Ireland was always one of those European vacations that I thought “I’ll get to it eventually.” It didn’t feel like a big priority, because it is a destination that is easily accessible and navigable at any age or lifestyle. But when the opportunity to visit Ireland presented itself in 2022, I jumped on it! And wow am I happy I did, because Ireland turned out to be one of those rare places that truly surprised me. I really loved my 7 day trip in Ireland!

Since my first visit to Ireland in 2022, I have returned 5 more times as a trip leader and tour guide. I am here to share all my insider tips with you in this 7 day itinerary for Ireland.

There is so much to love about the Emerald Isle! In the Irish language, there is a common greeting which says Cead Mile Failte. It translates as ‘a hundred thousand welcomes,’ which I find to be a rather fitting phrase for Ireland.

You will feel welcome and invited from the second you arrive because Irish people are incredibly friendly and hospitable! Rolling green hills, lively young cities, a loveable pub culture, and jaw-dropping scenery are just a few of things you’ll love about Ireland. Ireland is really a place that has a hundred thousand reasons to visit. 

How to See The Best of Ireland in One Week

Overview of this One Week Ireland Itinerary

I understand that planning your one week Ireland itinerary can be a bit daunting when there are so many beautiful places to visit. Thankfully as a relatively small island, Ireland can easily be explored in one week. With that said, I don’t like to overfill my trips because it makes the vacation feel rushed and frantic.

Although you could see all four corners of the island in one week, this 7-day Ireland itinerary is designed to explore the north and west of the island. This structure will give you a taste of Ireland in the hopes that you’ll be inspired to return. This is the actual itinerary I used for my own visit, and I plan to return for another week when I can visit the south and more rural areas.

Self-Drive Option

I personally think a self-driving road trip is the best and easiest way to enjoy the natural scenery of Ireland. It gives you a ton of freedom and you can really immerse yourself in the beautiful Irish countryside. However, rental cars in Ireland are surprisingly expensive and I respect that this option isn’t feasible for everyone. Plus for North American travelers, I can understand if you’re a little nervous about driving on a different side of the road. I have organized this itinerary to use a rental car for days 3 & 4 in the rural areas, because you really don't need a rental car for the entire one week.

Public Transit Option

Thankfully you don't have self-drive in order to enjoy Ireland. There is a great intercity transit network with buses and trains connecting most of the major cities. On my first trip, I didn't use a rental car at all and it worked out just fine.

  • Trains: The national train company is called Iarnród Éireann (Irish Rail) and you can book tickets for major routes in advance. We rode the train from Dublin to Galway and it worked very well.
  • Airport Transit: For buses to and from the DUB airport, check out AirCoach which has service from Dublin, Galway, Belfast and more.
  • Local Transit: Typically the local buses make a lot of stops and there aren’t necessarily toilets on board, so it can be a little bit slower and less comfortable, but it is an easy way to get to more remote areas.
  • Day Trip Operators: There are lots of day trip tour operators available on Get Your Guide or Viator which include transportation for seeing more remote areas like the Cliffs of Moher and the Burren.

Comprehensive 7 Day Ireland Itinerary

Day 1 & 2​: Dublin

Nearly any visit to Ireland will start in the country’s capital city of Dublin. It has the largest airport in the country, serving as a hub for Aer Lingus and RyanAir. Cheap flights to DUB pop up frequently. Dublin has an excitement and energy about it that is difficult to describe but easy to feel. From interesting modern and classic architecture to delicious cuisine, there is so much to see and do in Dublin.

To avoid making this post too long, I have written separate posts to help you organize your 2 day stay in Dublin:

For a city of its size, I was so impressed by the friendly locals and easy to navigate infrastructure. And let us not forget all of the classic pubs. I would recommend dedicating 2 full days to exploring the city, although you could probably rush and hit the major highlights in one day if you wanted to.

Where to Stay in Dublin

Upscale Option: my first hotel recommendation would be the stylishly designed Alex Hotel. This boutique hotel offers upscale dining at the Carriage Restaurant, and thoughtful in-room touches. The central location is perfect, just north of Merrion Square Park on a quiet street.

Mid-Range Option: Although it is located a little further outside the city center, Schoolhouse is another great hotel choice in Dublin. This building was historically a school house (hence the name) that was renovated in the early 2000s into a hotel. The staff is incredibly friendly, and each room is themed around a famous Irish person.

Affordable Option: It Offering a more affordable price point near Trinity College, Wren Urban Nest is a nice choice. I really like that this hotel takes a sustainable approach to hospitality with carbon free energy and a low waste ethos.

Day 3: County Clare & the Burren

After a few days enjoying Dublin, it is time to start your way out the west of Ireland where you can really appreciate the natural wonder of this country. If you're doing the self-drive option, then you'll pick up the rental car in Dublin and head west. If you're doing the transit option, there is a direct train connecting Dublin and Galway and you'll use Galway as your home base for the remainder of the trip.

Driving west, stop in the cute town of Athlone for lunch and a pint. At the heart of Athlone lies Athlone Castle, a magnificent 12th-century fortress that stands as a testament to the town's medieval past. Go for a walk along the scenic riverbank promenade. Pop into Sean’s Pub which is the oldest operating pub in all of Ireland, dating back to the 900s! You can practically smell the history here.

The main attraction for today is the Burren. This isn’t on every “highlights of Ireland” list out there, but I really think it should be. The Burren is a mesmerizing and unique geologic region that covers approximately 100 square miles. This karst landscape is renowned for its vast stretches of limestone pavement, intricate rock formations, and a remarkable variety of flora and fauna.

The Burren's geologic history dates back millions of years, when this area was a shallow sea. Over time, the layers were uplifted, eroded, and shaped by glaciation, resulting in the unique and captivating landscape seen today. Humans settlement began during the Stone Age, and you can even visit archaeological sites, including dolmens, ring forts, and ancient tombs.

Things to See & Do in the Burren

  • Guided Hike: Hiking in the Burren offers a chance to immerse oneself in its enchanting beauty. I can strongly recommend a guided tour with Tony Kirby. He is a fascinating local character who leads private walks through the Burren, complete with fun facts, geologic tidbits and poetry. It is a lovely experience!
  • Sheepdog Herding Demonstration: Visit a working sheepdog kennel at Caherconnell Fort, where you can see how the Border Collie dogs listen to whistle and voice commands as they herd actual sheep. Check my experience at this kennel on my Instagram Reel about it!
  • Aillwee Cave Complex: Because the karst rocks in the Burren are dissolvable, there is a massive network of caves beneath this region. Discovered in the 1940s, Aillwee cave offers a fascinating journey through its underground wonders, including stunning stalactites and stalagmites, vast caverns, and a dramatic waterfall.
  • Poulnabrone Dolmen: one of Ireland's most iconic and ancient megalithic monuments. This impressive portal tomb, dating back to the Neolithic period around 4200 BC to 2900 BC, consists of a massive capstone supported by slender upright stones, creating a striking silhouette

Where to Stay in the Burren

I would recommend staying two nights in the Burren, so day 3 and 4 of this itinerary, which will shorten the drive to the Cliffs of Moher. You can drive there and back from Galway as well, but it will add several hours to your daily driving.

Upscale: Stay in an 18th century manor house at Gregans Castle Hotel. This luxury, eco retreat is nestled in the heart of the Burren with lovingly-tended gardens and beautiful views on the Wild Atlantic Way.

Mid-Range: Located in the charming village of Doolin in County Clare, Fiddle + Bow Hotel offers a boutique accommodation experience with exceptional hospitality. Known for its stylish, modern design, the hotel provides guests with comfortable rooms and locally inspired dining options. 

Day 4: Cliffs of Moher

On this one week journey around Ireland, of course you need to make a stop at one of the country’s most famous natural wonders – The Cliffs of Moher. These cliffs have captured the imagination of many renowned writers, poets, and artists throughout history. Their striking beauty has been featured in movies such as "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince", which I learned at the Harry Potter Studio Tour in London.

The cliffs are easily accessible by road, located approximately 40 miles (70 kilometers) southwest of Galway. There are ample parking facilities available, although you will need to pay for a ticket at the parking lot entrance. The average visit to the cliffs is about 1 hour, but you could make an entire day of it but hiking the 5 mile stretch.

A visit to the Cliffs of Moher is an unforgettable experience that immerses you in the raw beauty and historical significance of Ireland's coastline. I have a separate blog post all about planning a visit to the Cliffs of Moher, which covers all the practical details about this natural wonder. Whether you're marveling at the breathtaking views, exploring the visitor center, or walking along the well-maintained trails, the Cliffs of Moher offer a profound connection with nature.

Day 5: Galway

Galway, often referred to as Ireland's cultural heart, is a vibrant and charming city that effortlessly blends history, culture, and the sea. There is a nice vibe to Galway that you'll feel right away. The historic old town is lined with colorful building facades, each holding a cute shop, lively pub or delightful restaurant. Meandering along the canals and Corrib River is peaceful, especially as you make your way out towards the harbor and coastline.

I found the restaurant scene in Galway to be especially impressive, given its small size. There is a dedication to local ingredients and seasonal food, prepared with care and intention. I enjoyed it so much that I wrote a separate restaurant and food guide to Galway!

Where to Stay in Galway

The best little place to stay in Galway is The Stop. Run by a pair of Millennials, this B&B is a cozy, minimalist place full of charm and personality. The breakfast is delightful! A close second would be Hyde Hotel. Located closer to the city center, I find the staff are SUPER friendly here and the breakfast is amazing. The rooms are rather spacious too.

Day 6: Day Trip to Aran Islands

My favorite day from our one week trip in Ireland was the day we spent on the Aran Islands. Characterized by craggy gray limestone, low profile stone houses, happy sheep, and windswept hills, there is an understated beauty to the Aran Islands.

The Aran Islands are hard to describe, but it is well worth the surprise you will feel when you visit. I am kind of obsessed with these little islands. You can get a sense why I loved it on my Instagram Reel highlighting our day trip to the Aran Islands.

Departing from the Galway City Docks twice per day, there are multiple ferry routes with stops on the Aran islands. There are three islands in the chain– Inis Mór, Inis Meáin, and Inis Oírr. You can book ferry tickets ahead of time online, which will show you the various routes the ferry company offers. We visited the largest island, Inis Mór, along with a stop at the Cliffs of Moher in the late afternoon. The tickets costs 45 euros per person, and it went from 9:30 to 18:00 (basically a full day trip).

When we arrived on Inis Mor, we rented electric bikes near the docks. This was the BEST idea we had all day. The e-bikes make it easy to cover a lot of ground in a short time. The terrain is little hilly, so the e-bikes help manage the hills with the pedal assist. In about 4 hours, we were able to bike around a good portion of the island. We didn’t have much of an agenda besides enjoying the lovely scenery and snapping pretty photos along the way! 

The Aran islands are sparsely inhabited with only about 1,500 residents across the three islands. This population obviously balloons in the summer with tourism, so it is important to spend your money at locally owned businesses to support the community. The Aran islands are famous for their wool sweaters and blankets, many of which you can buy at cute boutiques in the heart of town.

Day 7: Departure

As your vacation in Ireland comes to an end, it is time to head back to Dublin. If you are going directly to the airport (as we did), there are buses from the Galway Bus Terminal directly to DUB Airport. Check out AirCoach for tickets and timetable. The buses run every two hours, and the journey takes about three hours. If you are spending one more day in Dublin, the train is probably a better option because it is a little bit faster. 

Alternatively, if you are looking to extend your time in Ireland, head north or south!

From Galway you can access the wild terrains of Killarney National Park which sits about 3 hours south. We didn’t get a chance to make it there on our trip, but I heard absolutely wonderful things about the scenery in this area. Limerick is a good jumping off point for accessing it, and you can get buses there from Galway.

Bonus Day: Northern Ireland

Now look, I understand that Northern Ireland (also called the north of Ireland) is a separate country than the republic of Ireland. That’s exactly why I recommend visiting it as a bonus stop on this 1 week itinerary. It provides a fascinating and important contrast that is intricately connected to the modern cultural and political landscape of Ireland.

Whether you're a history enthusiast, a nature lover, or a movie buff, Northern Ireland has something special in store for you. From the legendary Giant's Causeway to the vibrant streets of Belfast, immerse yourself in the unique blend of ancient tales and modern charm.

Do you have any questions? Comment below and I can help!

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  1. Hi! Planning a trip to Ireland for our honeymoon in July, and we would love to talk more!! ALl of your trips above have been extremely helpful. Hoping to get a better idea of using public transportation to get to the cities you mentioned.

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