If you are looking to see hidden wonders as well its historic gems, then nothing beats the freedom of exploring Ireland than a self-drive vacation. Ireland has something for everyone from endless fields of lush green to historic monuments to enchanted coastlines.
Having the freedom of the open road, stopping off where you like, seeing exactly what you like, meeting locals and enjoying Ireland at your own pace is the perfect way to experience the country. A great option for families or travellers who prefer a little independence.
We have 8 day options and 10 day options, dividing the country in to North and South Tours. If you would like to discover Ireland – the entire country – on one trip we would recommend a 14 day tour.
What are the Benefits?
Self-driving trips to Ireland are relatively affordable with most sights and cities easily accessible. We have a great selection of rental cars so we can accommodate groups of all sizes. Also, you wouldn’t nearly see as much, and you wouldn’t get to go off the beaten track and visit the hidden gems if you didn’t have a set of wheels.
Where should I stay?
Authentic B&B’s and Guesthouses are a great and the most affordable option for a traditional Irish overnight stay and these would be more common in the smaller town and villages. However there no shortage of hotels ranging from 3-5 star in the bigger towns and cities. If you for an enchanted experience you may want to treat yourself a stay in one of Irelands Castles or Manor Houses.
When should I come?
There is not a bad time of the year to take a self-driving tour of Ireland. Most road trippers tend to come between the months of April and September which is when we tend to have the best weather and the most daylight hours.
Where should I start? Where should I go?
Our Capital City, Dublin, is the best place to start due to it having more international flight options for you to fly into Ireland. Once you arrive at the airport locating the car rental desk is quite easy. Once you have collected your car it is the short journey into the city centre. Once you’re settled in, set out to explore this historic city and its abundance of museums, memorials, cathedrals, and cafes, each offering a slice of insight into what makes Dublin special.
Opt for a guided walking tour or simply wander the city on your own leisure. Either way, don’t forget a stop at the Guinness factory, located in the heart of the city at legendary St. James’s Gate Brewery.
Cork the Rebel City
Following a well-earned rest, it’s time for your first adventure on the road. Your destination the rebel city ‘Ireland 2nd city’ of Cork. This charming, friendly city spans both sides of the broad River Lee and traces its roots back to the 6th century.
Enroute to Cork a great place to visit and stretch your legs would be the Rock of Cashel. More than just a geological feature, this spectacular group of medieval buildings set on an outcrop of limestone was once home of the high kings of Ireland
Once in Cork a great place to start is the central English Market, with its ornate vaulted ceilings, columns, and polished marble fountain. Scores of vendors set up colorful and photogenic displays of the region’s very best local produce here, including meat, fish, fruit, cheeses, and takeaway food.
A visit to the legendary Blarney Castle on the edge of the city is a must. This evocative 600-year-old fortress is only a short drive from the city and is home to the famous Blarney Stone. According to Irish legend, kissing the stone imparts the kisser with the “gift of the gab.”
Killarney National Park & the Ring of Kerry
Your next adventure has you traveling across the mountainous terrain separating Cork and the Kingdom of Kerry to the town of Killarney, home to Ireland’s oldest national park and your home for the next two day.
Killarney has a vast history with many remaining buildings and monuments, including Muckross Park, home to beautiful gardens and a 15th-century Franciscan friary, and Ross Castle, a structure on the edge of the lower lake with a history dating back to the Middle Ages. There are many activities you can participate within the park such as Kayaking on the lakes, Horseback riding and fishing. A horse-drawn carriage ride with the sunsetting is an activity highly recommended.
A drive around the Ring of Kerry is a must on anyone’s bucket list for Ireland. You will need a whole day for this. Not only is it quite a long journey at 100 miles, but it is also a slow one as you will want to stop quite often to take photos, see the various landmarks, and view the spectacular Kerry scenery.
Dingle is your next destination, as you explore this dramatic and beautiful peninsula that is littered with archaeological and historical wonders. Your first stop off will be Inch beach, famous for being the place where an inch is 3 miles long and where you can take a short walk along its golden sands. From there you head west to the edge of Europe, also known as Slea Head. Feast your eyes on breath-taking scenery of rugged coast, golden beaches, and the magnificent Blasket Island.
Cliff of Moher
Leaving the Kingdom of Kerry behind you travelling north to the colourful coastal town of Doolin. While a worthy stop, Doolin is also the approach to the famous Cliffs of Moher. The cliffs are part of a protective barrier running from the Atlantic Way down to the southern end of Burren.
The spectacle of the cliffs is best appreciated on foot, starting with a walk south from Doolin into the foothills. Take in the lower levels and layers of rock formations as you gradually ascend up their nearly 1,000-foot walls. If you’d rather enjoy the view from sea level, you can also opt to do a boat cruise.
Galway and the Burren
No self-drive trip would be complete without a visit to the bohemian capital of Ireland ‘the city of Galway’. Along the way, you can explore the lunar landscapes of the wild Burren region and see Atlantic waves rolling into Galway Bay.
Don’t spend too much time on the road as you will want to give yourself enough time to explore the streets of Galway and sample its culinary offerings or take a historic walking tour.
Travelling further West, Ireland scenery gets even more eye opening and this is ever more the case in the Connemara region. There is something for everyone is this area. Experience the extraordinary hike up Diamond Mountain, mountain biking in the regions awe inspiring hills, cliff jumping and coasteering off majestic setting of Connemara’s coastline and visit some of the best sights in the region including the historic Kylemore Abbey and more hidden gems that only the locals know about.
Now if you are looking to go off the beaten then Donegal is the place to go. Although not as popular as the South West and West this only adds to its charm of unspoilt beauty.
As you travel up the most rugged coastline of the country along the Wild Atlantic Way you will reach the magnificent cliffs of Slieve League. To fully enjoy the staggering natural spectacle, it is best to leave your car in the public parking area and walk past a few miles of breath-taking scenery to the cliff’s edge.
In land can be just as stunning with the Glenveagh National park and Castle a must see in the region. Set in some 16,500 hectares of County Donegal mountains, you have the chance to discover picturesque lakes, wild glens and woods, a large herd of red deer and the 19th Century Glenveagh Castle.
The Antrim Coastline is drive that will live on in the memory. You’ll have the opportunity to visit fascinating sights like Dunluce Castle, Fair Head, Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge, Mussenden Temple, and Portstewart Strand as you follow the scenic route. “Game of Thrones” fans will recognize many sights along this route as dramatic and otherworldly filming locations from the series.
The Main event of this route in Northern Ireland is the UNESCO World Heritage site of Giant’s Causeway. The iconic rock formation consists of roughly 40,000 interlocking basalt columns, the result of an ancient volcanic eruption nearly 60 million years ago.