Independent travelers will experience the magic of Northern Ireland on their own terms with this self-guided road trip itinerary. Start with an informal walking tour of Dublin, then pick up your rental car and begin your adventure. You'll experience the vibrant culture of Galway, go hiking in Connemara and Glenveagh National Parks, tick the Giant’s Causeway off your bucket list, explore Belfast, and see more charming corners of the Emerald Isle.

Highlights

  • See Dublin's castle and the ancient Book of Kells
  • Experience the bohemian charm of the lively city of Galway
  • Go hiking in Connemara National Park
  • Drive along the famous Wild Atlantic Way
  • Walk the Giant's Causeway

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Dublin Dublin
Day 2 Pick Up Rental Car - Drive to Galway Galway
Day 3 Drive to Connemara National Park Westport
Day 4 Drive to Donegal Town Donegal
Day 5 Explore Glenveagh National Park - Letterkenny Letterkenny
Day 6 Drive to Inishowen Peninsula Portrush
Day 7 Visit Giant's Causeway - Belfast Belfast
Day 8 Departure via Dublin  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Dublin

Downtown Dublin, Ireland
A colorful street in downtown Dublin

Welcome to Ireland! When you arrive at Dublin Airport (DUB), a representative will pick you up and take you to your hotel in Dublin. After you check in and drop your luggage, you'll have the rest of the day free to explore the city.

Whether you want to travel back in history at Dublin Castle or look into the future with a visit to the modern Spire of Dublin, you're sure to find plenty to do in this global city. Stop in at the library at Trinity College to see the centuries-old Book of Kells in the library, cross over the River Liffey on the Ha'penny Bridge, or stroll through St. Stephen's Green and neighboring Grafton Street for shopping or people watching and street performers.

Top it all off with a pint in the Guinness Storehouse, or take a whiskey tasting tour.

Day 2: Pick Up Rental Car - Drive to Galway

Galway, Ireland
A lively street in Galway

Today, you'll pick up your car and start your road trip. You'll travel 129 miles (208 km) west to Galway, the Emerald Isle's bohemian gem.

Once you arrive, take the opportunity to soak in Galway’s vibrant streets, sample its wide variety of food offerings, or take a tour exploring its unique historical places of interest. Here, you'll also need to pick up the bikes you'll take on the rest of your adventure.

Suggested activities include:

  • Walk High Street and stop into one of the many stores selling local crafts, cafes offering endless pots of tea, and pubs with cozy snugs and the perfect pour of Guinness.
  • If you're here on a weekend, meander the farmers market and try local foods.
  • Stroll the Salt Hill Promenade. Whether rain or shine, this walk to Galway Bay is relaxing and offers stunning views of the Burren—a natural landscape of limestone—off in the distance.
  • Catch a traditional music session in a pub.

Day 3: Drive to Connemara National Park

Northern Ireland
Connemara National Park

Get ready to soak up Ireland's natural beauty today as you drive 50 miles (81 km) northwest to Connemara National Park. There, you can take the opportunity to hike to the top of 1,450-ft (442-m) Diamond Hill before heading to Kylemore Abbey and its Victorian walled garden, which is a great place to stop for lunch.

After lunch, you can head for the colorful town of Westport and check into your hotel for the night. You'll have the evening free to explore the town, which is filled with bars and restaurants where you can hear traditional Irish music.

Day 4: Drive to Donegal Town

Donegal Town
A colorful street in Donegal Town

From Westport, you'll head for the north coast of Mayo and Ceide Fields—a 5,500-year-old Neolithic site. Nearby, you can go for a windswept coastal walk that will lead you to Downpatrick Head, where Saint Patrick is believed to have founded a church. For even more history, you can continue on to the ruins of Moyne Abbey near Killala.

After you get back on the road, you can head towards Ballina, which is also a great stop for lunch. In the afternoon, you'll continue driving north, towards Donegal Town, via Bundoran, where you can dip your feet into the Atlantic Ocean. Your total driving for the day will be about 50 miles (80 km).

Day 5: Explore Glenveagh National Park - Letterkenny

Northern Ireland
Glenveagh National Park

After breakfast, it's time to travel to Glenveagh National Park and Glenveagh Castle. On your 30-miles (50 km) journey through the County Donegal mountains, you'll see picturesque lakes, wild glens and woods, a large herd of red deer, and the 19th-century Glenveagh Castle. When you arrive at the castle, you can take a tour through the buildings and grounds, hike some of the trails, and have lunch at the restaurant. When you're finished exploring the area, you'll continue on to Letterkenny, where you'll stay overnight.

Day 6: Drive to Inishowen Peninsula

View of the Inishowen Peninsula
The Inishowen Peninsula

In the morning, you'll leave Letterkenny and travel 55 miles (90 km) northeast to the seaside resort of Portrush. This will be a particularly scenic drive along the Inishowen Peninsula on the Wild Atlantic Way. Your route will pass many places of interest such as Malin Head and Inishowen Head Lighthouse

Day 7: Visit Giant's Causeway - Belfast

Giant's Causeway
Giant's Causeway

Today's 60 miles (96 kilometers)drive will take you along the Antrim Coast, and you will have the opportunity to stop and explore many sites including Dunluce Castle, the scenic cliffs of Fairhead, Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, the small town of Portrush, Mussenden Temple, Portstewart Strand, and the UNESCO World Heritage site Giant's Causeway—a rock formation of about 40,000 interlocking basalt columns that create a geometric pattern. Your final destination for the day will be Belfast, where you'll have the evening free.

Day 8: Departure via Dublin

Belfast at night
Belfast at night

It's time to say goodbye to Ireland! Today, you can take one last stroll around Belfast before making your way back to Dublin Airport to return your rental car and catch your flight back home.

Map

Map of Northern Ireland Road Trip - 8 Days
Map of Northern Ireland Road Trip - 8 Days