From charming coastlines to friendly folk and picturesque pubs, it’s not hard to see why ‘the Emerald Isle’ is considered a dream destination for many.
With so much on offer, we understand that planning your first-ever Irish adventure may feel a little overwhelming. Worry not – we’ve got you covered!
Your itinerary will depend on your timescale, interests, and budget. But to get you started, we’ve compiled our favorite sights and sounds of this spectacular destination (plus a few tips along the way!).
To make the most of your first trip to Ireland, get in touch and we’ll help you plan the perfect custom Irish road trip itinerary. We don’t want you to miss a thing!
Dublin: Sip Your Way Through the Pub-Lined Cobbled Streets
Dublin is the perfect starting point for any Ireland first-timer. There’s a reason why so many Irish tours and trips begin here. As soon as you hop off the plane and step foot in this charismatic capital, you’re sure to feel instantly immersed in Irish culture and all the wonderful things it has to offer.
Here are a few of our favourite spots in Dublin that you can’t miss on your first-ever trip to Ireland…
Head straight to Temple Bar for your first taste of the city before strolling through Crown Alley (dubbed one of the city’s prettiest streets). For a more relaxed amble, walk along the famous River Liffey.
Top Tip: Travelling with little ones? You’ll be glad to hear that Dublin’s bars are often family-friendly, so there will be no missing out on ‘pub culture’ here!
Dublin Castle and Trinity College
For a touch of history or academia, explore the epic Dublin Castle or cast your eyes over the ancient Book of Kells at Ireland’s oldest university, Trinity College.
Arts and culture buffs will also love the prestigious National Gallery of Ireland or meandering along the charity-led Icon Walk (an open-air installation that celebrates Irish culture).
The Guinness Storehouse
Calling all Guinness fans! Don’t forget to sample Ireland’s finest at the Guinness Storehouse.
The 360-views from the seventh floor are an added bonus and an ideal place to gather your bearings.
Once you’ve well and truly soaked up city life, jump into your rental car and visit the nearby Portmarnock beach for some fresh sea air. From here you can either enjoy a leisurely beach walk to Malahide or take it easy with a dip in the shallow waters followed by some traditional fish and chips.
There’s nothing quite like crunching down on some crispy battered fish whilst you hear the gentle waves of the Irish sea crash – it’s the perfect end to your Dublin adventure!
Belfast and Northern Ireland: Discover the Home of the Titanic and Live out your Game of Thrones Dreams
Belfast is a treasure trove of history, culture, and surprising nightlife. Only a 2-hour drive from Dublin, it’s also a great next stop for those looking to explore both Northern Ireland and the Republic during their trip.
Top Tip: If you are driving from Dublin to Belfast, be sure to stop off along the way in Skerries for some breathtaking coastal action.
You can’t experience Belfast without first exploring the state-of-the-art Titanic Museum. As the original home of this world-famous liner, the Titanic is synonymous with the city’s identity, making this multi-media museum a must-see for all who visit.
The Cathedral Quarter
After digesting a little of Belfast’s sea-faring history, hit the town and quench your thirst at one of the many proper Irish pubs on offer (Game of Thrones fans will love the Dark Horse and its unique door!).
From here, you can continue the party through the cobbled Cathedral Quarter and enjoy one of the many live music venues or stroll through the Victorian St George’s Market for some traditional fare.
Crumlin Road Gaol
Before leaving the city, be sure to learn about Belfast’s turbulent past at the haunting Crumlin Road Gaol before walking alongside the thought-provoking Peace Wall.
The jail was in use for 150 years, only closing in 1996. It’s now a top attraction in Belfast for visitors to hear stories of the many prisoners who found themselves within these walls.
From Belfast, you can take a day trip to Giant’s Causeway, a UNESCO World Heritage Site steeped in mythology. Or, you can continue on this route and experience the many awe-inspiring scenic stops and attractions that Northern Ireland has to offer.
The Causeway Coastal Route from Belfast is a truly magnificent drive and is sure to satisfy all your sea-nery needs!
The Dark Hedges
Just one hour’s drive from Belfast is the stunning Game of Thrones filming location, the mystical Dark Hedges. As one of the most photographed places in Northern Ireland, this easy Belfast day trip is not to be missed.
Top Tip: Game of Thrones fan? For an Irish adventure filled with awesome Game of Thrones locations, consider a GoT-inspired self-drive tour – that way, you can experience Westeros as well as Ireland!
The Wild Atlantic Way: Road Trip Through the Rugged Coastline and Rolling Hills
Was it the scenery that first got you hooked on the enchanting Emerald Isle? Then the Wild Atlantic Way (WAW) absolutely has to feature on your Ireland road trip itinerary. Whether you drive some or all of this tourism trail, one thing is for sure – you won’t regret it.
Top Tip: If this is your first time driving on the left side of the road, we recommend adding a little post-it note reminder to the dashboard of your car and allowing extra time for your journey. Most importantly, try not to worry too much – you’ll get the hang of it!
Inishowen Peninsula in County Donegal
For those looking to complete the whole Wild Atlantic Way journey, the Inishowen Peninsula is the typical starting point for the route. It also happens to be Ireland’s largest peninsula and the entry point for the island’s most northerly point: Malin Head.
Remember to bring your camera, as you’re going to want to snap up some serious landscape shots here!
Cliffs of Moher
Arguably one the of most recognizable spots along the Wild Atlantic Way, the Cliffs of Moher are a must-see Irish destination for all first-time visitors…and repeat visitors!
Often considered an 8th wonder of the world, it’s not hard to see why this extraordinary backdrop has featured in films such as Harry Potter and The Half-Blood Prince and The Princess Bride.
If you’re looking to fully experience the majestic nature of these dramatic cliffs, we’d recommend trekking along the scenic Cliffs of Moher coastal path.
Craving a little city-living after your Wild Atlantic adventure? Don’t miss out on cosmopolitan Cork – the second-largest city in the Republic of Ireland. Packed full of tempting eateries and specialty coffee shops, it’s the perfect antidote to life on the road.
Whilst you’re here, wander along to the English Market for local grub and be sure to visit Nano Nagle Place for a spot of history and culture.
No trip to Ireland would be complete without at least one visit to a historical castle. And when it comes to castles, you can’t beat Blarney Castle!
This famous historical site is home to the Blarney Stone, which promises to give you the gift of eloquence (or the ‘gift of the gab’, as the locals call it) if you kiss it!
Feeling overwhelmed with all the options for a first-time visit to Ireland? Get in touch and let us help craft your dream itinerary. The enticing coastlines and castles of Ireland await!