Are you planning a visit to Ireland for the first time?
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If so, you’ll need some type of itinerary to guide you.
And while Ireland is small, there’s a lot of ground to cover.
In fact, you won’t see everything in 10 days, but with this guide you will see some of the country’s most popular attractions — and a few quirky hidden gems thrown in for good measure.
Designing an Ireland Vacation Itinerary
When designing an itinerary for a first time visit to Ireland, it’s always advisable to draw a line across the country from say Dublin to Galway and then decide which half of the country you want to explore.
With this 10 days in Ireland itinerary, you’ll get to visit some of the popular attractions with tourists in addition to other, lesser-known ones.
This itinerary is geared toward the southern half of Ireland and includes attractions like Galway, the Cliffs of Moher, Doolin, the Ring of Kerry, the Dingle Peninsula, Waterford City, and more.
It is not as easily accessible if you are using public transportation, although I’m not saying that it’s impossible either.
Getting around Ireland by public transportation takes additional planning. Stay tuned to Ireland on a Budget for an itinerary specially geared toward that.
The ideal way to enjoy this 10 days in Ireland itinerary is if you are renting a car. I’ve got lots of information on this website about that and you should read it carefully before deciding.
This particular itinerary only allows for one-night stays in each destination (except for Dublin at the beginning and Kenmare), and while I realize that may not suit everyone, it's just one in a myriad of ways that you can get to see the country's most popular attractions on a first visit.
Once you've experienced Ireland, there's nothing to say that you can't come back again and take your time knowing that you have already checked those popular spots off your bucket list.
This post contains all you'll need to know to plan your 10-day road trip around Ireland, but it is a long read.
If it’s more convenient, you can purchase the PDF file for only $3.99 on my Etsy shop. It has the full post (including images) and even more information than you’re getting here.
This way, you can print it out or save it to your devices, including your iPad or mobile phone so that it’s easily accessible when traveling.
10-Day Ireland Vacation Itinerary
Day 1: Arrive in Dublin
Day 2: Explore the City
Day 3: Drive to Bru na Boinne (Newgrange Chamber Tomb) and the Midlands (Clonmacnoise)
Day 4: Drive to Galway, Explore the City
Day 5: Galway to Doolin
Day 6: Drive to Kenmare
Day 7: Explore The Ring of Kerry
Day 8: Journey to Cobh
Day 9: Waterford City Viking Attractions, Waterford Crystal, Copper Coast
Day 10: Drive to Dublin and Fly Home
Interactive Road Trip Map
Below is an interactive map of this 10 days in Ireland itinerary. Be sure to add this map to your Google account so that you can view it for future reference or while you are in Ireland.
How to Use This Map: Click the tab in the top left-hand corner of the map to view the points of interest in this Ireland 10-day road trip itinerary. If you click the blue icons on the map, you will get more information about each point of interest, as well as an image. If you click the star, this map will be added to your Google Maps account. To view it on your phone or computer, open Google Maps, click the menu button, go to “Your Places,” click Maps, and you will see this map on your list.
Day 1: Arrive in Dublin, Explore the City
You’ll arrive at Dublin Airport in the morning hours. It’s best not to rent a car yet. Instead, take a bus or taxi to your hotel.
If you are good after a few hours of sleep, I’d start my exploration of Dublin in the afternoon.
There’s no need to get crazy on the first day, however. Just acclimate yourself to the surroundings and grab a bite to eat in a city center café or restaurant or drop into one of Dublin’s classic pubs for a Guinness and a hearty Irish meal.
The Brazen Head, said to be in existence since 1198, is a popular choice due to its convenient city center location.
Food is served every day from noon to 9 p.m.
Where to Stay in Dublin
I’ll admit that Dublin is not a cheap city to stay in, and since the pandemic, prices have increased.
With that in mind, it really depends on where in the city you want to be.
If you choose to be in the city center, you’ll pay more.
The Harding Hotel in the Temple Bar section of Dublin is one of more affordable hotels on offer this year.
The 2-star hotel is small, with 52 basic rooms that are clean and surprisingly large. All rooms come with a private bathroom and are equipped with the usual phone, TV, and free WIFI. You’ll also find a refrigerator in each room.
The Ariel House, an elegant Georgian residence, is more expensive this summer as well. Rates in mid-June are hovering around the $250 mark per night.
The Pembroke Townhouse is also a great accommodation in Dublin. A stay in mid-June is around $220 per night.
As always, it’s best to do your research early and thoroughly.
If you’re looking for a B&B in Dublin, why check out BandBIreland or Airbnb?
Day 2: Exploring Dublin
While there are lots of great attractions to see in Dublin, if you only have one day, I’d narrow it down to 2 or 3 at the most.
Trinity College’s Book of Kells is must-see.
The 9th-century manuscript was written by monks and documents the life of Jesus through a series of ancient ornamental scripts and drawings.
You can find it in the college’s Old Library – the Long Room, to be exact, which houses around 200,000 books.
If the Irish fight against British rule is of interest to you, a visit to Kilmainham Jail is well worth it.
It’s not particularly suitable for small children as some areas of the jail may seem spooky and dark to little ones, and indeed certain areas of it are said to be haunted by the ghosts of those who were executed after the Easter Rising of 1916.
You must purchase tickets on the Kilmainham Jail website beforehand as none are available at the museum entrance.
Quirky Find: If you’re strolling through King's Inns Park in the heart of Dublin, you’ll want to take your phone out and snap The Hungry Tree, which appears to be consuming an iron bench in the park.
This popular quirky attraction is located close to the Honorable Society of King's Inns, Ireland’s oldest legal institution and a fine example of the city’s beautiful Georgian architecture.
It is close to Henrietta Street where you can find another interesting attraction called 14 Henrietta Street, a museum dedicated to Dublin life, particularly life in its tenements.
You must book a tour beforehand.
If you’re not a history nerd, a visit to the Guinness Storehouse and any one of Dublin’s whiskey distilleries is totally worth it.
For those of you interested in exploring the Irish diaspora and how it has shaped Ireland as a nation, check out EPIC The Emigration Museum.
See Dublin with the Dublin Go City Pass
Day 3: Drive to Brú na Bóinne
You must go to the Brú na Bóinne Visitor Centre in order to see this popular attraction.
The Newgrange Chamber Tour is the most popular one and takes about 2 hours and 45 minutes.
Additional tours of the other important sites Knowth and Dowth are also available.
The drive from Dublin takes about 45 minutes.
Once you get to the center, you can purchase a ticket for a guided tour.
The passage tomb is a Neolithic monument that experts believe was constructed over 5,000 years ago, making it older than the Egyptian Pyramids and England’s Stonehenge.
Once inside, you’ll marvel at the Megalithic art that’s inside, and one can only imagine what took place in what was likely a site of great worship.
Amazingly, the roof of the chamber has remained intact without needing any conservation or repair.
The cairn (or stone mound) that covers it is approximately 200,000 tons and is held up at the base by 97 massive curbstones, making this attraction a true feat of ancient engineering.
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Day 3: Drive to Clonmacnoise
The drive to Clonmacnoise, the 6th century monastery founded by St Ciarán, will take you close to 2 hours.
The heritage site is located in what is known as Ireland’s Midlands region.
The monastery, which is located on the banks of the River Shannon, Ireland’s longest river, was quite the place in its time, attracting students from all across Ireland and Europe.
Explore its cathedral ruins, two round towers, three high crosses, nine churches and over 700 early Christian grave slabs.
A magnificent 10th-century Celtic cross can be found in the foyer of the center.
You should plan to spend about 2 hours at the site. Book online before your visit.
Attractions on Your Drive to Clonmacnoise
As you drive southwesterly to Clonmacnoise from Newgrange, you might be tempted to stop at The Kilbeggan Whiskey Distillery.
The Kilbeggan distillery is the oldest functioning whiskey distillery in Ireland that was founded in 1757.
The Distillery Experience tour includes a visit to the distillery warehouses, a meet and greet with the makers of the whiskey as well as a tasting.
The tour takes about 90 minutes.
Where to Stay
After your visit to Clonmacnoise, I recommend you take the 30-minute drive to Athlone, a substantial town upriver on the Shannon, which is located on the Roscommon/Westmeath border.
While you’ll find more budget-minded accommodation in the Athlone region, such as The Creggan Court Hotel just off the M6 motorway, I’m recommending The Hodson Bay Hotel on the shores of Lough Ree as an alternative because it offers so much more.
The additional amenities include refurbished rooms, a spa, a great carvery restaurant and a delightful 5-kilometer residents-only trail through nearby woodlands.
Day 4: Drive to Galway City
The drive from Athlone to Galway City on Day 4 of your 10 days in Ireland adventure can be done in about an hour. You’ll be traveling on the M6 motorway.
Galway is a happening spot and a favorite among tourists who are attracted to its youthful vibe and heritage.
At the height of the tourist season, expect to see buskers perform on the streets, particularly Shop Street and the area that leads into the cobbled streets of the Latin Quarter, where you’ll find cute shops and charming eateries.
I know of two different walking tours that you can avail of in Galway, including Brian Nolan’s Galway Walking Tours and Gerry Hanley’s tours of the city.
Another alternative is to take a bus tour of the city.
Either way, Galway is a manageable city to explore and can be done in a day.
Be sure to leave time for a fun night in one of Galway’s many pubs, where trad sessions are the norm.
Favorite haunts include The King’s Head, Tig Chóilí, Taaffe’s Bar, The Crane Bar, Tigh Neachtain, An Púcán, Garavan’s Bar, and Monroe’s Tavern.
Accommodation in Galway
Galway City has plenty of accommodation. For the truly budget-minded traveler, hostels are a great choice.
One of my favorite mid-range hotels in Galway is the Skeffington Arms Hotel.
Located off Eyre Square, it’s in an ideal location to explore all that Galway has to offer.
Read More: 10 Affordable Hotel Stays in Galway City
Day 5: Galway to Doolin
You’ll find the drive from Galway to Doolin in County Clare a pleasant one that will take about an hour and a half.
Doolin is a small village, but it makes a big impact on most visitors.
Its colorful shop fronts and great traditional Irish music sessions make it a popular tourist attraction.
During the day, there’s plenty to see and do in Doolin.
If taking a brisk walk along the coastline is appealing, the 3-hour Doolin Cliff Walk is your intro to the area.
You can do a self-guided walk or take a tour with local farmer Pat Sweeney.
The walk starts outside O’Connor’s Pub and ends at the Cliffs of Moher and into the visitor center.
Being a local, Pat has a vast knowledge of the area’s farmland and how it has been managed over the generations.
He’ll also give you a history of the region and take you to the highest point of the cliffs (702 feet/214 meters) where, on a clear day, you can see the Dingle Peninsula and Loop Head to the south, the Aran Islands to the west and the Twelve Pins mountain range and Connemara to the north.
If you’d rather skip the walk, you could take a ferry to Inishmore on the Aran Islands from Doolin Pier on the Doolin Ferry. You’ll see the cliffs from the ocean in that case.
Accommodation in Doolin
Budget Accommodation – The Aille River Holiday Hostel and Camping Doolin is suitable for the budget-minded traveler. You can find a deluxe family room for 3 for about €82/$87 per night.
Pricier Accommodation with Fab Views – The Blue Stonecutters Cottage is a post-Famine era cottage that has been lovingly restored with many original features intact. Previous visitors rave about this place, and it’s easy to see why.
Rates are about €150 per night and two-night stays are required, so you’d need to add another day on to your itinerary to avail of this great accommodation.
That could be achieved by eliminating Galway City and driving straight to Doolin from Clonmacnoise.
Other accommodation that is in between in price can be found on Booking.com.
Day 6: Drive to Kenmare
The drive on Day 6 to Kenmare will take over 3 hours so it might be a good idea to stop off somewhere to take a break and get a bite to eat.
While you could easily choose Killarney as your destination on Day 6, I prefer Kenmare simply because it’s not quite as touristy.
Adare Pitstop: Ireland’s Prettiest Village
I recommend that you stop off at the pretty village of Adare, which is close to the city of Limerick.
Desmond Castle in Adare is the major tourist attraction in town and is located off the N21 on the main Limerick to Kerry road.
It was constructed in the 13th century by the Earls of Kildare and remained in that family for nearly 300 years until a rebellion took place in 1536 and ousted them, giving the Earls of Desmond the opportunity to capture it.
Tours of the castle are available each day from June through September.
A shuttle bus is available from the Adare Heritage Centre. Tickets are €8 for adults, €6 for students and €18 for families.
The center houses several quality stores that stock plenty of souvenirs for you to take home, as well as the Dovecote Restaurant.
Accommodation in the Kenmare Area
Convenient and Budget-Friendly – you can’t beat O’Donnabhain’s Pub and B&B for its convenience because it’s located smack in the middle of town.
All rooms are spacious and clean and are conveniently placed away from the pub where live trad sessions are a regular event.
The cost to stay at O’Donnabhain’s Pub and B&B is about $150 per night in June. Free parking is available.
You can find other Kenmare accommodation on Booking.com.
Day 7: Explore the Ring of Kerry
You’ll want to take the N71 toward Killarney to begin the well-worn route, and you’ll want to get up early if you want to complete this 119-mile (177 kilometers) in one day.
The Ring’s must-see attractions include Molls Gap, which provide some of the best views of the entire Ring route, including views of the Black Valley and Carrauntoohil in the MacGillycuddy Reeks mountain range, Ireland’s highest mountain.
Ladies View; the Lakes of Killarney; as well as Torq Waterfall and Muckross House Gardens and Traditional Farms are all part of Killarney National Park.
It’s ok to stop and take your time at some of the attractions but keep an eye on your watch, nevertheless.
If you are visiting Ireland during the late spring, summer, and early fall, you’ll have a good bit of sunlight to help.
Expect 16 to 18 hours of daylight during the peak summer months.
Hidden Gem You Can’t Miss – if you want to know what life in rural Ireland was like before electricity, you simply can’t miss Molly Gallivan’s Cottage and Traditional Farm, which opens its tours to visitors mid-March each year.
The 200-year-old cottage was originally a single-story thatched cottage but in the early 1900s, it was slated.
Part of the experience at Molly Gallivan’s is a unique insight into the traditions of Old Ireland, including guided tours and demonstrations such as the traditional making of Irish soda bread, as well as butter making and turf cutting.
Day 8: Journey to Cobh
The drive on Day 8 to Cobh (pronounced “Cove”) will take about an hour and 30 minutes on the N22.
Given that this 10-day Ireland itinerary only allows for one day in County Cork, I’ve decided to include Cobh rather than Cork City, although you could pop into Cork for a nice meal since it’s only a short train ride from Cobh.
Cobh was the last place that many Irish emigrants saw for the last time as they made their way to the New World between 1848 and 1950.
It is here that you will find the Cobh Heritage Centre.
The Queenstown Story is the highlight of a visit to this interesting attraction that is housed in Cobh’s beautifully restored Victorian era railway station.
The exhibition also explores emigration from Ireland from the 1600s, when convicts were shipped to British colonies like Barbados, Jamaica and the American colonies, up to the mid-20th century.
The story of Titanic’s last stop at Cobh is always on display, and you can do your own genealogy research by booking an appointment with the center’s genealogist.
I recommend that you also do a walkabout in Cobh and admire its famously colorful houses.
St. Colman’s Cathedral, built in 1919, stands high above the town and is worth a visit to admire its stunning interior.
Alternative Tourist Attraction in Cobh – if the Cobh Heritage Centre is not appealing to you, consider visiting the award-winning Spike Island off the coast.
This was once the largest prison in the world housing convicts awaiting passage to Australia and the Caribbean.
Known as Ireland’s “Alcatraz,” it housed at one time over 2,300 prisoners. Guided tours are available upon landing that provide a history of the island.
You can further explore Spike Island on your own on one of the island’s two walkways. Enjoy stunning harbor views and see the island’s abandoned buildings.
Where to Stay in Cobh
Because of Cobh’s location on the waterfront, I’ll admit that it’s difficult to find a budget hotel in the town, unless it’s one that is outside of Cobh with no sea views.
With that in mind, I’d recommend The Commodore Hotel for its stylish interiors and spacious rooms not to mention the view that you get of the nearby Cobh Harbor (you might just see a cruise liner in the dock while you’re there, too).
Prices in June are around $155 a night but that will largely depend on the season.
If you’re looking for a B&B in the area, search for listings under Cobh, Cork.
Day 9: Waterford City
The journey from Cobh to Waterford City on Day 9 of your 10 days in Ireland road trip will take you approximately one hour and 15 minutes.
On the way, you might want to stop for a tour of the Jameson Distillery in Midleton.
The distillery produces most of the Irish whiskey sold in Ireland under the Jameson, Midleton, Power, Redbreast, Spot, and Paddy labels.
Its behind-the-scenes tour includes a short film and a walk around the grounds and key distillery buildings, in addition to a premium whiskey-tasting experience.
It is believed that Waterford is the oldest city in Ireland having been founded by the Vikings in 914 AD.
The main attraction in the city is the Viking Triangle, aptly named because of the 1,000-year-old walls that once surrounded Waterford.
Today, the tourist area includes Reginald’s Tower, the oldest urban civic building in the country and the home of the Viking Museum, as well as several other museums collectively known as the Waterford Museum of Treasures.
They focus on artifacts found in the city from the Medieval and Georgian periods and include the Medieval Museum and the Bishop’s Palace Museum.
Others include The Irish Silver Museum and The Museum of Irish Time.
For some, no visit to the Waterford region is perfect without seeing the iconic Waterford crystal being made.
Most of the Waterford crystal is made outside of Ireland but at the The House of Waterford Crystal, some pieces are still created, including replacement crystal panels for the iconic New Year’s Eve ball that is dropped in Times Square, New York, each year.
The House of Waterford Crystal also contains a visitor center where you can take a factory tour that delves into the tools and techniques used to create this beautiful Irish crystal.
The store inside the facility contains many different types of crystal creations, from vases to glassware, ornaments and more.
You can also purchase Waterford crystal on the Irish Store website.
If you have the time, a drive around Waterford’s Copper Coast is totally worth it.
The region, once the home of copper mines that operated in the area during the 19th century, is now part of a UNESCO Global Geopark.
Some of the region’s favorite attractions include the remains of a 13th-century castle and a 4,000-year-old burial place at Dunhill, as well the Copper Coast Geological Garden in Bunmahon, where you can explore a geological time path of the area and see two ancient Ogham stones that are aligned with the summer solstice.
Accommodation in Waterford City
If you want to be centrally based while exploring Waterford, I suggest you stay in the city.
The Granville Hotel is a mid-budget type of hotel that was built in the 18th century and is located along Meagher’s Quay.
Needless to say, it has plenty of character.
It’s a 7-minute walk from the above-mentioned Bishop’s Palace and a short distance from the House of Waterford Crystal.
Free parking is available for those who book directly with the hotel as opposed to booking on a third-party app like Booking.com.
In June, prices are coming up at €168/$179 for bed and breakfast.
If cost is a concern, I’d recommend the Easdale B&B, which is located about 7 miles/11 kilometers outside the city. It’s an affordable €100 per night around the same time of year.
Day 10: Return to Dublin Airport
Depending on the time of your flight, you should give yourself plenty of time to get to the airport.
If you rented a car in Dublin’s city center, allow for more time.
Alternatively, instead of staying in Waterford for the night, you could book into a hotel at Dublin Airport.
I recommend the Clayton Hotel Dublin Airport.
Are you planning to create a 10 days in Ireland vacation itinerary this year? Let me know in the comments below if this one has helped with your travel planning.