Our Ultimate 12-Day Ireland Roadtrip Itinerary
Are you in the process of planning your Ireland roadtrip? In that case, you came to the right place! In this post we will go through our Ireland roadtrip itinerary day-by-day and share with you all the details on what we did, where we stayed as well as some optional things you could add if you wanted to. We also share some tips we learned along the way as well as some recommendations we got while on the road.
If you want to know more about the cost of our Ireland roadtrip, head to our post on How much does a road trip to Ireland cost? For more information on the process of renting a car and driving in Ireland, go to our Guide on renting a car in Ireland.
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Our Roadtrip Itinerary on a Map
We spend 12 days exploring Ireland and rented a car for 10 of these days. We mostly focussed on the southwest and west of Ireland. But, we also spend some time in and around Dublin. The pace of our roadtrip was moderate I would say. The first few days were more fast-paced, but the second half of the trip was more slow-ish. Some people do our route in a week, but we wanted to take our time. On the map below you will find the outline of our roadtrip itinerary.
Day 1: Arrival + Explore Dublin
The vast majority of people flying into Ireland end up in Dublin Airport. And so did we. Our flight landed at around 11 o’clock at Terminal 1. So our first quest was getting into Dublin. For more information, we wrote a seperate guide on How to get from Dublin Airport to the city centre.
After making our way to the city centre, we checked-in to our hotel and got rid of our bags. Then we headed out for lunch and started exploring Dublin. In the afternoon we visited the Leprechaun Museum, where we had booked a tour online a few days in advance. Just as a heads-up, you need to book in advance! They won’t sell you tickets on-site. We highly recommend starting off your Ireland roadtrip with a glimpse into some Irish tales and folklore! For more information on the Leprechaun Museum as well as things to do in Dublin in general, head to our Guide to Dublin!
Where to stay
During our stay in Dublin city, we stayed at the Academy Plaza Hotel* near O’Connell Street. The room was clean and had everything we needed for our stay. The location was also ideal for us since we were in the city centre within a 10-minute walk and O’Connel Street is a great place to be close to in terms of public transportation. We would stay here again anytime!
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Day 2: Hike inside the Wicklow Mountains National Park
On Day 2, we headed back to the airport to pick up our rental car. But more on that in our guide on How to rent a car in Ireland (coming soon). After getting the vehicle that would be ours for the next 10 days and a quick supermarket-stop, we were on our way out of Dublin!
Our first stop on our Ireland roadtrip was the Wicklow Mountains National Park. The Wicklow Mountains National Park is located only an hour south of Dublin, which we thought was an okay-distance to drive on our first day driving in Ireland as well as for our first time driving on the left side of the road. This area is known to have some really beautiful hikes and in our opinion it should be on everyone’s itinerary when visiting Ireland!
Read more about this beautiful area in our guide on Hiking in the Wicklow Mountains National Park. We give you all the information you need to visit the Wicklow Mountains and share which hikes we did as well as what they look like.
Where to stay
Most people stay either in Glendalough or in Laragh* when looking for accomodations near the Wicklow Mountains National Park. However, since we knew that Day 3 would be filled with quite a lot of driving, we decided to stay halfway between the Wicklow Mountains and the M7, which is the motorway we needed to take to get to Cork the next day. We ended up booking a lovely AirBnB next to a beautiful lake called Lakeside retreat in the Wicklow Mountains. It had everything we needed for one night. Just be aware that there is no cooktop, if you wish to cook that night.
Day 3: Visit Cork and Cobh
On the next day, we were on the road bright and early. We first made our way towards Cashel, the town where you will find the famous Rock of Cashel! It is actually quite an important historic sight in Ireland as it was the seat of the kings of Munster for several hundred years. According to legends the Rock of Cashel landing there was a result of St. Patrick banishing Satan from the cave of a mountain not far away from here. Be that as it may, Cashel makes for a great pit-stop on your way from Dublin to Cork as you will drive past it anyway. The entrance fee is 8€ per adult. For more information, head to the Heritage Ireland website.
Next we headed to Cork for lunch and explored both Cork and Cobh in the afternoon. For more information on what to see and do in Cork and Cobh as well as how to plan your trip to these cities, head to our guide on How to spend a day in Cork and Cobh!
Where to stay
We stayed in Blarney, which is only a 15-minutes drive away from Cork. We decided to stay here instead of Cork, because we discovered a unique accomodation: an old pub, which converted its first and second floor into a guesthouse. The pub is called Muskerry Arms Bar and B&B Blarney*. The rooms were clean and quite nice. The bar was very busy and in the evening there was live music.
Day 4: Explore Killarney National Park
Blarney is actually quite well-known, as it is the town where Blarney Castle is located. If this does not ring a bell yet, then probably the following does: Blarney Castle is that Irish castle where all the tourists go to kiss a stone. If you want to do that, the castle opens at 9 a.m., so you can head there first thing in the morning. We decided to skip Blarney Castle for 2 reasons. First, the entrance fee to the castle costs 20€ per adult and we just could not justify paying 40€ in total to kiss a stone. Second, we really wanted to go hiking inside Killarney National Park and so we decided to head there bright and early. And we still do not regret that decision. But that’s just a personal preference, so absolutely no shame if you want to visit Blarney Castle! For more information on the castle, you can head to their official website.
It took us 1h20 to get from Blarney to Killarney National Park. After our morning hike, we spend the whole day exploring the rest of the National Park. For more information, head to our guide on How to spend one day in Killarney National Park, where we share our route as well as what to see an do in one day.
Where to stay
We stayed in Killarney for 2 nights. Which was nice after having to change accomodations every day for the last few days. We found a lovely AirBnB Called Orchard Avenue Apartment, a little further away from Killarney near Faha. And we can wholeheartedly recommend this AirBnB to anyone! The appartment itself was very clean and had everything we needed. The host was super friendly! She gave us many tips on what to see and do and even gave us scones and muffins for breakfast one day. You also have a really beautiful view on to the Gap of Dunloe from your kitchen window! So, again, highly recommend! For those interested, here is a link to the AirBnB website for the Orchard Avenue Apartment.
Day 5: Roadtrip the Dingle Peninsula
On Day 5, we decided to explore the Dingle Peninsula as a daytrip from Killarney. The Dingle Peninsula is a 48 kilometers long stretch of land which reaches into the Atlantic Ocean. It is located in the southwest of Ireland and home to some amazing sights and stunning views. The day we spend on the Dingle Peninsula was an absolute highlight of our Ireland roadtrip, especially the Sea Safari is a MUST!
In our guide on How to spend one day on the Dingle Peninsula we give you all the information you need to spend one amazing day here. We share our route as well as what to see and what to do while there.
Alternatively you could do the Ring of Kerry that day. The drive starts and ends in Killarney so it makes for a good daytrip from Killarney.
Day 6: Visit the Cliffs of Moher
The next day we made our way towards the Cliffs of Moher. We started off by driving 50 minutes north towards the town of Listowel. This was actually a tip from our AirBnB host in Killarney. And she was right, the town of Listowel is a lovely little town. Especially during the Halloween season, the shop windows were decorated quite beautifully.
Take the Tarbert Ferry
After a short stop, we drove towards the town of Tarbert, more pecisely towards the Tarbert Ferry. This was another tip from our AirBnB host actually. Initially we wanted to visit Limerick, but we quickly found out that we actually preferred our days spend in nature over the Irish cities. That’s why we spontanously decided to leave it out. If you decide to leave the city of Limerick out of your itinerary as well, then you can cross the Shannon Estaury by taking the Tarbert Ferry, instead of having to drive all the way around it. For more information on the Tarbert Ferry, head to our Quick Guide on taking the Tarbert Ferry.
Visit the Loophead Lighthouse
Once we landed in the County Clare, we drove towards the Loophead Lighthouse. This lighthouse is located on a cliff and surrounded by water on three sides. It is really beautiful and definitly worth a visit. There is a parking lot located in front of the lighthouse and while you can’t access the lighthouse itself, you can walk all around it and get really great views! However from Kilkee it is a 50 kilometers detour, 25 kilometers there and back on pretty narrow roads. I guess you need to decide for yourself if to you it is worth it or not.
Marvel at the Cliffs of Moher
After our detour to the Loophead Lighthouse we made our way towards the Cliffs of Moher. The Cliffs of Moher are seaside cliffs that are 14 kilometers long. They are usually one of the first attractions listed, when looking up the MUST-SEE attractions in Ireland. We took a little different approach to visiting them, but we wrote all about that in our seperate guide on How to visit the Cliffs of Moher.
Where to stay
We spend the night in an AirBnB near Miltown Malbay. The AirBnB itself is located inside a renovated Irish cottage. The owner lives inside a newer extension next door. However we did not have direct contact with them during our stay. The cottage was quite cozy and had everything we needed for the night. There was even a fireplace with all the necessary things to start a fire in the evening. You can find the AirBnB under the name of Callan View on their website. We would stay here again!
Day 7: Explore Galway
On the next day we visited the city of Galway. Galway is the forth largest city in Ireland and it is well known for having numerous street artists performing inside the Latin Quarter. There are also numerous pubs and restaurants. Overall it is a great city for drinking and eating out! We spend a few hours exploring the street of Galway.
Parking can be found for instance at a car park called City Park (Google Maps: 7XF3+RP Galway, Irland). They charge 2,70€ per hour.
Afterwards we made our way towards Leenaun, where we stayed inside an AirBnB for the next two nights. You can find more details on where we stayed in the next section on Day 8.
Day 8: Stay near Killary Fjord
Killary Fjord is the only fjord in Ireland. It is located in the northern part of the Connemara region in the west of the country. Like already mentionned we stayed in Leenaun, which is located on the shores of Killary Fjord, for two nights and used it as a base for exploring the Connemara region.
We were there in October and I would say that Killary Fjord is probably a more fun place to be in during the summer. So just keep that in mind. Since the weather made a turn for the worse during our time here, we also spend quite some time in our accomodation, doing some work and relaxing a bit. However in nicer weather and during summer there are actually plenty of things to do. We wrote a seperate Guide to the Connemara region, where we tell you everything you can see and do while there.
Where to stay
We stayed in an AirBnB in Leenaun, called The Cabin Leenane. The accomodation was a lovely tiny house. The tiny house is located in Leenaun itself, so you are not really somewhere in the middle of nowhere, but all the big windows of the cottage look out to a beautiful garden and creek, so you do have the impression of being all alone. It is a great place to unwind for a bit. Everything was clean. Just be aware that it also does not have a cooktop so you cannot really cook inside the cottage.
Day 9: Visit Clifden + Stay in a Castle
On the next day, we made our way towards Clifden. Clifden is considered to be the unofficial capital of the Connemara region. We took our time exploring this lovely town and its surroundings. Everything there is to see and do in and around Clifden is included into our Guide to the Connemara Region. So if you are interested in spending some time in this region of Ireland, go give it a read!
Where to stay
This time, a big part of our highlight of the day was our stay at the Abbeyglen Castle Hotel* in Clifden! Actually staying inside a castle in Ireland was part of our Bucket List, so we were happy to be able to tick it off our list on this trip! The Abbeyglen Castle Hotel is a 4-star hotel, that was built in 1832.
At 6:30 they hold a reception where you can get a glass of champagne and you can hear a little about the history of the castle. Afterwards they offer a five-course dinner meal inside their restaurant with live piano music!
The rooms where very clean and spacious. And the people working there friendly! From the interior you can see that the castle has some years under its belt, but I mean that’s what makes the charm of such a castle, no? A stay in this castle is not necessarily cheap, but it also won’t break the bank. What might be a bit more expensive is the dinner, however we decided it was part of the experience and splurged a little that night. We still do not regret having done so.
As a tip: On the Abbeyglen Castle Hotel website they sometimes have offers where you can book a room + dinner included. In the end that would have been cheaper for us than booking and paying for both individually. So maybe look into that!
Overall we really enjoyed our stay here and would recommend it to anyone who wishes to spend a night in a castle in Ireland as well!
Day 10: Explore Trim & the Ancien East
After our wonderful stay at the Abbeyglen Castle Hotel, we made the three-hour drive back to the east coast of Ireland. This sadly also meant that our roadtrip would slowly come to an end. We made our way to the lovely town of Trim. It is actually a really charming place and we would definitly recommend to stop here.
From Trim we made our way towards the Hill of Tara, which is a 17-minute drive. It is an ancient burial site and was probably also used for ceremonies. The Hill of Tara is located inside the Boyne Valley and dates back to around 3000 B.C.! Historically speaking, it used to be an important site. If you wish to read more about the history of the Hill of Tara, head to the official website of Boyne Valley!
Next on the itinerary was Navan Town. We read that it was worth a visit and so we decided to check it out. To be quite honest, we didn’t find it that impressive though. Fifty percent of the town center were shopping centres. So we only stayed to grab a coffee and a bite to eat at LEON’S.
After stopping in Navan, you can make your way towards the Brú na Bóinne site. It is located a 25-minute drive away. Brú na Bóinne consists of a few sites, Newgrange, Knowth and Dowth. You only have access to Newgrange and Knowth through the visitor centre. From there, the monuments can be accessed by a shuttle. Tickets should be pre-booked here as well. For more information on the Brú na Bóinne site as well as ticket prices, head to the Heritage Ireland website.
Where to stay
Our search criterion for this accomodation was actually to get as close to Dublin as possible, since we knew we had to drop off our rental car the next day. We stayed at the Kilcloon Self Catering Cottages & Rooms. Our room was clean and perfect for what we needed it for. The owner was really friendly as well.
Day 11: Explore Dublin
We had to drop off our rental car at Dublin Airport at 12 o’clock. More on that process in our Guide to renting a car in Ireland. From here we made our way back into the city centre. For more information on that, head to our guide on How to get from Dublin Airport to the city centre!
Back in Dublin city, we used the better half of the day to do some exploring as well as some shopping. If you want to know what to see and do in Dublin, head to our Guide to Dublin!
Where to stay
For our last night in Dublin, we stayed at the Metro Dublin Airport Hotel. It is a 4-star hotel, located not far away from the airport. The interior is pretty modern and the rooms were cozy and clean as well. The hotel is rather convenient if you need to get to the airport, since they offer early breakfast if your flight leaves early in the morning and they offer a free shuttle service to the airport as well.
One of the reason we stayed here was actually that we booked our Ireland trip quite last-minute and those last days in Dublin fell on the Halloween weekend. Since Halloween is quite a big deal in Ireland, most decently priced hotels in the city centre were booked-out. Among the hotels that were left, this hotel was one of the best options.
In the end we were quite glad we stayed here. Since the hotel was so close to the airport, we dropped off our luggage here before returning our rental car. Eventhough our room was not ready yet, the people at the reception were very friendly and stored our luggage. They even put our more valuable stuff with them behind the desk so no-one would take them. We can actually very much recommend this hotel!
Day 12: Explore Dublin + Fly Home
Since our flight did not leave until 8 o’clock in the evening, we took the bus near our hotel to get to the city centre (1,70€ per person one-way). We used the time left to do some more exploring, before making our way to the airport to fly back home.