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Around Ireland In 18 Days: A Coastal Road Trip Of A Lifetime (Full Itinerary)

Around Ireland In 18 Days: A Coastal Road Trip Of A Lifetime (Full Itinerary)

Hello and welcome to a road trip guide that my fingers will never forgive me for writing.

In the guide below you’ll find a chonker of an 18-day coastal road trip that’s planned for you from start to finish. 

Now, this route isn’t for the faint-hearted or for those looking to spend several nights in one place – there’s a lot of moving about and you’ll be staying in different places each night.

If you’re looking for ‘slower’ or shorter road trips, drop into our road trip hub. Scroll down to see the full 18-day route.

The 18-Day Road Trip

the route

The image above shows a rough outline of the route taken over the course of this road trip. Is it perfect? Absolutely not!

So, if there’s somewhere that you want to see that hasn’t been included, just alter the route to suit you! Here’s a breakdown of the different days:

  • Day 1: Wicklow
  • Day 2: Wexford
  • Day 3: Waterford 
  • Day 4: Cork
  • Day 5: West Cork
  • Day 6: Kerry
  • Day 7: Kerry Part 2
  • Day 8: Kerry and Clare
  • Day 9: Clare
  • Day 10: Clare and Galway
  • Day 11: Galway and Mayo
  • Day 12: Mayo and Sligo
  • Day 13: Donegal
  • Day 14: Donegal
  • Day 15: Donegal and Derry
  • Day 16: Antrim
  • Day 17: Antrim
  • Day 18: Louth

Day 1. Wicklow

To make the most of our first day on the road, get out of the bed and into the car for 8:00. Our first day sees us take a nice and handy spin from Dublin to Wicklow.

1. Gallivanting Around Glendalough (start 09:00)

glendalough spinc walk

Photo by AndyConrad/shutterstock.com

We’re going to kick the day off with a moderate hike that I’ve done many times. The Glendalough Spinc Route is a hike that I can’t recommend enough.

It’s 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 walk begins at the Upper Lake car park and follows the Poulanass Waterfall before entering the Lugduff Valley. You’ll find a full guide to this walk in our guide to the best walks in Wicklow.

2. Roundwood for lunch (arrive around 

the coach house wicklow

Photo via the Coach House

At this stage, you’ll be in need of a post-hike feed. Head for the Coach House in Roundwood, fuel up and rest the legs.

If you’re here in the winter you’ll be able to warm yourself by an enormous open fire. The drive from Glendalough to Roundwood takes 14 minutes (if it took 4 hours to complete the hike, you should arrive in Roundwood by 14:15).

3. Lough Tay

lough tay walk wicklow

Photo by Lukas Fendek/Shutterstock.com

Roundwood to Lough Tay – 11-minute drive (if you spend 90 minutes eating and chilling, you’ll arrive at Lough Tay for 16:00).

Lough Tay is easily one of my favourite places in Ireland.

Mainly because it’s a such short drive from Dublin (where I live) but also due to the fact that you’ll have the whole place to yourself if you arrive at sunset (basing this on the past 3 times I’ve visited at sunset).

Keep driving until you come to a little makeshift car park on the right.

Cross the road and walk down the grassy hill until you’re treated to the incredible view above.

4. The Sally Gap Drive

a narrow road near Lough Tay

Photo by Dariusz I/Shutterstock.com

So, this is a looped drive rather than a stop. Start it at around 16:30 and head in the direction of Glenmacnass Waterfall.

I did this drive several times over the past 12 months, and many times over the years, and it never fails to disappoint.

The vast, quiet landscape that engulfs you as you chug along the Sally Gap Drive has the knack of making you feel like you’re the only person left on earth.

You’re driving along smooth bendy roads that hug the side of mountains one minute and passing along tarmac surrounded by towering trees (keep an eye out for trees donning Christmas decorations) the next.

Take your time with this drive. Jump out of the car when the feeling takes you. And gulp down as much of that fresh mountain air that your lungs allow.

5. A Nest for the Night

blessington pub

Glenmacnass Waterfall to The Glendalough Hotel, – 11-minute drive (take 45 minutes to do the Sally Gap Drive and arrive at the hotel for 17:30).

So, where you stay in Wicklow is totally up to you.

I’m going to recommend The Glendalough Hotel, but if this doesn’t suit your budget, there are plenty of other places to stay nearby (check our interactive map of the best places to stay in Ireland!)

Check into the hotel, grab a bite to eat in the hotel’s Glendassan River Restaurant and kick back with a couple of drinks.

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Colin Baskin

Thursday 7th of April 2022

Hello Keith. Coming to your beautiful country in August 2022 from Australia - sunny Queensland in fact. Have tried all the guides to get some insight into how to approach this historic and natural country - you seem to capture it beautifully.

Starting in Dublin to Youghal on first leg where we stay for 6 nights - family time. We will then adopt your 18 day trek as our pilgrimage to circumnavigate Ireland. Thank-you for sharing your insight and detail - right down to accommodation and food suggestions. Loved reading it and let my imagination take me along the road you narrate so beautifully.

Many thanks for taking the effort yo complete your Irish opus.

John Duke

Monday 4th of April 2022

Morning Keith O Hara I have been looking at your 18 days tour of Ireland I am arriving on the 14th April at Rosslare can I start my tour on day 2 I am driving a small camper van can you tell me about camp sites on my around please and do I have to book or just turn up my name is John Duke

Keith O'Hara

Wednesday 6th of April 2022

Hey John! You'll find campsites in most counties along that trip. The best way to do it is to just give it a Google and then suss out a spot with good reviews (I've never stayed in a campsite in Ireland, so I wouldn't like to lead you astray). In terms of booking. I'd recommend doing so if you're visiting during the busier months of the year, like summer. I hope this helps!

Julie

Tuesday 11th of January 2022

This was a great trip to read through. I understand how tired you are after writing so much - my husband and I are coming to Ireland from the U.S. in May 2022 for 3 weeks, and I've been planning everything myself for many months. Lots of great suggestions for places to visit, things we shouldn't miss, etc. Also, many of the things you suggested are already part of our plans, so it made me feel like I had done a good job! Thanks for all of the great help - we can't wait for the trip to begin!

Jan

Tuesday 12th of January 2021

Really digging this blog!! I have the travel blog so bad and Ireland is next on the list - your recommendations are speaking to me! Thanks for taking the time to create all the wonderful road trips / ideas.

Akshay Bansal

Tuesday 14th of January 2020

Hi Keith,

I am considering travelling to Ireland this summer via road-trip and AirBnBs. While researching, I found your blog and found it very helpful and resourceful.

I am travelling from New Delhi (India) with my extended family (infants, toddlers, siblings, wife, parents etc.). Assuming this might be our only trip to Ireland together as a family, I am interested in covering Ireland comprehensively within a limitation of 11-13 days.

Is it possible to shorten the suggested 18-day itinerary to the above duration by bypassing some of the locations or sites. I understand this would mean we missing a few locations, but need your help.

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