History and Culture on an Ireland Road Trip

Are you ready to discover the beauty of Ireland inside and out?
Are you ready to discover the beauty of Ireland inside and out? | Nils Nedel / Unsplash
Gethin Morgan

Content and CRM Executive

The history of Ireland is as rich and storied as any, but the present is just as thrilling, which is what we set out to prove on this ultimate Ireland trip itinerary.

There’s something about this unique isle that lends itself so perfectly to storytelling. Whether it’s the isolation of being an island and the vastness of its seemingly untouched landscapes, or perhaps it’s the turbulence of its history and the richness of its old folkloric texts. There’s a sense of fairytale to Ireland that you simply cannot escape. Not to fall too deeply into stereotype – this country is as contemporary as any – but the natural beauty remains untarnished, while traces of ancient history follow wherever you go, and the rock-solid identity of the Irish people remains as impassioned as ever. Even in present day Ireland, you can’t help but feel a sense of story and adventure on the Atlantic horizon.

One crucial mistake, which many tourists make on a holiday in Ireland, is to barely venture beyond the lively centre of Dublin. To truly get a grasp of this magical nation you need to go on a proper tour of Ireland, visiting the likes of County Cork and County Limerick, Galway City and the town of Kinsale. Visit as many castles, abbeys and architectural remains as you can, trace as much of the island’s spectacular coastline as you can, chat to as many locals as possible, and see if you can tell the difference between regional dialects.

To come to Ireland and not embrace the local culture, the Irish story, is to miss out on so much heart and soul. Embrace the land, embrace the people, see as much as you can and immerse yourself in local communities. That’s the aim of Culture Trip’s small-group adventures, which are designed to offer traveller’s a different kind of group travel experience. We’re all about authenticity, be it through avoiding tourist traps or taking you to local haunts. Our Local Insiders ensure that immersive, eye-opening feel is maintained throughout the trip.

We wanted to do a trip to Ireland justice, so we decided to cover as much of it as possible in a week on our Fairytale Ireland road trip. It’s a loop itinerary, starting and ending in Dublin, roughly tracing the coast down to Cork, across to the Wild Atlantic way and up to Galway before returning to the capital. We’ll tick off Ireland’s must see and do attractions, but you’ll also get to see some of the country’s lesser known shiny green gems, discovering a side to Irish cuisine you never knew, and exploring an island that barely anyone knows. Our Local Insider will make sure you leave with an understanding of the Irish story, the Irish people today and the cultural customs that prop up its steadfast sense of identity.

Our trip kicks off in the heart of Dublin, a city full of storied streets, brought to life by Joyce, Wilde and Beckett, among others. There is a story to be told on every corner, but be wary of the city’s many tourist traps and cheap knock-offs feigning authenticity. This is where our Local Insider comes in handy, gently nudging you past the fake and into the real heart of Dublin, starting with a first night welcome dinner at an atmospheric local restaurant.

Watch the sun go down over Dublin’s River Liffey on your first night in Ireland

Day two is dedicated to exploring the city proper, starting with an immersive three-hour city tour. Choose between free entry to St Patrick’s Cathedral or the Book of Kells – Trinity College’s famous and mesmerisingly beautiful old library. You’ll get a grasp for the cities literary, political, social and economic history as you wind down narrow cobblestone alleys and along the River Liffey. After lunch your tour continues with a visit to Ireland’s oldest medieval church, St Audoen’s, to touch the lucky stone. We’ll continue by exploring the centuries-old Liberties district, stopping for a tour of the iconic Guinness Storehouse museum, capped off with a refreshing glass of the milky black stuff with views of the city from a panoramic sky bar. After freshening up at the hotel we’ll get back to the Guinness as we go for dinner and drinks, either in Temple Bar or on trendy South William Street, and soak up the lively atmosphere of Dublin after dark.

Day three couldn’t be different, as we leave the city life behind for the glorious Irish countryside, embarking on a road trip south towards County Cork. We’ll visit the Rock of Cashel en route – a remarkably well preserved medieval hilltop citadel – before reaching our home for the evening, Kinsale. Often missing from the tourist trail, not many people realise that this quaint town is the gourmet capital of Ireland. We’ll embark on a guided food tour of the town’s quirky, colourful streets, feasting on seafood eats and sweet treats. Don’t worry about the calorie intake, because we’ll burn it all off after on the Scilly Walk, which starts and ends in town. Highlights of the hike include the Old Head of Kinsale, jutting out into the Atlantic, and Charles Fort. You can take your pick of the town’s culinary delights for dinner, but one absolute essential is an evening spent at Oscar Madison’s Bar with the locals.

Kinsale is one of the most charming and unique towns in all of Ireland

Day four begins with more seaside exploration, this time in the West Cork Coastal Route, where we’ll glimpse at traditional Irish life as we pass through charming fishing villages like Skibbereen. We’ll cross over into County Kerry and Killarney National Park, taking in the stunning Moll’s Gap mountain pass, the lake panoramas at Ladies View and the gushing currents at Torc Waterfall. We’ll eventually arrive and check-in at Dingle, before heading back out to explore the stunning Atlantic cliffs of Slea Head. We’ll warm up with a soul-hugging whiskey tasting session at Dingle Distillery, before returning to our hotel for dinner. The evening could only be spent one way, embracing traditional Irish music, local craft beers and proper Irish craic at Dick Mack’s pub.

Day five sees us leaving the main island for a far smaller, far more remote isle in the Atlantic. Great Blasket Island is abandoned and uninhabited, but that has nothing to do with its looks. The contrast between pure white sands and bright blue waters is utterly glorious, as are the island’s rolling green hills. We’ll settle down at a nice viewpoint to tuck into a lunchtime picnic before exploring the island further. Back in Dingle, you’ll have an evening to explore at your own pace, as well as the option to join a nighttime kayak session in Dingle harbour.

Our tour along the Wild Atlantic Way continues on day six with the coastal route’s most splendid sight – the Cliffs of Moher. These towering cliffs, relentlessly pummelled by the incoming Atlantic, is the ultimate example of west Ireland’s blend of beauty and brutality. Our road trip continues through quaint villages and along stunning coastal roads all the way to Galway City. We’ll embark on a whiskey tour of the city, including a visit to Micil Distillery, before going for dinner at a hearty local restaurant and exploring the city’s vibrant nightlife. Partake as much as you please, but we highly recommend getting a taste for local life in the Garavan, Au Pucan and Tigh Nora.

And that’s that, after breakfast in Galway it’s time to head back to Dublin and mark the end of our trip. You’ll have experienced more than a fair share of natural beauty, experienced the warm hospitality and hearty cuisine of multiple cities, towns and villages, as well as gaining a greater understanding for the Irish way of life, its foundations, cornerstones and contemporary existence.

Interested in Ireland tours? There’s no better time to visit. Book your spot on our Fairytale Ireland trip and prepare for the Irish adventure of a lifetime.

Culture Trips launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes places and communities so special.

Our immersive trips, led by Local Insiders, are once-in-a-lifetime experiences and an invitation to travel the world with like-minded explorers. Our Travel Experts are on hand to help you make perfect memories. All our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.?>

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