Experience highlights of both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland on this adventure-filled 13-day trip. Pick up your SUV rental car in Dublin and drive counterclockwise, first to Belfast, then on to the dramatic northern Causeway Coast, and down the west coast's Wild Atlantic Way. There'll be castles and culture aplenty, but the driving itself is one of the stars of the show, with spectacular views of mountains, lakes, cliffs, and sweeping beaches.


  • Stomp around the Giant's Causeway, a UNESCO Heritage site on the north coast
  • Drive the Wild Atlantic Way, discovering rugged and beautiful peninsulas as you go
  • Take inspiring boat trips, from the Cliffs of Moher sea cruise to a lake in Killarney 
  • Get to know Ireland's history, from the Titanic story to the tales behind epic castles 

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Dublin, Tour of Dublin Dublin
Day 2 Drive to Belfast, Visit Titanic Belfast & Cave Hill Belfast
Day 3 Explore the Causeway Coast, Visit the Waterfalls of Antrim Ballycastle
Day 4 Discover the Inishowen Peninsula Buncrana
Day 5 Drive to County Donegal, Tour Ardara's Waterfalls Ardara
Day 6 Visit Glenveagh National Park & Castle Ardara
Day 7 Drive to Westport, Ferry to Clare Island Westport
Day 8 Hike in the Burren & Explore County Clare Ballyvaughan
Day 9 Drive to Killarney, Discover Killarney National Park Killarney
Day 10 Killarney Lake Boat Trip & the Black Valley  Killarney
Day 11 Drive to Cashel, See Cork, Blarney Castle & the Rock of Cashel  Cashel
Day 12 Drive to Dublin, Guinness Storehouse, Book of Kells & Trinity Long Room Dublin
Day 13 Depart Dublin  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Dublin, Tour of Dublin

Dublin Evening Sunset
Dublin's River Liffey at sunset

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. After picking up your rental car, you'll get to know this lively capital city through the lens of a Dubliner, weaving through the streets with a guide on a two-hour walking tour.

Begin on O'Connell Street, a fashionable suburb built in the 1700s and now the city's thoroughfare. Pay a visit to the statue of James Joyce leaning on his walking stick, affectionately known to Dubliners as "the prick with the stick." Make your way through the Temple Bar district, where a bohemian music and arts community guarantees a jubilant atmosphere. Then, visit Wood Quay, the site of archaeological excavations in the 1970s and '80s that revealed the largest Viking settlement outside Scandinavia.

Day 2: Drive to Belfast, Visit Titanic Belfast & Cave Hill

Belfast's vibrant waterfront and Titanic Museum

Today you'll set out on the 103-mile (166 km) drive north to Belfast, the capital of Northern Ireland and part of the United Kingdom (so switch those euros for pounds). Belfast has shaken off the political unrest of its past to emerge as a dynamic and creative modern city, where sleek architecture sits neatly beside its stately Victorian buildings. The drive will take you just over two hours, and after settling into your accommodation, you'll have the rest of the day free to explore at your own pace.  

A great place to start is the Cathedral Quarter, the historic trading district of cobbled streets and warehouses that's now the scene of trendy bars, cafés, and restaurants. Pay homage to history's most famous ill-fated ship, designed, built, and launched from these city docks at the Titanic Belfast museum. Or, pop into the Ulster Museum to learn about Ireland's art, history, and natural science. Shop for souvenirs at the iconic St George's Market for souvenirs, then walk to Cave Hill Country Park for panoramic views of the city and coast. 

Day 3: Explore the Causeway Coast, Visit the Waterfalls of Antrim

Explore the Giant's Causeway on today's route
See one of Northern Ireland's most iconic natural landmarks at the Giant's Causeway

Get ready for the magnificent scenery of the far north's Causeway Coast, one of Northern Ireland's major beauty spots. The 77-mile (124 km) coastal road will deliver you to the Giant's Causeway on the north coast. The striking UNESCO World Heritage site is made up of some 40,000 massive black basalt columns sticking out of the sea, created six million years ago by lava flow. Its name comes from legends of giants striding over the rocks to Scotland across the sea. It's not far from the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge if you can brave the rickety walk high above the rough Atlantic waves.

On the way up, take a private tour of the Antrim Coastline's beautiful waterfalls, which lie along well-maintained coastal trails. These include the National Trust in Glenoe, Glenariff Forest Park, Cranny Falls in Carnlough, and Dunseverick Falls. You could also stop at Dunluce Castle, the scenic cliffs of Fairhead, or the Mussenden Temple. Spend the night nearby in the small seaside town of Ballycastle, on Ireland's northeasternmost tip. 

Day 4: Discover the Inishowen Peninsula

Plenty of viewpoints along the peninsula
Venture west into County Donegal and the Inishowen Peninsula

Today you'll drive just under two hours to Inishowen, located 70 miles (113 km) west of Ballycastle on a peninsula in the northern part of County Donegal. At the entrance of the peninsula, pause to see the impressive Grianan of Aileach, a hillfort atop the 801-foot (244 m) Greenan Mountain. It's said to have been built in 1700 BCE and served as the high kingdom of Ailech's royal seat for half a millennium. The sunrise views are especially breathtaking.  

Consider taking the Inishowen Scenic Drive (also known as the Inishowen 100), a 100-mile (160 km) circular route that loops around the windswept peninsula, with beauty spots and attractions along the way. Most people aim for Malin Head, the country's most northerly point. Nearby is the Old Bushmills Distillery—Ireland's oldest whiskey distillery (lucky for you if you're the passenger!). Then, make your way to Buncrana, a shorefront town and the biggest settlement on the peninsula, where you'll stay for the night. 

Day 5: Drive to County Donegal, Tour Ardara's Waterfalls

Sliabh Liag
Stop for selfies on the spectacular Sliabh Liag Pilgrim's Path

Today's 90-minute drive takes you 60 miles (95 km) southwest to Ardara, located in County Donegal's Slieve League Peninsula. This will be your base for the next two nights. The heritage town of Ardara might be small, but it's big on the traditional music scene—catch a local band at The Ceili House Bar or come for its renowned Cup of Tae Irish music festival in May.

The coastline around the town is dotted with "secret" coves and beaches. Head to Maghera Beach and Caves, accessed via steps during low tide, or visit the horseshoe beach of Silver Strand. On the south side of the peninsula is Largy Waterfall, where the water plunges into a secluded coastal cave. Assaranca Waterfall and Owenree Waterfall are also beautiful if you're not up for the slippery hike to the cave.

Half an hour's drive south of Ardara, you can pick up the Sliabh Liag Pilgrims Path for a hike to cliffs rising 1,972 feet (601 m) from the Atlantic—some of Europe's highest sea cliffs. On this 2.5-mile (4 km) linear trail, you'll be following in the footsteps of ancient pilgrims who were on their way to McBric's Church, which is still there today. You'll also be able to see ruins of the monk's stone dwellings, known as beehive huts.

Day 6: Visit Glenveagh National Park & Castle

Glenveagh National Park
Discover the mountains and lakes of Glenveagh National Park
Plan your trip to Ireland
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.

Strike out farther into County Donegal today to discover the 35,000-acre (16,000 ha) Glenveagh National Park. Deep in the Derryveagh mountain range, you'll walk in the shadow of the park's highest point, the 2,464-foot (751 m) peak of Errigal. Explore the surrounding glens, native oak woods, and pristine lakes, either on foot or by bike. It's also a haven for wildlife, so look out for the large herd of red deer or golden eagles swooping overhead.

The focal point of the area is the impressive Glenveagh Castle. Take a wander around this mansion, which opened as a romantic highland retreat in 1873. It's hosted many famous guests over the years, including Marilyn Monroe and John Wayne. After exploring the grounds' Gothic Orangery and Tuscan Garden, have lunch in the pretty tea room, then, if the weather is nice, end the day with a relaxing boat cruise on the lake.

Day 7: Drive to Westport, Ferry to Clare Island

Westport's charming town center
The picturesque Doris Brothers Bridge in Westport

Departing Donegal today, you'll travel 120 miles (194 km) south along the Wild Atlantic Way toward the renowned music town of Westport. Break up the two to three-hour drive with a stop at the beachfront resort town of Bundoran, where you can grab lunch, dip your feet into the Atlantic, 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 cinematic landscapes of "Yeat's Country," which served as inspiration for the famous poet.

After checking into your hotel in Westport, take the short drive to Clew Bay, where 365 islands—one for every day of the year—are scattered off the coast. Ride the local ferry to reach Clare Island to see the castle where Ireland's famous "Pirate Queen," Grace O'Malley, spent her childhood. In the evening, soak up the soundtrack of Ireland's most musical town by watching live performers in Westport's many bars and pubs. 

Day 8: Hike in the Burren & Explore County Clare

Wildflowers flourish in the Burren's distinctive rocky landscape

Today's two-hour drive takes you 82 miles (132 km) down the coast to reach County Clare to explore the wild Burren region of western Ireland. Named after the Irish word boireann, meaning "rocky place," Burren National Park covers an area of more than 3,707 acres (1,500 ha). Wander this wilderness to see its moon-like limestone features, hazel scrub, pine woodland, and more than 40 species of rare flowers. Stop for lunch in Kilfenora, a village at the heart of the Burren.

Beyond the Burren, Clare offers a wealth of activities. How about sheering sheep on a farm and watching a sheepdog herd its flock? Or maybe take a cruise to see the Cliffs of Moher and Aran Islands from the colorful village of Doolin? If you're up for a hike, pick up the clifftop trail to the top of the Cliffs of Moher and experience a wild Atlantic sunset. You'll then spend the night in Ballyvaughan, an enchanting harbor village in the northwest corner of the Burren.

Day 9: Drive to Killarney, Discover Killarney National Park

The magnificently situated Ross Castle on the shores of Lough Leane

Head 2.5 hours south to Killarney, located 120 miles (192 km) away on the north shore of Lough Leane. It's the gateway to Killarney National Park, the first national park in Ireland when it launched almost a century ago. Spend the day exploring this wild and serene setting of mountains, lakes, and forests. Visit medieval Ross Castle, the 15th-century seat of the O'Donoghue Clan. Or, see the Victorian mansion Muckross House and stroll around the ruins and cloisters of the adjacent Muckross Abbey.

Return to Killarney town to spend the night. Your local expert can help you choose somewhere to settle in for a well-earned meal. Consider Cronins on College Street, a family business that goes back to 1957. The laid-back Porterhouse gastropub is perfect for walk-ins, and you can't beat the cozy Laurels pub when the weather's rough. Stonechat Restaurant, just off Killarney's High Street, offers a casual take on fine dining. Spirits are often high in the evenings, with musicians frequently playing gigs in the bars.

Day 10: Killarney Lake Boat Trip & the Black Valley 

The Black Valley
Witness some of Ireland's most remote and dramatic landscapes in the Black Valley

Start the morning with a relaxing boat trip across one of Killarney's lakes for panoramas of the surrounding mountains. Relax as you watch the sights from your heated, glass-covered boat, guided by a local captain. You'll have a chance to disembark in the remote Black Valley, which gained its name in the 1970s for being the last place on the mainland to be connected to the electric grid. This area is known for its waterfalls and charming six-arch bridge across the Gearhameen River.

After, drive to the Gap of Dunloe, a dramatic narrow pass between the mountain ranges of MacGillycuddy Reeks and Purple Mountain. Or, if you're up for a longer adventure, take the Skellig Ring road around the entire Iveragh Peninsula, a distance of around 112 miles (180 km). This route has everything from mountain passes and steep clifftop-hugging roads to quaint villages where you'll find delicious food and friendly locals. Drive at your own pace and stop as often as you wish.

Day 11: Drive to Cashel, See Cork, Blarney Castle & the Rock of Cashel 

Step into medieval Ireland at the Rock of Cashel

You'll begin the journey east today, traveling 88 miles (141 km) to the historical town of Cashel, deep in the interior of Ireland. Along the two-hour drive, call in at Cork, Ireland's southern hub. Known as the "Rebel City," Cork has a long history of challenging authority and honoring an independent spirit. It's also the country's culinary capital, so make the most of its cafés and bakeries n the cool Huguenot Quarter and restaurants in head to the Victorian Quarter, around MacCurtain Street.

Take a diversion to Blarney Castle, a 15-minute drive from Cork. The evocative ruins date from the 15th century, on the site where a 10th-century wooden castle once stood. Nature has gloriously taken over, with creeping plants across the inner stone walls and pockets of woodland around the grounds. Its most famous asset is the Blarney Stone: according to Irish legend, kissing the stone imparts the kisser with the "gift of the gab" (meaning, great chat!).

Upon arriving in Cashel, in County Tipperary, stroll around the Rock of Cashel, a medieval ecclesiastical site of Gothic and Romanesque-style buildings that was home to the kings of Munster for over 700 years. Beside it, explore the complex of museums at Cashel Folk Village to learn about moments of history like the Great Famine and the 1916 Easter Rising. Within a short drive of Cashel, you'll find Hore Abbey—a place to behold at sunset.

Day 12: Drive to Dublin, Guinness Storehouse, Book of Kells & Trinity Long Room

The entrance to the Guinness Storehouse
A visit to the Guinness Storehouse is a must before leaving Dublin

A final 103-mile (166 km), two-hour drive takes you back to Dublin today, where you can spend the rest of the day seeing more of the capital. Take a self-guided tour of the iconic Guinness Storehouse, the flagship factory of Ireland's most famous exports and one of the world's most popular tourist attractions. Learn the story of the brand's stratospheric rise across a seven-floor museum before taking in the 360-degree city views from the Gravity Bar. You can also pre-arrange a look at the Guinness Archives, a vast collection of Guinness-related artifacts and documents from 1759 to the present day.

In the afternoon, stroll around the university campus of Trinity College. 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 (used as a filming location for the "Harry Potter" movies), you can walk among 250,000 of Ireland's oldest books and documents.

Day 13: Depart Dublin

Wave goodbye to Dublin's Medieval Quarter

Your time on the Emerald Isle has come to an end, but hopefully, it won't be your last visit! Head to Dublin Airport to return the rental car and catch your flight home. Safe travels!

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Map of Northern Ireland & the West Coast - 13 Days
Map of Northern Ireland & the West Coast - 13 Days