The Best Ireland Road Trip Itineraries in 2023
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Are you looking for ideas for your next Ireland road trip? Well, you’re in the right place: we want to inspire you on the best itineraries in Ireland, best enjoyed with a car. We love jumping in a car and leaving Dublin to discover the countryside. All the following itineraries and car routes have been personally tried and tested multiple times by us. Don’t worry: we suggest where to sleep and applicable tours in the area if you’re up for something unique.
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Ireland road trip, a Dream!
Visiting Ireland by car is a dream for many travellers, fascinated by the opportunity to visit the Emerald Isle with tranquillity, reaching places that are not accessible by public transport and that require organisation and, often, adaptability. Ireland is a paradise for those who love road trips and those who like to stay in typical accommodations to make the most of the experience.
With its miles and miles of pristine coastline, incredible landscapes, ruins, and beaches that cut out a space under the cliffs, Ireland is easy to get around by car, but you must always use a GPS to avoid problems; also, take into consideration that very often the roads are so tight that you need to plan a few extra hours.
Whether you’re planning your Ireland trip or you’re just looking for information about Ireland, in this article, you’ll find insights on some of the most beautiful car routes in Ireland, those to be included during a classic tour or to be planned separately.
Is Ireland good for a road trip?
Yes, Ireland is an excellent destination for a road trip. It offers stunning landscapes, charming towns and villages, rich history, and many cultural experiences. Here are some reasons why Ireland is well-suited for a road trip:
- Scenic Beauty: Ireland is known for its breathtaking landscapes, from dramatic coastal cliffs like the Cliffs of Moher and the Ring of Kerry to picturesque countryside, rolling green hills, and serene lakes. Driving through the scenic routes allows you to take in the natural beauty at your own pace.
- Compact Size: Ireland is relatively small compared to other countries, making it easy to explore by road. You can cover a lot of ground quickly, allowing you to see diverse regions and attractions without spending excessive time on the road.
- Quaint Towns and Villages: Along your road trip, you’ll encounter numerous charming towns and villages, each unique. Places like Galway, Killarney, Dingle, and Kilkenny offer a blend of history, culture, traditional music, and warm hospitality.
- Historical and Cultural Sites: Ireland is steeped in history and offers a wealth of historical and cultural attractions. There’s much to discover, from ancient castles and ruins like Blarney Castle and Rock of Cashel to historic sites like Newgrange and the Book of Kells.
- Friendly Locals: Irish people are renowned for their friendliness and welcoming nature. You’ll likely have memorable interactions with locals in a pub, a small town, or along the way.
- Freedom and Flexibility: A road trip allows you to explore Ireland at your own pace. You can take detours, stop at scenic viewpoints, and discover hidden gems that might not be accessible by public transportation.
- Driving Experience: While the roads in Ireland can be narrow and winding, they offer a unique driving experience. For example, the Wild Atlantic Way and the Causeway Coastal Route provide thrilling drives along the coastline with stunning vistas.
It’s worth noting that driving in Ireland follows the left-hand side of the road, and some roads may be challenging for inexperienced drivers. However, with proper preparation, a road trip in Ireland can be an unforgettable adventure filled with natural beauty, cultural experiences, and warm hospitality.
Where should I go on a road trip in Ireland?
Once you’ve learned all about renting a car in Ireland and you’re ready to rent one, make sure you plan your itinerary well. These are the best Ireland road trip itineraries you should steal from us now.
Causeway Coastal Route
The route along the Causeway Coastal Route is among the most beautiful in Ireland, and it is no coincidence that very often, especially in summer and high season, it is flooded with cars and tourist buses. It connects Belfast to Derry through some of the many attractions that make you dream: the Giant’s Causeway, the Old Bushmills Distillery, The Gobbins, and the famous suspension rope bridge of Carrick-a-Rede, without forgetting the fantastic Dark Edges. It is also the road that crosses the locations where Game of Thrones has been filmed, and it is not unusual to run into signs reminiscent of the scenes of the television series, without forgetting the possibility of visiting some of them.
On this route, you’ll find impervious cliffs, golden beaches, and the nine peaks of the Glens of Antrim.
Wild Atlantic Way
The Wild Atlantic Way is a legendary coastal driving route stretching along Ireland’s western seaboard. It is one of the world’s longest-defined coastal routes, covering approximately 2,500 kilometres (1,550 miles) from County Donegal in the north to County Cork in the south. The Wild Atlantic Way is an awe-inspiring journey that showcases the untamed beauty of the Atlantic coastline, with its dramatic cliffs, pristine beaches, rugged landscapes, and charming coastal towns.
The route is an invitation to explore a diverse range of breathtaking landscapes. Majestic cliffs like Slieve League in Donegal, the Cliffs of Moher in Clare, and the iconic Skellig Cliffs in Kerry stand tall, providing stunning vistas over the crashing waves of the Atlantic Ocean. These vertigo-inducing precipices offer a sense of awe and a connection to the power of nature.
The Wild Atlantic Way also encompasses secluded bays and picturesque beaches that invite peaceful walks, refreshing swims, or simply a moment of tranquillity by the sea. From the sandy stretches of Inch Beach in Kerry to the hidden gems of Silver Strand in Mayo and Dog’s Bay in Galway, each beach holds its charm and offers an opportunity to unwind and soak in the coastal ambience.
Along the route, charming coastal villages and towns dot the coastline, each with unique character and warm hospitality. From the colourful houses of Dingle in Kerry to the vibrant music scene of Doolin in Clare, these communities offer a chance to immerse yourself in Irish culture, savour traditional music sessions, indulge in fresh seafood, and experience the warmth of the local people.
The Wild Atlantic Way is also a journey through history and heritage. Ruins of ancient castles, such as Dunluce Castle in Antrim and Dun Aonghasa on the Aran Islands, evoke the region’s rich history. The route is also dotted with archaeological sites, stone circles, and monastic ruins, providing glimpses into Ireland’s ancient past and spiritual traditions.
The Wild Atlantic Way offers outdoor enthusiasts a playground of adventure activities. From surfing in County Donegal and hiking in the Twelve Bens of Connemara to kayaking along the coastline and cycling through scenic landscapes, there are endless opportunities to engage with nature and challenge yourself in this rugged coastal setting.
The Wild Atlantic Way is a celebration of Ireland’s coastal wonders, where the Atlantic Ocean’s untamed beauty merges with the western seaboard’s captivating landscapes and rich cultural heritage. Whether you embark on a short section of the route or tackle the entire journey, the Wild Atlantic Way promises an unforgettable experience that immerses you in the raw power and timeless allure of the Atlantic coastline.
- We recommend booking a 4-Course Medieval Banquet at Dunguaire Castle if you are driving through the Wild Atlantic Way or The Burren: click here and book now. Limited availability;
- During your road trip to the Wild Atlantic Way, plan a visit to the Aran Islands: check this Aran Islands & The Cliffs Cruise departing from Doolin.
- This Cliffs of Moher 1-Hour Cruise from Doolin will allow seeing the Cliffs from a very different and fascinating perspective.
Ring of Kerry
The Ring of Kerry, located in County Kerry, Ireland, is a world-renowned scenic drive that offers a captivating journey through some of Ireland’s most breathtaking landscapes. This iconic 179-kilometre (111-mile) circular route takes you along the stunning coastline of the Iveragh Peninsula, showcasing rugged mountains, picturesque coastal villages, pristine beaches, and enchanting lakes.
The Ring of Kerry encompasses a myriad of natural wonders, each more awe-inspiring than the last. As you embark on this picturesque journey, you’ll encounter majestic mountain ranges, such as MacGillycuddy’s Reeks, Ireland’s highest peaks. The winding roads will lead you through lush valleys, where cascading waterfalls like Torc Waterfall and Bridia Valley Waterfall create a symphony of nature’s beauty.
The coastline along the Ring of Kerry is a panorama of dramatic cliffs, sandy beaches, and charming fishing villages. The Skellig Ring, a detour from the main route, offers breathtaking views of the Skellig Islands, a UNESCO World Heritage Site renowned for its rugged beauty and ancient monastic settlement. Derrynane Bay captivates visitors with its turquoise waters, golden sands, and the historic Derrynane House, once home to the famous Irish politician Daniel O’Connell.
Delightful coastal villages and towns are scattered along the route, providing opportunities to immerse yourself in local culture and hospitality. With its picturesque seafront and rich golfing heritage, Waterville has been a favourite retreat for celebrities and artists over the years. Sneem enchants visitors with its brightly coloured houses and tranquil harbour, while the charming village of Kenmare offers a delightful blend of boutiques, galleries, and cosy pubs.
The Ring of Kerry is also a treasure trove of historical and cultural sites. Ancient stone forts like Staigue Fort and Cahergall Fort offer a glimpse into Ireland’s ancient past. The mystical landscape of Killarney National Park, with its majestic lakes and woodlands, provides a serene retreat amidst nature’s splendour. Muckross House and Gardens, nestled within the park, offers a peek into the opulent lifestyle of Victorian-era Ireland.
The Ring of Kerry is a scenic drive and an experience that immerses you in Ireland’s beauty and heritage. As you traverse its winding roads and soak in the stunning vistas, you’ll be captivated by the ever-changing landscape and the rich tapestry of nature, history, and culture that define this iconic route.
- This 1-Hour Lakes of Killarney Boat Cruise will definitely complete your experience in the Ring of Kerry. Click and book now.
- Enjoy Killarney from a different perspective with this 1-Hour Jaunting Car Tour through the town. Click and book now.
The Copper Coast, located on the southern coast of Ireland’s County Waterford, is a stunning stretch of coastline that showcases the region’s geological heritage, rugged beauty, and prosperous mining history. This scenic area, designated as a UNESCO Global Geopark, offers visitors a captivating blend of dramatic cliffs, sandy beaches, charming seaside villages, and a glimpse into Ireland’s copper mining past.
The Copper Coast takes its name from the copper mines that once thrived in the region during the 19th century. Today, remnants of this industrial past can be explored, with old mine buildings, engine houses, and slag heaps as reminders of the area’s mining heritage. The geology of the Copper Coast is a testament to its significance, featuring dramatic cliffs, sea stacks, and caves formed by millions of years of volcanic and geological activity.
The coastline of the Copper Coast is a paradise for nature enthusiasts and outdoor adventurers. The rugged cliffs, towering above the crashing waves, offer mesmerising panoramic views of the sparkling Irish Sea. Hidden coves and pristine sandy beaches like Bunmahon and Stradbally provide opportunities for peaceful walks, sunbathing, and picnicking while the crystal-clear waters tempt swimmers, surfers, and kayakers.
The Copper Coast Geopark offers a range of walking and cycling trails that wind through the stunning landscape, allowing visitors to explore the area’s unique geology, flora, and fauna. The 25-kilometre-long Copper Coast Drive is a scenic route that hugs the coastline, providing breathtaking views and opportunities to stop at various points of interest.
As you journey along the Copper Coast, you’ll encounter picturesque seaside villages and towns that exude charm and character. Bunmahon, with its thatched cottages and long sandy beach, is a delightful spot to unwind and enjoy the coastal ambience. The vibrant town of Tramore, known for its lively beachfront and bustling promenade, offers a range of amenities, including restaurants, cafes, and amusement parks.
The Copper Coast is also a haven for wildlife, with seabirds nesting along the cliffs, seals basking on offshore rocks, and occasional sightings of dolphins and whales. It’s a paradise for birdwatchers and nature photographers, as the diverse habitats support many species.
For history enthusiasts, visiting the Copper Coast Mining Museum in Bunmahon provides a fascinating insight into the area’s copper mining legacy. Interactive displays, artefacts, and informative exhibits shed light on the miners’ lives and the industry’s impact on the region.
Whether you’re drawn to the geological wonders, outdoor adventures, coastal vistas, or rich history, the Copper Coast offers a captivating experience. Its raw natural beauty, cultural heritage, and warm coastal charm make it a destination that showcases the best of Ireland’s coastline and mining history.
Ards Peninsula, situated on the northeastern coast of Northern Ireland, is a hidden gem renowned for its unspoiled natural beauty, serene landscapes, and rich maritime heritage. Stretching out into the Irish Sea, this picturesque peninsula offers a tranquil escape where visitors can immerse themselves in a world of coastal charm and captivating scenery.
As you venture onto the Ards Peninsula, you’ll be greeted by a diverse landscape tapestry that seamlessly blends rugged coastlines, sandy beaches, rolling farmland, and quaint villages. The peninsula is home to many picturesque harbours, such as Portaferry and Strangford, where colourful fishing boats bob gently on the water, and a maritime atmosphere permeates the air.
The jewel in the crown of the Ards Peninsula is undoubtedly Strangford Lough, a vast tidal inlet designated as a Marine Nature Reserve. Its serene waters and diverse habitats provide wildlife enthusiasts, birdwatchers, and nature lovers a haven. Exploring the lough by boat or on foot allows you to witness the graceful flight of wading birds, spot seals basking on the sandbanks, and perhaps even catch a glimpse of the elusive otter.
The peninsula’s coastline is a source of endless fascination, with dramatic cliffs, hidden coves, and sandy beaches that beckon exploration. Ballywalter Beach, Millisle Beach, and Cloughey Bay offer stretches of golden sand where you can stroll along the shore, breathe in the salty sea air, and listen to the soothing sound of crashing waves.
The Ards Peninsula is also steeped in history, with traces of its rich heritage visible throughout the region. Ancient castles, such as Grey Abbey and Mount Stewart House, provide glimpses into the area’s historical past. The remains of abbeys, like the Nendrum Monastic Site, evoke a sense of spirituality and tranquillity. Additionally, the peninsula is dotted with charming villages and towns, each with its unique character and a warm welcome for visitors.
Food lovers will be delighted by the culinary offerings of the Ards Peninsula. Freshly caught seafood, locally sourced produce, and traditional Irish fare can be savoured in the region’s pubs, cafes, and restaurants. The peninsula’s coastal location ensures you can indulge in the freshest flavours, from succulent oysters to mouthwatering fish and chips.
Whether you’re seeking a peaceful retreat in nature, a journey through maritime history, or an opportunity to savour the coastal delights of Northern Ireland, the Ards Peninsula is a destination that captivates and rejuvenates. Its idyllic landscapes, rich heritage, and warm hospitality make it a hidden treasure waiting to be discovered.
The Dingle Peninsula, located on the southwestern coast of Ireland in County Kerry, is a place of enchantment and raw natural beauty. Jutting out into the Atlantic Ocean, this rugged stretch of land captivates visitors with its dramatic cliffs, pristine beaches, picturesque villages, and rich Gaelic heritage.
As you embark on a journey along the Dingle Peninsula, you’ll be greeted by breathtaking vistas at every turn. Towering cliffs, such as Slea Head and Dunmore Head, command awe and offer panoramic views of the wild Atlantic coastline. The crashing waves below create a symphony of sound, immersing you in the untamed power of nature.
One of the most notable features of the Dingle Peninsula is its stunning beaches. With its expansive stretch of golden sand, Inch Beach is a haven for surfers and beachcombers. Coumeenoole Beach, nestled at the foot of towering cliffs, presents a more secluded and mystical atmosphere. These beautiful coastal stretches invite leisurely walks, invigorating dips, or simply basking in the beauty of the surroundings.
The Dingle Peninsula is also home to vibrant and colourful towns and villages. With its charming harbour and brightly painted buildings, Dingle town exudes a welcoming atmosphere. It is renowned for its traditional Irish music, cosy pubs, and delightful seafood. As you explore the winding streets, you’ll encounter a tapestry of local shops, art galleries, and eateries infused with a warm sense of community and Irish hospitality.
The peninsula’s rich cultural heritage is evident in the numerous archaeological sites and ancient ruins that dot the landscape. Standing stones, stone circles, and beehive huts provide glimpses into Ireland’s ancient past, evoking a sense of mystery and wonder. Gallarus Oratory, a perfectly preserved early Christian church, is a testament to early Irish builders’ skill and craftsmanship.
The Dingle Peninsula is also a Gaeltacht, where the Irish language, or Gaelic, is spoken and celebrated. This linguistic heritage adds to the region’s unique character, with bilingual signs, traditional music sessions, and the lilting tones of the Irish language weaving a tapestry of cultural richness.
Whether you’re an outdoor enthusiast, a lover of Irish culture, or simply seeking solace in nature’s embrace, the Dingle Peninsula offers an unforgettable experience. Its breathtaking landscapes, rich history, and warm local hospitality create a destination that will leave an indelible mark on your heart and soul.
The Burren, located on the west coast of Ireland in County Clare, is a unique and mesmerising landscape that transports visitors to an otherworldly realm. Spanning approximately 250 square kilometres (97 square miles), the Burren is a place of striking contrasts, characterised by its rugged limestone terrain, vast expanses of rocky karst, and a surprising array of delicate wildflowers.
At first glance, the Burren may appear barren and bleak, with its vast stretches of exposed limestone slabs and craggy cliffs. However, this seemingly desolate landscape reveals a hidden world of immense beauty and biodiversity upon closer inspection. The limestone pavement, etched with deep crevices known as grikes, creates a labyrinthine network that invites exploration and discovery.
What makes the Burren genuinely extraordinary is its incredible diversity of flora. Against the stark limestone backdrop, various plant life, including rare and delicate wildflowers, thrives. During spring and summer, the Burren transforms into a tapestry of colours as orchids, gentians, primroses, and other rare species burst into bloom. This rich floral tapestry, flourishing in the most unlikely places, has earned the Burren the reputation of Ireland’s “fertile rock.”
The Burren is a haven for plant enthusiasts and home to a remarkable range of wildlife. The craggy crevices and hidden corners shelter unique species, such as the elusive pine marten and the endangered Irish hare. Peregrine falcons soar high above the limestone cliffs, while the haunting call of the cuckoo fills the air during the summer months.
Exploring the Burren offers an unforgettable adventure for outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers. Numerous walking trails and paths crisscross the region, inviting visitors to immerse themselves in its rugged beauty. From strolls to challenging hikes, routes are suitable for every fitness and interest level. As you wander through this ancient landscape, watch for the remnants of ancient tombs, stone forts, and monastic sites, a testament to the area’s rich cultural and historical heritage.
The Burren is a visual feast and a place of peace and tranquillity. Its quiet solitude and timeless beauty make it a perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Whether you’re an adventurer, a nature enthusiast, or a seeker of unique landscapes, the Burren is a place that will captivate your senses and leave an indelible impression of its haunting and ethereal charm.
Killarney National Park
Killarney National Park, located in County Kerry, Ireland, is a mesmerising natural haven that captivates visitors with its breathtaking beauty and diverse ecosystems. Encompassing an expansive area of approximately 102 square kilometres (25,000 acres), Ireland’s oldest and most renowned national park is celebrated for its stunning landscapes, ancient woodlands, serene lakes, and abundant wildlife.
One of the park’s most iconic features is its awe-inspiring lakes, comprising Lough Leane, Muckross Lake, and Upper and Lower Lake. The lakes, framed by majestic mountains and verdant forests, create a postcard-perfect scene that lingers in the memory. Taking a boat ride on these serene waters allows one to appreciate the tranquillity and soak in the captivating surroundings.
Killarney National Park is famous for its diverse flora and fauna. Within its boundaries, you’ll find ancient oak and yew woodlands, verdant meadows, and colourful rhododendron groves that add a touch of magic to the landscape. The park is a sanctuary for various plant species, including rare orchids and ferns, creating a haven for nature enthusiasts and botany lovers.
The park is also home to a thriving population of wildlife. Red deer, Ireland’s largest land mammal, roam freely throughout the park’s meadows and woodlands. Visitors may be lucky to glimpse these magnificent creatures in their natural habitat. The park is also a haven for birdwatchers, with species like the white-tailed eagle, peregrine falcon, and various waterfowl gracing the skies.
Aside from its natural wonders, Killarney National Park has a rich history and cultural heritage. Nestled within the park is Muckross House, an elegant 19th-century mansion that offers a glimpse into Ireland’s past. Its beautifully landscaped gardens provide a tranquil setting for strolls. Additionally, the park is dotted with ancient archaeological sites, including impressive stone circles and ring forts, which add an air of mystery and intrigue.
Exploring Killarney National Park can be done through a well-maintained walking and cycling trails network. The most popular route is the Ring of Kerry, a scenic drive that skirts the park’s edges, offering breathtaking vistas at every turn.
Whether you’re seeking serenity amidst nature, an immersive wildlife experience, or a glimpse into Ireland’s past, Killarney National Park is a must-visit destination. Its captivating landscapes, enchanting lakes, and abundant biodiversity make it a true gem that showcases the best of Ireland’s natural beauty.
How long would a road trip around Ireland take?
The duration of a road trip around Ireland can vary depending on several factors, including the specific route, the number of stops, the pace of travel, and personal preferences. However, we can provide a rough estimate based on a typical itinerary.
For a comprehensive trip that allows you to explore the major attractions and scenic routes in Ireland, a suggested duration would be around 10 to 14 days. This timeframe would provide ample time to drive along the coastal roads, visit popular destinations, and immerse yourself in the country’s rich culture and history.
To give you a better idea, here’s a sample itinerary for a 10-day road trip around Ireland:
Day 1: Arrival in Dublin
Day 2: Dublin sightseeing
Day 3: Dublin to Galway
Day 4: Galway and Connemara National Park
Day 5: Galway to Killarney via the Cliffs of Moher
Day 6: Ring of Kerry
Day 7: Killarney to Cork via Blarney Castle
Day 8: Cork to Waterford via Kilkenny
Day 9: Waterford to Kilkenny to Dublin
Day 10: Departure from Dublin
Of course, you can customise this itinerary based on your preferences and include additional stops or detours. Remember that Ireland’s roads can be narrow and winding, so allowing extra time for driving and exploring is essential.
Remember to check current road conditions, consider the time of year you’re travelling (some attractions may have limited accessibility during winter), and plan your accommodations to ensure a smooth and enjoyable road trip experience.
What is the best month to road trip Ireland?
The best month for a road trip in Ireland largely depends on your preferences and what you hope to experience during your trip. Here’s a breakdown of the weather and events throughout the year to help you make an informed decision:
- Summer Months (June to August): This is the peak tourist season in Ireland, as the weather is generally mild, and there are longer daylight hours. The average temperatures range from 15°C to 20°C (59°F to 68°F). However, remember that summer can be busy, and popular tourist attractions may be crowded.
- Spring Months (April to May) and Autumn Months (September to October): These transitional seasons offer milder weather and fewer crowds than summer. The temperatures range from 10°C to 15°C (50°F to 59°F). Springtime brings blooming flowers and lush green landscapes, while autumn showcases beautiful foliage. It’s worth noting that rainfall is pretty standard during these months.
- Winter Months (November to February): The winter season in Ireland is characterised by colder temperatures ranging from 4°C to 10°C (39°F to 50°F). While the weather may be chillier, there’s a certain charm to exploring Ireland during this time. You’ll experience fewer crowds and a chance of encountering dramatic coastal storms and misty landscapes. However, some attractions and accommodations may have reduced hours or be closed for the season.
It’s essential to be prepared for unpredictable weather in Ireland, regardless of the season. Rain showers can occur anytime, so packing layers, waterproof clothing, and sturdy shoes is advisable. Also, please remember that daylight hours are shorter in the winter, limiting the time for sightseeing.
If you prefer milder weather and longer days, the summer months are a popular choice. However, if you prefer fewer crowds and don’t mind the possibility of cooler temperatures and occasional rain, the spring and autumn months can be great alternatives. Ultimately, the best month for a road trip in Ireland depends on your personal preferences and what experiences you prioritise during your visit.
Ireland road trips are absolutely incredible!
Get ready for your Irish road trip and enjoy the best time of your life. If you’re looking for more information on Ireland, for customized image lazy photo tours and packages get in touch via email: we’re here to assist you in planning and finding the best things to do in Ireland. Subscribe to our newsletter to receive free exclusive travel to Ireland content!Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links, which means that we may receive a small commission, at no cost to you, if you make a purchase through a link.