Ireland is a country on many, many bucket lists. I have been fortunate enough to make it there a couple times, and below is my suggested itinerary for a weeklong road trip. While you have to see Dublin, the real stars of the show are in the Irish countryside.
Day One: Dublin – To Drink or Not to Drink… Is a Stupid Question
- There are SO many great drinking experiences in Dublin. I recommend not trying to squeeze them all in one day, but I’m not your real Dad, so I also cannot stop you. I’ve listed some of my favorite spots below, so pick a couple and enjoy!
- Guinness Storehouse — It’s like an alcoholic Disneyland. Take the tour, and redeem your complimentary Guinness at the Gravity Bar on the 7th Floor.
- Open Gate Brewery — if you’re more interested in checking out smaller batch, experimental beers, you should definitely hit up Open Gate. They serve food as well, so make sure to carb load.
- Jameson Distillery — Jameson is the big name in Irish distilling, and a tour of the facility is well worth it (make sure you volunteer to be a taste tester at the end for 3 shots of whisk(e)ys.
- Teeling Distillery — Lesser known, but just as tasty, you should spend some time at Teeling. This is the only active distillery actually located in Dublin’s historic distilling quarter, and they make some tasty treats. Like with Glendalough gins, Teeling whiskeys are becoming fairly available in the US, so if you want to sample it before you go, you should be able to make that happen
Day Two: Dublin Day Two – Repent for Yesterday’s Sins
- Take a walk over the Ha’Penny Bridge, which was the first pedestrian bridge over the River Liffey. If you go early, it won’t be too crowded, and you can get some nice photos of the Dublin waterfront.
- Wash away your day of heavy drinking with a trip to the Christ Church Cathedral. Originally a Viking Church, it is nearly 1,000 years old and has a gorgeous interior. There is also a very peaceful garden outside if you need to sit quietly with some greasy fish and chips and reflect upon your life choices from the day before.
- Trinity College, or the University of Dublin, is another great spot. Established by Queen Elizabeth in 1592, Trinity College is Ireland’s oldest surviving university. Stop by the famed Trinity College Library to experience the Long Room, which has housed The Book of Kells for nearly 500 years, among other uniquely Irish treasures. This library is everything a book lover wants a library to be — tall stacks, dark wood, high ceilings, and the musky scent of old paper.
Day Three: Dublin to Kinsale with a Stop in the Wicklow Mountains
- My favorite gin actually comes from a small, craft distillery in the Wicklow Mountains. Glendalough Distillery uses locally foraged ingredients for seasonal batches of gin. Back when I last visited Ireland in 2017, it was difficult to find Glendalough gins in the US, but now it is becoming more widely available. Even so, I recommend stocking up at the Duty Free Shop.
- Once again, I recommend following up your alcoholic endeavors with a trip to a holy location. Founded as a Monastic City dedicated to St. Kevin, Glendalough Monastic Site has sprawling grounds featuring pastoral meadows, ruins, two lakes, and cliffs. If the Irish weather cooperates, it is the perfect place for some moody contemplation.
- One more excellent stopping point is the Rock of Cashel. Set high up on a hill, the Rock of Cashel has been the legendary seat of several ancient kingdoms. The buildings on site now were erected by the Church several centuries ago. Make sure to keep an eye out for black sheep roaming the grounds.
Day 4: Golf, World War 1 History, and, Duh, Shopping in Kinsale
- If you or anyone in your group enjoys golfing, you have to play a round at Old Head. My father, who has played a round or two in his time, highly recommends it for a true Irish golfing experience. I myself am not a golfer, but I trust Papa Joe’s perspective.
- If you’re more of a history buff, definitely check out the Lusitania Museum. The Lusitania tragedy, in which the passenger ship was torpedoed by a Germain U-Boat and sank in record time, occurred just 14 miles off shore from Kinsale
- Downtown Kinsale has some of the most picturesque shops I have ever seen. Just take a look at the picture I included above. My favorite shop, The Canvas Works, has incredible artwork. One thing I always pick up on my trips is some kind of print or piece of art, and I have a gallery wall devoted to my adventures. This shop has all types of pieces to appeal to all kinds of tastes, and ships to the United States if you need to think about your purchase for a bit.
- Make yourself comfortable at the Bulman Pub for dinner. Right on the waterfront, this cozy pub serves incredibly fresh seafood as well as traditional Irish fare. If you enjoy your dinner as much as I did, you can pick up a print of the Bulman from Canvas Works.
Day 5: Murder Holes, Incredible Wild Atlantic Views, and Star Wars Sets
- I’m pretty sure everyone has heard of the Blarney Stone, and the gift of gab it passes along to those that kiss it. I’m not sure if kissing the Blarney Stone is COVID-friendly, but a visit to Blarney Castle is worthwhile regardless. There are miles of lovely trails and gardens, and of course the castle ruins themselves. My personal favorite amenity in the Castle is the “Murder Hole.” What is a murder hole? Where is it located? What is it used for? I guess you have to go to Blarney to find out…
- From Blarney Castle, head to the coast to begin the scenic drive around the Ring of Kerry. Be prepared to stop often as the views keep getting better and better.
- Just about halfway around the ring is the village of Portmagee. We stayed in a cottage we found on AirBnb, which was absolutely lovely. Portmagee has excellent views of the Skellig Islands, including Skellig Michael, which avid Star Wars fans may recognize.
Day 6: More Scenic Vistas and a Stay at a Castle!
- I am a firm believer that if one is afforded the opportunity to stay in a castle, one must stay in a castle. The particular castle I recommend on the Western coast of Ireland is Dromoland Castle. Dromoland has a plethora or activities for guests, ranging from Afternoon Tea to Falconry. The ladies in our group decided to partake in a Champagne Tea service, and it was truly one of the most delightful afternoons on our trip. If tea isn’t your thing, check out any of the several restaurants and cocktail bars.
Day 7: Cliffs of Moher then back to Dublin
- The magnificent Cliffs of Moher are a must see as you start your journey back toward Dublin. These seaside cliffs are the epitome of dramatic scenery. Come prepared for shifts in weather thought — when we arrived, it was sunny, but midway through our exploration (much of which is uphill and essentially all of it is open to the elements) a fast and furious hail storm blew in.
- What?? Another stop at a Distillery?? I couldn’t possibly… miss it. Break up the drive back to Dublin with a stop at the Tullamore Dew Distillery (closed for refurbishment until early 2022). It sounds strange, but I picked up a whiskey-scented candle from Tullamore and it is one of the best smelling candles I’ve ever owned. If you stop by, can you pick me up another one? Many thanks.
- Back in Dublin, check out the Ha’Penny Bridge one more time when it’s all lit up for the evening. It’s a lovely bookend to your Irish adventure.
Have you made it to Ireland? Leave your recommendations below!