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72 hours in Ireland’s stunning southwest

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72 hours in Ireland’s stunning southwest

  • #CityBreaks
  • #NatureandWildlife

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Explore this route surrounding the River Shannon for an adventure with a little bit of everything. We’re talking castles, the rolling hills of County Clare, lively Limerick city and hidden gems, including the home of Irish coffee

From Shannon Airport, explore the counties of Limerick and Clare as you take a trip into Limerick city before heading out towards the Atlantic Ocean where Loop Head Lighthouse and the Cliffs of Moher await.

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Begin your trip with a piece of this region’s history at Bunratty Castle, before following the Shannon deeper inland towards the historic city of Limerick.

Arrival on the island of Ireland

Shannon, County Clare

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Your first port of call on this three-day trip is the small, easy-to-navigate Shannon Airport. This airport is located on the Wild Atlantic Way, which is known for its towering sea cliffs, quiet beaches, remote islands and tumultuous relationship with the Atlantic Ocean.

Shannon Airport is a great starting point for exploring the west coast, but we insist that you follow this trip and head further inland first, because there are lots of places you won’t want to miss.

There are a number of car hire services within Shannon Airport, but if you don’t feel like driving then you can avail of the  public bus.

A welcome fit for a king

Bunratty Castle, County Clare

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Our first stop is Bunratty Castle and Folk Park, which is just under halfway between Shannon Airport and Limerick city.  This impressive castle stands on a location that was a Viking trading camp back in 970, and the present structure was built by the MacNamara family in 1425.

Take a tour of this fortress and discover how the lords and ladies of this esteemed home once lived. As you run your hands over the stone walls, gaze at intricate tapestries and climb the narrow spiral staircases, it’s easy to imagine life here over 500 years ago.

Bunratty Castle is also famous for its medieval banquets where you are served a tasty traditional menu and entertained by actors in period dress.

Once you’ve explored the castle, head over to the Folk Park. An assortment of village shops, cottages with thatched roofs, farm animals and chalk-covered blackboards in front of wooden desks in the schoolhouse paint a realistic picture of the 19th century village that stood here when the last family resided in Bunratty Castle.

Before you take to the next leg of your journey, grab some lunch and a cup of coffee at Mr O’Regan’s Café.

where to visit south west ireland

Bunratty Winery

where to visit south west ireland

Accommodation

Bunratty Haven

The ancient city.

Limerick city, County Limerick

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Check into your accommodation and then take to the lively, medieval streets of Limerick city.

It’s hard to miss King John’s Castle – a mighty structure looming over the Shannon. The castle has seen 1,000 years of occupation, so it has a few stories to tell. Step behind the robust, stone walls on a self-guided tour. Costumed characters will tell you the secrets and scandals that went on here, while information panels and interactive screens detail the history. The incredible architecture of the castle with its tall storm tower, eerie siege tunnel and the remains of the great hall, speaks for itself.

In the courtyard, visit the blacksmith’s workshop, and find peace in the sanctuary of the chapel, or play an invigorating seasonal game of horseshoe throwing, archery, or quoits (ring toss).

The Hunt Museum is another attraction you won’t want to miss. This 18th century Palladian-style building holds beautiful original artefacts and artwork in its collection including works by Pablo Picasso and Jack B Yeats. Explore the collection yourself or take one of their guided tours.

For dinner, taste the fresh Skellig mussels in the sophisticated setting of Freddy’s Restaurant – voted Travellers’ Choice of 2021 on Tripadvisor and Best in Ireland 2022 by John and Sally McKenna’s Guides. Take a post-meal stroll alongside the Shannon before heading out to Charlie Malone’s for a nightcap, live music and maybe a dance, too – it is known as the home of the session, after all.

where to visit south west ireland

Thomond Park Stadium

where to visit south west ireland

Limerick City Museum

where to visit south west ireland

The Milk Market

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Head west along the south bank of the Shannon. Day two is packed full of activities, including a visit to the home of the Irish coffee and a ferry ride across the Shannon Estuary before you meet the Atlantic Ocean at the tip of the Loop Head peninsula, and feel the refreshing sea spray on your face in Kilkee.

A flying start to the day

Foynes, County Limerick

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Pick up some breakfast in one of Limerick’s best cafés, Canteen, and then head west along the Shannon to the small town of Foynes. Boasting a strong aviation history and a picturesque main street of limestone-cut buildings, Foynes is an interesting little spot with connections to a very famous drink.

Back in the 1930s and 1940s, the town played a pivotal role in transatlantic flight. One stormy winter night in 1943, a flight was on its way to New York when it had to return to Foynes due to bad weather. So, to warm up the passengers, chef Joe Sheridan – who worked in the restaurant of the Foynes terminal building – made them the first-ever cup of Irish coffee.

For more stories like this one, check out the Foynes Flying Boat and Maritime Museum. You can even book an Irish coffee masterclass here – delicious!

where to visit south west ireland

Knockpatrick Gardens

The southwest’s shining light.

Loop Head Lighthouse, County Clare

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The next leg of your trip involves a 15-minute ferry crossing from Tarbert to Killimer – vehicles and foot passengers are both permitted onboard.

This ferry journey not only brings you closer to your next destination on the Loop Head  peninsula, but also allows you to experience the exciting voyage across the Shannon Estuary, where Ireland’s longest river meets the Atlantic Ocean. Be sure to look out for the Shannon Estuary’s resident group of bottlenose dolphins as you make this crossing!

The drive or bus journey from Killimer to the Loop Head Lighthouse is just as scenic as the ferry crossing, with views of the Atlantic leading you all the way to the lighthouse perched on the end of the peninsula. On a clear day, you can see the Twelve Bens mountains of Connemara to the north, and the Blasket Islands to the south. With such breathtaking scenery, it’s no wonder this spot was chosen as a filming location for Star Wars.

Take a tour of the lighthouse which has been standing tall in one guise or another for well over 300 years, or if you fancy staying longer, book yourself into Loop Head Lightkeeper’s House. It’s an incredibly remote yet super-cosy place where you can sit back and watch the sea by the warmth of the wood-burning stove.

There are also guided walking tours of this area and they’re a great way to spot some of the wildlife here, which includes kittiwakes, fulmars, guillemots, razorbills, puffins, gannets, seals and dolphins.

where to visit south west ireland

Loop Head Adventures Ltd

By the sea in kilkee.

Kilkee, County Clare

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It’s time for a bit of rest and relaxation in Kilkee. This seaside village in County Clare  is Loop Head’s main town with a population of just over 1,000 people. The salty air and ocean views will leave you feeling refreshed and rejuvenated, and for an extra bit of relaxation, why not head to Kilkee Thalassotherapy Centre? This family-run spa and guesthouse brings the seaside indoors with a combination of traditional natural seaweed baths and modern spa treatments, including a Marine Salt Glow and Marine Algae Wrap.

Now, let’s talk about dinner. Being this close to the Atlantic Ocean can put a person in the mood for something fishy. Pollock & Porter is a great shout for seafood in a fine dining setting, and Naughton’s Bar does your classic fish and chips with a side of mushy peas. A short drive away you’ll also find The Long Dock in Carrigaholt, where the brown bread and seafood chowder comes highly rated by Kilkee locals.

After a day of fresh air and a delicious meal, rest your head in one of Kilkee’s many B&Bs.

where to visit south west ireland

Nevsail Watersports & Adventures Clare

where to visit south west ireland

Kilkee Golf Club

where to visit south west ireland

Kilkee Cliffs

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You have reached day three of your southwest adventure. Now it’s time to visit one of the most iconic natural landmarks on the island of Ireland, the Cliffs of Moher. After this, we have a few lovely little villages and towns that can be used as a base for the final night of your three-day trip, or you can return to Limerick city.

Myths, cliffs and a scenic picnic

The Cliffs of Moher, County Clare

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On your way to the Cliffs of Moher,  you’ll pass through the towns of Miltown Malbay and Lahinch. If the weather is nice, stop off for some picnic supplies.

The Cliffs of Moher themselves are one of the most popular natural attractions on the island of Ireland. With the Atlantic Ocean on one side and the Burren  – a limestone karst region of natural beauty – on the other, these 14km-long cliffs rise up to heights of over 200 metres above the crashing waves, and the view is otherworldly.

Speaking of otherworldly, many myths and tales surround the Cliffs of Moher, including the mermaid of Moher, the leap of the foals and the lost city of Kilstiffen. All of these old legends add an extra sense of enchantment to the cliffs, and when you see them for yourself, you ’ ll understand why they inspired so many incredible stories.

You’ll likely see some incredible wildlife here, too. The Cliffs of Moher are a flora and fauna hotspot and a Special Protection Area for Birds and Wildlife. Look out for “The Magnificent 7” : the puffin, guillemot, razorbill, fulmar, kittiwake, chough and peregrine.

County Clare’s rural towns and villages

Lisdoonvarna, County Clare

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There are lots of lovely villages and towns near the Cliffs of Moher, including Doolin, Liscannor and Lisdoonvarna where you can eat tasty seafood, listen to the traditional music which County Clare is famous for, and meet the locals.

Both villages of Doolin and Liscannor are less than 10km from the Cliffs of Moher. Friendly, colourful Doolin won’t only wow you with the continuation of that incredible Wild Atlantic Way scenery, but you’ll also want to tell your friends about its internationally renowned traditional Irish music scene. The village hosts two annual music festivals – the Micho Russell Festival and the Doolin Folk Festival.

The coastal village of Liscannor is situated at the end of Liscannor Bay and has the most beautifully distinctive Liscannor stone running throughout the village’s houses, walls and paving. A stay in the boutique Cliffs of Moher Hotel is a fantastic way to round off your Cliffs of Moher experience as you enjoy a hearty meal, get cosy in the lounge and listen to some live traditional Irish music.

Last but certainly not least, Lisdoonvarna is 13km from the Cliffs of Moher and is a town of longstanding traditions – including hosting Europe’s largest annual matchmaking festival!

The first bathhouse was built in Lisdoonvarna in 1875 and the curative properties of the town’s water in the Lisdoonvarna Spa Wells have been attracting visitors ever since. You should add a trip to the Burren Smokehouse here, too, for a behind-the-scenes look at how this smokehouse makes its internationally renowned smoked fish.

We suggest that you pick one of these towns or villages for the final night of your southwest adventure.

where to visit south west ireland

O'Callaghan Angling

Back to the city.

Tait's Clock, Limerick city

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Alternatively, you can choose to head back to Limerick city where there is still plenty to see and do. This city is also well connected by bus and rail services to other stops you may have planned on your island of Ireland adventure!

Limerick Genealogy

where to visit south west ireland

Limerick Printmakers

where to visit south west ireland

Limerick Medieval Walking Trail

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The Wandering Quinn Travel Blog

10 Places You MUST Visit on The West Coast of Ireland!

Categories Europe , Ireland

The West Coast of Ireland is a beautiful part of Ireland and there are so many places to visit on the West Coast of Ireland. I did a 3 day West Coast of Ireland Road Trip  driving up as much of the West Coast as I could and I couldn’t believe the beauty of it!

The scenery on the West Coast of Ireland changes so dramatically as you drive along the Wild Atlantic Way and go between the South, Mid and North of the West Coast.

Here are 10 places on the West Coast of Ireland to visit which are also the best things to do on the West Coast of Ireland and the best things to see on the West Coast of Ireland .

Whether you are hiring a car in Ireland and doing a West Coast Ireland road trip as I did, planning on driving the Wild Atlantic Way , or using public transport and doing day tours around Ireland , I give you options below to suit all trips to Ireland!

Places to Visit on West Coast of Ireland!

places to visit west coast of Ireland

Find What You're Looking For Easily Here!

West Coast of Ireland Map

Here’s a map of all of the best places to visit on the West Coast of Ireland to help you plan your trip whether you have 3 days in Ireland or 1 week in Ireland !

Car Hire in Ireland

In this list of places to visit in the West coast of Ireland, I have given group day trip options in case you don’t have a car, however, for the best way to see Ireland, I recommend hiring a car as I did.

I hired a car for Ireland through Rental Cars which work with all the big car rental agencies in Ireland.

Search for car rental in Ireland here!

Best Places to Visit on the West Coast of Ireland

Now, here are the best places to visit on the West Coast of Ireland to add into your Ireland itinerary and road trip!

1. Cliffs of Moher

No West Coast of Ireland trip would be complete without a trip to the iconic and famous Cliffs of Moher, this is the top Ireland tourist attraction .

They are Ireland’s most visited natural attraction and they’re popular for a reason .

This area of coastline is simply stunning and the visitor centre, although touristy, gives you the chance to get up close to the cliff’s edge.

If you’re hiring a car in Ireland , the best time of day to visit the Cliffs of Moher is  as late as possible (3pm-7pm depending on the time of year and what time it gets dark) as the morning is when the coach day tours visit the Cliffs of Moher and ideally you want to avoid these.

In fact, when I went in August there were signs well before getting to the Cliffs, and in Shannon Airport, advising people to go after 4:00 pm   in the Summer,  so keep this in mind when you’re thinking about what to do in West Ireland.

If you’re staying in Galway without your own transport, do not worry! There are plenty of Cliffs of Moher Tours leaving Galway and even tours leaving Dublin !  I would recommend one of these . They start at a great price, you see a lot and they are stress-free!

where to visit south west ireland

I use  Skyscanner   to book all of my flights! I’m a huge fan of Skyscanner because I love how easy it is to compare different dates and routes to help me find the best flight at the best price!

Open Skyscanner by clicking here  and search for the best flights as you read this post.

Galway is Ireland’s most famous City after Dublin , however, it’s much smaller in size than Dublin so it’s a lot easier to navigate and get a good feel for in a small amount of time so it should be on your West Coast of Ireland itinerary .

Galway is full of colourful buildings , plenty of local Irish Pubs and is situated on the water.

There are street performers day and night giving you a taste of traditional Irish music and generally, its just a good craic!

Things to do in Galway include taking the Galway Hop-On, Hop-Off Bus to see the city in a quick and easy way!

I stayed overnight in Galway and I’m really glad I got to see Galway in the evening and in the day time because it seems like a different city when it gets dark.

If you want a place to go out for some drinks on the West Coast of Ireland and for a few Guinness’s, Galway is the place to go and stay for a night or two.

places to visit west coast of Ireland, Galway

3. Limerick

Limerick is the third biggest city in Ireland however it’s a city that isn’t centred around tourism like Galway is but it’s still a good place to visit when thinking about where to go in Ireland.

I would suggest visiting Limerick for a few hours if you are passing by on a road trip to visit the Castle and have a walk along the River Shannon. Here are some things to do in Limerick !

places to visit west coast of Ireland, Limerick

  • More of my Ireland posts:
  • 3 Day West Coast of Ireland Road Trip Itinerary!
  • 10 Incredible Places To Add To Your Wild Atlantic Way Route in Ireland!
  • Helpful Tips To Prepare You For Your Ireland Road Trip!  
  • What To Do in Limerick!

4. Killary Fjord

The Killary Fjord on the West Coast of Ireland was a complete surprise to me! It’s Irelands only Fjord which extends 10 miles from the Atlantic.

I drove along the Fjord when driving from Kylemore Abbey to Westport and every turn and corner provided a completely different view of the fjord, it really was incredible.

It’s a mix of New Zealand and Norway on the West Coast of Ireland! Boat tours are available from Killary Harbour which would be brilliant if you can find the time, you can book a 1.5-hour boat tour here !

If not, just make sure you at least drive alongside it.

places to visit west coast of Ireland, Killary Ford

5. Achill Island

Another surprise for me on the West Coast of Ireland and along the Wild Atlantic Way was Achill Island. It’s the largest island off of the mainland of Ireland , connected to the mainland via a bridge.

It’s a remote, rugged and unspoilt island!

I felt like I was uncovering a gem as I drove towards and around the Island.

I used ‘ Keel ‘ on Achill Island as my endpoint on my satnav and just before I reached the village I saw signs for the beach.

The beach was so remote and quiet , it filled me with peace and calm so I would definitely recommend heading up there to see a less visited place on the West Coast of Ireland.

places to visit west coast of Ireland, Achill Island

6. Connemara National Park

Connemara National Park is a big area of land in West Ireland and one of the most popular places to visit in Ireland and one of the most popular things to do in West Ireland.

The scenery here is very mountainous and rugged with lots of lakes.

You can drive through it taking in the beauty surrounding you, stopping when you feel like it to take pictures and have a walk, and you can go to the main visitor centre and walk a suggested walking route around the Connemara National Park which is what I did.

There are 3 walks available  that all start at the Connemara National Park Visitor Centre ranging from 30 minutes to 90-120 minutes .

I did the Lower Diamond Hill Walk which was 3km and took about 45 minutes, it wasn’t particularly strenuous but it gave amazing views from a high part of the mountain overlooking the lakes and countryside.

If you don’t have a car, you can book on a day tour to the Connemara National Park from Galway like this , or from Dublin like this !

Wild Atlantic Way Route, Kylemoor Abbey

7. Kylemore Abbey

Kylemore Abbey is an iconic place to visit in Ireland and one of the best places to see in Ireland.

It’s a 10-15 minute drive from the Connemara National Park visitor centre so if you visit one you should visit both.

Kylemore Abbey was built in the 1800s and it’s had a lot of love, care and money put into it. It’s been a hotel and a girls school and experienced a fire or two that could have ruined the castle but luckily didn’t.

The Abbey is beautiful to view from the lake and up close. I would suggest buying a ticket so you can get closer to it and go inside to read more about its history.

There is also a gorgeous walled garden a mile from the Abbey which is accessible via foot or a shuttle bus that runs every 10-15 minutes to take you between the two areas.

places to visit west coast of Ireland, Kylemore Abbey

Again, do not worry if you do not have your own transport, you can still reach the Connemara National Park and Kylemore Abbey on day tours from Dublin and Galway like this, click through to check availability for when you’re there!

8. The Burren

I didn’t get to visit The Burren due to time constraints but I wish I had visited and thought about what to see in Ireland in advance of my trip.

It’s located close to the Cliffs of Moher and is famous for its limestone landscape . From the photos I have seen it looks quite otherworldly and a really unique place to visit in West Ireland.

It’s also popular because you would think this landscape is barren with nothing growing it in but actually, The Burren blossoms into a rock garden of wildflower in the spring, so Spring is a great time to visit this part of West Ireland.

west coast of Ireland, the Burren

9. Aran Islands

This is another part of the West Coast I didn’t visit as I only had 3 days in Ireland but would have loved to visit. Sat in Galway Bay mouth are 3 islands known as the Aran Islands.

It’s possible to visit the Aran Islands on a Day trip from Doolin or Galway and there are regular ferries running to take you and your car.

There are also many coach tours and boat trips around the Aran Islands if you’d prefer to see the islands from the water which sounds like one of the fun things to do in Ireland.

The islands are known for their ancient sites, beaches and Irish speaking locals.

If I didn’t have a car for my trip and had done my Ireland trip via public transport I definitely would have gone on an organised day trip to the Aran Islands from Galway like one of these:

west coast of Ireland, Aran Irelands

How to get the best flights??

I use  Skyscanner to book all of my flights! I’m a huge fan of Skyscanner because I love how easy it is to compare different destinations and different dates for the best price and route!

For example, I type in ‘everywhere’ in the destination if I have fixed dates and want to find the best flights on those dates on Skyscanner .

And if I have a set destination I’ll look at the ‘month view’ to check the cheapest days to fly in that month!

10. Donegal

Donegal topped National Geographic’s Cool List of What to See in Ireland and for good reasons. Donegal appears to be the place that makes you feel like you’re really ‘ off the beaten path’ in Ireland .

Escaping the rest of the world with its wild landscape, country roads and incredible coastline so make sure you visit on your West Coast of Ireland trip!

FAQs about the West Coast of Ireland

Here are answers to the frequently answered questions about visiting the West Coast of Ireland:

What is the best way to see the West Coast of Ireland?

Driving yourself on a road trip is the best way to see the West Coast of Ireland. I suggest hiring a car via Rental Cars who work with all the top rental car agencies in Ireland! Search here!

What is the prettiest part of Ireland?

The West Coast of Ireland has many of the top prettiest places in Ireland like the Cliffs of Moher, Connemara National Park, the Wild Atlantic way.

Is Galway on the West Coast of Ireland?

Yes, Galway is part of the West Coast of Ireland and a brilliant place to stop when travelling along Ireland’s West Coast.

What is the West Coast of Ireland called?

The West Coast of Ireland is also known as the Wild Atlantic Way because it runs all the way along the West Coast from the South to the North and is the longest coastal route in the world at 1600m / 2600km.

Enjoy these places to visit on the West Coast of Ireland!

  • What To Do in Limerick!  
  • 5 Pubs in Dublin to visit for a great Craic!  

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Friday 29th of June 2018

We just did the Wild Atlantic Way and I have to say its been one of the best holidays ever...the weather was sublime too. 28 degrees and sunny, just beautiful!

TheWanderingQuinn

Saturday 30th of June 2018

That sounds amazing!! I’m glad you enjoyed it!

Tuesday 7th of November 2017

Pictures are lovely! In some it looks like you were the only person there which must have been pretty special, or maybe just clever camera timing! Thanks for sharing this post :)

Emma Hart | Paper Planes and Caramel Waffles

Thursday 12th of October 2017

Ooh, I'd definitely recommend visiting Doolin! It's such a gorgeous little village with the coolest Irish bars. The Burren is also pretty cool too, it's so wild there. I remember when I visited a few years ago, The Cliffs of Moher were covered in fog but it made the scenery really atmospheric! Hopefully I'll make it back again on a clearer day!

Emma | Paper Planes and Caramel Waffles

Samantha Sparrow

Monday 18th of September 2017

This area of Ireland has been on my wish list for years - I definitely want to do more road trips in 2018 if I can - to Ireland, Scotland and Wales! The pictures are just sublime, you've made me want to book right now!

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Southwest Ireland

where to visit south west ireland

  • 3 Other destinations
  • 4 Understand
  • 5.1 By plane
  • 5.2 By train
  • 6.1 By train
  • 6.3 By road
  • 11 Stay safe

Southwest Ireland is a region of Ireland comprising County Cork and County Kerry. With a population of 740,000 in 2022, it is a tourism region, not a unit of local government. Historically it's part of the kingdom or province of Munster , which occupied the southwest quarter of Ireland.

Map

  • 51.9 -8.473056 1 Cork is the region's large and lively city, with lots to see and do, and nearby historic Blarney and Cobh .
  • 52.131 -8.6415 2 Mallow exemplifies lowland Cork, with the race-track and castle ruins.
  • 51.7075 -8.530556 3 Kinsale has two forts guarding its historic harbour; it's the south end of the Wild Atlantic Way .
  • 51.679794 -9.45322 4 Bantry is a good base for all three of Cork's main peninsulas.
  • 52.2675 -9.6962 5 Tralee the county town of Kerry has a well-preserved 19th century centre.
  • 52.0588 -9.5072 6 Killarney is a very scenic place, with the lakeside castle and mountains rearing up beyond.
  • 51.885604 -10.366116 7 Portmagee is the usual starting point for boats to Skellig Michael.

Other destinations

  • 52.193333 -10.083889 1 Dingle Peninsula is the most northern of this region's five major peninsulas. Its chain of mountains culminate in Mount Brandon, near the main village of Dingle .
  • 51.948889 -9.9175 2 Ring of Kerry is the name given to the 214 km circuit of Iveragh Peninsula. Trips usually start from Killarney .
  • 51.771111 -10.540556 3 Skellig Michael is the most remarkable but the hardest to reach of the region's many islands. A medieval monastic complex teeters on its twin peaks, 12 km out in the Atlantic.

where to visit south west ireland

Great tides of influx and emigration have marked this region, and they literally were tides for the earliest settlers landing in small coves and creeks to populate the lowlands. Celtic tribes coalesced into petty kingdoms then into the entity of Munster. Vikings and Normans staked their claims but didn't get much beyond Cork before being repulsed, so it was only in Tudor times that England took a grip. Munster in the 12th century had fractured into a north and south kingdom: Deasmhumhain or South Munster, hence "Desmond", resisted long and hard until subdued in the 16th century. It only remained to divvy up the best of the land to loyal English nobles, which was how Sir Walter Raleigh came to be mayor and landowner in the east of County Cork through into Waterford.

The rugged southwest was ignored: by boat you could get around it or go fishing but inland had poor farming and no mineral resources, all it was good for was breaking your cart axles. It had a precarious, subsistence way of life even in the good years, so the famine years struck very hard. Those who could, fled. Population outflow continued even after the famine, as much by "pull" of the British and North American city economies as by the "push" of poverty. It was for those emigrants that Titanic called at Cobh westbound.

What brought people back was tourism. This was attempted as early as 1750, but it only took off in the 19th century with the arrival of the railways, the growth of a middle class with time and income for leisure, and the Romantic movement which re-painted a barren, stony landscape as fine scenery. Postcards, railway posters and tea-towels publicised the area, and the Irish diaspora became its ambassadors. Cork, Blarney Castle, Killarney and its lakes, and the Ring of Kerry, all became established on the tourist circuit, and they still are.

South West Ireland is one of the eight regions of Ireland for statistical and planning purposes, and more snappily known as "IE053 - NUTS Level III".

  • South West Ireland tourism information

where to visit south west ireland

52.702 -8.925 1 Shannon Airport ( SNN  IATA ) north across the Shannon estuary is a major portal of entry into Ireland. It has many flights from Europe, UK and the United States, with US border pre-clearance, and in summer from Toronto. The largest operators are Ryanair and Aer Lingus . There are several car rental agencies.

52.181 -9.524 2 Kerry Airport ( KIR  IATA ) is midway between Tralee and Killarney. It has daily flights from Dublin, and year-round from London Stansted and Luton, Manchester, Frankfurt-Hahn, plus seasonal Med destinations.

51.841 -8.491111 3 Cork Airport ( ORK  IATA ) has a range of flights from the UK and Europe but is too small for transatlantic traffic.

Dublin Airport ( DUB  IATA ) is often a good option because of its wide range of flights and competitive fares, compensating for the extra drive.

Trains run hourly from Dublin Heuston, taking 2 hr 40 min to Cork via Kildare , Portlaoise , Ballybrophy, Thurles , Limerick Junction (for Tipperary or Limerick ) and Mallow . A branch-line from Mallow connects to Killarney, Farranfore (for Kerry Airport) and Tralee.

Buses run hourly from Dublin Airport and Busáras to Cork, with three operators competing on the route.

Dublin Coach M7 runs hourly from Dublin city via Limerick , Adare , Newcastle West and Abbeyfeale to Killarney and Tralee .

City Link runs every 3 hours from Galway via Shannon Airport and Limerick to Cork city centre and airport. The slower Bus Éireann 51 runs hourly from Galway via Ennis , Shannon Airport, Limerick and Mallow to Cork.

Expressway Bus 40 runs hourly from Rosslare harbour (for ferries from Wales and the Continent) via Wexford , New Ross , Waterford , Dungarvan and Youghal to Cork, where it takes a break then continues west to Macroom , Ballyvourney, Killarney , Farranfore and Tralee .

where to visit south west ireland

Commuter trains fan out from Cork to Fota (for the wildlife park) and Cobh , to Midleton (for Jameson Distillery) and to Mallow (for Cork racecourse).

There's usually one direct daily train from Cork to Killarney and Tralee, otherwise change at Mallow for the branchline service.

See above for the inter-city routes from Dublin airport and city, Limerick, and Wexford / Waterford. Expressway Bus 40 trundles right across Ireland, and within this region links Youghal, Cork, Macroom, Killarney and Tralee. Other services from Cork are Bus 251 for Blarney, 220X for Crosshaven, 226 for Kinsale, 237 for Clonakilty, Skibbereen, Baltimore and Schull, and 236 for Bantry, Glengarriff and Castletownbere. Cork also has an extensive urban network.

Killarney has buses to Kenmare and to Tralee, which in turn has buses to Dingle, Listowel and Ballybunion.

That leaves some major gaps, the most gaping being between the Kerry and Cork coasts. A bus runs between Glengarriff and Kenmare in summer but there's no other connection over the hills between them - it doesn't help that the tunnel on the main road is too small for HGVs and coaches. So to bus from Killarney to Bantry normally means backtracking all the way to Cork city. There is likewise no service that circles the Ring of Kerry or its offshoot Ballinskellig Ring. If you want to explore these areas and don't have your own wheels, best join a coach tour - these run from Cork, Killarney and even Dublin.

See individual towns for details of local buses. Away from the radial main roads these are sparse, sometimes only one day a week. For instance the bus from Tralee along the north Dingle peninsula to Castlegregory and Cloghane only runs on Friday, and there's no onward transport to Dingle on the tip.

Most visitors bring their own car. The airports are better for car hire than the towns, but have small fleets so you should pre-book.

where to visit south west ireland

  • Cork highlights include St Fin Barre's Cathedral, Shandon bells, the public museum, Fota wildlife park and Barryscourt Castle.
  • Youghal is an old walled port at the east edge of County Cork where Sir Walter Raleigh was once mayor.
  • Glengarriff is the unlikely spot for Italianate gardens, reached by a short boat ride.
  • Killarney is the tourist capital of Kerry. It's got the lot: a well-repaired castle by the lake, an atmospherically shabby abbey, grand gardens and a museum of country life, Ogham stones inscribed with runes, and Ireland's highest mountains rearing up to the west.
  • Prehistoric sites are clustered near Dingle. Ardfert near Tralee is an extensive early Christian site, but the most remarkable is isolated Skellig Michael .
  • Boat trips: Fungie the dolphin is no more, but he sparked wildlife tourism in this region. Dolphins, porpoises, orcas and basking sharks patrol the coasts.
  • Kiss the Blarney Stone, or to be historically faithful, just invent a whopper about doing so.
  • Go to the races at Mallow , Listowel or Killarney .
  • Hike: Mount Brandon above Dingle is one of many scenic ascents, the culmination of an ancient pilgrim trail.
  • The Wild Atlantic Way is a long-distance motoring and cycling route along the entire western seaboard of Ireland. See county and city pages for more detail, but basically if you follow the coast you're on the right track.

where to visit south west ireland

  • Cork has the widest selection. The best of the rest of County Cork are Max's in Kinsale, An Súgán in Clonakilty, Customs House in Baltimore, O'Connors in Bantry, Breen's in Castletownbere and Ballymaloe House near Midleton.
  • Kerry eating is often pub meals, but Killorglin has two good restaurants, Bianconi's and Jack's.
  • Catch it if you can: Cable & Co is a shocking pink food truck on Valentia Island.
  • Mulcahy's and Lime Tree in Kenmare get great reviews.

where to visit south west ireland

  • Lots of village pubs in County Kerry, the most unusual being "The South Pole" in Annascaul, founded by the Antarctic explorer Tom Crean.
  • Kerry has breweries in Killarney, Kenmare, Portmagee, and Ballyferriter near Dingle. There are distilleries in Dingle and Caherciveen, and one a-building in Portmagee.
  • Cork city has a wide selection of pubs. Moby Dick's pub in Youghal was used as a base and location in the 1956 film Moby Dick .
  • The best known distillery in County Cork is Jameson's in Midleton. Others are in Kinsale, Skibbereen and Cape Clear Island off Baltimore.

Natural hazards are the wild Atlantic, large lakes, and mountains where the mist or sleet can suddenly descend upon you.

But the biggest hazards are man-made, so always beware traffic, safeguard valuables and steer clear of louts.

  • County Clare north across the Shannon has old castles and abbeys inland, cliffs along its coast, and the sparse haunting Burren uplands.
  • Limerick city is a lively miniature Dublin, with lots of sights and visitor amenities.
  • County Limerick is often overlooked, but there's picturesque Adare, a flying boat museum at Foynes, and a prehistoric complex at Lough Gur.
  • County Waterford is lush lowland country, with a fine castle at Lismore, and the rich heritage of Waterford , Ireland's oldest city.

where to visit south west ireland

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Southwest Ireland

The 5 Amazing Peninsulas of Southwest Ireland

Wander Your Way

Southwest Ireland is on most people’s itinerary for a trip to the Emerald Isle.

I’m talking about Counties Cork and Kerry with their all star line up of places like Kinsale, Cobh, Blarney Castle with its famous stone, the Ring of Kerry, Killarney National Park and the Dingle Peninsula.  

There is no doubt about it — this area of Ireland has a LOT to offer.

It’s also home to the 5 Southwest Peninsulas.

What am I talking about?

I’m actually talking about the Ring of Kerry and the Dingle Peninsula PLUS their 3 neighbors to the south — Beara, Sheep and Mizen — that often get overlooked.

Let’s take a closer look at each one of these peninsulas as each one has its own unique character.  

And when we’re finished, I’m guessing you’ll hone in on a favorite — although I’m sure you’ll want to explore all 5!

Let’s start in the South and make our way north.

I love this destination in Southwest Ireland!

Mizen Head is the 4th most visited of the 5 southwest peninsulas and also the 4th largest in size.

So if you want to avoid crowds, this is a good choice.

Durrus, a town on the north side of the peninsula, is one place to base yourself.

On the south side you have more choices in Ballydehob, Schull or Goleen.

I highly recommend the harbor town of Schull as it’s part way out the peninsula and has enough in the way of tourist amenities.  

Plus it’s a fun, friendly town.

Mizen Head has some stunning coastal scenery as well as some hills and mountains in the interior.  

You’ll find some prehistoric sites on Mizen such as the Altar Dolmen.  

And you’ll definitely come across some incredible beaches.  

Barleycove — which is backed by dunes — makes a wonderful stop as you make your way out to the tip of this beautiful piece of Southwest Ireland.

Take as many detours as time allows such as to Crookhaven and Browhead on the south side of the peninsula.  

But do leave enough time to visit Mizen Head with its signal station.

Known as the Mizen Head Experience , it does cost to walk along the trails out at the tip of this peninsula.

But it’s so worth it.

The views are amazing with an end of the world feel to them.  

Mizen Head is stunning!

It blew me away with its beauty.

Another spot not to miss is Three Castle Head which is on the North tip of the peninsula.

Unfortunately, I didn’t make it to this part of Mizen Head, but won’t miss it on my next visit.

I hear it’s fantastic.

This entire peninsula is truly an impressive destination.

Mizen Head is your peninsula in Southwest Ireland if you want gorgeous coastal scenery without the crowds.

Southwest Ireland

Sheep’s Head

The smallest and least visited peninsula in Southwest Ireland is Sheep’s Head.

It has a barren and unspoiled feel to it but — because of its location near the Gulf Stream — the climate is mild.

Sheep’s Head is only 28km long and, get this, only 4km wide at its widest point.

The drive out to the tip is beautiful with views to Mizen to the south.

I love the last bit of the drive as the road narrows into a single lane and becomes a bit of roller coaster ride.  

But the views are fab!

You can walk out to the lighthouse from the end of the road where the parking area is.

I didn’t have great weather so decided not to walk all the way out which I regret.

This peninsula is definitely off the tourist track.

There are only a few small towns and settlements but there are some historical sites such as standing stones, stone circles, an old copper mine and a Napoleanic signal tower.  

And yes, there are lots of sheep.

Sheep’s Head is the place to come if you are a walker or hiker as the 93km Sheep’s Head Way is a wonderful loop trail and an excellent way to truly experience this peninsula.

I regret not doing any walking during my short visit so I know next time I will definitely get out on the trail.

I did stop in Ahakista at the Blue Heron Cafe which I highly recommend for a bite to eat and to take in their beautiful garden — and the artwork of local, Annabel Langrish.

Sheep’s Head is your peninsula in Southwest Ireland if you really want to get away from it all — and if you want to do some serious walking or hiking .

Southwest Ireland

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The middle child.

Mizen Head and Sheep’s Head sit firmly in County Cork.

The Ring of Kerry and Dingle Peninsula — which we’ll be talking about soon — are in County Kerry.

Then there’s Beara which sits in both counties.

It is literally in the middle of the 5 peninsulas and, I think, has a bit of the middle child complex.

It’s the 3rd most visited yet it is the 2nd largest in size.

Travelers skip over it for the Ring of Kerry and Dingle Peninsula.

Beara is magnificent!

The coastline and the interior both are beautiful.

This peninsula in Southwest Ireland has loads of ancient sites (and is known for its mystical vibe), charming towns and villages, ruins of mines and castles and some impressive mountains in the interior — the Caha Mountains.

My visit here was a day long drive around parts of the perimeter as well as a drive over the Healy Pass in the interior.

And while I enjoyed the time with my friend driving and my folks in the back seat, I longed to really spend time on Beara because I wanted to explore deeper.

I would highly recommend staying in one of the towns such as Castletownbere — the main town — or the colorful village of Ahillies as there is a LOT to explore here.

Oh, and did I mention that there are no motor coach tours on Beara?

The roads aren’t wide enough.

So unlike the Ring of Kerry (see below), you won’t have to worry about sharing the road, or the many sites with hoards of people.

Beara Peninsula is your peninsula in Southwest Ireland if you want variety, fewer tourists and if you love the magical and mystical. There are a lot of ancient sites here!

Southwest Ireland

Iveragh Peninsula / Ring of Kerry

The king of Southwest Ireland is definitely the Iveragh Peninsula which is better known for its driving route — the Ring of Kerry .

It’s popular for many reasons.

One is that the road around the perimeter is wide enough for tour busses.  

While this is great as it makes it accessible for many travelers, it’s also a con as it gets a lot of visitors and the road can get busy.

Another reason it’s popular is that is really is gorgeous.

The coastline is stunning, dotted with beaches in some spots or rugged cliffs in others.

There are some charming towns and villages to explore as well as ancient sites such as stone circles, forts and castle ruins.

And it has a beautiful, mountainous interior.

So yes, the Ring of Kerry is beautiful — swoon worthy.

My advice is to stay out on the peninsula to explore deeper.  

Waterville, Caherdaniel or Portmagee make great places to stay for a couple of nights.

The Ballinskellig Ring — a wee road that tour busses can’t access (yay!)— is at the very tip of the peninsula and is the icing on the cake.

The scenery is awesome with the Kerry Cliffs and St Finan’s Bay with its views to the Skellig islands.

My other piece of advice is to check out the mountainous interior.

I didn’t get the chance to do this on my recent visit, but I will the next time.

I’ve heard the under-visited interior is amazing — filled with mountains, hills, bogs, lakes and the highest peak in Ireland — Carrauntoohil.

The Ring of Kerry is your peninsula in Southwest Ireland if you want to be with the popular kids and if you want a lot of variety in landscape.

Southwest Ireland

Dingle Peninsula

If the Ring of Kerry is the king of Southwest Ireland then the Dingle Peninsula is the queen.

While it may be the last peninsula in this post, it is not the least.

Dingle is very popular, coming in second to the Ring of Kerry.  

And I see it becoming more and more famous because it’s quite a bit smaller than the Iveragh Peninsula so it’s easier to visit on a short trip.

Dingle was my first of Southwest Ireland’s peninsulas — and I promptly fell in love.

11 years later I visited and found it a bit busier.

It’s still stunningly breath taking.

But there are more cars driving around the ring drive — the Slea Head drive.  

And there are more people in Dingle Town.

Visit out of season a bit to avoid crowds if you want to connect with the locals more.

What makes Dingle so special?

Well a cliff-lined coastline with spots of sandy beaches, beehive huts from the Iron Age, standing stones and some spectacular views to the Blasket Islands and the Atlantic Ocean.

It’s another swoon worthy destination.

Then there is the interior with hills and mountains and sheep dotting the landscape.  

I will say that for a smaller peninsula, Dingle packs a punch with some amazeballs scenery.

And Dingle Town is a colorful, vibrant town with good restaurants and a lively pub scene.

Dingle is your peninsula in Southwest Ireland if you want a lot of wow in a short drive and you want a fun, little town to spend the night in. Great music scene!

Dingle Peninsula

There are the 5 peninsulas of Southwest Ireland

Which one do you fancy?

It’s definitely difficult to choose as each is different.

I truly love them all.

But, if I’m being honest, Beara will be where I go back to first because I want to dig deeper.

Of course, I say this and I’m thinking about walking part of the Sheep’s Head Way, exploring more of the Iveragh interior, getting out to Three Castles Head on Mizen or actually getting over Conor Pass on Dingle.  

So many Irish peninsulas, so little time.

Let me know which one you want to visit.

Or — if you have been to one or 2 or 3 of them — tell me all about it.

Southwest Ireland

Please note that Wander Your Way does not recommend travel at this time due to the current global health situation with the COVID-19 pandemic. Furthermore, many destinations and attractions found on this website will not be operating although some places have opened. Please stay up to date using official sources like the WHO  and  CDC .  I do plan to continue to write about incredible destinations and to offer tips on travel to Europe, so that you will find some solace in these posts — so you dream about travel and learn about travel. This way when we can all travel again, you’ll be ready to go! For now, stay home (or close to home) and stay safe!

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Are you ready to visit the peninsulas of Southwest Ireland?

Well I’m ready to lend a hand. Who am I? I’m Lynne Nieman and I’m a personal travel planner helping people like you create your perfect European adventure. Whether you need help planning part or all of your trip, I’m ready to assist you in making your travel dreams come true!

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Southwest Ireland

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Diamond Hill

Southwest Ireland is a favourite destination of mine, thanks for sharing these fabulous peninsulas! I’ve not done the Mizen Head drive but it looked absolutely glorious. My favourite from my travels was the Dingle Peninsula.

Dingle is hard not to love. But Mizen is really impressive. I love the Mizen Head Experience walk as the views are stunning.

Goooorgeous!

It’s funny. I have spent so much time in Ireland in Connemara (the Renville Peninsular is stunning too) so these areas look familiar even thought I don’t think I have been to any of them. Beeeeautiful. I need to branch out and explore more of Ireland.

I love Renvyle and the entire Connemara area too. But do spend some time in the southwest as these spots are gorgeous!

We loved Ireland, and did get to drive both the Dingle peninsula and the Ring of Kerry, but both in the rain. your stunning photos really make me want to go back and try again.

Do go back and do visit the other 3 peninsulas — Beara, Sheep’s and Mizen — because they are are fabulous!

Wow, I’ve never visited Southwest Ireland but it looks absolutely stunning! Barleycove Beach on Mizen Head looks especially picturesque! Ireland is somewhere I’d love to explore more of. Hopefully 2021 I’ll be able to hop over for a visit. Thanks for the great guide!

This area of Ireland is spectacular. Hope you make it in 2021, Hannah!

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The Travel Tester

Exploring South West Ireland: Galway, Cliffs of Moher, Dingle & Cork With Paddywagon

Posted on Last updated: September 13, 2023

We couldn’t have picked a better day to start our 3 day Paddywagon tour to South West Ireland: the sky is blue and the sun is shining! We’re all prepared for a cold and wet trip, so this is a great way to start. Are we really in Ireland? Adding on bus driver Mike, a funny guy that seems to know every little fact about Ireland and a bus full of travel bloggers, and this could only become a great trip!

After visiting the Wicklow area as part of the TBEX Travel Bloggers Conference last month ( here are some great Wicklow Day Tours ), I’m excited to see more of Ireland. Are you coming with me?

ROAD TRIP SOUTH WEST IRELAND ITINERARY

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South West Ireland Stop 1: Galway

Starting off in the Galway region (with the greenest grass I’ve ever seen in my life, I kid you not), we make a stop at Dunguaire Castle .

There is a legend that the lord of this castle was very generous and that when you stand at the front gate and ask a question, you will get an answer by the end of the day…

This 16th century tower house is apparently one of the most photographed castles in Ireland, so of course we couldn’t stay behind:

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Donkey! (*Are We There Yet?!*)

Ever since the movie Shrek, there isn’t anyone that doesn’t like donkeys (right?), so when we saw a field full of them, we made Mike pull over to go and pet them. They were quite curious and soooo cute!

Donkeys are not native to Ireland and have been introduced first in the 16th century.

Most of them were brought from England to Ireland during the Peninsular War, from 1808 to 1814, when there was a demand for horses. They were then traded for horses and the donkeys have been part of the Irish landscape ever since.

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Ireland’s Dark History

Now, the tour did have a serious part too, when Mike started talking about the Great Famine that terrorized Ireland between 1845 and 1852. There was mass starvation (mostly because of a potato disease spreading around, but also because of a policy failure), disease and emigration in those times.

Approx. 1 million people died and a million more left Ireland, so the entire population dropped by a staggering 20-25%!! Many of the houses were left empty and you can still see a lot of these ‘famine houses’ in the landscape today.

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Ancient Landscapes

Just before our lunch in Doolin (an amazing clam chowder that I’m about to show you), we made a quick stop at the Burren , a 300 million year old lunar landscape where you can also find stone cottages and famine villages.

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I can’t even describe how good this was. Ok, I’ll give it a try: It was REALLY, REALLY good. There.

More amazing views along the way:

Exploring South West Ireland: Galway, Cliffs of Moher, Dingle & Cork | The Travel Tester

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Exploring South West Ireland: Galway, Cliffs of Moher, Dingle & Cork | The Travel Tester

The Dingle Peninsula

The Moher Of All Cliffs (Didn’t anyone make this joke before, really, no one?), ok, the  Cliffs of Moher , is a must-see in Ireland. These cliffs rise a 120-240 meters above the Atlantic Ocean and are simply stunning to see, especially if you’re lucky like us and get there on a clear day.

On one of the cliffs, you can see the O’Brien’s Tower and the story goes that this tower was built to impress female visitors. I can tell your for personal experience that it works.

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You liked that, huh?!

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Mystical Ireland

As we awake the next morning, after a quiet and relaxed night in Annascaul (I chose not to do any Irish folk dancing and enjoy some quality Skype time with home), we see the mist hanging in the streets.

Of course, we’re in Ireland and this was to be expected. A little spoiled after our perfect day yesterday, we’re all a bit grumpy getting on the bus. But after a while we give in:

Ireland in the mist and the rain might not be the best way to see a lot of the landscape (especially in the distance), but it does add a bit of mystery to the country and that’s kind of cool.

Visiting Inch Beach :

Exploring South West Ireland: Galway, Cliffs of Moher, Dingle & Cork | The Travel Tester

Hollywood and Beehive Huts

By the time we’re welcomed by the legendary Mary (who made breakfast for Tom Cruise when he was shooting a film on her doorstep), we don’t even care about the weather anymore.

Mary is the sweetest person you’ve ever seen, living in a house grandma’s are supposed to have: sweets in little jars on the table and frames filled with photos scattered all around.

Leaving her alone in her house on the top of the hill, surrounded by mist and her beehive huts (called a ‘Clochán’), breaks our hearts a little. Luckily the next tour bus filled with people giving Mary 2 Euro’s to enter her property is just around the corner, so she won’t be short of attention at all.

Exploring South West Ireland: Galway, Cliffs of Moher, Dingle & Cork | The Travel Tester

Living the Good Life in Dingle

When we arrive in Dingle (after the ‘Slea Head drive’, the most westerly drive in Europe) the little fisherman’s village is buzzing with excitement. A fair is going on and all the locals have brought out their homemade food and drinks to sell from their shops or market stalls.

Exploring South West Ireland: Galway, Cliffs of Moher, Dingle & Cork | The Travel Tester

Just when we thought we had the best already, we found there was a craft beer & cider fest going on in one of the pubs.

Me and Tanya made a run for it, as she is a craft beer lover and ever since I discovered cider, I’m a bit of an addict too. All for journalistic purposes, of course…

Exploring South West Ireland: Galway, Cliffs of Moher, Dingle & Cork | The Travel Tester

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Killarney By Night

We spend the night in Killarney , a very romantic looking town. We had a bit of a hard time finding any food here, but after that issue was tackled, we were happy to go for a nap after a very busy day!

Exploring South West Ireland: Galway, Cliffs of Moher, Dingle & Cork | The Travel Tester

I loved to see that all the signs where also in Gaelic

Exploring South West Ireland: Galway, Cliffs of Moher, Dingle & Cork | The Travel Tester

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Dingle to Cork: Quick Stop

While we only had little time in Cork , we did get to have an amazing lunch at Brackens Cafe (that even got me in the news !) and visited the English Markets. I would love to come back here and get a bit more feeling of the place.

Exploring South West Ireland: Galway, Cliffs of Moher, Dingle & Cork | The Travel Tester

The English Markets, definitely recommend to take some time here!

Exploring South West Ireland: Galway, Cliffs of Moher, Dingle & Cork | The Travel Tester

Brackens Cafe. aka Bread Heaven.

Exploring South West Ireland: Galway, Cliffs of Moher, Dingle & Cork | The Travel Tester

The sandwich that made me famous

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I had an amazing time on my Southwest Ireland trip with my lovely blogger friends. The best thing was, that on our way back to Dublin , we even found a rainbow with a pot o’gold! Can you believe that? I know, right? It’s Ireland, anything is possible!

Fun For : Solo travellers or people enjoying to travel in a group with a guide. Perfect for backpackers.

Less Fun For : If you don’t want to feel rushed on your travels, you are probably better off renting a car and exploring the sights on your own!

Think About : It’s Ireland. Bring good shoes and waterproof clothing -as well as your sunglasses!

Exploring South West Ireland: Galway, Cliffs of Moher, Dingle & Cork | The Travel Tester

Let me know what your favourite experience in South West Ireland would be!

PLAN YOUR TRIP TO SOUTH WEST IRELAND!

Company : Paddywagon Tours – website Tour : 3 Day Tour Of Southern Ireland ( Galway and Kerry) – website Duration : 3 Days, 2 Nights Start of Tour : Paddys Palace, Lower Gardiner Street (8AM) or Tourist Office, Suffolk Street (8:15AM) End of Tour : Tourist Office Costs : €199 Backpacker (dorm), €299 Economy (private room) Included : All accommodation, entrance fees and breakfasts + tour guide and transport

Plan your Ireland Trip with these handy travel guides:

where to visit south west ireland

              

Don’t forget to read the posts of my fellow travel bloggers that were on this tour:

  • Paddywagon Tour: Pros & Cons; My Review ( Vibrant Ireland )
  • An Ireland Tour Aboard The “Paddywagon” ( PA Girl Goes Abroad )
  • Touring the West Coast of Ireland With Paddywagon Tours ( Wanderlust Marriage )
  • Irland (Teil 1): Grüne Insel mit Burgen, Cliffs of Moher & Eseln ( Travel on Toast )
  • Paddywagon Tour, Ireland ( Megan O Travels )

The Travel Tester - Packing Tips

Don’t forget to pack these:

where to visit south west ireland

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Visiting Northern Ireland as well? Here are some of our articles:

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BOOKMARK ON PINTEREST :

Exploring South West Ireland: Galway, Cliffs of Moher, Dingle & Cork

Disclaimer: This tour was kindly offered to me by Paddywagon Tours and DayToursWorld. I would like to thank Zachary and Mike for their enthusiasm of showing us around this stunning part of Ireland. All photos, thoughts and opinions are 100% my own.

Wild Atlantic Way Route - Ireland's West Coast top sites

Sunday 18th of March 2018

[…] While this route is definitely doable in 3 days, when you’re self-driving, I can recommend spending a few more days to let the scenery sink in and you get to spend some quality time with Ireland’s friendly locals. Some suggested extra stops on the way could be Limerick and Blarney Castle, but I would also see if you can spend some more time on the Wild Atlantic Way, the coastal route, which extends over 2500 km along the length of the west coast of Ireland, from Kinsale in County Cork to Malin Head in County Donegal. It’s a road trip you won’t forget! […]

Saturday 25th of November 2017

Signs also in Welsh?! Some kind of joke, surely...?

Nienke Krook

Sunday 26th of November 2017

Pfff haha, oh no! I can't believe I made that mistake! (and that after so many years, you're the first one to spot this). Thanks for letting me know. I changed it and am hiding under a blanket with embarrassment now, haha!

Wednesday 17th of September 2014

Beautiful photos. What time of year did you visit?

Friday 6th of November 2015

Thanks Hannah, we visited in October!

Friday 18th of April 2014

Fantastic photos! Have you traveled other parts of Ireland? Beautiful country, love the culture. I am a recent college grad, hoping to visit Ireland one day. It's my dream. Advice on traveling on a budget?

Hope you get the chance to visit! I've only travelled to the west, Wicklow and Dublin and hope to see more soon. Ireland is very affordable, especially with these type of organised tours like Paddywagon!

cathy (nagle) tillotson

Sunday 6th of April 2014

Charming personal stories just enrich your images someday I hope to travel to my ancestors homeland:)

That would be great Cathy! Hope you get the chance to visit one day!

Our local experts can design your trip based on your preferences

where to visit south west ireland

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  • Destinations
  • The southwest

The Southwest travel guide

Cork and Kerry , Ireland’s most southwesterly corner, offer an attractive combination of sea and mountain scenery, interspersed with lively small towns and villages – Kinsale , Clonakilty , Kenmare, Killarney and Dingle . Life is taken at a slower pace hereabouts, and old fashioned courtesies survive: for example, on the smaller, back roads it is still the tradition for the driver to salute the driver of the oncoming car, so do not be surprised if strangers wave at you. People find it quite natural to strike up conversations, just because you happen to be in the same place at the same time. A friendly informality prevails.

Bring strong walking shoes and waterproof jackets. The further west you go, the more likely you are to encounter rain, as the clouds scud in from the Atlantic, but it is seldom continuous heavy rain, and the showery weather typical of Killarney and Dingle often alternates with sunshine, creating some magical light effects, including numerous rainbows.

The pleasures of the southwest are chiefly rural. Most people who visit the area are here for the outdoors and the scenery. The lakes and mountains of Killarney can compete with the best Europe has to offer, while the Ring of Kerry presents a succession of spectacular seascapes. Another added bonus throughout the region is the high quality of its natural produce which is used in restaurants and has given the area a high reputation among food lovers.

The most popular part of the west among visitors is the western tip of the Dingle Peninsula , a largely Irish-speaking area rich in prehistoric and early Christian remains, with some of the world’s best coastal scenery and the country’s best traditional music.

where to visit south west ireland

Places to visit in southwest Ireland

Ireland's second city is famed for its friendly people and provides an appealing base from which to explore County Cork. Read more...

This delightful coastal village is a must for all seafood lovers. Read more...

Blarney Castle

Set in stunning grounds, this castle is home to the mystical Blarney Stone which, so the legend goes, iif kissed, bestows the gift of the gab. Read more...

Ring of Kerry

The most sensational 180km (112 miles) you are likely to drive, this ring is a circular route through hills towards the coastline of County Kerry. Read more...

Dingle Peninsula

This long, dramatic finger points some 48km (30 miles) into the Atlantic Ocean. Read more...

If you like Cork City, then make a trip to Ireland's vibrant capital Dublin

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Places to visit in The southwest

  • County cork
  • Dingle peninsula
  • County kerry
  • Ring of kerry

where to visit south west ireland

Read more from the travel guide to Ireland

  • Top attractions
  • Historical highlights
  • Cultural features
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Insight Guide

Ireland Highlights

Ireland’s Southwest

The counties Cork and Kerry in the southwest of the Emerald Isle are blessed with a diverse, quite mountainous landscape as well as a fascinating coastline. Here one encounters the typical image of Ireland with gentle hills and green meadows against the backdrop of the Atlantic Ocean. In the far west there are five peninsulas that could not be more different. Dingle and Iveragh – around this peninsula leads the famous tourist road “Ring of Kerry” – are located completely in the “Kingdom”, as Kerry is also often called. While the county border runs across the Beara Peninsula, the Sheep’s Head and Mizen Peninsulas to the south lie in West Cork.

Sights like Skellig Michael, Killarney National Park, Slea Head Drive or Ring of Kerry, the Old Head of Kinsale, Garnish Island or Cork City guarantee a memorable stay. Colorful places in the southwest of the Emerald Isle such as Dingle, Killarney, Kinsale, Kenmare or Sneem attract many visitors year after year. However, things are much more leisurely in the more rural regions. Here people like to have a chat and on the narrow side roads you still salute to oncoming vehicles – whether you know their drivers or not.

Discover Ireland’s Southwest

Ireland’s Southwest offers visitors a wide range of sights and attractions, scenic spots and places of interest:

Abbey Island

Abbey Island

Ahakista Pier

Ahakista Pier

Allihies Copper Mines

Allihies Copper Mines

Altar Wedge Tomb

Altar Wedge Tomb

An Bhinn Dubh

An Bhinn Dubh

Annascaul Lake

Annascaul Lake

Ireland’s Southwest Map

Meeting of the waters & old weir bridge.

Old Weir Bridge

The National Monument

The National Monument

Nano Nagle Bridge

Nano Nagle Bridge - Cork

White Strand Beach

White Strand Beach

Torc Mountain Walk

Torc Mountain

Three Castle Head

Three Castle Head

St. Brendan’s Well

Cross at St. Brendan's Well

Seven Heads Bay

Seven Heads Bay

Sandycove Beach

Sandycove Beach

Rath Strand

Rath Strand

Pulleen Loop Walk

Pulleen Loop Walk

Pulleen Harbour Bog

Pulleen Harbour Bog

Nun’s Cove

Nun's Cove

Mullinhassig Wood & Poulanassig Waterfall

Mullinhassig Wood

Muckross Lake

Muckross Lake

Muckross House & Gardens

Muckross House & Gardens

Muckross Friary

Muckross Friary

Moloney’s Strand

Moloney's Strand

Loughane More Ring Fort

Loughane More Ring Fort

Lough Currane

Lough Currane

Looscaunagh Lough

Looscaunagh Lough

Kockaunaniller Cliffs

Kockaunaniller Cliffs

Kindred Spirits

Kindred Spirits Choctaw Monument

Kilcummin Bay Beach

Kilcummin Bay Beach

Jameson Distillery Midleton

Jameson Distillery Midleton

Hussey’s Folly

Hussey's Folly

Grotto & Slate Quarry

Grotto & Slate Quarry - Valentia Island

Glengarriff Nature Reserve

Esknamucky Waterfall - Glengarriff Nature Reserve

Gleensk Viaduct

Gleensk Viaduct

Glanleam Beach

Glanleam Beach - Valentia Island

Galley Cove

Galley Cove

English Market in Cork

English Market in Cork

Dunworley Beach

Dunworley Beach

Dunworley Bay

Dunworley Bay

Dingle Lighthouse

Dingle Lighthouse

Dhurode Mine Powder House

Dhurode Mine Powder House

Cuas Pier Caves

Cuas Pier Caves

Creagh Graveyard

Creagh Graveyard

Coom Wedge Tomb

Coom Wedge Tomb

Castlehaven Strand

Castlehaven Strand

Cashel Murphy

Cashel Murphy

Cahersiveen

Cahersiveen

Cahermore Pier

Cahermore Pier

Blarney Castle

Blarney Castle

Bird Island

Bird Island

Barryscourt Castle

Barryscourt Castle

Barry’s Cove

Barry's Cove

Ballymalis Castle

Ballymalis Castle

Ballydavid Cliff Walk

Ballydavid Cliff Walk

Ballinskelligs Pier

Ballinskellig Pier

Coomhola Bridge

Coomhola Bridge

St Vincent’s Bridge

St Vincent's Bridge - Cork

Shandon Bridge

Shandon Bridge Cork

Saint Fin Barre’s Cathedral

Saint Fin Barre's Cathedral - Cork

Shandon Bells and Tower – St. Anne’s Church

Shandon Bells and Tower St. Anne's Church in Cork

Toe Head Signal Tower

Toe Head Signal Tower

Roaringwater Bay

Roaringwater Bay

Wynn’s Castle

Wynn's Castle

Warren Beach

Warren Strand

Tranabo Cove

Tranabo Cove

Tralong Bay

Tralong Bay

Traloher Strand

Traloher Strand

Torc Waterfall

Torc Waterfall

The Gearagh

The Gearagh

Tetrapod Footprints

Valentia Island Tetrapod Footprints

Shronebirrane Stone Circle

Shronebirrane Stone Circle

Sherkin Island

Horseshoe Bay - Sherkin Island

Sheen Falls

Sheen Falls

Rosscarbery

Rosscarbery

Rossbrin Castle

Rossbrin Castle

Ross Castle

Ross Castle

Rock Art at Letter West

Rock Art

Reenroe Beach / Inny Strand

Reenroe Beach / Inny Strand

Rattoo Round Tower

Rattoo Round Tower

Rabbit Island

Rabbit Island

Puffin Island

Puffin Island

Glengarriff

Glengariff

Poulgorm Bridge

Poulgorm Bridge

Owenahincha

Owenahincha Beach

The Old Barracks

The Old Barracks Cahersiveen

Mount Gabriel

Mount Gabriel

Moll’s Gap

Moll's Gap

Mare’s Tail Waterfall

Mare’s Tail Waterfall

Macroom Castle

Macroom Castle

Lough Caragh

Lough Caragh

Lough Abisdealy

Lough Abisdealy

Long Strand

Long Strand

Leacanabuaile Stone Fort

Leacanabuaile Stone Fort

Lauragh Forest

Lauragh Woods

Ladies’ View

Ladies View

Labbacallee Wedge Tomb

Labbacallee Wedge Tomb

Knightstown

Knightstown Town Clock - Valentia Island

King John’s Castle

King John's Castle

Kilmakilloge Church and Cemetery

Kilmakilloge Church and Graveyard

Kilcoe Castle

Kilcoe Castle

Kilcatherine Church and Cemetery

Kilcatherine Church

Kerry International Dark-Sky Reserve

Kerry International Dark Sky Reserve

Macgillycuddy’s Reeks

Macgillycuddy’s Reeks

Kerry Highlands

Kerry Highlands

Kenmare Stone Circle

Kenmare Stone Circle

Kenmare River

Kenmare River

Keelbeg Pier

Keelbeg Pier - Union Hall

Kealkill Stone Circle

Kealkill Stone Circle

Grange Stone Circle

Grange Stone Circle

Gougane Barra

St Finbarr's Oratory - Gougane Barra

Goat Island

Goat Island

Glenmore Valley

Glenmore Valley

Glenbeg Lough

Glenbeg Lough

Gleesk Pier

Gleesk Pier

Glanworth Castle

Glanworth Castle

Glanmore Lake

Glanmore Lake

Garnish Beach

Garnish Beach

Gap of Dunloe

Gap of Dunloe

Foilhommerum Bay

Foilhommerum Bay

Downeen Castle

Downeen Castle

Dooks Beach

Dooks Beach

Desmond Castle Adare

Desmond Castle

Derrynane Beg Ogham Stone

Ogham Stone - Derrynane

Derrynane House

Derrynane House

Derrymore Beach

Derrymore Beach

Derreen Garden

Derreen Garden

Courtmacsherry Woods

Courtmacsherry Woods

Coppinger’s Court

Coppinger's Court

Coosacuslaun Bay

Coosacuslaun Bay

Coomasaharn Lake

Coomasaharn Lake

Cloonsharragh Standing Stones

Cloonsharragh Standing Stones

Cloonee Lough

Cloonee Lough

Clogher Strand

Clogher Strand

Castletownshend

Castletownshend

Castlepoint

Castlepoint

Castlehaven Bay

Castlehaven Bay

Castlefreke Woods

Castlefreke Woods

Cashelkeelty Stone Circles

Cashelkeelty Stone Circles

Carrigaphooca Castle

Carrigaphooca Castle

Carriganass Castle

Carriganass Castle

Carrigadrohid Castle

Carrigadrohid Castle

Caha Mountains

Caha Mountains

Bonane Heritage Park

Bonane Heritage Park

Blennerville Windmill

Blennerville Windmill

The Blasket Centre

The Blasket Centre

Blackstones Bridge

Blackstones Bridge

Black Valley

Black Valley

Barnancleeve Gap

Barnancleeve Gap

Barloge Creek

Barloge Creek

Barley Lake

Barley Lake

Bantry House and Gardens

Bantry House and Gardens

Dún na Séad Castle

Dún na Séad Castle

Church Strand Bay

Church Strand Bay

Ballyrisode Beach

Ballyrisode Beach

Ballylinchy Signal Tower

Ballylinchy Signal Tower

Ballydonegan Beach

Ballydonegan Beach

Ballydehob Viaduct

Ballydehob Viaduct

Ballycrovane Harbour

Ballycrovane Harbour

Ballaghisheen Pass

Ballaghisheen Pass

Ballaghbeama Gap

Ballaghbeama Gap

Aughadown Church and Graveyard

Aughadown Old Church and Graveyard

Ardgroom Stone Circle

Ardgroom Stone Circle

Priest’s Leap

Priest's Leap

Glanteenassig Forest Park

Glanteenassig Forest Park

Youghal Clock Gate Tower

Youghal Clock Gate Tower

Youghal Lighthouse

Youghal Lighthouse

Garryvoe Beach

Garryvoe Beach

Ballymaloe Cookery School

Ballymaloe Cookery School

Ballymaloe House

Ballymaloe House

Ballycotton Lighthouse

Ballycotton Lighthouse

Ballycotton Cliff Walk

Ballycotton Cliff Walk

Ballycroneen

Ballycroneen

Cloyne Round Tower

Cloyne Round Tower

Roches Point

Roches Point

Little Island

Little Island

Fota Island Castle

Fota Island Castle

Fota Arboretum and Gardens

Fota Arboretum & Gardens

River Lee at Passage West

River Lee near Passage West

River Owenabue

River Owenabue

Roberts‘ Cove

Roberts Cove

Myrtleville Beach

Myrtleville Beach

Tracton Woods

Tracton Woods

Rocky Bay Beach

Rocky Bay Beach

Nohoval Cove

Nohoval Cove

Charles Fort

Charles Fort Kinsale

James‘s Fort Kinsale

James's Fort - Kinsale

Dunmanus Bay

Dunbeacon Castle

Barley Cove

Barley Cove

Toormore Bay

Castle Point at Toormore Bay

Baltimore Beacon

Baltimore Beacon

Gurranes Stone Row

Gurranes Stone Row

Raheen Tower House

Raheen Tower

Drombeg Stone Circle

Drombeg Stone Circle

Galley Head

Galley Head

Inchydoney Island

Inchydoney Island

Timoleague Abbey

Timoleague Abbey

Harbour View

Harbour View

Courtmacsherry Bay

Courtmacsherry Bay

White Strand Garrylucas

White Strand Garrylucas

Old Head of Kinsale

Old Head Of Kinsale

Ringrone Castle

Ringrone Castle

Kinsale Harbour

Kinsale Harbour

Sheep‘s Head

Sheep's Head Lighthouse

Seefin Viewpoint

Seefin Viewpoint

Garinish Island – Ilnacullin

Italien Garden - Garinish Island

Seal Harbour

Seal Harbour

Dunboy Castle

Dunboy Castle

Pulleen Harbour

Pulleen Harbour

Firkeel Bay

Firkeel Bay on the Beara Peninsula

Dursey Island

Dursey Island

Dursey Sound

Dursey Sound

Ballydonegan Bay

Ballydonegan Bay

Ballydonegan

Ballydonegan

Ring of Beara

Ring of Beara

Hag of Beara

Hag of Beara

Kilmakilloge

Kilmakilloge

Ardea Castle

Ardea Castle

Staigue Fort

Staigue Fort

White Strand

White Strand - Ring Of Kerry

O’Carroll’s Cove

O'Carrolls Cove

Lamb‘s Head

Lamb's Head

Derrynane Beach

Derrynane Beach

Coomakesta Pass

Coomakesta Pass

Eightercua Stone Row

Eightercua Stone Row

Ballinskelligs Bay

Ballinskelligs Castle or Mc Cahrthy's Tower

St. Finian‘s Bay

Skellig Ring from Coomanaspig Pass

Coomanaspig Pass

Coomanaspig Pass

Kerry Cliffs

Kerry Cliffs

Skellig Michael

Skellig Islands

Geokaun Mountain

View of Geokaun Mountain

Cromwell Point Lighthouse

Cromwell Point Lighthouse

Ballycarbery Castle

Ballycarbery Castle

Cahergal Stone Fort

Cahergall Stone Fort

Mountain Stage

Mountain Stage

Rossbeigh Strand

Rossbeigh Beach

Minard Castle

Minard Castle

Kinard Beach

Kinard Beach

Dingle Town

Dingle Town

Dunbeg Fort

Dunbeg Fort

Fahan Group

Fahan Beehive Huts

Slea Head Drive

Slea Head Drive

Coumeenoole Bay

Dunmore Head and Coumeenoole Bay

Great Blasket Island

Cottage on Great Blasket Island

Blasket Sound

Blasket Sound

Dunquin Pier

Dunquin Pier

Clogher Head

Clogher Head

Smerwick Harbour

Smerwick Harbour

Reask Monastic Site

Reask Monastic Site

Wine Strand

Wine Strand

Gallarus Oratory

Gallarus Oratory

Dooneen Pier

Dooneen Pier

Brandon Point

Brandon Point

Fermoyle Strand

Fermoyle Strand

Castlegregory

Cappaclogh Strand near Castlegregory

Fenit Beach

Fenit Lighthouse

Ballyheigue Beach

Ballyheige Beach

Ballybunion

Ballybunion Beaches

Bromore Cliffs

Bromore Cliffs

Carrigafoyle Castle

Carrigafoyle Castle

Uragh Stone Circle

Uragh Stone Circle

Ireland’s Southwest Photos

Ballinskelligs Castle or Mc Cahrthy's Tower

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South West Ireland's Castles & Ancient Settlements

  • Introduction
  • Settlements

Castles & Ancient Settlements South West Ireland

From some of the world's most famous castles to an island monastery dating back to the 6th century ( Skellig Michael in County Kerry ), the South West of Ireland is home to a wide variety of ancient structures. These structures have not only stood the test of time they have gone on to represent the very essence of Ireland to people all across the globe. On this page we invite you to have a look at South West Ireland's most well known Castles and Ancient Settlements.

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1 Blarney Castle Co. Cork, Ireland

Situated five miles north-west of Cork city, Blarney Castle is a solid fixture on almost any tour of Ireland itinerary. It is best known for the famous "Blarney Stone" which visitors are encouraged to kiss, in accordance with a tradition that spans the centuries. Those who kiss the Blarney Stone are said to magically receive the "gift of the gab", — or as we call it in Ireland... a load of old Blarney.

Built over 600 years ago by Cormac MacCarthy, one of Ireland's greatest chieftains, Blarney Castle has attracted millions of visitors who continue to flock here hoping to be gifted with the power of persuasive and elegant speech. Visitors can now explore the castle's stunning gardens and interior, including the winding staircase and dungeons.

Blarney Castle, County Cork - as seen on our tours of Ireland

During the mid-17th century Irish Confederate Wars, the castle was besieged by British forces led by Oliver Cromwell's commander, Lord Broghill. It was eventually captured after heavy bombardment, resulting in its partial destruction.

While not the largest or most imposing of Irish castles, Blarney Castle has a certain charm and elegance that's hard to forget. You can also look inside the adjacent Blarney House, a stately mansion built during the 18th century and the nearby Blarney Woollen Mills, an Irish heritage shop famous for its wool garments and a fantastic café!

Insider Tips

The spiral steps to the famous Blarney Stone can feel very narrow at peak times. Those with limited mobility should proceed slowly and carefully, however many people may be waiting behind.

Buy your tickets online to get an online discount.

Practical information

You will find Blarney Castle 8 km from Cork City in Blarney Village. We recommend spending 3 hours exploring the castle and garden as well as the caves, lake walk, fern garden and arboretum. Maps are available at the ticket office in several languages. Audio guides in English are also available.

Opening hours

The opening hours for Blarney Castle and Gardens every day in May through September are 9am to 6pm. Opening hours are shortened from January to May. The opening hours can change according to weather conditions. Find out more about the opening hours.

Admission fee

A ticket for Blarney Castle costs €22 for adults, and €10 for children aged between 6 and 16. Students' and seniors' tickets cost €17.

2 King John's Castle

Located alongside the River Shannon in County Limerick, on King's Island lies the 13th century castle named St John's Castle. Dating back as far as 922, to a time when Vikings were the inhabitants of the island (Thormodr Helgason, the Viking sea-king, built the first settlement on the island), the actual castle was built in 1200 under the instruction of King John of England. Having taken over power of Limerick, from the Vikings in 1194, the castle was built to act as a guard from the Gaelic kingdoms to the west and other Norman lords invading from the South and East. Under the rule of King John, the city of Limerick went from strength to strength.

King John's Castle, County Limerick

Part of the castle was irreparably damaged during the siege of Limerick. From 2011–2013 there was euro5.7 million spent in a huge redevelopment of the castle to improve the visitor facilities and today the King John's Castle stands as one of Limerick's proudest attractions.

The tour King John's Castle takes about an hour in total. For anyone with mobility issues be warned, there are a number of steep steps to negotiate.

3 Ross Castle

Ross Castle, found on the majestic Lough Leane in Killarney National Park, dates back to the 15th century. It was first built by the ruling clan of the time, O'Donoghues Mor, and later changed hands to MacCarthy Mor. It was one of the last castles to surrender power to English political leader Oliver Cromwell during the Irish Confederate Wars (between 1641 and 1653). The castle stood its ground until the British brought artillery via boat along the River Laune. In an amazing piece of foresight, there was an old Irish priphecy that read: "Ross may all assault disdain. Till on Lough Lein strange ship shall sail."

Ross Castle, County Kerry

4 Blackrock Castle

First build by Queen Elizabeth I in response to the people of Cork's demand for a structure to guard against pirates attacking ships entering the harbour, Blackrock Castle is a circular tower located on the water's edge. The foundation was laid in 1582 and the round tower was added in 1600. From this time, until it was destroyed by fire in 1827, Blackrock Castle was used by the City of Cork as a location for banquets and gatherings.

Blackrock Castle, County Cork

In 2007, Cork Institute of Technology and Cork City Council redeveloped the castle as a public astronomy center. There is also a highly rated restaurant and café on the ground floor.

Blackrock is a 10-minute bus ride from Cork City Centre (202 bus). This bus will take you from the city to the end of Castle Road in Blackrock, a 5-minute walk from the castle.

5 Skellig Michael

Skellig Michael , also known as Great Skellig, is a rocky outcrop island located 11.6 km to the west of the Iveragh Peninsula in Country Kerry. Sceilig Bheag (Little Skellig), its twin island is small and completely inaccessible. Skellig Michael is a world heritage site and was used as a monastic settlement by monks in the 7th century. Hollywood came calling to the island in 2014 when Episode VII of the Star Wars franchise chose it as a location for its final scene. The location was chosen for its otherworldly appearance thanks to its unique combination of Old Red Sandstone and compressed slate.

Skellig Michael, County Kerry

To visit Skellig Michael you will have to book a landing tour with one of the boat operators. We advise to book your tour well in advance as only 180 people are allowed to access the island each day. The landing tours are subject to weather conditions and can be cancelled if they are bad. The boat trip normally takes around an hour and the visit to Skellig Michael approximately 2,5 hours. Most boat tours leave from Portmagee pier and are available from May to the beginning of October.

Visitors to Skellig Michael should be prepared for what is a very tough ascent to the summit. The stone steps can be dangerous when wet and there are no handrails. This ascent is only advisable for people free of any mobility issues.

6 Drombeg Stone Circle

Drombeg Stone Circle is what's known as Recumbent stone circle, one where a large monolith stone is lying on its side. This type of stone circle is only found in two locations on earth, near Aberdeen in Scotland and the south-west of Ireland. Drombeg Stone Circle is made up of 13 stones, the most westerly of these being the large Recumbent stone. All of the other stones have been set to slope towards the Recumbent stone. A 1957 excavation of the site found radiocarbon dating of items to date back as far as 1100-800 BC. In the centre of the circle the excavation also found evidence of a burial site.

Drombeg Stone Circle, County Cork

7 Uragh Stone Circle

Uragh Stone Circle stands near Gleninchaquin Park in County Kerry. The circle is made up of five small stones with a three-metre tall monolith standing beside it. Recently, the centre of the circle has been dug up, presumably by people looking for treasure of some kind.

Uragh Stone Circle, County Kerry

Uragh Stone Circle is located in a very remote part of County Kerry. The easiest way to get there is to take the R571 West from Kenmare, after about 13 kilometres you will see a signpost pointing left reading "Uragh Stone Circle". Take this road to the end, you will be met by a gate, from here it's a short walk by foot.

8 Grange Stone Circle

Grange Stone Circle, located near Loch Gur in County Limerick is the largest in Ireland. Its near-perfect shape and the discovery of a posthole at its centre means that a rope was more than likely used to measure the diameter of the stones. Late Neolithic Beaker pottery was discovered during an excavation of the site. The 113 stones of the circle are not free-standing, they all rest upon one another and form a diameter of 150 feet.

Lough Gur, County Limerick

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Adare Village and Thatched Cottages

Thatched cottages of Adare Village in Limerick, Ireland

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Adare is a small town in Co. Limerick, known for its quaint and colourful thatched cottages. Adare is considered to be one of Ireland's most beautiful towns so stop and take in the view. Don't forget your camera today - the perfect chance to capture the essence of old Ireland.

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Black Taxi Tour Belfast

Black Taxi Tour Belfast

About Black Taxi Tour Belfast

Take a journey through this once troubled city. See the murals of the Loyalist Shankill Road & Nationalist Falls Road. The Troubles took their toll on the economic life of Belfast, but the past ten years of peace have returned much prosperity while the genuine friendliness of the city never left.

Blarney Woollen Mills

Blarney Woollen Mills

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Originally built in 1823, Blarney Woollen Mills was mainly used for the spinning and weaving of wool. After it closed in 1973, it reopened in 1975 — as an Irish heritage shop.

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Culloden Battlefield

Culloden Battlefield, Scotland

About Culloden Battlefield

The Culloden Battlefield Visitor Centre commemorates the last pitched battle fought on British soil, in April 1746. Learn more about the Jacobite intent to overthrow the House of Hanover and return the House of Stuart to the British throne.

Glenveagh Castle

Glenveagh Castle, County Donegal

About Glenveagh Castle

Located within Glenveagh National Park, Glenveagh Castle was built by Captain John George Adair between 1870 and 1873. Having made his fortune through land speculation in America, Adair return to Ireland and began large amounts of land in County Donegal. The castle was built in the Scottish Baronial style and is surrounded by a garden and commands stunning views of the nearby mountains, lakes, woodlands and valleys.

Highland Folk Museum

Highland Folk Museum

About Highland Folk Museum

About Highland Folk Museum is a museum and open-air attraction located in the Scottish Highlands. It is designed to showcase the domestic and working lives of the early highland people.

King John's Castle

King John's Castle, County Limerick

About King John's Castle

Located alongside the River Shannon in County Limerick, on King's Island. Dating back to 922, to a time when Vikings were the inhabitants of the island (Thormodr Helgason, the Viking sea-king, built the first settlement here. The castle itself was built in 1200, under the instruction of King John of England.

Moriarty's, Kerry

About Moriarty's

Located close to the Killarney National Park, Moriarty's is an Authentic Irish Gift Store and Restaurant. Hand crafted Irish jewellery, Waterford Crystal and classic and modern tweed fashions and furnishings are all on offer at the gift store. The restaurant is an 85 seater offering stunning views of the surrounding landscape.

Mount Congreve Gardens

Mount Congreve Gardens, County Waterford

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Mount Congreve Gardens. Located in Kilmeaden, County Waterford, Mount Congreve Gardens is an 18th century Georgian estate and mansion. It was designed by the same architect that created both of Waterford's cathedrals, John Roberts.

Mount Stewart House & Gardens

Mount Stewart House & Gardens, County Down

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Recently recognised as being one of the top 10 gardens in the world, Mount Stewart is a rich tapestry of planting plant life and stunning walking trails. The house dates back to the 19th century, and was the Irish seat of the Vane-Tempest-Stewart family.

Muckross House

Muckross House, Kerry

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Located on the grounds of the expansive and idyllic Killarney National Park. Muckross House, and its 11,000-acre grounds, was donated to the Irish state in 1932.

Muckross House Traditional Farms

Muckross House Traditional Farms, Kerry

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Located on the grounds of the picturesque Muckross House and its impeccable gardens. Take a step back in time and see the Irish farming lifestyle of the 1930s and '40s. A time when the horse was responsible for much of the labour and the weather was the be all and end all in terms of production.

The Quiet Man Museum

The Quiet Man Museum

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The Quiet Man Museum. A reproduction of the quaint thatched cottage from the John Wayne starring, John Ford directed movie of the same name. all costumes, artefacts and furnishings have been recreated in precise detail, to reflect the setting of the 1952 classic. Located in the picturesque village of Cong, County Mayo.

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Detailed itineraries + travel guides

7 Day Ireland Itinerary – Ultimate Road Trip Guide For The South

Last Updated April 25, 2024 William Tang

You are here: Home » Travel Itineraries » 7 Day Ireland Itinerary – Ultimate Road Trip Guide For The South

This 7-day Ireland itinerary guide is broken into three main parts – trip planning decision points, the comprehensive breakdown of each day, and my personal planning tips.  This is meant to be super comprehensive and is everything I would have wanted to know when I planned this South Ireland road trip, along with what to see in 7 days.

Ireland is a place where legends, epics, and science fiction become reality.  Ireland is a breathtaking ancient landscape, rolling green hills and craggy sharp rock. Ireland is céad míle fáilte (a hundred thousand welcomes).

Read more about Ireland

  • Things you have to see and do on your Ireland road trip
  • 6 of the Best Things to do in Galway
  • Must-read Ireland travel guide

TOP TIPS FOR TRAVELING IRELAND

  • Our favorite spot – You’ll discover this as you go through the itinerary but if I had to pick, I’d say it was our day at Skellig Michael , not only as a Star Wars nerd, but our timing in being able to see the puffins in droves.  Truly a special day.
  • Where to stay – We used Booking.com for all of our stays and is great for finding those charming B&Bs. Alternatively, you can always see if hotel corporate codes might work for you.
  • Renting a car – An important part to a road trip is obviously a car. Save the most money through car rental coupon codes and always start your search with Discover Cars and RentalCars so you know what the best deals are.
  • Flights – International flights are never cheap, but with the Skyscanner “Everywhere” feature you can find the best deals. Check how much it would be for you to get to Ireland!
  • Insurance – This is a must for a road trip! Check out the best travel insurance .
  • Hottest deals – Bookmark our frequently updated travel deals page .

In This Article

Recommended travel time

Areas to focus, best time to go, packing essentials, where to stay, flying into ireland, interactive map, itinerary day 1 – a peek inside the ancient east, itinerary day 2 – from castles to a ring called kerry, itinerary day 3 – magic on skellig michael, itinerary day 4 – a day in killarney, itinerary day 5 – coastal adventures on dingle peninsula, itinerary day 6 – mighty cliffs and the burren, itinerary day 7 – clash of gaelic sport and dublin delight, itinerary flexibility and changes, frequently asked questions, travel resources for your next trip, ireland road trip planning.

downtown dingle streets in 7 day southern ireland itinerary road trip

Planning a South Ireland road trip isn’t hard.  There’s a few things to consider as you put everything together before you start planning.

For more details make sure to read everything you need to know when you plan a trip to Ireland .

There’s three scenarios here: 1) You have limited vacation days, 2) you found a flight deal with specific dates, or 3) there’s flexibility.

If it’s #1 or #2, you already know your answer but if it’s #3, things become intriguing.  It’s in part dictated by your decision on how much you’d like to see and the pace at which you travel.

Our week in Ireland wasn’t enough to see everything we wanted in the south but was the perfect amount to see the highlights.  I’d say Ireland in 7 days is a bare minimum and your itinerary will be decently packed.  Any less, you’ll have to focus on less regions or drive aggressively which isn’t recommended.

Two weeks is the perfect amount whether you decide to deep dive in a specific area or see the whole island.  For the sake of keeping this guide focused, let’s say you only have 7 days to work with.

A week in the Emerald Isle is certainly not enough but if you’ve got limited time like we did, you’ll have to make a pretty critical decision.  Do you focus on the North, South, or the whole island?  Do you want to take it slow or hit up as much as you can? 

The island of Ireland is divided into two parts.  The majority of the land is covered by the Republic of Ireland (officially named Ireland) and the other sixth is Northern Ireland which is part of the United Kingdom to the northeast.

One of the most recognizable places of Ireland is Giant’s Causeway and it’s the reason you’ll want to come to this part of the island.  The unusual basalt pillars are incredibly unique and will boggle your mind.  In the north, it’s cities like Belfast and Derry which present the most compelling and fascinating political history if you’re interested in learning about that and the complicated past around Ireland’s independence.  There is plenty to see here and it’s just as beautiful as the southern part of the island.

Other highlights include:

  • Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge
  • Dark Hedges
  • Donegal – There’s a reason why this region was picked as ‘Coolest Place on the Planet for 2017’ by  National Geographic Traveler

7 day ireland itinerary focused on the southern parts and what to see

There is no official “southern Ireland” borderline but we’re labeling that as everywhere below the line connecting Galway to Dublin.

Southern Ireland is dramatically different in terrain and sights than the north.  The south is where you’ll find a majority of the larger cities of Ireland including Dublin, Cork, Galway city, and Limerick.

Our main reason for doing a South Ireland road trip is to experience the Ring of Kerry, Skellig Michael, Dingle, Connemara National Park and explore castles and ancient ruins.

The full loop

The island itself isn’t that large (area wise, it is in fact smaller than Iceland) and doing a loop is certainly possible in 7 days.  It’s an ambitious schedule but definitely possible.

Ultimately we chose to do the south because we had done Northern Ireland on a separate short stopover trip and wanted to see a different side to Ireland.

The summer months are short and in the winter most things in the country are shut down.  As a result, it kind of makes it simple in terms of when to plan your trip.

July and August are the peak of high season; school is out and you contend with the large hoards of tourists, both domestic and international.  On average these months have a high of 20C.

Spring and fall are going to be a bit temperamental but, if you’re okay with rain, you’ll find awesome flight deals and cheaper hotels.  Expect the temperatures to be colder though with highs of 15C.

temperature chart for ireland throughout the year for when is the best time to go

The sweet spot, however, has to be June .  It’s during the summer solstice with the longest days of the year and it’s the start of high season.  You get the best of amazing weather and smaller crowd sizes.  It was incredible that there was enough light to sightsee until 10PM.

Packing for a South Ireland road trip shouldn’t be too hard as you’ll be staying at B&B’s and hotels all the way through.

Since you’ll have access to a car you don’t have to pack ultra-light.  You will want to rent the smallest car possible though, which means minimal trunk space.

Waterproof – You’re not going to skip every spot you have on your itinerary because of rain.  This means that you’ll have to brave the elements.  Have rain gear with you in case you need it.

GPS – If you have a data plan, using your smartphone for GPS will be your first choice so you can leverage any traffic information to take the most optimal route.  If not, a stand-alone unit will work just as well. Don’t assume your car will have GPS built in.  Before your trip, make sure you save areas offline on Google Maps and Save/Star all your destinations.  Google Maps will work offline (minus traffic adjustments).

Money – Ireland is part of the EU and as such, Euro is the currency.  Cash or credit is widely accepted.  If you’re from Canada, make sure you have the right credit card to either minimize on foreign exchange fees or maximize points.

Always cool – In the summer, it tops out in the low 20Cs.  Evenings drop down to the 10Cs or lower so pack accordingly.  I had a light Quiksilver hoodie always ready to go in the car in case things got chilly.

You can find other gear that I recommend for a trip to visit Ireland below.

  • Columbia Women’s Outdry Ex ECO Tech Jacket  – Whether it’s this or another waterproof jacket, the key is to have a light and durable outer layer that will at least keep your upper body dry.
  • Helly Hansen rain pants – We were lucky enough to never needs these on our trip but have learned from Iceland, it is always good to have pants that you can slip on.
  • Columbia Conspiracy Titanium OutDry Trail Running Shoe – To round out the waterproofing gear, having good shoes that perform well during hikes, walks, and rain is so important.  We love these shoes because they’re breathable, low profile which is good for summer, and very comfortable.
  • Travel towel – B&B’s are great at providing amenities like towels, but the one instance for us where we needed this was at Galway Glamping .  Whether you need it or not, these are super compact and can be useful in other scenarios like if you get wet from the rain, decide to go to the beach, or do surfing lessons.
  • Eagle Creek Pack-It Specter Cube Set  – These are awesome for any travel you do.  We’ve been using this set for awhile to keep our shirts organized, underwear together, and all our random loose cables and chargers in one spot.
  • Victorinox Travel Organizer – Ireland was so safe that we didn’t feel the need to travel with a money belt so organizers like this were perfect to keep my passport and travel papers nice and tidy.
  • Toiletry kit – The hanging toiletry organizer is a must for any traveler.  We’re a big fan because the hook allows you to hang this off of a vanity mirror or towel rack in a hotel/hostel and gives you counter space.  Kits like this are small but surprisingly allow you to pack a ton of things inside.
  • Travel power bar – Surge protectors such as this that take 1 outlet into 3 is helpful especially if you have to charge a bunch of things at night. You never know how many outlets your B&B or hotel is going to have so this is super handy.
  • Cigarette USB adapter – USB plugs in cars are notorious for being slow charging.  Get one of these chargers for the cigarette adapter to allow two USB devices to be charged at the same time and at a faster rate.  The one we used was unfortunately a slow speed one.
  • Power bank – If you have more devices you want to charge on the go and you’ve run out of ports/adapters in the car, it’ll be smart to have a basic power bank as your back up.  This Xiaomi one has a ton of capacity (10,000 mAH) and is super light.
  • Car phone holder – If you’re going to be using your phone as your GPS, don’t forget to bring a holder. Our favorite are these magnetic ones which clip to an air vent.  The unfortunate thing for us was that we didn’t account for our rental car to not have a regular air vent which made it near impossible to mount.  We eventually found a way but it was at a weird angle and the phone would periodically fall off.  The kind of things you don’t really think about when you’re packing right?

Slieve Elva B&B Bedroom in 7 day ireland itinerary road trip

After deciding the focus area of your trip and having a rough idea of the spots you want to see, the next step is figuring out where to stay.

The best part about Ireland is the hospitality and it’s a big reason we had such a great time.  The scenery blew our minds, but those conversations with the owners of the B&Bs and hotel staff made for a lasting impression.

B&B’s:   You’ll only find hotels in the big cities. In the country-side you’re going to rely on family owned B&B accommodations.  Each one is unique and the best part is the delicious breakfast included.

Hotels:   In the bigger cities you’ll have the option to stay at a hotel.  We quite enjoyed our big rooms, luxurious beds, and room cleaning when we had the opportunity.  Not to say we didn’t have that at the B&Bs, but it was nice to go into a hotel knowing the level of service and quality that you’d expect.

Glamping:   When I found out about Galway Glamping with Mongolian yurts, I knew we had to try it.  You get an experience that gets you into the charming countryside setting while not sacrificing the comforts of a hot shower, kitchen, and lounge rooms.  Similar to B&Bs, the hosts are just as accommodating, friendly, and helpful.

Places we stayed across Ireland in 7 days:

  • Kilkenny – Newlands Lodge
  • Portmagee – Skellig View White Room Airbnb
  • Killarney – The Lake Hotel
  • Dingle – An Portán
  • Lisdoonvarna (near Doolin) – Slieve Elva B&B
  • Galway – Galway Glamping
  • Dublin – The Croke Park Hotel

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

Tips and Advice:

  • Be careful about check-in times.  Typically there are very specific time slots where they expect you to come in.  If you aren’t able to, make sure you reach out to them beforehand, give the owners an estimate of when you’ll arrive, and get approval.
  • When glamping, make sure to ask what facilities are available so you come prepared.  In Galway Glamping’s case, they did not provide towels so we had to bring our own travel towel .

AirTransat Plane in Dublin

The main international airport is Dublin (DUB) but there are also airports in Shannon (SNN), Belfast (BFS), Cork (ORK), and Knock in West Ireland (NOC).

Coming from Canada, Dublin airport will be your primary access point into Ireland.  Our choice of airline is Air Transat .  We flew economy and were greeted with great leg room, a solid entertainment system, excellent service and amazing food.

If you’re coming from another part of Europe, you have even more airports open to you.

  • Kerry Airport : Served by flights from Dublin, Manchester, London-Luton, London-Stansted and Frankfurt.
  • Waterford Airport:  Served by flights from London-Luton, Manchester, Birmingham, Bordeaux, Lorient.
  • Galway Airport:  Served by flights from Dublin, Belfast, Cork, Edinburgh, Leeds Bradfort, London Luton, Manchester, Newcastle, Southampton.
  • Donegal Airport
  • Sligo Airport
  • George Best Belfast City Airport
  • City of Derry Airport

These options allow you to get creative with your itinerary.  For instance, instead of doing a round trip journey in and out of Dublin, you could start in Dublin on the East side of the island to Shannon on the West.

Table of Contents

The 7 Day Ireland Itinerary

With the basics covered, the next step is to plan your day by day Ireland itinerary.

This high level outline shows everything we did across the 7 day road trip including sights, restaurants we tried, where we stayed, and invaluable insight we learned through adventure and misadventure.

This is meant to be a guideline because everyone’s situation will be different.  That said, if you’re looking for a baseline to start from, this guide is probably the best out there.  Sign up to become an insider and get access to the downloadable spreadsheet .

Glendalough Monastic City

If you’re coming from North America, you’ll most likely be taking a red-eye flight, flying out in the evening and arriving the next morning.  This means you may be too tired to hit the ground running.  For us, we tried to sleep through the flight so that we’d have enough energy to last the first day.

Upon landing in Dublin and out of the airport by 1PM, we made an explicit decision to hit the road right away.  There’s more details in the driving section of our road trip guide but since I knew driving in Dublin was going to be a headache, it seemed more logical to finish there, return the car in the city and then rely on local transportation.

After picking up our rental car from Europcar we found our way to Glendalough in the gorgeous Wicklow Mountains region.  Glendalough Monastic City ruins were very impressive and almost fairytale-like with the Round Tower, Cathedral of St. Peter and St. Paul, the high crosses in the graveyard, and the priest’s house.  Make sure not to miss the walk up to the Upper Lake which has a postcard worthy view.  It’s roughly a 30 minute walk each way.

We then drove to the city of Kilkenny, our final destination of the day.  We arrived too late to do the Kilkenny Castle tour but there was plenty to see walking around the grounds, including the massive green park on one side and the rose garden on the other.

After dinner, we treated ourselves to Murphy’s Ice Cream.   Our favorite flavor has to be their Dingle Sea Salt, try it!

If we had more time:

Smithwick’s Experience – Smithwick’s ended up being our beloved beer for the trip and would have loved to have done this tour.  They also had an evening experience that sounded fun.

what to see in ireland in 7 days - itinerary road trip map day 1

PETRONELLA RESTAURANT & CAFE

Quaint restaurant down a small alleyway in Kilkenny that serves excellent European dishes that span Irish to Italian.  Ordered the Baked Goatsbridge trout and Pappardelle pasta and both were very good.  Loved the decor here as well.  Best part was when the manager, Frank, came out to greet all the customers to see how everything was.

TripAdvisor

newlands lodge b&b kilkenny - where to stay in ireland in 7 days

NEWLANDS LODGE

Just outside of Kilkenny, this B&B is a lovely property that will exceed all expectations whether it comes to the spacious rooms that are impeccably clean, friendly service from owners Mairead and Jimmy, and delicious all-inclusive breakfast.

Booking.com

Tips and Tricks:

  • Car rental and driving tips – See everything you need to know to plan a trip to Ireland . We found our car rental via Discover Cars .
  • Parking at Glendalough – We parked at the first parking lot we saw which turned out to be the Glendalough Hotel.  The parking was “free” and we weren’t ticketed although I’d say in high season it may not be as easy as it was for us.
  • Glendalough Monastic City – No admission required.
  • Relieve and hydrate – The walk to the Upper Lake is long and there isn’t much cover at the main site so either use the visitor center or Glendalough Hotel for the bathroom facilities.
  • Kells Priory – This is an off-the-beaten-path spot that would be worth considering in your itinerary.  Read more about it here .

will kissing the blarney stone in ireland itinerary

With a full stomach from our Irish breakfast, we hopped into our car and made our way to the Rock of Cashel .  

On a green hill with banded limestone, ancient fortifications create a ring around the Gothic cathedral, round tower, and chapel.  We were able to walk through the open, yet remarkably intact, ruins while also enjoying the rolling countryside of Tipperary.

Next stop was the famed Blarney Castle just outside of Cork.  The grounds of Blarney Castle and Gardens are huge and require a half day to fully explore everything.  We walked straight to the castle tower to line up to kiss a stone famed for giving the gift of eloquence.  

Wrapping up at Blarney Castle, we rushed through Killarney and connected to the Ring of Kerry to start our counter-clockwise rotation.  

The scenery at this point dramatically changed from tree lined country roads to coastal cliffs and crashing waves.  This is where you’ll appreciate having your own car .

After a few impromptu stops along the way, we made our final stop of the night at Kells Bay House & Gardens .  Here, we had a lovely and surprisingly authentic Thai meal at their in-house Sala Thai Restaurant.

We had the Summer Solstice on our side and there was still a ton of light out after dinner.  This made navigating the road to Portmagee and over to our Airbnb much easier.  Sadly, we had to skip pretty much everything along the way along this part of the Ring of Kerry except a quick stop at a gas station to pick up breakfast and snack items for the next day.

  • Cork – It would’ve been nice to explore Cork and their English Market and visit the Cobh Heritage Centre.
  • Blarney Gardens – I would have loved to have spent more time doing the various walks around the Poison Garden, Fern Garden, Arboretum, and the endless other garden walks that explore the mystical and magical landscapes.
  • Killorglin – This is the first town we passed by along the Ring of Kerry.  We zipped right through but I would have loved to have stopped here even for a few minutes to get a feel for a small town like this one.
  • Cahirciveen – This is home to the Ballycarbery Castle and the Old Barracks which is built in the Schloss style.  Legend says they mixed up plans for this and a building designed for somewhere in Punjab, India.

southern ireland itinerary road trip map day 2 - what to see in ireland in 7 days

SALA THAI RESTAURANT

This is the in-house restaurant as part of the Kells Bay House property.  As someone that’s had a lot of Thai food, I have to say that the curries, noodles, and skewers we had were all very good and very authentic.  The only knock I’d have on this place is the service.  Our order took way too long to get to the table and only after following up did they realize that they missed our order completely and had to make it from scratch at that point.

where to visit south west ireland

SKELLIG VIEW WHITE ROOM AIRBNB

A no frills kind of Airbnb that I booked pretty early on because I was worried that the town of Portmagee would sell out.  Our host, Marie, was very accommodating of our late check-in request and I appreciated the free passes to Kerry Cliffs.  The room was just the right size and in relatively clean condition.  Wifi included as well.

Check rates

Tips and Tricks :

  • Rock of Cashel – Parking is right up the narrow road right at the base of the hill.  It’s an automated parking system where you pay the machine when you’re leaving.  This parking costs 4.50 EUR.  To save money you could park in town and walk up.  Entrance is 8 EUR per person.
  • Blarney Castle  – Be ready for lines to kiss the Blarney Stone.  If you’re not in a rush, I recommend doing the other parts of the garden, waiting for the line to subside and then doing the castle itself.
  • Blarney Gardens –   Entrance is 14 EUR per person booked online.

Will wielding a Sith lightsaber at Skellig Michael

Thinking about what to see in Ireland in 7 days, this is my #1 must-do.  The entire pilgrimage experience of zipping across the North Atlantic to discover that the white tipped Little Skellig was in fact covered by white gannets and adorable puffins that made Skellig Michael their home.  Then following in the ancient footsteps of Luke Skywalker and Rey up to the monastery itself was pure magic.

The 2.5 hours we had on the island seemed like a lot initially but once we started climbing the steps and exploring the beehive huts of the monastery, time passed quickly.

Back on the mainland and after lunch, we explored the lesser-known Valentia Island.  We wouldn’t have known about this part of the Ring of Kerry if it wasn’t for incredible photos I had seen from this area.  With the higher vantage points of Geokaun Mountain (5 EUR per car) and the slate quarry behind Valentia Lighthouse (5 EUR per person), the scenery was as close to postcard perfect as it gets.

We then continued along our ring road journey by joining up with the Skellig Ring where we stopped by Kerry Cliffs (4 EUR per person) which is an impressive view of the jagged edged rocky coast.  It’s at the edge of the peninsula where the land rises and then sharply drops into the ocean.

The driving adventure continued along until rejoining the main Ring of Kerry.  Due to time, we couldn’t stop in the towns along the way.  From Waterville and onwards, it was straight driving.  Since we weren’t close to the coast there wasn’t much to stop and see.

At Molls Gap , we took a quick break before descending into Killarney National Park with sunlight starting to wane.  We were able to make quick stops at Ladies View where you can see where the glaciers carved through the valley before the opening into Killarney itself.

It was late by the time we checked into The Lake Hotel so no restaurants were open.  We hopped downstairs to the Devil’s Punchbowl Bar , grabbed a pint, and ordered a sandwich.

  • Waterville, Sneem, Caherdaniel, and Kenmare – It would’ve been nice to take our time through these idyllic coastal towns but I feel the trade off of spending more time on Valentia Island and the Skellig Ring was worth it.

southern ireland itinerary road trip map day 3

THE BRIDGE BAR

With barely any time to snack on Skellig Michael, we were famished by the time we arrived back in Portmagee.  Right along the main street is this nice little local restaurant which gets all the Skellig tourists.  Their fish and chips definitely hit the spot.

The Lake Hotel Suite

THE LAKE HOTEL

A historic hotel that is full of character but doesn’t show its age.  The rooms here are incredibly spacious and comfortable.  Breakfast as part of the B&B package was of the highest quality and the perfect charge-up for the day.  Location wise, it can’t be beat either being practically on Killarney National Park Grounds with that amazing view of the old castle ruins at the footsteps of Lough Leane.

  • Booking:  You must book at least 4-5 months in advance in order to guarantee a spot for a specific date.  If you haven’t, don’t fret because cancellations happen all the time.
  • Casey’s Tours to Skellig Island
  • Skellig Michael Cruises
  • The Skelligs – Force Awakens Boat Trip – Leaves from Ballinskelligs which is a totally different pier from Portmagee
  • Skellig Boat
  • Skellig Walker Cruises
  • Skellig Michael Voyage
  • The Skelligs Tour – Departs from Caherdaniel
  • Skellig Experience Visitor Centre also has a page for boat tours here .
  • Weather:  If the weather is poor for the boats, they’ll cancel the trip.  That’s why Skelligs Rocks ensured we called the morning of to confirm whether the trip would be a go or not.  There’s not much you can do here other than perhaps planning 2 days in the Ring of Kerry area so that if one day doesn’t work, you can reorganize things so you can have a second day to attempt a trip out.
  • Boat ride:   With the speed of the boat, you’re not going to get that rocky, nausea inducing feeling that folks sensitive to being on the water get.  That being said, the water does get choppy especially on the way out which is why you have to wear the waterproof gear provided by the boat.  For those that get sea sick easily, they do offer medicine on board prior to leaving the pier if you need it but nobody on our boat ride had issues.  Make sure you tuck your camera away once the boat is out in open water because you will get very wet especially if you sit near the back.  The captain was also nice enough to provide big zip-loc bags in case.
  • Difficulty:   There are two main sets of steps to the Monastery but I would say it’s relatively easy.  The first set slowly winds up with some natural spots for breaks.  The steps are wide enough to allow people to pass.  The second set of steps are more steep but if you take your time, you’ll make it up with no issues.  Compared to the Inca Trail where altitude was in effect , this felt very easy since it only required short spurts of energy.
  • Tour:  Make sure you stick around for the educational talk given by one of the rangers when you get to the Monastery.  I don’t think there’s a fixed schedule but I could be wrong.  It felt like it was every hour.
  • Valentia Lighthouse  – Admission to here was 5 EUR per person but didn’t think it was worth it.  The lighthouse and the small museum weren’t too interesting and the views weren’t anything special.  What was a nice view was in fact from the slate quarry which is visible when you look back inland from the lighthouse.  From here you get sweeping views of the lighthouse and the sprawling peninsula fingers that meet here.
  • Skellig Ring – The Skelligs are in view for most of the drive around here and was honestly more of a joy to drive through compared to the Ring of Kerry because the large coaches don’t come here.  There weren’t designated stops per say but it was a joy to find pullovers to see the villages below.
  • Ring of Kerry –  I would recommend driving counter-clockwise which is the official designated route for all the coach buses.   I’d much rather be stuck behind one and feel comfortable that opposing traffic will have to yield and when the opportunity arises to pass.  The driving section will cover this in more detail but I’ll say two things. 1) The speed limit is way too high so don’t feel pressured to drive that fast and 2) As scary as everyone made driving the ring sound, it wasn’t that bad because you’re never at a cliff’s edge and there are usually tiny pull offs for oncoming cars.

The view into Killarney National Park from Ladies View

After a hearty breakfast at The Lake Hotel , we ventured about the hotel grounds.  The hotel backs right into the largest lake of the national park and as part of that, there’s also the ruins of The McCarthy Mór Castle.

You’ll need a full day exploring Killarney National Park because it’s huge.  For us, we wanted to hit up the main sights.  We were able to see Muckross Abbey, Muckross House, Torc Waterfall, and Ross Castle.  I was probably most impressed with the Abbey and its courtyard that must’ve inspired Tolkien.

Wanting to spend time in the town of Dingle, we hit the road right after we finished at the castle.  The drive through the southern coast of the peninsula was amazing with views of the water as you winded through.  The Ring of Kerry side was always visible across the water and we made quite a few stops along the way.

We quite enjoyed our time in Dingle as we were able to take a relaxing stroll along the main streets of town, popping into the small shops that were painted in a variety of colors.   After dinner, we also made sure we tried a few more flavors at Murphy’s Ice Cream.

  • Killarney National Park – I would’ve loved to have done a few hikes in the park.  I was also sad that we weren’t able to take the boat across from Ross Castle to the Meeting of the Waters and Old Weird Bridge.
  • Gap of Dunloe – This was part of the plans but had to be cut.  There’s an awesome hike there that takes around 2 hours with breathtaking views of the lake, a heritage cottage, and the surrounding mountains.
  • Killarney City – If there’s one city we completely skipped because of time, it was Killarney.  It’s supposed to be a charming city with great food options like Quinlan’s Seafood Bar and Lane Cafe Bar.

southern ireland itinerary road trip map day 4

OUT OF THE BLUE

If you love seafood, this is your spot.  The seafood chowder is out of this world.  The fish is all locally caught and fresh and it comes through in the two dishes we had – sea bass and pollock were probably the best of the entire trip.

An Portán B&B in Dunquin, Dingle, Ireland

This is one of the few B&Bs located on the western part of Dingle Peninsula which is the perfect spot to launch into the main sights along Slea Head Drive and the ferry out to the Blasket Islands.  The owners, Rónán and Geraldine are warm and friendly hosts that also serve up delicious breakfast.  The rooms are spacious, clean, and even come furnished with a rocking chair.

Will In Front of Wild Atlantic Way Sign in Dingle

Starting in Dunquin, which is where our B&B was located, was a bit of a blessing and a curse because it allowed us to jump right into Dunquin Harbour and The Blasket Centre but since driving counter to traffic is highly inadvisable as we were told, we had to cut across the mountain in order to drive on Slea Head Drive in the clockwise direction.

When it comes to Slea Head Drive , there really wasn’t a specific sight that you’re looking for.  It’s very much a look out into the ocean as you’re driving around.

We were told that the Famine Cottages are a tourist trap so we skipped that.  There are also beehive huts along the way but because as we had done Skellig Michael, we passed as well.  Cross at Slea Head is a good spot for a quick stop where you’ll see great views of the Blasket Islands.  From there, you can see Coumeenoole Beach .  The beach is a good spot for a picnic and there’s a nice hike to the peninsula’s edge.

We continued around the peninsula with stops at Clogher Head, which is more or less another beach, and the Louis Mulcahy Pottery studio (good for a bathroom break and quick peek).

We drove back into town for another quick stop before detouring north to cross Conor Pass.  At the peak, there’s a carpark where we stopped briefly to check out the magnificent sights here.  You can see the coast in the distance, farms at the valley floor, along with lakes and cliffs.

This is when the heavy driving started as we had to wind up Northeast towards Limerick before turning Northwest.  Along the way, we stopped in the city of Ennis where it started pouring but we ducked into Cruises Pub for dinner.

  • Gallarus Oratory – This was on our itinerary for the drive around Dingle but because we didn’t have enough time, I quickly flew the drone and continued along our way.
  • Quaint small towns of Dingle – Our B&B hosts recommended that we stop by Ballydavid but short on time, we had to skip them.
  • Blasket Islands – This is a full day kind of event but if you had a couple of days in the area, we recommend getting a ferry over to the Great Blasket Island to create your own eco adventure.

southern ireland itinerary road trip map day 5

CRUISES PUB

This spot was a bit of a happy accident for us.  Originally we wanted to eat at The Cloister Restaurant & Bar but they weren’t taken anyone without reservations.  This pub was full of energy when we stepped in with a Gaelic football match televised with live Irish music.  There was a good selection of local beer here on top of comfort Irish bar food.  The Guinness meat pie and bangers and mash were perfect.

Slieve Elva B&B Room

SLIEVE ELVA B&B

Just outside the town of Lisdoonvarna is this amazing B&B which features cosy guest rooms which are both spacious, clean, and modernly renovated.  What makes any stay special is the hospitality of the owners Kris and Ireen who will go out way to make you feel at home.  Their breakfast is marvelous and you will love their personal touch of home made bread and jams.  On top of that, each room gets Ireen’s homemade biscuits.  This would be my B&B of choice for anyone want to visit Cliffs of Moher or The Burren in County Clare.

7 day ireland itinerary dingle driving direction suggestion

  • Driving in Dingle – Having done the drive myself, I can confidently say that you do not want to drive counter-clockwise.  Slea Head Drive is designated as a two way road but some parts along the coast are only wide enough for one car.
  • Tarbert to Killimer Ferry – Instead of driving through Limerick as we ended up doing, there’s an alternative route that involves a ferry from Tarbert and goes across to Killimer.  We were originally going to do this but it didn’t save us any time so we just kept on driving.  However, if you plan it well or just have a more flexible schedule, check the schedule beforehand and this’ll be a great way to cut down driving time.  It costs 19 EUR per car or 17.10 if you book online .

visiting cliffs of moher on day 5

We started off by crossing through the countryside before dropping to the coast.  Where there were rolling valleys before, large forested areas popped up and the ground burst with streams of sharp jagged limestone.

The Cliffs of Moher were staggeringly impressive with its continuous sheer drop of 214 meters that winds out as far as the eye can see.  Where the vistas truly opened up was beyond the fences of the maintained park.  There, I only dared to walk to the death-defying edges a few times before following the ridge line down to the most northern point.   We ended up spending quite a bit of time here.

Our next stop was Burren Smokehouse .  What we learned was that the Smokehouse itself is just a store and next to it on the same street is the Storehouse.  We grabbed a sample platter to eat one of our few lunches on the trip.  It was so good that after lunch we picked up a few for home.  The tricky part was figuring out how to keep it refrigerated the remainder of the trip.

The rest of the afternoon was spent in Burren National Park , followed by a quick walk around the portal tomb, Poulnabrone .  The Burren region is out of this world.  Even though we didn’t get to do a full hike in this geopark, it shows the power of glaciers that carved through and left behind limestone pavement with fissures created by rainwater dissolution.  The end result is something that is so dramatically different from anywhere else in Ireland.

We closed out the day in Galway , my favorite city in Ireland.  We didn’t get to stay there long but it was somewhere that was full of energy with all the street performers.  Pedestrian streets ruled the downtown core, making it easy to walk and so approachable with its many shops and restaurants.

At the end of the night, we drove outside of the city to get to Galway Glamping where we had a chance to meet the owners and get a full tour of the grounds.  This night was hands down the most memorable of stays with an eclectic assembly of furniture in the Mongolian yurt which was surprisingly very cozy and warm thanks to the electrical heater.

Pedestrian Streets of Galway

We closed out the day in Galway which has got to be my favorite city in Ireland.  It’s not like we even got to stay there that long but it was somewhere that was full of energy with all the street performers.  Pedestrian streets ruled the downtown core which made it easy to walk and so approachable with its many shops and restaurants.

At the end of the night, we drove outside of the city to get to Galway Glamping where we had a chance to meet the owners where they gave us the full tour of the grounds.  This night was hands down the most memorable of stays with eclectic assembly of furniture in the Mongolian yurt which was surprisingly very cosy and warm thanks to the electrical heater.

  • I put together an article about top things to do in Galway .  Head over there for more ideas.
  • Ballyvaughan Fairy Fort – A hidden spot in The Burren, this ring fort is said to be on the road up to Poulnabrone, just opposite the left hand turn into the Ailwee Caves. Access is restricted but it’s supposedly easy to walk in.
  • Ballyvaughan – Pretty thatched cottages, nice crafts shops, and restaurants.
  • Aran Islands – The easiest way to get there is by catching a ferry from Doolin.  I’d recommend staying overnight at a minimum.  There are 3 islands in the chain but the most interesting is Inis Mór which features the cliff tops prehistoric ring forts.  A ton to see and explore here.
  • Burren National Park – I’m still a bit disappointed in the hike we attempted here.  With a little better planning, I would’ve picked a better marked hike.
  • Aillwee Cave/Pollnagollum  – Pollnagollum is a secret spot but if you know where to look, you can find the cave that inspired Lord of the Rings’ character, Gollum.  Entrance to the longest cave in Ireland, the more accessible way is through Aillwee Cave which is open to the public.  The best way to see it is to join up with a local caving tour ( Back West Adventures ).

southern ireland itinerary road trip map day 6

THE BURREN STOREHOUSE

Everyone raved about The Burren Smokehouse and their restaurant (Storehouse next door) and it sure didn’t disappoint.  After our morning at the Cliffs of Moher, we made our way over here for a quick bite.  While they have a ton of other great menu items such as their pizza, what we really wanted to try was a sampling of their smoked fish. Luckily they have the Smokehouse Platter which has 6 of their products.  Two of us shared one plate and it was just right for a half lunch.  There’s often live music playing here as well.

Galway Glamping Mongolian Yurt

GALWAY GLAMPING

The most unique accommodations of our Ireland itinerary.  Who would’ve thought we’d be able to stay in a Mongolian yurt in the middle of the Irish countryside.  What used to be an estate in ruins, the grounds have now been converted to this eclectic mix of yurts, axe-throwing, group games, party rooms, and other funky rooms.  What makes it glamping is that all rooms are furnished and powered while also including super clean bathroom, kitchen, and lounging facilities next door.

Book Directly

  • What the entry ticket is actually for – The entry ticket is only to get into the mass lot across the street.  Once you’re parked, all you do is cross the street and that’s it.  This kind of makes sense because there’s no way to police the cliffs to the north and the south.  Anyone can walk in.  They just bank on everyone driving.  You do have to get in the same line as everyone regardless if you purchase your ticket online ahead of time.
  • How to get in for free – There’s a farmer that has land right next to the most northerly edge of the cliffs who is apparently super cool with people parking along the road as long as his car can still drive through.  The photo below is the spot that you should be looking for.  If you’re coming from the north, you’ll see this before the mass parking lot.  You can use either side as you can see.
  • Best time to go – If I were to do it again, I’d definitely plan to go after 4PM.  During the middle of the day, there are way too many tourist buses and the sun is right above you which creates incredibly harsh shadows.  I’ve seen the photos and sunsets are epic here.
  • Best spots for photos – To get that postcard perfect shot, you need to leave the official bounds of the tourist site (there are signs that let you know).  We couldn’t do both ends but chose to hike to the northern edge which gives a full view of the pinnacle and a long depth of cliffs front to back.

Directions to get free parking at Cliffs of Moher

  • Burren National Park – This park is unique because there aren’t any specific boundaries and isn’t run like a national park that we’re used to.  That’s why the visitor center is in the nearby town of Corofin.  We didn’t go there and just plotted a route to the park via Google Maps.  In retrospect it wasn’t a good idea because I had no clue where the hike trails were.  At the Gortlecka Crossroads, we saw a bunch of cars parked here so we did as well.  Thing is, there’s only one board here that indicated there was a trail here.  We tried to follow it but eventually got side tracked by a gate opening that we thought was the right way.  Long story short, we gave up and turned back.  Either we are terrible at hiking or the trails are just poorly marked.  Lesson learned:  Get a trail map from the visitor center first.
  • Tunnel toll – When driving up to Galway, we hit an unexpected toll since there’s a tunnel you have to go through.  This is an unattended machine so you have to make sure you have enough coins for this.  The toll is 1.90 EUR.
  • Galway parking – You’re probably not going to find free parking here.  We circled around for a bit to see if we could get free parking to no avail.  In the end, we found a paid lot.

rainy evening in front of temple bar in dublin ireland with umbrella

On our last full day in Ireland we started early.  We had an exciting morning planned with Clash Gaelic Games and we needed to travel East to get there.  While that sounds daunting, it was mostly on the motorway (highway) and took about 2 hours.

Neil and Gareth from Clash Gaelic Games

One thing you need to understand about Ireland is that while European football is popular, it pales in comparison to the Gaelic sports.  Gaelic Football and Hurley are the top two sports in the country and what better way to end off the trip than to get to learn how to play these two sports.  I had found out about Clash Gaelic Games through my research and I thought it was such a fun way to learn about culture while burning a few calories and making a fool of ourselves.  

After our mini workout, we had to get into the city, check into our hotel, cab over to Kilmainham Gaol prison, then make it late to Trinity College’s Old Library to see the Book of Kells .  We were able to stroll the streets and get some retail therapy at the hyper cheap Penny’s following.

With one night to make it count, we had dinner at L. Mulligan Grocer and spent the rest of the night drinking Guinness and listening to live Irish music at The Temple Bar .

  • Dublin  – I would have liked to have seen St. Patrick’s Cathedral, St. Stephen’s Green, done more shopping, tried more restaurants, and drank a little harder.
  • Pubs – The Temple Bar is the most popular one in the city but there are so many other good ones including The Dame Tavern and The Brazen Head.
  • Guinness – While we weren’t big fans at the beginning, this famous stout grew on us throughout the trip.  The Guinness Storehouse is in Dublin and would be a fun place to visit for any lover of this beer. You can get advance tickets here .
  • Newgrange – While technically not in Dublin, north of the city is a large and ancient burial site built of stone and architectured to only let light into the ritual chamber at sunrise on Winter Solstice.
  • Howth – This is a village north of Dublin and near Portmarnock.  Located on a bulbous peninsula and featuring sweeping coastal views, it includes a superb food and crafts market.  It’s a place that gives you a flavor of everything we saw on the west coast without driving too far from Dublin.
  • Malahide Castle & Gardens – While I’m sure this would’ve been impressive, we couldn’t fit this in with how long Clash went.  I wasn’t too sad in this case though since we had seen Blarney Castle & Gardens and I imagine it would be somewhat similar.

southern ireland itinerary road trip map day 7

L. MULLIGAN GROCER

It’s a peculiar name for sure and it’s a bit far from the city centre but well worth it for the wide range of craft beers on tap and menu items.  We tried a most interesting watermelon wheat beer which tasted like…you guessed it…watermelon!  Our Moules Frites and Free Range Chicken Kiev were most excellent.

The Croke Park Hotel in Dublin

THE CROKE PARK HOTEL

This Doyle Collection hotel is located right next door to the famed Croke Park stadium where all the biggest Gaelic sport matches are held.  This signature hotel in the Dublin is a contemporary hotel that is big on comforts.  Their mattresses are heavenly with velvety duvets, there’s good table space to work, comfy furniture to relax, and the marbled bathrooms.  If you get the packing that includes breakfast, you’ll be treated to a wide buffet selection including honey straight from the honeycomb and my favourite, the croissants, which were delightful.  The staff was incredibly friendly and lastly, parking is included for free.  It’s the perfect hotel to launch your Dublin adventures from.

  • Clash Gaelic Games  – While it was a bit of a specialized session with just the two of us, if you’re traveling with a big group of friends or if you’re a family, this is a great way to stay active and honestly try something you’d never be able to do anywhere else.
  • Driving in Dublin – Everyone said “don’t do it” and they were right.  The core is a mess especially with the construction going on.  You do not want to drive in the city.  Taking a cab or local transit is the way to go so make sure you either return the car rental, wait to rent the car later, or your hotel has free parking.
  • Uber – I experienced the most peculiar thing with Uber in Dublin.  There were numerous times when I’d order a cab and while it was on its way, they could cancel the ride.  I couldn’t understand why this kept happening until I realized that all the Uber drivers were regular cabbies essentially.  Every cab had Uber and another local app running on their phones and so they had to allegiance to any one of them and if they found a more convenient ride along the way, they’d take it.  On top of that, Uber also doesn’t display prices because it’s all standard meters.  At the end of the day, just understand that hailing a cab or ordering an Uber is no different.  In Dublin, I’d say hailing is just easier if you’re in a busy area because you won’t get canceled on.
  • Kilmainham Goal is 8 EUR per person (plus booking fees online) and Book of Kells is 10 to 13 EUR depending on peak or off-peak hours per person.

Trips never go as planned.  This one was no different.  For the most part though, nothing dramatically changed where we had to restructure things around.  This trip was one where I simply packed too much in and had to make the call to fast forward if time was running low.

sunset in kilkenny ireland with street and castle in background

Here’s a little insight into why I feel that our plans deviated to help in your own planning:

  • Not starting the day early enough – We could’ve fit more in if we hit the road after breakfast by 8AM instead of 9 or 10AM on most days.
  • Taking too long in each spot – Between photos, videos, drone, and eyes, we spent more time than we had planned for.
  • Driving time according to GPS is inaccurate – If you drove by Ireland’s ridiculously high speed limit and didn’t stop, sure, but the reality is that you’ll be making stops to take photos of the views and you’ll be slowing down around all corners and when there’s opposing traffic.
  • Skipping meals – This is more of what happened as a result of a packed schedule.  Since we always had breakfast included by our B&Bs or hotels, lunch was the first thing to go out the window.
  • Unexpected stops – You can’t plan for these but we stopped along the Ring of Kerry to help a couple with their flat tire which put us behind.  Alternatively, I didn’t have much planned for Dingle but we got a long list of suggestions from the B&B, so we ended up spending more time there before driving out of the peninsula.
  • Losing track of time – As much as it was a massive advantage to have incredibly long days (usable light up until 10PM), it was also easy to just keep going.  As a result, there were a few times where we got to our dinner spot too late and had to make alternate plans.

So there you have it, the itinerary guide for a south Ireland road trip.  It was an ambitious trip for sure, but we only covered a small portion of everything Ireland has to offer.

Hopefully you’ll be able to use this as a starting point for your trip planning and if you have any questions don’t hesitate to leave a comment below!

Make Trip Planning To Ireland A Breeze Make sure to read this companion travel guide to planning the best road trip in Ireland.

No, as long as you have a valid driver’s license you do not need an international one. A valid driver’s license allows you to rent a car as well. Note that there are different age requirements in Ireland when it comes to renting a car, be sure to look into that if concerned.

The amount of days really depends on what parts of Ireland you’d like to see and if you’d like to take your time seeing them all or not. You’ll need to decide if you want to do the north part, the south or the full loop. In our case, 7 days was barely enough to tour southern Ireland, but to do the full loop we would recommend more.

The best month to travel Ireland is June. There’s not as much rainfall during this month and the days are longer due to summer solstice, therefore you get more time to do and see more.

What you should read next

  • A Week in Ireland – Enchanting Castles, Wild Coastline, and Star Wars
  • 10 Must-See and Do Things For Any Road Trip in Ireland
  • Ireland Road Trip Travel Guide – Everything You Need To Know
  • Why You Absolutely Must Do A Road Trip Around Ireland In Photos

7 Day Ireland Itinerary - Ultimate Road Trip Guide for the South Story

If you’re in the process of planning your trip and putting together your itinerary, these are genuinely the best resources that the Going Awesome Places team stands by 100% .

Credit cards: Don’t get burned by hidden fees on top of terrible exchange rates. When we travel now, we use the Wise Card . Simply load it with the currency you need before you go and use it as a regular VISA or their digital wallet card. Use their free app to track how much you have and top up when you need to.

Flights: Of all the booking search engines, Skyscanner is the most helpful and easy to use thanks to their Everywhere feature . Kayak is also another that’s we will often check as well.

Car Rental: If you’re looking to save money, these car rental coupon codes will be a true game-changer. Otherwise, DiscoverCars and RentalCars are great places to start.

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Airport Parking: You’ll need a spot to leave your car at the airport so why not book a spot at a discount. Use code AWESOME7 to get at least $5 off at Airport Parking Reservations or Park Sleep Fly packages.

Data: We’ve been a huge fan of wifi hotspot devices like PokeFi (use code GAP24300) because their rates are so good and you can use it globally but recently, we’ve really loved using eSIMs. The best one is Airalo . Save money by getting region-specific eSIMs and use referral code WILLIA9500 to get $3 USD credit on your first purchase. Ubigi is another one that we’ve had success with where they uniquely offer 5G coverage. Use code AWESOME10 to save 10% on your first order.

Hotels: Our go-to is Booking.com because they have the best inventory of properties including hotels and B&Bs plus they have their Genius tier discounts . The exception is Asia where Agoda always has the best prices. TripAdvisor is also useful for reviews and bookings.

Vacation Rentals: Your first instinct will be to check Airbnb but we always recommend checking VRBO as well if you’re looking for a vacation rental.

Tours: When planning our trips, we always check both Viator and GetYourGuide to at least see what’s out there in the destination that we’re going to. They often have different offerings and prices so check both.

Travel Insurance: Learn how to buy the best travel insurance for you. This isn’t something you want to travel without.

  • Insured Nomads – Popular insurance provider for frequent travelers and comes with great coverage and special perks.
  • RATESDOTCA – Search engine Canadians looking for the cheapest insurance including multi-trip annual policies.
  • SafetyWing – A perfect fit for long-term nomads.
  • Medjet – Global air medical transportation.
  • InsureMyTrip – Best for seniors, families, and those with pre-existing conditions.

If you need more help planning your trip, make sure to check out our Travel Toolbox where we highlight all of the gear, resources, and tools we use when traveling.

About William Tang

William Tang is the Chief of Awesome behind the award-winning Going Awesome Places which is focused on outdoor adventure, and experiential travel. His true passion lies in telling stories, inspiring photography and videos, and writing detailed itineraries and travel guides. He is a member of Travel Media Association of Canada (TMAC), Society of American Travel Writers (SATW), Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA), and Travel Massive. He has also been featured in publications such as Reader's Digest, Entrepreneur, Men's Journal, and Haute Living. Make sure to learn more about William Tang to find out his story and how Going Awesome Places started.

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Laura Baker says

March 8, 2023 at 11:41 PM

Thank you sooooo much for your informative guide on Southern Ireland. I truly enjoyed reading about your adventures. Keep on adventuring and sharing it with all of us!!

William Tang says

March 9, 2023 at 1:18 PM

Thanks for stopping by! You’re welcome and oh how I miss the southern part of Ireland. Hope you have an amazing time when you go!!

Sara Riobom says

June 22, 2022 at 12:21 PM

Really cool article, William. As a fellow travel blogger I am finding it hard to find really informative and honest articles to plan my trip to Ireland, and yours helped a lot. Thanks! :)

June 23, 2022 at 8:48 PM

I’m so glad Sara!!

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  • Scenic South West Ireland Tour (7 Night)

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Tour Overview

Great tour company.

It has been a difficult time for all of us. I booked a self driving tour through Irish Tourism that was cancelled due to Covid issues with travel. The booking process was excellent and thorough. It wa Read more »

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Stephanie was an amazing source of help, assistance and knowledge for our first trip to Ireland. She kept us informed of the every changing covid rules as well as adapted to our many - at least three- Read more »

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Staff was extremely attentive and very flexible when it came to organizing our trip. All questions were answered quickly and in great detail. When some aspects of our selected trip had to be altered d Read more »

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Stephanie at Irish Tourism booked our trip- she was wonderful to work with. I am picky about my rooms - when we booked the trip I requested more spacious accommodations and paid accordingly. We had Read more »

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A driving tour of Ireland’s South West region offers visitors a great diversity of scenery, culture and leisure activities.

The counties of Cork, Kerry & Clare lay claim to some of the most varied and spectacular scenery in the country. The south western coastline, sculpted by the ice-age and influenced by the warm waters of the Gulf Stream, is steeped in ancient history and folklore. This rugged, mountainous terrain, dotted with crystal clear lakes and traversed by meandering rivers, is the perfect destination for a truly memorable vacation. With its rocky and moonlike landscape, County Clare, the Burren region and the spectacular Cliffs of Moher present an interesting contrast to the Cork/Kerry region.

You will truly enjoy the end of your tour in County Clare, the home to so much of our traditional music and dance.

However there is more to the South West region than just stunning scenery; it is the people that really make a lasting impression. Warm and friendly, always willing to help a visitor with directions and a smile, you will feel very welcome. In the evenings you can enjoy the ‘craic’ - the Irish for having a good time - in a local village pub, many of which host impromptu traditional music sessions. Ireland’s South West - once visited, never forgotten!

What's included

  • Accommodation in rooms with Private Bathroom Facilities 
  • Full Irish Breakfast Each Morning
  • Rental Car or Chauffeur Driven Car
  • 24/7 Local Telephone Support During Your Trip
  • Our Renowned Customized Sightseeing Guide
  • Unlimited Services of Experienced Ireland Based Travel Planner
  • Map of Ireland

Tour highlights

Bunratty castle & folk park, cliffs of moher, cobh heritage centre, dingle peninsula, muckross house, gardens & traditional farms.

  • Skellig Experience

Blarney Castle

where to visit south west ireland

Overnights for this tour

  • Kinsale, County Cork for 2 Nights
  • County Kerry for 3 Nights
  • County Clare for 2 Nights

Accommodation options

  • Superior & First Class Hotels
  • 4-Star Country Manor Houses
  • 4 & 5 Star Irish Castles
  • Handpicked B&B's with private facilities
  • Any Combination of the above

Tour itinerary

Day 1 - shannon to kinsale.

where to visit south west ireland

Travel to Kinsale via Limerick City, Blarney and Cork City. Among the most interesting attractions in Limerick are King John’s Castle and The Hunt Museum . From there, the direct route to the small coastal town of Kinsale will allow you to ‘Kiss the Blarney Stone’ at Blarney Castle and visit the Cobh Heritage centre near Cork. Cobh, situated on one of the world’s largest natural harbours, was the last port of call for the ill-fated Titanic in 1912 and was the closest port to the site of the sinking of the Lusitania in 1915. The Heritage centre also recounts the story of those Irish who left Ireland during ‘The Famine’. An optional detour includes visits to ‘The Rock of Cashel’ and ‘Cahir Castle’, both in Tipperary and both are amongst Ireland’s premiere historic attractions. Kinsale is a delightful harbour town that has retained its old world charm and has a myriad of old Irish pubs and excellent restaurants as well history laden attractions such as the Desmond Castle Museum and the star shaped ‘Charles Fort’ from the 17 th century.

Day 2 - Kinsale & Surrounds

where to visit south west ireland

Kinsale prides itself to be the gourmet capital of Ireland, boasting abundant superb restaurants and atmospheric traditional pubs. A great deal of your vacation time could indeed be spent in Kinsale itself but if you wish to venture out further afield, your Irish Tourism tailor-made itinerary will help you do just that!  If you did not have a chance to visit the following of Kinsale's major attractions, make sure to include them today. Desmond Castle and the International Museum of Wine , which was built in about 1500, had many uses. In 1600 and 1601 it was used as an arsenal by Don Juan Aguilla during the Spanish occupation of the town which lasted for 100 days prior to the Battle of Kinsale in 1601. In the 17th century the castle became popularly known as the "French prison" and was used for prisoners of war, most of whom were captured at sea. During the American war of Independence, the crews of many American vessels were held prisoner in Kinsale in poor conditions. Other notable attractions include Charles Fort , the 17th Century star-shaped fort. St. Multose Church is well worth a visit and was built in 1190. The Courthouse and Regional Museum in was used for ceremonial occasions in the 18th century. In 1915, the Courthouse was used for the inquest into the sinking of the Lusitania. The Regional Museum is now housed in the Courthouse.

Day 3 - Kinsale to Kerry

where to visit south west ireland

Today you have the option of the scenic but longer coastal route or the shorter route via Blarney Castle. The longer route includes visits to Mizen Head, the southernmost point in Ireland, as well as Bantry House and Gardens and the French Armada Centre, also in Bantry. From Bantry, you will be heading north to Killarney via the Healy Pass. Have your cameras at the ready for some breathtaking scenery across the Caha Mountains that divide Cork from Kerry. After the mountain pass, you come to the town of Kenmare. The town was founded in 1670 by Sir William Petty and has a history of lace making, demonstrations of which can be seen at the town’s Heritage Centre. The alternative route for todays journey is a shorter one. First stop is the famed Blarney Castle where a climb to the ramparts to kiss the Blarney Stone is said to bestowe the gift of eloquence, otherwise known as ‘the Gift of the Gab’. From there it is straight to Killarney. With its three famous lakes and majestic mountain ranges, Killarney has been the inspiration of poets and painters over many centuries. The Killarney National Park is internationally renowned both for its scenic beauty and scientific interest. There are many walks and trails around Killarney including a 2-hour tourist trail around the town itself. You will also have a chance to visit Ross Castle, the Gap of Dunloe or simply take a stroll through the streets of this quaint town to enjoy the great pubs and enjoy the traditional Irish music on offer.

Day 4 - Killarney Sightseeing & Ring of Kerry

where to visit south west ireland

On everyone’s bucket list while in Killarney is to discover the Ring of Kerry through a driving tour. The Ring of Kerry is a journey through some of the country’s most outstanding scenery around the Iveragh Peninsula. Stunning mountain and coastal scenery combined with colourful towns and villages will make this one of the highlights of your tour. For those who wish to take a break from driving we can arrange a bus tour through this route. Following the peninsula drive, you then arrive at Muckross House. Muckross House is a magnificent Victorian mansion completed in 1843 for Henry Arthur Herbert. The location of the House is spectacular, close to the eastern shore of Muckross Lake and set beneath the impressive backdrop of Torc and Mangerton Mountains. As an alternative to the Ring of Kerry tour you may prefer to take a wonderful tour by pony and trap that takes you through the Black Valley in the Gap of Dunloe. After an optional snack at Lord Brandon’s Cottage, you will return to Killarney by boat via the beautiful lakes of Killarney.

Day 5 - Killarney Sightseeing & Dingle Peninsula

where to visit south west ireland

The Dingle Peninsula has more interesting historic sites and varied mountain scenery than any other part of Ireland. Some of the scenery includes sandy beaches and craggy cliffs and further inland you will see rolling hills and mountains including 952m Mount Brandon (second highest mountain in Ireland). The main town Dingle is the most westerly in Europe and attracts large numbers of visitors each year, many of whom come to learn the Irish language in the surrounding Irish speaking district. Also in the area are An Dún Beag Promontory Fort from 800 BC as well as the Blasket Islands and Gallarus Oratory. Gallarus Oratory was built between the seventh and eighth century and is the best preserved early Christian church in Ireland. On to Brandon Creek from where legend has it that St. Brendan discovered the North American continent in the 6th century. If you wish to stay closer to Killarney, take a wonderful walk or pony and trap through the Gap of Dunloe and the Black Valley, returning to Killarney by boat across the Lakes of Killarney.

Day 6 - Kerry to Clare via Adare

where to visit south west ireland

One of the most dramatic days of your tour brings you from Killarney to the west coast of County Clare. First stop will be the Village of Adare in County Limerick. Adare is regarded by many a seasoned traveller as Ireland’s prettiest village with its charming thatched cottages, manicured public park and ancient church. From Adare continue towards Limerick City of ‘Angela’s Ashes’ fame and home to King Johns Castle . Shortly after this, you arrive at Bunratty Castle . Built in 1425, this majestic castle was restored in 1954 to its former medieval splendour. Within the grounds of the Castle is Bunratty Folk Park where 19th century Irish life is vividly recreated. Continuing on to the magnificent ‘ Cliffs of Moher ’. The majestic Cliffs of Moher are without doubt one of Ireland’s most spectacular sights and overlook the Atlantic Ocean on the coast of West Clare. You then arrive at the village of Doolin . Doolin is world-famous for its wealth of Irish folk music and in recent years has been attracting crowds to spontaneous sessions in any one of its excellent pubs. Just north of the Cliffs you then have the lunar like Burren region and the ancient Poulnabrone Dolmen Tombs .

Day 7 - While in Clare

where to visit south west ireland

The Burren Centre in Kilfenora may be on your list of must visits in this area as you will learn about the creation of the unique rocky and karst landscape that covers the area and see how thousands of years ago man left his mark in the form of Dolmens and burial chambers. Should you wish to visit one of these monuments; the Poulnabrone Dolmen can easily be found nearby.  One of Ireland’s most iconic and famous monuments, the Dolmen covers a mass grave which when excavated the remains of 16-22 adults were found as well as some stone axes and pottery. Just beyond the Poulnabrone Dolmen are the Aillwee Caves. Regarded by many as Ireland’s premier show caves, this stunning creation of nature was formed by the melt waters of a prehistoric ice age. The caves, carved out of limestone, cut into the heart of the mountain can be explored by guided tour from the visitor centre. The remarkable unspoilt Aran Islands are easily reached from the adjacent town of Doolin by Ferry.  The largest island is Inishmore, followed by Inishmaan and the smallest and most eastern is called Inisheer. Irish is a spoken language, and traditional Irish ways of life can easily be seen on all three islands. Whichever island you choose to visit, you can be sure that an intimate touring coach will await you at the ferry terminal to show you all the local sights, sounds and traditions.

Tour attractions

where to visit south west ireland

Bunratty Castle is now a very popular tourist attraction. The interior has been furnished by Lord Gort with tapestries & artifacts from various eras in the history

where to visit south west ireland

The Burren is a unique karst-landscape region in northwest County Clare, in Ireland and one of the largest Karst landscapes in Europe.

where to visit south west ireland

The Cliffs of Moher boast one of Ireland's most spectacular views On a clear day the Aran Islands are visible in Galway Bay as are the valleys and hills of Connemara.

where to visit south west ireland

The Cobh Heritage Centre provides information on life in Ireland through the 18th and 19th centuries, the mass emigration, the Great Famine, and on how criminals were transported...

where to visit south west ireland

The Conor Pass is the highest mountain pass in Ireland. It is situated on the Dingle Peninsula in County Kerry, on the road that crosses the peninsula between Dingle Town and the...

where to visit south west ireland

There are so many things to see, to do, to explore, to experience on the Dingle Peninsula . . . from almost 2,000 archaeological sites, to more walking than you could fit into a ...

where to visit south west ireland

Doolin is small fishing village on a sandy bay world-famous for its wealth of Irish music & has been attracting crowds to spontaneous sessions and festivals. Overlooked by Doonag...

where to visit south west ireland

Ring of Kerry

Admire breathtaking vistas of mountains, cliffs and beaches on Ireland’s most popular drive, the 100-mile Ring of Kerry.

where to visit south west ireland

Blarney Castle is a medieval stronghold in Blarney, near Cork, Ireland. It is near the River Martin. The castle originally dates from before AD 1200. It was destroyed in 1446, bu...

where to visit south west ireland

Muckross House was built for Henry Arthur Herbert and his wife, the water-colourist Mary Balfour Herbert. This was actually the fourth house that successive generations of the He...

Tour Prices

Accommodation with car rental pricing.

  • Please note prices are per person based on 2 persons in each room with full Irish breakfast and taxes included.
  • The Combination package includes 3 Nights in 3*** Hotels, 2 nights in Luxury Manor House Hotels & 2 Nights in our hand-picked B&B's.
  • Children Sharing with 2 adults (aged 2-11) pay 40% of the Adult option.
  • Children under the age of 2 are free when sharing with 2 Adults.
  • Small supplement applies if last night(s) are in Dublin instead of Galway
  • Your Accommodation & Car Rental Package rate includes an Economy class car e.g., Opel Corsa or Fiat Punto.
  • Included with your car is all compulsory insurances - Collision Damage Waiver insurance (CDW with an excess/deductible), theft protection insurance, location fee of €30, Road fund tax, sales tax at 13.5%, unlimited free mileage, third party liability insurance, 24 hour peace of mind break down cover.

Private Chauffeur Option Available For This Tour

  • Enjoy the services of an experienced and friendly driver guide
  • Luxury vehicles so you get to travel in style and comfort
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  • You get to see the scenery instead of worrying about crashing into it!
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8 Best Things to Do in Southwest Ireland

8 Best Things to Do in Southwest Ireland

Last Updated on May 30, 2023

If you have ever been to Ireland, you may have flown into Dublin, visited Temple Bar, toured Trinity College, and raised a pint at the Guinness Storehouse. Maybe you drove across the country to marvel at the Cliffs of Moher or wound your way through medieval castles. All of these activities are perfect for a trip to the Emerald Isle, but you need to make another visit and see some of the spectacular areas of Ireland off the beaten path. 

For a completely different Ireland adventure, try heading down south where the Atlantic Ocean crashes against jagged rocks and the winding roads always lead you to spectacular views. 

Here are the top eight places to visit in Southwest Ireland: 

To visit Southwest Ireland, fly into Shannon Airport on the west coast and often touted as an easy, low-key way to enter the country. Depending on your arrival time, you could stop in Limerick for breakfast on your way south. Maybe take a half-day pause to drive along the River Shannon and admire the Georgian townhouses or visit the medieval St. John’s Castle.

You have a two-and-a-half-hour drive ahead of you, so meander and admire the scenery. Remember: you drive on the left here! 

Arriving in Bantry you will find a charming town on the headwaters of Bantry Bay, a deep-water gulf that extends close to 20 miles from the northwest of town. There are a few hotels and B&Bs to choose from, a large grocery store, auto repair shop, and a small town square with cafes and local shops to peruse. 

The most famous attraction is Bantry House, a grand estate purchased by the White family in 1765 and still lived in and managed by them today. It was used as a hospital for five years during the Irish Civil War and opened to the public in 1946.

There are six rooms available to reserve, all including a full Irish breakfast and access to gardens, a tearoom, and private function accommodations. After exploring for a bit, settle into your lodging and enjoy the peaceful ambiance of this small town.

The Ring of Beara​

Many people have heard of the Ring of Kerry, a delightful drive past marvelous villages and towns along the Wild Atlantic Way. The tour operators also know Kerry, and on many websites, travelers are advised to get going before 9 a.m. and to remember to make the trip clockwise around the ring to avoid getting stuck behind slow-moving tour buses. 

There is a better strategy: forgo the Ring of Kerry and drive along the Ring of Beara instead. The same spectacular cliffs and crashing Atlantic, the same wildflowers on the side of the very narrow roads, and even stone circles from the Bronze Age and castles to visit.

In fact, there are over 500 historical sites along this 55- to 80-mile loop. 

From Bantry, you could drive the 47 miles to Kenmare and start your loop going along the coast that way. If you choose this route, you will be closer to Dunboy Castle and a few towns to stop in if you want to stretch your legs. 

For a route along the south side, leave Bantry and head for the closer Glengarriff. Taking this route south, you will pass through undeveloped land with breathtaking views along the side of the road. There are many places to pull over for pictures and to soak it all in. The first town you will see is Trafrask, then Rodeen, but keep driving. 

At the end of the road is the Dursey Island Cable Car in Lacharo. Now, if you want to get a ticket and take the cable car over to Dursey Island, plan to spend a bit of time waiting. The cars only hold six passengers and combined with the slow traverse over the churning water below, it can make for a long process. If you choose not to ride, simply walking around this little piece of heaven at the end of a peninsula jutting out into the Atlantic should be enough to get your heart racing.

It is quite mesmerizing to sit and watch the power of nature in such a pristine and unspoiled setting. 

After absorbing as much natural beauty as you can handle, you have a choice of either continuing around the whole ring or going back the way you came. It all depends on how much time you want to spend and how adept you are at driving a tiny stick shift car around narrow curvy roads with stone walls and hedges on either side.

​Baltimore is the main village in the parish of Rathmore, the southernmost parish in Ireland, and the final stop on the Wild Atlantic Way. 

A harbor town, Baltimore’s tiny 400-person population swells in the summer with visitors to the various weekend festivals from May to September. Depending on when you are there, you could partake in the Wooden Boat Festival, which shares a weekend with the Seafood Fest; the Pirate Week-end, a tongue-in-cheek ode to the pirates who once plied the shores of the harbor; or the always exciting Baltimore Regatta sailboat race. 

It is a small enough place to see everything there is to see, especially if you are not there on a festival weekend, in a short period of time. And yes, Baltimore, Maryland is named after Ireland’s second Lord Baltimore of the Irish House of Lords. 

Skibbereen 

​15 minutes’ drive north of Baltimore is the larger town of Skibbereen, meaning “little harbor.” This is a charming mid-sized town on the Ilen River.

The river is known as one of the best rivers in Ireland for salmon fishing, and even maintains a fishing area for anglers with disabilities. The local rowing club is the top rowing club in Ireland, with 181 Irish National Rowing Championships since its inception in 1970. 

There are pubs and restaurants, shops lining the narrow streets, and a heritage center where you learn all about the history of the town. The Ilen River meets the sea at Baltimore’s harbor, making these two towns close enough for a fun day trip. There is enough to see and do when you combine the two. 

Blarney Castle 

​Visit the more tourist-centric Blarney Castle, where you will partake in the perennially popular kissing of the Blarney Stone. The castle is near Cork, the second largest city in the Republic of Ireland (and the third largest on the island of Ireland after Belfast). If you have purchased your tickets in advance, head to the castle and get in line.

There’s a steep climb to reach the area where you kiss the stone, and some sections are quite narrow. If you are claustrophobic you may not enjoy this part. Luckily, there are many interesting things to look at on your way up, and several landings have small windows with a view of the castle grounds and town beyond. 

When it’s your turn, follow the directions of the guides at the top. You’ll lie down fully on your back, grasp two metal handrails on either side of your head, and lean back in the direction of the wall behind you. There you will hopefully see what you are kissing, give it a quick peck, and sit up.

At least you aren’t being held by your ankles and lowered head first over the battlements as was the practice in previous centuries!

Your reward? Since you have just kissed the Stone of Eloquence, you will never again be at a loss for words; some call the reward the gift of gab, but whatever you call it, you worked hard for it and should be proud to say you have kissed the Blarney Stone. 

Head back down to the first floor and take your time walking the grounds of the castle. The estate is filled with fascinating plants, well laid out for the novice or expert.

One especially interesting section is the Poison Garden, boasting plants such as wolfsbane, mandrake, and opium in cage-like structures to keep curious visitors from touching their lethal leaves. Eight additional garden areas could keep you busy for some time, as well as various paths that circle the castle grounds and bring you to areas like a fern garden and a horse graveyard. 

Once you’ve explored the grounds, relax by sipping tea at the Stableyard Cafe and browsing for a souvenir (besides the photo of the stone kissing) to commemorate this lovely day. 

Cork City Gaol

​There are numerous tourist attractions in the city of Cork proper. The first stop could be Cork City Gaol, once touted as the “finest in three kingdoms,” meaning the finest prison. At its inception, both males and females who committed crimes within the city limits were sent there.

By the 1870s the prison had transitioned to a female-only facility, and by the early 1900s, it was no longer used as a prison but as a broadcasting station. 

After its stint as a radio station, the buildings and grounds sat empty and decaying for decades, until it was finally restored for use as a museum and visitor attraction. Now a bustling venue, the Cork City Gaol hosts guided tours, school groups, evening events, and even catered weddings and corporate team building events. 

On your tour, make sure you visit the weighing chair. This replica of the original, which is housed on Spike Island, was used from the 1800s to weigh each prisoner upon arrival and departure of the prison. If the prisoner gained weight it was assumed he or she was stealing food from others. Visitors are allowed to sit in the chair, perhaps alerting family members to an overindulgence in Irish beer? 

Elizabeth Fort 

​As you may guess about a building that traces its construction to 1601, Fort Elizabeth has been transformed many times over the last several hundred years. After the death of Queen Elizabeth, the city of Cork revolted and the fort was attacked by over 800 men. 

By 1624 it had been rebuilt of stone in the current shape, and over the years many iterations of the fort were realized. Everything from housing prisoners awaiting deportation to Australia, to a food depot feeding thousands during the famine, to an air raid shelter during WWII, has taken place inside the stone walls of this fort. 

You can visit this attraction daily for guided tours, and no advanced reservation is required. You may also secure a group tour by emailing ahead.

Be advised that due to its ancient structure there is not reliable disabled access. 

St. Patrick’s Street

​If you’re feeling tired after absorbing all of the history Cork has to offer, you could always go shopping. Make your way to St. Patrick’s Street, affectionately referred to as ‘Pana’ by Cork natives. There you will find a historic street that was originally laid out in 1690 after the siege of Cork.

The residents began reclaiming the marshes and areas of the marshy islands around the channel of the River Lee, and the streets were eventually developed on both sides of the river channel. 

By 1783 the present-day street was formed. In the prosperity of the 1800s, more marshes were drained to form new streets, and merchants and residents alike flocked to the newly named St. Patrick’s Street to window shop, visit friends, or have a drink. 

In the 1990s there was too much vehicle traffic on the street, and to make pedestrians safer and happier, the area underwent an extensive redesign between the years of 2002-2004. Now there are fewer cars, wider sidewalks, and a festive atmosphere on the street, which has been awarded Ireland’s Best Shopping Street several times since the redesign. 

Cynthia is an elementary/middle school English teacher. In addition to helping young students become better writers, she has begun to branch out and write about her travel experiences. She loves to travel by train and explore cities on foot. Portugal is on her must-visit list, as well as Greece. She would also love a return trip to Ireland and Scotland.

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where to visit south west ireland

17 Fabulous Things to Do in Ireland with Teens

V isiting Ireland with teens is a fantastic idea, whether you have older teens or younger children. If it’s their first time in Europe, the lack of a language barrier makes it easy to find new friends. The distinctive Irish culture, lush green national parks, fascinating historic sites, and traditional Irish music will make any family trip to the Emerald Isle a truly unique experience. 

Whether you’re planning a weeks-long road trip for the whole family or a short city break, this guide covers all the top attractions and destinations ideal for young people. It’s split by area so you can find Ireland teen travel inspiration for the parts of the country you’re visiting!

Best Places to Explore in Ireland with Teens

East coast of ireland with teens.

The East Coast is home to the capital of Ireland and its many attractions as well as a beautiful national park. It’s a great place to visit if you don’t have a lot of time to spend in Ireland with teens.

1. Dublin Attractions

You can’t visit Ireland with teens without visiting Dublin . As the capital city, it’s one of the most famous and storied parts of the country. Its city center straddles the River Liffey with rows of bridges and pockets of historic neighborhoods.

Teenagers will love listening to live music in pubs. They don’t have to be 18 years old (the drinking age in Ireland). Many licensed pubs (including the famous Temple Bar pub) will admit accompanied children until 9 pm.

Grafton Street in Dublin is teeming with buskers all day, every day. These street performers really put on a show so it’s great fun to walk up and down the road.

Don’t sidestep the Guinness Storehouse with the assumption it’s for drinking-age adults only. Touring through the brewing process and history is fun for the whole family. Be sure to grab a photo in front of the famous St James’s Gate.

Do you have Irish ancestry? Visiting the EPIC: The Irish Immigration Museum is a must. You can learn about global Irish history and can even trace ancestors using their archives.

Visiting the Trinity College Library and seeing the Book of Kells, one of the oldest books in the world, and the phenomenal Long Room (which looks like a library from  Harry Potter ) is also a fun experience.

Check out the darker side of Dublin by taking your teens on a ghost tour. Teenagers 14+ can join this  spooky ghost bus tour  to graveyards, haunted museums, and Victorian theaters led by a costumed tour guide.

Take a walking tour through Kilmainham Gaol , a former Georgian jail turned visitors center.

2. Wicklow Mountains National Park

Just an hour’s drive south of Dublin is one of Ireland’s six national parks – the Wicklow Mountains. It’s famous for dense forests, hiking and cycling paths, and beautiful lakes like the magical Glendalough.

You can visit the Wicklow Mountains to enjoy Ireland’s natural beauty as a  day trip from Dublin  or an easy side trip. Although Glendalough is a nature reserve so no boats or canoes are permitted, you can paddleboard or kayak on the Avonbeg and Avonmore rivers instead. 

The 5.9-mile Glendalough Loop is one of the best hiking trails in Ireland with teens. You can find it in Wicklow Mountains National Park. It’s a moderately challenging long walk and offers incredible views of this spectacular landscape.

Blessington Greenway is a gorgeous 3.5-mile cycling route around the Blessington Lakes if you’re short on time or would prefer to hire bikes.

3. Stay at Kilkea Castle Hotel

One of the best things to do in Ireland is to stay in a real castle overnight. But most are $$$ and cater to honeymooning couples rather than families with teens. Kilkea Castle Hotel & Golf Resort is a surprisingly affordable 12th-century estate with turrets and arrow slit windows.

Kilkea Castle’s hotel rooms average around $200 per night and is only an hour’s drive south of Dublin. It’s the perfect place to stop on a road trip from the capital to the south of Ireland. Check off your dream of staying in an Irish castle !

West Coast of Ireland With Teens

Ireland’s West Coast is famous for the Wild Atlantic Way. This coastal route stretches 1,553 miles from the Inishowen Peninsula in County Donegal through County Sligo, Mayo, Galway, Clare, and County Kerry in the south. Visit during the summer months so you have access to the ferries heading to nearby islands.

4. Cliffs of Moher

One of the best places to visit in Ireland with teens and older children is the Cliffs of Moher. This rocky coastline stretches for nine miles along the Atlantic Ocean. There are incredible views of the Aran Islands and the 702 ft tall cliffs at their highest point.

Check out the Cliffs of Moher Experience if your kids will find the geology and science behind the cliffs interesting. Hike the eight-mile Cliffs of Moher Walk from Doolin to Hag’s Head (and take the bus back) if they love adventure.

Your teens may know Galway City best for Ed Sheeran’s hit song ‘Galway Girl’ which in recent years has caused this already lively city to boom with visitors. 

Its Latin Quarter is crammed with centuries-old pubs with colorful facades (including O’Connell’s Bar, The Salt House, and The Quays which appear in the ‘Galway Girl’ music video). Like in Dublin, teenagers under 18 years old can enter many pubs until 9 pm. 

Jewelry shops line Quay Street, which is where you can buy Galway’s famous Claddaugh rings if you want to treat your teenagers. Claddaugh jewelry has the symbol of a heart for love, a crown for loyalty, and two hands for friendship.

Teens may also be interested in visiting Galway Cathedral, a new church only built in 1965 with a mosaic of JFK.

6. Connemara National Park

While Connemara National Park is one of the smaller Irish national parks, there is one very good reason to visit. Many Irish teenagers and children attend a sleepaway outdoor activity center (similar to American summer camps) during their summer holidays from school and so can your kids!

Delphi Adventure Centre Resort   is based in Connemara National Park where kids aged ten to 17 can attend five or seven-day camps. Teens can take part in a huge range of group activities like rock climbing and zip-lining as well as water activities like rock climbing and swimming. They also offer family adventure breaks so parents can get involved too.

If you’d rather explore the park independently, you can! Hike up Diamond Hill for views of the Twelve Bens (the highest peaks in Connemara) and visit Kylemore Abbey. This Gothic mansion is still home to an order of nuns after 100 years and they have the most beautiful gardens on the banks of Pollacapall Lough.

7. Skellig Islands

One of only two UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the Republic of Ireland, the Skellig Islands off the coast of County Kerry are the best experience you can have in Ireland if your teens are Star Wars fans. The largest of the two Skellig Islands, Skellig Michael, was one of the main filming locations in  The Last Jedi ! 

They’re also important for being the location of one of the first early Christian monasteries, as well as being a thriving puffin nesting site. Visit via ferry between April and July to spot the cute birds with multicolored beaks.

8. Ring of Kerry Scenic Drive

County Kerry has two incredible scenic drives perfect for exploring Ireland with teens! One is the Ring of Kerry , a 110-mile coastal loop around the Iveragh Peninsula. It includes Killarney National Park and follows the protected waterways of Kenmare Bay.

Some highlights that your teens might enjoy visiting on this great trip around the Ring of Kerry are Sneem, Waterville, and Kenmare. Kenmare Stone Circle, in particular, is pretty cool as it’s one of the largest stone circles in the area, measuring 56 x 49 ft and dating back to the Bronze Age.

You could also veer slightly south of the Ring of Kerry route to visit the lush Bonane Valley. Here, you can check out Bonane Heritage Park which is a private preserve and one of the most important archeological sites in the country with a lot of old forts and stone circles.

9. Dingle Peninsula Scenic Drive

The other scenic route in Ireland is Slea Head Drive, a 24-mile scenic drive around the tip of the Dingle Peninsula. But you have to drive to the bottom of the Dingle Peninsula to reach this beautiful route, so you might as well explore other highlights along the way!

Stop by the port town of Dingle for fish and chips, the 16th-century ruined Minard Castle (totally free!), and spectacular Inch Beach that juts 5 km out of the coastline. At the tip of the peninsula, you can visit the Tóchar Maothaithe beehive huts where early Christian monks used to live.

All of these attractions are just a short walk from the scenic route, so you can visit them all.

10. Killarney National Park

The first and arguably the best national park in Ireland, Killarney in the Roughty River Valley is home to lakes, castles, waterfalls, and hiking trails. Driving (or hiking) along the Gap of Dunloe, a high narrow pass in the hills, offers the most incredible views of wild Killarney National Park.

Visit Muckross House and Muckross Abbey, two old buildings with ties to Queen Victoria.  Kayak across Lough Leane  or Muckross Lake and check out the ruined structures of Innisfallen Abbey and Ross Castle. Your teens will love hiking to Torc Waterfall or Derrycunnihy Falls and hiking along the banks of the lakes.

South of Ireland With Teens

County Cork is Ireland’s largest county, but Waterford, Wexford, Kilkenny, Tipperary, and Limerick have a lot of attractions to offer teenagers too. It’s a good place to visit with castles and museums open year-round with lively cities and picturesque towns.

11. Rock of Cashel

No family road trip around Ireland is complete without visiting the Rock of Cashel, one of Ireland’s most important sites that you may not have heard about! It is a rocky limestone outcrop in County Tipperary with a cluster of medieval churches and other religious sites at the top.

It’s supposedly the site where St. Patrick, Ireland’s famous patron saint, converted the King of Munster to Christianity in the 5th century. Must-visit buildings include Hore Abbey, the Round Tower, Cashel Folk Village, Cormac’s Chapel, and the cemetery.

12. Kinsale

Kinsale is a small, colorful port town that marks the southernmost point of the Wild Atlantic Way coastal route. As well as being a picturesque seaside town, your teens will enjoy visiting two of the town’s best attractions: James Fort and Charles Fort.

Both forts were built in the 17th century on the River Bandon to protect the region. If your teens enjoy the beauty of Kinsale and you have extra time, head over to Cobh for more vivid streets.

13. Blarney Castle

Drive through the stunning Blackwater Valley en route to Blarney Castle in County Cork. While this 15th-century ruined castle might not look like much from the outside, it has a famous legend.

Everyone who kisses the Blarney Stone receives the ‘gift of the gab’ as Irish people would say. This magical stone is supposed to make you more eloquent when you kiss it!

One of the best things about taking part in this ritual is that you have to lean back and hold on to two metal poles to reach the specific stone. Almost impossible with young kids, but a funny and unique way to spend an afternoon in Ireland with teens.

14. Jerpoint Park

County Kilkenny is home to Jerpoint Park , home of an important Irish heritage site. A local guide can take you and your teens around the Lost Town of Newtown Jerpoint, a 12th-century medieval town, which includes seeing the tomb effigy of St. Nicholas. It was once made up of a courthouse, a mill, a tannery, a brewery, and almost 30 houses.

This land is now a family-owned farm where you can watch sheepdog demonstrations. The Church of St. Nicholas was restored in 2012 after centuries of neglect so it’s an impressive site.

Northern Ireland With Teens

Northern Ireland boasts some of the most spectacular coastal landscapes on the whole island. If traveling to Ireland with teens is becoming pricey, swapping Dublin for Belfast is a great way to cut down costs.

15. Giant’s Causeway

Northern Ireland’s only UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Giant’s Causeway cannot be missed on any road trip of Ireland with teens. This area of the Causeway coastline consists of basalt columns in interlocking geometric shapes. It seems impossible that it was created by nature. You can walk over the columns and take incredible photos!

The myth is that two feuding giants, one in Ireland and the other in Scotland, built a causeway so they could fight. This patch of coastline is what remains of the bridge. It is free to visit although there is a visitors center where you can learn more about the science and magic behind this beautiful landform.

16. Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge

First built in the 18th century by salmon fisherman, the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge connects mainland Northern Ireland with a small island. It’s a 66 ft-long rope bridge suspended almost 100 ft above the rocky cliffs and sea below. 

While smaller kids might not get a kick out of the dizzying heights and precarious wooden panels, your teens will! There are long lines during the summer months so book your tickets ahead.

17. Titanic Belfast

Belfast is Northern Ireland’s capital city famous for its murals and political past as well as being the birthplace of the Titanic. Yes, the fateful ship was built in the docks of Belfast. In 2012, 100 years after its tragic first voyage, the Titanic Belfast Experience opened in the spot where it was built.

This experience walks you through the history of Belfast in 1912, the people who made and designed the ship, and absolutely anything else to know about it. The state-of-the-art attraction includes a fun ride, scale models, and even artifacts found on the ship like deck chairs and violins. There’s nowhere better to learn more about the ship and your teens will love it!

Check Out These Incredible Things To Do in Ireland With Teens

Most of the things to do in Ireland with teens will appeal to the whole family. Young adults are usually seeking the coolest attractions or the most adrenaline-inducing activities. Ireland offers a ton of different experiences.

Younger teens (and tweens) will love Ireland’s medieval castles and interactive museums like Dublin Castle and EPIC. Whereas older teens might love the pubs of Galway and the cliffs of the Wild Atlantic Way. Hopefully, this list has given you a lot of places and experiences to add to your next family holiday trip to the Emerald Isle!

The post 17 Fabulous Things to Do in Ireland with Teens appeared first on Kids Are A Trip™ .

Planning an Ireland family vacation? If you are visiting Ireland with teens (or tweens), they are sure to love the outdoor adventures, fabulous food, and rich history. Here are the best things to do in Ireland with teens! -

European Election results – Midlands-North-West, Dublin, and Ireland South constituencies

European Election Results – Midlands-North-West, Dublin, And Ireland South Constituencies

European Elections – THE NATIONAL OUTLOOK

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Sinn Féin Vows To Regroup To Be 'Formidable Force' In Next General Election

Sinn Féin vows to regroup to be 'formidable force' in next general election

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Harris defends State's electoral system as 'valued and transparent'

Election Results Complete After Days Of Counting

Election results complete after days of counting

European Elections: Mcnamara, Funchion, Ní Mhurchú Elected, Wallace Loses Seat

European elections: McNamara, Funchion, Ní Mhurchú elected, Wallace loses seat

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  1. 8 Best Things to Do in South West Ireland

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  1. South-West Ireland Visitors' Guide

    South West Ireland Visitor's Guide. The coastline of the South West is a meandering mix of inlets, coves and peninsulas, so there is plenty of opportunity for cliff-top walks and rambles. Inland, the landscape is scarcely less rugged: throughout the region, farmland is interspersed with rocky outcrops and bogs which break up the luscious green ...

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    GALLERY. The counties Cork and Kerry in the southwest of the Emerald Isle are blessed with a diverse, quite mountainous landscape as well as a fascinating coastline. Here one encounters the typical image of Ireland with gentle hills and green meadows against the backdrop of the Atlantic Ocean. In the far west there are five peninsulas that ...

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    The South West corner of Ireland is known for national parks, coastal drives, historic landmarks, golf courses, and whiskey distilleries. Plan a visit to this part of Ireland to explore Killarney National Park, kiss the Blarney Stone, sip whiskey in Midleton, and see natural landmarks like the Torc Waterfall.

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    Welcome to South West Ireland. The Blarney Stone, Ring of Kerry, and Jameson Distillery are the main draws for travelers visiting this oft-overlooked part of Ireland. But those who stay longer than a day in the rugged southwest discover national parks replete with peaks, lakes, and woodland; towns with famously friendly locals; and clifftops ...

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    Skibbereen. 15 minutes' drive north of Baltimore is the larger town of Skibbereen, meaning "little harbor.". This is a charming mid-sized town on the Ilen River. The river is known as one of the best rivers in Ireland for salmon fishing, and even maintains a fishing area for anglers with disabilities.

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    Ballycarbery Castle. 218. Set atop a grassy pasture overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, this crumbling, ivy-covered castle is one of Ireland's most romantic ruins. The castle, which originally dates back to the 16th century, was damaged during the 17th-century War of the Three Kingdoms.

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