There are few places that can match Ireland when it comes to exciting driving holidays. The Emerald Isle is packed full of stunning scenery, fascinating attractions, rugged coastlines, historic buildings, and exciting towns and cities. Driving around yourself is one of the best ways to explore, and if you are going on a self-driving tour to Ireland, here are some tips to help you plan.
Do Your Research
Start by researching the country as a whole, which could involve buying travel books, a good map, a road atlas, and checking out some top websites for visitors to Ireland. You could also download a map of Ireland on your phone to use with your GPS when you arrive.
Come Up with an Itinerary
Your itinerary will be very different if you go for one week or a whole month, so you should look at the time you have available and create an itinerary around it.
The best option is to take it slow. Don't plan too ambitiously and aim for about 50 to 60 miles a day. Remember that many roads are quite small and narrow, especially in rural areas, and traveling on these can be slow.
Decide How Long You Want in Each Location
When you travel somewhere, you will want to spend a good amount of time exploring. You may want to give yourself more time for exploring Dublin than a small town, so research the location in advance, find out what there is to do, and plan how long you should take to see them. Don't try to do everything and just pick a few highlights that you can do properly.
Plan Your Accommodation
You can choose from any kind of accommodation you want when traveling around Ireland, from camping to hostels to five-star hotels. You may want to stay in farm houses and traditional country hotels, or you may prefer to save money and book self-catering accommodation. You could even rent your own apartment or house for a few days or a week and use it as your base to go driving, or you could stay somewhere different every night.
There are plenty of websites where you can find out what is available in advance, or you can plan your trip via a specialist like GoIrishTours and see what they recommend. You can then book these up before you go so you won't have to worry about where you will sleep once you arrive.
Highlights of Ireland to Keep in Mind
You will not be able to see everything when you visit Ireland unless you have a long time to travel around. However, there are a number of highlights that you may want to put on your list. Part of the joy of driving around is that you can discover things as you go like tiny villages you did not know existed, or beautiful views that were not in the guidebook. However, you can use the main attractions to help plan your trip.
The Rock of Cashel in County Tipperary is a volcanic rock with monastic buildings on top. It is an important heritage site, and you should aim to spend a few hours here.
Newgrange in County Meath is a passage tomb from the megalithic that is over 5,000 years old. This UNESCO World Heritage Site has restricted visitor numbers, so plan to get here early to make sure you can see it.
There are also many historic castles that you can see all over Ireland. Some of the best include Trim Castle in County Meath and Blarney Castle in County Cork.
The Cliffs of Moher in County Clare are simply stunning. These cliffs stand over 200 meters tall and stretch for miles, making for some awe-inspiring scenery.
Slieve League Cliffs in County Donegal are less well known but are actually higher, standing at 600 meters in parts.
There are also six national parks that you can explore around the country, so plan to head to one of these if you want to enjoy some hiking in spectacular natural scenery.
Most people who go to Ireland will want to spend at least some time in the capital city. There is plenty to do here, and you can easily spend a few days visiting the highlights. Some suggestions include the Guinness Storehouse where the famous brew is made, the National Museum of Ireland, Dublin Castle, St Patrick's Cathedral and the National Gallery of Ireland.
Start Planning Your Road Trip to Ireland
Take your time planning your trip and start as early as you can to create the perfect itinerary. If you are going for a week or two, consider sticking to one half of the country, but if you have longer you can plan to see more.
The most important thing to do is take your time. Don't rush your tour of Ireland because you will get more from the experience if you go slowly and take it all in, even if that means seeing less.
Jennifer Watts is a tourism advisor. She likes to share her travel insights on the web. Her articles can be found mostly on travel and vacations websites.