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A fly-drive itinerary starting in Dublin, then driving through counties Kilkenny, Cork, Kerry and Clare, and departing from Shannon.
All distances and drive times are taken from the aa routeplanner website.
Please note: Drive times quoted are the very minimum it will take to cover a journey. Please factor in time for traffic delays, diversions etc.
Please also factor in adequate time for stops at sites of interest along the way, lunch break, rest stop, etc.
Note: This could easily be lengthened into a 10-12 day itinerary, by spending more time in Kenmare, Dingle and/or co. Clare. More than enough places to see and enjoy within easy drive of each location.
Arrive Dublin airport; take public transport or taxi to City Centre.
Explore Dublin on foot, or by hop-on, hop-off bus.
Popular places of interest: Kilmainham Gaol; Trinity College; Chester Beatty Library; Guinness Storehouse; St Stephen's Green; Christ Church Cathedral; Grafton Street.
Collect Rental Car early morning.
Option 1: Dublin - Kilkenny (approx. 125km, min. 2hrs drive)
Drive direct from Dublin to Kilkenny and spend the day exploring the city, which has several interesting historic buildings: Kilkenny Castle; St Canice's Cathedral; the Tholsel; Rothe House; Shee Alms House.
A short drive from Kilkenny lies Jerpoint Abbey, which has some very fine carved figures in the cloisters. A peaceful place and a "must" for anyone interested in ecclesiastical buildings/historic buildings.
Option 2: Dublin - Glendalough - Glendalough - Kilkenny (approx. 175km, min. 3.5hrs drive).
Head south from Dublin to beautiful Glendalough: an early Christian monastic settlement nestled in the Wicklow Mountains. Aim to spend 2-3hrs at Glendalough.
Continue to Kilkenny for the night.
Day 3 - Kilkenny - Rock of Cashel - Kinsale (approx. 185km, min 3hrs drive)
It takes just over an hour to drive from Kilkenny to Cashel, where you will find the awesome site of the Rock of Cashel, which rears up from the surrounding rural countryside. Although once Seat of the High Kings of Munster, the Rock is more well-known for its religious buildings, most of which date from the 12th and 13th centuries.
Not to be missed! Allow approx. 2hrs in Cashel.
From Cashel drive to Kinsale, a very popular harbour town on the coast of county Cork. You will find a good selection of hotels, guest houses and b&bs, plus a good choice of restaurants, pubs and cafes.
Kinsale is a maze of narrow winding streets, many of them one-way. Recommend you find accommodation with private parking, and explore the town on foot.
There's a very nice walk from Kinsale to Charles Fort, which affords lovely views of Kinsale Harbour.
Kinsale - Kenmare via south coast of Cork (approx. 145km, min. 3hrs drive non-stop).
Spend a leisurely day driving along the south coast of Cork, through charming villages, each with something interesting to stop and explore:
Clonakilty: model railway village
Glandore: Drombeg Stone Circle
Skibbereen: Heritage Centre and Great Famine Exhibition
Bantry: Bantry House.
Fabulous scenery all the way, and countless opportunities to get off the beaten track and explore tiny country lanes.
Kinsale - Bantry - Beara Peninsula - Kenmare (approx. 230km, min 5.5hrs drive)
Get an early start and drive via Clonakilty and Bantry to the Beara Peninsula.
Once outside the small town of Glengarriff, look for signs to Adrigole and Castletownbere (R572).
On through the pretty villages of Allihies and Eyeries, and along the northern side of the Peninsula through Ardgroom, Lauragh and across the bridge into Kenmare town.
Kenmare has a super range of accommodation, and pubs and restaurants that equal any Kinsale has to offer (my opinion!).
If you've taken the coastal route to Kenmare (which would be my choice), then use this day to either explore the ruggedly beautiful Beara Peninsula, or drive around the Ring of Kerry.
Day 6 - Kenmare - Dingle (approx. 100km, min 2hrs drive)
You'll be driving along a section of the Ring of Kerry on your way from Kenmare to Dingle (Kenmare - Moll's Gap - Ladies View - Killarney), and the scenery is gorgeous! Allow enough time for a few stops along the way.
You might even want to spend a couple of hours in/around Killarney, maybe visit Torc Waterfall, and Muckross House and Gardens.
Spend a couple of hours wandering around Dingle town late afternoon. Dingle has some superb shops selling quality locally made items: crystal, linen, woollens, leatherware, art.
Slea Head Drive and Great Blasket Island.
Take a full day to explore the western end of the Dingle Peninsula. Jaw-dropping scenery on the Slea Head drive and many places of interest along the way: Dunbeg Promontory Fort; Dunquin (departure point for the ferry to Great Blasket); Gallarus Oratory, and Kilmalkedar Church. There are many sandy coves and rocky headlands where you can enjoy a picnic lunch if the weather is fine. If not, head to the Blasket Centre, just beyond Dunquin, where you can learn all about life on the Blaskets.
If the weather is fine, consider taking the ferry from Dunquin (Dunchaoin) across to Great Blasket and spending a few hours exploring this peaceful spot. There are no facilities whatsoever on the Island, so pack water and maybe a picnic lunch.
(Note: Boats operate to Great Blasket from Easter to October and are weather dependent).
Day 8 - Dingle - Connor Pass - Doolin, co. Clare (approx. 170km, min. 3.5hrs drive)
From Dingle town head over the Connor Pass to the northern coast of the Peninsula, and via Tralee and Listowel to the car ferry at Tarbert. This is a simple drive-on, drive-off ferry that will take you across the Shannon to Killimer, co. Clare. It's a short journey, and if you're lucky, you'll see dolphins in the estuary.
Once in co. Clare, drive via Kilrush and Kilkee up the west coast to the Cliffs of Moher, which are just 10 minutes drive from Doolin.
Doolin is a hugely popular destination for music lovers, as it has a reputation of offering traditional music in the pubs. It is a very small village, with several pubs, and guest houses, b&bs and hotels spread out along country lanes.
It does get incredibly busy during the height of the season, and at weekends and public holidays. If you're looking for somewhere quieter, then head to Ballyvaughan on the north coast of Clare (approx. 30 minutes drive from Doolin) - my preferred location when staying in north Clare.
Options (both these are full day excursions):
Take the ferry from Doolin to one of the Aran Islands (seasonal from Easter to end of October).
Explore the fascinating Burren, with its limestone landscape scattered with remains of human history dating from prehistoric times. Best way to explore this area is take a guided walk or follow one of the many trails in the area.
Overnight Doolin or Ballyvaughan.
Doolin and Ballyvaughan are approximately 75 minutes drive from Shannon airport, so if you have an early departure, you might like to spend your last night in Ireland at Bunratty Village, which is a 10-minute drive from Shannon. The Village offers a good range of accommodation and places to eat.
Alternatively, consider Oakwood Arms Hotel in Shannon - a mere 2-minute drive from the airport - and conveniently located next to a petrol station for that all-important refuel before you drop off the car.