Take 15 days to loop around the island of Ireland at a relaxed pace. Starting in Dublin, head clockwise to check off several beautiful counties in the south and west, like Wicklow, Cork, Kerry, Clare, Mayo, and Donegal while staying in charming towns along the way. Spend the last few days of the trip exploring Northern Ireland's transformed capital and its coastal gems to complete this once-in-a-lifetime journey.


  • Hit plenty of hiking trails, starting with a scenic route in the Wicklow Mountains
  • Kiss the Blarney Stone on the drive from Cork to Killarney National Park
  • Ferry to the Aran Islands and explore the limestone cliffs on foot or by bike
  • Get a first-hand account of Northern Ireland's political history on a guided taxi tour

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Dublin, Visit the Guinness Storehouse Dublin
Day 2 Drive to Laragh, Walk in Glendalough Valley Laragh
Day 3 Drive to Cork, Visit the Rock of Cashel Cork
Day 4 Visit Blarney Castle, Drive to Killarney Killarney
Day 5 Explore the Ring of Kerry Killarney
Day 6 Bike in Killarney National Park Killarney
Day 7 Drive to Dingle Town, Explore Slea Head Dingle Town
Day 8 Drive to Doolin, Hike the Cliffs of Moher Doolin
Day 9 Ferry to the Aran Islands Doolin
Day 10 Hike Diamond Hill, Drive to Westport Westport
Day 11 Hike Croagh Patrick, Explore Achill Island Westport
Day 12 Coastal Drive in County Donegal, Walk the Slieve League Cliffs Letterkenny
Day 13 Explore the Causeway Coast, Drive to Belfast Belfast
Day 14 Visit Belfast's Highlights, Political Taxi Tour Belfast
Day 15 Return to Dublin, Depart  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Dublin, Visit the Guinness Storehouse

Spend a few hours visiting a multistory museum—and rooftop bar—dedicated to Guinness
Welcome to Dublin! Upon arrival, you'll have the rest of the day to explore the capital at your own pace. The city is steeped in history and offers many cultural attractions such as museums, landmarks, and cathedrals. Each site shares insight into what makes Dublin a remarkable city.

Perhaps you want to start at Temple Bar, where you can wander through the 17th-century cobblestone streets and follow the sound of traditional music wafting from the pubs and restaurants. Another must-see, especially for beer drinkers, is a trip to the Guinness Storehouse. This seven-story attraction continues to be one of the most popular activities in Ireland. Learn how the popular beer has been brewed for centuries, and then enjoy a frothy pint at the top-floor Gravity Bar with panoramic views of the city.

If the weather is nice, take a stroll around tranquil St Stephen's Green and end your walk along Grafton Street for a little retail therapy. If you wish to see Irish jewelers at work, check out the Stonechat Jewellers and watch the artisans perform their craft. You can also enter the historic campus of Trinity College and stop in the vaulted library, called the Long Room, with more than 200,000 books.

Day 2: Drive to Laragh, Walk in Glendalough Valley

A beautiful waterfall in the Wicklow Mountains
Look for waterfalls as you drive through the Wicklow Mountains 

Today you'll collect your rental car and drive south from Dublin through the Wicklow Mountains until you reach the lovely village of Laragh. With a convenient position in County Wicklow, you'll find shops, cafés, restaurants, and even a community center that hosts a weekly produce market.

In the afternoon, fit in a hike at Glendalough Valley along a breathtaking 5.9-mile (9.5 km) trail that begins near Brockagh (a short drive from Laragh). This is an excellent choice for people of all fitness levels, as you can hike all or part of the loop, depending on your preference. Numerous amenities are located at the start of the trail, including restrooms, a visitor's center, and shops. 

Day 3: Drive to Cork, Visit the Rock of Cashel

Spend an afternoon and evening exploring the compact city of Cork

Today you'll leave the countryside behind and travel to Cork, Ireland's second-largest city. Along the route, consider stopping at the Rock of Cashel in County Tipperary. This iconic limestone hill offers travelers a jaunt through the past with its collection of medieval buildings in Gothic and Romanesque styles, plus magnificent views of the surrounding lush green landscape.

Once you arrive in Cork in the afternoon, take the rest of the day to explore the city at your own pace. The English Market is a great place to start with its ornate vaulted ceilings, columns, and polished marble fountain. This is where vendors set up colorful and photogenic displays of the region's best local products.

Before dinner, consider a stop at the iconic Franciscan Well Micro Brewery and Pub, which boasts one of the best year-round beer gardens in Cork. Then take a stroll through the city's Huguenot Quarter, where you can browse the clutter of boutiques, chocolatiers, and great restaurants. 

Day 4: Visit Blarney Castle, Drive to Killarney

The Black Valley
County Kerry in southwest Ireland is known for its striking scenery

Today you'll drive to Killarney in County Kerry, where you'll spend three nights. But first, you can stop and take a tour of the 15th-century Blarney Castle and discover one of Ireland's greatest treasures: the Blarney Stone. Legend has it that anyone who kisses the stone receives the gift of words and eloquence, so climb to the castle's tower, kiss the stone, and see if you absorb some of its magic. 

Once you arrive in County Kerry, there are plenty of ways to explore the area's mountains, lakes, and forests. An excellent place to start is by visiting the Victorian Muckross House. Have lunch or tea in the conservatory café overlooking the walled garden, followed by a walk around the ruins and cloisters of the adjacent Muckross Abbey.

Plan your trip to Ireland
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
Finish the day in the lively town of Killarney and take your pick between a wide range of restaurants and pubs.

Day 5: Explore the Ring of Kerry

You'll have the entire day to stop at natural attractions along the Ring of Kerry

While based in Killarney, you'll experience one of Ireland's most stunning and iconic scenic drives—the 100-mile-long (179 km) Ring of Kerry, but with an added exciting twist: The Skellig Ring. This route has everything from mountain passes and steep clifftop-hugging roads to quaint villages offering delicious food, relaxing drinks, and friendly locals. Drive at your own pace and stop as often as you wish.

Starting from Killarney, head south to Kenmare with its crafts, artisan shops, and beautiful houses. On the way, divert to see the stunning Ladies' View and spectacular Moll's Gap, where you'll be immersed in the breathtaking scenery. Travel onward along the coast and gaze at the sea views with mountains rising out of the sea.

After passing through the pretty town of Waterville, you'll take the Skellig Ring to Balinaskellig, where things get even more spectacular. This rugged, beautiful coast winds over mountain crevices and craggy cliffs and into stunning St. Fenians Bay. From the beach, travel up the horseshoe road to the Kerry Cliffs and into Portmagee, where you can stop for lunch at the quayside restaurant and bar, The Moorings. Finish the adventure at the Gap of Dunloe, where you can park the car and walk up the incredible canyon.

Day 6: Bike in Killarney National Park

Cycle to the 15-century Ross Castle on today's bike route

Today you'll have an opportunity to rent a bike and explore a scenic network of trails in Ireland's first national park, Killarney National Park. The route is separate from motor traffic and lasts 16.7 miles (27 km)—feel free to cycle part or all of it depending on your time and energy levels. 

In addition to the lakes, forests, and mountains, stop to see sights like the medieval Ross Castle, the 15th-century seat of the O'Donoghue Clan on an inlet of Lough Leane, as well as rubble stone bridges, waterfalls, and even a coffee shop. You'll have the freedom to stop and enjoy the views and take photographs as often as you wish.

Day 7: Drive to Dingle Town, Explore

Stretch your legs at Inch Beach, which is much larger than its name suggests

Today you'll explore another breathtaking area of County Kerry called the Dingle Peninsula. Along the drive, make sure to stop at Inch Beach, famous for being the place where an inch is actually three miles (4.8 km). Take a refreshing beach walk before continuing the drive toward the colorful seaside village of Dingle.

This is a lovely place to spend time with numerous art galleries, seafood restaurants, and even a local distillery that makes whiskey, gin, and vodka. You can also rent kayaks in Dingle Harbor or go horseback riding on Ventry Beach. In the evening, make sure to drive along the Slea Head, which is the most westerly point on the peninsula. On a clear day, you'll get one of the best sunsets on the west coast, especially from the new panoramic viewing platform in Dunquin.

Day 8: Drive to Doolin, Hike the Cliffs of Moher

The colorful town of Doolin—your base for two nights—is known for its traditional Irish music

Today it's time to drive north along the edge of Europe toward the colorful coastal village of Doolin in County Clare. This quaint place is a center of Irish traditional music, with many pubs pumping out classic Irish songs each night until the late hours of the evening.

Before nighttime, walk a coastal path from Doolin's harbor to the village of Liscannor that runs along the awe-inspiring Cliffs of Moher. These cliffs—as well as the surrounding Burren region—make up a UNESCO Global Geopark location. If the weather is clear, you can spot the Aran Islands and Galway Bay in the distance. You can also take in the panoramic views from the top of O'Brien's Tower.

Day 9: Ferry to the Aran Islands

Biking is an ideal way to get around the sparsely populated island of Inishmore

Today you'll ferry from Doolin to one of its most renowned and historical islands, Inishmore, which means 'big island' in Gaelic. This is the largest of the three islands that make up the Aran Islands.

Once there, you may explore the island on foot, by bicycle, or by riding a two-wheeled carriage with a horse—Ireland's oldest form of transportation. Either way, you'll have time to experience the island's magnificent landscape of rocky fields, wild ocean views, and incredible Christian, pre-Christian, and Celtic mythological heritage monuments. If you're walking or riding a bike, you can rest your legs at Kilmurvey Beach and pop into the adjacent row of craft shops to stock up on Aran-made souvenirs. 

You might find yourself feeling uplifted upon docking back in Doolin—local lore says that being on the Aran Islands means you're on the path to connecting with your spiritual self.

Day 10: Hike Diamond Hill, Drive to Westport

Hike a well-maintained path to Diamond Hill

It's time to continue the journey north along the Wild Atlantic Way toward your next destination: Connemara National Park. This is where you can hike the Diamond Hill Trail, a figure-eight circuit made up of two loops that connect midway. The route begins and ends at the national park visitor center and is handily accessible and well-maintained. The lower loop features boardwalk sections through rich bogland, while the upper loop grants views of the surrounding mountains and coastal plains. This hike is classified as moderate and takes around two to three hours to complete, and the views are breathtaking.

When your legs need a rest, drive to the picturesque town of Clifden for lunch. Then continue the drive to County Mayo, where you'll stay two nights in Westport. This Georgian town center offers plenty of Irish charm with stone bridges, tree-lined promenades, and a slew of local restaurants. 

Day 11: Hike Croagh Patrick, Explore Achill Island

Croagh Patrick Summit
The summit views from Croagh Patrick

Today you'll experience Croagh Patrick, one of Ireland's most stunning mountain climbs, with its unique conical shape towering above the edge of the Atlantic. On a clear day, it offers panoramic views of the hundreds of tiny, green drumlin islands in Clew Bay and surrounding mountain ranges from its 2,507 feet (764 m) perch.

The mountain got its name and true fame from Saint Patrick, who is reputed to have fasted at the summit for 40 days in the fifth century. Due to this Christian link, a small church was built there around 1905 to hold mass during certain times of the year. Because of this, it's better known as Ireland's "Holy Mountain" among locals.

After your hike, you can drive on one of Ireland's most scenic coastal drives, called Achill Island. Connected to the mainland by a spectacular bridge that looks like whale ribs floating over the sea, this region boasts some of the country's most beautiful beaches and coastlines, as well as several hidden gems such as an old signal tower and a deserted village called Slievemore.

Day 12: Coastal Drive in County Donegal, Walk the Slieve League Cliffs

The Slieve League Cliffs are even higher than the Cliffs of Moher

After departing Westport, you'll continue driving north to County Donegal. Along the way, pay a visit to the Ceide Fields—a 5,500-year-old Neolithic site—and go for a windswept coastal walk that leads to the stunning Downpatrick Head, where Saint Patrick is believed to have founded a church.

Continue driving to the ruins of a medieval Franciscan friary called Moyne Abbey near the village of Killala. Then drive toward the town of Ballina, where you can stop for lunch before experiencing the magnificent cliffs of Slieve League—said to be the highest accessible sea cliff views in Europe. To fully enjoy the staggering natural spectacle, it's best to leave your car in the public parking area and walk past a few miles of breathtaking scenery toward the cliff's edge, where you'll be rewarded with spectacular views of the ocean, the Sligo Mountains, and Donegal Bay

From here, drive to Letterkenny, the largest town in County Donegal, for your last night before venturing into Northern Ireland. While in the area, you may consider visiting Glenveagh National Park, with its lovely trails and Victorian castle.

Day 13: Explore the Causeway Coast, Drive to Belfast

Explore the Giant's Causeway on today's route
Get up close to the UNESCO-listed Giant's Causeway on today's route

Get ready for some magnificent scenery today as you drive across to the 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.

Once you've explored the coastal attractions, make your way to Northern Ireland's capital city: Belfast. Check into your hotel and peruse the city's Cathedral Quarter, a charming area with cobbled streets, restaurants, and pubs.

Day 14: Visit Belfast's Highlights, Political Taxi Tour

Belfast's Titanic Museum, circa 2012, is an architectural marvel

Today you'll have the entire day to discover the highlights of thriving Belfast. You'll likely want to dedicate some time to the gardens at City Hall and the modern Titanic Exhibition. If you're in the mood for fresh air, hike to Cave Hill Country Park and Belfast Castle for stunning views of the city and coast. You can also walk The Gobbins cliff walk or visit the "Game of Thrones" studio in Castlewarden.

Later in the afternoon, meet your local guide for a political taxi tour where you'll hear an unbiased account of The Troubles. During the drive, you'll encounter locations like Falls Road and Shankill Road, two communities still separated by the looming Peace Walls. You'll also see many political murals along the route and listen to stories from those who lived through the conflict.

This is a small group experience with a maximum of five participants. Notable people who have taken this same tour include Anthony Bourdain, Vince Vaughn, and George Negus, to name a few. Your guide will be happy to answer any questions about the city's history, evolution, and future and provide food and entertainment recommendations.

Day 15: Return to Dublin, Depart

Until next time, Belfast!
It's time to say goodbye to Ireland! At the appointed time, you'll bid this special island farewell as you travel back to Dublin airport to catch your departure flight. Safe travels!

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Map of Ireland's Ultimate Self-Drive Adventure - 15 Days
Map of Ireland's Ultimate Self-Drive Adventure - 15 Days