Southern Ireland Road Trip Itinerary

In this series of Ireland road trips you will explore the famous sights of southern Ireland, traditional culture in Galway and the northwest, and the coastal treasures of Northern Ireland and Donegal. All of them begin and/or end in Dublin.

Best of Ireland Road Trip: The South

This nine-day route takes in Ireland’s best-known destinations—the Cliffs of Moher, the Ring of Kerry, Killarney National Park—as well as equally beautiful places you may not have heard of yet, like Ardmore in County Waterford. While it’s possible to reach most of these places by bus (and bicycle), allow yourself more time to complete the itinerary if you’re not driving.

View down the Cliffs of Moher with the waves rolling in.
Take in the sunset at the Cliffs of Moher. Photo © JanMiko/iStock.

Day 1

Fly into Shannon and head for the Cliffs of Moher, a 75-minute drive from the airport. Take the car ferry from Killimer in south Clare to Tarbert in north Kerry, and proceed south through Tralee to the Dingle Peninsula. Drive Slea Head, visit Gallarus Oratory and the Riasc Monastic Settlement, and spend the night in Dingle Town after a fine meal and some live trad.

Day 2

Drive from Dingle to Killarney National Park and go for a walk or bicycle ride—this is one of Ireland’s most popular tourist destinations, and you’ll see why as soon as you arrive. Spend the night in Killarney Town.

Day 3

From Killarney, do the Ring of Kerry counterclockwise; the earlier your start, the fewer tour buses you’ll get stuck behind. Have another lovely dinner in Kenmare.

Day 4

Do the Beara Peninsula today, driving the dazzling Healy Pass from Lauragh in Kerry to Adrigole in Cork, all relatively quiet little places even in summertime. End up in Glengarriff, rambling through the forest park and up the steep steps to Lady Bantry’s Lookout. Or take the ferry to Garnish Island with its formal Italianate garden.

Day 5

Drive from Glengarriff to Kinsale for lunch at one of its famed gourmet restaurants. Finish the day in Cork City, climbing the tower at St. Anne’s Church to ring the bells. Also make a point of visiting the lovely Honan Chapel at University College Cork. Take in a play or concert at one of Cork’s many fine theaters.

Day 6

Head east to Ardmore in County Waterford, and take a short walk uphill from the village’s main street to the spectacular ruins of St. Declan’s Monastery. Then go for the gorgeous five-kilometer cliff walk all around the headland, ending up back on the main street.

Rock of Cashel perched on a low hill in the Irish countryside.
Rock of Cashel in County Tipperary. Photo © phbcz/iStock.

Day 7

Drive north to Cashel in County Tipperary, and visit the Rock of Cashel (also called “St. Patrick’s Rock”); don’t miss the spooky Romanesque Cormac’s Chapel. Have dinner at the atmospheric Chez Hans, a worthwhile splurge if there ever was one.

Day 8

Drive east from Cashel to Kilkenny City and visit Kilkenny Castle. Have lunch in Kilkenny, then head south to Thomastown to see Jerpoint Abbey. Then drive through Carlow and Wexford north to Wicklow Mountains National Park; stay near Glendalough.

Day 9

Spend the early morning on one of Glendalough’s shorter walking trails, take one last stroll through the monastic city, and then head north for Powerscourt House and Gardens. Spend your last night in Dublin (there is express bus service back to Shannon, though, if you need it).

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