This itinerary assumes you fly into and out of Dublin and rent a car there; it essentially makes a clockwise loop around the entire island, including one night in Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom. Because Itinsy doesn't have all the counties on this itinerary, I have listed the entire itinerary under Dublin.
It does bypass Galway, so if you want to include that, you would need to add at least another day. On the other hand, if you need to cut out a day, you could probably push on a little bit farther on Day 8 and then combine Days 9 & 10 (although the combined day would be quite a long one). You could also probably combine days 13 & 14 without too much trouble.
driving directions (in case you do decide to rent a car or just want to see where you're going)
- Fly into Dublin Airport.
- You could rent a car this day (although you won't use it tomorrow), but using a ride sharing service such as Uber is probably the most cost-effective means of getting around today as it will save you two days' worth of car rental and parking fees. The only downside is it will be a bit awkward walking around these places while lugging your suitcase behind you.
- Uber to Malahide Castle and Gardens, spend 1.5 hrs.
- Uber to Howth Cliff Walk Car Park. Spend 45 mins-1 hr walking along the Howth Cliff Path to The Summit Car Park.
- Uber to the National Botanic Gardens, spend 1-1.5 hrs
- Uber to central Dublin near where you're staying. I recommend finding the most reasonable accommodation you can find within walking distance of the historic sites in central Dublin.
This day is spent entirely walking around central Dublin seeing the main sights, including Trinity College, St. Patrick's Cathedral, and Dublin Castle. Fortunately everything is in quite a compact little area.
- Rent a car; I used Sixt as an example on the map because it is fairly close by. Leave Dublin by about 10 am.
- Drive to Powerscourt House, spend 1 hr.
- Drive to Powerscourt Waterfall, spend 30 mins.
- Drive through Wicklow Mountains NP, spend 1.5 hrs hiking.
- Drive to Glendalough, arrive about 3:15 pm, with plenty of time to see the many churches in the area as well as do some walking around Glendalough Lake. Be advised, if you hike around the south and west sides of the lake there is a significant elevation gain.
- Leave Glendalough by about 10 am.
- Drive to the Rock of Cashel, spend about 2 hrs.
- Drive to the city of Cork to spend the night. After you arrive, see St. Fin Barre's Cathedral and Elizabeth Fort (which are directly across the street from each other).
- Get dinner and a pint at Callanan's Bar for a very old-timey experience.
- Spend the morning exploring Cork further, including the English Market and University College Cork. Leave about noon.
- Drive to Killarney NP. Spend 2+ hrs seeing the various sights, including Torc Waterfall, Muckross Abbey, Ross Castle, and the Gap of Dunloe.
- Spend the night in the town of Killarney.
This day features the famous Ring of Kerry and Skellig Ring. There aren't really any scheduled stops (except for brunch); instead, travel at your own leisurely pace and take plenty of time to enjoy the views, take pictures, and explore the tiny little towns along the way. Leave Killarney about 10:30 am and you'll probably arrive in Killorglin around 4:30 pm.
Similar to the previous day, this day's drive winds around the Dingle Peninsula. Enjoy the scenery and take your time. Leave Killorglin about 10 am, arrive in Adare late afternoon.
Unlike the previous two days, this day has a lot of scheduled stops.
- Leave Adare around 9:30 am.
- Drive to Bunratty Castle, spend 1.25 hrs.
- Drive to the Cliffs of Moher, spend 45 mins.
- Drive to Doolin Cave, spend 1 hr.
- Drive to Poulnabrone Dolmen, spend 30 mins.
- Drive to The Burren Perfumery (yes, you read that right), spend 45 mins.
- You're already in Burren NP, but find some walking trails to explore this incredible and unique landscape.
- When you're done, head to Naomh Colman B&B in nearby Gort to spend the night.
This is the longest driving day, but we still have time for a few excursions.
- Drive far north to Glencar Lough, spend 1 hr.
- Drive to the cliffs of Slieve League, spend 1.25 hrs.
- Drive northeast through the dramatic Glengesh Pass to the town of Ardra, spend the night.
- Eat at either Nancy's or Mickalene's.
This is a very short day. When you've seen enough of Ardara, drive to Assaranca Waterfall, just to the west, and spend about 30 mins, then drive north to the Kilclooney Dolmen and spend about 45 mins. Then proceed on to Gweedore, where you'll spend the rest of the day and the night. The main attraction of this day is soaking up the culture in Gweedore, a hub of the Gaeltacht (Irish-speaking Ireland). Gweedore is not a town, but an area comprising several villages, including Bunbeg, Derrybeg, Dunlewey, Crolly and Brinlack, so spend some time driving around and seeing all that the area has to offer.
- Leave the Gweedore area around 10 am.
- Drive a short distance to Glenveagh NP, spend 2 hrs. I suggest walking along Lough Beagh and then taking the shuttle bus back to the visitor center.
- Continue east and cross into Northern Ireland and the UK.
- Drive to Dunluce Castle, spend 1.5 hrs.
- Drive to the famous Giant's Causeway, spend 1.5 hrs.
- Spend the night in nearby Bushmills.
- Leave Bushmills around 9 am.
- Drive along the coast to Glenariff Forest Park, spend 1 hr. If you want more time in Dublin, you can skip this stop.
- Drive to Dublin, spend about 3.5 hrs. If you are interested in the history of The Troubles, I suggest parking at the Northumberland Car Park, walking around to see the Peace Wall and various murals in the area, the Clonard Monastery with its gorgeous interior, and the Cultúrlann McAdam Ó Fiaich art center. If you can, get a pint and lunch at the historic and character-ful Crown Liquor Saloon. If you're interested in the history of the Titanic, there's lots of stuff for that too.
- Drive south, making a brief stop at the Flagstaff Viewpoint.
- Cross back into the Republic of Ireland and end up in the town of Carlingford just across the border to spend the night.
- See King John's Castle, Carlingford Priory, & Folklore Park there in Carlingford in the morning, then leave Carlingford around 11 am.
- Drive to the Newgrange Burial Site, spend 2 hrs seeing the several sites there.
- Drive to the town of Kells to spend the night. While there, see the Abbey of Kells and Tower of Lloyd.
- Leave Kells by 11 am, or earlier if you're ready.
- Drive to the Hill of Tara, spend 1.5 hrs.
- Drive back to Dublin and return your car where you rented it. For convenience, you'll probably want to stay in the same hotel you did at the beginning of the trip.
- You'll arrive in Dublin in the early afternoon, so you should have plenty of time to see things you missed before, such as EPIC (the Irish Emigration Museum), the Teeling Whiskey Distillery, or the Guinness Storehouse. For your final evening in Ireland, enjoy the highly-acclaimed Dublin Literary Pub Crawl. Just don't be too hung over for your flight the next day!
Take an Uber to the airport and fly out.
Enjoy your trip!