Ireland may be a small country, yet it offers so much. The Lonely Planet Guidebook on Ireland is one of the most voluminous ever. It’s no wonder that Ireland is flooded by tourist masses each year.
Road trip on Ireland’s Roads
Most roads are well-developed, though there are motorways only between the major cities. You will often need some more time than you would have previously thought when looking at the map. On all motorways (M-roads) there are one or two toll stations. It is possible to leave the road before and enter again the next access (sometimes this alternative was even signposted). But the fee is €1.90 each time only. On our itinerary, you won’t pay more than €10, without the hassle and loss of time.
The M50 around Dublin is an exception. There is an automated system here and it is more expensive. Our rental car company advertised that we wouldn’t have to care about this, they would pay all M50 fees for us. But, by the way, they would charge €10 on top for this ‘service’. Well, we didn’t have to use the M50, so we didn’t care.
10 days on the road by rental car
We definitely wanted to visit Northern Ireland, too. So we decided to plan a 10-day itinerary. One week would be the minimum for a tour around Ireland. Our flights arrived and departed from Dublin, by the way. Here, we picked up our rental car and headed to Belfast the morning after our (late) arrival. There are no border controls between Ireland and Northern Ireland. But you mustn’t forget to tell it your rental car company (and pay a fee of €30 in our case) because it wouldn’t be insured otherwise.
For all tourists from outside the UK, driving left will be a challenge. But it wasn’t a problem at all. You get used to it. Also, the manual gears were no problem. If you are afraid of this, a car with automatic gearbox might be your choice!
We chose the following itinerary with 5 bases. You might decide to change your accommodation daily. You could save some driving time this way but packing your suitcases each day is quite a hassle.
Due to our late arrival in Dublin, we spent the first night near the airport, in Swords. We booked all nights at Airbnb because hotels or BnBs were extremely expensive in July in Ireland. All accommodations were clean and the hosts super nice. Sometimes we had a shared bathroom, but value for the price was great.
We discovered the city by foot and made a Black Taxi Tour. The next day we drove along the Causeway Coastal Road including Dunluce Castle, Bushmills, the Dark Hedges and of course the famous Giant’s Causeway.
On our way, we stopped to visit Clonmacnoise Monastery. From Galway, we made trips to the Connemara and the Burren and enjoyed the sunset at the Cliffs of Moher. Galway is perfect to enjoy the relaxed yet lively atmosphere in the pubs and one or another pint of Guinness.
Killarney is the perfect base for the Dingle Peninsula and the Ring of Kerry. Nearby is the Killarney National Park and the town itself is also worth a visit.
On our way towards Dublin, we visited Kinsale, Cobh and the Rock of Cashel. The next day we saw Glendalough, Powerscourt House and the Powerscourt Waterfall before heading to the capital.
We arrived just in time for the Saturday madness in Temple Bar. At 6 pm the atmosphere was already buzzing. Perfect!
Dublin is also perfect for short trips to Howth and Malahide Castle.
Data by OpenStreetMap.