- Visit atmospheric castles, including the "haunted" Leap Castle
- Drive along the Wild Atlantic Way, visiting beaches and fishing villages
- Stay in colorful Doolin, the traditional music capital of Ireland
- Take a sea voyage around County Clare's Cliffs of Moher
- Walk in the wild beauty of Connemara National Park
|Day 1||Arrive in Dublin, Walking Tour & Kilmainham Gaol||Dublin|
|Day 2||Drive to Cork, Visit the Rock of Cashel & Blarney Castle||Blarney|
|Day 3||Drive to Killarney, Visit Skellig Ring & Portmagee||Killarney|
|Day 4||Explore Killarney National Park||Killarney|
|Day 5||Drive to Doolin, Hike the Cliffs of Moher||Doolin|
|Day 6||Cliffs of Moher Sea Cruise, Lahinch & Distillery||Doolin|
|Day 7||Ferry to the Aran Islands, Drive to Galway||Galway|
|Day 8||Day Trip to Connemara National Park||Galway|
|Day 9||Discover Castles of the Hidden Heartlands||Birr|
|Day 10||Drive to Dublin, Jameson Whiskey Tasting Tour||Dublin|
|Day 11||Depart Dublin|
Day 1: Arrive in Dublin, Walking Tour & Kilmainham Gaol
Welcome to Ireland! You'll touch down in Dublin, at the mouth of the River Liffey, home to more than a third of the Republic of Ireland's population. For a small capital city, it packs a lot of personality. You'll find architectural splendor and a proud literary culture combined with a youthful energy and zest for a good old time.
Led by an expert guide, you'll start off on a walking tour to get to know the city's fascinating past, which stretches back to the Norman invasion of Ireland in the 12th century. You'll delve into the heart of the Medieval Quarter, where the millennia-old Christ Church Cathedral stands in pride of place, then pass by the "younger" 900-year-old St Patrick's Cathedral. Discover the 18th-century architecture of Georgian Dublin, which peppers the city and takes its most impressive form in Dublin Castle.
Day 2: Drive to Cork, Visit the Rock of Cashel & Blarney Castle
Today you'll pick up your hire car and drive to Cork, Ireland's southern hub, 161 miles (259 km) from Dublin. Halfway along this three-hour journey, you'll reach the small town of Cashel in County Tipperary. Make a stop to stroll around the Rock of Cashel, a medieval ecclesiastical site of Gothic and Romanesque-style buildings and a 12th-century round tower.
Then, continue to the "Rebel City" of Cork, which has a long history of challenging authority and honoring an independent spirit. Across both sides of the broad River Lee, you'll find a walkable city of grand Georgian avenues and charming 17th-century alleys. Cork is arguably Ireland's culinary capital, so make the most of its cafés and bakeries (especially in the cool Huguenot Quarter) and restaurants (head to the Victorian Quarter, around MacCurtain Street).
Day 3: Arrive in Killarney, Visit Skellig Ring & Portmagee
It's onward bound today to Killarney in County Kerry, a 90-minute drive from Cork. This pretty town, on the shore of Lough Leane, makes an excellent base for a couple of days' exploring. In the town itself, visit the neo-Gothic St Mary's Cathedral to see its vivid stained-glass windows, then stroll around the peaceful Franciscan Friary. In the evening, you can catch live music at Killarney's pubs, with shows nightly in the summer and several times a week in spring and fall.
Drive for another hour and a quarter, and you'll hit the fishing village of Portmagee along the west coast's Wild Atlantic Way. Painted houses line the harbor wall, and from spring through fall, sightseeing boats set off for the Skellig Islands 8 miles (12 km) out to sea. A hike up to the top of the Kerry Cliffs is well worth the effort for the knockout coastal views. A great way to take in the mountains, cliffs, and spectacular beaches, like St Finian's Bay, is on the 20-mile (32 km) road loop known as Skellig Ring.
Day 4: Explore Killarney National Park
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
There are plenty of ways to spend the day around Killarney, which is blessed with a wild landscape of mountains, lakes, and forests. Drive along the Gap of Dunloe, a dramatic narrow pass between the mountain ranges of MacGillycuddy Reeks and Purple Mountain. Or, immerse yourself in the sublime Killarney National Park, which was the first national park in Ireland when it launched almost a century ago.
If a castle adventure is calling, look no further than the medieval Ross Castle, the 15th-century seat of the O'Donoghue Clan. Visit the Victorian mansion Muckross House and have lunch in its conservatory café looking out to the Walled Garden, then walk around the ruins and cloisters of the adjacent Muckross Abbey.
Day 5: Drive to Doolin, Hike the Cliffs of Moher
Drive north up the coast for two hours and 45 minutes to reach the lively port village of Doolin, your base for the next couple of nights. For many, it's their favorite village in the west of Ireland, with an inspiring coastal setting, brightly painted houses, and bands frequently playing in its pubs. It's hailed as the home of traditional Irish music, after all! Bring an appetite, as Doolin is also renowned for its gastronomic delights, especially traditional Irish dishes like stews, veggie soup with soda bread, and potato cakes.
Mother Nature doesn't shy from the dramatic around these parts, and around 4 miles (7 km) south of Doolin, you'll find the mighty Cliffs of Moher. Rising from the raging Atlantic to 700 feet (214 m) at their highest point, standing here is like teetering at the world's edge. You can walk from Doolin to the Visitor Center and then take the shuttle back or park up at the slightly closer point of Hags Head (or if you're feeling ambitious, hike the 9-mi/14 km round-trip along the cliffs).
Day 6: Cliffs of Moher Sea Cruise, Lahinch & Distillery
Time to see the Cliffs of Moher from a new perspective—aboard a boat around their base. The three-hour sea cruise sets off from Doolin and traces the Wild Atlantic Way coast. Sea level is the only way to truly appreciate the cliffs' height—the people walking along the trail above appear no bigger than ants. If you're traveling as a group, you can choose a bespoke sailing aboard a high-speed RIB boat. Boat trips run between March and October.
Want even more action on the water? The seaside town of Lahinch, just south of the Cliffs of Moher, is a golden stretch of storm beaches and prized for surfers, kayakers, and paddleboarders the world over. It's considered the beating heart of Irish surfing, so you'll find lessons to suit every level and plenty of options for equipment hire.
There's plenty to do farther afield in County Clare, too, from a perfumery to a goats' cheese farm, a chocolate factory to art galleries. Not far from Lahinch is the JJ Corry Irish Whiskey Distillery, at a family farm where a women-only team take care of the whiskey-making process. Step inside their tasting barn, where a guide will share insights into the history of whiskey in County Clare—and the brand's namesake, JJ Corry, who enjoyed a thriving whiskey business during the 18th century.
Day 7: Ferry to the Aran Islands, Drive to Galway
You'll set off for Galway today, a 90-minute drive up the coast. But first, there's time for one more adventure from Doolin—a trip to the Aran Islands by ferry. The history of these islands is geologically and culturally rich. Their deep Celtic and Christian roots mean the land is dotted with ancient ruins and sacred sites. And with traditions holding strong, the 1,300 people who call the islands home consider Ireland's Gaelic language their native tongue.
You can disembark on any of the three islands: Inis Oírr ("East Island"), Inis Meáin ("Middle Island"), or Inis Mór/Inishmore ("Big Island"). If you disembark on Inishmore, the best way to get around is on two wheels (bicycle hire is available). Take a rest 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 after 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.
Once you arrive in the city of Galway, there's a whole different pace to enjoy. This medieval maritime hub is now the bohemian capital of Ireland, prized for its art scene, street performances, live music, and buildings painted in primary colors. Head to the quayside to walk beneath the Spanish Arch and continue to Galway Bay—this relaxing stroll offers distant views of the Burren, a hilly limestone landscape, across the water in County Clare.
Day 8: Day Trip to Connemara National Park
Spend the day getting to know County Galway. The jewel in its crown is Connemara National Park, an hour and 20-minute drive northwest of Galway city. Trails weave through an otherworldly landscape of mountains, woods, beaches, and interconnected lagoons, across 4,942 acres (2,000 ha), in an ever-changing light. Discover remnants of ancient settlements as you hike, including 4,000-year-old megalithic tombs and markings of former grazing areas. Take the trail up the isolated peak of Diamond Hill for one of Ireland's best views across the Twelve Bens Mountains, Kylemore Abbey, and the ocean beyond.
Day 9: Discover Castles of the Hidden Heartlands
It's time to say farewell to the west coast and begin the journey east, but there's still time for one more overnight stop on your way back to the capital. For a sheer sense of awe, consider exploring the Hidden Heartlands. This remote and unspoiled region of Ireland feels as far from fast-paced living as you can get. Its landscape of windswept hills and enchanted pools, threaded by empty roads, makes it a road trip utopia.
Day 10: Drive to Dublin, Jameson Whiskey Tasting Tour
After arriving back in Dublin, check into your centrally located hotel. A fun activity for your last day is to get to know one of Ireland's most beloved exports on a one-hour tasting tour at the Jameson Distillery. Sample 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 best-selling Irish whiskey.
Day 11: Depart Dublin
It's departure day, but before you leave, take a stroll around the historic campus of Trinity College Dublin. Its elegant white bell tower is one of the symbols of the city, but another of Dublin's iconic sights lies behind closed doors: the Book of Kells. On display in Trinity's library, this remarkable Christian manuscript is one of the oldest in the world, dating back to 800 CE. In the library's wood-built Long Room, you can walk among 250,000 of Ireland's oldest books and documents. Then, it's time to head to Dublin Airport to return the rental car and catch your flight home. Safe travels!