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So, you’ve found yourself with 7 days in Ireland and want to have the ultimate emerald isle itinerary. First of all, congrats! Ireland is one of my absolute favorite countries, and by the end of the week it will (most likely) be one of yours.
Second of all, the key to crafting a perfect week in Ireland lies in balancing tourist-y highlights and authenticity. Ireland has no shortage of either, though a huge part of its charm lies in local, off-the-beaten path experiences. A tour bus isn’t going to stop at a local village pub, after all.
This itinerary is perfect for anyone who wants to see the classics, like the Cliffs of Moher and Blarney Castle, while still enjoying genuine interactions with locals, nature, and Irish culture in general.
I have honestly been to Ireland more times than I can count, and worn many hats there. I’ve spent weeks volunteering on rural farms, visiting family friends and learning their insider tips, and sometimes, just being a totally shameless tourist.
I like to think I’ve learned the best combination of all of the above, and created this 7 day Ireland itinerary in that spirit!
Preparing for 7 Days in Ireland
- Before we get into the itinerary, here are some quick basics.
- Ireland uses the Euro. You can exchange money at currency exchange desks, whether at the airport or city centre. However, Ireland is overall a very credit card-friendly country.
- Prepaid phone cards are easy to find and affordable. However, I’ve actually never used one in Ireland. Because…
- Wi-Fi is easily accessible in most places.
- The weather doesn’t get horrendously cold (I am saying this as a Midwesterner). However, it can get quite rainy—especially in December and January.
- Irish people are in generally, incredibly welcoming and friendly. I have asked for directioners and hitch-hiked all over this wonderful land.
- Don’t ask them about leprechauns, for the love of all that is good and holy. Instead, ask them about how a pint of Guinness equals half a sandwich.
Getting around Ireland
I strongly, strongly recommend renting a car. I know the idea of driving a car around a foreign land sounds kind of scary, but the unknown is the worst part of it. Once you’re behind the wheel, the freedom it allows will cause all (well, most) anxiety to dissipate. Sure, you may make a faux pas or two, but everyone will get it over.
This itinerary is designed around a few home bases, with some convenient day trips to thrown in. Having your own vehicle pairs nicely with this travel style; you can leave whenever you want in the mornings, take your time, and even make day-trips-within-day-trips if stuff looks cool along the way!
That said, if you are too young, too broke, or too-whatever-else, this 7 day Ireland itinerary is 100% possible by public transportation. Consider signing up for a guided day tour or two if you opt for this route, primarily for the national parks. Ireland has a lot of great, affordable day trips.
TLDR: While it’s definitely possible to do this itinerary with public transportation, you should rent a car if at all possible.
Where to stay in Ireland
One of the nicest things about Ireland is how much flexibility you’ll have with your budget. There are plenty of reasonably priced hostels (and like anywhere, some less nice, even more affordable ones).
Whenever possible, opt for a local B&B, especially if traveling in a couple or small group! Irish bed and breakfasts range from modest to extravagant. You will never get sick of a full Irish breakfast, plus it’s a good way to meet people.
Every home base in this itinerary—Dublin, Killarney, and Galway—has a good selection of lodging options. You can even camp in the national parks, if you like, though that brings me to my next point…
When to go to Ireland
You might’ve heard: it rains a lot in Ireland. This isle didn’t get all emerald by being dry.
While there’s a healthy chance of rain whenever you go, April to June are the driest months overall.
The wettest, coldest months are December and January. As much as I love Ireland, it can get a bit miserable, so unless you have a high tolerance for rubbish weather try to go another time.
All that said, as long as you come prepared, I don’t think you can have a bad time in Ireland. What is torrential downpour, but an excuse to duck into the cozy pub again?!
How to make this 7 day Ireland road trip YOUR OWN
I just want to stress—none of this stuff is mandatory. At all. If you aren’t a day trip person, and would rather wander around your home base city for an extra day, do it! Do whatever the heck you want. Your time in Ireland is exactly that, your time.
My goal is to give you all the information, but you have absolute freedom when it comes to deciding what to do with it.
So let’s get cracking!
Days 1-2: Dublin and the East
Most flights to Ireland are in and out of the capital city, Dublin. Founded by vikings in the 9th century, it is now more famous for its colleges and universities. Prices in Dublin can be a bit high compared to the rest of Ireland, so I’ve just included experiences I think are well worth the price (spoiler alert: there are a lot of them).
Day 1: Dublin
You need at least one full day to simply explore and enjoy Dublin and all it has to offer. Here are some of my favorite activities in Dublin:
- Trinity College and the Book of Kells
- Guinness storehouse tour
- Jameson whiskey distillery tour
- Dublin Castle
- Temple Bar
- Walk Grafton Street, have a cup of coffee at Bewley’s
- St. Patrick’s Cathedral
- Walk around St. Stephen’s Green
- Go to Mulligan’s or Kehoe’s, traditional Irish pubs
(I’m currently working on a Dublin-specific post, which should be published in a couple of days, where I’ll go into detail on each one of these)
I think this list has a good mix of structured, ticketed experiences and pure wandering. I’m a big fan of pure wandering, which you know if you have ever read one of my blog posts.
Dublin is a perfect city to wander around because the city centre is very walkable, people are friendly (for a bigger city), and it’s hard to get lost. That’s because the central River Liffey is always there to guide you home!
Day 2: Day trip to Glendalough and Wicklow Mountains National Park
Wicklow Mountains National Park, which contains the picturesque Glendalough Valley, is the largest national park in Ireland. It has some of the most epic mountain hiking trails. Conveniently enough, it’s also less than an hour’s drive from the capital, Dublin! If you want to see the misty green hills and lochs Ireland is known for, look no further.
Glendalough Valley is a stunning glacial valley in the southern end of Wicklow Mountains National Park. Besides its natural beauty and excellent hiking, Glendalough specifically is known for St. Kevin’s medieval monastic settlement. Basically, they’re ancient ruins set in one of the prettiest, moodiest natural settings you could ask for!
Loads of national park hiking trails leave right from Glendalough Valley. They’re very well-organized—check out the national park’s official site and trail descriptions here. I personally cannot recommend the White Route (the Spinc and Glenealo Valley) enough. It is truly one of the loveliest day hikes in Europe. Here’s the park’s map of all the routes!
In fact, I have an entire post about my experiences hiking in Wicklow Mountains National Park!
There aren’t a ton of dining options in the immediate area. However, I can tell you the post-chilly-hike Guinness I had in the Glendalough Hotel pub (walking distance from the valley and visitor centre) really hit the spot. They have a restaurant, too, but I can’t speak to it (and Google reviews are not great). Go for the Wicklow Heather restaurant instead—it’s literally a mile east on your way back to Dublin.
Alternate Day 2: Northern Ireland bus tour
You’re spoiled for choice when it comes to planning 7 days in Ireland. If the national park doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, or weather isn’t cooperating, you could use this day to see a bit of Northern Ireland.
Northern Ireland is an entire different country—it’s part of the United Kingdom. This would be the one part of this itinerary where you might want to leave your car and take a guided tour. There are a few reasons for this. First, logistically it’s a bit annoying as some rental companies have fees to cross the border, speed limit signs switch from KPH to MPH, etc. Second, it’s such a long driving day—even shorter tours are 12 hours. Better to let a tour guide drive so you can relax.
There are three main types of tours: Giants Causeway, Belfast and/or Titanic, and Game of Thrones filming locations themed. Many will combine elements of the three. I personally did one that included the Giants Causeway and a whiskey tasting, and had a ton of fun.
Days 3-5: Killarney and the South
Base yourself in Southeastern Ireland—Killarney—to explore this part of the country. On this part of your 7 day Ireland itinerary you will enjoy plenty of rolling green hills and epic ancient ruins.
Day 3: Blarney Castle & Cork
Blarney Castle is a fairly convenient stop on the way from Dublin to Killarney, you just need to cut south. It’s just shy of 3 hours drive from Dublin, and just over an hour from Killarney.
Bonus pub stop between Dublin and Killarney!
If you drive through Kilkenny, pop by Kytelers Inn. It was originally owned by the first ever condemned witch in Ireland, Dame Alice de Kyteler.
Now, to Blarney Castle…
Blarney Castle and Cork city centre are only about 15 minutes drive apart, by car or bus. Cork is the second largest city in Ireland
and… it’s just okay. I’m sorry, Cork lovers, please don’t roast me! There’s just not a ton going on compared to Dublin and Galway, and less appealing aesthetically. Spend your city time taking in Dublin and later, Galway. And as far as County Cork goes, consider heading straight to Blarney Castle.
The Blarney Castle is obviously best known for the Blarney Stone, which you are supposed to kiss. Then you get the gift of gab, of course. You probably know all that going in, but did you know there’s a lot more to Blarney Castle than the famous stone?
Specifically, one could spend a whole afternoon exploring the castle grounds themselves. The surrounding forest paths and glades of the castle gardens are positively entrancing. As you explore the paths around Blarney Castle, you’ll see informative plaques for all manner of flora. There are even fairy gardens, with information about Irish fairies and lore.
It’s a hoot.
Fairies aside, the most ridiculous part of visiting Blarney Castle may still be kissing the aforementioned magical stone. FUN FACT: for a super-famous stone with mystical powers, it sure is inaccessible. Maybe that’s the point?
First, you climb up to the top of the castle. Then, a staff member basically grips you firmly as you lie upside-down, leaning off a ledge. Then, you kiss the Blarney Stone! I may be being dramatic, but it was a lot more acrobatic than one would expect.
They take your picture as you (struggle to) kiss the stone, which makes for a hilarious souvenir.
An adult ticket to the Blarney Castle and gardens was 16-18 euros depending on season, with discounts for students and kids. The audio guides are an extra 6 euros, and worth it if you like audio guides.
Day 4: Killarney National Park and Kenmare
The drive down N71 from Killarney to Kenmare will take you right through Killarney National Park. This is the perfect low key day trip for those who enjoy small, local villages and natural beauty.
Kenmare is a charming seaside town at the edge of Kenmare Bay. It is full of super colorful buildings and has views of the countryside wherever in town you go.
To get there, however, you get to drive through the heart of Killarney National Park! Just head south on N71, which is one of the best drives in Ireland. In order of how you’ll drive past them:
- Ross Castle
- Muckross Abbey and Muckross House
- Torc Waterfall
- Ladies View
You can also do a hike or two in the park. Killarney National Park has an incredibly well-made website, and their hiking section is informative.
After exploring Killarney National Park, you can head south to Kenmare. The Ring of Kerry is a famous scenic driving loop. You just head west from Kenmare, about a half hour (or 26.5 km).
If you find yourself with even more time, the seaside town of Bantry to the south is super cute.
Day 5: Dingle Peninsula
The Dingle Peninsula isn’t necessarily on the super-mainstream-tourist circuit, and this is a wonderful thing. Truth be told, you could spend your entire 7 days in Ireland here alone, but truth be told that’s true of everywhere on this itinerary!
Here are some highlights to visit on Dingle peninsula:
- Slea Head Drive, a scenic drive on the south end of the peninsula
- Walk along Inch Beach and/or Coumeenoole Beach
- See the beehive structures at Gallarus Oratory
- Eat at Murphy’s Ice Cream
- Climb Mt. Brandon
- Hit the pubs, like McCarthy’s or An Droichead Beag
It will be a full day of brisk sea breeze in one of Ireland’s most stunning areas.
Days 6-7: Galway and the West
The West coast of Ireland is known for its dramatic coastal scenery. They even have a name for this stretch of the country: the Wild Atlantic Way. Galway is an excellent base for seeing this part of Ireland, as well as being an interesting hotspot in its own right.
You’ll witness the natural beauty firsthand when visiting the coast, like at the Cliffs of Moher. Connemara National Park is worth a stroll if you have the time. Finally, as far as urban Western Ireland goes, Galway is an artsy gem and my personal favorite “big” city in Ireland.
Day 6: Cliffs of Moher
You can’t spend 7 days in Ireland without visiting some of the most-deservingly-hyped geological wonders of the Emerald Isle.
I am talking, of course, about the Cliffs of Moher!
Located along the Wild Atlantic Way in County Clare, the Cliffs of Moher are Ireland’s second most popular tourist destination.
(I totally thought they were the first, but apparently the Guinness Storehouse has them handsomely beat)
These picturesque cliffs overlooking the Atlantic will rock your world. Most people spend a couple hours wandering around the area, checking out the visitor center, and possibly dabbling in some wildlife viewing! You can see puffins at the cliffs during springtime and even migrating whales in the autumn. I’ve never encountered either, BUT I did see many a local County Clare cow wandering about.
It’s easy to drive yourself from Galway, though the drive can take close to 2 hours. Galway also has a direct public bus from their central bus station! Alternatively, you can do a day tour. Because the Cliffs of Moher are such a well-trodden tourist spot, there are a ton of affordable, high quality tour options.
Visiting the Cliffs of Moher is shockingly affordable for how world-famous and popular they are. It was 8 euros for an adult, with discounts for students, seniors, and kids. You can check out the Cliffs of Moher tourism page for more info.
Day 7: Galway
I freakin’ adore Galway. It definitely brings one back to that big city vibe of Dublin, but way less touristy—and less expensive.
I’d stay as close to the Latin Quarter as possible. This is one of the most picturesque areas of Galway. In fact, there’s a good chance you’ve already seen pictures of its colorful rows of shops and cobblestone streets!
At the center of the Latin Quarter you’ll fine the famous Quay Street. Quay Street is bustling, but a fun central location. I’d stay a few blocks away from this area just for the sake of a good night’s sleep.
Kirwan’s Lane, perpendicular to Quay Street, is one of Galway’s most historically significant streets. It’s gorgeously Medieval architecturally, and full of traditional pubs, cafés, and theatres. As with much of the general Latin Quarter area, you’ll be treated to plenty of interesting shops, street performers, and a traditional-meets-artsy vibe.
The Crane Bar, southwest of the Latin Quarter/Quay Street area, is excellent. It is historic and known for its traditional Irish folk music.
One of the best things about Galway is its coastal location. Find a place to sit (and perhaps a cold bevy or two) overlooking the water and just take it all in. A peaceful sunset here, with the humming city behind you, is the perfect way to end a day in Galway.
Day Trip from Galway recommendation: Connemara National Park
If you find yourself with some extra time, either on Day 6 or Day 7, Connemara National Park is an excellent little excursion. Connemara National Park is smallish, but beautiful. You can find info on its four trails, all accessible from the visitor centre, on the Connemara National Park website.
One last Irish pub on the drive back to Dublin…
The oldest pub in the world is in the middle of—where else—Ireland! Sean’s Bar in Westmeath isn’t the most picturesque pub in the world, but believe or not it’s really thought to be the oldest.
The National Museum of Ireland in Dublin contains most of Sean’s Bars artifacts now, but still. It’s an interesting stop for the history buffs!
Enjoy your 7 days in Ireland!
I hope this guide was adequate enough to get you started.
As always, if I overlooked any key info, please, please, please do not hesitate to let me know in the comments!
Have fun out there, and have a pint of Guinness for me 😉
*This post contains affiliate links, meaning I receive a small commission (at no cost to you) if you end up buying anything. I never recommend stuff I don’t stand behind—whether it’s a tour, hostel, or travel toothbrush.*