I’ve been to Ireland 5 times. I know that sounds insane, but I know by the end of this article, you’ll be booking your ticket to the Emerald Isle to experience it for yourself.
First off, Why should you visit Ireland? Simply put, it’s relatively inexpensive and safe, plus they speak English! There’s also a perfect balance of natural beauty and history. Chances are, you speak some sort of English, which means you can order food and drink without stress, rent a car and read signs if you get lost. No other country can compare to the picturesque villages, incredible landscape, welcoming locals and an intensely fun culture. Being in a safe environment where they also speak your language, you’ll be able to fully experience everything Ireland has to offer.
I have never, in all of the 13 countries I’ve visited, experienced such warm and inviting hospitality. The Irish people are full of fun and laughter and are happy to tell visitors stories of their ancestors or legends of the land. Dublin may not fall into this category as it is a large bustling city and the Capitol, but the smaller towns and villages really capture the country’s gracious and inviting personality.
I highly recommend driving a car if you can. It’s the best way to see everything and stopping in different towns for lunch breaks is always fun.
Without further ado, here is my ideal 10 day trip to Ireland:
DAY 1-2: KILKENNY
Arrive in Dublin & drive to Kilkenny (1.5hrs)
Kilkenny Things To Do
1. Medieval Mile: Kilkenny is known as a Medieval city, so if you’re interested, check out the local history, bars and buildings that make up this historic town. You can book a walking tour, but I prefer to stumble upon these things as I go and ask a local if I see something particularly interesting.
2. Kilkenny Castle: This is in the middle of town surrounded by a stone wall. You can’t miss it. Grab some sandwiches, cheese and snacks from the shops and make yourself a picnic on the lawn.
3. Smithwick’s Brewery Experience: Irish Red Ale…enough said. Take a tour through one of the most well known Irish breweries and enjoy a pint when you finish.
4. Have yourself a Hen party: This town is known for having the most bachelor/bachelorette parties you’ve ever seen! So why now throw your own here? Even if you don’t it’s fun to experience all of the other stag/hen parties around.
Kilkenny Bars & Food:
Kytelers Inn: The oldest pub in Kilkenny, established by the first convicted witch in Ireland.
Left Bank: Converted bank to night club. This bar has a younger crowd and a party vibe.
Paris Texas: This place is known for great food and patio seating.
The Dylan Whiskey Bar: Try all the Irish Whiskey and become an expert! I never appreciated whiskey until I visited Ireland.
Matt The Millers: This bar has several stories and is great for live Music. I have memories here of us taking over an entire floor of the building and dancing until they closed.
*Suggested Addition: Visit Mount Juliet Estate. This is where I got married! It is a gorgeous estate/hotel on acres of horse pastures. Have afternoon tea, ride a horse through the grounds, or walk their many trails through gardens and along the river. This is also a great stop to experience a proper tea. This is a wonderful place to spend an entire day or a couple of days if you have the time. There are endless activities like archery, falconry, horseback riding, shooting, fishing, and trails. The beautifully restored rooms make you want to wander and curl up with a book. If you can, please please stay or visit here, I promise you won’t regret it!
Kilkenny or Mount Juliet > Killarney (2.5 hrs)
On the way: Try to stop at the Rock of Cashel, gorgeous castle ruins.
Killarney Things To Do
1. Ride bikes through the National Park. Make sure you experience views of the lakes, Torc waterfall, Muckross House & Abbey (Most of these points are part of the Ring of Kerry). All of the bike shops provide a map of the park with all of the landmarks. You can also take a bus tour or drive the Ring of Kerry. There are parking lots at each stop. I wouldn’t recommend doing a horse carriage for the entire park as they can be expensive but it can be a fun option for a short ride.
2. Skellig Michael. Just do it. Buy some motion sickness pills, patches or bracelets and brace for a possibly crazy boat ride. You’ll also need to prepare for some pretty intense stairs on the side of a cliff built thousands of years ago, but there’s a reason one of the recent Star Wars movies was filmed here.
Because of this, you’ll need to book WAY in advance and plan to make this an entire day trip between the drive to Portmagee and the boat ride in and out. Plan several weeks if not months out. The Island is only open a few months in Spring/Summer. It is closed during the rainy season.
Your boat will take off from Portmagee, which is approximately 1.5hrs from Killarney. We had our B&B (The Fuscia Guest House) pack us sack lunches that were ready in the morning. If you don’t want to deal with that much travel in the morning, book a stay the night before in Portmagee so you can just walk to the docks. The boats take off at 9am every day. If you do nothing else the entire trip, DO THIS. It was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever done!
3. See where the night takes you. There are traditional Irish dancing shows, live music and dancing at pubs and great shopping!
Killarney Bars & Food:
The Laurels Pub (Main st. with Red doors): Try the club sandwich or the Calamari
Celtic Whiskey Bar: If you like Whiskey, book the scheduled tastings here, or try “the best old fashioned ” of my husband’s life and the best whiskey of his life (Kilbeggan 21 year, now discontinued and limited available).
Murphy’s Ice cream: Local & Homemade. Treat yourself after biking through the Killarney National Park. Even if it’s cold and raining, you won’t regret it.
Porterhouse Restaurant: A night to “treat yoself?” Do it here. They have great steaks and live music.
*Tip*: Killarney is my absolute favorite place in all of Ireland. Everyone that came to our wedding said the same. Make sure you stay at least a couple of days here.
DAY 5-6: DINGLE
Killarney > Dingle (1hr)
On the way: Be sure to stop at Inch Beach (you’ll see the signs, it’s right off the main road) and drive your car onto the sand. Yes, this is allowed. No, you won’t get stuck. Take the route via ferry if you want a fun way to get to Dingle. You’ll still pass Inch beach if you take this route.
Dingle Things To Do
1. Drive around the Slea Head Drive. I did this the day it was raining and it was still great! It’s easy to follow the tour buses and see what’s worth stopping for. There are some really amazing views here.
2. Longs Riding Center: Beach & Mountain ride. Experience beautiful beaches and the green hills in one ride. I would suggest this riding center over others in Galway.
3. Dingle walks: Dingle is a very small fishing town known for being slow paced and quiet. Enjoy the scenery and unique pubs. Perhaps you’ll see the famous dolphin, Fungi. Yes, that’s a real thing. It’s the town’s pet.
4. Seafood: Yes, this is a thing to do in Dingle. All seafood it pretty great in Ireland, but Dingle takes the cake. You don’t want to miss the seafood chowder or fish chips in this Irish fishing village.
5. Great Blasket Islands: I haven’t done this but I’ve heard it’s pretty cool. If you have the time, take a boat to see the crystal waters and ancient islands.
*Tip*: For the adventurous…Take Conor Pass out of Dingle. It has some of the most breathtaking views, but also slightly intimidating roads. At some points it becomes one lane. If you feel comfortable driving at this point, go for it! Everyone takes turns letting people through the narrow parts and are very patient with each other. Its not a long way through the pass and we felt it was totally worth it. We also stopped a few times to take pictures.
Dingle Bars & Food:
Out of the Blue: Great seafood caught that day. Served until they run out!
The Chart House: Upscale seafood
The Boatyard: Casual, with great views of the harbor and the best fish & chips!
Murphy’s Ice Cream: Yep, there’s another one here.
DAY 7-8: GALWAY
Dingle > Galway (3hrs)
On your way: Take Conor Pass. Highly, highly recommend! See Dingle Tips for more. The Cliffs of Moher are also on the way to Galway. You can either take a tour bus from Galway or stop on the way there. I recommend skipping the tour bus as it stops at a lot of other places and takes all day. It’s easier to drive yourself and just pay the parking/admittance fee on your own.
Galway Things To Do
If you’re going to have a night out, do it here. Galways is known as a college and party town.
1. Cliffs of Moher. The first time I saw them, I cried. You can’t leave Ireland without seeing this amazing sight.
2. Latin Quarter. Shopping and lively pubs. This is a fun place during the day with street performers and people window shopping. Return at night for a great bar scene!
3. Horseback riding at Feeney’s Riding Stables. I have ridden here and had a great time. The views were nice and the people were great. However, the riding views at Dingle just a bit better.
4. Eyre Square Centre: A large indoor shopping mall with clothing stores, food and gift shops.
5. Eyre Square: There is a small park square in the center of town, perfect for people watching or reading a book. There are plenty of locals having picnics, napping and hanging out here.
Galway Pubs & Food
The King’s Head: The best place for live music, but make sure to get there early for a table. We found it best to get a table by having dinner here and ordering drinks once the music started. Try their house Red Ale- delicious!
John Keogh’s Gastropub: Casual Pub food
Brasserie on the Corner: Upscale Irish food
DAY 8-10 DUBLIN
Galway > Dublin (2.5 hrs)
In my opinion, you can do Dublin in 1 day. You’ll really only want to spend 2 days here if you are going to take a day tour starting in the city. So head here later after you’ve spent the day in Galway.
Dublin Things To Do
1. Northern Ireland bus tour: Take a tour to see Giant’s Causeway & Carrick A Rede Rope Bridge (both musts), along with the dark hedges, Dunluce Castle and Belfast. This is an all day trip but they hit all the major points up north with interesting history from the tour guide. You will have enough time in Belfast to do a Black Taxi tour if you’d like. Make sure you pack snacks for this long excursion!
2. Teeling Distillery: Book a tasting and learn about Ireland’s whiskey heritage! You learn more at this one than at Jameson. To me, the Jameson distillery was a little boring and you only compare Jack Daniels, Jameson & Scotland’s #1 whiskey. If you’re from the US, you probably already know what Jack Daniels tastes like! Teeling allows you to learn a lot more about the entire history of whiskey in Ireland and learn the difference between types and processes in distilling. Teeling has been an upcoming brand for a long time and is now well established with many awards. You can find it at most bars in the US.
3. St Stephen’s Green: A huge park that reminds me of a smaller Central Park. Take a long stroll…or a nap. You can’t have alcohol out in the open, but there are plenty of shops where you could buy some cheeses and meats to enjoy a nice picnic.
4. Trinity College Library: A must for book lovers like me! I believe there is a $10 entrance fee.
5. Do a pub crawl: This is a MUST. You can find them at any hostel or book online. You’ll make new friends and have someone to lead you around so you don’t get lost.
6. Temple bar: There is an entire area known as the Temple bar area which is busy almost every time of day. Sometimes there are farmers markets set up as well.
7. Shop Grafton Street: Well known for its upscale shopping scene. It’s fun to walk through and window shop even if you don’;t want to spend money.
Honorable mentions: St. Patrick’s cathedral, Kilmainham Gaol, Guiness Factory Tour.
Dublin Pubs & Food
Porter House at Temple bar: Grab some drinks or dinner or just enjoy the atmosphere and all FIVE levels. Seriously, this bar is so cool! Get here early before it fills up.
Taco Taco: Grab brunch here, specifically the Duck hash. Or get brunch anywhere. But Dublin knows how to brunch!
River Bar on Burgh Quay: Try the Irish Lasagna!
FIND THE DONUT CART. It’s called the Rolling Donut on O’Connell St and you will not be disappointed. Fresh fried donuts rolled in sugar? Yes, please!
Tip: You can walk almost all of Dublin. Its packed in pretty close, so you shouldn’t have to drive anywhere. It’s a little stressful driving here anyway.
Of course there are so many more things to see but these were my favorites. Feel free to print this out & take it with you. Happy traveling!
More Ireland Tips & Tricks
1. You can download entire areas of a map while on wifi & then access it when you are on the road/without service. Since Ireland is only the size of Indiana, you can download the ENTIRE ISLAND. Please do this! It was so helpful when I went. You can get live directions while you are offline and it will be a life saver on the narrow, winding roads! Directions here.
2. If you do drive (which I highly recommend), make sure you request an automatic. Most people only drive manual there. They also drive on the wro..I mean LEFT side of the road. The roads are narrow, but if you get scared, just pull as close as you can off to the side and stop. Wait for the other car or tour bus to stop. I see other drivers doing this all the time as well!
3. The outlets are different from the U.S. and Europe. They use the same plug as the UK. The voltage is different so spend the money and get a nice plug with a converter. I didn’t have a voltage converter on my outlet the first time and ended up with a fried flat iron and cellphone charger – Not fun! I highly recommend this one.
4. Plan for rain. Always bring a water resistant jacket with you. When the forecast shows sun, you can still expect a 15 minute drizzle here and there throughout the day. A small travel umbrella is a must have too! Pack good shoes for walking that can get wet like these by Sorel. I can walk in these for days. If you don’t want to spend the money, these will work too.
5. Stay at B&B’s. You will be served amazing Irish breakfasts, baked goods & receive great info from the hosts on where to go/what to see. A lot of them even offer sack lunches to go in the mornings which is a huge help if you’re planning on hiking or going on an excursion.
6. They do not tip. If someone went above and beyond, or you take a taxi, you may want to tip one Euro. And yes, they use the Euro. It’s a good idea to ask for some 1 Euro coins at the exchange counter so you have plenty to give out. Grab a little coin purse so you don’t have to take out your whole wallet when you tip your taxi driver or server.
7. Follow the music. On the weekends, if you walk through town, you’ll hear music spilling out of pubs. Follow the sounds until you find some singing and dancing!
8. Take your time. The best way to enjoy Ireland is to act like a local. Walk at a leisurely pace, spread out your days and enjoy the unique culture unlike the rest of Europe!
9. Take a red eye and sleep on the plane so you hit the ground running and avoid jet-lag! I’ve tried all the travel pillows out there but this one is literally the best! I usually can never sleep on airplanes but this wrap around design actually keeps my head up and allows me to rest.
10. As safe as Ireland is, there is theft everywhere. Don’t take valuables when you travel anywhere. Ladies, leave your engagement rings at home and wear a fake! Inexpensive Sterling silver options like these are a great option if you still want some sparkle but don’t want the risk.
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