Every year my husband and I take a trip for our wedding anniversary. Usually we take a city trip, so far we’ve visited Rome, London, Antwerp and Prague. The 5th year we didn’t go away for a weekend but went on a 5 month trip to New Zealand and Southeast Asia instead. Last year we went to Paris, but that wasn’t a fun trip at all since we were there during the awful terrorist attacks…
Anyway, this year, to celebrate our 7 year wedding anniversary we decided not to take a city trip but make a road trip instead. We are both huge fans of road trips, nothing beats the freedom of having your own wheels and go wherever you want to go! We, actually I, decided to go to Ireland because I had read so many wonderful things about this land of leprechauns. Mostly, I had read that the nature in Ireland was amazing and that decided it for me.
That is how we found ourselves on a plane to Dublin at the end of October. We had prepared for wind, rain and cold but instead the weather was warm and sunny, which made our anniversary trip even more special. But I’m getting ahead of myself, let’s get back to the itinerary.
Our Ireland road trip itinerary
I obviously prepared an extremely long and ambitious list of places I wanted to see in Ireland, we would have to drive nonstop to see all the items on the list. That was obviously not going to happen. So instead I threw out the list and we decided to go wherever the weather forecast was best.
Upon arrival in Ireland the weather charts showed sunshine all around the country so that didn’t really help to make a choice. And so we flipped a dice and headed west to drive part of the Wild Atlantic Way, because as I mentioned, we love driving?. That’s rather obvious when you look at our itinerary in the map below, in 5 days we drove 1400 kilometers!
Ireland road trip itinerary: facts and figures
• We landed in Dublin on a Thursday evening and went back to the Netherlands on Tuesday in the afternoon. Altogether we spent about 5 days in the country. Not nearly enough, but I am sure we’ll go back to see more!
• We picked up our campervan from Bunk Campers on Friday, having our own house on wheels allowed us to travel wherever we wanted to without any fixed plans. You can read more about renting a camper van in Ireland in this post.
• As I mentioned, we drove 1400 kilometers in 5 days (that’s about 280 km a day). I admit our itinerary may be a little fast paced for those less fond of driving. And if the weather isn’t so nice you may want to spend more time in a pub than on the road?.
Day 0: Arriving in Dublin
After a short flight from the Netherlands we hopped on bus 16 from Dublin Airport to the city center (read all about getting from the airport to the center of Dublin here), where we quickly checked into our hotel and headed out for a delicious Japanese dinner (see where to eat?). After a late night stroll along the River Liffey we went back to our hotel and quickly fell asleep.
Where to stay in Dublin (on a budget):
We stayed at Hotel St. George (see Agoda and Booking) and paid €55 for a night, not including breakfast. The room wasn’t big, but it was recently refurbished so everything was clean, tidy and smelled very fresh. The hotel is a stone’s throw from the busy Upper O’Connell Street and you can easily walk to the main sites in Dublin. Checkout time was noon, very convenient!
Where to eat in Dublin:
We had dinner at Fujiyama. Having spent a month in Japan we developed a severe addiction to Japanese food. When we spotted this Japanese restaurant in O’Connell Street Upper we didn’t think twice about it and quickly found ourselves a table. The volcanic ramen and udon hotpot were delicious and almost as good as in Japan.
Check out this Dublin food guide for more amazing places to eat!
Day 1: Dublin and driving to the West Coast
Itinerary: Trinity College – St. Stephan’s Green – West Coast (near Galway)
Trinity College and the Old Library
The gorgeous campus of Trinity College, studying here can’t be that bad?.
Of course the main attractions are is the Long Room in the Old Library and the beautifully illustrated Book of Kells. Over 200.000 other very old books are carefully arranged, row after row after row… It’s a shame nothing has been invented yet to capture scent, I would have loved to share with you the wonderful aroma of old books and wood.
St. Stephan’s Green
Autumn was in full swing and the beautiful colors made the park even prettier!
To the West…
A little before noon we took the bus to the office of Bunk Campers to pick up our Vista camper van. We headed west to see the famous Cliffs of Moher and to drive part of the Wild Atlantic Way.
Where to stay:
We spent the first night in our van at the parking lot of Galway Bay Golf Resort where the managers Barry and Peter went out of their way to make us feel welcome. We were shown around the premises and invited to use the bathroom facilities of the golf club if we wanted to, so very kind!
Where to eat:
Food is one of the best things about travel, every once in a while you come across something so delicious you would travel back just to have that dish again. That happened in Dublin as well, where I had a very yummy roasted veggies and melted goat cheese sandwich for breakfast at Blu Apple, so good!
The food at The Clubhouse Bar of Galway Golf Resort was great (as was the take-away coffee we got the next morning) and combined with the extremely warm welcome, I thoroughly recommend staying there for the night.
Unfortunately we didn’t have time to visit Galway (choices, choises…), but it’s definitely worth a trip! Read more about this vibrant village.
Day 2: The West Coast (County Clare)
Itinerary: Dunguaire Castle – The Burrow – Cliffs of Moher – Hike to Hag’s Head – Inch Beach
We couldn’t believe our luck, the morning started cloudy but when we arrived at our first stop of the day, Dunguaire Castle, the sky was almost a clear blue!
Dunguaire Castle is beautifully located on a small hill. Unfortunately we couldn’t get inside the castle as it closed for the 2016 season in September. I guess there are slight downsides about traveling in the shoulder season.
On the upside, there were only a handful of other people exploring the castle. Also, there was little traffic which defnitely made navigating the narrow Irish roads with our camper van easier.
We drove through the Burrow on our way to the Cliffs of Moher. The Burrow is a desolate landscape with impressive rocks and gorgeous views.
The Cliffs of Moher
Ireland’s most visited natural attraction and I completely understand why. I mean, look at these amazing cliffs, a 214 meter drop straight into the pounding Atlantic Ocean… What an incredible sight, nature is awesome!
Visiting the Cliffs of Moher had been on my bucket list for years and not only did I get to visit the Cliffs, I visited the Cliffs of Moher in sunny weather! I couldn’t stop marveling about it! Sunny, little wind and a comfortable 15 degrees Celsius. Best anniversary gift ever☺.
Hike to Hag’s Head
During our walk to Hag’s Head and back there was plenty of time to admire at the astonishing sight of the soaring Cliffs. I must have taken a gazillion pictures (driving my husband slightly mad: you’ve already got that picture!) I finally managed to tear myself away from this magnificent spectacle of nature.
Drive to Inch Beach
A pretty long drive from the Cliffs of Moher, luckily driving is one of our favorite activities, particularly in a beautiful country like Ireland. The views keep changing and are all equally beautiful…
Where to stay:
We spent the night at Inch Beach on the Dingle Peninsula, we parked in front of Sammy’s Restaurant (after asking if this was okay, which it was☺).
Where not to eat:
We had a not so good dinner at the Golf Club in Adare so I don’t recommend eating there. The food at Sammy’s Restaurant smelled and looked good when I walked in to ask if we could overnight with our van, though I don’t know how it tasted…
Day 3: The West Coast (County Kerry)
Itinerary: Dingle – Ring of Kerry Part I: Killorglin, Bentee Loop Walk at Caherciveen and Waterville.
Waking up at Inch Beach
When we opened the curtains of our cozy house on wheels the sky was blue again! Inch Beach was a great place to wake up, especially on the day of our 7 year wedding anniversary .
The road to the little village of Dingle was spectacular and reminded us of the beautiful roads we’ve driven in New Zealand.
The town of Dingle is cute as a button and great for an early morning stroll.
Killorglin was our the first stop on the famous Ring of Kerry. It’s a pretty town with a beautiful old stone bridge and colorful houses.
Bentee Loop Walk at Caherciveen
The hike started of gently but we somehow managed to take a wrong turn (pretty much impossible since the trail is very clearly signposted) and ended up climbing the 376 meter high hill in an almost straight line. We did manage to reach the top and the view was overwhelming and definitely worth the effort…
It was a beautiful 3 hour hike and the perfect way to celebrate our anniversary.
Where to eat:
For lunch we picked up a tasty sandwich from Jack’s Bakery in Killorglin. We celebrated our anniversary with a fancy dinner at the Smugglers Inn, not cheap but very delicious. And you’re only married for 7 years once in your life?.
Where to stay:
We didn’t have to wander far after dinner as we are allowed to overnight at the park place of the Smugglers Inn.
Day 4: The West Coast (County Kerry) and the Rock of Cashel
Itinerary: Ring of Kerry Part II: Loher Stone Fort, Sneem and Kenmare – Rock of Cashel – Johnstown
Ring of Kerry Part II
I couldn’t stop oh&ah-ing because around each corner there was another stunning view… What an amazing drive is the Ring of Kerry, definitely one of the most beautiful roads I have driven in my life (and I have driven some beautiful roads!).
Loher Stone Fort
We took a brief detour from the Ring of Kerry to visit the Stone Fort of Loher, unfortunately it’s closed due to repair works.
In the village of Sneem we stopped for a coffee and to take a picture with a scary Halloween figure. A unique opportunity?, we don’t celebrate Halloween in the Netherlands.
And of course there were more pretty buildings in Kenmare, the last village on the Ring of Kerry we visited.
Unfortunately we didn’t have time to visit Killarney National Park, but it’s definitely on the list for a next trip.
Rock of Cashel
Another Ireland highlight I was very excited about visiting was the Rock of Cashel, an impressive castle/cathedral. The very Irish looking and knowledgeable tour guide told us a lot of interesting facts about this amazing building.
For example, did you know that the Rock of Cashel is considered a very unlucky cathedral because the longest part of the cross-shaped building is facing West instead of East? Or that the bishop didn’t have enough money to fill the huge windows with stained class and made them smaller to better suit his budget? Very cool stories, following the guided tour is definitely recommended!
Where to stay:
We overnighted behind the Londis Supermarket in Johnstown after checking with the manager if that was okay. It was right next to the M7 so not the most quiet place to spend the night. Though I admit we had gotten a bit spoiled after sleeping three nights next to the beach with the rushing of the ocean as the only sound (instead of the rushing traffic;-).
Where to eat:
We ate a yummy hamburger, the perfect example of pub food at the Johnstown Inn.
Day 5: Wicklow Mountains and back to Dublin…
Itinerary: Wicklow Mountains – Lough Tay (Guinness Lake) – Great Sugar Loaf – Dublin
The Wicklow Mountains and Lough Tay
The Ring of Kerry is truly spectacular, but perhaps the road from Kilteel to Lough Tay is even more beautiful. I guess it’s a tie because I really can’t choose. Such an amazing road and we were the only ones on it!
The landscapes and views were breathtaking… The road snaked through the colorful steppe and again I couldn’t stop exclaiming how beautiful everything was. Every 100 meters I pulled over (a.k.a. stopped in the middle of the road) to take yet another picture. Since there was no one around anyway that wasn’t a problem at all☺.
Great Sugar Loaf
To wave a proper goodbye to Ireland we wanted to do a last short hike before getting on the plane back home. And thus we scaled Sugar Loaf ‘Mountain’, a 200 meter high hill.
It was a fun 1-hour hike with more nice views from the top. After completing the hike we quickly hopped into our van and drove back to Dublin where we reluctantly handed in our camper van…