Roadtrippin’ Through Ireland
We’re talking all about Ireland today, one of our FAV countries where we spent a good two weeks exploring around all the cute little towns and countryside. There are plenty of transportation options for getting around the country, but having a rental car will allowed you to really do your own exploring and pop into the teeny-tiniest villages, visit ruins off the side of the road, and pop into shops as you please.
So we’re gonna to go through the stops we made on our Ireland Road-trip, some of the things we loved and why YOU should go there, too!
First Stop: Killarney
Killarney is a wonderful place to begin your road trip. The town itself sits on the West side of Ireland and it fairly small. The downtown area you can certainly walk through and don’t need a car to see the entire town.
If you do a few other stops before that like Dublin, Waterford, or Cork, you can pretty easily reach these towns by local busses and they are also very walkable where you don’t necessarily need a car to explore the area.
The region itself, in County Kerry, is beautifully wild with plenty of exploring to do. Here are a few of our favorite areas in Killarney to visit on a road-trip through Ireland.
The Ring of kerry
Having a car here allows you to explore the surrounding areas like Killarney National Park and the wonderfully scenic Ring of Kerry. The Ring of Kerry is essentially a giant loop throughout County Kerry with several well-known stops along the way. Some of the better known stops are the Skellig Rocks, visiting the adorably colorful town of Kenmare, the rugged coastline of Derrynane Beach, and the town of Ballinskelligs has cliffs which are aptly named, “Kerry’s Most Spectacular Cliffs” which only cost about 3 euro to go walk along and are much, much less crowded than the ever-popular Cliffs of Moher.
The Ring of Kerry can be done several ways and we saw plenty of giant tour busses doing the drive. However, doing it that way only allows you to make a few very specific stops, and you’re on a time schedule as well as there is an entire group of people on a time constraint.
If you do some research ahead of time, you’ll find many recommendations that you should do the Ring of Kerry in a counter-clockwise direction, AND plenty of recommendations to do the Ring of Kerry clockwise. Why the discrepancy? Well, the giant tour busses do their tours going counter-clockwise and therefore, if you go the opposite way, you won’t be stuck behind these guys and have bus-loads of tourists getting off at the same exact stops as you, every time.
Here’s our thought — grab your rental car and just leave before all the tour busses do, OR if you’re not an early-bird, leave AFTER those tour busses get going, and then you won’t have to deal with any of that nonsense; you can go counter-clockwise, or clockwise..kinda like choose your own adventure.
Having a rental car was a great way to do this drive; we were able to stop in little towns along the way, make pit-stops along the ocean, and stay as long as we wanted in each of these places.
The gap of dunloe
The Gap of Dunloe, a 7-ish miles round-trip hike through Killarney National Park is another must-do while in the area. There are a few ways to make your way through: biking, horse-drawn carriage (they call it a Pony and a Trap and it holds 4 people), or plain ol’ hiking. We chose to hike it and had the opportunity to take our time, we stopped and climbed up a rock to have some lunch, and the walk through was not too strenuous — paved all the way through and a tad bit of uphill here and there.
Depending on where you begin the Gap of Dunloe and how you want to do it, there are two options. Here’s a breakdown of the different routes:
Kate Kearney’s Cottage to Lord Brandon’s Cottage to Ross Castle
Getting to Kate Kearney’s Cottage:
Taxi from town of Killarney, about 15 minutes.
Take the Killarney Shuttle Bus for a couple Euros. You can find their information here: Killarney Shuttle Bus
Beginning at Kate Kearney’s Cottage will allow you to rent a horse carriage to take you through the Gap of Dunloe. The horsemen will be here, if you don’t book this ahead of time, having some cash on ya will help you book one of these on the spot. They have a pretty steady flow of horses and carriages going back and forth from each direction, so you shouldn’t have much trouble going this route.
Lord Brandon’s Cottage overlooks the lakes. Here, you’ll find bathrooms and a small restaurant. You can also hire a boat here and get across the lakes to Ross Castle. Ross Castle is closest to the town of Killarney, and is about a half an hour walk back into town.
If you don’t want to walk:
After you arrive at Ross Castle, there are busses that run back into town. The Killarney Shuttle Bus picks up at Ross Castle, in the parking lot, and costs 2 Euros per person for the ride back to town.
Ross Castle to Kate Kearney’s Cottage
Getting to Ross Castle:
Walk from the town of Killarney, about 30 minutes.
Take the Killarney Shuttle Bus, departs from Killarney Tourist office. You can find the timetables/schedule here: Killarney Shuttle Bus Schedule
You will need to make a reservation for someone to take you across the lakes on a boat. The boats leave from Ross Castle, and arrive at Lord Brandon’s Cottage where you can begin your hike through the Gap of Dunloe in the opposite direction as the above option.
To make a reservation for a boat, there are a few companies. The one I’ll give you here, you can book your bus and boat together. To make reservations, check out: Gap of Dunloe Traditional Boat Tours
Second Stop: Galway
While Galway can certainly be explored on foot, the surrounding countryside is full of rolling hills, lakes, and picturesque towns. We loved having a rental car in this area as we were able to go outside the City of Galway and rent an AirBnB that was in the middle of a massive meadow, wayyyy down a teeny-tiny road that wound through lakes and fields full of frolicking sheep. If you’re up for some country drives, driving the little Irish roads around here and making stops in towns like Oughterard where the John Wayne movie, The Quiet Man was filmed.
The Cliffs of Moher
Likely the most popular stop in this area besides the city of Galway are the Cliffs of Moher. Although the Cliffs are in County Clare, there are a pretty quick stop on the way to Galway, or an easy day trip from city of Galway. Again, there are multiple ways to do the Cliffs of Moher, there are plenty of tours that go out there, but you don’t usually get that much time out there to walk around and hangout. We loved having a car as we made some stops along the drive and took our sweet time to walk along the trails on the edge of the Cliffs, of which there are just over 11 miles. It was wonderful to not be on a time constraint and have plenty of time to take photos as just sit on the edge and spend some time relaxing.
COnnemara National Park + Kylemore abbey
Another good stop in County Galway is Connemara National Park, where again, there are loads of hiking trails to do, and stops along the way. Also on the way out to Connemara National Park is Kylemore Abbey, a massive Gothic Abbey with Victorian Gardens. Here you can tour the inside of the Abbey, which is decked out in Victorian style as well as free tours of the gardens.
We always say that a rental car is essential for exploring these little areas, and we will absolutely be renting a car on our next trip there. While it is fairly easy to get around to each of the bigger cities like Dublin, Galway, and Belfast, picking up a car in these cities to do some exploring of the surrounding areas allows you to visit those places not every single tourist goes to, and it gives you the flexibility and time to adventure on your own schedule.
If you’re planning a road trip around Ireland and have a solid amount of time to explore, considering adding some of these stops as well!
what stops would you add on your Ireland road-trip?! Let us know in the comments below!
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