Last Updated on February 5, 2024 by Maggie McKneely
The Emerald Isle is a paradise of idyllic rolling farmland, rugged coastlines, manicured homesteads, historic castles, and an unassuming and friendly population. This 10 day Ireland itinerary will help you navigate the small but vibrant island and see all of the highlights in a short amount of time.
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10 Day Ireland Itinerary
Once upon a time, Ireland was a country that everyone wanted to leave – it had no wealth, no political freedom, no prospects. But times have certainly changed, for the Ireland of today is Europe’s wealthiest and fastest growing nation. Free from its economic and political woes of the past, Ireland’s natural charms are able to shine through. Its pristine emerald countryside, rugged and wild coastlines, irresistible foot-tapping music, and a rich spiritual history, from the Druids at Newgrange to the monks at Glendalough – the Ireland of today is a magical island that enchants everyone who visits.
As an Irish dancer and with a last name like “McKneely,” Ireland was the first country I ever wanted to visit. I never would have guessed that I’d travel to far flung places like Egypt and Turkey before setting foot on Ireland’s green shore, but no matter – I finally made it happen! After 10 days roadtripping around this small but spectacular island, I can affirm that it lives up to the hype. To help you plan your own adventure, here’s a perfect 10 day Ireland itinerary to help you make the most of your time there.
Table of Contents
Tips for Visiting Ireland
Best Times to Visit
Ireland’s driest months are April – July, so if you visit the Emerald Isle then, you’ll have the highest chances of not having to wear your raincoat 100% of the time (but you’ll definitely still need it some of the time). But those are also the country’s busiest tourist months.
This 10 day Ireland itinerary works no matter when you choose to visit, just pay close attention to those attractions that require getting tickets in advance if you come during the busy tourist months.
The easiest way to travel around Ireland is by rental car. That’s what this itinerary is designed for. Yes, they drive on the left side of the road but TRUST me when I say it’s not that difficult. Irish drivers are used to tourists and are very patient and courteous. I have a full guide on driving in Scotland and most of the advice there applies to driving in Ireland as well. You can do it!
But if you really don’t want to, there are other options:
Bus Éireann is the main public bus system that runs coaches all over the island. Aside from renting a car, this is the best way to reach rural towns and communities. There are also a huge number of private bus companies that offer chartered tours or hired drivers.
Traveling Ireland by train is another great option, as all of the major cities and most of the smaller ones are connected by rain. You can purchase tickets online or in-person, but you’ll save money by getting them in advance.
As a member of the European Union, the official currency of the Republic of Ireland is the Euro. Almost everywhere accepts credit card, and most places even accept Venmo and other forms of electronic payment. You will only need cash for tips and maybe a store in a very remote part of the island (though nowhere in this 10 day Ireland itinerary falls into that category).
Day 1-2: Dublin
Because you’ll almost certainly be flying into Dublin, start your 10 day Ireland itinerary by exploring the capital city. I’m a believer in the “save the best for last” adage and while I enjoyed Dublin, it’s definitely not the best part of Ireland. But its history and vibrant culture provide a great introduction to the country.
Start day 1 with a walking tour of Dublin. Walking tours are one of my favorite ways to learn about a new-to-me city. There are several companies that operate in Dublin but I highly recommend Yellow Umbrella Tours. They offer a 3-hour Intro to Dublin Tour that teaches you all about Dublin’s ancient and modern past, covers the major highlights like Trinity College and Temple Bar and the Molly Malone statue, gives suggestions on how to spend the rest of your time in Dublin, all while being extremely entertaining and personable. And the best part – it’s free.
The only catch is that because it’s a free tour, you won’t be able to actually go inside any of the ticketed sites (that’s what day 2 is for!). But you’ll still get an awesome overview.
In the afternoon, head over to the Irish Whiskey Museum. Few countries are as synonymous with their trademark drink as Ireland is, and so learning about the history of whiskey will help you learn not just about the alcohol but also the story of Ireland.
Dublin’s Irish Whiskey Museum starts at the very beginning, with those blessed Irish monks distilling the very first bottle of whiskey way back when. It traces how Ireland almost lost its whiskey industry, why the “e” was added into the word (versus the Scottish “whisky“), and then goes through a tasting of 5-6 different Irish whiskeys from across the country.
The guides are funny and knowledgeable and the tour is fascinating. If you, like me, have done a million distillery tours, or even if you don’t enjoy whisky, I highly recommend this tour for the great historical and cultural context it gives. Tours do sell out, so get your tickets in advance if possible.
On your 2nd day in Dublin, spend time visiting those places that the walking tour introduced you to.
First on the agenda is Trinity College Library’s Long Room. This is one of the most iconic places in all of Ireland for good reason.The dark oak paneled room with its high arched ceiling, double-storied shelves of books, and historic busts lining the aisles will leave you speechless. It’s also home to the famous Book of Kells, a stunning tome handcrafted by monks in 800AD. Tickets sell out, so purchase them in advance here.
Other Places to See in Dublin:
- Christ Church Cathedral
- At over 1000 years old, Christ Church Cathedral‘s crypt is the oldest working structure in Dublin. It’s also home to Ireland’s first copy of the Magna Carta and a famous pair of mummified corpses, a cat and rat named “Tom and Jerry.”
- St. Stephen’s Green
- This park is a lovely reprieve from the bustling city around it. Take a stroll through it on your way to something else, or take a self-guided walking tour!
- St. Patrick’s Cathedral
- St. Patrick’s is the more iconic of Dublin’s two cathedrals, partly due to its namesake. The Gothic architecture is stunning, and it’s also the final resting place of Gulliver’s Travels author Johnathan Swift.
- Guinness Storehouse
- No trip to Dublin is complete without a tour of the Guinness Storehouse. It’s the #1 most visited place in Ireland, but that’s because it’s both fascinating and a ton of fun. The interactive museum takes visitors up seven levels of exhibits, from how beer is created, to the history of the Guinness family and the company. At the very top is the Gravity Bar, whose 360-degree window has the best view of Dublin, hands-down. Get your tickets in advance here.
Where to Stay in Dublin
City Center is where all of the action is and since you only have 2 days in Dublin, you’ll want to stay as close to there as possible. But because the city is so compact, you can save a little money by staying a mile or two outside of it and still be able to get everywhere you want to relatively easily. We stayed at the lovely Croke Park Hotel, near its namesake Croke Park stadium. It was about a 25-minute walk to city center from there.
Day 3: Rock of Cashel, Waterford
It’s time to get out of the city on day 3 of this 10 day Ireland itinerary! Pack up your rental car and make your way south towards Waterford.
On the way, make a stop at the incredibly picturesque Rock of Cashel. The site was originally the seat of the kings of Munster, including King Aeghus who converted to Christianity after a visit from St. Patrick himself, and Brian Boru, owner of the harp that would become Ireland’s national symbol. It was eventually given to the church and became the center of ecclesiastical power on the island. The site is a conglomeration of the the most impressive architecture from the 1100s-1500s.
All of that history is topped off by the way the ancient remains tower over the surrounding countryside, making it a can’t miss part of any Ireland tour. You can visit the site without a guide, but Cormac’s Chapel can only be visited on a guided tour (which I highly recommend). Plan on spending at least 1.5 hours here if you do a tour. Go here for times and tickets.
After the Rock of Cashel, continue driving to Waterford. This charming port town is the oldest city in Ireland. It has several museums and historic landmarks, but its most famous attraction is the House of Waterford Crystal Factory.
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Waterford Crystal was founded in 1783 and has become one of Ireland’s most iconic companies. So much so that Irish politicians send a Waterford crystal bowl to the U.S. President every year on St. Patrick’s Day! A tour of the factory takes visitors through every painstaking process involved in making a piece of crystal. Whether its a simple water glass or a fancy custom item (like the NYC New Year’s ball), every piece is handmade. It’s fascinating to watch and learn about! Be sure to get tickets ahead of time here.
End the day with a drive an hour south of Waterford to the oldest operating lighthouse in the world, Hook Lighthouse. Built over 800 years ago by the son-in-law of Strongbow, it was then run by the monks for several centuries. Today it is fully automatic like every other lighthouse in the world (though none of them are as historic as this one!)
Where to Stay
We stayed at Fernhill House B&B in Tramore, about 30 minutes southwest of Waterford. I can’t recommend it highly enough – it was our favorite stay of the entire week! Amazing hosts, incredibly lovely breakfast, and a clear view of the ocean from our room.
Day 4: Blarney Castle, Cobh
On Day 4 of your 10 day Ireland road trip itinerary, enjoy the 2 hour drive from Waterford to Cork by cruising along the Copper Coast. Ireland’s southernmost shoreline is so named because of the extensive copper mining operations that once existed here. Today, it’s a very scenic drive on the way to Blarney Castle.
Blarney Castle itself is most famous for its kissable stone and the “gift of gab” it apparently imparts. However, a visit to Blarney offers much more than a little of eloquence!
The castle itself is over 600 years old. Not much of it remains besides the tower. Because most people come here specifically for the Blarney Stone, the line to go up the tower can be extremely long. When we visited, the sign post said the line was an hour long. We had no interest in spending a precious hour of time standing in line to kiss a stone millions of other people have put their saliva on, so I actually skipped the tower. (Though I won’t judge you if that is something you feel you must do!)
Instead, we spent that time exploring the incredible gardens. There are several themed gardens on the property, such as the ancient Rock Close, rumored to once be the home of a druid settlement. There is also the Himalayan Valley, which showcases plants from central Asia, and the Poison Garden, home to a host of plants you don’t want to get too close to. My personal favorite was the Fern Garden, which features a wooden boardwalk that wends between towering tree ferns. It feels like a planet far away from Ireland!
Exploring everything at Blarney takes a minimum of 3 hours. Plan to spend at least half a day here. Purchase skip-the-line tickets here.
Once finished at Blarney, drive to the nearby port-city of Cobh (pronounced like “cove”).
Cobh is a popular cruise port, which is ironic because it was the last port of call for the Titanic before it began its doomed journey across the Atlantic. Because of that, there’s a cool interactive museum, the Titanic Experience, in the old White Star ticket office.
Cobh is also home to Ireland’s most beautiful cathedral (in my humble opinion). Completed in 1919, St. Colmans is neither very old nor historic, but it is an exemplar of the the iconic Gothic revival style of Europe’s greatest churches. It is also the tallest church in Ireland and home to a 49-bell carillion, the most of any church on the British Isles.
Where to Stay in Cobh
We spent the night in Cobh at Mountview B&B which I don’t actually recommend. It served its purpose for one night but you can probably find better B&Bs and hotels in the area!
Day 5: Dingle Peninsula
It’s hard to say which is the most naturally stunning part of the Emerald Isle, but day 5 of this 10 day Ireland itinerary might just be it.
Many people opt to do the famous drive around the Ring of Kerry. However, I chose to do the less crowded but just as beautiful Dingle peninsula. From Cobh, drive northwest for 2.5 hours to Dingle, the farthest town out on the Dingle Peninsula. From there, begin the mostly single-lane Slea Head Drive.
If you drive the entire route without stopping, it would take about an hour. But that would be entirely pointless. It took us about 4 hours, and that included several stops, a hike, and lunch at the Blasket Center.
There are a number of places to stop along the way, but here are the ones that you don’t want to miss:
- Coumeenoole Beach
- This stunning beach is surrounded by rugged cliffs and endless coastal scenery. Of the beaches we stopped at, it was by far the prettiest.
- Dunmore Head
- This short hike actually leaves from the same parking lot you’ll use for Coumeenoole Beach. But instead of walking down the cliff face, go in the opposite direction up the hillside. There are signs directing you towards Dunmore Head viewpoint. At the top is one of the best views of the Blasket Islands along Slea Head Drive.
- Dun Chaoin Pier
- This stop is easy to miss – it’s not labelled, so pay attention and follow the signs toward the public boat pier. Park at the top and then walk down to the pier if you wish! (Though the best pictures are from the top looking down on the twisty road to the pier).
- Blasket Center
- The Blasket Center reopened in 2022 after a major renovation. I don’t know what it was like before, but now it’s a modern, interactive, fascinating museum about the hardy people who lived on the Blasket Islands. They had no electricity, running water, and an entirely different life from those on the mainland and continued living that way until the government forced them to move in the 1950s. It also has a cafe where you can stop for lunch and to use the bathroom (very important!)
- Ceann Sibéal Viewpoint
- Star Wars fans will recognize this view from The Force Awakens. Not being a Star Wars junkie myself, I just thought it was a lovely place to take pictures.
- Clogher Strand
- This lesser known beach is at the end of the circular Cloghar Bay. The surrounding cliffs provide a great frame for sunset and you can see the silhouette of Fear Marbh, the most northerly of the Blasket Islands.
- Gallarus Oratory
- My biggest tip here is to watch the educational video before walking over to the Oratory. It doesn’t look like much, but this is the best preserved church of its kind. It was built in the 11th or 12th century using no additional materials besides the stones. And it’s still in perfect condition all these centuries later!
After you finish driving around the Dingle Peninsula, head back to Killarney in time for dinner.
Where to Stay
We spent the night outside of Killarney at Lios Na Manach B&B. Killarney is the biggest city near Dingle, and that also made it easy to then explore the Killarney area itself on day 6.
Day 6: Killarney National Park
Day 6 of this 10 day Ireland itinerary is for exploring the beautiful slice of paradise that is Killarney National Park. Famous for its oak and yew woodlands, rugged mountains, red deer, Killarney is Ireland’s oldest national park. It was created when the elegant Muckross Estate was donated to the Irish government. Since then, the park has been expanded to include some of the country’s most picturesque real estate – no 10 day Ireland itinerary would be complete without a visit here!
Start your day early with a visit to the aforementioned Muckross House. The house was built in the mid-1800s and underwent major renovations in preparation for a visit from Queen Victoria. It 1911, it was bought by an American couple as a wedding present for the their daughter (mom, dad – are you taking notes?!). Tragically, she died not long after the marriage. Her parents and widower then donated the estate to the newly formed free state of Ireland so that future generations could enjoy it.
A self-guided tour of the house only takes about 30 minutes, but since its a popular tour bus stop, its helps to make this your first destination of the day in order to beat the crowds.
After touring the house, take the short but lovely walk over to Torc Waterfall. There are multiple ways to get there, but the easiest one that doesn’t involve moving your car is the lovely walk directly from Muckross House. There is a paved trail that goes from the estate and takes you along the lakeshore, with panoramic views of the mountains. It’s mostly flat with a just a few short climbs in the woods. It’s about 2 miles roundtrip from the house to the waterfall and back.
I didn’t include the Ring of Kerry on this itinerary since I opted for the Dingle Peninsula instead, but after leaving Muckross House, I suggest driving a little way up N71 (part of the Ring) to the Ladies View for an amazing vista of Killarney National Park.
Before leaving the Killarney area, I highly recommend driving over to the Gap of Dunloe. If you have extra time, there are boat tours that you can take through the Gap via Killarney’s lakes. But I didn’t have that kind of time, so driving to it was sufficient. The Gap of Dunloe is one of the most picturesque scenes in Ireland and well worth seeing for yourself.
Where to Stay
From there, make your way to your next stay in Co. Clare. We stayed at the lovely Glen Cove in Ennis, which was about midway between the Cliffs of Moher and Galway, making it a great base for the next 3 nights.
Day 7: Cliffs of Moher
Day 7 of this 10 day Ireland itinerary is the one you’ve probably been waiting for – the chance to lay your eyes on Ireland’s most famous coastline, the Cliffs of Moher.
The Cliffs are only about an hour away from Ennis, but you’ll definitely want an early start – this is the country’s second busiest tourist destination (only behind the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin) and it doesn’t take long for the narrow trail to become packed with people.
Technically, you can visit the cliffs for free but you’ll still have to pay for parking. But for just a couple of extra euros, purchasing tickets from the official Cliffs of Moher website gets you parking as well as access to the visitor’s center, exhibits, and O’Brien’s Tower. Allow for at least 2 hours to walk along the top of the cliffs and explore the visitor’s center.
After you visit the top of the cliffs, I highly recommend seeing them from the water! We took an hour long boat cruise with Doolin Ferry and it was so cool! The tour operator pointed out the Harry Potter cave from the Half-Blood Prince movie, the various seabird colonies, and other neat places that you can only see from the bottom of the cliffs. Pro-Tip: Sit on the right side of the boat or the top or else you won’t be able to see.
After the boat tour, grab a late lunch in the little town of Doolin. From there, you have a few options. You can visit the Burren, a national park about an hour from the cliffs known for its rocky, moonscape geography. The park has numerous hiking trails throughout the limestone hills. For full disclosure, we drove to the park but decided it wasn’t our cup of tea, so then kept driving to option #2…
Which is Bunratty Castle. Bunratty Castle was built in the 15th century and is today Ireland’s most intact castle. Inside you’ll find some of the original furniture and artwork dating back to the time when a King ruled the castle! On the grounds around the castle, there’s a re-created medieval village with farm animals and reenactors. It’s like stepping back in time to the Ireland of Lords and Ladies and knights in shining armor. We loved visiting here!
After that, drive back to Ennis for dinner in one of the local pubs (I recommend Brogans!) and another night at your nearby inn!
Day 8: Kylemore Abbey, Galway
Day 8 of this 10 day Ireland itinerary involves a drive through stunning Connemara to a place I almost skipped but fortunately did not – Kylemore Abbey.
Kylemore Abbey is about 2 hours from Ennis. Once you’re north of Galway, the drive is pure scenery as you make your way through the rugged hills of Connemara. But because it is a little bit of a trek, you will once again need to start early.
Kylemore Lodge was built in the 1860s by Irish politician Mitchell Henry as a gift for a his wife. But similar to the story of Muckross House, Mrs. Henry tragically passed away only a few years after the house was completed. In the 1920s, the estate was purchased by the Benedictine Order to house nuns who had fled Belgium during World War I. Though it remains an abbey to this day, acting as a retreat center and educational institution for visiting nuns, the Benedictines have maintained the home and the exquisite Victorian walled garden as the Henry family meant for them to be enjoyed.
We spent an entire morning here, first touring the house, the chapel, and then the gardens, and then stopping into the restaurant for lunch. The whole visit lasted about 4 hours and we still didn’t see everything, but we simply ran out of time. I recommend budgeting for lots of time because if you’re anything like us, you’ll want to spend all day here!
After Kylemore, drive an hour back south to the lively city of Galway. Galway is known as Ireland’s culture capital for its connection to traditional irish music. The Latin Quarter is filled with pubs that have live music all day long as well as lots of cute Irish shops. And if you want any claddagh jewelry, this is the place – Galway is the birthplace of the claddagh ring!
While Galway is a lot of fun, it’s small and doesn’t have a ton to do outside of the pubs, so an afternoon is enough for a visit. Afterwards, drive back to your stay at Ennis for one more night there.
Day 9: Glendalough, Wicklow Mountains
Day 9 of this 10 day Ireland itinerary involves making your way back to the eastern side of the country for a tour of ancient Glendalough and the Wicklow Mountains.
But first – about halfway between Ennis and Glendalough is the world’s oldest licensed distillery. Since it’s directly on the way, why not make a pit stop?
Kilbeggan Distillery first opened in 1757 and while most of their whiskey is made at various different locations nowadays, the original distillery is much like how it was when it first opened. Wander around the old wooden beams and mash pits as you learn about how whiskey was made before more modern methods were adopted. You also get to see the distillery’s fully operational 19th century water wheel, as well as the country’s only working steam engine. The tour ends with a 5-whiskey tasting. And if that’s not enough, you can cap off your visit with an authentic Irish coffee (it is morning, after all!)
After the whiskey settles, continue on the road towards Glendalough. This magnificent glacial valley was once home to Ireland’s most important Christian settlements. St. Kevin founded a monastery here in the 6th century, and for 500 years it thrived as a center for learning and piety. Today, the park includes the monsatic settlement as well as numerous hiking trails.
From Glendalough, take a scenic drive through the Wicklow Mountains to Lough Tay, better known as “Guinness Lake.” It’s so called because a) the estate that encompasses the lake is owned by the Guinness family trust and b) the beach line looks like the foam on top of every pint of Guinness! You can reach the viewpoint by driving up the Sally Gap drive until you reach the small parking area that overlooks the lake. It’s pretty straightforward – type in Lough Tay into Google Maps and it will take you to the right place.
Where to Stay
From there, drive to your last inn of the trip. Since you’ll be flying out of Dublin tomorrow, I recommend staying in a town between the Wicklow area and Dublin. We stayed at Eaglehill Farmhouse in Kildare which was absolutely delightful! The hosts were incredibly kind and accomodating. They helped us end our trip on the perfect note by taking us out into the fields to meet a 5 hour old lamb!
Day 10: Home
Head back to Dublin to catch your flight back home – and start planning your return trip to beautiful, magical Ireland!
Planning a trip to Ireland and have questions? Leave a comment or send me message!
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