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The hardest part about visiting Ireland is trying to figure out what you can see if you only have a week. I visit yearly and for such a small island, I have yet to even scratch the surface. And, while a roadtrip around Ireland is something I would suggest one does at least once – navigating some of the “two lane roads” in the middle of a field and a sheep crossing traffic jam are things to experience – for your first time in Ireland, and for this particular guide, we are going to go carless with Dublin and Galway being your two “hubs.”
In Dublin, you will want to look for a hotel around one of these three areas: City Center, Temple Bar, Grafton Street. These areas are going to be home to a good majority of the sites you are going to want to see.
The cons? These will be your more expensive areas. But, as we are going carless and knowing that this is going to be an area where you spend a good amount of your time, it is worth it.
In Galway, you will want to look for a hotel around Eyre Square.
For this itinerary, you are going to fly in and out of Dublin Airport (DUB). If you wanted to adjust the itinerary slightly, you could go in and out of Shannon Airport (SNN), but for this itinerary I am going to go out of DUB.
Between Dublin Airport to Dublin City:
By Taxi: You can catch a taxi from the taxi stand right outside your terminal.
By Bus: When you step outside the terminal, you will see a bus stand. From here you can catch multiple different buses to Dublin City Center. You will buy your ticket directly from the bus stand and they cost less than €10. Between Bus Eireann and Aircoach, you will be able to find a bus leaving to the City Center every 15 minutes or so.
Depending on the bus drop of location (O’Connell Street or Trinity College are regular stops), and your hotel location, once in the city center, you may need to walk or catch a short taxi drive to your hotel.
Between Dublin Airport and Galway:
By Bus: There are again, multiple different buses between the airport and Galway Bus Station. You will buy your ticket from the bus stand and they cost less than €30. This bus drive is a couple of hours.
You will be dropped off at the bus station which is right by Eyre Square. I would walk between the bus station and your hotel.
Again, the weather in Ireland tends to stay pretty mild year round. It does not have extremes (extreme cold temps OR extreme hot temps). The summers can get a little warm, and there can be some colder temps in winter, but overall Ireland is wet and mild year round.
The best thing to pack are layers, a raincoat / a coat that can hold up against the wind, your favorite good walking shoes (even better if they are waterproof), and definitely a camera!
Some miscellaneous items to consider would be a some type of day pack, an umbrella, and reusable grocery bags as markets will charge for plastic bags (if they have them at all).
Here are some links – for her – for some essentials:
DAY 1: ARRIVE IN IRELAND
I am going to start this itinerary in Dublin and end in Galway, but you could very easily reverse it by going to Galway from Dublin Airport.
If you are arriving from the United States, there is a good chance you will arrive in Dublin in the morning. Depending on how early, you may not be able to check into your hotel yet, but you can always unload your bags before heading out to explore.
The afternoon, you will spend meandering through the streets of Dublin until you find a pub that calls you in for your first pint of Guinness (or, I’m a Bulmer’s girl). There will be so many pubs to choose from, but if you are in need of a pub suggestion, some pubs on the southside to check out are Devitts Pub, Flannerys, Stags Head, and Mulligan’s. And, while it isn’t a pub, if the weather is nice – check to see if you are able to get into Fitzsimons Roof Garden in Temple Bar. It is a beautiful spot to spend an afternoon in Dublin when the weather is nice.
DAY 2: EXPLORE DUBLIN
This is your first full day in Ireland. Put on a good pair of walking shoes because you are going to be doing a bit of walking around Dublin.
Start your day at Ha’Penny Bridge. From there, walk over to Temple Bar. Because it will be the morning and the actual pub is closed, you will be able to get some photos of the beautiful Temple Bar area without many people in it. After some photos, you can explore Trinity College, Grafton Street, and St. Stephen’s Green.
By this point, you may need a little coffee break, and if you do, stop by Beanhive by St. Stephen’s Green for a coffee and something yummy from the bakery. Their latte art is also top notch.
After a break, you will head over to St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Check out their website if you want to go inside the cathedral to confirm opening hours and to book tickets.
Next stop on our walking tour is Dublin Castle, followed by another break for a pint and some food at The Brazen Head. The Brazen Head is the oldest pub in Dublin, so worth a stop, however, it is also small and can get crowded so just be prepared for that.
You will end your day back in the Temple Bar area. This is a touristy area and I have to warn that the prices will reflect that. Getting a pint at Temple Bar could be almost double compared to other pubs in Dublin. However, they do have live music daily and if it is your first time in Dublin, I do think you should at least see it. And for dinner, Old Mill Restaurant or Elephant and Castle are both good options in the Temple Bar area.
*Unfortunately, at the time of writing this, the old library at Trinity College is closing for renovations. If you are looking to visit the Book of Kells, visit their website to double check if you are able to visit.
DAY 3: DAY TRIP TO KILKENNY
Kilkenny is a small town south of Dublin and a beautiful day trip. It takes approximately 1 hour & 40 minutes by train and there are multiple trains a day.
To get there, you will take the train from Dublin Heusten Station to Waterford, getting off at Kilkenny (Macdonagh). *Try getting an earlier train so you are in Kilkenny around 9am; this will put you at Kilkenny Castle around opening. Check out the Irish Rail website to confirm timetables.
Our first stop in Kilkenny will be Kilkenny Castle. If you want to go inside, it will cost ~€8, but the gardens and grounds surrounding Kilkenny Castle are all free. Across the street from Kilkenny Castle is the Kilkenny Design Centre which is a good stop if you are looking for some souvenirs.
Next, it is time to take a stroll along Kilkenny’s Medieval Mile Trail. The best place to start is at the Medieval Mile Museum to understand Kilkenny and the medieval mile – then explore all of the beautiful cobblestone streets.
When you are done in Kilkenny, you will take the train back to Dublin for your last evening in Dublin. Depending on the time you get back, if you are looking for a dinner spot, Al Vesuvio in Temple Bar is a delicious Italian spot for dinner, followed by Queen of Tarts for dessert.
DAY 4: HOWTH & TRAIN TO GALWAY
You will be leaving Dublin today … but not after a pit stop North in the cute seaside town of Howth. To make this work, check out of your hotel, but ask the hotel to hold onto your luggage for the morning.
You will then head from Dublin to Howth by bus. Why the bus and not the train? Because the DART train only goes to Howth town, the bus goes all the way up to the Howth Cliffs. It takes ~1 hour from Dublin City to Howth and costs just a few euros for the bus.
Starting at Howth Cliffs, you will hike your way back down to Howth Harbor via the Howth Cliff walk. It is beautiful, so take your time going from Baily Lighthouse to Howth Lighthouse.
Once you are back in Howth, it is time for brunch at Pog Howth before catching either the bus or DART back to Dublin.
Once you are back in Dublin, collect your belongings and make your way to Dublin Heuston Station to catch the train to Galway (Ceannt). The train station in Galway is right at Eyre Square, so you can walk to your hotel if you are in that area.
You will spend the evening in Galway meandering down Quay Street and grabbing a bite to eat at The Front Door Pub.
DAY 5: INIS MOR & CLIFFS OF MOHER
Inis Mor is one of my favorite places in Ireland. It is home to many movies, plus the cliffs of Dun Aonghasa – which are simply beautiful.
You are going to wake up and make your way to the Galway City Docks to the Aran Island Ferries where you will take the Aran Islands and Cliffs of Moher Return Tour. You can purchase your ticket online here which will confirm the time the ferry leaves (usually around 9am).
The ferry is going to bring you Inis Mor – the largest of the 3 Aran Islands – where you will have ~4 hours to explore; the highlight of the day being Dun Aonghasa.
When you get off the ferry at Inis Mor, you will see the options to rent a bike, book a small tourist bus, or book a horse drawn carriage. As you only have 4 hours and will want at least 1-1.5 hours at Dun Aonghasa, I would do the bus or carriage. The carriage is a fun way to get around the island, and you will have great conversations with your driver but the bus is cheaper. And do note – they will group you with other people depending on how many people are in your party. It is typically the luck of the draw depending on how many people are on the tour.
After ~4 hours on Inis Mor, you will get back on the ferry which will take you to view the Cliffs of Moher from the water. This is a viewing stop only as the ferry slowly passes by the cliffs.
The ferry gets back to the Galway docks around 6:00pm. For dinner, and potentially to kick off a night out, I would go to O’Connell’s Bar right off of Eyre Square. They have a Dough Bros Pizza in the back with an outdoor bar. Great atmosphere.
If you are looking for something more than pizza, The Skeff Bar is also right off Eyre Square, but can get busy. If you are looking for a nice night out, go to Brasserie Galway, but I would make reservations here beforehand.
*Please note: This day will only give you the Cliffs of Moher for ~15 minutes from the water. If you want to spend more time at the Cliffs of Moher, OR if there is some weather, as the ferry is weather dependent, then you can do just the Cliffs of Moher.
Take the bus from Galway Center to Cliffs of Moher visitor center. The bus route is currently Route 350 and you can find the timetables on the Bus Eireann website.
DAY 6: RELAX IN GALWAY
This is your last full day in Ireland, and it has been pretty go-go-go up to this point, so for your last day, take it easy.
Galway has good nightlife, but pairs it with a quiet city during the day. So don’t make any real set plans for today and just see where the day takes you.
At the end of your day, you should feel relaxed and revived after the on-the-go schedule you had. You will also be ready to go for another few days around Ireland and definitely not ready to leave tomorrow!
DAY 7: BACK TO DUBLIN AIRPORT
This is the saddest day of the week – the day we pack up and head back to the airport.
You will be catching the Citylink bus from Galway Coach Station to Dublin Airport. This will take ~2.5 hours. In addition, you will want 3+ hours for international flights in case you need to clear customs in Dublin, so you will want to plan accordingly. That said, there are over 25 buses a day, so you should be able to find one that works well for your flights.
And depending on the time of day you leave Galway, you may have time to stop by one of my recommended coffee shops in Galway before you leave – just for one last little taste of Ireland for the road!
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