty breakfast and to pack some snacks in case you get peckish on the road.
Today’s 10-hour organised day trip leaves from the same spot, near the Molly Malone statue. There aren’t too many breakfast options open this early, so once again we recommend Keoghs Cafe as they open at 6am.
Keep reading below for an overview of the tour, but please note that 1, you may not always physically stop at all of these sights and 2, these tours are subject to change, so always check with the provider in advance.
Stop 1: Hill of Uisneach
The Hill of Uisneach is an ancient ceremonial site that’s home to numerous monuments and earthen artefacts.
It’s an interesting spot that’s steeped in folklore, and according to Irish mythology, the hill is the centre of Ireland and where everything began!
At the site, you’ll find a conjoined ringfort, arguably the most important monument on the hill, a monument known as St Patrick’s Bed (stood at the highest point on the hill), and the Stone of the Divisions, a group of stones said to mark the exact centre of Ireland.
Stop 2: Fore Abbey
Fore Abbey is the ruin of a Benedictine Abbey founded by St. Feichin in the 7th century. The ruins are in good condition with several features that are still visible to this day, including St. Feichin’s Church which was built in 900 AD.
The abbey is known for its legendary “Seven Wonders of Fore”. These are the monastery in the bog; the water that flows uphill; the tree that has three branches; the mill without a race; the water that doesn’t boil (in St. Fechin’s holy well); the anchorite in a cell; and the lintel-stone raised by St. Fechin’s prayers.
Aside from the wonders, Fore Abbey is also well known for the Fore Crosses, 18 crosses that are spread out over 10km.
Stop 3: Loughcrew Passage Tombs
The Loughcrew Passage Tombs, or Loughcrew Cairns, are a group of neolithic passage tombs that date back to 3000 BC.
Cairn T is the largest of the tombs and can be seen from many miles away. It contains magnificent examples of neolithic art and is perfectly aligned to the sunrise during the spring and autumn equinoxes.
Like Fore Abbey, this site is also entangled in folklore. According to local legend. The huge throne-like boulder (nicknamed the Hag’s Chair) on the Cairn’s north side was the seat of an old witch!
Please note that the walk up to the cairns is very steep and may prove difficult for those with low levels of fitness.
Stop 4: Trim Castle
Trim Castle is Ireland’s largest Anglo-Norman fortification. It’s very impressive with an imposing presence that’ll catch your eye from afar as you approach the town.
The Castle dates back to the 12th century and took Hugh de Lacy and his successors 30 years to complete.
The tour of Trim Castle is well worth it, especially for any Braveheart fans, as parts of the movie were filmed there!
If you have time, take the stroll out to the large tower ruins on the hill past the castle (you can’t miss them). You’ll get a great view of the castle from afar from this point.
Stop 5: The Hill of Tara
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.
Stop 6: Back to Dublin for the night
From the Hill of Tara, it’s a 50-minute drive back to Dublin City Centre (depending on traffic).
We’ve got some more dinner and drinks suggestions for you tonight. For dinner, head to Pickle on Camden Street to experience Indian food like never before.
If you feel up to it, get the five-course tasting menu which starts at €60 per person.
For drinks, head to Doheny & Nesbitt or Searson’s (both on Baggot Street). These are both traditional Irish pubs with cosy snugs.
Finally, for great music, we suggest The Merry Ploughboy (it’s a little outside the city in Rathfarnham, but you can get a €10 return shuttle). Or, if you want to stay inside the city, head to the Old Storehouse in Temple Bar.
Day 5: Back To Dublin Airport
It’s the last day and time to head back to Dublin Airport to fly home.
You can take the Dublin Express from the city centre out to Dublin Airport. The bus has multiple stops around the city centre, and if traffic is good, can take as little as 15 minutes to get you out to the airport. As always, make sure to check the schedule and book your ticket in advance.
Have plenty of time before your flight? Check out anything in the city that you weren’t able to see on days 1 and 2.
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!