- Take in epic views of mountains and coast as you drive the Wild Atlantic Way
- Hike the Cliffs of Moher coastal path, 702 feet (214 m) above the roaring sea
- Hear the Irish language on a day trip to Inisheer, the smallest of the Aran Islands
- Explore The Burren's remote landscape and ancient archaeological sites
|Day 1||Arrive in Dublin, Drive to Doolin||Doolin|
|Day 2||Ferry Trip to the Aran Islands||Doolin|
|Day 3||Tour the Loop Head Peninsula||Doolin|
|Day 4||Hike Around Ballyvaughan, Explore The Burren National Park||Doolin|
|Day 5||Hike the Cliffs of Moher Coastal Path, Drive to Killarney||Killarney|
|Day 6||Explore Killarney & the Three Lakes||Killarney|
|Day 7||Drive to Kilkenny, Visit Kilkenny Castle & Smithwick's Brewery||Kilkenny|
|Day 8||Drive to Dublin & Depart|
Day 1: Arrive in Dublin, Drive to Doolin
A warm welcome to the Emerald Isle! Once you've landed at Dublin Airport, pick up your rental car to kick off an unforgettable road trip. The three-hour route from the airport takes you from the east coast to the west, slicing across the country to the far edge of Europe. You'll arrive in the traditional village of Doolin in County Clare, the gateway to the Cliffs of Moher, The Burren, and the Aran Islands.
For many, Doolin is their favorite settlement in the west, with an inspiring coastal setting, brightly painted houses, and bands frequently playing in its pubs. It's hailed as the home of traditional Irish music, after all! Get a taste of Irish tradition over dinner tonight at Gus O'Connor's Pub, one of Ireland's best-loved boozers since 1832. Tuck into seafood chowder or Atlantic mussels while settling in for an evening of merry music.
Day 2: Ferry Trip to the Aran Islands
Hop on a ferry for a day trip to Inisheer, the smallest of the three Aran Islands at just 2.5 miles (4 km) long and 1.5 miles (2.5 km) wide. The Aran Islands guard the mouth of Galway Bay, and their remote setting serves as a haven for nesting seabirds. Keep an eye out for dolphins leaping through the boat's wake on the half-hour journey from Doolin.
Take time to explore this peaceful island on foot, by bicycle, or in a traditional horse-drawn cart, passing through the wild rocky landscape and visiting monuments of Christian, pre-Christian, and Celtic mythological heritage. You might also get to hear the melodic sounds of the Irish language during your visit—traditions still holding strong out here, and the 1,300 people who call the islands home consider Irish their native tongue.
Day 3: Tour the Loop Head Peninsula
Set off on a day trip around the dramatic Loop Head Peninsula, part of the Wild Atlantic Way coastal route. For 300 years, a lighthouse has stood at the tip of this slender stretch of land, the most westerly point in County Clare. The current lighthouse (built in 1854) is open to the public, so climb up to the balcony at 75 feet (23 m) above ground for a birdseye view of the Atlantic. For lunch, stop along the peninsula's south coast at the tiny fishing village of Carrigaholt, then visit the imposing ruins of Dunlicky Castle.
Drop in for a hands-on activity on your way back to Doolin: try The Burren Perfumery to make your own eco-friendly perfume, or tour the Chapel Gate Irish Whiskey Distillery, an enterprise on a family farm that's become a global hit. There's also a popular cooking school: Berry Lodge, in the resort village of Spanish Point. The 18th-century house comes with spectacular coastal views—the perfect backdrop as you learn to make traditional Irish dishes.
Day 4: Hike Around Ballyvaughan, Explore The Burren National Park
Heading north from Doolin today, drive along the Wild Atlantic Way to the pretty harbor village of Ballyvaughan, known for its traditional Irish music, culinary delights, and artistic heritage. Several hikes start here: you could take the moderate Wood Loop Trail up to the Ailwee Caves and join a 30-minute tour. Or, tackle the Mullaghmore Loop Walk, a remote 4-mile (6.5 km) hike to the summit of Mullaghmore mountain. It's tough going, but the views are staggering.
The village is also the gateway to The Burren Scenic Loop Drive, a figure-of-eight drive of 100 miles (150 km) through The Burren National Park. Named for the Gaelic word boireann, meaning "rocky place," the diverse Burren landscape features limestone slabs, hazel scrub, woodland, springs, and cliffs. Stop off wherever takes your fancy, such as the well-preserved 12th-century Corcomroe Abbey or the fascinating Neolithic portal tomb of Poulnabrone Dolmen. Then perhaps have lunch at Dysert O'Dea Castle just south of Corofin. You could stick around Ballyvaughan for dinner at the legendary Monks seafood restaurant on the pier.
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
Day 5: Hike the Cliffs of Moher Coastal Path, Drive to Killarney
Experience Ireland's most renowned landscape on foot today with a hike along the Cliffs of Moher. Rising from the raging Atlantic to 700 feet (214 m) at their highest point, standing here is like teetering at the world's edge. You can walk from Doolin to the visitor center, then take the shuttle back or park up at the slightly closer point of Hags Head. If you're feeling energetic, hike the full 9-mile (14 km) round-trip along the cliffs.
Close to the village, pause at O'Brien's Tower, a 19th-century stone-built observation tower that marks the cliffs' highest point. The panorama provides views of the Aran Islands, Galway Bay, and the Maumturk mountain range, so don't leave your camera behind.
To truly appreciate the cliffs' height, take the three-hour sea cruise from Doolin. From this dramatic perspective, the people walking along the trail above appear no bigger than ants. If you're traveling as a group, you can choose a bespoke sailing aboard a high-speed RIB boat. Boat trips run between March and October.
Day 6: Explore Killarney & the Three Lakes
Say goodbye to Doolin today, and drive around 2.5 hours south to the historical town of Killarney. Set on the shore of Lough Leane, it makes an excellent base for a couple of days of exploring. In the town, visit the neo-Gothic St Mary's Cathedral to see its vivid stained-glass windows, then stroll around the peaceful Franciscan Friary.
After checking into your accommodation, lace up your walking boots and venture into the rural idyl of Killarney National Park, which was Ireland's first national park when it launched almost a century ago. Home to the largest expanse of native forest in Ireland, it's now a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. Visit the Victorian mansion Muckross House and have lunch in its conservatory café looking out to the Walled Garden, then walk around the ruins and cloisters of Muckross Abbey.
Day 7: Drive to Kilkenny, Visit Kilkenny Castle & Smithwick's Brewery
Press on east to Kilkenny, the old medieval capital of Ireland in the inland the province of Leinster. Start by exploring the highly romantic Kilkenny Castle, a Victorian remodeling of a 13th-century fortress. Learn its history in the restored interior, then roam through the 50 acres (20 ha) of parkland, where you'll find woodland, a rose garden, and a lake.
Next, visit St Canice's Cathedral, one of Ireland's most impressive religious buildings. Its massive round tower is one of only two that visitors can climb in Ireland. If you're a beer lover, round off the day with a guided tour of Smithwick's Brewery, one of the country's oldest breweries, with a 300-year-old heritage. Learn about the brewing process of this beloved Irish brand, then toast the end of your trip with a pint of flavorsome ale.
Day 8: Drive to Dublin & Depart
Take a final morning to explore Kilkenny. Wander along the Medieval Mile, a street with a 1,500-year-old history in the heart of the town. Nearby Dunmore Cave is set to reopen in 2023 after restoration work, so you could visit to see the most impressive calcite formations in Ireland. Your adventure in Ireland's "wild west" draws to a close as you drive back to Dublin to return your rental car and catch your flight home. Safe travels!