Ireland

The ultimate Ireland itinerary – how to make the most of 7 days in Ireland

What could be better than 7 days in Ireland? That’s 7 days to explore the Irish Republic’s stunning natural landscapes, evocative castles, thriving cities and quaint fishing villages. Thanks to its relatively small size and excellent transport links one week in Ireland is ample time to uncover this country’s extraordinary cultural contributions, down a couple of pints of the black stuff, and maybe search for that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow… Mr Hudson’s ultimate Ireland itinerary will guide you effortlessly through what to see in Ireland in 7 days.

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Photo: Thomas Kelley

LGBT+ life in Ireland

Few countries have made such enormous strides in social justice as Ireland. It has swung from deep-seated conservatism based on all-powerful Roman Catholic teachings to a nation that overwhelmingly voted to legalise gay marriage before electing an openly-gay Taoiseach (Prime Minister). Welcoming to all people, LGBT+ visitors to Ireland will experience nothing but smiles and warm welcomes wherever you go.

Photo: Camila Waz

Photo: Toa Heftiba

Top tips for your 7 day Ireland itinerary

There’s a reason Ireland is so green – the country is prone to rain. But don’t let this put you off the possibilities of trips to Ireland. Instead, grab a raincoat and enjoy the constantly shifting weather. After all, no one heads to Ireland for a beach break!

If you want to avoid driving (and sometimes narrow one-lane roads), Ireland’s rail and bus network is pretty comprehensive, while there are also a good number of tour operators that include transport.

However, nothing beats the independence of the open road. Hire cars can be picked up at the international airports or brought across the Irish Sea from Great Britain. You’ll find Irish drivers much more patient than counterparts in the UK too. If using a satnav, be aware that postcodes (zip codes) are pretty new to Ireland, meaning your best bet is to input the attraction name or street name instead, especially if heading into the countryside.

Photo: Gregory Dalleau

The ultimate Ireland itinerary

Our one week in Ireland itinerary assumes you’ll be flying into Dublin airport, an easy hour and a half’s drive from Kilkenny. If you’re flying into Shannon Airport in County Clare near Limerick, simply begin your tour on day 4 of our looping itinerary.

Day 1 - Kilkenny

The star of Kilkenny is its impressive Norman castle on the River Nore, which was home to the aristocratic Butler family from the twelfth century right up to 1967 when it was sold to the people of Kilkenny for a ceremonial price of £50. Be sure to also save some time for the even older Round Tower at St Canice’s Cathedral, and its spectacular views over the area. If you’re in need of sustenance, try Kytlers Inn, the town’s oldest pub, or visit the Smithwicks Ale Experience to get to grips with Ireland’s ale obsession.

Photo: Florian Giorgio

Day 2 - The road to Cork

Make your first stop today County Tipperary’s Rock of Cashel, a partially-ruined hilltop religious complex profoundly linked with the country’s history. It’s here that, according to legend, Aenghus the ancient King of Munster was converted to Christianity by none-other than St Patrick, the country’s patron saint. Whatever the truth, you’ll find some of the finest medieval architecture in Ireland.

Continue on to Blarney Castle, known for the Blarney Stone. This slab of limestone built into the tower’s parapet is said to give eloquence to all those who kiss it, which perhaps explains the necessity to bend over backwards and hang on for dear life to do so. Cork, your stop for the night is just five miles further down the road.

Day 3 - Cork

Stroll through the pleasant streets of Ireland’s second-biggest city first thing, stopping off at Crawford Art Gallery, a bastion of contemporary Irish artworks. Come lunchtime head for a sumptuous lunch at the café on the mezzanine floor of the beautiful eighteenth-century covered English Market – a perfect break whatever the weather.

In the afternoon, take the lovely 30-minute drive to the coast at Cobh. This picturesque town was the last port of call for six million Irish citizens seeking a new life aboard, as well as the final stop for the Titanic’s ill-fated maiden voyage, as told at Cobh Heritage Centre.

Photo: Kristel Hayes

Day 4 - County Clare

Day 4 sees you explore Ireland’s wild Atlantic coast. The motorway network may be the quickest way to reach County Clare from Cork – a journey of around two and a half hours – but we’d seriously recommend making the most of the incredible landscapes hereabouts by taking the slow roads north towards the Burren and Cliffs of Moher UNESCO Global Geopark. Burren’s dramatic karst landscape is dotted with caves. If you’ve time for only one, make it Doolin Cave, home to one of the world’s largest stalactites. Then continue to Moher’s sheer shale cliffs – the tallest in Europe at 200 metres high. Find yourself a cosy countryside bed and breakfast, or overnight in Galway and hit the ground running tomorrow morning.

Photo: Thomas Tucker

Ireland

Photo: Daniel Jensen

Day 5 - Galway and Connemara National Park

From the beautifully-stocked stores and authentic bars of leafy Eyre Square, you can do much worse than stroll amid Galway’s colourful historic streets. They’re dotted with pavement cafes, independent galleries, and a fair dose of history too – from Medieval walls to the Spanish Arch.

Before you turn eastward towards Dublin, head pretty much as far west as it’s possible to get in Europe, to Connemara National Park, a 2000-hectare wonderland of mountains, isolated heath and forest that just demands a few hours of your time with a good pair of walking boots.

Connemara National Park | Photo: Romacdesigns

Days 6 and 7 - Dublin

You’ll find Dublin a mere 2.5 hours along the motorway from Galway despite it being on the opposite side of the country. There’s really no time to lose in your Ireland trip plan, given the Irish capital’s wealth of attractions. Dublin Castle’s State Rooms are a must for anyone besotted by glamourous interiors, while the Guinness Storehouse Brewery Tour provides a behind the scene’s look (and taste) into Ireland’s most famous export. Above all, be sure to leave plenty of time for ‘craic’ (pronounced ‘crack’) – that enjoyable and charismatic conversation that makes Dublin such a phenomenal destination, as our dedicated Dublin Travel Guide explains.

Photo: Gelmis Bartulis

Photo: Dimitry Anikin

Planning a trip to Ireland

An Ireland itinerary 7 days long is the perfect amount of time to visit Ireland’s top attractions without feeling like you’re dashing from place to place. You could organise the whole trip yourself, or you could do the eminently sensible thing of handing over all that hard work to one of the Ireland trip planners at Mr Hudson’s Trip Design service. They will use their expertise to create an Ireland trip to your exacting specifications!

Photo: Trevor Cole

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