Hit the road and see the best of the Emerald Isle on this 5-day self-driving jaunt through Ireland. Walk the ancient streets of Dublin, kiss the Blarney Stone in Cork, visit the famous heritage town of Killarney, take in breathtaking views of the Cliffs of Moher, and revel in the energy of bohemian Galway. From windswept Atlantic coastlines to bustling city streets, this itinerary is perfect for independent travelers looking to pack some of Ireland's most iconic sights into a short space of time.

Highlights

  • Walk Dublin's ancient streets
  • Tour Blarney Castle & the Blarney Stone
  • Visit Ireland's oldest national park at Killarney
  • See the awe-inspiring Cliffs of Moher
  • Discover the foodie scene in colorful Galway

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Dublin - Explore Dublin
Day 2 Cork & Blarney Castle Cork
Day 3 Discover Killarney National Park Killarney National Park
Day 4 Cliffs of Moher & Galway Galway
Day 5 Departure  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Dublin - Explore

The colorful streets of Temple Bar.
The colorful streets of 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: Cork & Blarney Castle

Cork's historic English Market.
Cork's historic English Market.

After breakfast, collect your rental car and make your way to Ireland's second city of Cork. This charming, friendly town spans both sides of the broad River Lee and traces its roots back to the 6th century. Once you've settled into your hotel, take the rest of the day to explore

A great place to start is the central English Market, with its ornate vaulted ceilings, columns, and polished marble fountain. Scores of vendors set up colorful and photogenic displays of the region's very best local produce here, including meat, fish, fruit, cheeses, and takeaway food.

In the afternoon, take a quick trip out to Blarney Castle. This evocative 600-year-old fortress is only a short drive from the city and is home to the famous Blarney Stone. According to Irish legend, kissing the stone imparts the kisser with the "gift of the gab."

Day 3: Discover Killarney National Park

The forests and lakes of Killarney National Park.
The forests and lakes of Killarney National Park.

Today you'll drive across the mountainous terrain that separates County Cork from the kingdom of Kerry, to reach the historic town of Killarney. After checking into your accommodation, lace up your walking boots and head off to Muckross House—a beautiful mansion built in the 19th century and now forming the central point of the spectacular Killarney National Park. Home to the largest expanse of native forest in Ireland, the country's first national park also holds the distinction of UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.

From here, you can follow a circular route around Killarney's three lakes—Lough Leane, Muckross Lake, and Upper Lake—for a magnificent walk through ancient woodlands with scenic views.

Day 4: Cliffs of Moher & Galway

The spectacular Cliffs of Moher.
The spectacular Cliffs of Moher.

Journey to the far western edge of Europe today to reach the awe-inspiring Cliffs of Moher. Forming a protective barrier from the Wild Atlantic Way to the rich and fertile land at the southern end of the Burren Region, these iconic cliffs run for 5 miles (8 km) along the dramatic coastline. Their towering dominance is best appreciated on foot, so take the morning to explore their wild beauty with a gentle hike—and make sure to bring a camera!

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 wide variety of food offerings, or take a tour exploring its unique historical places of interest.

Day 5: Departure

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

After breakfast,  you’ll drive back east to Dublin Airport to return your car rental and bid farewell to the Emerald Isle.

Map

Map of Ultimate Ireland Road Trip: Dublin, Cork, Killarney & Galway - 5 Days
Map of Ultimate Ireland Road Trip: Dublin, Cork, Killarney & Galway - 5 Days