One of the most beautiful places in Europe (just look at these photos from my last trip!), Ireland is a prime destination. Renowned for its unforgettable hospitality and fluffy landscape, Emerald Island has it all.
During my two-day road trip to Ireland, I found out why everyone was able to race for the Wild Atlantic Road – but it was the Southern Peninsula that totally caught my breath! If you only have time to see a small part of Ireland, this is it.
Are you ready for the road trip of a lifetime? Here is my guide to crossing the southern peninsula of Ireland via the Wild Atlantic Way.
Tips for driving the wild Atlantic
The Irish roads are a little scary. They are extremely narrow and endless. There are times when you have to stop and pull to the side of the road to let someone else pass.
While you will want to come prepared, driving to Ireland is entirely possible and well worth it. I would recommend planning your days so that you have enough time to get from place to place. It is also best to drive during the day. Daytime navigation is much less challenging.
If you are renting a car, try to book it as early as possible, as * most * people prefer to drive an Auto and they sometimes have limited availability. My primary destination is Rentalcars.com, as they offer competitive prices for many car rental providers!
Features to include on 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 Kerry ring
- Visit Skellig Michael
- Hike Lady Bantry's Lookout in Glengarriff
- Take the ferry to Garnish Island
- Lunch at the Manning Emporium
- Visit the Bantry House
- Dinner at Blair's Bay
- Mizen Head to enjoy the views
- Golf course at Old Head
- Visit Kinsale's cute lagoon
- Kiss the Blarney stone in Blarney Castle
- Visit the Jameson Distillery in Midleton
Here's a breakdown of all my favorite stops along the way!
Galway is the perfect starting point for your adventure. You can find a flight directly to the city or if you find better flight options to Dublin, you can reach Galway from there in about two hours.
Stroll the cobbled streets and listen to traditional music while tasting some of the incredible local art beers. Claddagh is a local village where the famous Claddagh ring originates and is an ideal place to find a souvenir.
The cliffs of Moher
The rocks of Moher and Burren
After seeing the basics 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 traffic there is gorgeous.
Start your journey from Galway early and plan the time to stop at The Burren. The unique karst landscape in this area of County Clare is top of the range cameras. Looks like the surface of the moon! Plan a stop to spend some time hiking through Burren National Park.
After getting a taste of the Irish countryside, you're ready for the crown jewel.
You've probably seen pictures of Cliffs of Moher, but none of them do it justice. The dramatic rocks above the ocean are truly amazing on the face.
Castle and beer
For the perfect end of the day, go to Dromoland Castle. It is about an hour's drive from the Cliffs of Moher. Identity card we recommend booking a room for the night or at least pausing to explore.
Not far from Dromoland Castle, you will find Durty Nelly's. This 17th-century ceiling catwalk is the main public house and is the best place for a pint after a long day of exploration. I mean, who can resist a beer in one of Ireland's first landmarks? Cheers!
The adorable Adare village is just 30 minutes from Dromoland Castle and is a must. Adare Manor is the jewel of a city and you will need plenty of time to explore it.
Although it's not really worth staying there, I would recommend going for one of their activities and sticking to a meal. Play a round of golf or go for the hawk. Decide on your plan and then book lunch at one of the Adare Manor restaurants.
Return to the car late in the morning or early in the afternoon to get plenty of light hours to start the journey around the Dingle Peninsula. Named "the most beautiful place on Earth" by National Geographic Traveler, the area is known for its beaches, rocky cliffs and spirits.
The Dingle Peninsula loop trip is only about 30 miles away, but you can easily spend a few days exploring it. Drive the Dingle Peninsula clockwise to facilitate navigating the narrow lanes that are regularly crowded with tour buses. Start at Castlemaine then slowly descend.
Inch Beach is one of the first stops. Explore the sandy beach, then stay for a surf lesson. Pass Pass is one of the highest passes in Ireland and will give you a stunning view. It is very windy and narrow, so take it slow!
The small town of Dingle is a colorful little place you will love.
Rest over a meal and a pint, then try the famous Murphy's ice cream. Made right at Dingle, this creamy treat is famous all over the island (yum!). I would recommend staying in Dingle starting your day early on the iconic trail on the Dingle Peninsula is Slea Head Drive.
Killarney National Park
Visit Killarney National Park
After slowly making your way past the Dingle Peninsula, head to Killarney National Park. It was the first national park in Ireland, and is a great place for a long hike if you are having a sunny day.
Drive the Kerry ring
The Kerry ring is over 100 miles long. You can drive it in less than four hours, but you will want to add many hours for stops. I would suggest starting in Killarney and renting a bike. The Kerry Ring is one of the best cycling spots in the world. Take your time cycling the Kerry Ring and just appreciate the scenery.
The Kerry Cliffs offer stunning views of the Skellig Islands and Puffin Island. From there you can take a boat to Skellig Michael's UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Trips are highly dependent on the weather (this area receives the sea!) And are generally available during the summer. You can plan your complete travel choices in the Wild Atlantic Way area.
Hiking in Glengarriff Nature Reserve
Go hiking in Glengariff
Just south of Kerry's ring, you'll find Lady Bantry's Lookout – one of the most scenic hikes, ever! Part of the Glengarriff Nature Reserve, this is one of Ireland's best hiking trails. It is an easy hike and I would recommend starting your day early here.
There are a ton of other hiking trails here!
Once you get to your breakfast, take the ferry to Garnish Island. The ferry departs the Glengarriff jetty every 30 minutes and does not need to be pre-booked so you can enjoy your time enjoying the charm of the surrounding area.
The gardens here are spectacular!
Once on the island, stay at Manning's Emporium, a cute little snack with delicious Irish staples and then go for a stroll.
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 for sightseeing as you drive the Wild Atlantic Road.
Why; Oh, just for the views on the days and the impressive gardens, of course! Grab a cup of tea here and admire all the beautiful greens.
Dinner at Blair's Bay
You will need to do this book in advance, but believe me – it's worth it! They have world-class grub at Blair's Bay and I'd love to not miss this place 100% for dinner!
In County Cork, the Arched Bridge at Mizen Head is known as Ireland's most southwest. Start at the Mizen Head Visitor Center and start a beautiful hike.
To be perfectly honest, I prefer this area to the extremely popular Cliffs of Moher. The view was better in my opinion and less crowded, so it made for a better experience all around.
Get a game at Old Head
Book a golf tour at Old Head for the afternoon. Not a golf fan? No worries – the views of this hill are seriously out of this world and make for an unforgettable day.
After a long day of greenery, head to the beautiful city of Kinsale. You could definitely stay here for her glamorous evening hug, or just pop in 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 joy will give you the Irish gift of gab. The gardens at Blarney Castle are stunning as you plan plenty of time to explore.
Love a glass of whiskey? You can choose to stop at the Jameson Distillery in Midleton. Ireland's most famous whiskey, you can learn about the past and present of this iconic drink (and try some of the top cocktails!).
Once you are done in the southern peninsula of Ireland, it is easier to fly from Cork.
If you have extra time, you can consider flying Dublin too. The city is another three hours drive from Cork and usually has the most frequent and cheapest flights.
Want to live longer than Ireland's stunning landscape? The North Atlantic Road continues north and includes the North Headlands, the Surf Coast and the Bay Coast.
The vast majority of flights arrive in Dublin and are the ideal starting point. Read 10 Things to Do in Dublin and Get Started Packaging!
If you have a big sweet tooth, you will find this delicious treat all over Ireland. Take it!
You can thank me later. 😉