The first time we went to Ireland was in the mid-90s. It was on a preview trip with band directors who were considering bringing their bands to march in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade the following year. We were part of a group, and the trip was scheduled and organized so we could get a feel for what the students would experience while in Ireland.
We spent 8 days traveling through Ireland, with each day’s events planned for us. We flew into Dublin Airport and immediately loaded onto a bus that took us 3 hours across the country to Limerick. I remember my head nodding from sleep deprivation and jet lag as we drove through quaint villages, passed green pastures, and castle ruins. Even though this is not my ideal way to travel, we LOVED Ireland, and have been going back ever since, exploring more and more of the country. We cannot get enough of the Emerald Isle!
WHAT ARE THE TOP PLACES TO VISIT ON AN IRELAND 10 DAY ITINERARY?
A simple answer to this question is “Dublin, The Dingle Peninsula OR The Ring of Kerry, and Galway.” But it’s really not that easy. Just as in other European countries, there are many different ways to create an amazing 10-day trip through Ireland. Each one is as distinct as the travelers themselves. When we plan trips for our clients, no two itineraries are the same. Each trip is unique and customized to their specific situation. We ask a ton of questions in order to determine what the perfect trip will be for them: Have they been to Ireland before? Are they are traveling with children? Do they love food? How much do they like seafood? Do they enjoy beer? How much time do they want to spend in a city? Do they have a specific interest like history, genealogy, or adventure sports, etc.? There are lots of different preferences that make each journey unique and special.
So, my real recommendation is to go to Ireland for as long as you can, see all you are able to see, and leave enough time in your trip to truly – slow – down. Soak in every moment, and enjoy the people, the attitude, the accent, the landscape, and the charm. Enjoy these 10 days throughly, and if you are able, plan to return. Each time you come back, dive deeper into what you loved the most, and nestle in to the little nooks and crannies and cobblestones that make Ireland so special. Visit some of the same places and people, but expand your scope a little further each time. But let’s start with a truly great 10-day Ireland travel itinerary.
WHEN IS THE BEST TIME TO TRAVEL TO IRELAND?
The best time to travel to Ireland is absolutely any time you can go! So, if you can only go in the summer, go then. But if your schedule is more flexible, try to go in the shoulder seasons so you beat the crowds. If you travel to Ireland in April/May or September/October, most things will be open to you, while there will be fewer people trying to see the same things you want to see. If you go in the spring, you’ll need your raincoat. Actually, you’ll likely want one any time of year.
If you want a party like no other, go to Ireland in March and celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in Dublin. It is an experience, for sure. But if this is not your scene, you may want to avoid the holiday. Winter can be dark and wet so factor that in if that’s when you want to go. But go when you can. You will fall in love with this country and its colorful and kind hearted people.
HOW CAN I TRAVEL ON MY 10-DAY IRELAND ITINERARY?
Your best bet is to travel by car. Yes, you will be driving on the left. Yes, you will be driving on narrow, winding laneways and may sometimes be stopped in your tracks by a herd of sheep. But having a car gives you flexibility and the ability to get to all those tiny tidy towns that are quintessentially Irish. If your budget is generous and you’d rather not drive, you could hire a driver/guide. That has the added benefit of giving you the advice of a local throughout your trip. But if you welcome the challenge of driving on the other side of the road, you’ll have some good laughs as you navigate the island driving on your own.
Alternatively, you could take the train or the bus (or a combination of both) most of the places on this Ireland itinerary, and you can supplement your transportation with taxis and tours to extend your reach even further.
For this itinerary, I recommend renting a car, but pick it up after your stay in Dublin. Having a car will give you the most flexibility and will give you a chance to be spontaneous when you see something you want to investigate further – which very well may happen often as you travel through the Irish countryside.
WHAT AIRPORTS SHOULD I USE ON MY IRELAND ITINERARY?
To use your time most efficiently, I recommend flying into Dublin. You could fly into Shannon, but I would save that arrival city for a more extensive trip focusing on Western Ireland, like the one we describe in our blog post: A Terrific 7-Day Western Ireland Travel Itinerary. I like using Skyscanner or Google Flights when I am evaluating my options. There are many direct flights from North America to Dublin, or you may be routed through London, and then take a short flight to Ireland.
HOW SHOULD I SPEND MY TIME TRAVELING IN IrELAND? START WITH 3 NIGHTS IN DUBLIN
We find Dublin to be an exceptionally walkable city. There are some places where you will want to take a taxi or public transportation, but for the most part, you can walk to most of the places you want to go. This will give you a real feel for the city.
So, for this 10-Day trip to Ireland, I recommend flying into Dublin and taking a bus, taxi, or Uber into the city center. If your budget allows, arrange for a chauffeur to pick you up at the airport and take you to your accommodations. You may arrive from your overnight flight before your room is ready. If so, ask them to keep your bags, and then start exploring this great city by foot. Be sure to book your lodging in the heart of the city. It may cost a little more, but you’ll be happy to be situated in the center of everything.
You won’t need a rental car while you are staying in Dublin, and it’s nice to not have to deal with the car while you are in the city, so pick up your rent car the morning you leave town.
Plan to spend 3 nights in Dublin. You’ll have most of your first day to get situated, get over jet lag, take some great walks, and duck into a pub or two. You may choose to walk through St. Stephen’s Green and onto pedestrianized Grafton Street, filled with buskers, shops, cafés and lots of colorful and friendly people.
Meander through the campus at Trinity College, where politicians, philosophers, playwrights and poets have studied. Continue on to Temple Bar and plan to return at night for some lively music and notable restaurants. Know that it is a popular area, so prices tend to be high. There are other great choices in the city too, so you may prefer to check it out, and then move on to another area that is less crowded. But if you’re up for a party, this is the place!
As you stroll through Dublin, you may want to continue on to Dublin Castle, ChristChurch Cathedral and St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and decide which one(s) you’d like to return to for a more thorough exploration another day. Pick up some traditional fish and chips while you are in the area. Our favorite place for a spot of this greasy goodness is Leo Burdock across the street and around the corner from ChristChurch. Find a bench with a view of the church, and enjoy them while they’re hot.
Then spend half a day visiting The Guinness Storehouse. It’s a little Disneyesque, but it’s also a lot of fun, and you’ll learn about the family and the stout that has been so important to this tiny country. I think it’s best to go early in the day, to avoid the majority of the crowds. You can even have lunch there, and end your experience in the Gravity Bar with a perfectly poured pint and an incredible view of surrounding Dublin. Following your time learning about brewing, marketing, transporting and enjoying Guinness, you could tour Kilmainham Gaol, a former 18th century prison that was used up until 1924. A tour here is a poignant reminder of Ireland’s difficult history.
On the next day, tour Trinity College and see The Book of Kells. My favorite part of this tour is ambling through Trinity’s spectacular library. I consider myself a bit of a connoisseur of libraries, and this one is by far my all-time favorite.
On my next visit to Dublin, I look forward to visiting the relatively new EPIC: The Irish Emigration Museum. This high-tech exhibit explains the Irish diaspora and the forces that propelled so many Irish people to emigrate to all parts of the globe, including the United States.
During the Irish Potato Famine that lasted from 1845 to 1852, 1/3 of the population stayed, 1/3 died, and 1/3 emigrated. This museum tells the emigration story, and was voted “Europe’s Leading Tourist Attraction” at the 2019 and 2020 World Travel Awards. Don’t try to crush too many activities into your 3 days in Dublin, as you want to really enjoy each aspect of the city, without becoming exhausted. But if you love learning, you may want to make time for this acclaimed new Dublin museum.
If you’d like details on more out of the way sights to see in this incredible city, check out our blog post on 7 Rather Unusual Things to Do in Dublin.
SPEND 3 NIGHTS IN DINGLE OR KENMARE
Pick up your car at a rental agent in town, or head back out to the airport to collect your rental, and then head southwest. It’s about a 4-hour drive from Dublin to Dingle, but I recommend taking your time and making a couple of detours and interesting stops on your journey. After all, you are there to really and truly experience Ireland, not just tick items off your list.
Along the way, take a break in Kilkenny. Enjoy lunch here and take a stroll along this town’s medieval streets. If you’d like suggestions on what to do while you are there, you will enjoy reading through How to Spend a Great Day in Kilkenny Ireland. If it’s a nice day while you drive west, you can also meander on the grounds of the Rock of Cashel. If you have enough time, you can go in and explore further. The views are wonderful from this medieval fortress, with origins back to the 4th or 5th century.
It’s nice to be able to stay in one place for several days and unpack your bags, so you can really settle in. It also gives you a better chance of feeling more like a local than when you change accommodations every night. So, we recommend staying 3 nights in either Dingle or Kenmare. This will give you a home base from where you can explore either the Dingle Peninsula or the Ring of Kerry. If you want to split the difference between the two, stay in Killarney.
It’s a difficult choice because each of these peninsulas has its own appeal and natural beauty. Know that the Ring of Kerry is larger and busier than the Dingle Peninsula. Remember that you really can’t make a bad choice here. Plan to return. My pick is to stay in Dingle and get to know the town. While you lodge there, spend an entire day touring the Peninsula and exploring Dingle itself. On your second day here, head over to Killarney for lunch and then explore the beauty of the National Park. But whatever you do, take your time and soak it all in.
Your time here will likely be spent driving the coast, maybe hiking some incredible trails, perhaps biking through beautiful scenery, or watching sheep dogs do what they do best. You’ll also have a chance to get a feel for a true Irish Music session in some of the pubs. Your 3 days here will fly by. Our Western Ireland blog mentioned earlier has more recommendations.
SPEND 3 NIGHTS IN GALWAY
Head north from Dingle toward Galway. Again, you want to take your time and see some of the amazing sites along the way. One of these is the iconic Cliffs of Moher. I have been there in the sun, in the rain, and in a howling wind, and the Cliffs are glorious in each setting.
It will take you about 3 hours to reach the Cliffs if you take the ferry from Tarbert across the Shannon River. If you want to save some money, book your ferry in advance, but know that this will not guarantee you a spot when you get there. Be sure to arrive early.
After you have walked along the Cliffs to your heart’s content, continue north to Galway. The great thing about staying here is that it is wonderful on its own, but it’s also a perfect jumping off point for day trips in the surrounding area. In Galway, you’ll enjoy the cobblestone streets, the buskers, the shopping, the food, the music, and the quintessential Irish allure. But if you want to go beyond this town’s charms, you can explore Kylemore Abbey, The Burren or the Aran Islands. Check out 10 Great Reasons to Visit Galway Ireland for specifics, and more ideas of what to do while you are there.
SPEND YOUR LAST NIGHT NEAR THE DUBLIN AIRPORT
You have one more day to spend in Ireland. As you are likely flying out of Dublin early the next morning, it’s a good idea to spend your last night near the airport. Enjoy a leisurely morning in Galway and explore sights there that you haven’t had a chance to see, or shop for a treasure to bring home to remind you to return soon. Then head toward Dublin. The highway makes it a pretty quick trip. It should only take a little over 2 hours to get there.
But you haven’t toured an Irish distillery yet, and there is a great one on your way. Kilbeggan Distilling Co. was founded in 1757 and is the oldest licensed distillery of its kind in Ireland. They have a great tour and tasting and it’s a perfect place to stop on your way east. You can walk around the tiny town after the tour, to make sure you are in good shape for the rest of your drive. You have another hour to go before you reach your lodging for the night.
If your budget allows and you would like a bit of a splurge on your last night, you may enjoy staying at Clontarf Castle. It is only 15 minutes from the airport, giving you plenty of time to drop off your car before your departure in the morning.
Of course, you could do this itinerary going counter clockwise, heading to Galway from Dublin and then on to Dingle or Kenmare, and back to Dublin. Or, if you follow the recommended itinerary and want to continue your clockwise journey on to County Mayo or even Northern Ireland, continuing on from Galway would be perfect!
Whatever you choose, this is a great itinerary for your time in Ireland. I know you will fall in love with this country, its people, its pubs, and its landscapes, just as I did.
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Betsy Ball – Betsy is co-founder and partner of Euro Travel Coach (ETC), which crafts custom European vacations for independent travelers and leads small group trips to Europe. She is a passionate and culturally curious traveler who thoroughly enjoys sharing her love for exploring Europe with ETC clients. Prior to founding ETC, Betsy taught International Business at Tarleton State University in Texas (part of the A & M System) where she led study abroad trips to multiple European countries and other worldwide destinations. She retired from teaching two and a half years ago and now travels 9 months of the year in Europe. She has a degree in hotel, restaurant management from Michigan State University and an MBA from Southern Methodist University in Dallas. She also holds a Level 3 certification from the Wine & Spirits Education Trust.
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