Ireland is a country that inspires many and more international tourists each year and it’s not hard to see why. However, many tourists tend only to stick to the south of the country and completely ignore the pastoral charm of central Ireland or the rugged beauty of its Atlantic coast. If you only have one week to spend but still want to get off the beaten path follow this fantastic 7-day Ireland road trip itinerary.
How to Get Around Ireland
One of the biggest questions you need to ask yourself before you take off on an Ireland itinerary is how you plan to get around the country. If you only plan to visit a couple of Irish cities — going from Dublin to Galway to Cork, for instance — you could easily get between them using them by bus or train and then rely on your own two feet or public transport when you’re in the cities themselves.
However, if you would like to visit more rural areas or venture slightly off the beaten path while on a trip to Ireland, then renting a car is an excellent option.
Renting a car in Ireland is a really simple process, with many places to pick up and drop off your vehicle. Dublin airport is probably the best place to hire a car, as most major brands have hubs here.
If you’re looking to find the best rates for a rental car in Ireland, we recommend using Rentalcars.com. This site allows you to compare every brand and find the best car for you!
Another thing to keep in mind is that most rental car companies have quite inflated rates for excess insurance. If you want to have full excess coverage at a much better price while on your 7 day Ireland road trip, be sure to take out a policy from iCarHireInsurance.
If renting a car isn’t an option for you for whatever reason but you would still like to experience the best of an Ireland road trip itinerary, then you could opt for some day tours from various cities or going on a completely organised tour altogether.
7 Day Ireland Road Trip Itinerary
While Ireland’s diminutive size might make it seem like you can cover a lot of ground and see almost everything the country has to offer in just one week, I assure you this is not the case. I am always a massive advocate for slow travel and my stance on travelling in Ireland is no different.
This is why I would suggest finding a couple of places where you would want to base yourself during your seven days in Ireland and then exploring the region from there. Travelling this way is also exceptionally easy when you have your own form of transportation because you’re not going to be at the mercy of a tour operator or irregular bus timetables.
Classic Ireland Road Trip Itinerary
This 7-day Ireland road trip itinerary is arguably the most classic route to take in the country and it will take you by some fo the most iconic sites, charming cities, and beautiful scenery that the country has to offer.
Days 1-2: Dublin
More likely than not, you’re going to be beginning your 7 day Ireland road trip itinerary in pricey Dublin, the country’s capital city.
While many people think very differently from me, I wasn’t all that taken with Dublin and don’t think it’s a city that’s worth spending all that much time in. It is also quite small and easy to get around, so spending two nights and one full day here is generally enough.
Depending on what time you arrive in Dublin, spend your first few hours in the city just getting the lay of the land. Maybe pop in for a pint or a bite to eat at the local pub or take a stroll along the river.
On your first full day, I would recommend taking Dublin Free Walking Tour’s South Side tour. This tour is great to get a local’s perspective on all of the main sites of Ireland’s capital including Trinity College, the Temple Bar district, and the Dublin Castle.
After the tour, why not head to Ireland’s most famous tourist attraction: The Guinness Storehouse. It is recommended that you book your tour of this iconic brewery ahead of time in order to ensure you get the best price. Tickets purchased online start at €17.50 while tickets purchased at the door are €25. Both include a properly poured pint of Guinness after the tour.
After the brewery tour, have an early dinner at one of Dublin’s best restaurants: The Woolen Mills. I recommend going to this popular spot for dinner before 6:30 PM in order to take advantage of their great prix fixe menu deal, which is a lot more affordable than their typical dinner menu.
After dinner, either head to a pub to have yet another pint of Guinness and listen to some live music or head back to your room and rest up for what the next day of your Ireland road trip itinerary has to offer!
Where to Stay in Dublin
Jacob’s Inn — This hostel is a great option for budget and solo travellers. Extremely centrally located near all of the top attractions in the city, it is also one of the best-rated hostels in Dublin. They have numerous dorms and private rooms on offer and they also organise social events. Click here to check their availability
Hotel 7 — This small guesthouse is conveniently located in the centre of Dublin. They have a myriad of clean and comfortable rooms on offer, a friendly staff, and breakfast available for a small extra fee. Click here to check their availability
Kilronan House — This cosy B&B in Dublin’s Georgian quarter is an excellent place to stay in the city. They have a number of highly-rated rooms available, a hearty breakfast included in the room rate, and are located within walking distance of all of the city’s top attractions. Click here to check their availability
Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more hotels in Dublin
Days 3-5: Cork
The next stop on this one week in Ireland itinerary is the lovely southern city of Cork, however, the destination is just one part of this journey. We say to plan to spend three days in Cork as a part of this itinerary, but be sure not to limit yourself with staying only in Cork city!
For instance, plan to spend the majority of your day taking in all of the amazing places on the drive from Dublin to Cork. Though this drive can generally be done in just a couple of hours along well-paved motorway, there are countless charming towns and cities to visit along the way that are sure to give you a great view of Ireland even on this short itinerary. Consider stopping to explore the city of Limerick, take in the historic Rock of Cashel, or tour the iconic Blarney Castle (and kiss the Blarney Stone for good luck!).
Cork itself has a tonne to offer visitors and it is known for its historic port. However, it has now become the epicentre of the new Irish cuisine and the city is dotted with highly acclaimed and world-renowned restaurants that have really put the Irish culinary scene on the map. Countless inventive chefs in Cork have reclaimed Irish cuisine and have embraced local ingredients and techniques and modernised it for the 21st Century and the results are truly fantastic.
It’s likely that you only need about one full day to explore the centre of Cork, so take your third day to go on some day trips to the west of the city and to take in some of the natural highlights and charming villages in the South of Ireland. The iconic Ring of Kerry is within easy reach from Cork City, and make sure not to miss the lovely town of Killarney or the seaside charms of Dingle.
Where to Stay in Cork
Bru Bar & Hostel — This hostel is the perfect choice for those travelling solo or on a budget. They have a number of both dorm and private rooms available and a bar on site that makes it a great place to meet other travellers. Click here to check their availability
Shandon Bells Guest House — If you’re after a lovely guesthouse while staying in Cork, then this is an excellent option for you. They have a few cosy and comfortable rooms available and a delicious, hearty Irish breakfast available every morning. Click here to check their availability
The River Lee Hotel — If you have a bit of a higher budget to play with on your Ireland road trip, then this luxury hotel in Cork is a great option for you. Centrally located within easy walking distance of all cork has to offer, they have a range of plush rooms available and fantastic amenities. Click here to see their availability
Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Cork hotels
Days 6-7: Galway City
Galway City is the perfect place to end your 7-day Ireland read trip, as it is one of the most charming city centres in the entirety of Ireland. However, much like the drive to Cork, the journey to Galways is not one to be ignored, either.
We recommend spending two nights in Galway City. Spend your first day enjoying your drive up from Cork, making your first stop one of the most iconic sites the Irish west coast has to offer: the Cliffs of Moher.
I would recommend trying to get to the Cliffs of Moher earlier rather than later, as it is an extremely popular tourist attraction and can get very busy. Nevertheless, they are absolutely stunning and very much worth the visit. Take your time to walk along the edge of the Cliffs, the view won’t disappoint.
I would also recommend taking your time after visiting the gorgeous cliffs to take in all of the beautiful scenery of The Burren.
A great place to stop is Hazel Mountain Chocolates, which is on the main route to Galway from the Cliffs of Moher and unmissable. The delicious chocolate produced by Hazel Mountain is very much worth the stop. There is also a cafe on site that serves a killer hot cocoa and some pretty good cakes.
Spend your next day in Galway City exploring its charming Old Town, including bustling Quay Street and the Spanish Arch. If you’re keen for a drink or want to know a little bit more about Irish whiskey, then I would suggest getting a tasting platter at Garavan’s Pub. I have been a Scotch drinker for some time but knew very little about Irish whiskey. This pub has one of the largest whiskey selections in Ireland and, needless to say, I came home with a couple of bottles from the duty-free shop.
Take the next day to explore more of Galway. It is a wonderful city just to stroll around and get lost in, with many cute winding alleys leading to interesting areas. If it’s chilly outside and you want to warm up, consider having tea at the cute tea room Cupán Tae.
If the weather isn’t all that great to be outside, heading to the Galway City Museum is a really great option. It is completely free and will give you a more broad understanding of the history and culture of the city of Galway.
End your day with dinner at one of Galway’s best restaurants, Ard Bia at Nimmo’s. This restaurant takes a modern twist on traditional Irish cuisine and uses only locally sourced ingredients. It’s located just behind the Spanish Arch.
If you’re looking for more evening entertainment, round out your one week Ireland road trip itinerary by listening to some of the best live Irish traditional music The Crane Bar. They also serve food here so it can be a good option for dinner if you’re looking for something a bit more casual.
Where to Stay in Galway
Kinlay Eyre Square Hostel — Located conveniently near Galway’s Eyre Square, this hostel is an excellent option for budget and solo travellers alike. As one of the top-rated hostels in Galway City, they have both dorm and private rooms on offer and also include breakfast in their nightly rate. Click here to check their availability
The Stop B&B — This is a great bed and breakfast located in the Claddagh neighbourhood of Galway. Though the location is more quiet and residential, it was only about a ten-minute walk to the city centre and even closer to Galway’s vibrant west end. They also have a fantastic breakfast in the morning, included in the room rate. Click here to check their availability
Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Galway hotels!
Wild Atlantic Way Itinerary
If you want to stray slightly from the well-trodden path that most will take when spending 7 days in Ireland, then this is a great itinerary for you. Though it still includes some of the top highlights of the Emerald Isle, it also takes you to some incredible rural areas along Ireland’s famed Wild Atlantic Way.
Days 1 – 2: Dublin
Beginning in Dublin is the easiest starting point for this Ireland itinerary, as it is always worth spending a bit of time in the Irish capital. Though the largest city and metropolitan area in the Republic of Ireland, Dublin sometimes has the feel of a small town or village, making it an incredibly accessible city to explore over the corse of just two days.
Take the time to visit some of Dublin’s top sites, enjoy its inimitable pub culture, and make sure to sample some of the fantastic restaurants that are scattered throughout the city. Two days in Dublin is enough to really get a good feel for the city without being too rushed. It also makes the perfect jumping-off point for the quintessential 7-day Ireland road trip itinerary.
Days 3 – 4: Connemara
On the morning of the third day of your seven days in Ireland, it’s time to hit the road and drive to the stunning and biodiverse Connemara Peninsula on the west coast of the country. If you plan to drive there directly and not make any stops, it should take about three and a half hours all in. However, road trips are always more fun if you take the time to explore what is around you, so I would suggest you plan to spend the whole day driving to Connemara.
About halfway through your drive from Dublin to Connemara, a great place for a detour is the lovely town on Roscommon. Regan’s Gastro Pub is a nice place to stop for lunch and the town itself is very picturesque to stroll around for a bit and stretch your legs. There are also a few ruins that are worth exploring.
While making a detour in Roscommon will put you on a definitively more rural route than the traditional way along the M6, the drive from here also gets infinitely more picturesque because of this. Enjoy the changing landscapes and the pastoral beauty of this sparsely populated area of Ireland.
If you’re looking for one more place to stop along your Dublin to Galway drive, a great option is the charming village of Cong. Largely known as the filming location for the 1952 film The Quiet Man starring John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara, this town is still banking on that. There is a lot of memorabilia about from film, but the town itself is very nice a beautiful and can be worth a stop. It is about an hour’s drive outside of Roundstone.
Once you’ve made it to the lovely fishing village of Roundstone, head to dinner at the wonderful seafood restaurant O’Dowds and enjoy the end of the third day of your 7 day Ireland road trip itinerary.
On the second day, it’s time to explore everything that the stunning Connemara region has to offer! Begin your day by heading to the beautiful Dog’s Bay beach, which is perfect for a short, seaside stroll. From the beach, drive to nearby Ballyconneely, where you can sample some truly fantastic smoked Atlantic salmon and other fishes (including mackerel and tuna) at the Connemara Smokehouse.
From Ballyconneely, drive north to the largest town and unofficial capital of Connemara: Clifden. Clifden is a lovely seaside town and it’s worth strolling around and exploring it. Stop for lunch at Mitchell’s, which is a fantastic restaurant serving delicious fresh, local seafood.
The main attraction of Clifden, however, is the beautiful Sky Road loop. Follow the sings in order to drive this beautiful 11 km circular scenic route which has some of the best views in Connemara. It is also possible to walk this route, just be careful of cars along the way.
End your day back in Roundstone at the Shamrock Inn, which is a cosy pub that serves good traditional pub food and has some good beers on tap.
Where to Stay in Connemara
Island View B&B — Located in the small seaside village of Roundstone, this B&B is the perfect base to explore all that Connemara has to offer. They offer a tasty and filling breakfast and the rooms were clean and comfortable. This is absolutely one of the best places to stay in Connemara. Click here to check their availability
Sharamore House B&B — This chic B&B located in a great Clifden neighbourhood is an excellent option for a place to stay in Connemara. They have a number of cosy rooms on offer and they have a great breakfast available in the mornings. Click here to check their availability
Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more hotels in Connemara!
Days 5 – 7: Galway City
The fifth day of this Ireland road trip itinerary, it’s time to get away from nature and head to the vibrant seaside city of Galway. The drive from the Connemara region to Galway isn’t a long one, so take the time to enjoy the beautiful, boggy scenery or maybe take a stroll by Ireland’s largest lake, Lough Corrib.
Spend on full days exploring all that Galway has to offer and taking in the main sites of the beautiful city, and spend your final day on a trip to the incredible Cliffs of Moher and to the beautiful area known as The Burren. If you’re looking for a more off-beat day trip from Galway, you could even consider visiting the Aran Islands if you’re keen to be transported back in time.
Off the Beaten Path Ireland Itinerary
Beginning in Galway City rather than Dublin, this one-week Ireland road trip is ideal for those who want to get away from the well-trodden tourist trail and explore some areas of the country that few visitors take the time to. This is the trip where you will get a true taste for Irish culture and heritage and see some truly amazing scenery and charming villages and cities.
Days 1-2: Galway City
Begin your Ireland road trip in the lovely west coast city of Galway. Like mentioned in the itineraries above, you need only spend one full day to explore the majority of small Galway and you can take another day to embark on some of the iconic day trips from Galway. Though this is an “off the beaten path” itinerary, no one says you can’t visit the Cliffs of Moher — they are incredibly popular for a reason!
Days 3-5: Connemara
From Galway, head north to the incredible Connemara region and indulge in all of the splendours that this remote area has to offer. Visit the charming fishing villages, go on the incredible scenic drives, indulge in delicious seafood, and go for some of the incredible hikes. Spending a few full days in Connemara will ensure that you really feel like you’ve “gotten away from it all” and you’re sure to leave feeling energised and invigorated in this incredible peninsula.
Days 6-7: Sligo
Make your final stop on this one week Ireland road trip in County Sligo, located north of Connemara in the northwest of Ireland. This area isn’t all that visited by many tourists, however, it has a lot to offer and it’s very much worth taking the time to get out here if you want to get off the beaten tourist trail in Ireland.
Sligo town is the main settlement of Sligo and makes for a perfect place to base yourself in the area. Take the time to properly explore the town, visit some museums and take in the main sites. Located in County Sligo, there are also incredible megalithic sites to see and plenty of other historic settlements and artefacts to take in.
On your final day, make sure to drive north to visit Donegal, one of the northwesternmost areas of the Republic of Ireland. Boasting jaw-dropping scenery and a lovely county town, there is also the famous Donegal Castle that is worth exploring in this area, as well.
Where to Stay in Sligo
Riverside Hotel — This hotel is an excellent choice for those looking for something clean, sleek and comfortable while visiting Sligo and the Northwest of Ireland. They have a range of great rooms available, a restaurant and bar on-site, and the option to have breakfast each morning. Click here to see their availability
The Glasshouse — If you’re looking for something cool and modern when staying in Sligo, then this is an excellent option for you. They have a number of comfortable and stylish rooms available, fascinating architecture, and an award-winning restaurant and bar on site. Click here to see their availability
Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more hotels in Sligo!
Touring Ireland by car is one of the best ways to see the country and get off the beaten path. This alternative 7-day Ireland road trip itinerary allows you some of the highlights of the country and undoubtedly have you planning a return trip soon!
Before setting off on your 7-day Ireland road trip itinerary 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 an Ireland road trip itinerary? Have you been to Ireland already? Let us know in the comments!