Just over a month ago, I returned from the Ireland road trip of a lifetime. Me and three of my best friends from college rented a car and had seven days to conquer this beautiful country. This Ireland road trip is at the top of my favorite memories list.
We flew to Dublin after visiting London for three days, and picked up the rental car from Hertz at the Dublin airport. We had to quickly familiarize ourselves with driving on the opposite side of the car AND on the opposite side of the road. Fortunately for everyone, I was not our driver (I barely drive in Chicago!) The ‘designated driver’ friend did such a great job driving on the narrow, winding roads of Ireland.
I was so impressed and in awe of the Irish landscapes. It may rain a lot, but that doesn’t take any of the beauty away. It’s green, it’s lively and it’s worth a trip! I’d highly recommend renting your own car and exploring Ireland on your time and schedule. The huge benefit is that we got to spend as little or as much time as we wanted at the landmarks and in the towns we stopped in.
In short, we went from Dublin to Killarney to Galway and back to Dublin, but saw so much along the way. We marveled at the castles, beaches, and cliffs of Ireland. I became obsessed with this place from day one! Here is a more detailed list of our 9 stops:
I still find myself looking at pictures from this amazing Ireland road trip every single day, so I’m going to share a lot with you throughout this post.
You can’t go to Ireland and miss out on the capital! Dublin is a very friendly and walkable city with pubs and restaurants on every block. On our first day in Dublin, we did a tour of the Guinness Storehouse and visited a few historical pubs in the city. On the next day, we strolled around St. Stephen’s Green, Trinity College (the Long Room at the Old Library is quite the sight to see!) and we managed some shopping in between.
I also got to check my first international city off my ‘To-Go’ list!
2. Rock of Cashel
Our first stop after we hopped in the car from Dublin was to Cashel, County Tipperary, Ireland. It was only a two hour drive to this quaint, cute little town and historic site – Rock of Cashel. Taken from Wikipedia, “According to local mythology, the Rock of Cashel originated in the Devil’s Bit, a mountain 20 miles north of Cashel when St. Patrick banished Satan from a cave, resulting in the Rock’s landing in Cashel.”
Rock of Cashel is a great spot to kick off an Ireland road trip. I loved exploring the castle, gazing at the green landscapes, and walking around the colorful town.
3. Blarney Estate
A little over an hour from Rock of Cashel lives the Blarney Estate, where you can kiss the famous blarney stone and obtain the gift of gab! This was one of my favorite places and experiences. I could have spend a few hours walking around the estate, checking out the inside of the castle and visiting the poison garden. Unfortunately, we were on a time crunch to get into Killarney this night. But, we did have time to kiss the blarney stone! Luckily, the line wasn’t very long and it was an experience I’ll never forget!
Cork is only 8 kilometers from the Blarney Castle, so we figured we would stop by to check out another big city in Ireland. We didn’t stay in Cork very long, but it was very lively. We walked around and looked at the different shops and pubs. In all honesty, this is one stop that I didn’t care too much for. It’s probably because we didn’t give it a solid chance because we were so tired and ready to get to our hotel in Killarney. It was also pretty difficult for us to find parking in Cork.
5. Ring of Kerry
This was one of the most scenic drives ever! We left Killarney early in the morning and drove the entire Ring of Kerry. It took us about 7-8 hours total because we stopped a ton to take pictures. Our first stop was in Killarney National Park. It was the most perfect, enchanted Irish forest. I would have loved to hike to see more. Another highlight of this drive was Rossbeigh, a scenic, spacious beach. Other notable locations were Moll’s Gap and Valentia Island, one of Ireland’s most westerly points. Valentia Island is the true windy city! The Ring of Kerry deserves it’s own, separate post, but we will save that for another time!
Dingle was my most favorite little town we stopped in! It’s a tiny fishing town, known for it’s sea food. I was obsessed with the colorful streets and the small town feel. Many people we talked to recommended we stop in Dingle and I’m so glad they did! Dingle is a refreshing spot to take a break for lunch and chat with the locals and other tourists. I actually ran into a couple from Cincinnati here! Dingle is a must-stop for your Ireland road trip.
7. Slea Head Drive
The drive from Killarney up to the Cliffs of Moher was also very scenic! It can get a little dangerous with the fog and tiny, winding roads, so we didn’t do the whole thing. But again, so many spots to get out of the car and snap a few photos! It was full of more beaches, steep coastline cliffs and of course – the luscious green landscapes.
8. Cliffs of Moher
I can’t say enough about how amazing of a portrait the Cliffs of Moher create. We were incredibly lucky and arrived at the Cliffs of Moher when the sun decided to come out – possibly only the second time we saw the sun this entire time. It made for the most gorgeous scene. The way the sun was hitting the cliffs was just perfect. The Irish gods were definitely in our corner! The sun stayed out for us to enjoy the cliffs for about 30 minutes, then the fog rolled in and they completely disappeared. It was crazy. I’ll send some lucky charms your way for the same experience!
We had a long few days in the car by the time we had reached Galway after seeing the cliffs, so we took a break from the road and explored Galway by foot. Galway is a city that I can see myself living in some day. It was a welcoming city that I immediately felt comfortable in. The options for food, drinks and shopping are endless. You really can’t go wrong with any pub you step foot in! We’d know – we did a pub crawl one of the days and visited LOTS of pubs! There’s a pub with live music on every corner.
There you have the main points of our Ireland road trip. It’s an adventure I wish that everyone with a passion for travel can experience! Just check out how much ground we covered (not including our organized day trip to Northern Ireland):
If you are planning an Ireland road trip, I’d love to hear from you! Feel free to reach out and I can give some additional pointers.