Most of us can snag ten days off for vacation every year, luckily, that’s the perfect number of days for an introduction to Ireland. In ten days, you’ll be able to explore the rolling green hills of the countryside, take in the sights of Dublin, and sip a few pints while listening to lilting Irish tunes.
To make the most of your days, you’ll want to fly open jaw into Shannon and out of Dublin (or vice versa). Since long-haul bus and train trips in Ireland are sporadic and don’t serve some of the smaller towns, it’s easiest to rent a car for much of the trip. Public transportation is reliable and quick in Dublin so we recommend dropping off the car at Dublin Airport and then heading into the city on the bus.
3 days in County Clare
Miles of rocky coastline, farms split by tiny country roads, farmers walking their flocks home over the hills, fresh baked brown bread with locally made jam, and pints of beer with flute music underscoring your conversation: welcome to County Clare. This region of western Ireland must be where most of the idyllic thoughts of Ireland originated. It’s just as you might imagine: quiet but intriguing, friendly, and vibrant. You could begin your trip at the Cliffs of Moher where the waves of the Atlantic crash against the rock-face that extends 214 meters tall. Take a scenic drive through green fields cut by moon-like Burren rock to the Burren Birds of Prey Center to learn about endangered birds of prey, taste some local cheeses, and tour the Aillwee Cave.
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We recommend sleeping in Doolin – a small, waterfront town with three pubs serving up good grub and live music. It’s close of enough to the Cliffs of Moher that you could hike there. If you want to see the Aran Islands, ferries leave from the port in Doolin.
2 days in Dingle
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In keeping with the relaxed pace and beauty of the trip thus far, Dingle is an ideal second stop. The Dingle Peninsula is a Gaeltacht – a region of Ireland while Irish is still widely spoken and traditional Irish culture is well-protected. Half a million sheep reside on the 40 mile by 10 mile peninsula, but only 10,000 people call it home. Stay in Dingle Town, a fishing village with a few shops and pubs to explore.
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Since you’ve rented a car, you’ve opened your trip up to flexibility and scenic drives. On the Dingle Peninsula, the Slea Head Drive is a great introduction that circles the peninsula. Set aside half a day or more for ample time to explore the villages you’ll drive through, have a picnic in the hills, visit historic ruins, or pop in somewhere for a pint and a basket of fries. Hikers can spend awhile on Mount Brandon, Ireland’s tallest mountain, with views of the countryside stretching into that iconic Irish fog.
2 days in Kilkenny
A small city known for the beer it brews, its castle, and the myriad of bed and breakfasts you’ll find there makes a good transition from the quiet of western Ireland to the hustle and bustle of Dublin. Even a traveler on a shoestring budget should splurge on staying in a B&B for a night or two in Ireland. Kilkenny is home to enough that there should be one to suit every taste – you can enjoy the lauded Irish hospitality and a traditional Irish breakfast. With a belly full of eggs, mushrooms, bacon, fried tomatoes, black pudding, toast, and tea, you’ll be ready to explore all day long.
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You could begin your day with a walking tour of the city highlights like Black Abbey, Kilkenny Castle, and the Rothe House. For a view of the city and the surrounding countryside, climb up the round tower of St. Canice’s Cathedral. After lunch, you might pop over to Smithwick’s Brewery for a tour of the brewery as well as a sample of their product. From Kilkenny, it’s an easy side trip to the Rock of Cashel where the well-preserved remnants of centuries wait to be explored. Also called St. Patrick’s Rock, this site has served many purposes over the years and was gifted to the church in the twelfth century. Head back to Kilkenny in the evening to take in a show at the community theater.
3 days in Dublin
No trip to Ireland is complete without a trip to its iconic capital city. Visitors can take in historic sights like the Book of Kells at Trinity College, sip pints at the old haunts of famed Irish writers, or go just off the beaten track to the nearby coastal fishing villages. For a cheesy but informative introduction to the city, you could kick your time in Dublin off with a Viking Splash Tour. On no other tour will you get to see and learn about Irish landmarks while also wearing a Viking helmet and roaring at strangers?
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Fans of Ireland’s most famous dark brew shouldn’t miss the Guinness Storehouse. You could spend an hour there sipping Guinness at the Gravity Bar or devote a whole day to the experience learning how beer is made, studying the history of the company, learning to pour your own pint of Guinness, and immersing yourself in the iconic Guinness ads past and present. In the evening, sign up for the Musical Pub Crawl where local Irish musicians will take you behind the scenes of two pubs, play you a myriad of jigs and reels, and teach you a bit about the history of music in Ireland.
Further reading on Dublin:
- Cheap hostels in Dublin
- 2 day itinerary ideas for Dublin
- Day trips from Dublin
- Free things to do in Dublin
- Famous people buried in Dublin