4 Day Trips You Should Take in Ireland
If you aren’t brave enough to rent a car and drive on the left side of the road (or if you would rather relax on a bus), you have to check out Irish Day Tours in Dublin. They have so many great options for you to see some of Ireland’s most beautiful sights. After my first trip, I didn’t want to try any other tour company because everything went so smoothly. I was living right in downtown Dublin so it was easy to hop out of bed and walk to the pick-up location.
If you plan to take multiple trips I recommend booking them at the same time as they offer bulk discounts.
1. Giant's Causeway
65 Euros | View Itinerary
The Giant’s Causeway is near Belfast in Northern Ireland. We started our tour on the bus in Dublin at 6:30AM and headed towards the Carrick-A-Rede suspension bridge.
We stopped for a short break in a small coastal town with large, extravagant houses and small quaint homes lining the coast. I loved this little seaport. This rest stop was the first time I had set eyes on the Irish coast. The air was so fresh there and there were small trees that looked like miniature palm trees - so cute!
We had to walk about 5 minutes down the coast along the edge of a huge cliff before we arrived at the bridge.
When we arrived, I was super nervous - my fear of heights and my love for adventure don't often agree. It was pouring rain which made the bridge a bit slippery and made my camera hard to hold on to. Update: I made it across with a smile on my face!
When we arrived at the Giant’s Causeway, we took the shuttle bus down to the water because we were soaking wet and wanted to make the most of our time. We only had an hour and a half to spend at the causeway and eat lunch, and were told the walk down would take about 10 minutes.
When we got off the bus, my enchantment with the Irish coast grew even more. Walking out onto the causeway was an experience I'll never forget. It juts out into the ocean and the waves crash all around you. They looked so big as they came in but, just as they approached the causeway, they would die down while still managing to make a scene as they crashed into the rocks.
If you want a good story, you have to check out the myth behind the Giant's Causeway.
Tip: Wear athletic pants or something that dries fast because you most likely will get soaked either from the rain or from the spray off the rocks. I also recommend bringing a long rain coat to Ireland. Make sure it has a hood and is long enough to cover your bum. The wind is crazy there so umbrellas aren't usually all that useful. If you do bring an umbrella, bring one that has the extra piece of fabric underneath to help catch the wind.
Belfast & Dunluce Castle
On our way to Belfast, we briefly stopped at the Dunluce Castle. This castle is right on the edge of a cliff and is known as Castle Greyjoy on Game of Thrones.
Then we were off to Belfast for an hour to do a quick, self-guided tour of the city. We were dropped off at City Hall, which houses the Titanic Memorial Gardens. If I go back to Belfast, I'll definitely do the Titanic tour and visit where it was built.
Belfast is also home to Europa Hotel, which is known as the most bombed hotel in the world after suffering 36 bomb attacks. The hotel is still fully operational as a 4-star hotel!
2. Blarney Castle, Cork & Rock of Cashel
55 Euros | View Itinerary
Rock of Cashel
The tour started at the historic Rock of Cashel. The cute town of Cashel is on one side, and the other side is the Irish countryside littered with dairy cows and green grass.
Cork is Ireland’s “second city” according to Dubliners. It is the second biggest city in the Republic of Ireland with about half a million people. It has the second deepest natural sea port in the world, second to Sydney, and is the last place that the Titanic docked before it sank.
We started exploring Cork by walking down Patrick Street which is a unique shopping street that houses the English Market. The English Market is a large farmers market and one of the main attractions in Cork. Unfortunately, because we visited on a Sunday, it was closed.
Tip: I was surprised by how quiet Sundays are in Ireland (and most countries in Europe). I don't recommend taking day trips on a Sunday unless it is on one of the trips that doesn't stop in a city. Make sure you plan around that if you take a weekend trip or if your stay in a city lands on a Sunday.
We went down a side street to check out a church we spotted from the main road called the Holy Trinity Church. Although it was a Sunday, Cork still seemed much quieter than Dublin and was really enjoyable to walk through.
Finbarr Cathedral is probably one of the most interesting cathedrals I have seen in Europe (check out the pic above) and it was the perfect place to eat our packed lunches.
Tip: There aren't a ton of stops on these day tours and you usually have limited time off the bus. I recommend bringing a packed lunch so that you have the flexibility to enjoy it on the bus or in your favourite park, like this one.
To wrap up our time in Cork, we stopped at Cork Coffee Roasters. The coffee was nice and strong and I would go back in a heartbeat just for its atmosphere and cute interior.
The tour finished at the Blarney Castle where we were given two hours to explore the grounds and make our way to the top of the castle to kiss the Blarney Stone. I didn’t think we would need a full two hours to explore the area…until we arrived. Two hours wasn't enough to explore the entire park. The grounds were so well kept with the greenest grass, the brightest flowers, and the most unique looking trees.
We started out by climbing the narrow staircase to the top of the castle to kiss the Blarney Stone. A staff member sits at the opening and holds you as you stretch down to kiss the stone. There is a barred structure below to catch you if you fall, but it honestly didn't look like it would be all that helpful...
The Irish say that kissing the stone bestows the gift of eloquence. I imagined the stone would be obvious in some way, but it was just a slab embedded within the castle. At one point I asked where it was because I didn’t think I was looking at it. When I stood up after kissing the stone my legs were shaking so much I thought I was going to fall over - definitely one of the most awkward but scary positions I have ever been in. You really are upside down!
Make sure you check out the garden of poisonous plants, the Blarney House and the wishing steps. You are supposed to make a wish at the bottom near the waterfall, and then walk up the stairs backwards - somehow I didn't fall even though I am super clumsy.
This was one of my favourite day trips in Ireland. The pace was good so we didn’t feel rushed throughout the trip, and all of the sites were beautiful and relaxing to explore.
3. Cliffs of Moher
45 Euros | View Itinerary
Tip: I recommend booking this trip last minute in order to pick the day with the best weather. Ireland is like Calgary and the weather changes without warning, but it's still a good idea to pick a nice day! I was told that April or May is the best time to go on this trip.
When we arrived at the cliffs, the fog was so thick that you couldn’t even tell they were there. My heart sank quickly when I realized I only had an hour and a half at the cliffs and might not even get to see them. Out of no where the fog completely cleared which was a huge relief - look at that view!
Burren National Park
On our way back to Dublin, we stopped at the Burren National Park where we were given 20 minutes to hang out along the limestone cliffs. I always love the sound of waves crashing against a cliff. The was crystal clear with a turquoise hue - I could see all the way to the bottom. After taking a few photos, I sat down so I could watch the foam of the waves slide up and down the rocks below. I will always remember that moment because it just felt so calm.
Tip: Try to stay awake on the bus ride home. We drove along the coast on our way back towards Dublin. I managed to snap this shot above through the bus window while we were driving.
4. Glendalough & Kilkenny
33 Euros | View Itinerary
We started out in the misty area of Glendalough which reminded me of a greener version of home. We were surrounded by rolling hills, trees, moss and the greenest grass I have ever seen (I think I said that more times than I can count in Ireland, but it’s just so green). We took a short walk through the area, and at the end of our walk we visited the monastery. Many movies were filmed in this area, including P.S. I Love You!
We then got on the bus and headed towards Kilkenny. We did a short walking tour where we visited the Kilkenny Castle, the jail, and the Dominican Black Abbey. Spending time in Kilkenny was pretty relaxing as we had more than enough time to see the main highlights. With our extra time we visited St. Mary’s Church and went to the food hall at the Kilkenny Design Center. I had a piece of chocolate cloud cake, which was one of the best desserts I have had so far in Europe. Our tour guide was hanging out here while he waited for us to finish our self-guided touring. Obviously it was the place to be!
Hopefully you find a few tours that can help you make the most of your time in Ireland or inspire you to book a trip! If you have any other recommendations for day trips, please add them to the comments below.