Girls’ Getaway: Our 1 Week Ireland Road Trip Itinerary!

Ireland road trip itinerary

This month I was lucky enough to have my 2 sisters and 2 of my best friends come and travel with me in Ireland and Northern Ireland. My sisters and I had been talking about doing a road trip in Ireland for a while, and earlier this summer we came across an incredible flight deal to Dublin, so we made the split second decision and booked it. Since everyone had work and school commitments back at home, we only had 1 week to travel together, but I think we got to see quite a bit of both countries during our time there. For anyone thinking of doing a similar road trip, here’s a 1-week Ireland road trip itinerary that highlights what I think are some of the best spots around the island:

Ireland Road Trip Itinerary

Our Ireland Road Trip Itinerary

Visiting Dublin

Day 1: Dublin

On the first day I picked up my two sisters, Ashley and Arielle, and my two friends, Alyssa and Raakel from the airport and we then manoeuvred our way into the city. That was my first time driving on the opposite side of the road! Since most of the girls were feeling a little jet-lagged from the trip, we didn’t get to cover a lot of Dublin, but we did make time to eat at The Brazen Head (which is the oldest pub in all of Ireland!), go shopping along Grafton Street, and then go out in Temple Bar for some live music and a few ciders.

Day 2: Dublin > Glendalough > Glen of Aherlow

On Day 2, we packed up the car and started driving south towards Glendalough to soak in a little bit of nature in County Wicklow. Glendalough means The Valley of the Two Lakes and there’s an old medieval monastic settlement there that dates back to the 6th century (though some of the structures there date much later). We spent some time walking around and visiting the Round Tower, the Priest’s House, and the Cathedral.

Glendalough, County Wicklow

Visiting the monastic ruins in Glendalough

Wildlife in Glendalough - we spotted deer!

There are also quite a few different nature trails in Glendalough, so after visiting the ruins we chose the path leading towards the Upper Lake and went for a really scenic walk – we even got to see deer and they didn’t seem at all disturbed by the cameras or all the attention they were getting from curious visitors.

After our visit to Glendalough we drove to the Rock of Cashel, however, by the time we got there it was late afternoon and it had already closed to visitors. My sister, Ashley, saw a local lady in her 70s walking by and stopped to ask her if she knew the opening hours and she instantly made a new friend.

Once the lady discovered we were tourists she became really interested in showing us around, so she came souvenir shopping with us and then invited us to come back the following morning so she could be our personal guide in Cashel. Since we didn’t have any other plans set in stone, we agreed to meet up the following morning, and we drove on to our accommodations in the Glen of Aherlow for the night.

Where we stayed: Since there were 5 of us, we booked a lodge at the Aherlow House Hotel which had 3 bedrooms. We had a communal kitchen where we cooked dinner, a cozy living area, and plenty of space to spread out at night. We also had beautiful views of the mountains outside our window!

Day 3: Glen of Aherlow > Cashel > Blarney Castle > Killarney

The morning of Day 3 we woke up early and drove back to the town of Cashel. It was a bit rainy and I was doubting whether our new friend Eileen would be there, but she was smiling under her rain jacket as we pulled up the street.

She ended up walking us through the Rock of Cashel, which is one of the most visited sites in all of Ireland, and because we got there as soon as it opened, we were some of the few visitors there.

Tip: There is a free admission ticket to the Rock of Cashel if you spend  €15 in one of the participating Chamber of Commerce businesses in the town which include select souvenir shops and restaurants. The ticket is valid for 2 people and I think it’s a pretty cool system that encourages visitors to help the local economy. Alternatively, you can pay the admission cost which is €7 per person, but why not stimulate the local economy for the very same price?

Visiting the Rock of Cashel with Hore Abbey in the background

Rock of Cashel

Fields of sheep in Ireland

Granny's Kitchen Cafe in Cashel

After visiting the Rock of Cashel, we walked down to Hore Abbey which we had spotted off in the distance. This involved hopping across a few fields, but when in Ireland do as the Irish do.

Eileen then invited us for tea and scones, so we walked to Granny’s Kitchen, a bright pink little cafe that’s just down the parking lot from Rock of Cashel. We were all sad to have to say goodbye to such a sweet lady who made our trip so memorable, but we swapped contact details and she’ll be getting some of the photos from the day in the mail. She was without a doubt one of the unplanned highlights of our Ireland road trip itinerary.

Visiting Blarney Castle

From there we hopped back in the car and drove down to Blarney to visit Blarney Castle, which was both impressive and terrifying. Climbing to the top took me to dizzying heights and at times I felt like crawling rather than standing, but at least I made it up there to snap some photos of Ashley and Alyssa dangling backwards to receive the gift of gab.

After that action-packed day, we drove into Killarney to grab some food and get some rest for the night.

Where we stayed: That night we stayed at the Killarney View House B&B, which was on the other side of the river, but still within walking distance to the restaurants and the pubs. We booked the family room, but I’d recommend going for the 2-bedroom apartment if you want a bit more space.

Day 4: Killarney > Ring of Kerry > Dingle Peninsula > Scarriff

We didn’t get the earliest start on Day 4, so there wasn’t much time to explore Killarney or Killarney National Park aside from what we saw on the way out. From there, we drove a small portion of the Ring of Kerry before continuing towards the Dingle Peninsula, and that is where Ireland blew me away.

I don’t like to pick favourites, but I have to say the Dingle Peninsula had some of the most majestic landscapes I saw all week! We spent the day driving the Wild Atlantic Way and we kept wanting to pull over to snap ‘just one more picture’.

Ireland Road Trip

The landscapes of Dingle Peninsula

Dingle Harbour, Ireland

By the time we pulled into Dingle Harbour it was right around lunchtime so we found a spot serving up seafood – it’s hard to go for anything else when you’re by the seaside! After a filling meal, we spent a bit of time exploring the town on foot, and then we continued the drive down the Connor Pass, which again, was my favourite drive of the week!

The Connor Pass is a bit of an unnerving journey – all I kept hearing from the back seat was “oh my gosh” and “how is this even a road!” – but it was amazing! Picture a narrow little lane that’s wide enough for one car but that somehow has to accommodate two-way traffic, and now let’s add the fact that this narrow little lane is on a winding mountainside so that you have a wall of rock on one side and a drop with a low barrier on the other. It’s a challenge and it’s an adventure.

That afternoon we drove onto the small town of Scarriff, which isn’t exactly a tourist destination, but our reasoning was that we wanted to get closer to the Cliffs of Moher so that we’d have a short distance to cover in the morning. We booked a small bed and breakfast here, but it wasn’t our favourite spot since it felt a bit isolated.

Day 5: Scarriff > Cliffs of Moher > Benbulbin > Donegal

After checking out of our bed and breakfast in Scarriff on Day 5, we drove on towards the Cliffs of Moher. The weather didn’t exactly cooperate and it rained for a good part of the morning, but I think this only made the cliffs look more dramatic. We spent some time snapping photos and walking along the coast (sadly no puffins were spotted), and then we continued the drive north.

This was our longest day of driving, but we pushed hard because we wanted to make it to Northern Ireland for the last part of our road trip. The only other stop we made along the way was at Benbulbin because I kept insisting that it was one of the most beautiful mountain ranges I had seen whilst doing research on the internet, but when we arrived there was a thick curtain of fog shielding our view. We still did the Benbulben Forest Walk, but it was a bit underwhelming in the rain. Alas, that’s the weather in Ireland for you – you just never know what you’re going to get.

Where we stayed: That evening we stayed at Rosswood Cottage, which sits right across from a mansion and overlooks Donegal Bay. It was really cozy and we had fun cooking together.

Cliffs of Moher

Windy in Cliffs of Moher

Day 6: Donegal > Mussenden Temple > Bushmills

On Day 6 we crossed the border into Northern Ireland. The second we crossed that boundary we started spotting the differences – the roads were suddenly a bit wider, the speed limits were a bit slower, and the union jack was flying proud.

Mussenden Temple

The gardens by Mussenden Temple

The rail tracks along the coast of Northern Ireland

Gardens by Mussenden Temple

We spent the morning driving up to Castlerock where we visited Downhill Demesne and Hezlett House. This place is home to Mussenden Temple, the ruins of Demesne House, and beautiful gardens. We ended up meeting a gentleman there who took us under his wing and walked us through the gardens revealing all the little secrets of the vegetation we were looking at. It was another one of those unplanned encounters that made our day all the more memorable.

Where we stayed: From there we drove to our accommodations in Bushmills, where we got a beautiful cottage at Ballylinny Holiday Cottages only a short walk from Giant’s Causeway – the location couldn’t have been any better! This was was my favourite property of the whole trip; it was bright, it was cozy, and it came equipped with puzzles and board games.

Day 7: Bushmills > Giant’s Causeway > Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge > Belfast

Day 7 was supposed to start with a sunrise walk over to Giant’s Causeway, but when the howling wind acted as our alarm clock, we figured it was best to stay snuggled under the blankets. We had a leisurely brunch, and then once the day warmed up a bit, we walked down to Giant’s Causeway where admission is free of charge, contrary to popular belief!

Tip: There is a visitor’s centre that charges an ‘admission fee’ for using their bathroom, going on a guided walk, or parking in their lot, but the fine print states that admission to Giant’s Causeway by foot is free of charge, so don’t let them fool you. I had 2 different locals warn me that you don’t have to pay even if they make it seem that way.

The Giant’s Causeway was fascinating. It was a decent walk to reach the water, but seeing those mighty basalt pillars was so worth it! The pillars are the result of an ancient volcanic eruption, but according to local legend, the Causeway was built by an Irish giant named Finn McCool who was challenged to a fight by a Scottish giant. The Causeway was meant to act as a bridge to Scotland, and if you visit Fingal’s Cave in Scotland you’ll see that the same basalt pillars are found on their shores.

Giant's Causeway

Basalt columns caused by volcanic activity

The bay by Giant's Causeway

Views near Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge

After visiting Giant’s Causeway, we drove on to the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, which is cool but was also a little underwhelming. That’s not to say some visitors weren’t freaking out as they walked across it, but it was much shorter than what I had pictured in my mind. Still, you do get some nice views of the white chalk cliffs along the coast (similar to those I saw in Germany’s Ruegen Island).

The Dark Hedges as seen in Game of Thrones

From there we drove through the Dark Hedges, which is one of the filming locations for Game of Thrones. I don’t follow the show (the only episode I ever watched was the Red Wedding after people wouldn’t stop talking about it on social media a few years back – apparently that’s a big no-no if you don’t know who the characters are…) but I still enjoyed seeing the place even if it was only for its natural beauty.

After driving through the Dark Hedges we started making our way back to Belfast for one last dinner together.

Day 8: Belfast > Dublin

On Day 8, I stayed behind in Belfast, while everyone else drove back to Dublin in the early morning to drop off the car and catch their flights, and just like that our week together was over.

Beaches in Northern Ireland

We had a very ambitious schedule for the week and I know that our Ireland road trip itinerary only covered a fraction of everything there is to see and do in Ireland and Northern Ireland, but you have to start somewhere! Looking back, I wish I’d had at least 2 weeks to cover all the places I still wanted to get to but didn’t have enough time for – Cork, Skellig Michael, Connemara, the Aran Islands, and driving the full Ring of Kerry.

Have been to Ireland and/or Northern Ireland?
What other places would you add to this Ireland road trip itinerary?

38 Comments

  • Emily says:

    Ireland has long been on my wishlist of places to visit. Some of your shots really remind me of Iceland!

    I love how you had some impromptu tour guides – sounds like there are plenty of locals who take pride in their nation and want to help show it off.

    • Audrey says:

      You know, I haven’t been to Iceland, but I’ve seen a lot of photos and I also kept thinking of the similarities between the two. Now I’m itching to go to Iceland for the next big road trip!

      • Ainin says:

        You think driving in Ireland is challenging, Iceland is terrifying and I’m married to a professional driver. PS come visit us in Armagh next time you come to ireland.

  • Some ADORABLE pictures. You sure managed to do a lot in a week, well done! And bravo to you gals for being brave enough to get behind a wheel on the other side of the road, particularly on tiny Irish country roads!!

    • Audrey says:

      I’m still amazed we managed to see that much in one week! We spent a lot of time in the car, but they don’t call it a road trip for nothing. 😉

  • Laura says:

    Great post – but I’m curious as to why you refer to the Republic of Ireland as simply ‘Ireland’ but then give Northern Ireland it’s full name?

    • Audrey says:

      Just to distinguish between travel in the two countries. Plus writing out “Girls’ Road Trip: Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland Itinerary” would make for a pretty long title… 😉

  • ‘Lovely post Audrey!

    Yes, I’ve been to both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland itself. We went in 2007 and spent 3 weeks there. It was rainy in Belfast but the weather and the flight (Easyjet) was just €18.00 (Belfast) so it had to be done LOL!

    Since we had a lot more time we started in Belfast and ended in Dublin. We went to Cork (lovely university), Galway, the Aran Islands (what a beauty), Ring of Kerry, Kilarney and Wexford (my mum’s roots are Irish), and we kissed the Blarney stone. You have to drop upside down while you do and you get a certificate too LOL!

    • Audrey says:

      Sounds like a great trip. It’s funny how cheap flights can make you plan a trip to a destination you weren’t necessarily planning on visiting right away. And well done kissing the Blarney Stone. I felt so dizzy from the height that I could barely stand, let along dangle backwards to kiss the stone!

  • Ireland is so darn beautiful… We did day trips from Dublin to Cliffs of Moher, Blarney Castle and Northern Ireland. It was amazing… Can’t wait to go back again after seeing your road trip pictures…

  • DeJavieur says:

    Ireland is on my list of places for 2016. Your pics look great there seems to be so much green.

  • Alexandra C. says:

    This looks like such a great trip! My husband and I are planning a road trip in the next few years and are leaning toward an Ireland / UK road trip. 🙂 I am pinning this for our research! Thank you! XO -Alexandra

    Simply Alexandra: My Favorite Things

  • Patricia says:

    Taking a road trip in Ireland is definitely high up on a list of the things I want to do (like top 5). I hope to have a little bit longer than a week when I do make it, but it’s great to read all about the things you got to see in a week. You saw many of the things I want to see!

    And fantastic photos!

  • Izy Berry says:

    Great post and i love yur itinerary have alot of variety !!

  • Izy Berry says:

    i love the trips that icludes alot of nature so beautiful

  • Rebecca says:

    I’ve always wanted to take a road trip around Ireland, it looks so beautiful and I love the city/countryside mix.

  • Roisin says:

    I’m so glad you liked Ireland~ and you saw so much in such a short time, amazing 🙂

  • Ela Venzon says:

    I went to Ireland last September 2015 for a rowing competition and had a chance to explore some places as well.
    I also love the weather!!! 🙂

  • veena says:

    This looks amazing. I am dreaming of a summer road trip through Scotland, Wales, and Ireland next year, and seeing these photos makes me want to get there even more. Looks like you had a great time! xx

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  • Agnes Vizcardo says:

    Thank you very much for this entry! I am thinking of going to Ireland this summer but wasn’t sure about the itinerary i could follow. It gives me a very good idea of the places to visit and the order to follow. Hopefully, I’ll be there for 2 weeks, maybe 3, but 3 may be too much in terms of costs.

    Thank you again!

  • Becky says:

    I loved your entry! My friend and I are interested in traveling to Ireland this winter and are looking for ideas. Do you remember how much your overall trip was?

    Thank you!!

  • Esther says:

    I took a road trip of Ireland last summer with 3 friends. I firmly believe it is the best way to see Ireland.

  • DEBBIE says:

    were you able to fit your luggage in the small car with 4 people traveling

  • Ellen C says:

    Hi Audrey, I’m traveling to ireland in a few months and considering driving just for a small part of the trip. I’ve never driven in the other side of the road- was it really difficult or is it doable for a first timer? (To be a little more specific, the idea is to drive from Galway to Kilkarney and the Dingle Peninsula)

    • Audrey Bergner says:

      Hi Ellen, I felt that I was hyper aware on my first day of driving in Ireland, especially leaving Dublin, but I was fine once we hit the countryside. It was also nice having someone next to me on the passenger seat to confirm I was making the right turns. You can always make a decision once you’re there and you’ve seen what the driving is like.

  • Quinesha says:

    Your pictures are amazing! What type of camera did you use? Thinking about making this trip myself, with friends and would love to make some gorgeous photographs for memories!

  • Kathy LaCourse says:

    Don’t forget Doolin! We really enjoyed this little town! Also, stop at Cobh, the port that many of our ancestors would have departed from and the last port the Titanic stopped at.

  • Alice says:

    Very impressive itinerary Audrey. Travelled Ireland’s countryside for 5 days on a solo adventure but heading back with a friend for 2 weeks and definitely took some pointers away from your trip. Your life travelling looks a little like mine! Lovely photos also. Alice

  • Terri says:

    Hi Audrey
    Great article. I jut have one question. Did you book all of your rooms in advance or did you book on the fly as you went? Thank you.

    • Audrey Bergner says:

      We booked the first three nights in advance and then the rest was kind of last minute once we decided how far we felt like driving. That being said, there were some slim pickings in a couple of locations because we left it too last minute, so if I were doing it over, I’d finalize accommodations in advance.

  • Jayme Lyles says:

    Hey! Just wanted to thank you for the helpful information as I am mostly following your path (currently in Belfast!). Thanks again for all of the information as my trip has been amazing.

  • Violeta Matei says:

    I’ve just returned from a trip to Ireland. I’ve stayed in Killarney and in Dublin, but I’m looking forward to coming back for a proper tour, just like the one you’ve described here. I’ll bookmark your article for further reference. The only problem is that I’m afraid to drive on the left side of the road. I should get over it, I guess 🙂

  • Val Collins says:

    It’s fascinating reading someone else’s experience of your country. I especially liked your reference to Scariff. I had to spend 4 hours there earlier this week (my car was being fixed) and was in a panic as to how I would spend the time. I can’t imagine what it was like for someone on their holidays. Glad you enjoyed the rest of the trip though.

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