Discover the scenic highlights of Ireland's north on this varied 8-day self-drive trip. Starting in the ancient streets of Dublin, you'll set off by car to tour wild coastlines and charming towns at your own pace. Explore Belfast and tick the Giant's Causeway off your bucket list in Northern Ireland, before crossing into Ireland to hike in the majestic Connemara National Park, discover the atmospheric music town of Westport, and end your adventure in the vibrant cultural capital of Galway. 

Highlights

  • Discover the European cultural capital of Galway
  • Marvel at the natural wonder of Giant's Causeway
  • Explore the unique history of Belfast
  • Venture into the lush natural beauty of Connemara National Park
  • Wander through Glenveagh National Park & its pristine lakes & mountains

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Dublin - Explore Dublin
Day 2 Belfast Belfast
Day 3 Giant's Causeway & the Antrim Coast Portstewart
Day 4 Inishowen Peninsula Letterkenny
Day 5 Glenveagh National Park Donegal
Day 6 Donegal Town to Westport (Wild Atlantic Way) Westport
Day 7 Connemara National Park Galway
Day 8 Departure  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Dublin - Explore

The colorful streets of Dublin's Temple Bar.
The colorful streets of Dublin's Temple Bar.

Welcome to Ireland!  After arriving at the airport, you'll make your way to Dublin's bustling city center and find your hotel. After checking in, head out and start exploring.  The city is steeped in history and offers an abundance of activities, including museums and memorials, as well as restaurants, cafes, cathedrals, and churches. Each site shares a slice of insight into what makes Dublin such a special city. Suggested activities include:

  • Temple Bar is at the heart of the city, filled with a buzz only felt in Ireland. Wander the cobblestone streets and follow the sound of traditional music wafting from the pubs and restaurants. Stop for a Guinness or some fish and chips along the way.

  • No visit to Dublin is complete without a stop at the Guinness Storehouse. This site continues to be one of the most popular tourist attractions in the world, and you'll see why as soon as you step foot into the factory. Learn how the popular beer has been brewed for centuries and enjoy a pint at the top with panoramic views of the city.

  • If the weather is nice, take a stroll around tranquil St. Stephen's Green. End your walk along Grafton Street for a little retail therapy or to grab dinner at one of the many cafes lining the side streets.

  • Walk the historic campus of Trinity College Dublin and stop to see the famous Book of Kells, which dates back to 800 CE.

Day 2: Belfast

The Titanic Exhibition, one of Belfast's most popular attractions.
The Titanic Exhibition, one of Belfast's most popular attractions.

Today you'll pick up your car rental and drive two hours to Belfast, capital of  Northern Ireland. Get settled into your accommodation, then head out to explore. 

Start with a guided Black Cab Tour of the city's highlights, or choose a relaxed self-guided wander. Take a stroll through 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. If you're in the mood for fresh air, hike to Cave Hill Country Park for stunning views of the city and coast.

After a busy day of sightseeing, head to one of Belfast's many pubs to enjoy the city's buzzing nightlife.

Day 3: Giant's Causeway & the Antrim Coast

The basalt columns of Giant's Causeway.
The basalt columns of Giant's Causeway.

The Antrim Coastline is the next leg of your journey, and you'll have the opportunity to visit fascinating sights like Dunluce Castle, Fair Head, Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge, Portrush, Mussenden Temple, and Portstewart Strand as you follow the scenic route. "Game of Thrones" fans will recognize many sights along this route as dramatic and otherworldy filming locations from the series.

Today's highlight is the UNESCO World Heritage site of Giant's Causeway. The iconic rock formation consists of roughly 40,000 basalt columns, the result of an ancient volcanic eruption nearly 60 million years ago. After marveling at this coastal wonder, continue west to the beautiful harbor town of Portstewart, your base for the night.

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Day 4: Inishowen Peninsula

Views across Malin Head on the Inishowen Peninsula.
Views across Malin Head on the Inishowen Peninsula.

After breakfast, you'll leave Northern Ireland behind as you cross into the Irish county of Donegal. Follow a signposted driving route around the stunning Inishowen Peninsula, a particularly spectacular section of the scenic Wild Atlantic Way. The coastal road passes through many tourist attractions and hidden gems on the peninsula, such as Malin Head—Ireland's most northerly pointand the beautiful Inishowen Head Lighthouse.

Continue along the coast to reach your overnight base: the pretty harborside cathedral town of Letterkenny.

Day 5: Glenveagh National Park

Hike through the wilds of Glenveagh National Park.
Hike through the wilds of Glenveagh National Park.

Twenty minutes northwest of Letterkenny lie the wilds of Glenveagh National Park—just under 40,000 acres of pristine, protected nature in the heart of the Derryveagh Mountains. After breakfast, set out to explore its deep glens, picturesque lakes, and dense forests, home to herds of red deer. End your wanderings at the eastern edge of Lough Beagh, where the 19th century Glenveagh Castle sits in grounds of exotic and rare plants. 

In the afternoon, you'll travel south towards Donegal, where you have the choice of checking into accommodation in the town or staying at a historic lakefront castle on the outskirts of Lough Eske.

Day 6: Donegal Town to Westport (Wild Atlantic Way)

The scenic headlands of Mullaghmore.
The scenic headlands of Mullaghmore.

Departing  Donegal this morning, you'll travel south along the Wild Atlantic Way towards the vibrant music town of Westport. Stop along the way at the beachfront resort town of Bundoran, where you can grab lunch, dip your feet into the wild Atlantic Ocean, or catch some of the most renowned waves in the world. You'll pass Mullaghmore with its spectacular headland walk, unspoiled beach, and sleepy fishing harbor, and cross into the famously scenic landscapes of "Yeat's Country," which served as inspiration for the famous poet.

When you reach Westport, spend the evening soaking up the soundtrack of Ireland's most musical town—enjoying the many festivals, concerts, and live traditional performers in its local bars and pubs.

Day 7: Connemara National Park

View across the bogs and heaths of Connemara National Park.
View across the bogs and heaths of Connemara National Park.

Today you'll travel through the rugged Connemara National Park, and it's quintessentially Irish landscape of lush bogs and heaths. If you're feeling adventurous, hike to the top of the cone-shaped, 1,450 foot (442 m) Diamond Hill, before heading to Kylemore Abbey and its Victorian walled garden for a quiet wander and some lunch. 

After lunch, make your way to Galway, known as the bohemian capital of Ireland for its thriving music and arts scenes. Get checked-in to your base for the night, then head out to soak up the atmosphere of Galway's vibrant streets, sample its diverse restaurants, or take a tour exploring its historic past. As you enjoy its lively nightlife and live music offerings, take a moment to toast your final evening on the Emerald Isle.

Day 8: Departure

Bid the Emerald Isle farewell.
Bid the Emerald Isle farewell.

After breakfast, drive back east to Dublin Airport to return your car rental, bid Ireland farewell, and catch your departing flight.

Map

Map of North Ireland Road Trip: Belfast, Donegal & Galway - 8 Days
Map of North Ireland Road Trip: Belfast, Donegal & Galway - 8 Days