It’s hard to resist Ireland. Between the lush green landscape, the friendly people, the history, the brews and spirits, and the music, it’s easy to be drawn into the island in the North Atlantic. And as of the luck of the Irish would have it, it’s a country that is easy to explore and made for road tripping.
While you could spend all your time in one of the major cities using public transportation, you’d be missing out on the best the country has to offer. Think breathtaking cliffs, sheep farms doubling as bed and breakfasts, 12th century castles, and more. Keeping your itinerary loose enough to allow for time to wander, the easiest way to see many of Ireland’s top sights is with a road trip through Southern Ireland. Plan to go in the spring or fall to avoid peak fares but remember to pack a raincoat and get an international driver’s license.
Fly into Shannon, pick up your car rental and hit the road. Drive through rolling green hills and little towns as you make your way to Galway, one of Ireland’s most popular cities and most charming. Plan to spend a couple of days here taking in the many sights like the Spanish Arch, which dates back to pre-medieval times, the medieval Kirwan’s Lane, which includes architecture dating back to the 16th and 17th centuries and now is home to many pubs and restaurants where you can indulge in the food and listen to music, and Quay Street, home to shopping, restaurants, pubs, and nightlife. Slightly further afield is Connemara National Park offering views of the Bay of Galway and Menlo Castle, a ruin of a 16th century castle with beautiful surrounding scenery.
Cliffs of Moher
After a night or two in Galway, travel south to the Cliffs of Moher. The stunning green cliffs rise up from the sea, often shrouded in fog, giving an end of the world experience. Walk along the paved pathways near the cliff’s edge, take in the many sea birds, marvel at the surfers down below and find a local to share some of the legends of mermaids, witches and monsters the Cliffs of Moher have inspired.
Limerick, Ireland’s first City of Culture
After breaking away from the mesmerizing heights of the Cliffs of Moher, plan to spend at least a night in Limerick, leaving room for more time if you want to explore more of the medieval town. Sign up to do a food tour from cookbook author Val O’Connor. The tour will give you an overview of the town while indulging in eats that include everything from pizza to oysters to herring. After the food tour, take in some of Limerick’s most well-known sights, including the 13th-century King John Castle, or the medieval-era St. Mary’s Cathedral.
For proof Ireland has the whole charm thing down, look no further than the Dingle Peninsula. Quaint and adorable are the words that come to mind as you drive through. You’ll pass several towns along the way but plan to spend most of your time in the capital of the peninsula, the little fishing town of Dingle. Wander up and down the streets stopping in the shops and enjoying a Guinness at the pubs.
(*Featured image is of Dingle, Ireland.)
End your road trip in County Cork, where the county is truly your oyster. If you want a bustling, youthful city full of artisan coffee bars and restaurants you’ll find it in the city of Cork. For more history and legend, head just outside the city limits to the Blarney Stone. For more food, head to the English Market, a covered 18-century era food market where you can meet some of Ireland’s farmers. And further afield there are more parks to hike and castles to see.