How To Explore Ireland on the Best Day Trips From Dublin

The Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge is among the best must-see sights in Ireland
The Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge is among the best must-see sights in Ireland | © Danita Delimont / Alamy Stock Photo
On your visit to Ireland, Dublin’s not only the best city to explore, but it’s also a fantastic base to discover the rest of the country. These exciting day trips from Dublin will take you through the best of the Irish landscape.

Despite Dublin’s many qualities, visitors will doubtless feel the pull of Ireland’s other iconic sights, from the Giant’s Causeway to the Ring of Kerry. However, if you want an escape without the hassle of switching hotels, you’re in luck because Ireland’s compactness, excellent infrastructure and tireless guides make day trips across the country more than feasible.

Giant’s Causeway and Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge

Two of Northern Ireland’s superstar attractions come together in this great-value tour: the iconic stepped basalt columns of the Giant’s Causeway and the vertiginous Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, constructed by salmon fishermen 350 years ago. The day-long tour starts early and covers a lot of ground, including a brief photo stop at the ruins of Dunluce Castle (available in the summer season only) and another stop at the “Dark Hedges,” an avenue of beech trees made famous in Game of Thrones. The trip concludes with an hour of sightseeing in Belfast before heading back to Dublin.

Salmon fishermen first constructed the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge in 1755 © ASK Images / Alamy Stock Photo

Day trip to Kerry

County Kerry is the Ireland of fairytales, with verdant valleys, a dramatic coastline and many-hued cottages. This tour of the region takes in its most important sights, beginning with Killarney National Park and the town that bears its name. Part of the famous Ring of Kerry scenic drive, the town’s narrow lanes hide old-timey restaurants and craft shops. The trip continues along a portion of the Ring, stopping to view the 18-metre-high (59-foot) Torc Waterfall before heading north to take in the spectacular Atlantic coastline from the Dingle Peninsula.

The Dingle Peninsula makes up part of the Wild Atlantic Way © / Christopher Hill Photographic / Alamy Stock Photo

Dublin Bay: Cruise from the City Centre to Dún Laoghaire

Pronounced “Dun Leery”, the 200-year-old port of Dún Laoghaire was once a popular Victorian resort town. Now, it’s a weekend escape for Dublin’s frazzled city workers, who come to peruse its quirky bookstores, seafood restaurants and elegantly landscaped parks. Arrive in style on this 60-minute cruise from the city centre. A guide will identify landmarks on the way, such as beachy Bull Island and Joyce’s Martello Tower, where James Joyce spent six nights in 1904. The vessel has a bar and two decks, for a choice between open-air views and the cosy indoor cabin.

Dún Laoghaire makes for a great weekend escape © Bernard Golden / Alamy Stock Photo

Wicklow Mountains National Park

The largest of Ireland’s six national parks and the only one on the east coast, the heath-draped Wicklow Mountains make an easy day trip from Dublin. This tour offers a range of options depending on your preferred activity level, including hill walking, horse riding and cycling over the mountains. It’s also possible to take a low-intensity stroll through the Japanese gardens of the Powerscourt Estate. The tour continues past the Guinness Lake – so-called for its brown peaty waters edged by foam-white sands – and concludes at the sixth-century Glendalough Monastic Site, set in a tranquil lake valley.

The Wicklow Mountains National Park has many beautiful sights and fun adventures © linda nolan / Alamy Stock Photo

Inishmore, Aran Islands Full-Day Tour with Flight

The idyllic Aran Islands would preferably warrant a stay of at least one night, but if you’re short on time, this extravagant-but-worth-it tour will fly you there from Connemara Airport, just outside Galway. If the weather is clear, you’ll get tremendous views before touching down on Inishmore, the largest of the Aran Islands. A guided walk will then explore the island’s geological riches and the prehistoric fort of Dún Aengus, one of the best archaeological sites of its kind in Europe. Please note that due to the distances involved, much of the day will be spent travelling.

Inishmore has several historical sites © Haydn Hansell / Alamy Stock Photo

Belfast and Titanic Experience

There’s no way to condense Belfast’s many historical attractions into one day trip, but this tour gives it a try, mostly taking a political angle. It begins with a trip to a Belfast “peace wall,” erected at the onset of the Troubles to segregate Protestant and Catholic communities. It may be your last chance to see one – the Northern Irish government has sworn to demolish them all by 2023. A guided political taxi tour then whizzes round the major sights including the Irish Republican History Museum, before the trip concludes with a brief visit to the Titanic Experience.

There are dozens of ‘peace walls’ in Belfast © Elisabeth Blanchet / Alamy Stock Photo

Cliffs of Moher, Burren and Galway

There’s a lot of driving involved in this epic day tour to the west coast’s major attractions, but the scenery makes it worthwhile. After racing across the famous horse-breeding region of Curragh, the first and longest stop is at the Cliffs of Moher. Winding along 14 kilometres (8.7 miles) of spectacular coastline, the cliffs reach 214m (702ft) at their highest point and are home to over 30,000 breeding pairs of birds, including guillemots, peregrine falcons and puffins. The tour then heads for the rocky landscapes of the Burren and the city of Galway before meandering back to Dublin via the Wild Atlantic Way.

The Cliffs of Moher are a spectacular natural attraction © Elena Cassidy / Alamy Stock Photo

Newgrange Tomb and Hill of Tara

After stopping in the ancient fishing village of Howth, this full-day tour continues north to Newgrange and the Hill of Tara. Measuring 85m (279ft) in diameter and almost perfectly circular and surrounded by megaliths, the otherworldy Newgrange is a Stone Age tomb older than Stonehenge. Continuing to one of the largest complexes of Celtic monuments in Europe, the Hill of Tara is also one of the most sacred, revered as a dwelling place for the gods and the inauguration site of ancient Irish kings. The tour returns to Dublin in the early evening.

Newgrange dates back to around 3200 BC © Jack Maguire / Alamy Stock Photo

Day trip to Cork

The waterways, traditional restaurants and cosy pubs of Ireland’s second city merit more than a day’s exploration. However, if a day is all you have, this tour could be just the ticket. Starting early in Dublin, the first stop is at Cahir Castle, the scene of numerous bloody sieges between the Irish and the English. Upon arriving in Cork, you will have two and a half hours to explore the city centre, including the English Market – set up in 1788 by the Protestant (“English”) corporation that controlled the city at the time. You’ll return to Dublin via the Rock of Cashel historic site in Tipperary.

Cork is the second-largest city in Ireland © dia karanouh / Alamy Stock Photo

Malahide Castle and Howth

Henry II of England gifted Malahide Castle to young knight Sir Richard Talbot in 1185, and it remained the Talbots’ home for nearly 800 years (barring a brief 17th-century occupation by Cromwellian soldiers). Rose Talbot sold it to the Irish State in 1975, living out the rest of her days on a farm in Tasmania. Learn about the fascinating Talbot family on this half-day tour, which begins with a quick circuit of Dublin’s highlights and also stops in the fishing village of Howth, famous for its seafood restaurants and views over Dublin Bay.

Malahide Castle belonged to the same family for 800 years © Julie Workman / Alamy Stock Photo