9-Day Ireland Itinerary

Minard Castle Ireland

Well, we did it again.  Another last-minute decision to head to the Emerald Isle. This time though, we were going as a couple.  My husband and I were trying to decide on a summer vacation to celebrate our upcoming 25th wedding anniversary and the stars aligned with an 9-Day Ireland adventure. This was our third time to Ireland and once again, it was fabulous.

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

How our brainstorming began:

  • Step 1: Since this was our third time visiting, we pulled out our trusty Irish Map to see what area(s) we have not seen and we decided on an area.  
  • Step 2: Book Flights
  • Step 3: Book rental car
  • Step 4: Begin our search for Bed and Breakfasts, Inns or accommodations in the areas we were going to visit via Booking.com. This app/website was fantastic and easy to use. We booked all of our stays with it.  

Areas or Sites we wanted to see:

  • Bray
  • Kilkenny – Kilkenny Castle
  • Family Heritage site
  • Dingle
  • Killarney – Muckross House and Abbey
  • Cliffs of Moher
  • Music in Galway
  • Seans Bar – oldest bar in Ireland
  • Trim Castle
  • Any ‘off the beaten path’ castles or sites we find along the way

Our Itinerary for 9 Days:

Day 1: Fly out of Montreal direct to Dublin via Air Canada.

Day 2: Arrive in Dublin and pick up our rental car from Avis Car Hire right at the airport. We received a Renault Clio  – automatic – which was fabulous.  (I highly recommend spending extra to rent a car with an automatic transmission – there is enough to think about with driving on the opposite side).  Head immediatedly to Bray – about 40 minutes from Dublin.

Day 3:  Drive to Tomniffinogue – family heritage site then onto Kilkenny.  Explore Kilkenny.

Day 4:  Drive to Dingle with stopping in Kanturk for lunch and a castle visit. Explore Dingle once we arrive.

Day 5: Drive to Killarney with stops along the coast – Minard Castle and Inch beach.  Head to Muckross House and Abbey and explore the rest of Killarney.

Day 6:  Explore more of Killarney.

Day 7:  Drive to Galway – taking the ferry and heading to Doolin to see the Cliffs of Moher. Take in the music in Galway.

Day 8:  Drive to Swords stopping in Athlone (Seans Bar) as well as Trim to see Trim Castle.

Day 9:  Leave Ireland via Dublin airport. 

Please Note:  A couple of YouTube short videos are up for viewing regarding our recent Irish adventure.  Click HERE to have a look.  Or click the photo links below

Day 1: Flight to Dublin via Air Canada.  

Yes, we flew Air Canada.  I know, I cut them up last year when compared to Air Transat. But!  They had a direct flight – both directions – so we couldn’t resist. We decided to travel with carry-on luggage again to avoid having to check and wait for luggage.  Again, we fit our entire 9-day adventure in our carry-on luggage with ease.  I actually had few extras if you can believe it.  Thank goodness for my Beis Bags. All went smooth on the way there – no issues – lot’s of room and we were on and off the plane in no time and Air Canada redeamed themselves. Excellent service.

Day 2:  Arrival in Dublin:

Our flight was an over night flight – so we arrived in the morning – Dublin time.  We headed over the to Avis car hire desk and checked on our reservation. A bus then takes you over to the Car Hire centre where our Renault Clio was waiting for us.  Our next step was to travel south to Bray for a one night stay.

Sites Included:

  • The Strand Hotel – former home of Oscar Wilde
  • Sinead O’Connor home
  • Irish Sea
  • Carnival

We headed south to Bray. A lovely sea-side town about 40 min from the Dublin airport.  We booked The Strand Hotel via the Booking.com app and we were so pleased.  A quaint inn overlooking the Irish sea with a breakfast option when booking.  

Note: Every accommodation we booked included a breakfast.  We found this was a perfect way to begin your day especially since site-seeing work up an appetite.  A delicious irish breakfast (or your choosing) hit the spot before we began our daily adventures.  

The property consisted of a few floors each with small, but delicately decorated rooms – we were assigned the Happy Prince room – which we laughed knowing God was just showing off.  My husband read that poem as a child and was talking about it during our flight.  The room had everything we needed – including small touches like water and bath robes layed out for us.  The manager – Jimmy – was extremely helpful during our 1-night stay, suggesting what to see and where to eat.  They do have a pub attached, as well as a cute coffee/breakfast/lunch restaurant.  We ate here for breakfast and their freshly ground coffee and Irish breakfast was delightful.  

Bray – the town – was picture perfect.  Situated along the Irish sea, it consists of a boardwalk that (if daring enough) you can walk to the neighbouring town of Greystones.  We did not do the walk – it was about a 45-minute journey one way, but it would have been beautiful.  Within Bray there was plenty to do – the view of Bray Head (a mountain with a large cross perched at the top) where you can hike up to if energetic.  A sea-side carnival for all to enjoy – which we did!  Plenty of restaurants and shops to explore, as well as a bowling alley to which we had to try out and discover that I am not a bowler while my husband most certainly is.   

One thing we did not realize was that Sinead O’Connor was from Bray and we walked by her sea-side home many times during our stay.  We kept admiring the home each time we strolled by.  We learned – a couple days later – that she passed away unexpectedly.  She was apparently loved by the locals and we too were sad of her passing.

We were in bed quite early that evening – 8:30pm – due to the time change and the overnight flight, but our sleep was peaceful and sound.  

Tip: Stay awak as long as you can with an overnight flight. That way, you can accustomize to the local time.

Day 3: Journey to Kilkenny

Sites Included:

  • Tomnifingogue – Family Heritage site
  • Kilkenny Castle
  • Left Bank Restaurant
  • Hole in the Wall
  • Butter Slip
  • Market Slip
  • Roth House
  • Saint Canice’s Cathedral

After a delicious breakfast and freshly ground coffee, we headed on our journey to Kilkenny. Along the way, we stopped in Tomnifinoggue – an area of family heritage on my husband’s side.  We ended up finding a house that had been in the family name for 200 years.  

Next stop was Kilkenny and I’d have to say, this was my favourite stop on our itinerary.  The town is situated around the castle – which is magnificent.  The shops, restaurants and pubs were all outstanding.

We stayed at the award-winning Langton’s Hotel.  Fabulous!  The décor of this hotel is stunning.  We were placed in their garden rooms which were situated at the end of a beautiful garden courtyard.  Our room was fantastic.  We were certainly pleased with our stay here.

When we arrived, our room was not ready, so we decided to explore the town.  First stop was Kilkenny Castle.  Walking up to the castle – I felt like walking on the set of Bridgerton – the lush lawns, expansive castle and spectacular gardens were magnificent.    This castle is a must-see when visiting Kilkenny!  

Next, we began our walk up the main street popping in to unique shops and a local pub for some home-made seafood chowder and veggie soup.  DELICIOUS!!!!

We found Butter Slip Alley and Market Slip Alley – medieval ally-ways leading to some more unique pubs and shops and also discovered more amazing sites like like Roth House and Left Bank Restaurant.

We found Saint Canice’s Cathedral – Irelands finest and best-preserved medieval cathedral where you can not only explore inside, but could also climb the 100-foot round tower – the city’s oldest standing structure – which we did – 8 flights of ladder’s narrowing each flight up.  A bit unnerving once you reached the top, but the view was spectacular.  

We then walked through more stone lined streets and found more churches to explore until we headed back to Langton’s to get our things settled in our room.  

Once we freshed up, we headed back to the main tourist area and found The Hole In the Wall.  I had briefly seen this on either Instagram or Tik Tok but had completely forgotten about it.  We saw the sign by the road and headed down the alley-way to check it out. 

What a surprise it was!

It’s a tiny pub that only opens after 6pm.  It is housed in the oldest surviving townhouse in Ireland – a 1582 Archer Inner House and it was the home of a Kilkenny mayor (at one time).  The story goes that the royals from the castle used to come, but sneak in through the ‘hole in the wall’ at the back of the establishment. They would ‘pretend’ to go to church (which was behind the building) and continuing walking through the orchard  – through the hole in the wall – and into the pub.  We had a magnificent pint – Guinness for my husband and Bulmers cider for me.  We met Davy – who was bartending – and he explained the history to us.  Turns out he is an Irish Historian and travels around internationally teaching others about Irish History.  You can check him out HERE.  

We topped off the night by following the irish music.  We listened to a few amazing bands in and around the Kilkenny pubs – Matt The Millers – Sullivan’s Tap Room –  and The Dylan (which had the best father/son duo mixing traditional irish tunes with everyday hits.  Amazing!

We only stayed in Kilkenny for 1 night – but it was a fabulous night.  Langton’s Hotel and the entire town remain one of our favourites!

Day 4:  On Route to Dingle

We departed Kilkenny and headed towards Dingle.  We decided to stop half way for a bite to eat and check out a castle I had found on line prior to arriving.  

Sites Included:

  • Kanturk Castle
  • Murphy’s Pub
  • Dick Mack’s
  • Dingle Skellig Hotel

While driving to Dingle – we stopped half way in a town called Kanturk and found a spectacular castle ruin.  It was raining when we arrived, but we were the only two around.  We walked the property, stepped inside the grandiose castle and took in the structure and all its glory.  It was simply amazing.  We were stunned to see that we were the only people in this beautiful structure.  We took our time and loved every second of exploring this wonder.

Note:  Sometimes – these ‘off the beaten path’ sites are better than the tourist sites. You can get up close and personal with the structure or site itself.  Less people around to spoil the old world feeling.  You can become immersed in the culture and the quiet of the site.  Stay tuned for a future blog post on Off The Beaten Path Irish Sites.

Back in the car we went and finally arrived in Dingle.  We stayed at the Dingle Skellig Hotel.  A lovely hotel – situated right on the waterfront of the North Atlantic Ocean.  Our room was fantastic – plush, modern and delicately decorated.  The hotel itself is huge – with an expanisve property, indoor pool, kids club, fitness centre, multiple pubs/eating establishments, and a spa.  Had we travelled with young children, this would have been an excellent choice – however – being a couple we found it overrun with families.  We were later told that this hotel is a favourite for the Irish to travel to for their summer vacation because of all the kids activities.  That being said – we had a fantastic stay at this hotel and breakfast was delicious.

Once we were settled, we decided to walk into the town of Dingle – a 10 minute walk.  Since it was raining, the hotel kindly lent us a large umbrella to use. It was definitely handy.  Due to the rain – we did not get the chance to explore Dingle like we had hoped to, but we ate some delicious Irish stew at Murphy’s pub, had a pint at Dick Mack’s – a famous spot for not only some pints, but also for leather goods (one side of this very tiny pub is a bar and the other is a leather shop).  The establishment opened in 1899 as a brew house and is now a bustling pub in the heart of Dingle.

Our stay in Dingle was a short one – one night – as well as a wet one however, we loved our quaint visit to this perfect seaside town. 

Day 5: Journey to Killarney

We departed Dingle for Killarney and decided that if we saw any signs of interest along the way that we would check them out.

Sites Included:

  • Minard Castle
  • Inch Beach

The sun was shining and while driving we spotted a sign for Minard Castle.  We decided to take a quick detour and we were so happy we did.  We found this spectacular site:

Again, away from the bustling tourists, this castle ruin on a seaside beach was picture-perfect.  One of my favourite sites we saw during this trip.  

Not far from Minard Castle was Inch Beach – another definite go to.  The sun was still shining while we were there and many locals were having fun with their families.  A great spot to stop.

We now arrived in Killarney (Day 5 + 6) .

Sites Included:

  • Muckross House and Abbey
  • Ross Castle
  • Murphy’s Pub
  • Mad Monk
  • Dunloe Lodge
  • St Mary’s Cathedral

We arrived at Killaran House and were greeted by Ciara.  She was wonderful and made our stay fantastic.  The beautifully decorated Bed and Breakfast was perfectly located – about a 10 minute walk to the main tourist section with shops, restaurants and pubs.  Our room was situated on the top floor and was not only cozy, quiet, but also quaint.  In the hall corridor outside the rooms – Ciara had set out tea, coffee, water, toiletries, muffins and extra towels for anyone who needed them.  A very nice touch.  

We were there for 2 nights and each of our breakfasts was splendid.  You could order a traditional Irish breakfast or a smaller fare of your liking.  The meals were delicious and their detail to presentation was impeccable.  

We loved our stay here at Killaran House and would highly recommend it to anyone staying in the Killarney area.

While in Killarney, we took in all the sites that we could.  We headed to Muckross House and Abbey and fell in love with the ‘Bridgerton’ style mansion and grounds.  The house – which is situated within the Killarney National Park – is still in immaculate shape with some original décor still in place. The grounds overlook a beautiful lake with a sweeping lawn and gorgeous gardens.  We loved learning about the family who owned it and the history that occurred.  

To head over to the Abbey – we opted for a horse and buggy ride.  I again, would highly recommend this option.  It’s a perfect way to take in the sites of the park, learn about the area from a local guide and also a lavishly romantic way to travel with your spouse.  

The Abbey was outstanding.  The structure and décor of the pillars and grounds were amazing.  The carvings on the walls and the flagstone pathways (which are typical of Franciscan architecture in Ireland), made you feel like you were stepping back in time. Within the centre of the Abbey was an old yew tree – which were found in most old cemeteries and monastic sites within Ireland.  It was gorgeous!

Next, we left there and headed for Ross Castle.  This 15th century castle is actually situated on the banks of Lough Leane and still stands tall and proud. It was the last place in Munster to hold out against Cromwell.  A great castle to see and explore.

Please Note:  Many sites we saw – we learned and read about Cromwell – I have not actually read about the history of Cromwell, but I understand that he was British and invaded Ireland. I believe he was not well liked in Ireland.  

After exploring Muckross, as well as Ross Castle, we headed back to Killaran House to freshen up. Over the next couple of days, we explored the town.  We found another Murphy’s Pub – of course – some cute shops, ate at the Mad Monk twice (fantastic lobster pasta and seafood chowder), visited St Mary’s Cathedral (and ended up crashing a wedding), grabbed some dairy-free icecream at Murphy’s, and listened to some great Irish music in some pubs. 

Killarney would also be one of our top Irish towns we visited.  We loved the sites, the people and the area.  There was still so much we could see, but we just couldn’t fit it all in – Ring of Kerry or Gap of Dunloe for example. Maybe on a future Irish adventure. 

Day 7: Journey to Galway

Leaving Killarney, we decided to drive to Tarbert and take the ferry.  This would guide us towards Doolin where we wanted to stop to admire the Cliffs of Moher (from afar). 

Tip: Purchase your ferry tickets online prior to going. They scan your ticket once you have boarded the boat.  

Sites Included:

  • Tarbert Ferry
  • Doolin
  • Cliffs of Moher
  • Corkscrew Hill
  • The Burren
  • Burren College of Art Castle
  • The Latin Quarter Galway
  • Galway Girl (The Quays) Pub
  • Murphy’s Bar

The ferry was fun.  Drive right on and within about 20 minutes you are across and onroute to Doolin.  The roads here were quite tiny at times, but arriving in Doolin was smooth.  The town itself is quite cute and colourful and a great way to view the Cliffs of Moher if you do not want to immerse yourself in with all the other tourists.  There is a hike you can take from Doolin to the main tourist centre at the cliffs (we did not take since it takes roughly over an hour one way), but since in a past Ireland adventure we had seen the cliffs of Inishmore (Aran Islands), we decided on this option.  

Tip:  Walk or drive down to the Doolin Pier to view the cliffs.  Very few tourists and you can still witness this magnificent landscape.

From Doolin we drove through the Burren (entire landscape of rock) and stumbled upon The Burren College of Art – which was a castle.  Fantastic.  It was simply amazing that we could view this castle – for free as well as the grounds of the art school.  A very pleasant stop for us. 

Tip:  We found this amazing castle just by noticing one of those ‘brown’ historic signs. Always be on the watch for these signs as they provide some of the best off the beaten path sites to see.

We were now entering Galway – Irelands Festival capital.  We stayed at the Galmont Hotel.  It was our only option upon booking. We do prefer bed and breakfasts or inns, but this was a nice hotel.  At first, they put us in an accessible room – we asked to be moved and they did accommodate us to a regular king room upgrade – free of charge.  They also (with an earlier request from me) had chocolate covered strawberries in the room for us for our anniversary.  They were delicious.  

We had been to Galway on a previous Ireland trip, so we did know what to expect, but we were in awe again.  The town is full of music.  Every pub and restaurant has music playing or an actual live band playing.  We ate at Galway Girl (The Quays) and ended up returning there for the remaining of the night to listen to some of the best Irish bands we have heard.  Fabulous time in Galway.   

Day 8:  Journey To Swords

Sites Included:

  • Castle Ruin
  • Kilconnell Franciscan Friary Ruin
  • Sean’s Bar
  • Trim Castle

Leaving Galway, we wanted to head to Trim to visit Trim Castle (where the movie Braveheart was filmed).  Along the way, we stumbled upon a castle ruin and an old Abbey.  It was raining at the time, so we did get a bit wet but it was worth it.  No one around and we could take our time to explore.  Before we made it to Trim, we stopped in Athlone to take a peak at Sean’s Bar – the oldest bar in Ireland. It is actually in the Guinness Book of World Records built in 900 AD.  Since it was still morning, we did not stop for a pint, but it was a perfect stopping point and site to see.  

Worth Noting: The town of Athlone not only has the old bar, but a castle and many other historical sites nearby.  If you are in the area – or if we are on a future trip – it would be worth exploring.

Arriving in Trim – the town is centred around this magnificent castle wall – housing Trim Castle Irelands largest Anglo-Norman castle built in 1172.  We were in awe of this structure.  We ended up taking a guided tour of the inside and learned so much about not only the structure, but the history of the town and its time frame.  Definitely worth visiting.  This was a highlight of our trip. 

We stayed our last night in Ireland in the town of Swords (which is 10 mintues from the Dublin Airport) at Rose Cottage bed and breakfast.  Out of all of our stays this trip – this was my favourite.  Dominika was our host and she provided such a lovely experience.  Our room was one of the best rooms we have ever stayed in. The décor was magazine worthy with plush carpet and bedding.  A roll-away cupboard provided a full continental breakfast area which included tea/coffee, water, fresh orange juice, pastries and jams, fruit, and oatmeal all with a French press, kettle and microwave at hand.  Her ‘cottage’ is about a 20 minute walk to town or a 5 minute drive and she has plenty of recommendations for dining or site seeing.  She recommended  The Old Schoolhouse to eat at and it did not disappointment. It was fabulous.  I would highly recommend Rose Cottage to begin or end your Irish adventure.  We will definitely stay here again if we have the pleasure to visit Ireland once more.  

Day 9:  Departure from Dublin Airport to Home

The drive to the airport was smooth.  Rose cottage was only 10 minutes away so we had plenty of time to arrive and return our rental car at the Avis Car Hire drop off.  Avis was again fantastic and easy to use.  They are very helpful and will guide you with any of your needs, questions or wants for the perfect car hire.

We had no issues at the airport, except they made us check our carry-on luggage – stating our bags were too big.  Looking at all of the passengers waiting to board, it looked like Air Canada made everyone check their luggage as well.  We were not bothered by this since we were headed home and it was as direct flight.  We had no issues retrieving our bags once we were home.  

Comparing this vacation to our other two previous Ireland vacations – it was again 10/10. We love Ireland.  We’ve been to the North (10-Day Northern Ireland Itinerary).  We’ve been to other Irish destinations (10-Day Ireland Itinerary). And now, we have completed almost all the general areas of Ireland.  There is still a couple areas we have yet to explore – one being  between Galway and Derry and one around the Waterford/Wexford area.  One day, I am sure we will venture back to the land of the green and I will be excited to again share our travels with you.  

Some Helpful Tips:

  • You need atleast 9 days – more is better – to get immersed in the Irish culture.  
  • YouTube, Pinterest and TikTok all have excellent travel destination ideas and tips
  • If renting a car – opt for automatic. You are already driving on the other side of the road, no need to switch your brain to shifting a stick with your left hand as well.  
  • Look at the Brown Historial signs along your driving routes.  These are the best ‘off the beaten path’ sites – in my opinion
  • Remember to allow for some spontaneous adventure. Don’t over schedule each area and destination.  Give yourself some room to get immersed in what the town, city or area has to offer. 

To read more about our Ireland adventures with tips and itinerary examples, click the links below.

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