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 this spring, 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 week in Ireland! 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. 

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.

How to See The Best of Ireland in One Week

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 are actually one of the reasons why I met friends here this spring -- they were able to find roundtrip flights from the US for under $500!

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

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. 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.

Day 3: Central Ireland & County Clare

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. There is a direct train connecting Dublin and Galway, but I would recommend renting a car. It will give you a lot more flexibility to explore the more remote and rural areas of the country where the real charm and beauty are located. 

On your drive west, stop in the cute town of Athlone for lunch and a pint! Athlone is located along the banks of the River Shannon. 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, which draws locals and visitors alike to enjoy the tranquil surroundings. Finally, 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 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.  The area has been shaped and influenced by successive waves of inhabitants, including early farmers, medieval monks, and more recent communities. 

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! End your day in the Burren with a sheep dog demonstration at Caher Connell. You can see how the dogs listen to whistle and voice commands as they herd actual sheep. Check my experience at this kennel on my Instagram Reel about it!

Day 4: Galway

Continuing your journey west, the next stop on this one week Ireland itinerary is the charming city of Galway. Easily accessible by train or bus from Dublin or Belfast, Galway is one of those places where there isn’t necessarily ‘must-see attractions’ or ‘things to do’. It is a simple destination where you can disconnect through the experience and simply enjoy. Whenever I told people we were visiting Galway, the response always seemed to be “oh, you’ll love it. It’s so nice there.” No other information was provided, and I simply trusted the process. 

I don’t have a whole lot of specific travel advice about what to do or see in Galway. My advice is simply to go and wander around. Like everyone told me, you’ll enjoy it! The historic old town is lined with colorful building facades, each holding a cute shop, lively pub or delightful restaurant. There is a nice vibe to the city that you'll feel right away. As you chat with the extremely friendly locals, you’ll start to feel the dynamics that characterize the Galway spirit– and maybe you'll come to understand why Ed Sheeran dedicated songs to the people here.

I found the restaurant scene in Galway to be especially impressive. 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! The ocean fresh air is abundant in Galway, so after eating a delicious meal, I definitely recommend getting some time outside. Meandering along the canals and Corrib River is peaceful, especially as you make your way out towards the harbor and coastline. Watching the tide roll in and out on Nimmos Pier or taking in a sunset along the shores of Salthill are both lovely. There is a subtleness and peacefulness to Galway that makes it enjoyable.

Day 5: Day Trip to Aran Islands

My favorite day from our one week vacation 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.

On the ride back to Galway from Inis Mór, our ferry stopped for about 30 minutes at the Cliffs of Moher. This is a great preview for tomorrow's activity on this itinerary. I actually liked getting to see this natural wonder from the water. It was a totally different and more unique perspective to appreciate their size and drama. These famous cliffs drop over 700 feet abruptly into the ocean, making for a breathtaking view.

Day 6: 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, among with tourists and travelers such as myself. Their striking beauty has inspired numerous works of literature and art, and have been featured in movies such as "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince", which I learned at the Harry Potter Studio Tour in London.

From a geological perspective, the Cliffs of Moher are composed primarily of layers of sandstone and shale, displaying stunning natural striations and hues. Stretching along the Atlantic Ocean for about 5 miles (8 kilometers) and reaching heights up to 700 feet (214 meters) (702 feet), the Cliffs of Moher offer breathtaking panoramic views. The cliffs were shaped by the relentless forces of nature, sculpted over millions of years by the ceaseless pounding of the ocean waves and the powerful currents.

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. Toilets and amenities are conveniently located within the visitor center complex, but nowhere else along the trail. There is also a restaurant and gift shop there.

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. It is totally worth it! The views change as you go along the path, and it will take about half a day. Hiking along the cliff edges is a popular activity, and there are designated pathways and trails that provide safe access to different vantage points. It's important to follow the marked paths and adhere to safety guidelines, as the cliffs can be steep and unstable in certain areas. Peopl have died from taking selfies and slipping, so please exhibit caution.I recommend wearing sturdy shoes or hiking boots even. 

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. 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 and a glimpse into the ancient forces that have shaped our world.

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 south! You can easily spend more time at the Cliffs of Moher, which are a short trip from Galway. Also 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.

How to Get Around in Ireland

There are many visitors who prefer to rent a car for a one week trip to Ireland. I can totally respect and understand that decision – it gives you a ton of freedom and you can really immerse yourself in the beautiful Irish countryside. However, rental cars in 2022 are super expensive and this option isn’t feasible for everyone (such as myself). Plus for North American travelers, I can understand if you’re a little nervous about driving on a different side of the road. 

Thankfully, Ireland has a great intercity transit network. There are buses and trains that connect most of the major cities with frequent service 7 days a week. For buses to and from the airport, including from outside of Dublin, check out AirCoach which conveniently drops off directly at DUB. 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. 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.

Where to Eat in Ireland

I have to admit, my expectations for the cuisine and food in Ireland weren't super high. I figured it would be a lot of pub food, like fish & chips or shepard's pie. Of course, there is a lot of that. But I was really surprised by how much other food there was too! Ireland has a strong committment to local product and farm-to-table cuisine, so there are some really great options actually. I wrote up restaurant guides for Dublin and Galway including a full range of high-quality suggestions.

Where to Stay in Ireland

For your time in Dublin, my first 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. My second recommendation would be Wren Urban Nest. It offers a more affordable price point near Trinity College. I really like that this hotel takes a sustainable approach to hospitality with carbon free energy and a low waste ethos. 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! 

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

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