8 days and 7 nights traveling around Ireland + Northern Ireland.
The following blog post will include:
- A detailed packing list
- Renting a car in Ireland
- Currency – Ireland/Northern Ireland
- How I planned our trip
- Accommodations we stayed at along the way
- A detailed itinerary – activities + places we explored
- What we would change/add on to our trip if we were to go back again
- Total cost of the trip
I booked our trip to Ireland while sitting in the airport on route to Tanzania in September. Traveling gets me more excited for future trips and often I find myself planning my next one, during the one I am currently on. I have always wanted to travel to Ireland, and so I decided to finally make it happen. Craig teaches full-time so is limited with days he can travel on, and I really wanted to experience the country with him, so I booked our trip during his April spring break from school, April 7th-15th. Giving us 8 days and 7 nights in the country to see and do as much as we could.
Craig and I did not check any bags when flying, instead flew only carry-on, and each had a 30L backpack. This way we wouldn’t have to deal with waiting for our bags at the carousel, and with it only being one week of travel a carry-on was doable.
April is known to be pretty rainy, but with pockets of sunshine. Our week spent there happened to be a lot rainier than the week prior, and the week after, so rain gear was a must. The average temperatures for April range from 10-13 degrees celsius.
- 3 jackets – 1 GOOD rain jacket, one thinner longer jacket. and one short puffy
- 2 pairs of jeans – a blue jean and a black jean
- 3 leggings – I wore one on the plane then had two pairs to wear there
- 1 waterproof pant/wind breaker
- 2 sweaters – ‘cute’ warm wool ones
- 1 thin turtle neck
- 1 thicker fleece – Patagonia
- 3 long sleeves – one for hiking and 2 casual
- 2 t-shirts
- 1 plaid shirt
- 8 pairs of underwear
- 5 pairs of socks – three pairs of thicker wool/hiking socks and 2 thin ones for my tennis shoes
- 1 pair of hiking boots – that work as casual boots too – Severson Moc Toe
- 1 pair of tennis shoes – which I wore on the plane there and back
- 2 toques
- 1 carry on luggage bag – Expedition 22 Duffel
- 1 backpack – 30L – Adventurer 30L
- Packing cubes – which help to make everything easier when traveling
- 1 pair of thicker mittens
- 1 pair of thin gloves
- 1 sun hat
- toiletries (toothbrush, small lotion, small sunscreen/SPF, small shampoo and conditioner etc).
- Kuju coffee
- 1 waterbottle
Electronics (that I brought with me):
- Camera – extra batters, battery charger, all necessary cords etc.
- Iphone tripod – I brought one so Craig and I could take photos together or if I wanted to take any photos of videos on my own
- External charger
- Universal travel adapter – make sure you check to see if the one you have works for ireland plug ins. ‘For Ireland the associated plug type is G, which is the plug that has three rectangular pins in a triangular pattern. Ireland operates on a 230V supply voltage and 50Hz’.
- Iphone/phone charging cable
- Laptop – I brought my small laptop with me as I had some work I had to do in the evenings
Folder full of printed paperwork:
I often bring printed copies of things, because I love having backups, and it’s easy to refer to when driving/on the go/on the plane.
- Our flights – Air Canada
- Booking information for our rental car
- Booking.com information for all our stays – 7 printed copies of our B&B’s
- Photo copies of our passports/license.
We planned to spend 5 days in Ireland and 2 days in Northern Ireland, and funny enough while planning this trip I learned they are indeed two separate countries with two different currencies. Ireland uses Euros and Northern Ireland uses British Pounds. We paid for our stays and rental car before hand, but I made sure to take out Euros and Pounds before leaving. I brought with me 400Euros and 300Pounds, and we ended up using everything there.
It is easy enough to take our currency at ATM’s there, or to pay with your credit card, but depending on your credit card there could be higher fees, so bringing cash can help you save on that. If you don’t end up using it you can always bring it back to the bank and exchange it back.
How I planned the trip
I used Google Maps to plan our entire route around the country, and http://www.booking.com to book our stays.
Google Maps is ideal for planning a trip no matter where you’re going. You can easily add layers to the map, and do a day by day break down, of places you want to stop at. I used different colours to show the daily stops and blue to showcase our accommodations and it helped me to see how far we would be driving everyday. You can click on items and photos will come up for what the places look like, and from there I decided what would be good places to stop at, whether castles, towns, hikes etc.
I researched other blogs too, and what people recommended for places to see along the way. I tried to add in 4-5 stops a day. We had days where we were in the car for 4 hours or so, and others was 1.5-3. I would suggest 10-14 days for the route we did, and not 8 as we were moving pretty quickly and had to miss some spots, but I will get to that later in the post, on things I would have done differently or made sure not to miss out on! We just had a limited amount of time.
Most people when they visit Ireland, and only have one week stick to JUST the South or JUST the North, to avoid long driving days. But here is my map for the week. It is doable, if you’re okay with being busy.
Rental Car Information:
Given Ireland roads are left side drive, and the steering wheel is on the right side of the vehicle, I figured it was best for us to rent an automatic car, and not a manual. This is more expensive, but we felt it was worth it, as driving on the opposite side of the road is a challenge enough in itself, without then figuring out how to shift with your left hand.
I booked our rental car through www.QEEQ.com. Saturday to Saturday, for $737.51CDN dollars. Average of $100CDN/day. Our car came with unlimited mileage (make sure you check for this), as we ended up driving 1800kms in the 8 days. A manual car was around $200CDN less.
I booked the car under MY name, but should have booked it under Craig’s name as they had us pay $70 more to add another driver, even though the plan was to always have only Craig drive during our trip.
We shuttled from Dublin Airport to the rental car location, a short 5 minute drive:
- Address: EASIRENT CAR HIRE, Dubling Airport, Collinstown Business Park Swords Road, Cloghran, Dublin K67 C7D0, Dublin, IE.
- Once we got out of the airport all I had to do was call Easirent for a pickup, and they sent a van to grab us. We were only waiting maybe 5 minutes.
Be sure to check with your credit card company about insurance, instead of just denying or accepting the insurance by QEEQ or Easirent themselves.
Drop off the last day was at the same address. We dropped off the vehicle and they shuttled us 5 minutes to the departures terminal at the Dublin airport.
The process was quick and easy! Would recommend Easirent car hire.
It was important to the both of us to stay in places that were outside the busier cities, away from the crowds or ‘busyness’. Some of the places had kitchenettes, so we were able to cook, whereas others didn’t so we went out for meals. We wanted the balance, in order to save some money on eating out for every meal.
Every accommodation had coffee/tea provided in room, with a kettle available. I did bring Kuju Coffee with me, as I heard Ireland doesn’t have the BEST coffee, and that is correct. They use a lot of instant Nescafe packages. So if you are like me and want a good cup of coffee first thing in the am, bringing your own may be a good idea, or if you ain’t picky, they have some at every accommodation.
Night 1: Clonakilty Accommodation An Ullord Getaways – $148CDN
- Address: Grancore North, P85EK57 Clonakilty Ireland
Night 2: Coastal View House – $176CDN
- Address: Cahermaclanchy Doolin, Doolin Ireland
- Communal mini fridge – in the hallway
Night 3: Waterfront Rest B&B – $139CDN
- Address: Derren, Sky Road, Clifden, Ireland
Night 4: Windmill Cottage – $142CDN
- Address: Donegal Binbane P.O, DOnegal, Ireland
- We loved the view from this cottage, of the windmills
- Wishing we would have had more time in this area to explore
- The only accomodation with laundry, so I was able to toss a couple items in.
Night 5: Churchview B&B – $150CDN
- Address: 15 Church Road, Ballycastle, BT54 6EA, United Kingdom
- We originally had booked Glen Haven B&B, in Ballycastle, though when we arrived the owner was having issues with the bathroom, so she moved us to one of her friends places a couple blocks away. Churchview is pictured below. I forgot to take a photo of the outside, but this is the view!
- Glen Haven is $150CDN but Churchview is $220, but Churchview matched the price, due to the troubles at Glenhaven.
- Breakfast was great, and the owner was amazing. Very knowledgable, social but yet respected our space in the morning and let us do our thing after she cooked us breakfast.
Night 6: Lizzie’s Cottage – $253CDN
- Address: 29 Clonvaraghan Road, Crumaroad, BT31 9Ju, United Kingdom
- This was our favourite stay of the whole trip. The host was amazing, the kitchenette was great, the location. and the fact that it had a hot tub. A great perk! Was worth the higher cost, in comparison to other places we booked.
Night 7: Arlington O’Connell Bridge – $272CDN
- Address: 23-25 Bachelors Walk, O’Connell Bridge, D1 Dublin, Ireland
- We splurged a bit on this hotel, because we wanted to be right downtown in the hub of things. We were able to walk everwhere. We parked our rental car at a parking garage directly behind the hotel, which was a 5 minute walk.
- There are a number of places to stay in Dublin, and really once we got there and got walking around we realized we probably could have booked something cheaper, as we spent our entire time there exploring, and not even in the hotel room, and things were close together.
- Images taking from google
I highly suggest doing this trip in 10-14 days, if you are going to circle the entire country. 2 weeks being ideal, in order to fully take it all in.
April 8th – Saturday, Day 1 – 330kms – Dublin to West of Kinsale
We flew into Dublin at 8am on Saturday April 8th, and given it was Easter weekend we thought it would be best to head directly out of the city, to avoid the ‘busyness’ and then end with Dublin on the last day, before flying out. We picked up our rental car and started the drive down South.
If we had more time I would have stopped in the Wicklow mountains the first night, or spending your first night in Dublin, and then the last day. Depending if you want more time to explore the big city!
On our way South I had a couple places pinned to google maps:
- Wicklow mountains – Ballinistoe Woods. A great place to hike. I could easily come back to Ireland and spend a week exploring around the Wicklow mountains.
- Blarney Castle – if you are wanting to kiss the Blarney Stone!
- Kilkenney + Kilkenney Castle – Admission was 20Euros/adult – you can explore the yard for free, but if you want to go inside the castle itself you do have to pay admission.
- Charles Fort – Just outside of the town of Kinsale – 5Euros/adult to walk around
- Kinsale – We then drove into the town to take a look at the buildings, and grab a bite to eat
- We then made our way to our accommodations for the night. A 30 minute drive from Kinsale
- Clonakilty Accommodation An Ullord Getaways
- We were absolutely exhausted, after arriving early in the morning, and with the 7 hour time difference from home and very busy first day. We were asleep by 8pm and slept until 8am.
April 9th – Sunday, Day 2 – 205kms – West of Kinsale to Doolin
- We left our glamping pod at around 930am and started our drive North West, towards Killarney National Park. I HIGHLY suggest adding on an extra day here, or two and spending it driving the Ring of Kerry, and then over in Dingle. We had to miss these due to our timeframe. The coastal drives are so beautiful and so many people that I talked to said Dingle was their favourite stop in Ireland.
Our stops for the day:
- Bantry – For morning coffee and a quick breakfast grab
- Gap of Dunloe – a beautiful drive – though very sketchy road – that makes it hard to pass others coming the other direction. I advise entering through the North and not the South, like we did, as the road coming towards Gap of Dunloe will be wider and a quicker drive.
- Ross Castle – 5Euros/adult – We didn’t pay admission to go in, instead grabbed a coffee out back at the Ross Castle Garden Cafe, and walked around the grounds.
- King Johns Castle – We ran out of time but I suggest stopping here if you have the time.
- Tarbert ferry – We took a ferry from Tarbert to Killimer, which took off 1.5 hours of driving. The ferry runs every hour on the half hour, so we took it across at 5:30, and then had an hour drive to the Cliffs.
- Cliffs of Moher – I was SO excited to get here. It rained most of the day, but when we arrived at the Cliffs end of day it ended up clearing for us and we had a beautiful sunset. I suggest hiking as far as you can along the pathways, to get away from the ‘tourist spots’ and you will have a beautiful view all to yourself.
- We then made our way to our accommodation for the night, at the Coastal View House, checked in, and headed out for a late 9pm dinner. We drove a couple minutes down the road into Doolin and ate at McDermott’s Bar.
April 10th – Monday, Day 3 – 150kms, Doolin to Clifden
- Aran Islands – This was a day before idea as I didn’t really have a lot planned for Day 3 other than a castle, exploring Galway and then hiking Diamond Hill for sunset. So happy someone told us about the Aran islands. It was a 10 minute drive from our stay to the ferry.
- It was a 15 minute ferry ride from Doolin over to the first island. We went to the smallest one, Inisheer.
- Our ferry left at 10am, and we returned back on the earliest ferry, 145pm. 3 hours there was plenty time to walk around, explore, take photos and grab a bite to eat at one of the only restaurants on the island.
- My only regret is not picking up one of the Aran wool sweaters sold at the local shop.
- It was 34Euros/adult return
- Highly suggest doing this, was one of my highlights
- Dunguaire Castle – Is on the way from Doolin to Galway and a quick stop
- Galway – A beautiful city if you have time to stop, explore and walk the streets. We drove right around it as we wanted to make it up to Clifden area for our sunset hike.
- I highly suggest staying two nights around Galway if you can as there is so much to do.
- We checked into Waterfront Rest B&B. Shortly after we arrived a beautiful rainbow lit up the sky in front of the B&B.
- We headed back out for an evening hike to Diamond Hill. There are a variety of trails you can take in this area, Connemara National Park. We didn’t do the higher Diamond Hill hike, though instead took the lower route, that looped us back to the car, and took 1.5 hours to complete.
- I would have loved to have longer in this area too. Two nights here would be suggested.
April 11th – Tuesday, Day 4 – 227kms – Clifden to Donegal
- Craigs Birthday!!! What better place to spend it, than in Ireland. Right?
- This was a long day of driving, which is why I suggest two nights in Clifden and two in Donegal area.
- We woke up and had a nice breakfast provided by the B&B, she asked us the night before if we wanted a traditional Irish breakfast (eggs, etc) OR pancakes. There was also a dry breakfast, cereal, juice, toast, fruit, yogurt, etc. provided on top of the rest.
- Kylemore Abbey – A stunning castle I was so excited to visit, and only a short 20 minute drive from the B&B.
- 15Euros/adult to enter the castle.
- We could have spent a lot more time here, exploring the gardens and surrounding area but it was down-pouring so we were only at this location, inside and out for around an hour.
- Drive from Aasleagh to Creggenbaun – instead of the route google wants you to take when you type in Donegal. It adds on a little bit of time but you get to experience:
- Doolough Valley. A lot of history here and a beautiful drive through the mountains.
- ‘The Doolough Tragedy is an event that took place during the Great Irish Famine in south west County Mayo. Around 600 in total including women and children – were starving as a result of the potato famine in Louisburgh alone’.
- We then continued our drive up towards Sligo, where we had lunch.
- This is supposed to be an absolutely stunning place. I recommend spending a night here, in between Donegal and Ballycastle. The skys were filled with rain clouds, so we didn’t get all the beautiful views of the green mountains around us. Benbulben is supposedly a majestic mountain that overlooks the beautiful North Sligo countryside known as Yeats Country.
- Mullaghmore – a beautiful drive, just off the main highway, heading up to Donegal. So green!
- Donegal Castle – we stopped in Donegal to grab groceries, as we planned to cook at our cottage, and also to check out the Donegal Castle. It was onlt 4Euros/adult for entry.
- We then drove another half hour from Donegal to the Windmill Cottage, where I did a load of laundry. The laundry machine was a nice perk!
- We had to buy drinks to enjoy too, to end Craigs birthday off.
April 12th – Wednesday, Day 5 – 154kms – Donegal to Ballycastle
- Reason why I suggest a couple days in Donegal is so you are able to take in Slieve League Cliffs and explore further West for one full day, and then come back to your cottage/stay in the evening again before heading North.
- We woke up early and headed to Slieve League, for a morning hike, though unfortunately got rained out shortly after arriving, so we only made it a short way up. You can read more about Slieve League by clicking the link here: More information.
- Drive to Londonderry – Crossing into Northern Ireland. Currency changed from Euros to Pounds.
- Here we had lunch, walked around a bit and visited a cathedral downtown Londonderry.
- Saint Columb’s Cathedral, was the first Cathedral built after the Reformation. It is the city’s most historic building containing displays of artefacts from the Siege.
- We were told that Biden was visiting in the afternoon, to the church for the 25th anniversary of the commemoration of Bloody Sunday.
- We then walked across the Peace Bridge and had lunch at The Embankment Bar & Grill.
- Here we had lunch, walked around a bit and visited a cathedral downtown Londonderry.
- Portrush Golf Course – Craig wanted to stop here to check out the Golf Course/shop. He picked up a couple souvenirs! If you are big into golf, Ireland is a great country to visit. So many beautiful courses.
- Giants Causeway – One of the main reasons we wanted to come to Northern Ireland. We weren’t sure whether we were going to check out Giants Causeway on day 5 in the evening, or day 6 in the morning before leaving, though the weather was looking okay so we decided to go for it.
- It was beautiful! You can park up top in the car park, and then you walk the 20 minutes down to the location. ‘The Giant’s Causeway (Irish: Clochán an Aifir) is an area of about 40,000 interlocking basalt columns, the result of an ancient volcanic fissure eruption’.
- ‘Legend has it that an Irish giant named Finn McCool created a causeway to get across the Irish Sea to face his rival, the Scottish giant Benandonner. Following their fearsome meeting, Benandonner ripped up the causeway as he fled back to Scotland, leaving what you see here today’.
- Dunluce Castle – On our way back from Giants Causeway we made a quick stop here just to check it out from the outside, from a far, but you can tour inside the castle, for 6Pounds/adult.
- Dunseverick Castle – Another stop you can make just a couple minutes away from this one. We ran out of time to stop there, but it’s another one if you have more time in the area.
- We then made our way to check into our B&B in Ballycastle, Churchview Bed & Breakfast.
- From there we walked downtown to a restaurant for dinner. The Central Bar.
- We found eating out to be quite expensive in Northern Ireland, due to the exchange rate, and the portions to be very large. I suggest ordering one meal and sharing it, depending on the restaurant. Or a main meal, and then an appetizer to share.
April 13th – Thursday, Day 6 – 140kms – Ballycastle to South of Belfast (Newcastle)
- The Dark Hedges – ‘The Dark Hedges is an avenue of Beech trees, in County Antrim, Northern Ireland. The trees form an atmospheric tunnel that has been used as a location in the TV series ‘Game of Thrones’, which has resulted in the location becoming a popular tourist attraction’.
- I suggest going early. We went at sunrise and there was only maybe 15 people there, though during mid day theres said to be hundreds that swarm the avenue.
- We headed back to the B&B for a 8am breakfast, she had us choose between a hot breakfast of eggs, or pancackes or a cold breakfast. After we ate we packed up and headed to our next stop for the day.
- Carrick-a-Rede-Rope Bridge – A ten minute drive from our B&B. Unfortunately when we got there the staff let us know the bridge was closed to crossing due to the high winds. We arrived at 930am, and they said it MAY or may not be open again at 12 or 1pm, but they couldn’t promise such. Even though we couldn’t cross the bridge we made the walk down to see it. Still beautiful!
- Kinsbane Castle – After we headed back down the road to another stop. This may have to be my favourite spot during our week trip. We had the entire place to ourselves. It was a longer walk down to the location, but worth it (140 steps). From greenery, to ocean views, waterfalls, to the castle itself it was quite the sight. No admission fee.
- Belfast – From there we drove the 1 hour down to Belfast, and went right to the Titanic Museum.
- ‘Located beside the Titanic Slipways, the Harland & Wolff Drawing Offices and Hamilton Graving Dock – the very place where Titanic was designed, built and launched, Titanic Belfast tells the story of Titanic from her conception, through her construction and launch, to her maiden voyage and subsequent place in history’.
- We only walked around it, and then inside to the shop, deciding not to spend the 25Pounds/adult to walk through the museum, as the conversion = $100CDN for the both of us. Instead we decided to continue right to our cottage, a 35 minute drive South of Belfast.
- Checked into Lizzie’s Cottage – Got settled and an hour later headed to explore the area close by.
- Castlewellan Forest Park Peace Maze – ‘One of the world’s largest permanent hedge mazes representing the path to a peaceful future for Northern Ireland. Planted in 2000 with community involvement, visitors can attempt to solve their way to the peace bell in the centre of the maze’.
- This was very cool to see, and no admission fee.
- After we just spent some time walking around a different area of the park. There area a few beautiful trails here, including a nice 4km walk around the lake.
- After we headed back and spent time relaxing in the hot tub.
- I would suggest two days in this area, and taking one of them to explore the Mourne Mountains close by. I would have loved to have more time to explore these trails.
April 14th – Friday, Day 7 – 160kms – Newcastle to Ballycastle
- I woke up earlier and went for a run in the countryside, and back to the cottage for a bite to eat, and coffee.
- We then packed up and hoped in the car making the drive to Dublin.
- We took a more scenic route, that added on 15 minutes of driving, through the countryside/Mourne Mountains, instead of driving the whole 2 hours on a main highway.
- Dublin – We arent HUGE city folks so we didn’t mind only having a day to explore the city.
- We parked at a car park just a couple minutes walk from the Arlington Hotel, and then brought our bags and stored them at the hotel, until we were able to check in later in the afternoon.
- Lunch – We grabbed a quick bite and coffee at a cafe close to Temple Bar. There are many Cafes/lunch spots to choose from.
- Temple Bar – A 5 minute walk from our hotel
- Trinity’s Old Library – We walked here next and once we got there, there was a sign that said ‘SOLD OUT FOR TODAY’, so we were unable to go in. I highly suggest booking a time slot online prior to going. We didn’t know this was going to be an issue.
- Guiness Storehouse – Admission was 30Euros/adult. Also suggest booking in advance, we were lucky to be able to grab two slots at 1pm.
- We walked the 2.2kms to the Storehouse, from Trinity College.
- This took about 1.5 hours.
- We then made the walk back towards downtown and headed to see Dublin Castle, and St.Patricks Cathedral
- We put on 28,000 steps this day, as everything is within walking distance.
- If you don’t want to walk as much, there are other options such as the public bus, and carriage rides available, for a price.
- Cloud nine – Got ice cream here.
- Quays Restaurant – We went here for dinner.
- SO many places had live music, so if you’re into that there is no shortage of pubs to choose from.
- We made our way back to our hotel around 8pm, for an earlier bedtime as we knew we were going to have a longer travel day next.
There is a lot more to do in Dublin, such as museums, parks, stores, old pubs, etc.
April 15th – Saturday, Day 8 – Dublin to Calgary
- We woke up at 630am, and got ourselves packed up.
- Headed to the parking area, which opened at 730am, hoped in our car and headed to Easirent, which was a 20 minute drive from downtown Dublin, to the place where we had to drop off our rental car.
- Took a shuttle to the airport, which was provided by Easirent.
We drove 1800kms around Ireland, in 8 days. Doable, but I highly suggest 10-14 days to really take it all in (2 weeks would be ideal, if you’re doing Ireland and Northern Ireland).
- 7 hour flight to Toronto
- We had a 9 hour layover in Toronto (12pm-9pm) so opted to store our bags for $20/CDN a bag and head to watch a Toronto Blue Jays game which started at 3pm.
- The train was easy to take from the airport to the Rogers Centre. It was a 20 minute train ride to the last stop (which was our stop).
- A perfect way to spend a layover.
Total Cost of our 8 days in Ireland:
Flights: $1900CDN round trip/2 adults
Rental Car: $770CDN
Approximate total cost: $5196CDN/2 adults or $2598CDN/adult for 8 days.
This trip could have been done cheaper by reducing the amount of money spent on food/dining. Instead of going out for meals, you could easily purchase all your food from grocery stores, and then cook at your accommodations, or eat at a park if it’s nice out. We just wanted to be able to experience the local food too. We didn’t realize so many places would have admission costs. There are A LOT of free castles you can tour, you don’t have to go into all of them, paying the fee. Unless you’re really into the history of them and it’s important to your experience. Also we drove A LOT, so gas cost could be decreased.
There are. a lot of free parks to explore, and cute towns to walk around in. We also splurged on a couple of our accommodations (Lizzies Cottage and the hotel in Dublin).
Thanks SO much for taking the time to read the above blog post. We had such a great time exploring Ireland.
If you have any questions about anything written, feel free to leave a comment, DM me on instagram @brookewillson, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.