The rolling green hills, the welcoming Irish and the stunning cliffs make Ireland a destination on many travellers dream lists. The island may look small on a map but the question when planning a trip to the green isle soon becomes where to visit in Ireland. In this two week hidden gem Ireland itinerary we share both well known Ireland destinations as well as lesser-known treasures uncovered while exploring this magical destination.
You will need to rent a car for this 14-day itinerary and we do not include Northern Ireland in this Irish travel plan. In deciding what to see in Ireland we came to realize that although we could tick off most of the popular Ireland destinations in 14 days, we would not have time to come to truly know Ireland and its people.
Two Week Hidden Gem Ireland Itinerary
Day 1 – Arrive Dublin
Arrive in Dublin and pick up your rental car at the airport. Have a relaxing afternoon and evening recovering from jet lag after checking into your accommodation. We chose a quiet bed and breakfast that provided parking. You won’t want to drive in Dublin. Lower your stress level by walking or using public transport, taxi or rideshare service.
We stayed at Arranmore House which is a comfortable and welcoming bed and breakfast.
Day 2 – Dublin – Guinness Storehouse, Book of Kells, Temple Bar
There may be no better way to begin Ireland sightseeing then visiting the most popular of all Ireland tourist attractions, the Guinness Storehouse. Arthur Guinness founded the brewery in 1759 and it has now grown to a seven-story historical beer showcase.
Arthur would likely need a pint of his beloved Guinness to settle his nerves should he see the thousands pouring into his brewery today.
Visit the Book of Kells at the library of Dublin’s Trinity College. Containing the four gospels of the New Testament, created by Columban monks in 800 AD, the Book of Kells is a must-see in Ireland for those intrigued by religious history.
Wander the Temple Bar area with its narrow lanes lined with boutiques, galleries and pubs. Have dinner in one of Dublin’s most popular areas for those seeking culture and nightlife.
Day 3 – Dublin – Secret Food Tour, Hop-On Hop-Off Bus
One of the best things to do in Ireland is eating delicious comfort food. No need for breakfast this morning. Book with Secret Food Tour and devour your way through quaint and historic Dublin. While learning the history of the city, expect a traditional Irish breakfast, Irish cheese tastings, lunch at an authentic pub, Irish ice cream and of course some fish and chips or oysters.
From there board a Hop-on Hop-off bus for a sightseeing tour of the city of Dublin. Stretch your legs at the stop for Phoenix Park. One of the largest enclosed recreational spaces within any European city. If you are lucky you may spot some wild fallow deer.
For dinner enjoy authentic Irish food with the locals at Fagan’s Pub, 146 Drumcondra Rd Lower, Drumcondra.
Day 4 – Dublin, Rock of Dunamase, Nenagh Castle, Newcastle West
Depart Dublin for Newcastle West which will be your home base for the next five nights. Watch the stone-bordered, green fields of County Limerick fly by like a vibrant Irish quilt.
Stop at a lesser-known gem of Ireland the Rock of Dunamase, located some 85 kilometres (53 miles) southwest of Dublin. It sits quietly in a rural setting without kiosks, restaurants, toilets or organized tours. Best of all it is free.
Passing hands through battles from the 9th to 17th century, its current claim to fame is that it was featured in the 2010 movie Leap Year.
Explore the hundred-foot high Nenagh Castle which is open April to October but closed on Sunday and Monday. Admission is free.
Pass through the popular tourist town of Adare known for its thatched roofs and being named one of Ireland’s prettiest towns by the Irish government.
Arrive to a little known secret escape in Ireland, the town of Newcastle West. The ancient castle walls of Desmond Hall shimmer against the Arra river as the local ducks and heron bid their greeting.
We stayed in a historic row house where local artisans are diligently restoring the back buildings of the property. Thought to have been constructed in the 1600s, the stone structures are transforming to cozy rental apartments under their skilled hands.
Day 5 – New Castle West – Cliffs of Moher, Burren, Dan Cronin’s
Should you search the internet for the best places to visit in Ireland the Cliffs of Moher will be high on the list. Ireland’s top natural attraction draws thousands of visitors gazing at the vistas of cliffs plummeting 700 feet to the wild Atlantic ocean below.
Leaving the Cliffs of Moher to settle in for lunch at Danny Mac’s on Main Street in the small town of Lahinch. A favourite with locals and tourists everything is delicious including the fresh bread. Browse Kenny Woolen Mills on Main Street for authentic Irish crafts or walk along the scenic waterfront.
On the drive back to Newcastle West stop at Burren where extensive rock fields of karst dominate the Irish landscape.
Dinner tonight at Dan Cronin’s Bar and Bistro, which we attest serves up the best Shepherd’s Pie on the planet. The multi-generation family-run mainstay in Newcastle West became one of our top Irish gems discovered.
Day 6 – Newcastle West – Marguerite’s Bakery, Foynes Aviation Museum, Barnagh Tunnel, Glenquin Castle, Cleary’s Pub
The tantalizing aroma of rich coffee and fresh baking will lure you to Marguerite’s Bakery. With scrumptious cakes and pastries competing with warm scones and fresh jam, breakfast may be the biggest decision of the day.
Return to Newcastle West to explore Barnagh Tunnel. The relatively undisturbed former Limerick Tralee rail tunnel is now safe haven for an extraordinary array of flora and fauna.
Minutes from Newcastle West stands Glenquin Castle, one of the finest 16th-century tower houses to survive in Ireland. The six-story tower comes complete with a steep, narrow spiral staircase leading to an eye-popping view. Open May to September a local number invites visitors to call for access.
Several doors down from our accommodation in Newcastle West the purple exterior of Cleary’s Bar the sound of live music beckons. You’ll soon feel like a long lost friend in this local Irish gem.
Day 7 – Newcastle West – Newcastle West Golf Club, the Great Southern Trail or Boutique Shopping
Time for a day of exploring close to your Irish home away from home. Our hidden gem Ireland itinerary provides three choices for the day.
Option 1 – Voted friendliest in the province of Munster, Newcastle West Golf Club should be on any golfer’s list of places to visit in Ireland. An excellent course with good challenges at a reasonable rate, my brother-in-law reports, after completing a round partnered with a welcoming local.
Book dinner tonight at the club’s Stables Bar and Restaurant.
Option 2 – Formerly the route of the Tralee rail line dating back to 1867, the Great Southern Trail now serves as a hiking and cycling trail. The outdoor equipment store in Newcastle West rents bicycles with advance notice.
Option 3 – Shop the extensive boutique stores of Newcastle West.
Day 8 – Newcastle West – Blarney Castle, Cork, Titanic Exhibit Cobh
The Blarney Castle and its famous kissing stone near Cork is one of the best known Ireland points of interest. With over sixty acres of gardens, streams and waterfalls the non-kissers can meander about the beautiful grounds.
The outdoor tables at the Stable Yard Cafe provide a stunning view of the castle and a good spot for a coffee break.
Drive to Cobh and have lunch at Leonardo Cafe Kimbo at 5 West Beach, Kilgarvan. All day breakfast and sandwiches at reasonable prices and this wee find also serves gluten free options.
On the waterfront take in the Titanic Experience. At this location, the final passengers boarded the Titanic before the fateful voyage began.
Dinner in Newcastle West at The Silver Room in Market Yard. Likely the most upscale restaurant in town but not so much so that you can’t wear hiking clothes. We did.
Day 9 – Ring of Kerry, Portamagee, Stone Forts, Killarney
Farewell to Newcastle West. Today is a big driving day ending in Killarney.
The Ring of Kerry and Skellig Ring comprise a circular route in southwestern part of the island with some of the most spectacular views in Ireland. Get an early start with a first stop at Kenmare at the artisan bakery Maison Gourmet located at the top of Henry Street for delicious pastries and coffee.
Drive the route in a clockwise direction as the tour buses will be driving counter clockwise. This will decrease the likelihood of you dealing with busloads of fellow tourists on your Ireland sightseeing expedition.
There are endless viewpoints and some of the most beautiful places in Ireland on this route. Our favourites include O’Carroll’s Cove, St Finian’s Bay and the delicious Skelligs Chocolate Factory
The Kerry Cliffs provide jaw-dropping views rivalling those of the Cliffs of Moher with far smaller crowds. Watch for signs for the best view in Kerry County. The charge is four euros for parking.
Move on to a late lunch in Portamagee which is the landing point for Skellig Michael tours. Due to the increased popularity of the stunning islands as a backdrop to Star Wars films, these tours book up 3-6 months in advance so will require planning ahead.
We recommend eating at the Bridge Bar on Main street which serves excellent pub food.
Check-in for two nights in Killarney. We stayed at The Gleneagle River Apartments which were spacious, clean with a full kitchen. The location is quiet but does require a walk or taxi ride into town.
We suggest dinner tonight on Main Street at The Laurels a traditional Irish pub run by the O’Leary family for almost a century.
Day 10 Killarney – Gap of Dunloe, The Coffee Pot, Celtic Steps
One of the most spectacular places in all of Ireland is the Gap of Dunloe. An 11 km (7 miles) narrow winding gorge meanders through an exquisite valley.
Drive from Killarney and park at The Coffee Pot Cafe at the Gap, a warm and welcoming home-like restaurant open Monday to Sunday, March through April.
In good weather try walking or cycling the path connecting five lakes via the River Loe. A horse-drawn cart can also be rented. Cars are discouraged strongly from using the road. Watch for the painted sheep meandering through the valley.
Returning to Killarney, take in a musical evening of Irish dance and music at Celtic Steps in Killarney. The show runs from April through October and pre-booking tickets is advised.
Day 11 – Dingle – Dolphin boat tour, Dingle Distillery
Depart Killarney and drive to Dingle in County Kerry. When one thinks Ireland can not possibly have any more beautiful places to visit the Dingle peninsula proves that to be untrue.
Charming, quaint and colourful the town of dingle is home to Fungie the dolphin who has called this bay home for decades. Take a boat tour with Dingle Dolphin Tours to watch for Fungie or to explore the astounding cliffs of the area.
We recommend the scrumptious fish and chips at the Boatyard Restaurant on the main street of Dingle.
In the afternoon browse the quaint shops, pubs and restaurants with their vibrantly coloured walls beckoning visitors. For those looking to sample and learn more about Irish whiskey book, a tour at the Dingle Distillery launched in 2012.
Housed in a converted sawmill, a tour of this artisan Irish whiskey distillery, is a lesser-known distillery and one where you can get up close and personal with the process of whiskey production.
Stay one night in Dingle.
Day 12 – Galway, Old Town, Galway City Museum, Monroe’s
From Dingle head to Galway, where history and entertainment weave an Irish tapestry. Spend the afternoon walking around Old Town exploring restaurants, shops and pubs.
If golfing is your game, as it is for my brother-in-law, Galway has no shortage of options. He recommends Galway Golf Club for its convenient location, friendly staff and a course with a mix of coastline holes providing an enjoyable and challenging round.
Galway City Museum is an excellent stop to take in the city’s history from 1800 to 1950. Have dinner tonight at Monroe’s at 14 Dominick Street Upper where you find friendly staff, live music and reasonable prices. If you have any energy left take an evening stroll along the sea wall.
Stay two nights in Galway.
Day 13 – Galway – Aran Islands, Inishmore, DunAengus Fort, O’Reilly’s
Today escape to the quiet of the Aran Islands. Inishmore is the largest of the islands and has a population of 1000 residents scattered through 14 villages. Take the ferry from Rossevael (23 miles west of Galway city centre). Once on Inishmore, options for sightseeing include bus tours, vans, minivans, bicycling or horse and buggy.
The main attraction is the Dun Aengus Fort located on the edge of a 100-foot cliff. An important archaeological site, the fort also offers spectacular views.
Return to Galway for your final night in Ireland. We suggest a final Irish dining experience at O’Reilly’s Bar and Kitchen 232 Upper Salthill.
Day 14 – Galway to Dublin
Farewell to beautiful Ireland. With many hidden gems uncovered, there will be so many more places to see in Ireland on a return trip. Drive from Galway to Dublin approximately 2.5 hours on M6 and depart from the airport.
What would you like to see in Ireland?
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We were house guests of a friend in Newcastle West. All opinions are my own. If you would like to read more about the rental property click here.