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Trip List by Sarnia G

Ireland: 14-day Fly-Drive Tour for History Fans

Mar 5, 2013  by Sarnia G - I
4.5 of 5 stars based on 1 vote

This is a 14-day itinerary that I hope folk with an interest in all periods of history will enjoy. Start with 2 days in Dublin, then collect a hire car and drive clock-wise around the "southern half" of the Republic of Ireland.

If you like prehistoric sites, pagan and Christian religious sites, castles, country mansions plus fabulous scenery, then this is the itinerary for you!

Note: all drive times are approximate and taken from the AA routeplanner - but with 20% added to allow for possible delays.

Note: some historic sites have seasonal opening times. Check full details of opening times and tour duration on

  • 1. Dublin

    Day 1 :

    Arrive Dublin airport and hop aboard the aircoach which will take you into the city centre. It offers a frequent service and is reasonably priced.

    Drop the bags at your accommodation and hop on the HoHo bus to explore the city. You can purchase 1 or 2-day explorer tickets and the route will take you to all significant sites and sights in the city.

    Two days/nights in the city will give you adequate time to see a variety of places without having to rush through them.

    See below for suggestions.

    Overnight : Dublin

  • 2. National Museum of Ireland - Archaeology
    National Museum of Ireland - Archaeology, Dublin

    Day 2 :

    Recommend you stop off at the National Museum of Ireland where you can see treasures from Ireland's fascinating past. Free Entry!

    Other sites of interest:

    Kilmainham Gaol; Trinity College (for Book of Kells); St Patrick's Cathedral; Christchurch Cathedral; Chester Beatty Library.

    Overnight : Dublin

  • 3. Powerscourt Gardens and House
    Powerscourt Gardens and House, Enniskerry

    Day 3 :

    Collect your rental car (either in city centre, or take aircoach back to Dublin airport) and head to Powerscourt Gardens which lie south of the city in co. Wicklow.

    Allow a couple of hours to explore the house and gardens.

    Dublin centre - Powerscourt : approx. 50 minutes

  • 4. Glendalough Monastic Settlement
    Glendalough Monastic Settlement, Vale of Glendalough

    Day 3 continued :

    Back in the car and on to Glendalough, an early Christian monastic settlement nestled in a valley in the Wicklow Mountains. After wandering through the ruins be sure to walk to the Upper Lake (there is a circle route).

    Allow approximately 2hrs for your visit.

    Powerscourt - Glendalough : approx. 1hr.

  • 5. Kilkenny

    Day 3 continued :

    Continue to the medieval city of Kilkenny for your 3rd night in Ireland. This compact city has a wealth of historic buildings including St Canice's Cathedral with its fine round tower; the Tholsel; Shee Alms House and Kilkenny Castle.
    Kyteler's Inn is a historic hostelry with an interesting past; you might like to pop in for a pint of Guinness or a simple pub supper.

    Glendalough - Kilkenny : approx. 2hrs, 20 min.

    Overnight : Kilkenny

  • 6. Kilkenny

    Day 4 :

    Time to explore the city and visit the places mentioned above.

    You may even have time to hop in the car and drive south to Jerpoint Abbey: a beautiful Cistercian abbey located in a rural landscape near the village of Thomastown. This abbey has a well-preserved cloister with some fine carvings.

    Overnight : Kilkenny

  • 7. Rock of Cashel
    Rock of Cashel, Cashel

    Day 5 :

    Depart Kilkenny and drive to the Rock of Cashel; it really is a breath-taking sight when you first see the Rock looming out of the landscape.
    There is a car park below the Rock, and then it's a short, but fairly steep climb to the entrance.

    Expect to spend approximately 1hr, 30 min at the Rock.

    Kilkenny - Cashel : approx. 70 minutes.

  • 8. Cahir Castle
    Cahir Castle, County Tipperary

    Day 5 continued :

    Continue the short drive (approx. 20-25 minutes) to Cahir, where you will discover a fine example of a castle near the banks of the river Suir.

    Expect to spend approximately 1hr, 30 min at the Castle.

  • 9. Kinsale

    After visiting Cahir, it's time to head to Kinsale: a pretty harbour town which lies south of Cork city. Explore the narrow winding streets and find a nice restaurant or pub for your evening meal.

    Cahir - Kinsale : approx. 1hr, 50 min.

    Overnight : Kinsale

  • 10. Kinsale to Kenmare : a day's journey

    Day 6 :

    Take the whole day to drive from Kinsale to Kenmare, and you will be rewarded with stunning coastal scenery, ancient ruins and stone circles and magnificent country houses.

    Click on above URL (blue "GoList") for full details of the route.

  • 11. Kenmare

    Day 6 continued:

    Kenmare is a pretty market town with a super range of accommdation, restaurants and pubs, located on the Ring of Kerry. It is also an ideal base from which to explore the lesser-known and equally attractive Beara Peninsula.

    Overnight: Kenmare

  • 12. The Beara Peninsula

    Day 7 :

    Drive south from Kenmare over the bridge and take the first turn on the right, which will lead you onto the rugged Beara Peninsula: an area dotted with stone circles, stone alignments and megalithic tombs dating back to prehistoric times.
    There are pretty, brightly painted villages, gardens and waterfalls to visit; be brave and take the cable car across to Dursey island; or enjoy a walk along one of the many marked trails.

    And if it's a nice sunny day, pop into "Jam" on Henry Street in Kenmare and buy a few goodies for a picnic before you set out.

    For further information, click on the above link to Beara Tourism.

    Overnight : Kenmare

  • 13. Ring of Kerry
    Ring of Kerry, County Kerry

    Day 8 :

    Option 1 - Ring of Kerry

    You may also be keen to visit the well-known Ring of Kerry; be sure to stop at Staigue Fort near Sneem: a well-preserved prehistoric stone fort; and if you have a sweet tooth, drive out beyond Ballinskelligs to the fabulous Skelligs Chocolate factory.

  • 14. Muckross House and Gardens
    Muckross House and Gardens, Killarney

    Day 8 :

    Option 2 - Muckross House and Gardens, Killarney

    If you don't want another day in the car, drive the short distance from Kenmare to Molls' Gap (N71) and down past the lakes to Muckross House, which lies on the outskirts of Killarney town.

    Take the guided tour of the house and enjoy a leisurely walk through the gardens to Torc Waterfall.

    Expect to spend 2-3hrs at Muckross.

    You could also combine Muckross with a visit to Ross Castle, which lies nearby.

    Kenmare - Muckross : approx. 35 min

    Overnight: Kenmare.

  • 15. Gap of Dunloe
    Gap of Dunloe, Killarney

    Day 9 :

    Time to leave Kenmare and travel back over Moll's Gap and through Killarney to the Gap of Dunloe: a beautiful valley near Beaufort. You can opt to park the car and hike or walk through the Gap, or negotiate a fare for a horse 'n carriage ride.

    Kenmare - Beaufort : approx. 50 min

  • 16. Dingle
    Dingle, Dingle Peninsula

    Day 9 continued :

    From Beaufort head to Killorglin (N72) and turn right onto the N70 to Castlemaine. Once you arrive in Castlemaine keep an eye out for the turning on the left to Dingle, which you'll also see signed "An Daingean" (R561)

    Stop at glorious Inch Strand for a walk along this beautiful beach, which is very popular with surfers. Then continue along the coast road to the junction with the N86 and turn left to Dingle town.

    Dingle is another of my favourite towns in Ireland, and you'll be spoilt for choice on accommodation, restaurants and pubs.

    Beaufort - Dingle : 1hr, 20 min

    Overnight Dingle

  • 17. Dingle town and the Slea Head drive

    Day 10 :

    Take a day to explore sights and sites on the Slea Head Drive: megalithic standing stones; a prehistoric cliff-top fort; beehive huts; early Christian churches and settlements.

    Click on above blue "GoList" for details of sights and sites on Slea Head.

    The Peninsula is also a wonderful place to enjoy other activities like horse-riding, surfing, kayaking, hiking and walking or just taking a leisurely walk along one of its many beautiful and uncrowded sandy beaches.

    Overnight : Dingle

  • 18. Dingle to West Clare (for Cliffs of Moher and Burren)

    Day 11 :

    Time to say "farewell" to Dingle and set off for the Cliffs of Moher and the Burren.

    Click on the above blue "GoList" for full details of my favourite route from Dingle to west Clare. The drive will take approximately 3.5-4hrs, but could possibly take a full day if you stop en-route at suggested places.

  • 19. Ballyvaughan
    Ballyvaughan, The Burren

    Day 11 continued :

    My choice of location for the Burren: Ballyvaughan, which is a pretty village on the north coast of Clare, overlooking Galway Bay. A good choice of guest houses and b&bs, and several pubs and restaurants for a nice meal.

    Overnight : Ballyvaughan

  • 20. Highlights of the Burren

    Day 12 :

    The Burren - a fascinating limestone landscape that has been inhabited by man since prehistoric times.

    Click on blue "GoList" for my favourite places in the Burren; you won't have time to visit all in 1 day, so choose those that most appeal to you.

    Overnight : Ballyvaughan

  • 21. Clonmacnoise
    Clonmacnoise, County Offaly

    Day 13 :

    It's time to start your journey back east towards Dublin.

    From Ballyvaughan drive through the Burren (N67) and the pretty village of Kinvara to Kilcolgan, where you turn left towards Galway city.

    On the outskirts of Galway you pick up the motorway (M6) and just before Athlone look for signs to Clonmacnoise: a peaceful monastic settlement on the banks of the river Shannon.

    Expect to spend approx. 1hr at Clonmacnoise

    Ballyvaughan - Clonmacnoise : approx. 2hrs, 15 min

  • 22. Trim Castle
    Trim Castle, Trim

    Day 13 continued :

    Rejoin the motorway until Enfield, and turn off towards Trim.

    Note: there are two tolls payable on the motorway; ensure you have around 5euros in change.

    Trim Castle has a magnificent keep and was used in the film "Braveheart"
    Note: entrance to the Keep is by guided tour only; there are several narrow and steep stone staircases in the Keep, so this may not be suitable for those with limited mobility.

    Clonmacnoise - Trim : approx. 2hrs

    Overnight : Trim

  • 23. Newgrange
    Bru na Boinne, Donore

    Day 14 :

    Early start and head straight to Newgrange to ensure you get a place on one of the guided tours of the Chamber. This prehistoric chamber is very small, despite the overall size of the mound, and has some fabulous examples of neolithic art both inside and out.

    Expect to spend approx 2hrs 30 min at the Visitor Centre and Chamber.

    If you are lucky enough to be visiting Ireland when Knowth is also open, do not miss this opportunity to see Knowth as well. Although less well-known than Newgrange it is an interesting site and has a different layout to Newgrange.

    Trim - Newgrange : approx. 1hr

  • 24. Hill of Tara (Temair)
    Hill of Tara (Temair), Dublin

    Day 14 continued :

    From Newgrange head back towards Trim, but if you have time, stop at the Hill of Tara, one of the most significant locations in Irish History: place of myth and legend, entrance to the Underworld, crowning place of Kings, it may look like "just a hilltop" but do your research before you visit, and you will understand why "Tara" is such an important place.

    Newgrange - Hill of Tara : approx. 1hr
    Hill of Tara - Trim : approx. 40 min

    Overnight : Trim

  • 25. Dublin airport

    Day 15 :

    Time to leave Ireland with some wonderful memories and experiences to take home.

    Allow 1hr to drive to Dublin airport, and 30 minutes to drop-off car.

    Note: check-in for transatlantic flights: 3hrs.

    If you have an early morning departure, you may prefer to stay at an airport hotel on your final night in Ireland, and return your car the day before departure.