An Ireland road trip is on the bucket list of many travelers. The idea of driving through the idyllic countryside, filled with rolling hills of green, dotted with sheep and age old castles seems like a wonderful escape. We were fortunate to spend a solid week driving around Ireland. And while we wish we would have had even more time, we truly loved every moment of it. So if you are planning a trip to Ireland, check out the route we took with this map of our Ireland road trip!
Our Driving Map of Ireland – Round Trip from Dublin
Like many travelers, we decided to fly in and out of Dublin because of the better flight options and prices. However, there are sometimes great deals to other airports around Ireland – such as Shannon or Galway. So definitely check out other cities in case there are deals to be had!
Dublin was amazing! We were able to visit all the major sites around town, including the famous Guinness Storehouse. And we even had time to fit in a bit of Geocaching in Dublin! Since we weren’t driving in Dublin, we did NOT rent a car until we were ready to head out of town. There’s simply no need to have a car in Dublin – plus parking is difficult and expensive.
The map below is interactive – so click and zoom as you wish!
After spending a weekend sightseeing in Dublin, we were ready to set off on our adventure road trip in Ireland. Renting a car in Ireland is not quite as straightforward as we would have liked. We did a LOT of research, and the process was still a bit painful. But we got the car and were ready to head out!
We took roughly one week to explore, so our road trip route map of Ireland took us southwest from Dublin into the countryside. From there, we would take time to drive one of the famous peninsula’s of Ireland, then go up north toward Galway Ireland, then back east to Dublin.
The Wicklow Mountains – Just Couldn’t Fit it In
We heard really great things about driving through the Wicklow Mountains south of Dublin. With amazing views and lots of places to stop for short hikes and sightseeing, this is a highly recommended place to road trip in Ireland. So when planning our Ireland road trip map, our initial plan included a drive through the beautiful Wicklow Mountains.
Unfortunately for us, when it came time to take the trip we realized that we just couldn’t fit it into our schedule because we were meeting up family in Killarney. We knew that we’d want to spend some time exploring the scenic spots in the Wicklow area, and it would take too much of our time before we had to meet up with people.
So at the last minute, we decided to cut across Ireland in a more direct west route. We did make a stop at Kilkenny to see the famous castle, and then toward the famous Rock of Cashel – perched on top of the hill. This is also where we were lucky enough to run into the family members we were meeting up with, as they were stopping to see these places too.
Sadly for us, the Kilkenny Castle & Rock of Cashel were closed during our visit. So we grabbed a some food at a local gas station deli counter (surprisingly good food by the way) and headed out again.
Driving in the Irish Countryside
This is where we ventured off the main highway and into the famous Irish countryside. This was by far one of our favorite parts of the trip because it was the first time we felt like we were experiencing that quintessential Ireland drive.
We loved seeing the rolling hills of green, endless fields, and of course…the sheep! However, this is also the first time we experienced the thrill (or terror) of the narrow roads in Ireland. Not that narrow roads are bad, but they can be scary when there is an oversized tractor coming toward you and a stone wall butting up to the side of your car! Poor Josh has a few scares in the passenger seat.
Another thing to know about driving in Ireland is that Ireland drives on the opposite side of the road from the States, as well as the opposite side of the car. While it’s really not that hard to get used to, you should take extra care — because it feels a bit strange at first! Turning corners is especially easy to forget (and take out a curb – ahem, Josh).
Killarney Ireland – a Charming Yet Bustling Tourist Town!
When we entered the town, we were surprised at how many things there were to do in Killarney and by how touristy it was. There were quite a few tour buses lining the streets, and people riding in horse drawn carriages through town. However, I wouldn’t say it felt terribly crowded if you just went a bit away from the city center. But since it’s a popular place, we were happy to see so many shops and restaurants to explore.
For our stay, we wanted to be outside the noisy town and more in the quiet countryside. And since we were with other family members, we opted to rent a little place at Old Killarney Cottages. It was a charming thatched-roof house to spend a holiday, with 4 bedrooms and a full kitchen and living area. Although, there are so many charming and cozy bed and breakfasts in Killarney where you could choose to stay as well.
After those busy days in Dublin, we were happy to go shopping at the local grocery store (always fun) and do a bit of cooking and play games in the cottage with family.
Things to Do in Killarney Ireland
While in Killarney, we took some time to explore the beautiful Ross Castle, as well as the Muckross House. This beautiful old mansion is full of history and art, as well as having magnificent gardens surrounding it.
But the most fun we had was actually exploring the working farms nearby Muckross House. Walking around the grounds, we felt like we were transported back in time – visiting old cottages with workers dressed in period clothes. We were able to sample freshly made soda bread that was freshly cooked over the fire, along with fresh butter and jam.
The traditional farms around Muckross House were a great way to see the history and culture of Ireland preserved, and shared with visitors. We really felt like we were experiencing what life was once like in this area. We also enjoyed walking through the countryside gazing out at the fields and admiring the different animals. It really was a great way to spend the day, and it felt like we were in the real Ireland.
Gorgeous Killarney National Park and Kenmare, Ireland
One late afternoon we ventured out for a drive through Killarney National Park. What a beautiful drive it was, winding up and down the mountains, passing by quite lakes and old castle ruins. We had a blast making a few photo stops here and there, and just wandering around.
Then we popped into the town of Kenmare for a look around. This is a popular town for tourists, and oh so charming! I imagine that the town can be busy in the day with day-trippers, but we arrived in the early evening and the town was incredibly quiet.
We ventured out to see an old stone circle, then headed back into town for a pint at Crowleys Bar. That stop actually became one of the highlights of our trip, as we met Sheila, the animated bartender who told us the most hilarious story about her visit to the US Grand Canyon, and those “Fecking Squirrels!”
Driving the Ring of Kerry or the Dingle Peninsula
One of the most popular routes to take while exploring Ireland is driving the Ring of Kerry. However, it is also the most crowded. We heard stories over and over about lots of traffic, too many tour buses, and an overall lackluster experience. So we opted for something different.
Per the advice of one of our favorite travel ambassadors, Rick Steves, we chose to drive the more quiet Dingle peninsula instead. Our drive toward Dingle Ireland became one of the highlights of our trip.
This route was so quiet, with hardly any cars, and we were able to stop so many more places to explore without the crowds of people. We loved being able to take our time, or speed up if we wanted to.
IMPORTANT! When you are creating your Ireland travel itinerary with a Dingle drive, be sure to add quite a lot more time to your journey than what your route planner or GPS might say. The roads are slow going, and you will definitely want to make a number of stops along the way.
North to the Famous Cliffs of Moher
After finishing the Dingle Peninsula drive, we headed north. To save some time, we actually took a car ferry across the water just north of Tarbert (N67) and continued along the other side up to Ennis Ireland. We really loved this small town, and were lucky enough to spend a few days there visiting friends and family while attending a wedding. Those Irish weddings are things memories are made of…that’s for sure!
A few days later, we made our way up to perhaps the most famous site on the west coast of Ireland…the Cliffs of Moher! These natural wonders are quite the site to see, but not if you are afraid of heights.
** Read Our Entire Cliffs of Moher post HERE!
When we visited, it was the end of May and the cold and rainy weather wasn’t the only inconvenience…it was the crazy strong wind! It felt like we were going to get blown off those cliffs. Still, it didn’t stop us from venturing into the restricted area (hey, it seemed everyone was doing it) and doing the infamous laying and dangling your head over the side. It was only after we did this that we saw the warning signs. Ooops.
Driving North to Galway Ireland
After the Cliffs of Moher, we continued to drive north toward Galway Ireland. This area seemed quite barren, with lots of rocks and caves to explore. If you have time, we definitely recommend checking out some of the cave tours. Unfortunately, we just didn’t have time to explore the caves (we were a little hungover after the wedding…).
Related Posts: Tips on International Driving
When we arrived in Galway, we were pleasantly surprised by the big promenade and beach in the popular Salthill area, where we were staying. It’s easy to see that this is a popular holiday destination for families; however, it seemed that we were there a bit too early in the year.
It was definitely cold during our visit to Galway, so we didn’t spend much time at the beach. We did check out an arcade to play some games, but mostly we just relaxed at a super cute B&B where we were staying. There are many wonderful and charming B&B’s in this area! The rooms were spacious and just what we needed after some rowdy nights at the wedding in Ennis. Plus, the traditional Irish breakfast was fantastic in the morning and the hosts were so wonderfully friendly.
East from Galway to Trim Ireland
We left Galway the next morning after wandering around the old district of town, doing a bit of shopping and of course finding some geocaches! Our route map of Ireland took us east toward the small town of Trim. We stayed mostly on the highway this time, to make good time, then ventured back onto the country roads before getting into town.
While in Trim, we visited Trim Castle – famous for being in the Braveheart movie. The area is also known for the famous Hill of Tara. This area is full of archaeological artifacts, including burial mounts dating back to 3000 BC! The area is also home to Ireland’s own “Stonehenge.”
Completing Our Ireland Road Trip in Dublin
We returned to Dublin the next morning, and prepared to head home to the States. We thoroughly enjoyed our time driving around Ireland, but certainly wished we had more time.
More Time Would Always be Better!
With another week, we could have explore the Wicklow Mountains, perhaps made a stop in famous Cork Ireland, as well as venturing north of Galway in to some truly scenic countryside, and maybe popping into Northern Ireland for a visit to the famous Giant’s Causeway.
Still, we felt that our Ireland road trip route map showed us some of the best that this country has to offer. When you are planning a trip to Ireland, we hope that this information from our journey, including the details, photos and tips will help you decide where you want to go and how you want to spend your time exploring in Ireland.
Editors Note: This post was originally published in February 2016, but has been revamped and updated in 2019.