Grab your passport and keys because you're off on an epic road trip around Ireland's scenic south. See firsthand why they call this the Emerald Isle as you drive along rolling green hills, shimmering lakes, medieval villages, and historic castles on your way through various countries, from Cork to Limerick. As a bonus, you'll enjoy city tours of Dublin, hiking coastal cliffs, whiskey tastings, and more.


  • See the highlights of Dublin on a walking tour
  • Visit medieval villages like Kilkenny and Kinsale
  • Go kayaking on lakes and hike along coastal cliffs
  • Drive through various counties in Ireland's green south

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Dublin, Optional Activities Dublin
Day 2 Drive to Kilkenny, Adventure in Dunmore Cave Kilkenny
Day 3 Drive to Kinsale, Town & Food Tour Kinsale
Day 4 Kinsale Loop Walk Kinsale
Day 5 West Cork & Sheep's Head Peninsula Schull
Day 6 West Cork Kayaking & Standup Paddleboarding Schull
Day 7 Visit Gougane Barra & the Holy Valley Killarney
Day 8 Visit Killarney National Park & Ring of Kerry Drive Killarney
Day 9 Drive to Portmagee, Hike the Kerry Cliffs Killarney
Day 10 Drive to Dingle, Conor Pass & Slea Head Drive Dingle Town
Day 11 Drive to Limerick City, Stop in Adare Limerick
Day 12 Explore Burren National Park Limerick
Day 13 Depart Dublin  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Dublin, Optional Activities

See where they found Viking-Norman relics at Winetavern St

Welcome to the Republic of Ireland! This island nation has seen its share of ups and downs since it won independence from Britain in 1921, though the worst days seem to be in the past. Today Ireland is a major player on the European stage, and this is no more evident than in the capital of Dublin. This captivating metropolis is at once traditional and modern, famous for its history, culture, music, and cuisine. Upon arrival at the airport, a driver will transfer you to your hotel in the city, then you can head out and discover Dublin's myriad treasures on your own.

Stroll the cobbled streets and marvel at the city's Georgian architecture as you enjoy performances from street buskers. Visit historic landmarks like 16th-century Trinity College, whose famous alumni include celebrated Irish writers like Oscar Wilde and Samuel Beckett. Head over to Winetavern Street, a medieval lane where artifacts were found from the Viking-Normal eras. There are impressive Gothic cathedrals in this city too, like St Patrick's and Christ Church. While on your way to the Temple Bar district for a pint, be sure to stop at the 15th-century Dublin Castle.

Day 2: Drive to Kilkenny, Adventure in Dunmore Cave

Pay a visit to Kilkenny Castle, which boasts four towers and lovely gardens
Road trip time! In the morning, you'll pick up your rental car and drive 1.5 hours south to Kilkenny, one of the most beautiful medieval cities in Ireland. Originally a monastic settlement, the site was founded as a town after the Norman invasion in the 12th century. The route to get there is a scenic one, as you'll pass rolling green hills dotted with sheep and separated by hedgerows. Upon arrival, you'll check into your hotel, and then, like in Dublin, you can head out and explore.

Wander the 1,500-year-old streets of Medieval Mile and visit the 15th-century St Canice's Cathedral, known for its massive round tower offering panoramic views of the countryside. Perhaps visit the iconic Kilkenny Castle, which was built in the 12th century. Later head just north of town to Dunmore Cave. This network of limestone caverns features plenty of macabre lore, like the story of how a Viking leader massacred 1,000 people here in 928 CE. Ghost stories aside, a visit along its subterranean walkways is fascinating, as the cave features unique calcite limestone formations.

After doing some light spelunking, you'll have the option to drive south of Kilkenny and visit Highbank Organic Farm. This working farm and apple orchard is part of the county's rich history, as it's been around since the 17th century. Here, you can gather apples, make your own refreshing apple drink, and enjoy some whiskey or cider. When you return to Kilkenny, perhaps finish the day with a pint at the beautiful Smithwicks Brewery.

Day 3: Drive to Kinsale, Town & Food Tour

Stroll the narrow streets of colorful Kinsale 
After breakfast, get back in the car and drive two hours southwest to County Cork, known for its delicious gastronomy, famous castles, coastal cliffs, and colorful seaside towns. Speaking of which, your destination is Kinsale, a small harbor village famous for its narrow streets and brightly colored shops. On the way there, feel free to stop at historic sites, villages, and coastal landmarks. One must-visit locale is the seaside town of Cobh—famous as the Titanic's last port of call in 1912
Later you'll arrive in Kinsale and check into your hotel. Then head out for a self-guided walking tour of this small village. Despite being home to a mere 5,000 people, this town is regarded as the gourmet capital of Ireland and is positively bursting with quality restaurants serving up cuisine that ranges from traditional Irish to international fusion. There are even a few Michelin-starred options. 
Kinsale also boasts an impressive maritime history, which you can see in the 16th-century naval forts protecting the harbor entrance. In fact, in 1601, Kinsale was the site of a fierce battle between Spanish and English forces. Outside of town are beaches where you can enjoy kayaking and watersports, and there are coastal hikes that will lead you to lighthouse viewing platforms. Of course, in the evening be sure to book a reservation at one of the town's many fine restaurants. 

Day 4: Kinsale Loop Walk

Charles Fort
Charles Fort, one of the largest military fortifications in the country
Today you'll eschew the car for your own two feet as you enjoy a scenic walk around Kinsale. This three-hour loop tour will take you all around town, showcasing its beauty, landmarks, and, of course, fine restaurants. You'll set off from the town center and head down to Lower Road for a stroll along the waterfront. The route leads around the harbor, where you'll enjoy epic views and visit historic sites. The most famous is Charles Fort, one of the largest military installations in the country. It was built in 1670 to defend the harbor from hostile forces.
Return to town by following High Road, which also features stunning views. Out on the water, you'll likely spot resident animals like seals, herons, cormorants, and (if you're lucky), the occasional dolphin. Back in town, you can enjoy a gourmet lunch at a restaurant overlooking the harbor followed by a refreshing pint. Afterward, you'll have the rest of the day free to relax in Kinsale. 

Day 5: Drive to West Cork & Sheep's Head Peninsula 

Galley Head Lighthouse
Sunset over Cork's Galley Head Lighthouse
After breakfast, you'll set off on your first official drive on the Wild Atlantic Way. This famous tourism route spans 1,553 miles (2,500 km) along the west coast of Ireland, passing through nine different counties. After leaving Kinsale, you'll follow the stunning coastal route, stopping off at charming harbor villages like Glandore and Union Hall on your way to West Cork.
Plan your trip to Ireland
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
Continue to the town of Bantry, located at the edge of County Cork. After lunch here, enjoy a scenic 25-mile (40 km) loop drive around the Sheep's Head peninsula. At the end of the peninsula, you'll be treated to fantastic views of the Atlantic Ocean on both sides. Be sure to stop for pictures at Sheep's Head Lighthouse, located right on the coastal cliffs. From here, a 45-minute drive takes you back up the peninsula before turning east again to reach Schull, one of West Cork's loveliest harborfront villages and your base for the next two nights.

Day 6: West Cork Kayaking & Standup Paddleboarding

Lough Hyne Stand Up Boarding
Paddle along West Cork's glassy lakes on a board or in a kayak
In the morning, you'll head out for a relaxing day on the water. West Cork is famous as a hub for sailing and watersports, so you're in the best place to enjoy these activities. Rather than taking a boat tour, however, today you'll enjoy a three-hour kayak ride or standup paddleboarding session. The location is up to you, and you can choose to go kayaking on glassy Lough Hyne, paddle under bridges on the River Lee in Cork City, or go standup boarding at the harbor in the village of Glandore. Afterward, you'll return to the hotel and will have the rest of the day free.

Day 7: Visit Gougane Barra & the Holy Valley

Beautiful landscapes at Gougane Barra
Explore the forests and beautiful landscapes at Gougane Barra
Today, take a drive to Gougane Barra, home to some of southwest Ireland's most scenic countryside. This valley in the Shehy Mountains covers 339 acres (137 ha) and offers great cycling and forest hikes. It's also a heritage site steeped in history, as it was on a lake island here in the sixth century that St Finbarr, patron saint of Cork, founded a monastery. Come during spring to see melons growing in the valley, or in summer when birdsong provides the soundtrack to the valley's walking trails. Afterward, you'll drive an hour north to Killarney, in County Kerry, where you'll overnight.

Day 8: Visit Killarney National Park & Ring of Kerry Drive

Killarney National Park & Town
See the highlights in and around Killarney, including the national park
Leave Killarney in the morning and discover the natural wonders right on this town's doorstep. For example, you can head to the outskirts and Killarney National Park, a 26,000-acre (10,521 ha) protected area and UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. Here, you can visit romantic Torc Waterfall, or embark on one of the spectacular hiking trails. These will lead you through incredible scenery along the Black Valley, Mangerton Mountain, and the Gap of Dunloe, a narrow mountain pass.
Afterward, you can take a drive on the famous Ring of Kerry. This famous 111-mile (179 km) circuit route winds its way around the Iveragh Peninsula, passing unspoiled coastline, medieval ruins, and mist-shrouded mountains and loughs. Along the way, you'll be treated to great views of the islands dotting the Atlantic. Back in Killarney, you can visit historic landmarks like Ross Castle, which dates to the 15th century and overlooks Lough Leane. Also on the lake is Muckross Abbey, a 15th-century Franciscan friary home to a 700-year-old yew tree. If you like, you can enjoy a boat tour across the lake.

Day 9: Drive to Portmagee, Hike the Kerry Cliffs

Kerry Cliffs Portmagee
View from atop the Kerry Cliffs, in Portmagee
Drive just over an hour west from Killarney today, going beyond the Ring of Kerry to the edge of the Iveragh Peninsula and the fishing village of Portmagee. This is the main hub for excursions to the Skellig Islands, located 10 miles (16 km) off the west coast of Ireland. Here you can travel along the Skellig Ring drive, a section of the peninsula that offers great hiking/biking trails. One fun excursion is a hike up the soaring Kerry Cliffs, from atop which you'll enjoy great views over the Atlantic Ocean. There are great beaches in the area too, particularly at St Finian's Bay.
Spend some time in the town of Portmagee and you won't lack for activities either. There's amazing food, lively music, fun pubs, and great viewpoints looking out over adjacent Valentina Island. You can shop for pottery, sample locally made chocolates, and enjoy a tour of the Portmagee Whiskey Distillery.
Another option is to travel to the seaside town of Ballinskelligs. Here, you can embark on the famous Skelligs Monks Trail, a 2-mile (3 km) loop trail along the waterfront that offers stunning coastal views and passes the ruins of abbeys and castles. The walk takes about two hours to complete, and afterward, you can return to your hotel in Killarney. 

Day 10: Drive to Dingle, Conor Pass & Slea Head Drive

Blue skies over the traditional fishing town of Dingle
In the morning you'll drive northwest for about an hour to Dingle, a lovely port town sitting on coastal cliffs. On the way, you'll traverse the dramatic Conor Pass. This 7-mile (12 km) twisty mountain road is one of the highest passes in the country, as it reaches an elevation of 1,496 feet (456 m) at its highest point. Needless to say, the coastal views during this section of the drive are incredible. 
When you arrive in Dingle, you'll check into your hotel and will have the rest of the day free to explore. Despite being a popular tourist destination, Dingle retains all the charm of a traditional fishing village. Here you can browse charming boutiques, galleries, and craft shops. Perhaps stop in at one of the great restaurants and pubs featuring live traditional music. If you like continue touring this rugged coastal region on loop drives like Slea Head, an 18-mile (30 km) route that will take you to the end of the Dingle Peninsula and back.

Day 11: Drive to Limerick City, Stop in Adare

Thatched Cottages in Adare Village
See the thatched Cottages in Adare Village
After breakfast, you'll drive about two hours east from Dingle into County Limerick and Adare. This heritage town, which was founded in the 13th century, is one of Ireland's prettiest villages. Its postcard main street is lined with thatched cottages and medieval buildings as well as fashion boutiques and pubs. During a stop here, you can tour the town and its famous manors and castles, like Desmond and Fanningstown Castle. You can also stretch your legs on a walking trail in the countryside and along the River Maigue.
Then continue a short way north to Limerick, the capital city of the county. Located on the banks of the River Shannon, this port city boasts a dramatic history. It begins with the arrival of the Vikings in the ninth century and includes brutal sieges during the Williamite War in the 17th century, the prosperous Georgian era of the 18th century, and the tragic Great Irish Famine of the 19th century. Upon arrival, you'll check into your hotel and can then do some sightseeing.
Famous attractions you can visit here include the 13th-century King John's Castle and the adjacent St Munchin's Church, a Gothic cathedral. There's also the Limerick City Museum, which recounts the story of the city through exhibits from the Stone Age through the 1916 Easter Rebellion. If you arrive on the weekend, visit the Limerick Milk Market, a farmers' market where vendors sell a wide range of products including meats, cheeses, fresh produce, bread, juices, and more. For some culture, head to the Limerick City Gallery of Art, one of the leading contemporary galleries in Ireland.

Day 12: Explore Burren National Park

Rock formations along the Burren Way
Karst limestone rock formations in Burren National Park
In the morning, you'll head out on a one-hour drive north to Burren National Park. Ireland's smallest national park covers 204 square miles (530 sq km) and is known for its rocky limestone landscapes, the famous Cliffs of Moher, and thousands of Neolithic and Megalithic archaeological sites. The topography here is so unique that it has inspired many artists and writers, including CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien. During this day trip, you can embark on one of the five marked walking trails in the park that lead to beautiful grasslands and woodlands. At the end of the day, you'll return to Limerick.

Day 13: Drive to Dublin & Depart 

Sunset over County Limerick, in southern Ireland

No one likes, goodbyes, but unfortunately, your grand road trip through Ireland has reached its terminus. At the appropriate time, you'll drive 2.5 hours back to Dublin, drop your car off at the airport, and catch your flight home. Safe travels!

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Map of Road Trip Through Ireland's South - 13 Days
Map of Road Trip Through Ireland's South - 13 Days