One of the most beautiful places in Europe (just look at these pics from my last trip!), Ireland is an essential destination. Renowned for its unforgettable hospitality and jaw-dropping landscape, the Emerald Island has it all.
During my two-week road trip around Ireland, I discovered why everyone has been raving about the Wild Atlantic Way—but it was the Southern Peninsulas that absolutely took my breath away! If you only have time to see one small part of Ireland, let it be this.
Ready for the road trip of a lifetime? Here is my guide to road tripping the Southern Peninsulas of Ireland via the Wild Atlantic Way.
Tips for Driving the Wild Atlantic Way
Irish roads are a bit scary. They are ultra-narrow and endlessly winding. There are times you will have to stop and pull off to the side of the road to let someone else go through.
While you will want to come prepared, driving in Ireland is completely doable and SO worth it. I would recommend planning your days so that you have ample time to get from place to place. It is also best to drive during the day. Navigating during daylight is a lot less challenging.
If you’re renting a car, try to book it as early as possible as *most* people prefer to drive an Automatic and those sometimes have limited availability. My go-to resource is Rentalcars.com as they provide competitive pricing for multiple rental car providers!
Highlights to Include in Your Itinerary for Southern Ireland
- The Burren + Cliffs of Moher
- Visit or stay at Dromoland Castle
- Have a pint at Durty Nelly’s
- Visit Adare and Adare Manor
- Drive the Dingle Peninsula
- Visit Killarney National Park
- Drive the Ring of Kerry
- Visit Skellig Michael
- Hike Lady Bantry’s Lookout in Glengarriff
- Take the ferry to Garnish Island
- Have lunch at Manning’s Emporium
- Visit Bantry House
- Dinner at Blair’s Cove
- Mizen Head to soak in the views
- Round of golf at Old Head
- Visit the cute harbor town of Kinsale
- Kiss the Blarney Stone at Blarney Castle
- Visit the Jameson Distillery in Midleton
Here’s a breakdown of all of my favorite stops along the way!
Galway is a perfect starting point for your adventure. I suggest flying into Dublin and you can get to Galway in about two and a half hours. You could also fly into Ireland West International Airport at Knock or Shannon International Airport.
Wander the cobblestoned streets and listen to traditional music while trying out some of the incredible local craft beers. Claddagh is a local village where the famous Claddagh ring comes from and it’s an ideal spot to find a souvenir.
Read More: The Best Time to Travel to Ireland
Cliffs of Moher
The Cliffs of Moher and The Burren
After you’ve seen the essentials of Galway, it’s time to move on to the Cliffs of Moher. This is one of the most beloved sites in Ireland, and the drive over there is gorgeous.
Start your trip out of Galway early and plan time to stop at The Burren. The unique karst landscape in this region of County Clare is prime for photo ops. It looks like the surface of the moon! Plan a stop to spend some time hiking through the Burren National Park.
After getting a taste of the Irish countryside, you are ready for the crown jewel.
You have probably seen pics of the Cliffs of Moher but none of them do it justice. The dramatic cliffs over the ocean are truly awesome in person.
A Castle and a Beer
For the perfect end to the day, get over to Dromoland Castle. It’s about an hour drive from the Cliffs of Moher. I’d recommend booking a room for the night or at least stopping by to explore.
Not far from Dromoland Castle, you’ll find Durty Nelly’s. This 17th century thatched roof pub is the quintessential public house and it’s the best place for a pint after a long day of exploring. I mean, who can resist having a beer at one of Ireland’s first landmark pubs? Cheers!
The adorable village of Adare is just over 30 minutes from Dromoland Castle and it’s a must. Adare Manor is the gem of a town, and you’ll want plenty of time to explore it.
While it’s not really worth staying there, I would recommend going for one of their activities and sticking around for a meal. Play a round of golf or go for the falconry. Decide on your schedule then book lunch at one of the Adare Manor restaurants.
Get back in the car in the late morning or early afternoon so you’ve plenty of hours of daylight to get started on the drive around the Dingle Peninsula. Called “the most beautiful place on Earth” by National Geographic Traveller, the area is known for its beaches, craggy cliffs, and spirits.
The Dingle Peninsula loop trip is only about 30 miles long but you can easily spend a couple of days exploring it. Drive the Dingle Peninsula in a clockwise direction so it’s easier to navigate the narrow roads that are regularly dotted with tourist buses. Start in Castlemaine then slowly make your way down.
Inch Beach is one of the first stops. Explore the sandy beach then stay for a surf lesson. The Conor Pass is one of the highest passes in Ireland and it’ll give you a stunning view. It is windy and narrow though, so take it slow!
The little town of Dingle is a colorful little place that you’re going to love.
Linger over a meal and a pint, then try the famous Murphy’s ice cream. Made right in Dingle, this creamy treat is famous all over the island (yum!). I’d recommend staying in Dingle then starting your day early on the iconic path in Dingle Peninsula is the Slea Head Drive.
Killarney National Park
Visit Killarney National Park
After you’ve slowly made your way back across the Dingle Peninsula, head over to Killarney National Park. It was the first national park in Ireland, and it’s a great place for a long hike if you get a sunny day.
Drive the Ring of Kerry
The Ring of Kerry is just over 100 miles long. You can drive it in under four hours but you will want to add plenty of times for stops. I’d recommend starting in Killarney and renting a bike. The Ring of Kerry is one of the best cycling spots in the world. Take your time cycling the Ring of Kerry and just appreciating the scenery.
The Kerry Cliffs offer sweeping views of the Skellig Islands and Puffin Island. From there, you can take a boat out to the UNESCO World Heritage site of Skellig Michael.
The trips are highly weather-dependent (this area gets lashed by the sea!) and generally just available during summer. You can schedule out your full options for travel on the Wild Atlantic Way site.
Hiking in Glengarriff Nature Reserve
Go Hiking in Glengariff
Just south of the Ring of Kerry, you’ll find Lady Bantry’s Lookout—one of the most scenic hikes, ever! Part of Glengarriff Nature Reserve, this is one of Ireland’s best hiking paths. It’s an easy hike and I’d recommend starting your day early here.
There are a ton of other hiking trails here, too!
Once you’ve gotten in your morning workout, take the ferry to Garnish Island. The ferry leaves from Glengarriff Pier every 30 minutes and doesn’t need to be pre-booked, so you can take your time enjoying the charm of the surrounding area.
The gardens here are spectacular!
Once you get over to the island, have lunch at the Manning’s Emporium, a cute little deli with tasty Irish staples, then go for a wander.
Originally built in the early 18th century, the house and gardens have been open to the public since the 1940s and have since become a popular destination to visit while driving the Wild Atlantic Way.
Why? Oh, just for the views for days and the stunning gardens, of course! Pop in here for a cup of tea and admire all the gorgeous greenery.
Dinner at Blair’s Cove
You’ll need to book this well in advance, but believe me—it’s worth it! They have world-class grub at Blair’s Cove and I would 100% not miss this place for dinner!
In County Cork, the Arched Bridge at Mizen Head is famous as Ireland’s most Southwestern Point. Start at the Mizen Head Visitor Centre then start a beautiful hike.
To be perfectly honest, I actually preferred this area to the ultra-popular Cliffs of Moher. The view was better in my opinion and it was less crowded, so it made for an all-around better experience.
Get a Game in at Old Head
Book in a round of golf at Old Head for the afternoon. Not a golf fan? No worries—the views from this clifftop are seriously out of this world and make it for one memorable day.
After a long day putting on the green, head over to the cute harbor town of Kinsale. You could definitely stay here for the evening—embrace alllllll of its charm, or just pop by for a quick visit.
Kiss the Blarney Stone
You can’t visit Ireland without kissing the Blarney Stone! Legend has it that giving the rock a smooch will give you the Irish gift of gab. The gardens at Blarney Castle are stunning as well so plan plenty of time to explore.
Love a glass of whiskey? You can opt to stop at the Jameson Distillery in Midleton. Home of Ireland’s most famous whiskey, you can learn about the past and present of this iconic drink (and try a few top-notch cocktails!).
Once you’ve finished the Southern Peninsula of Ireland, it’s easiest to fly out of Cork.
If you have extra time, you might consider flying out of Dublin too. The city is another three hours of driving from Cork and typically has the most frequent and inexpensive flights.
Want to experience more of Ireland’s sensational scenery? The Wild Atlantic Way continues north and encompasses the Northern Headlands, the Surf Coast, and the Bay Coast.
The vast majority of flights arrive into Dublin and it’s the perfect starting point. Read up on the 10 Things You Must Do in Dublin and start packing!
If you’ve got a major sweet tooth, you’ll find this delicious treat all over Ireland. Get it!
You can thank me later. 😉