Last Updated on October 13, 2023
I’ve recently returned from an epic first trip in Ireland where I was blessed with almost non-stop sunshine. Road-tripping around the country, I was able to explore Ireland’s top attractions as well as plenty of hidden gems. I share below my 7-day itinerary for the southern part of the country.
This 1-week itinerary will take you through Southern Ireland’s iconic destinations such as the Cliffs of Moher, the Ring of Kerry, and Killarney National Park, as well as less-known places where you can escape the crowds. I’ll give you also a couple of alternatives so you can pick what’s best for you.
While it’s possible to reach most of these places by public transportation, add a couple more days to complete the itinerary if you’re not driving or remove a few places.
HELPFUL WEBSITES TO HELP YOU PLAN YOUR TRIP
HELPFUL WEBSITES TO HELP YOU PLAN YOUR TRIP
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Planning a trip to Ireland
I recommend renting a car for your trip, especially if you just have 7 days. While you can visit Southern Ireland using a blend of public transportation and tours, having a car will give you the freedom to go everywhere and see more places in a shorter time frame.
I’ve tried to pick the best places to visit in Southern Ireland for this itinerary and provided alternatives to consider depending on the season and what you like doing. As Ireland is a small country, distances are short so you can easily skip a place or add another.
This 7-day Southern Ireland itinerary will take you through all of the region’s highlights and popular attractions, with a couple of hidden gems along the way. I hope this itinerary helps you plan your trip to Ireland – let me know how it went!
Tip – No matter what season you visit, make sure to pack layers and be ready for sunshine and rain.
If you want to save money on accommodation, try to book as early as you can. When planning ahead, you can find rooms at Airbnbs for under USD 50, while last minute, you’ll be lucky to find something under 100. However, booking last minute gives you the freedom to adapt your itinerary as you go.
Try to always have snacks and water with you as you might not always be near a store.
7-Day Southern Ireland Itinerary
Day 1 – Cliffs of Moher and Burren National Park
Start your first day seeing the majestic Cliffs of Moher, a must-see destination in Ireland. You have different options for visiting the cliffs depending on how much you want to walk.
The most comfortable option is to take a cruise and see the cliffs from below. It’s also a great option if it’s raining or if you suffer from vertigo. Cruises last around an hour, leave several times a day from Doolin, and operate from April to October.
You can then head to the visitor center (feel free to skip the cruise) where you can take a short walk to the viewpoints.
If you like hiking, the Doolin Cliff Walk is considered one of the most scenic trails in Ireland. The full hike runs over 10 miles (15 kilometers) from Doolin to Hags Head, with the visitor center more or less in the middle. You can hike all or part of it.
Before going, I had read online that during summer there’s a shuttle between Doolin and Hag’s Head, passing by the visitor center, I couldn’t find any info on the official website, so I didn’t risk it. However, if you’re interested in doing the full hike, either try to call the visitor center or stop there on your way to Doolin.
Next, head to Burren National Park for another epic hike surrounded by otherworldly landscapes. The Burren is one of my favorite places in Ireland because of its uniqueness, I don’t think there’s any other place on earth that looks like that – there are circular patterns on the hills and mountains, and the more you go up the more you can see them.
There are several hikes you can do depending on how much time you have and your fitness level. Most trails start at Gortlecka Crossroads where you can park and see a map of the trails. I did the Blue Trail and I highly recommend it.
The trail goes up quite a lot but you’ll be rewarded with incredible views. The 4.7-mile loop takes around 3 hours to complete.
Depending on how you are planning your trip to Ireland, you might not have the time to visit both if you arrive mid-day. You can either skip the Burren and head straight to the cliffs or do the hike in the Burren early the next morning.
They are close to each other so you might be able to fit both into a half day, especially towards summer when days are longer.
Depending on the time you finish your day, you can spend the night in either Ennis, Limerick, or better, Tralee.
Day 2 – Dingle Peninsula
On day 2 of your Southern Ireland itinerary, drive around the stunning Dingle Peninsula. Offering spectacular views, quaint towns, and ancient ruins, the Dingle Peninsula has it all.
Start your day with an easy stroll around Lough Carun in Glanteenassig Forest Park, then head to the longest beach in the country, Fermoyle Beach. You can drive all the way to Fahamore, where you can get a coffee, and stroll along the beach.
Next, head to Brandon Point for stunning views and a chance to spot dolphins. Go back on your track, to drive the iconic Conor Pass – make sure to stop at Peddler’s Lake, you’ll have to climb up a bit but it’s worth it – all the way to Dingle where you can have lunch.
From there, start on the Slea Head Drive with stops at Cashel Murphy, Dunmore Head, Clogher Strand, and the Gallarus Oratory.
If you have extra time you can add a hike to your day’s itinerary or start on the Ring of Kerry. Otherwise, you can spend the night in Dingle or head back to Tralee.
Day 3 – Ring of Kerry
Probably the most popular road trip in the country, the Ring of Kerry is full of interesting sights and places to visit.
Start your exploration at Kerry Bog Village, a living history museum where you can get a glimpse at what life looked like in a 19th-century Irish village.
Keep driving along the coast and take a detour to see the Cahergall Stone Fort before taking a short ferry ride to Valentia Island where you can see the lighthouse and stop by the Skellig Experience Visitor Center.
You can then have lunch in the charming town of Portmagee before heading to Kerry Cliffs where some spectacular scenery awaits.
In Ballinskelligs, make a stop to tour the ruins of the castle and the abbey. Along the coast, the Derrynane House is a great place to learn more about Irish history while the Staigue Stone Fort offers stunning views over the valley.
End the day in Kenmare, where you can enjoy a stroll around town and maybe a meal.
I recommend spending the night in Kenmare unless you still have about 2 hours of sunlight left so you can enjoy driving through the park to Killarney Town. Take the scenic road through the Gap of Dunloe and spend the night in Killarney. Otherwise, just do this drive the next morning.
Another option is to not linger too much driving around the Dingle Peninsula, so you can do the first part of the Ring of Kerry on day 3, spend the night in Portmagee, and on day 4 visit the famous Skellig Michael (possible from May to September), finish the loop then head to Killarney.
Day 4 – Killarney National Park
Killarney is one of my favorite places in Ireland. Even though it’s pretty crowded, there are tons of things to explore and places to visit where you can find yourself alone. Plan to spend a full day there, driving around, hiking, and visiting the estates.
If the weather is nice, hop on a kayak to explore the lake and find a quiet spot – otherwise, book a boat trip around the lake.
There are also plenty of hikes for all levels from easy strolls to higher intensity trails. As most of the hikes are short (under 2 hours), it’s easy to fit one or two into your schedule.
The Old Kenmare Road hike is one I recommend, it takes around 2 hours and you’ll pass by one of the park’s highlights, Torc Waterfalls.
For stunning views along the lake, check out the Mass Path, going from Derrycunnihy Church to Lord Brandon’s Cottage.
If hiking is not your thing, you’ll enjoy driving around the park and stopping by some of the many viewpoints you’ll find scattered throughout the park. Don’t miss driving through the Gap of Dunloe.
And, of course, you can’t visit Killarney without visiting the iconic Muckross House and Ross Castle.
Depending on when you finish your exploration, you can either spend the night in Killarney or head to the next stop, Kinsale – you can also spend the night in Cork if you prefer.
Day 5 – Kinsale, Cork, and Blarney Castle
On day 5, start your day with a stroll around the charming port town of Kinsale. Known as the gourmet capital of Ireland, the city offers a diverse culinary scene from unpretentious food stalls to a Michelin-stared restaurant. Fishy Fishy, Man Friday, and The Bulman are locals’ favorites.
The town is also filled with cafes offering all sorts of tasty pastries, pies, and cakes.
If you want to learn more about the area’s history, head to the Kinsale Museum housed in the 16th-century Town Hall. A bit outside of town, don’t miss touring Charles Fort.
Once you’re done in Kinsale, head to Blarney Castle to tour the castle and the gardens. And, of course, don’t forget to kiss the Blarney Stone, believed to grant the gift of gab (note that the line to kiss the stone can be loonnnggg). If it’s something you really want to do, I’d advise you to start your day with Blarney then.
Next, head to Cork where you can stroll around the downtown area as well. Some of the best places to visit there include the English Market, the Butter Museum, St Anne Church, University College Cork, and St Fin Barre’s Cathedral. If you’re hungry try the potato pie at the popular Jackie Lennox’s.
Close to Cork, you can learn more about the Titanic at the Cobh Heritage Centre from where the vessel departed and at the Titanic Experience Cobh, which offers experiential exhibits on the Titanic and its sinking.
Spend the night in Cork or somewhere in the countryside closer to Cashel.
Day 6 – Rock of Cashel and Kilkenny
A must-add to your 7-day southern Ireland itinerary, Rock of Cashel is one of the highlights of the Emerald Isle. The castle offers over 1,000 years of history with traces of different time periods. Set on top of a hill, make sure to get to a viewpoint a bit further out for nice views of the castle.
You can take a guided tour inside the castle or visit on your own. If you want to enter the 12th-century Cormac’s Chapel, you’ll need to go on a tour, there’s a set schedule, so make sure to check it out before going there.
Once you’re done with the castle, head to Kilkenny, a beautiful medieval town and a tourists’ hot spot. Even though it’s touristy, the city is a must-visit. Start by the castle then maybe tour the St Mary’s Medieval Mile Museum and Rothe House.
It’s a great town to just stroll around and get lost in small streets. For something fun, take a brewery tour and tasting at Smithwick’s Experience.
You can spend the night in Kilkenny and enjoy a night out at one of the city’s many pubs and bars.
Day 7 – Copper Coast and Beach Hopping
One of the best places to visit in South East Ireland, the Copper Coast is a UNESCO global geopark and features stunning rock formations and beautiful beaches. Start your day with a short hike to Mahon Falls then rent a bike at O’Mahonny’s Pub and cycle the Waterford Greenway along the coast.
You can decide to spend your day there, spending time at some of the beaches you’ll find along the way. Otherwise, continue driving along the Southern coast. You can rent kayaks in Hook Head, hike the Furlongs Road Loop, or visit popular beaches like Curracloe and Ballymoney. If you like bird watching, consider cruising to the Saltee Islands.
Depending on when your flight back is, you can skip this part or just visit the Copper Coast and head to wherever you’re catching your flight back afterward.
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