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4 days in Ireland: a perfect road trip itinerary for a short visit

Clifftop wonders, stunning castles, and buzzing pubs — let Ireland stir your soul!

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There’s something for everyone in Ireland: lush landscapes, thrilling adventures, an exciting cultural scene, and mouth-watering cuisine. Take in the most striking sights, sounds, and flavours of Ireland with this 4-day itinerary!

Day 1: (Re) discover Dublin

The capital of Ireland isn’t huge, which means you can see a lot in just a few hours. Dublin Castle, Trinity College, the James Joyce Centre, and the Guinness Storehouse, where Arthur Guinness signed a 9,000-year lease in 1759, are among the unmissable local highlights.

Guinness gate horse carriage Dublin
Each of the Storehouse’s seven floors focuses on a different aspect of the brewing process or a different piece of Guinness’ history.
Photos: Tourism Ireland

No matter how many times you’ve visited Dublin, you’ll still find something new to enjoy.

Five hidden gems in Dublin

  • The Hungry Tree in the King’s Inns, an Instagram-worthy ”bench-eater” attraction
  • Sweny’s Pharmacy. This quaint secondhand bookshop used to be a pharmacy featured in James Joyce’s Ulysses
  • The Hacienda, an underground speakeasy bar infused with Spanish spirit
  • Iveagh Gardens, an urban oasis tucked away behind the National Concert Hall
  • Marsh’s Library in St. Patrick’s Close, a perfectly preserved library of the late Renaissance and early Enlightenment

Rent a car in Dublin and explore Ireland at your own pace:

Day 2: Enjoy the breathtaking Cliffs of Moher

On day two, start your drive early in the morning since there’s so much to see!

The drive mainly follows the M4 and M6 highways before going south on R460, a smaller winding road surrounded by lush greenery and grazing cows.

Make a brief stop near Gort in County Galway to enjoy the ruins of Kilmacduagh Monastery. The stunning Cliffs of Moher are just 50 minutes away from there.

Cliffs of Moher, Ireland
You can easily spend much longer than an hour on this spectacular stretch from Kilmacduagh Abbey to the Cliffs of Moher. Luckily, with so many lay-bys along the way, you will never have to worry about parking!

Ireland’s most treasured attraction deserves all of its accolades. The Cliffs of Moher go in and out for five miles along the coast, giving unbeatable views of tremendous waves crashing against them. Weather permitting, you can even see the Aran Islands! 

Another great place for a walk among the clouds in Ireland is the dramatic Slieve League Cliffs in County Donegal. They are nearly three times taller than the Cliffs of Moher!

One of the best places to stay near the Cliffs of Moher is the vibrant village of Doolin, the traditional music capital of Ireland with a big warm heart. From here, you can take a clifftop walk to breathe in the crisp Atlantic air while admiring the wildflowers, and visit Doolin Cave to see the great stalactite.

You are also welcome to explore the rugged terrain on a hike or take an Atlantic cruise to appreciate the unique coastline from a different perspective.

Colourful houses of Doolin in the Republic of Ireland
In total, the Cliffs of Moher walk covers eight miles from Doolin to Hag’s Head and takes roughly 4.5 hours. The shorter version of the Doolin Cliff Walk is 5 miles (to the visitor centre) and takes around 3 hours to complete.
Photo: Tourism Ireland

Day 3: Head to Galway to take in the bohemian vibe

One of Ireland’s most vibrant cities, Galway has a rich calendar of exciting events. There are comedy, arts, and film annual festivals, a jazz festival, the Loughrea Medieval Festival, one of the largest St. Patrick’s Day parades, and the famed Galway Races, to name only a few.

Delegates enjoying their time in Galway
Galway has been known as the Cultural Heart of Ireland for many years.
Photo: Tourism Ireland

Whenever you visit, make sure to indulge in Irish tapas in the garden of Burren Food and Wine, or learn more about the smoked salmon’s heritage with a tour of the Burren Smokehouse.

The Wild Atlantic Way stretches all the way from the wind-tossed tip of Malin Head in County Donegal to the balmy beauty of Kinsale town in County Cork on the Celtic Sea coast. The whole 2,500 km (1,600 miles) route passes through nine counties and three provinces, but even the smallish fraction of it will astonish you.

Then continue north along N67 to Dunguaire Castle. Built in 1520 by the mighty Rory Mor O’Shaughnessy, it has seen sieges, clan wars, and renowned literary figures.

From there, approximately 30 minutes of driving will bring you to Galway, which is known for its lively pub scene. You can easily spend hours admiring the knick-knacks and memorabilia at Tigh Neachtain’s on Cross Street as you sip a glass of Galway Hooker craft beer. Murphy’s, Tigh Chóilí, and Garavan’s are some other great spots in the city.

Traditional Irish music in a pub
Traditional Irish music is said to embody the spirit of the people of Ireland. Listen up, and you’ll find out why.
Photo: Tourism Ireland

Tip: If you happen to visit the Galway International Oyster Festival in September, you’ll see for yourself why it has been called one of the greatest events on earth.

Day 4: Take a lazy drive back to Dublin

Before your return to Ireland’s capital, treat yourself to amazing brunch at one of Galway’s iconic cafés, bistros or fine-dining restaurants.

Here are five places to eat in Galway that locals recommend:

With Galway Food Tours, you can taste the best of local flavours and meet the passionate producers, brewers, chocolatiers, and entrepreneurs that make this city such a gastronomic gem.

Once you leave Galway, the M6 takes you almost straight back to Dublin. Just over 200 km and a pretty easy drive, this trip is noticeably shorter than what you did a few days ago. Nevertheless, these two hours will be enough time for you to plan your next, much longer, road trip across Ireland.

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Now that the world is preparing to reopen in 2021, we are here to keep you dreaming and planning for your next adventure – whether that’s a short staycation trip or flying off to parts unknown. Until then, we’ve got the latest COVID-19 travel advice and the interactive ‘Where you can go’ map to keep you up to date.