One week in Ireland may not seem like a lot of time to spend exploring this amazing country… and it’s not! You could easily spend weeks exploring all that is the emerald isle, but it is definitely enough time to still have an amazing trip! For regular busy people traveling can seem out of reach and feel like you need weeks off and tons of money to enjoy traveling, but trust me you can do a lot of things in a week if you plan it right. This is exactly what my fiancé and I did (in September 2019) and we had the best vacation! One day we will go back to explore more but in one week we accomplished a lot. From drinking Guinness in Dublin to Kissing the Blarney stone at the Blarney Castle to the breath taking views at the Cliff’s Moher (and a fews stops in between)… here’s our one week Ireland itinerary!

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Cheap Flight

First thing when I plan a trip is start looking for budget flights. I don’t need a fancy flight to get me across the ocean… my butt in an airplane seat that gets me to where I want to go is all I need. I search for basic economy flights which usually include a seat and maybe a carry on bag. (I will write a post in the future about traveling with a carry on or back pack only- trust me it’s possible!) But getting to your destination at the cheapest price possible is always my first goal… the less you spend on the flight the more you can spend at the destination.

I always like to book an overnight flight (out of San Francisco)… it gives me time to (try to) sleep on the plane, arrive at my destination and eat, and then sleep again. This has seemed to work fairly well for me to combat jet lag.

Rent a Car

I would highly recommend renting a car for sightseeing around Ireland. It is absolutely worth it for the amazing views of the country side and the ease of getting between destinations and being able to more freely go about your trip. But as you are probably already aware they drive on the left side of the road and they pretty much only drive manual shift cars, which can be a challenge… you can get an automatic but it will cost quite a bit more and wouldn’t be worth it. Renting the car isn’t very expensive but purchasing the insurance is. Some credit cards include rental car insurance but unfortunately ours excluded rental cars in Ireland… but I would double check if you happen to have coverage through a credit card- that will save you a lot of money!

Start in Dublin

We started in Dublin of since that’s where most flights fly in to…  but we didn’t want to spend too much time there because there is so much to see outside of the city so we planned to be there only 1 day. So after arriving in Dublin we picked up our rental car and headed to our air bnb. Dublin is definitely an expensive city… we were trying to keep our budget for our stays about $100/night… and for that price we got about a 400 sq ft room with a small kitchen and bathroom. Again, like flights, I like to get the hotel/air bnb as cheap and basic as possible since I only plan to sleep and shower in the room so I can spend as much time as possible exploring the place I’m visiting… I mean why else are you traveling!

A few highlights we did in Dublin

There is a ton more things to do in Dublin but for one day I feel like we really accomplished a lot. They key is planning out your day to be as efficient at possible. We did purchase a Dublin City Pass for one day which I felt was a good way to cut the cost of seeing a lot of the main attractions and waiting in ticket lines.

Kilkenny

After spending a full day in Dublin we woke up early and hit the road to our next destination, Kilkenny. This was only about an hour and half drive and such a great little town to stop in. We stayed at the coolest air bnb that was an apartment off of the main road and right above a game shop amongst the various shops and pubs. We checked out a few of the touristy things and spent the evening pub hopping.

The things we did were:

Cobh/Cork

Our second day of road tripping we made a quick 2 hour stop in Cobh… this town really stood out to me… it was one of the places I have seen instagram photos of the above shot of Colman’s Cathedral behind the colorful Deck of Cards houses… and I really wanted my own shot of this amazing site! We had to hike up this very steep hill to find the spot for the photo and I am still so happy I got this shot! The steep hills right on the marina with the colorful houses really gave us San Francisco vibes.

We walked around the town for a bit and grabbed some delicious fish and chips at a local pub and checked out St. Colman’s Cathedral (which we parked right next to). If we had more time I would have liked to check out the Titanic Experience. Cobh was the last port of call for the Titanic before the tragedy that struck.

Cork was a very brief stop that we made, it is the second biggest city next to Dublin and we wanted to focus more on the smaller towns, but we did go to the English Market and walk down St. Patrick’s street just to get a feel for the city!

Blarney Castle

Of course we had to stop at one of Ireland’s most famous attractions, the Blarney Castle, and I would definitely recommend you stop there too! Being able to explore the ruins of this fortress and imagining the battles that ensued is pretty awesome. From the uneven stone walkways and narrow stair cases (warning if you are claustrophobic) to the breath taking views from the top of the castle, and of course kissing the Blarney Stone to recieve the gift of gab, it is definitely (in my opinion) worth checking out. There is more than just the castle to see, if you have time to wander the beautiful grounds and gardens you could definitely spend quite a few hours here.

Dingle

This town was way out of the way to get to but absolutely worth it! I am so glad we put this is our itinerary! We had to drive about an hour out onto the Dingle Peninsula to this charming little fisherman town (all the town’s in Ireland are so charming!) We stayed at an air bnb on a farm that had little studio apartment to stay in. There were sheep and chickens and they had fresh milk, bread and butter for us to enjoy.

The highlight of going out of our way to this town is doing the legendary Slea Head Drive. Part of the Wild Atlantic Way this 26 mile scenic loop is full of amazing breathtaking views of the Atlantic Ocean, and lots of stops along the way for photos and an absolute must see! And of course in a fishing town like this you have to have the fresh seafood and we tried the fish and chips at Reel Dingle Fish where we got to choose which type of fresh fish we wanted and were not disappointed. Also check out Murphy’s ice cream for some amazing local ice cream!

Cliffs of Moher

Another major tourist attraction for Ireland and featured in movies like the Princess Bride and Harry Potter… you absolutely have to make time in your itinerary to stop and see the Cliffs of Moher! We stopped here on our drive from Dingle to Galway, so this day was probably our longest driving day. When we visited we got lucky with no rain or fog and a beautiful sunny visit, but it was very windy and cold. The wind made me want to leave sooner than I would have liked… my eyes get all irritated and watery and it’s miserable for me. But there are trails you can walk along the cliffs, and you can even walk out past the barriers and get right on the edge of the cliffs if you dare! But be very careful! You can also walk to check out O’Brien’s tower and pay to climb to the top if you like. We spent as much time as I could bare in the wind then wandered over to the visitors center before leaving.

We stopped quickly in the tiny town of Doolin that’s right outside of the cliffs for a coffee and dessert, then continued our road trip up to Galway.

Galway

The last stop of our trip before heading back to Dublin to catch a flight home was Galway. I couldn’t help but sing the Ed Sheeran song Galway Girl on our drive to Galway! This might have been our favorite town (though it’s so hard to pick a favorite because they are all so charming and great!) Galway is the 3rd largest city in Ireland which at about 80,000 population is still a pretty small city.

We were definitely starting to get tired by this time in the trip since we were spending approx 2-4 hours driving every day and waking up early and going to bed late, but we checked into our air bnb which was very close to the city center and decided to make this evening a social night out pub hopping. We hopped to at least 4 or 5 pubs and mingled with some locals We found a pub with a band playing traditional Irish music, had a great time and drank a little more than we should have- you have to at least once in Ireland!

The next day we ate breakfast at our air bnb and took a stroll around the city to get some scenery during the day. We wandered around areas like the Latin Quarter and Quay Street full of colorful shops, pubs, and restaurants. We visited the Saturday morning market, and being hungover from our adventurous previous night out we indulged in some chicken fillet rolls… which by the way are amazing and I definitely recommend you stop at one of the local deli’s to order one- anywhere in Ireland!

Fly out of Dublin

We left Galway and headed straight across through the middle of the country back to Dublin. Driving through Ireland is a beautiful experience, this was definitely the least scenic portion. One thing to note on this drive is we did make a stop at a rest stop area and had their own version of McDonald’s called Super Mac’s and I’m not a big fan of McDonald’s but Super Mac’s was definitely a lot better!

After making it back to Dublin and checking into our last air bnb, we had a walking tour of Dublin. I love doing walking tours of cities and learning about the history and getting a high light of areas to check out. This is usually most helpful at the beginning of a stay in a city… but this was when we could sqeeze it in. It rained on us the whole walk which was kinda funny because up until then the rain we had experienced was very spotty and didn’t last too long, but you definitely always need to be prepared expect rain everywhere in Ireland.

In the morning we took off to the airport to return our rental car and catch our flight back home! It was sad to leave, but we know that someday we will definitely go back and see more.