See the best of southwestern Ireland and Dublin on this self-driving tour through some of the Emerald Isle's best-loved counties. You'll discover Ireland's history in Adare and at Bunratty Castle, explore the spectacular Cliffs of Moher, wander the streets of Dingle, and view County Kerry's sparkling lakes and iconic green meadows. Before exploring Dublin's Trinity College and Grafton Street shops, you'll visit Cobh to sample local foods at The English Market and hear the bells of Shandon Steeple.

Highlights

  • See the majestic Cliffs of Moher and the Burren's unique karst landscape
  • Hear spoken Irish and visit medieval beehive huts on the Dingle Peninsula
  • Experience history and natural beauty as you drive the Ring of Kerry
  • Explore the Lakes of Killarney by boat and jarvey (horse and cart)
  • Raise a glass in Ireland's capital city, Dublin

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Welcome to Ireland! Arrive at Shannon Airport Adare
Day 2 The Cliffs of Moher and the Burren via the Wild Atlantic Way Adare
Day 3 Slea Head and the Dingle Peninsula Killarney
Day 4 The Ring of Kerry Killarney
Day 5 Lakes of Killarney - Boat Trip and Jarvey Ride Kinsale
Day 6 Cork City and Cobh Kinsale
Day 7 Kinsale to Dublin - The Grand Finale Dublin
Day 8 Best of Dublin - Guided Tour of The Capital Dublin
Day 9 Departure Day - Dublin Airport  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Welcome to Ireland! Arrive at Shannon Airport

Traditional Thatched Roof Cottage in Adare
Traditional Thatched Cottage, Adare

Your Irish adventure begins at Shannon Airport, where you'll pick up your rental car and head to Adare. Stop by Bunratty Castle on your way and get a taste of life in a 15th-century castle. If you're feeling energetic, tour the Desmond family's fortress at Adare Heritage Centre. Take some time to walk around Adare Village, said to be the prettiest village in Ireland.

Driving time: 45 minutes
Driving distance: 27 miles (43 km)

Day 2: The Cliffs of Moher and the Burren via the Wild Atlantic Way

The Burren
The Burren

Today you'll explore two entirely different landscapes, the iconic Cliffs of Moher and the stark Burren. Walk along the edge of the Cliffs of Moher and marvel at the view—and the 702-foot (214-meter) drop. Do a bit of birdwatching along the way, as over 20 species of seabirds make their homes at the Cliffs. Next, drive along the coastal Wild Atlantic Way to the Burren, a stretch of karst (limestone outcroppings) that will make you wonder whether you've entered an alien landscape. Go for a walk or stop at Doolin Cave for an underground adventure. If you're into ancient history, detour to the Poulnabrone Dolmen, which has stood guard over the Burren for over 5,600 years.

Driving time: 5.5 hours (stops not included)
Driving distance: 192 miles (308 km)

Day 3: Slea Head and the Dingle Peninsula

Slea Head on the Dingle Peninsula
Slea Head on the Dingle Peninsula

Today you'll head southwest to Killarney via the Dingle Peninsula, where many people speak Irish as their first language. Slea Head offers spectacular views of the coast as well as a glimpse of the Blasket Islands. As you head toward Dingle Town, stop at the Fahan Beehive Huts to view these medieval stone dwellings, and at Inch Strand, a 3-mile (5-kilometer) beach popular with surfers. In Dingle Town, you'll feel as though you've stepped back in time as you explore streets lined with colorful homes and shop buildings. Watch a master crystal cutter at work at family-owned Dingle Crystal, a short drive from downtown Dingle.

Driving time: 4 hours (not including stops)
Driving distance: 141 miles (228 km)

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Day 4: The Ring of Kerry

Ring of Kerry - Sheep
Ring of Kerry - Sheep

Lakes, mountains, dramatic coastlines, and lush green pastures dominate this landscape. County Kerry is a nature lover's paradise, but you'll find plenty of history here, too.  Drive to the Kerry Cliffs in Portmagee and the Skellig Experience Visitor Centre for views of the Skellig Islands and Puffin Island. Stop by Skelligs Chocolate to see chocolate-makers at work. As you head back toward Killarney, break your journey with a stop in Waterville, a fishing village that was one of Charlie Chaplin's favorite destinations, and Sneem, where you can explore an ancient ring fort or simply relax with a cup of tea. Before returning to your hotel, you'll visit Killarney National Park, a perfect destination for walkers, hikers, and history buffs.

Driving time: 4 hours (not including stops)
Driving distance: 114 miles (184 km)

Day 5: Lakes of Killarney - Boat Trip and Jarvey Ride

Ross Castle at Lough Leane, Lakes of Killarney
Ross Castle at Lough Leane, Lakes of Killarney

Many of Ireland's highest peaks provide a backdrop to the Emerald Isle's most famous lakes. This morning, you'll explore the lakes by boat, then ride in a jarvey (horse-drawn cart) through the Gap of Dunloe. You'll stop at two historic restaurants, Lord Brandon's Cottage, and Kate Kearney's Cottage, along the way.

After your Lakes of Killarney experience, you'll head southeast to Kinsale via Cork.

Driving time: 2 hours
Driving distance: 71 miles (115 km)

Day 6: Cork City & Cobh

Row Houses and Saint Colman's Cathedral, Cobh
Row Houses and Saint Colman's Cathedral, Cobh

Cork is one of Ireland's largest counties, and, because of the global Irish diaspora, you will often meet people with family history connections to the area. The town of Cobh was a port of mass migration as well as being the final berth of the Titanic on her ill-fated maiden voyage. Today you'll take a Best of Cork tour, visit Cork's famous English Market, and head to Cobh Heritage Center to learn about the Titanic disaster and the Irish emigration experience. Afterward, you'll visit the Jameson Distillery in Midleton to learn how this world-famous Irish whiskey is made.

Driving time: 2 hours (not including stops)
Driving distance: 72 miles (116 km)

Day 7: Kinsale to Dublin - The Grand Finale

Deer and U. S. Ambassador's Residence, Phoenix Park, Dublin
Deer and U. S. Ambassador's Residence, Phoenix Park, Dublin

Today we say goodbye to Kinsale and travel north to Dublin with some light touring along the way. You'll stop in County Laois to visit the Rock of Dunamase, the ruins of a 13th-century castle. On arrival in Dublin, you will visit the Guinness Storehouse. While driving through the city, your driver-guide will give you an overview of Dublin's history and point out Phoenix Park.

Driving time: 3.5 hours (not including stops)
Driving Distance: 181 miles (291 km)

Day 8: Best of Dublin - Guided Tour of The Capital

Trinity College, Dublin
Trinity College, Dublin

You will have one last day to experience Dublin. Tour Ireland's capital with a guide, who will take you on a three-hour walking tour, or at your own pace. In the evening, you'll attend an Irish "Hooley" night, where you will enjoy food, music, dancing, and entertainment.

Possible stops include:

  • Trinity College, the Book of Kells, and the Long Room
  • Dublin Castle, the center of British rule over Ireland and a Viking-era archaeological excavation site
  • Grafton Street, for any last-minute shopping
  • EPIC Ireland, to learn about Irish emigration in the world's first fully digital museum

Day 9: Departure Day - Dublin Airport

Return your rental car and depart from Dublin Airport.

Driving time: 30 minutes without traffic
Driving distance: 9 miles (15 km)

To see more top driving routes, check out kimkim's guide to Europe's top road trip itineraries.

Map

Map of Southwest Ireland Road Trip: Cliffs of Moher, Dingle, Ring of Kerry, Dublin - 9 Days
Map of Southwest Ireland Road Trip: Cliffs of Moher, Dingle, Ring of Kerry, Dublin - 9 Days
Garreth
Written by Garreth Cooke, updated Jun 17, 2020