This 10-day, self-drive Irish adventure is ideal for families with kids of all ages, from toddlers to teens. Starting in Dublin, you'll drive west to Athlone and then continue on a loop around western and southern Ireland, visiting the Connemara region, the Cliffs of Moher, Killarney National Park, and other natural and cultural highlights. Along the way, you'll enjoy a range of fun activities and outings—from touring "haunted" castles to sunset kayaking and adventurous hikes.


  • Play on white-sand beaches around Clifden
  • Walk along the clifftops at the Cliffs of Moher 
  • Hike, bike, and boat around Killarney National Park
  • Visit Ireland's most haunted castle, Leap Castle

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Dublin, Drive to Athlone, Castle Visit Athlone
Day 2 Drive to Clifden, Connemara Coral Beach Clifden
Day 3 Beach Day, Sunset Kayaking in Mannin Bay Clifden
Day 4 Cliffs of Moher with Optional Hike, Drive to Lahinch Lahinch
Day 5 Drive to Lahinch & County Clare, Lahinch Surf School Lahinch
Day 6 Drive to Killarney National Park, Ring of Kerry Drive, Killarney Biking Killarney
Day 7 Lakes of Killarney Boat Trip & Black Valley Hike Killarney
Day 8 Castles of the Heartlands Birr
Day 9 Drive to Dublin, City Sightseeing & Museums Dublin
Day 10 Depart Dublin  

Detailed Itinerary

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

Drive to Athlone after arriving in Ireland

Welcome to Ireland! After your arrival in Dublin, collect your rental car and head to Athlone, a town about 1.5 hours' drive west of the capital. Athlone straddles the River Shannon, and at its heart is the beautiful Athlone Castle, which has guarded the bridge across the river for centuries. In 1691, a French/Irish army fought an English/Dutch army for control of Ireland. You'll find fascinating memorabilia housed in the majestic castle, and kids will enjoy learning about the history of the place, especially those interested in medieval times and stories about kings and battles.

You will be staying in the Hodson Bay Hotel on the shores of beautiful Lough Derg. It's a great place to relax and take beautiful lakeshore walks and boasts an indoor pool, which is welcome if you're traveling in the winter. The on-site babysitting service is also a great facility for parents to take advantage of. 

Day 2: Drive to Clifden, Connemara Coral Beach

Take the kids to the beaches around Clifden

Today, drive about two hours west to Clifden, a vibrant town on the very edge of Ireland and Europe. Its hinterland is among the most beautiful areas in the country, between the foothills of the Twelve Bens mountains and the Atlantic Ocean.

You might not think of Ireland as a beach destination, but if you and your kids like a quiet, white-sand beach, you'll love the selection in the area. Most beaches are just a short drive from Clifden Town. Head to Coral Beach, an especially lovely place to experience the coastline of the Connemara region. If your kids are feeling energetic, take a coastal hike; otherwise, playing at the beach is always a favorite family activity.

Day 3: Beach Day, Sunset Kayaking in Mannin Bay

Paddle a kayak in Mannin Bay

Spend today visiting some more beaches around Clifden. Lovely options include Eyrephort Beach, Dog's Bay, and Gurteen Beach. As you have your rental car, you can go wherever you and your kids feel like. Be sure to save most of your energy, though, for an active evening of kayaking in Mannin Bay. Guided kayaking tours coincide with sunset, so you can see the coastal landscape at its most beautiful. They're suitable for beginners, and all necessary gear will be provided. You might even get to see some friendly local seals!

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Day 4: Cliffs of Moher with Optional Hike, Drive to Lahinch

Hike along the Cliffs of Moher

You can tailor your activities today to meet the age and activity levels of your kids. The highlight is the awe-inspiring Cliffs of Moher, where you can walk or hike along cliffside paths. The Cliffs of Moher—as well as the surrounding region of The Burren—make up a UNESCO Global Geopark location, and there are lots of interesting sights along the way. If the weather is clear, spot the Aran Islands and Galway Bay in the distance. Take in the mountain views of the Maumturks from the top of O'Brien's Tower

If you're traveling with young kids, do a shorter section of the walk to some stunning lookout points. If your kids are older and up for a physical challenge, hike the breathtaking coastal path from Doolin to the village of Liscannor. You can catch a taxi back to your car at the end or make a round-trip trip, which will take most of the day. You can hike independently or hire a local guide, who will tell you all about the area as you walk. After your hike, drive a short distance to Lahinch, where you'll stay for the next couple of nights.

Day 5: Drive to Lahinch & County Clare, Lahinch Surf School

Learn to surf in Lahinch

Today you'll enjoy some time in and around the seaside town of Lahinch, just south of the Cliffs of Moher. It's a golden stretch of storm-pounded beaches and is especially prized among surfers, kayakers, and paddleboarders. Lahinch is the beating heart of Irish surfing, so you'll find lessons to suit every level, from kids to adults who have surfed before, and plenty of options for equipment hire.

Aside from taking a surfing lesson, you can opt to go kayaking along the coast of South Clare, as inlet-hopping here is an invigorating experience. Standup paddleboarding is an easier way to get out onto the sea and is especially amusing when the water's choppy. If you'd rather stay on dry land, the Loophead Lighthouse out on a headland is a fun hiking destination.

Day 6: Drive to Killarney National Park, Ring of Kerry Drive, Killarney Biking

Admire the views at Killarney

Drive around 2.5 hours south to Killarney today to explore the beautiful Killarney National Park and the neighboring town. Killarney National Park is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve featuring lush landscapes and incredible waterfalls such as Torc Waterfall. You'll find plenty of spectacular hiking trails in the Black Valley, Gap of Dunloe, or Mangerton Mountain for those who want to get some fresh air and get their boots dirty (which, let's face it, is most kids).

The Ring of Kerry is a beautiful scenic drive around the Iveragh Peninsula and offers endless viewpoints and picturesque locations. Killarney town offers a variety of outdoor activities, including kayaking, biking, and hiking, and boating on the lake. You can even try your hand at falconry, an experience that kids into birds will love. 

If your kids are comfortable on mountain bikes, biking around the park is an excellent way of seeing the sights and burning off some energy. Rent a bike in Killarney and get a free map that shows the best photo spots, hidden trails, and historical landmarks. You can go at your own pace and stop whenever and wherever your kids need.

Day 7: Lakes of Killarney Boat Trip & Black Valley Hike

Visit the Lakes of Killarney

Start the day with a relaxing boat trip across the Lakes of Killarney, with panoramas of the mountains of Killarney National Park unfolding on all sides. Alighting at a scenic spot, hike to one of the loveliest parts of Count Kerry (the southwestern region of Ireland) along quiet roads and mountain tracks winding their way through the Black Valley–so-called because it was the last place in Ireland to be connected to the electric grid in the 1970s.

On your return to Killarney town, relax at an atmospheric local restaurant for a nice meal, great drinks, and a lovely evening of live music. Kids will enjoy the distinctive notes of Irish music and the cozy, family-friendly setting of Ireland's many local pubs.

Day 8: Castles of the Heartlands

Get spooked at Leap Castle, said to be Ireland's most haunted castle

Drive northeast today to Birr, a journey that would take about 2.5 hours if completed in one go but you're going to take your time and stop along the way.

Explore the castles of County Leitrim and County Offaly, Ireland's hidden heartland. This unspoiled and mystical part of Ireland is filled with quiet roads, lakes and rivers, historic abbeys and monasteries, and peaty bogland—perfect for slow travel. Wander the halls of the 19th-century Kinnitty Castle, commune with ghosts in Leap Castle—known as the most haunted place in Ireland—or walk the stunning Slieve Bloom Way through lush forest as you pass through the imposing ruins of Glinsk Castle.

If you want to learn more about Irish history, take a guided tour of Leap Castle in Coolderry. With a savage history of brutal murders and savage in-fighting among the O'Carrolls of the Ely Clan, the fortress was built in the late 13th century on the site of an earlier fortification and has been involved in many battles over the centuries. The castle has been well-preserved and restored by its current owners, the Ryan family. Imaginative kids will find many things to pique their interest today.

Day 9: Drive to Dublin, City Sightseeing & Museums

Spend some free time exploring Dublin

Come full circle today as you return to the capital, a couple of hours' drive northeast. After finding and settling into your hotel, head out to explore the city. If the weather is nice, stroll around tranquil St Stephen's Green, a Victorian-era park in the center of the city where kids can play. Dublin's Medieval Quarter is a great place to explore, with Dublin Castle and the two great medieval cathedrals—Christ Church and St Patrick's—defining this area.

If your kids enjoy museums, don't skip the fabulous EPIC Interactive Museum & Jeanie Johnston Famine Ship. One of the best museums in Europe, the EPIC Museum tells of the incredible journey of the Irish around the world, from the US and Canada to Australia, New Zealand, South America, France, and Spain. Hear the stories of millions who set sail, unable to live in their own land. Also included is a tour of the Jeanie Johnston Famine Ship, a replica tall ship on the River Liffey. See how over one million Irish fled hunger and death in the great famine and emigrated to the US on ships like the Jeanie Johnston.

Day 10: Depart Dublin

Goodbye Ireland!

It's time to say goodbye to Ireland. Depending on your time of departure, there may be time to do some last-minute sightseeing in Dublin, go for a walk, or grab some local souvenirs. Make sure to leave yourself with enough time to return your car at the airport before catching your flight. Safe travels!

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Looking for more inspiration for your family trip to Ireland? Check out these other Ireland itineraries, explore other ways to spend 10 days in Ireland with your family, or discover the best time to visit Ireland.


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