It will take 13 hours to just drive around Ireland. But for a fun-filled holiday to experience the country, you will need 7 days to drive around Ireland.
This discussion about driving around Ireland should interest you if you dream of having an unforgettable holiday experience in the country.
In this post, we’ll tell you how you can best enjoy all of Ireland in a week, including:
- What cities should you visit?
- What tourist attractions should you see in each city?
- How much time should you spend at each destination?
Read on as we answer these questions with a workable 7-day road trip itinerary.
How long would it take to drive all around Ireland?
It’ll take about 13 hours to drive around Ireland. Starting from Dublin in the east, drive along the southeast coast to Kilkenny and then to Waterford. Drive south to Cork, then southwest to Killarney. Follow the road to County Clare and Galway in the west. Then drive further up to Leitrim in the north, and circle back to Dublin.
If you’re delivering parcels around Ireland, this 13-hours all-around Ireland drive will be fine. But if you want to experience Ireland as you go, simply driving around will not be enough.
For a vacation to experience all of Ireland, you’ll need 7 days to make stops and see some of the best attractions in the cities.
When planning how long your all-around-Ireland vacation will take, the things to consider include:
- Cities to visit
How many cities in Ireland do you plan to visit? The more cities you plan to see, the longer it’ll take you to drive around the country.
To truly see all of Ireland, you need to reach all corners of Ireland. Literally reaching every part of the country may be impractical.
But you can plan to visit the tour-worthy cities in the East, West, South, and North of the country.
- Attractions to see
Each city has several tourist attractions. The more of these spots you plan to see, the more time it’ll take you to drive around the country.
However, for a real immersive experience, you should see two or more “must-see” sights in each city.
These would be places of high interest for their natural or cultural value, historical significance, built beauty, etc.
- Time to spend at each place
The more time you spend at each tourist destination, the longer it’ll take you to drive around Ireland.
If you want an unforgettable Ireland experience, you should spend some hours “exploring” and “connecting”.
You need to explore the food/ drink, community events, the sights and the locals. And all of these require spending a good amount of time in the place.
Best cities to visit for a holiday drive around Ireland
Ireland has many tour-worthy cities. But for a holiday drive, the cities you shouldn’t miss are:
This all-around Ireland drive will take 7 days.
We’re assuming that you’ll be landing at the Dublin airport sometime late in the day. So, you need to retire for the day to be refreshed the next day for your road trip.
At the Dublin airport, rent a car and drive to Kilkenny. Dublin to Kilkenny is 134km and takes approximately 1 hour 30 minutes.
Day 1- Kilkenny
Kilkenny is a fun city with everything from medieval sites to vibrant shops and restaurants.
Spend your first night here to start your Ireland exploration in the morning.
While you spend the night in Kilkenny, you need quality accommodation to clear the jet lag.
This luxury 3-bedroom self-catering cottage in Wallslough Holiday Village has everything to give you and your family a memorable first night in Kilkenny. It’s just a 5 minutes drive from the city.
Waking up on this first day, you can explore the following places:
- Kilkenny Castle
The 12th century Kilkenny Castle is one of the most recognisable landmarks in Ireland.
Experience brewing tour and beer tasting right here. Smithwick dates back to 1710 and is arguably Ireland’s second most famous export (second only to Guinness).
Kilkenny boasts of a lot of walking and cycling trails.
The Medieval Mile is one that your family will love, as it runs through Kilkenny city to offer a lot of sights.
These include the 13th century St. Canice’s Cathedral, Rothe House, Medieval Mile Museum, Butler House, and Anglo-Norman Castle.
After taking in at least 2 sights in Kilkenny, take your exploration further down to Waterford.
Waterford is a picturesque city thanks to its angelic coastline. It’s also rich in history, being the oldest city in Ireland.
Waterford is only 52.1km (44 minutes drive) from Kilkenny.
Some of the exciting places to see in Waterford include:
- Waterford Crystal Factory
Tour the factory and see how one of the world’s most famous crystals is made.
- Waterford Treasures
These treasures are actually three different iconic museums – the Medieval Museum, the Viking Museum at the Reginald’s Tower, and the Bishop’s Palace. These museums offer fascinating insights into Waterford’s history.
With Waterford’s coastline boasting over 45 beaches, there’s no shortage of relaxing sandy stretches. You can bask in popular beaches like Tramore or withdraw to quiet beaches like Benvoy.
After taking in sight at Waterford, you can drive to Cork to retire for the day. Cork is 122km from Waterford, which is about 2 hours drive.
Day 2 – Cork
Cork is one of the liveliest places to visit in Ireland. In reference to the electrifying atmosphere, Cork is called the “real capital” of Ireland.
Cork is where you’ll spend your second night in this Ireland road trip itinerary.
This 3-bedroom Maple House in Glengarriff, Cork, is a perfect place to stay. It comes with a romantic setting and has its own pathway to the shore overlooking Garnish Island.
Waking up on this second day, you can proceed to explore Cork all day.
Exciting places to visit in Cork include:
- St. Anne Church Tower
Climb to the tower’s first floor for the most immersive experience a tourist destination can give. Not only do you get to see the famous Shandon bells first-hand, but you also get to ring them yourself.
- St. Fin Barre Cathedral
Be blown away by the architectural masterpiece. You’ll marvel at everything about the Gothic revival three-spire cathedral – from the awesome interior to the towering stained glass windows and the hundreds of intricately carved sculptures adorning its exterior.
- Spikes Island
This star-shaped fortress was a monastery, a fortress, a prison, and now an exciting tourist destination. Explore three hundred years of history within the walls.
- Fota Wildlife Park
Thrill your family with the sight of free-roaming animals in environments that mimic their natural habitats.
- English Market
Explore the most tour-worthy food market globally, its architecture and overflowing stalls.
Even Queen Elizabeth II could not resist coming here on her first visit to Ireland in 2011.
- Skibbereen Farmers Market
Explore Cork’s beat farm output in a market that draws numerous traders.
Cork is also known as the food capital of Ireland. You’ll find fascinating restaurants offering a host of seafood and other great dishes.
The Greene’s Restaurant on Maccurtin street provides a very classy dining experience.
The popular Fish Kitchen is your restaurant if you have a taste for seafood.
If a restaurant’s setting is as important to you as the food served, the Church Restaurant in Skibbereen is where you should get your food.
After a full day of exploring Cork, return to your Cork’s accommodation for the night’s rest, and to get refreshed for Day 3’s exploration of Ireland. The day’s exploration will start in Killarney and end in County Clare.
Day 3 – Killarney
Killarney is a charming city because of the majestic landscapes that make up the Killarney National Park.
Killarney is 87km from Cork, approximately a 1 hour 30 minutes drive.
Exciting places to see in Killarney include:
- Killarney National Park
Explore spectacular mountains, woodlands, and lakes in this majestic Park that stretches 10,236 hectares.
The Park offers recreational activities like hiking, kayaking, and fishing.
You can also enjoy boat cruises to take in the stunning scenery.
A horseback ride is another activity that’ll excite your kids.
- Jaunting Car Tours of Ross Castle and Muckross Abbey
Both Ross Castle and Muckross Abbey are 15th-century monuments with rich histories behind them. Using the horse-driven carts to tour these monuments add to the experience.
From Killarney, drive to County Clare to retire for the day. The 146km journey will take approximately 2 hours 10 minutes.
Day 4 – County Clare
Clare is a must-see because it’s a county of outstanding beauty.
In this Ireland road trip itinerary, Clare is where you’ll spend your fourth night, and start your Day 4 exploration of Ireland.
Relax Ireland has great self-catering accommodation throughout County Clare, suitable for all your family needs.
For example, this 3-bedroom Doonbeg bungalow is within walking distance of the White Strand beach. It’s the perfect location to tour the Wild Atlantic Way. It’s also an easy drive from Clare’s popular tourist’s towns such as Kilkee, Lahinch, Liscannor, and Doolin.
There are many exciting places to see in Claire, such as:
- Cliff of Moher
Rising over 120 meters above the Atlantic Ocean, the breathtaking Cliff of Moher is one of the best tourist destinations in the world (not just in Ireland). On a clear day, you’ll also get views of the Aran Islands and Galway Bay.
- The Burren
The unique karst landscape is a UNESCO World Heritage site. You’ll be able to explore fascinating habitats (like limestone pavements) as well as rare flora.
- Poulnabrone Dolmen
These ancient structures will give you photographs to treasure.
- Aran Islands
The three islands in the Wild Atlantic Way are rich in scenic landscapes.
- Aillwee Caves
The 1.5-million years old caves feature stalactites, stalagmites, an underground river, and a waterfall.
There’s also a Bird of Prey Centre, an entertaining/ educating place to view magnificent birds like raptors.
Touring Clare could be exhausting as it is exciting. Return to your Clare accommodation to retire for the day and get refreshed for Day 5 exploration.
Day 5- Galway
Galway offers a perfect blend of suburban and country-side experiences. It holds some of the best festivals in Ireland, and its streets are literally entertaining as they buzz with buskers and thriving pubs.
On the 5th day of your road trip, drive down to Galway. It’s a 76km journey that takes just over 1 hour.
Galway has many tourist destinations:
- Connemara National Park
The Park features scenic mountains, enchanting grasslands, woodlands, and bogs. It’s a hiker’s heaven.
Rare wildlife (like Connemara ponies) will also excite the kids.
- River Corrib
A boat cruise along the river Corrib will give you a scenic overview of the area.
- St. Nicholas Church
The 14th-century church is a building of great architectural and historical value.
- Eyre Square
The Square links the city centre to shopping areas and bustling streets. So, it’s the best place to enjoy the busyness of the city.
After touring Galway, retire to one of our self-catering accommodations for the night’s rest so that you’ll be refreshed for Day 6 exploration.
The Clifden Glen Holiday Cottages offer unique 3-bedrooms apartments that sleep for 5.
Day 6 – Leitrim
Leitrim features serene water bodies to enjoy a slower pace of holiday.
Not many tourists go up north. However, your all-around Ireland road trip is incomplete if you do not go to any city north of the country. Moreover, there are great tourist attractions to explore.
On Day 6, drive from Galway to Leitrim. It’s a 120km journey that takes about 2hrs 10 minutes.
Some places to explore in Leitrim include:
- Glencar Waterfall
The 50ft waterfall offers a mesmeric sight. It’ll also give you memorable photographs.
- River Shannon
Cruising along the Shannon provides an enjoyable experience.
The Oarsman Gastropub and Restaurant has exciting dishes made with local ingredients. While the cottage Restaurant will delight you with non-traditional dishes.
To rest for the night and be refreshed for the 7th and final day of your Ireland road trip, stay at the Leitrim Quay Holiday Homes.
Day 7 – Dublin
Dublin is the capital of Ireland. It boasts of a variety of museums, cathedrals, and coastal attractions.
So, complete the Ireland round trip by driving back to Dublin, which is 156 km (about 2 hours) away.
Some of the best Dublin places to explore are:
- Irish Museum of Modern Arts
Explore the grand museum and be awed by the world’s leading collection and exhibition of modern arts.
- Phoenix Park and Dublin Zoo
Stretching 1,750 hectares, this is the largest enclosed park in Europe. The Dublin Zoo will thrill your kids by seeing exotic animals, such as lions, elephants, and deers.
- Christ Church Cathedral and St. Patrick Cathedral.
These medieval church buildings are just a 7-minute walk apart. They are great scenic spots that please with their built quality and historical significance.
You’ll need 13 hours to just drive around Ireland. But you’ll need 7 days to drive around the country for a memorable holiday experience.
This’ll allow you to move East, South, West, North, and back to the East to experience the best tourist attractions in tour-worthy cities all over the country.
The road trip Itinerary is as follows:
- Day 1: Wake up in Kilkenny. Explore the city. Take your exploration further to Waterford. Then drive to Cork to retire for the day.
- Day 2: Wake up in Cork. Explore the city and return to your Cork’s accommodation.
- Day 3: Wake up in Cork. Drive to Killarney to explore the National Park and enjoy jaunting car tours. Then drive to County Clare to retire for the day.
- Day 4: Wake up in Clare. Explore the city, and return to your Clare accommodation.
- Day 5: Wake up in Clare. Drive to Galway, explore the city, and retire for the day.
- Day 6: Wake up in Galway. Drive to Leitrim, explore the city, and retire for the day.
- Day 7: Wake up in Leitrim. Drive to Dublin, explore the city, and retire for the day.
For that final night in Dublin before you travel back home, you need accommodation that’ll not sour your amazing 7-day Ireland experience. Book a 3-bedroom apartment at the Avon, which is at the start of the Wicklow Greenway, and only a 30 minutes drive from Dublin city.