9 Best Stops on the Dublin to Cork Drive

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by Seán Whelan


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If you’re planning an itinerary for Ireland, you might be curious about what there is to see and do on the Dublin to Cork drive or whether you should stay on the highway.

As with a lot of Ireland, some of the best experiences are when you go on the smaller roads so we’ve curated some of the best stops along this route, as well as general information that would be useful to anyone planning on undertaking the trip.

Planning a Dublin to Cork Road Trip

Driving from Dublin to Cork 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 a road trip from Dublin to Cork and if you’re looking for great prices on car hire, then we recommend browsing options here.

This platform aggregates all of the many of the available car hire companies to ensure you get a great deal on car hire.

If visiting Ireland on a budget, it’s worth considering an excess insurance policy with iCarHireInsurance to give yourself some peace of mind should any damage happen to your rental car.

Hook Lighthouse in Wexford
Hook Lighthouse in Wexford

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.

The distance on the drive from Dublin to Cork along the M8 route is 259 kilometres and takes roughly 3 hours.

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 countryside 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 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 into 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!

Beautiful scenary in Waterford
Beautiful scenery in Waterford is worth the detour

Dublin to Cork Drive Stops

The suggestions are laid out below such that numbers one 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 and 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.

Following Blessington, the village of Kildare is another good pit stop if you need to stretch your legs   

Blessington Lake
Blessington Lake

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.

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 one of Limerick’s 5-star hotels such as the Savoy, which offers luxury in the very heart of the city. 

St Johns Castle in Limerick
St Johns Castle in Limerick

3. The Rock of Cashel, Co. Tipperary

Archaeologically, architecturally and spiritually rich, the Rock of Cashel is one of Ireland’s busiest tourist 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 as well as nearby Cahir Castle.

Rock of Cashel
Rock of Cashel

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.

Blarney Castle
Blarney Castle

6. 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.

Kilkenny Castle
Kilkenny Castle

7. 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.

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 and great if you’re wondering what to stop on the way from Dublin to Cork.

Once you’ve got 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 Café.

Tramore Beach
Tramore Beach

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 of fresh seafood and local produce complement the harbour views very nicely.

Cork City centre is only a half hour’s 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 B&Bs and hotels.

The harbour at Cobh.
The harbour at Cobh

Where to Stay on the Drive from Dublin to Cork

Though the drive between the two cities 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 allow you to truly experience its music scene!

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.

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.

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Limerick hotels

Where to Stay in Cork

Shandon Bells Guest House — This guesthouse is an excellent place to rest your head in Cork if you’re after traditional charms and hospitality. They have a handful of rooms on offer, a central location and a hearty breakfast available every morning for an additional charge.

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 lovely rooms available, helpful staff, and numerous amenities to make your stay a great one.

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.

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Cork hotels

St Patrick’s Quay in Cork

Where to Stay in Dublin

Hotel 7 — A small guesthouse in the centre of Dublin, 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.

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 breakfast included in the rate.

Jacob’s Inn — 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.

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more hotels in Dublin

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 any questions? Let us know in the comments!

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Seán is a writer for The World Was Here First. Originally from Cork, Ireland, he loves travelling around his home country as much as he enjoys visiting Europe and further afield. When he’s not travelling, Seán can be found working as a bacterial scientist, designing websites and making music.

Comments

  1. Hi Sean,
    I’m planning a trip early December from Dublin to Cork – it can only be a day trip as need to be in Cork for the night – just wondering what you suggest we stop and see on our way down? It’s my husband and I, plus 3 young people 18 -23yrs of age;

    Many thanks, Colette (NZ)

    Reply
  2. You must have read my mindThank You. We are planning the Wild Atlantic Way South to North by motorhome. Before that Dublin to Ballymakera near cork, so not wanting to waste the miles on this leg, I stated googling and there you were first on the list, bless you. Tony & Margaret
    Love Keltic music so anywhere with pub/bar and music would be a bonus.

    Reply
  3. Sean I am planning a trip in June, middle of June, from Dublin to Kilkenny, to West Cork, then to Clare-Wicklow. First what should we focus on in each city and what it the temperature, what to pack? This article was so helpful. Traveling from the US.

    Reply

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