Recommended itinerary ideas for 10 days in Ireland. Self-drive itinerary ideas to see Ireland in 10 days: Southern Ireland and Northern Ireland trip ideas.
Ireland is a wonderful country for a vacation: beautiful, friendly and safe, it has many beautiful places worth visiting, many of them close enough to each other to be visited even in a somewhat limited amount of time. Ideal if you have to fit in a trip around work constraints!
10 days in Ireland are a popular amount of time for a self-drive road trip and indeed, while not enough to see ‘everything’, a good amount of time to get an idea of the country.
I can think of many ways to see Ireland in 10 days but there are two that are my absolute favorites.
One focuses on Dublin, the SOuth and the West and the other focuses on Dubin the West and the NOrth (both Republic and Northern Ireland, UK).
In this post, I share my favorite ways to see Ireland. Safe travels!
10 days in Southern Ireland: recommended itinerary
This first itinerary is the one I recommend to first-time visitors to Ireland. It covers many of the most famous landmarks and attractions in Ireland and foresees a reasonable pace that strikes a good balance between seeing much and not rush.
This itinerary starts and ends in Dublin and it is ideal for visitors who:
- Are happy to rent a car and drive themselves
- Solo travelers, couple, families, groups
- Visitors who want to visit Ireland’s most famous sites
Day 1: arrival in Dublin
Day 1 is all about getting settled in Ireland and getting over jet lag. I know that with a limited number of days, it may be tempting to get on the road straight away, however, I strongly argue against it if you are coming from a different timezone and are dealing with jet lag.
Driving in Ireland takes some getting used to and should be avoided when tired. Rather, I recommend you spend one night in Dublin and use the day to discover the city.
Lovely hotels to use as a base for the night are:
- The Merrion hotel (5 stars)
- The Hilton Charlemont (4 stars)
- The Hilton Garden Inn on the Quays (3 stars)
All well located to take a pleasant walk in the center.
During your first day in Dublin, you can easily see some of the city’s most famous attractions such as Trinity College and the Book of Kells, Dublin Castle and the beautiful Stephen’s Green, a large park perfect to regain your energy and connect with nature after the long flight.
Day 2: Glendalough Monastic site and night in Kilkenny
On the second day, I recommend heading to Kilkenny via the gorgeous Wicklow Mountains. You can get to Kilkenny simply by following the motorway but I recommend to take the long scenic road instead and make a day out of it.
The intermediate stop I recommend is the monastic site of Glendalough, in the stunning Wicklow Mountains. This is a medieval site with a beautiful round tower and ancient cemetery, two beautiful lakes and lovely easy hikes.
A large car park and hotel with restaurant make this a nice intermediate stop between Dublin and Kilkenny and one easy to enjoy for all types do travelers. If you are very active, you may decide to have an early start and even take a longer hike here: there are many options and the views are stunning!
Top tip: my favorite way to drive to Glendalough is via the Sally Gap and the so-called Lough Tay, the famous ‘Guinness Lake’ with dark waters and white shores! This is a scenic, mountain road to be avoided in the darl but stunning during the day: worth the slightly longer journey time!
After the day in Glendalough, you can easily reach Kilkenny and enjoy what this city does best: dinner and nightlife! Despite its small size Kilkenny has lovely dining options, many pubs, and good hotels. One I recommend is the Ormonde, in the city center. Families may also consider the Nerwpark Kilkenny hotel, which has extra facilities and attention for kids.
Day 3: Kilkenny to Kinsale
Day 3 leads you to a very different part of Ireland, Kinsale!
I recommend you start your day taking your time in Kilkenny: the castle, St Canice’s Cathedral and the medieval Mile are all worth visiting and they are walking distance from each other, making a great morning stroll.
Then, I recommend you head to the coast, with an overnight stop in Kinsale.
On the way, you will be able to see one of the most stunning castles in Ireland: the fantastic Rock of Cashel!
On the way between Kilkenny and Kinsale you can also opt for a stop at the wonderful Blarney castle. Much more touristy and famous than the Rock of Cashel, this is a must-see place for many and one I do recommend seeing.
However, I don’t recommend doing both in a day. Rather, I recommend you opt for the Rock of Cashel if you are looking for a quieter, shorter (yet super impressive) stop and Blarney castle if you want a longer stop or you have kids. The large grounds are more suitable for families than the historical rock.
Once in Kinsale, my advice is to relax for the night and dig into the thing Kinsale is most famous for: fresh fish and seafood!
Day 4: Kinsale to Killarney
On day 4 you leave the Southern Coast and enter the West, one of the most scenic parts of the whole of Ireland. The drive between Kinsale and Likllarney is short but it is worth only planning a short time in the car on this day for a couple of reasons.
the first is that the day after has the long drive along the Ring of Kerry, one you definitely want to be rested for! And the second is that Killarney is lovely and is just at the edge of the Killarney National Park, which is worth spending time in.
I recommend heading straight to Killarney and settle there for 2 nights: this is the minimum amount of time you want to visit the Ring. See all you can see and do in the Killarney area here.
Day 5: the Ring of Kerry
Day 5 is all dedicated to driving the Ring of Kerry, the famous driving route following the stunning Kerry Peninsula.
Driving the Ring of Kerry is a wonderful experience and one I highly recommend you don’t rush. This, because the place is beautiful and you want to savor it, but also because the road is bendy and slow, one you should not drive in a rush!
Need to know: the Ring of Kerry is very popular and you will encounter many buses and cars on the road. Many will tell you to drive the Ring Clockwise to avoid the buses but consider this: as annoying as it is to be behind a bus, it is better to be behind one than to find yourself face to face with one, with you on the side of the drop!
I personally prefer to drive it counterclockwise and then veer off to places buses do not reach for the best views.
Day 6: Killarney to Galway
On day 6, I get you to leave Kerry and drive up to Galway, via the beautiful County Clare and the famous Cliffs of Moher.
This day requires a little bit of driving however, it also brings you across a wonderful landscape (the Burren) and foresees a long stop at the Cliffs, where you can stretch your legs, see the scenery and even eat/rest
You can sleep in the Burren if you want a remote location or you can stay in Galway City: I personally love this option. Galway is pretty and very lively at night: here you can go to restaurants or to the pub and listen to Irish music as well as taking a nice stroll around the ancient city.
I actually recommend staying in Galway for more than one night and up to 3.
From here, you can easily visit the Aran Islands and Connemara as a day trip, without having to move every night. If you prefer to more, that works too. Both the islands and Connemara have many accommodation options.
Day 7: the Aran Islands
The Aran Islands are a cluster of Islands in front of Galway and a lovely place to explore for the day.
Several day tours and ferries depart from Galway and Doolin and you can choose between different islands depending on what you want to see and your party.
I am personally fond of the smallest of all: last time we went, we hiked around the whole island – we were almost alone there (despite it being high season) and the views were out of this work!
This is a lovely day trip fro Galway to reconnect with nature and get away from the maddening crowds.
Day 8: Day trip to Connemara
Connemara is an area of great natural beauty to the North of Galway and one visitors usually love as perceived as ‘quintessentially Irish” as well as the home of one of Ireland’s most famous landmarks: Kylemore Abbey.
Indeed, Connemara is stunning. You can choose to drive yourself or you can take a rest from the wheel with one of the many possible tours from Galway.
If you are driving, you may consider staying the night in one of the many farms in this area of Ireland: those open to tourists are among the best places to experience the famous Irish welcome!
Day 9: Galway to Dublin
On day 9, I recommend you start making your way back to Dublin but take the time to stop and visit the wonderful monastic site of Clonmacnoise.
Very different from Glendalough which you visited at the start of your trip, this is a wonderful large monastic settlement on the River Shannon, very beautiful in this part.
One back in the Dublin area, you can spend the night in the city again or relax in a country setting in Wicklow: Hunters in Ashford and Brooklodge at Macreddin are two of my favorite places for a last relaxing night in the Ireland countryside.
Day 10: Dublin
The last day in Dublin will probably see you having to return the car.
However, if you have time in the city there is still much you can do. Depending on your interests, you can just hang around Grafton street and the city center (shopping, bars, cafes), see one of Dublin’s many museums (the National Gallery and Chester Beatty Library are beautiful), visit the Guinness Storehouse or just go sightseeing around St Patrick’s Cathedral, Christchurch or Kilmainham Gaol.
10 days in Ireland: the West and the North
This second recommended itinerary is ideal for visitors who also want to visit Northern Ireland and are looking for some more remote locations, off the most beaten track.
While it still brings you to some of Ireland’s must-see sites, it also brings you to Donegal, an area many foreigners ignore but that is so stunning, it is likely to stay as the highlight of your trip!
Day 1: Dublin
I start all my Ireland itinerary with the recommendation of taking it easy the first day and allow your body to get over jet lag and in the best possible form to drive the day after.
Arriving in Dublin this first good day is a great opportunity to get to know the city. After you settle into your hotel, I recommend you have a walk in the Grafton Street area where you can see Trinity Collge and Dublin Castle or enjoy one of the many Dubi cafes.
Go for an early dinner and head back to the hotel to get a good night’s sleep: I have a day planned in Dublin on the way back too, so don’t worry about missing out on a late-night out: you can still have it at the end of the trip!
For your night in Dublin, I recommend you stay in the Merrion Hotel (5 stars), The Hilton Charlemont (4 stars) or the Hilton Garden Inn on the quays (3 stars).
Day 2: Dublin to Killarney
This second day sees you making your way from the Irish capital to the beautiful West and spend the night in Killarney, Co Kerry.
The drive between Dubin and Killarney takes about 3.5 – 4 hours and passes by some nice area worth seeing. One of my favorites is the fabulous Rock of Cashel, one of the most impressive medieval sites in the whole country (there is also a small restaurant nearby, great for a lunch stop).
I recommend you make sure you arrive in Killarney early so you can enjoy the town and take a walk. You will be driving a lot the following day and stretching your legs will go a long way to make you feel ready for it.
In Killarney, I recommend you stay at either the Hotel Killarney or the Old Weir Lodge (B&B).
Day 3: the Dingle Peninsula
Killarney is usually known as the basis for driving the Ring of Kerry however since this trip has so much driving, I suggest you don’t do the long ring but rather opt for exploring the beautiful Dingle Peninsula instead, smaller and immediately to its NOrth,
The peninsula is easy to explore, pretty nad hs some lovely scenery both along the coast and the mountains.
Make sure you take your time to visit the lovely Dingle Town which has delightful colorful houses and a wonderful seaside Irish town feel!
I recommend you sleep in the area of Tralee which is well-positioned for your next stop.
Day 4: the Cliffs of Moher, the Burren and Galway
Day 4 brings you to Couty Clare and County Galway, two of the tourism powerhouses of Ireland. here is where you have the famous cliffs of Moher, the stunning and lunar scenery of the Burren and the lively city of Galway, famous for its studenty and slightly alternative feel
Day 5: Connemara
On day 5, we move to the Noth of Galway and the beautiful area of Connemara. Connemara is one of those places you should really take time to see and not really a pit stop on a long road trip however, if you have limited time in Ireland, not going here would be madness.
Connemara is remote and beautiful and even if you can only get a morsel of it, you should take it!
The most famous place in Connemara for visitors is probably Kylemore Abbey but if you have time, try to explore beyond it and beat the crowds. What is amazing in Connemara ais the scenery so the farther away you can get from the beaten track, the better!
After you are done exploring, I suggest you spend the night in Sligo which is nice and has some great accommodation options to rest after all the driving and outdoor time of the day.
Day 6 and 7 Slieve League, Donegal and Derry
I promised this itinerary to go to slightly lesser-known parts of Ireland and this is the day I deliver on this promise: today, I get you to visit Donegal, the North-east of the Republic of Irland.
This is an area of immense natural beauty, for me probably the most beautiful in the whole of the Island. Remote and almost devoid of people, this area has the stunning Slieve League Cliffs, amazing windswept beaches and charming villages. If you want to experience the Ireland of your romantic dreams, this is where you find it!
Since the area is so remote, I have planned 2 nights here, with a base in Derry/Londonderry.
With two nights, you can spend one day exploring Slieve League and the Glenveagh National Park and another day exploring one of the promontories here (Fanal and Malin head are both great) and the resting in lovely Derry, one of the most interesting cities in the whole of the island.
Please be advised that, unlike Donegal, Derry/Londonderry is in Northern Ireland (UK)
Day 8: Giants Causeway and the Antrim Coast
The Antrim Cost, the Northernmost coastal stretch of Northern Ireland is a place so beautiful the first time I say it, it literally took my breath away. If what I have shown you so far in Ireland was fabulous, this is out-of-any-possible-scale-of-beauty- amazing. Truly, it is special!
The most famous places to see in this area are all close to each other and are Dunluce Castle, The Giants’ causeway and Carrick a rede rope bridge. If you are a fan of Game of Thrones you can add to these 3 also a stop ad the dark hedges, not too far from the causeway.
If you are here on a beautiful sunny day, this is likely to stay as the highlight of your trip. I recommend you settle in the Hilton Templepatrick hotel to make the most of your time.
Day 9 and 10 Dublin
Over the last two days, I recommend you take some time to explore Dubin or eve Belfast and then Dublin, tow very different yet lovely cities.
If you are in Belfast, I highly recommend taking a guided tour to understand the undeniably interesting and dramatic history of the city.
While in Dublin, I recommend you visit some of the must-see attractions you have missed on the first day (the Guinness storehouse, for instance, or you can take a hop on hop off bus tour for a city overview)
Other ways to spend 10 days in Ireland
So, these are my recommended itineraries for 10 days in Ireland however, you can of course mix and max destinations and crate your own.
However you want to do it, I feel it is important to keep in mind a few things:
In Ireland, you are likely to go much slower than google maps or equivalent suggests. Always plan more driving time than expected!
With 10 days, you are unlikely to be able to properly explore more than one area. If you want to cover a lot of grounds, you probably need to accept you will not the able to also spend time on the Ring of Kerry to in the Aran Island – choices will be paramount.
If you want to spend a special night in a castle or want to visit the hard to get to Skelling island, design your trip around the experience. Castles book out fast and Skelling Mia=chael is not always accessible so you may have to wait.
If visiting Ireland in winter, please remember that it gets dark very early and driving in darkness should be avoided. Plan less and take your time to avoid unnecessary risks.
I hope you enjoyed these suggestions on how to spend 10 days in Ireland. Safe travels!