Self Drive Trip in August

March 20, 2007



My wife and I will be visiting Ireland in August. As we have 15 nights to spend, we chose to do a ‘grand tour’. Just wanted to check if our itinerary is a realistic one. Here’s a rough outline of what we’re planning to do.

Day 1 arrive in Dublin from Belgium (afternoon). Visti Newgrange and spend the night in Drogheda. We won’t visit Dublin as we have been on a city trip there last year.
Day 2 Drive to Belfast and spend the night there.
Day 3 Visit Giant’s causeway and drive to Enniskillen. Spend 2 nights there. Drive around the lake and relax.
Day 5 Drive to Clifden. Stay 3 nights there to have a pause from driving and to explore Connemara.
Day 8 Drive via Cliffs of Moher and The Burren to Adare. Spend 2 nights there to visit Limerick and the Rock of Cashel.
Day 10 Drive to Killarney. 2 nights for the lakes and the Ring of Kerry.
Day 12 Drive to Cork via Mizen Head and Kinsale. 2 nights to visit the town and maybe Blarney Castle.
Day 14 Drive to Kilkenny following the coastline to Waterford and then to Killkenny.
Day 15 Drive to Killiney through Wicklow mountains and visit Powerscourt.
Day 16 Flying out from Dublin airport.

I realize we will have to bridge quite some distance on some days, but we’ve tried to compensate for that by spending 2 nights in several B&B’s and by including a couple of shorter transfers in the West of Ireland.
We have booked most of our B&B’s in advance as we realise August is a busy month.

What do you guys think? Will this be doable?

9 Answers

  • Sandy Stalter says:

    Planning a self-drive trip in July;  what is a realistic driving time from Kinsale to Newgrange?  We would like to see some sights along the way — maybe the Rock of Cashel — and be able to spend the night somewhere close enough to Newgrange so that we can do the tour the next morning.  Is Kildare a good place to stop for the night, or should I try to get closer to Newgrange?  Any suggestions would be appreciated!

  • DoChara says:

    The signposting and lane management system on the motorway near Belfast is very good. You won’t have any problems.

  • Manuel says:

    Thanks, your reassuring words are well appreciated

    A ‘normal’ motorway doesn’t frighten me, it’s the way they grow into 5 or 6 lane monsters near big towns that worries me the most. Don’t really know what to expect near Belfast, but we’ll give it a go. Even on the ‘right’ side in Belgium my wife and I don’t like speeding, so I guess we’ll be ok.


  • DoChara says:

    Definitely take the motorway, any other route is very circuitous and difficult. Actually motorways are MUCH easier to drive on than other types of road when you are driving on the ‘wrong’ side. I know when I am on the right side anywhere abroad I heave a sigh of relief when I hit a motorway/freeway.

    They are only difficult if you join in the competition to travel fastest, you don’t need that when you are on vacation. Just get into the slow lane, take it easy and follow the traffic in front!

    Lower Lough Erne is gorgeous, you’ll love it. If you have time, detour to Omagh and the Ulster American Folk Park if it’s not already on your list – you will really enjoy that, it’s an excellent park, way superior to Bunratty (and I love Bunratty).

    The rest of your plan is all good, you are giving yourselves plenty of time, alternating long drives with shorter ones and that will be something you will be very glad about when you are here.


  • Manuel says:

    Hi again,

    My wife and I have had another round of planning. We now decided to skip Newgrange and leave it for another time. Maybe in combination with a future city trip to Dublin. I think doing Newgrange on the day we are driving to Belfast for our only night there would take too much time. We decided to spent as much of the day possible in Belfast.

    Do you guys think taking the motorway into Belfast is a good idea for someone who is not used to driving on the left? We did a self drive tour in Scotland last year, using our GPS to avoid motorways as much as possible. I’m planning on doing the same in Ireland (not that there are a lot of them anyway), but for Belfast the motorway seems to be the best option, if its not to hectic, that is.

    We’re going to use Day 4 (Enniskillen) to drive around Lower Lough Erne as our guidebook says its a beautiful area. Any comments on that?

    Day 6 we’ll drive the Skye road near Clifden and visit the Connemara park, hoping for good weather to stretch our legs and maybe do a picknick. It will be a short drive, compensating for the long transfer from Enniskillen to Clifden the day before.
    Day 7 we’ll visit the Connemara Smokehouse and follow the coastline to Roundstone, driving back to Clifden via the Bog Road.

    Day 9: We decided to reduce the driving as day 8 is promising to be a tiring one, going from Clifden via the Cliffs of Moher to Adare. During our stay in Adare, we’ll only visit Limerick, leaving the Rock of Cashel for our transfer from Cork to Killkenny on day 14. That means we won’t follow the coastline and visit Waterford that day.

    Needless to say that any comments or additional tips are more than welcome.

    Thanks in advance,

  • Manuel says:

    Thanks for the quick replies and the great tips! If I would have any further questions, I know where to come first I will buy the Heritage Cards as we will be visiting several of the sites covered by them.


  • DoChara says:

    Wendy is absolutely right about Newgrange, but there is one additional tip that will make things much easier for you when you arrive there. Buy Heritage Cards as soon as you can – if you visit the Hill of Tara on the day you arrive you will be able to get them there.

    Not only will they save you a lot of money on your trip, but it means that when you arrive in popular places like Newgrange you already have your tickets and don’t need to line up with everyone else.

    It sounds to me like a really excellent itinerary, your long journey days are not boring ones, they are ones with quite a few places along the way that are worth stopping to see, so they won’t seem that bad.


  • Manuel says:

    Thanks for the comments, Wendy. We won’t risk the disappointment and will postpone our visit to Newgrange till the next morning. Visiting it on day 2 still allows us to spend some time in the centre of Belfast.

    I guess I don’t need to tell you my wife and I are already counting the days till August…


  • IrishFlair says:


    This looks like a very good itinerary to me. Very well done on seeing a lot but not setting too fast a pace.

    You are correct in that there are some days you will have a good bit of driving, but you know that and are prepared for it so you will not be disappointed about it at the end of the day. Just stop when you feel like and try to take the back roads as much as you can using the main M and N roads to make up time when needed.

    I would change one thing on your itinerary regarding Days 1 and 2. It is highly unlikely that when you arrive in August to Ireland you will be able to get tickets into Newgrange in the afternoon. That sight has limited numbers of tickets each day and in the high season (June, July, August) they are usually sold out by noon. I would move that sight to Day 2 and catch it first thing in the morning. It will take several hours (figure at least three) to see both passage tombs as well as the Visitor’s Centre. It’s then a short, quick drive from Newgrange to Belfast on the main road, about an hour and a half.

    There’s still plenty to see in the area – Hill of Tara is a good place to visit or Trim Castle (one of my favorites!) Or you may want to take in Dublin instead of hitting the road right away since you don’t have any other time scheduled for it.

    Have a great trip!


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