An EPIC 7 Day Ireland Itinerary: Self Drive Road Trip

Ireland is one of the most spectacular countries I’ve EVER visited. There is so much natural beauty, breathtaking landscapes, wonderful people and fun cities that a 7 day Ireland itinerary will never be enough to see everything this wonderful country has to offer.

But a 7 day tour of Ireland sure is enough time to really get a taste of how wonderful Ireland is. If anything, a 7 day trip to Ireland will give you the taste you need to come back again and again!

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Best way to see Ireland on your 7 day Ireland itinerary 

road winding off into the distance among green fields in ireland

The easiest way to see everything in Ireland is by car. That means your Ireland 7 day self drive itinerary will involve renting a vehicle or using your own.

I brought my own car on the ferry from the UK to Ireland which cost around £200 for one passenger and one car. I was staying in Ireland for 2 months so bringing my own vehicle was a lot more economical.

If you’re just visiting for 7 days, renting a car in Ireland is a great option and there’s a huge choice of car rental agencies at Dublin Airport. Check out Rental Cars to find the best rate among the car rental services.

 

Tips for driving in Ireland:

  • It’s worth knowing that diesel is cheaper than petrol in Ireland that might influence which car you get as generally a tank of diesel will last you longer too

  • Roads can be windy so be prepared for extra time to be added to your trip because of that or if you get stuck behind farm traffic!

  • Google Maps is not always reliable, it would often try to direct us up a farm track which was clearly impassable for a normal car. Download offline maps for your drive and be prepared to retrace your steps to the nearest main road if that happens

  • Mobile phone signal is also pretty patchy in some rural places so downloading offline maps is good practice

 

7 day driving tour of Ireland: Done for you

If you choose not to hire a car or you don’t drive, there is a way to plan your 7 day itinerary of Ireland with no car, that’s by using pre-planned tours.

I personally prefer to use Get Your Guide tours because they use tours from local guides so you get great value and insight for your money.

If you’re on a budget I suggest the 6-day Best of Ireland backpackers tour. This tour covers all the main sights so you get amazing value for money and it’s also great because it also includes Giant Causeway, perfect if you’re looking for a 7 day itinerary in Ireland and Northern Ireland too!

Then I would suggest a combination of tours depending on your preferences.

This Cork, Kerry and Cliffs of Moher tour is a great way to see the sights in the South of Ireland. Or alternatively this 4-day Galway to Kerry tour takes the pace a bit slower.

While this 3-day Galway and Kerry Budget tour is perfect if you’re on a budget or short on time.

colourful artwork on buildings in Dublin city centre

Dublin

 

The ultimate Ireland road trip: 7 days

This 7 day Ireland road trip really does pack in the miles so be prepared! But each stop is so unique and really gives you a sense of everything Ireland has to offer.

Day 1: Dublin

Kick off your 7 day Ireland road trip itinerary in the country’s capital as this is most likely where you’ve arrived in Ireland either by boat or plane.

Although I personally found Dublin extremely touristy, it’s an essential experience and such a unique city. I visited a second time out of the peak season and found the crowds much more manageable!

colourful red bar covered in greenery in dublin

Things to do in Dublin:

  • Visit the Guinness Storehouse and pull your own pint of the black stuff! Book here to get your free pint!

  • Go whiskey tasting at the Jameson Distillery (or if you’re a whiskey fan, wait until Day 3 of this itinerary and visit the Jameson Midleton Distillery where all the Jameson Whiskey is actually produced, this Dublin location is just a tourist attraction and no longer produces it).

  • Explore Temple Bar and snap a photo at the famous red pub!

  • Do a Dublin walking tour to see the city’s highlights

  • See the Book of Kells on your visit to the stunning Trinity College Library

  • Enjoy a pint at a classic Irish pub such as The Long Hall, or visit The Brazen HEad - said to be the oldest pub in Ireland

  • Cross over Ha’penny Bridge and take in the city view

You’ll really want to maximise your day in Dublin so I’d suggest a full day here and either make the drive to Kilkenny later in the evening or better still, early the following morning so you can enjoy a pint or two in Dublin and not drive!

The drive from Dublin to Kilkenny is 1 hour 30 minutes.

 

Day 2: Kilkenny

Kilkenny is a medieval town 1.5 hours south of Dublin and it’s full of Irish character.

Kilkenny is also a very walkable town so it’s perfect to explore in an afternoon or a few hours as a stopover on your drive from Dublin, before heading to Cork for the night.

Things to see while you’re in Kilkenny:

  • Visit Kilkenny Castle and rose gardens and see the view of the town from the castle walls. Entry to the gardens (and to see that view) is free.

  • Visit the Rothe House and Gardens, this 16th century house is a stunning gem tucked away on the Medieval Mile in the heart of the city

  • Grab lunch and a drink at Kytelers Inn - this pub was originally owned by the first condemned witch in Ireland and the medieval style interior really is a unique Irish pub experience

  • Parliament Street is packed with shops, artisan bakeries, pubs and independent stores, it’s worth just having a wander down here to take in the atmosphere

  • Shenanigans Walking Tour in Kilkenny is a completely unique and hilariously informative walking tour which won the Tripadvisor Travellers Choice award in 2021, so this really is a walking tour worth doing!

Continue your journey in the evening to Cork which is 2 hours from Kilkenny.

 

Day 3: Cork

Cork is the second biggest city in Ireland after Dublin and it’s a young, vibrant city with so much to offer.

Things to do in Cork:

  • Kick off your day with a refreshing walk on the Lough Mahon Greenway Walk

  • Stop at the 16th Blackrock Castle on the way which is now an education centre

  • On your way back into the city, stop by Marina Market for some coffee and maybe grab a bit from one of the local street food vendors

  • Spend some time exploring the city, particularly the English Market in the city centre where you’ll find an array of unique food stalls and artisan products 

  • In the afternoon you have a couple of options. Drive 30 minutes outside of Cork and either visit the colourful town of Cobh - pronounced ‘Cove’. Cobh was originally called Queenstown and it’s the last port stop that the Titanic made before setting out on her fateful voyage across the Atlantic. Or if you’d prefer, the Jamesons Midleton Distillery is also 30 minutes outside the city and this is actually where ALL Jameson Whiskey is made, the Bow Street Distillery in Dublin is just used as a tourist attraction now. SO if you didn’t have a chance to visit the Distillery in Dublin or you’re a real whiskey enthusiast, I highly recommend visiting the Midleton Distillery. I’ve done tours at both locations and much preferred the Midleton option.

After your afternoon adventures, it’s time to drive to Killarney. The drive from Cork to Killarney is 1 hour 20 minutes.

 

Day 4: Killarney

Killarney was actually my favourite town of our whole trip and I think it’s one of the best places to see in Ireland in 7 days.

Killarney is a fairly small town located in County Kerry and situated ideally close to the Ring of Kerry and the Dingle Peninsula. It’s also a great location to explore the underrated Beara Peninsula from.

Killarney was my favourite because it’s a very compact city, small but fun to explore and with a population of 13,000 approx. there’s plenty of life and activity without it being overwhelming. It’s also situated on the edge of Lough Leane and Killarney National Park which are absolutely stunning to explore if you have time. With plenty of shops, bars and cafes, it’s a very livable town.

I’d suggest mix-and-match for day 4 and day 5 of this one week Ireland itinerary as the main things to see here are Killarney National Park and surrounds, the Carrauntoohil hike, the Ring of Kerry and the Dingle Peninsula. With two days in this area (today and tomorrow) I’d suggest picking two of these things and doing one each day.

castle on the edge of a lake at sunset

Ross Castle

Killarney town and Killarney National Park

Do this option if you’d like to take it slower with some easier, flatter walks and town sightseeing:

  • Visit Ross Castle, idyllically situated on the edge of Lough Learne with views of the mountains beyond (the car park is right by the castle)

  • Explore the ruins of Muckross Abbey and do the easy walk here from Muckross or Abbey Cross just outside of Killarney

  • Walk to Torc Waterfall, it’s a short few minutes walk from the car park on the N71

  • Explore the town centre, buy a souvenir or two or an Irish wool sweater at the Aran Sweater Market

  • Take a stroll down the High Street

  • Enjoy pizza and craft beer and the Killarney Brewing Company

Carrauntoohil Hike (or Torc Mountain if you’d like something slightly less challenging)

Carrauntoohil is often called the most challenging hike in Ireland. It’s a brilliant climb to do in good weather but should not be attempted without experience, without proper gear or without a guide in bad weather. In fact, a guide is preferable at any time unless you’ve completed this hike before. The Devil’s Ladder is the most popular route and is considered the ‘easiest route’ for tourists to complete. If you’re considering Carrauntoohil, please check our more information here.

If you’re still eager for some outdoor activity and a bit of a hike, Torc Mountain is a great alternative which is much more doable for most people of average fitness levels. It’s just outside the town and you can start from the Torc Waterfall upper hiking car park. It’s steep in places and again shouldn’t be attempted in bad weather or without the proper gear. Read more here.

If neither of these options appeal to you, I’d suggest doing the Ring of Kerry on one day and the Dingle Peninsula on another day. You can find route stops for both of these driving routes below.

 

Day 5: Dingle Peninsula or Ring of Kerry

No Ireland 7 day self drive itinerary would be complete without doing one of these epic scenic drives in Ireland.

The Ring of Kerry and Dingle Peninsula are both popular drives along the Wild Atlantic Way and both require (at least!) a full day to drive each route. Which is why I’ve allocated two days to base yourself in Killarney for this 1 week itinerary because I think both are worth visiting.

Ring of Kerry Route:

We did the Ring of Kerry counterclockwise so we could do a walk first thing in the morning at Rossbeigh and finish the day with dinner in Kenmare, but it’s up to you which direction you drive in.

  • Drive inland slightly from the Ring of Kerry route to see the magical Gap of Dunloe

  • Rossbeigh Strand is a stunning beach which juts out like a sandbar into the Atlantic. We did the Glenbeigh Loop here but if you don’t fancy a walk, I recommend parking at the beach car park and turning right to walk up the hill a short way, from here you’ll see the spectacular view of the beach.

  • Drive through Cahersiveen - a cute, colourful town

  • Drive across the bridge at Portmagee to Valentia Island. Visit Knights Town and the Lighthouse on the island in the east or see the view of the Skellig islands from the west coast.

  • If you’re planning a boat trip to the Skellig Islands, your trip will be from one of these coastal harbours on the Ring of Kerry.

  • Visit the stunning Kerry Cliffs

  • Do the Skellig Drive for stunning views of the islands and a beautiful scenic route

  • Drive through Kenmare or stop off for dinner here on your way back to Killarney

  • Stop at the famous Ladies View viewpoint if it’s still light enough to see the valley!

rugged green and rocky cliffs on the edge of the atlantic

Kerry Cliffs

Dingle Peninsula Route:

We did the Dingle Peninsula sort of clockwise but there’s one main route in and off the peninsula so you’ll be coming back to the town the same way.

  • Drive past the beautiful Inch Beach (there are a few lay-bys if you want to stop for a photo)

  • Drive through Dingle or take a quick stroll along the vibrant waterfront. Or visit the Dingle Distillery

  • Do the Slea Head drive to reach the very end of the coastal route.

  • On the Slea Head drive, don’t miss the views or stops at Coumeenoole Beach or Dunquin Harbour

  • Visit the only unrestored example of an Oratory Church in Ireland which is believed to be over 100 years old at Gallarus Oratory. There is a visitors centre with a car park and intro video, it costs 3 euros. But there is also a public footpath along the main road which provides entry for free.

  • Drive through Conor Pass for some epic views.

girl in red dress running down a hill to a harbour with blue sea and sky and an island in the distance

Dunquin Harbour

I definitely recommend ending one day in Killarney at the Killarney Brewing Company. If you know me, you know I love craft beers and the craft beers here are awesome, they do brilliant fresh pizzas and the heated terrace at the back has views of the mountains.

 

Day 6 - Cliffs of Moher and Doolin

The drive from Killarney to the Cliffs of Moher is around 3 hours, so you’ll want to start your day early! But take your time on the drive, this is the famous Wild Atlantic Way after all!

You have a couple of options for visiting the Cliffs of Moher, depending on whether you want to pay or not. The main visitors centre charges 10 euros per adult or 7-8 euros if booked online in advance. Book here.

This is a great option if you’re not an avid walker or you’re short on time. Entry to the visitors centre includes the information centre to learn more about the cliffs, then you can walk in either direction to the viewpoints. This is also a great option if you have young children as the path has barriers so it’s not possible to get to the edge of the cliffs.

However I was a little disappointed by this experience because the barriers were so far back from the cliff edge that I struggled to see the sheer size of the cliffs. Also the pathway along the cliffs behind the barrier is so narrow, I was uncomfortable with how close we had to pass by other people when distancing was in place around the rest of Ireland!

I don’t mean to put off anyone from this experience, the cliffs are spectacular to see and this is a great option if you’re short on time. I’d already seen many other stunning rugged cliffs which were an alternative to the Cliffs of Moher by this point, so I’d definitely been spoilt!

rugged cliffs of moher on the Ireland coast

Cliffs of Moher

Other ways to see the Cliffs of Moher:

If you have time and would like to see the more authentic view of the Cliffs of Moher and get a bit of a walk in, there are two options:

  • Walk south from Doolin to Cliffs of Moher

  • Walk north from Hags Head to Cliffs of Moher

This way you see the whole stunning cliffs of Moher coastline without barriers or crowds!

It’s around 1.5-2 hours walk one way and there is a shuttle bus from the visitors centre to get you back to either Hags Head or Doolin depending where you came from. Or do what we did and walk from Doolin and back which took around 4 hours round trip.

Whether you’re doing the longer walk route or not, don’t miss the quaint, colourful town of Doolin:

  • Grab a pint at Gus O’Connors pub - one of the most popular pubs in Ireland

  • Enjoy Fish and Chips on the coast from Russell’s Fish Shop

  • You can also get the ferry from Doolin to spend a day on the Aran Islands if you have any extra time - that was a highlight of our time in Ireland!

colourful flowers with colourful thatched cottages in the background

Doolin

 

Day 7: Galway

Wrap up the last of your Ireland road trip, 7 days later in Galway!

The drive from Doolin to Galway is around 1 hour 30 and there’s a couple of stops you can make on the way:

  • Dunguaire Castle - just stop to enjoy the view even if you don’t want to pay to go in!

  • Moran’s Oyster Cottage - they are SO FRESH, they do a small tasting platter if you just want to stop for the experience

Things to do in Galway:

  • Explore the characterful streets of the Latin Quarter

  • See the Spanish Arch and visit the free Galway City Museum

  • Do the Long Walk along the harbour here by the museum

  • Visit the spectacular Galway Cathedral

  • Get pizza from the Dough Bros

Depending if this is your last day in Ireland or you have one more night, the drive from Galway to Dublin is around 3 hours, so make sure you leave plenty of time for that if you fly out of Dublin to head home!

 

Summary: The ultimate 7 day Ireland itinerary

I hope you’ve found this 7 day Ireland road trip useful to plan your trip. I spent two months travelling slowly around Ireland and there is so much more to see, but from spending 2 months there, this is the route I would do to really experience the most of Ireland if I had just 7 days to visit Ireland. 

Hopefully this Ireland Itinerary helps you plan your week in Ireland, check out my other Ireland content to plan more of your trip if you’re thinking about staying longer!

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