It’s that time of the year again- time to satisfy our wanderlust needs 😉 Life is short, time is valuable so go ahead and BOOK THAT TRIP! We were craving NATURE and thought what is the one place in the world that’s lush and green? IRELAND! It’s known as the Emerald Isle-from rolling hills, resplendent greenery and rich landscape, it is the most healing and unparalleled scenery.
This itinerary is specifically for those looking for a relaxing, small town vibe getaway. Personally, we are not city people- cars with smog, tall skyscrapers, hustle and bustle= no thank you! We needed to immerse ourselves in nature to recharge so if that is the kind of vacation you are looking for, this is the itinerary for you! Special shoutout to my childhood friend, Ruby, for providing soooo many authentic recommendations
Here’s Some Advice…
LET’S GET STARTED WITH THE ITINERARY!
This is the exact loop we did. Keep on reading below to find the exact spots we visited.
Land in Dublin bright and early! Arriving early to a country is such a plus- TSA security, car rentals, money exchange will not be crowded and you can breeze through the process! I urge everyone to rent their own vehicle for convenience & I’ve listed the rental options above. From the airport, grab your first authentic Irish breakfast in Dublin at Lemon Jelly Cafe to fuel up for your first day road tripping.
Now that your belly is full, make your way through Wicklow National Park to get to Glendalough. Throughout the national park, you will find your first sheep spotting! They’re happily grazing on grass and roaming wildly free so be mindful of the road and give them the right of way when you see them crossing. The Wicklow mountains is an impressive 54,000 acres and offers plenty of attractions along the scenic drive. From nature walks to epic waterfalls to ancient ruins, there is an activity for everyone. P.S the weather here is changeable so plan and dress accordingly- it can get pretty windy!
You will only need 1-3 hours to stroll through this town. That will give you plenty of time to explore the iconic roundtower, church ruins and visitor center. There are a ton of walking trails to choose from- Glendalough Spinc Walk, Upper/Lower Lake Circular, The Woodland Road and The Derrybawn Woodland Trail. St. Kevin’s Kitchen is a snack truck parked right outside Glendalough Cathedral’s entrance and there’s outdoor seating along the river- it’s a lovely spot to drink some coffee & rest! Once you’re done exploring Glendalough, make your way to Kilkenny!
Head over to Kilkenny in the early afternoon to give yourself plenty of time to check in and explore the town because there is plenty to do here. We stayed at the Kilkenny Rivercourt Hotel. They surprised us with a complimentary upgrade to a castle view room & I couldn’t be more grateful because I honestly couldn’t stop staring at the insane view! The downside to this hotel is the bathroom and carpet. For a 4 star hotel, I don’t think it’s up to its standards and could use some remodeling/deep cleaning, but maybe I’m just being too nit-picky. There are plenty of accommodations to choose from in Kilkenny, but I can promise you, none of them will beat this balcony view!
Kilkenny is the former medieval capital of Ireland. This town dates back to the 6th century. Spend your day strolling through the city center. Walk through The Butter Slip Alley– a quirky little alley built in 1616. This alley was used by butter merchants to sell their products because the space was so small it kept a low temperature. There is also a store called Butterslip with locally made products where you can buy gifts. Didn’t pack enough clothes? Visit Market Cross Shopping Center. There’s reasonably priced shops or stop by Penneys- it’s got everything you need at an extremely affordable price.
As for food, you’re in luck! Kilkenny has a ton of options! Grab dinner at Campagne / FoodWorks / Lady Helen for luxurious Michelin star meals, Petronella Cafe for a delicious, moderately priced meal (amazing & extensive vegan/ vegetarian options) or The Fig Tree for a casual cafe vibe with traditional Irish dishes. Craving a pint? How could you not in Ireland? Grab a pint at Kytler’s Inn. It was established in 1324 & this pub is filled with history and charm! You must grab dessert at Cakeface Patisserie– this little shop has homemade soup, bread, and best of all, fancy cakes that are works of art. The dessert presentation and flavor deserves a Michelin star! I recommended the Passionfruit Nut and Miss Lemony Rose- I wish I ordered one of everything.
Jetlag can be a bitch, but I’m telling you it is worth waking up early to get your day started here in Kilkenny! The good thing about traveling during Fall/Winter is that sunrise is much later in the day and that will give you time to sleep in (just a little bit). Our hotel accommodation came with complimentary breakfast with a view of the castle. It did not feel real to eat and stare out at that view and you guessed it, I indulged in another full Irish breakfast!
Spend the early morning at Kilkenny Castle to avoid the crowds. The current admission price is €8 adults / €4 child (both are for self guided visits) Check this website for admission updates. If you’re not keen on spending money to enter the castle, you can opt to stroll the exterior for free! Kilkenny Castle dates all the back to 1172 AD. There is plenty of space on the grounds for families with kids to play and run around. We had a lovely time sitting on the benches admiring the architecture. For history lovers, head across the road to Kilkenny Medieval Mile Museum located inside St. Mary’s Church to dig deeper into the history. The museum is quite small, however there are original artifacts, renaissance tombs and medieval sculptures inside. You can opt for expert tour guides or do your own interactive audio tour. The entrance fee is extremely affordable- 5€ per adult, 2€ Child. Visit St. Canice Cathedral to see the gothic 13th century cathedral. It is the oldest standing structure in Kilkenny and you can actually climb the round tower.
Rock of Cashel
Once you’ve fully explored Kilkenny, hop back on the road to your new destination! As you make your way to a new town, stop by Rock of Cashel- do not skip it!! It’s worth the pitstop. Rock of Cashel admission is free, however you will need an online reservation. There is free street parking right below the uphill climb to the site. It’s a magnificent site & I HIGHLY recommend this attraction. Fun fact: Two of the most famous people of Irish legend and history are associated with the Rock of Cashel. They are St. Patrick whom according to legend, arrived in Cashel in AD 432 and baptized King Aengus who became Ireland’s first Christian ruler.
From Rock of Cashel, we quickly drove through Cork- you can even opt to stay the night here because Cork is the second largest city in Ireland and there’s so much to explore here. We were short on time and could only pick one attraction and ended up choosing Black Rock Castle Observatory (photo above) It’s a great place to bring lunch and admire the scenery from a picnic bench. Here are some top attractions in Cork that were on the top of my list: Blarney Castle , The English Market, Gleview Garden & Fairy Trail and St. Fin Barre Cathedral
Killarney is the next town we stayed overnight. It is a long trek from Kilkenny so you will most likely arrive late afternoon/night. We checked into a quaint airbnb listing and was greeted by a very warm host! The location of the home is a short 10 minute drive to town center and the host even provides a lovely breakfast. Take the night to explore Killarney town center, shop for goodies (there is a Primark/ Penneys), feast on fresh seafood and grab ice cream at Murphy’s . This ice cream company uses all real, fresh ingredients straight from the farm, free range eggs, and organic sugar! Our favorite flavors were gin and soda bread. Killarney is a town on the shores so I highly recommended choosing a seafood spot. We went with our host’s recommendation and had dinner at Kitty O’Se’s Seafood and Grill
We spontaneously decided to visit Ross Castle VERY late at night… Ross Castle is open to the public, free of admission. It 100% feels like you’re in a horror film at night… don’t go alone and be cautious of your surroundings if you do decide to visit at night.
P.S While you’re in Killarney, give Murphy’s Irish Stout a try! It was our very first time trying it and oh my, it is the best beer I’ve ever tasted! & I am NOT a fan of any kind of beer- it truly reminds me of fraternity houses, but Murphy’s Irish Stout was so well made and the flavor was delicious.
Killarney National Park
Top of the morning to ya! Killarney is known for their beautifully lush national park so start your day off in nature! I highly recommend visiting Torc waterfall. There are 2 ways to reach it- the easy way & not so easy way… for Torc Waterfall, park at the lower lot (Ring of Kerry Rd / N71) for a short 5 min stroll to the waterfall or park at the upper lot for the trail we went on! The upper car park can be accessed by leaving the N71 about 1km earlier and following the road as it steadily ascends through the woods. Google maps brought us to this parking lot so we ended up having to hike 1.5 hours each way to reach this waterfall! The trail is long and strenuous, but extremely rewarding so if you’re up for a medium-strenuous hike, this is for you! FYI the lower car park is quite small and gets filled up quickly- I recommend going early in the morning.
Storytime… I was told this was a 5 minute stroll so I got dressed up in a cashmere sweater + tulle maxi skirt with a huge peacoat to get some cute content. However, we ended up parking at the wrong lot and was stuck doing a 4 hour hike. By the time we reached the waterfall, I was a sweaty mess and had no desire to get the instagrammable shot, ha!
Although we went on the wrong trail, I have no regrets because I discovered so many cool gems throughout the hike. Hikes in LA are SO bland, but this hike was filled up with abundance! The trees here are mossy, there’s a variety of cool looking mushrooms and every tree root, branch all holds a unique story. I couldn’t get enough of Mother Nature!
After all the huffin and puffin, you’ll want to fuel up so head back to Killarney town center for some food. I tasted the most decadent & scrumptious shepard’s pie from The Laurel’s Pub
For those spending more time in Killarney, the Ring of Kerry is a beautiful coastal loop that you can do in one afternoon. I recommend this guide here to plan out your Ring of Kerry adventures! From here, go along the Wild Atlantic Way up to your next iconic destination, Cliffs of Moher.
Cliffs of Moher
Cliffs of Moher attract more than 1 million tourists each year. It is located right off the R478 & free to enter! But, parking is $10€ per person, NOT per vehicle so it’s basically your entrance fee because there’s no where else to park there. These cliffs are estimated to have formed 320 million years ago- mindblown! We went for sunset on a very gloomy day, which kinda added to the whole Irelend mood. It gets extremely windy so bring a large coat when you visit! The photos above sums up our visit- those are the only photos we got because everything was getting blown over!
Fun fact: The makers of Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince used Cliffs of Moher as inspiration for the scene where Dumbledore and Harry are off to find one of the Horocrux in the cave.
Right after sunset, we headed to the town of Doolin to get our grub on at Gus O’Connor’s Pub! It was a delicious 5 star meal-ordered the fresh Atlantic Mussels soaked in white wine & cream sauce, prime Hereford Sirloin steak with peppercorn sauce and a classic Guinness.
Doolin is the perfect town to stop at after you visit Cliffs of Moher (only 12 minutes away) We stayed the night in a lovely airbnb linked HERE. Doolin itself is a quaint little village, extremely small & you only really need 15 minutes to stroll through or even just do a quick drive by so I suggest grabbing a cup of coffee here in the morning and head out early for a fun filled day.
Poulnabrone Dolmen is one of the most famous portal tombs in Ireland! This archeological site is a relic of the Neolithic Age. “Neolithic” means “New Stone Age,” when agriculture emerged in Ireland. It’s also the period of the megaliths, the great stone monuments that dot the landscape of Western Europe. The dolmen itself is made of limestone slabs. A pair of portal stones– the large upright stones at the dolmen’s entrance and two smaller standing stones support the capstone, which slants downward from the front to the rear to create a chamber. We know the dolmen was a tomb, because archaeological excavations have uncovered the remains of at least thirty individuals and from the bone fragments we can tell that the dead bodies were already decomposed when they were moved into the chamber around 3000 BC.
There is a spacious parking lot for visitors and only requires a short 5 minute stroll to this site. There is a rope barrier that prevents anyone from getting too close to the monument. Please be respectful and stay behind it. I recommend wearing hiking shoes with good traction when visiting- the limestone rocks jut out the ground and the terrain is very rugged.
Spend the afternoon in Galway! Galway is a bustling Irish city filled with so much to do- it’s the place to be! First stop is the Latin Quarter– the lively city center is packed with quirky shops, cobblestone roads, traditional pubs and street performers- you can really feel the Irish spirit here. Grab breakfast or mid afternoon tea at Cupan Tae or Coffeewerk + Press. Looking to eat at a Traveler’s Choice Award? Eat at Ard Bia at Nimmo’s. For a more down to earth family owned restaurant, check out McCambridge’s. For authentic pubs, hit up Tigh Neachtain or Tig Coili.
Salthill Promenade is a short drive outside the city center and here you will discover the beautiful seaside. It is the perfect place to take a stroll beside the ocean, stop by the amusement park for some thrill or take a dip in the ocean.
If you have time to explore the surrounding area, visit or stay the night at Ballynahinch Castle– super dreamy, luxurious setting with a lake. Another destination nearby is Dog’s Lake which is known as the most beautiful beach in Ireland There are amazing shades of blue (only when the sun is shining brightly) so if you’re looking to take a dip in the ocean this is where you should go!
We headed to Clifden Ruins for a scenic sunset walk and this was by far my FAVORITE activity in Ireland! Make sure to park out on Sky Road located right before the castle’s entrance gate. You will need proper footwear for this trail as it gets extremely muddy when it rains.
As you walk on the muddy trail, there are private farm lands all around you with sheep, cows, and horses! What made this trail so unique is the wildlife, view of the sea, and ancient castle all combined within a short distance. The ruin is worth a visit- the outside walls are still intact with vines taking over however, I’d say it is pretty unsafe to wander inside the ruin because it has been abandoned for so long. Be a daredevil and carefully roam inside or if you’re like me, just admire it from the exterior.
Spent the night in Westport- a charming seaside town. In 1767 Westport became the first planned town in Ireland so you’ll find stone bridges, and tree-lined promenades on the banks of the Carrowbeg River. Many visit this town to do the Croagh Patrick trek. This is a pilgrimage for many- Croagh Patrick is considered to be Ireland’s holiest mountain, and renowned for its Patrician Pilgrimage in honor of Saint Patrick, Ireland’s patron Saint. For those spending more time here, stop by the Westport House, which is a heritage home museum, amusement park, campground, and train ride rolled all into one.
When in Ireland… You MUST stay overnight in a castle and live out your fairytale dreams. After a ton of research, we went with Cabra Castle and you can read more about our experience HERE! And yes, I packed a whole gown in my carry on luggage just so I can capture my princess moment.
Our last stop, Dublin, the capital city bursting with awesome things to see and do. Go to Guinness Storehouse Factory to learn how to pour the perfect pint. Built in 1759, the Guinness Storehouse has been producing stout beer for its patrons. Step back in time at Dublin Castle. Dating back to the early 13th century, the Vikings established their headquarters in this medieval structure. Visit Trinity College Library– the largest library in all of Ireland. Its most famous section, known as The Long Room, has been known to resemble the Jedi Archives in Star Wars. See St. Patrick’s Cathedral, founded in 1191, it is known as the largest church in all of Ireland. Take a selfie at one of the easiest monuments to spot from afar, The Spire stands approximately 120 meters above ground. Walk across Ha’Penny Bridge, a cast iron bridge built in 1816 that carried a lot of history and people across Liffey River.
There are endless pubs and restaurants to choose from in Dublin. I recommend The Boxty House or Brother Hubbard– both featured on Netflix’s Somebody Feed Phil S2. E2. episode. Some local pub favorites are Kehoe’s Bar, The Palace Bar, and The Long Hall.
I hope you found this guide helpful and please let me know down below your favorite spots in Ireland!