Ireland Self-Drive Tours
Ready for the ultimate Ireland road trip? Check out all the top stops, the must-see places, and suggestions on where to stay along the way!
Not sure when to go? Check out the best time to visit Ireland.
Starting point: Dublin
Grab your rental car at the Dublin airport when you land, buckle up, and hit the road (albeit the left side of it).
Hesitant about driving “backward?” Two months into my first solo trip (at 26-years-old), I rented a car in Dublin and had my first left-side-driving experience on an Ireland road trip. In fact, Ireland is one of the best countries to travel alone.
Your brain adjusts pretty quickly, the roads are well-maintained, and you’ll find that you have the roads nearly to yourself for most of the time. Both the car and I made it back in one piece. Pay a little extra attention during your Ireland self-drive tour and I’m confident you will too 👍.
Cheap flights from the U.S. can be found into Dublin year-round and many car rental companies are located at the Dublin airport.
Ireland Road Trip, Stop 1: Glendalough in Wicklow
Driving time: Approximately two hours
Glendalough will be your first glimpse into the nature of Ireland and it’s a pretty stunning glimpse at that. Deep blue rivers cut through the brambly Wicklow mountains here, reflecting the hillside pines.
From there, head to Kilkenny and park the car for the evening so you can venture to Smithwick’s and sample your first (of likely many) breweries in Ireland.
Stop 2: Kilkenny for the night
Upon waking up on Day Two of your Ireland road trip, feel free to explore Kilkenny’s castles, monasteries, churches, and soak in all the medieval vibes before entering Cork into your GPS.
Ireland Road Trip, Stop 3: Cork
Kilkenny to Cork: Approximately two hours
You’ll spend at least a night in Cork so you’ll have plenty of time to explore the town’s English Market and kiss the Blarney Stone.
Once you head out of Cork, your first stop should be the Gougane Beara, a peaceful countryside town. If your Ireland road trip involves getting down on one knee, this is a strong contender for the most romantic place to do it.
Cork to Kenmare: Approximately 1 hour 45 minutes
Spend the night in Kenmare
Kenmare positions you perfectly on your Ireland road trip to wake up the next day, grab a bite to eat in one of the town’s cute cafes, and to drive the Ring of Kerry.
Leaving Kenmare, be sure to have a fully charged phone for the wildly photogenic nature you’re about to drive through. The Ring of Kerry is 111 miles of pure Irish nature and seaside views. It will take you ~5 hours to drive, which includes about 1-2 hours of stops and rest time.
You’ll either want to spend an additional night in Kenmare once you’re done with the Ring of Kerry or look into staying in Tralee or Killarney.
The following day, head to the Cliffs of Moher. These edge-of-the-world cliffs are an Ireland must-visit that you have to see to believe.
Kenmare to Galway: Approximately 3.5 hours
Ireland Road Trip, Stop 4: Galway
Welcome to Galway! Head into a pub, listen to an Irish guy play an acoustic version of Galway Girl on the guitar, order some seafood chowder with brown bread and thank me later. Neachtain’s is a popular pub of choice.
While you can pretty much see Galway in an afternoon, many visitors prefer to spend a few days of an Ireland road trip in this laidback Irish seaport.
Connemara and Kylemore Abbey
Heading from Galway to Connemara you’ll drive through herds of sheep, all spray painted with different colored marks depending on their owner, and you’ll soon come to the sprawling lakeside of Kylemore Abbey.
Have a look into Clifden, Achill Island, and Sligo for more things to do in this region if you have the time.
After spending the day exploring these areas on your Ireland road trip, you can either head back to Galway for an extra night or straight back to Dublin.
On the final leg of your Ireland road trip, be sure to stop at Sean’s Bar located in Athlone, the oldest pub in Ireland.
Stop 5: Back in Dublin
Embodying the essence of what makes Ireland one of the top-traveled destinations, Dublin is one of the liveliest
big small cities around the world.
Once in Dublin, you’ll have your work cut out for you. Jameson’s distillery, Guinness, Trinity College and the Book of Kells, Temple Bar… the list of attractions is endless and can be customized to any taste (as long of that taste is for either whiskey or stout beer) 🙃.