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Ireland Itinerary 7 days: A one week Ireland road trip
The effects of potatoes on history, beer the color of chocolate, rolling green hills and some of the friendliest people on the planet.
I can only be talking about one place; Ireland. This island is a coveted travel destination for many people and it is clear to see why. There is so much to do and see that it is often hard to narrow down your choices of where to visit.
We had a one week trip to Ireland in mind but weren’t sure exactly what we could see in that timeframe.
Planning An Ireland Trip
^Planning what to do in Ireland for a week? Don’t Forget To Pin It!^
You could easily spend months traveling throughout Ireland and still not see everything! Therefore, before you get knee-deep into planning, figure out your priorities and timeline. After much collaborating with our travel buddies for the week in Ireland (my parents), here is what we were able to narrow down for what we personally thought would make the perfect Ireland itinerary:
- We knew we had about one week total for Ireland (How much time do you have? This will greatly impact where you will end up going)
- We wanted a good mix of history, scenery and local culture (This helped determine what stops and locations we would go to)
- We wanted to see the famous sites, yet stay away from too many “touristy spots/ traps” (This influenced what places to skip)
- We wanted to see as much as possible without feeling rushed or stuck in a car more than at the sites
Based on our “Wants” for the trip, I think we actually nailed the perfect Ireland one week road trip (Thanks, Ma for your help planning!). There is honestly very little that I would have changed looking back. I believe we were able to achieve all of our wants and had an amazing time seeing the Green Isle.
Note: This is JUST a South Ireland itinerary. While we would have LOVED to have included Northern Ireland (and many people do in a 1 week Ireland itinerary), we felt like that would have rushed some of the other sites that we would have wanted to have seen or just crammed too much into our trip and we REALLY wanted this to be an enjoyable (not stressful) vacation! Besides, it just means we’ll have to return for another adventure!
Getting To Ireland
There are many airports that you can fly in and out of in Ireland, but we chose Dublin for both entry and exit, and the purpose of this itinerary, is the start and endpoint. Feel free to adapt that for your purposes. (We were also able to arrive by mid-morning, giving us that whole afternoon to get a head start on our Irish Adventures!)
Getting Around Ireland
There are many horror stories about driving in Ireland. Between the outrageous insurance fees, teeny-tiny roads, sheep traffic jams and driving on the opposite side of the road, it is easy to see why driving in Ireland can be intimidating.
However, we knew that our 1 week in Ireland was going to take us to places that were hard (or long) to get to by public transportation and that renting a car was going to be a necessity for us.
Despite the rumors and fear, we rented a car at the Dublin airport, paid just a little over $100 for a whole week (not including gas) and had a great time; no rearview mirror left behind! Read more about car rentals in my Tips Before Planning a Trip to Ireland.
By Bus or Tain:
The other popular way to get around Ireland (Especially for backpackers) is by bus. However, with our group, it just made so much more sense to just get a car. While there are trains in Ireland, they aren’t going to get you to some of the smaller places, so for us, we knew that was out as well.
Where To Stay:
Below you’ll see my personal recommendations of not only what towns and places we stopped at but also what B&Bs we stayed at. However, if you want to do some price shopping, I find Booking to be my favorite place to compare reviews and prices (and they have B&Bs, too!)
Your Complete 7 day Ireland Itinerary
Day I: Drive to the County Meath
Starting in Dublin, we took the short, 1 hour drive to County Meath to start our trip.
After spending the afternoon at Newgrange and really enjoying it, I was really surprised that it was rare to find Newgrange in another 7 days in Ireland itinerary, but I was so glad we had it on ours! And it made the perfect “Off the beaten path” start to our trip as well, since it wasn’t overrun with tourists!
Newgrange is a 5,000 (yes Five THOUSAND) year old megalith! Due to the fact that this structure pre-dates even the Egyptian pyramids, it is shrouded in countless theories of why it exists (one theory being an ancient tomb or temple).
Unlike its megalithic cousin, Stonehenge, you can actually still get inside Newgrange, making it a unique, interesting and almost other-worldly experience.
The photos (classic dreary fall day!) don’t really do Newgrange justice, but we all found it to be a worthwhile and fascinating stop.
Stay in Navan
From Newgrange, we drove over to Navan, still in County Meath to spend the night.
Despite all the articles and books we read about the best music and pubs being on the West coast, we ended up all agreeing that Navan was actually one of the most memorable and enjoyable from our entire week in Ireland! Since Navan is not a big touristy spot, the “band” we saw (an impromptu jam session with violins, fiddles and more) was authentic and genuine!
Day II: Trim Castle and Cliffs of Moher
Day II Morning
Start your day by driving to Trim Castle.
Having lived in Europe for 6 years, we had seen our fair share of castles. However, I was glad we did not gloss this one over! Because the castle is still very much intact, you can wander all around the grounds, including a very well done tour inside. It also doesn’t hurt that you can re-enact your favorite moments from Braveheart, which had several scenes filmed at the castle
Day II Afternoon: Head West to the Cliffs of Moher and the Burren
It will take several hours to drive to the West coast of Ireland (a little over 3 hours, give or take and pending stops).
Stop In The Burren
As you get into County Clare, you will be in The Burren. Appreciate your surroundings and if you want or have time, walk around and enjoy the ancient rocky landscape. If you skipped Trim Castle, you should definitely get out and do at least one walk (or horse ride!)
Make your way to the Cliffs of Moher
Absolutely no itinerary of Ireland would be complete without at least a mention of the stunning Cliffs of Moher. The sheer cliffs plummetting into the sea below are truly beautiful. But, since you can’t find a guide book or blog that doesn’t recommend this stop, you probably know what that means: Throngs of tourists! This is one of the few places that was very touristy that we still decided to keep on our 1 week in Ireland itinerary and I’m glad we did.
If you are visiting the Cliffs of Moher in the summer, high tourist times (June-August) just be prepared for plenty of other people marveling at the beauty with you.
However, we either hit the Cliffs of Moher jackpot, or had it timed perfectly, but either way, we arrived in the afternoon (despite all the reports saying to go as early in the morning as possible) in October and while I wouldn’t dare say we had the place to ourselves, we definitely were not elbowed to elbow with others and really enjoyed our time at the cliffs.
Note: There are legit signs warning of winds up on the cliffs causing deaths (falls from cliffs) and you ARE in Europe after all, which means no rails….just common sense! If there are high winds, do not take these precautions lightly.
How much time to spend at Cliffs of Moher
How much time you need at the cliffs depends on what you want to do. You can walk the whole path, which would require several hours or go any short distance you want, which could result in maybe spending an hour. There is also a well-done visitor’s center, which I highly recommend spending at least a short while in.
Stay in Doolin
We found a cute B&B about 10 minutes down the road from the Cliffs of Moher in Doolin.
Even despite a full and busy day, we still enjoyed going into Doolin for some pub grub and to check out the local life.
Where we Stayed in Doolin: Atlantic View B&B
Day IV: Make your way to the Dingle Peninsula via Conor Pass
Many people flock straight to the Ring of Kerry on their trip to Ireland. While not as “secret” or “off the beaten path” as it once was, we actually opted for the Dingle Peninsula instead of the Ring of Kerry. If you have more time, you could actually combine these two iconic drives. We chose Dingle over Ring of Kerry for several reasons:
- The town of Dingle is supposed to be full of life and have plenty “real” Irish pubs with traditional Gaelic music
- After much research, it looked like as far as scenery to be viewed, the Ring of Kerry wasn’t that much different than Dingle
- While Dingle has plenty of tourists, we wouldn’t have to fight the traffic and tour busses along tiny, narrow winding roads of the Ring of Kerry
You have a few options for getting to the Dingle peninsula, one of the most spectacular being Conor Pass.
The Conor Pass is one of the highest mountain passes in Ireland, so it can get a little white knuckle driving at times. But, truth be told, it is really not that bad and the effort is greatly rewarded with fantastic views and a wonderful entrance into Dingle.
Since no buses, caravans, trucks, or even camp vans are allowed on the road, you won’t be fighting off too much traffic. However, do note that it can get quite narrow (especially at the top) with one-lane roads. Just take your time, use the pullouts, and watch for sheep around the bends!
Dingle Peninsula Drive
By the time we arrived to the Peninsula, we only had time to do half of the ring drive (Slea Head).
Instead of just driving willy nilly, we decided to follow the route and descriptions in Rick Steve’s Ireland guidebook to help give us context to what we were seeing. I really think this was the way to go! We got to really embrace and learn about the whole Penninsula as opposed to just being able to view it. This did mean it took a bit more time for the drive, but it was SO worth it!
Day IV Evening: Check out the “nightlife”
Dingle is supposedly one of the best places in all of Ireland to be apart of traditional Irish music and culture. We spent the evening “pub crawling” to enjoy various bands and brews (I use that term quite loosely, as we are not partiers….and were with our parents!). We asked our B&B hosts what pubs they recommended for the best music and food, so we simply just stopped into a few to see what each had to offer and really enjoyed our evening exploring the pubs!
Where we stayed in Dingle: Brownes B&B (The hosts were amazing!! Even offered to take and bring us back from town!)
Day V: Rest of Dingle Peninsula
The rest of the Dingle Peninsula can be seen today. You’ll be spending a lot of time in the car, but it will be driving the beautiful ring. So, be sure to make plenty of stops along the way to fully enjoy the scenery around you.
We enjoyed making the Blasket Island Visitor Center apart of our day along the Dingle Peninsula drive. It gave great insight into the struggles the Irish have had to overcome throughout the centuries. If you are of Irish descent, it is especially worth your time as there is a great section on the immigration of the Irish to the United States.
Once again, in the evening, enjoy the music (which often doesn’t start until 10:30pm!) and have a few more beers at one of the many pubs.
Day VI: Killarney to Blarney and Cork
Today, you’ll drive from Dingle to Killarney.
On the way to Killarney, we stopped at the Muckross House, set just outside the Killarney National Park. This was a picture-perfect place to take a break from the car. You can either just walk the beautiful grounds and walk to the waterfall, or also take the tour of the House if you have the time.
After viewing the Victorian styled estate, head over to their Muckross Traditional Farms; a fascinating glimpse into how people used to live in Ireland as early as the 1920s. This living museum has time-period actors ready to give you more details on the hardships of life as well as the fascinating jobs they did to accomplish their daily chores. While the Muckross house itself was gorgeous, the living farms was actually an amazing insight into a time gone by.
Alright, I have a confession to make. We drove to Blarney (on our way to Cork). We even stopped for lunch. Shoot, we even STAYED in Blarney!
But we did not actually go to the castle!!!
I know, I know. “How!? Why not!?” You might ask
Well, remember above where we made our list of what we wanted on our perfect Ireland in a week itinerary? Remember how we said we didn’t want to do extremely touristy things? Yeah….this was one of them (The Muckross House was MUCH less touristy!) Also, a requirement for us was to not feel rushed on our trip. Adding the castle to this day is totally possible, but would have crammed more into a day than what we simply wanted. As mentioned previously, I’ve seen a lot of castles and I didn’t exactly love the idea of kissing a rock that thousands of other tourists have just put their mouths on.
Now, will I judge you if you do? HECK NO! If you’ve always wanted to Kiss the Blarney Stone, go kiss to your heart’s content!!!
Where we stayed in Blarney: Blarney Vale B&B
Day VII: North to Cahir and onto Dublin
As we started to make our way back toward Dublin, we made a few pit stops. First, we went to the Cahir Castle; a beautifully ruined but restored stone fort.
Stop at the Swiss Cottage
If you’ve read my tips on Ireland and have bought the Heritage Pass, the Swiss Cottage (just minutes by car from the castle) is worth a short stop. If you have passed on the pass, it probably is not worth the extra cost.
Rock of Cashel
Get one last castle in for the day by stopping at the Rock of Cashel. This towering complex isn’t actually a castle, but with its beautiful stone structures and amazing history, you feel like medieval royalty walking the grounds. Here, it is said that St. Patrick had one of his most important conversions to Catholicism in Ireland with the King of Munster.
There are many legends surrounding St. Patrick’s Cross, depending on which tour guide you have that day. Some say if you can wrap your arms around the cross, you will never suffer another hangover. Others claim that it will prevent you from never having any future dental issues. Some believe that if you are single and perform a special ritual around the cross, you will quickly find marriage. Hey, it’s all worth a try, right??
Despite the myths and legends, you do not want to miss this beautiful complex of 12-century buildings.
Finish up your day by settling into Dublin for the evening.
Day VII: Sightsee Dublin
Many people may argue with me, but I felt that Dublin could be seen within a day. That’s not to say that you can’t enjoy it in more time, but I felt like we were able to hit up the main sights comfortably in a day.
As always, we love the free walking tours in major cities. Sandeman’s New Europe Dublin tour was one of the best that we have had yet. We were able to hit almost all of the major sites in Dublin plus get the fascinating history of the bloody past of Ireland as well. This tour lasted over 4 hours and is all walking, but was highly worth it.
In the afternoon, there is no shortage of liquor. You can head to one of the world’s most famous breweries: Guinness or go to the Old Jameson Distillery. (Note: if doing the walking tour (or really only do have 1 full day in Dublin), then plan accordingly. If you take the walking tour, you’ll need to jet over to Guinness or Jameson, as the last tour is in the early evening)
Once again, you can now head to any of the pubs in Dublin for some last tastes of Irish Brew and stew.
Where we stayed in Dublin: Shantalla Lodge B&B (note: this is not IN the city center, but there is a bus stop literally right outside the home. This was one of our favorite B&Bs the entire trip, so it was worth the short bus ride into the center)
Where To Stay in Dublin
Ireland in 7 Days
While one week in Ireland probably isn’t nearly enough to REALLY see this beautiful country in all its glory, I will say that it felt like just the perfect amount of time for an introduction. We got to see everything on our list and didn’t feel rushed at all.
Ireland is a wonderful mix of cities, towns, history, and nature. No matter what kind of traveler you are, you are bound to find something to love about Ireland.
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