Combine the energetic capitals of Ireland and Northern Ireland with beautifully wild coastal adventures and remote island-hopping day trips on this well-rounded eight-day self-drive discovery. You'll go from the historical streets of Dublin to buzzing Belfast and on to the castles, waterfalls, and magnificent scenery of Antrim. Leave the mainland behind to explore the traditional islands of Rathlin and Islay—which lies in the Scottish Hebrides—before ultimately returning to Dublin.


  • Take the Kintyre Express over to Scotland's Isle of Islay
  • Go waterfall chasing in beautiful Antrim
  • Explore the thriving cities of Dublin and Belfast 
  • Walk on the UNESCO-listed Giant's Causeway 

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Dublin, Historical Walking Tour, Whiskey Tasting Dublin
Day 2 Drive to Belfast & Explore the City, Cave Hill Walk Belfast
Day 3 The Causeway Coast, Giant's Causeway Ballycastle
Day 4 Rathlin Island Day Trip Ballycastle
Day 5 Isle of Islay (Scotland) Day Trip Ballycastle
Day 6 The Waterfalls of Antrim, Louth Carlingford
Day 7 Back to Dublin for a Free Afternoon  Dublin
Day 8 Dublin's Great Cathedrals & Churches, Guinness Storehouse, Depart  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Dublin, Historical Walking Tour, Whiskey Tasting

Dublin city - old bridge and colorful riverside houses
Begin your Irish adventure in beautiful Dublin 

A very warm welcome to Ireland! On arrival at Dublin Airport, you'll pick up your rental car, drive to your hotel in the city, and take time to settle in. Later, head off on a historical walking tour with a local guide. Dublin has a fascinating history, dating back to the Norman invasion in the 12th century and perhaps even earlier. The tour will go into the heart of the Medieval Quarter, where the 1,000-year-old Christ Church Cathedral can be found. Discover the 18th-century architecture of Georgian Dublin, which peppers the city and can be seen in its most impressive form at Dublin Castle.

Afterward, it's time to sample one of Ireland's most beloved exports on a one-hour tasting tour at the Jameson Distillery. Sip premium whiskeys exclusive to this distillery and peek into the office of John Jameson himself (known locally as JJ), the founder of this company that has become the world's bestselling Irish whiskey.

Day 2: Drive to Belfast & Explore the City, Cave Hill Walk

Aerial view of Belfast Castle
Take on the Cave Hill Walk from Belfast Castle

Today, drive across the border to Northern Ireland's thriving capital city of Belfast and explore either with a guided Black Cab Tour or a relaxed self-guided wander. A good place to start is the Cathedral Quarter, where you can stroll through the streets and take your pick of places for lunch or coffee. Admire the gardens at City Hall, go back in time at the Titanic Exhibition, or learn about the country's recent history with a visit to the Peace Wall.

In the afternoon, take a spin just north of the city to Cave Hill Country Park to tackle the Cave Hill Walk—a two-hour, 4.5-mile (7.2 km) trail. Park up at Belfast Castle for this steep circular route; your reward will be unbeatable panoramic views of Belfast and its coastline.

After a busy day of sightseeing, make for the Duke of York Bar with its Victorian snugs, or try Kelly's Cellars—a historic bar with traditional music. For dinner, there's Howard Street Restaurant—youthful and occasionally loud, this bare-brick temple is typical of Belfast and serves excellent meals. Or, if you're in the mood for a fish supper at excellent value, you can't beat John Long's Fish & Chips.

Day 3: The Causeway Coast, Giant's Causeway

Explore the Giant's Causeway on today's route
Explore the Giant's Causeway on today's route

Get ready for some magnificent scenery today as you head into the far north Causeway Coast, one of the most beautiful parts of Northern Ireland. Take the opportunity to stop and explore many sites along the way, including Dunluce Castle, the scenic cliffs of Fairhead, Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, the Mussenden Temple, and the UNESCO World Heritage site of Giant's Causeway—a rock formation of about 40,000 interlocking basalt columns that create a geometric pattern.

Traveling from Belfast to the Antrim Coast, you can also take an alternative route through the Dark Hedges at Armoy to live out your "Game of Thrones" fantasies. From there, continue to your choice of accommodation, like the lively Fullerton Arms in Ballycastle, with its music, bar, restaurant, and bed all under one roof. While the Giant's Causeway is a unique daytime tourist experience, those who stay the night here can head down to the seashore for a spectacular sunset free of crowds.

Day 4: Rathlin Island Day Trip

A wild headland on Rathlin Island
Take a ferry ride to explore the wild landscapes of Rathlin Island
Ballycastle is a brilliant base for remote island-hopping. Today, board a ferry and travel across to Rathlin Island. This small island is the closest point to Scotland, and it's home to just 150 people. Yet there are many attractions, particularly for walkers, bird-watchers, and those looking for a taste of Irish history. Explore Rathlin's high cliffs, three lighthouses, and stunning beaches, and keep a lookout for seals and seabirds—including the thousands of puffins that call the island home from April to July.

Day 5: Isle of Islay (Scotland) Day Trip

Whisky barrels in front of the sea on Islay
Pop over to Scotland for seafood and whiskey tasting 

Catch the Kintyre Express—a tiny, fast passenger ferry—to Scotland's Isle of Islay, a stunning island on the so-called "Whisky Coast" (whiskey is spelled without an "e" in Scotland) and part of the Southern Hebrides. In the summer season, the island is easily accessible from Ballycastle, making it an easy trip.

Islay is probably best known for its peaty and smokey whiskies, and some are considered the best in the world. In fact, nine working distilleries use peat cut from the moss lands to give "Islay malts" their distinct flavors. Sláinte! Even if whiskey is not your favorite drink, Islay still promises an amazing experience with its birdlife, seafood, and dramatic coastal seascapes. 

Day 6: The Waterfalls of Antrim, Louth

Dunseverick Falls running into the Atlantic Ocean
At Dunseverick Falls, the waters flow into the Atlantic Ocean

Driving along the Antrim Coast is a treat in itself, and stopping to explore the many waterfalls along this route is a must. Highlights include the 30-foot-high (9 m) Glenoe Waterfall, reached by an enchanting walk through a wooded glen; Cranny Falls near the quiet seaside village of Carnlough; and Dunseverick Falls, where the waters flow into the Atlantic Ocean.

Plan your trip to Ireland
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
Then it's south back into Ireland and coastal Louth, known as "The Wee County" due to its small size. Take in the narrow hilly streets of Drogheda, gaze up at the towering Saint Laurence's Gate, visit majestic Millmount Fort, and—prepare yourself for a touch of the macabre—see the severed head of 17th-century saint Oliver Plunkett in St Peter's Church. Explore the pretty fishing villages of Termonfeckin and Clogherhead, then stop off at the crumbling Castle Roche. You will overnight in the lively town of Carlingford—be sure to visit the impressive King John's Castle during your stay.

Day 7: Back to Dublin for a Free Afternoon

An old red pub in Dublin's Temple Bar
Stroll the cobblestone streets of Temple Bar 
Back in Dublin, you have time to explore the city in more depth. If the weather is nice, take a stroll around tranquil Saint Stephen's Green and end your walk along Grafton Street for a little retail therapy. Delve into the historic campus of Trinity College and stop to see the famous Book of Kells, which dates back to 800 CE, then perhaps grab lunch at The Church Café, located in a 17th-century church. Temple Bar is at the heart of the city, filled with a buzz only felt in Ireland. In the evening, wander the cobblestone streets and follow the sound of traditional music wafting from the pubs and restaurants.

Day 8: Dublin's Great Cathedrals & Churches, Guinness Storehouse, Depart

The exterior of Christ Church Cathedral in Dublin
Spend a final morning visiting Dublin's churches and cathedrals

Dublin has a long and diverse religious history, and each of its churches and cathedrals has its own story. This morning, take time to head inside the likes of Christ Church Cathedral, St Patrick's Cathedral (Dublin's largest cathedral with magnificent stained glass windows), and the beautiful Franciscan Church of the Immaculate Conception—known as "Adam and Eve's" due to its beginnings in the back of an inn of the same name! 

End your time on the Emerald Isle by quaffing a frothy pint of its most popular tipple during a visit to the Guinness Storehouse, where seven stories are dedicated to the history, heart, and soul of Ireland's most iconic drink. Head up to the Gravity Bar to take in 360-degree views of the city and wave farewell to Dublin before you drive back to the airport to return your car and catch your departing flight. Safe travels!

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Map of Dublin, Northern Ireland & the Isle of Islay - 8 Days
Map of Dublin, Northern Ireland & the Isle of Islay - 8 Days