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The Perfect Ireland Road Trip Itinerary (10 Days)

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I witnessed the most epic sunset ever during my visit to Slieve League near Donegal Ireland

In this post I’m going to outline the perfect 10 day Ireland road trip itinerary that will hit all the biggest attractions while completing a near perfect circle around the entire island.

While Dublin is good fun, the best that Ireland has to offer resides outside of the capital city. In my opinion the Emerald Isle is meant to be explored via road trip, with lots of stops along the bountiful Wild Atlantic Way coastal route.

After planning and completing this epic road trip itinerary for myself, I can personally attest to this being a bucket list worthy adventure.

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If you follow this itinerary to the dot, you’ll be in for a busy 10 days of adventure. If you have the time and vacation days, I’d suggest tacking on a few days to either slow it down bit, or to add on a few stops not covered in this guide.

Ireland is extremely dense with beautiful coastal towns, epic ocean cliffs, ancient castles and vibrant cities just waiting to be explored. You can’t see it all in 10 days but this route will get you pretty darn close!

Jump into the day by day itinerary

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Most travelers will begin their journey across Ireland in the capital city of Dublin. If you're coming from the United States, you'll typically arrive bright and early via a red eye flight.

Once you grab your rental car, this itinerary will take you north towards the Bushmills area of Northern Ireland.

I'd suggest spending your time in Dublin at the back end of your trip, but if you're not keen on driving after your red eye flight you could consider spending a night here on the front end.

The Dark Hedges, IrelandPin

Views of the centuries old beech trees that make up the Dark Hedges

 

If you're a Game of Thrones fan, consider making a pit stop at the Dark Hedges to stretch your legs. This isn't a can't miss stop, but it is along the way and makes for a great place to get out and stretch your legs.

Your goal for day one is first to get checked into your hotel. I stayed at a really nice bed and breakfast in Portstewart called the Cul-Erg House & Kitchen but there are plenty of options to consider in Bushmills as well.

After settling in, you'll want to time up a visit with the Giant's Causeway around sunset.

Drone shot of Giant's Causeway from CliffsPin

Overlooking the Giant's Causeway from the surrounding cliffs is bucket list worthy

 

I arrived about two hours before sunset which gave me plenty of time to explore the hiking trails that track the cliffs above the Giant's Causeway itself.

You'll have the most amazing views looking out over the ocean during this time, and you'll also avoid the crowds. The tour buses that bring large numbers of tourists to this area will have already left for the day resulting in a much better experience.

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Views of the basalt columns at the Giant's Causeway during sunset

 

Be sure to make your way out onto the basalt columns that make up the Giant's Causeway itself, and spend some time here soaking up the first of several epic Ireland sunsets that you'll enjoy on this trip.

Be sure to check out my Giant's Causeway highlight video on YouTube as well!

 

Get an early start to your second day and head over to the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge for a short hike.

Here you'll enjoy coastal views while you complete the 1.6 mile (2.6 km) roundtrip journey out to the rope bridge which is suspended 100 feet (30 meters) above the sea.

Visitors crossing the rope bridge to Carrick a RedePin

Crossing the rope bridge is a fun and memorable experience you should definitely try during your trip!

 

The grassy area you'll find after crossing the bridge makes for the perfect spot to sit down, relax and enjoy a snack before heading back.

For more information, be sure to check out my YouTube video covering Carrick-a-Rede.

 

 

If you have time after Carrick-a-Rede, consider swinging by Dunluce Castle. The castle was originally constructed in 1500 and today visitors can explore the ruins that are perched high atop the coasts of County Antrim.

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Aerial photograph of Dunluce Castle along the Causeway Coastal Route

 

After hitting up Dunluce Castle you'll have a two hour drive west to Donegal. You'll want to check in to your hotel now, since our final activity of the day will have you out past sunset.

I can recommend the Gateway Lodge in Donegal, which is where I stayed. They also had a great restaurant, just be mindful that it closes fairly early which isn't uncommon throughout Ireland I found.

From Donegal you'll want to head west. Our final destination for the day will be the Slieve League sea cliffs, but we'll make a quick pit stop to enjoy the Assaranca Waterfall on our way.

Man posing in front of the Assaranca Waterfall in Donegal IrelandPin

If you visit late in the day there's a chance you'll have the area all to yourself!

 

The waterfall is located about 40 minutes west of Donegal. The drive is quite scenic, just be prepared to navigate a lot of tight roads along the way.

After taking in the views here and stretching your legs, your next stop will be Slieve League. Remember that the goal is to arrive here around sunset for the best experience!

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The viewing platform is perfectly positioned for enjoying views of the cliff faces

 

Be sure to check out my full post on visiting Slieve League. If you time your visit properly, you can drive all the way to the upper car park. Otherwise, you'll have to hike around 1 mile (1.6 km) each way to reach the viewing platform.

The views here are insane. The Atlantic Ocean seems to go on forever and cliff faces stand nearly three times taller than what you'll encounter at the Cliffs of Moher!

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I witnessed the most epic sunset ever during my visit to Slieve League near Donegal Ireland

 

Consider packing a picnic or some drinks to enjoy while you take in the most epic sunset of your life.

There are also some hiking trails here that lead up above the viewing platform. You can easily venture up some ways before they start to become a little sketchy.

I wouldn't recommend going all the way up unless the winds are calm and you're an experienced hiker.

Be sure to check out my video on YouTube highlighting what to expect at Slieve League. I was able to get some really cool drone footage during my visit.

 

 

After taking in these epic views, make your way back to your room in Donegal and get a good nights rest!

You'll start day three by making the 45 minute drive south towards Benbulben which resides in County Sligo.

Benbulben is one of Ireland's most unique geological formations, which was created by massive glaciers that once carved up the landscapes.

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Benbulben dominates the horizon no matter where you are in the area!

 

You'll have two options on how to enjoy this area. The first is a more mild hike through the forest at the base of the mountain.

This is about 4.5 miles (7.2 km) long and will take most people around 2 hours to complete.

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Aerial photograph of hikers enjoying endless views atop Benbulben, Ireland

 

Alternatively, you can take on the 5.7 mile (9.2 km) trail that will lead you atop Benbulben where you can take in some seriously epic views.

After you've had your fill of today's hike, head over to nearby Streedagh Beach (which you can see from atop Benbulben, if you go that route).

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You can even enjoy distant views of Benbulben from Streedagh Beach!

 

This is one of the most beautiful beaches in Ireland and on warm summer days you'll encounter tons of locals hanging out soaking up the sun.

After enjoying some fun in the sun and refreshing your feet in the crisp waters of the Atlantic Ocean, hop back in your car and make the 90 minute journey onward to the town of Westport.

Westport. Ireland's town squarePin

Westport is a medium sized Irish town located just east of Croagh Patrick

 

Westport is a vibrant little town located on Ireland's west coast. You can browse deals on hotels in Westport here, and if you follow this itinerary to the dot you'll want to book two nights here.

Benbulben was one of the places featured on my most beautiful landscapes of Ireland video that you should definitely check out when you're finished reading this guide!

 

Today we'll take on an adventure made famous by Saint Patrick himself! Located near the town of Westport, you'll have easy access to the holy mountain of Croagh Patrick.

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It's a long way up to the top of Croagh Patrick!

 

The length of this hike makes it seem deceivingly easy at just 4.5 miles (7.2 km). But the devil is in the details, as you'll ascend over 2,400 feet (750 meters) on the way up.

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Views of Clew Bay from atop Croagh Patrick are well worth the trek to the peak!

 

While the hike up is a bit of a grind, the views of Clew Bay from atop Croagh Patrick are nothing short of spectacular.

I'd suggest reading my guide on hiking Croagh Patrick before attempting this one. But with proper preparation and pace, most visitors should be able to tackle this one.

Alternatively, give my Croagh Patrick highlight video a quick watch to make sure you're prepared for this challenging hike.

 

 

After making it to the peak, our next stop will be Bartraw Beach which is situated along Clew Bay and visible from the mountain.

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Views from Bartraw Beach which sits along Clew Bay not far from The Reek

 

Also known as Bertra Beach, you can enjoy some time here hanging out along the water, walking the sand dunes and taking in views of Clew Bay.

If you have time you could even consider booking a boat tour of Clew Bay. This could be a good way to round out your afternoon here if you decide to skip the Croagh Patrick hike.

Once you're done at the beach, head back to Westport to explore town and have dinner.

After slowing down and spending a couple of nights in Westport, it's time to hit the road again. Our final destination on day five will be the infamous Cliffs of Moher, but we'll have some stops to make along the way.

As you leave Westport, head west along the coast towards Doo Lough. There's a small memorial to victims of the Great Irish Famine here, which sits near two beautiful lakes and some really scenic mountains.

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Be sure to incorporate a stop at Doo Lough during your journey through Ireland

 

The drive to get here was my favorite stretch of remote Ireland driving and the viewpoint at Doo Lough is stunning. It reminded me a bit of driving through parts of Iceland (minus the snow).

I'd suggest plugging the Doo Lough Memorial into your GPS, otherwise you might head in the wrong direction (do not leave Westport heading north), as there are multiple places in Ireland with this name.

Once you've had a chance to stretch your legs at Doo Lough, plug the town of Clifden into your GPS which should be about an hours drive away.

This is a charming little Irish town that makes for a great place to stop for lunch.

We skipped over it due to time, but you will pass by Kylemore Abbey on your way to Clifden if you're looking to incorporate a castle stop.

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Fish and chips with a cold Guinness is an Irish staple

 

We had a beautiful late May afternoon here and were able to dine outside on some fish and chips at Guys Bar Clifden.

Before you head out consider walking around town, through the main square and stopping for coffee. If the weather is nice during your visit, this next stop will be particularly fun.

Hop back in your car and start making your way for a quick swim at Dog's Bay Beach.

Of all the beaches we saw during our time in Ireland, this was the most picturesque. Just be mindful that if the weather is nice, parking can be a little wild here.

You might need to park near the main road and walk down, or be patient waiting for a spot in the main parking lot to open up.

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You can find white sand, vibrant green rolling countryside and turquoise water at Dog's Bay Beach

 

The water temperature will be cool for much of the year, but it's tolerable for a quick dip if the suns shining and warm out.

Once you've had a chance to play in the sand, it's time to get back on the road and head for today's final destination, the Cliffs of Moher!

There are a few towns nearby where you can find accommodations, but I'd suggest booking a hotel in Liscannor. We stayed at the Cliffs of Moher Hotel which was affordably priced and had really nice accommodations.

You should be arriving to this area in the late afternoon so I'd suggest checking into your hotel (which is just minutes from the cliffs) first.

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This was one of my favorite views of the Cliffs of Moher, from the south facing north

 

The late arrival time is by design since it will put you here closer to sunset.

First off, this helps you avoid the hoards of tour buses that arrive from Dublin earlier in the day so it will be far less crowded.

Second, since the cliffs face west, they're absolutely beautiful when lit up during golden hour.

The only tradeoff is that the visitor center will likely be closed by this time, but you could always hit it on your way out of town the next morning if that's important to you.

I'd suggest reading my dedicated post on visiting the Cliffs of Moher to get a better idea of how to spend your time here.

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For the best experience I'd suggest visiting the Cliffs of Moher during sunset

 

My personal favorite viewpoint from our visit was to hike about 1 mile (1.6 kilometers) south of the visitor center and then look back north. That's where I composed some of my best photographs that evening.

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Views of the Cliffs of Moher looking north past O'Brien's Tower

 

Once the sun melts into the horizon, it's time to head back to your hotel and get a good nights rest after a very busy day!

If you follow the exact route we took on our road trip, this will be a longer driving day totaling about five hours.

The first stop of the day will be the town of Dingle, located along the Dingle Peninsula. I'd suggest plugging the Conor Pass Waterfall into your GPS and entering town from that direction.

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Views from atop Conor Pass looking out towards Dingle

 

The driving through Conor Pass is really scenic, and there are a couple of short trails worth exploring just off the road. One leads to a small lake and waterfall and the other leads to an epic viewpoint.

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The town of Dingle is a picturesque Irish coastal village with plenty going on

 

After descending from Conor Pass you'll find yourself in the charming coastal town of Dingle. If you want to break up the driving a bit, consider adding a day to this itinerary and spending one night in a hotel in Dingle.

Spend some time walking the streets, exploring town and grabbing lunch while you're here. We had lunch at a place called the Boatyard Restaurant which we really enjoyed.

The next point of interest we'll explore is Dunquin Pier, located minutes west of Dingle.

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Looking down at Dunquin Pier's prominent rock formations from the cliffs above

 

This is a really beautiful area with steps leading down from the cliffs to the water. If you walk down the steps you'll be able to see the massive rock formations and ocean cliff faces up close.

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Ireland has no shortage of beautiful scenery, including the Dingle Peninsula

 

If you do decide to add an extra day in the Dingle Peninsula area, this would make for a really nice sunset viewing spot since it faces west.

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The rock formations that dominant Dunquin Pier make this a popular tourist destination

 

Otherwise, we still have one more point of interest to hit on our Dingle Peninsula expedition before making our way to our hotel in Portmagee for the evening.

We'll start making our way east and head for the stunning Inch beach.

This is a really cool area where you can actually drive out onto the sand. Despite the name, Inch Beach actually stretches about 4 miles (6.4 km).

Spend some time here catching some late afternoon sun and wading around in the cool waters of the Atlantic Ocean.

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Aerial photograph of Inch Beach during our late afternoon visit

 

I love the beaches of Ireland because all of the surrounding landscapes are so vibrant green.

Once you've had your fill of Inch Beach it's time to head for the small town of Portmagee.

This will set us up nicely for tomorrow's adventure which is to visit the super remote Skellig Michael Island where we'll explore ancient monastery ruins.

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Portmagee is a small town with one primary strip of shops near the harbor

 

During my visit we stayed at The Moorings Portmagee Hotel which is located seconds from the towns harbor.

We enjoyed our stay here, the on site restaurant and especially the convenient location.

After you get checked in and eat dinner, if you have time, consider checking out the nearby Kerry Cliffs.

Today will be one of my favorite Irish experiences. Off the coast of Portmagee reside two very important islands, Little Skellig and Skellig Michael.

These islands are usually only accessible to visitors between May and September, in conjunction with the summer travel season.

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Views from atop Skellig Michael looking back towards Little Skellig Island

 

I'd suggest looking over my dedicated guide to visiting Skellig Michael island before visiting. There you'll also find tips on how to reserve your spot on one of the limited boats that ferry visitors out to the islands.

Be warned that nearly 40% of boats scheduled to visit Skellig Michael are cancelled due to rough seas and poor weather.

During this activity you'll first boat past Little Skellig, which is home to over 25,000 sea birds.

After this quick detour, you'll head for the main attraction, Skellig Michael Island.

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Skellig Michael is one of the most prominent and rugged islands in Ireland

 

Once you reach the island you'll depart your boat and start your ascent to the monastery which sits near the top of the island.

While the hike up isn't too lengthy, it's extremely steep and tracks along narrow steps that are exposed to sheer drops to the ocean below. This isn't a great activity for those scared of heights!

If you watch my video covering Skellig Michael on YouTube it will help give you a better idea of what to expect.

 

 

Once you reach the top you'll find a guide providing an overview of the ancient monastery ruins, life on the island and have the opportunity to explore them up close for yourself.

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Once you reach the top you'll encounter a ton of ancient monastery ruins

 

This was a really unique experience and perhaps my favorite activity from the entire trip. We were even lucky enough to spot some puffins during our visit!

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Be sure to keep an eye out for puffins during your trek!

 

Eventually your time on the island will come to an end and your boat will take you back to Portmagee.

If you didn't have a chance to visit them last night, now would be a great opportunity to check out the nearby Kerry Cliffs.

Your goal tonight should be to break up the drive back to Dublin. During our trip we opted to spend an evening in the town of Cork which is just over two hours from Portmagee.

For our one night layover in Cork we stayed at the exquisite Montenotte Hotel. This place is really nice, and despite that, reasonably priced. We loved our stay here so much I really didn't want to leave.

Alternatively you can browse deals on other hotels in Cork here.

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Elbow Lane is a great place to grab dinner in Cork

 

If you choose to spend a night in Cork, be sure to check out the Elbow Lane Brew & Smoke House for a great dinner experience.

Get an early start to day eight and begin working your way back to Dublin.

Since you'll probably arrive back in the Irish capital city before your room is ready, I'd suggest hitting an area of town on the outskirts, before getting into the heart of town.

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Views of the Papal Cross from Phoenix Park

 

Glasnevin Cemetery, Phoenix Park and the National Botanic Gardens would all make for great options to start your day.

To learn more about these stops and others across town, check out my guide to the best things to do in Dublin. Since we won't have enough time to properly deep dive on all of them here!

Glasnevin Cemetary aerial photographPin

A walk through Glasnevin Cemetery should be on every traveler's Dublin itinerary!

 

If you're undecided between which area to explore, I'd suggest Glasnevin Cemetery. It's a really cool stop and serves as the final resting place for many important Irish figures.

Glasnevin Cemetery is also home to the O’Connell Tower, a 55 meter (180 ft) tall monument dedicated to Daniel O’Connell, a political leader from the 19th century.

If you have time, you could pop over to the National Botanic Gardens which are close by, just be warned that parking in this area is a bit of a nightmare.

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The original Leo Burdock's in Christchurch Dublin

 

Before checking into your hotel, consider grabbing lunch at a Leo Burdock's which has been serving fish and chips in Dublin for over 100 years.

It has the reputation for being Dublin's oldest chipper.

After a quick bite, get checked into your hotel if you haven't already. If you're in the market for a hotel here consider checking out The Morrison Dublin or The Mont on Merrion Street.

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Aerial photograph of St. Patrick's Cathedral Courtyard area during sunset

 

Once you're settled in, set out on foot for the infamous St. Patrick's Cathedral. Founded in 1191, the exterior boasts incredible Gothic architecture while the interior is immaculately decorated.

As your evening starts to wind down, I'd suggest making your way to Temple Bar area to grab some dinner and enjoy some live music.

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Crowds pouring into The Temple Bar in the early evening

 

Temple Bar is the name of a specific, popular pub, but also refers to the entire nightlife area. The namesake bar gets crowded and can be quite pricey, so some visitors opt to skip it.

You should also consider checking out The Brazen Head, Ireland's oldest pub, just be mindful that it can become quite busy here as well.

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Views of the Samuel Beckett Bridge over the River Liffey during sunset

 

If you need to round out your first full day in Dublin in any further than what I've outlined here, be sure to check out my YouTube video covering the best things to do in Dublin.

 

 

Once you're done wandering the streets of Temple Bar, soaking up some cold Guinness and enjoying copious amounts of live music, stumble your way back to your hotel and call it a night.

For our final day of activities in Ireland get an early start and head over to George's Street Arcade for some shopping.

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A calm view of George's Street Arcade in the early morning hours

 

This historic, Victorian Style indoor market is a great place to grab a souvenir or light breakfast. I suggest visiting in the morning before it gets absolutely swamped with tourists.

From here I'd suggest heading over to Trinity College Dublin and viewing the Book of Kells and Old Library.

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Staring down the Long Room of the Old Library at Trinity College Dublin

 

You can browse ticket options at the link and you might want to consider booking in advance because spaces are limited.

I'd fill out your afternoon in Dublin hitting some of the other popular points of interest such as Dublin Castle and St. Stephen's Green.

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Be sure to take a stroll around Dublin Castle during your visit to the Irish capital city

 

You'll find that there's plenty to do and see just wandering around town, but to cap off your Ireland trip be sure to book tickets to the Guinness Storehouse for your final evening.

Photo inside the Guinness Storehouse, DublinPin

Guinness did a great job making the storehouse experience fun and interactive!

 

This is a really fun way to close out your trip to Ireland as you'll learn all about the history of Guinness during this interactive museum experience.

The best part?

Once you reach the top of the storehouse you'll be able to enjoy a freshly poured Guinness from the Gravity Bar which features sweeping views of Dublin.

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We hit the jackpot and didn't see a single drop of rain during our Dublin visit!

 

After exploring the Guinness Storehouse I'd suggest making one last round through the Temple Bar area to celebrate your final night in Ireland.

Sadly, we've reached the final day of our Ireland adventure.

You'll want to work your way back to the airport and drop your rental car.

If you're traveling directly back to the United States, you'll be happy to learn that you actually handle U.S. customs in Dublin, before boarding your flight home.

This means you won't have to wait in line and take care of this after your long flight home. Make sure to consider this when booking your return flights.

Consider checking out WayAway or CheapOair for ways to save on flights if you're still looking to book.

If you connect through a different European city before heading back across the pond, you won't enjoy this luxury!

Watch the Ireland Road Trip video guide on YouTube

Browse for more activities to do while visiting Ireland

Additional Travel Planning Resources

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Is visiting Ireland worth it?

When people ask me about my favorite places to travel, Ireland frequently enters the conversation. And the best way to experience Ireland, is by taking an epic road trip around the coast.

The Emerald Isle offers an incredible mix of natural beauty, charming coastal towns and friendly locals that you’ll meet along the way.

If you’ve never traveled internationally from the United States, Ireland is a great place to start. They speak English and every where you go is extremely safe.

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The cliffs at Dunquin Pier along the Dingle Peninsula are a must see

Not only that but the country is extremely dense with things to do. While we covered a ton of ground in this guide, we only scratched the surface in terms of what Ireland has to offer.

Let me know if you have any questions about this 10 day Ireland road trip itinerary and drop a comment below!

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