How to Plan a Driving Trip Around Ireland

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Slightly larger than the state of West Virginia, the Republic of Ireland offers many sights within manageable driving distances. With a little planning you can map out an extremely scenic trip around the major sights of the Emerald Isle in as little as two weeks. Longer or shorter trips can also be planned to fit your timetable. In this article you will find a suggested itinerary that encompasses most of the major areas of Ireland.

  • Begin in Dublin. Since most people fly into Dublin when visiting Ireland, this trip begin there. Start by exploring Dublin and the surrounding area. Although it's a major metropolitan city, the streets are well marked and driving isn't too difficult once you are used to driving on the left hand side.

  • Head towards Waterford as the first leg of your journey. Take the M7 south to the N9 and then on to the N10, which will take you to Kilkenny. From Kilkenny, take the N9 south to Waterford. At approximately 95 miles, this is an easy trip that will allow stops along the way for sightseeing. Along this route you will find Kilkenny Castle and Rothe House. Once in Waterford, the major attraction is the Waterford Crystal Factory and the nearby oceanfront village of Dunmore East.

  • Visit the port town of Cork. Take the N25 south for about 65 miles to Cork. Here you can tour Blarney Castle and kiss the Blarney Stone. There is a great old jail and many other historic attractions to keep you busy for a few days.

  • See Killarney. Take the N22 northwest to Killarney, which can serve as a base for a side trip around the 170 km Ring of Kerry. Killarney also offers many tourist attractions such as castles, abbeys and even a waterfall or two.

  • Drive to Limerick. Take the N22 to the N23, to the N21 and finally the N20 which will lead you into town. This trip is approximately 111 km, or about 70 miles. With nearly 100,000 inhabitants, Limerick offers many sights for tourists, including several castles, museums and boat trips on the Shannon River.

  • Go to Galway. Taking the N18 north, drive approximately 103 km, or about 65 miles, to the port city of Galway. With the third largest city population in the Republic of Ireland, Galway offers most of the amenities of any major metropolitan area. You'll find theater, live music festivals, museums, art galleries, sports and many other attractions to keep you entertained for an extended visit.

  • Cut across the country and head back to Dublin. Take the N6 to Kinnegad and then hop on the N4, which will take you into Dublin. This trip is approximately 215 km, or about 135 miles. Along the way you will see sights such as Trim Castle in County Meath, Clonmacnoise in County Offaly and Athenry Castle in County Galway.

Tips & Warnings

  • Check with your credit card company for insurance options prior to renting a car.
  • Practice converting kilometers to miles to avoid confusion about distances.
  • Although most roads have an official name (i.e., N2 or N7), you will often find signs that refer to the cities the road connects, such as Wexford to Waterford Road.
  • Rental cars are typically small, so don't pack more than you need. It might not fit in the car.
  • In rural areas you may share the road with tractors or sheep. Keep your eyes open at all times.
  • Be sure that you understand your rental agreement before you leave on your trip.
  • Don't drive at night until you are comfortable driving on the left side of the road.

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