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7 Days in Ireland: A Guide for First Time Visitors

Updated on July 27, 2017
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Scott Bateman is a professional journalist and travel blogger who wrote this article based on his first trip to Ireland.

This sign warns drivers to be careful along one mountainous stretch of the Ring of Kerry.
This sign warns drivers to be careful along one mountainous stretch of the Ring of Kerry. | Source

A seven-day vacation in Ireland is a chance to enjoy the island's natural beauty, explore great castles and get lost on its famously challenging roads.

Fortunately, plenty of people in Ireland are ready to offer advice to lost souls with inaccurate GPS directions.

Unlike Disney World, the best attractions in Ireland do not all exist in one place. They lie in many places across the island.

But the size of the island makes visiting those attractions a fairly simple matter. This is especially true in the southern half, which has more major highways than the northern half.

They make reaching each destination much faster for someone trying to do as much as possible in seven days.

At its widest point, Ireland is 174 miles from the west coast to the east coast. It is 302 miles from the northernmost point to the southernmost.

Getting from one destination to the next during a seven-day visit often will take no more than an hour or two of driving.

7-Day Itinerary

Day 1: Dublin: St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Trinity College

Day 2: Rock of Cashel; Blarney Castle

Day 3: Cork; Kinsale

Day 4: Ring of Kerry; Killarney National Park

Day 5: Bunratty Castle; Cliffs of Moher

Day 6: Galway; Brú na Bóinne

Day 7: Dublin: Kilmainham Gaol, National Botanic Gardens

Kissing the Blarney Stone may sound like a silly option to some people when planning a seven-day itinerary in Ireland. Then you get there and find yourself doing it.
Kissing the Blarney Stone may sound like a silly option to some people when planning a seven-day itinerary in Ireland. Then you get there and find yourself doing it. | Source

Planning the 7-Day Itinerary

Creating an itinerary means choosing locations and attractions that fit an efficient time schedule.

Vacation planners may read about a place that ranks as a top attraction, but it is not sometimes possible to visit because of the time it takes to get there. One example is the ferry ride over to the Aran Islands.

Seeing the most and best attractions in the least amount of time also means using the highways as much as possible.

Any itinerary usually starts and stops in Dublin because most visitors from other countries such as the U.S. and Canada will be flying into and out of Dublin Airport.

The fact that Dublin is the first and last day is not a problem because the city has enough activities for visitors to do for at least two days.

There is plenty to do outside of the city as well. The list below will fill the week.

Guinness Brewery says the Guinness Storehouse is the most popular tourist attraction in Ireland. Visitors get a pint of Guinness as part of their visit.
Guinness Brewery says the Guinness Storehouse is the most popular tourist attraction in Ireland. Visitors get a pint of Guinness as part of their visit. | Source

Day 1: Dublin: Guinness Storehouse, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Trinity College

Dublin and Ireland’s No. 1 tourist attraction is Guinness Storehouse at St. James Gate, according to the company.

Visitors take an informative self-guided tour of the former location of the famous brewery, see how the company makes stout and get a pint of the dark stuff at the end of the tour. They get to drink it on a rooftop bar with a lofty circular view of the city.

Worth noting is that the land lease of Guinness Storehouse goes for 9,000 years.

St. Patrick’s Cathedral

Another lofty view -- this one spiritual -- is found at the massive St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

The exterior of the building is impressive, while the interior is inspiring.

The site dates back to 1191, and the current building dates back to 1220.

Trinity College Library / Book of Kells

Trinity College in the heart of Dublin has the Book of Kells and The Old Library.

Book of Kells is “Ireland's greatest cultural treasure and the world's most famous medieval manuscript,” according to the exhibition website.

The book is a colorfully decorated copy of the four Gospels representing the life of Jesus.

The exhibition has large transparencies, explanations of the historical meaning of the books and the book itself.

Visitors who see the Book of Kells also in the Old Library can visit the Long Room, an elegant and historic depository of 200,000 books in tall oak bookcases.

The traffic in Dublin is so bad that even current and former Dubliners say they don’t want to drive through the city.

Getting Around Dublin

The traffic in Dublin is so bad that even current and former Dubliners say they don’t want to drive through the city.

Street signs are few or hard to see. Street names change often. The roads are narrow and crowded.

Guinness Storehouse, St. Patrick’s Cathedral and Trinity College are all located within a long walk of each other.

Trinity College is located by the River Liffey. St. Patrick’s Cathedral is a little more than one mile or 2.3 kilometers southwest of the college.

Guinness Storehouse is about one mile or about 1.7 kilometers west of the cathedral.

Guinness Storehouse has public parking on site, while paid parking options are near the cathedral and college.

Simpler options include taxis or the many tour buses that roam the city.

The castle known as Rock of Cashel dominates the countryside. The cemetery adds a somber air.
The castle known as Rock of Cashel dominates the countryside. The cemetery adds a somber air. | Source

Favorite Ireland Attractions

If you have been to Ireland, what was your favorite attraction? If you haven't been there, what do you want to see the most?

See results

Day 2: Rock of Cashel; Cahir Castle; Blarney Castle

Rock of Cashel

Driving about 90 minutes southwest along E20 and M8 will take visitors to the Rock of Cashel, one of the most photographic castle ruins in Ireland.

The Rock of Cashel in Cashel, County Tipperary, dominates the landscape in its location on a wide green hill next to the town of Cashel. Its history reputedly dates back to the 5th century AD.

Most of the structures on the site survive from the 12th century onward including the round tower, High Cross, Gothic cathedral, a 15th century castle and Hall of the Vicars Choral.

Cahir Castle

There is no escaping the fact that Ireland has many great castles, some of which are crumbling and others that stay in good shape.

Cahir Castle belongs on the latter list. It lies about 15 minutes south of the Rock of Cashel along M8. Tours last about 30 to 40 minutes.

Blarney Castle

One hundred kilometers or about an hour’s drive farther southwest on highway M8 will bring tourists to Blarney Castle in County Cork.

The name Blarney Castle may sound like a tourist trap to some people, but the castle is impressive and the gardens surrounding it even more so. Don’t forget to check out Blarney House at the rear of the gardens.

And yes, people do kiss the Blarney Stone -- or at least pretend to kiss it -- to gain the gift of the gab.

Blarney Castle and Gardens is one of the top tourist attractions in Ireland.
Blarney Castle and Gardens is one of the top tourist attractions in Ireland. | Source

Day 3: English Market in Cork; Kinsale

English Market

The next day offers a quick trip over to Cork for the English Market, which claims to be “Ireland’s Most Famous Covered Food Market.”

Although the market’s main focus is food, it also offers plenty of other merchandise as well.

Kinsale

The next step in the journey is a winding 20-mile, 36-kilometer drive to the seaside town of Kinsale.

Kinsale is a historic port and fishing village that also serves as a bed and breakfast getaway for many Irish and foreigners alike.

Visitors will find pleasant, colorful shops lining a small number of roads that wind around the harbor.

On the day of this visit, leisurely eating ice cream cones, sitting by the water’s edge and watching the boats was one of the most popular activities. Casual is the theme.

Muckross House and Gardens is a popular stop on the Ring of Kerry.
Muckross House and Gardens is a popular stop on the Ring of Kerry. | Source

Day 4: Ring of Kerry; Muckross House and Gardens; Killarney National Park

Ring of Kerry

A 90-minute drive takes people from Kinsale to Killarney at the start (and finish) of The Ring of Kerry.

The ring is one of the most popular natural attractions in Ireland. It isn’t a single attraction, but rather a 100-mile scenic drive around County Kerry.

The drive includes Killarney National Park and various other attractions such as Muckross House and Gardens, Lough Leane, Ross Castle, Ladies View, Torc Waterfall and many other stopping points.

Muckross House and Gardens is an excellent two-hour stop. Ladies View is a sobering mountainous view of the park. Torc Waterfall is a minor attraction and worthy of a visit only if extra time is available.

Bunratty Folk Park displays a way of life during the  19th century next to the castle built in the 15th century.
Bunratty Folk Park displays a way of life during the 19th century next to the castle built in the 15th century. | Source

Day 5: Bunratty Castle; Cliffs of Moher; Doolin Caves

Bunratty Castle

Bunratty Castle and Folk Park has more tourist trappings than another other place on the itinerary, but it doesn’t overdo it.

The castle is in better shape than Blarney or Cashel and includes plenty of insights about the lives of the former inhabitants. Guides dressed according to the times provide informative tours.

Bunratty Castle
Bunratty Castle | Source

Cliffs of Moher

The cliffs rank among the most popular attractions in Ireland thanks to their imposing drop and expansive views.

Visitors can limit themselves to the main viewing points and the guard tower. More adventurous visitors can walk along the goat path by the cliffs’ edge.

Be aware that the winds can be strong and chilling at times even during late spring or early fall.

Doolin Cave

A mere 15 minutes to the north of the Cliffs of Moher is Doolin Cave and home of the Great Stalactite, at 23 feet the longest free-hanging stalactite in the Northern Hemisphere.

Although the cave and the stalactite don’t rank among the most popular attractions in Ireland, it is a convenient side trip for anyone visiting the Cliffs of Moher.

Aran Islands

Doolin Cave is found in the town of Doolin, which offers ferry service to the Aran Islands. It also is famous for its traditional Irish music.

The Aran Islands are famous for their natural beauty and the preserved way of life for the people who live there.

Visitors take about a 45-minute ferry to reach the islands. Inis Mor is the largest and most visited of the islands.

A tour is doable in a single day. Doolin Ferries has a day-trip option that leaves at 10 a.m. and returns at 4 p.m. Another option is an overnight stay in an Inis Mor bed and breakfast. The ferry schedule has several options including ones that leave at 1 p.m. and return at either 11:30 a.m. or 4 p.m. the next day.

No photo can do justice to the massive Cliffs of Moher, one of the most popular tourist attractions in Ireland.
No photo can do justice to the massive Cliffs of Moher, one of the most popular tourist attractions in Ireland. | Source

Day 6: Galway; Brú na Bóinne

Galway

Whether travelers leave the Aran Islands on day five or day six, they may want to plan on a return to modern civilization mixed with old Ireland in the city of Galway.

The city is not known for tourist attractions but rather for atmosphere -- food, pubs and music.

From Galway, it is a two to two and a half hour drive along highways M6 and M4 back to Dublin.

Brú na Bóinne

Anyone with the time and the energy may want to make a side trip off highway M4 and go about 30 minutes north of Dublin AIrport to Brú na Bóinne in County Meath.

Brú na Bóinne is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that dates back to the 35th century BC and predates the Egyptian pyramids, according to World Heritage Ireland. It is The site is a complex of chamber tombs, mounds, standing stones and other prehistoric enclosures.

A return to Dublin for the flight out of Dublin Airport doesn’t mean the end of the journey or some final quick things to do.

Day 7: Dublin: Kilmainham Gaol, National Botanic Gardens, St. Stephen’s Green, Dublin Zoo

A return to Dublin for the flight out of Dublin Airport doesn’t mean the end of the journey or some final quick things to do.

Depending on flight times, Dublin offers several other popular attractions that lie within a reasonable distance to the airport and nearby hotels.

The National Botanic Gardens is 15 minutes south of the airport and just north of the city.

Dublin Zoo is 20 minutes away from the airport on the west side of the city.

A few minutes farther yet within the city itself is St. Stephen’s Green, the popular public park.

Farthest south is Kilmainham Gaol, the historic former prison that is now a museum.

Map of Ireland Attractions

show route and directions
A markerGuinness Storehouse -
St James's Gate, Guinness Storehouse, Dublin 8, Co. Dublin, Ireland
get directions

B markerSt. Patrick's Cathedral -
St Patrick's Cathedral, Saint Patrick's Close, Dublin 8, Co. Dublin
get directions

C markerTrinity College -
Trinity College Dublin, College Green, Dublin 2, Co. Dublin, Ireland
get directions

D markerRock of Cashel -
Rock of Cashel, Co. Tipperary, Ireland
get directions

E markerBlarney Castle -
Blarney Castle, Blarney, Co. Cork, Ireland
get directions

F markerKinsale -
Kinsale, Co. Cork, Ireland
get directions

G markerMuckross House -
Killarney House, Muckross Road, Killarney, Co. Kerry, Ireland
get directions

H markerBunratty Castle -
Bunratty Castle & Folk Park, Bunratty, Co. Clare, Ireland
get directions

I markerCliffs of Moher -
Cliffs of Moher, Co. Clare, Ireland
get directions

J markerBrú na Bóinne -
Brú na Bóinne, Co. Meath, Ireland
get directions

© 2015 Scott Bateman

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    • promisem profile image
      Author

      Scott Bateman 7 weeks ago

      Hi, Tim. I can tell you that we stayed in an inexpensive B&B every night, and every one had plenty of good food for breakfast, comfortable beds and friendly hosts.

      If you tour the countryside for a week, as we did, you will find that it's much easier to get a B&B than a hotel (depending of course on where you go). We were glad we did it.

    • profile image

      Tim 7 weeks ago

      What do you recommend in terms of places to stay along the journey, which are not expensive, yet comfortable? Do the Irish offer guest rooms in their homes with breakfast, for a fee of course?

    • promisem profile image
      Author

      Scott Bateman 21 months ago

      Linda, thank you for your comments! Your timing is great because I just got done dealing with a frustrating job situation, so you picked me back up again. I hope you have a chance to go to Ireland. It's truly a fascinating country in many ways.

    • Linda Robinson60 profile image

      Linda Robinson 21 months ago from Cicero, New York

      Good Morning Scott what an amazing hub, I really loved it just filled with so much intriguing facts, photos and information to make you feel as if you are there, and it definitely makes you desire to vacation there. Nice meeting you. I look forward to following you allowing me to read of your incredible wonderfully written hubs. Linda

    • promisem profile image
      Author

      Scott Bateman 24 months ago

      Thanks, Eugbug. I hope to write a Hub about the Cliffs very soon. The day was murky when we visited too. And the winds were intense, especially when I walked on the trail by the edge of the cliff.

    • eugbug profile image

      Eugene Brennan 24 months ago from Ireland

      I notice they've covered the trail along the top of the Cliffs of Moher with a Street View Trekker backpack camera, so that's worth taking a look at. Unfortunately the weather was very murky on the day/days when they collected the imagery.

      Voted up and shared!

    • promisem profile image
      Author

      Scott Bateman 24 months ago

      Unfortunately, we didn't have enough time to spend in Cork for me to write much about it. Too much to do in seven days! And yes, we did talk to quite a few people. Thanks for your comments, Philip.

    • profile image

      Philip Turner 24 months ago

      Cork seems under-mentioned - You could spend a whole day in the city alone!

      Remember to talk to people too, they expect it

    • promisem profile image
      Author

      Scott Bateman 2 years ago

      Thanks for visiting, Claptona.

    • claptona profile image

      John D Wilson 2 years ago from Earth

      Good hub.

      Thanks for sharing the pics.

      Cheers!

    • promisem profile image
      Author

      Scott Bateman 2 years ago

      Lee, I appreciate the comment. You certainly know Ireland much better than a first timer like me. I have to say that not only was it a nice trip, but the people were great.

      I have fond memories of a professor of Irish language at Trinity College walking us through campus to help us find something. He didn't have to do it, and he was very gracious. It was one of many times that people helped us.

    • promisem profile image
      Author

      Scott Bateman 2 years ago

      Thanks, Lions44. It was a great trip. As first timers in Ireland, we enjoyed every minute of it.

    • profile image

      Lee Cloak 2 years ago

      Nice hub, I've been meaning to get down to the English Market in Cork i'll have to take a trip down some weekend, voted up, Lee

    • lions44 profile image

      CJ Kelly 2 years ago from Auburn, WA

      Great guide. I've been wanting to go for a long time and this will be part of my planning (especially Galway where my great-grandfather is from). Voted up and shared.

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