This Ireland road trip guide took roughly 10 days to research, write and publish.
It was hands-down the hardest guide that I’ve ever written.
But it’s also going to be the one that helps those looking to plan an Ireland road trip the most.
Stuck for time? Bookmark this page!
First – some Ireland road trip inspiration
Debating exploring Ireland? Hit play on the video below.
It’ll knock you on your arse!
Where you’ll be visiting
Below, you’ll find a map of Ireland with our road trip route planned out.
There’s also a more detailed breakdown of each of the days.
Our Ireland road trip on a map
Here’s a rough overview of the route that we’ll be taking.
I say ‘rough’ as the map above doesn’t plot out every single location – this is a 25-day Ireland road trip guide… there would nothing but dots if it plotted out every single point.
Use Pinterest? Pin it for later!
Ireland Road Trip Table of Contents
Below, you’ll find a breakdown of each day of this Ireland road trip guide.
Only interested in a particular day? Just click the link and it’ll take you to that section of the guide.
- Day 1 (Dublin): Arrive to Dublin, Castles, Cliffs and Historical Pubs
- Day 2 (Dublin) – Trinity College, the Guinness Storehouse and so much more
- Day 3 (Wicklow) – Mountains, lakes, long walks and a brewery
- Day 4 (Carlow & Kilkenny) – One of the best views in Ireland, historic walks, castles
- Day 5 – (Wexford and Waterford) Famine ships, haunted houses and ancient lighthouses
- Day 6 (Waterford) – The incredible Copper Coast
- Day 7 (Tipperary and Cork) – A looped walk, the Rock of Cashel, Cahir Castle and more
- Day 8 (Cork) – Exploring the historic town of Cobh before tipping on to Kinsale
- Day 9 (Cork) – Exploring glorious West Cork
- Day 10 (Cork and Kerry) – Crazy roads and a big aul chunk of the Ring of Kerry
- Day 11 (Kerry) – Beaches, the Slea Head Drive and some of the best pubs in Ireland
- Day 12 (Limerick and Clare) – Thatched Cottages, Castles and Cliffs
- Day 13 (Clare) – Cliff walks, caves and craic agus ceol
- Day 14 (Westmeath and Galway) – Castles, ancient pubs and live music
- Day 15 (Galway and Mayo) – A hike, one of the best drives in Ireland and on to Mayo
- Day 16 (Mayo and Sligo) – Croagh Patrick, the most extensive Stone Age monument on earth and lots more
- Day 17 (Sligo and Leitrim) – The Knocknarea Queen Maeve Trail, a waterfall, a lovely coastal walk and more
- Day 18 (Donegal) – Beautiful beaches, one of the bendiest roads in Ireland and more
- Day 19 (Donegal) – Sunrise on Marble Hill Beach, One of the best views in Donegal and plenty more
- Day 20 (Donegal and Derry) – Forts, Panoramic Views and Loads More
- Day 21 (Antrim) – Taking the Ireland road trip to the Causeway Coastal Route
- Day 22 (Antrim and Down) – A cliff walk, a historic prison and more
- Day 23 (Down and Louth) – A hike up Northern Ireland’s highest peak
- Day 24 (Louth and Cavan) – Slieve Foye, a forest walk and a swanky spa
- Day 25 (Meath) – Newgrange, Knowth, Trim Castle and more
Wait… I’m not visiting for that long! Do you have any shorter itineraries?
If you’re visiting for less than 21 days, don’t worry – we’ve got you covered.
Visit our Ireland itinerary hub. It’s packed with short and long Ireland road trip guides that you can pinch.
The first 2 days of our Ireland road trip are going to revolve around Dublin.
We’ll be visiting the city and the wider county, so you’ll get to experience the best of both world.
This guide makes one assumption, and that’s that you’re flying into Dublin.
If you’re flying into one of Ireland’s other airports, just adjust the itinerary to suit.
What you do on day one will depend on when you arrive. If you get in late, just head to where you’re spending the night and chill.
If you arrive in the morning, then our day 1 guide will suit you to the ground!
1 – A Coffee and a stroll around Malahide Castle
// Arrive to Malahide Castle (about 15-minutes from Dublin Airport) for 11 //
Our first stop on our Ireland road trip takes us to our first of many castles.
We’re going to kick things off with a coffee and a little stroll around the grounds of Malahide Castle, parts of which date back to the 12th century.
You’ll need to battle crowds to grab a coffee from the Avoca Cafe, but when you have, tip out around the grounds.
There’s 260 acres of lush parkland to explore.
You can pay to take a look inside if you like, but I’m going to recommend that you just admire it from the outside.
2 – Gulp down Atlantic air and cliff views in Howth
// Leave Malahide Castle at 12:00. Arrive at the summit of Howth for 12:30 //
Our second stop of the day sees us take a handy 25-minute spin out to the little fishing town of Howth.
If you’re hungry, park in the harbour and head for a bite to eat in one of the many restaurants close by.
After you’d had your fill of food and sights, make your way up the hill towards Howth Summit.
When you’ve parked your car, take the path to the right of the car park entrance that leads down towards the lighthouse.
This isn’t a hugely challenging walk and the views that you’ll be treated to on a clear day (like the one we had above and below) are brilliant.
I always tend to recommend adding Howth into your Ireland road trip itinerary if you’re visiting Dublin.
Too many people visit the capital and never leave the city.
3 – Kilmainham Gaol
// Howth to Kilmainham Gaol – 45-minute drive (arrive for 14:45) //
This, in my opinion, is one of the best things to do in Dublin.
Welcome to Kilmainham Gaol.
Kilmainham Gaol opened in 1796 as the County Gaol (prison) for Dublin.
It’s within these walls that leaders of the rebellions of 1798, 1803, 1848,1867 and 1916 were detained and, in some cases, executed.
If you’re visiting Dublin, make a point of doing this tour. It offers a fantastic insight into Dublin’s history from start to finish.
4 – The Teeling’s Whiskey Tour
// Arrive at Teeling’s for 17:30 (book in for the 17:40 tour in advance) //
This is another tour that you’ll want to book in advance.
The Teeling Whiskey Distillery is Dublin’s newest destination for whiskey fans.
Finely located in the Liberties in Dublin City (only a 15-minute drive from Kilmainham), the Teeling Whiskey Distillery is the first new distillery in Dublin for over 125 years, which is some feat!
You can head off on a number of tours here so pick whichever one tickles your fancy.
5 – Check into your accommodation and chill
When you finish up at Teeling’s, head to wherever your staying and get checked in.
If you’re looking for somewhere central, here are several places to stay in Dublin on night 1 and 2 of your Ireland road trip.
Note: the below links are affiliate links – you won’t get charged extra, but I’ll get a very (and I mean very) small commission if you book a hotel using this link, which helps pay for the running of this site.
High end hotels
- Academy Plaza Hotel
- City Studios & Apartments by theKeyCollections
- Kingfisher Townhouse
- Travelodge Stephens Green
6 – A grand aul feed
There are hundreds of places to eat around Dublin.
Here’s a few recommendations for you:
- Klaw, 5A Crown Alley, Temple Bar, Dublin 2 (for the fish lovers)
- Bunsen, 36 Wexford St, Dublin 2, D02 DY20 (for the burger lovers)
- Wing It, 63 South Great George’s Street, Dublin, D02 A036 (for the chicken wing lovers)
- Cornucopia, 9-20 Wicklow St, Dublin, D02 FK27 (for the vegetarians)
- Chapter One, 18-19 Parnell Square N, Rotunda, Dublin 1 (for fine dining)
7 – Pints in historic pubs
We’re going to polish off the first day of our Ireland road trip with a few pints in some of the best pubs in Dublin that boast bucket-loads of history.
Don’t worry, these pubs are all reasonably close to each other, so you’ll have no hassle strolling from one to the other.
Pub 1: The Long Hall
Licensed since 1766, the Long Hall is one of Dublin’s oldest (and most beautiful) pubs.
If you’re a fan of Irish rock, you might recognise the Long Haul from Phil Lynott’s video for his hit-song ‘Old Town’.
Pub 2: McDaid’s
Our next stop takes us to a pub that was once the Dublin City Morgue. Yes, a morgue…
It was later converted into a chapel for the Moravian Brethren, hence the Gothic style windows.
Back in the day poets Brendan Behan and Patrick Kavanagh were both known to frequent McDaid’s.
Pub 3: Neary’s
Our next stop takes us to Neary’s, a UNESCO City of Literature Bar.
This lovely little pub has a long connection to acting and the literary community, which date’s back to 1871 when the Gaiety Theatre opened (the stage door to the Gaiety is directly opposite the rear entrance to Neary’s).
Pub 4: The Confession Box
Dating back to the Irish War of Independence (1919-1921), the Confession Box has a quirky story behind where it earned its name.
During the conflict that took place during Ireland’s war for independence from the British, the last known excommunications from the Catholic Church in Ireland took place.
The excommunications were directed against those involved in the rebellion.
Back then the pub was known as the Maid of Erin and some of the rebels were known to drop by to receive Communion and Confession from sympathetic priests from the nearby Pro-Cathedral, earning the pub the nickname The Confession Box.
When you’ve had your fill, head back to your accommodation. We’ve a busy day ahead.
We’ve an absolute peach of a day in store for you on day two of your Ireland road trip.
Grab a bit of breakfast wherever you’re staying and hit the road early.
1 – Trinity College and the Book of Kells Tour
// Grab a bit of breakfast wherever you’re staying and aim to arrive at Trinity for 9 //
Otherwise you’ll be stood queuing outside.
The grounds of Trinity College are a joy to walk around, and are arguably one of the best places in Dublin for a bit of people watching.
When you’ve had your fill of the grounds head for the entrance to the Book of Kells tour.
The highlight of which is the Long Room, which is often compared to a set from the Harry Potter movies.
There’s just something wonderful about the Long Room in Trinity College.
The smell of old books that hits you as you walk into the library, the high ceilings with their beautiful designs, the winding staircase, the dusty volumes – I love it all.
2 – The often overlooked GPO 1916 Tour
// Leave Trinity at 10:30 and arrive to the GPO for 10:45 //
The GPO 1916 tour is constantly overlooked by people that visit Dublin.
And I’m basing that on the hundreds of conversations that I have with people that are planning a trip to Ireland every month.
Walking into the tour is like stepping out onto a battlefield; from the minute the tour begins, you feel completely immersed in the action.
The exhibition puts you right inside Dublin’s GPO during Easter Week in 1916.
It’s highly visual, and conveys the events in an easy to digest, dramatic manner that’ll leave you with a totally different perspective of the General Post Office forever more.
3 – A bit of lunch on Capel Street
// Leave the GPO at 12:00 and arrive to Brother Hubbard on Capel Street at 12:10 //
As you’re in the area, I’m going to recommend that you take the short stroll up O’Connell St. and head for Brother Hubbard on Capel St. for a bit of food.
The Braised Beef Short Rib sounds amazzzzzzzing!
Fill the belly and take a little bit of time to recharge. We’ve a solid afternoon and evening ahead.
4 – Getting up close with the Vikings at Dublina
// Leave Capel St. at 13:20 and arrive to Dublina at 13:35 //
The Dublinia tour is one that has been recommended to me time and time again, both by people from Ireland and from those that visit.
Those that embark upon it will meet the Vikings face to face while learning about life during the Medieval period in Dublin.
How the folks at Dublina describe the tour:
‘Go back to Viking times in Dublin! See for yourself what life was like onboard a Viking warship. Learn of their long and challenging voyages, their weaponry and the skills of being a Viking warrior.
Try on Viking clothes, become a slave (watch those heavy chains) and stroll down a noisy street. Visit a smokey and cramped Viking house, learn the Viking runic alphabet and hear their poetry and sagas. Enjoy the myths and learn of the mysteries surrounding the Vikings and their legacy.’
Find out more about the tour here.
5 – The Guinness Storehouse
// The Dublina Tour takes around 90 minutes. Finish up there at around 15:10 and take the 15-minute walk to the Guinness Storehouse. //
I left the Guinness Storehouse out of a previous 2-day Dublin guide, and I received a tonne of mails (and I mean a tonne) saying that it’s well worth doing.
So, here we are.
Your journey at the Guinness Storehouse kicks-off at the bottom of the world’s largest pint glass and continues right the way up through seven floors that are packed to the brim with interactive experiences.
When you reach the top, you’ll be rewarded with a pint in the rooftop Gravity Bar, which you can enjoy as you look out over Dublin.
6 – Food and bed
When you finish up in the storehouse, head for a bite to eat (see the restaurant section in day 1 for recommendations) and then head back to the room to chill and sleep.
We’ve an active day on the cards for day 3 – in other words, you’ll be f****d if you’re hungover!
If you read our 24 hour Wicklow guide, you’ll recognise some of the places below.
Day 3 is brilliant. It’s got something for everyone and there are several options that you can choose from based on fitness levels and the weather.
You should be nice and fresh on the morning of day 3, so get up early, check out, and be on the road for 08:00.
1 – Gallivanting around Glendalough
// Dublin to the Glendalough Visitor Centre – 1-hour drive (leave at 08:00, arrive for 09:00) //
There are an endless number of walks and hikes to do in Wicklow on your Ireland road trip.
In this guide, we’re going to recommend the Spinc Loop, but there’s another lovely climb nearby that’ll take you up for a view out over Lough Ouler.
The Glendalough Spinc Loop
This is the first of many hikes over the next three weeks.
The Spinc Loop is challenging enough to give you a good workout, but not too strenuous in that you can still chat away and have a laugh with friends as you climb.
The hike begins at the Upper Lake carpark and follows the Poulanass Waterfall before entering the Lugduff Valley.
From here, climb the steep wooden steps (this’ll get the blood flowing!) to the top of the boardwalk that runs along the top of The Spinc.
This path is around 500m and it takes you up to a section of the boardwalk that overlooks the Upper Lake. This is a lovely spot to take a breather and admire a view that’s stopped many a walker in their tracks.
Here’s a look at some of what you can expect.
I’ve done this in 3 and a half hours a couple of times, but take it at your own pace and enjoy the views.
2 – A big aul feed in Roundwood
// Glendalough Visitor Centre to Roundwood – 10-minute drive (spend up to 4 hours in Glendalough and arrive at Roundwood for 13:00) //
At this stage, you’ll be in need of a post-hike feed – so we’re off for FOOOOOOD.
We’re going to take the short spin to the little village of Roundwood and head straight for the Coach House (there’s a car park).
Fuel up, chill and rest the legs for an hour.
If you’re here in the winter, you’ll be able to grab some heat by an enormous open fire.
3 – Lough Tay and the Sally Gap drive
// Roundwood to Lough Tay – 10-minute drive (arrive for 14:20) //
Lough Tay is easily one of my favourite places in Ireland.
Mainly because it’s a short drive from where I live in Dublin and you generally have the whole place to yourself (basing this on the past 4 times that I’ve been).
As you drive towards Lough Tay from Roundwood, you’ll eventually come to a little makeshift car park on the right where you can park the car.
Cross the road and walk down the grassy hill until you’re treated to the incredible view above (be careful with small children).
The Sally Gap
So, this is a looped drive rather than a stop. Leave Lough Tay and head in the direction of Glenmacnass Waterfall and then Laragh.
I’ve done this drive twice over the past 12 months, and many times over the years, and it never fails to disappoint.
Here’s how this looks on a map.
The enormous, isolated and often deserted (depending on when you visit) landscape that engulfs you as you spin along the Sally Gap Drive has the knack of making you feel like you’re the only person left on earth.
Watch the video below from pixel.flights and you’ll see what I mean.
Take your time with this drive and just soak it all up.
4 – A tour of the Wicklow Brewery, a pint and a feed
// Laragh to the Wicklow Brewery – 30-minute drive (arrive for 16:00) //
Our final stop of day 3 of our Ireland road trip takes us to Mickey Finn’s Pub in Redcross – home to the Wicklow Brewery.
The Wicklow Brewery opened its doors on September 5th, 2014.
Those that opt to take the tour will be brought through the story of the Wicklow Brewery and given an insight into how they brew their beers, from the milling of the grain in the malt mill to the kegging at the end.
Hopefully it goes without saying that if you visit the brewery, you shouldn’t drink and drive!
We’re going to round the day off with a bite to eat in the pub. If you can, grab a seat in the cosy little snug area.
5 – A nest for night 3 of our Ireland road trip
So, where you stay in Wicklow is totally up to you.
I’m going to recommend Lochside B&B as it’s nice and close to Redcross, which is where the Wicklow Brewery is (check our interactive map of the best places to stay in Ireland if you fancy staying somewhere else).
Check into the B&B and chill for the evening.
Day 4 (Carlow & Kilkenny) – One of the best views on our Ireland road trip itinerary, historic walks, castles
Day 4 of our Ireland road trip takes us from Wicklow to Carlow and then on to Kilkenny.
It’s going to be a busy couple of days, but it’ll all be worth it.
1 – Huntington Castle and Gardens
// Redcross to Huntington Castle – 50-minute drive (arrive for 10:00) //
Our first stop of day 4 takes us to Clonegal in County Carlow to check out Huntington Castle and its extensive gardens.
You’ll be driving quite a bit today, so this will be a nice way to get you out of the car for an hour or so and into nature.
This 17th century house is a treasure trove of historical architecture and was originally built as a defensive garrison.
If you fancy checking out the castle itself, you can do a guided tour.
I’m going to recommend that you tip into the gardens. Here, you’ll be able to check out French limes trees, ornamental lawns a fish pond and lots more.
2 – The Nine Stones
// Huntington Castle to the Nine Stones Viewing Point – 25-minute drive (arrive for 11:30) //
Our second stop of the day takes us to Carlow for one of the best views in Ireland.
The Nine Stones Viewing Point provides an unrivalled vista of the lush, colourful Carlow countryside.
On a clear day, you’ll be able to see eight different counties (yes, 8!)
On the lower side of the road, you’ll see nine small stones in the ground. According to legend, these stones are said to commemorate nine shepherds lost on Mount Leinster.
Well worth the visit.
3 – Lunch in Kilkenny
// The Nine Stones to the Fig Tree in Kilkenny – 50-minute drive (arrive for 13:00) //
It’s been a long morning, so lets fuel up in the Fig Tree in Kilkenny before exploring the town.
There’s a highly recommended Full Irish and Veggie option for breakfast, along with coffee that’s ‘ethically sourced, selected and roasted’.
Fuel up, chill for a bit and grab a coffee to go.
4 – Explore the city and wrap your hands around a coffee as you ramble about the castle
// Give yourself 50 minutes in the Fig Tree and stroll to the castle for around 14:30 //
On a rain-free day, Kilkenny is an absolute joy to walk around.
The city’s narrow streets and laneways, colourful shopfronts, medieval architecture (Kilkenny is Ireland’s medieval capital), and energetic atmosphere provide the perfect entertainment for a post-lunch stroll.
Hands-down my favourite nook and cranny in the city is Butter Slip Lane (above).
It’s only a couple of minutes from where you munched down lunch and it’s like a piece of Hogsmeade from the Harry Potter series was airlifted from London and plonked down in the centre of Kilkenny.
A two-minute saunter from Butter Slip lane stands Kilkenny Castle, a 12th-century structure that was originally constructed of wood in 1172.
Overlooking the River Nore, the castle stood in all its wooden glory for just thirty years before it was rebuilt with stone by the Earl of Pembroke.
For those of you that fancy checking out the interior of the castle, you can do a self-guided tour for €8.
5 – The Smithwick’s Experience
// Arrive to the Smithwick’s Experience for 16:00 //
The Smithwick’s brewery was founded in Kilkenny way back in 1710 by John Smithwick, on the site of a Franciscan abbey where monks brewed ale since the 14th century.
Parts of the old brewery now play host to the Smithwick’s Experience.
During the tour, you’ll learn about Ireland’s rich history of brewing and see first-hand where Smithwick’s beer was once produced.
The tour, which lasts between 45 and 60 minutes, costs €13.00 for an adult and has racked up excellent reviews online.
6 – Check into your accommodation for the night
When you finish up at the Smithwick’s, head to your accommodation and get checked in.
Here’s some recommendations on where to stay in Kilkenny (these are Affiliate links):
Central hotels (prices between €100 and €200)
Central hotels, guesthouses, B&Bs and hostels below €100
6 – Kytlers Inn (once owned by Ireland’s first condemned witch)
When you’ve chilled for a bit, head over to Kytlers Inn.
We’ve chosen Kytlers Inn for dinner based on its history and the fact that I’ve eaten here before and have fond memories of the place.
Dating back to 1263, Kytlers was first established by Dame Alice de Kytler – the first recorded person condemned for witchcraft in Ireland.
The daughter of a Norman banker, Alice de Kytler married four times and in the process amassed a considerable fortune.
It was shortly into her 4th marriage when her wealthy husband began showing signs of illness – it was around this time that he also changed his Will to the benefit of Alice and her son William.
Naturally, his family weren’t impressed.
They brought charges of witchcraft against Alice, claiming that she had ‘bewitched’ her husband and forced him to change his Will.
To cut a long story short, she escaped to England and dodged any unpleasantries.
Day 5 of our Ireland road trip takes us back to the coast to County Wexford.
We’ve a busy day ahead, so make sure you’re not out too late the evening before.
1 – The Dunbrody Famine Ship Experience
// Kilkenny to The Dunbrody Famine Ship Experience in New Ross – 50-minute drive (arrive for 09:00) //
The Dunbrody Famine Ship Experience is an authentic reproduction of an 1840s emigrant vessel located in the town of New Ross.
Visitors to the ship will follow in the footsteps of the those who left during Ireland’s Great Famine, via an interactive tour that takes you through the journey made by so many Irish people.
For those of you following this Ireland road trip that are interested in learning more about Irish history, then this stop will be right up your alley.
The tour provides an insight into a significant period in Irish history that shaped our culture forever.
2 – A coffee and a stroll at Tintern Abbey
// New Ross to Tintern Abbey – 25-minute drive (arrive to Tintern at 10:40) //
You’ll find Tintern Abbey on the west shore of Bannow Bay in Wexford.
Once one of the most powerful Cistercian foundations in the South East, the Abbey is now a big (and incredibly well maintained) crumbly ruin.
Although the Abbey is the big attraction for visitors, the majority of the people that I chat to that have visited mention the walled garden as being the highlight of the trip.
If you fancy taking a guided tour and learning about the history, it’ll cost you €5 (Adult price) and lasts around 45 minutes.
3 – Loftus Hall (one of the most haunted houses in Ireland)
// Tintern Abbey to Loftus Hall – 20-minute drive (arrive for 12:00) //
You’ll find the intimidating structure known as Loftus Hall on the wild and windy Hook Peninsula, close to Hook Lighthouse.
It’s an enormous, old mansion house that was built in the mid-1300’s during the time of the black death.
According to legend, the mansion is haunted by both the devil and by the ghost of a young woman.
If you fancy a bit of a scare, you can take a guided interactive tour of the ground floor of Loftus Hall (lasts around 45 mins).
The ice cream here is also gorgeous!
4 – One of the oldest operational lighthouses on earth
// Loftus Hall to Hook Lighthouse – 10-minute drive (arrive for 13:30) //
Hook Lighthouse was once voted the number one lighthouse in the world.
The current structure has been marking the entrance to Wexford Harbour for at least 800 years, yet it’s history goes back a whole lot further.
Monks kept a warning beacon to warn sailors of the dangers of shipwreck on the rocky headland during the period 500-1000 AD.
Grab a cup of coffee in the café after your drive before climbing the 115 steps to the top of the lighthouse to enjoy the mighty view of the Wexford coastline.
5 – A ramble along the walls of Waterford City
// Hook to Waterford City – 1 hour and 10-minute drive (arrive for 16:00) //
Our first day in Waterford is going to be spent wandering around Waterford City – Ireland’s oldest, as it happens.
One of the most impressive features of Waterford City is its historic walls and towers.
The city, which was founded by the Vikings way back between 856 and 914, is over 1,000 years old and boasts the largest collection of medieval defensive towers and walls on our island.
Head off in the direction of Reginald’s Tower.
Reginald’s Tower is the most impressive of the six towers that are still standing and can be found at the highest point of the Waterford City’s Viking Triangle.
Inside the tower you’ll find an exhibition on Viking Waterford that houses 9th century swords and weapons from a Viking warrior’s grave and a magnificent Waterford Kite Brooch.
Take a bit of time to have a float around the tower and soak up some of the city’s rich past.
6 – The Medieval Museum
Take the short stroll to the Medieval Museum. Here, you’ll be able toc soak up the story of what life was like in the historic City of Waterford many years ago.
Waterford City centre was excavated between 1986 and 1992 and the many unique discoveries that were found during this time are housed in the Museum.
Take a look inside what’s been listed at one of the best things to do in Waterford on Tripadvisor in the video below.
Spend some time wandering around the museum, and head off on the guided tour if you fancy.
7 – Rest the legs and get ready for the evening ahead
When you finish up in the museum, head to your accommodation for the night.
For this trip we’re going to recommend that you stay in Dooley’s Hotel, as it’s nice and central and the reviews are amazing.
Check in, rest the body for a bit and then get out for food and a drink.
8 – Food and a pint
// It’s been a busy aul day. We’re going to round it off with food and a few pints. //
If you follow our guide to the best things to do in Waterford in 48 hours, you’ll recognise the pub and restaurant below.
We’re going to recommend that you grab a bite to eat in Bodega!, followed up by a drink in the Gingerman.
We’ll be doing a lot of active exploring tomorrow, so do your best to avoid lashing in too many pints and giving yourself a thunderous hangover.
Our 6th (can you believe that we’re only six days in?! My hand feels like it’s going to fall off already!) day of our Ireland road trip is one of my favourites from the three weeks.
It takes us along the often overlooked Copper Coast.
We’ll be doing a hike today, so make sure you have sturdy hiking boots, weather appropriate clothing, and some water and snacks.
1 – The Copper Coast
// Start your drive at 9:00 //
The stretch of coastline that sits between Tramore and Dungarvan is known as the Copper Coast.
Although it’s widely regarded as one of the most beautiful, unspoilt scenic drives in Ireland, it’s regularly overlooked by those planning a trip to Ireland.
Declared as a European Geopark in 2001 and a UNESCO Global Geopark in 2004, the Copper Coast boasts a beautiful, ever changing landscape with seemingly endless rolling hills and steep cliffs.
We’ve a number of stop-off points along this wonderful stretch of craggy coast.
Copper Coast Stop 1 – Kicking off the drive with Dunhill Castle
// Dooley’s Hotel to Dunhill Castle – 25-minute drive (aim to arrive to Dunhill castle for 9:00) //
If you’re not familiar with the Copper Coast, it gets its name from the 19th Century copper mines that lie at its heart.
Our first stop on the Copper Coast is a short spin from our base on day 1 – Dunhill Castle.
This castle was built in the early 1200’s by ‘The la Poer family’, who became infamous in the 14th century after they launched a load of attacks on Waterford City.
Drop by the castle and have a little ramble around.
Copper Coast Stop 2 – Kilmurrin Beach (the first of many great beaches that we’ll be visiting on our Ireland road trip)
// Dunhill Castle to Kilmurrin Beach – 10-minute drive (spend 30 minutes at the castle and arrive at the beach at 9:40) //
The tiny little beach of Kilmurrin packs a mighty punch, considering its size.
Hop out of the car, stretch the legs, and gulp down some fresh sea air.
If weather permits, plonk yourself down on the sand and enjoy the view of the horseshoe-shaped cove, with rugged cliffs rising beautifully on either side.
Copper Coast Stop 3 – Bunmahon Beach
// Kilmurrin Beach to Bunmahon Beach – 10-minute drive (spend 30 minutes at Kilmurrin and arrive at Bunmahon at 10:20) //
Our third stop on the Copper Coast is Bunmahon Beach.
Bunmahon Beach is a beautiful spot that stretches for around 5km, and is backed by sand dunes with tall cliffs at each end.
I know we’ve already visited a beach this morning, but this place is definitely worth stopping by.
Watch the video below to see why.
Copper Coast Stop 4 – The stop that isn’t really a stop
Like many of the Ireland road trip guides that we create here, the best advice that I can offer is to let your gut guide you.
Take your time on the Copper Coast. Get out of the car. Walk. Climb. Listen to the waves and allow this place to consume you
We’re going to allow for another 2 hours on this stretch for those of you that fancy spending some time exploring.
2 – The Coumshingaun Lake Walk
// Aim to start this walk at 12:00 //
Our second stop of day 2 involves a reasonably challenging hike that’ll treat you to one of the best views in Ireland.
The Coumshingaun Lake Walk is special. And the view that you’re treated to from the top is simply out of this world.
The lads at Dungarvan Tourism have prepared a fantastic guide this walk – their website is a brilliant resource for those looking for more info.
You can embark on a short walk or a long walk. Here’s how to navigate the short (2.5 hours) walk according to Dungarvan Tourism;
‘The walk commences at Kilclooney Bridge on the R676 Dungarvan/Carrick-on-Suir road. It is possible to park on a side road to the right just before the bridge. Cross the road to Comeraghs side, go through a gate, and negotiate a wet patch near the river to get onto a grassy path which will bring you all the way up to the lake.’
For those of you that fancy trying the longer (5 hours) walk, here’s what to do (it’s a continuation of the short walk);
‘Walk to the steep spur going up the left (South) side of the corrie, where you will observe a clear ridge path. This becomes narrow and weaves up between large boulders in parts and involved some scrambling now and again-great care is needed.
Above the boulders the path is still clear and there is a final very steep ascent on a heathery section where great care is again required, before you reach the plateau.
Detour a few hundred metres to the left, if you wish, to the cairn, which is the highest point of the Comeraghs, Fascoum (789m) and now resume your clockwise circuit around the corrie. You next ascend a grassy local top called Staicin (704m), and from here, your descent route is down Eastward along the obvious spur.’
Make sure to be vigilant on your descent.
3 – Mahon Falls
// Coumshingaun Lough to Mahon Falls – 10-minute drive (arrive for 17:00) //
Hop back into the car and head straight for the car park at Mahon Falls where you’ll be treated to your first glimpse of the waterfall.
Your legs are probably screaming at this stage, but bear with me, this’ll be worth it!
The walk from the car park up to the waterfall is facilitated by a gravel path and takes around 20 minutes (hopefully you had a pocket full of snacks for the hike that are still keeping you going!).
As you move higher up the path, the roar of the water gets louder and louder, willing weary walkers to keep going.
When you reach a point that you’re happy with, kick-back, soak up the natural beauty in front of you and let the melody of water crashing against rock ring in your ears.
4 – The Comeragh Drive
// Mahon Falls to Dungarvan – 25-minute drive (allow yourself an hour at Mahon Falls. This would mean that you’d arrive in Dungarvan at about 18:30) //
At this point you should be pretty wrecked – fear not, however, we’re going to finish off the day with a drive that boasts views that’ll knock you sideways.
We’re going to do part of the Comeragh Drive – another regularly overlooked Ireland road trip route.
When you leave the car park, turn right and continue up the hill until you reach the top.
Park the car and enjoy the spectacular views from the Comeragh Heights overlooking the Mahon River Valley to the east and the Tay Valley to the west.
When you’ve had your fill, hop back into the car and continue on the same road as it winds down the hill.
We’re heading for Dungarvan, so pop it into the sat nav/Google Maps and head off on your merry way.
5 – Dungarvan for the night
It’s time to check into your accommodation, grab a nap and the head for a much needed bite to eat.
I’m going to recommend that you stay in the Park Hotel, Holiday Homes & Leisure Centre on night 6.
Grab a few hours rest and head on down to The Moornings for a bite to eat and a well-earned pint.
Day 7 takes us back inland to Tipperary (before tipping back out to the coast to Cork), a county that’s home to mountains, rivers, lakes and plenty of farmland.
We’ve a nice mix of active exploring, road tripping and tours today.
Have a decent breakfast in your hotel and hit the road early.
1 – Cahir Castle
// Your hotel in Dungarvan to Cahir Castle – 45-minute drive (arrive for 09:00) //
Cahir Castle, which was once the stronghold of the Butler family, is a 13th-15th Century structure that is widely regarded as one of Ireland’s largest and best preserved castles.
It’s situated on a rocky island on the River Suir in Tipperary and was skilfully designed to be a state-of-the-art defensive castle.
Over the course of many years the Butler family rebuilt and extended Cahir Castle, until 1599 when it reached its present state.
Those that visit the castle can embark on a well reviewed 30-40 minute audio-visual tour which tells visitors about its eventful history.
2 – The Swiss Cottage
// Cahir Castle to the Swiss Cottage – 5-minute drive (arrive for 10:30) //
This is one of many hidden gems that you’ll visit on this Ireland road trip.
Welcome to the almost other-worldly Swiss Cottage – a home fit for a hobbit king
So, although the Swiss Cottage looks like something straight from the Lord of the Rings, it’s actually what’s known as a cottage orné (or ornamental cottage).
Built in the early 1800s by a lad named Richard Butler, the Swiss Cottage in Tipperary was originally part of Lord and Lady Cahir’s vast estate, and was mainly used for entertaining guests.
The gorgeous thatched roof looks like it was attached yesterday, and it gives the Swiss Cottage that stop-you-dead-in-your-tracks effect.
3 – The Rock of Cashel
// Swiss Cottage to Rock of Cashel – 25-minute drive (arrive for 11:30) //
Our third stop of the day takes us to one of the most iconic attractions in Ireland.
The Rock of Cashel is an ancient royal site of the kings of Munster and its origins date back 4th or 5th centuries.
According to legend, St. Patrick arrived in Cashel in 432 AD and baptised King Aengus here, who then became Ireland’s first Christian ruler.
Brian Boru, the last great High King of Ireland, was crowned High King here in 990.
Most of the buildings that are still in place on the current site date from the 12th and 13th centuries when the rock was gifted to the Church.
A guided tour runs every hour and lasts about 45 minutes.
For some bizarre reason, you can only get tickets when you arrive… yet many sites that I’ve visited have recommended buying tickets in advance… which will only be possible if you’re in Tipperary for a couple of nights.
4 – Cobh
// Rock of Cashel to Cobh – 1 hour and 10-minute drive (arrive for 15:00) //
I’m a little bit weary that we’ve done quite a bit of driving over the past few days, so I’m going to slow things down a little over the next 4 days of our Ireland road trip.
When you’ve finished up at the Rock of Cashel, head for Cobh.
We’ll spend the night here and chill for the rest of the day, so have a ramble around the town and check into your accommodation for the evening.
Where to stay in Cobh
I’m going to recommend that you stay in Gilberts Bistro & Townhouse, as it’s central and the reviews are great.
Check into your hotel and head down to the Bistro for some dinner.
Where to head for a pint
There’s a handful of brilliant pubs in Cobh. Here’s a few that you can round off week 1 in in style.
- Kelly’s Bar
- The Roaring Donkey
- The Titanic Bar and Grill
- The Quays Bar
- The Rob Roy
Week one of our Ireland Road Trip: A quick review
It’s crazzzzzzy to think that we’re only 7 days into our Irish road trip.
Madness when you think about all that you’ve done so far.
We’ve explored Dublin gone wandering in Kilkenny, Wicklow, Wexford, and spent some time in Tipperary and Carlow.
Week two takes us on to Cork, Kerry, Limerick, Westmeath and more.
Ready to rock? Let’s do it!
Day 8 will see you explore Cobh to your hearts content.
We’ll be visiting a prison once called ‘Ireland’s Hell’, the ‘Deck of Cards’ made famous by a million Instagram photos and lots more.
1 – Coffee and Colourful houses
// I won’t be putting in times for the first half of the day. Get a lie in and head out for around 10:30 //
There’s several different spots that we’ll be checking out over the morning, so grab a coffee to go from Cuppacity Coffee and get walking.
First Cobh Stop – The Deck of Cards
If you want to see St. Coleman’s Cathedral and the colourful houses from the view above, you’ll need to head for ‘Spy Hill’.
Pop it into Google maps and you’ll find it easy enough.
You’ll need to hop up on a wall (be careful) to see the view above, but you can also walk down the hill where the houses are located and walk into a little green area on the right.
Second Cobh Stop – St. Coleman’s Cathedral
For those of you that are fond of architecture, nip back up to the St. Coleman’s Cathedral and take a look inside.
Named after the patron saint of the diocese, St. Colman Mac Leinin, the structure was inspired by the great cathedrals of medieval France.
Admire it from the outside as it towers over you and take a ramble inside and enjoy the magnificent design of its interior.
Third Cobh Stop – Ireland’s Alcatraz
Our third and final stop in Cobh is one that’s left out of many an Ireland itinerary – Spike Island.
Often referred to as ‘Ireland’s Alcatraz’ online, Spike Island was named Europe’s leading tourist attraction at the World Travel Awards in 2017.
You’ll need to grab a ferry from Cobh which takes between 10 and 20 minutes to reach the island.
In the last 1300 years, Spike Island has hosted a 6th century Monastery, a 24 acre Fortress, the largest convict depot in the world in Victorian times and centuries of island homes.
The island’s history has included monks, monasteries, rioters, redcoats, captains and convicts.
Well, well, welllllll worth visiting!
2 – Kinsale for a ramble and a bite to eat
// Cobh to Kinsale – 50-minute drive (arrive to Kinsale for 13:50) //
Our next stop takes us to the gorgeous little fishing town of Kinsale.
Take a bit of time to wander around the town and then head for food.
Drop into the Lemon Leaf Cafe for a feed (or choose from other great places to eat in Kinsale on our interactive Ireland map) and grab a cup of coffee to-go.
3 – Stretching the legs at the Old Head of Kinsale
// Kinsale town to the Old Head of Kinsale – 20-minute drive (arrive at 15:10) //
Our next stop is the Old Head of Kinsale to stretch the legs and to soak up some of Cork’s gorgeous coastline.
This walk is a handy 6 km (roughly 1.5 hour) loop walk that takes in spectacular views at every turn.
The Old Head of Kinsale is a magnificent narrow promontory into the Atlantic Ocean which rises hundreds of feet from the sea with craggy cliffs.
Take your time and enjoy the gush of Atlantic wind that’ll crash against you from every angle.
4 – Rounding off the day with a stroll at Inchydoney Beach
// The Old Head of Kinsale to Inchydoney Beach – 1-hour drive (arrive to Inchydoney for around 18:00) //
The promise of a stroll on a beach like Inchydoney to round off a day of exploring is enough to help you power through the last of the journey from Kinsale.
I really do love this place. It’s amazing at sunset if you just fancy getting a bit of pre-bed sea air (the view from the grassy verge near the car park is great) and it’s even better if you want to go for a stroll.
5 – Clonakilty for the night
// Inchydoney Beach to Clonakilty – 10-minute drive (arrive to Clonakilty for around 19:00) //
I love Clonakilty. I’m not sure what it is about the place. But it’s brilliant.
I’ve stayed in O’Donovan’s Hotel in Clonakilty previously, loved it and would 100% recommend it (just keep in mind that it’s pretty dated).
It was also a couple of seconds from the lovely pub above.
Grab a feed in O’Donovan’s and then head into An Teach Beag for a pint.
West Cork is hands-down one of my favourite places on earth, never mind Ireland.
The wild, remote, ever-changing landscapes, the isolation and the people make it an absolute gem of a place to spend a day or 5.
1 – Spinning through Glandore, Union Hall and Skibbereen en route to Baltimore
// Clonakilty to Baltimore – 45-minute drive (take your time and arrive to Union Hall for Baltimore for 10:00) //
We’re going to take a little bit of time to spin around the gorgeous villages and towns of Glandore, Union Hall and Skibbereen.
We’ve no specific stops or places to visit in either town, but you can’t drive through this neck of the woods and not take some time to ramble around.
Give yourself an hour and stop-off anywhere that tickles your fancy.
I’m a huge fan of Skibbereen.
Often referred to as ‘the Capital of West Cork’, it’s a gorgeous, lively little town that’s a great base for exploring some of the best that West Cork has to offer.
Hop out for a ramble. Your first handful of many gorgeous little towns that we’ll be visiting on this Ireland road trip.
2 – Cape clear island and Fastnet Rock
// Ferry times will vary (check them out here) – we’re going to assume that you’ve followed the guide and gone for the 11:00 sailing //
Our second stop of the day is going to be the base for a lot of the days activities.
We’re going to board a ferry to Cape Clear Island and head off exploring.
Cape Clear is the southernmost inhabited part of the island of Ireland and has a population of over 100 people.
The ferry takes 45-minutes to get to the island, so just kick back, relax, and gaze out at the beautiful waters of Roaring Water Bay.
When you reach the island, a shuttle bus service leaves from the North Harbour, taking visitors to Cape Clear Heritage Centre for the Fastnet multimedia exhibition.
When you’ve finished up at the exhibition, make your way back down to the ferry.
The final lap of the trip takes you around Fastnet Lighthouse, often referred to as ‘the Teardrop of Ireland’, as it was the last sight of Ireland for emigrants sailing to America.
Here’s a fantastic look at the lighthouse from every angle, thanks to Tom Vaughan.
3 – Lunch at Mizen Head
// Baltimore to Mizen Head – 1-hour drive (arrive for 15:00) //
It’s been a long morning and afternoon, so fuel up with a hearty lunch at the cafe at Mizen Head.
If you haven’t packed any snacks or water, grab some here and pop them in your bag.
4 – Embracing the power of nature at Mizen Head
// Aim to start exploring Mizen by 16:00 //
I visited here during the summer of 2018, and it really is an experience and a half.
The Mizen Head Signal Station was built to save lives off the treacherous rocks at Ireland’s most south-westerly point.
Kick your visit off by spending a bit of time wandering around the the Maritime Museum.
From here, take a stroll down towards the Signal Station – it’s a 15 minute walk along a gravelly path, down 99 steps (these were closed on the day that I visited) and across the beautiful arched bridge.
Take your time walking around and admiring the views that lay as far as the eye can see.
5 – Bantry for the night
// Mized Head to Bantry – 45-minute drive (aim to arrive for 18:30) //
That was a long day – still with me? Let me know in the comments below.
On night number 9 of our Ireland road trip, I’m going to recommend that you stay at the Bantry Bay Hotel.
When you’re ready to eat, take the 2-minute stroll to Fish Kitchen for a hearty feed.
We’re going to round the evening off with a few pints in Ma Murphy’s pub right across the road from Fish Kitchen.
We’re moving out of Cork faster than I’d like, but we’ve got a whole load more exploring to do.
Day 10 sees us tackle more of the Rebel County before taking on a chunk of the Ring of Kerry drive.
1 – The bendy road at Healy Pass
// Bantry to the Healy Pass – 45-minute drive (leave at 8, arrive for 8:45) //
Healy Pass is hands down one of the craziest roads that I’ve ever driven on in Ireland.
The road, which was constructed in 1847 during the years of the famine, looks like a giant snake from above, slithering its way through the two highest summits in the Caha mountain range.
Healy Pass is a corner of Ireland that looks like time passed it by and forgot all about it, leaving it untouched and unspoiled.
Drive the road and pull in (where possible) at the top for a view of Healy Pass on one side, and then Kerry on the other (the photo below shows the Kerry side).
2 – Molls Gap via Kenmare (yep, we’ve arrived in Kerry)
// Healy Pass to Molls Gap – 45-minute drive (we’ll add 20 minutes for a stop in Kenmare – arrive for 09:50) //
Moll’s Gap is a bendy pass that offers unrivalled views out over the Macgillycuddy’s Reeks and the surrounding countryside.
It earned its name from a hardy woman named Moll Kissane.
Moll ran a Sibin, which is an unlicensed pub, in the area during the construction of the original Kenmare road way back in the 1820s.
Her homemade poitin and whiskey, which she sold to the men working on the road, made her a well liked local. It may have also influenced the naming of the gap.
Chill here for a bit and admire the view.
3 – The lovely Ladies View
// Molls Gap to Ladies View – 10-minute drive (arrive for 10:40) //
The view you’ll be treated to when you arrive at Ladies View is just out of this world.
If it’s a fine day, I’m going to recommend that you head into the little cafe next to Ladies View, grab a coffee, and head to the upstairs seating area.
4 – Ballaghbeama Gap (a very hidden gem)
// Ladies View to Ballaghbeama Gap – 35-minute drive (arrive for 11:45) //
This is hands down one of my favourite drives that we’ll be taking on this Ireland road trip.
Ballaghbeama Pass cuts across the mountains in the centre of the Iveragh Peninsula.
It treats drivers, walkers and cyclists to an isolated but almost otherworldly driving route where you’ll meet little traffic, plenty of sheep and endless mountain views.
I did this drive with my Mam recently and it was absolutely fantastic. Here’s a little of what you can expect.
5 – Taking the scenic route to Waterville
// Ballaghbeama Gap to Waterville – 1-hour drive (arrive for around 13:30) //
We’re going to take a very lovely, very isolated, and very off the beaten track route to get to Ballinskelligs.
The drive takes us along the magnificent Ballaghisheen Pass. A spin that you won’t forget any time soon.
Here’s a taste of what you can expect to see.
6 – Lunch in Waterville
// Arrive for 13:30 //
We’re going to nip into An Corcan for lunch (the steak sandwich is cracking).
An Corcan is a tiny little cafe/restaurant that I’ve been to several times over the years.
The food is lovely and the people serving are friendly.
When you’ve had a feed, head for a little ramble around the village.
7 – The Skellig Ring drive
// Kick it off from Ballinskelligs at 14:30 //
If you’re visiting Kerry, you need to add a spin along the Skellig Ring to your itinerary.
it. Is. Ammmmmmmazing! Here’s a taste of what you can expect.
This route takes you down narrow lanes, through tiny villages and up steep and narrow cliff roads.
For those of you that add this on to your Ireland road trip, expect a gorgeous, unspoiled peninsula with bendy roads, gorgeous towns and a backdrop of mountains and islands that’ll make you want to stop the car (or bike) at every turn.
8 – The Kerry Cliffs (part of the Skellig drive)
// Arrive to the Kerry Cliffs for 15:20 //
When you hear the words ‘Ireland’ and ‘Cliffs’ mentioned in the same sentence, it’s likely that your mind will shoot to the Cliffs of Moher.
However, there are several other great cliffs to visit across Ireland. One of which are the Kerry Cliffs.
Expect raw, wild, magnificent scenery, with the jagged outline of Skellig Michael on the horizon rarely far from view.
This is one of those places that makes you really aware of how powerful mother nature is.
9 – Valentia Island
// Kerry Cliffs to Valentia – 15-minute drive (arrive for 14:20) //
Valentia Island is connected to the little town of Portmagee by the Maurice O’Neill Memorial Bridge
When you get to the island, point your car in the direction of the Geokaun Mountain and Cliffs (€5 entry fee), and start the steep ascent towards the top.
You’ll be treated to incredible views out to your right as you edge closer to the summit.
The scenery here is immensely special.
For those of you that fancy stretching the legs, you can do the Bray Head Loop Walk which offers brilliant views out towards the Skellig Islands.
10 – Cahersiveen for the night
// Valentia Island to Cahersiveen – 25-minute drive (arrive for 17:00) //
We’re going to spend night 10 at the foot of the Beentee Mountain in the town of Cahersiveen.
If you’ve some more exploring left in the tank, take the spin out to Ballycarbery Castle.
Ballycarbery Castle was once home to the McCarthy Clan and is thought to have been built sometime in the 15th century.
It’s arguably one of the the largest and most impressive castles built on the Iveragh peninsula.
I’m going to recommend that you stay in the Skellig Star Hotel, as it’s central and the reviews are great.
When you’ve checked in and relaxed for a bit, head down to the Fertha Bar and Restaurant for food and, if you like, a drink.
Day 11 is a little bit more relaxed than day 10.
We’re going to make our way from Cahersiveen up along the coast towards Dingle (with several stop-offs on the way), before tipping on to conquer the Slea Head Drive.
Get a bit of a lie in and get on the road for 10:00.
1 – The long aul drive to Dingle
// Cahersiveen to Dingle – 1 hour and 30-minute drive (aim to arrive for 13:00 with stops) //
We’ve a decent drive to get us to Dingle, but we’ll be breaking it up with a couple of stops.
Stop 1: Rossbeigh Beach
Our first stop, Rossbeigh Strand, is around a 30-minute drive from Cahersiveen, so you’ll escape the car before cabin fever starts to sink in.
If you fancy doing a hike that’ll treat you to a spectacular view out over Rossbeigh, check out our 48 hours in Kerry guide.
Stop 2: Coffee and a stroll on Inch Beach
// Rossbeigh to Inch – 51-minute drive //
Our next stop takes us to Inch Beach.
We’re going to hop out here and grab a cup of coffee while the waves crash away in the distance.
If you visit here at lunch time, get the burger – it’s one of the best that I’ve eaten in years!
2 – The Slea Head Drive
// This Drive takes roughly 1 hour and 10 minutes – we’re going to allow for 5 hours. Start the drive at 14:00) //
Resist the temptation to stop in Dingle – there’s plenty of time to check it out later in the evening.
We’re going to kick off The Slea Head Drive while the day is still young.
The Slea Head Drive is a circular route that starts and finishes in Dingle.
My only piece of advice for this drive is to stop and wander wherever and whenever the feeling takes you.
The best part of this chunk of our Ireland road trip isn’t the many different ‘official’ stop off points. it’s the constant, ever-changing landscape that engulfs them.
Slea Head Stop 1: Coumeenoole Beach
Our first stop is at Coumeenoole Beach, a place that fans of the movie ‘Ryan’s Daughter’ may recognise, as it was one of the locations used in the film.
This is a fantastic little beach that’s surrounded by jagged cliffs and spectacular coastal scenery.
Park the car, explore the area and let the wild Atlantic air gush over you.
A place where cobwebs will be banished.
Slea Head Stop 2: Dunmore Head
You’ll find the lookout point for Dunmore Head a short distance from Coumeenoole Beach, so keep an eye out for it.
When you step out of your car and gaze out, expect to be greeted by the crash of waves combined with a powerful, salty breeze.
Slea Head Stop 3: Dun Chaoin Pier
Dun Chaoin Pier is the wonderfully unique departure point for the Blasket Island Ferry, and you’ll find it at the northern end of a small secluded bay enveloped by rocky cliffs.
When gawked at from above, the narrow, winding road that leads up to the pier can only be described as a charming little slice of architectural madness.
Slea Head Stop 4: the stop that isn’t a stop
In many of our Irish road trip guides where Slea Head features, I try to emphasise that you need to just take your time and enjoy the scenery that envelopes you from start to finish.
Don’t rush it.
Here are some other things you can do along the drive, if you’d like a bit more guidance.
3 – Dingle for food and pints
// The Slea Head Loop will get you back to Dingle for around 19:00. //
It’s been a long aul day. So it’s time to eat, drink and be merry, and what better place to do all 3 than Dingle.
Where to eat in Dingle
Here’s a handful of suggestions:
- Doyle’s Seafood Restaurant
- Out of the Blue
- The Boatyard
- Sheehy’s Anchor Down Restaurant
- Paul Geaney’s
Central places to stay in Dingle
€50 to €100
€100 to €150
Once you’ve checked into your accommodation, dropped off your bags and had a bite to eat, it’s time to sample some of the local pubs.
My two favourites in Dingle are Dick Mack’s and Foxy John’s, but there are plenty to choose from.
It’s crazy to think that we haven’t even reached the end of week two yet.
Day 12 takes us from Kerry to Limerick and then on to Clare.
Get a lie in after your night out in Dingle and hit the road for 10. There’s a lot of driving on the cards today.
1 – Conor Pass
// Dingle to Conor Pass – 10-minute drive (arrive for 10:10) //
If you read our guide to the craziest roads in Ireland, then you’ll recognise Conor Pass.
Conor Pass runs from Dingle out towards Brandon Bay and Castlegregory, and is one of the highest mountain passes in Ireland, standing a whopping 410 m above the sea level.
The tight, narrow road snakes alongside the mountain and weaves its way along sharp cliff faces on one side and an enormous drop to the other.
You can pull in at the side of the road before the pass and admire the views around you.
On a busy day, this’ll be a nervous drivers nightmare, but just take your time, drive carefully and you’ll be fine.
2 – The gorgeous village of Adare
// Conor Pass to Adare – 1 hour and 50-minute drive (arrive for 11:30) //
We’ve a long drive to Adare in County Limerick.
The Geraldines of Kildare developed Adare during mediaeval times. The present village was largely an early 19th century creation by the Dunravens.
As you make your way through the village, you’ll encounter many gorgeous thatch roof cottages.
Park the car, stretch the legs, and have a little wander around the town.
3 – King John’s Castle (one of the finest castles on this Ireland road trip)
// Adare to King John’s Castle – 25-minute drive (arrive for 12:30) //
You’ll find King John’s Castle in the heart of medieval Limerick City.
The castle, which was established in the 13th century, reopened in 2013 following a multi million euro investment.
Those that visit the castle will experience a brand new visitor centre with state of the art interpretive activities and exhibitions.
Outside in the courtyard, you’ll discover a medieval campaign tent, a blacksmiths forge and scenes from a seventeenth century siege.
Head off on the tour and soak up some of Limerick’s rich past.
4 – The Buttery for lunch
// St. John’s Castle to the Buttery – 10-minute drive (arrive for 14:00) //
When you’re in Limerick and hankering for a feed, head to the Buttery.
Their brunch is pretty damn good.
Fuel up here and get ready for the rest of the day.
5 – The cliffs at Loop Head
// The Buttery to Loop Head – 1 hour and 40-minute drive (arrive for 15:50) //
I realise that this is a lot of driving, but it’ll be worth it. It’ll get us to Clare which is where we’ll spend the next two days.
A visit to the cliffs at Loop Head Lighthouse is, in my opinion, one of the most overlooked things to do in Clare.
I’ve been here on many different occasions, and it’s rare that you’ll ever meet more than a handful of people. Often, you’ll have the whole place to yourself.
Park in the little car park in front of the Lighthouse and then walk over the right side of the lighthouse, where you’ll see a big aul sea stack.
Warning: the cliffs here are unguarded and the wind here can be extremely powerful. Be careful.
6 – Kilkee for the night
// Loop Head to Kilkee – 30-minute drive (arrive for 17:00) //
It’s been a long day of driving, so we’re going to head to Kilkee for the night and chill.
There’s going to be very little driving tomorrow, so you’ll have plenty of time outside of the car.
I’m going to recommend that you spend the night in the Bay View Hotel.
Check in, chill and then take the short 3-minute walk to the Strand seafood Bistro for a bite to eat.
When you finish up, head for a walk on Kilkee Beach.
You spent a lot of time in the car yesterday, so I’m keen to get you out into the air as much as possible over the coming days.
We’re going to work our way from Kilkee along the coast towards Doolin, where we’ll be basing ourselves for the day.
1 – The Doolin Cliff Walk
// Kilkee to Fisher Street – 1-hour drive (arrive for 09:00) //
The guided Doolin cliff walk is a unique and active way to experience the Cliffs of Moher and is run by local expert Pat Sweeney.
The 3-hour walk kicks off from Fisher Street in Doolin, just outside O’Connors Pub.
The walk takes you towards Doonagore Castle (which we’ll be visiting later) and up to the walking trail along the Cliffs of Moher.
As you walk, you’ll be greeted with spectacular views of the cliffs as they rise up into view in the distance.
The walk costs just €10 and finishes up at the Cliffs of Moher visitor centre.
You’ll need to take a shuttle bus from the Cliffs of Moher to Doolin. Info on the times can be found here.
2 – Caves and Coffee
// Fisher Street to the Doolin Cave – 10-minute drive (arrive for 13:00) //
When you’ve finished up the walk, head back to your car and drive in the direction of the Doolin Cave.
When you arrive, grab a cup of coffee in the little café in the visitor centre and rest your legs for a bit.
The Doolin Cave is home to the largest free-hanging stalactite in the Northern Hemisphere.
Known as ‘The Great Stalactite’, it hangs from the ceiling like a cone-shaped chandelier.
The tour itself packs a punch, taking visitors to the natural entrance of the cave, a stream sink at the base of a cliff face, through the main chamber where a guide turns on a light to illuminate the Great Stalactite.
Definitely worth a visit!
3 – Doonagore Castle
// Doolin Cave to Doonagore Castle – 10-minute drive (arrive for 14:40) //
Our next stop takes us to the iconic Doonagore Castle.
This tower house castle is finely plonked on a hill overlooking Doolin Point, the Aran Islands and, on a clear day, the Connemara hills.
Dating back to the 16th century, this castle looks like something plucked straight from Walt Disney’s head.
You’ll see the castle from afar as you spin along the road towards it. When you arrive, hop out and take a look.
4 – Guinness Stew for lunch
// Doonagore Castle to Gus O’Connor’s – 5-minute drive (arrive for 15:15) //
We’re going to take the short drive back to Fisher Street for a feed in Gus O’Conner’s Pub.
For those in need of a feeding, the beef and Guinness stew is a hearty bowl of pure and utter deliciousness that’ll warm the coldest of cockles.
Wash it down with a pint and soak up the atmosphere in this cosy little pub.
5 – The Drive from Doolin to Kinvarra
// Doolin to Kinvarra – 1-hour drive (we’re going to allow for 2 – Leave Doolin at 16:30, arrive in Kinvarra for 18:30) //
The drive from Doolin to Kinvarra is magnificent.
The landscape changes by the minute, there’s a multitude of stop-off points, and it’s another fantastic example of why Ireland is such a wonderful place to road trip around.
This is another drive to play by eye, and to just let your nose lead the way (it’s a straight forward drive, so you’ll stumble upon the best bits.
6 – A room for the night
// We’ll be spending the night in Kinvarra. Check into your hotel for around 19:00 //
Check into your room and chill for half an hour, then it’s time for a feed.
7 – A grand aul feed and a pint or 4 in Kinvarra
To round off the Clare stretch of our Ireland road trip, we’re going to grab a feast in the Pier Head Bar and Restaurant (5-minute walk from your hotel).
Then we’ll be polishing it all off then with a few pints in Keogh’s Bar.
It’s hard to believe that we’re now 2 weeks in.
It feels like a lifetime ago that we were spinning around Dublin and Wicklow.
At this point, my fingers are well and truly knackered, but the last leg of our Ireland road trip is my favourite part, and there’s lots left to see and do!
1 – Athlone Castle
// Kinvarra to Athlone Castle – 1-hour drive (arrive for 10:00) //
Athlone Castle was built in the 12th for King John by Bishop John de Gray of Norwich, and was designed to defend the crossing point of the river at Athlone.
You’ll find it on the west side of Athlone Town, finely placed on the banks of the River Shannon.
The castle reopened in 2012 after extensive renovations. It now boasts a complete multi-sensory experience with family-friendly multimedia displays and interactive games.
In particular, the great Siege of Athlone which you can re-live via a 360º cinematic experience, sounds cracking.
2 – The oldest bar in Ireland
// Athlone Castle to Sean’s Bar – 1-minute walk (arrive for 12:00) //
Sean’s Bar in Athlone is officially the oldest pub in Ireland.
It’s crazy to think that for over 1,000 years a pub smack bang in the middle of Ireland has been catering to the needs of weary travellers and locals alike.
The pub dates back to 900AD, a fact that was verified during an excavation in 1970 that exposed walls consisting of ancient wattle and daub, dating back to the 9th century.
While one of the original walls that was discovered during the excavation remains on show in Sean’s, the rest, along with coins that were also discovered at the time, now sit inside Dublin’s National History Museum.
Here – have an aul look inside
3 – Onwards to Galway for lunch
// Sean’s Bar to Galway City – 1 hour and 5-minute drive (arrive for 14:15) //
Head to Dela in Galway City for a bit of lunch.
On the plate above is their black pudding, sausage meat and smoked bacon burger which was UNREAL on the two days that I had it.
Get fed and chill for a bit.
We’re going to be leaving Galway City shortly.
When you finish up in Dela, head for a ramble and soak up the sights and sounds.
4 – Kylemore Abbey
// Galway City to Kylemore Abbey – 1 hour and 15-minute drive (arrive for 17:15)
The mountainous, ever-changing landscape that you’ll pass during your drive to Kylemore Abbey is out of this world, and one of my favourite stretches on this Ireland road trip.
Drop the windows, dial up the radio and just cruise and take it all in.
Look to arrive to Kylemore Abbey at least an hour before closing (we’re not entering the building on this trip, but you can if you like).
Kylemore Abbey is a Benedictine monastery that was founded in 1920 on the grounds of Kylemore Castle, in Connemara.
The whole place looks like something plucked straight from a fairytale.
5 – The Sky Road in Clifden
// Kylemore Abbey to the Sky Road – 25-minute drive (arrive for 18:30) //
If you’re visiting Ireland in the winter months, it’ll be too dark to visit the Sky Road at this hour, so just add it to your itinerary for the following morning.
The Sky Road is one of the biggest tourist attractions in the Connemara region. It’s a circular route around 11km long that takes you out west from Clifden.
The scenery you’ll be treated to as you spin along the Sky Road has a knack of etching itself upon your mind.
There are few places in Ireland that can go toe-to-toe with the raw beauty and vast range of scenery that those who drive along the Sky Road experience.
Kick back and enjoy the view.
6 – Clifden for the evening
Your base for the night is the bustling little town of Clifden.
Here’s everything you need to know.
Where to stay in Clifden
OK, first things first – a bed for the night.
For this trip, I’m going to recommend Foyles Hotel as it’s extremely central, the reviews are fantastic and a bed for the night and a full Irish in the morning will set you back around €99.
Where to eat
For a bite to eat, nip into Guys Bar & Snug for fish and chips (or whatever you fancy, obviously).
It’s a short stroll from your hotel and the reviews speak for themselves.
Where to drink
If you fancy a pint and a bit of live music, we’re going to polish the day off in Lowry’s Bar.
Kick-back, listen to the music and soak up some chill time.
Week two of our Ireland Road Trip: A quick review
It’s mad to think that we’re now 14 days into our Irish road trip.
Crazy when you think about all that you’ve squeezed in so far.
We’ve explored Dublin, Kilkenny, Wicklow, Wexford, Tipperary, Carlow, Waterford, Cork, Kerry, Westmeath, Limerick and more.
The best part? There’s plenty more to come!
Day 15 and 16 have two lovely hikes.
If you’re active, these will be right up your alley.
If you’re not, then sub them out for something else. There’s loads to do around Galway and Mayo to choose from.
1 – Diamond Hill
// Clifden to Diamond Hill – 30-minute drive (arrive for 09:00) //
Our first stop of the day offers the perfect opportunity to get your heart rate up and catch one of the best views in Galway.
Something I’ve heard said on many occasions (mainly by my aul lad) is that to truly appreciate the beauty of Connemara, you need to see it from the sky – enter Diamond Hill.
On this Ireland road trip, we’re going to take the longer Upper Diamond Hill trail that takes between 2 and a half and 3 hours.
According to my Dad who has done this walk several times, climbing to the top of Diamond Hill is one of the best things to do in Galway for anyone in search of scenery that will literally knock the breath out of you.
At the summit, you’ll be treated to panoramic views across all of Connemara. Expect to see the Twelve Bens mountain range, Tully Mountain and Mweelrea to the North.
Here’s a guide on how to navigate it.
2 – Lunch in Leenaun
// Allow yourself 3 hours to climb Diamond Hill. Arrive in Leenaun for 12:30 (it’s a 20-minute drive) //
Leenaun is a small, buzzy (during the tourist season) little village that offers spectacular views out over the Killary Fjord.
Nip into the little café that’s attached to the gift shop right across from the big parking area in the village and treat yourself to a post-hike feed.
3 – Aasleagh Falls
// Leenaun village to Aasleagh Falls – 5-minute drive (arrive for 14:10) //
You’ll find Aasleagh Falls a stone’s throw from Leenane village on the River Erriff, just before the river meets Killary Harbour.
Park the car at a lay-by close to the falls and follow the pathway to the waterfall.
Stretch the legs and gulp down lungfuls of fresh air.
4 – The wonderful Leenaun to Louisburgh Drive
// Start the drive at 14:30 //
This is one of those stretches of road that just completely shocks the system.
The scenery varies from icy lakes to rugged mountains to open country.
As you make your way along the road, you’ll pass Doo Lough, a long dark freshwater lake on the Murrisk peninsula.
Keep an eye out for a plain stone cross – it stands as a memorial to the Doo Lough Tragedy which took place in 1849
5 – Achill Island for the evening
// Louisburgh to Achill – 1 hour and 15-minute drive (arrive on Achill for 17:45) //
You’re in for a treat if you’ve never been to Achill.
Expect peat bogs, rugged mountains, towering sea cliffs and beautiful clean beaches and bays.
Our destination for this road trip is Keem Bay.
If you take the road that hugs the coast, you’ll be guided along narrow roads that, at times, meander through the island and are an absolute joy to cruise along.
When you arrive to Keem Bay, hop out of the car.
Hopefully you’ll have arrived when it’s nice and quiet. Relax, take your shoes off and ramble along the shore.
When you finish up here, I recommend checking into Achill Lodge Guest House for the night.
Chill for a bit and then take the 5 minute drive to the Valley House Bar for a bite to eat.
Day 16 (Mayo and Sligo) – Croagh Patrick, the most extensive Stone Age monument on earth and lots more
Day 16 sees us head off and conquer one of my favourite hikes in Ireland, before heading for lunch in Westport and then heading out to see the Céide Fields and Donwpatrick Head.
Will be sleeping in Sligo (there’s a grand aul ring to that) on night 16 of our Ireland road trip.
1 – Croagh Patrick
// Achill Island to Croagh Patrick – 1-hour drive (arrive for 09:00) //
tClimbing Croagh Patrick is hands-down one of my favourite things to do in Ireland.
Considered to be Ireland’s holiest mountain, Croagh Patrick is renowned for its Pilgrimage in honour of Saint Patrick, Ireland’s patron Saint.
Stretching back a whopping 5,000 years from the Stone Age to the present day without interruption, the pilgrimage takes place on the last Sunday of July.
The last time I visited, it took us around 3 and a half hours to get to the top and back down again.
2 – Lunch in Westport
// Allow 4 hours to finish the hike and arrive in Westport for 13:00 //
You’ll be in need of a serious feed after that hike.
I’m going to recommend you head to J.J O’Malleys Bar & Restaurant for a bite to eat but here’s a map of all of the best places to eat in the area – just zoom in on Westport.
Fuel up and have a ramble around the town before heading back to the car.
3 – The Céide Fields
// Westport to the Céide Fields – 1 hour and 20-minute drive (arrive for 15:30) //
Beneath the boglands of North Mayo lies the incredible Céide Fields – the most extensive Stone Age monument in the world.
The Céide Fields consist of field systems, dwelling areas and megalithic tombs.
The magnificent stone walled fields, which extend over thousands of acres, are a whopping 6,000 years old.
Enjoy the drive on the way from Westport and then nip into the Céide Fields visitor centre for a ramble around.
4 – Downpatrick Head
// The Céide Fields to Downpatrick Head – 20-minute drive (arrive for 16:50)
Downpatrick Head is one of my favourite places to visit in Mayo.
Jutting out of the ocean and rising roughly 40m above the wild Atlantic waves, Downpatrick Head treats visitors to unparalleled views of the enormous Sea Stack known as Dún Briste.
Dun Briste and the surrounding cliffs were formed 350 million years ago when sea temperatures were higher.
There’s something incredible about standing out near the edge of the cliff (be very damn careful!) and gazing out at 350 years’ worth of exposed rock.
Enjoy every minute.
5 – Rosses Point for the evening
// Downpatrick Head to your hotel for the night – 1 hour and 30-minute drive (arrive for 19:00) //
We’ve a long aul drive to finish off the day.
We’re going to point the car in the direction of Sligo and check into Yeats Country Hotel, Spa & Leisure Club for the night.
Enjoy the spa, chill in your room and head down for a feed in their restaurant for the evening.
Day 17 (Sligo and Leitrim) – The Knocknarea Queen Maeve Trail, a waterfall, a lovely coastal walk and more
Day 17 sees us explore lots of Sligo.
We’ll be kicking things off with a walk (hopefully your legs aren’t too sore from yesterday), then a spin out to a waterfall, food and one of the best coastal walks in the county.
Let’s get cracking!
1 – The Queen Maeve Trail
// Your hotel to Knocknarea Mountain – 22-minute drive (arrive for 10:00) //
You’ll have seen this trail feature in our guide to the best things to do in Sligo.
We’re going to take the Queen Maeve Trail up Knocknarea Mountain, which should take us around 1 and a half hours to complete.
You’ll see this mountain dominating the Sligo skyline from many angles, so you should get a eyeful of it from the distance as you approach.
When you leave the car park at Knocknarea, follow the path along the bog bridge all the way until you reach the summit.
You’ll be treated to panoramic views of Sligo from the top.
2 – Glencar Waterfall (Leitrim)
// Knocknarea to Glencar Waterfall – 30-minute drive (arrive for 12:00) //
Our next stop takes us momentarily outside of Sligo and into Leitrim.
If you’re familiar with the work of W.B. Yeats, you may recall mention of a line in his poem ‘The Stolen Child’ that goes, ‘Where the wandering water gushes From the hills above Glen-Car’.
This is the perfect place to spend some time and heal a pounding head by listening to the music of the water as it tumbles into the water from above.
3 – The Gleniff Horseshoe Drive
// Glencar Waterfall to the Gleniff Hotseshore Drive – 35-minute drive (arrive for 13:30) //
The next stop on our Ireland road trip takes on a drive that you won’t forget any time quick.
Pop ‘Gleniff Horseshoe Drive’ into Google Maps and start making your way there.
The Gleniff Horseshoe Drive is a roughly six-mile loop of single lane road enveloped by spectacular mountain views.
Take your time on this drive. Get out of the car at will and bask in the beauty that inspired one of Ireland’s most celebrated poets.
4 – Lunch and a wander at Mullaghmore Head
// The Gleniff Horseshore Drive to Mullaghmore – 15-minutes (arrive for 14:45) //
Mullaghmore is a little village that boasts sandy beaches, ocean views and a skyline dominated by Ben Bulben mountain.
First things first – let’s grab a bite to eat. Head to the Pier Head Hotel and get fed.
When you’ve finished, it’s time to head off for a stroll along the stunning coastline of Mullaghmore.
Start your stroll from Bunduff strand and follow the coastline around to Mullaghmore head. You’ll catch the view above along the way.
5 – Slieve League
// Mullaghmore to Slieve League – 1 hour and 30-minute drive (arrive for 18:30) //
We’ve a decent spin to get us up into Donegal for our next stop, but it’ll be worth it (if you’re visiting in the winter months, you’ll need to leave this until day 18 of your Ireland road trip).
Towering above the Atlantic at 2,000 feet (twice the height of the Cliffs of Moher), the Slieve League Cliffs are an adventurers dream.
On a clear day, the cliffs offer breath-taking views across Donegal Bay, Sligo and Mayo.
Slieve League is perfect for those that may be unable to partake in any strenuous activity, as a path from the entrance point to the viewing point allows you to drive right the way up to the top.
Sit back and absorb the mighty sight in front of you.
6 – A room for the night
// Slieve League to your B&B – 15-minute drive (arrive for 19:30) //
For convenience, and due to the reviews being sublime, I’m going to recommend that you spend the night in Slieve League House B&B.
Head to the B&B and get checked in. When you’ve chilled for a bit, head to the Rusty Mackrel for a bite to eat.
Day 18 takes us further into Donegal.
We’ll be exploring the coast, the national park and lots more.
Get up and hit the road for 10.
1 – Malin Beg and Silver Strand Beach
// Your B&B to Malin Beg – 25-minute drive (arrive for 10:25) //
Silver Strand Beach, like many places in Donegal, makes me question why I’m living in Dublin.
Whether you’re chilling out on the grass above and gazing down at it from above, or strolling along the sandy shores and listening to the waves crash, this horse-shoe shaped beach is an unspoiled gem.
Take your time here and bask in the beauty that surrounds you.
2 – Glencolmcille Folk Village and/or beach
// Malin Beg to Glencolmcille – 15-minute drive (arrive for 11:10) //
Our next stop is the Folk Village in the gorgeous little town of Glencolmcille.
This is a thatched-roof replica of a rural Irish village and it offers a glimpse into what daily life was like in years past.
Each cottage is an exact replica of a dwelling used by locals in each of the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries.
If the Silver Strand gave you a lust for sea air, you can also take a stroll along Glencolmcille beach.
3 – Spin along the bendy road at Glengesh Pass
// Glencolmcille to Glengesh – 30-minute drive (arrive for 12:45) //
Glengesh Pass is one of several crazy (and magnificent) Irish roads (see the rest here).
It meanders through the seemingly endless mountainous terrain that connects the towns of Glencolmcille and Ardara, with more twists and turns than my stomach cares to remember.
Take your time here. Pull in where you can. And admire the road the winds through the valley.
4 – Assaranca Waterfall
// Glengesh to Assaranca Waterfall – 15-minute drive (arrive for 13:30) //
What I love about Assaranca Waterfall is that it’s literally at the side of the road, so if it’s raining away you can kick back in your car, lower the window a tad and soak up the sights and the sounds.
Get out here and ramble up to the water.
5 – A Late Lunch in Ardara
// Assaranca Waterfall to Ardara – 15-minute drive (arrive for 14:10) //
Point the car in the direction of Ardara and head to Sheila’s Coffee and Cream.
I’ve eaten here on many visits to Donegal and it’s been brilliant ever single time.
6 – Glenveagh National Park
// Ardara to Glenveagh – 1 hour drive (arrive for 16:10) //
Glenveagh National Park spans an impressive 16,000 hectares.
It encompasses most of the Derryveagh Mountains, the Poisoned Glen and part of Errigal Mountain.
For those looking to get a lungful of fresh air, there are several walks you can choose from.
We’re going to do the View Point Trail (takes 1-hour) on this trip. Here’s how the folks at Glenveagh describe it;
‘The View Point Trail is perhaps the best short walk option in the Park. It leads to an ideal vantage point for enjoying views of the rugged scenery, with magnificent perspectives of the castle below, Lough Veagh and the surrounding landscapes.
This circular 1.5Km trail starts and ends at the castle, taking from 50-60 min at a leisurely pace.
The surface is good at all stages and very steep for several short distances. Follow the direction of the road behind the castle, taking the path uphill just outside the garden gates. The route is signposted from here.’
Walk at your leisure and soak up the sights, smells and sounds.
7 – Dunfanaghy for the night
// Glenveagh to the Shandon – 25-minute drive (arrive for 19:00) //
I’m going to recommend that you stay in the Shandon Hotel and Spa to round off day 18 of our Ireland road trip.
I stayed there recently and loved it. Look at the view from the hot tub…
Check into your room and chill for a while, then head to the hotels bar for some food and a drink.
Day 19 is packed with some of the best things to do in Donegal.
We’ll be getting up early to catch the sunrise, and then heading out to soak up more of what this corner of Donegal has to offer.
1 – Sunrise on Marble Hill Beach
Set the alarm for just before sunrise.
When you’re up and ready to rock, take the 5-minute stroll to Marble Hill Beach.
On the day that I visited, the sun rose at around 06:25, and I had the whole place to myself.
2 – Horn Head
// The Shandon to Horn Head – 20-minute drive (arrive for 09:00) //
Our first stop of Day 19 takes us up to Horn Head.
On this trip, we’ll be driving up to Horn Head and admiring the view (hopefully it’s a clear day), but you can also head off on a walk if you fancy.
For those that want to walk it, John O’Dwyer provides a fantastic guide in the Irish Times here.
There are two viewing points where you can get out at and admire the scenery that surrounds you;
- The first is on the north side and here cliffs and glorious sea views dominate.
- The second overlooks Dunfanaghy and you’ll be treated to a view of the Muckish and Derryveagh mountains
3 – Killahoey Beach
// Horn Head to Killahoey Beach – 15-minute drive (arrive for 10:00) //
You’ll hear Killahoey Beach often referred to as Dunfanaghy beach.
It’s a gorgeous Blue Flag beach that’s popular for water sports.
Stop off here, take the shoes and socks off and get a lungful of Atlantic air as you trudge along the shore.
4 – The Loop around Tra Na Rossan
// Killahoey Beach to Downings – 30-minute drive / Downings to Tra Na Rossan – 10-minute drive //
The drive we’re about to head off on is called the Atlantic Drive (thanks Frances-anne Gallagher for pointing it out in our guide to the best things to do in Donegal).
This drive really is out of this world.
Pull in to the first safe spot you find at the side of the road and just soak up the view.
5 – Lunch at the Singing Pub
// Tra na Rossan view to the Singing Pub – 5-minute drive (arrive for around 13:00) //
If you land here on a sunny day, perch yourself on one of the seats outside and admire the view.
Fuel up and chill for a bit.
6 – Fanad Head Lighthouse
// The Singing Pub to Fanad Head – 30-minute drive (arrive for 15:00) //
Fanad Head Lighthouse is likely to be one of the highlights of your Ireland Road Trip.
It’s a special place.
The drive to Fanad Lighthouse is worth the trip alone, as you pass through the seemingly endless beautifully quaint countryside that leads to it.
The whole craggy coastal area that surrounds the lighthouse is just out of this world.
Sit up on the stone wall to the left of the lighthouse and switch off for a while. Soak up the sounds of the ocean and bask in the beauty of one Ireland’s most spectacular corners.
7 – Ballymastocker Bay
// Fanad Head to Ballymastocker Bay – 20-minute drive (arrive for 16:00) //
Ballymastocker Bay is another one of Donegal’s incredible Blue Flag beaches.
Once voted the 2nd most beautiful beach in the world by the Observer Magazine, it offers tremendous views out towards the Inishowen Peninsula.
Get out and head for a ramble.
This is out last stop for the day.
8 – Glamping by the Beach
// Ballymastocker Bay to Portsalon Luxury Glamping //
Before you check in, head to the Pier Restaurant (7-minute drive from where you’re staying) and then get back to enjoy your unique bed for the night.
Tonight, you’re glamping in Portsalon Luxury Camping, which is nestled on a hillside and enjoys spectacular views of Lough Swilly, Mulroy Bay, Knockalla mountain and the Inishowen Peninsula.
Kick-back in a hammock and listen to the crackle of the fire from your wood-burning stove.
Day 20 will see us finish up in Donegal before moving swiftly on to Derry.
It’s a little bit crazy to think that we’re on the verge of hitting week three of our Ireland road trip guide.
I won’t lie, I’m looking forward to finishing this – it’s taken a long, long, loooooong time to write. If you’ve found it helpful, please take 20 seconds to let me know in the comments below.
1 – Grianan of Aileach
// Portsalon Luxury Camping to Grianan of Aileach – 1-hour drive (arrive for 09:00) //
The Grianan of Aileach is a hillfort that sits on top of the 801 ft high Greenan Mountain on Inishowen.
The drive up to Grianan of Aileach, which is said to date back to the 1st century, is worth the trip alone.
When you reach the top you’ll be treated to a magnificent 360 view that takes in Lough Swilly, Lough Foyle and the gorgeous countryside of the Inishowen Peninsula.
2 – Mamore Gap
// Grianan of Aileach to Mamore Gap – 40-minute drive (arrive for 9:50) //
Those of you that have never visited Mamore Gap are in for a treat.
It’s hard not to admire the sheep and cyclists battling their way up the steep hillsides as your car (mine did anyway) struggles against the incline.
The view from the top is one of those scenes that paints itself upon your mind forever.
Wild. Remote. Unspoiled. Mamore Gap will take your breath away.
3 – Glenevin Waterfall
// Mamore Gap to Glenevin Waterfall – 15-minute drive (arrive for 11:00) //
I always think that Glenevin Waterfall looks a little bit like something whipped from the first Jurassic Park movie.
The waterfall looks like something that you’d find on a prehistoric island from a land that time forgot.
Once you’ve parked the car, you’re around a 15 minute walk away that’ll take you along a lovely pathway that’s surrounded by trees.
Chill and enjoy the music of the water crashing in your ears.
4 – Malin Head
// Glenevin Waterfall to Malin Head – 30-minute drive (arrive for 12:20) //
Our next stop takes us to the most northerly point of the island of Ireland – Malin Head.
After visiting Malin Head recently, the one thing that hit me, and that stuck with me long after my visit, was the sheer power of mother nature.
There are several walks you can do here – the road walk to Banbas crown is roughly 12km and will take you around 5 hours depending on fitness levels.
As you explore Malin head, keep an eye out for a large ‘EIRE’ on the ground nearby, written out in white stones to remind aircraft that they were flying over a neutral state during the war.
5 – Lunch in the Seaview Tavern
// Malin Head to the tavern – 5-minute drive (arrive for 13:30) //
Our stop-off point for lunch is a short drive from Malin Head.
Drop by the Seaview Tavern and fuel up for the busy day ahead.
6 – Derry City Walls
// Malin Head to the Derry City Walls – 55-minute drive (arrive for 15:30) //
Our next stop takes us to the only remaining completely walled city in Ireland.
The Derry City Walls were constructed between 1613-1618, and were used as a defense against the early seventeenth century settlers from England and Scotland.
They form a walkway around the inner city and provide a lovely unique promenade to check out the layout of the original town of Derry.
Spend some time walking the Walls of Derry for a stroll into a bit of rich Irish history.
7 – Free Derry Corner
// Derry City Walls to Free Derry Corner – 2-minute drive/6-minute walk (arrive for 16:40) //
The Free Derry Corner is an iconic landmark in the Bogside neighbourhood of Derry,
It was at this corner and in many of the surrounding streets where the Battle of the Bogside in 1969 and Bloody Sunday in 1972 took place.
Please do take some time to read about both of the above events before you visit.
The Free Derry Corner was first painted in January 1969, and has seen many iterations since.
8 – Dinner in Derry
We’re going to head to Fitzroy’s Restaurant for dinner.
Get in, order food, and spend some time looking back over what has been a crazy three weeks!
When you’ve finished eating, take the short stroll to Peadar O’Donnell’s pub for a few pints.
I’m going to recommend that you spend the night in the Bridge B&B. It’s central and the reviews are top notch.
The Causeway Coastal Route, which was rated one of the top five road trips in the world, offers the perfect combination of rugged coastline, dramatic towering cliffs and gorgeous little villages and towns.
I’ve done this route on 2 occasions over the course of 1-day, and found that it was enough.
However, if you’re looking to hike or walk the route or if you fancy driving the entire 195 miles, you’ll need much longer.
Get up. Get fed. And get on the road for 9:00.
1 – Portstewart Strand
// Your b&b to the strand – 45-minute drive (arrive for 09:45) //
Our first stop of the day takes us to Portstewart Strand – a 2-mile stretch of golden sand that’s widely regarded as one of the finest beaches in Northern Ireland.
You’ll be treated to brilliant views of Inishowen headland and Mussenden Temple as you ramble here to kick-start your day.
2 – Dunluce Castle (the first Game of Thrones attraction on this Ireland road trip)
// Portstewart Strand to Dunluce – 30-minute drive (arrive for 11:00) //
You’ll find the iconic ruins of Dunluce Castle perched on dramatic cliffs along Antrim’s magnificent coastline.
A source of wanderlust for travellers the world over, the castles quirky appearance and rich history has seen it receive enormous attention online in recent years.
Its appearance in Game of Thrones alongside the Dark Hedges may have helped…
You can do the tour if you like or admire it from the outside.
3 – The Giants Causeway
// Dunluce to the Giants Causeway – 15-minute drive (leave Dunluce at 10:20, arrive to the Causeway for 10:35) //
Next on the list is a place where, according to legend, an Irish giant named Finn MacCool began his quest to defeat a cocky Scottish giant.
An official Unesco World Heritage Site since 1986, the Giant’s Causeway was formed around 50 to 60 million years ago as a result of a volcanic eruption.
What emerged from the eruption led to the creation of a corner of the world so wonderfully unique that it has been nicknamed the 8th wonder of the world.
As you cast your eyes around you you’ll see some of the estimated 40,000 interlocking basalt columns that make up this natural masterpiece.
4 – Dunseverick Castle
// The Causeway to Dunseverick Castle – 15-minute drive (arrive for 11:30) //
Saint Patrick is recorded to have visited Dunseverick castle in the 5th century to baptise a local man who later became a Bishop of Ireland.
Park in the little car park next to the castle and take the short stroll over to its crumbly remains.
The original stone fort that occupied the position was attacked by Viking raiders in 870 AD.
5 – Ballintoy Harbour
// Dunseverick Castle to the Harbour – 10-minute drive (arrive for 12:10 ) //
You’ll find Ballintoy Harbour at the end of a small narrow steep road down Knocksaughey Hill.
The harbour is surrounded by limestone cliffs and by the late nineteenth century it was used for the production of lime and shipping sett stones.
And yes, Ballintoy Harbour was used as a filming location in HBO’s Game of Thrones for exterior Pyke shots and as the Iron Islands.
Spend some time rambling around and sucking down that fresh ocean air.
6 – Lunch
// The Harbour to The Red Door Cottage Tea Room & Bistro – 5-minute drive (arrive for 13:00) //
We’ve had a busy morning, so it’s time for a feed.
Take the short spin (it’s more like a 3-minute drive than 5) to The Red Door Cottage Tea Room & Bistro for a bite to eat.
Take the weight off for a while and fuel up for the afternoon ahead.
7 – The Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge
// The Red Door Cottage to the rope bridge – 5-minute drive (arrive for 14:20) //
The first rope bridge was erected between the mainland and Carrick-a-Rede Island way back in 1755, as the little island provided the perfect platform for local salmon fishermen to cast their nets off into the Atlantic.
If you’re planning on crossing, fret not – the bridge in place today is made of sturdy wire.
The perfect spot for some hands-on exploring with heaps of photo opportunities along the way!
8 – Kinbane Castle
// The rope bridge to Kinbane Castle – 15-minute drive (arrive for 16:00) //
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?? Can you see the crumbly ruins of an old castle clinging to the side of the cliff in the distance? This is Kinbane castle and you’ll find it if you decided to embark upon a road trip along the Causeway Coastal Route in County Antrim. ☘ Photo by @davisevan #Ireland #instaireland #theirishroadtrip
To say the location is dramatic and other-worldly would be doing Kinbane Castle a colossal injustice.
Built on a small rock promontory called Kinbane Head which extends out into the sea, the scenery surrounding the castle is just breath-taking.
9 – Cushendun via the Torr Head Scenic Route
// This drive should take you between 1 and 3 hours, depending on how often you hop out of the car //
We’re going to branch off the A2 and take the scenic route to Cushendun.
This road clings to coast and takes us along narrow roads and up steep hills high above the sea.
Keep driving until you see the small sign for the astounding Murlough Bay. Take the narrow track to the cliff top car park. From here, you can stop and stroll or you can take the track down to sea level and park and walk.
You could spend the day at Murlough Bay. It’s secluded, quiet and boasts an endless amount of raw natural coastal beauty.
When you’ve had your fill, make your way back to the Torr Head Scenic Route and head for Torr Head.
When you get back on the road, keep your wits about you – you’ll need to negotiate many a narrow hairpin bend as you make your way to Cushendun for the night.
10 – Cushendun for the Night
We’re going to recommend that you stay in Beachview Cottage for the night, so get checked in and chill out for a while
For dinner, we’re going to take the short drive to Mary Mcbrides Bar.
It’s been a long day, but we’ve used the daylight hours well and packed in a lot.
Kick back and chill for the evening with a well-earned pint.
Day 22 of our Ireland road trip sees us finish up on the Causeway Coast and move down into Belfast.
We’ve a handful of stops left on the coast before we dive into the best of what Belfast has to offer.
1 – The Gobbins Cliff Path Walk
// Your B&B to the Gobbins – 1 hour and 10-minute drive (arrive for 10:00) //
The drive that’ll take you to the Gobbins is one that you need to savour.
You’ll pass through picturesque little villages and drive alongside towering cliffs. Stop the car when you feel like it and explore at will.
We’re heading for an incredibly unique coastal experience – the Gobbins Cliff Path Walk.
Originally aimed at Edwardian ‘thrill-seekers’, the Gobbins Cliff Path allows you to experience one of Ireland’s most dramatic coastlines up close and personal.
The perfect spot to stretch the legs and get a lung full of that fresh coastal air.
2 – The Crumlin Road Gaol
// The Gobbins to the Gaol – 35-minute drive (arrive for 12:00) //
The Crumlin Road Gaol, the second prison that we’ll visit on this Ireland road trip, dates back to 1845.
It officially closed its doors as a working prison in 1996 and is now a popular tourist attraction.
Opt for the guided tour of the prison which is led by a qualified tour guide who’ll take you through the history of the gaol.
The story begins at a time when women and children were held within its walls, through to the political segregation of republican and loyalist prisoners and ultimately its closure.
This is well worth adding to your itinerary.
3 – Lunch
// The Gaol to the Ginger Bistro – 5-minute drive (arrive for 14:30) //
We’re going to fuel up for the afternoon and evening in the Ginger Bistro in Belfast.
Get in, get fed and chill for a little while.
We’ve a nice busy afternoon exploring Belfast ahead.
4 – A Black Cab Tour
// Finish up lunch around 15:30 and head off on a Black Cab tour (you need to book this in advance and arrange a location for collection) //
You can’t visit Belfast without taking a Black Cab tour.
The great thing about many of the operators that provide the Black Cab Tours is that you can choose exactly what you want to see.
For this trip, we’re going to recommend a tour of the political murals.
The murals on the Falls and Shankill roads tell a graphic story of a time known as “The Troubles”.
I haven’t done one of these tours in a long, long time but, going by the great reviews online, Paddy Campbell’s Belfast Famous Black Cab Tours are well worth going with.
Jump in the cab, get comfy, and let your guide take you through the city’s turbulent history.
5 – Food and Drinks
// When your cab tour finishes, head to wherever you’re staying and check-in //
If I was planning this trip now, for myself, I’d stay at the Holiday Inn as it’s reasonably cheap and it’s super central.
After you’ve chilled for a while, head to Holohan’s Pantry for a bite to eat.
From here, we’re going to head to a traditional pub with a tonne of character – the Crown Liquor Saloon.
Once know as one of the mightiest Victorian gin palaces, the pub dates back to 1826, and has played host to many a great night over the years.
Enjoy your evening. We’ll get a bit of a lie-in in the morning.
We’re approaching the tail end of our Ireland road trip.
Day 23 will involve a longish hike up the highest peak in Northern Ireland, before taking a spin to Carlingford in Louth for the evening.
Get up early and hit the road. We’ll be rewarding an active day with a flurry of pints and food later in the day.
1 – Slieve Donard
// Belfast to Slieve Donard – 1-hour drive (arrive for 09:00) //
Our first stop of the day takes us on a hike up the highest peak in Northern Ireland.
Slieve Donard in County Down stands at an impressive 850m, towering above the areas much loved Mourne Mountains.
From the top, you’ll be treated to an unbeatable view of the Mourne Mountains, which stretch out all around you.
On a clear day you’ll also be able to spot the Isle of Man, the Wicklow Mountains and the peaks of Wales, Scotland and Donegal.
This hike will take you around 4-5 hours. If you fancy giving it a crack on this Ireland road trip, Outsider have prepared a detailed guide that you can follow.
2 – Carlingford for lunch
// Slieve Donard to Carlingford – 1 hour drive (arrive around 15:00) //
At this point you’ll be ravenous. Head to Ruby Ellen’s Tea Rooms in Carlingford for lunch.
I ate here recently and it was incredible.
Grab a bite to eat and rest the legs.
3 – Coffee, a ramble by the Marina and Pints (oh, and Chips!)
// Finish up in Ruby Ellen’s at around 16:20 and get a coffee to go //
Grab a nice strong coffee to go after you finish eating and walk down and towards the marina.
You’ve been through a lot over the past 23 days. Savour the moment.
When you’ve done all the savouring that you can muster, head back to the village and into PJ O Hare’s pub.
The evening is yours to chill, nurse a couple of well-earned drinks and soak up some atmosphere.
When you’ve finished up for the evening, head to the takeaway around the corner from Ma Baker’s pub – don’t settle for the chip van.
When you’ve a full belly, head in the direction of your bed for the night.
I’d recommend staying at the Oystercatcher Lodge as it’s nice and central and reasonably priced.
Day 24 takes us on another great hike to kick start our day.
We’ll then be heading on to explore some of Meath.
Get a lie in after your night out in Carlingford and get a decent breakfast.
1 – Slieve Foye
// Start the hike at 11:00 //
Today, we’re going to hike up Slieve Foye, which should take around 3 hours depending on fitness levels.
I’d recommend a pair of hiking boots or runners with really good grip – we weren’t prepared when we climbed Slieve Foye back in 2018 and we ended up on our arses many times as we made our way back down it.
Park near the village and take a right turn when you come to Ma Baker’s Pub. From there, we quite literally walked straight the whole way to the top.
Now, I’m not recommending that you do what we did, as we definitely made our own trail to the top.
The folks at Discover Ireland have a thorough guide on the various walks that you can do.
The view from the top is absolutely magnificent. When you get back to the bottom, grab a quick bit of lunch somewhere in the town.
2 – Dún a Rí Forest Park
// Carlingford to Dún a Rí Forest Park – 1-hour drive (arrive for 16:00) //
I visited Dún a Rí Forest Park in April of 2019.
It’s been a few days since we visited, and we’ve brought it back up in conversation and recommended it to friends time and time again.
Dún a Rí Forest Park really is excellent.
It’s a roughly 600 acre park near the town of Kingscourt in County Cavan.
When we visited, we headed off on the river walk which took around an hour to complete.
It’s €5 into the park and you can expect dense forest, the remains of a Castle, a holy well, lots of lovely, clear rivers and more.
Well worth the visit.
3 – A spa for the evening
// Dun a Ri to Farnham Estate – 1-hour drive (arrive for 18:00) //
It’s been a crazy few weeks, so the next stop of our Ireland road trip is well overdue.
I’m going to recommend that you treat yourself to a night in Farnham Estate on night 24.
There’s a huge thermal suite where you can lounge around for a few hours and there’s ample walking opportunities across the estate.
Kick back here for the night, chill, eat and be merry.
As crazy as it feels to type it, we’re onto the very last day of our Ireland road trip.
Soak up as much of Farnaham as you can and get on the road for 12.
We’re going to explore a chunk of Meath today.
1 – Newgrange
// Farnaham to Newgrange – 1 hour and 20-minute drive (arrive for 13:30) //
We’re going to leave Cavan and head on to Meath.
Point your car in the direction of Newgrange.
Our next stop takes us to Brú na Bóinne Visitor Centre, which is where we’ll be accessing Newgrange and Knowth.
Things to know about the tour
- It takes 3 hours (you need to book it well in advance)
- Knowth is open from 30th March to 7th November
- Adult admission is €13.00
Built over 5,200 years ago by Stone Age farmers, Newgrange is an old passage tomb that has a clear astronomical alignment.
Newgrange is known globally for the illumination of its passage and chamber by the winter solstice sun. An event that is so sought after that a yearly lottery takes place for tickets.
For those of you take the tour, you’ll be given an in-depth insight into its history.
Knowth was also constructed over 5,000 years ago – likely after the construction of Newgrange and before the construction of nearby Dowth.
The Great Mound at Knowth is a similar size to Newgrange and is surrounded by 18 smaller satellite mounds.
The Great Mound has two passages, one of which ends with a cruciform chamber.
Take your time and enjoy the tour.
2 – Trim Castle
// Newgrange to Trim Castle – 35-minute drive //
We’re going to round off the final day of our trip with a stroll around Trim Castle.
If you’re looking at the picture below and thinking that the it looks like something from a movie, you’re spot on.
Trim Castle was used during the filming of Braveheart staring Mel Gibson.
Here’s a scene from the movie where it featured.
Some good-to-know stuff about Trim Castle
- Trim Castle was built In 1172, shortly after the arrival of the Anglo-Normans in Ireland
- It’s the largest Anglo-Norman castle in Ireland
- It was built over a 30-year period by Hugh de Lacy and his son Walter
- Trim Castle was used to depict York Castle in the filming of the 1990’s Mel Gibson movie Braveheart
3 – A bed for the night
I’m going to recommend that you spend the night in the Trim Castle Hotel.
You’ll have a fine view of Trim castle and you can grab a bite to eat here before we head out for a few pints.
4 – Rounding off our Ireland road trip in style
// Trim Castle Hotel to James Griffin Pub – 5-minute walk //
We’re going to head to the James Griffin Pub and finish off our road trip in style.
It’s a traditional Irish pub that’s been on Trim High Street since the 1800’s.
If you visit on a Thursday, you’ll have a Trad Session to accompany your pint. Those visiting on a Friday or Sunday will be treated to Acoustic Sessions, while a DJ will be rocking away on Saturdays.
Ireland road trip wrap up
And that my friends is a wrap.
You’re 25 day Ireland road trip comes to an end in Meath. You’ve conquered 20+ counties, visited hundreds of different places, sampled many a local pub, and experienced a good chunk of what Ireland has to offer.
I won’t lie – this guide took a long ass time to write.
The reason it took so long was because I spent a good chunk of time researching it before I ever started to type.
I want to make planning a trip to Ireland as hassle-free as possible, and I hope this Ireland road trip guide saves those of you reading it a lot of time.
If you loved it, let me know below. If you hated it, let me know. If you have any points to make, questions to ask or whatever else, let me know in the comments below!