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Do a quick Google Search and you’ll find plenty of options offer a self drive tour of Ireland or road trip itineraries that crisscross the country. We found a bunch of ‘A week in Ireland’ sample itineraries, but not on that was the perfect option for us. So we combined a few to create a balance between seeing Dublin and the highlights of the Irish countryside. We arrived Saturday night, spent Sunday and Monday in Dublin and then returned back to the city on Friday morning. While there are seemingly endless potential itineraries out there, very few posts discussed the logistics and details of driving in Ireland. Below find not only our actual itinerary, but advice and tips to help you as you wind your way through the Irish countryside.
Before planning what your route will be, you need to decide if a self drive tour of Ireland is for you. Ultimately, we decided that a car would give us both freedom and flexibility, which proved true. It also proved to be a huge responsibility, one that was different than any time we’ve rented a car in the States. If you don’t feel confident driving then there’s always the option of piecing together bus tours or seeing the country by trains.
Obviously the biggest challenge for those of us from the United States (or plenty of other countries) is getting your brain around driving on the other side of the road. This was undoubtedly the biggest issue that we had. If you are picking up your car in Dublin (as we did), know that you will be acclimating to a totally new style of driving in a busy city with tight roads. Which is not to say that the one lane gravel roads out in the country are any less challenging, but they offer a slightly different set of circumstances. When I asked Alex (who did all the driving) what he would recommend to those struggling with driving on the left, he said to go slow at first and that “you’ll feel like you need to correct to the left, but you don’t”. My biggest piece of advice as the passenger is to help gauge distances, navigate, and be patient. (I’m not as good at the last one as I’d like to be…)
(While both Alex and I were listed as drivers on the rental car agreement, we quickly realized that trying to acclimate both of us to driving for the 3 1/2 day rental period would be more stress than just putting all of our effort into one person consistently driving and one person consistently navigating. Alex bravely took on the job of doing all of the driving while simultaneously putting up with my commentary on how close we seemed to be to whatever obstacle was sticking out from the left shoulder.)
If I’m being honest, our itinerary outside of Dublin felt a little rushed. While Ireland is not that big, we covered roughly 600 kilometers in those 3 ½ days. But we really appreciated the amount of time we had to explore Dublin. Planning a trip is always a compromise as you can never see and do everything. Below is our itinerary for you to use, tweak, or totally disregard.
Pick Up Rental Car in Dublin
Read my definitive guide to Dublin to help you plan your time before the road trip starts, or after it ends!
Drive from Dublin to Galway (2:30 Hours)
Stop in Athlone (1:30 Hour)
Continue on to Galway (1 Hour)
Galway to Killarney (2:30)
Note that we added a stop at the Cliffs of Moher which takes this trip from 2:30 to roughly 4 hours, but I think it’s worth the detour to see Ireland’s most famous Cliffs
Galway to Cliffs of Mohr (1:30)
Read more about our time at the Cliffs and our super-secret parking spot and coffee shop
Cliffs of Moher to Killarney (2:30)
Killarney was absolutely my favorite spot in Ireland. Read the entire list of my favorite things below.
Killarney to Kilkenny (2:30 Hours)
Note that A stop to kiss the Blarney Stone will add an extra 45 minutes, but, besides the Cliffs of Moher, it is probably the most famous stop in Ireland
Killarney to Blarney Castle (1:30)
Read all about my pretend kiss at Blarney Castle below.
Blarney Castle to Kilkenny (2 Hours)
Kilkenny to Dublin (1:30)
While our itinerary might not be the perfect one for your – feel free to use it as a starting point. Maybe you want more time in Dublin. Or less time. Or maybe more time on the coast (which we didn’t focus on). Have you traveled around Ireland? Did you decide to drive? Did you find the ultimate road trip route? Let me know in the comments!