You can read part 1 of this series, where I answer lots of questions I’ve gotten about this trip- including how to plan, where we stayed, what to bring, things to know, etc, by clicking here.
Our Ireland Itinerary
In September of 2018 My husband and I, along with our oldest son (13 years old) and my father-in-law, took a trip to Ireland. We flew in and out of Dublin, so we basically made a loop around the country, staying at various Airbnb locations, starting and ending in Dublin. I’ll outline our main points of focus in photos below, and we also explored and enjoyed lots of things on the drive from each of these locations to the next. My number #1 tip if you are planning a trip here is to leave plenty of time in your itinerary to take a unexpected turns and stops!
Dublin is a hustling and bustling city. My favorite thing was the modern city with archaic architecture and history sprinkled right in. Trinity College is a must-see, as well as walking famous Grafton Street and Temple Bar. Stephen’s Green and Christ Church were also great stops. The Brazen Head is one of the most iconic restaurants in Ireland and if you can get a table, the atmosphere was as good as it gets for Irish Pubs.
We took one day only to zip up to Northern Ireland. Had we had just one more day on our trip, we could have got farther North to see the Antrim Coast. We decided to go as far as Belfast, where we visited the Titanic Museum (which was fantasic- I didn’t expect to love that as much as I did. I actually had no idea the Titanic was built in Belfast! I recommend it.) We also found New Grange to be incredibly fascinating. It’s an neolithic passage tomb that’s over 5000 years old. Five thousand!! The stone age! I was memorized by the whole thing. We also stopped at Carrikfergus Castle and a sweet local fisherman told us to walk across the street where we could find an 800 year old church and cemetery. He also asked me if English was my second language because I could literally not understand a word he was saying with his ultra thick Irish accent, haha.
The Wicklow Mountains is the largest of Irelands 6 National Parks and it was breathtaking. this was probably our most perfect day weather wise, which added to the beauty. There are various recreation areas and ruin areas (Glendalough looks like straight-up Rapunzel’s tower!) so we took a couple hours to go on a hike and explore the area. You can visit the visitor center there for ideas on what to do with the schedule you have.
I LOVED the city of Kilkenny. It was once the medieval capital of Ireland and now it’s a both a charming modern town with great shopping, interwoven with medieval history. They have a huge, restored castle there, colorful buildings, fun restaurants and several large chapels. They also have our favorite ice cream shop, Murphey’s. Rule of thumb in Ireland: whenever you see a Murphey’s- just GO THERE!
Rock of Cashel
The famous castle in one of the most breathtaking landscapes. This was one of our most beautiful days weather-wise as well. On our way out of town from Cashel, we stumbled upon Cahir Castle, which was awesome as well. They had a “Sword in the Stone” out back that was a great spot for photos.
Downtown Cork was the most metropolitan city we experienced. It touted beautiful city streets with modern buildings. We stopped at the English Market and picked up some pastries for breakfast and then headed on our way to the outskirts of town to see the famous Blarney Castle- and yes we kissed the stone! It was both awesome and gross at the same time. If you visit Blarney Castle, take time to walk around the grounds- the gardens and landscape are breathtaking, and especially appreciated by this horticulturist.
If you’ve seen any movies involving Ireland, there’s a good chance part of it was filmed in Dingle. It’s the Western most point in all of Europe! It’s a charming coastal town with some beaches and houses in shades of rainbow and fishing boats. As part of the Wild Atlantic Way, it’s in a string of gorgeous coastal stops.
Of all of Ireland, I was possibly most excited to visit Killarney because my family grew up listening to a very memorable Christmas album with the song “Christmas in Killarney” haha. Killarney National Park is known for its wildlife. you can drive the Ring of Kerry which takes you all the way around the peninsula. We loved doing a quick hike to Torc Waterfall and hiking further up the hill for some stunning views. I also suggest making a quick stop at Ross Castle, which isn’t far from town. This first photo below is actually the view from our Airbnb!
We learned more about Irish history in Limerick than anywhere else. St. John’s Castle was totally worth the entrance fee (there are over 30K castles in Ireland, many are free and open, others are restored and more like visitor centers). I found their historical museum to be fascinating and we learned so much!
Cliffs of Moher
Possibly most iconic place in Ireland, these are the “Cliffs of Insanity” from The Princess Bride. It was the only place we visited that was cold and windy so dress appropriately! The views were spectacular, and I was terrified the entire time that either my son or my husband was going to fall off the edge.
Galeway is a harbor city and it’s known for art and music. If you visit Galeway, you must include at least one night to experience the streets of downtown Galeway. It’s FULL of live music and dancing and good food and pubs. We also attended Sunday church in this town, found a couple castles, a nice beach and took a day trip to the Aran Islands.
We ended our adventure back where we started, in Dublin. Since we already explored the city on the front end of our trip, our AirBnB host suggested we take the quick drive to Howth, which was the perfect ending. It’s a charming little coastal town with fishing boats and restaurants, and a lighthouse. The weather and sunset were glorious and it was the perfect finale!
I’m so happy you enjoyed Ireland and got to see so much of it. Wexford and Galway are my favorites——and Newgrange was completely new to us too and magical.