10 Day Ireland Itinerary

Blarney Castle

Do you do dream boards or dream boxes? Do you even know what a dream board or a dream box is? (Click HERE to read about Dream Boxes)   The concept of a dream board or box is ‘pinning’ absolutely anything you dream of. That could be simple items as: finding a husband, purchasing a car, paying off your mortgage, or like me, travel to Ireland. I have had Ireland on my dream board for many years. I’m not even Irish – by my husband’s heritage is.  I’ve just ALWAYS wanted to go.

 Your feet will take you where your heart is… An Irish proverb

Fast forward to January 25, 2019.  My husband took me out on a ‘date night’ to  a cozy English/Irish Pub near our home.  He had a table reserved in front of their fire place (a hard reservation to make since this table is requested all the time, especially in the winter).  He proceeded to offer a toast and ended with – “I think we should go to Ireland this summer”.  I don’t think I comprehended the statement at first.  Then, it stuck.  We were going to Ireland.  Well, I must say, the conversation during that date was solely Ireland planning.

Steps in my planning process:

  • Find flight deals
  • Decide on which areas of Ireland to see – an itinerary
  • Decide on hotels, motels, bed and breakfasts, Air BnB’s, or inns
  • Search what there was to see and do (excursions)
  • Ask friends who have been to Ireland what their thoughts were

Away I went – Google was my friend as was Pinterest.  I found a great deal on flights to Dublin with Air Transat.  No turning back now.  Our flights were booked.  

Our Itinerary for 10 days:

Day 1: Fly out of Montreal to Dublin

Day 2: Arrive in Dublin (due to time change, we arrived the morning of day 2) and explore throughout the day

Day 3: Explore more of Dublin

Day 4: Pick up rental car and drive to Galway. Explore a bit of Galway once there. 

Day 5: Explore more of Galway

Day 6: Aran Islands

Day 7: Depart Galway and head towards Cork

Day 8: Kinsale

Day 9: Depart Cork – Blarney Castle and head to Kilkea Castle to stay in for the night

Day 10: Leave Ireland via Dublin Airport. 

Day 1: Flight to Dublin via Air Transat.  A night flight.  Pros and Cons.  You arrive in the morning so you have an entire day to explore, but it is really hard to sleep.  Recommendation:  get as much sleep as you can on the plane and just push on through that Day 2 in Dublin. Do Not Nap!  Get through the day as much as you can and possibly go to sleep a bit earlier, but this will help become accustomed to Ireland time.  

Day 2: Arrival – Dublin

Sites Included:

  • Temple Bar
  • Trinity College
  • St Stephen’s Green
  • Guiness Storehouse
  • St Patricks Cathedral
  • Dublin Castle

Since we would arrive at 9:30am we had 2 full days to explore Dublin before we were off on our next adventure.

Dublin is the Capital of Ireland and it is definitely worth spending at least 2 nights here upon your arrival.  Flying from North America and with the time change, you will need  a chance to acclimatize and get accustomed to Ireland before you embark on your travels exploring.  

We chose to stay in a Vacation Rental By Owner (VRBO) – an AirBnB affiliate.  There were a lot of hotel options, but we wanted our own space with a kitchen. If you aren’t a ‘party’ type person, stay clear of the Temple Bar area since it can stay on the noisy side into the wee hours of the night.  Our location was near St Stephen’s Green in the Fitzwilliam Square area.  

We got settled in our apartment and set out to explore.  We walked towards Grafton Street; checking out the shops and eventually ending up at Trinity College – (Irelands Oldest University established in 1592) Gorgeous!  We decided to go in see the Book of Kells – an illuminated manuscript of the Gospels in Latin believed to be created in the 11th century AD.  A definite must see when in Dublin.

We then headed towards Temple Bar and had our first Guinness in The Temple Bar.  Afterwards, we walked by the O’Connell Bridge (crosses the Liffey) and found a nice pub to eat dinner where our fabulous waiter gave us tips and insight as to where to buy some must needed items.

Side Note:  My luggage did not show up with everyone else’s.  It went to Frankfurt Germany.  I needed some necessity items to get me through the night and day until it would arrive and was told ‘Penny’s” was the place to go.  I was able to purchase some pyjama’s, undergarments, socks, a couple t-shirts, a toothbrush, and a new plug adaptor all for 30 Euro’s.  Perfect.  And… my luggage arrived the next afternoon safe and sound. Tip:  Split your suitcase with your husband (or travelling partner) so the suitcases are both half and half in the event that your luggage does go astray for a day or 2. This way, you then have a few days worth of clothes to tie you over until it arrives.

Happy to have my luggage returned.

Day 3:We ventured out to St Patricks’ Cathedral.  A masterpiece.  Dating back to 1191 and is the National Cathedral of the Church of Ireland.  Leaving there, we walked to Dublin Castle – founded in 1204, over to Christ Church Cathedral – founded in 1030, St Audoen’s Church – founded in 1841, then finally over to Guinness Storehouse for a tour.  We ended the day at a fabulous Italian restaurant for dinner.  

Day 4: Dublin to Galway (estimated time 3 hours without stops)

We took a taxi to Hertz Rental Car to get our car (reserved prior to our trip).  A lot of research was done to find the perfect size car to accommodate 4 luggage pieces and carry on’s plus be automatic (with driving on the left side of the road, we wanted minimal  distractions).  Everything worked out perfect.  We picked up our Skoda and off we went.  Side note:  We left the data on my phone.  We did not pay for a GPS in the car but rather used the Waze App to navigate. Super simple and easy to use.

Sites Included:

  • Leap Castle
  • Galway Busker area
  • Aran Islands
  • Murphy’s Bar

First stopLeap Castle.  The worlds most haunted Castle. Built in the early 1500’s. Owner Sean Ryan invites you inside his home (yes, he lives there), sits you down in front of the fire, plays his Irish flute for you, then tells the story of the castle.  Afterwards, he allows you to explore his castle asking him any questions you may have.  Definitely recommend this.  It was only 6 Euro’s per person, but he gave a family deal of 20 Euro’s for the 4 of us that day.  

We then navigated through tiny country roads until we reached a main motorway to Galway.  We must have passed about 10+ castles or castle ruins along the way. If you are intrigued by Castles, Ireland is definitely a place to visit.  

We stayed in a quaint establishment – Petra House Bed and Breakfast in Galway.  If you have ever watched the movie Groundhog Day, this place reminded us of that.  We reserved a ‘quad’ room consisting of a double bed and 2 singles – space to fit our family of 4.  The room was a bit squishy, but really… you aren’t in the room except to sleep.  It had everything we needed, comfy beds, pretty decor, amazing breakfasts, and we gave it rave reviews.  

A short walk into the ‘city’ of Galway led us to many fabulous sites:

  • Aran Sweater Store
  • McDonagh’s Fish and Chips (best fish and chips around)
  • St Nicholas Collegiate Church for some traditional Irish Music
  • Ton’s of Busker Music
  • Murphy’s Bar
  • Location of the Aran Island Ferry Storefront (for ticket pickup)

Day 5:

More Galway exploring.  We were in need of finding a shopping centre today due to all my daughter’s pants/shorts being left in Dublin at our VRBO.  We quickly found a suitable store and a pair of jeans and leggings were purchased.  Another quick contact to CityBreak Apartments and her items were located and we arranged shipment back to Canada.  

Sites Included:

  • Spanish Arch
  • South Park/North Atlantic Ocean
  • Great Escape Room (we escaped!)

Day 6: Aran Islands

Prior to our Ireland trip, I purchased – on line- Aran Island Ferry tickets which included the bus ride to Rossaveel to embark on the Ferry.  The tour was an all day adventure which was a highlight of our trip. Must see spots would include Dun Aonghasa cliffs. Less busy than the Cliffs of Moher and just as spectacular. Tip: rent a horse and buggy for a tour. You get a local perspective from your ‘guide’ giving you all the ins and outs of the area.

Day 7: Galway to Cork (estimated time without stops 2.5 hours)

One adventure I had found prior to arriving in Ireland was horseback riding.  I found a place between Galway and Cork which offered this – Castle Fergus Riding Stables.  We tied this in with visiting or locating various other castles.

Sites Included:

  • Castlefergus Riding Stables
  • Quin Abby – established in 1402
  • Bunratty Castle – built in 1425

For an off the beaten path adventure, visit Quin Abby. Established in 1402, it was an old monastery. Now in ruins, you can freely explore the property taking in the beauty of the historic structure.

On route to Cork, we drove past Bunratty Castle. Spectacular. We did not take a tour of this one, but we admired it’s beauty from streetside.

Arrival in Cork. We stayed at a fantastic Boutique Hotel: Isaacs – in another ‘quad’ room. This time, the room was a bit more spacious – again with a double bed and 2 singles to accommodate all 4 of us.  We had purchased a package with them which included breakfast and 1 dinner at their famous 5 star Greene’s Restaurant (we were later told it was Irelands’ number 1 restaurant).  

Since we arrived later in the day due to taking our time on route from Galway to Cork, we headed out to eat and see a bit of the city. Honestly, Cork city was not a highlight for us. We loved the hotel, but the city itself did not offer any sites we wished to see. We chose Cork for the convenience to Kinsale and to Blarney Castle.

Day 8: Kinsale

Kinsale is a cute fishing town about 45 minutes from Cork.  We took a public transit bus from Cork to Kinsale (yes, we had a rental car, but wanted a break in the driving). We spent the entire day in Kinsale and we wished we had to stayed here. Brightly painted storefronts mixed in with sailboats and picnic spots, we loved the relaxed atmosphere it offered. We took a 3 km hike to James Fort which overlooked the town of Kinsale and it’s harbor/bay. We decided to take a ferry back to the town on the way back for a different perspective. Tip: Eat lunch at Fishy Fishy. Top notch for seafood and highly rated by tourists.

Sites Included:

  • Fishy Fishy (for lunch)
  • James Fort – established in 1607
  • Desmond Castle – built in 1500

Upon return back to Cork, we ate at Greene’s Restaurant – located within our hotel and we were not disappointed.  Best seafood and service around.  Rated number one in all of Ireland and I would highly recommend eating here if you are in Cork.

Day 9: Cork to Kilkea Castle

We left Cork bright and early and headed to Blarney Castle  – about 15 minutes from Cork – where the lines were minimal.  That is key!  Arrive early to avoid the lines.  We headed straight for the Blarney Stone and waited a minimal 20 minutes for each of us to kiss the infamous stone. Blarney Castle was built in 1446 (its third structure) and has a legend regarding its stone.  According to legend, kissing the stone endows the kisser with the gift of the gab. The sites on this property were something out of a fairytale book. Pure beauty.

We then headed to Cahir Castle about an hour away.  We had a choice between that and Rock of Cashel.  After reading different tripadvisor.ca reviews, we chose Cahir Castle due to it being less of a tourist trap.  And the reviews were correct.  While there, I think there was only 2 other families there with us.  Very quiet and easy to see the castle without crowds of people in your space or photo opportunity.  Highly recommended.  

We were now off to our final destination. Our last night to be spent at Kilkea Castle about 45 minutes out of Dublin.  I have always had a dream of staying in a castle and this did not disappoint.  It was a fairytale castle.  Exceeded all our expectations.  One tip though.  I booked this in true excitement.  We needed 2 rooms since they did not have any rooms with 2 double beds (we are a family of 4).  I booked in the Carriage House section (their ‘mid’ section of reservations).  Our reservation included breakfast as well. After doing the currency conversion – that one night cost us over $1000 Canadian.  We laugh about it now and it was an experience we will never forget, but keep in mind of the exchange rates while booking your excursions and accommodations.  I do highly recommend this fabulous castle though. There was nothing negative about it.  Not even the cost.  Well worth it, in my opinion  

Day 10: Kilkea Castle to Dublin Airport.

We made it to our last day in Ireland and we were all sad to leave.  To this day, I tell others that I would have stayed there.  I”m not even Irish (my husband’s heritage is though).  I would have bought a castle and opened a Bed and Breakfast in a heart beat.  

The drive to the airport was seamless and the rental car drop off was as easy as pie. No hiccups at all (well, unless you count going around the round-about 3 times as a hiccup lol).  We had navigated all round-abouts throughout our journey with ease, but for some reason, we could not get on the correct turnoff from this one round-about.  We eventually managed with a few belly laughs.  That’s what life is about though… Laughter and Luggage (which we do plenty of when we talk about my lost luggage).

A Map View Of Our Itinerary

Map of itinerary

Stay tuned for an in-depth review of each location/town/staying in a castle in future blog posts to come.

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