17 Towns In Ireland Perfect For A Weekend Of Road Trips, Trad Music + Pints This Summer

road trip featured
Photos on the left via shutterstock. Photo on the right by Photo by @kgbmclarnon

If you’re trying to plan a weekend away with a few friends this summer, the guide below should help.

It’ll give you a load of different ideas of where to head with a group for a weekend of road trips, trad music and, if you fancy, pints!

Now, it’s unclear how exactly pubs are going to run over the summer – will groups be allowed in? How will live music work? Who knows?!

However, there are definitely a large number of pubs gearing up for live music sessions, with some opening up outdoor areas and others using novel ways to gain more space.

In the guide below, you’ll find 17 towns, villages and cities in Ireland that:

  1. Are the perfect base for road trips
  2. Are home to pubs that knock out a solid trad session

1. Clonakilty (Cork)

Inchydoney beach cork weather
Photo © The Irish Road Trip

We’re heading to Cork, first, to the vibrant little seaside town of Clonakilty – a fine base for a weekend of scenery, trad music and, yes, pints.

Music and Clonakilty go hand in hand. The little town hosts a number of festivals each year (like the International Guitar Festival).

And the pubs here have seen everyone from Noel Redding (the Jimi Hendrix Experience) and Christy Moore take to their stages along with a flurry of local talent.

Road trips

If you’re here for a weekend, you could do a couple of different road trips. If it was me, I’d spend day one spinning down to Baltimore, passing through gorgeous little towns like Glandore and Unionhall).

You could stop off halfway at Lough Hyne and do the Knockomagh Hill walk (serious views from here) or you could head on to Baltimore and take a boat out to see Fastnet Lighthouse.

Another solid little road trip would be to spin out as far as Brow Head (serious views from here, also) and then visit Mizen Head (Ireland’s most southwesterly point) after.

Pubs with trad

  • De Barras is arguably one of the best-known music pubs in Ireland. There are sessions on here constantly so check their events page in advance
  • The lovely little Teach Beag is another that hosts regular sessions. You’ll need to check their Facebook page for news on what’s on and when
  • I’ve heard a lot of good things about the acoustic sessions in Shanley’s Bar
  • You’ll catch some solid open sessions at Con and Maura’s

Where to stay

2. Dingle (Kerry)

things to do in Dingle Ireland

Dingle is arguably one of the best towns in Ireland for a weekend of adventure, scenery and merriment.

If you’re not familiar with the area, you can expect rugged scenery by the boatload, plenty of walking trails, a world-famous dolphin and a more pubs than you could shake seven fists at.

There’s no end to the number of things to see on the Dingle Peninsula. And there’s no end to the number of great pubs in Dingle where you can enjoy a post-adventure pint.

Road trips

Dingle’s a mighty base for a night or two if you’ve a group that fancies filling up a day with adventure and an evening with pubs and pints.

If it was me, I’d spend a day tipping away on the Slea Head Drive. There’s a heap of different places to see along this stretch of tarmac.

You could then spend another day spinning back around towards Valentia Island and the Skellig Ring, taking in Glenbeigh and Cahersiveen in the process.

You could then cut back across the peninsula via the Ballaghbeama Pass (it stops at Glencar, so you’ll have to continue back to Dingle from here).

Pubs with trad

As Dingle does be WEDGED with tourists throughout the year, many of the pubs here run live music sessions. Hop into our Dingle pub guide for more info.

Where to stay

3. Kilfenora (Clare)

The Burren from above
The Burren (not Kilfenora) by Chris Hill

You’ll find the little village of Kilfenora next to the mighty Burren region in County Clare – translation: this is a fine little base for exploring one of the most unique landscapes on earth.

Kilfenora is steeped in history and culture. The village itself dates back to the 6th century when an abbey was constructed. It’s also a stone’s throw from many of the county’s top attractions.

You won’t find many pubs in Kilfenora, but the ones that you will find are known for banging out top-notch trad.

Road trips

If you read our guide to the most scenic drives in Ireland, you’ll know that there’s a fine drive here that takes in everything from the coast out to Father Ted’s House.

Over the course of a day, you can have a saunter around the Burren, gaze out at the Cliffs of Moher, visit a cave in Doolin and soak up buckets of scenery.

Pubs with trad

  • Vaughan’s (the pub from Father Ted): Info on what’s on
  • Nagle’s: Another one with no website or Facebook page (that I can find), but it’s clear from Google that they’ve live music at times
  • Linnane’s Pub: Can’t find a website for these lads either but there’s defo trad sessions here going off Google and Tripadvisor reviews

Where to stay

4. Westport (Mayo)

Westport co mayo
Photo by Tourism Ireland

The picturesque little town in Westport is up there with the most visited on the Wild Atlantic Way. It’s home to an ample number of pubs, restaurants and places to rest your head.

It’s also a stone’s throw from many of Mayo’s top attractions and it’s forever abuzz with tourists and groups visiting for the weekend.

All of the above factors combine to make Westport a lovely little base for a couple of days of exploring.

Road trips

So, depending on the type of traveller that you are, there are several different road trips that you could head off on from Westport.

If you like an adventurous buzz, you could climb Croagh Patrick on the first morning and follow it up with a spin out as far as Achill Island, to see Keel and to enjoy the coastal drive to Keem.

Or you could head out towards the north Mayo coast and do the Erris Head Loop Walk. You could also tip down to Downpatrick Head and visit the ancient Ceide Fields, after.

Pubs with trad

  • Matt Molloy’s host music sessions 7 nights per week
  • Cobbler’s Bar & Courtyard runs sessions on Thursday nights from 22:00 and Sunday nights from 21:00
  • McGing’s Bar hosts sessions on Friday and Saturday nights
  • I’ve heard JJ O’Malleys do live music but their Facebook page hasn’t been updated for weeks and they don’t have a website…

Where to stay

5. Inis Mór (Galway)

Dun Aonghasa
Photo by Timaldo/shutterstock.com

Next up is Inis Mór, the largest of the three Aran Islands. Now, I get that this may seem a little random… it’s an island, after all.

But who’s to say that road trips have to be confined to cars… surely a ferry qualifies, too! You could easily use Inis Mor as a base to explore the Aran Islands.

There’s a ferry service that connects the islands, making spinning between the three nice and handy for those of you looking for a trip away with a difference.

Road trips

You could spend day one exploring Inis Mór. You could rent a bike and cycle out to the mighty semi-circular stone fort known as Dun Aonghasa.

You could follow that up with a nosey at Poll na bPeist – the naturally formed wormhole that featured in the Red Bull cliff dive series.

You could spend another day over exploring Inis Oirr. Again, you could rent a bike here and explore the island or you could use one of the pony and carts and trot alongside the mile after mile of the hand-built stone walls.

Or you could head across to Inis Meáin and see the islands two spectacular forts, ogle at the Synge Chair, visit the knitwear factory or drop by one of the islands Churches.

Pubs with trad

  • Joe Wattys: Trad sessions 7 nights a week during the summer and at weekends throughout the year.

Where to stay

6. Kilkenny

kilkenny castle ireland
Photo by Finn Richards

Kilkenny’s one of a handful of towns in Ireland that people often only visit to drink in. Which is a shame, as there’s plenty more to Kilkenny than pubs and a castle.

Kilkenny is a brilliant base for a weekend of exploring… yes, and pints. There’s plenty of things to do in the county and nearby.

And it probably goes without saying that there’s an absolute rake of great little pubs to whittle away an evening in with friends.

Road trips

You could easily spend one day visiting Kilkenny Castle and then spinning out to the often-missed Dunmore Cave for a tour (and to hear about its disturbing past).

You could then round your day off with a visit to the Smithwick’s Brewery (the tour here is brilliant).

You could spend another day climbing nearby Brandon Hill (33-minute drive), visiting the Jerpoint Abbey (21-minute drive) and having a nosey around the little village of Graiguenamanagh (31-minute drive).

Pubs with trad

Where to stay

7. Derry City

peace bridge derry
Photo by Gardiner Mitchell Photography via Tourism Ireland

Derry tends to get a bad rep. Mainly from people that have never visited the county. These are the same tools that still refer to Limerick as ‘Stab City’. Clowns, in other words.

There’s an almost endless number of things to do in Derry. From road trips and historical tours to hikes and walks and plenty more.

Derry City is a solid little base for a weekend of pints, live music and a big aul dollop of adventure with a group of friends or family.

Road trips

So, you could easily spend your first day exploring Derry City (plenty of tours and the likes to do here).

You could spend the following morning out at Downhill Demesne, having a nosey at Mussenden Temple and rambling along the magnificent beach nearby.

Orrr you could take the 80-minute drive up to Fanad Head Lighthouse in Donegal. Take the coast road and you’ll get a might view of Ballymastocker Bay, also!

Pubs with trad

Where to stay

8. Bundoran (Donegal)

bundoran donegal
Photo by MNStudio/shutterstock.com

You’ll often hear Bundoran referred to as ‘the surf capital of Ireland’. You’ll also often hear it called ‘Fundoran’… if you’re one of those people, please never darken the door of this website again.

That’s a joke. I’m a miserable f**ker, but I’m not that much of a miserable f**ker…  Bundoran is a town in Donegal known and loved the world over for its waves. 

It’s the most southerly town in the county and it’s home to plenty of beaches and pubs and it’s close to a clatter of adventure opportunities.

Road trips

Although Bundoran is in Donegal, it’s a better base for exploring Sligo. Don’t get me wrong, if you wanted to, you could nip into Donegal, but it’s an hour and 25-minute drive to the likes of Slieve League.

You’re a handy spin away from many of Sligo’s top attractions, like Classiebawn Castle, Benbulben, Strandhill and many more. There are also plenty of companies that offer surf lessons, if you’d like to brave the Atlantic.

Pubs with trad

Where to stay

9. Trim (Meath)

trim castle county meath
Photo by Tony Pleavin via Tourism Ireland

Trim in County Meath is well known for its castle (yep, it’s the one that featured in ‘Braveheart’), but this is much more than a one-horse town.

Trim is home to a heap of brilliant pubs (many of which host regular trad sessions) and it’s nice and close to a load of different road trip opportunities. 

There are also a number of different walks to head off on within the town (near the castle) for those of you that fancy a day without the car.

Road trips

The Boyne Valley Drive is a road trip and a half (you’ll have seen it in our guide to the best drives in Ireland).

It takes in an almost endless number of historical sites, like Newgrange, Loughcrew, the Hill of Tara and plenty more.

You could easily spend a day just visiting Trim Castle and Bru Na Boinne. You could spend another at the Slane Distillery and then exploring nearby Drogheda and its many historical sites.

Pubs with trad

Where to stay

10. Clifden (Galway)

clifden town connemara
Photo by Chris Hill

You’ll often hear of Clifden referred to as ‘the Capital of Connemara’. This is a lively town that’s a favourite amongst tourists. This is easily one of the best small towns in Ireland.

This is a gorgeous little coastal town that’s situated on the Owenglin River where it flows into Clifden Bay.

I was here for a weekend recently. We spent a day buzzing around Connemara (it was pi**ing rain all day…) and an evening tucked away in Lowry’s pub.

Road trips

Clifden is another fine spot for a road trip. You could spend a day spinning out to Leenane to have a look at the inky waters of Killary Harbour. The pub from the movie ‘The Field’ is in the village, also.

You could then tip on to Louisburgh (in Mayo) via the magnificent Doolough Valley. There are plenty of places to stop and soak up a mighty view here.

You could spend another day spinning along the Sky Road and then continuing on into Connemara, having a nosey at Kylemore Abbey and the incredible landscape that the park boasts in abundance.

Pubs with trad

Where to stay

11. Sligo Town

A Colourful Benbulben in sligo
Photo by Chris Hill

We’re off to Sligo Town next where you’ll have your pick of road trips and brilliant pubs. You can use the town as a base for a road trip in Sligo and another in Leitrim.

People often give Sligo Town a miss, opting to stay in the likes of Strandhill, Rosses Point or Enniscrone. Don’t get me wrong, Sligo’s seaside towns are mighty (and you can enjoy a pint with a view in many of them).

But the main town is a grand little base for a night or two of exploring, beering (is that even a word..?) and having the buzz with friends.

Road trips

You’ve several lovely active road trips that you can head off on if you make Sligo Town your base. If you’re feeling active, take the handy 20-minute spin out to Knocknarea.

It’ll take you under 2 hours to get up to the top and back down again. You can head for a post-hike lunch in Strandhill, after, and follow it up with a ramble on the beach.

You could spend another day doing the Gleniff Horseshoe Drive, then visiting Glencar Waterfall (Leitrim) and then rounding off the day with a ramble at Mullaghmore or on the Benbulben Forest Walk (loads more info on these in our guide to the best hikes and walks in Ireland).

Pubs with trad

Where to stay

12. Kinsale (Cork)

colourful street in kinsale
Photo © The Irish Road Trip

You’ll often hear of the colourful little town of Kinsale referred to as one of the most beautiful villages in Ireland. And it’s not hard to see why.

You’ll find the little fishing village of Kinsale in Cork, where it’s nestled between hills and a grand little harbour.

Known for its colourful streets, its rich history and its brilliant restaurants and pubs, Kinsale is a solid option for a weekend away.

Road trips

There are a couple of different road trips that you can head off on from Kinsale. The shortest is one that takes in Cork City (33-minute drive) and Cobh (48-minute drive).

You could also throw in a visit to Fota Island (41-minute drive – home to Ireland’s only wildlife park) and the potentially haunted Spike Island (you’ll need to take a ferry from Cobh to get here).

Another road trip that we mentioned earlier would take you along the coast, through a clatter of lovely seaside villages, out to Mizen Head (2-hour drive).

Pubs with trad

  • Kitty Ó Sé’s Bar: It’s clear that these lads host regular trad sessions, but there’s no info on their website or Facebook on when…
  • Dalton’s Bar: Info on what’s on
  • The Folk House: Info on what’s on

Where to stay

13. Carrick-on-Shannon (Leitrim)

Gings Riverside Bar
Photo via Gings on Facebook

We’re off to the buzzy little town of Carrick-on-Shannon next. This is the largest town in Leitrim and, funnily enough, it’s the smallest county town in all of Ireland.

Now, you’ll often hear Carrick-on-Shannon referred to as ‘the hen and stag capital of Ireland’. The town is a hotspot for weekend travellers looking to head on the beer.

However, there’s plenty more to the area than pubs and pi**heads! So don’t let that put you off from visiting.

Road trips

Carrick-on-Shannon is a grand little base for exploring Leitrim and the surrounding area. You could bring a whole new meaning to the term ‘road trip’ and hop on a boat tour of the Shannon.

Or you could do one of the endless tours that the area boasts, from kayaking and SUP (stand up paddle boarding) to plenty more. Orrr you could spin out as far as Sligo (54-minute drive to the coast). 

Pubs with trad

  • Cryan’s Bar: Info on what’s on
  • Flynn’s Bar: Trad sessions every Sunday and Wednesday
  • An Poitín Stil: Live Music Saturday Night

Where to stay

14. Dublin City

gpo dublin
Photo by David Soanes (Shutterstock)

It’s probably no surprise, given the number of tourists that it gets, that Dublin City boasts a constant drum of trad sessions each night of the week.

Couple that with the fact that Dublin City is a grand aul base for a road trip and you’ve a nice and pricey base for a weekend away.

Road trips

If you’d like to stay in Dublin, you could spend a day spinning out to Malahide Castle and then work your way along the coast to Howth and back into the city.

If you’d like to stay in the city, there’s no end to the number of things to do, from museums and distilleries to unique tours and frequent festivals.

You could spend another day nipping out to Wicklow (50-minute drive), tipping along on the Sally Gap Drive and seeing Lough Tay. Or you could head into Glendalough and try one of the longer hikes like the Spinc Loop.

Pubs with trad

  • The Cobblestone: Info on what’s on
  • The Old Storehouse: Live music 7 nights a week
  • The Merry Ploughboy: Live music most nights
  • The Temple Bar: Live music most nights
  • Devitt’s: Sessions on a Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday
  • The International: Live music on Sundays and Wednesdays
  • Darkey Kelly’s: Sessions on most nights
  • Peadar Browns: Trad sessions on a Saturday from 4

Where to stay

15. Galway City

galway city buskers
Photo via Extreme Ireland

Galway City doesn’t really need any kind of intro. It’s a buzzy spot that’s a stone’s throw from an absolute wallop of scenery.

A lot of people that I chat to visit Galway for a weekend on the beer, and never leave the city, which is a shame, as Connemara’s only down the road.

You could easily spend an active day away exploring Connemara and then retreat into one of an endless number of pubs in Galway to soak up some live music and atmosphere.

Road trips

The most obvious road trip from Galway City is into the belly of Connemara National Park. If you’re feeling active and you fancy a challenge, climb Diamond Hill for one of the best views in Ireland.

If you’d prefer to stick to the car and hop out at will, you could spin arund the national park, visit Kylemore Abbey, have a nosey at the Quiet Man bridge and then fire off on to the Sky Road.

You could also have a mooch around Salthill (there’s a nice walk from the city out to the prom) or you could tip out to the little villages of Barna, Spiddle or Kinvarra.

Pubs with trad

Where to stay

16. Limerick City

st patricks day facts
Photo by Niall Cosgrove via Tourism Ireland

The ancient city of Limerick is one that often gets overlooked by people from Ireland planning a weekend away with friends.

Situated on the banks of the River Shannon and home to the historic King John’s Castle and the buzzy Milk Market, Limerick is a brilliant base for a few days exploring and drinking.

Road trips

You’ve a heap of different road trips that you can head off on if you make Limerick your base for a few nights.

You could spend a morning having breakfast and heading for a ramble around Adare (21-minute drive) and the rest of the day away exploring the Ballyhoura Mountains (70-minute drive).

If you fancied spinning out to the Cliffs of Moher, they’re a 70-minute drive away, as is the buzzy town of Doolin (next on the list).

If you’d rather stick to the city, you’ve plenty of things to do in Limerick, from kayaking alongside a castle to riverside walks and plenty more, to keep you occupied.

Pubs with trad

Where to stay

17. Doolin (Clare)

things to do in Doolin Ireland
Photo by the brilliant Seán Haughton (@wild_sky_photography)

Last on our list is a little village that claims to be ‘the home of traditional music’. When I read this, I was sceptical. Then I searched around for pubs in the area that run trad sessions.

I am no longer sceptical…

Although it’s small, the little village of Doolin in Clare packs a sizeable punch. It’s a town known by many for its colourful Fisher St. (above), it’s proximity to Moher, and it’s cosy pubs.

Road trips

If you’d like to experience a bit of Clare that many miss out on, spin along the coast towards Kilkee, hop out for a look at the beach, and then continue on along the coast to Loop Head Lighthouse.

There are some gorgeous cliffs here that you can have a ramble alongside (take care here!). Or you could take a ferry to the Aran Islands (they leave from Doolin Pier).

You could also spin up along the coast road to Fanore (gorgeous views on this drive) and loop back around for a wander around the Burren.

Pubs with trad

  • Gus O’Connor’s: Trad music every night
  • McDermott’s: Trad sessions every night from 21:00
  • Fitzpatrick’s Bar: Live music every night of the year
  • McGann’s Pub: According to their website, ‘Live Traditional Irish Music sessions run almost non stop in McGanns, Spontaneous Irish music sessions can start at any time.’

Where to stay

Where have we missed?

I’ve no doubt that there’s plenty more great towns, villages and cities that are well worth visiting for a weekend of road trips, trad and pints.

If you know of a place that’s worth adding, let us know in the comments section below and we’ll check it out.

Howaya! Thanks for visiting the Irish road trip! This site exists to inspire and guide you on an Irish adventure that’ll give birth to a lifetime of memories (sounds very arsey altogether, I know!) You'll find everything from things to do in Ireland to where to stay in Ireland (unique and unusual places) if you have a nosey around!

6 COMMENTS

  1. Helpful guide Keith thanks. I hope to tick off a few more of these places in the country.

    Although, surely the Glens of Antrim sound be on this list, as per the photo of Red Arch.

  2. In Sligo one of the longest trad session is in Foley’s bar every Saturday night. Also great trad session running in mclynn’s on sundays from 8.30pm

  3. Mcloughlins Pub Achill Island Co Mayo every Sunday traditional music session early doors. Celebrating its 150 Anniversary this year serving the Public since 1870 4th generation family Pub in the Heart of The gorgeous Achill Island with its amazing wild Atlantic way and stunning cyclone and walking routes a must see destination with its gorgeous blue flag beaches the most famous being Keem beach for its basking sharks

  4. My wife and I, from Norway, have spent 2-3 weeks of summer vacation in Ireland for the past 14 years, traveling around the country with a rental car, and we have been to all of these 17 places. There are many beautiful places and villages across the country, but our favorite place is beautiful Carlingford, near the N.I.-border on the east coast. We have stayed there at least 10 times during these years. If you go there, don’t forget to dine at The Baytree Restaurant with the best chef in the county and very friendly people. If you are planning to stay, they also have a nice B&B. Kristina and Conor will take good care of you.

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