If you’re visiting Ireland, there’s a good chance that you’ll be arriving into either Dublin or Cork airport. Once you’ve spent your time soaking in the sites of either of Ireland’s largest cities, you’ll likely be curious about the drive from Dublin to Cork or vice versa. Luckily the cities are not too far apart and there’s plenty to do and see along the way! We’ve curated some of the best stops along the way, as well as general information that would be useful to anyone planning on undertaking the trip. Read on to find out everything you need to know about your Dublin to Cork drive!
Planning a Dublin to Cork Road Trip
Driving from Dublin to Cork, or Cork to Dublin is generally quite straightforward; the main roads are of good quality and signposting is frequent and clear. If you’re using a tool like Google Maps or Waze to navigate, you should have no issues. Some of the smaller country roads, off the main routes and motorways, can be somewhat narrow and windy but are generally safe when a sensible amount of caution is exercised.
Depending on where you’re coming from, driving on the left of the road might be unfamiliar to you, but it’s important to be mindful of this at all times, particularly when approaching roundabouts and intersections.
Of course, you’re going to need to have a car before going on the Dublin to Cork drive and if you’re looking for the best prices on car hire, then we recommend using RentalCars.com. This platform aggregates all of the lowest prices across all available car hire companies to ensure you don’t pay more than you need to.
Finally, when planning your trip to Ireland, make sure to remember to purchase a valid travel insurance policy. We like World Nomads and is a great affordable option for your Dublin to Cork drive – click here to get a quote from World Nomads.
How Far is Dublin to Cork?
While there are an abundance of worthwhile stops on the drive from Dublin to Cork, most of them will not be found along the fastest and most popular motorway route, the M8. Completed in 2010, the M8 route takes roughly 3 hours to get to Cork from Dublin. But while you may cut out an hour or two of drive-time compared to taking any of the more scenic routes, you bypass completely the chance to drive through the cities, towns and villages of the Leinster and Munster, along with the all charm and history they have to offer.
Many of our below suggestions are found along different routes, so unless you really want to take your time, it’s best to pick a handful of your favourite stops along a single route. If you’d like to strike a balance between expediency and enchantment, it is of course possible to exit off the M8 and stop in to some of the smaller towns on your way too. Whatever the route you may end up plotting, any of the nine stops below are very worthwhile additions to your trip to Ireland!
Dublin to Cork Drive Stops
The suggestions are laid out below such that numbers two to five follow the inland route, six to nine are found along the coast, and number one is accessible by either. Both the coastal routes will take approximately 4 hours 15 minutes without any of the below stops.
1. Blessington & Blessington Lakes, Co. Wicklow
Only a 45-minute drive outside of Dublin Centre, the village of Blessington and the nearby Blessington Lakes site is found nestled at the foot of the Wicklow Mountains. The lakes themselves are man-made, having been created in the 1930s as a reservoir to provide Dublin with a steady water supply.
Locally known as the Poulaphouca Reservoir, (from the Irish ‘Poll na Phúca’ meaning ‘The Ghost’s Hole’), the heritage trail that follows the lake’s perimeter offers the opportunity to learn about the area’s ancient Neolithic settlements, submerged villages and homesteads, as well as local legends and myths. The area is steeped in folklore, and readers of Joyce might recall Poulaphouca as the site where Leopold Bloom, the protagonist of Ulysses, hallucinated the now-dry waterfall as speaking to him.
When you’re done with the trail, a well-deserved coffee and cake can be enjoyed in the tranquil confines of the Blessington Bookstore, on Blessington’s Main Street.
2. Limerick City, Co. Limerick
Including Limerick City on any drive from Cork to Dublin requires a diversion significant enough to perhaps warrant an overnight stay in this city built on the banks of the River Shannon. Around a two hour drive from Dublin, Limerick has a host of things to see and do, as well as a thriving folk music scene and plenty of good restaurants to choose from.
King John’s castle, found in the centre of Limerick City is a 13th-century fortress where the visitor’s exhibition brings to life over 800 years of history.
If you’re lucky enough to be visiting on a weekend, the Milk Market is one of Ireland’s oldest markets and is a thriving market for locally produced food, second-hand goods, jewellery and all sorts of miscellany. Between 12.30 and 3pm on a Friday, live music is played for you to enjoy while devouring some of your selections from the farmer’s market.
If you still haven’t had quite your fill of live music, Dolan’s is a traditional pub that plays host to some of Ireland’s best acts, as well as some from further afield.
If you do plan on overnighting it, there’s a range of accommodation on offer to suit all budgets. B&B’s, Airbnbs, and reasonably priced hotels are found in abundance and if you really feel like treating yourself, you can choose between either of Limerick’s 5-star hotels; the Adare Manor, tranquilly situated in the pastoral surroundings of county Limerick, or the Savoy, which offers luxury in the very heart of the city.
3. The Rock of Cashel, Co. Tipperary
Archaeologically, architecturally and spiritually rich, the Rock of Cashel is one of Ireland’s busiest tourists sites. Thought to once have been the seat of the High Kings of Munster, the Rock of Cashel is one of Ireland’s most iconic heritage sites and is believed to have been the site where in AD 432 St. Patrick christened King Aengus, Ireland’s first Christian ruler.
During the summer months, it can get quite busy and there may be queues! The heritage town of Cashel itself is also well worth a visit, with the Cashel Folk Village offering a recreation of life in early rural Ireland.
4. Mitchelstown Cave, Co. Tipperary
The deceptively named Mitchelstown Cave is not in fact located in Mitchelstown, County Cork but just over the border in Tipperary.
One of the largest and most complex cave systems in Ireland, Mitchelstown Cave was discovered in 1833 when a limestone miner named Michael Condon attempted to retrieve a crowbar which had fallen down a crevice and found himself at the mouth of an incredible series of underground chambers.
Located 40 minutes from Cork City and 20 minutes from the Rock of Cashel, frequent guided tours are available through the cave.
5. Blarney Castle, Co. Cork
Blarney Castle is home to the Blarney Stone where legend has it that the stone bestows a way with words (colloquially known as the gift of the gab!) to those that are bold enough to kiss it.
Eloquence-inducing rocks aside, the castle and its surrounding gardens are truly beautiful and are one of Munster’s most popular tourist sites. While the stone itself is certainly the main attraction at Blarney Castle, the castle’s cave, dungeons and witch’s stone are sure to enthral visitors. If you’re feeling peckish, a coffee and scone can be had in the on-site café.
Only 10km outside Cork City, Blarney Castle and its surrounding estate is the final noteworthy stop on the inland route from Cork to Dublin.
6. Wexford Town, Co. Wexford
Marking the approximate halfway point on your coastal drive between Dublin and Cork, Wexford is a gorgeous stop off – for either a quick stretch of the legs or a more extended stay!
Some of the attractions on offer include the beautiful Curracloe beach, made famous in the opening scenes of 1997’s Saving Private Ryan and a perfect location for a scenic stroll, the Irish National Heritage Park, where you can see 9000 years of Irish history brought to life and Hook Lighthouse, the world’s oldest original operating lighthouse (a fact we take a lot of pride in!).
For some of the freshest fish you can get, stop into La Côte, where traditional Irish and French seafood dishes are lovingly created with a modern twist. The food is exquisite, the prices are reasonable and the atmosphere is relaxed and homely. What’s not to love? If you fancy something to wash it down with, head to the Crown Bar for a pint, or something sweeter, where old-world charm meets cosmopolitan culture and the Guinness is always good.
7. Kilkenny, Co. Kilkenny
Drive about an hour from Wexford (though with a deviation from the Cork route) and you’ll find yourself in Kilkenny, originally a medieval town, with the stunning Kilkenny Castle built by the occupying Normans in 1195.
Medieval castles aside, Kilkenny is host to a wide range of festivals throughout the year; TradFest on St. Patrick’s day showcases some of the best of traditional Irish music, the Kilkenny Cat Laughs festival in June is Ireland’s biggest comedy festival, and the diversity of exhibitions and events that take place during Kilkenny Arts Festival in late August is sure not to disappoint.
For live music and the cosiest atmosphere you can find anywhere in the world, check out The Hole in The Wall, a snug pub found in Ireland’s oldest townhouse.
8. Waterford City, Co. Waterford
Travel further south and along your scenic drive and you’ll arrive in the port city of Waterford, the first city along the route in your destination province of Munster. Take a walk around Waterford’s Viking Triangle, where the Norse origins of the city are most evident.
If you’re a fan of all things shiny, make sure to visit the Waterford Crystal site, where some of the world’s most sought-after crystals have been produced for over 200 years (fun fact: Waterford Crystal produced all of the 2,668 crystals of the New Year’s Eve Ball dropped annually in Times Square, New York). For food, Bodega, Emiliano’s, and McCleary’s all have mouth-watering offerings at a good price.
If you’ve decided to make a pit-stop in Waterford, it would be remiss of you not to take the time out the walk along the south-easterly sands of the town of Tramore. Its name comes from the Irish “Trá Mór”, literally meaning Big Beach, but what the town lacks in etymological ingenuity it more than makes up for in unadulterated natural beauty.
Much like the rest of Ireland, Tramore can be wild, wet and windy (a good pair of shoes and a waterproof jacket are a must!), but catch it on a good day and there’s nowhere better. Once you’ve gotten sand in places you never before thought was a possibility, warm up with something hot and a slice of cake in the Olive Café, or something more substantial in the Vee Bistro.
9. Cobh, Co. Cork
Your final stop along your coastal excursion on the Dublin to Cork drive lies on the east coast of County Cork itself and is the picturesque town of Cobh (pronounced Cove), most famous for being the last port of call on the maiden voyage of the ill-fated Titanic. The town itself is centred around St. Colman’s Cathedral, whose imposing gothic revivalist architecture couldn’t be contrasted more starkly with the rows of incandescently-coloured townhouses and general coastal unhurriedness.
Foodwise, the standout venue is Jacob’s Ladder on the waterfront, whose menu with fresh seafood and local produce complement the harbour views very nicely.
Cork City centre is only a half hours drive away, with both bus and train services going regularly. Its proximity to the city and reasonably priced accommodation would make it an ideal base from which to see the rest of Cork. If you do decide to stay there’s plenty to choose from in terms of BnB’s and hotels.
Where to Stay on the Dublin to Cork Drive
Though the drive between Dublin and Cork isn’t a long one, if you want to make the most out of your road trip and make as many of these stops as possible, then finding a place to stay the night is a great idea. Though you can find accommodation at most of the stops mentioned in this article, we recommend resting your head in Limerick City as it is the furthest detour from the typical route — it will also give you the opportunity to truly experience its music scene!
Where to Stay in Dublin
Sky Backpackers — A great option for backpackers, budget or solo travellers, this hostel is centrally located well-situated to see everything Dublin has to offer. They have a range of both dorm and private rooms available and they also organise social events. Click here to check their availability
Amberly House — A small guesthouse in Dublin’s North Side, this is a great place to stay when exploring the city. They have numerous clean and comfortable rooms available and a light breakfast is available for a small extra charge. Click here to check their availability
Kilronan House — This highly-rated B&B is an excellent choice if you’re wondering where to stay in Dublin. Centrally located within easy walking distance of many of the city’s attractions, they have a range of cosy rooms available and a great breafast included in the rate. Click here to check their availability
Airbnb — Airbnb is another good option in Dublin (or anywhere along the Cork to Dublin drive, in fact!). There are countless properties available on the platform ranging from whole apartments (such as this great city-centre flat!) to private rooms in someone’s home. Click here to see the best Airbnbs in Dublin.
Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more hotels in Dublin
Where to Stay in Limerick
George Limerick Hotel — This is a great hotel to stay at in Limerick. Located within the city centre, you are ideally situated to see all of the main attractions. There are a range of clean and comfortable rooms available and there is an option to include breakfast. Click here to check their availability
The Savoy Hotel — The optimal choice for those looking for some luxury on their Irish road trip, this hotel is one of the nicest options available in Limerick City. Centrally located, they have numerous plush rooms available and countless amenities to make your stay a great one. Click here to check their availability
Adare Manor — This ritzy hotel, located about 10 kilometres from Limerick’s city centre, is an ideal place to stay if you want some luxury in a classic Irish setting. They have a number of plush rooms available and countless other amenities to ensure that your stay is unforgettable. Click here to check availability
Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Limerick hotels
Where to Stay in Cork
Bru Bar & Hostel — An excellent choice for those travelling solo or on a tight budget, this hostel is centrally located, has a range of dorm and private rooms available and even has a bar on-site to help you meet other travellers. Click here to check their availability
Creedons Traditional Irish Welcome Inn B&B — This bed and breakfast is an excellent place to rest your head in Cork of you’re after traditional charms and hospitality. They have a handful of rooms on offer, a central location and a hearty Irish breakfast included every morning. Click here to check their availability
The River Lee Hotel — If you’re looking for luxury in Cork, then this is the place for you. Located within walking distance of the main attractions, they have a number of lovely rooms available, helpful staff, and numerous amenities to make your stay a great one. Click here to see their availability
Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Cork hotels
The drive from Dublin to Cork can be done in three hours if you’re in a hurry, but the above stops provide the chance to turn an otherwise bland motorway drive into an unforgettable sightseeing trip! Whatever the route you may end up plotting, any of the nine stops above are very worthwhile additions to any trip to Ireland!
Are you planning a Dublin to Cork road trip? Have you been? Let us know in the comments!