For many avid travelers, Ireland is an absolute dream destination. Between its historic castles, lush green fields, stunning cliffed shorelines, and culturally rich cities, Ireland really does have it all. Whether you are planning a trip to take part in the Saint Patrick’s Day festivities, learn about the storied history of the area, soak up views of the stunning Irish countryside, or try your hand at some of the country’s historic links golf courses, Ireland has a bit of something for everyone.
Several months back I put together a two week Ireland itinerary for Conquest Maps, which is one of my favorite travel brands, and I thought it would be valuable to do a similar itinerary here for all of my readers as well. Ireland was one of the most amazing countries I have visited in my travels and I get quite a few questions on what I would recommend seeing and doing while in the country. Wonder no more, because I have laid it all out for you in this perfect two week Ireland itinerary.
In this itinerary, I am going to layout a 14-day trip to Ireland that has something for travelers of all interests to enjoy. Feel free to modify this itinerary as you see fit or to follow it exactly, whichever option works best for you. This itinerary will take you to some of the most amazing cities in Ireland and Northern Ireland, to some of the most iconic castles in the area, through some of the most amazing landscapes in Ireland, and to one of the most famous links golf courses in Europe.
In addition to providing you with this dream itinerary, I am going to provide you will all of the logistical information that you will need to make your trip a success. I will let you know when the best times are to visit, what the VISA and passport requirements are, give you some recommendations on what to do while on your trip, as well as provide you with detailed guides for each of the areas you will visit. With this information in hand, you will be prepared to get the most out of your trip to this wonderful and beautiful part of Europe!
|Best Times to Visit|
|How to Get There|
|Passport, VISA, and Immunization Requirements|
|What to Pack|
Best Times to Visit
There is never a bad time to visit a country as beautiful as Ireland, but like most destinations, there are times of the year that are better than others to plan your trip. Factors such as the weather and tourism crowds certainly make some parts of the year more appealing than others to visit. In order to give you all of the information that you will need to pick the time of year that is best for you to visit, I have included information on the average temperature, the average amount of precipitation, and tourism levels in Ireland throughout the year for you to review before making your travel plans.
Average Temperature (°F)
Arguably the most important factor in determining the best time to visit any location is the average temperature throughout the year, and it is no different for Ireland. While the temperature in Ireland doesn’t typically get too hot or too cold throughout the year, there are fluctuations in the temperature throughout the year that you should be aware of. For example, if you would like to avoid dealing with colder evenings that require a jacket, I would steer clear of the winter months of December thru February. To give you a better idea of what type of temperatures you might expect to see in Ireland throughout the year, I have included a chart of the average temperatures by month below for you to review.
Average Precipitation Level (Inches)
Another important factor that you need to consider before deciding when to visit Ireland is the amount of precipitation that you can expect to see when you get there. While Ireland has relatively moderate temperatures throughout the year, it does get a fair amount of rain. As indicated in the chart on the average precipitation levels in Dublin, Ireland throughout the year, the amount of rain is fairly consistent from month-to-month. However, in the early autumn and winter months, Ireland gets a bit less rain than it does during the rest of the year. If you are planning on spending a good amount of time outdoors on your trip, these periods might be the best times to plan your trip.
Average Number of Tourist Visitors (in 1,000’s)
The last factor that I would suggest that you consider when determining the best time for you to visit Ireland is the number of other tourists that you might expect to be visiting throughout the year. In order to assist you in determining the most and least busy times of year to visit Ireland, I have included a graph of the average tourism numbers for Ireland throughout the year for you to review below.
As the chart below shows, the number of visitors from the UK and elsewhere in Europe are fairly steady throughout the year. However, the number of visitors from North America and elsewhere in the world steadily grow throughout the spring and peak in the summer months before falling off in the autumn months and hitting their lowest numbers in the winter. Therefore, if you would like to avoid larger crowds when visiting Ireland, I would recommend that you steer clear of the summer months and aim for the shoulder months in the spring and autumn instead.
How to Get There
One of the most important components to planning your trip to Ireland will be deciding on how you plan to get there. For most people traveling to Ireland or Northern Ireland from outside of the island, the most logical way to get there is by airplane. However, there are also numerous ferry boats that will get you from the United Kingdom to Ireland if you would prefer to travel by boat. These ferry rides can take anywhere from 1.5 hours (for the Holyhead to Dublin route) to 3 hours (for the Pembroke to Rosslare route). In order to assist you in determining which method of getting to Ireland is best for you, I have included a map that outlines your options below.
Keep in mind, the itinerary that I outline in this article makes a big loop around the island of Ireland\Northern Ireland. Where you start and finish that loop is entirely up to you. My example itinerary both stops and starts in the city of Dublin, but you can easily modify the itinerary to start and\or stop in Belfast or Rosslare as well. It all depends on how and where you plan on arriving in Ireland or Northern Ireland for your trip.
Passport, VISA, and Immunization Requirements
In addition to coordinating your transportation to Ireland, you are also going to want to make sure you have all of the necessary passport, VISA, and immunization requirements for visiting Ireland and Northern Ireland met before you disembark on your trip. While both Ireland and Northern Ireland require a valid passport for the duration of your stay, the Republic of Ireland, which is part of the European Union (EU), also requires an ETIAS Authorization for most travelers from outside the EU as well. Neither country has immunization requirements to enter the country. In order to assist you with your planning, I have included a table that outlines the requirements for you to review below.
|VISA Requirement||Passport Expiration|
|Republic of Ireland (EU)||ETIAS Authorization after January 1, 2020.||Valid for duration of stay|
|Northern Ireland (UK)||None||Valid for duration of stay|
|Source: US Department of State|
What to Pack
For as much thought and preparation that goes into planning a trip, for some people the process of deciding what to pack can be the most stressful part of travel planning. Fear not, as I have included some advice below to help you out. In addition to providing you with links to some of my most popular packing advice articles and checklists, I have also included some general packing guidelines for Ireland for you to review below as well.
General Packing Guidelines for Ireland
When packing for your trip to Ireland, I would strongly recommend that you focus on the following packing guidelines. If you follow these guidelines, you should be prepared for all types of weather and situations you will face while traveling.
- Bring layers to wear as the weather can change quickly
- Bring rain gear as Ireland and Northern Ireland get quite a bit of rain
- Pack comfortable walking shoes as you will want to spend some time exploring
- Don’t forget to bring the proper power converter to use for your chargers
Packing can be stressful, especially when you have so many other components of your trip to worry about planning. To make things easier for you and ensure that you don’t forget anything, I have included links to some of my most popular packing resources for you to review below.
|10 Packing Tips That Every Traveler Should Follow||The Ultimate Travel Packing Check List||The Essential Carry-On Checklist|
When it comes to arranging your transportation for the trip, getting to-and-from Ireland is just half the battle. Once you arrive in Ireland, you are going to need a way to get around. There are a number of different methods of transportation you can choose from, depending on the amount of time you will be in-country and your comfort level with driving.
Renting a Car
If you are comfortable driving on the left side of the road, the quickest and most convenient method of travel is undoubtedly a car rental (or car hire as it is called in Europe). If you are considering renting a car for your trip, I have included some important tips for you to consider below.
- The main car rental companies in Europe are Avis, Hertz, Budget, Europcar, and Sixt.
- If you choose to pick up your car while at the airport, you will likely get charged an extra fee. To save money, you can consider renting from a location outside the airport. Whether the cost savings on the rental is worth it or not will depend on the cost of transportation to pick up the car and the amount of time it will require.
- Most car rental companies in Europe will charge you an extra fee to take your rental car outside the country, but this typically does not apply to travel between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. However, I would strongly suggest you check with the car rental company to confirm before signing your rental agreement.
- As long as you have a valid US driver’s license, in English, you should not need an international driver’s license to drive in Ireland or Northern Ireland.
- In both Ireland and Northern Ireland motorists drive on the left side of the road and the driver’s seat is on the right side of the car.
- Both Ireland and Northern Ireland use the metric system, so milage is listed in kilometers instead of miles.
- In Ireland, the motorways have a letter “M” as a prefix (such as M30), while the national roads are prefixed with the letter “N” (such as N30). Be cautious when on secondary roads as they could have two-way traffic. In Northern Ireland, motorways are also prefixed with the letter “M” (such as M30) and primary and non-primary roads are prefixed with the letters “A” and “B”, respectively.
Using the Rail System
If you aren’t comfortable driving while in Ireland and Northern Ireland, another great option for getting around on your trip is to use the railway system. While this does provide you with a convenient way to get around and affords you the luxury of not having to worry about renting a car and finding parking, the train system in Ireland and Northern Ireland may not reach every destination that you wish to see. If you want to get to certain locations, you may be forced to use a combination of buses and\or ridesharing or taxis along with the train system to get around. For instance, if you would like to stay at the Dromoland Castle Hotel, you will need to take a train to Galway or Enis and then use another form of transportation to get to the hotel.
However, the biggest drawback to using the train system when in Ireland and Northern Ireland is the rigid nature of the train schedule. While taking trains saves you the hassle of having to rent a car, it doesn’t leave you much flexibility in making your schedule. Instead of being able to come-and-go whenever you like, you are forced to work around the train schedules. While some trains run fairly frequently and may not be an issue, other trains may not run as frequently and can pose scheduling problems. There is nothing wrong with using the train system when in Ireland, but it does require a bit more forward-thinking on your part to make it work. To give you a better understanding of where the train system in Ireland and Northern Ireland travels and how long the travel takes, I have included a helpful map for you to review below.
Credit to Rick Steves for the idea of putting this map together.
There is a seemingly endless number of amazing things to see and do in Northern Ireland and I think one could reasonably spend months exploring all of these amazing sites and activities. However, for most of us, taking months off to travel isn’t really an option. With that said, if you follow my perfect 14-Day Ireland Itinerary, you should knock off all of the must-see sights and activities and get a great taste of what Ireland and Northern Ireland have to offer. To give you a better understanding of where my travel itinerary will take you and what you will see, I have included a map and an itinerary overview below for you to review.
Arriving in Dublin
The first stop you will make on your trip is to the beautiful capital city of Dublin, Ireland. In my itinerary, I have you arriving and departing from Dublin, but you can modify the itinerary if you are going to be traveling into and out of a different city. Not only is Dublin Ireland’s capital, but it also has a large number of can’t miss attractions for you to see. This includes the Temple Bar, the Guinness Storehouse, the Dublin Castle, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, St. Stephen’s Green the Jameson Distillery. It’s a big city, so I have you spending the first three days in Dublin exploring (including the day you arrive).
If you are a big fan of beer and\or whiskey, I would definitely recommend checking out the Guinness Storehouse and the Jameson Distillery. Both of these iconic brands offer taste tests and tours for visitors. If you are a history buff, then the Dublin Castle and the historic St. Patrick’s Cathedral are right up your alley. To finish off any long day of sight-seeing, stop by one of the city’s wonderful pubs for a pint or two of beer. I would recommend the Temple Bar area of town as it is world-renowned for its high concentration of pubs and lively nightlife. If you would like more information on what to see and do, as well as where to stay and eat, in the city of Dublin, I have included a link to my visitor guide for you to review below.
|Dublin, Ireland Visitor’s Guide|
On Day 4 of your trip, you will head north into Northern Ireland and to the capital city of Belfast. Belfast is a gorgeous city that has had a steep and sometimes troubled history. As the epicenter of “the troubles”, where were the conflicts between the Irish Republican Army and the British government in the 19th and 20th centuries, the city has been thru its fair share of painful times. In fact, if you visit Belfast today you will still see murals about the conflict lining some of the city streets. Once peace was restored in the 1990’s, Belfast quickly blossomed into one of Europe’s prettiest cities.
Arguably the most popular attraction in Belfast is the Titanic Quarter, which was built to celebrate the city’s pivotal role in the construction of the infamous passenger ship that famously sunk back in 1912. The ship was built in Belfast and the city is still proud of its great shipbuilding legacy to this day. Visitors to the Titanic Quarter can walk thru an interactive museum that is dedicated to the building of the Titanic and the workers who built the gigantic vessel. For more information on the Titanic Quarter and other fun things to see and do in Belfast, please refer to my Belfast Visitor Guide referenced below.
|Belfast Visitor’s Guide|
The Dark Hedges
After spending a full day in Belfast, you will continue heading north towards the northern coast of Northern Ireland. The first stop you will make on your way to the coast is to a place called the Dark Hedges. If you are a fan of the HBO series “Game of Thrones”, then the Dark Hedges should look very familiar to you. This is the infamous location used to film the road to King’s Landing in the series. Make sure you have your camera with you because you will want to take a look at pictures of this epic location. For some tips on how to visit the Dark Hedges and how to get the best pictures while you are there, please refer to my Dark Hedges Visitor Guide linked below.
|Dark Hedges Visitor’s Guide|
The Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge
When you make it to the north coast, the first of many stops that you will make is to the popular suspension bridge at Carrick-a-Rede. If you are looking for some locations to get some epic Instagram shots, then the Carrick-a-Rede bridge is just what you are looking for. This 65-foot long and 100-foot high suspension bridge connects the mainland to the small island of Carrickarede. It may not be the longest suspension bridge in the world, but it certainly is one of the prettiest. The views of the rocky coastline are absolutely breathtaking and the experience of walking across the bouncy bridge to the other side will give you the shot of adventure you are looking for on your trip. For more information on the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge, please see my visitor guide linked below.
|Carrick-a-Rede Bridge Visitor Guide|
The Giant’s Causeway
Located just up the coast from the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, the Giant’s Causeway is another of the popular tourist destinations along the north coast of Northern Ireland. This is one of my favorite spots in Northern Ireland and is an absolute must-see if you are in the area. The shore of the beach is covered with roughly 40,000 interlocking basalt columns that were formed long ago in a volcanic eruption. It looks like a giant jigsaw puzzle put together by Mother Nature for visitors to enjoy. If you would like to learn more about this iconic landscape, please view my Giant’s Causeway Visitor Guide referenced below.
|The Giant’s Causeway Visitor Guide|
The Dunluce Castle
Your last stop on the northern coast of Northern Ireland will be a stop at one of the most breathtaking castle locations you will ever see. The Dunluce Castle is only a short drive from the Giant’s Causeway and is a must-see because of its location. The castle itself has seen better days, but if its location perched high above the ocean on top of steep shoreline cliffs isn’t breathtaking, I don’t know what is. Make sure you check out my Dunluce Castle Visitor Guide linked below to learn all the best spots to photograph this amazing castle.
|The Dunluce Castle in Northern Ireland|
The Cliffs of Moher
Widely considered to be one of the most iconic landscapes in all of Ireland, the Cliffs of Moher are among the most beautiful landscapes in all of Europe. Lucky for you, they are the first stop on your itinerary after heading back south into the Republic of Ireland when your tour of Northern Ireland is complete. This will be the longest stretch of travel on your trip, so if you would like to plan a few small stops along the way, you can fit those into your schedule.
There are many different ways in which you can explore the Cliffs of Moher, and I recommend all of them. There are some absolutely fantastic viewpoints from land that I recommend you stop at for sure, but you can also tour the cliffs from the water on a boat. If you have the time, I would recommend this as you get a completely different perspective of the cliffs from the water and you have the potential of spotting one of the beautiful Puffin birds that live along the cliffs. For more information on how best to see the cliffs, please see my Cliffs of Moher Visitor Guide linked below.
|The Cliffs of Moher Visitor’s Guide|
The Dromoland Castle Experience
After exploring the Cliffs of Moher, your next stop will be one of the most unique experiences you will have on your whole Ireland trip. If you have ever dreamed of what it would be like to live in a castle, you will get a chance to find out at the Dromoland Castle Hotel. The Dromoland Castle Hotel might be Ireland’s most magical address as it is a real castle that has been converted into a hotel for guests to stay in. You will get a chance to marvel at the decor, the gardens, and the exemplary service in what will be one of the most memorable hotel experiences of your life. To learn more about the Dromoland Castle Hotel experience, check out my Dromoland Castle Hotel Guide linked below.
|Dromoland Castle Hotel|
The Ring of Kerry
There are some truly epic road trips that you can take while traveling throughout this world and it just so happens that one of the best is located in Ireland. The Ring of Kerry, as this road trip is called, is a loop route thru the County Kerry in Southern Ireland that has become world renown for its beautiful landscapes, rich cultural attractions, and historical significance. Some of the highlights that can be seen when driving the Ring of Kerry include the Muckross House, the beautiful Muckross Abbey, the Gap of Dunloe, and Killarney National Park.
If you decide to rent a car while in Ireland, you will be really glad that you did when you get to the section of the itinerary on touring the Ring of Kerry. While there are guided tours that you can book that will take you around the Ring of Kerry by bus, I think it is a much better experience when you can go at your own pace. You can learn more about available tours for the Ring of Kerry and the other amazing stops on this route in my Ring of Kerry Visitor Guide, which I linked below.
|The Ring of Kerry Guide|
When you have finished touring the Ring of Kerry, you will next head to the city of Cork, which you will use as your base of operations as you explore one of Ireland’s most famous castles and do a little golfing on one of Europe’s most beautiful links golf courses. If you have some extra time, I would suggest spending a bit of time exploring the city of Cork as well. It is a beautiful city with a rich history.
Golf at Old Head Golf Links
If you like to golf, I would definitely recommend that you play a round at the Old Head Golf Links while you are in the Cork area. If you don’t like golfing, you can use the extra day to explore the beautiful city of Cork and its surroundings. With stunning ocean shoreline on almost every hole, Old Head Golf Links is an absolutely stunning golf course. The defining feature of the course is the beautiful lighthouse that backdrops its signature hole. If you do decide to play, make sure you polish up your bump-and-run game because the course is as difficult as it is beautiful. For more information about Old Head Golf Links, please refer to my Old Head Golf Links Course Guide linked below.
|Old Head Golf Links Course Guide|
After hitting the links at Old Head Golf Links, I would recommend visiting one of the Cork area’s other big tourist draws, Blarney Castle. Located a short 20-minute drive to the Northwest of Cork, Blarney Castle is one of the most famous castles in all of Europe. One of the most popular activities for visitors to the castle is to take their turn to get down and kiss a stone in the castle’s battlements that has become known as the “Blarney Stone”. The tradition of “kissing the Blarney Stone”, as it has come to be known by, is said to give the kisser the gift of gab. Regardless of whether the myth is true, taking part in this fun tradition is a great way to build a connection with this area and with this beautiful castle. If you would like to learn more about the Blarney Castle, please refer to my Blarney Castle Visitor Guide linked below.
|Blarney Castle Visitor’s Guide|
The last stop on your trip before returning to Dublin may be one of the more underrated tourist stops in all of Ireland. Situated on the banks of the River Suir in the heart of the city of Tipperary is the Cahir Castle, which is one of the largest and most beautiful castles in all of Ireland. It may not get the notoriety that other castles in Ireland such as the Blarney Castle get, but it is remarkably well preserved and is open to the public to tour. To learn more about this beautiful castle and how best to photograph it, please refer to my Cahir Castle Visitor Guide linked below.
|Cahir Castle Visitor’s Guide|
Depart from Dublin
The last stop on your trip will be to head back to the city of Dublin to catch your flight home. If you are flying into and out of a different city, or arriving and departing from Ireland using a different mode of transportation, you will need to adjust the itinerary accordingly. If you have time before you leave Ireland, I would suggest taking one last opportunity to explore the city of Dublin before you depart.
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