Map tips: each color represents a different day. Click a marker to learn more about the spot, and click the star in the map header to save the entire map under Your Places in Google Maps.
Day 1: Shannon to Killarney
- Cliffs of Moher
- Kilfenora Cathedral
- Poulnabrone Dolmen
- Quin Abbey
Arrived to Shannon airport at 7:30 AM, got rental car and drove to Cliffs of Moher. I drive a manual in the states and had no issue the whole trip. It was pouring rain and no view when we got there so we took a quick nap in the car. If you get to the car park before they open at 9, you can park and get in for free (which we did).
After almost an hour it cleared up a bit so we walked around and got some pictures. It wasn’t as spectacular as we thought it would be but there are some great views. Next we stopped in Kilfenora on the way to The Burren to see Poulnabrone Dolmen. Kilfenora isn’t necessarily worth a stop but we have a painting of the cathedral that a family member painted many years ago so we wanted to see it. Poulnabrone Dolmen was ok also, much smaller than the pictures make the rocks out to be but worth a quick 20-30 minute stop.
Then drove to Quin Abbey, which was our favorite stop of the day. Beautiful setting, very peaceful and wasn’t busy when we were there. We started the drive to our B&B in Killarney (Rockfield House) around 4 and it took almost 2 hours. Checked in, drove down into Killarney and had dinner, called it a night. I would say the 4 stops we made are very easily done in a day and you do have time to explore the Cliffs and/or the Burren more than we did as well.
Day 2: Skellig Michael and Ring of Kerry
- Skellig Michael
- Cahergall Stone Fort
- Leacanabuaile Stone Fort
- Ballycarberry Castle
The number one thing we wanted to do was Skellig Michael and we planned the trip around giving us as many chances as possible since it is weather-dependent. We were fortunate enough to get to go on the first chance we had. Drove about 1 hour 20 minutes to Portmagee, with the majority of the drive on the Ring of Kerry. We went with Casey’s for the Skellig Michael tour and would definitely recommend them. If you can, absolutely take a tour to the Skelligs. The climb up the island isn’t bad, and being there and seeing what the monks built and how/where they lived was one of the best experiences I’ve had in my travels.
We got back to Portmagee around 2:30, had some food at a café and then drove back the way we came. Could have driven the rest of the Ring of Kerry but wanted to take the shorter route back. We stopped at the two ring forts, same parking lot for both. Neither are must-dos but don’t take much time.
Also a quick stop at Ballycarberry Castle, which wasn’t actually on our to-do list but is very close and absolutely worth it. There were only a few other people there and you could explore in and around the castle as much as you want (it looks like this is now closed and off limits, unfortunately). Picked up kebabs for dinner and stayed in Killarney again.
Day 3: Killarney to Dublin
- St Mary’s Cathedral
- Ross Castle
- Muckross Abbey
- Muckross House
- Rock of Cashel
- Hole in the Wall
We had considered driving the Dingle Peninsula (which we would have done on day 2 if we hadn’t been able to go to Skellig Michael) but since we had to be in Dublin that night we just started out in Killarney and drove cross-country stopping at the Rock of Cashel. St. Mary’s Cathedral is worth a quick stop to take a picture, beautiful architecture. Ross Castle wasn’t really worth it, but Muckross Abbey was awesome. Walked from the Abbey to Muckross House but didn’t go in. Very pleasant walk, great views of the lakes.
We were a bit disappointed by the Rock of Cashel – lots of scaffolding/construction and tons of people. Weren’t blown away by any means, but worth a stop to break up the long drive (2+ hours from Killarney to Cashel, another hour and a half to Dublin normally). Checked in to our B&B (Beech Lodge) for the next 2 nights, walked to a nearby pub (Hole in the Wall) for dinner. Planned on going into the city for dinner but there was a huge wreck on M50 that put us more than an hour behind.
Day 4: day trip to Edinburgh, Scotland
- Scott Monument
- Princes Street Gardens
- Edinburgh Castle
- Royal Mile
- Calton Hill
Booked a day trip from Dublin to Edinburgh, Scotland (United Kingdom) on Ryan Air and arrived around 8:30 in the morning. Took the Airlink 100 bus into town, to Waverly Station. That’s the cheapest way to get to/from the city and you buy your ticket and get on/off right outside the main airport doors. 30 minutes each way.
We walked down to Princes Street (the very next block from where you’re dropped off) and admired the Scott Monument – very cool, medieval monument. Definitely worth some pictures – you can go up it but it wasn’t open when we were there. Walked down to the Princes Street Gardens and had some great views of Edinburgh Castle. The gardens are very nice, lots of benches and worth walking through.
We wrapped around the castle and went in, honestly not worth the hefty 16 Pound price of admission. We were there during the Fringe Festival so there were a ton of people, but even if it was empty I’d have a hard time saying it’s worth about $50 (USD for a couple to get in. Spent a few hours there, went pretty slowly as we were tired. If I could do it over, would probably take the bus to Craigmillar Castle as I’ve heard that’s wonderful.
We walked down the Royal Mile which was crazy busy with people soliciting for their shows, street performers, and the thousands of other tourists. Cut down a random Close (alley) and found a quieter café that advertised haggis as their specialty. Had to try it, wouldn’t get it again but it wasn’t terrible.
Walked to Calton Hill which was our favorite part of Edinburgh. The views are great, the monuments are unique, and we liked it so much we took a nap on the grass and then read for a bit. We had considered trying to fit in a climb to Arthur’s Seat but were much more than content to just relax where we were. Walked back down to Royal Mile and explored more of the alleys/city center and then took the bus back to the airport for our 9 PM flight back to Dublin.
I know there were a lot more people there than normal, but I don’t think Edinburgh would be a place we would want to spend more than a couple of days. The gardens and Calton Hill alone were worth the trip though, and it’s a very walkable city. I’ve heard the botanical gardens are impressive but they’re further out than we wanted to go.
Day 5: Northern Ireland
- The Dark Hedges
- Ballintoy Harbour
- Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge
- Kinbane Castle
- Dunseverick Castle
We considered going into Dublin in the morning to see Trinity College but opted to sleep in and take our time – great decision. Got on the road around 11 and drove just under 3 hours north to Dark Hedges. This was a must-see if you’re going to the north coast, but since we’ve been there a storm blew down a decent amount of the trees. They are the cool trees in the photos along Bregagh Road and that basically dead-ends into the Gracehill Golf Club, so it might be easier to get directions to the course. There were plenty of people and cars, but if you get there early or late you’ll probably have less photoshop work to do. Park at either end and walk the whole way down and back – be patient as there will certainly be people and cars that ruin the perfect shot.
Drove to Ballintoy Harbor, didn’t really plan on going there but glad we did. The harbor isn’t that impressive (especially the obnoxious teens blaring techno that could be heard from a quarter mile away) but if you walk west along the coast there are some beautiful views/spots. Parking can be tricky, circled the lot a few times before we found people that were leaving.
Next went to Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge, another must-do. Last ticket is at 6-6:30ish, plan on spending at least an hour here. The bridge wasn’t scary for us, didn’t see anyone else freaking out or panicking either, but it is pretty high and there are great photo opportunities all over.
Drove a little further east to Kinbane Castle – one of the best surprises of the trip. Definitely make the 30-45 minute stop here, we were the only people in the area when we got there. Awesome setting, completely hidden until you’re halfway down the cliff.
Dunseverick castle isn’t that impressive, really just 2 small walls left, but you can basically take the picture from your car so it’ll take maybe 2 minutes of your time. The landscape is what’s really cool, the fact that a castle was there makes it neater.
Drove to Cottesmore B&B for the night, walked into Bushmillls for dinner. All the attractions along the coast are 5-15 minutes from each other, very easy to combine many or possibly all in a day if you start/end in the area.
Day 6: Northern Ireland back to Shannon
- Giant’s Causeway
- Dunluce Castle
- Bunratty Castle
Woke up early to get to Giant’s Causeway before the crowds and before you have to pay. If you’re there before 9 or park at the Nook café it’s free. You’re only paying to park and get in to the visitor’s center – you do not pay to visit the causeway. Our B&B owner (who was awesome) gave us all the info.
We were the only ones at the causeway and we started our walk down at 7:15, it was perfect. The weather wasn’t that good but having no one else around was better than having sunshine. Spent about an hour and a half there, went back for breakfast then drove to Dunluce Castle.
Have to go there to at least see it from the outside. On the fence if going in is worth it, but the castle has one of the coolest settings. Spent a couple hours there then drove all the way to Bunratty (5 hours 20 minutes with one stop and traffic). The castle was closed but is neat from the outside. Checked in at our b&b (Headley Court) then dinner at JP Clarke’s – great meal. Flight home the next morning from Shannon airport.
Ireland was great and we got really lucky with the weather as it only rained 2 of the days we were there. Skellig Michael and the north coast are breathtaking. Some might consider us crazy for all the driving we did and combining those areas in such a short trip, but we wouldn’t have changed a thing. If we had another day or two, we would have done Dingle Peninsula and gone into Dublin, but we loved how the trip turned out. No issues with driving stick/on the left side, just constantly remind yourself and have others in the vehicle do so as well.
We had a comprehensive atlas and Google maps directions, got lost twice. Helpful directions at gas stations got us right back on track. A GPS would have been over $70 to rent so we were fine with what we had but could see it being helpful. Found Google Maps times to be pretty much spot-on, although you will get stuck behind tractors, motor homes and run into traffic at times.
B&Bs are the way to go, every one we stayed at had amazing hosts. People in general were very friendly. Rain gear and hiking/waterproof boots came in handy.
Traveled in August 2015