A Complete 8 Days in Ireland Itinerary: to Help You Plan your Trip
Planning an 8 day Ireland Itinerary? I am here to help! Ireland is known for its dramatic coastlines, castles, colorful villages, and the most welcoming locals you will ever encounter. It gets its ‘Emerald Isle’ nickname from the rolling green hills and vast greenery around the island, due to loads of rain throughout the year.
Ireland is an extremely underrated country and is now one of my all-time favorite travel destinations I’ve ever visited. 8 days is not even enough time to experience all the beauty that Ireland has to offer. But it’s a solid amount of time for a first-time visit. Whether you choose to visit castles, national parks, or the wild Atlantic way there is something for everyone on this historic island.
Along with that, most places are steeped in Irish history and I will try my best to explain the legends of each of these places. In this 8 Day Ireland Itinerary, I’m going to cover all the highlights for you to fall in love with this country as I did! Finally, this epic Irish road trip was hosted by the Ireland Tourism Board and they planned the majority of our trip for us. Therefore, it was planned by experts!
While all opinions and recommendations are always my own, my content on this blog post may contain affiliate links for hotels I’ve traveled to, tours I’ve completed, and products I recommend. This means I get a small commission (at no additional cost to you) if you book a stay or purchase a product after clicking one of these links. As always, I am so thankful for your support so I can continue to offer free resources.
Things to Know Before Visiting Ireland
- Ireland used to be part of the British Colony. For 700’s years, the Irish lived under British reign until 1922 when they gained their independence. Because of this, you drive on the left-hand side of the road in Ireland.
- Driving on the left side scared the shit out of me at first but after the first 20 minutes, it feels normal. It’s best to practice on a highway as opposed to the narrow roads in villages.
- The outlets in Ireland are British outlets therefore you will need an adapter.
- They measure their speed in kilometers, not MPH.
- Some of the roads are very narrow so be cautious about veering off to the left side of the road and perhaps rent a small sedan rather than an SUV.
- The currency used in Ireland is euros.
- Learn the difference between Northern Ireland and Ireland. They are two entirely different countries and if you are not apt on the information you can come off as ignorant to the locals.
How to Get to Ireland
Ireland is an island so you have two options when flying to Ireland. You can fly into Shannon airport which is located on the east coast of Ireland. Or you can fly into Dublin airport. For the most cost-effective way choose to fly in and out of Dublin International Airport. Aer Lingus has many non-stop flights from major airports like JFK, BOS, and LAX. However, for convenience on your road trip, I recommend flying into Shannon airport, starting on the east coast of Ireland, and ending the trip out of Dublin. That’s exactly how I traveled and it cut down on driving time.
8 Day Ireland Itinerary breakdown
- Day 1: Fly into Shannon airport + drive down to Dingle Peninsula
- Day 2: Explore Killarney National Park
- Day 3: Ennis, Bridges of Ross, Cliffs of Moher
- Day 4: Galway + Connemara National Park + Kylemore Abbey
- Day 5: Ashford Castle + Downpatrick Head
- Day 6: Drive to Dublin + Guinness Experience
- Day 7: Dublin + Temple Bar + Trinity College
- Day 8: Depart from Dublin airport
Day 1 Dingle Peninsula
The Dingle Peninsula is the most western part of the entire island of Ireland. It stretches 30 miles in the county of Kerry and is home to rugged coastlines, Conor Pass, and the most colorful quaint village. From Shannon airport, it takes roughly 2.5 to 3 hours to get to and it’s a great starting point for your 8-day journey.
When visiting Dingle the most popular things to do would be to drive through Slea Head, visit the Blasket Islands, have a dram of whiskey in the colorful village that is home to over 60 pubs, or just relax in the countryside.
Things to Do in Dingle Peninsula
Slea Head Drive
The most scenic drive you will ever take. This 26-mile drive is to be witnessed by everyone! You don’t need to drive the entirety being that it’s a loop, but make sure to experience the stunning cliffside views and cute sheep along the way. I was amazed at how blue the water was. In order to access Slea Head drive it starts and ends in Dingle town. Follow route R559 towards Ventry and the drive will take roughly an hour. Some of the roads are very narrow around this part of the island so be cautious when driving. I recommend that you stop at Coumeenoole Beach when exploring.
Visit Dunquin Pier (Cé Dhún Chaoin)
A famous stop along Slea Head Drive is Dunquin Pier known to the locals as Cé Dhún Chaoin. You may recognize the famous narrow and winding road that leads down to the pier. It is best viewed from up above and in the distance, you can spot the Blasket Islands. There is a small lot to park on the side of the road and there are no opening hours so you can visit at any time of day.
Visit the Blasket Islands
Located a few miles off of Slea Head are the Blasket Islands. Known for its rugged wildness, heritage, and bustling marine life. It was inhabited for over 300 years until 1953 when the remaining residents were asked to leave due to the lack of basic services (there was no doctor or school). Some of the great Irish writers lived here and they kept alive old Irish folk tales of the island.
During the summer months, you can take a short ferry ride from Dunquin pier to visit the Blasket Heritage center and experience the remoteness of this island. Book your speedboat trip here!
Conor Pass links Dingle Town on the south coast of the peninsula with the settlements along the north. It sits 1500 feet above sea level and is a breathtaking drive overlooking glaciated landscapes and Coorie lake. I felt as though I was driving through a scene of outlander. You can access Conor Pass on your way down to Dingle via R560 road. At the peak, there is a small car park where you can stop and admire the view. To the south, you can admire Dingle Bay and on a clear day see out to the Aran Islands.
Explore Dingle Town
Dingle is the perfect colorful pub town. This small town is bustling with over 60 pubs and some have live music starting at 9 pm. These are the top pubs to visit in order to enjoy live music: O’Sullivan’s, McCarthy’s Bar, O’Flaherty’s Neligan’s Bar, and Nelliefreds. You can’t miss out on the local pub food. Being that Dingle is a fishing village you won’t go wrong ordering fish on the menu.
You can also explore the town at your leisure during the day and pick up some famous Murphy’s ice cream. We encountered a street performer when we visited and enjoyed shopping around for souvenirs.
Where to Stay in Dingle
Dingle Skellig Hotel: We personally stayed at the Dingle Skellig Hotel it was located a short walk from the main town and had a fabulous spa and on-site restaurant. Breakfast was included in our stay and the breakfast room looked over the water it was quite lovely. Book your stay here!
Day Two Killarney National Park
Killarney National Park was Ireland’s first national park and is now the largest in the country. Spanning over 30,000 acres, this park is famous for its idyllic lakes, rugged woodlands, and even waterfalls. There are many things to do when visiting Killarney. Whether you choose to visit an abandoned abbey from the 1400s, visit one of the two heritage sites, or walk one of the 14 wilderness trails. You can easily spend a day (or two) exploring. Finally, it’s located in county Kerry, and from Dingle, it takes roughly an hour to reach.
8 Day Ireland Itinerary: Things to Do in Killarney National Park
Muckross House & Gardens
Set on a lake that is reminiscent of Lake Como is Muckross House & Gardens. You can tour this mid 19th victorian mansion and witness artifacts from the time period. Also, surrounding the house is the famous gardens which are blooming in May & June and are best known for their rhododendrons and azaleas. They are open most days from 9 am to 5 pm with a last entrance at 4 pm. Finally, you can walk the grounds for free including the gardens however if you want to tour the house – the cost is €7 per adult.
We saw many folks take a Jaunting Car Tour here and it looked fun! Also below are some nature walks that are popular:
- Knockreer Circular Walk (2hrs)
- Muckross and Dinis (1.5hrs)
- Ross Island (1.5hrs)
- Cloghereen Nature Trail (1hr)
Now for my favorite part of Killarney, Muckross Abbey. Muckross is an ecclesiastical site that was a Franciscan friary founded in the 15th century. These ruins are very well preserved and you can explore them today for free. Complete with a tower to climb up to as well as the famous cloisters surrounded by the ancient yew tree, which is said to be as old as the abbey itself.
The Irish believe that yew trees are symbols of immortality, but are also seen as omens of doom. For many centuries it was the custom for yew branches to be carried on Palm Sunday and at funerals. Along with that, surrounding the abbey is an ancient and modern graveyard. It’s open daily and is a short walk from the car park off of N71.
Torc Waterfall blew my mind. It’s situated in the middle of a forest spanning 66 ft tall. It was formed by the nearby Owengarriff River as it drains from the “Devil’s Punchbowl” lake. Irish legend has it that the waterfall is associated with an ancient man that was cursed by the devil by turning into a wild boar every night and would roam the woods surrounding the waterfall.
There is a very small car park located off of N71 to access the waterfall. Mid-day there were no spots so I had to jump out and explore the waterfall while my friend stayed in the car. However, it’s a very short 5-10 minute walk to reach the waterfall and the surrounding woods are stunning.
Ross Castle is an ancient heritage site situated on an inlet called Ross island. It was built in the 15th century by the Chieftains of clan O’Donoghue. Legend has it that the Chieftain sleeps under the lake and every seven years arises on the first morning of May. If you catch a glimpse of him on his white horse you will have good fortune for the rest of your life.
The castle is a prime example of a 15th-century tower house. The castle was one of the last castles in Ireland to surrender to the Cromwell Army during the Irish Confederate Wars. It was restored in the 1970s and offers artifacts from the 16th and 17th centuries. Finally, there is a car park located here and it is open from March to November and costs €5 to enter.
The Ring of Kerry
The Ring of Kerry is a 111-mile loop drive around the Iveragh Peninsula in County Kerry. It takes roughly 3.5 hours to complete without stops. If you have more than one day in Killarney I would recommend driving the ring of Kerry to explore more towns throughout county Kerry. It’s a fairly narrow and winding route that spans through beautiful villages and rugged coastlines. It’s best to travel anti-clockwise and technically part of Killarney national park is located on the Ring of Kerry so you will drive a bit of it by visiting the national park.
Where to Stay in Killarney
The Brehon Hotel: Located only a short 5-minute drive from Killarney is the beautiful Brehon hotel. It felt as though we were staying in a castle and we enjoyed the best massage at the spa. Furthermore, we dined at Danu restaurant and it was incredible. Book your stay here!
Day Three Ennis, Bridges of Ross, + Cliffs of Moher
When leaving Killarney National Park you have two options on your Ireland road trip. You can drive further east and visit Cork County or take the northern route and drive up to Galway. We, unfortunately, did not stop in Cork during our travels and instead opted for the second route. On the drive up to Galway, we stopped at the town of Ennis in Clare County, Bridges of Ross, and Cliffs of Moher. It was a long driving day but was broken up by these great stops.
Finally, make sure to check the weather when visiting the coast. It can turn on a dime and unfortunately we didn’t have much visibility when visiting the Cliffs of Moher however we had fine visibility at Bridges of Ross which is only an hour and a half drive from the cliffs.
The town of Ennis in County Clare is a colorful village that lies on the River Fergus. It’s the perfect stop on your way to Bridges of Ross as it is only an hour and a half drive from Killarney. When we visited we walked around the village for a bit and grabbed a bite to eat. Finally, if you have more time you can visit the Ennis Friary.
Bridges of Ross
The Bridges of Ross were originally three natural sea arches that spanned over the Atlantic Ocean but there is only one standing today. Nevertheless, it’s a stunning hidden gem on the west coast of Ireland with breathtaking views. The top of the arch is blanketed by grass and you are able to walk on it. Do be careful as it is high up and can be extremely windy. The bridges are best viewed from above and we did fly our drone here.
When we visited we only came across one other person during our time exploring. Funnily enough, he did ask us if we were shooting a music album cover. While we were flattered it’s run-ins like this that made me feel as though the Irish are the most friendly and charming people.
Moreover, it was one of my favorite stops along our journey and you should plan to visit for 30 minutes to an hour. The bridges are not visible from the road so make sure to keep an eye out for the car park. We passed it and had to double back to find it. Finally, follow the path from the car park around the cliffs to access the bridges.
Cliffs of Moher
The most popular thing to do in Ireland is to visit the Cliffs of Moher. And for good reason! These cliffs will have you awestruck as they tower and span over 5 miles of Ireland’s western rugged coast. On a clear day, you can see out to the Aran Islands. There is a huge paved pathway that takes you along the coast up to O’Brien’s tower.
The unique landscape has inspired artists and musicians for years as well as scientists and geologists. Did you know that the cliffs host major colonies of nesting sea birds and are one of the country’s most important bird-breeding sites? It’s because of this that it was named a UNESCO geopark in 2011.
The visitor center is huge and offers dining and shopping along with exhibits. Plan to spend at least an hour or two here. During the winter months, they are open from 9 am to 5 pm and most other days from 9 am to 8 pm. Since it’s one of the most popular things to do you must book your ticket in advance.
After visiting the Cliffs, stay in Galway for the evening. This coastal city is thriving and is a bohemian and cultural center. The city’s hub is an 18th-century Eyre square lined with pubs and nightlife playing Irish folk music. There is also a Latin quarter that has boutiques, and art galleries while being surrounded by medieval city walls.
Where to Stay in Galway
Hardiman Hotel: This hotel is in a prime location located right across from the main square in Galway. We enjoyed a wonderful breakfast spread and had a delicious dinner as well. Book your stay here!
Day Four Connemara National Park + Kylemore Abbey
Visit Connemara National Park
Connemara National Park spans 5,000 acres of land in the countryside of county Galway. It’s a stunning national park surrounded by rolling green hills. Whether you visit to explore one of the many walking trails, visit the magnificent Kylemore Abbey, or just go for a drive through beautiful mountain landscapes, there are endless things to do when visiting Connemara (it’s free to visit too!). Make sure to keep your eye out for the sheep as there are loads of them and sometimes they can veer off into the road.
It’s located 1 hour and 30 minutes from Galway city so my advice is to explore Galway in the morning and head to the park in the early afternoon. First, start at the visitor center and park your car. There are four walking trails in Connemara National Park. If you want to explore more of the national park there are no other formal trails than the ones mentioned below and hike at your own risk.
Details of the trails are as follows (the time shown is the approximate duration of the walk):
- Ellis Wood Nature Trail (Green) – 0.3 miles – duration 15 minutes
- Sruffaunboy Trail (Yellow) – 1 mile – duration 40 minutes
- Lower Diamond Trail (Blue) – 1.85 miles – duration 1 hour
- Upper Diamond Trail (Red) 2.3 miles (starts at Big Rock on Lower Diamond Trail) (Blue and Red Trail combined – 2.5 hours)
Visit Kylemore Abbey
While Kylemore Abbey is not technically located in the national park it is a sight that needs to be seen! The castle, which was built in 1868, is a sprawling estate with over 30 rooms including a ballroom, a walled Victorian garden, and a neo-gothic church. For the past 100 years, it’s been home to Benedictine nuns. You can even take home handmade chocolate or soap from the nuns.
This castle has a lovely albeit tragic background. The story begins in the 1860s when a wealthy businessman and politician, Mitchell Henry, wanted to build a castle for his wife, Margaret. He was inspired by his love for his wife and his love for Ireland when building the massive estate (it only cost £18,000 back then). Unfortunately, only a few years after the estate was complete, Margaret Henry died while traveling to Egypt.
We learned so much history on our guided walking tour, and couldn’t recommend it more! Tickets cost €16 for adults and the guided tours are included (they take place from 11 am-3 pm on the hour). Plan to spend 2 hours here walking around the beautiful grounds and make sure to wear comfortable walking shoes.
Where to Stay in Connemara
Delphi Lodge: This lodge felt as though it was plucked out of a storybook. Set against the beautiful Connemara National Park and rolling green hills. It was a bit rustic but it fit the bill. The spa was beautiful and so relaxing. Book your stay here!
8 Day Ireland Itinerary: Day Five Ashford Castle
This 800-year-old castle located in the county of Mayo was easily the highlight of our trip. It’s the former home of the Guinness family and has housed many notable people over the years including King George V. The castle sits on 350 acres of land and is furnished with the most exquisite furniture and elaborate chandeliers throughout. The grounds are just as stunning and offer beautiful gardens and a view of the emerald lake.
It also is home to Ireland’s most notable falconry school. When visiting you MUST do the hawk walk. In which you walk the grounds with a private tour guide flying your own Harris Hawk through the ancient woodlands. One of the coolest travel experiences in my life and I learned so much about these beautiful birds. It costs €110 per person (group rates available) but is well worth the price tag.
Furthermore, they have other activities on the grounds including horseback riding, boat trips, clay shooting and archery, and much more. Along with that, there are over 6 dining establishments located on the property. We experienced drinks and live music in The Drawing Room which to me felt as though I was in a game of Clue. It was so fun and the drinks were spectacular.
There are two properties on Ashford Estate. We stayed in The Cottage which is more affordable than staying at Ashford Castle itself. It’s located only 5 minutes from the property and there is a driver that will take you to and fro. Book your stay at The Lodge at Ashford
Visiting Downpatrick Head is a great day trip if you have more time. This scenic peninsula overlooks the wild Atlantic and is located 2 hours from Ashford Castle. It offers breathtaking views of the Staggs of Broadhaven islands and the Dún Briste sea stack. Along with that, you can view an ancient blowhole and may be able to spot puffins as well. There is a large parking lot and you do need to walk uphill a bit to get to the view. Finally, the grass was very unique here and squishy.
Day Six Drive to Dublin + Guinness Experience + Temple Bar
Driving from Ashford Castle to Dublin will take approximately 3 hours. After you arrive in Dublin, it’s a big city so my best advice would be to ditch the car and continue using public transit and taxis. Whenever I visit a city. for the first time, I like to get a bearing on my surroundings and not plan too much on the first day.
It is a right of passage to visit the Guinness Storehouse when in Dublin. Journey through over 6 floors of incredible displays and interactions on the brand and how the beer is made. When venturing throughout there is also a tasting included and you can upgrade to have your picture printed on a pint of Guinness (it was so cool and took only a minute!). Our favorite was the floor on which they displayed all the old advertisements. Finally, make sure to visit the rooftop tasting room which has 360 degrees views of Dublin.
Dinner at The Hairy Lemon
It was a goal of mine to visit a traditional Irish pub and the hair lemon is THEE traditional Irish pub in Ireland. The hairy lemon is named after its maker who looked like a hairy lemon oddly enough. They have a lively setting and the best Guinness beef stew I have ever tasted.
Explore Temple Bar
Many people believe Temple Bar to just be a bar that is extremely famous in Dublin. However, it’s an entire area! Temple Bar is located on the south bank of the River Liffey and is a lively neighborhood with tons of bars and live music. It is an extremely touristy neighborhood however it’s to be experienced by everyone that visits Dublin. You also must stop into the famous Temple Bar pub and grab a beer.
Where to Stay in Dublin
The Merrion Hotel: We had the honor of working with the beautiful Merrion property and it was one of my favorite hotel stays to date. Not only are you located in central Dublin within walking distance of so many great spots but the attention to detail in this hotel is beyond. Breakfast is included in your stay and the food is phenomenal. Book your stay here!
Day Seven Dublin + Trinity College + Jameson Experience
Trinity College Library + Book of Kells
The prettiest library in all the land is the Trinity College Library. This impressive 2 story library dates back to the 18th century and is a book lover’s dream. The long room (which is pictured above) is one of the most photographed rooms in Ireland and is packed with stunning 300-year-old wooden shelves and over 200,000 books. Some say it was the inspiration for the Jedi archives in Star Wars.
Trinity College is also home to the infamous Book of Kells. An illuminated manuscript made by Scottish and Irish monks. It is said to be made in the year 800 and contains four gospels of the Christian New Testament. It’s one of the most famous artifacts in the world.
With everything mentioned above, it should come as no surprise that this is one of the most popular things to do, hence tons of crowds. In order to experience the library in all its splendor book the first possible arrival time and arrive to line up 30 minutes before that time. We did exactly that and were one of the first people in the Long Room. And 10 minutes later it was PACKED. However, in doing this we sacrificed seeing the Book of Kells (aside from a glance) because of this. The choice is your fam.
Visit Umbrella Street
On your walk home from Trinity College consider stopping by this cute umbrella street. It was smaller than I expected it to be but nevertheless is a cute photo opportunity. The exact location is 34 Anne’s Ln, Dublin, D02 X098, Ireland.
High tea at The Merrion Hotel
High is an entire culture in Ireland and the UK. Why not immerse yourself in that culture and book high tea at The Merrion Hotel? If you’re unable to stay here this is another great option to enjoy this luxurious property. They are currently offering high tea at €59 per person. It includes tea sandwiches, unlimited tea, and pastries. It’s so unique because the pastry chef takes inspiration from the art around the hotel and uses that in his design. You can find more information here.
The Jameson distillery on Bow street was a highlight of our Dublin visit. Founded in 1780 this was the main manufacturing place for all of Jameson Whiskey until 1975. Today, you can visit and experience the story of the family and the journey the brand went through. I highly recommend booking this tour as it was very interactive and incredibly fun! The guides were so amazing at storytelling and it lasts only an hour or so. Later on, you can enjoy a dram of whiskey in their cool bar!
Day Eight Dublin Castle + fly home
Built in the 13th century Dublin Castle was the home base of the British government for centuries. It was originally a Viking settlement and over the hundreds of years it’s been around served as a prison, court of law, and military fortress. It was handed over to the Irish government in 1922 when Ireland won its independence from Britain.
Today, it’s a popular tourist attraction. You can choose from a self-guided tour or a 1 hour guided tour. The cost is €8 and €12 respectively. If you want to bundle your tickets book this ticket in advance which includes the Trinity Library tour.
When flying out of Dublin airport it’s good to know that you go through customs before leaving Dublin. That way when you arrive at your final destination you do not have to go through customs again. It’s the only airport that does this and I have to say it makes much more sense to do it this way.
So this concludes our 8 day road trip Itinerary. I hope you gained insight into your trip to Ireland with this “The Ultimate 8 Day Ireland Itinerary “. You are going to love it as much as I did! Don’t miss out on more of my European guides. If you have any further questions, please comment below.
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