In 2016, over 9.5 million people visited Ireland’s rugged, colourful coastline and the number has been increasing as each year passes. But even with the rapid influx of tourism, many visitors to the Emerald Isle tend to ignore the pastoral charms of Central Ireland in lieu of its dramatic shores. While most tourists tend to route their Ireland itineraries south from Dublin, it can be just as rewarding to explore the scenic centre of the country on a Dublin to Galway drive.
While the typical drive from Dublin to Galway along the M4 and M6 only takes a little more than three hours, there are many tourist attractions along the route that are worth stopping for. So take your time and enjoy a beautiful part of Ireland that many foreign tourists tend to overlook.
Planning a Dublin to Galway Road Trip
Though Ireland is a small country and the drive from Dublin to Galway isn’t necessarily a long one, you do need to keep a few things in mind before you take off on this beautiful, scenic drive. The most important of which is a rental car!
Obviously, you’re going to need a car when driving from Dublin and if you want to find a great deal on a car hire, we highly recommend using RentalCars.com. This platform compares prices across many available car rental companies to ensure that you can save on your overall Ireland trip cost.
It can also be a good idea to take out a third-party excess insurance policy with iCarHireInsurance in order to save money and also get some peace of mind should anything happen to your rental car while on the Dublin to Galway drive.
Keep in mind that they do drive on the left side of the road in Ireland, much like they do in the UK, Malta and Cyprus. While it may seem daunting at first if you’re used to driving on the right, it is easy to get used to so long as you remember that, as the driver, you need to stay in the middle of the road.
Driving in Ireland besides getting used to another side isn’t all that difficult and there aren’t any other precautions that you need to take that you wouldn’t elsewhere in the world.
Finally, before setting off on your Dublin to Galway drive, have you considered taking out a travel insurance policy? World Nomads offers flexible and simple travel insurance policies with coverage for more than 150 activities that you can buy or extend while on the road.
How Far is Dublin to Galway?
The drive from Dublin to Galway along the M6 is only about 129 miles (208 kilometres) and will take around 2.5 hours if you don’t divert from the motorway. However, if I could give any tip for the Dublin to Galway drive, it would be to stray from the motorway as much as possible!
While many of the stops in this list are directly accessible from just a short detour from the M6, you’ll miss much of the bucolic beauty that this region has to offer if you stay on the motorway the majority of the journey.
If you stick to the M6, all the scenery you’re likely to experience is the seemingly endless expanse of dual carriageway and the occasional Guinness transport lorry (Ireland may well be the only country that transports its beer in oil tankers). While the distance from Dublin to Galway is certainly shorter along the M6, it is well worth going on the country roads instead.
If you stray from the motorway and venture onto the winding country roads, your total journey time will definitely be longer as the distance from Galway to Dublin depends on the road you take, but it will also be infinitely more scenic and enjoyable.
Also, if you’re travelling in spring, you’ll see literally hundreds of adorable baby lambs. They’re the cutest, fluffy little creatures and they don’t really hang out on the side of the M4. Honestly, it’s worth straying from the motorway just for that.
Dublin to Galway Drive Stops
1. Kildare Village
About an hour outside of Dublin lies the charming village of Kildare, which is one of the best stops on the Dublin to Galway drive.
Located about 60 kilometres southwest of Dublin, Kildare Village is easy to access via the N7 to M7. Despite its diminutive size, there are a number of tourist attractions and points of interest in this small and beautiful town.
Perhaps the biggest tourist attraction in Kildare is the Irish National Stud and Gardens. This is a working Thoroughbred horse farm and breeder and is also surrounded by stunning gardens, including an excellently kept Japanese garden, and a restaurant.
Other attractions in Kildare Village include St. Brigid’s Cathedral and Grounds, St. Brigid’s Well, and the ruined Kildare Castle.
2. Kilbeggan Distillery
While whiskey was once Ireland’s biggest export, those days have long since come to pass and international appreciation for this local spirit began to dwindle. However, Irish whiskey has seen something of a resurgence in recent years and there is much more to it than what you know of Jameson and Bushmills.
One of the best places to learn about Irish whiskey and how the production of it differs from, say, Scotch whisky, is to tour the Kilbeggan Distillery, which also happens to be a convenient stop on the Dublin to Galway drive!
The most basic experience includes a detailed tour of the facilities and a description of how the whiskey is made along with a tasting masterclass with three drams of Kilbeggan. Designated drivers need not worry, however, as they do provide a non-alcoholic beverage at the end for those not wishing to drink.
Located on the border of counties Westmeath and Roscommon lies the small city of Athlone, which located almost completely in the geographic centre of Ireland. Only a short detour from the M6, there are many things to do in Athlone, making this a perfect stop on the drive from Dublin to Galway.
Athlone is probably the biggest urban centre on the route with a population of over 20,000, which means that there are a number of tourist attractions on this Dublin to Galway stop.
These include the Church of St. Peter & Paul, the bronze bust of Count John McCormack, and some of the stunning architecture on the streets of town.
If you’re wondering what to do in Athlone, the most famous and interesting tourist attraction would have to be the Athlone Castle, which has existed, in one form or another, for almost 5,000 years. Today, it is in its own excellently preserved 13th-century state and sits on the banks of the River Shannon.
Ticket prices for entry into the castle and a self-guided tour cost €10 for adults and €7 for students and seniors with a valid ID.
Looking for a unique place to spend the night in Athlone? Check out this rustic lakeside cottage.
4. Clonmacnoise Monastery
Located about a thirty-minute drive due south from Athlone, the incredibly well-preserved 6th Century monastic site at Clonmacnoise is one of the best stops of the Dublin to Galway drive.
Considered to be the best monastic site in Ireland, it includes the ruins of a cathedral, seven churches, two round towers, three high crosses and the largest collection of Early Christian gravestones in Western Europe.
The Clonmacnoise Monastery site is open daily all year round (excluding Christmas Day and Boxing Day, when it is closed to the public) and tickets for entry cost €8 for adults, €6 for seniors, and €4 for students with a valid ID.
If you’re looking for a charming small Irish town to stop in on your Dublin to Galway drive, look no further than Roscommon. This small town in central Ireland is located just north of Athlone and about 90 kilometres east of Galway, making it the perfect place last stop on your drive from Dublin.
The town itself is incredibly picturesque and it can be worth it to have a wander around its charming small town streets. There are also a number of historical ruins that are worth seeing, notably the ruins of both the Roscommon Castle and Roscommon Abbey.
Roscommon is also a great place to stop for a bit to eat, which a number of cosy, pastoral pubs to choose from. Regan’s Gastropub is one of the best options for a meal as their menu is extensive beyond typical greasy pub fare and it is very good.
Where To Stay On The Dublin To Galway Drive
If you’re looking for an accommodation option in Dublin, I would highly recommend staying at the Kilronan House, which is a comfortable, well-located B&B in Dublin’s Georgian quarter. Click here to see their latest prices
Although the drive from Dublin to Galway can easily be done in one day, if you want to take advantage of all of the great stops along the way, I would recommend spending the night at the Shannonside House B&B in Athlone, which is a great halfway point on the Dublin to Galway drive. Click here to see their latest prices
Alternatively, the Wineport Lodge located just a few kilometres north of Athlone on the banks of Lough Ree offers a luxurious escape for those looking to add a bit of romance and pamper themselves on the drive from Dublin to Galway. Click here to see their latest prices
If you’re looking for accommodation in Galway City, I can highly recommend The Stop B&B. It is located in a quiet neighbourhood in the Claddagh District but is within ten minute’s walking distance to all of the main sites of Galway City. The breakfast is also fantastic. Click here to see their latest prices
A private rental is also a great option throughout Ireland and particularly on the Galway to Dublin drive. There are countless properties available — like this rustic lakeside cottage near Athlone.
The drive from Dublin to Galway doesn’t have to be a boring slog along seemingly endless stretches of concrete and asphalt. If you take the time to make some detours, you will see a side of Ireland that many visitors tend to overlook.
Are you planning a Dublin to Galway drive? Have any questions about this route? Let us know in the comments!
Hi, I am planning a family vacation to Ireland in August and am thinking about driving from Dublin to Galway. The stop in Kildare Village is the only location mentioned in the Rick Steves Ireland 2016 book I borrowed from my sister-in-law. Are there any sights or activities along the drive that would be particularlly interesting to my 12 and 14 year old kids? What are the road conditions like? Thanks,
Hi Fatimah, thanks for your comment! Any of the stops between Dublin and Galway on this list I think would be fun for you 12 and 14-year-olds just depending on where their interests lie! Also, the road conditions tend to be quite good, though some of the smaller country roads may be a bit narrow. Most everything you will encounter will be well-paved, however, and drivers are courteous. Hope you have a great trip!
Hi there, look into the National Stud and the Japanese Gardens near Kildare Village.
Thanks for the tips, Lizzie!
Hello, We have a group of 13 traveling to Ireland in July. We fly into Dublin and only have three days. Would you say its worth it to travel to the other side of the island or best to stay close to Dublin for the time we have. I want to see as much as I can for our short stay.
Seeing as you have a large group and only a short period of time, I would suggest basing yourself in Dublin and doing some day trips from there. You will still be able to see a lot of the country without having to spend too much time in the car or packing/unpacking all of your things 🙂
MAGGIE, MY FAMILY AND I ARE TRAVELING TO IRELAND IN JAN OF 2020 FOR A WEEK. ON THE TRIP FROM DUBLIN TO GALWAY WILL THE MENTIONED ATTRACTIONS BE OPEN OR WORTH STOPPING BY. WE ARE ALL ADULTS IN THE GROUP. MUCH APPRECIATE YOUR INPUT. THANK YOU
Hey Wallace, yes, the attractions should be open for your trip if you plan to visit during their normal operating hours. If you’re concerned, maybe it’s best to check with them directly before you plan to go. Hope you have a great trip 🙂
I love the suggestion of taking the scenic roads instead of the highway. How do you do that? What I mean is, if you put in Galway from Dublin into the GPS won’t it automatically load the fastest route possible and give you directions via the highway?
Hi Mimi, you could look at the map and take the surface roads instead of the highway or you could change your settings on the GPS to avoid highways. Or you could direct yourself toward some of the stops on this list which will also divert you from the main motorway.
Hi I would love to do this drive. I will be staying in Howth and wanted to know if I would have to drive through Dublin City to do this. I’m ok on back roads. Thanks Deirdre
Hi Dierdre, no need to drive through Dublin City to do this route! Hope you have a lovely time 🙂
This is one of the most informative sites I’ve found for planning a trip to Ireland. I am hoping to come in July. Do you know if restrictions have affected the sites you’ve recommended between Dublin and Galway. My destination near Galway is Thoor Ballylee and Coole Park — yes Ireland has been on my bucket list since I read William Butler Yeats in college. Any other advice would be welcomed.
Thanks for your comment and kind words, Maria! I’m so happy you’ve found our information helpful in planning your trip. I’m not entirely sure about what the restrictions will be when you go — everything is subject to change so it can be hard to plan too far in advance, unfortunately. Hope you’re able to have an amazing trip, though!
Love the tips. We will be driving from Dublin to the Cliffs of Moher and back to Dublin in 1 day. Want to do a few stops along the way. Do you think this is possible?
Hi John, if you leave Dublin early enough I think you can definitely fit in at least a couple of these stops along the way! Hope you a great trip 🙂
Hello – we are starting to plan a visit for next summer and planning a drive with a private tour driver/guide from Dublin to Galway. Our plan is to stop and visit Kilbeggan Distillery, Athlone Castle, Sean’s Pub in Athlone and a visit to Clonmacnoise. Is that feasible? How long should we allow ourselves? Besides Sean’s Pub [a must :-)], what would be your suggested priority if we can’t do it all.
Thank you in advance.
We did this Jan 2020. On the way to Galway, we stopped for the night in Tullamore, and had a wonderful stay at the Bridge hotel. We stayed the next night at the Galway Bay hotel, what a wonderful view! Took a taxi into town for the pubs. On the way back to Dublin, we spent a night in Athlone. Much enjoyed the castle, and also Sean’s Pub. The trick is to set the GPS to avoid highways – and to travel during the off season.
Sounds like you had a great trip! 🙂
We are planning to travel from dublin and end with base in Dingle for 4 nights. We would like to fit in Skelling, killarney nat’l park, galway, The Cliffs and kinsale if possible. We arrive early on a saturday and plan to fly out the following sunday. Trying to decide what should be day trips from our base and whether we should plan overnight stop on the way to Dingle.
Does this seem feasible and how would you arrange your drive?
Hi Everyone , this is a great page , I am glad I found it . I am Dublin born and bred and live in Sydney .
My best advice when visiting Ireland for the first time is , especially if your time is limited – less is more – A lot of American tourists try to fit everything in and miss the real beauty of Ireland , the slower pace , taking it easy , enjoying the view and watching the world go by . Pick one or two bases ie Dublin or Galway , and do day trips . There are great train trips out of Dublin to pretty much everywhere including Belfast . Do one or two of these day or overnight escorted trips to the tourist sites – let the professionals do the driving , and leave a few days to do your own touring or driving at your pace . For example there is loads to see and do in and around Dublin and beautiful beaches and coastal walks 30 mins from the city that when you show your holiday snaps to your friends you could tell them that you made it to the west of Ireland even though you were in Howth in Dublin . The views and the scenery are just as spectacular and you have not had to drive half way round the country / Just a suburban train ( The Dart ) out to Howth , with plenty of time left over for a few pints at The Abbey Tavern and some great food . Enjoy and have fun and see you their in April !
Great tips, Roy! Thanks for commenting 🙂
We are going in the opposite direction: Flying into Shannon Airport, touring Galway and then going up to Connemara to see cousins for a couple days before driving to Dublin.
I plan to go right across the middle.
Silly question, but any changes if we are driving west to east? We’ll have about two days after leaving Connemara to get to Dublin.
Hi James, I don’t think there are any changes in the drive going from east to west 🙂 Hope you enjoy your trip!
hi i am coming from India. will be landing in to Dublin airport. I would like to see Galway and a few places around. Is there a local bus service which I can hop onto to take me around from one place to another? i have about 6 days in total. what all should i definitely visit? please do advice. thank you.
Hi Reshma, unfortunately, I don’t know much about the bus system in Ireland, but I do know that you should be able to find fairly frequent connections between major cities. Six days is a great amount of time to spend for your trip – I’m sure you will have a lovely time! If you want some suggestions, have a look at our Ireland itinerary, which you can obviously tweak to your own needs: https://www.theworldwasherefirst.com/ireland-road-trip-itinerary/
Thanks so much for your suggestions on the page. We saw both the National Stud Farm (where the gardens really outshine the horses, hard to believe) and Clonmacnoise and enjoyed both very much.
Any chance you have an idea of what the driving time would be on this route? Obviously not including stops, as those are different for everyone depending on what they want to see, but just the actual drive going this route vs highway?? I am a travel agent trying to book a retirement trip for the sweetest couple and this has been on their bucket list for over 10 years so I want it all to be perfect
Hi Maggie, love your suggestions! My husband and I are looking at doing a 16 day trip to Ireland in April/May 2023. We are basing our plans on more Southern Ireland starting in Dublin and cutting back there from Galway. Any suggestions for areas best to stay in for doing day hops to sightsee?