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A 5 day Ireland Road trip itinerary – what to see in a short time

Sligo one of our 5 day Ireland road trip itinerary stops

If you have 5 days in Ireland you might be wondering the best things to see in a short space of time. A lot of people tend to visit Dublin when visiting but if you want to see what the rest of the country has to offer, we recommend a 5 day Ireland road trip. Depending on which airport you fly into you there are several different driving routes that you can add to your 5 day Ireland itinerary. In this article we go through everything you need to know to plan your Irish road trip. From route planning, to must sees, here is everything you need to know.

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Contents

Ireland road trip itinerary factsheet

This 5 day Ireland itinerary will be broken up into different sections depending on which airport you are flying into. It covers the whole island of Ireland so this includes the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.

Country: Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland

Language Spoken: English and also Gaelic in some parts

Currency: Euros in the Republic of Ireland and Pounds in Northern Ireland

Drive on: Left hand side

Speed limits: Kilometres in the Republic of Ireland and Miles in Northern Ireland

If you are planning an Irish road trip than it might be useful to know that in Ireland you need to drive on the left hand side of the road. This is different to mainland Europe, so make sure you fact this in before getting behind the wheel of a car. The speed limit is also kilometres, but keep in mind if you are driving between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland that Northern Ireland uses miles.

The majority of people in Ireland speak English, but you may notice on your 5 day Ireland road trip that some of the signs are in Gaelic. Don’t worry if you can’t read it though English is also on every road sign.

Ireland is nicknamed the Emerald Isle, and honestly, after your 5 days in Ireland you will understand why. You will stumble upon so many beautiful rolling green hills, and countryside, as you enjoy your Irish road trip.

There are 32 counties in Ireland and this 5 day Ireland itinerary has you going through a few of them, depending on where you are starting your Irish road trip.

Green rolling hills in County Sligo

When is the best time to plan your 5 day Ireland road trip

Realistically to make the most of your 5 days in Ireland, you want to visit in the summer months. That way you can embrace longer days and nicer weather. The only downside though is that parts of Ireland do get crowded with tourists at this time. August is especially busy due to school holidays. If you are planning your 5 day Ireland itinerary during this time, don’t worry you just need to book accommodation in advance.

We wouldn’t recommend doing an Irish road trip in the winter months. The weather isn’t great with lots of rain, fog, and ice, making driving a little dangerous. Daylight hours are also limited, and a big part of driving around Ireland is enjoying the great outdoors.

The shoulder months of March, April, September and October are good if you want to avoid the masses but you aren’t too bothered about the weather. During these months you might experience a fair bit of rain, but general temperatures are mild enough to allow you to enjoy your 5 day Ireland itinerary, and the great outdoors.

Is 5 days in Ireland enough?

You might be wondering if 5 days in Ireland is enough time to see it all. Honestly no. There is so much to see in Ireland, it sometimes feels like it would take years to see it all. The longer you have the better but let’s face it we don’t all have the luxury of endless vacation days. So with that in mind 5 days is a decent amount of time to see some tourist attractions, enjoy a bit of the Irish nightlife, and be enchanted by the magic that is Ireland.

Renting a car for your 5 days in Ireland

This guide focuses on renting a car and doing a self guided drive around Ireland. For your 5 day Ireland road trip you can rent a car from all major airports in Ireland. Here are some of our tips for renting a car in Ireland.

  • The majority of cars in Ireland are manual (use a gear stick) so if you want an automatic car arrange this in advance.
  • You must drive on the left side of the road.
  • If you are planning to drive in Northern Ireland be aware that it is kilometres in the Republic and miles in the North.
  • Bigger is not always better in terms of car size in Ireland. The roads can be quite narrow at times so keep this in mind.
  • If you rent a car and return it at a different location as mentioned in this post then you will be charged a fee for dropping the car off in a different location.
  • Get full insurance, because you never know, anything could happen.
  • Know what kind of petrol your car takes. It is usually either Diesel or Unleaded. Put the wrong one in and you will have major issues.
  • If you get stuck behind a tractor, only overtake if it is safe to do so. It is pretty standard to have to drive slowly when there is a tractor in front of you. The reason I mention this as a point is because I had never been stuck behind a tractor in my life before driving in Ireland so it was a novelty and a nuisance all at once.
  • If you are following Google Maps it will often give you what it perceives as the quickest route. This might include back roads and narrow lanes. Sometimes it is better to ignore the map and get onto a main road instead if it is nearby. That being said the back roads are some of the most beautiful parts of Ireland and if you are comfortable driving on these, then go for it.
Driving in Ireland

5 day Ireland road trip itinerary

With this 5 day Ireland road trip itinerary, we have decided to break it up into a number of different road trips. The reason being is that 5 days isn’t a huge amount of time, so what you do and see will largely be dependant on which airport you fly into. Most people will begin their 5 days in Ireland from either Dublin Airport or Shannon, but there are a number of other airports that you may also use. We will go into each of these in a bit more detail below.

5 day Ireland road trip itinerary – from Dublin

As mentioned above Dublin is one of the most popular airports to fly into. The airport sees a number of flights from Europe and beyond, and is by far the busiest in Ireland. Dublin is situated on the East Coast of Ireland so you have a number of different routes you can take for your 5 day Ireland road trip. This is our suggestion though that lets you see the main sights before returning back to Dublin to fly home.

5 day Ireland itinerary day by day highlights

Here are the highlights for our recommended 5 days in Ireland when you are starting in Dublin

Day 1 – Dublin, Wicklow Mountains, Glendalough, and Killkenny

Day 2 – Kilkenny, Rock of Cashel, Cork

Day 3 – Cork, Blarney Castle, Killarney,

Day 4 – Killarney National Park, Ring of Kerry, Tralee

Day 5 – Cliffs of Moher, The Burren, Dublin

Detailed 5 day Ireland itinerary

Here is our recommended 5 day Ireland road trip itinerary from Dublin in a bit more detail.

Day 1 Irish Road trip itinerary

Starting in Dublin, we recommend leaving the centre as soon as possible and heading straight towards the Wicklow mountains. On the drive towards the mountains you get some pretty amazing views of Dublin so do take some time to stop and take it all in.

View driving out of Dublin

There are some beautiful attractions in the Wicklow Mountains with the below being some of our highlights.

  • Climb Sugarloaf Mountain
  • Drive to the Blessington Lakes for some quiet time
  • Head to Ballinastoe for some incredible views. There are a number of scenic walks you can do around here.
  • Explore Powerscourt House and Gardens and visit the Powerscourt waterfall.

As you can see this area is all about the beautiful hikes and incredible scenery. The drive from Dublin to the Wicklow Mountains takes about an hour and a half and you probably want to spend a good few hours here to do at least one of the stunning walks.

Moving on, you will soon reach Glendalough which means Valley of the two lakes. This is a great place to stop at one of the hotels for a hearty meal. And you will need it, especially when exploring the Glendalough Monastic Site.

Glendalough is renowned for its early medieval monastic settlement. This was founded in the 6th century by St Kevin. As you walk around you really start to see what attracted the monks here in the first place. The rugged mountains with deep lakes in between really make you feel insignificant and almost spiritual.

Exploring Glendalough

It’s a great place for hiking, and some of the must see sights include:

  • Glendalough Monastic Site
  • St Kevin’s kitchen
  • Round Tower

There are a number of hotels in the area, so you can stay the night here or alternatively if you want to make a bit more headway then you can drive to Kilkenny which is about 1.5 hours away.

For our Irish road trip we decided to drive to Kilkenny for the evening, to enjoy some of the restaurants and bars in the area for the evening. If you are looking for a traditional Irish pub we would recommend Kyteler’s Inn.

Day 2 Irish Road trip itinerary

For day 2 of your 5 day Ireland road trip, if like us you decided to drive to Kilkenny you can spend the morning enjoying breakfast at one of the quaint cafes in town. There is a lot to see and do in Kilkenny, but due to time we highly recommend you take a walk through the cobbled streets, and visit the Kilkenny Castle. Alternatively you could do a river cruise with some beautiful castle views.

Kilkenny Castle

After your morning in Kilkenny we recommend taking a drive the the Rock of Cashel. The drive is about an hour, and the Rock of Cashel is one of the must see sights on your 5 day Ireland itinerary. We ended up stopping for food at a place called O’Neils restaurant nearby before continuing on.

The Rock of Cashel is popular with tourists, but don’t let the mass amounts of tour buses put you off. the site itself is an ecclesiastical site with medieval buildings, located in County Tipperary. It is well worth a visit especially if you are looking to explore the more traditional parts of Ireland or you are interested in Irish history.

Rock of Cashel

We would recommend spending about an hour at the site, as you will want to do some exploring, and of course take lots of pictures. We got really lucky when we visited as when we got to the ruins of the cathedral a choir broke out into song.

Once you have adequately explored the Rock of Cashel, our recommendation is to drive to Cork. The total drive time is about an 1 hour and 10 minutes, of course depending on traffic. We recommend staying the night in Cork but do make sure that you have booked your accommodation in advance and that it includes parking as not all places do.

You should arrive in Cork in the late afternoon/ early evening. There is so much to do in Cork that realistically you won’t have time to see it all. But do try and visit the English Market where they sell locally produced foods.

St Anne’s Church is another highlight, because you get a birds eye view of the city, and you can even ring the church bells which honestly is pretty cool. Although how the people who live or work around here don’t go mad is beyond me!

View from St Anne’s Church in Cork

Here are some of the highlights of things to do in Cork:

Now obviously depending on what time you arrive in Cork you won’t get to do everything on this list. But we recommend staying the night here because the food is incredible as is the nightlife.

Day 3 Irish Road trip itinerary

Waking up in Cork, and we recommend spending the morning exploring a bit more of the city, before leaving after lunch and making your way to Blarney Castle. This was probably one of our favourite things to see during our 5 days in Ireland.

The must do thing at Blarney Castle is of course kissing the Blarney Stone. The legend is if you kiss the stone you will be blessed with the gift of the gab. Getting up to the stone is not easy though. Firstly you have to make your way up a very narrowing staircase. Once you reach the peak you need to wait in line, until it is your turn to kiss the stone.

The scary bit is that you have to lay on your back and reach out to kiss the stone, which happens to be suspended above a massive drop. I swiftly moved on without even attempting it, but Dave managed to do it and hasn’t shut up about it since.

Blarney Castle

The castle grounds are also great to walk around, so again make some time to enjoy the greenery. To really explore everything you probably want to spend a good 2-3 hours here. There are a couple of cafes on site if you fancy a cup of tea or a snack, and Blarney itself also has a number of places to go for food and drinks.

After your visit to Blarney Castle head to Killarney for the evening. Killarney is great if you want a proper Irish pub experience full of Guinness, Whiskey, and trad music. Make sure you book your accommodation well in advance for Killarney, as this is the gateway for the Ring of Kerry. And check that you are booking accommodation with parking as well.

Day 4 Irish Road trip itinerary

On day 4 of your 5 days in Ireland enjoy breakfast in Killarney before making your way through Killarney National Park. Some of the must see sights in Killarney National Park include Torc Waterfall, and Ladies View. The good news is you will pass both these sights when driving to the Ring of Kerry.

Ladies View in Killarney National Park

The Ring of Kerry is another one of the top sights that you have to add to your Irish road trip. For more details you can read this article. But for now, our suggestions on the Ring of Kerry are to make sure you stop in Kenmare, Caherdaniel, Waterville, and Portmagee. These villages are great if you are looking for a break from driving and a bite to eat.

Views along the Ring of Kerry

The Ring of Kerry, takes a good 3 and a bit hours to do, so this combined with Killarney National Park is probably a full day in itself. You can find accommodation along the ring of Kerry or you can leave the ring and make your way to Tralee which is what we did.

Day 5 Irish Road trip itinerary

For the last day of your Irish road trip you will need to start thinking about heading back to Dublin. So the day will really depend on what time you want to be back by. If you have time, we recommend leaving Tralee early in the morning and going to the Cliffs of Moher.

Cliffs of Moher

It is a 2.5 hour drive, but a visit to the Cliffs of Moher is definitely worth it, and one of the top sights to see in Ireland. Whilst you are in the area also take some time to explore the Burren and surrounding areas. In total you will want to spend about 1-2 hours at the cliffs of Moher. This will take you to the early afternoon. After exploring the Burren you will need to start your drive back to Dublin.

From here it is about 3 and a half hours drive, depending on traffic back to the capital. This essentially ends your 5 day Irish road trip from Dublin.

5 day Ireland road trip itinerary – from Shannon

If your 5 days in Ireland starts at Shannon Airport, then this is our recommended guide. Shannon Airport has a lot of international flights that arrive here. Particularly from the USA. Shannon is located on the western side of Ireland so for your 5 day Ireland itinerary, you will want to focus on places like Cork and Kerry.

5 day Ireland itinerary day by day highlights

Day 1 – Shannon Airport, Galway

Day 2 – Galway, Aran Islands, Cliffs of Moher,

Day 3 – Ring of Kerry, Killarney

Day 4 – Bantry, Blarney Castle, Cork

Day 5 – Cork, Shannon Airport

Detailed 5 day Ireland itinerary

Here is our recommended 5 day Ireland itinerary from Shannon in a bit more detail.

Day 1 Ireland Road trip itinerary

Once you depart Shannon we recommend making your way up to Galway to explore the city. All in all the drive is a little over an hour. Galway is a beautiful harbour city, and one of our favourite places in Ireland. If you are looking for things to do here is a list:

Seafood in Galway

Galway is a vibrant city and you will find a lot of accommodation options here, but make sure you book in advance for the best rates.

Day 2 Ireland Road trip itinerary

Waking up in Galway we recommend doing an Aran Islands cruise in the morning. You can either do this directly from Galway, or drive down to Doolin and arrange this from there.

We decided to leave from Galway and visited Inishmore which is the island accessible from here. Once you are on the ferry it usually takes about 45 minutes to reach Inishmore. Do be prepared for choppy waters, as the Atlantic Ocean can be a little fierce at times.

Inishmore – the Aran Islands

You probably want to spend a good few hours on the island exploring, before arriving back in Rossaveel.

The better option really is to drive from Galway to Doolin and do your Aran Islands trip from here. That way you can include your trip to the Aran Islands, and the Cliffs of Moher in one day. For us we were really pushing it for time, and it was a bit stressful trying to fit everything in. We also then only had limited time at the Cliffs of Moher before closing time.

Cliffs of Moher

There are plenty of accommodation options around Doolin and the Cliffs of Moher, so you won’t have to travel far to rest your weary head.

Day 3 Ireland Road trip itinerary

On day 3 of your 5 days in Ireland, we recommend another early start. This time you will be driving to the Ring of Kerry to complete the loop. As mentioned before our highlights include Portmagee, Waterville, Caherdaniel, and Kenmare.

Once you reach Kenmare, you are then on track for Killarney National Park. Some of the highlights here include:

Torc Waterfall in Killarney National Park

The Ring of Kerry and Killarney National Park will probably take you a full day to explore. And we do recommend taking it slow to see as many highlights as possible.You can then spend the night in Killarney and visit some of the amazing bars and restaurants.

Day 4 Ireland Road trip itinerary

On day 4 of your Irish road trip we recommend taking a drive to Bantry a lovely seaside town with quaint stores, and gorgeous seaside views. If you happen to be here around lunch time you have to get some fish and chips, though guard it with your life because those seagulls are pretty persistent.

Views from Bantry

Bantry is about an hours drive from Killarney and is great if you are wanting to enjoy a bit of the seaside. It is a little bit out of the way, so if you are running short on time you can skip it and head straight to the next destination on our 5 day Ireland itinerary which is Blarney Castle.

As mentioned above, Blarney Castle is a must see as part of any Irish road trip. Not only are the castle grounds beautiful, but you have the chance to kiss the famous Blarney Stone. If you are brave enough to do it you will receive the gift of the gab (as legend goes).

To get from Bantry to Blarney you are looking at about an hour and a half of driving time. You will also want to give yourself a good 2 hours at least to experience Blarney Castle.

From here it is only a 20 or so minute drive to Cork, which is where we recommend spending the evening. There is a lot to see and do in Cork, and it is a great night out as well.

Day 5 Irish Road trip itinerary

The final day of your 5 day Ireland itinerary, will see you spending the majority of the day in Cork. As a reminder here are some of the best things to do in the city.

Stroll through the English Market
Visit the Crawford Municipal Art Gallery
Visit Cork City Gaol
Do a food tasting tour
Explore St Fin Barre’s Cathedral
Enjoy a harbour cruise
Ring the Bells at St Anne’s Church
Do a Cork Harbour cruise
Do a historical guided tour

Cork centre

You will need to start making your way back towards Shannon at some point as well, so you need to factor this in. You probably need to give yourself about 2 hours to get to Shannon Airport, depending on traffic of course.

5 day Ireland road trip itinerary – from Belfast

If you are flying into Belfast Airport then you will be flying into Northern Ireland. This is located on the north east side of the island of Ireland. This 5 day Ireland itinerary crosses through Northern Ireland and the Republic, so you need need to keep in mind these are two different countries. In the Republic of Ireland you will speed limits in Kilometres and you will need to pay in Euro’s. In Northern Ireland you will see speed signs in Miles and need to pay in Pounds.

5 day Ireland itinerary day by day highlights

Day 1 – Belfast, Dark Hedges

Day 2 – Dark Hedges, Carrick-a-rede,Ballintoy Harbour, Giant’s Causeway,

Day 3 – Dunluce Castle, Portrush, Portstewart,

Day 4 – Mussenden Temple, Donegal

Day 5 – Donegal, Belfast

Detailed 5 day Ireland itinerary

Here is our recommended 5 day Ireland itinerary from Belfast in a bit more detail.

Day 1 Irish Road trip itinerary

You will start your itinerary in Belfast, where we recommend exploring the city. There is a lot to see and do in Belfast and some highlights include:

Visiting the Titanic experience

Do a hop on hop off bus tour

Do a historical walking tour

Or if you want to get out of the centre, you can plan a visit to Hillsborough Castle.

In the afternoon we recommend heading to the Dark Hedges, which are about an hour away from Belfast. The Dark Hedges were made famous by Game of Thrones. But even if you don’t watch the show we still recommend visiting.

The Dark Hedges

You will find them located along Bregagh Road, which is now pedestrianised (though some visitors didn’t realise this), the trees create an ethereal tunnel that you can stroll through. It’s a beautiful place to walk around and it is also very photogenic.

We actually ended up staying at the nearby Dark Hedges hotel, which was perfect after a long day of exploring. It’s also a great place to park when you visit the Dark Hedges.

Day 2 Irish Road trip itinerary

On day 2 of this 5 day Ireland itinerary, we recommend a hotel breakfast before driving to the Carrick-a-rede rope bridge. Our top tip here is visit the Rope Bridge as early as possible, that way you aren’t lining up for ages to cross the bridge. The bridge is maintained by the National Trust, and you do have to pay £8 to cross. There is a timed ticketing system so you purchase tickets for an hour time slot.

The Carrick-a-rede Rope Bridge is a bridge that is 20 meters long and 30 meters high. 30 meters might not sound really high but when you look down at the waves crashing below you it suddenly feels so much higher.The bridge was first erected by fishermen in 1755 and links the mainland to the very small island of Carrickarede.

You will probably spend about an hour or two here, depending on how fast you walk.

Carrick-a-rede Rope Bridge

Nearby you will see Ballintoy Harbour. This is another Game of Thrones filming location, so fans of the show should definitely pop by.

Our final recommendation for the day is to visit the Giant’s Causeway. It’s around 20 minutes drive from Ballintoy Harbour. The Giant’s Causeway is made up of around 40,000 connecting basalt columns caused by an ancient volcanic eruption. And by ancient we mean something like 60 million years ago! It is a UNESCO World Heritage site and is currently run by the National Trust. It is also one of Northern Ireland’s most popular tourist attractions.

You need about 3 hours to explore the site, and there is a cafe and toilets available as well before you get to the Causeway.

Giants Causeway

There are a number of hotels in the Bushmills area near the Causeway, and this is where we recommend staying the night.

We have a more detailed post that goes into our Northern Ireland road trip which you can read.

Day 3 Irish Road trip itinerary

Waking up in Bushmills the first stop on day 3 of our 5 days in Ireland is Dunluce Castle. Parking around here can be a bit tricky as the car park can fill up quickly. So you do need to be patient, but it is worth it. Set on some dramatic coastal cliffs this castle is really beautiful.

The Castle was built by the MacQuillan family in around 1500.  But has had a turbulent history and was seized by the MacDonnell clan in the 1550’s. These days however it is a popular and picturesque tourist attraction.

Dunluce Castle

You probably need about an hour to explore the ruins. Entry is £5.50 for adults and it really is worth it as the views are amazing. We loved exploring the nooks and crannies with views of the sea crashing below. 

Afterwards make your way to Portrush, which is a small seaside resort town in Northern Ireland. It’s only about 10 minutes from Dunluce Castle, and a great place to go for a seaside walk.

Portstewart

For lunch we recommend visiting the neighbouring Portstewart. If you are looking for a bite to eat Harry’s Shack is perfect. We sat outside enjoying views of the beach and ate calamari and mussels. It is worth visiting just for Harry’s Shack alone! Booking is recommended as it does get really busy, although we arrived around 12pm and managed to get a seat outside without a reservation.

We recommend staying the night in either Portrush or Portstewart for a relaxed Irish seaside experience.

Day 4 Irish Road trip itinerary

After a relaxing evening by the sea, drive to Mussenden Temple. This is another National Trust site and entry is about £5 per adult. There are also some gardens you can explore before making your way up to the temple. We spent a good few hours here exploring and admiring the views. There are a number of walking paths, and you can also explore the ruins of Downhill House, a mansion built in the late 18th century

Mussenden Temple

From here we recommend visiting Derry, before driving to Donegal in the Republic of Ireland.

One of the highlights in this area is the Slieve League Cliffs. They are one of the incredible natural wonders you will come across and are part of the famous Wild Atlantic Way route. They are also one of the highest cliffs in Europe. Additionally  for something a bit more traditional do check out the Glencolumbkille Folk Village, and the nearby beach.

If you are looking for a good meal and some comfortable accommodation we recommend Harvey’s Point in Donegal.

Day 5 Irish Road trip itinerary

On the final day of your Irish road trip, we recommend continuing to explore Donegal, before making your way back to Belfast Airport. The drive from Donegal to Belfast is around 2 and a half hours, so make sure you allow yourself plenty of time to get back.

5 day Ireland road trip itinerary – from Cork

If you are flying into Cork Airport as part of your 5 days in Ireland then you will find yourself in the southern part of Ireland. Here is our recommended 5 day Ireland itinerary if you are flying in to Cork.

5 day Ireland itinerary day by day highlights

Day 1 – Cobh, Kinsale, Bantry

Day 2 – Bantry, Ring of Kerry, Killarney

Day 3 – Killarney, Rock of Cashel, Tipperary

Day 4 – Tipperary, Blarney Castle, Cork

Day 5 – Cork

Detailed 5 day Ireland itinerary

Here is our recommended 5 day Ireland itinerary from Cork in a bit more detail.

Day 1 Irish Road trip itinerary

Starting your 5 day Ireland itinerary in Cork, our first recommendation is to drive to the colourful seaside town of Cobh. Here you can explore the gorgeous streets, and visit the famous Deck of Cards (those colourful houses that you tend to see on Instagram).

From Cobh do a 50 minute drive and visit Kinsale, which is another colourful town in Cork. This is a great place to grab some lunch and visit some of the traditional Irish pubs (obviously drinking Coke if you are driving).

Our final recommendation for the day is to drive to Bantry, which is about an hour and a half drive. This is another beautiful seaside town with so much character. It’s also a great spot for some delicious fish and chips. There are some really beautiful hotels around Bantry, and it is a peaceful place to spend the evening.

Fish and chips in Bantry

Day 2 Irish Road trip itinerary

The second day of your road trip is all about exploring the Ring of Kerry and Killarney. As you drive up towards Killarney you can join the Ring of Kerry at Kenmare, before snaking your way to Killarney National Park.

View along the Ring of Kerry

Killarney is a great place to stay the night, especially if you want to try some great Irish food, and traditional style pubs.

Day 3 Irish Road trip itinerary

After waking up in Killarney and grabbing some breakfast, we recommend driving to the Rock of Cashel which is about 2 hours drive from Killarney. It’s a wonderful historic site that you can explore, and whilst you are there you can also explore the nearby town. Then make your way to Cahir Castle which is one of Ireland’s largest and best preserved castles.

Rolling hills near the Rock of Cashel

Afterwards we recommend driving a half hour to Tipperary to enjoy the town and settle in for the evening.

Day 4 Irish Road trip itinerary

After checking our of your hotel in Tipperary drive south towards Cork. Your first stop will be Blarney Castle where you can spend a good few hours exploring the grounds, and trying to kiss the Blarney Stone.

Then in the afternoon drive to Cork, where you can spend the remainder of your day exploring the city.

Exploring Cork city

Day 5 Irish Road trip itinerary

On your final day in Ireland we recommend staying in Cork, and making the most of your time in this beautiful city. If you have a look at the itineraries above there is some more detail on what you can see and do here.

5 day Ireland road trip itinerary – from Knock

Our last guide to spending 5 days in Ireland is if you happen to fly into Knock Airport. Knock is located in the west of Ireland. Here you are close to places like Sligo, Donegal, and Galway. A lot of this itinerary follows parts of the Wild Atlantic Way which is a famous drive in Ireland.

5 day Ireland itinerary day by day highlights

Day 1 – Donegal

Day 2 – Sligo

Day 3 – Galway

Day 4 – Aran Islands

Day 5 – Cliffs of Moher, Knock

Detailed 5 day Ireland itinerary

Here is our recommended 5 day Ireland itinerary from Knock in a bit more detail.

Day 1 Ireland Road trip itinerary

Spend the first day of your 5 days in Ireland exploring Donegal. This is the most northern County is the Republic of Ireland.

Highlights include the Slieve League Cliffs. They are one of the highest cliffs in Europe and well worth a visit. Additionally  for something a bit more traditional do check out the Glencolumbkille Folk Village, and the nearby beach.

Beaches in Donegal

In the evening we recommend staying at Harvey’s Point in Donegal.

Day 2 Ireland Road trip itinerary

On day 2 visit Sligo, one of our favourite Counties in all of Ireland. Sligo is probably one of the best kept secrets in Ireland, the scenery is incredible but the tourist numbers are small. We have a whole article dedicated to Sligo which you can read here.

There are a number of beaches you can visit including Strandhill, Rosses Point, and Aughris Head. Aughris is great if you want beautiful views all to yourself, whereas Strandhill is more popular with locals. There is a surf school here, and a fantastic cafe called Shells which does a cracking good lunch.

One of the best kept secrets in the county in our opinion has to be Gleniff Horseshoe. Here you will find a six-mile loop of narrow road surrounded by some of the most spectacular mountain views we have ever seen. About 4 or 5 cars drove past us the whole time we were there and we honestly felt we had the whole place to ourselves.

Gleniff Horseshoe

You can stay the night either near the town or even Rosses Point.

Day 3 Ireland Road trip itinerary

Our recommendation for day 3 of your 5 days in Ireland is to drive from Sligo to Galway. The total drive time is about 2 and a half hours. Just a reminder here are all the things you can do in Galway:

EAT! Galway is a foodies paradise – here is a great food tour you can do
Enjoy the pub culture – particularly in the Latin Quarter
Listen to the buskers along Quay Street
Galway City Museum
Do a hidden gems bike tour
Enjoy a Lake Cruise
Visit Salthill
Do a Hop On Hop Off bus tour
Do a walking tour
Go to a trad music session

Galway

Do make the most of the nightlife in Galway particularly in the Latin Quarter. There are several accommodation options to choose from in Galway too.

Day 4 Ireland Road trip itinerary

From Galway we recommend doing a day trip to the Aran Islands.

Galway is the gateway to Inishmore which is the largest of the Aran Islands. You get the ferry from Rosaveel which is about 20 minutes from the centre of Galway. Once you are on the ferry it usually takes about 45 minutes to reach Inishmore.

You then have the whole day to wander around and explore the islands either on an organised tour, or by bike.

The Aran Islands

Once you have explored the islands we recommend staying the night again in Galway.

Day 5 Ireland Road trip itinerary

For your final day we recommend getting up early and leaving Galway and driving to the Cliffs of Moher. For us the cliffs are a must as part of any 5 day Ireland itinerary so we highly recommend a visit. It is about an hour and a half drive to get here, so you need to factor in what time you are expecting to be back in Knock.

Cliffs of Moher

If you have time take a drive around the Burren area, before heading back to Knock. The drive to Knock airport from the Cliffs of Moher is 2 hours and 10 minutes. Of course this will depend on traffic.

This concludes our various itineraries for spending 5 days in Ireland. Hopefully they will prove useful. Of course you can mix and match when you plan your own 5 day Ireland road trip.

How much money do I need for my 5 day Ireland itinerary

Before you start planning your 5 day Ireland itinerary you might be wondering how much it will cost. It’s difficult to give an accurate indication as this depends on a lot of factors such as the time of year you visit, and how much you plan to see and do. What I will say is make sure you are budgeting for things like:

Car Rentals: €100 + per day on average (depending on car type, what insurance you want to purchase, and any extras). Car rentals can be expensive in Ireland, and there are often hidden costs such as surcharges for returning the car at a different location from where you rented it. Always check your fine print on any rental contract.

Petrol: €100 to fill the tank (this will vary depending on the type of car) – also keep in mind that petrol prices right now are pretty high! It is wise to rent a smaller more economical car for your Irish road trip.

Accommodation: A minimum of €100 per night for something mid-range (depending on location, time of year, and amenities).

Attractions: €20 per person per day although this is probably on the high side.

Food & Drink: €60 per person per day for standard pub style meals and a few drinks.

Overall we would recommend budgeting about €100-€150 per person per day. Costs can be brought down especially if you opt for cheaper accommodation and meals. What we would say is book your accommodation in advance to guarantee the best rates.

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What to pack for your 5 day Ireland road trip

When planning your 5 day Ireland road trip here are some things that we think you should bring on top of your standard packing list.

  • Waterproof coat – even in the summer months the weather in Ireland can be a bit unpredictable so make sure that you can still enjoy the outdoors even if it rains.
  • Hiking boots – You will want to do a lot of walking as part of your Irish road trip so make sure that you have the proper footwear. It does get mucky with all the rain so this is vital.
  • Layers – The weather in Ireland can be quite intense, especially with wind and rain. For that reason, make sure that you layer up to keep yourself warm.
  • Swimsuit – If you get lucky with the weather you should be prepared in case you want to take a dip in the ocean.
  • Bottled water and snacks – always have water and snacks with you just in case, as sometimes it can be a while before you reach a shop.

So should I plan a 5 day Ireland itinerary?

If you are wondering whether or not you should plan your 5 day Ireland road trip, take this as your sign to go. A lot of people tend to visit Ireland and stick around Dublin for the duration, which is great, but it doesn’t give you a taste of the real Ireland. If you want a truly authentic and memorable experience for your 5 days in Ireland then we highly recommend renting a car and seeing it your own way.

We hope this guide has been useful for you, and if you need any further tips or advice you can contact us by email through the ‘contact us’ section of the website.

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