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Your Ultimate 8 Day Ireland Itinerary & Road Trip Adventure

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Get ready to enjoy your perfect 7 to 8 day Ireland itinerary with this inside guide. Whether you’re planning on going solo or hoping to join a tour, we have you covered.

The Perfect 7 or 8 Day Ireland Itinerary

Ireland… To those who don’t know her, she’s the Emerald Isle, the country of leprechauns and shamrocks, the open air studio for Lord of the Rings and a perfect place for a pint of the black stuff

For those who have been, however, they know the truth. Beyond the stereotypes and the whimsy lives a country rich in character, long in history and full of fun.

Amid staggering cliff edges, fields of unbelievable green, and enough literature and UNESCO world heritage to keep you busy for years, you’ll find the real taste of Ireland

Just head to the waters of the Wild Atlantic Way, climb onto the land and keep on going. This 8-day Ireland itinerary will help you hit all the highlights whilst still having enough free time to get to know James Joyce’s Dubliners, visit the oldest bar in Ireland and, yes, alright. Have a pint of the black stuff.

Let’s get started.

How this 8 day Ireland itinerary works

As one of the many Brits with Irish ancestry, I’ve visited Ireland many times. Often with friends, sometimes solo, plenty of times with work and, of course, to stay with and visit family.

This 8 day Ireland itinerary is based on a recent trip in partnership with Globus[ad]. They run tours across the world and I like what they do because it takes the best of both worlds.

They take the hassle and headache of organising a trip away by booking accommodation, transport, providing a guide, tips and company. But in their new Choices Touring concept, you can pick and choose the experiences you get to try out along the way. And, there’s still plenty of time for, well, free time.

I’d recommend travelling with Globus on a group trip and you can read what I thought about my group trip with them to Jordan here. But you can also use this itinerary as a guide to how to spend 8 days in Ireland yourself, with no one but you joining up the dots in between. The choice is yours.

But for now, I like this 8 day Ireland itinerary because it’s unhurried, it hits the main sights and yet it also takes you off the beaten path to places that most tourists miss.

Now, let’s talk practicalities.

Ireland - rural road with mist - Abigail King with umbrella
Don’t walk to Ireland. You’ll get very wet…

How to get to Ireland

By Plane

Most visitors these days arrive by air, into either Dublin or Shannon airports.

Dublin manages hundreds of flights every day from the UK and continental Europe, North America, Dubai, and Abu Dhabi.

Getting from the airport to the centre of Dublin takes only 30 minutes, and you have several transport options:

  • Bus: the cheapest way to get to almost any point in Dublin and across Ireland is by bus. The airport is serviced by over 1,000 buses and coaches every day. Use the Transport for Ireland Journey Planner to find the best route.
  • Car Rental: if you plan on driving across Ireland, you can use a car rental service. I recommend booking in advance to get the best offers. If the rental company is located near the airport (many of them are), you can just pick up your car and drive to your accommodation.
  • Taxi: there are plenty of metered taxis outside the airport ready to take you to your destination.
  • Airport Transfer: the most comfortable way to get to Dublin is to book an airport pickup and have a chauffeur wait for you at the terminal.

By Boat

Another popular route, particular from Britain, is to take the ferry. It’s better for your carbon footprint and gives a sense of scale. Ferries leave from Liverpool in England, Holyhead in Wales, and Douglas on the Isle of Man to Ireland’s capital of Dublin.

How to Get Around in Ireland

Car Rental

Renting a car is a good idea, but it may not be for everyone. Consider that in the Republic of Ireland, people drive on the left side of the road, and the country lanes are narrow and winding. If you are OK with that, then freedom and flexibility will be yours. Make sure you check out our Road Trip Planner & Toolkit © to make the most of it.

If driving yourself is going to give you palpitations and a stomach ulcer, here are your other options.

Bus

Ireland’s buses cover both big cities and small towns and villages, but you will need to have patience on your side. Particularly in rural locations, you may find long waits between pickups and you’ll have to be ready to walk a fair way to reach each bus stop.

Train

Rail services between the big cities, like Dublin to Belfast, are pretty good but trains won’t help you so much in the west when you’re trying to navigate along the Wild Atlantic Way or out to the Aran Islands.

Group Tour

While Ireland is a very safe country to visit and travel around, public transport can make it hard to see the best of the country. If you’re not too keen on driving yourself then joining a group tour can be the perfect solution. On my latest trip, I travelled with Globus and you can find out all the details about that their guided trip through Ireland here.

Ireland - Dublin - Trinity College - night scene on literary pub crawl
On the steps of Trinity College by night in Dublin on a literary pub crawl. Yes, it’s a thing…

Day 1 – Arrive in Dublin

Use your first day in Ireland to get your bearings in Dublin. It’s a fun, fab city with an easily walkable centre and plenty of things to do.

Recover from jet lag if you need to. This 8 day Ireland itinerary brings you back to Dublin at the end, so don’t feel you’re missing out.

Where to Stay in Dublin

If you’re booked onto a group tour, like this one from Globus, then they will book accommodation in one of their group hotels. Otherwise, here are some recommendations.

  • Luxury: The Shelbourne, Autograph Collection
  • Mid-Range: Number 31
  • Budget: Jacobs Inn Hostel
Irish coffee. You can even get it decaff these days…

Day 2 – Dublin – Kilbeggan – Athlone – Westport

The Ireland itinerary begins!

Overview

Head to Kilbeggan, where you will find the oldest distillery in the country. The week long Ireland itinerary continues with a stop in Athlone and ends in Westport with a hearty dinner and a good sleep. Ready for the next day’s venture along the Wild Atlantic Way.

Tour the Old Kilbeggan Distillery

1 hour and 10 minutes from Dublin by car

Right in the heart of Ireland, the small town of Kilbeggan attracts tourists every year with its century-old, still-functional whiskey distillery. Founded in 1757, according to many, it’s the oldest distillery in Ireland (Dear Readers, you’re going to hear a lot of claims to being old in Ireland. It’s not a youth kinda game.)

Anyway, in Kilbeggan, you’ve got brick walls, a water wheel, and ghost stories to complete the somewhere between medieval and gothic atmosphere.

The distillery offers three tour options, depending on how much time you have on your hands:

  • Distiller’s Tour (1.5 hours) – takes you to the old warehouse and allows you to meet the distillers behind Ireland’s most famous drink. The tour ends with a Masterclass in tasting four of the most iconic Irish whiskies. If you are driving, you will get a small sample you can enjoy safely when you reach your destination.
  • Bottle Your Own Experience (30 minutes) – you’ve got the chance to bottle a special cask strength, single malt whiskey which is only possible to buy at the distillery. During this experience, you will use the valinch to extract the whisky from the cask and fill a 20cl or 70cl bottle. Apply the label yourself and take this wonderful souvenir home. The tour is not included in this package, so make sure to book it separately.
  • Apprentice Tour (45 minutes) – held mostly outdoors, this guided tour takes you to see the waterwheel and steam engine, which are the heart of the distillery. You will learn how the whisky is produced and matured, and even get to sample it on a beautiful platform overlooking the River Brosna.

Stop for a Coffee and a Treat at Kilbeggan Handmade Chocolate

Just across from the distillery, you will find a small but distinct coffee shop. Worth a visit, if possible, for fresh coffee, sandwiches, cakes, and homemade chocolate. And in the Irish tradition, the owners may pull up a chair and start chatting with ya.

Ireland - Athlone - colourful houses
The streets of Athlone…

Discover Athlone: home of Ireland’s oldest bar

24 minutes from Kilbeggan by car

Right in the middle of Ireland, Athlone is a lively town where every building seems to have a story, – and many of them actually do.

From the 12th-century castle that dominates the view to the 19th-century workhouse from Ireland’s darkest hours in the famine, you’ll find more than 1000 years of history condensed into one small town on the Shannon River.

The highlight, though, is the oldest pub in Ireland. Notching up an impressive 1100 years of serving pints and calling time, Sean’s Bar is worth a visit, even if you don’t drink.

Athlone Castle Visitor Centre

Start your Athlone itinerary at the Athlone Castle Visitor Centre on the west bank of the River Shannon. Behind the fortified walls, you will find interactive spaces that take you back to the dark times of Athlone when the city was the scene for a series of bloody battles.

At Athlone Castle, you can experience:

  • a walk across the centuries that tells the story of the castle and the town in chronological order, using games and dress-up activities;
  • a re-enactment of the siege of Athlone in 1690 and 1691 through a breathtaking 360-degree audio-visual presentation;
  • a tour of tenor John Count McCormack’s life through the artefact collection exposed inside the castle;
  • good coffee and a place to rest your feet after strolling around the 8-century-old rooms;
  • thematic festivals with live music and historic re-enactments if you are visiting in the summer.

Reserve 1 hour to 1.5 hours for this attraction.

Church of Saints Peter & Paul

Once you are out of the castle, head to the Church of Saints Peter & Paul, which is just a few steps away. This splendid 20th-century building bursts with statues and antiquities. Close to the altar, look for the stained-glass windows on both sides of the interior. Produced by Richard King in the Harry Clarke workshop, they are considered the stars of this place. Reserve at least 10 minutes for this experience.

Luan Gallery

With floor-to-ceiling windows that open toward the majestic Shannon River, the Luan Gallery is the perfect place for art lovers. It showcases the most in-vogue artists of the midlands, Ireland, and even from outside the country, with collections that change every two months. There is no entry fee, and you can also get a tour of the gallery, which is free as well. Take 30 minutes to discover the paintings and sculptures and even get acquainted with some of the artists.

Where to Eat in Athlone

Grogan’s of Glasson Pub & Restaurant – with a nice pub atmosphere, great food, and cold pints, this place is perfect for lunch. Try their delicious Sunday roast with traditional gravy, or on weekdays, tuck into one of their pies.

Ireland - Athlone - Seans Bar - Exterior view - Abigail King
Outside the oldest bar in Ireland…

Where to Drink in Athlone

Sean’s Bar, dating back to 900 AD, is the oldest pub in Ireland. That’s according to representatives from the Guinness Book of Records and it may even be the oldest pub in the world – since nowhere older has been found yet.

As you enter the bar, with its open-turf fireplace and bands performing in the corner, you instantly know there’s something special about this place. Sawdust on the floor, US Fire Department badges in cases, low ceilings and an atmospheric kind of gloom, it even displays a portion of a wall that dates back to the 10th century.

Here’s the place to order a pint of Guinness or an Irish coffee (cream and whiskey) and sit back and enjoy the Irish music. And if you’re too early for performers, staff will chat away with you for hours.

Reaching Westport

2 hours from Athlone by car

You’ll arrive just around twilight, for the chance to stretch your legs in the atmospheric town centre before it’s time for dinner and dancing.

Where to sleep in Westport

  • Mid-range: The Wyatt Hotel is right in the heart of Westport and has an old inn vibe with a cosy lounge and lovely restaurant.
  • Mid-range: the Mariner Westport is also very popular, with its contemporary décor and impeccable rooms.
  • Luxury: Knockranny House Hotel & Spa with its restful restaurant offering a stunning view of the Nephin Mountains to the north and Croagh Patrick and Clew Bay’s islands to the west.

If you want to dine outside your hotel after strolling around central Westport, try Sage Restaurant for gourmet dishes or The Pantry & Corkscrew for a more traditional meal.

Ireland - Achill Island - Keem Beach - small figure walking on the beach in the wind
Discover why it’s called the Wild Atlantic Way on Keem Beach, Achill Island

Day 3 – Westport & Around

Westport offers many possibilities, and you can choose to either explore the town or get a taste of the famous Wild Atlantic Way on the West Coast of Ireland.

Here are your options:

Explore Achill Island

Lace up your hiking boots, grab that waterproof and prepare to be impressed.

The scenery is, quite simply, staggering. And that’s in a country full of outstanding scenery. Even on blustery days, the blue waters of the ocean that rage and dance amid rugged cliffs makes even the jaded stop and stare.

Drive through Newport and Mallaranny on the Greenway that links them to Achill Sound, the crossing point to Achill Island.

Stop for lunch in Keel and make sure you walk on the charcoal dust striped sand at Keem.

E-bike Tour to Newport and Back

Alternatively, an e-bike trip can help you to get out and explore. You can hire a self-guided tour and get a map with the route to follow and the best places to visit. Expect countryside views and plenty of sheep.

Irish Soda Bread-Baking Experience

If that all sounds a bit too outdoors or active, then book a bread-and-scone-making experience with Mary and Carmel. You will be welcomed into their professional kitchen to make bread and scones from a centuries old recipe. The two hosts will guide you through the process while telling you stories about the beautiful island of Ireland.

The chat continues when your baked goods are ready. Enjoy them with a cup of tea and a plate of the scones you just made. Plus, butter and jam. So much warmth!

Day 4 – Westport – Kylemore – Galway

It’s straight on to Galway today, with one very important stop along the way.

Visit the Benedictine Abbey in Kylemore

1 hour from Westport by car

As you take the Wild Atlantic Way to Connemara, a slight detour will take you to Kylemore Abbey, where a grand, stately building rises out of the mist. Built during the late 19th century by a wealthy businessman out of love for his wife Margaret, this estate began as a private home before becoming a gothic nunnery and chocolate producer.

The Victorian gardens alone had 21 heated glass rooms and a team of 40 gardeners to match. Inside, life-size figures and voiceovers try to bring the tragic story of Kylemore to life.

Stop at the café for handmade chocolates before heading out to visit the small church and the gardens. This visit can last from one hour (if you are just breezing through) to an entire afternoon if take your time to explore the gardens and learn more about their restoration. It’s also a great place to shop for authentic Irish souvenirs, with high quality products from local artisans. Plus, some ubiquitous fun, green tat.

Take care with the chocolate cake, though. Slices come in sizes as big as your head!

Ireland - Galway - painted mural of the Latin Quarter
Galway: a colourful spot with more to it than just the Ed Sheeran song

Go on to Galway

1.5 hours from Kylemore by car

Galway is a fun little city with an outward outlook and a great place for a food tour as a result. With half a day here, you have two main options:

Book a Culinary Tour with a Local Expert

Local guides know how to find the best bites, so book a tour with the aptly named Galway Food Tours and taste your way through the city’s history. Learn the grisly history behind the Blood Red Ale at The King’s Head, taste the spirit of invention with turnip sushi and stock up on one of Ireland’s favourites: gin flavoured Murphy’s ice cream.

And finally, don’t forget the hookers. They’re special oyster gathering boats (of course) who give their name to many a food and sports team across the city.

This was a fantastic, fun tour and I found it through one of the Globus options.

Book a Walking Tour to See the Main Attractions

Stroll around the medieval city of Galway with a tour guide who can tell you the story of each place.

Discover Lynch’s Castle, hidden in plain sight right in the middle of the city and stop at the Collegiate Church of St. Nicholas to see the signs of the iconoclasm of the soldiers of Oliver Cromwell.

Other noteworthy spots are the 19th-century old Courthouse and Town Hall, the magnificent Galway cathedral built on the site of an old prison, and the Galway Museum, housing over 1,000 artefacts related to local history.

Where to Stay in Galway

  • Luxury: Glenlo Abbey Hotel & Estate
  • Mid-Range: Galway Bay Hotel
  • Budget: The Nest Boutique Hostel

Where to Eat in Galway

If you took the food tour, you won’t need anything else to eat! But if you skipped it, John Keogh’s Gastropub comes recommended for its amazing 6-hour slow-roast shoulder of lamb.

Ireland - Aran Islands - Inis Mor - Dun Aengus cliff side - Abigail King
Find a sense of natural drama and wilderness on the Aran islands

Day 5 – Day Trip to the Aran Islands

New day, new energy, and new stunning landscapes to discover.

The fifth day of this 8 day Ireland itinerary begins with a ferry trip to Inis Mór (pronounced Inishmore,) the largest of the Aran Islands.

It is up to you whether you want to experience a scenic drive on your own or book a tour with a local driver-guide who knows exactly where to take you. With limited time, I’d suggest joining a tour to see the highlights and natural beauty of the island.

Visit the Historical Sites around Inis Mór

First up, whatever you do, do not miss this: the ancient hill fort that drops abruptly into the ocean.

This is Dún Aonghasa or Dun Aengus, with an honestly breathtaking view over the churning waters of the Atlantic, built over 3000 years ago. Seriously, breath is taken away once you realise just how close to the edge you are allowed to walk on slippery, well-worn stone. It’s stunning but you may not breathe normally until you’re away from the edge.

It’s a short hike to reach the top, so bring sturdy shoes and a bottle of water in the summer. Also, once again, there is no barrier by the edge so tread carefully as you are looking at an 87-meter drop into the abyss…

The Seven Churches

Continue your exploration to the Na Seacht dTeampaíll (The Seven Churches) to see… two churches built in the 8th and 15th centuries respectively. So why the name? No-one really knows but this legend sounds the most likely.

The landscape continues to be fantastic with a hint of gothic that will give you chills.

Buy a Traditional Sweater

The middle Aran Island is famous for its picturesque cottages and traditional woolly jumpers. Though sweet to look at, there’s a haunting story behind them. The distinctive patterns, individual to each household, made it easier for family members to identify relatives who drowned and whose bodies were found later. But you don’t need to focus on that when you appreciate the craftsmanship and ability to stay warm!

You can also visit the other, smaller, Aran Islands but it will take some time and coordination to make sense of the ferry services. Personally, for this 8 day Ireland itinerary, I’d recommend slowing down and just visiting Inis Mor instead.

Stop for a cup of tea in this picturesque farmhouse…

Day 6 – Galway – Cliffs of Moher – Rathbaun Farm – Dublin

You are slowly getting close to the end of your itinerary, so in geographical terms, we’re now turning around and heading back to Dublin.

But first, there’s one of the most famous spots in Ireland to visit and a 200-year-old farm to explore. Get ready for day six with a pair of boots and a jacket…

Ireland - Cliffs of Moher - Abigail King
Take in the sea air at the Cliffs of Moher, a national landmark…

Let Your Jaw Drop at the Sight of the Cliffs of Moher

Right in the middle of the Wild Atlantic Way in County Clare, one of Europe’s most extraordinary natural monuments braves the Atlantic Ocean. As you take the Doolin Cliff Walk on a well-worn trail to the Visitor Centre, you can already feel the fresh air filling your lungs and the landscape unfolding before you.

But you are still not there yet. Buy a ticket or show the one you’ve bought online, and step onto the 668-foot-high cliff to look down at the waves crashing into its limescale base. With the ocean beneath you and seabirds flying above, it’s a time slowing moment of reflection in nature – albeit one you share with 1.6 million or so visitors each year.

Enjoy a Warm Lunch at the Rathbaun Farm

First, a quick warning. This visit is something that you can only do as part of the tour with Globus. But I’m talking about it here because it offers a lovely glimpse into rural life in Ireland.

This 200 year old farm serves up food like my Irish grandmother used to make: sliced ham, boiled eggs, bread and a simple salad, with hot tea or coffee and a piece of homemade cake before you wander around the farm.

The Rathbaun Farm has been in operation here for over 200 years, making it something of a newcomer in Irish farming terms. But between the lambs and the sheepdogs, the vegetable patches and the views, it’s a welcome break from the more crowded tourist trail. All finished off with a cosy turf fire.

Ireland - Dublin - Guinness Storehouse - Good things come to those who wait sign
Take your time in the Guinness museum… it’s worth it!

Day 7 – Dublin

The final stop on your 8 day Ireland itinerary is Dublin: a fascinating city rich in Nobel prize winners, UNESCO literary heritage, history and, yes, Guinness.

Bustling with historic pubs and monuments, busy markets, and amazing nightlife, the capital city is the perfect place to spend at least a full day. Let’s take a look at what you can do.

First, the traditional highlights…

O’Connell Street

Start the day with an Irish breakfast on Dublin’s most famous street, then stroll around to discover the monuments that tell the history of the city. The most imposing is The Spire, also called the Monument of Light, reaching 120 meters into the sky. Next up is the statue of Daniel O’Connell and the 1818 General Post Office building where the Proclamation of the Republic was read.

St Patrick’s Cathedral

Over 800-years old, this grandiose medieval cathedral was said to the be the place where St. Patrick baptised Christian converts 1500 years ago. It is also the burial place for one of Ireland’s most famous writers, Jonathan Swift, author of ‘Gulliver’s Travels’ and ‘A Modest Proposal’. Why here? Well, Swift was once the Dean.

Trinity College

No trip to Dublin is complete without a visit to the cobbled quad and columns of Trinity College. This elite seat of learning saw Oscar Wilde, Bram Stoker, Jonathan Swift, William Trevor, and many other important literary personalities spend their youth in pursuit of their studies. It’s also home to one of the world’s most beautiful libraries, whose centrepiece is the 9th century manuscript: the Book of Kells.

Kilmainham Gaol

It’s a little way from the city centre but it highlights the history of those who took part in the 1916 Easter Rising, widely seen as the trigger for the independence of Ireland from rule in Westminster.

As you step inside this former prison, you almost feel the rage of the rebels once held here.

Guinness Storehouse Factory

Yes, it’s iconic. And, yes, it’s worth a visit.

Book a tour of the Guinness Storehouse Factory and discover seven floors of Irish brewing history. Learn how the Guinness family brought this beer to fame, and don’t leave before enjoying a cold pint of Guinness at the Gravity Bar at the top. It’s an intoxicating mix of food and advertising history, all intertwined with the story of Dublin itself.

Dublin Castle

End the day at Dublin Castle, a place which has served as the main residence for both the Irish and English administrations over the years. Time will be short at this point, so book a tour guide to help you focus on the state apartments and Chapel Royal.

Ireland - countryside winding road
Ireland is small but you still can’t see it all in only 8 days. Here’s to where the road will take you next…

Day 8 – Dublin

The departure day is always the saddest, but don’t let the nostalgia hit you until you board your plane. Enjoy a final Irish breakfast (sausages, eggs, hash browns and bacon) and consider taking in these more unusual things to do in Dublin. My favourite is the oldest library in Dublin.

Alternatively, you can make the most of any one of these day trips from Dublin.

If you have more time, add these to your Ireland itinerary

Ireland is a small country, but not small enough to see it all in one week. Here’s what you can do next!

  • Connemara National Park – a day trip from Galway takes you to a huge park with spectacular walking trails and outdoor activities. Stop off in Ashford Castle nearby.
  • The Dingle Peninsula in County Kerry – once declared by National Geographic as ‘the most beautiful place on earth,’ the cast of Star Wars paid a visit here after hearing about its stunning landscapes.
  • Killarney National Park in County Kerry – nature lovers, birdwatchers, hikers and kayakers will have a great time here.
  • The Ring of Kerry – a 179-kilometre-long circuit that will take you to some of the most beautiful places in Count yKerry, like Muckross House and Ross Castle.
  • Rock of Cashel – if you are heading to Cork, stop in County Tipperary to see this magical castle set amidst dramatic scenery.
  • Blarney Castle – one of Ireland’s most imposing medieval castles, this place houses the Stone of Eloquence or the Blarney Stone. Kiss it and you will receive great power, apparently.
  • Cork City in County Cork – the second largest city in Ireland, Cork is colourful, lively, and full of history.
  • EPIC – the Irish Emigration Museum in Dublin – learn more about the history of the Irish diaspora and what these people brought with them when they returned.
  • Wicklow Mountains National Park – for hikers and nature lovers who don’t want to drive too far from Dublin, this place has everything, from amazing scenery to birdwatching.
  • Belfast – the capital of Northern Ireland has history, architecture, landscapes and more. Plus, the world class museum about The Titanic.