The first time I visited Ireland, I had very clear ideas about what I wanted to see. I had less than two weeks to explore the whole country (by bus, at the time) and I wanted my Ireland itinerary to work really hard and include the landscapes and atmospheres I had been dreaming of: high cliffs plunging in the oceans, windswept beaches with crashing waves and screaming birds, mysterious round towers and cozy pub atmospheres to warm up after a day out.

To ask any trip to deliver all this without becoming a marathon is hard, but Ireland was the perfect destination for this kind of ambitious plan and my Ireland road trip itinerary delivered. Ireland was all I had expected it to be and it left quite a mark: since that first trip, I have moved here, married an Irish man and had two kids who are growing up in Dublin. I thought it was therefore high time for me to share some of my best tips and advice for perfect Irish vacation itinerary.

In this post you will find:

  • Practical tips about visit Ireland: when to go, what to expect, what to pack
  • 7-day Ireland itinerary: what to see with one week in Ireland
  • 10 day Ireland itinerary
  • 2-week Ireland itinerary

 

How to use these itineraries: the itineraries are meant as a guideline to help you plan your trip to Ireland, gauge distances and feasibility of an Ireland road trip with kids. Many stops are the same among the three options so if you already know how many days you are likely to have in Ireland, just scroll down to the relevant part of the post.

Traveling to Ireland tips

 

The best time to visit Ireland: weather and what to expect each season

Considering how far North it is, Ireland has a more moderate climate than many people expect. The presence of the sea and of the gulf stream keeps the temperature from spiking to extremes:  In winter the temperature averages around 5 C / 41F (January being the coldest month) and in summer around 15 C/ 61F.

How often does it rain in Ireland? Irish people joke that in Ireland the different seasons are marked by cold rain (winter) and hot rain (summer) but to be honest, it doesn’t rain as much as you may think and aside from some very wet days and frequent gray sky, you can expect showers more than solid rain for hours. The driest months are usually August and September and these are a lovely time to visit the country also because of the long hours of daylight, while the wettest and darkest months are from November to February, when at 4.30pm darkness starts to set it.

If you travel by car in the winter, be aware that occasionally you do have snow especially in the mountains and some higher roads get closed. Always check road conditions and, if the season requires, do have snow chains on board.

More than the actual numbers and precipitation forecast however, what is really important to know when visiting Ireland is that the weather is very changeable and you can never really count on it: maybe it’s because of the wind, maybe it is for some other mysterious climate reason, but it is a very common occurrence for a sunny day to quickly turn into a very cold and wet one!

This is particularly true in the summer: the sun here can be hot (you’ll be surprised to see how hot it feels even just at 18 degrees) but you can never count on it staying out so be prepared with layers, no matter how blue the sky is.

What to pack for Ireland

When packing for Ireland, layers is the name of the game. In winter, wear warm, comfortable, waterproof shoes, a proper winter coat (don’t get fooled by people wearing trendy little jackets to go out in Dublin: they do it for the fashion statement and it’s a shortcut to pneumonia!) and a jumper.

In summer, you can usually spend the warmest hours of the day in a t-shirt but may need a light cardigan and possibly a light jacket early in the morning or at night, or if the weather turns.

Driving in Ireland

Driving conditions in Ireland: in Ireland, you drive on the left side of the road. In the last few years main roads and motorways have started crossing the country making travel faster, but if you want to really enjoy your time here I highly recommend you take the smaller, winding roads.

They are slow and narrow so you must allocate enough time and be prepared to slow down for oncoming traffic (two-way roads do not always equal roads wide enough for two cars in Ireland!) but they will give you that quintessential Irish country experience you are most likely looking for in your trip.

How many days to spend in Ireland? How long do I need for an Ireland road trip?

I believe it is possible to get a first idea of the country with as little as a 7-day itinerary but ideally, I would advise staying in Ireland a couple of weeks. Neither of these lengths will be sufficient to see ‘everything’ (ever with a narrow definition of ‘everything’ as the main Ireland attractions) but with one to two weeks you should be able to get a nice feel for the place and touch some of the most famous and beautiful attractions.

Below, you will find my suggestion for an Ireland itinerary for 7, 10 days and two weeks by car. I am assuming you will start and finish your itinerary from Dublin, although international flights also leave and arrive in Cork and Shannon, both equally good options to cover most of the locations in this post.

my ireland itinerary includes the cliffs of moher, three castle head, historical sites and Slieve league cliffs

7, 10 day and 2 week itineraries in Ireland for the whole family to include most of Ireland’s must-see attractions including Dublin, The Cliffs of Moher, Connemara Donegal and Northern Ireland.

Suggested Ireland road trip itineraries: Ireland itinerary 7 days

A 7-day Itinerary though Ireland requires some compromising and some popular location will inevitably be left out. However, if you don’t mind driving a good bit, even with only one week in Ireland it is possible to include some of the most spectacular parts of the country.

For this length of trip, I can think of two hypothesis, depending on how much terrain you want to cover and how long you are prepared to drive.

Day 1 – Arrival in Dublin and drive to Kilkenny:  Dublin is a lovely city but unless you arrive late in the evening, I don’t think it works well as a first stop. Rather, I suggest you make your way to Kilkenny and spend the night there: Kilkenny is only an hour and a half from Dublin, it has a lovely atmosphere in the evening and is a pleasant place for a stroll in the morning.

Day 2 – Kilkenny to Kinsale: The South of Ireland is gorgeous and Kinsale is a great base to discover the area. Places of interest here are Cashel, which has an incredible medieval rock and Cobh, which is an interesting village with a good heritage centre with memories of the ill-fated Titanic and the Lusitania. If travelling with kids, they are likely to enjoy a visit to Fota, which is a wildlife park with animals almost free to roam. Kinsale makes a lovely overnight stop.

Day 3 – Kinsale to Killarney: There are two possible ways to get to Killarney from Kinsale: one is to take the fastest road and the other one to take the slower but scenic N71. Unless you have reasons to rush this part of the journey, N71 is the road to take: while slow, it crosses stunning scenery and will show you a more remote part of Ireland that is truly beautiful and impressive. Compared with other parts of the country, it is also less touristy, which is something to consider especially if you are in Ireland in July or August when the area around Kerry, in particular, is overly popular. You can get an idea of the kind of scenery in this part of Ireland from this post I wrote about Three Castle Head.

If you prefer to take it easy in Killarney, you may enjoy Muckross house which is a lovely stop also with kids thanks to it beautiful gardens and traditional farms that will show how rural Ireland lived and changed over the course of the decades

Day 4 – Killarney to Clare: This stretch of Ireland is full of beautiful spots including Ennis, the Burren and the famous cliffs of Moher.  Especially if travelling with kids, a stop at Bunratty Castle and Folk park can be really interesting and a good place to spend the night is the lovely town of Ballyvaughan. Also in the area, there are the interesting Ailwee Caves and a Bird of Prey Educational centre that is sure to please adults and kids alike.

Day 5 – Galway and Connemara: Galway is a lovely university town, with a friendly vibe, but what makes is special is its position at the entrance of Connemara and close to the Aran islands. If you are not tired of driving a day trip to Connemara is definitely worth it while if the kids need a break, you have the option of staying in town where you’ll have no shortage of shops and cafes to relax

Day 6 –  Dublin The drive between Galway and Dublin is not long. Depending on your interest you may either come directly to the city or stop en route to see the monastic site of Clonmacnoise.

Day 7 – Dublin  Unless your flight is early, you will have the end of day 6 and part of day 7 to visit Dublin. While this is not enough to see the city, you can still very much enjoy its vibe. With only one day in the city I would just take it easy and stick to taking stroll in the city centre streets: Grafton street, Trinity college and Dublin castle are all worth seeing and they are a short distance from each other and will anyway leave you with plenty of time to then head to the airport. If travelling with kids, make sure you check our family guide to Dublin to pick the attractions most suitable to you and your children.

Ireland itinerary 7-day option 2

If you prefer to stay put for more than one night, a good way to visit Ireland with kids is to set your base for 3 days in Dublin and 3 days in Galway. This way you will miss the southern part of the island but you will be able to include some gorgeous stops. If you choose this option, I would suggest  taking day trips from Dublin (Glendalough, Kilkenny and, if with kids. Wells House in Wexford) and 2 from Galway (Cliffs of Moher and Connemara)

Visiting Glendalough with children: one of my favourite say trips form Dublin and also a great stop on an Irish itinerary

Glendalough is a fantastic excursion from Dublin and one of the stops I recommend during a road trip in Ireland, thanks to its round tower, monastic site and romantic lakeside location.

Ireland itinerary 10 days

Ten days is a good length of time to visit Ireland and will allow you a more relaxed pace than the 7-day itinerary outlined above. With ten days, I would recommend you include a visit to County Wicklow and the Ring of Kerry that I believe would be a stretch during a shorter trip. Here is my favourite 10-day itinerary

Day 1 – Arrival in Dublin and drive to Wicklow: Gorgeous County Wicklow lies just to the south of Dublin: driving there from the airport should take about 1 hour and then you can relax in one of the many family-friendly hotels in the area. Things you shouldn’t miss in Wicklow are Glendalough monastic site and the scenic road to it, passing the sally Gap. Make sure you drive this stretch during daylight: depending on the time of your arrival, you may prefer to plan the visit to this area early on your second day

Day 2 – Glendalough to Kilkenny: This day brings you to Kilkenny which is a pleasant  city about 1.5 hours from Dublin with a beautiful castle and a lovely town centre with an artsy vibe.

Day 3 – Kilkenny  to Kinsale The South of Ireland is gorgeous and Kinsale is a great base to discover the area. Places of interest are Cashel, which has an incredible medieval rock worth seeing, and Cobh, which is an interesting village with a good heritage centre with memories of the ill-fated Titanic and the Lusitania. If travelling with kids, they are likely to enjoy a visit to Fota, which is a wildlife park with animals almost free to roam. Kinsale makes a lovely overnight stop.

Day 4 –  Kinsale to Killarney (also outlined above). There are two possible ways to get to Killarney from Kinsale: one is to take the fastest road and the other one to take the slower but scenic N71. Unless you have reasons to rush this part of the journey, N71 is the road to take: while slow, it crosses stunning scenery and will show you a more remote part of Ireland that is truly beautiful and impressive. Compared with other parts of the country, it is also less touristy, which is something to consider especially if you are in Ireland in July or august when the area around Kerry, in particular, is overly popular.

If you prefer to take it easy in Killarney, you may enjoy Muckross house which is a lovely stop also with kids thanks to it beautiful gardens and traditional farms that will show how rural Ireland lived and changed over the course of the decades.

Especially if travelling with kids, I would suggest to try and plan this day and the following one together: both areas to be fully enjoyed require a good bit of driving so my advice is to plan one of the days on the road and another one when you stay local.

Day 5 – Ring of Kerry:  One of the most famous areas of Ireland is the ring of Kerry, a loop scenic road famous for incredibly beautiful landscapes. The Ring of Kerry takes about one day so if you are interested in driving  it I would suggest spending two nights in the area: the traditional base for the ring of Kerry are Killarney and Kenmare

What to consider when driving the ring of Kerry: talking about the ring of Kerry one question comes up more often than other: should you do it clockwise or anti-clockwise? People have different and surprisingly strong feelings about one option over the other, mostly reasoning over not wanting to be stuck behind tourist buses (the area is incredibly touristy, especially in summer) but I believe the best way to look at it is this: the road is narrow and scenic so unless you enjoy driving on  the edge of a cliff with buses coming in front of you behind blind corners, drive anticlockwise so you have the mountain on your side! if you are worried about tourists buses, leave early.

High season alternative: the ring of Kerry is so popular it can become frustrating, so I suggest an alternative: the Beara Peninsula. Located to the south of Kerry, this is one of the many Irish peninsulas stretching into the Atlantic in the west of the country and it is equally spectacular and remote.

Day 6 – Killarney to Clare: This stretch of Ireland is full of beautiful spots including Ennis, the Burren and the famous cliffs of Moher. What is truly special here is the scenery so especially on a beautiful day, it is worth to take your time and explore the Burren and walk along the cliffs. If travelling with kids, a stop at Bunratty Folk museum can be really interesting and a good place to spend the night is the lovely town of Ballyvaughan

Day 7 – Aran islands I love the Aran island and you have the time (and the good weather) to take the boat trip out from Doolin on the coast of Clare, this is likely to be one of the highlights of your Ireland trip.

Day 8 – Galway and Connemara:  Galway is a lovely university town, with a friendly vibe, but what makes is special is its position at the entrance of Connemara and close to the Aran island. If you are not tired of driving a day trip to Connemara is definitely worth it while if the kids need a break, you have the option of staying in town where you’ll have no shortage of shops and cafes to relax

Day 9 – Galway to Dublin: The drive between Galway and Dublin is not long, and depending on your interest you may either come directly to the city or stop en route to see the monastic site of Clonmacnoise.

Day 10 – Dublin: Unless your flight is early, you will have the end of day 9 and part of day 10 to visit Dublin. While this is not enough to see the city, you can still very much enjoy its vibe. With only one day in the city I would just take it easy and stick to taking stroll in the city centre streets: Grafton street, Trinity college and Dublin castle are all worth seeing and they are a short distance from each other and will anyway leave you with plenty of time to then head to the airport. If travelling with kids, make sure you check our family guide to Dublin to pick the attractions most suitable to you and your children.

Ireland itinerary 2 weeks

With 2 full weeks, you can see a lot of Ireland and will give you the chance to visit Donegal, too remote to make it in my previous itinerary. Donegal is, I believe, the Ireland of dreams: large, sandy, tidal beaches swept by polar winds, crashing waves and screaming seagulls, and some of the highest cliffs in Europe. With two weeks, you can also stretch to Northern Ireland to Derry and the rightly famous Giant Causeway.

 

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Day 1 – Arrival in Dublin and drive to Wicklow: Gorgeous county Wicklow lies just to the south of Dublin: driving there from the airport should take about 1 hour and then you can relax in one of the many family-friendly hotels in the area. Things you shouldn’t miss in Wicklow are Glendalough monastic site and the scenic road to it, passing the sally Gap. Make sure you drive this stretch during daylight: depending on the time of your arrival, you may prefer to plan the visit to this area early on your second day

Day 2 – Glendalough to Kilkenny: This day brings you to Kilkenny which is a pleasant  city about 1.5 hours from Dublin with a beautiful castle and a lovely town centre with an artsy vibe.

Day 3 – Kilkenny  to Kinsale here we rejoin the previous itinerary. The South of Ireland is gorgeous and Kinsale is a great base to discover the area. Places of interest between Kilkenny and Kinsale are Cashel, which has an incredible medieval rock worth seeing, and Cobh, which is an interesting village with a good heritage centre with memories of the ill-fated Titanic and the Lusitania. If travelling with kids, they are likely to enjoy a visit to Fota, which is a wildlife park with animals almost free to roam. Kinsale makes a lovely overnight stop.

Day 4  Kinsale to Killarney see above. There are two possible ways to get to Killarney from Kinsale: one is to take the fastest road and the other one to take the slower but scenic N71. Unless you have reasons to rush this part of the journey, N71 is the road to take: while slow, it crosses stunning scenery and will show you a more remote part of Ireland that is truly beautiful and impressive. Compared with other parts of the country, it is also less touristy, which is something to consider especially if you are in Ireland in July or august when the area around Kerry, in particular, is overly popular.

If you prefer to take it easy in Killarney, you may enjoy Muckross house which is a lovely stop also with kids thanks to it beautiful gardens and traditional farms that will show how rural Ireland lived and changed over the course of the decades.

Especially if travelling with kids, I would suggest to try and plan this day and following one together: both areas to be fully enjoyed require a good bit of driving so my advice is to plan one of the days on the road and another one when you stay local.

Day 5 – Ring of Kerry:  One of the most famous areas of Ireland is the ring of Kerry, a loop scenic road famous for incredibly beautiful landscapes. The Ring of Kerry takes about one day so if you are interested in driving  it I would suggest spending two nights in the area: the traditional base for the ring of Kerry are Killarney and Kenmare

What to consider when driving the ring of Kerry: talking about the ring of Kerry one question comes up more often than other: should you do it clockwise or anti-clockwise? People have different and surprisingly strong feelings about one option over the other, mostly reasoning over not wanting to be stuck behind tourist buses (the area is incredibly touristy, especially in summer) but I believe the best way to look at it is this: the road is narrow and scenic so unless you enjoy driving on  the edge of a cliff with buses coming in front of you behind blind corners, drive anticlockwise so you have the mountain on your side! if you are worried about tourists buses, leave early.

High season alternative: the ring of Kerry is so popular it can become frustrating, so I suggest an alternative: the Beara peninsula. Located to the south of Kerry, this is one of the many Irish peninsulas stretching into the Atlantic in te west of the country and it is equally spectacular and remote.

Day 6 – Killarney to Clare: This stretch of Ireland is full of beautiful spots including Ennis, the Burren and the famous cliffs of Moher. What is truly special here is the scenery so on a beautiful day, it is worth to take your time and explore the Burren and walk along the cliffs. Especially if travelling with kids, a stop at Bunratty Folk museum can be really interesting and a good place to spend the night is the lovely town of Ballyvaughan

Day 7 – Aran islands. I love the Aran island and you have the time (and the good weather) to take the boat trip out, this is likely to be one of the highlights of your Ireland trip. To maximise your time there, I do recommend spending a night: the atmosphere in pubs in the evening is lovely and cosy and you are likely to find live Irish music that kids will love too

Day 8 – Galway: Galway is a lovely town and after all the driving the days before, I believe it is worth taking a day to simply chill on its lively streets. If you are travelling with kids, there are several family activities available in and around town

Day 9 – Connemara:  Connemara is a short drive north of Galway and one of the most photographed parts of the whole if Ireland. A great way to explore Connemara with kids is a farm stay, where you are sure to be welcome with the

Day 10-11 – Donegal is a remote and stunning part of the country and especially for lovers of the outdoors it is worth spending at least two nights here. Must see attractions and activities here include surfing in Bundoran (considered one the best surfing spots in Ireland), Slieve League (three times higher than the most famous cliffs of Moher, in the photo above) and Malin head, the most northerly point in Ireland. From here you can also include a stop in Derry, which is a beautiful town with  an interesting and important history.

Day 12Northern Ireland. It takes well over one day to visit Northern Ireland but if you can, I would add the extra stretch to see this part of the coast and try to visit at least its most famous landmarks such as Derry and the Giant Causeway. Plan one night in the area to make the most of your time here.

Day 13 -14 Dublin – Dublin is better explored on foot so if you rented a car, it is a good idea to return it before you settle into the city. If budget allows, I would suggest you settle into the city centre and spend a couple of days between Dublin beautiful shops, cafes and museums. If you are travelling with kids, you can pick some of your favourite activities from this list.

I hope you enjoyed reading my suggestions for the perfect Ireland itinerary and that this post will help you plan a great family vacation in my beloved adopted country.

 

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