The Best Ireland Road Trip Itinerary
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Are you heading to Ireland with kids and looking for the perfect Ireland road trip itinerary? Planning a road trip through Ireland doesn’t have to be stressful. No matter which part of the country you plan to visit, you are sure to be rewarded with beautiful views and some amazing sights. Our trip was in November, so we didn’t experience the crowds and higher costs that those visiting in summer months do. The weather, however, was freezing for us Floridians (40s and 50s and tons of rain which everyone said is to be expected here), but doable. Keep in mind we left our house when it was in the 80s so for us, it’s a huge weather change. If you’re traveling from a place that has 4 seasons, this was probably warmer than your home city.
Our Ireland road trip itinerary started and ended in Dublin and to be quite honest, we could have easily spent all of our time in Dublin, we loved it so much. We had 10 full days to enjoy Ireland but feel free to modify this itinerary to fit your needs. We traveled clockwise and stopped as some famous and not so famous sights along the way. Here is the best Ireland road trip itinerary with kids.
What airport should I fly into to start my Ireland road trip?
We recommend flying into Dublin and spending several days there before heading on your Ireland road trip. We started and ended our Ireland trip in Dublin and loved exploring the city. The city has lots to see and Dublin is one of the best European cities to visit with kids. It’s super easy to navigate and we got the hang of the area within a day, not needing to look at our phones for directions. We used points to book our airfare on Aer Lingus so our flights were free, minus the taxes. Going through customs in Dublin took less than 2 minutes. We walked right up to the agent and were done in no time.
What car rental company should I use in Ireland?
If you’re looking for the best car rental company, we highly recommend AutoEurope. We rented an automatic SUV from Sixt that was perfect for our Ireland road trip. Be sure to double check your insurance coverage since driving in Ireland is no easy feat. Their roads in many places are super narrow, we kept wondering how they consider them to be two lane roads when our car barely fit alone.
And street lights were not present on many of the country roads which made it pitch black once the sun went down. Pair all that with driving on the opposite side (for us) of the road and pouring rain (you’ll see lots of that here!) and you have the recipe for some potential stress! And I won’t even go into detail about their parking decks, even the locals were struggling with the tiny spots and oddly designed structures.
How long does an Ireland road trip take?
That depends on how much you want to see and how often you stop. We aren’t ones to drive 3+ hours at a time, that’s no fun for anyone. So we set aside more time with shorter drives (1-3 hours max most days) so we can actually enjoy the destinations instead of just rushing through them.
What is the best time for an Ireland road trip?
The best weather for an Ireland road trip will be in the summer months however that’s also when hotel and car rental prices are high, and it will be super crowded. We went Thanksgiving week (November) and while it was colder (ok, freezing but we left when it was 80 in Florida so I can’t really be the judge of wintery weather!), the country side wasn’t as crowded and we got much better deals on our hotels and car rental. Dublin was still super packed so I can’t imagine how much more packed it can be in the summer months!
Stop 1: Dublin
Where to stay in Dublin with kids
We split our stay between two properties, since we started and ended our trip here and had hotel points for different properties. At the beginning of our trip, we stayed at the Moxy Dublin City, a Marriott property. This hotel was in an awesome location, a super short walk to tons of restaurants and activities and the famous Temple Bar was just a 10 minute walk away. Our room had a queen and single bed, which was perfect for our family of 3.
Our last night was spend at the Holiday Inn Express Dublin City Centre. We had points to use for both of these so our stay in Dublin was free. This hotel was a 5 minute walk from the Moxy, and also in a very central location. We liked the Holiday Inn much more, both hotel and location wise and would spend all our time here if we came back.
How to get around Dublin with kids
Trams are the most common way to get around Dublin, if you download the LUAS app it will tell you where to get on/off. Buses are also frequent and used by locals. That said, we didn’t use any public transportation while here and walked since everything we wanted to see was within walking distance to our hotel. We walked a ton but we enjoy discovering new cities by foot so this worked out well for us.
What to do in Dublin with kids
Wondering what to do in Dublin with kids? Dublin is a very family friendly city with tons to do with kids of all ages. It quickly became one of our favorite European cities to visit with kids and we truly enjoyed exploring all it has to offer.
Hop on/Hop off Bus Tour
If you are staying here for just a few days, I highly recommend doing one of the bus tours to get acquainted with the city and return to places you might want to spend more time with. There are multiple companies to choose from and they all seem to take the same route so you really can’t go wrong with any of them. We opted for the Big Bus Tour and just did a loop with a couple of stops on a rainy day however keep in mind that they aren’t very frequent and some people complained of waiting 30+ minutes in the freezing, rainy weather for the bus to come.
Visit the Temple Bar
Yes, it’s touristy but is it really a trip to Dublin if you don’t see this iconic building? We were lucky enough to be here a month before Christmas so it was all decked out for the holidays. Don’t skip this on your trip to Dublin with kids!
St. Patrick’s Cathedral
Another must do while in Dublin with kids is visiting St. Patrick’s Cathedral. If you want to skip the entrance line, buy your tickets on their website ahead of time. The Big Bus dropped us off right in front of the building which was very convenient.
We loved seeing the inside of the church and if you want your kids to learn something while here, grab one of the free headsets so they can listen to the history at each station.
Visit the Hodges Figgis bookstore
Another great thing to do in Dublin with kids is visiting a bookstore. I have a little reader who is obsessed with the British author David Walliams so we went in search of some of his books and found tons here! This is a 4 level store with so many amazing books. You can easily spend a few hours here if books are your thing.
Walk around the city
One of our favorite things to do in a new city is just walk. No destination in mind, just check out all of the little shops, restaurants and sights. Dublin is very pedestrian friendly, we walked hours each day and loved seeing the city by foot.
Visit a distillery
Ok, so whiskey and children don’t exactly mix but what’s a visit to Ireland without doing a whiskey tasting? One of the stops on the Big Bus was the Teelings Distillery so we stopped here. While dad tasted some whiskey, Milana and I hung out in the cafe and enjoyed some tea and croissants.
For a better tasting experience, my friend and I sent our husbands to Roe & Co Distillery while we hung out with the kids.
Visit a mall
There are several malls in Dublin, many within walking distance of the city center. The Jervis Shopping Center was just a 10 minute walk from our hotel, so we went there on a rainy day. The mall was really nicely decorated for Christmas, much better decor than we’ve seen at US malls!
On the same street as the mall is one of the most amazing toy stores you will ever see. My daughter heard about Smyths before we arrived so of course we had to check it out. The store is massive with every toy you can imagine.
One of our favorite things to do in Dublin with kids was visiting the Leprechaun Museum. We weren’t sure what to expect but it was a really cool experience. A guide leads you from room to room and tells you stories about the history of leprechauns, fairies and is really animated in the storytelling, keeping kids interested. They also take you to a room with massive size furniture where you can experience what life is like for a leprechaun.
Where to eat in Dublin with kids
One of our favorite things to do on our travels is to eat at local restaurants. You will find tons of restaurants here, from pretty much every culture. I wills ay, that we aren’t fans of traditional Irish food (it’s too heavy for us) but we did try some while here. Here are some of our favorite (and not so favorite) kid friendly Dublin restaurants.
Located on Bachelors Walk, this pub allows kids up to 9pm. The food here is cheap and surprisingly really good. We tried the beef stew, soup and potato skins and all were great.
Murray’s Public House
If you only go to one Dublin pub with your kids, make it this one! This was the best kid friendly pub in Dublin. We were here in late November, so the entire place was decorated for the holidays, inside and out. They are super popular and super packed, but you can make reservations via their website. They are right next door to the Holiday Inn Express so if you stay there, you can just walk over for dinner.
Hanley’s Cornish Pasties
So while this isn’t a sit down restaurant, this was one of our favorite places to eat in Dublin with kids. They have so many different flavors to choose from, everyone in your family is bound to find something they like. We chose the Irish beef and ham and cheese and both were really good. It’s a great place to stop if you have hungry kids between meals! We stopped here multiple times during our stay.
A one minute walk from the Moxy was this always busy Asian restaurant. They had lots of boba teas, bubble waffles and some really good food on the menu. Every time we would walk past this place, it was packed so we decided to try it one evening. Milana had the chicken ramen, I had the coconut chicken curry and we tried a peanut butter bubble waffle. We also tried some of their teas as well. All were really good and we would definitely go back!
Gallagher’s Boxty House
With all the hits there’s bound to be a miss and this was it. This was one of the most recommended restaurants and we all hated it! It’s overpriced for the area and the food is just not good. We ended up leaving most of it uneaten. We ordered the seafood chowder, vegetarian chili boxty and kid’s lamb stew. None of us liked our meal but given how popular this place is, try it for yourself.
The Old Mill Restaurant
This was one of our favorite kid friendly restaurants in Dublin. It was packed on a Sunday morning in November, so I imagine even more so in the tourist season! They have a kids menu here and some good options on the regular menu too. We came for breakfast, so we had the traditional Irish breakfast. Keep in mind that the kid menu sizes in Ireland have been the same as the adult portions, just half the cost.
The Parnell Heritage Pub & Grill
Across the street from the Holiday Inn was this family friendly Dublin pub. We have been out all day and didn’t want to go far, so we came here with our friends for dinner. They have the typical Irish food and some not so typical options. Good option if you are staying nearby however I would first try Murray’s across the street before coming here.
The Rolling Donut
While walking around, you will see a lot of these donut shops. We love donuts and had to stop in to try some. We got peanut butter and jelly and blueberry cheesecake and both were really good.
Stop 2: Rock of Cashel (1 hour, 45 minutes)
One of Ireland’s most spectacular archeological sites, the Rock of Cashel is a must stop on your Ireland road trip itinerary. The rock of Cashel served as the main royal site for the kings of Munster. According to legend St. Patrick himself came here to convert King Aenghus to Christianity.
The place was deserted when we came, but I hear it gets very busy in the warmer months.
The city around the site was super cute too if you want somewhere to explore or eat.
Stop 3: Blarney Castle & Blarney Stone
Of course no Ireland road trip is complete without a visit to see the Blarney Stone! On your way to or from Cork, be sure to stop at Blarney Castle and the famous Blarney Stone. The kids were excited to climb up the narrow, winding staircase up to the top of the castle and kiss the stone. Kissing the Blarney stone is said to give a person is said to give a person the gift of eloquence and persuasiveness.
Keep in mind that the climb to the top is on a very narrow and uneven staircase, so younger kids may have an issue with it. Also we heard that in the summer months, the line to the top starts at the bottom of the castle which is insane! There were a handful other people there during our visit so we walked right up to the top and to the stone.
Stop 4: Cork with a stop in Cobh
Where to stay in Cork with kids
The town of Cork is super cute and a great stop on your Ireland road trip itinerary. We stayed at the Radisson BLU Hotel & Spa in Cork in one of their family rooms, which had a king bed and bunk beds. This hotel is a bit away from the city center, so you will have to drive if you want to visit the city.
What to do in Cork with kids
During our time here, we visited the town of Cobh. While not a large city, Cobh is worth the visit. Famous for the Titanic Museum, the Titanic’s final stop was in Cobh, before making its fateful journey across the Atlantic. One of the most popular sights here is a row of colorful houses called the Deck of Cards. If you go to West View Park, you can get a great shot of the houses with St. Coleman’s Cathedral in the background.
Downtown Cork is super cute as well. Head to Marlboro Street (near St. Patrick’s St) and you can walk down a pedestrian only street lined with tons of shops and restaurants.
Where to eat in Cork with kids
The Anglers Bar & Restaurant
While not in Cork but nearby Carrigrohane, we visited this pub for dinner after visiting Blarney Castle. It’s not the most spectacular food, but we were all starving after playing tourist all day so we came here.
Dulce Bun House
In downtown Cork, you will find this cute little cafe. While the adults had their afternoon coffee, Milana enjoyed nutella/banana/berry pancake bites.
Stop 5: Killarney (50 minutes)
Our next overnight stop on our Ireland road trip Itinerary was Killarney, where we explored the super cute town of Killarney. This was one of our favorite cities on our Ireland road trip itinerary. The downtown is really cute, one of our favorites from this trip!
Where to stay in Killarney with kids
In Killarney, we stayed at the Killarney Royal Hotel. The hotel is super cute in a really cute, walkable area with tons of shops and restaurants. It’s an older hotel so don’t expect modern amenities but we loved our stay here and would definitely stay again.
What to do in Killarney with kids
One of the best things to do in Killarney with kids is to stroll through the downtown area. It’s super cute, with lots of shops and restaurants. We came in late November, so they were all decked out for Christmas which was really cute to see.
Located in Killarney National Park, this famous mansion is a great place to learn about Irish history and culture. There’s a working farm here that is open seasonally.
Where to eat in Killarney with kids
While wandering around downtown Killarney, we stumbled upon this cute little Italian restaurant. We decided to have dinner here and enjoyed our meal. We all had our own pizza and all were great. They have a 3 course kids menu which includes started, main dish and dessert.
If you’re anything like us, you have children that are starving at all hours of the day. Milana got hungry in the middle of the day and we weren’t ready for dinner, so we walked into this chicken place. It’s nothing special, but definitely lots of kid friendly options.
Stop 6: King John’s Castle, Limerick (1.5 hours)
We wanted to see another castle on our trip, so we decided to stop in the city of Limerick on our way from Killarney to the Cliffs of Moher to break up the drive. This 13th century castle played a lead role in the Siege of Limerick in 1691. When you climb to the top, you’ll have panoramic views of the city below.
Stop 7: Cliffs of Moher (1 hour) and Doolin
It was a windy day during our visit and it wasn’t very crowded, so we were able to explore without many people. This is one of the most popular sights in Ireland and a must on your Ireland road trip itinerary. Keep in mind the top was super windy, wind that was stronger than the recent FL hurricanes we experienced in our area! My daughter had a hard time standing up and needed to hold on to the side to walk back down. I can see smaller kids being pushed down the stairs. They do warn you when you park if the wind is exceptionally strong but it’s not like we could have came back another day so we went.
Where to stay in Doolin with kids
We stayed at the Hotel Doolin, Ireland’s first certified carbon neutral hotel. The town of Doolin isn’t big, with not many restaurants or even a supermarket, but it’s a cute little town and a great hotel near the Cliffs of Moher.
Where to eat in Doolin with kids
As I mentioned, you aren’t going to find many options in this city so we ended up having dinner at the pub connected to our hotel.
This pub, located at Hotel Doolin, was packed on a Wednesday night. They have a kids menu, the typical Irish dishes as well as some other options as well. Great option if you are staying at the hotel.
The Cheese Press
Across the street from Hotel Doolin is this cute little cheese shop. They have some souvenirs, snacks and of course, cheese. They have cheese toasties served on sourdough bread and they are really good. We got 3 and loved them!
What to do in Doolin with kids
The main reason we stayed here was because we stopped at the Cliffs of Moher and this was one of the closest towns to the cliffs. There isn’t much to do here, as it is a small town, but it’s still cute to see.
Their little downtown area has a few stores and restaurants and you can also take the Aran Island ferry from here, something I don’t recommend during the winter months since the waves were massive and I cannot imagine being on a boat in those conditions!
Stop 8: Galway (1.5 hours)
A harbour city on Ireland’s West Coast, Galway is a must stop on an Ireland road trip itinerary. We stopped here for a few hours to explore this cute coastal city. Their downtown area is super cute and their Christmas market was up and running during our visit. I wouldn’t come here specifically for the Christmas market, as it wasn’t great with just a few booths set up. Not at all what you think of when you think of Christmas markets.
Stop 9: Ashford Castle (45 minutes)
One of the things we wanted to do on our Ireland road trip is to have afternoon tea and what better place than in a castle? Ashford Castle serves afternoon tea every day and it’s a gorgeous castle to see! This is by far the best castle of our trip and you can even stay there if you’re willing to shell out the money.
The tea here was really good and all of the staff super friendly. It’s not often you’ll get to have tea in a castle so if you happen to be traveling through this area, book this amazing experience!
Stop 10: Westport (45 minutes)
Our next overnight stop was Westport, another cute city on the West coast of Ireland.
Where to stay in Westport with kids
We stayed at the Westport Plaza Hotel, which was super close to the downtown area and had family rooms.
What to do in Westport with kids
We didn’t do much here, it was mainly to rest after a long day of sightseeing. The hotel was walking distance to the downtown area so we walked around a bit in the morning before heading to our next destination.
There are lots of things to do here with kids, but most are outdoors so better for the warmer months.
Where to eat in Westport with kids
We didn’t go out to eat while here since we arrived late and had breakfast at the hotel, but we did have dinner at the hotel’s restaurant, Coveys Gastrobar. The food was actually really good and having been so done with the pub/Irish food, we loved that they had other options. Milana was so happy to see that the kids menu had chicken curry so she ordered that.
Stop 11: Sligo (1.5 hours)
The next overnight stop on our Ireland road trip itinerary was Sligo, a coastal little town in the north of Ireland. This cute coastal town has beaches if you’re coming in the summer and another cute downtown area. This was one of our favorite stops on our trip.
Where to stay in Sligo with kids
We stayed at the Radisson BLU Hotel & Spa, about a 10 minute drive to downtown.
What to do in Sligo with kids
Visit a waterfall
Glencar Waterfall is a short drive from Sligo and a short half mile hike will get you to it.
Explore downtown Sligo
We love visiting the different downtowns and Sligo has a really cute one, with lots of shops and restaurants.
Where to eat in Sligo with kids
We wanted something other than Irish food so when we stumbled upon You & Me Asian Fusion Restaurant, we decided to have lunch there. It’s just simple Asian dishes but we enjoyed our meals here.
Stop 12: Belfast (2 hours, 45 minutes)
This was the longest drive of our trip by far because we didn’t want to stop anywhere between Sligo and Belfast so we just drove to the destination we wanted to see.
Where to stay in Belfast with kids
We stayed at the Hilton Belfast, which was right in the middle of the city and walkable to a lot of the places we wanted to see. I will warn you that the parking lot is one of the worst designed lots we have ever seen. Even locals who are used to driving on that side of the road were struggling. The walls were all scuffed up so you know many hit them!
What to do in Belfast with kids
Titanic was built in Belfast and sailed to Southampton, England, for the official start of her maiden voyage. This museum will give you a great insight to the history of the ship and of Belfast. It’s kid friendly too, they have a fun scavenger hunt your kids can do while walking through the museum. Be sure to pick up the map and pencil before starting your tour.
We happened to be here in late November, when the Christmas market was happening, so we spent some time there. It’s a great Christmas market with lots of vendors, so check it out if you come around this time!
You can see a video of the market here:
Stop 13: Dublin (2 hours)
The final stop on our Ireland road trip itinerary was Dublin, where we started our trip. We spent our final night here before flying back home and quite honestly, we could have spent the entire time here!
Have you been to Ireland with kids? We loved our road and hope that our Ireland road trip with kids itinerary helps you in planning your trip to Ireland. Want to save this to read later? Pin one of the images below.