Dublin for 1-2 days

You’ll fly into Dublin and only need to spend a day or 2 there (Ryan says the real fun is on the west coast). 

what to do:

  • Guiness Factory tour
  • Temple Bar for an evening or night – there are a bunch of bars with live music. Fun but also like Ireland’s Time Square. The Merchant’s Arch is a little more hidden which helps with the crowd. Fitzsimmons has a fun rooftop too and always has live music.

Here are a few things that are fun & interesting if you have some extra time, but you won’t have FOMO if you don’t go. You can do all of this in a day. 

  • Trinity College (buy tickets online first)
  • St. Stephen’s Green
  • Ha’Penny Bridge
  • St. Patrick’s Cathedral
  • Dublinia (Viking museum)
  • Croke Park (has an interesting tour)

where to stay in dublin: 

Ryan’s note: the hotels are pretty bleh, honestly. The biggest thing is to make sure you stay in the city so that you can easily get around on foot. Public transport isn’t super efficient, and driving around downtown Dublin is like trying to drive around Manhattan. 

  • The Dean – cool & trendy, but it’s right near the party area so it can be loud. Their rooftop (Sophie’s) is a little sceney in a good way.
  • The Marlin – similar, but a quick walk outside of the dead center so it’s not noisy at night. The rooms are small, but it’s pretty good value.
  • The Shelbourne – pretty high end but not really worth splurging on unless there’s a good deal.

potential day trips:

  • Wicklow (Glendalough)
  • Giant’s Causeway (full or half day)

Next stop: Galway

Galway is a fun city on the west coast about 2.5 hours from Dublin. It has great vibes and fun live music. 

what to do: 

  • Just walk down the main streets and bar hop!
    • Quay’s bar – Ryan’s best friend used to gig here and it’s really fun at night
    • Taafes – fun, old school vibes
  • It’s the land of the Claddagh ring, so if you are looking for a nice souvenir, get something Claddagh here
  • Take a day trip to the Aran Islands – more on that below!
  • Kai Restaurant is so good. You’ll need to make a reservation
  • A day trip to Killary Fjord is nice but not a must

how to do the aran islands (specifically inis mor)

Inis Mor is absolutely stunning (if it sounds familiar, it’s where they shot Banshees of Inisheerin). You can take a day trip there by ferry and rent a bike once you get there to explore the island. Here’s how we did it: 

  • Book a ferry from Rossaveel, which is about an hour outside of Galway (you can use this link). The ferry ride is about 40 minutes, and leaves at 10:30am and returns to Galway at 5pm. 
  • Ideally pre-book rental bikes to avoid lines, otherwise you can just book one when you get there. I used this company to pre-book. Regular bikes and e-bikes are available. It’s not super hilly but it is a long day of cycling and there’s a lot of rocks/grass, so an e-bike can make life easier.
  • Bike around and take in all the stunning scenery. There are a few sites you’ll naturally stumble upon, and some Google maps can help you get to. Dún Aonghasa are famous cliffs – you’ll have to park your bikes and walk about a half a mile to get there.
  • About halfway through the day, we landed at one of the few restaurants for lunch (called Teach Nan Phaidi). It will be busy because there aren’t many options on the island, but it was sooo good. We got vegetable soup and goat cheese salads (the goat cheese is made right on the island). 
  • End your day at Joe Watty’s Pub, which is right near the bike dropoff and ferry 
  • Heads up – we got lucky with a gorgeous, cloudless day, but weather on Inis Mor can be unpredictable, and since it’s a small island it’s typically colder than the mainland. Dress accordingly! 

where to stay in galway:

  • The Dean – really close to town (about 10 minutes walking, which is perfect) and cute & trendy. Has a rooftop bar, a good restaurant, a pool & steam room. Rooms are small, so don’t get the smallest one. 
  • The Hardiman – also great, a little pricier and more traditional but right in Eyre square (pronounced “air” and the center of town).
  • Ashford Castle – if you wanna ball out and castles are your thing.

Head to the Cliffs of Moher

The Cliffs of Moher are probably the number one thing to see in Ireland. You can take a day trip from Galway, or you can stop there on your way down to Killarney. If you rent a car, you can just drive there, otherwise, book a trip with a tour company. It’s most common to go during the day, but sunset is also an incredible time to go (and less crowded)… just try to plan so that it’s not raining, if possible. 

  • On your way to the Cliffs from Galway, stop at Doolin for a pint / lunch. This is a cute town known to have the best pint of Guinness. 
  • Once you get closer to the Cliffs on your ride down from Galway you’ll pass through the Burren. It’s stunning and worth pulling over to stop and take it in (lots of the tour companies will do this, too). 
  • After the Cliffs, if you continue to make your way down to the next stop (Killarney), you can stop on Lahinch or Adare. Adare is considered the prettiest town in Ireland. 

Do Killarney & the Ring of Kerry

Killarney is probably the American tourist capital of Ireland, but it’s still a cute town with proximity to the Ring of Kerry, which is a must-do. 

what to do:

There’s a lot of sightseeing to do in & around Killarney. If possible, splurge a bit on a private guide so that you don’t end up on a giant tour bus with a bunch of Americans. 

  • The Ring of Kerry – this is basically just a long loop of road with incredible views. You can book a tour bus or drive around it yourself. You’ll hit fun things on the way, like sheep herders that will show you how they work, delicious ice cream shops, etc. 
  • Killarney National Park
  • The gap of Dunloe and Dingle Peninsula is cool too.

where to stay:

Ryan says there are a ton of pretty average hotels thanks to us American tourists.

  • Stay downtown to be within walking distance, like the Killarney Park, Great Southern and Killarney Royal.
  • You could also splurge and do a really nice hotel on the ring of Kerry like the Muckross Park Hotel.
  • Check out Airbnb for something more fun/charming. 

Head back to Dublin for your flight home

Assuming you’re flying home out of Dublin, there are a few things you can hit on the way back from Killarney. None of these are must-sees, but nice if you have some extra time and want to break up your road trip back! 

  • Kenmare is another small town on the Ring of Kerry. We had a wedding here in April 2023 and it was a cute little town… good to stop off for some food 
  • Gougane Barra National Forest Park – our friends recommended this to us for a hike and some lunch on our drive from Kenmare to Dublin. It was a really nice stop off! 
  • Rock of Cashel
  • Kilkenny / Kilkenny Castle – another cute town and you can take a tour of the castle or just walk around the castle grounds. 

A general note on getting around

Ideally rent a car. Keep in mind if you don’t drive stick shift, you’ll need to specify that you need an automatic car and you will pay a premium for it. Check your credit card / car insurance to see if they’ll cover your rental insurance… most credit cards do not include Ireland unfortunately, so you’ll also have to pay extra for the rental company’s insurance. If you’re driving keep in mind that Ireland has a ZERO tolerance drinking & driving policy. As in… not one beer can be consumed. 

If you’re more price sensitive or not comfortable driving, you can also get busses/trains between Dublin & Galway, and then do organized day trips or hire guides to get around. They’re plentiful – here’s a popular company to check out if you go this route. 

Questions? Let us know! Ryan’s an expert hehe. 

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