Take the family on an epic adventure through Ireland on this seven-day self-drive tour. Land in Dublin and hit the road, driving to the town of Athlone for historic castles and gorgeous scenery. Then, set off for the Connemara region, where you'll enjoy a beach day on the beautiful Coral Strand and take a sunset kayak tour of Mannin Bay. Walk the breathtaking Cliffs of Moher, learn to surf on the beaches of Lahnich, then head back to Dublin for more castles, parks, and museums.


  • Embark on a Viking treasure hunt at historic Athlone Castle
  • Take a magical sunset tour of Mannin Bay via kayak
  • Catch some waves at surf school in Lahnich
  • Walk the halls of ancient royalty in Dublin's medieval castles 

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Dublin, Drive to Athlone, Athlone Castle Athlone
Day 2 Drive to Clifden, Connemara Coral Strand Clifden
Day 3 Sunset Kayak Tour Clifden
Day 4 Drive to Lahinch, Doolin & Cliffs of Moher Lahinch
Day 5 Lahinch Surf School Lahinch
Day 6 Drive to Dublin, Explore Dublin Dublin
Day 7 Glendalough Valley, Depart Dublin  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Dublin, Drive to Athlone, Athlone Castle

Athlone's castle and cathedral along the River Shannon

Welcome to Ireland! Upon your arrival at Dublin airport, you'll collect your rental car and hit the road. Your destination today is the town of Athlone, located approximately 1.5 hours from Dublin. The town straddles the River Shannon, with beautiful Athlone Castle at its heart. This 12th-century fortress has guarded the bridge across the river for centuries. Check in at your accommodations, a luxurious hotel on the shores of Lough Derg, and let the kids check out the indoor pool before seeing some of the local sights. 

Make the castle your first stop, and learn about the historic battles and wars that took place here. The visitor's center offers fun activity sheets for the kids that include a "Viking Treasure Hunt" and the "Siege of Anthione." Not far from the castle, you'll find Lough Ree, a lake that is great for swimming, and the monastic site of Clonmacnoise. You can also visit the abandoned town of Rindoon, deserted by residents in the 1300s after an outbreak of the plague. The town sits on the shores of Lough Derg, hidden in a forest that makes for a peaceful afternoon walk.

If the kids want to get a little closer to nature, head a few miles out of town to Glendeer Pet Farm. The animals here range from familiar farm animals to more exotic species and include deer, pigs, sheep, alpacas, emus, and ostriches. The park allows the children to handle some of the smaller, gentler animals, and there's a play area and café for tea and homemade treats. This evening, enjoy more family time at the pool or take advantage of the hotel babysitting services so the adults can visit the local pubs for pints and live music.

Day 2: Drive to Clifden, Connemara Coral Strand

Spend some time on Connemara's beautiful beaches

Make the drive to Clifden, the largest town in the region and often referred to as the "Capital of Connemara." Before arriving into town, stop for some beach time at the Coral Strand, a lovely stretch of shoreline located at the edge of Mannin Bay. The sand here is made up of a red calcified seaweed called maërl, which feels like fine gravel. The beach is a popular spot for swimming, paddle boarding, and snorkeling, and there are public restroom facilities, as well as lifeguard patrols on a seasonal basis. There are also several other beaches within a short driving distance from town, so you'll have plenty of options.

Later today, stroll the city streets and see the many galleries, cafés, and restaurants. You should also make a point to take the kids to see the impressive Clifden Castle, with its magnificent turrets built in the Roman Gothic style, as well as the ruins of Bunowen Castle, once the home of infamous pirate queen Grace O'Malley, located just outside of town. And if you're looking for a fun family outdoor adventure, visit Errislannan Manor, a working Connemara pony breeding farm that offers guided riding tours along the beach and up into the hills.

Day 3: Sunset Kayak Tour

Kayak against the setting sun

Today you can enjoy the beaches of Connemara at your own pace or hit some of the sights you may have missed yesterday. Clifden is also next door to Connemara National Park, which covers almost 7,413 acres (3,000 ha) and features a mix of mountains, lakes, beaches, lagoons, and gorgeous coastal views. You can choose from four main hiking trails, including the Ellis Wood Trail, an easy 0.30-mile (0.5 km) path perfect for younger kids, the 1-mile (1.5 km) Sruffaunboy Trail, and the lower and upper Diamond Hill trails.

As evening falls, you'll experience the glorious Irish sunset via kayak. This guided tour starts at the back of the Connemara Sands Hotel, taking you on a two-hour excursion around Mannin Bay. Your guides will share information about the history of the area, and don't be surprised if you happen upon some friendly, playful seals–sure to be a hit with the kids! You'll be provided with all the necessary equipment, and the tours are suitable for all levels of experience. Rest up at your hotel tonight before departing Clifden tomorrow.

Day 4: Drive to Lahinch, Doolin & Cliffs of Moher

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See the Cliffs of Moher on today's drive

Today's destination is Lahnich, a seaside town located on the shores of Liscannor Bay, with a golden stretch of storm beaches prized by surfers, kayakers, and paddleboarders the world over. Along the way, you'll want to make a few stops and take in some of the local sights. Start with a stop in the town of Doolin, where you'll hike a breathtaking coastal path from Doolin Harbor to the village of Liscannor, taking you across the awe-inspiring Cliffs of Moher. These cliffs, as well as the surrounding Burren region, make up a UNESCO Global Geopark location. 

Have lunch in Doolin Village, then head to Doolin Caves, a labyrinth that takes you down 125 steps and back in time more than 350 million years. The caves descend into a large cathedral, where you'll see the largest stalactite in Europe. The tour is about 45 minutes long, and visitors will want to make sure they wear appropriate shoes as some of the ground can be uneven. Later, arrive in Lahnich and get checked in at your hotel for the evening. 

Day 5: Lahinch Surf School

Surf's up in Lahinch! 

Considered the heart of Irish surfing, Lahnich is a great place to test your own surf skills. Take a surf lesson today right on the beach, where you'll be provided with all the equipment you need, and there are indoor changing and shower facilities. There are different groups for each skill level (kids included!), and the instructors try to keep the classes to eight people or fewer. Learn how to read the waves, ride and turn, and stand up on your board. And if surfing isn't your thing, you can also rent kayaks, go paddleboarding, or just watch the dramatic waves from the safety of the shore!

Day 6: Drive to Dublin, Explore Dublin

Checking out the swans at Saint Stephen's Green 

Your final full day in Ireland will be spent in the capital city of Dublin. Ireland's largest city, Dublin, has been the seat of government for over 900 years, going back as early as 840 CE. Upon arrival, you can return your rental car if you'd like, then get checked in at your accommodations before heading out to discover the city. 

Start with a visit to the Medieval Quarter, where you'll find St. Audeon's Park and St. Patrick's Park, right next door to St Patrick's Cathedral. Founded in 119 CE, this is the national cathedral of the Church of Ireland. Then, stroll through Saint Stephen's Green, a Victorian park with beautiful flower beds, a lake, and resident swans that the kids will love. Stop in at Trinity College to see the centuries-old Book of Kells and the beautiful Long Room library, then walk along the River Liffey, crossing the iconic Ha'penny Bridge for views of the waterfront.

If the kids are interested in getting out on the water, take a Viking Splash tour, an amphibious bus that transports you across land and water while sharing fun and informative stories about the city's landmarks and history. Afterward, take the family to the EPIC Museum, which takes you through the history of the Irish people and how they've contributed to the world through art, music, sports, and science. The museum has interactive exhibits and a "passport" book that the kids can stamp as they move through the various rooms. 

Day 7: Glendalough Valley, Depart Dublin

Bid Dublin farewell

If you have time before departure, explore the Glendalough Valley, about an hour from Dublin in County Wicklow. Visit Glenmacnas Valley for shorter hikes and a beautiful waterfall, or head to nearby Glendalough, where you can see the historic remains of the lead mines, once one of Ireland's most important mining sites. You can also take a beautiful woodland walk along the river in Devil's Glen, which sits about 20 minutes from Wicklow and has amazing, dramatic landscapes and a large waterfall.

Later today, it will be time to bid farewell to Ireland as you head to the airport and catch your flight home. Safe travels! 

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Map of Family Road Trip in Ireland: Athlone, Clifden, Lahnich & Dublin - 7 Days
Map of Family Road Trip in Ireland: Athlone, Clifden, Lahnich & Dublin - 7 Days