See Ireland's beautiful scenery on this epic 12-day self-drive tour, which will take you on a loop from Dublin to Kildare. Explore Dublin's attractions and Medieval Quarter, hike in Wicklow Mountains National Park, and relax on the Copper Coast Beaches. Then head to Cork for a food tour and castle visit, drive the picturesque Ring of Kerry, and see the Irish-speaking Aran Islands before finishing your journey in Kildare and returning to Dublin.


  • Drive the "spine" of the Wicklow Mountains and choose a short hike in its park
  • Discover Cork on a food tour and visit the colorful stalls of the English Market
  • Take pause at the famous Cliffs of Moher
  • Learn about Celtic traditions at Saint Brigid's Well and tie a "clootie" to a rag tree

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Dublin, Explore the Medieval Quarter Dublin
Day 2 Dublin Walking Tour Dublin
Day 3 Drive to Ardmore, Wicklow Mountains National Park Ardmore
Day 4 Explore Ardmore, the South East & Waterford's Copper Coast Beaches Ardmore
Day 5 Drive to Cork, Cork Food Tour & Blarney Castle Cork
Day 6 Discover the Cork Coast, Beara Way, Gleninchaquin Park & Dursey Island Kenmare
Day 7 Drive the Ring of Kerry Kenmare
Day 8 Explore the Dingle Peninsula Tralee
Day 9 Visit the Burren Geopark & Cliffs of Moher Ballyvaughan
Day 10 Boat to the Aran Islands Ballyvaughan
Day 11 Saint Brigid's Well & Carton House in Kildare Kildare
Day 12 Depart Dublin  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Dublin, Explore the Medieval Quarter

Dublin and the River Liffey at sunset.
Dublin and the River Liffey at sunset

Welcome to the Emerald Isle! Your private driver will meet you at the airport and transfer you to your centrally-located hotel in Dublin. Enjoy exploring this colorful and vibrant capital city, with its cobbled streets and fine Georgian architecture. This afternoon, you'll have the chance to explore Dublin's Medieval Quarter with a personalized guide. This is the city's oldest part, encompassing the area around Dublin Castle, Christ Church, and St Patrick's Cathedral.

The first stop is visiting St. Audoen's Church, the oldest parish church in Ireland, which offers fantastic city views from its bell tower. Nearby are the remains of Dublin's medieval fortifications and St. Audoen's Gate, which has remained intact since the 13th century. The tour also includes a visit to the stunning Christ Church Cathedral, built in 1030 CE by the Viking King of Dublin, King Sitric. After the tour, you can keep exploring the Medieval Quarter, which offers exceptional bars and restaurants in its ancient streets. 

Day 2: Dublin Walking Tour

An idyllic springtime view of a street in the Irish capital street view

Enjoy a walking tour of Dublin today. This two-hour tour is the best introduction to the richness the city has to offer. It takes in many of Dublin's icons and guides you to excellent hidden spots while giving you a taste of the city center.

You'll start from O'Connell Street and finish close to Trinity College. On this leisurely walk, you'll encounter many famous Dublin sites, such as the General Post Office, Dublin Castle, and Christ Church Cathedral. The dedicated guides will share their love for the city and make you feel like a true Dubliner. 

Day 3: Drive to Ardmore, Wicklow Mountains National Park

Wicklow Mountains
Drive along the "spine" of the Wicklow Mountains today to check out the stunning scenery

Make your way from Dublin to Ardmore today, stopping along the way to visit the area's charming towns and natural wonders. First, venture south to the harbor town of Dalkey, home to many famous Irish residents, two Norman castles, and a lovely 10th-century church. Then, take the Old Military Road south along the spine of the Wicklow Mountains, stopping to explore Wicklow Mountains National Park, whose 49,421 acres (20,000 ha) offer amazing hill-walking, hikes, and recreational activities. Afterward, consider stopping in Gorey for spectacular views over the Ballymoney Shore.

Arriving in Kilkenny, you'll stop for a light lunch. Allow at least an hour to walk through this medieval city, explore its ancient laneways, wonder at the halls of Kilkenny Castle, and experience the grandeur of 13th-century St. Canice's Cathedral. Continue to Ardmore and explore the town and its surroundings before dinner, strolling along the clifftop path and the nearby sandy beach. Here, you can discover the oldest Christian settlement in the country, including the roofless shell of its cathedral and a 12th-century Round Tower, used as a refuge by local monks.

Day 4: Explore Ardmore, the South East & Waterford's Copper Coast Beaches

Waterford City
Discover Ireland's oldest city, Waterford

Spend the day enjoying the stunning southeast of Ireland and perhaps make a visit to Waterford, Ireland's oldest city. There, you can wander the historic streets of the Viking Triangle and browse the quirky local shops and boutiques. Take a tour of Waterford Crystal, where red molten crystal takes shape in a miracle of light, heat, and craftsmanship. Or head up to the Rock of Cashel, an impressive fortress on the site of the traditional seat of the Kings of Munster.

You can also explore Waterford's Copper Coast and its beaches. These sandy beaches are nestled at the foot of sweeping cliffs and coves. In previous times, this was a haven for pirates. A few highlights include Kilmurrin Beach, Bunmahon Beach, Ardmore Beach, and Dungarvan-Abbeyside Beach.

Day 5: Drive to Cork, Cork Food Tour & Blarney Castle

City of Cork
Check out the colorful Cork waterfront on a food tour

Head west today to visit the city of Cork. There are several options to stop on the way. For example, you could visit the walled Norman seaport of Youghal at the mouth of the River Blackwater or head to Cobh, once a point of embarkation for countless emigrants leaving for North America. Perhaps stop at Ireland's largest distillery, home to many well-known Irish whiskey brands.

Once you arrive in Cork, settle into your accommodation, then prepare for a food tour and castle visit. The guided food tour includes the colorful stalls of the famous English Market. Later, visit the world-famous Blarney Castle just outside the city, and have a meal at an award-winning restaurant serving locally-sourced produce.

Day 6: Discover the Cork Coast, Beara Way, Gleninchaquin Park & Dursey Island

Stone cottage
See rustic stone cottages as you work your way along the Cork coast

Drive along the Cork coast, following the small roads which hug the rugged coastline washed by the Atlantic Ocean, and enjoy a glorious drive along the Beara Way. You'll have the option to visit one of two islands—Bere or Dursey. Dursey Island is a beautiful island off the coast of Cork, separated from the mainland by a narrow stretch of water called the Dursey Sound. This peaceful island only has a handful of semi-permanent residents and is connected to the mainland by Ireland's sole cable car.

You could also remain on the mainland and hike to the famous 2,500-year-old Uragh Stone Circle in beautiful Gleninchaquinn Park. This working sheep farm is home to one of Ireland's most beautiful waterfalls. Your trek will take you across sheep fields and to the top of the waterfall to enjoy panoramic views of Kenmare Bay and the valley. Finish the day in Kenmare, where you'll be spending the night. 

Day 7: Drive the Ring of Kerry

Prepare for magnificent views along the Ring of Kerry
Prepare for magnificent views along the Ring of Kerry

Discover the legendary, untamed beauty of County Kerry. From Kenmare, circuit the Iveragh Peninsula—the Ring of Kerry—which winds its way through the unspoiled coastline and medieval ruins, bounded by mist-shrouded mountains and loughs (Irish for lake), with ever-changing views of the island-dotted Atlantic. You may wish to take a boat trip around the jagged island of Skellig Michael, a UNESCO-listed monastic site that has survived since the sixth century. Boats depart from the tiny port of Portmagee. Alternatively, take the little-traveled 11.2 miles (18 km) Skellig Ring route, branching off the Ring of Kerry.

You can also explore the Gap of Dunloe, a beautiful glacial valley surrounded by red sandstone cliffs. Look out for the endemic red deer as you drive through the Killarney National Park, and take short or longer treks around the beautiful lakes, where you can stumble across Muckross Abbey and the medieval Ross Castle on its eastern shore. Take the scenic drive through Moll's Gap to admire the Ladies' View over Upper Lake, once one of the favorite views of Queen Victoria's ladies-in-waiting.

Day 8: Explore the Dingle Peninsula

Dingle harbor
Stop to order a pint in a "hardware pub" in Dingle and check out its colorful harbor
Plan your trip to Ireland
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.

Head to the Dingle Peninsula to discover its sandy beaches and craggy cliffs. There, you can uncover Gallarus Oratory, an Early Christian church overlooking the rippling blue waters of Smerwick Harbour. Arrive at the most Westerly point of mainland Ireland at Slea Head, and visit Coumeenoole Beach with its haunting views of the Blasket Islands.

Finally, you'll reach bohemian, artistic, and genuinely friendly Dingle, famed for its hardware pubs where they sell wellies (rain boots), tools, and mousetraps alongside Guinness and great Irish cider. Take Conor Pass, the highest mountain road in Ireland, for a dramatic, winding route through the peaks, and finish your day in Tralee.

Day 9: Visit the Burren Geopark & Cliffs of Moher

Karst Limestone Landscape of the Burren
Discover the karst limestone landscape of the Burren

Spend some time finding inland calm and silence at the Burren Geopark area, an ancient limestone moonscape and a sight to behold for those interested in archaeology, history, botany, and geology. It may be Ireland's smallest national park, but the distinctive landscape makes it one of the most intriguing: both CS Lewis and Tolkien took inspiration from this place.

Discover the Burren's ancient monuments and head to Cahercummaun, perched on the edge of an inland cliff. This triple-ring fort was built in 800 CE and was inhabited by people who hunted deer in the region. There are caves to visit for a glimpse underground and an interesting heritage center. Afterward, visit one of Ireland's highlights, the Cliffs of Moher, where the Burren plateau plunges into the sea. Bathe in the golden glow of the sun as you admire the jaw-dropping dramatic beauty of these towering stone faces, then drive to Ballyvaughan to spend the night.

Day 10: Boat to the Aran Islands

Aerial Views of Inishmore, Aran Islands
Enjoy Inishmore of the Aran Islands and its historic sites

Take a boat trip to the Irish-speaking Aran Islands for a real insight into traditional island life. Arrive in Kilronan, Inishmore Island's main village, home to most shops, pubs, and restaurants. On arrival, you can hire bikes from the pier to explore the island—pony-and-trap tours and buses are also available. Follow the north coast to see the Seal Colony, or head inland to Dun Eochla, a stone ring fort, and the island's highest point.

At the far end of Inishmore, you'll find the Seven Churches, monastic ruins that illustrate the island's early role as a pilgrimage destination. Here too, is Dun Eoghanachta, a dramatic ancient fortress and the most significant ancient site in the area. On the south coast, you'll find the Worm Hole, a natural rectangular hole that gives the impression of rushing waterfalls along its edges when the tide goes out.

Day 11: Saint Brigid's Well & Carton House in Kildare

Rag tree at St. Brigid's Well
Tie your clootie to the rag tree at Saint Brigid's Well

Spend today exploring County Kildare. Saint Brigid's Well is an interesting site in this area. In Irish mythology, Brigid was the Celtic goddess of fire, poetry, unity, childbirth, and healing. Sacred wells were important places of pilgrimage to the Celts (and later the Christians), and they remain so thousands of years later. Believers dip a clootie (a piece of rag) in the well, wash their wounds, and then tie it to a rag tree. Saint Brigid's Well is now a small, well-maintained park, fed by a spring that flows underground before appearing again under a stone archway.

Later, head to Carton House, a country house and estate once the ancestral seat of the Earls of Kildare. Located in Maynooth, west of Dublin, Carton Demesne covers an area of 1,100 acres (445 ha) and is a fine example of a Georgian parkland landscape.

Day 12: Depart Dublin

Dublin stone bridge
Say goodbye to Ireland today! Return to Dublin for your flight home, taking a final stroll around the city if you have time. Have a great trip!

More Great Ireland Itineraries

Looking for more inspiration for your trip to Ireland? Check out these other Ireland itineraries, with outdoor adventures, cultural trips, and best-of tours to hit the highlights. 


Map of Self-Drive Southern Loop of Ireland: Dublin to Kildare - 12 Days
Map of Self-Drive Southern Loop of Ireland: Dublin to Kildare - 12 Days