A busy, week and a half spent exploring most of southern ireland
Welcome to day two of #SSPTRAVELS week! I’m so excited that you came back for this huge itinerary - one of my absolute favorites. I planned our Ireland trip after we found out that my brother-in-law, Eric, would be studying there for a semester. We visited him in Dublin and then took off on our own to explore a good chunk of the rest of the country.
This itinerary does not cover Northern Ireland or any sections of Ireland north of Connemara National Park. We simply did not have time. This is a busy itinerary already and I would designate it as a trip, not a vacation. We regularly woke up each morning around 5:00 AM so we could hit the road as soon as possible and we would enjoy drinks and music most nights until after midnight.
It’s also really key that I note that while we were in Ireland, they were experiencing some of the worst flooding in years as a north Atlantic hurricane hovered above the island for days and days. It did not, however, deter us from getting out of the car and spending a huge portion of this trip exploring on foot.
The itineraries I am sharing are the exact ones Kyle and I followed on our trips. Each itinerary was planned entirely by me through extensive research and knowing our personal travel preferences. Everyone loves to travel differently. It’s very important that you know the way you prefer to travel and make the modifications that you feel would suit your lifestyle best. I used various travel blogs, recommendations from family and friends along with internet reviews to choose what worked best for us. Kyle and I are certainly not luxury travelers however we do not stay in hostels either. You will not find any bed and breakfasts on these lists… sorry! We are hotel traditionalists. We typically do not place huge importance on every meal of the day however we do love to eat! Trip prices shared at the top of each post are simply approximations at the date of our travel and could have changed minimally or drastically in the time since. We take trips more than we vacation so you may find that these itineraries are too busy, fast paced or condensed for your lifestyle. When most people would suggest a 7 day tour of an area, we would usually condense that into 4 days. Our goals are always to see and do as much as we can on a trip which results in long, incredibly rewarding days. This can be exhausting - I wouldn’t deem any of these itineraries to be extraordinarily relaxing but they are all worthwhile. It may seem obvious but one main priority for wherever we travel is photographing the location so we may opt for 8 quick stops over one 6 hour tour. My goal is to share what we have seen and loved in the hopes of guiding someone else’s research. I suggest that instead of taking these at face value and doing exactly what we did, you make the modifications that suit your own needs and cater to the way you love to travel!
WHEN: Departing on Black Friday and traveling through the first week of December
HOW MUCH: $3,200 (including flights, hotels, car rental, food, alcohol and activities)
Travel day - head to the airport in the evening and take an overnight flight to Dublin. We opted for a 2 hour layover in Heathrow for cheaper airfare. That’s also part of why we traveled when we did - Ireland is more affordable in the winter and you basically have most of the country to yourself since tourist season is typically the summer!
Arrive in Dublin at lunchtime, pick up the rental car and drop bags off at the hotel, Fleet Street Hotel
Grab a quick bite to eat at Leo Burdoch’s Fish and Chips
Walk to see Dublin Castle
Walk to see Christ Church Cathedral and explore the catacombs
Walk to and around St. Stephens Green
Explore Grafton Street, the heart of the city’s social life, entering from St. Stephens Green on the south end
Grab at drink at The Temple Bar Pub (Dublin’s most popular pub)
Visit Trinity College and see the Book of Kells and Trinity College Library
You’ll probably be so tired you’ll pass out at 5 PM and skip dinner but if you’re still awake, grab dinner at Porterhouse in the Temple Bar neighborhood
Breakfast at Queen of Tarts
Visit the Guinness Storehouse
Keep the drinking going at Jameson Distillery
Get lunch at The Brazen Head, Irelands oldest pub dating back to 1198
Spend the afternoon drinking your way through Dublin and end your evening at The Church (we recommend the Cellar Bar downstairs) for dinner and more drinks
Get up early and begin the drive across the country to Connemara, County Galway, Ireland
Arrive in Galway and check in to The Jurys Inn Galway
Spend the evening exploring Galway including the Quay Street area of shops and pubs
Have dinner and listen to music at Tigh Neachtain or The Quays Bar and Restaurant
Wake up early and make the 1.5 hour drive to County Clare
Visit the Cliffs and Moher and O’Brien’s Tower (if you’re traveling during the spring, summer and fall, book tickets in advance for the first entry of the morning)
Drive to Limerick and check in to The George Boutique Hotel or The Savoy Hotel Limerick
Walk around Limerick along the River Shannon
Visit King John’s Castle and explore the neighborhood around the castle
While you’re close to the castle, grab an early dinner at Katie Dalys Heritage Pub & Kitchen
Walk back to your hotel and go to bed a bit early
Wake up early again and hit the road headed for Killarney
On the way, make a detour to drive the Gap of Dunloe (this was one of our favorite parts of the trip and we spent about 2 hours here stopping all along the road to walk, take pictures and explore)
Enter the gap on Gap of Dunloe from the north (that’s the name of the road) and follow signs for Kate Kearney's Cottag). Drive slowly and enjoy your time on the very narrow road with incredible views. Head towards Molls Gap and pick up Ring of Kerry road headed back into Killarney.
Drive to and visit Ross Castle (during the winter, the property is open for exploring but they do not offer/run tours. We self explored this and it was so worth it! We had the whole place to ourselves.)
Walk and explore downtown Killarney.
Grab a drink at a few different pubs (JM Reidy’s and Murphy’s to name a few), shop at the Aran Sweater Market and just enjoy the super cute downtown
Sleep in Killarney at the Fairview Killarney Guesthouse or the Killarney Park Hotel
Start your day off with a hefty Irish breakfast and hit the road to drive the Ring of Kerry. We did this in the POURING rain and still spent most of the day outside and it was one of our favorite parts of the trip. One of the perks of exploring Ireland in December is that we were seriously, no exaggeration, the only people on the route that day. We didn’t see any other tourists all day. You should do your own additional research on the logistics like parking and car pull-offs for the Ring of Kerry because some of the locations listed below aren’t super straightforward. However, I’ve listed what I consider all of the must-sees below in order.
Head southeast from Killarney on N71 (you can skip Ross Castle if you visited when you arrived in Killarney the day before)
Muckross Abbey: It was one of my favorite spots and I wish it hadn’t been a literal hurricane while we were exploring it. Originally built in 1441 it has a very eery vibe and very violent history. There is a huge courtyard constructed around a massive yew tree. Absolutely free to visit, it just sits back off of the road and again we were the only ones there.
Village of Sneem
Ballinskellig Beach and Castle (Skellig Ring Road)
Skellig Chocolate Factory (Skellig Ring Road)
Skellig Michael, a UNESCO World Heritage Site (Skellig Ring Road)
Village of Portmagee
Geokaun Mountain (Valentia Ring Road), Kyle’s favorite spot
You’re not done driving yet. Hop back on the main road and begin your drive to Cork
Check in to The River Lee Hotel (our favorite hotel of our trip - ask for a room with a view of the river)
Walk the 15 minutes along the the River Lee to The Oliver Plunkett no matter how tired you are… it’s SO WORTH IT. DO IT.
Enjoy a big breakfast at The River Lee Hotel. It’s not included in the stay but it’s so good, don’t miss it.
Visit Blarney Castle in the morning. It’s worth it to be the first people in the gate. Head straight to the top of the tower and after you kiss the Blarney Stone, spent another hour or so exploring the gorgeous grounds and the rest of the castle.
Head back into Cork and spend the rest of the day exploring the city on foot visiting Fitzgerald’s Park, Daly’s Bridge, Cork City Gaol, Saint Fin Barre’s Cathedral and Red Abbey Tower.
Go back to The Oliver Plunkett… nope, not kidding. This time, go upstairs to The Frisky Whiskey Bar and listen to some fantastic live trad.
Get breakfast again at The River Lee Hotel then begin your drive to Cahir, Co. Tipperary
Visit Cahir Castle and take a tour
Grab a drink at Morrissey Bar and then hit the road again headed for Cashel
Visit the Rock of Cashel, St. Dominick's Abbey and Hore Abbey
Continue driving to Kilkenny
Take a tour of Kilkenny Castle and the walk through the small downtown area
Visit the Smithwick's Experience
Have dinner and drinks at Kytelers Inn and stick around for the nightly live music
Check in to the Hotel Kilkenny
Wake up and make the 1.5 hour drive to the Dublin Airport. Drop off your rental car and catch your flight home. Drown your sorrows in some airport beers as you are leaving the most beautiful country on earth. On your flight home, begin planning your return trip.