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The Best Ireland Itinerary from Top to Bottom

Ireland is growing as a popular destination and understandably so. In addition to stunning landscapes and bountiful historical sites and heritage, it also boasts the nicest people welcoming you everywhere you go. The Emerald Isle delivers amazing sightseeing opportunities, scenic drives and cultural experiences and the perfect way to see it is to tour Ireland by car.

You will find in this article a day-by-day Ireland itinerary, a 14-day self-drive tour, from Northern Ireland all the way to the bottom of Dingle and the Ring of Kerry and back.

Day by Day 2-week Ireland Itinerary 

With this epic Ireland self-drive tour, you’ll see the Cliffs of Mohervisite passage tombs older than the pyramids of Giza, have a Guinness right from the source at the Guinness Storehouse and drink whiskey with local folks. This includes visiting loads of beautiful medieval castles along the way, driving the Dingle Peninsula and the Ring of Kerry, kissing the Blarney Stone. You’ll also get a chance to dig into Belfast’s complex political past with a Black Cab Tour, learn all about the Titanic Construction and its tragic end and explore Northern Ireland for 2 days where you can walk the Giant’s Causeway.

Here’s what you will get from this post

Table of contents

  • Interactive Ireland Itinerary Map 

  • Day by Day Planner

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INTERACTIVE MAP –  IRELAND ROAD TRIP 

Click on   or the letters to get details 

This 2-week Ireland road trip itinerary is as a self-drive tour starting from Dublin in a counterclockwise direction. 

INSIDER TIP: Since the roads are incredibly narrow in Ireland consider renting a small car and packing carry-on only. Need some more tips? Here are some valuable ones for any Europe Road Trips.

Note: Plan ahead if you want to drive in Ireland, especially in Northern Ireland. Rental Car Insurance coverage can be quite expensive and most credit cards don’t cover CDW (Collision Damage Waiver) in Ireland (read about the ugly truth about renting a car in Ireland from Peanuts or Pretzels here.) 

Even though our credit card covered CDW (we had checked prior to our reservation), the Europcar Dublin office still required us to get the credit card provider (in this case the Canadian TD Visa office) to email a proof of coverage and sign a template form on premises. You can avoid this delay be getting them to email it before your arrival.

Day 1 Arrive in Dublin / 2 nights

Brazen Head / Temple Bar

This 2-week itinerary of Ireland begins in Dublin, Ireland’s largest city. Check into your accommodation and rest up. Why not head over to the Temple Bar area, for dinner and drinks in one of the many pubs. It’s a perfect introduction to the famous Irish hospitality and joie de vivre. Make sure to stop at the Brazen Head during your stay in Dublin, it’s the oldest pub in Ireland! Enjoy a mix of locals and tourists with good pub food at reasonable prices in an authentic traditional decor.

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Day 2 Explore Dublin’s Highlights 

Walk the city / Trinity College & the Book of Kells / Jameson Distillery Tour / Guinness Tour

Dublin is very compact and easy to walk around in – read: flat city. Spend the day touring on foot, we did so with no effort. You should be able to cover the must-see highlights such as Dublin Castle, Trinity College to see the Book of Kells and Saint-Patrick’s Cathedral. We experienced an afternoon of downpour, so we opted to end this exploration day with a dram at the Jameson Distillery  which we praise for their newly renovated exhibits and interactive tour, we then squeezed in a last minute visit at the Guinness Storehouse  and got to enjoy a freshly poured pint at their Gravity Bar and its panoramic 360° view of the city.

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Trinity College Library

Day 3 Drive to Belfast / 2 nights

Black Cab Tour / Titanic Experience Museum

After some fun times in Dublin, it’s was time to dive deeper into Ireland’s complex political past. To do so, the Black Cab Tour in Belfast came highly recommended in order to better understand the Troubles’ period that divided (and still does in many respect) the population. You can organize the tour online with many available companies to choose from on TripAdvisor. We chose Belfast Famous Black Taxi Tours and requested a pickup at the Titanic Experience Museum right after lunch. This provided us with safe underground parking, knowing that all of our luggage and gear was in the car, and this also gave us time to pre-purchase our time-allocated tickets to avoid queues for the Titanic exhibit visit we planned to do later that afternoon. 

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One of the many murals during our Black Cab Political Tour

Day 4 Explore Northern Ireland 

North Coastal Route / Giant’s Causeway  / Dark Hedges (GoT)

After a good nights rest, it’s time to explore Northern Ireland’s coast and visit the Giant’s Causeway.  Try to get there early, before 10h00 am, basically before all the Paddy Wagons (tourists buses) start arriving. The Geopark is classified as a Unesco World Heritage site and although a bit crowded, is beautiful to visit.

A good tip given to us by a local coach driver is that unless you plan to use audio guides or the shuttles, you can avoid the entry fee by skipping the visitor centre and walk straight into the park through the arched “viaduct. They only check the vouchers when you use the shuttles. 🙂 

After a good fish & chip lunch in the village of Bushmills, you can opt to visit the distillery, the Dark Hedges on the way back. This natural phenomenon is one of the most popular Games of Thrones filming locations in Northern Ireland. The unpretentious country road, known as the Kingsroad for GoT fans, is fabulous, featuring mature beech trees that are all lined up. Tip: The coordinates are in most GPS units, just enter “Dark Hedges”.

If time allows, you can visit the Bushmills distillery which is close by, before heading back to Belfast.

Other options in Northern Ireland
Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge. This rope bridge spans the gap between two rocky coastal cliffs. Get there early or later in the day to miss the crowds. Unfortunately, the wait was over 90 minutes when we got there at 10h00 am. It takes about 20 minutes to hike to the bridge, and the views are said to be stunning in each direction. 

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Day 5  Visit NewGrange then Mullingar / 1 night

Newgrange / Monasterboice 

After reading this article about Newgrange, I knew we had to visit this Unesco World Heritage Neolithic site. As mentioned in the article, it’s surprisingly impressive as a whole. At first glance, this grass mound can seem very “Oh-um” but don’t be fooled by it. The beauty of this 5000-year-old structure lies within, in its planning and architecture. An incredible number of stones, some weighing a few tons were transported from 40+ km away. Plus its sun entrance lets in a perfectly aligned sun ray deep inside the ritual chamber as the sun rises on the Winter Solstice. During the tour, which is mostly held out and around the mound, you do get a chance to visit the inside of the chamber and see a re-enactment of the sun ray. I really enjoyed the visit here.

The nearby Monasterboice is also a very lovely venue to explore and worth the detour. You’ll get to see the largest Celtic cross in Ireland, standing at 21 ft with two Gaelic inscribed gravestones and an ancient sundial. Entrance is free and donations are welcomed. Sleeping in Mullingar was the perfect spot for a layover before our next stop: Galway.

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Day 6 Drive to Galway / 2 nights

Ashford Castle / Cong / O’Connors Pub

Visit the luxurious Ashford Castle Hotel & Country Estate, walk the grounds and grab lunch in the charming neighbouring village of Cong before settling into your accommodations, or a private Airbnb room in Salthill, Galway. The Salthill neighbourhood is slightly out of the tourist area but has many restaurants and the famous O’ Connors Pub/ it says so on the door / which is where Galway Girl, Ed Sheeran’s video was filmed in part. (view it here)

•Get a 45$Cdn coupon by using this link right here. A great way to start saving money!

If you have the time, go visit Achill Island, many travellers raved about their visit as if stepping back in time. A truly unique place.

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Day 7 Explore Connemara’s Park

Kylemore Abbey / Connemara Park Peninsula / Galway

The Connemara Park is a great scenic drive and getting to the Kylemore Abbey Estate was enjoyable despite the rainy conditions. You can visit the Abbey and its garden or just stop by to take some exterior pictures of the property. It wasn’t that impressive as a whole, blame the rain? The whole peninsula’s drive back is magnificent with stunning vistas and quaint coastal villages along the way. If you’re trying to be thrifty and save some money on dining, back in Galway’s Old Town, the High Cafe (trip advisor) is a great option. This cute BYOB second floor cafe has Middle Eastern and European choices on the menu, delivers great value and the food was delicious. Reservations are probably a wise decision as the place was packed, always a great indication as to the quality of the food.

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Day 8 Cliffs of Moher – Miltown Malbay / 1 night

Kinvarra / Burren / Spanish Point / Miltown Malbay

From Galway, heading South, drive through the Burren region before getting to the Cliffs of Moher. We strongly suggest getting there early to beat the crowds as this is the most popular attraction in Ireland. The site offers a staggering view of 700 ft cliffs plunging into the ocean. Stunning indeed but slightly unnerving if you have vertigo and witness many careless tourists trying to capture the most daring selfies. Seriously troubling and stupid…

Pushing forward, down the Southern coast,  is Lahinch a fun town bustling with pubs and restaurants. Grab a picnic to enjoy on the neat ocean cliffs in Spanish Point. You’re now in within proximity of Miltown Malbay area, an ideal location to sleep over and catch an early start for the Cliffs.

Other things to see:
Dungaire Castle / Kinvarra: open April- mid-October 10am – 4:30 pm
Burren Smokehouse & Brewer  : open daily

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Day 9 Dingle Peninsula then Killarney / 3 nights 

Ferry across River Shannon/ Connors Pass / Dingle Peninsula / Inch Beach

Following a local’s recommendation, head straight down to Killmer and catch the ferry across the famous river Shannon to Tarbet. The ferry runs every 30 minutes and takes about 20 minutes to cross. If you can’t decide which of both peninsulas to choose between Dingle or the Ring of Kerry to drive during your time in Kerry County, do like us and do both.

Drive the Dingle Peninsula on your way to Killarney which will take you right through one of the highest Irish mountain passes, Connor’s Pass, hopefully, your traverse won’t be in pea-soup fog like ours, eerie. This single lane extremely narrow passage, for 2-way traffic, is not for the faint of hearts. Might actually have been better if we could have seen something instead of imagining the worst!

Dingle town is a charming fishing village, well worth visiting yet again we didn’t get to see much of it with our drive around the tip of the peninsula was set in the thick fog again. Making your way out make time to stop at Inch beach, perfect for a brisk walk on its endless sandy beach that overlooks the Northern coast of the Iverag Peninsula aka the Ring of Kerry.

Other things to see:
Clock Tower & Old Cable Station in Knightstown

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Day 10- 11  Explore the Ring of Kerry 

Killarney / Killarney National Park / Ring of Kerry / Skellig Ring / Valentia Island 

The town of Killarney is a great base to enjoy the most popular drive in Ireland, the Ring of Kerry and explore the Killarney National Park. Take note that because of the narrow streets and many one-way lanes, traffic in town can often be horrendous and almost at a standstill. Plan lodging close to town or below New Street putting everything at walking distance and also close to the National park entrance. Catch up on some well-deserved rest during your stay and enjoy the free tour of the Killarney House and gardens while you’re there.

– Here’s a thought! Consider doing a cycling tour of the Ring of Kerry, a scenic way to take in its fabulous vistas.

For whiskey lovers, don’t miss the outstanding Celtic Whiskey Bar & Larder in town which has an amazing selection of 1400 bottles of local whiskey’s, single malts and bourbons from just about everywhere to choose from! The staff is very knowledgable and can advise you on your selection. Enjoy a tasty supper here with a couple of flights of whiskey, many offerings from brands which are unavailable in North America.

Drive the Ring of Kerry counterclockwise via Muckross, Moll’s Gap and Sneer, avoiding the tourists’ buses that start clockwise at the other end, early morning. Make sure to explore the Skellig Ring, the highlight of this route (no coaches can make it there) which includes Valentia Island. From Knightstown, at the tip of the island, catch the ferry back to the mainland and save yourself the 20 km return to the bridge at Portmagee. The ferry runs continuously every 10 minutes from mid-March to the end of September.

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Day 12 Drive to Blarney Castle – Cork / 1 night 

Blarney Castle & Gardens / English Market

Just 8 km outside of Cork, the historic Blarney Castle is most famous for its stone, which claims to have the traditional power of conferring the gift of the gab to all that kiss it. Because the stone is set below the battlements, in order to kiss it, one has to lean backwards grasping an iron railing to do so. For me, it was a bit of a “might-as-well” thing to do while in the vicinity but in retrospect, it could have easily skipped it. In all honesty, the gardens are more spectacular than this “ho-hum” castle, plus the queues to kiss the stone are quite long, even experienced in low season. Note that you wait outside exposed to the weather, hope for good weather that day.

Cork is a fairly big city with tiny twisty streets. Park on the outskirts and walk around the pubs and cafés and enjoy lunch at the Oyster Tavern, right beside the 18th-century English Market, the most famous covered food market in Ireland which sells many organic and locally produced foods. All the ingredients at the tavern are sourced directly from the market. 

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Day 13- 14  Rock of Cashel then Kilkenny / 2 nights

Rock of Cashel/ St-Canice’s Cathedral/ Medieval Mile/ Kilkenny Castle/ Rothe’s House 

This site is not to be missed. Overlooking the glorious Plains of Tipperary, the Rock of Cashel is one of Ireland’s most historic sights. This is where St. Patrick baptized King Aengus in 450 AD. Here’s a great tip from the article from XYU and beyond, grab lunch or breakfast in the local village of Cashel, if you spend more than $15 euros, you can get a coupon to enter The Rock at no charge. Free guided tours are included with the entrance and run about every 30 minutes.

Make sure to visit the Cashel Folk Museum in the village to get insights, authentic memorabilia and very detailed information about the Irish history from the friendly and extremely knowledgeable proprietor Bernard.

Staying in Kilkenny, an adorable and very quaint medieval town with colourful houses lining the streets and arched bridges crossing the river. The “must do’s” in town are the Medieval Mile, the Kilkenny Castle, which is furnished with posh interiors, the St-Canice’s Cathedral where you can climb the tower to view the city from atop and the Rothe’s house & rooftop garden. If the weather is cooperating enjoy a riverfront lunch on a terrasse at the Rivercourt with the castle in view.

Note: Looking for a romantic setting for a special dinner during your trip? Left Bank/Rive Gauche is the place to go. Boudoir like atmosphere serving award-winning French food, a divine experience! 

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Day 15 Return to Dublin/ 1 final night

Epic the Irish Emigration Museum 

The final day, time to return the rental car and enjoy Dublin one last time. Take this opportunity to visit some attractions that you didn’t get to enjoy on the first days. I can recommend the Epic the Irish Emigration Museum,  a fabulous exhibition clearly targeted to an adult market with immersive and interactive galleries truly a unique and enjoyable attraction. Also available on site is an Irish Family History Center to help you retrace your family tree.

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This was a fabulous 14 day Ireland road trip indeed and here’s another great 2-week itinerary in Europe. With a bit more time, you could add Derry/Londonderry to the Northern Ireland tour and visit the Aran Islands. 

Have you been to Ireland? 
Please share your experiences, comments or questions below…

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Best Ireland 14 day Itinerary | Ireland Self Drive Tour | An epic 2-week Ireland itinerary from North to South exploring where to stop, what to see and do. A perfect day-by-day Ireland self-drive tour planner >>#irelanditinerary #tourirelandbycar #irelanditinerary14days #2weekirelanditinerary #selfdriveirelanditinerary #bestirelanditinerary #bestroadtripsinireland
Best Ireland 14 day Itinerary | Ireland Self Drive Tour | An epic 2-week Ireland itinerary from North to South exploring where to stop, what to see and do. A perfect day-by-day Ireland self-drive tour planner >>#irelanditinerary #tourirelandbycar #irelanditinerary14days #2weekirelanditinerary #selfdriveirelanditinerary #bestirelanditinerary #bestroadtripsinireland
Best Ireland 14 day Itinerary | Ireland Self Drive Tour | An epic 2-week Ireland itinerary from North to South exploring where to stop, what to see and do. A perfect day-by-day Ireland self-drive tour planner >>#irelanditinerary #tourirelandbycar #irelanditinerary14days #2weekirelanditinerary #selfdriveirelanditinerary #bestirelanditinerary #bestroadtripsinireland
Best Ireland 14 day Itinerary | Ireland Self Drive Tour | An epic 2-week Ireland itinerary from North to South exploring where to stop, what to see and do. A perfect day-by-day Ireland self-drive tour planner >>#irelanditinerary #tourirelandbycar #irelanditinerary14days #2weekirelanditinerary #selfdriveirelanditinerary #bestirelanditinerary #bestroadtripsinireland