WHAT TO SEE ON A 12-DAY TOUR OF IRELAND
There is so much you can see and do on a 12-day self-drive tour of Ireland. Immerse yourself in the landscapes and historical landmarks of this Celtic country. Explore lively Irish cities and idyllic countryside as you take in the culture, history and beauty of the Emerald Isle.
With 12 days you have plenty of time to go from Dublin to the west coast by car. Drive down the Wild Atlantic Way route and visit charming Irish towns, countryside and coastal sights. Or you could head into Northern Ireland to discover highlights such as Belfast, the Antrim Coast and the Giant’s Causeway.
Of course, the journey is just as important as the destination when you’re on a road trip. In Ireland you can expect scenic drives and plenty of attractions to stop at along the way.
Imagine yourself wandering through ancient Celtic monuments, going for a walk on the green hills, and learning about Gaelic culture. You could sit in a typical pub tasting the local brew and listening to live Irish music.
Read our recommended itinerary below for more inspiration on visiting Ireland in 12 days.
Here’s our suggestion for an Ireland road trip of 12 days:
Day 1 - Arrival in Ireland
After touching down at Dublin Airport, a private driver will take you to your hotel in the capital, largest city and international hub of Ireland. If you arrive earlier in the day, you can spend the afternoon at your leisure, exploring the city and its many attractions.
Dublin is a heady combination of heritage sites, fun museums, green parks, historic pubs and lively entertainment. To immerse yourself fully into this buzzing city, we recommend taking a stroll along the cobbled streets of the Temple Bar district or along the characterful O’Connell Street.
Fans of history, books and collegiate atmosphere will want to visit the historic Trinity College and see the ancient Book of Kells.
There are plenty of fun guided tours and activities you could also add to your itinerary, should you have the time. Enjoy an afternoon tea in a double decker vintage bus as you sightsee around the city. Or you could grab a pint at the Guinness Storehouse for a taste of their world-famous beer.
Spend the night in the Dublin area.
Day 2 - Drive to the west coast
You’ll cross the country to make your way toward the west coast. There are a couple of worthwhile stops to make on your journey through the midlands and Northern Ireland.
You can immerse yourself in local history at Trim Castle, the largest Anglo-Norman castle in Ireland. Then pass through Northern Ireland and stretch your legs with a walk around Crom Estate. You could even rent a boat or canoe to explore Upper Lough Erne.
Continue to the west coast and arrive in Donegal, the northernmost county in the Republic of Ireland.
Spend the night in the Donegal area.
Day 3 - The Wild Atlantic Way
Prepare to witness breathtaking Irish scenery today as you begin the Wild Atlantic Way coastal route.
Marvel at the mountains, lakes and forests of Glenveagh National Park in County Donegal. Drive over the Glengesh Pass and enjoy sweeping valley views. Make a stop at Glencolumbkille Folk Village, a living-history museum that shows you what life was like in rural Ireland over the centuries.
You can end the day looking out over Slieve League, huge cliffs that rise up to 600 metres (nearly 2,000 feet) from the Atlantic Ocean.
Spend another night in the Donegal area.
Day 4 - Highlights of the Sligo coast
Continue your journey by heading south to County Sligo. You’ll see the unmistakable shape of the flat-topped Ben Bulben mountain ahead of you. Make a stop at Mullaghmore to explore the village and sandy beaches, with the table mountain in the background.
Next you could visit the Carrowmore Megalithic Cemetery to encounter 5,000 years of history. We also recommend a stop at Downpatrick Head for a stroll atop the sea cliffs, providing you with stunning views of the coast.
Spend the night in the Westport area.
Day 5 - Connemara National Park to Galway
Make your way through the striking Connemara National Park. Here you’ll find a mixture of landscapes from mountains to white sand beaches, tranquil lakes and heathlands. You could spend some time exploring the fjord of Killary harbour before visiting Kylemore Abbey and its Victorian Walled Garden.
Then, arrive in Galway city and find out why it is famous for being a cultural hub in Europe. Taste delicious seafood from the Atlantic Ocean and perhaps check out the lively pub scene.
Spend the night in the Galway area.
Day 6 - The Cliffs of Moher
Today you’ll see some of Ireland’s most famous landscapes. But first, start the day at Dunguaire Castle. It is one of the best Irish castles to visit thanks to its location along the Galway Bay. You’ll then drive through the spectacular and lunar-like Burren.
In the afternoon, take in the majestic beauty of the Cliffs of Moher, Ireland’s top tourist attraction. You can’t help but marvel at these dramatic coastal cliffs, towering 214 metres (702 feet) above the sea.
Spend the night in the Doolin area.
Day 7 - Into Killarney National Park
Begin the day with a visit to Bunratty Castle, thought to have originated as a Viking trading post in 970 A.D. Then, if time allows, take a look around Bunratty Folk Park, adjacent to the castle. Here you can see what life was like in rural Ireland 100 years ago, with its reconstruction of a typical Irish village.
Afterwards, take in the highlights of Killarney National Park. This includes the picturesque Torc Waterfall and the lakeside Ross Castle and Muckross House. You could enjoy an optional boat tour on Lough Leane, or a ride in a traditional horse-drawn carriage in the national park.
Spend the night in the Killarney area..
Day 8 - Around the Ring of Kerry
You have all day to explore the scenic Ring of Kerry, a magical drive through the Irish countryside and along the coast of the Iveragh peninsula. It is part of the larger Wild Atlantic Way and is a must-do for most visitors.
We recommend going counter-clockwise and stopping at the Kells Bay House and its gardens as your first visit of the day. You could then stop by the ancient stone forts of Caherdaniel and Staigue as well as stroll along Derrynane Bay.
Along the way you could also take an optional boat tour from the coast to see the Skellig Islands from up close. These otherworldly islands were recently featured in the Star Wars movies.
Spend another night in the Killarney area
Day 9 - A taste of the south coast
Drive south from Killarney, over the winding Caha Pass, to reach the charming little village of Glengarriff on the Beara Peninsula. Here you could spot a local seal colony on a boat trip to Garnish Island.
Continue directly to the city of Cork or stop at the most southerly point in Ireland, Mizen Head, on the way. You could make a quick detour to Kinsale, a small town on the south coast. With its pretty harbour, 18th-century houses and leafy hills, it’s certainly worth a visit.
Take the rest of the day to explore Cork, Ireland’s “second city”. Soak up the buzzing vibe in cafés and restaurants, explore the River Lee’s waterways, and wander through 17th-century alleys.
Spend the night in the Cork area.
Day 10 - Medieval castles
Today you’ll head east to Kilkenny, but we suggest you break up the journey by stopping at some top Irish attractions.
One of them is the famous Blarney Castle. It is legendary in fact as the castle and its history is surrounded in myths and tales. Don’t miss out on kissing the Blarney Stone, which supposedly gives you the gift of eloquence.
Later, discover the spectacular Rock of Cashel, which is home to an important collection of medieval buildings that span over 1,000 years of history.
You’ll also have time to check out the castle and other landmarks in Kilkenny town.
Spend the night in the Kilkenny area.
Day 11 - Through the Wicklow Mountains
Today you head back to Dublin. You could drive directly there, but to take advantage of your last full day in Ireland, we highly recommend passing through the Wicklow Mountains.
A natural haven awaits you here in this beautiful national park. You’ll see glacial valleys, glassy lakes and soaring mountains, with the chance to spot local wildlife too. Visit Glendalough – “the valley of the two lakes” – to discover a round tower, stone churches and ancient crosses that date back centuries.
Spend your last night in Dublin, where you can top up your Irish adventure with one last delicious dinner.
Day 12 - Departure
Today you fly home from your Irish holiday. If you have time, visit some of Dublin’s museums. Or take a final stroll along the River Liffey or in one of the beautiful parks of the city. You could even extend your tour to spend more days in Dublin.
Want to go on an Ireland road trip?
With 12 days driving around Ireland, you’ll have the freedom to pull the car over at any attractions or breathtaking views.
The best part? You won’t have to worry about where you’re going or sleeping, because your Nordic Visitor travel consultant will plan your trip and sort all the details before you arrive.
We reserve your accommodation, rent a car for your trip, and can book activities led by tour guides to fill your days with more adventures. You’ll also have access to our 24/7 emergency helpline should you need to call us at any point.
Good to know: Our tours aren't set in stone. We can modify the itinerary! Would you prefer to spend more time in one city than another? Add another town to your trip? Or even stay in a special accommodation like a castle hotel? Just ask your Nordic Visitor travel consultant for advice.
Want to stay longer?
If you want to take in more Irish attractions, we highly recommend extending your self-drive tour to 14 days or more.
For example, if you spend 2 weeks in Ireland, you could drive to Northern Ireland to experience the famous Giant’s Causeway, Belfast, and the Antrim Coast. Or extend your tour to include Scotland too. You could visit the region in greater depth and travel at a leisurely pace around the Celtic countries.
The possibilities are endless. You could dive deeper into the Wild Atlantic Way, taking your time to explore the Ring of Kerry, the Aran Islands, or the Dingle Peninsula and Slea Head.
All of Nordic Visitor’s Ireland self-drive tour packages can be tailored by our regional experts. They can add extra nights at select locations or modify the driving routes if you have any particular attractions in mind. Just ask!
When is the best time to visit Ireland?
Ireland is a beautiful country all year long. This means you can’t go wrong when you book your 12-day Irish getaway. That said, we recommend the summertime or its shoulder months for the best experience.
The summer, consisting of the months of June, July and August, is the high season. It is marked by long daylight hours and the best (and most stable) weather of the year. Attractions also operate under longer hours and more availability than in winter.
All of this means you can discover Ireland to your heart’s content.
However, you may find that top attractions are very popular at this time. Indeed, Ireland attracts visitors from around the world, especially in summer.
If you would rather have a quieter holiday, visit during the spring or autumn. These shoulder months include April, May, September and October. During this time, you’ll find the best of both worlds: quieter attractions but plenty of good weather and daylight to explore.
Are you interested in exploring Scotland too?
You could combine a tour of Ireland with a road trip around Scotland for an epic Celtic itinerary. With 12 days you could spend just under a week in each country, allowing you to experience both the Scottish and Irish cultures.
Spend the first 6 days touring around the rugged Highlands and islands of Scotland. Then follow that up with another road trip around Ireland to take in all the jaw-dropping coastal landscapes and historic landmarks.
Scotland is a great destination to complement a tour to Ireland. Their cultures and history are so closely linked and you’ll be able to meet the locals and get immersed in both.
Scroll down to learn more about Nordic Visitor’s services.