A few years ago, we traveled to Ireland along with three friends to celebrate my 30th birthday. It was one of our first trips that required planning (no tour guides, no cruise ship, etc.).
We were pretty ambitious and squeezed a lot of sightseeing into those 6 days, but it was well worth it. Hopefully our Ireland itinerary will help you see as much of this beautiful country as you can in less than a week!
Day 1 – Arrive in Shannon / Aran Islands / Galway
We flew into the Shannon airport just before 9:00 am and rented our cars for the week to come. With 5 people we definitely needed 2 cars. The cars are pretty small and have limited trunk space for luggage!
From there, we headed straight to the Doolin Pier to catch a ferry to Inis Oirr, the smallest of the Aran Islands.
We choose this island mostly to see the Plassey shipwreck, but there other attractions as well. Any of the Aran Islands would probably be a great choice.
In the late afternoon, we drove to Galway to check into Flannery’s Hotel. After changing, we headed into town for dinner and then a lively evening in a local pub.
Day 2 – The Burren / Cliffs of Moher
Did you know you can go caving in Ireland? This was a unique adventure we found when researching the trip and we couldn’t resist.
The underground caves are located in “The Burren,” about a one and half hour drive from Galway. We met our guide in the town of Lisdoonvarna and followed him to the remote location. From there, we geared up in waterproof suits, high boots, and helmets. Then we headed underground through a small opening in the middle of a forest.. seriously!
After our caving adventure, we headed to one of the most popular spots in Ireland: the Cliffs of Moher. Allocate at least a couple hours to hike along the cliffs and check out O’Brien’s Tower, the highest point of the Cliffs of Moher.
On the way back to Galway, we had two more stops in mind. The first was a little tricky to find as we had limited directions (8 miles south of Ballyvaughan). Fortunately, we were still able to find Poulnabrone dolmen, the oldest megalithic tomb in Ireland.
The last stop of the day (before heading back to Galway for dinner and drinks) was Dunguaire Castle. We didn’t go inside but I’ve read that you can attend a medieval banquet in the evening with costumes, live performers, and themed food!
Day 3 – Killarney
While WC’s favorite town in Ireland was Galway, mine was the next stop: Killarney. The drive from Galway takes several hours so you may want to plan some stops along the way (consider Bunratty Castle or King John’s Castle). We opted to head straight for Killarney, however, and drove straight to the Randles Court Hotel (our favorite hotel of the trip). From there, we headed to the Killarney Riding Stables to begin exploring the countryside on horseback.
The next stop in Killarney was Torc Waterfall. You can view the waterfall from the bottom or hike a hundred or so steps to the top to get a view of Killarney National Park.
Ross Castle is the next sight to see and why not take a horse and carriage to get there? The carriages leave from the edge of downtown Killarney.
Along the way, you’ll get a look at Muckross House. This 19th century Victorian mansion can be toured, but we opted to just see it from the outside.
Time will be limited by this point so you’ll want to get ready for dinner and head into downtown Killarney for the evening. The town is adorable and there are plenty of pubs and restaurants to choose from.
Day 4 – Ring of Kerry
Some people recommend saving a few days for the Ring of Kerry alone. We didn’t have that luxury but – with some planning – you can see a lot of the Ring in one day!
TIP: For our detailed 1-day Ring of Kerry Itinerary, click here!
If you head counter-clockwise along the ring, your first big stop will be Cahergall Stone Fort.
The next stop is only minutes away and you won’t want to miss it! Ballycarbery Castle is the most picturesque castle we’ve ever seen with it’s ivy-covered walls and barren surroundings.
We’ve read that it has since been closed to the public, so there is a chance you might have to see it from a distance.
The remaining stops on your day trip around the Ring of Kerry include: Ballingskellings Castle, Ballinskelligs Abbey, and Loher Stone Fort. You’ll also want to factor in time in case you want to just stop and enjoy the scenery (or the sheep)!
Day 5 – Blarney Castle / Dublin
We got on the road early from Killarney to make our way to Dublin, but we had to make at least one stop along the way. Blarney Castle is another famous spot in Ireland and we couldn’t pass up the chance to “kiss the Blarney stone!”
We had a whole list of possible activities for when we arrived in Dublin, but we ended up only having time to visit the Guinness factory.
Day 6 – Northern Ireland
You could definitely continue your road trip to Northern Ireland, but we decided to take a break from the driving and join a bus tour. We used Paddywagon Tours and the first stop was a film scene from Game of Thrones: the Dark Hedges.
Next, we headed to the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge in Ballintoy. This is a must-do, even if you’re afraid of heights!
The final (and best, IMO) stop is the Giant’s Causeway. If you are driving yourself, make sure you allow at least a few hours for this spot. There is a breathtaking hike that is well worth allocating the extra time.
After the long day on the bus, you’ll head back to Dublin for one last dinner and night at the pubs. Make sure to visit the Brazen Head – it was our favorite!
Day 7 – Depart from Ireland
Our final day was certainly a sad one. We were up bright and early to return our rental car and catch a flight home from the Dublin airport.
What Did We Miss?
Of course, we always wish we had more time in every place we go. There are a few things we wanted to do and couldn’t, but I guess that just means we’ll have to return?! If you have more time, you might want to squeeze in these extra stops:
- Rock of Cashel
- Skellig Islands
- Jameson Distillery
- Kylemore Abbey
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