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.
5 Stops On The Dublin To Galway Drive
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 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).
If you stray from the motorway and venture onto the winding country roads, your total journey time will definitely be longer, 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.
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.
The farm is open from Monday – Sunday and full-priced adult entry tickets are €11.50 and concession (seniors and students) tickets cost €9. The ticket price includes entry into two gardens and the horse farm itself.
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!
Prices for the most basic tour cost €14 and include a detailed tour of the facilities and 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, Athlone makes 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.
The most famous and interesting tourist attraction, however, 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 €8 for adults and €6 for students and seniors with a valid ID.
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 Amberley House, which is a comfortable, well-located B&B in Dublin’s north side. 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
- 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
- Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse the best deals on hotels in Ireland!
If you’re looking to rent a car for your Dublin to Galway drive, then we recommend using Rentalcars.com. This site pulls the best rates from all major car hire companies and will save you precious time when planning your epic Ireland adventure.
Another thing worth noting is that the excess insurance policies that rental car companies will try to push often have incredibly inflated prices. To save yourself some money and to make sure you’re covered, consider taking out an excess policy with iCarHireInsurance.
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.
Before setting off on your Dublin to Galway drive make sure you have a valid travel insurance policy. We personally used World Nomads for our Ireland trip as we do for all our trips. Click here to get a quote from World Nomads!
Are you planning a Dublin to Galway drive? Have you driven it? Let us know in the comments!