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In June and July 2019, we embarked on perhaps our most epic road trip to date ...
A 16 day, Ireland road trip that literally took us EVERYWHERE!
Instead of driving a few hours a day and seeing perhaps just a small part of the country, we took it upon ourselves to plan the most full-on Irish road trip possible.
In just 16 days, we did a full loop of Ireland, starting and finishing at the Spaceships Rentals site just outside Dublin.
The total we drove over 3,000km, making our way through 26 out of the 32 Irish counties, and seeing all of the top sites we wanted to see.
This included driving almost all of the famous Wild Atlantic Way, all of the Ring of Kerry and seeing about 40 castles along the way.
If you are planning your own road trip around Ireland, then this full-on 16 day Ireland itinerary should give you everything you need to help you plan your own epic route.
So, without further ado, let’s get stuck into day 1 …
We arrived at Dublin airport in the morning and immediately set off north to the Spaceships Rentals pick-up point, located about a 40 minute drive from the airport.
For the next 16 days this would be our little home, carrying us a total of 3,338km (2,074 miles) around Ireland.
Our first stop was the Powerscourt House & Gardens, located just south of Dublin city, after travelling around the busy ring road.
What’s nice is that, once we got off this busy toll road, that is the last of bad motorway traffic we saw in Ireland!
Much of the country is still made up of uncluttered country roads, which is the best way to discover the Emerald Isle.
Dublin isn’t actually a part of our 16 day itinerary, as we have visited for a few days before. But it is certainly worth adding in 2 days here either at the start or end of your Ireland itinerary.
By far the best part of the day was spent driving through the Wicklow National Park and stopping off at Glendalough.
We continued on our way south, stopping off for a bit in Wicklow, before driving on to Carnavan Bay, about a 40 minute drive from Wexford.
This ended up being one of my top 5 favourite wild camping spots in Ireland, and we had ourselves a BBQ whilst watching the sun slowly set over the cliffs whilst laying in our bed.
After a good old fashioned fry up, we made our way over to the famous Hook Lighthouse, widely regarded as the oldest operating lighthouse in the world.
The coastal drive here is lovely, and once we arrived at Hook Lighthouse, we found out that it’s possible to wild camp right next to the lighthouse in a big car park on the edge of cliffs.
So, if you’re in the area and looking for somewhere to spend the night, then you should definitely give this a go; there are lots of other campervans that regularly use the spot.
We then made our way northwards towards Waterford, a quaint little town that had one sight we were in dire need of visiting … Tesco!
After stocking up on supplies and checking out Waterford, it was time to head up to Kilkenny.
This is a lovely classic town with old-fashioned buildings, cobbled streets and lots of tourist-oriented Irish bars.
Definitely a great place to spend a day or two.
But the best sight by far here is Kilkenny Castle; we made ourselves some salads and sat on the large lawn outside having lunch whilst enjoying views of the castle … perfection.
Our final stop of the day was the incredible Rock of Cashel.
You’ve probably seen pictures of this castle before, and it’s possibly Ireland’s most famous castle.
Built hundreds of years ago it was where kings of Ireland resided for generations.
The best views of the Rock of Cashel are from far away, most notably the road towards Cashel if you're coming from Killarney.
Sure, inside is nice, but I wish we'd taken more time to experience the Rock of Cashel from far away as that is when it’s at its most inspiring.
That night we camped at Apple Camping & Caravan Park, which turned out to be the best campsite from our whole trip!
You get free homemade apple juice for every guest, and you can go strawberry picking there (honest to God, these were the best strawberries we had in all of Ireland!).
Our first and most surprising stop of the day was Cahir Castle.
I hadn’t seen this castle mentioned very much before our visit and merely thought it would be a fleeting visit. But in the end, we loved it!
It’s one of the nicest and best-preserved castles to visit in Ireland, and the town of Cahir is a great wee place as well.
After this, we embarked on what ended up being one of the best drives from all over Ireland!
The route from Cahir to Lismore takes you through winding Irish roads right up through mountains until you reach a point called The Vee.
The views from here really were incredible, and we were blessed to have a warm, sunny day to enjoy them.
From there, we visited Lismore Castle, once again one of Ireland’s best-preserved castles.
You are only able to walk the grounds as the castle itself is still a full-time residence, but the lawn outside proved to be the perfect lunch spot.
From there, we headed on further south to the popular port town of Cobh, home to The Titanic Experience.
This is built at the site of the old White Star Line ticket office and it is here that the last passengers boarded the Titanic before its doomed voyage across to America.
Our stop in Cork city proved to be a bit damp, though we still enjoyed a couple of hours walking the streets and picking up some fresh ribs and chicken wings for the BBQ that night.
Camping in Cork is not possible, so we headed out to Blarney for the night so that we could arrive early to Blarney Castle.
Blarney Castle was one of my most anticipated stops of the whole trip and I was super excited to kiss the Blarney Stone!
My grandparents have told me countless times of when they kissed the Blarney Stone many years ago, and it’s certainly a unique experience.
The grounds around the castle are wonderfully maintained, so I recommend taking an hour to explore these before leaving.
From here, we went south to Charles Fort, a spot we were very excited to drone; however, on this day the skies were full of mist and we could barely see the fort, let alone the river below.
Kinsale is another lovely seaside town in Ireland, a place you could easily spend a few days exploring and relaxing in.
The rest of the day was spent enjoying the magnificent coastal drive all the way to Castletown-Bearhaven on the Beara peninsula.
On the way, we drove as close to Castlefreke castle as we could get, which was hard to track down but very worth it.
We spent that night camped in the town of Castletown-Bearhaven in one of the bays that the local council has set aside solely for campervan use.
It was a great spot, and we also made good use of the local pubs in town.
This ended up being one of our most epic days from our Ireland road trip, completing the rest of the Beara peninsula and the whole of the Ring of Kerry as well!
Though the Ring of Kerry is the much more famous of the two, the Ring of Beara is better in many ways. It is uncrowded, and we went virtually the whole way without bumping into more than a dozen cars. The landscape out near Allihies is extremely rugged and I loved the twisty, turning country roads.
But of course, the Ring of Kerry is famous for a reason and the 3 to 4 hours it took to get around it was a lot of fun.
Especially when you reach the Western tip and can enjoy the cliff views near Portmagee.
You pass through numerous villages and towns along the way, all of which you could happily stop in for lunch, dinner and a few pints of Guinness.
But the highlight of the day was our night spent in Killarney town; here, you will find some of the best Irish bars anywhere in Ireland.
It’s popular all days of the week with stag nights and hen nights and it’s no surprise why.
You’ll find at least a dozen bars blaring out live music and there is an incredible atmosphere.
Our favourite bars were:
If you plan on doing the same, I recommend staying at Killarney Flesk Caravan & Camping Park which is cheap, has great facilities and is just a 20 minute walk from the centre of town.
This was another one of my favourite days spent road tripping Ireland, as much of the day included touring Ireland’s most breathtaking landscapes.
Ross Castle, Muckross Abbey and Torc Waterfall are all lovely and worth a visit; but by far the best things to see are the Gap of Dunloe, Molls Gap and Ballaghbeama Gap.
As the guy who ran the campsite in Killarney put it …
“If Leprechauns were to live anywhere in Ireland, then the Gap of Dunloe is where you would find them.”
It is hands down the most magical and scenic part of Ireland and my favourite place to visit in Ireland.
We ended up driving the whole way through the Gap of Dunloe (not recommended or encouraged) and came out on the other side and spent a good couple hours driving through gorgeous valleys.
This is Ireland at its most scenic and if you were to roadtrip any part of Ireland, this is the part I would recommend most.
At the very least, you should take a few hours to walk the entire length of the Gap of Dunloe, as the scenery changes again and again, the further through it you walk.
By the way, the reason we drove through the Gap (which once again, you should try to avoid as it is an extremely narrow road) is because the road was closed south of Killarney and there was no other way for us to get through to Molls Gap.
If the roads were all open, the best approach would be to walk the Gap of Dunloe first thing in the morning and then afterwards head round to Ross Castle, Muckross Abbey, Torc Waterfall and then carry on down that road to Molls Gap.
Afterwards, our route took us around Carrauntoohil (Ireland’s tallest mountain) and on up to the Dingle Peninsula.
After stopping off at Inch Beach and Minard Castle, we picked up some fish and chips and enjoyed them at our wild camping spot for the night, in a secluded layby right on the cliffs, just outside Dingle.
The Dingle Peninsula ended up being just as magical as the Ring of Bear and the Ring of Kerry.
When leaving Dingle, you enter what is called the Slea Head Drive; essentially a loop that takes you to the rest of the peninsula and back to Dingle.
The first stop we found was a small parking spot on the left, where you can park up and head over the road to pet and feed the sheep.
The spot isn't yet marked on Google Maps, so here are the coordinates: (52°06'30.5"N 10°23'34.9"W).
It’s just a few euros per person and you can feed sheep, horses, goats and even pigs!
And the setting is one of Ireland’s ancient neolithic sites.
The drive on round takes you to the popular Coumeenoole Beach and we decided to visit an old church in Kilmalkedar.
For lunch, we headed round to Brandon Point, where you can enjoy sweeping views all out across the Atlantic Ocean.
The rest of the day was spent driving on up to Kilteery Pier where we wild camped for the night.
On the way into Limerick, we stopped to get a few shots of Adare Manor before visiting King John’s Castle.
I won’t lie, it looks a lot better in the images, but is still worth a visit if you are passing by.
The rest of Limerick doesn’t seem to offer too much, but has a big high street, great for picking up supplies or grabbing a coffee and stealing some much-needed WiFi.
Bunratty and Dromoland Castle proved to be much nicer, with Dromoland being my favourite (mainly because of the gorgeous golf course located on its grounds!).
From there, we followed the coastal road (Wild Atlantic Way) and had some brief stops in Kilkee and Lahinch.
This drive is very nice and well worth it, but the stand out attraction of the day was Doonagore Castle.
We arrive as the sun was starting to go down and managed to capture some awesome shots on our drone.
We spent the night in a campsite in Doolin called O'Connor's Riverside Camping & Caravan Park; and for dinner headed to the local pub for some cider, bangers & mash and a bit of traditional Irish music.
We arose early for a morning visit to Ireland’s most popular tourist attraction … the Cliffs of Moher.
Few people come to Ireland without visiting the cliffs of Moher and it gets very busy at around 10am.
We got there an hour or so beforehand when there was hardly anyone around and had a great time walking along the cliffs and enjoying some of Ireland’s most extraordinary views.
Afterward, our route took us up into the Burren National Park, which is fascinating because the landscape is very unique and looks more like the Moon than Ireland.
On the drive through, you pass by Father Ted's house (if you don’t know what this is, then you’re missing out on some of the best classic Irish comedy!)
Our next stop was Galway, and on the way took a break at Dunguaire Castle.
We decided to camp in an area called Salthill, which was about an hours walk from Galway centre.
On this day, the weather must have been hitting almost 30 degrees and the skies were so clear we felt like we were strolling along beaches in the south of France!
In Galway town, you will find tonnes of great Irish pubs, serving up fresh pints, traditional music and great craic. I recommend stopping in at:
I planned this day to be a little shorter, as I figured I may be a little hungover from the night before.
So this day was a bit more chilled out and we didn’t get going until a bit later, which was nice!
Our first stop was Ashford Castle, possibly the best preserved and most renovated castle in Ireland.
When we were there, a helicopter was landing and then taking off from the helipad outside. Turns out you can stay here for about €800 a night and it is frequented by celebrities and millionaires.
As you leave Ashford Castle you pass through the town of Cong; this didn’t mean much to us at first but we later found out it’s famous for being the filming location of the 1952 movie “Quiet Man” starring John Wayne.
On our drive down to Roundstone, we took lengthy drives around Lough Mask and Lough Inagh.
They really are gorgeous, and the whole landscape is breathtaking; so allow plenty of time here for photo stops.
Our final major stop of the day was the 1897 Happening Statue which turned out to be built on one of Ireland’s most historic and important locations.
If you are interested in Irish history then this is a spot you simply cannot afford to miss on your Ireland road trip.
Finally, we spent the night wild camping on a small secluded pier called Glynsk Pier.
On the day we were here, there was a wedding at Ballynahinch Castle work we couldn’t get into the grounds.
However, there are spots along the river you can get out and view it, and it really is magnificent, with a river flowing the whole way down from the castle.
As you head further round the coast you come to Roundstone, another lovely little seaside village in Ireland.
We stopped off at Dog's Bay just further along, here you’ll find clear blue waters and a nice beach to walk along.
We stopped off in Clifden for a couple of hours so we could get some work done in a cafe and once again steal some much-needed WiFi.
The Abbeyglen Castle is located just on the outskirts of town and from there we went on to Connemara National Park.
At the Connemara National Park Visitor Centre you can choose from a few different walks to take; each one taking you higher up the mountain and offering better and better views.
Kylemore Abbey was a nice place to get out and walk, though we didn't take the longer route which allows you to visit the gardens as well.
This whole morning of driving is one of the best days of the whole Ireland itinerary, and one of the best spots to stop off and appreciate the views is the Misunderstood Heron.
It’s located right on the edge of a fjord stretching into Ireland and on a warm day, the views are unbeatable (oh, and the coffee isn’t too bad either).
We arrived at Croagh Patrick an hour or so later after taking the longer coastal route up.
We didn’t walk up ourselves, as it’s a good few hours arduous climb up and down, but the views are meant to be spectacular!
It’s also a very important religious pilgrimage site, which you can read more about here.
Much of the rest of the day was spent finding somewhere to wild camp and we eventually found ourselves on Achill Island.
We picked up fish & chips from a spot just as you enter the island and found an incredible spot located right on the edge of a cliff!
This was one of my favourite camping spots from the entire trip.
From Achill Island we headed north all the way up to Downpatrick Head.
When you check this out online, your first thought is probably “isn’t that just a bit of rock out in the water?”
Well, yes! But there’s more to see there than that, and it’s a great place to walk up around the cliffs, watch people fishing and to see old WW2 outposts.
Our next 2 stops were Markree Castle and Parkes Castle, with the latter being situated beside a lovely large lough.
The drive around here is once again spectacular and the most enjoyable part of the day.
From here, we headed into Sligo and then north around Benbulbin.
This is a large mountain which, from the right angle, looks as if it’s just standing there on its own.
We spent that night up in Mullaghmore, wild camping once again on the edge of a cliff overlooking the ocean.
After 3 nights of wild camping, we were in desperate need of a shower (as I’m sure you could imagine)!
So we headed across the border into Northern Ireland to a small village called Kesh.
From her years spent camping at nearby Lough Derg, Cazzy knew there were free public showers here we could use; and, no word of a lie, they were the best showers we found all over Ireland!
On the way, we visited Bundoran, which is a typical family seaside town.
For lunch, we stopped at Lough Derg at the same spot where Cazzy has been camping since she was young.
We then drove on up to Lough Eske Castle, which is a privately owned castle, which you can stay in and which was being used that day for a wedding.
Our stop in Donegal was short but sweet, as the town is surprisingly small, as is the castle.
The most impressive part of the day was Slieve League, which is a mountain situated right on the coast.
You can walk up it and on the way check out the grandiose cliffs; this is a very popular tourist spot and well worth a visit.
That night, we had our 4th night of wild camping at a small beach called Mullaghderg.
On your way up into Glenveagh National Park, you come across Errigal, which was in many ways the most impressive mountain in Ireland.
It stretches up into the clouds, completely separated and on its own, and is far more impressive than Carroutohill in Kerry, even though that’s the highest peak in Ireland.
You can then drive into Glenveagh National Park and walk to the Glenveagh Castle (which we weren’t able to do, unfortunately).
The drive on up to Doe Castle is lovely and you can really see a stark difference in the landscape here compared to countries in the deep south of Ireland.
Doe Castle is a relatively small, but well preserved castle that is worth visiting.
From here, you come out and do the Atlantic Drive which is a relatively short route that heads out into one of the Donegal's peninsulas.
After driving the rest of the Wild Atlantic Way, you’ll find this to be a bit of a let down as it’s nothing special or unique compared to the rest of the coastline, but still nice.
On up in Fanad Head you come across another one of Ireland’s old and significant lighthouses.
We then took the coastal road south to Letterkenny before driving all the way back up to Malin Head, Ireland’s most northerly point.
It was a great sense of achievement to have reached this point, driving from the deep south all the way to the north.
We didn't stay too long as it was getting late and windy and we wanted to get to our campsite!
So we drove straight on down to Quigley’s Point, not far outside of Derry.
We both highly recommend staying here and visiting the pub over the road; here we had the best food from our entire Ireland road trip!
On our drive down into Derry, we came across a sign heralding the end of the Wild Atlantic Way.
This was another symbolic moment, having driven almost all of it on our way up the west coast of Ireland.
Derry is an important city to visit, as it has played a central role in Ireland’s rough and tumultuous history.
There are stark reminders of the British atrocities committed there when you visit Free Ferry Corner and the peace murals surrounding it.
Just remember, it’s called Derry not Londonderry!
After this, we spent the rest of the day with Cazzy’s folks heading to a string of Northern Ireland's best sights, all located on the north coast Causeway Coastal Route.
This includes Mussenden Temple, Dunluce Castle, Giant’s Causeway and the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge.
Another popular spot that we skipped was the Bushmills whiskey factory.
If you’re a fan of Game of Thrones, it's worth stopping off at the Dark Hedges on your way south to Belfast.
I’d recommend spending a day or two in Belfast if you can, being that it’s the capital of Northern Ireland and Ireland’s second biggest city.
We’ve been there tonnes of times before, and you can check out what to do there in this post here.
We then spent the night just outside Belfast with Cazzy’s family.
The final day from our epic 16 day Ireland road trip itinerary involved us essentially heading south back to the Spaceships Rentals site.
On the way, we visited Tollymore Forest Park and the Hillsborough Castle & Gardens.
Again, we have been here before, as Cazzy grew up around here; but both are well worth a visit!
As are the Mourne Mountains which, if you can spare a few hours, are well worth hiking up.
Back near the drop off site you have Slane Castle (famous for hosting a number of major concerts over the years) and the Hill of Tara which is an ancient site dating back thousands of years.
It has been the crowning point for kings of Ireland for generations, and today you can still walk up ancient mounds built there.
This was literally our final stop and we had 5 minutes to reach Spaceships before they closed (so we really did use all of our available 16 days!)
Though they don’t fit into this 16 day itinerary, there are a few extra places we have been to in Ireland that we would recommend you try to fit in. This includes:
As you’d imagine, there is always more to see in this gorgeous country, and we fully intend to take more driving tours of Ireland in the future.
In particular, there are a few key things we didn’t get to squeeze into our itinerary, but would love to go back and see.
Read Also: Backpacking Ireland: 30 Top Travel Tips!
Road tripping Ireland really isn’t that expensive.
Sure, it’s pricer than some other countries in Europe, and you will quickly burn through the cash if you spend most nights in pubs drinking 4 or 5 pints of Guinness.
But if you are sensible, like I think we were, then you will end up spending between €40 and €50 per day, per person (excluding the cost of the campervan).
Our average daily expenditure ended up being a little under €50 a day each, but as you can see, that covered a heck of a lot! Including:
Of course, you will then need to factor in the price of a campervan or vehicle itself.
This will vary greatly depending on the size of the vehicle you need and who you choose to hire with.
Our journey around Ireland was in collaboration with Spaceship Rentals, so we saved on the cost of the van hire itself, however, we did still choose to pay an additional €22 per day for full, no excess insurance cover.
We did a LOT of searching before our trip and decided to work with Spaceships for a few reasons. Most notably because:
We decided to opt for the Volkswagen Delta which, at the time of year we visited, usually costs €59 per day.
If you wish to opt for a larger motorhome, prices will be more.
Either way, if you stop and work it out, you’ll soon realise that the cost of hiring a campervan is a LOT cheaper than paying for hotels, Airbnbs and transport the whole way around Ireland.
Plus, it offers up so much more fun and flexibility, so I would highly recommend it!
This is the great thing about road tripping Ireland, it’s completely up to you!
There are campsites everywhere, and you can find a cheap spot for the night for maybe €20 to €30.
Alternatively, the much better option is to wild camp!
Out of 15 nights on the road, we wild camped 10 of those, and they were the 10 best nights!
Don’t get me wrong, staying at a campsite is nice, and actually very necessary as it gives you a chance to have a proper shower and get clothes cleaned.
But aside from that, wild camping is so much more fun and you get to stay in some truly beautiful spots with amazing views to wake up to.
It is completely up to you, all I will say is, the longer … the better!
As you can see, we spent 16 days road tripping it, and we got to see almost all of the best spots we had planned.
However, we did need to skip a few places and our itinerary every day was pretty full-on.
We would often be on the road/seeing places for about 10 hours a day, with about 3 to 4 hours of that spent driving.
Don’t get me wrong, I loved every minute and wouldn’t have had it any other way!
But if you do have longer to spare, then I would say you could easily follow the same Ireland itinerary as us, but extend it to a month or more.
That being said, if you only have a week or less to spend, then no problem!
Simply pick the places you like most and create a loop.
For example, many people spend a week driving across to Killarney, doing the Ring of Kerry and then heading to Cork and Wexford on the way back.
Others head north and see the northern coast of Northern Ireland, stopping off at famous locations like the Giant’s Causeway and Game of Thrones filming locations.
It really is up to you!
That’s such a hard question! But if I had to pick 10, then they would perhaps be (in no particular order) …
For a more comprehensive idea of what there is on offer, check out these posts we wrote:
No, not at all.
They drive on the left in Ireland and the vehicles are right-hand drive.
It helps to have a decent vehicle, as many of the roads are county roads and quite windy.
They can get quite narrow at times, but in 16 days of driving more than 2000 km, we never had any issues at all with traffic.
That being said, they roads can be dangerous when wet and late at night, so avoid driving recklessly and you should be okay.
If you have any more questions about our 16 day road trip itinerary of Ireland, then just drop me a comment below.
I would encourage more people to head to Ireland and to experience the beauty on offer.
It really is an incredibly diverse country and easily one of my favourite places I’ve ever been to.
Also, if you think we missed any locations that you’d recommend, I’d love to hear your thoughts below ...